Arriving in Eye on a warm weekend afternoon, the glare is half-blinding; a shadowless, high-noon sun reflected from the whitewashed, tightly packed rows of historic, timber clad buildings. On the curved high street, the effect is like standing in a gaping mouth beneath a dentist’s light. A clutter of classical statuary, wilting flowers and rag dolls reflected in antique mirrors are barely visible through the murk of the shop windows; the patrons are absent, most likely drinking.
A Sebaldian sense of recently dissipated disaster taints the air. Close by, one feels, lies an immense heap of stripped corpses. Walking this circular, looping main street, we saw only one person, passing her twice in forty five minutes; an ill-pallored girl, who despite seeming as bewildered and dazed as we were, scrutinised us harshly both times. Before long, we reached the impressive, Elizabethan church and Tudor Guildhall with its fine, carved buttresses; these were both locked, inaccessible, possibly irradiated, having the forlorn aura of being scheduled for demolition. Higher up, at this end of the town, we first noticed the pervading silence, not the idling calm of a settlement at its Sunday rest; instead a vacant, blighted emptiness originating in and emanating from multiple second homes. The only noise was the chug of supermarket delivery lorries; and the subliminally audible, subterranean mirth of fattened yuppies gloating in their wine cellars.
Nevertheless, we pressed on, making for the Castle; a stone crown upon a lofty earthen mound in the centre; a possible treasure trove of a destination that promised a bounty of picturesque views and factually informative boards. Twenty minutes later we gave up; the castle can be publicly glimpsed, it seemed, but not visited, as all paths to it led back to the circular high street; perhaps the castle is privately owned but not a main residence. Relentlessly corralled along the high street’s circuit we re-passed the town hall; a brutal, Victorian red brick affair, more lair of the nemesis than hearth of municipal benevolence. Finally, after an hour in Eye, we were returned to what had gradually become the town’s most overwhelmingly interesting feature; our own cars.