This year, the Whitley Pump’s very own theatre reviewer Gillie Tunley helped teach English to Italian students at Bradfield College, an impressively beautiful independent school near Theale. The students spent a day in Reading and shared their views on the town.
Italy wades into the ‘Reading city’ controversy
In England, a city isn’t defined by the size of a settlement; the status has to be declared by the monarch. Attempts to persuade Her Royal Maj to magic Reading into a city have so far been thwarted by lesser, meaner towns offering their first-born to the nobility, or so I have been told.
“Reading is a little town in the south of England,” said Francesca, Dario, Diego and Daniele, cleverly avoiding accusations of lèse-majesté.
“I expected a little and isolated town, but it actually was a big city,” added Lisa bravely.
“I had imagined it to be like a little city with narrow streets, but it seems like London because it was big and with large streets,” said Pierluigi, who now plans to share leg-irons with fellow revolutionaries on the trip to Australia.
Alessia may have managed to save her compadres from an ignominious transportation with a cunning volte-face: “all of us thought that Reading was a little city… instead Reading is a beautiful town.”
“I was surprised by the ruins of the abbey since I didn’t think to find them there,” said Lisa.
“I recommend to you to visit the [Maiwand] Lion and the ruins of the ancient abbey. The town is also famous because Jane Austen studied there,” said Letizia.
“Another symbol of the city is concerned with contemporary history, since the Maiwand lion, a majestic scuplture in Forbury Gardens, is a war memorial of the Battle of Maiwand,” said Emanuela, sarcastically referring to the 1878-1880 Afghan war as ‘contemporary’. Such sarcasm is required by law for any patriotic Italian visiting a country with a recorded history of less than 2500 years.
You’d expect young Italians to have a sense of style, so it comes as no surprise that they were impressed with Primark on Broad Street.
“We looked around in Primark and we were about to buy some clothes, but the queue was too long, so we gave up and went to other shops,” wrote Eleonora, Elizabetta, Ginevra and Valeria. “We went to Kiko, an Italian cosmetic shop. We were surprised to find this shop in the UK.”
“There’s a shopping centre called the Oracle where you can find Starbucks and Primark and [you can] spend a lot of money, since nothing is truly expensive,” wrote Lisa, no doubt commenting on the recent fall in the value of Sterling against the Euro.
However, coffee is always important. “I also had a frappuccino from Starbucks: it was delicious!” said Alessia.
Letizia said that the Oracle shopping centre was “so big and cute.” I assume this is some kind of Latin response to retail architecture incomprehensible to cold-blooded northerners.
Our Italian students were impressed at how the council had managed to prioritise the cleanliness of the town centre by abandoning areas that don’t raise adequate business rates. Actually, they didn’t quite put it that way; instead, Letizia diplomatically said that “streets and cars are so clean compared to Italy.”
“Reading is a very clean and typical town,” said Eleonora, Elizabetta, Ginevra and Valeria. “The town itself had a very calm and enjoyable atmosphere.”
“If I thought of a typical British town, Reading would appear immediately in my mind; red houses made of bricks, clean streets full of shops, and a river,” said Lara.
Martina and Chiara were suitably impressed with the town, saying “the first impression you receive as soon as you get [to Reading] is that you will never get to see something like that again.” How true that is, even today.
Pierluigi conjured up a brilliant slogan worthy of the Scarfolk tourist board: “although it seems boring, it was really cool!”
Emanuela managed to rescue the situation. “It is surprisingly compact. It is easy to get from one place to another, but you’ll always discover new restaurants, fun shopping areas and parks.”
With many thanks to the staff and students of the Bradfield College English language summer school. I think your English is brilliant and I hope you all had fun! The same goes to the students, too!