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A Bus Tour Of Reading

We at the Tilehurst End were shocked to hear Middlesbrough fans describe our beloved home town in less than glowing terms at the weekend. Liam O'Brien and @WilliamOwain decided to set the record straight with a little tourist guide for visitors to Reading.

Bristol & West Arcade: Yep, a whole arcade made of cardboard! How many other towns have one!?
Bristol & West Arcade: Yep, a whole arcade made of cardboard! How many other towns have one!?

"This place is a s**thole, I want to go home," rings the chorus of nearly every set of travelling fans who've graced the South Stand since singing Sloop John B became a thing at football about five years ago. If only they'd stop here for a short stay after the game, maybe they'd find out what our town is really like.

Of course they already probably know that Reading is one of the few places outside London where parliament has sat, or has a King of England buried in its town centre. They'll have heard of Reading Festival and know that that it's the home town of Ricky Gervais, Kate Winslett, Chris Tarrent, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Natalie Dormer, Jeremy Kyle (we're less proud of him) and Sam Mendes. Oh and John Madejski, he wouldn't like it if we forgot him.

Oscar Wilde so enjoyed being incarcerated in our prison he wrote a ballad about it. Even Jane Austen went to school in our much maligned town.

But they're all too busy (or dead) to defend Reading like Jeff Stelling famously did for Middlesbrough. So poor old Reading is left with two former Chiltern Edge (a school so average we're pretty sure it forgot to teach us English grammar (yep, we're getting our excuses in early)) pupils to sing its praises.

So the big question that everyone who has ever lived or visited Reading has wondered: if you ran an open top bus tour of Reading which route would you take? Well we've finally answered that question, so sit back, imagine you've just got your ticket, and enjoy the ride!

Bus tour of Reading

Consider Liebenrood Road in Autumn . The drizzle and the wind whipping it's way across Prospect Park, the amber street-lamps lighting up the evening joggers who look like they're thinking "Even if I get skinny I'm still gonna live in Tilehurst. What's the point?" The trees swaying and moaning like muted conchords. Halfway down you look to the pavement and you'll see the guy who works outside the hospice clearing the dead leaves from the ground. He mirrors the work of the mortician, carefully disposing of the decomposing foliage. "Fitness instructor" adorns his t-shirt. He waves to every car that beeps. He doesn't leave a single leaf.

Next stop: Chatham Street.  Once home to the Yield Hall car park's big brutish brother. An inhospitable part of town. The new flats raised high above the dangers below.

Then on to Cemetery Junction.

Students syphon Stella from fun pub taps.

Grease in the gutter from reams of kebabs. Builders bulk up at Early Cafe.

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Reading Elvis

In the day time the traffic buzzes down Kings Road and your heart smiles and excites your soul as you glimpse Reading Elvis with his records, and his t-shirts, and his rock and roll.

If you want to be judged then go to the Oakford where, fashionably, everyone is dressed the same and the beers look like ice creams.

If you want to be alternative why not go to the Turtle, the cage downstairs could lock you away and the snakebites keep the euphoria at bay.

If you want to drunkenly dance and meet pretty girls then go to the AfterDark. The AfterDark is the best.

There isn't a queue in the whole world I'd rather be in. Free entertainment before you enter. Mighty Man freestyling to every frequenter.

Everyone has time for a dip on a weekend break, right?

Have you been to Central swimming pool lately? It smells like Smallmead tip. The chlorine burns your eyes and all the rubber on the locker keys is ripped. Standards are universal under the purple totem of the council.

Broad Street Mall

Broad Street Mall is full of people rubbing pennies together. Too poor for the Oracle but richer in character. A lively and vibrant Market Place full of fruits and drinkers. The forgotten people. The ones who are really alive. Not like the pretty zombies, sterile in the stench of Superdry.

People who think they're in love stroll down what they think is a river; the stagnant canal, a dead vein. But you can polish a turd nearby at Nando's or Pizza Hut or enjoy inauthentic Italian elsewhere.

"Tickets please. Thank you, straight ahead, fourth screen on your right."

Forget about your troubles as you sit, obedient, with 3D glasses on, silently for two hours. Fill your stomach with popcorn and your bladder with coke and try not to laugh at the "Riverside and Shops" joke made by the lift.

Plastic bowl

Or support your local team in a plastic bowl. Only the shirters care if we lose.

Wear a replica over your jacket. You're the face of Reading fans everywhere.  We've got your number. You should probably change it, it's unlucky. Maybe that's why we're s**t.

Sing when you're winning, songs borrowed from other clubs.

If you don't wear your colours you're a hooligan, on your sleeve a Stone Island badge sewn.

This place is a s**thole, but I call it home.