Monday, 12 March 2012

Why me?


People keep telling me they're fascinated by the idea of Twin Town.

I had lunch at the weekend with someone who requested I visit her twin (Marly-le-Roi in the suburbs of Paris). Halfway through her perfectly poached egg, she asked the question everyone keeps asking. And the question I asked two years ago when I had the idea for this little adventure.

Why do towns 'twin' with each other?

I couldn't give her a definitive answer. I mentioned Swindon and Disney World Florida and its magic roundabouts. I mentioned Denham and Shark Bay. I also said about Dresden and Coventry and their bombings.

Then I told her the story of Waltham Abbey, Hoerstel and unrequited enthusiasm...

Back in 1993, Hoerstel in North Rhine-Westphalia decided it wanted to twin with somewhere in Europe. More specifically, somewhere in France or England. They formed a twinning association and tried to decide: France (on the doorstep) or England (over the water). It was too difficult. So they put it to the local population in the local paper.

The result was clear. The people had spoken. Hoerstel should twin with somewhere in England. Simple. So the association got to work trying to find an English town that might like to twin with a collection of five villages in the north of Germany.

After writing to all the towns that sit on the outskirts of London, the people of Hoerstel waited for the love letters to flood in. Time passed. Nothing. It seemed Hoerstel wasn't the dream partner its people thought it was.

But then a response came from Waltham Abbey, a small town on the border of Essex and Hertfordshire, known for being the reputed (and disputed) resting place of King Harold, and for its position bang on the Greenwich Meridian.

Hoerstel's decision was made. Fate had thrown it into a relationship with Waltham Abbey. Fate and the laziness of everyone else in the Greater London area.

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