Fen Blow: Kind and not so kind cuts about Fenland
PUBLISHED: 08:08 27 January 2006 | UPDATED: 21:39 28 May 2010
Regular users of March railway station will be surprised to learn it s closed. It s gone . That s the case if you believe the latest book by Alan Bennett, actor and author of some marvellous television monologues (later performed as stage plays at the An
Regular users of March railway station will be surprised to learn it's closed. It's "gone". That's the case if you believe the latest book by Alan Bennett, actor and author of some marvellous television monologues (later performed as stage plays at the Angles Theatre, Wisbech) and the filmscript of The Madness of King George.
Despite his gaffe about March, he remains one of my favourite writers. I cherish his cruel description of the land around here: "Hedges gone, soil soused in fertiliser, a real Fison's Fen."
He describes two tractors in tandem "plying up and down a vast field, conscientiously soaking the soil with yet another spray".
Other writers have been kinder to the Fens. Edward Storey lived for years in Whittlesey. He now lives in the Welsh border country but he was totally in tune with our landscape and local characters. His descriptions of the Fens in winter have never been bettered.
But what does surprise me is the district's neglect of John Gordon. He had the wit to become a journalist in his adopted home of Wisbech. Yes, he worked for the opposition, but nobody's perfect. At least he subsequently moved to the Eastern Daily Press, the Standard's sister paper, and now lives in Norwich.
For me, his best book is The House on the Brink. It's a spooky tale of teenagers in Wisbech, one of whom discovers he is a water diviner and able to detect echoes of the past in Fen mud. It features Peckover House, the Town Bridge and legends about King John's lost jewels.
A short book, it's a compulsive 'page turner'. Re-reading it after 20 years, I still found myself carrying it around the house - in case I got a moment to read another two pages. John wrote it for teenagers. Criminally, it's out of print. If the Queen's School and Wisbech Grammar School don't fight to get it back in print and then introduce it to every pupil in years eight to 10, then both schools should be put on special measures.
Anyone who's read it will find it hard not to shiver when they see the river at low tide. Mind you, it's not all fantasy. The teenage hero plucks a Wisbech apple. "Spit on it," advises his girl friend. "It's been sprayed.