Ah well, two out of three…
The house was ideally placed for my commute, the branch line station being almost literally at the bottom of the garden (although I couldn’t actually get to it that way, having instead to walk a full two hundred yards down the road, something that initially frustrated me until I saw the benefits of not having hordes of commuters and other less savoury station denizens traipsing past the back gate at all hours). There were good local shops, if we needed them, and a small friendly supermarket just up the road. There were also a couple of interestingly quirky restaurants. And the town centre was walkable. So far, so good.
It was also within staggering distance of three or four inveterate party-givers, who formed part of what I soon learnt was jocularly termed the ‘Reading Mafia’. This sobriquet wasn’t entirely appropriate; there was no firm evidence that any of them were involved in anything seriously dodgy, although contacts could no doubt be picked up in extreme need. But the parties were good and frequent; and once the worst of our building work was done we fairly quickly became junior members of this party clique. I was, of course, the new boy: believe it or not, especially if you know anything of my earlier history, I’d never been anywhere near this kind of scene before. I dived in headfirst and lapped thirstily.
The only downside of the location, it transpired, was the noise factor. We should of course have worked out that having a railway in the back garden entailed the odd train going along it – in this case, as it was the main line from practically everywhere to everywhere else, every few minutes during the day and irregularly during the night. The first 4 a.m. goods train shook us, and the house, awake. It is, however, surprising how quickly you get used to that. There was also an unforeseen amount of road traffic; if you saw a map of Reading, and knew where my road is, you’d see that it’s a natural north-south rat-run between the Thames bridges and the M4. Again, we just had to get used to that. And secondary double glazing works wonders.