St Albans Clock Tower

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St Albans Clock Tower

I admit I am biased towards St Albans. My much loved Granny was married in the cathedral, my Mum went to school here, my sister lives nearby with one husband and two cherubic nephews and - not least - at age six I fell into the lake in Verulamium Park and was rescued in the nick of time from swans who clearly looked on me as an unexpected but potentially tasty snack.

But apart from these personal associations, St Albans has much going for it. Not just the Roman link represented by poor old Alban, Britain's first martyr, killed on the hill because he refused to surrender his Christian beliefs. Nor the Roman theatre, which gives such a vivid impression of past dramatic excitements, let alone the Thameslink train, which speeds Snalbaners into London faster that the inhabitants of Hampstead and Highgate marooned on the Northern line of the Underground.

Like the best of city life, St Albans combines the virtues of old and new.

Saturday night in St Albans makes Saturnalia look like the tea party of a particularly dull vicar. Chastity belts are standard issue to the city's virtuous sons and daughters. A fine time is had by everyone else. Sunday afternoon is the best time for exploring yet more St Albans nooks and crannies, notably the delights of old-world Fishpool Street and Kingsbury Water Mill. One of the city's finest pubs is the Fighting Cocks, where you can still enjoy - if that is the right word - a drink in the Cockpit, where the fights were held.

At this point the eyelids are beginning to feel heavy. Walk up to the medieval Clock Tower, whose bell once signalled the start of the day, at four in the morning, and ended it at eight in the evening. Look, ponder and now you know the basicproblem of life in the Middle Ages: they got the day the wrong way around.

The Clock Tower is in the High Street. It is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, Easter to mid-September.