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

In light of renewed national pressure to rid racing of dubious but seemingly untouchable super-powers in the sport, I have to offer a word of urgent advice to councillors and all who have the prosperity of our community at heart: Diversify our industries.

It may sound ridiculously alarmist, but the way opinion is shaping we must take seriously the possibility that racing may lose its greatest benefactor. Newmarket could lose thousands of jobs almost at a stroke and the knock-on effect to general business could be crippling. Read the latest vitriolic attack in Britain’s most respected newspaper, The Times, and you may feel I am not being alarmist.

All those with power to prepare for such a calamity should remember the fate of Corby, the steel town that lost its steelworks.

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

What can we do? Well, for a start we should ask ourselves if we are sufficiently sharing the regional success spreading from Cambridge’s science and technology. Or we could just lie low, keep quiet and hope.


There really is no way to say it nicely: Recreational drugs killed James Diss, the 20-year-old Exning DJ and amateur footballer. But this truth became a sort of triumph when his teammates played a memorial game to raise money for his old club.

I do not think this would have happened quite so openly even a few years ago. The dreadful truth might have been glossed over, the message muted.

For what that football match was really all about was not club money but a stark reminder to young people that to dabble with drugs can be to dice with death.


For me, one of the strangest sights of the Platinum Jubilee was watching a dear friend taking photographs of the television as the Queen appeared on the palace balcony.

She is a sensible, highly intelligent person but she has fallen to the current mania for using her phone to record the passing moments of life. All this despite the obvious fact that the balcony scene would be repeated for years and she could have recorded the broadcast for her personal use for ever. But no, this otherwise totally level-headed lady got her phone out. Why?

And what was worse, she politely asked if I’d like her to send me her pictures. I struggled to find a polite form of words to decline.

I fear we are all losing the ability to simply experience life without recourse to technology.


You must have noticed how no-one nasty ever dies. Read any local paper like the Journal and you will find sincere and loving friends and families talking of the newly dead in such phrases as ‘her smile lit up the room’, ‘he’d do anything to help anyone’, ‘she was an inspiration’, ‘he never said an unkind word’, and so on.

I don’t know about you, but I live in a world where even the people I love and like can be quarrelsome, pernickety, pessimistic, vain, selfish and unreliable just like me.

So it was a novelty to read how in a road accident out in the fen a young father died at the age of only 33. His family, who clearly adored him, declared: “We will miss his sense of humour, compassion for others and his loud, silly, personality.” Loud and silly! I immediately thought: “What a pity I never met him.”

Obituaries need to be less cautious, more honest. Perhaps we should all write our own as a sort of final confession.


West Suffolk councillors are almost apologetic in the way they are going about enforcing the Government’s latest taxi laws.

“Don’t blame us,” seems to be their main message. But I hope the way they apply these and other policies does not neglect the important truth that taxis are an increasingly vital part of community life. Apart from discouraging drinking and driving, taxis liberate the housebound and play scores of vital roles every day.

I agree passengers need protection from rogue cabbies but the taxi service itself needs protecting from a too-heavy burden of regulations.


Sometimes I feel a stranger in my own street. You may get the same feeling when scanning our property pages.

When me and the missus first moved in to our present modest pad we had to scrape up the deposit and our neighbours were far from wealthy. But this week a cottage a few doors down went on the market for well over a million. I’m not sure if this raises my social status or humiliates me.


The word ‘natter’ used to be uttered with a sneer and was often used abusively to dismiss women’s conversation. But now nattering is becoming quite acceptable even by women.

Last week’s Journal featured West Suffolk Women’s Institutes who kicked off with a ‘soup and natter’ lunch and Soham’s Knit and Natter Club goes from strength to strength.

My feeling is nattering should be an important activity in the NHS. I pity both doctors and patients that never get time to natter these days. It used to be in seemingly pointless nattering that a shy or nervous patient felt free to get round to saying what was really worrying them.

As a journalist I have always been attentive to natter. It is like panning for gold in a stream.