Weekend in Reading

August 9th, 2004

Helen and I spent the weekend in Reading visiting Matt. Since our last visit the city has undergone some massive redevelopment, specifically the Oracle shopping centre with its canal-side European-style cafés and coffee houses. These new additions really suited the hot lazy weather that beamed down on the city on Saturday. It’s weird visiting a city after we’ve been living the small small-town/village life of Buckingham for so long. We rarely get out into the urban sprawl these days save for visiting friends. Our nearest city is Oxford – I don’t think Milton Keynes actually counts despite the locals calling it “the city”. Oxford too is a nice place to visit for shopping. It’s also great for walking along the river-side parks that are in the city centre. Southampton has plenty of greenery and parks too. My favourite cities have parkland rivers running through them so you can easily escape the hustle and bustle of the relentless shoppers to go and sit on a bench with a nice ice-lolly and a chat.

I guess this is why I never took to Milton Keynes – the place just doesn’t mix things together as organically as a traditional town/city. The developers consciously segregated all the pubs into one area, all the parks in another and all the shops in another. I’d never considered why I disliked the place so much until now. I used to think it was due to the hideous 60s concrete buildings of any overspill town but it’s not that. Milton Keynes has some great modern architecture now but the problem still lies in the fact that it just doesn’t have any of those nice things you find in the traditional city. However, it does have a superb indoor Karting centre which we visted for the second time yesterday and thrashed round the track for a full 15 minutes. Having been once before my confidence was much higher and I was throwing myself into the corners. Helen’s dad’s confidence was up by equal measures and he had no hesitation in pummelling into the side of my car in order to get past me. Apparently the place is closing down in October to make way for a new ASDA. Milton Keynes, of course, needs yet another shopping centre doesn’t it? Within five miles you’ve only got a Morrison’s, a Tesco, Liddle, Sainsbury’s and an Iceland. So we’re going to have to settle for the £25 per 15 minutes thievery that is the Daytona outdoor karting centre in central Milton Keynes.

Whilst in Reading I discovered the Boss Wave Radio/CD player. Matt’s house-mate Geoff has one in his bedroom. Whilst it looks like your bog-standard clock radio (albeit slightly more stylish and with a remote control) it’s actually the best sounding audio device ever. I was utterly amazed at the machine’s ability to play high definition sound at a range of volumes. At £450 it’s not cheep and plenty of people will baulk at the idea of buying one but I sure know what I’ll be saving my pennies for! Apparently there’s a factory outlet in Bicester where they can be picked up for £100 less. Excellent.

Also included in this weekend’s entertainment-packed schedule we watched a bunch of US comedy movies. Firstly, knowing I’m a massive Spinal Tap fan, Matt let me watch the Return of Spinal Tap which was a funny-at-times but nowhere near as funny as the original piece of film. It was a live concert recorded in 1992 in London. The actors prove themselves to be very very good musicians and the real highlight was their acoustic set. A few rockumentary comedy sketches were thrown in between songs to give an idea of what the band have been doing since the last film but the funniest bit was when Derek Smalls popped out for a restaurant meal during one of Nigel’s overlong guitar solos. We also saw two other films from the makers and stars of Spinal Tap: Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Yet again both are spoofs. The former is the funniest and is about a crufts-style dog show and the contenders and their dogs. Very amusing, especially the highly-strung and self-loving Weimeraner dog owners. A Mighty Wind is like This is Spinal Tap but for folk music. The music is probably the best thing about the film though there are a few funny moments. We also watched “Old School” starring Luke Wilson (Owen’s brother) though I was perhaps a little bit too drunk to remember much of it. I do know that Snoop Doggy Dog was in it doing some rapping though.