John Bone: Pay someone to run village fete?

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Wood Ditton’s lively parish council are considering paying people to help organise village events like a barbecue or the annual fireworks. This would be a radical departure from the age-old village tradition of relying on volunteers and my first reaction was dismay. Is this what rural life has come to?

But on reflection, I’m having second thoughts. Young, fit, able people with families to feed are often so busy and so hard up that they cannot contemplate volunteering. Their private lives take all their days. They may have no spare time and no spare cash yet be public spirited and a perfect fit for village duties.

As things stand, many villages find themselves over-reliant on the well-off retired who are willing but short of energy and maybe short of skills, too. Perhaps there is some serious sense in making it easier for all sections of society to engage in village life by spending a little to ease the strain. But every community is in many ways unique and a one-size-fits-all formula would never work.

n How right that an area at Newmarket’s new National Heritage Centre for Horseracing will be named after the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan. One of the great man’s many merits was the wonderful clarity of his diction. You could understand every word he said even when he was commentating at frenzied speed during a race.

Many of the slurred and stuttering stars of today’s broadcast media could profitably study his technique. What’s the use of knowing everything about an event if listeners cannot understand you?

n As our search for a Newmarket “hero” clearly shows, the word “heroine” has almost vanished from the vocabulary, along with actress and authoress. And when did you last hear a female comic called a comedienne rather than a comedian?

Still, just to make it perfectly clear, if you know a Newmarket hero of either gender, then let us know.

n Some sort of administrative hitch stymied Newmarket Academy’s bid to help beat a Guinness World Record attempt along with scores of schools to read a chunk of Harry Potter in unison at a fixed time. Guinness say they await verification.Frankly, I admire the record compilers for their rigid rules. Most stunts they invigilate are total tosh but are somehow sanctified by the editors’ po-faced refusal to bend and strict adherence to provable fact.

There is a lesson, perhaps unintended, in all this for our young people. Even fantasy must have its facts.

n As the former Dialight factory on Newmarket’s Exning Road is offered for sale at £3 million, the agents stress the shortage of this sort of industrial space in the region. “This is a rare opportunity” they declare. So we may perhaps use this as a means of taking the commercial temperature in the town at a time of bewildering political and economic pressures. A quick sale at a good price would give us all a tonic shot of self-confidence.

n Embarrassing dancer and ex-MP Ann Widdecombe need not feel she let Soham down by cancelling her talk there last Friday “due to television commitments.” She had agreed to talk about herself and how she leads her life. I may not be alone in feeling that the abrupt cancellation has told us all we need to know.

n The surprising thing about the sonic booms unleashed over Cambridgeshire by a F-15 fighter from Lakenheath was not that it gave so many peaceful communities a nasty shock, but that it happened at all. When you think how many flights by hypersonic aircraft flying from our local USAF bases take place every week of every year it is a tribute to the pilots’ skill that they manage to rein in their terrifying machines with the rarest of exceptions. It is not nice to be frightened but it is nice to know how rarely these slips happen and how hard the pilots work to avoid those booms.

n I’d happily say yes to the challenge of Cycle to Work Day on September 14 were it not for two snags.

Snag 1: I lack a bike.

Snag 2: I got rid of my last bike because I was too damn scared to ride it in today’s traffic. So, get me a bike and get rid of everyone else on the road and I’m your man.