Following on from last weeks post about the new Frank Turner album, I have been listening to it pretty much on constant repeat. As mentioned in that post, the song that has really grabbed me is Wessex Boy, a folk-punk tale of the delights of your hometown and the place it holds in your heart. And this got me thinking. I grew up in Reading, a simple Berkshire town, with delusions of grandeur (we always want to be a city but never succeed) but a good strong history.
And, so, this weeks Top 5 is quite simply, the Top 5 things of my home, Reading. Some of these things are intangiable, some are long gone but all have a place in my heart and a hand in making me who I am.
5 – The Fez/The Turtle
What can I say about these two fine establishments? Only one is still with us, The Fez having been replaced by the soulless and empty Sakura, but in the mythology of my mind, both are still going strong.
First The Fez, I started going to this fine venue back when it was Alleycats and in someways never left. More than any other establishment in Reading (more than even The Monks or Hope Tap) this sticky sweaty room saw my teenage triumphs and tragedies. The weekly Monday night rock night introduced me to music and people that I still hold dear to this day.
And The Turtle. Any Reading local can tell stories of this place. Some love it, some hate it but all accept its integral role in the night life of Reading. It is crowded, intimidating, friendly and awesome and no night out in Reading is complete without at least a pint here.
4 – The Forbury
If Number 3 and 5 cover my late teenage years, The Forbury covers the earlier ones. The Forbury Gardens tends to go through circles, of being nice and family friendly on its upswings, and then rougher and not so friendly in its downturns. But it was were we went. This is where I first enjoyed an illicit bottle of White Thunder, this is where I first got beyond kissing with a girl (Thanks K!). I got in fights here, I argued with the resident addicts, I got ice creams from the van. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve attempted to climb up onto the lion, or the amount of afternoons spent using our school jackets as rugs to lie on and our school bags as pillows. This patch of green amongst the concrete of Reading is the source of some damn good memories.
3 – The Oracle Riverside.
Ah, the Oracle. Technically I am banned from its hallowed halls, but that’s a story for another day…
The Oracle opened when I was 16, what was once a generic office area and a bus station became a shining temple to commerce. And, for a dreary town this was a rejuvenation. We finally had something go for ourselves other than more pubs than any other. It’s opening coincided with me starting my 6th Form, Year 12. I was the last school year to not have to do AS Levels so my lower 6th year was a year without exams and thus I slacked off. Me and a variety of friends (although more often than not, Rich Lee) would head into town for all our free periods, and the Oracle was our haunt. We had our traditions. Every Tuesday we would do Pizza Hut buffet, for 6 hours. Mondays we would get Slushies and cakes at BBs. We had drinking races at Chillis. Rich and I once spent an entire half-term playing House Of Dead III in Vue. We were mallrats in the truest sense of the word
2 – Arthur Newbery Park
I may be a Reading boy, but smaller than that, I’m a Tilehurst Boy. I grew up here and, more than any other part of Reading, this is where my heart lives. And, as kids, Arthur Newbery Park was were we played. In the summer, we climbed The Climbing Tree, we played The Floor Is Lava around the playground. Come the winter, it turned into the best sledging run known to man.
I may have missed out on the idyllic childhood of those of you who grew up in the country, but lets juts say this park gave me all I needed.
1 – My Friends
Jono, Peter, Jamie, Katie, Laura, Sarah, David, Andrew, Anna, Katie, Ian, Mark, Neil, Heather, Jason, Barry, Micheal, Peter, Paul, James, Tim, Paul, Simon, Chris, Sarah, Lizzy, Leanne, Suzi, Katie, Elinor, Chris, Zippy, Nicola, Vicki, Lee, Libby, Sam, Dom, Kevin, Rich, Matt, Phil, Gareth, Andrew, Tom, Nat, Andy, Rich, Molly, Rob, Ian, Paul, Mark, Alex, Zahid, Phil, Dave, Andrew, Neeraj, Danny, Paul, Neil, Swithun, Jamie, Tom, Richard, David, Chris, Tom, Tom, Stefan, Doran, Alex, Casey, Thag, Mike, James, Adam, Ben, Graham, Amy, Amy, Toni, Terri, Sian, Laura, Laura, Sarah, Ruth, Laura, Laura, Laura, Ammy, Amie, Sophia, Ryn, Gen, Tash, Sarah, Sarah, Debs, Gill, Alex, Sarah, Rachel, Naomi, Angharad, Gemma, Ali, Dom, Freya, Jen, Nicola, Uncle Dan, George, Cerys, James, Daniel, Richard, Phil, Ele, Lizzy, Emily, Steph, Emma O, Bryony, Sarah, Caz, VK, Charlie, Tommy, Hannah, Laura, Amy, Alison, Ben, Mirium, Rhys, Bronwen, Claire, Penny, Jo, Andrew, Lousie, Eloise, Sian, Mat, Andrea, Alice, Alex, Rik, Carys, Sian, Liz, Shelly, Beth and anyone else my White Thunder-adled brain has forgotten.
All of you have made me who I am. And without being overly sentimental, you are my favourite part of my home town.