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Columnist John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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While confined by Covid, robbed of company, we have found something to be thankful for. We have been reminded of our inherited liberty to go where we please.

It took centuries and many generations of our forebears to win these rights of movement and now, after sad neglect, they have become precious again. Never in living memory have our footpaths and rights of way been so busy.

So now that we are back on track, is this the moment to erode our birthright, block our way, turn us back? Yet that is exactly what Network Rail is trying to do.

Weatherby crossing, Newmarket
Weatherby crossing, Newmarket

The faceless functionaries of a state monopoly believe they can wear us down by renewing their assault on the Weatherby Crossing in Newmarket. They believe that having spent so much in time and treasure we will lose heart and surrender.

I admit that this ancient short-cut is not a particularly pretty route. But it is ours. We use it. We want it. Lose this fight and we’ll be a softer touch for any powerful enterprises who would nibble at our precious paths. Whether or not we as individuals use the crossing is unimportant. We must defend the rights of those who do use it so that when the time comes we can defend our own favourite walks.

The town council has a splendid record in this fight. Let it fight on and let us stand behind it. This is a matter of principle.

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

If you think Sue Gray is just another faceless, dutiful civil servant given the delicate task of investigating Partygate, then think again.

This is a remarkable woman in many ways. Well used to parties, too, since she formerly ran a pub in Newry and Irish pubs know how to party.

And she is familiar with show-business, too. Her husband, Bill Conlon, is a country singer who recorded a live album at Bury’s Theatre Royal. If only the politicians with whom she now deals had similar broad experience of real life beyond Westminster wonderland.

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When I heard how Cambridge United had humbled the Premier League’s Newcastle United in the FA Cup my thoughts flew sadly to a man no longer with us. It was his devotion to Cambridge United that led Simon Dobbin to his cruel death.

The Mildenhall football fan who took five years to die after that wicked street attack in Southend would have been on Cloud Nine at the news from St James’s Park.

This will long remain a pain his mourning family and friends have to endure whenever there is happy news for his beloved United. The rest of us can only reflect on how a moment’s mindless violence can last an eternity.

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The tennis star Novak Djokovic has made the world wonder about the attitude of people who are wary of Covid jabs. They seem so strangely superstitious to we happy jabbers.

Strangely, I have just stumbled across an anecdote often told by that late great Newmarket vet Peter Rossdale. When training, he fell out with a lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College and, encouraged by fellow students, dared to ask what evidence the expert had to justify clinging to traditional remedies for ailing animals.

According to Rossdale, the lecturer replied: “You’re pleasant enough lads but you’ll never become successful veterinary surgeons until you get rid of all this scientific nonsense that has been crammed into your heads.”

Do those who shun the obviously effective jabs dismiss them as ‘scientific nonsense’

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We carried quite a long report on Cheveley Parish Council last week but only six words really struck me. There was a list of those who attended a meeting which ended ‘. . . and a member of the public’.

I think that member of the public should get a medal for good citizenship. Councillors need all the encouragement we can give them in their wearying business.

I sometimes sit alone on the extensive public seating at my parish council meetings. It is hard to resist the impulse to butt in with my own opinions of which, as you know, I have an inexhaustible supply.

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I was reading the first page of the Journal’s property section when I glanced across to an interesting article on the facing page about the housing shortage.

It explained how recent developments had made it harder for some to find a home where their families had lived for many generations. Their plight seemed a strange contrast with the snug homes advertised by our estate agents. Before you get too indignant about the human homeless, I ought to explain that the desperate home-hunters are wild birds and in the article Suffolk Wildlife Trust were begging us to put up nest boxes.