It’s the surprise of walking in a state of the art shopping centre where a swipe of Visa gets you, (and 14.4 million people per annum), anything your heart desires to where, around the block, you’re outside a church founded in the 9th century with squirrels running around and acorns and snow crunching under your feet. It’s a tiny, well-hidden shop featuring Banksy art propped next to Prince Charles and Camilla teacups. Once the senses have been overwhelmed with curry sauce, coffee beans, bakeries, (where biscuits are the size of dinner plates), and you think there isn’t more, you find a hidden treasure called ‘smelly-alley’ by locals. Smelly-alley is a veritable treasure chest where a tiny jewellery shop, brussel sprouts; roasted chestnuts, bicycle and fish vendors sell their wares side-by-side. Old brass scales are on each counter where weights, and the price, are measured in pounds. Around the block and a few more steps and you’re standing on a bridge where there is an upscale sushi restaurant on your left and a river graced by swans on your right. It’s the new road with the cobblestone path leading off it. It’s the new Starbucks in a 300- year old building. It’s also the state-of-the-art equipment in a hospital that was founded in 1839. On Saturdays there is an open air market where East meets West. Its potato chips with curry sauce. Reading is where you meet tabby cats with names like Hamlet-Chlover, where you feel safe and where people are polite. Reading is where Kate Winslet was born and where you walk down a street named after her. But more than that, Reading, is where you get onto a train and embark at Piccadilly in 27 minutes and where, once a year, you attend the Reading Festival and listen to music you’ve only ever heard on CD. Whether you enjoy the old, the new, the odd, the quaint, the colourful or whether you like grey, its all there.


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