John Bone: Now Abellio must deliver promises

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If Abellio expect local commuters to shout “Yaroo!” like Billy Bunter let loose in a sweet shop, they should think again. The train operators have retained the franchise with a tempting list of promised improvements. They open up a pleasant prospect of prompt, clean, uncrowded carriages operating to a tight timetable.

I trust they keep their side of the deal. But it is up to passengers to do their job, too.

We must watch them like hawks and demand value for money. It is not enough to offer compensation for delayed journeys. They should not have been late in the first place. We have become so accustomed to slackness that we have almost become slack ourselves. Vigilance is the watchword, my fellow travellers.

Vigilance, and resolute insistence on redeeming a once-great rail system.

n I feel slightly sorry for the kind and clever folk booked to teach “circus skills” to amuse children in Newmarket Community Market on summer Tuesdays. True, the long holiday can begin to drag about now but will “circus skills” cut the mustard with children who have seen Olympian athletes on tv? The skills of the amateur gymnasts are almost miraculous and far more impressive than anything I ever saw in a circus.

n As a matter of social policy I disregard the political opinions of anyone who, having a valid vote, fails to use it in national and local elections. That goes for referenda, too. But if you think that’s arrogance, you should hear me on the topic of people who do not even bother to register their entitlement to vote. If they qualify but do not register then they become a sort of semi-citizen in my book and forgo all rights to grumble about anything however incompetent a council or candidate may be. According to the latest study, very many West Suffolk people did not even realise they had to register in good time before the last referendum. Quite how anyone can escape that fact escapes me. Now our local councils are getting together and spending public money to spread the word about how to get a vote. If you think this is a waste of money but failed to vote in the last council elections then your protest should be disregarded. Unless you can come up with some really convincing excuse, you just don’t count.

n A close study of these columns week by week does not paint a pretty picture of the town’s drinking habits. A surprising number of otherwise respectable ladies get hauled up before the beak for driving under the influence and our pub and nightclub scene is sometimes notorious for street fighting and drunken mayhem. Into this tricky scene sails a hopeful Japanese outfit with millions to invest in brewing sake at Fordham. This ferocious oriental tipple is properly consumed ceremoniously with a whole etiquette of do’s and don’ts before you can take a sip. Will our drinkers, who tend to slosh the stuff down with rough abandon, ever learn to drink teeny-weeny little cups of saki while saying the right things? I doubt it. But I am no authority on saki. I brought a costly bottle home from Japan and ended up using it to clean my bicycle chain. No offence intended.

n That was a nice touch by Frankie Dettori who explained how he avoided racing for most of last week because he knew his 3,000th British win was due and he wanted it to happen here at his first opportunity on Friday. “Newmarket is where I’m from,” he explained. Not strictly true, of course, but a gracious compliment none the less.

n Glad to see a café at the new National Horseracing Heritage Centre will offer “traditional British food.” The fad for foreign has got out of hand. Apart from fish and chips, it is easier to eat Asian than English anywhere in the country. A whole generation scarcely knows what good English food is. Pass the HP, Mum.

n It is not only a question of money and manpower. There remains something very wrong with the way our ambulance service is run. What happened to Matthew Hayden, the Newmarket footballer who waited in agony for three hours for an ambulance without pain relief, is monstrous. It makes a vital component of our public administration look like a black comedy set in a banana republic.

n I love the way Mildenhall pigeon fancier Len Rix talked about Percy, his amazing bird that took two years to find its way home from France. “A brave little bird,” said Len, adding with a fond edge to his voice that he still has Percy’s 17-year-old father in his loft. “He was a very good pigeon, but he’s only bred duffers, and I’m afraid this is one of them.” He sounded just like my Auntie Connie talking about my Uncle Stan.