Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 28 December 2013
Scream if you want to go faster
Reading - the town in Berkshire which was once invaded by the Dutch Army - saw two closures in 2013. One was the infamous Reading Gaol where Oscar Wilde famously watched the condemned man take his last look at the sky before being hanged there the next day, and the other was Jacksons, the traditional old department store which had been running since Victorian times.
I never visited either, and have only known of the existence of Jacksons (they don't use an apostrophe, so why should I?) since the very day it closed, just before Christmas.
No wonder they had to shut down forever - they were still writing out all the receipts by hand, and you waited for your cash change to come firing out of a pipe in a canister - all done with compressed air.
When I was a lad, I worked (on Saturdays) at the Woking branch of Boots the Chemist, and I used the compressed-air money conduits. They were mysterious and wonderful. I never saw who counted out the change in the little office upstairs, but I loved the short period of whooshing followed by the little 'phut' sound as the canister suddenly appeared over the wooden counter-top. It was a bit like a miniature version of standing in a London Tube Station just before a train arrives, but not as warm and oily.
The only time I remember deliberately visiting Reading was on a school trip to the legendary Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory and, as far as I know, it still exists. Normally, I stop for about 3 minutes in Reading on my way to Paddington, London. I once - in the reverse direction - sat next to the Bishop of Reading, and spent the whole time drunkenly (and, I think, humorously) insulting him before he got off.
I had spent my time waiting for the train at Paddington in a nasty pub called 'The Mad Bishop and The Bear', and this was the opening gambit in my conversation with him. I have never seen a bishop so pissed off, before or since.
I would imagine that being made the Bishop of Reading is a sort of punishment for some transgression against the Diocese - Reading is second only in ghastliness to Slough, having been taken over by the sort of businesses which like to be associated with London, but cannot afford London offices. That's new businesses, run on new money - if any real money exists at all.
Of course, if you speak to the young (fucking bastards...), they really have no idea what it is that upsets you so about stuff, but I suppose it has always been like that. Don't get me wrong, I really do like change, so long as it is for the better, and not just forced on us by economic circumstances.
I miss the old black and white road signs of the 1950s, but I suppose cars go too fast to read them these days.