JOHN BONE: So many questions on this road work

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Why have Highways England been so slow to explain what’s going on at the notorious Fiveways Roundabout where the much-improved A11 is joined by local roads near Mildenhall? Improvement work has been both sporadic and mysterious. It sometimes seems as if they think “their” roads are none of our business. Have things now settled down? Is the work done? What was it? Will we ever know?

Now that an official complaint concerning one small aspect of Newmarket town Council’s work is being investigated, the body may feel a little under a rather irritating cloud. Scarcely the moment they would choose for an election. However, two vacancies need to be filled very soon and the outcome of the Forest Heath inquiry may be months away.

As one who remains convinced, despite disappointments, that Newmarket desperately needs a council of its own as a vital, grassroots defender of the town and its people, I devoutly hope voters in St Mary’s Ward will notice this election is happening. Please study the list of candidates which is encouragingly experienced and extensive and make your mark later this month. To be blunt, it is no use complaining if you don’t do your bit.

Who could argue with Chief Inspector Barry 
Byford’s praise for the Newmarket travel agency staff who stood up to a dangerous armed robber in the town centre? “I would like to commend the bravery of all those who were threatened,” he said of those desperate days when a knifeman raided a bank as well as the agency. They had every reason to believe he had a gun as well as the knife he brandished at their throats. I certainly admire their pluck. It was the pluck of honest citizens outraged by a beast.

But were they wise?

It took great guts to trick and trap the knifeman in a small lockable space. But, again, were they wise? Was saving a few quid worth placing their lives on the line?

All I can say is that faced with a similar challenge I truly doubt I would have behaved with their noble bravery. If anything, I would have locked myself in the cupboard and kept very, very quiet. That’s my idea of being wise. No medals for me.

That great women are still airbrushed out of history is scarcely in dispute. It has happened and is happening in every aspect of life. So it is all the more remarkable to discover that an organisation seemingly so hidebound and conventional as the Jockey Club as early as 1886, when women had almost no rights at all, transferred her late husband’s training licence to Ellen Chaloner in Newmarket. She became one of the most remarkable women in British sporting history and the town should rejoice that there is a move, backed by 
the Journal, to accord her somewhat belated public honour.

But let us, even while we heap praise on the head of the first female trainer, pay tribute to the fusty, dusty, cigar-smoking, wagering, swaggering, brandy-swigging toffs at the Jockey Club who let Ellen loose.

There was something amost of the Biblical parable about what happened when those admirable friends who join the Soham Heartbeat Health Walk went for a ramble a few weeks back.

Shunning their usual route (which always seems inevitably to lead beside Stinky Ditch), 41 stalwart souls set out from the church and strode through alley, street, road and lane until, halfway down Greenhills, they divided. And, lo, 29 pressed on over Lofty’s Bridge but 13 walkers turned back, retraced their steps and took a different route before rejoining the main body at a comfy caff.

What drove back those 13 backsliders? Mud. They did not want to back slide on slippery mud. We should not mock them for timidity. They may have all manner of excuses – age, lameness, weariness or whatever. But I do hope none of that 13 gave up just because the path was muddy. We live in a world that has far too little mud. Everything is so neat and clean and sanitary. Little boys, who should have scabby knees and be covered in grime, actually avoid playing football because they don’t want to get their expensive Premier League club strips dirty.

Manufacturers of chemical cleaning concoctions use clever advertisements to convince credulous mothers that their little darlings will die if they get dirty. Ye gods! Dirt is good for boys. Girls, too. What we want is more mud if we are seriously interested in healthy walks.