My road is a very very strange road, even by Reading standards. It’s a North-South rat run, directly between Caversham bridge and junction 11, so it gets a lot of through traffic; which was a pain in the ears when I first came here, but not really a problem since I had the secondary glazing put in and got acclimatized. There’s also a certain amount of passing pavement trade, which to my mind is to be expected (although not many of my neighbours would agree; nor, I suspect, will I if and when I decide to sell).
The most interesting thing is the variety. I used to joke that we have everything except a thatched cottage, and that’s not far off the truth. Starting from the upper end, you find forties semis on the right (except for number 51, which is very peculiar) and sixties tower block flats on the left, set back in a Close (in the Watch we don’t talk much about them), followed by four-storey Victorian town houses, six or eight bedrooms mostly occupied by young professionals with two or less kids. On the left, the Victorian town houses suddenly change from family homes to converted bedsits and flats. On the right, the forties semis give way to my house, which is on a rather complicated cusp. (I’ll tell you the story of my house another time.) From then on down, with a few curious and notable exceptions, it’s mostly bedsit land until you reach the huge doctor’s surgery on the left and the nursery on the right. Oh, and the funny little cottage tucked in just before the bottom of the road.
Those of you who live in Reading will now know exactly where I live (as, of course, will those of you who’ve been here). I have some kind of role in the Neighbourhood Watch, and as you can guess there’s a lot of dispute, much of it behind the scenes, about where the boundaries lie. The upper avenue wants to preserve its exclusivity, pretending that the lower orders aren’t really there (except for our outliers). The lower orders don’t get a Watch voice (even though I suspect they’re mostly decent folks who happen to have to live in bedsits or flats, because that’s the way it is).
Across the road from my landing window, I can see into one of the bedsits on the other side of the cusp. Two little kids, about four and seven, are brought home by their mum, and immediately climb up onto the windowsill, where they watch the traffic and the people, and possibly me. I try to imagine what their lives are like. I’d love to wave to them, but I daren’t. I’d love to invite them and their parents to the next Neighbourhood Watch meeting, but I daren’t.