The Shit Things in Reading Euro 2021 Sweepstake Kit! 💩 ⚽

Euro 202̶0̶ 21 is here. That’s exciting, isn’t it? At least it is if you like football. And you should like football because it’s very good. Not only is it (sometimes) exciting, it’s (occasionally) amusing and (often) a reason to shout unreasonably loud swearwords at the television in full earshot of your family.

Maybe you’re one of those weird people with stupid tastes who doesn’t like football. Perhaps you – wrongly – prefer rugby. You may even be a woman (some people are). Yet like it or not, you’ll be hearing all about the European Championships over the next month. So why not embrace the fun and organise a sweepstake for it?

Think of it like Eurovision. Except it goes on for four weeks, isn’t nearly as fun and any homosexuals taking part are so far in the closet they could have played for Narnia had they not been called up here.

With this special COPYRIGHTED Shit Things in Reading sweepstake you can have fun even if you don’t know what football is. Just print off the following list, cut out the countries and distribute randomly amongst you and 23 others. Throw a small amount of money in to make it fun! Throw a really big amount of money in to make it even more fun!!

To truly get into the tournament, why not go the extra mile and really get behind your adopted country, eh? To help you do just that, here’s the sweepstake, along with some STiR tips on how to honour your new nation in the town you call home (Reading)…

Drawn Italy, eh? We suggest you buy a Vespa and a pizza slicer from Facebook Marketplace and ride about the IDR crying about your mother and trying to slice pedestrians’ buttocks. Then drink four of those big bottles of Birra Moretti, ride up to Caversham on your daft new moped and have a Puttanesca pizza from Papa Gee’s. Make sure to wear an electric blue Puffa jacket and gesticulate with genuine emotion at traffic.

I mean you could eat a load of chocolate or melt and slurp a full wheel of Dairylea or something, but unless you’ve got some Nazi gold to fence, the best way to inhabit the Swiss psyche is just to be neutral. Form no opinions, side with no one over anything and refuse to put your car in gear when attempting to drive up Alpine Street.

The Ottoman empire’s been gone a century now, so you don’t need to worry about buying an expensive ottoman from that poncy Beadle Crome place opposite the Pentahotel on the Occy Road. It’s called ‘Turkey’ now (like the bird!). Embrace your sweepstake nation with a large Grade 1 skin fade from one of six Turkish barbers on the Caversham Road and enjoy a large doner from Marmaris Kebab.

Bad luck, you’ve drawn the Welsh. It’s cheese on toast and a drive down the M4 for you. Maybe see if they’ve got a Gavin & Stacey DVD box set in Cash Converters. Turn the telly up when the Go Compare ad comes on. Sing loudly. Be obnoxiously pissed in a quiet pub during a Six Nations match. That sort of thing.

Excellent, you’ve hit a BOOZE NATION. Get yourself down The Nag’s. Bottles of Delirium, Leffe, La Chouffe and Rochefort 10. See how many you can drink before passing out. Of course, that’s not how the Belgians drink their beer, they just sip tiny little glasses of it. But sod that. You’ll be alright, just scoff down a few waffles when you get home. Yeah, of course Birds Eye Potato Waffles will do. Piss artists can’t be choosers, dear.

This one’s easy. You’ve drawn Denmark. Celebrate your adoptive nation’s history and traditions by nailing a crate of Carlsberg at Legoland (even though it is in Windsor).

… Moomins cosplay?

Get into the Siberian spirit by downing a few white Russians down Milk and then annexing Hampshire.

Oooooh… bad luck. You’ve picked Austria. It’s Fritzl or Hitler, isn’t it? Actually, no – scrap that. Just watch The Sound of Music. Try not to lock a family member in a cellar for years or invade Europe.

There are lots of delicious ways to celebrate Holland: throw some Edam, tip a few pints of Amstel down a drain, smoke a tulip. Be imaginative, they’re a ridiculous nation, after all.

“When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Eric Bristow’s only 27.” Maybe go see if they have Oliver Stone’s Alexander on Blu-Ray to rent from Reading Library.

Find out which of your friends, family or colleagues drew Russia. Go hang out around with them until they steal your shoes and BATTER you.

Croatia, eh? Get yourself down to Sewmaster on West Street, pick up a new Singer and some red gingham fabric and make yourself a nice tight checked catsuit.

YEAH! You’ve selected a BOOZE NATION. March on down the Oxford Road and step into the first of the many Eastern European ‘skleps’. Buy all of the tins of Staropramen, Budvar and Pilsner Urquell on offer. Repeat until you’ve been into every sklep. Maybe take some bin bags. Be sure to ‘Czech’ the receipts! Ho ho!

Congratulations! You’ve picked out the only PROPER country here. You’ll definitely win, so start celebrating now by nailing a load of Bombardier down the Monk’s and then chucking their outside seating about Friar Street! VINDALOO!

You’ve pulled Scotland. Ach. The Scotch don’t stand much chance of winning the Euros, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun embracing the culture and cheering on ‘The Tart and Army’ over their three group game defeats. You can get those Russ Abbott ginger wig ‘n’ tam o’shanters off Amazon for like three quid. Not sure if the Turtle still sell Tennent’s, but most offies sell Buckfast. Get a bottle and head up by the old Central Swimming Pool. Ten quid’s worth of brown should do you a night. Stumble up to the Murco and grab a Scottish egg and a tin of Irn-Bru and you’re well away. After all, mony a mickle maks a muckle, ya wee boabie!

Trips to Piwnica (ask for the ‘tomahawk’ raspberry vodka and tabasco shot) and The White Eagle (ask for the ‘Ciechan Pszeniczne‘ beer – well, try asking for it and then give up and point at it) should get you in the mood. Or just very, very pissed. Either way.

Find out who drew the Czech Republic, get into a relationship with them and very amicably split up.

With Picasso’s – and even La Tasca – now closed down, you may have to make do with sitting at home with some cubed potatoes and ketchup. Maybe team them with a few cans of Sammy Gell or Es Stella. Unless you want to hang around the RBH. There are loads of sexy young Spanish nurses and doctors and that working there now. I don’t mind going to the hospital nowadays. What with all the sexy young Spanish nurses and doctors and that working there now.

What better way to immerse yourself in Swedish culture than by getting stuck in traffic getting in and/or out of IKEA. Don’t pronounce it ‘Eye-Kia’, though. Say it the annoying bloody Scando way, “Ick-ia”. Daft Swedes, saying their own bloody words wrong! Still, you can’t argue with ’em. They are all 60 times better looking than us.

You’ve picked former superpowers of European football and genocide, Germany! They’re not as good at either anymore, so don’t expect to win. If you want to get into the Germanic spirit, why not treat yourself to a few Paulaners down Bierhaus. Have six or seven and then storm into Piwnica, run up a huge tab and refuse to pay. Do the accent and you might get away with it. Wunderbar!

Slap a man in Patisserie Valerie and blow Gitanes smoke in a child’s face while muttering ‘pourquoi?’ Then drown yourself in the Kennet.

Hungary, eh? Er, why not pop down to Geo Cafe, see if they have any, er, goulash? I know that place is Georgian, but Georgia and Hungary are probably near each other, aren’t they? I dunno. Puskás? I’m running out of steam here a bit.

Portugal, eh? Look, the Maddy thing mostly wasn’t their fault. We need to let that go. Tap into the Portuguese energy with a visit to O Português, where Bart’s Grill used to be on the Woky Road. Then stand to the left of whoever drew Spain and rattle on about sardines a bit.


There you go, that’s that. Wasn’t too painful, was it? #CONTENT

The STiR Colouring Book is OUT NOW!

Yeah, that’s right – a bloody colouring book. I’ve been going on about it enough. Well, now it’s here. And even YOU can buy it!

It is here. I’ve got a load at home. Well, I’ve got some. Not quite enough. I’ll explain later.

See?

What’s all this, then?

It’s a book. Well, it’s a colouring book. Yeah, they’re for kids. But apparently they’re also for adults now. I dunno. This one’s a colouring-in book featuring things in Reading from your boy Shit Things in Reading where you colour in pictures of things in Reading. It really is that simple. And, before you start, all the profits go to charity and – no – it doesn’t come with free pens or pencils.

I copy and pasted that last paragraph. It’s printed on the back of the book. The eagle-eyed amongst you might spot it in a minute.

Hang on… ‘charity’? What, really?!

That’s right, buster. All the profits go to a local charity. And not one fraudulently set up by me very recently, either. An actual real one. They’re called Younger People with Dementia and they’re a Berkshire mob who help, you guessed it, younger people with dementia. They do loads of great stuff, have a look on their website if you like, it’s your life.

Younger People With Dementia | Helping Younger People with Dementia and  their Carers

Because ALL of the cash goes to this lot, you have to buy one or more copies of this bloody book. In fact, if you don’t buy one (or more) and help support this worthy local cause, you should be ashamed of yourself. Deeply, deeply ashamed of yourself.

Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.

If you do buy one (or more), well, cheers. You’re alright, you. I don’t care what everyone else says about you. You’re alright.

See? I told you it was on the back of the book.

Let’s have a look at it, then!

No. Sod off. There are only 39 pages, let’s not ruin the surprise, eh? Suffice to say that the book is stuffed full of local favourites that Reading types will know and ‘fans’ of Shit Things in Reading will recognise from years and years of exhausting and repetitive #content.

Here’s a little preview to whet (yes, that is how you spell it…) your appetite:

Alright, FINE. I’ll bloody well buy one (or more)

Cushty. You know it makes sense, Rod. There are a couple of ways of getting your mitts on a book (or books):

Buy ’em from me direct. Drop me a message on any of the socials, tell me how many you want and where to send them and I’ll give you my PayPal. You bang me a tenner (£8 + £2 P&P) per copy and I post it/them. Downside – you have to talk to me. Also, there WILL be a bit of a delay in me sending them because I am a VERY busy and important man. And also I didn’t get enough printed up to handle the modest, but still quite unexpected demand. So you might have to wait a week. Upside – I might write you a special unique message inside. OOOOOOOH.

Go to the shops like people did in the olden days. Nip into But Is It Art? in town or the Caversham Emporium and pick up a copy from them. They’ll be fairly limited supplies, but by Friday, the Emporium will be stocked up and BIIA? should have a box by the end of the weekend. They’re a tenner a pop from them, cash only. Why a tenner? There’s a 20% mind your own business tax, that’s why.

Failing that, you can buy it from Bezos. It’s £7.99 + P&P (bugger all postage if you’ve got Amazon Prime). Feel free to do this is you don’t want to talk to me (understandable) or give me your address (even more understandable). You’ll get it a Helluva lot quicker than waiting for me to send it to you, but Amazon do take a sizeable cut of the money, so you’re effectively halving your donation. Up to you, mate. It really is your life.

Is that it?

Nearly. Once you’ve bought the thing, feel free to shout about it on social media, tag us into a post or photo and leave us a FIVE STAR review on the Amazons. Even if you didn’t buy it that way. Apparently that’s allowed, I checked and everything.

Like the illustrations? Well, you should. They’re by local penswoman genius Rowan Ash. Buy her other books, yeah?

PLEASE NOTE – There really are NO FREE PENS OR PENCILS and there are definitely NO REFUNDS.



PPS Listen to the bloody Shit Things podcast FFS. Mange tout.

The World’s Second Hottest Chilli + 1 Pint of Milk = Explosive Diarrhoea: An Unnecessary Anecdote

I’m telling you this because I remembered it last night and it’s not like I can bore my mates with it (again) down the pub, is it? So you’re copping it. Bad luck.

A few years ago, I ate an entire dried Trinidad Scorpion pepper at a BBQ off the Occy Road. I wasn’t even pissed, I just like showing off and thought it’d be a laugh (it was not a laugh).

These things are the second hottest chillies in the world at 2 million Scoville heat units. Apparently, that’s the same kick as 400 jalapeños or 10 Scotch bonnets. For those of you reading this in Whitley, that’s around half the potency of pepper spray.

Trinidad BASTARDS, more like.

I forget the exact ‘rules’ of the challenge, but it was something like ‘chew the bloody thing for 30 seconds, wait five minutes, then down a pint of milk’. So I did (because I’m hard and cool). And it was fine. For a bit. I mean, it was fuuuuuuucking hot, but you kind of expect that. It wasn’t pleasant tasting, but it was manageable. Mostly because my brain had kicked me into a trance-like state to help me cope. Feelings of euphoria washed over me as I disassociated and started trying to eat leaves off a nearby hedge and dreaming of a skip full of Soleros.

Post milk my mind settled a bit. I could talk again. Blimey, I’d eaten an entire Trinidad Bastard and gotten away with it. I was, presumably, the new hero of the two dozen people who’d witnessed and congratulated me in what was clearly my finest hour. What a man.

Now all that was left to do was double up in unbearable agony and spend the next twelve hours shitting explosive lava out of my arse while worrying that I’d inflicted permanent and irreparable damage to my digestive system.

The diarrhoea wasn’t optional and time was very much of the essence. The issue was that our host’s was a small-ish terraced house and there were loads of bloody people there. What my guts had planned wasn’t going to be conducive to a party with a happy atmosphere. But this needed out. My house at the time was too far away and I could’t risk a cab. It’s £50 cleaning fee in those things, y’know.

I had to go to a pub. It was either that or foul the car park of the Castle Street Vets and not even ill old Labradors do that FFS.

The Horse & Jockey (as it was then) was the nearest pub I could use. So I made a dart for it.

Trinidad Scorpion
Remember this place? Great, it was. It let me down here, but I forgave it. #RIPAitchAndJay

Jesus Christ, this was going to be close. I got there, still feeling a bit like I was sedated and very much like my arse was seconds away from going Full Vesuvius. I pushed the door. The fucker was closed. CLOSED! What kind of pub is closed at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon?! Well, the answer is ‘the kind of pub that’s just about to shut down’.

I was running out of time, shite-wise. It was getting like that film Speed, except instead of a bus, I was on foot. And Sandra Bullock wasn’t there. But there was a bomb.

Momentum was key, I couldn’t afford to stop and think. I had to push on before the intestinal pressure became too much to bear. I carried on running (well, cry-jogging while holding my backside). The Sun was now my only hope.

Trinidad Scorpion
The Sun Inn on Castle Street. I’ll be forever in their debt.

The Sun… was OPEN. I was able to evacuate in peace/agony. There was, of course, no toilet paper. So I had to use my trainer socks. Us English are nothing if not resourceful, Eddie.

I then had CRIPPLING stomach pains all day and all night and seriously considered calling a doctor. Don’t do it, kids. Don’t eat an entire chilli pepper that measures 2,000,000 on the Scoville Scale at a BBQ. Just have a burger or some potato salad or something instead.

This image should help paint a picture of my epic journey…

Trinidad Scorpion
A long way, given the circumstances.

Cheers for reading. Sorry it’s come to this. 💩 #content

Regurgitating Edible Reading

I used to follow the blogs and Twitter account of self-proclaimed ‘Reading’s Only Restaurant Blogger’ Edible Reading and genuinely used to find their recommendations useful. Whilst I found the writing style a little grating, I know that one has to be a bit of a smug, egotistic prat in order to set up such a public blog. I know this because I am the girlfriend of Shit Things in Reading (yes, yes, he has a girlfriend…). 

I had to unfollow the ER Twitter some time ago, as the mere glance of the opening lines of any of his more recent epic blogs or hugely earnest political tweets was enough to send me into an uncontrollable fit of anger. That is quite clearly personal preference and, indeed, there does seem to be a good following who enjoy his reviews and opinions.  Yesterday I read his most recent post ‘2020: The Year in Review’ and have been driven to rage to the extent where I feel I have had to put something in writing. 

I know what it is like to have a partner who runs a reasonably successful local social media account (12,279 followers on Facebook to Edible Reading’s 4,414 on Twitter *eyes emoji*). Shit Things in Reading can be a controversial account; however it is quite clear to those with a sense of humour that the author thinks highly of his adopted home town. Some of the posts I see cross a line where I feel the need to ask him to take it down. I feel that if I was the partner of Edible Reading, this would be one of those posts – at least a part of it.

This latest post sees ER use over 1,224 words to criticise a review from a local reporter and another local food blogger. It’s snide, it’s snobbish and it’s bullying. As a fair few people have pointed out online already. Presumably ER thinks that Hugh Fort is fair game as he writes for a local newspaper, one that ER clearly has a problem with, but should a person be open to insults for doing his job…? Hugh’s a busy local journo, he’s not Giles Coren.

For someone that clearly aligns themselves with liberal views – we know this as ER uses the platform of his restaurant review Twitter account to go on near-constant political diatribes – the often quite hateful, bitter tone of his more recent output doesn’t really chime with these values. 

I could go on about the clear sneering attitude ER has towards working class people and how this is also in direct contradiction with his obvious desire to present himself as a progressive, middle class, woke liberal, but I run the risk of this stream of consciousness rant reaching never-ending ER-rivalling proportions.

I appreciate that some may find my calling ER out for being unkind to others pretty hypocritical when STiR’s main bread and butter is ripping into anything that comes across his path (particularly another unfortunate local ‘journalist’). I think the issue I have with ER is that they’re positioning themselves from what they see as a morally superior position of a serious food writer.

The fact that so many of Reading’s independent businesses are starting to speak up about ER’s attitude and unpleasantness should really be enough to make the blogger stop and wonder whether they really are a bastion of local independent eateries or whether they are in fact, to paraphrase STiR, just being a bit of a cunt.

– Annoyed of West Reading

‘100% Reading’: Track-by-Track Reviews of a 2008 Compilation CD of Local Bands – PART 2

Oh, hi. You’re back. Nice to see you again. Well, nice to see some of you back, at least.

In Part 1 of our track-by-track review of the 2008 2-CD compilation album ‘100% Reading’, we took you through the first 19 tracks from local bands off of the olden days.

Here, in Part 2, we give to you our thoughts on the other half. Which makes sense, doesn’t it?

One Hundred Percent Reading

Ably assisting Uncle STiR this time are this crack team of co-reviewers:

  • Caversham gent and marrow worrier Stewart Harding
  • Mr. Reading Music Man himself Damian A. Passmore
  • Swineshead & Napoleon, the likely lads from the I Like It! podcast
  • He’s from Norfolk, but don’t hold that against him – Jimmy Young
  • He’s from London, do hold that against him – Jon ‘Horse’ Horsley
  • Esteemed Thug Bible columnist Pat McDevitt
  • She found the CD, so blame her for all of this – Texas M. A. Smith

Where I could find a video, I’ve embedded it. Where there’s no YouTube clip, you’ll just have to imagine what the song sounds like.

One Hundred Percent Reading

CD#2

1. Headlove – Too Bad
I feel a mildly desperate earnestness here. It feels full of an undercurrent of questions. Why aren’t they already supporting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on a worldwide tour? Like, seriously, why? They got their cow bell to tappity tap on; where, oh, where are the goddamn groupies? And when the fuck can they pack in their shitty jobs at DFS? Fucking angry about it. Listening to  all that useless pop crap that makes it up the charts. It makes no fucking sense. And there. That is what we learn from this song. Life is shit and you’re never going to make it. So why are you bothering at all…? (Tex Smith)

Rating: 42% Reading – A bit too bad.

2. Feud – Spilt Milk

Fuzzed-up guitars was definitely the thing back then in 2008, along with a snarly, snarky type of vocal. There’s great drumming on this track, though – the rhythm section is tight and belts along like an enraged rhinoceros. The song is a reminder of how angry and nasty fucked-up young people can be. Again, I’m not sure what the problem is but I definitely detect some dissatisfaction with the way life is panning out for these guys. It’s not bad for its type but I’d have enjoyed it more if it didn’t feel quite as much like getting punched repeatedly in the face. (Stewart Harding)

Rating: 50% Reading – There’s no use doing anything over Spilt Milk.

3. Boydidgood – You, Me and the Other Three

What is authentic? Jean-Paul Sartre thought jazz was authentic because it was African-American and not western culture, which was saw as mainly inauthentic. But then Theodor Adorno loathed jazz and thought it inauthentic because it was only concerned with appearance.

Jazz aside, Martin Heidigger came to think that technology made things inauthentic.

There’s no getting around the fact that on this song, Boydidgood sound like another band who were extremely popular at the time. That doesn’t stop me enjoying it and I’m certain if Heidigger went to the Dublin Castle and heard them playing it (acoustically) he’d like it too. Sartre and Adorno? Who knows? Who knows? (Jon Horsley)

Rating: 62% Reading – These chilly primates probably looked good on the dancefloor n 2008.

4. The Bandinis – Japanese Radio
Jangly jangly jangly, bangity bangity. You know the intro, yeah? These guys have not been on Japanese radio. They haven’t been to Japan. The song aches of escaping Reading to a mysterious place such as Japan, though. Maybe they’ve walked past Sushimania on the way back from the Hexagon a few times and thought, ‘oh yeah, we really should go there, but Bryan said it wasn’t great and Kate said the service was a pain… Looks like a bargain though?’ Mate. It’s not going to happen. Yo Sushi do those cheap Blue Monday deals. You’ll end up there again. It’s nice and central, after all. (Tex)

Rating: 77% Reading – Not quite Radio Ga Ga, not quite plasterer’s radio.

5. The Colours – Sinking Ships
Twinkly pianos. Fuzzy guitars. Lots of cymbals crashing. Harmonies. This song has all of these and more. It’s all very late-00s – a little bit Killers, a little bit Razorlight, the whole “singing in your own accent” thing that was popular for a while. There’s even a bit that feels musically similar to that Bond theme Chris Cornell did. The lyrics might be about a break up or possibly staying together – I kinda lost track in the “best of 2008” musical soundscape, but there’s something about Sinking Ships not dragging them down. Or apart. Or something. But it’s fun enough to enjoy. (Damien Passmore)

Rating: 82% Reading – Like a slightly better Keane (the band, not the psychopathic midfielder).

One Hundred Percent Reading

6. DissolvedIn – Egocentric

Unfortunately, this sounds a bit like Lostprophets which makes everyone feel a bit queasy these days. It’s not DissolvedIn’s fault but they’ve also conjoined two words in their name the way that Ian Watkins’ band did (not the Steps Ian Watkins – Lostprophets’ Ian Watkins). As a result, too many icky memories here.

VERDICT: Sorry, but we don’t like it. (I Like It! podcast – listen to it here)

Rating: 26% Reading – Lostprofits.

7. One Dollar Peep Show – Under Your Skin
This the band that Nigel from Vienna Ditto was in before Vienna Ditto. You can definitely hear his guitar in there, amongst the 60s-influenced vocal stylings and handclaps. There’s a lot going on here – it sounds a bit less 2008 and a bit more 1998, when there was still a lot more faux-60s stuff going on – but not in a distracting way. Every new synth riff, every new vocal effect, every change of pace seems perfectly in place. If this was the theme to an Austin Powers movie or the Reeves & Mortimer version of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) it would’ve been a MASSIVE hit. But it came a bit late for that, so it wasn’t. Listening the this, I regret never seeing this band live. (DP)

Rating: 98% Reading – High quality M&S Elastica-ted underpants.

8. Georgee – Could I Be the One?
I can’t help thinking that the title needs a question mark, as does, unfortunately, the track. It doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be – a folk song, a sentimental love song, a schmaltzy ballad? The guitar has a nice tone and there is some sympathetic drumming but the singing wavers uncertainly between styles. It’s all a bit sickly sweet for me and I can’t think what combination of recreational drugs might’ve helped me enjoy it more. Novichok maybe. No, that was unfair. Georgee was obviously very young when she recorded this and feeling her way into her own style. Good luck to her. She’s probably a retail manager or estate agent by now but not many estate agents can say they’ve got a track on a definitive compilation of Reading music. Can they? (SH)

Rating: 40% Reading – Averagee.

9. Mighty Man – Represent

“Represent” is repeated three times, seven times in a row so, doing the math (7×3=21) that makes twenty one represents before Mighty Man reveals who he’s even representing. Fortunately, he is representing RG1 so that’s all good. But making people do maths is annoying, so marks off for that. How many marks off? (6×78 – 467 = number of marks taken off. (See? I’ve made my point)).

Mighty Man is miles better at rapping than he is at cooking and his food looks okay, so it’s a fine song. Our pal Jonny Virgo from CD1 pipes up once again – still looking for his big break. If this radio version didn’t make it onto 210FM then more fool them. (JH)

Rating: 90% Reading – Mighty Man used to be everyone’s favourite bouncer at the After Dark. REPRESENT. 

10. Ed West – Dank Days

The title of this track doesn’t promise a whole lot in terms of light entertainment. And, boy, it delivers what it doesn’t promise. It’s the sort of thing that someone probably enjoyed putting together in his bedroom between savage bouts of pulling his pud. It’s crusted with post-masturbatory regret, la petite mort – the sensation of post orgasm as likened to death – that the French existentialists are always snivelling about. It’s also reminiscent of the toothache that comes with an abscess. I’d have enjoyed it more in an opioid-induced coma. I hope Ed West has cheered up a bit. (SH)

Rating: 50% Reading – Wank Ways.

One Hundred Percent Reading

11. Somebody’s Mind – Going Down in Fear
You gotta love a song that commits to a long build-up. Twangy guitars, swinging hi-hats and then the reverb-heavy vocals come in. And then… wow. It changes direction and becomes something VERY different. Sparse. Angry. Dangerous. Like being in somebody’s mind when they’re going down in fear, you might say. If anything, this song seems a little ahead of its time – it’s all very Last Shadow Puppets meets Nick Cave on a windy night in, oh I don’t know, Chatham Street Car Park. It’s great. (DP)

Rating: 86% Reading – ‘Going Down in Fear: The Monica Lewinsky Story’.

12. Vivacity – Casino
Craps is a popular game at casinos. Not that that’s relevant to Vivacity’s 2.5 minute gamble house shout piece, of course. A tom-whacking, One Way or Another-style guitar intro tees us up for a passionate tribute to Reading’s ever-popular Grosvenor dice joint. Liam Gallagher adds gravitas on guest vocals. (JY)

Rating: 70% Reading – When the fun stops, stop.

13. The Vibes – Maybe
If you’re going to put the bass that high in the mix, lads, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. And I’m not sure they do. This is a little too twee, a little trying-too-hard to sound sincere, and I’m not sure the drummer got the memo on that. I don’t know if the problem is in the song-writing or the production but the elements just don’t quite work together. I guess I just didn’t get a good vibe from it. (DP)

Rating: 32% Reading – Maybe not.

14. Bidgie Reef and The Gas – Umbrellas

This is a a tuneful little number that owes more than a little to early 1970’s David Bowie. Sadly a rather weak lead vocal from none other than Roger ‘Dad of Kate’ Winslet and some hackneyed Ian Dury-style lyrics make it somewhat jarring. A decent enough effort overall, though. (Pat McDevitt)

Rating: 64% Reading – Not quite as catchy as Rihanna’s version.

15. Mr. Phlo – Ban the Bomb
Oh good, it starts with a loud police siren to ease you in. The great thing about this song is that the siren comes back during the chorus, because as a sound, well, it’s just not been used enough as has it? Musically, that is. And why not? It’s recognisable and iconic. Yeah Elton John, even you think of this.

I can only cope with catching a few words here and there but they are sort of angry about everything, but also, they’re angry from a deep sofa. Sort of like those people in Facebook comments who you think ‘OMG why are you so angry about something so innocuous?!’ They don’t even proofread what they’ve typed before submitting FFS. CAN YOU IMAGINE.

I don’t know if this band wanted you to have a headache as part of the takeaway of this song, like maybe it’s a layered emotion they are sharing, is this what future music is? If so, these guys were ahead of their time.

Though, I never quite worked out why banning the bomb (which bomb? Dammit, it was hard to concentrate) and police sirens were a good mesh. Maybe I’m just too fucking middle class and privileged. I am SORRY, alright? OMG. (Tex)

Rating: 31% Reading – Ban the song, more like.

One Hundred Percent Reading

16. The Limes – Sun
Here we go, an elephantine plod beat over which there is a breezy, playful vocal that reminds me of dropping acid at Virginia Waters having seen a string of elephants walking up Ascot High Street (for real). At last a band that sounds as though being young might be fun and being alive might contain a little sprinkling of sparkling delight and beauteous wonder. Well done The Limes. I would have enjoyed it more if I was tripped out on magic mushrooms and riding my bicycle through the woods on a sunny day. It’s nice. (SH)

Rating: 90% Reading – SubLime.

17. Inimitable Dragonfly – Don’t Follow Me
Who’d imitate a dragonfly, anyway? They’re shit. Alright, they’re better than normal flies, but they’re not a patch on actual dragons. No one imitated Inimitable Dragonfly, either. Or followed them. Listening to this, you can see why. (STiR)

Rating: 44% Reading – Just not a very good song.

18. Matt Tanner – Selma
Lee Dorsey’s Working In A Coal Mine, Steve Harley’s (Come Up and See Me) Make Me Smile Garbage’s Supervixen, The Auteurs’ Showgirl and Matt Tanner’s Selma. All of these songs utilise the much under-used song-writing technique of stopping in the middle and then carrying on. Who doesn’t love a gap? It’s fun. Liberating. And it can fool people who don’t know what’s happening, resulting in a ‘Reverse of Kings’*. If I was Selma I’d be happy to have this blissed-out instrumental groove written about me.

* In the Come And Praise classic “Sing Hosanna To The King” where someone not paying attention would always add a final “of kings” to the hymn, eliciting much laughter pre-internet. (JH)

Rating: 92% Reading – Everyone loves          a gap.

Reading CD

There you go, that’s your lot. We got there in the end, didn’t we?

‘100% Reading’: Track-by-Track Reviews of a 2008 Compilation CD of Local Bands – PART 1

Barack Obama was elected US President. An enormous global stock market crash plunged the world into a huge financial recession. Lewis Hamilton became the youngest ever Formula One World Champion. Karen Matthews was convicted of kidnapping her own nine year-old daughter and stuffing her into a divan for a bit. 2008 was a busy ol’ year.

There was still time for culture, entertainment and music, though. Lots of time, in fact. Especially here in Reading.

In 2008, a selfless man called Laurence Hoare (don’t laugh) put a load of time, effort and money into collating a 37-track double album of songs from up-and-coming musical acts local to RG1. You can read more about his efforts here in this BBC News article.

Reading CD
100% LISTENING more like, yeah

12 years on, after one dedicated STiR fan stumbled across a copy while clearing out her loft, let’s revisit the thing. You know, like when Blue Peter would dig up one of their time capsules from their back garden (is Blue Peter the only TV programme to have its own back garden…? If you can think of any others – do write in and tell us).

Anyway. That album. It was called ‘100% Reading’ and here are the sleeve notes:

One Hundred Percent Reading
‘Music of international standard’ – we’ll be the judges of that, thankyouverymuch

I figured I’d review the songs. Not just me, though. I’ve enlisted some help because there’s no way I’m reviewing 37 different songs. I’m not Stuart bleedin’ Maconie. So thanks to:

  • The surprisingly-well-dressed-for-an-old-hippy allotment pest Stew Harding
  • Local music EXPERT and general face about town Damo Passmore
  • Swineshead & Napoleon from the excellent and therapeutic I Like It! podcast
  • Jimmy Young (not the Radio 2 DJ one)
  • Tex Smith (who definitely still lives around here)
  • Mrs. STiR (that poor woman)

Here’s the track listing. See if you recognise anyone…

One Hundred Percent Reading
This reads like a who’s who of anyone who was anyone, on the Reading music scene, in 2008

Where I could find a video, I’ve embedded it. Where there’s no YouTube clip, you’ll just have to imagine what the song sounds like.

Alright, that’s more than enough preamble. Let’s have at it, eh? Here are the first 19 tracks (Part 2 to follow) – reviewed and rated for you by your much-loved STiR & Friends…

One Hundred Percent Reading

CD#1

1. The Trouble with Me – Beautiful

I’ll admit it, I saw this as an opportunity to be a bit of a snide prick about some bobbins old music. I got a load of people together to help me giggle at slightly naff 12 year-old tunes. Yet when I finally came to listening to the actual music, I was surprised/slightly miffed to find that the first track on the album’s really bloody good. FFS. Melodic, catchy, well produced, this song could easily have slotted into XFM’s playlist. It’s a shame it didn’t too, only once you were on XFM’s playlist, you were never off XFM’s playlist. (Shit Things in Reading)

NB: On researching the band it looks as though both the bassist and singer have died since 2008. Which is rather upsetting. RIP lads.

Rating: 93% Reading – Great song, sad story.


2. Some Like It Hot – Here I Go

More like SUM 41 Like It Hot, amirite? This is a fairly straightforward bit of turn-of-the-century pop punk and the lyrics are awash with cliches. But it goes by very quickly and the longer you listen, the less you mind. Infectious and nostalgia inducing for the early 2000’s, even if it was recorded a few years later. (Damien Passmore)

Rating: 41% Reading – Some like it warm.


3. Junkyard Scientists – Pullin’ On My Strings

Job description inflation was alive and well in 2008. Time was when Junkyard Scientists were just called ‘those blokes that worked at the tip’. For their puppeteer’s anthem, ‘Pullin’ on my Strings’, the local outfit upcycled some funky pizzicato samples and syncopated drum beats and produced a chilled-out 3.5 minutes of passable Jay Kay/Craig David-esque nasal warballing. Is it art? Is it science? Is it junk? YOU DECIDE. (Jimmy Young)

Rating: 53% Reading – JamiroqWHY?!


4. The Skies – Lies
‘Interestingly’, The Who did a song in 1965 called ‘La La La Lies’, which I liked. The Skies, on this track, also do quite a lot of lalalaing about some lying bastards. “This world is full of liars,” they sing. Well, you can’t argue with that. It’s alright, it’s got bags of energy and a nice bashing backbeat. I can’t tell what it is exactly that’s given them the hump, though. Everything maybe. As a result they are aiming to do whatever they like and fuck everyone else. Good luck with that.

I like it, they’re having a right go about something which makes it better than sitting in a squalid bedsit sucking your fist and being all sensitive. I’d enjoy it more if I was out of my head on pills and dope. (Stewart Harding)

Rating: 79% Reading – Not half bad. No lies.


5. To the Barricades – Sunday Best

To the Barricades are not to be confused with Spandau Ballet’s final top ten hit Through the Barricades, a truly dreadful song about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Although it’s easy to mistake them, given the similarity in the names and the fact that I’ve rather confusingly added the Spandau video above. Instead, imagine a different – and slightly better – song. One called ‘Sunday Best’ that isn’t about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Imagined that? Great, you’ve got To the Barricades’ Sunday Best. (STiR)

Rating: 68% Reading – Not Sunday Best, but not Sunday Worst.

One Hundred Percent Reading

6. Monkey Militia – On the Tiles

Erm. It starts off with some porn grunting. It’s either going to be terrible or amazing…

IT’S AMAZING! It’s all about fucking your mum. Yes, specifically yours. They have demurely called the track ‘On The Tiles’, as that’s one of the many surfaces they had her on. And I tell ya’ what, good on your ol’ mum. She might be knocking on a bit now, but she’s a goer – kitchen counters, over tables, on the stairs. On and on it goes. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it’s happy.

Best place to play this song? At your best friend’s Mum’s funeral while staring at him (or her) directly in the eye. #alphaAF (Tex Smith)

Rating: 28% Reading – VULGAR.


7. Hello Wembley – Rock ‘n’ Roll Spoon

This one takes you back to the nearly-forgotten era of landfill Indie. An interesting place to visit, but not one you’d particularly want to hang around in. Like Hunstanton, or Bath. That said, you can imagine yourself in your twenties, off your head on premium lager and bopping about to it on a dancefloor. So there’s that.

VERDICT: I would probably have liked it in 2008. (I Like It! podcast – listen to it here)

Rating: 58% Reading – Loses points for the Patrick Wolf reference.


8. The Charlie Parkers – Forever

Back in 2008, SEO wasn’t as important as it is today. And Spotify was barely out of cybernappies. Nowadays a band would be smart enough not to name themselves after another – much more famous – musical act. Trying to find ‘The Charlie Parkers’ on the internet isn’t easy. It doesn’t help they come from the town with the world’s most SEO-unfriendly name. As far as the internet is concerned, they might as well never have existed. And, I’m sorry to say, based on this song, I feel similar.

Watch the video above. The Brian Jonestown Massacre-looking fella in the middle starts off all cocky with his arm round the female presenter. Then, about 20 seconds in, realises it’s not a great look and quietly peels his arm away. Bless ‘im. Nowadays that sort of carry on would get you #cancelled quicker than a Beer52 subscription. (STiR)

Rating: 52% Reading – Problematic.


9. Grimaldi – Get Along
The band-name defyingly chirpy Bath Road-based supergroup Grim Aldi deliver a harmless slice of feel-good Americana here, with its Beach Boys-cum-Johnny Marr guitar jangles and tinny chorus vocals that wouldn’t feel out of place on the soundtrack to a high school teen Disney movie. Aldi’s centre aisle of shame? Centre aisle of FAME more like. (JY)

Rating: 53% Reading – Should’ve called themselves The Smiffs.


10. Jen-i – Slice
If I’m getting my dates right, I think Jen-i just about predates Apple sticking a small ‘i’ on all their products and, as such, she may well have grounds to sue the late Steve Jobs.

The song itself was a big surprise – a very different ‘slice’ of r&b-infused electronica, driven by a jungle-esque beat and an echoey, ethereal voice. But it’s nearly 7 minutes long and definitely meanders in places – I can’t help but think there’s a great 3 & 1/2 minute tune trapped in there somewhere. (DP)

Rating: 78% Reading – Serious Purple Turtle basement vibez.

One Hundred Percent Reading

11. No Connection – Already Gone

A generic fuzz guitar thrash and an angry young man being all fired up about something. Not sure what. He doesn’t like someone or something. He’s having a go at someone about something, maybe it’s his mum. I think he wants to leave home and I expect his mum probably wants him to as well. It’s alright, would be quite fun if I was all pissed up and full of amphetamines. (SH)

Rating: 63% Reading – No Connection? They must be on Talkmobile.


12. Chuck – Shakespeare’s Road
“I wanna live on Shakespeare’s Road,” the John Lydonesque singer (repeatedly) yell-sings here. Which is presumably why Chuck called this song ‘Shakespeare’s Road’. You have to imagine that he was never serious about living on Shakespeare’s road, though. Given that he lived in Reading when he (repeatedly) yell-sang that. And not Stratford-Upon-Avon where Shakespeare’s actual road would have been.

The album sleeve notes suggest that this song was recorded sometime in the early/mid-90’s and it shows. My guess is that it was recorded about five minutes after the band got back home from a Public Image Ltd. gig. (Mrs. STiR)

Rating: 40% Reading – Anger is an energy. But then so’s Lucozade.


13. Jonny Virgo – Joggin’ ‘n’ Doggin’

This is just the ticket. Combining three things we like – hip hop, exercise and dogging – Jonny Virgo manages to be funny whilst hammering out an actually-bloody-good tune. And you have to presume that name’s a nod to the co-host of Big Break, and that obviously gets bonus points.

VERDICT: I LIKE IT! (I Like It! podcast – listen to it here)

Rating: 93% Reading – Best listened to while climaxing in the back of a Citroen Zafira.


14. Jewels and The Jacuzzis – One Love

My tired old senile brain immediately went “ah, art student music”. I like girl singers so I thought I would review this according to what the music made me feel. Well it made me feel my cock. It took me right back to days watching studenty bands and wondering why I couldn’t get anywhere with nice arty student girls especially when they are advocating love for all. I’ll have some of that, yes please, hand it over, no chance. Basically I have absolutely no fucking idea what this song is all about but it has a nice bit of a reggae beat when it finally settles down. It’s okay, I always fancied girls wearing a tutu and Doc Martins.

I wonder what the eponymous “Jewels” is doing today. Perhaps she is called Julia and works in media. There was a girl called Julia who went to Kendrick who I fancied. I would have liked this song more if I was out of my brain on barley wine and weed. (SH)

Rating: 65% Reading – Not bad, but not as good as having actual jewels and a real Jacuzzi.


15. Aisle 22 – If I Can
From the moment it opens with the sound of stormy rain clouds breaking to give way to grating violin/viola (no idea), Aisle 22’s ‘If I Can’ offers up a sincerely bleak dirge with vocal timbre that puts you in mind of Elbow. Sometimes it’s hard to tell your arse from your Elbow, though.

If there’s a spill in Aisle 22, it’s the tears of anyone that listens to this song. Or the rain from those clouds. Or from a jar of Lloyd Grossman’s arrabiatta pasta sauce. (JY)

Rating: 80% Reading – Aisle admit, it’s a decent little song, this.

One Hundred Percent Reading

16. My Luminaries – A Little Declaration

I saw My Luminaries quite a lot back in the day and they were a hot tip for success. They were always good to watch with thoughtful, well-worked, confident songs. They could’ve been The Killers with the right breaks. This song is representative of their output, a wall of sound provided by guitars and drums with dynamic pauses for the singer to take over. This would go well as a festival anthem, it’s got just the right swing and heft. Fuck knows what it’s about, I’m not very good at listening to the words. I think he’s annoyed with his girlfriend and wishes he was a lumberjack.

I would have enjoyed this more if I was 25, out with my mates and full of rum and Coke. (SH)

Rating: 83% Reading – Better than most ‘big’ songs Indie 2008 plopped out.


17. The Noyze – Welcome to the Future

I remember The Noyze. They tried VERY HARD to be the ‘bad boys’ of Reading’s music scene. Sex Pistols they weren’t. Heck, Pete Doherty they weren’t. And booked twice by the same promoter they weren’t, either. This track sums all that up – an attempt at wildness hemmed in by an inability to actually be all that wild. It’s over 5 minutes long, this and feels twice that.

Also, there’s a degree of irony listening to a track called ‘Welcome To The Future’ 12 years after it was recorded (trust me guys, the future ain’t what you think it’ll be). (DP)

Rating: 39% Reading – It’s all just Noyze, really.


18. Jones Radio – Travelling Show

These guys named themselves after an obscure shop on the Oxford Road. That says a lot. And this track is a lot of fun to listen to. Haunting, echoing guitars, sparse vocals and a steady beat keeps it all interesting. Peaks, troughs, highs, lows, unexpected keyboard riffs – it truly takes you on a journey. Like the title suggests. (DP)

Rating: 90% Reading – Better than Alex Jones’ radio show.


19. Papa Alpha ft. Kirsten McIver – Cotton Clouds
Aaaaaaah yes, the band Portishead could have been if only they’d been BRAVE enough to use didgeridoos. Listening to this, I immediately felt like I’d had too many drugs/not enough drugs/what even are drugs? And I want to dance to this, all sway-y, like, at 4am in a smoke-filled room in some dodgy house we’ve all ended up at. A tiny piece of my mind thinking, ‘where am I again?’ And ‘was this a brilliant idea on a Tuesday night? The night before my best friend’s Mum’s funeral?’ But it’s too late. You’re inside the song. And there you stay until it spits you out. (Tex)

Rating: ?% Reading – When you think about it, we’re all just atoms bouncing inside around a simulation of a simulation, man. Soundwaves reflecting off each other, interconnected, as one. We’re only what we perceive ourselves to be. Fuck, I’m hungry. Where are the Pringles?

One Hundred Percent Reading

PART 2 COMING SOON…

Here’s hoping a bunch of snide robots from the future dig these reviews up in the future and shit all over them, eh? It’s the least we deserve.

‘Lounge in My House!’ – A Staycation on Great Knollys Street

Holidays. Remember those? Sun, sea, sand, sangria, all that. Paprika-flavoured Lay’s, the lot. Good, weren’t they? Yes they were.

Holidays abroad are things of the past, though. You can fly out to Spain or wherever, but don’t expect to be flown back again. Or if you are allowed on a plane, you have to seal yourself into your shed for a fortnight when you get home. Face it – it’s not really worth the aggro.

Going overseas for your holiday might be off the table for the foreseeable, but you can still have a vacation, just make it a ‘staycation’! Stay in the UK. Stay in England. Stay in Berkshire, even. Hey, why not save on petrol money and stay right here in ruddy Reading? Just kip round someone else’s gaff for a bit!

If all that sounds good, but – like so many other people at the moment – you’re on bit of a budget… Don’t worry your pretty, delicate little swede about it. We’ve found the perfect place for you to spend your Reading staycation:

Great Knollys Street!

A fella in West Reading has just the place (well, just the room) for you. That room’s not really a bedroom and it doesn’t technically have a bed, but don’t worry about any of that. It’s £20 a night and it not only has its very own privacy curtain, it comes with access to ‘1.5 shared bathrooms’ (get your nut round that, Carol Vorderman).

Reading AirBnB
There’s usually a burnt-out caravan on the road here – not sure if that’s also on Airbnb

Here’s how your host describes the room:

‘This is the lounge in my house. There is a curtain to pull across to separate the room from the entrance hall for privacy. There is a comfortable double futon to sleep on.’

‘Check-in will generally be after 6pm on a weekday as I’m at work and any time on a weekend. Lunchtimes can sometimes work also though. Please note I don’t give keys out, so going in and out during a week day generally won’t be possible.’

‘Please let me know if any issues at the time, rather than waiting for review time!’

Bit passive-aggressive at the end there, but a wonderfully succinct explanation of what guests can expect. Which is a lounge, a futon and a curtain. But not keys. Which isn’t ideal for people who like the idea of ‘going in and out’. But is fine for agoraphobics or, ironically, anyone quarantining after a foreign holiday.

Reading AirBnB
Great location (compared to Aleppo, Kinshasa or Slough)

Those are the words of our host, but what do previous guests make of the holiday lounge? Well, here are a few choice excerpts of reviews left on  the Airbnb listing*:

  • ‘The living room has a curtain which gives you a lot of privacy, it is like having your own room!’
  • ‘The layout in the lounge works well to make it feel like you have your own room.’
  • ‘The sofa is quite comfortable. Steven was helpful and communication was fluent. The only big complaint that I have is cleanliness. The place (all of it) was filthy, so I would not recommend it to anyone who likes to stay in at least an average clean place.’
  • ‘Cleanliness could slightly be improved.’

Reading AirBnB
The room (special curtain not pictured)

  • ‘The host is a huge AC/DC fan so the place is accordingly decorated! 😀 ‘
  • ‘Unfortunately I had quite an unsettled sleep due to the noise from Steven and his friends coming back after a night out which was frustrating, so maybe not a recommendable place to stay if you’ve got a busy following day.’
  • ‘I just wish he made less noise when coming back from his night out as I got woken several times by loud voices and slamming of doors.’
  • ‘Was ok.’

Reading AirBnB
Room service is available – just WhatsApp the host and he’ll sling you a grab bag of Monster Munch through the curtain

What more could you want from your holibobs, eh? Fairly certain that off-licence on Great Knollys sells paprika Lay’s too.

Reading AirBnB

*We cherry picked the bad comment for comic effect. They’re all genuine, but so too are all the various positive reviews and comments (which far outweigh the negative).

Fear & Forbury Gardens: Reading in Recovery

Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?

Now what…?

Reading Berkshire
Image courtesy of: https://www.instagram.com/theguyatnumber10

The wrong kind of fame

The festival, Purple Turtle, Ricky Gervais. There are a few things that come up in conversations about Reading with people not from around here. Maybe they remember paying £6 for a pint of Tuborg in a paper cup while watching some terrible Foo Fighters set ten years ago. Or they recall the mild inconvenience of getting the bus from the train station to watch their club earn a point in a tedious goalless draw at the ‘soulless Madgeski or whatever it’s called’. 

That’s not really Reading, though. The same as Madame Tussauds and Aberdeen Steak House isn’t really London. Us locals know what makes this a decent town (and it is a town; it always will be, that’s part of the charm). We know what makes this a good place to live. 

Sometimes bad things happen in good places.

The events of Saturday the 20th of June are now fully part of the DNA of where we live. There’s no way around that. The families of those that were murdered will likely never recover, how can they? All we can hope is that their pain dulls a little over time. The town, however, can get over it. We just have to accept that what happened will be one of the things we’re known for. At least for the foreseeable, anyway.  

Reading Berkshire
Image courtesy of: https://www.instagram.com/www_tdp_photography

Understanding the aim

It’s not just the likes of Doritos, Home and Away and socks that set us humans apart from the animal kingdom. There’s also domestic abuse, nuclear weapons, environmental destruction and random stabbings in parks. Humanity is brilliant, shameful and complicated all at the same time. One of the most important things we have that separates us, perhaps our most valued asset, is our empathy. Lose that and we’re in serious trouble.

Empathy is why we all feel so shitty now. It’s why you might’ve felt like you’d been punched in the chest when the news broke. Understandably, for a lot of people, that sympathetic affinity begins and ends with those people who were killed (and their loved ones). Some of you might be able to extend that empathy, though. ‘What was going through the mind of the man responsible?’ ‘What was the aim?’ ‘What was the motivation?’ ‘What’s wrong with him?’

As a species, we’re obsessed with understanding. It’s why we spend trillions on space exploration. It’s why kids ask hundreds of questions a day. We need answers, we’re hardwired like that. We have to make sense of chaos to quieten our minds. If ignorance really is bliss, someone should tell the human brain.

After the ‘what?!’ comes the ‘why?!’

Unfortunately, anyone seeking any form of cognitive closure here is going to be left hanging. Only there is no ‘why’. There is no motive, no aim, no grand design. Sometimes dreadful things happen and it’s just a fucking great shame.

Reading Berkshire
Image courtesy of: https://www.instagram.com/daveolinski

To name and shame

It didn’t take long for the name of the attacker to come out. The identity of the man would surely tell us all we needed to know about what had happened. Once his name began filtering out over news channels and on social media, a familiar narrative came back into view. Despite recent tensions across racial lines and Forbury Gardens playing host to a small and peaceful Black Lives Matter earlier in the day, it seemed clear that it was an old foe at work: the Jihadist.

It’s still culture wars, but a different battle entirely.

Perhaps there was a motive, after all. Maybe there was an aim. As evening turned to night and night into morning, police confirmed that they were ‘treating the incident as terror-related’.

And we all know what that means, don’t we?

Details began to emerge. Terms we’ve heard before, albeit not for a while, rang out… ‘Watch list’, ‘previous arrests’, the dreaded ‘asylum seeker’. Things became clear, not only did we have an awful, incredibly traumatic incident to deal with in which three people had lost their lives, we also had the inevitable backlash. The politics. The angry debates. The blame.

Further details soon made things complicated, though. Our assumptions may have been wrong. We heard his name and filled in the blanks. Trouble is? The man with the knife, the murderer, is thought to have converted to Christianity some time ago. There again, he’s also said to have claimed to have been an ISIS soldier and have helped in the overthrowing of Colonel Gaddafi.

What we know for certain is that he’d barely been out of HMP Bullingdon for a fortnight after a short stretch for assault. During his spell inside, the man was prescribed medication for post-traumatic stress and a suspected personality disorder. Previous to that he’d had a history of depression and suicidal inclinations.

Christian, Muslim, religiously fanatical or not, one thing is certain – this were the actions of a deeply, deeply disturbed individual. In all likelihood, a fantasist. 

He was named, you can find his name online. It’s all over the newspapers. Personally, I say let’s forget his name. Let’s cut the man out of the story.

Reading Berkshire
Image courtesy of: https://www.instagram.com/insta_readinguk

The blame game

So, then. Who do we blame? We have to blame someone. It’s all we have. When the shock subsides, it’s replaced with anger. There’s nothing you can do to help. Anger needs release. So you blame. In rants to friends or family or your other half, you blame. In hastily-written diatribes on social media, you blame. You’re angry and you’re on the attack. Someone needs to pay.

It’s catharsis. It’s cheap and it works. So who can we blame for what happened?

  • The man responsible? It seems the logical place to start. Let’s blame him for the most part. After all, he was the one that ran into the gardens, knife in hand. 
  • MI5? Some folk will want to attribute some of the responsibility to the intelligence services. If they were watching this character, some will say, why was he allowed to do what he did?
  • Mental Health Services? Could more have been done with the man before the attack? It’s a question a few people looking to scatter the blame may ask.
  • Politicians? There’s always something they could’ve done or not done, right?
  • God? After all, where the fuck was he…?

If it helps you to blame, go for it. We can’t hold onto the anger. Just be sensible where you point it.

Reading Berkshire
Image courtesy of: https://www.instagram.com/insta_readinguk

Same again?

So where does that leave us? What now? 

Here’s how I see it. Bearing in mind that I’m the fella who runs Shit Things in Reading, don’t expect any great wisdom here. But hey – it’s 2020 and this is the internet. Websites aren’t exactly difficult to set up.

In the short term, we pay our respects. We give and read tributes. We try to understand what happened and – maybe – why it happened. We accept that, in all likelihood, we’ll never fully understand it. Some shit just doesn’t make sense. 

These things are extremely shocking. With good reason… they’re extremely rare. So don’t be afraid. That’s easier said than done during a time of enormous widespread panic, of course. With millions of people too terrified to even consider leaving the safety and reassurance of their own home. But let’s all try, eh?

At the risk of falling off a cliff of Russell Brand-scale pretension, fear is the only true enemy. There’s no great force of evil out there. Despite what we’re told almost every second of every day.

Sometimes incredibly bad shit happens. This time it happened here. In the shadow of the statue that’s come to symbolise our town… The Maiwand Lion. Not the Cowardly Lion.

So don’t give in. FUCK FEAR. 

See you down the Forbury Gardens soon, eh?

Reading Berkshire
Image courtesy of: https://www.instagram.com/daveolinski

Brave New Reading: Tarrant’s Run

The following is a short story from a brand new collection of exciting dystopian science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic Reading.

It’s time to don your imagination hat and slip into your enjoyment slippers as you prepare to be shocked! Heartbroken! Thrilled! And touched in places you’ve never been touched before!

This is brave new reading. This is Brave New Reading…

Brave New Reading Tarrant's Run (2)

By Philip K. Dickhead


Chapter 1: The first chapter

Reading, Berkshire. The year 2030.

It’d been ten years since the worldwide outbreak of the cobravirus Codiv-19 and much had changed: society had crashed to a halt, the Earth’s population had been decimated and the Primark in Reading had moved into Jacksons Corner. They were dark and confusing times.

Billions had died in the pandemic of the previous decade. Some had succumbed to the virus itself, but most of the world’s population committed mass suicide after The Great Silicon Valley Crash of 2022. Some dozy IT type spilled a brew all over his laptop or something and managed to completely balls up Netflix, Pornhub and the Gardener’s World bit of the BBC website*. Faced with the prospect of having to survive with just Amazon Prime, Redtube and old clips of Ground Force on YouTube, a staggering majority of humanity had taken their own lives.

Tarrant's Run

Within 12 hours, most of the western world – already completely beaten down, hopeless and starved of love, connection and reasoning powers after almost two solid years of government-mandated self-isolation and social distancing – simply gave up. Many of them, weak and thin, their bodies brittle, died almost as soon as the news of the website deletions filtered through.

Millions just sat, closed their eyes and allowed the life they’d grown to resent and despise so much to escape their failing, decaying vessels. Others sat at the dinner table with their family and ate a final meal, a symbolically last supper together. Like a poisoned shepherds pie or a toad in the hole with sticks of dynamite where the sausages should be.

Society was on its knees. Things escalated, but in a bad way (they deescalated?). World governments collapsed and infrastructure crumbled. You know the drill. The full Mad Max, like. All that kind of thing. This introduction’s already dragged on too long. You get the idea, though. Real dystopian sci-fi sort of stuff.

The world was reliant on technology. Without it, man could no longer survive. His dependence on tech had rendered him all but useless in what was now a much more primitive existence. Even renowned survivalists like Bear Grylls and Ray Mears were buggered – Grylls’ compass was powered by Bluetooth and Mears was notoriously fucking useless without his PDA.

Few men survived the chaos able to navigate the terrain of a desolate, post-apocalyptic world. Those that did were men** who had spent their entire lives actively shunning technology. Men** who had spent almost six full decades fortifying their constitutions against killer viruses with fags and booze. Men** who had hosted the early morning Capital Breakfast radio show from 1987 to 2004. Men** like Christopher John Tarrant (OBE).

 

*The Cloud had been banned the year before because of Greta Thunberg and all that, so this bit does actually work.
** And women too, I suppose.


Chapter 2: Tarrant was coming home

Tarrant was coming home.

He’d been gone a little over three years. With his 80th birthday fast approaching, Tarrant had left Reading a marked man. The truth was, he’d had no choice. The town of his birth, now one of the main hubs of human existence on Earth, had rules. Rules that were not to be broken. One of those rules* concerned something survivors called ‘equilibrium’. In order to keep society fit for purpose, citizens had to be useful. There could be no drag, no burden to the state. 2027’s retirement age was 80. Once you hit the big 8-0, you retired. Permanently.**

You see what I’m driving at here? It’s like that ’60s Michael York and Jenny Agutter film Logan’s Run, isn’t it? That’s sort of why this story is called ‘Tarrant’s Run’.

Tarrant was now 83. Yet he was coming home.

Brave New Reading Tarrant's Run (1)

Years of presenting the BAFTA Award-winning Channel Five show Chris Tarrant’s Extreme Railways with Chris Tarrant had equipped the man with a knowledge of the world’s train networks that was second to only Michael Portillo’s. Tarrant had served for six months as Portillo’s apprentice as the two men toiled together to fix the Newbury to Reading line some years previous. After re-establishing the route in secret, the train-loving team were able not only to set up a direct link between the two towns and run guns, fuel and supplies across Berkshire, they were also able to pop over to Mortimer whenever they wanted for picnics and lovely walks together.

In the acid rain monsoons of 2024, Portillo was killed by poachers from Theale who valued his acid-proof salmon pink double-breasted blazer over his and his bodyguards’ lives.

His master dead, Apprentice Tarrant faced a choice: acquiesce or escape. Be enslaved by the men who had killed his sensei and live chained to a radiator in an abandoned printing supplies warehouse on Arlington Business Park or flee. Tarrant, never a man to do as he’s told – especially when it came to being subjugated by killer gangs of plunderers from Theale or drink driving – chose the latter. He took flight. He went to live somewhere else for a bit. Farnborough, let’s say.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes – Chris Tarrant was coming back to Berkshire. Back to Reading. He may have been 83 years old and facing the prospect of execution as soon as he entered the supercity*** limits, but he had unfinished business to see to.

He had to kill Emperor Sir John Madejski (OBE). Which explains why Tarrant was coming home (to Reading).

 

* To be fair, most of the other rules were just parking restrictions and that.
** You were killed, do you see?
*** Reading was given supercity status by King Beatrice in the Arctic Summer of 2023.


Chapter 3: Kindred spirits/The best of enemies

Before The Virus, Chris Tarrant was a wealthy man. A famous man. Popular, rich, cultured and loved by all, he was a king among men. And, as you no doubt know, like attracts like. The only man in Tarrant’s beloved hometown of equal standing was Sir John Madejski, the founder of Auto Trader (basically a Tinder for cars that was originally printed on paper).

The two had been as thick as thieves for decades. Equals, allies, business partners and – most of all – friends. The pair shared everything together: wine, women, big bags of Walkers Sensations, everything. The men even pooled their enormous resources to work on a vaccine for Docid-19 or whatever I said it was called earlier. Billions of pounds were thrown in from each man. Soon, their dedicated team of researchers – most of whom they’d got from Boots and Superdrug after The Great Broad Street Riots of Christmas 2020 – hit the jackpot. They created a vaccine (as it turned out, it was basically just inhaling loads of Lynx Africa). Tarrant and Madejski had the fate of mankind (figuratively) in their hand(s).

Brave New Reading Tarrant's Run

Madejski knew that a vaccine could restore society and bring back normality. His standing in the community, currently so high, would almost certainly change, though. Sure, he’d be a hero – but he wouldn’t necessarily wield the power anymore. He would go back to being That Old Fella in the Suit Who’d Had It Off With Cilla Black. And he couldn’t have that. So long as the people of Reading thought he was funding research and searching for a way to stop The Virus, he was effectively their king.

Madejski buried the vaccine. He ordered his armed junta – former Broad Street Mall security staff – to destroy the labs, shoot the research team and dump their bodies in the River Kennet. Madejski then had the vaccine (a crate of Lynx Africa) securely locked away, a full three miles below the earth’s surface. Underneath where Toys ‘R’ Us used to be. Near Decathlon and Hobbycraft.

Tarrant had to go. Madejski didn’t need to contemplate the repercussions of his partner finding out what he’d done. The former Who Wants to Be a Millionaire presenter’s public persona was one of an affable chap. A good ol’ boy. The reality – however – was much, much different. Tarrant had been in the SAS. In fact, he’d actually completed the SAS and got a promotion to some sort of really hard spy. Tiswas, Tarrant on TV, Man O Man… they were all just cover stories. You’ve seen that film. What’s it called? Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. If you haven’t, it’s about a quiz show host what was a CIA type. It’s based on a true story. It’s good. So’s the book. Anyway, it’s like that.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that Chris Tarrant was fucking hard.

Madejski could take no chances. He needed rid of the man. His plan? To encase him within the Forbury Lion, as fitting his status as a lion amongst men. Madejski would take no pleasure in forcing his oldest friend to suffocate inside a big statue of a safari animal, but in some twisted way, effectively turning Tarrant into the Maiwan Lion was a sign of respect. Of love.

The cover story would be simple – Tarrant was reaching 80 and so would be ‘retired’. Despite being over 80 himself, Madejski avoided Permanent Retirement by doctoring his papers. According to his birth certificate, the old man was 34. Everyone knew it was a lie but, of course, no one dared speak out. Anyway, I think I’d said most people were dead by this point, hadn’t I? I forget. It doesn’t really matter anyway.

To cut a long story short (this is a short story, after all), Tarrant broke out of the Forbury Lion and made good his escape. End of chapter.


Chapter 4: Tarrant was coming home (part II)

Tarrant was coming home. He was still coming home. Nothing had changed on that front.

He’d spent years in exile in Farnborough, stewing over things. It was now time for revenge. Shotgun locked and loaded and slung over his shoulder like someone cool from off of a film who’s doing some revenge, he revved up his big monster car or Humvee thing and sped off from his futuristic house all fast.

He contemplated the words he’d say to Madejski as he blew him away (in all likelihood it’d revolve around ‘is that your final answer?’). As he drove down the M1 – or however you get to Reading from Farnborough – serenity washed over him. Tarrant knew he had one last mission left in him… He would kill the bloke the Reading football stadium is named after (Sir John Madejski).

Tarrant's Run

Fucking Hell, this has gone over 1,800 words, sorry about that. Let’s get on with it…

Anyway, it all kicked off and Tarrant ended up blowing up Arlington Business Park, killing all those poachers from earlier that murdered Portillo. Then he shot President Sir John Madejski dead with a laser gun or something. He took over as Emperor of the supercity of Reading, dug up the vaccine and sorted it all out. He also explained how he got out of being inside that massive concrete lion from earlier. It was all very clever and made perfect sense.

THE END


Brave New Reading Tarrant's Run (1)