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John Bone with an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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The English landscape is littered with sad sights of how little lapses in local vigilance can let a concrete tide sweep like a lava flow into a green breathing space precious to local people.

Hereabouts we have been fairly fortunate but if you doubt the wisdom of defending a few fields against that tide take a look at the stealthy creeping concrete just down the A14 from here where the A505 meets the M11. Locals fight but will they win?

This is why Douglas Hall is so wise to kick up a fuss about the publicly-owned site of the former St Felix Middle School.

St Felix Middle school site, Newmarket.
St Felix Middle school site, Newmarket.

“Once it is built on we will never get it back,” the councillor warns. I share his understanding of the need for housing but happy housing needs open spaces for those living there. For sport or simply walking safely away from traffic such spaces are precious and this one is heaven sent because the people who need it already own it.

Newmarket has not lost as much as some similar towns but we have lost enough. Here is a case where we must put our foot down. A cash-strapped council will be tempted to sell to balance the books but such a step would be like eating the seed corn. We must refuse to budge. An inch ceded to such forces is irrecoverable. This is not to deny homes to our fellow townspeople or to newcomers. It is to make sure they are happy here.

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Since East of England emergency services so often get a bad press, it is worth mentioning that the regional ambulance service, the Suffolk Accident Rescue Service critical care doctor and the East Anglian Air Ambulance all get praise for their speedy and effective response when Dave Cleland suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at his home one peaceful Saturday morning. Mind you, it helped that his wife, Bernie, had completed a refresher CPR course the day before.

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My attention has been drawn to a reader’s letter which appeared in the Journal while I was on holiday. It was from a local lady who, in the course of praising this newspaper, referred to ‘the lovely John Bone’. Apparently I am also ‘a delight’.

Grateful as I am for these remarks, they have, alas, come to the notice of Mrs Bone who has, by prolonged silence, indicated her dissatisfaction with my being favourably mentioned by ‘strange ladies’. I would be pleased if female readers of this column in future confine themselves to the words more often applied to me, i.e. ‘grumpy’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘wrong’.

PS – Anita Cork, you write a lovely letter. I hope my saying this doesn’t prove domestically disturbing.

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There are many parts of the world where a man or woman may vanish without trace and no questions asked. Heaven be praised, that cannot be said of Suffolk as the Corrie McKeague case continues to show.

He was the RAF gunner who disappeared after a night out in Bury in September 2016. No useful clue to his fate has ever been found. No clue. No trace. Just a tangled skein of theories. But to the eternal credit of our system, the courts and the police have never shut the file. After all this time and through a series of evidence reviews, we are now approaching what should be a final four-week inquest next March.

I, like many people, have a hunch but not a wisp of evidence to substantiate it. Such cases are in danger of changing from tragedy almost to popular entertainment like a TV thriller But not for the poor fellow’s family. Imagine the misery of living for so many years with such a mystery hanging over you. Let us hope they can hold serious hope of resolution.

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I guess I am adding to the problem by merely mentioning it, but others must have shared my sense of weariness when I heard Lord Blair, former top cop at the Met, allude to the patient killer Dr Harold Shipman and to the Soham murders when seeking comparable horror to the Sarah Everard case.

The years pass but it seems Soham must dwell for ever in the shadow of that unspeakable scandal. I do not think the splendour of a new railway station, new homes, new shops, almost a new town will shift that stain.

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As the nation lurches from one crisis to another, who’s weathering the storm best? The young, very understandably, are reportedly suffering from stress. The middle-aged, trying to hold home-life and work-life together, are deeply troubled, too. But I suspect the over-eighties, despite their frailties, are managing well. Surviving a world war must help.

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