Monday, January 05, 2009

Reading Problems

Reading is a toilet (the town in Berkshire, not the visual intake of words).

Oscar Wilde was jailed there, my favourite reality cop-show is filmed on its mean streets and in 2007 Reader's Digest readers voted it the worst town in Britain in which to raise a family. Apparently because drugs, crime, surreal property prices and pollution don't make for happy children (who knew ?!)

It was a toilet even in Thomas Hardy's day - his Aldbrickham in "Jude the Obscure" is a thinly disguised version of the unloveable old brick town that preceded the current concrete monstrosity.

It's the people too. Away from the higher than average number of addicts and criminals in the centre, the suburbs are carpeted with identikit semi-detached executive homes full of people who do those worthless jobs that surely no-one would really miss should the current financial apocalypse sweep them all away. Market Researchers. Mobile telephone engineers. Programme managers. Contract lawyers. And hundreds of thousands of Estate Agents.

I almost forgot that the University of Reading once turned me down for a University place, but there are plenty enough reasons to dislike the place without dredging up the past.

So why am I spending most of the next month in a motel in Reading's M4 services? In other words, why have I chosen to live a low-rent hole on the outskirts of a toilet. Where did my life go wrong ?

I blame the Credit Crunch. Travelodge had an online sale and I couldn't resist sorting out my accomodation needs for the entire month of January at £12 a night. And my accomodation needs aren't particularly demanding - a bed, a bathroom and a place outside to park my car.

Thanks to my mobile broandband dongle I've also got fast internet access and I've been passing the time watching "Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe" on BBC IPlayer.

Charlie Brooker was born in Reading, so maybe the place isn't a total write-off. His comedy is angry and hellish clever. Very, very rude too. If you like your comedy to come with a bit of pain and a whole bunch of other emotions then it's well worth seeking out "Nathan Barley" or his recent reality-show zombie comedy "Dead Set".

"Screen Wipe" is a simple idea but it's so well executed. Charlie Brooker, a remote control and a seeming unstoppable wave of spleen and humour. One quick example where he claims that Alexandra Burke's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah has ruined it forever as a song now "destined to be played at thick people's funerals".

I refuse to analyse the show further. It's on BBC4 and online. Watch it.

And stay the heck out of Reading unless you're a masochist on a budget.


Anonymous said...

Hey Stan, Reading Uni turned me down too! By the way, there's a nice article in the online Grauniad today- on budget hotels and Travelodge get a few mentions. You may want to consider sleeping in the bathroom, or you car.

Anonymous said...

Just recieved my certificate from Jack Straw, reading your blog with great interest - keep it up!

Cheers, A new JP.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Reading is a toilet. i live here and hate it. The drug problem is so very real. I see prostitutes whenever i take the dog for a walk. It is a total crap town. Thank you for being honest