I live in Reading which doesn’t quite qualify as a City – we don’t have a cathedral you see which is how UK towns and cities are differentiated. You can apply every few years ago to become a city based on other more economic criteria but Reading has been continually thwarted in its attempts to do so. I think that tells you everything you need to know about Reading. It has ideas above its station but remains deeply mediocre. When market research companies want to gather data on the average they come to Reading. The main shopping areas are full of the usual retail giants – we don’t do small shops in Reading. We do out of town supermarkets instead – visitors to Reading can feel safe in the knowledge that they will never be more than 5 minutes away from a Tesco superstore. During the day the town centre seems to be disproportionately full of teenage Mums and men that wear slogan T shirts – you know the kind of thing. They aren’t funny or indeed particularly offensive – just indicative of a lack of imagination and a propensity to feel slightly hard done by. During the night Reading folk come out to play and descend into a horrible mess of Bacardi Breezers, strong lager, violence and vomit.


Many people, Londoners in particular, look down on Reading and congratulate themselves for the fact that they don’t reside in such a suburban mediocrity. They claim to love the “edgy” area that they live in which is a good job really because the only people that can afford to live in the nice areas of London these days are Russian oligarchs and JK Rowling. Edgy usually translates into “I pay 60% of my take home salary on rent/mortgage for a shoe box in Brixton, I’ve been mugged 3 times, burgled twice and I think number 28 is a crack den” but hey London’s just so vibrant. They have a point. London is an amazing city – fabulous museums and galleries, theatres, shops and restaurants. But in my own little way I love Reading. Admitting to this is deeply uncool – its up there with eating McDonalads and drinking Lambrini. But I do, and here’s why.

I live in a smallish, sunny little Victorian house that myself and my husband can afford to pay a mortgage on without having to take in lodgers or only eat three times a week. We live about 200 yards from the River Thames and have spent many a happy evening by the river in our favourite pub garden which is a 5 minute walk away. We are a 10 minute walk from the railway station and both can be at work in our respective London offices in around and hour and 15 minutes from door to door. We have a garden that we grow nice vegetables in. We can walk into central Reading in about 15 minutes and only need one car because we walk everywhere and get trains if we don’t. At night it’s quiet and I feel safe. Lots of our friends are here and my parents are nearby – quite a consideration when you are 3 weeks away from the birth of your first baby. We are a 5 minute walk away from Caversham which, whilst still part of Reading, contains nice coffee shops, delicatessens, butchers and all those little shops you don’t seem to find in many other places. I will be able to take our baby for walks by the river and in the local nature reserve. We are also a short drive away from some beautiful countryside. A rural idyll Reading is not but it’s close enough. Let people sneer – sometimes average is beautiful.

Penny, Reading, UK

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