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John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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Can there be another town of similar size to Newmarket with such a history of rich people giving away their money?

The question is inspired by the death of Simon Gibson. It is only after his passing that we get an idea of how generous he was.

The same may well be true of other famous benefactors. We only know what we know but I have a hunch there is a great deal we do not know. Indeed, it is perfectly possible that some local benefactor has parted with more millions than all the others and never got around to mentioning it.

The late Simon Gibson
The late Simon Gibson

I cannot speak from personal experience, alas, but can see the sense in secrecy for fear the desperate or greedy would come knocking at your mansion door.

David Robinson’s philanthropy reached out beyond this town to Cambridge, where he paid for a hospital and a university college. We know that he did these things but we also know he led a modest, even frugal life. What, on a day-to-day basis, did he do with the rest of his money?

We hear from time to time of some generous act of Kirsten Rausing, another of our great givers, but occasionally pick up a hint of her gifts large or small. Beyond that, we guess. For it is a fatal error to assume that any known wealthy person who is not known to be generous is not generous.

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

Bill Gredley has his major regular acts of kindness to the community but not all his other acts may reach the public domain.

Apart from the danger of assuming we know who has given what to whom, there is another little error in living among these big givers: we risk becoming dependent. We want an assembly hall, a sports pavilion, a costly hospital scanner? No bother. Mr Moneybags will cough up.

The Jockey Club is a sort of angel in this way. We want a cinema? No bother. They’ll do what we failed and floundered over. And they did.

We have our troubles. We have our poor people. Lots of them. But let us reflect on what life would be like if this was a wretched little town inhabited only by wretched little townspeople with no sugar daddies and sugar mummies.

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How would you like it if I suddenly started writing this column in Latin or Swahili?

Apart from saying that it wasn’t any better in English, you would be baffled and a bit peeved. Yet that is what the media, particularly the BBC did during the heatwave.

In the middle of an officially declared national emergency, the Beeb’s weather forecasters and the entire news organisation refused to address a huge proportion of the population in terms they readily understood. I’m talking about old people, Celsius and Fahrenheit.

I visited my elderly Auntie Elsie at the weekend. She’s a bright, cheerful soul with all her wits about her but we found it hard to have a conversation on the day’s big topic because she did not know what the weather forecasters were talking about. Her mind has been wonderfully flexible while living through eight decades of huge changes in almost every aspect of life but she was born in the Fahrenheit age and has never got her head round what she calls ‘these centipede’s.

Tell her it’s hit 80 an she knows what I’m talking about but if I say its 27 she says: “That doesn’t sound much.”

Yet she and millions like her are specially vulnerable to extreme weather, hot or cold. She is among those who most need to know about the weather, so why does much of the media refuse to address her in her own lingo? Instead, they almost hold her up to ridicule for being so out-of-date.

There is an air of negligence and arrogance about the meteorologists and newscasters in their refusal to acknowledge the situation of their own customers, the people who pay them (oh yes, Auntie Elsie still pays her taxes).

I exclude from this long scolding the delightful Julie Reinger on BBC’s Look East regional news programme. She and some of her Norwich colleagues are punctilious in offering both Celsius and Fahrenheit. But I bet she is defying some stupid BBC instruction not to. She is on the side of her audience, not her bosses.

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It is wonderful the way sport can touch our hearts in surprising ways.

Most of us have been deeply moved by Sir Mo Farrah’s disclosure of his tragic and triumphant life story. That has been a global story but a little local story struck me in the same way.

The dreadful death of Simon Dobbin after much suffering borne bravely by him and his family naturally moved us all. And the founding of a football team in his memory and to call it Dobbins Robbins moves me too.

Take note of September 4, when Dobbins Robbins play a match to mark their first anniversary. Every cheer, every cry from the touchline will be like shaking a defiant fist at the wickedness that killed him.

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Ours is a dynamic, ever-changing, ever-growing language. But it can be hard for slowcoaches like me to keep up.

Thanks to last week’s Journal, for example, I’ve just had to come to terms with ‘glamping pods’. Clue: It’s not a vegetable.