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John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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I cannot tell you how irritating It is when a Journal reader writes a Letter to the Editor that says something I should have said and, what’s worse, says it better. So blow you, Maureen Hunt.

Your letter in last week’s Journal about the loss of public seating in The Guineas Centre was so powerful and right that, well, if you’re looking for a job . . .

My only criticism is that you did not go far enough. You merely mentioned the removal of seats in a busy shopping centre. But how about the shops themselves? Time was when most shops – grocers, haberdashers (there’s a lovely old word from a more civilized era), even butchers and fishmongers – provided a comfy bentwood chair for customers.

Now, when a huge proportion of customers are pensioners, shops make them stand while waiting or considering a purchase.

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

A few Newmarket shops are more considerate but too few.

I know chairs take up precious merchandising space but older customers often have the money to buy that merchandise if they can pass the physical tests set by the shop.

So that’s where you are wrong, my dear and respected Maureen. It’s not just the council to blame. It’s the traders too.

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Despite what many young people think, age and wisdom go together. So let us listen to an 85-year-old who knows what he’s talking about.

Len Rix has been selling eggs at Newmarket street market for 54 years, so heed his words when it comes to the perennially troubled topic of where the market should be.

Up to now, the several stakeholders in this squabble haven’t asked him. So I’m glad we gave him some column space.

He says the market belongs in the High Street despite safety problems which could be solved with a little more serious attention. Two councils and High Street shops are all putting their oars in but the folk who pay for pitches are too little listened to.

It’s the traders in brick-and-mortar shops who should be vocal in rescuing the market from fading away. A lively market lures shoppers to their doors. We have only to look at Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge to see the synergy

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The almost defiant failure of Suffolk County Council to give any useful information about the A142 roadworks near the A14 junction is disgraceful.

Cllr Julian Ferries has failed to wring from the council any indication of a final finish date. Why? Do they think it is none of our business? Is our councillor a tiresome busybody? If he is then let them know he is our interfering busybody. We voted him into the job and we want him to keep at it.

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When I was a lad one of the best bets for a bright boy (not me!) was to get a job in a bank and hopefully rise to become that revered and respected figure in the community, a bank manager.

How times and technology have changed.

Newmarket will soon lose one of its last remaining bank branches. Bank managers and cashiers will soon become dimly remembered figures like the baker’s roundsman and the road sweeper.

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I bet opponents of the Sunnica solar farm never reckoned on war in Ukraine. In the light of a new world energy crisis, the appeal of all renewables becomes more seductive and resistance to this scheme a little harder.

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The way power is wielded in Newmarket is different from most towns where statutory councils run the show.

Here, we have county, district and town councils and the Jockey Club.

The last of these has to some seemed to exercise its power in a somewhat feudal and opaque fashion. It has huge land holdings and controls the town’s chief industry. And it does all this well and to the greater good for centuries.

But now it is taking a more overt role in municipal affairs. It wants to talk to us. Seek our views. Share ideas, even over such issues as getting a cinema.

I am always somewhat wary when some huge organisation consults us. It is sometimes a question of going through the motions. It can be a trick. Planners hold consultations just before doing something dreadful. Later we protest and are told we had our chance. We should have said.

It is against this background that the very convincing initiative from the Jockey Club can be seen. So I slightly surprise myself when I say I take it very seriously. Call me a sucker but I’m convinced. We may be as likely to get sound sense and sensible action from them as others whom we have elected.

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I love the remark made by16-year-old Brixton boy Oshane Marsh on graduating from the British Racing School’s foundation course in Newmarket. “London,” he declared, “is boring.”

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Strangely, Newmarket, despite being surrounded by open country, is short of recreational space for its people. To let the St Felix site slip through our fingers in pursuit of houses would be a grave mistake.

I know people need homes but they also need breathing space for healthy, happy lives.