Monday, 8 October 2018

Clare is a different place

Clare is a strange place. It eclipses Hundon like the sun outshines the pale moon, for it is a thriving tourist centre, with many pubs, shops and tea houses, and numerous ancient sites dating to the iron age. There was a Roman town there, and a Saxon. The heirs of the Conqueror built the castle, and it featured in Magna Carta with its baron Richard de Clare. The rites to a medieval market have been held for centuries.

Hundon was mentioned in the Doomsday book, and doesn't appear to have changed much since, in population or area, other than its housing now being mostly modern brick conformities peopled by commuters or home workers like me, rather than the tithed agricultural cottages of history.

There are no historical sites here, and I am unaware of any archaeological dig or find. Even its church, though old, burnt down in 1914. It wasn't the war! The fire started even before that monstrous event. Now, it is an empty shell of history, barely used but to keep it on the ecclesiastic rolls. Its graveyard contains no famous son. There are no tea rooms, and no tourists to demand them. Its only visitors are kind relatives or friends who call from pity for we inhabitants, to take us out to for shopping or tea. And they always have trouble finding Hundon on a first visit, even with a good sat nav. But we do have a village shop, manned by (womened by? peopled by? no - staffed by, perhaps) volunteers who keep it well stocked and well run, with a hive of knowledge for we peaceful village folk.
Great train robbery at Clare

But Clare is a town, and seems to attract petty arguments that would have no place in Hundon. Last week, a notice was posted throughout the town telling of "The Great Train Robbery". This referred to an old railway wagon that used to sit on its rails in the museum. Entry was from a mock platform, and the wagon itself contained many fine exhibits from past glory days when steam locomotives thundered through the town. The museum was a useful spot to take children or visitors, but has been closed for a while. Now someone has sold off the wagon and provoked an outrage.

The Facebook pages of Clare are filled with petty squabbles. Someone posted a picture of a cigarette stub on the pavement outside the Co-op that led to a litany of accusations.
Smile Stone at Clare
There are some pretty walks in Clare, and I once spotted a Smile Stone hidden by the river bank. Shortly after were reports that 'someone has been stealing our smile stones', with many complaints and snide suggestions (no - it wasn't me. I only took the photo). But the fiercest debates are always with people who suggest Clare is a village. These are usually tourists or visitors, but this only raises a knowing smile from the residents. Then some incomer added a comment to Facebook to the effect that "they loved to live in such a pretty village". This raised over 30 replies! Clare is not a village. It is a medieval town. It was given a town charter. It has a town fair and a town market, with a High Street and Market Street. The debate was brought to an end by one resident commenting, "The difference between a village and a town is that a village has its idiot, whereas a town has two. On that basis, Clare is a city."