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John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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I rate Ed Sheeran as the most important citizen of Suffolk. I’d even join his fan club if only I liked his music just a little bit more.

What I like about Our Ed is his earnest honesty, his energy, thoughtfulness and lofty endeavour. In these matters he far outstrips the usual leaders like the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Chief Constable, Bishops, Mayors and certainly all MPs.

But how this 30-year-old local lad suffers for his sense of duty. How spiteful, small-minded and self-appointed prophets love to snipe at him and the way he generously spends his money for the public good.

John Bone, the columnist who gets Newmarket talking
John Bone, the columnist who gets Newmarket talking

Consider his concern for the planet having bought a sizeable chunk of Suffolk (£3.7 million) where he has planted 14,000 trees, he now wants to spend more of his £220 million fortune buying more bits of Britain for similar purposes.

Do the green gurus thank him for it? They do not. They turn on him with snide remarks like that of Miriam Brett, who helps run a green think tank and who, after alluding to Ed’s wealth, says: “Storing up land he likely has no connection to feels like a personal project to offset his inevitably unjustifiably carbon intensive lifestyle.”

So sour, Ms Brett. Are you holier than he? And why refer to land he ‘has no connection to’? Must we all live where we strive to do good? Must I contribute to the welfare of only English donkeys? Must my modest contributions to the National Trust be spent only on East Anglian monuments? Must I live in the Kalahari Desert before sponsoring the wildlife there? Or must I move to Brazil before deploring the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest?

Of course Ed is trying to repair the damage his pop-star life does to the air we breathe. If we all took our cue from him and truly tried not only to change our way of life but undertake to repair the damage we do then we would see huge improvements.

Of course we must mend our ways but it does no good at all to sit on the sidelines picking petty holes in honest efforts.

I sense that these self-righteous voices are getting our hero down. The other day he sighed and said: “The thing with sustainability and being a public figure is when people support it, suddenly people try to find things to call them out on.”

For such an adept lyricist his thoughts might have been more elegantly expressed but he’s right.

More than ever before, taking a pop at anyone who dares to do or say anything serious, interesting or brave is a national sport. If you want to survive in the sour atmosphere of England now, you’d best keep your head down, say now’t and do now’t or the thought-police will catch you. They have much in common with puritanical medieval religionists. There is only one way and it is their way and if you err you’ll get a tongue-lashing from them.

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I spent Boxing Day afternoon watching that delightful programme about Frankie Dettori. It is a joy. Fascinating. Full of fun and fact.

I just love his candour. “I turned on my Mediterranean charm,” he explained at one point.

Fun, but depressing, too. For this adopted son of Newmarket is pretty well all racing has at the moment in the way of celebrities whose fame exceeds the bounds of the sport and encompasses almost everyone.

Gordon Richards did it to some extent. Lester Piggott to a lesser and slightly tarnished way. But racing needs someone to join the bouncy Dettori. Henry Cecil had style, brilliance, star quality but we lost him too soon.

Most sports have their famous public faces that ignite interest far beyond the dedicated followers. Boxing is always rich with them. I treasure the memory of Henry Cooper opening a Newmarket supermarket. No one could call Andy Murray a bubbly character but his very Scots dourness is his trademark beyond tennis. Athletics is thick with famous faces who, for most of us, are simply famous for being famous. Football has stars like Marcus Rashford.

Being good at a sport is no longer enough in this electronic age. Racing needs more personalities like Frankie. But I do not despair. I have faith in the future. The ladies are about to show these rather dull blokes how to attract fame.

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When the history of this horrible pandemic comes to be written I have a nasty feeling my own trade will not come off too well.

The national media generally seem to have been obsessed with the pitiful plight of pubs and, particularly, nightclubs.

I suspect most people have never been in a nightclub and have no wish to do so other than with the sort of curiosity that leads us to look into a sulphurous volcano crater.

Meanwhile, the myriad but less organised local small businesses upon which we all rely get scant national coverage. As ever, he who shouts loudest gets most attention while worthier but less pushy people are little heeded.