Historians of this country’s energy supply will perhaps see the funny side of unsuspected underground power cables holding up the demolition of Newmarket Gas Works. In the century and a half since mains gas became commonplace well ahead of electricity, we have drifted into an absurd situation in which public and private authorities of all sorts still fail to register proper records of what’s buried where. Diggers still stab gas, electricity, drains and water lines and I dare say a new generation of superfast broadband fibre links is even now cobwebbing the country with great gaps in the records, if any, being kept.
The poet GK Chesterton said “the rolling English drunkard made the rolling English highway” but it seems today’s drinkers are more fussy about where they roll and how they roll. Trade at Brinkley’s village pub is reported to have gone down because of overgrown footpaths. Sensibly avoiding drinking and driving, locals try walking to the local but are impeded by plants. Now the parish council is trying to do something about it. I’m, not sure Chesterton would have approved such a fastidious approach to a boozer.
One of the most hair-raising road junctions in our area is the southbound access to the A14 from the A142 near Exning. In broad daylight even local drivers, let alone strangers, find it hard to spot. At night it is almost imperceptible; a murky merging of shadows. But now it is a nightmare. I saw a truly terrifying incident there at the weekend with several cars, a van and a huge truck all totally confused by the closure of the A14. The sealed access to the A14 was a muddle of ambiguous barriers with no clear sign saying Road Closed. Many drivers thought it was a closure of just one half of the access. The result was a perilous and terrifying chaos through which a police patrol car passed apparently quite oblivious to the dangerous situation that urgently needed to be sorted out. May we be sure that when the A14 work is completed this junction, which has been a death trap for too long, will be properly signed?
Astonishing how Newmarket Vision, which could so easily have turned into nothing more than just another talking shop for worthy windbags, shows every sign of opening up a deadly-earnest and deeply-felt examination of Newmarket’s governance and purpose, its image and the reality. Thus far, the new open debate, not only in these columns but in every sort of forum from pub to parlour, is informed, passionate but civil. Let it stay so. What we want is light, not heat. And the more this animated exchange spins into The Journal, the better it will be for all of us. What is already evident is the widespread conviction that Newmarket in the way it is run is markedly different from other towns of similar size and outward appearance.
What is it about the new social media that makes quite clever people act like twits? It is happening more and more. One of the latest cases of total twitdom comes from the otherwise quite sane and sensible Matthew Hancock. Our MP tweeted a really lame limerick about the Labour Party. His daft little verse lacked even the virtue of wit. Why did he bother? Is it some desperate need to show how thoroughly modern they are that drives public figures to such juvenile japes? Do they think we will like them more if they show us they are “just like us” ordinary people”? If so, one thing Matthew needs to get clear is that most ordinary people have more sense than to risk dotty antics of this silly sort.
My grasp of economics is pitifully poor but I feel sure there is something wrong with the system when nice little houses in Newmarket are up for sale as cheaply as £140,000 or even less yet, if we believe the statistics, thousands of young couples cannot afford even the first faltering foot on the property ladder. I know of several hard-working, level-headed and respectable young couples who cannot scratch together the earning power or the deposit. Please believe me, I am no revolutionary, but I know how galling it is for them to see the prices fetched by the booming market in homes around the £1 million mark. It is not at all helpful for me to say that I feel in my bones there is something very wrong here, but I do.
As the wealthy and the wannabees seek new ways to waste money I find it hard to keep up. For example, a new national advertising campaign has been launched to sell a wristwatch. The main selling point is that it is big; bigger than almost any watch you ever saw. Never mind whether it tells the time. The main thing is it is big. When you reflect that it took three centuries of brilliant technology to shrink wrist watches to wafer thin, this trend seems plain dotty to me. And then there’s these fancy designer handbags coveted by women. Thousands of pounds spent on something that could be replaced by a plastic shopping bag. But, unlike me, our local crooks keep up-to-date. I saw in The Journal that a burglar broke into an Exning home and made straight for a Ted Baker designer handbag. No doubt thieves will be on the look out now for gigantic wrist watches.