Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Clermont: Quite Quiet
Tim Moore sped through in his Rolls Royce, Tom Coryat found them mean and ignoble, but I like the places between Amiens and Paris.
They do not have major tour attractions, though in the country nearby there is horseriding, country club and golf, flights over Picardie - the brochures tell me.
I connect instead with the small high street: Clermont is built on a hill, the Church of St. Samson highest up, closest to God. From the church the view is down a narrow street, banks first, then the biblioteque, bakers, butchers, even a fancy kitchen shop with etiolated aluminium chairs.
There is no obvious destination for the Burgher-Roi the town chieftans, to hang out, though the two competing terrace cafes do good business all day.
As in Breteuil the white flag has not been raised to pedestrianisation; few 4x4 invaders are to be seen.
Foch, Petain, Clemenceau - their accents to come when a keyboard loves me - and the American general Pershing got together here, though I am more taken with the thought that St. Samson was reconsecrated in 1502 by a member of the Villers d'Isle Adam family: neqrly 400 years later one of the flock scandalized Paris with his Cruel Tales.
Clermont just is: Pirates of that Place at the cinema, a lovely wood-panelled library, a lot of kids - what else to do? - and not a hint of unfriendliness.
At eight thirty in the evening the centre is utterly silent.
As I take this photograph an elderly lady with a Tintin dog calls me over. “I didn’t like her, she had nothing to say. But she was a candidate. For the Presidency of France. They don’t respect politics any more. It doesn’t mean anything. But this? She is not a clown, Royale."