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Forgive me but there is something a little comical about Cambridgeshire staging a ‘county day’ at the July Course which is, I admit, in the county – but only by a hair’s breadth.

Perhaps Suffolk should hold a county day on, say, the Rowley Mile which is in the county but, like the rest of Newmarket, only just.

The idea of a Cambridgeshire Day next July comes from the Lord Lieutenant, the admirable Julie Spence, who I suspect has the same problem with her county as her Suffolk counterpart – they are two difficult counties to comprehend as single units. Cambridge knows little of Wisbech and it cares less. And when did most citizens of the Suffolk sector of Newmarket last visit Ipswich or wish to?

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

The whole notion of counties in their present shape is an unwieldy inheritance from history, happenstance and battles long ago. Neighbouring Norfolk has, like Yorkshire, a certain sense of being almost a country rather than a county. Suffolk and Cambridgeshire people may take proper pride in their sports heroes and great achievers, their landscapes and artists, their complex histories. But it can seem a trifle contrived.

Half a century ago, the BBC made the colossal mistake of using the existing structure of counties when launching its local radio. Ever since, broadcasters have struggled to make it work.

Much as we may admire Julie Spence’s courage, it is hard to see how it can work given present boundaries. The choice of the July Course as a rallying point proves my point. No structure that strives to attach Newmarket to one existing county or the other can be fully successful. Maybe that’s why the Lord Lieutenant picked the July Course rather than, say, the central Cambs site of Huntingdon Racecourse. She is pointing up the sheer insanity of the border and dropping a big hint

Meanwhile, planners seek more realistic geographical alliances like the OxCam Arc spanning five counties industrially and economically. As a vision it may well fail but at least it slips off the corsets of counties.


I see those attending a Burwell History Society lecture on fen ghosts, witches and demons should wear masks. But what sort of mask? A demonic death mask? A Haitian voodoo mask? A comedy mask? Or just a plain Covid-19 mask that impedes conversation and recognition?


Boxing baffles me. I find it loathsome. I just cannot bring myself to hit someone in cold blood, or even hot blood come to that.

But if the free boxing training being offered to local young people in Newmarket improves their lives in some mysterious way then so be it.

Ye gods! Sweet little girls do it, too! Do what you like but please don’t ask me to look.


I’m fed up with my name. It’s so dull. So boring. So plain. Lacks bizaz, splendour, magic, dignity, mystery, ancestry. Reading the Journal makes it worse. Just scanning our news columns last week I found Archangelo Power, Buster Mappledoram, Mel King-Tomlinson, Catriona Pilborough, Greer Harrison and Nestor Girdlami. They all fill me with envy. I wonder if the editor would let me make a few slight changes along the theme of Bone – John Humerus, say, or how about Elvis Pelvis?


All Saint’s Church reckons on spending the best part of £1 million on making the traffic-girt building more attractive and an integral part of the community. Admirable, I’m sure but I can’t help thinking that hillsides were good enough for Jesus.


I know some world religions established schools much earlier, but for Swaffham Bulbeck to boast a co-ed primary school since 1721 is an astonishing historical achievement of almost global significance.

Small wonder the village is making a fuss about its achievement. Will the present generation of educationalists and their endless tinkering with systems, ever achieve anything half as enduring or magnificent?

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