Monday, 30 September 2013

Literary Reading

I wonder if anyone spotted the howler in my last post about Reading. I had completely forgotten that Reading has two rivers, The Thames and The Kennet, as well as a bit of the Kennet and Avon Canal. The river behind the gaol is not The Thames but The Kennet, and the trees and path of Chestnut Walk meanders between the river and the back of the gaol. I was carefully checking all the signs for the Oscar Wilde quote, "Oh beautiful world," and had just given up when my companion noticed something strange about the railings that partition the Walk from the towpath. We went closer and found that the words had actually been incorporated into the design of the iron railings.

pic by George Evans

The other signs were all about the history of the amazing Abbey ruins that sit alongside the gaol. The photo shows  part of it with the gaol in the background.

The signs also referred to the nearby Forbury Gardens which were once the monks' gardens. These now contain The Maiwand Lion, a memorial to  the fallen from the 66th Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan in 1880.

pic by Jim Linwood

I thought how incredible it is that we have troops in that country today and lives are still being lost in conflict.

At the excellent museum in Reading's Town Hall on Sunday morning, we saw a complete replica of the Bayeaux tapestry and decded that we don't have to go all the way to france to see the original now. We also heard how that rather beautiful grey brick Town Hall had recently been threatened with demolition to make way for a concrete ring road, but was saved by the local Civic Society. Then we were told that the prison is among the list of those that are to be closed very soon, as the government proposes building new and enormous ones to collect more of our criminal community together, presumably to to cut the cost of staffing so many of them. We wondered what was going to happen to that building. 

Apart from Oscar Wilde (left), the other literary connection we found in Reading was at our hotel. It was called the Great Expectations which, of course, is the name of a Charles Dickens novel. The hotel was an inn with the guest rooms above the bar, and the the manager told us that it is believed to have originally been a Reading Room opened by Dickens (below) who did readings of his work there. The ground floor was also a fascinating warren of little three sided rooms facing a long bar with the corridor in between named the Dickens Walk.


Linda D said...

Fascinating! I lived not far from Reading when I was a teenager but I don't remember seeing any of that. I was probably only interested in shopping there! I knew about the Oscar Wilde connection, but only through the poem.

Jean Knill said...

Hi Linda - I think most of us are pretty uninterested in the history of where we live, especially when we are young.

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