Redbrick blackbird

When you hear a very loud, varied, flutey birdsong from your roof or TV aerial at sunset or sunrise in these early months of the year, then you will be most likely listening to a male blackbird. The juvenile first-year males sing in January and February and the older ones follow from around March. Quite why these sentinels of the natural world have such a boring name in English is hard to understand; there are plenty of other black-plumed avians. They are lovingly called merle in French and merl in the old Scottish dialect.

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A portal to a parallel Whitley

Nick Garnett (Whitley Flamboyance Festival)

Last year I got a text from a mate who lives in the flats opposite the John Madejski Academy (JMA). He said that there was some sort of uprising going on and the gates of the JMA had been flung open to unleash an alien entourage, who were now parading through Whitley looking like an escaped troupe of space-age circus performers or an absurdist dream made flesh with dancing, klaxons and odd machinery.

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Happy new year from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal: the Southampton Street bus lane CCTV is useless


A PCN (penalty charge notice) robot at Reading Borough Council issued me with a £30 fine in November for driving in the bus lane at the junction of Pell Street and Southampton Street. I contested this on the grounds that I had wanted to turn left into Pell Street, it was mandatory to join the queue in the left-hand lane to do this, and that queue had already backed up into the bus lane. I claimed it was safer to follow standard – and thus predictable – driving practice at this busy and congested junction rather than cause obstruction and confusion by doing otherwise. I added that forcing drivers to choose between an unsafe or obstructive manoeuvre or a bus lane fine was both unreasonable and unwise.

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Adrian Lawson: teaching English to our refugees

Adrian Lawson

Reading based naturalist and bicycle kitchen pioneer Adrian Lawson makes an unlikely Professor Higgins, but for the last three years he has been helping refugees learn to speak English at the Reading Refugee Support Group. We met up for a relaxing carafe of loose leaf tea in the smart C.U.P. café at St. Mary’s Butts for a chat about his voluntary work.

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Whitley Library: the architecture of hope

Whitley library

Whitley library was built in 1935 in the classical and confident municipal style of the time, and is a stand-alone building in smart red brick, with a lovely scrolled Bath stone cartouche at the top with “LIBRARY” written on it. It stands on Northumberland Avenue next to a roundabout at the heart of south Reading. There is a very similar library building in Palmer Park and the style does seem to project a pride in civic life, education and the burgeoning welfare state with that glorious dawn of the National Health Service just a war away.

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Reading Borough Council involved in ‘obfuscation and deception’ says Aspire chair

Keith Kerr, Aspire CIC chair

The dispute between Reading’s Afro-Caribbean communities and Reading Borough Council (RBC) over a bid to acquire the old Central Club on London Street and its ‘black history’ mural led to a public demonstration through the town centre on 25 September. Keith Kerr, the chair of the legal entity set up to manage the bid on behalf of Reading’s Afro-Caribbeans, the Aspire Community Interest Company (CIC), talked to the Whitley Pump about what he intended for the site, how much he was willing to pay for it and how he feels the bid has been mistreated by RBC.

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Woe, woe and thrice woe!

Audit & Governance Committee 28 September 2017 (councillors are on the right hand side of the table; council officers and Ernst & Young auditors on the left; chair, directors and committee adminstrator are at the head of the table)

After tossing and turning for the last twelve months grappling with the possibility that something was not right in the subterranean world of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) accounts department, the council’s audit & governance committee have woken up with a start. Things are not getting better; they are getting worse.

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The Life and death of Reading’s King, in the Oracle on the Kennet

Courtesy of the “Reading-on-Thames Festival“, which is sadly a misstatement when clearly Reading’s whole history is based on the River Kennet, came free culture in the form Reading Between the Lines Theatre Company’s play The Life and Death of Reading’s King. For the lucky 700 ticket holders on the night of 15 September this was a history making moment.

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Reading’s rubbish epidemic

When I was a child, my mother once smacked me for throwing a piece of orange peel out of the car window. Smacking children has long since been banned but littering (and even worse, fly tipping) is now endemic in the UK. Say what you like about Europe, but you’d be hard pushed to find cities and countryside on the other side of the channel that are as rubbish-strewn, unsightly and unloved as their British counterparts.

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