John Bone: Steady on, Disgusted of Soham

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As I have made clear in the past, I have every respect for vegans like Emily Keates who keeps a big black pig in her home at Soham. I even sometimes toy with the notion of vegetarianism myself – until I catch a whiff of frying bacon. But I do wish vegans could avoid sounding so pious and even, not to put too fine a point on it, rude.

I would never normally accuse such a sweet, sincere soul as Emily of being rude, were it not for the fact that she has explicitly described my 200,000-year-old carnivorous habits as making her sick and disgusted.

Emily is in many ways admirable. She not only espouses veganism but publicises it with events like that at the Cherry Tree pub in Soham where the public were invited to meet Fella, the pig she famously rescued as a piglet from what she calls “a meat factory” a couple of years ago. She has a fair point to make. I for one am already disturbed and revolted by the way doomed animals are crowded into trucks down motorways to slaughter. I, too, have feelings, Emily, though perhaps not quite so exquisitely sensitive as yours. You will not win me over to your combative absolutism if you tell me my way of life is disgusting.

You never know, there might be something you do that some passionate zealot might find disgusting. Would you like to be demonised for it? I am almost on your side, Emily. Do not alienate me by implying I am a brute.

n Village fetes have come a long way since I was a lad and hoopla was still cutting-edge technology. At Thurlow “Fayre”, for example, they not only had a motor cyclist riding through blazing hoops but a sort of sheep steeplechase (“sheeplechase”?) with prone children acting as the jumps. Slightly alarming, but better than having them all playing Pokémon I suppose. The children I mean. Not the sheep.

n I admire the way Turners, the Soham transport firm, have stood by their man after a driver went anticlockwise on part of an A14 roundabout. He was, they agreed, “flustered” by the road layout and signs and he has kept his job. It is only by the grace of God that most of us have not erred similarly or worse when driving. I suspect one problem is not too few signs, but too many. There is such a clutter of competing instructions at complex intersections, made worse by county council advertisements trying to sell publicity spaces on tricky roundabouts that it is a wonder more experienced drivers are not “flustered” or even flummoxed.

n It was good to see so many Newmarket area firms and families taking part in the three-day Quy Country Fair this year. What an honest and encouraging picture the event paints of the real people who really live in our area. It is a triumph of good organisation and, despite being a bit pricey (£12.50 a head), is a splendid day out. This is our community at its unpretentious, down-to- earth honest best. Even the hundreds of pet dogs were well behaved.

n The poet G K Chesterton joked that “the rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.” But, whoever designed our highways and byways, it is certain they were already very, very ancient well before the railways arrived to hug and puff across them. We should bear this in mind as Network Rail renew their invitation to comment on proposed changes to certain level crossings. They are meddling with history and some of our most profoundly important freedoms of movement across the landscape.

I am not recommending that the public should be bloody-minded and obstructive but I am saying we should be vigilant. The weight of responsibility for centuries of tradition and liberty rests on this generation’s shoulders, even if it seems a minor infringement of a minor route. It is ours and should stay that way, unless there are very good reasons.

n So Lord Derby’s bitterly-contested Hatchfield Farm housing project has fallen at the last fence. The new Secretary of State for Local Government has sent his lordship packing. We may never know who and what swayed the politicians and if it all came solely out of the inquiry papers.

But experience leads me to wonder if we have really heard the last of this ill-starred scheme which set out Newmarket’s competing needs for housing and the racing industry so starkly. Fast forward a few years and guess what you may be reading all over again on the Journal front page ….

Forgive me if I repeat myself but allow me to say again that as 12 men face accusations of attacking Simon “Dobbo” Dobbin the Mildenhall fan so gravely hurt after a Southend match no-one should be allowed to sigh and say this sort of thing is in any way truly representative of modern football at any level. I have been attending games in diverse leagues regularly for decades and have never seen a single act of violence among supporters. What happens on the pitch is another matter.

It is a pity Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Hamlin, who has long served both Suffolk and Norfolk police, has quit on such a sour note. She deplores changes in policing and wants greater priority for officers and staff welfare. I dare say she has valid points to make and we must protect those who protect us. But there is not a statutory institution in the land that has not undergone fundamental changes in recent decades, not only because of budgets but because of profound social change. Staying at our post and soldiering on may be a rather dull way of meeting such challenges but it is probably better than stomping off in a huff.