Sometimes, things happen that shake you. They shake you so badly that you reevaluate everything.
Last night was one of those incidents. I got a text from one of the five-a-side chaps, asking if everyone was safe. Bizarre, I thought. And then it quickly transpired that something truly and utterly dreadful had happened in one of the most iconic parts of Reading - where the club itself had taken its inspiration for its mascots and badge, and had held team photo shoots in the past.
The Maiwand Lion is an instantly recognisable landmark in this great town. It stands proudly in the middle of a beautiful park, where people gather and have fun and be “people”.
Reading is a diverse, vibrant mix of different backgrounds, views and lifestyles. It has a strong economy. It has forward-thinking and creative people living and working there. The links to other areas of the world are excellent. But above all, it’s home to a lot of people that are proud to call it just that: home.
We have our problems, of course we do. But last night was the worst incident to occur for a long, long time in the town. It was bizarre seeing the darkness descend on places I visit frequently as strangers with cameras and microphones swarmed into the centre of Reading on live TV.
There will be fear, nervousness, anger, despair and all those sorts of things, but just remember where we live.
We live in Reading: home of the Royals, home of Ricky Gervais, home of Anonymous Coffee, home of breweries like Double Barrelled, home of a phenomenally diverse and welcoming community, home of an outstanding mural celebrating black heritage, home of a 12th-century abbey, home of a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, home of the first ever Little Chef restaurant, home of a world-renowned university and, above all, home of people who are resilient, friendly and who won’t be cowed by acts of pure and violent aggression.
Reading will recover. We will recover.
Because we are Reading.