Having closely followed local news and discussion all year – #rdguk on twitter, various groups on Facebook, /r/reading on Reddit (which is mostly shoo-ing away people trying to talk about books) – I feel I’m well placed to summarise the year’s discourse in the form of a seasonal letter to Santa from us all. I hope you get what you want this Christmas, thank you so much for reading my rambles this year, and best wishes for 2019. Enjoy…
All we want for Christmas, Santa, is less traffic… with lower speed limits, and faster journeys at all times of the day, on safer roads.
We need new schools, which should also definitely not happen. No new buildings. Only fields and trees. Save literally all the trees. Think of the children.
We need everyone to cycle. Get everyone bikes, Santa. Turn all the roads into cycle lanes. Except the roads I drive on… which might be all of them… whenever I want. Bloody cyclists.
We hate traffic lights. We call them fairy lights. But we love fairy lights. We want decent Christmas lights! And we want a proper REAL tree. I said save ALL the trees!
We want our lollypop people back! And more lollypops. Bring back Woolie’s pick n mix. But without the sugar, obviously. Maybe plant-based pick ’n mix.
There are far too many swans by Caversham Bridge. The swans are starving – save the swans! You can feed them bread after all! But not gentrified artisanal bread. We hate that… unless we’re eating it, in which case we’ll Instagram it… and the swans. #LoveSwans
We hate traffic lights. Get rid of the traffic lights, Santa. We love roundabouts. Although sometimes when traffic flows aren’t balanced you get disproportionately long queues at one of the approaches. So maybe we need some way of alternating priority? I know, let’s put lollypop people on every roundabout so that everyone takes their turn. That’ll work. More roundabouts! More lollypop people. No traffic lights.
We need to park our cars on our drives, which are also gardens, unless we don’t have a drive or a garden, in which case we need to park directly outside our house, without a permit, where nobody else can park.
We love our bus company. We love that it’s not privatised. But we hate the fact the council owns it. They’re up to no good. It’s a conflict of interests, Santa.
We want Uber! We want it now, Santa. But we hate North American tax-dodging tech giants. And we hate cars. Unless we’re in one. I love my car.
We hate flats. No more flats, Santa. Build houses… but not using land. We need more homes for our children. Solve the housing crisis! Reject all development. Save the fields! Especially my field. It’s a special field. No flats! We hate flats.
We love our big events… our Cheese Feastivals, our monthly vegan markets. The music festival, which is a public noise nuisance, is awesome too.
It’s too busy everywhere. There are just far too many people, all contributing to an alarming year-on-year decline in footfall.
We want more local shops, Santa. Corner shops on every corner. We want butchers and greengrocers. But we’ll shop at supermarkets. We hate Tesco. We like independent shops. But we shop at the chains. We need a large supermarket in the town centre. But not a chain. We need a large independent supermarket in the town centre, that’s what we want, Santa.
We want swimming pools. 50m swimming pools on every corner. Modern facilities. In listed buildings please.
We demand more transport infrastructure. It mustn’t be visible, or cost any money. But’s let’s invest for the future, as long it doesn’t involve changing anything.
We want a striking modern skyline, but one you can only see it at night when it looks cool. Because we don’t like tall buildings. But we’ve run out of space – we need to go up. No flats. Or offices – boo hiss business. Maybe bowling alleys? Seventeen storeys of bowling alleys with an ice rink on the roof. That’s what we need.
We love restaurants. But only independents. We want a Turtle Bay!
We love that we’re constantly top of World’s-best-place-to-be-a-business league table. But Reading’s just a town for business… just a giant dormitory town full of international businesses. Boo hiss business. Say We Are Top o’ the League…
We love Reading TOWN. It’s a TOWN you know, Santa. Not a city. But just you try dismissing it to your mates as some sleepy backwater and we’ll shout about how it’s a great thriving metropolis. City Status for the ‘Ding! We demand it now. But please can it only apply if you’re outside the borough boundary? Once you cross into it, we immediately downgrade to town status. A kind of Schrodinger’s City. That’s what we want, Santa. It’s a TOWN.
We want giant fountains. Dancing jets of water that kids can play in… and you can drink.
We want our Gaol back. It should become a cultural quarter: a theatre, and an art gallery, and a concert hall, and a laser quest, and a boutique yet mid-market hotel, and some shops, and restaurants, and small business units, and an art-house but mass-market cinema. It must also be entirely converted for housing… but not flats. Although it should just be a prison. Leave it alone.
The car parks are too expensive, Santa. Ridiculous. As are the bus fares – by the time I’ve paid for the whole family I might as well have driven. Crazy.
Councillors need to get on and start solving these problems. And they should also resign. Happy Christmas Santa – you Coca-Cola-touting, over-commercialised fraud.
The People of Reading