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Columnist John Bone with his take on this week's Newmarket news




The enlightened councillors of East Cambridgeshire are relaxing the rules at car parks during lockdown. Time limits will not be enforced at Soham, Littleport and a whole string of car parks in Ely.

One great benefit of this thoughtful policy is that shoppers delayed in Covid queues will not suffer the usual punishment.

One again, some shoppers who live in Newmarket may feel it would be worth switching to Soham or Ely just to take the stress out of what used to be an easy errand.

John Bone, the columnist who gets Newmarket talking (43034865)
John Bone, the columnist who gets Newmarket talking (43034865)

For long Ely has been stealing trade from its Suffolk near neighbours with shopper-happy parking policies. Surely parking should be seen as the key to a prosperous high street rather than a means to tax trade and screw our guests?

Those Christians are a courageous lot. Here we are with churches closed for public worship and the nation deep in debt yet All Saints’ in Newmarket bravely presses on with a £1 million scheme to make the building more useful to the community with a kitchen, a toilet and counselling rooms.

With lockdowns endangering the sanity of many local people, those counselling rooms are bound to be busy.

All those brave Christians need now is £1 million.

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Now 85 and living far from Newmarket, Lester Piggott has been flogging off the silverware from his family’s massive trophy cabinet. His cups, wine jugs and rose bowls are better looking than most of the hideous and shoddy-looking sporting awards offered to current champions. Have you seen some of the junk they dole out in football and athletics?

But why should the revered Lester need visual reassurance that he is a genius in the saddle? He can safely disregard the silverware and stick to his truly astonishing statistic: 4,493 winners.

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There is something suspicious going on in the Jockey Club if the national newspapers are to be believed. I read the report but I’m still not quite clear on who did what to whom and why. But it’s all an intriguing glimpse of posh people in an ancient and powerful national institution apparently getting their knickers in a twist.

I’d love to see it all dramatised on the television the way they’ve done with the Royal Family. Generally speaking I find toffs more interesting than a story about someone having his hand in the till at a working men’s club. I foolishly expect them to be better behaved.

What shall we call the TV show? Perhaps play it for laughs and call it The Jokey Club.

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I fully understand the fury of a father whose daughter died after an ambulance was diverted away from her. I also get his grief.

But I try to see the event from the point of view of our beleaguered ambulance service. It seems set up in such a way that it simply cannot cope. I try to place myself in the seat of a controller struggling to solve ever-changing demands with insufficient means. It must be a logistical nightmare.

These people do not endanger life for fun or through negligence. We must look to the way they are led and the means at their disposal.

We must also question whether a single service covering a scattered population in a vast area is the right approach. It may be cheaper but lives are not to be counted like pounds and pence. Let’s face it, the service is over-extended in every way.

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Ever since a low bridge sliced the top off a double-decker bus in a James Bond chase I have seen these events as more comical than calamitous. Bashing into bridges is a branch of knockabout entertainment in this part of the world.

But the true cost wipes that silly smile off my face. Each crash costs the public purse around £13,000. Multiply that by 113 times and you have the bill for the Stuntney Road bridge under the railway at Ely which has just been nudged off the top of the national league by a much-bashed arch in Leicestershire. Ely scored a mere 19 bashes in 2019.

What I do not understand is how it happens. I once watched powerless to intervene when a high truck ploughed into a low bridge under the railway at Great Chesterford. No-one was hurt but the driver climbed out of his cab looking quite indignant. His expression seemed to say: “What silly ass put that there? Didn’t they know I was coming?”

The signage at the Ely bridge screams danger in huge yellow and black stripes with massive words of warning and red roundels showing nine-foot clearance. You would think this was unmissable but, what was that? Did I just hear a big clang in the distance?

In my view the cost of each clang should fall on the driver rather than us.