Water Clocks

The Fens are full of surprises. I was in Ramsey last night, talking to book lovers at the library. I spent a winderful hour beforehand visiting Ramsey’s excentric satellites – Ramsey Forty Foot, Ramsey Heights (15 feet), Ramsey St Mary, Ramsey Mereside, Ramsey End and Ramsey Hollow. We talked about the love of books, the love of maps, the love of place. My idea was to draw a link between my first book – The Water Clock – and the latest – The Silent Child. Both are grounded – ironically – in the watery Fens. I explained that I’d dreamt up The Water Clock as a title by simply playing with words until something seemed to ring true – I had no idea they actually existed. At the end of the talk a woman took the time to tell me a revealing story. The picture here shows the wide street at the heart of the town. Under it flows a river, once a busy canal for barges. When the Victorians covered it over they set up this great clock – and, originally, it was driven by the flow of water beneath. Apparently it was such a poor time keeper that this water clock was known as the ‘Dummy’. It is now driven by other means, but is still I’m afraid to say not very accurate. I was nearly twenty minutes late for the talk. Just a small example of the endless hidden mysteries of the Fens – one of the reasons Hanna, The Silent Child, will always return.