Kings Square is perhaps the most sensible of the four squares that organize themselves in the quadrants of downtown Charlottetown.
Rochford Square has a tony patrician air, with a formal garden and fine houses lining its borders. Connaught Square was ravaged by Hurricane Juan, and has the pall of its former life as “Jail Square” hanging over it. Hillsborough Square is the workhorse of the bunch — it’s always filled with kids at the playground and people walking their dogs — and it hasn’t quite thrown off the taste of being “on the wrong side of the tracks.”
Kings Square, though, faced by the MacLean funeral home, Sterns laundry, Holland College and the Central Christian Church complex, is solidly middle class. It’s workaday without being down and out. It’s got the most flourishing trees of the bunch. It’s the CBS of the town square set to the PBS of Rochford Square, the ABC of Hillsborough Square and the Fox of Connaught Square.
As such, it was the perfect location for Hon. Shawn Murphy, Member of Parliament for Hillsborough, to hold his Strawberry Social this past Wednesday: Kings Square embodies the kind of centrist “everyman” image that the Liberal Party strives to maintain.
Being a sucker for offers of free ice cream, Oliver and I walked over with G. around 6:30 p.m. to see what we could see. We joined a motley crowd that included a good selection of stalwart Liberals, a good selection of politically agnostic free ice cream seekers like ourselves, and a smattering of weirdos.
If you’d told me ten years ago that Shawn Murphy would be good at the kind of smalltalk and gladhanding that is required at events like this, I wouldn’t have believed you; much to my surprise, though, he seems like a natural. He and G., for example, share a distant relation and they spent a good 5 minutes carving up their family tree together before Shawn was pulled away to shake someone else’s hands. He may not come by it naturally, but if he’s faking it, I can’t tell.
The most bizarre event of the night was when a tall older man stridently walked through the middle of the square shouting “Shawn Murphy’s for Faggots” at the top of his lungs. To their credit (I think), the crowd paid him no heed. And I can’t imagine what would have been a useful response (stoning?).
The ice cream — an ADL product Tom Cullen told me — was good; the strawberries, alas, a slurry rather than fresh (Catherine Callbeck served fresh when we went to her social; she was Premier at the time, mind you). Oliver decided he didn’t like Liberal ice cream, so I had to eat a helping a a half, and so felt mildly dizzy for the rest of the night.
As Shawn shook hands and we wolfed down our ice cream, and the homphobe ranted through, a solitary musician, accompanied by a Muzak-generating electronic band, stood on a flatbed truck and filled the air with country ballads.
After half an hour, we got up from our seats on the grass, waved our goodbyes, and stole off into the night.