Day 53 – Oxford to Reading by Josephine Myles

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I grew up in the little town of Beaconsfield, South Buckinghamshire, so this is a part of the country I know intimately. Here’s my thoroughly personal, subjective and probably rather tongue-in-cheek guide to a few of the places the torch is passing through today:

Oxford

The best thing about Oxford isn’t those dreaming spires. No, it’s the Pitt Rivers Museum. This collection of artefacts from tribes around the world, collected by eminent Victorian traveller General Augustus Pitt Rivers, is an absolute delight. Anyone fascinated by the Victorians, the lost tribes of our world, or with an interest in steampunk should visit this place for inspiration. Just the building alone is well worth visiting for, and it’s completely free admission! Did I mention there are shrunken heads too?

Henley-on-Thames

Although this market town is best known for its annual regatta and is home to more than its fair share of toffs, there’s more going on than just people in big hats drinking champagne and eating strawberries and cream. Theres… er… posh shops and restaurants too. Seriously, even if there’s not much going on Henley is a beautiful little town and the Thames is incredibly picturesque right there. To me it sums up traditional middle England and that’s why I used it as a setting for my story “The Frog Prince” (in The Handsome Prince anthology) – Henley is exactly the sort of place where a diffident, Hugh Grant-esque bookseller might well find the disgraced aristocrat of his dreams!

Maidenhead

My nan used to live in Maidenhead, so I’ve visited there many times over the years. Aside from being the only place I know of to be named after an intact hymen, there’s not much of note here. Instead of visiting Maidenhead, I’d go to nearby Cookham where you can find the wonderful little Stanley Spencer Gallery. He painted many scenes on the nearby river, including the magnificent Swan Upping at Cookham. Well worth a visit if you like your portraiture on the surreal side.

Slough

Hmmm… what can I possibly say about the wonder that is Slough?! In my mind it’s always now inextricably linked with the seminal British mockumentary, The Office which was set there – I have even been round the roundabout featured in the opening credits. Slough is not somewhere with anything to offer tourists, but it is home to the Mars factory. I visited there a couple of times as a child and was mesmerised by all those chocolate bars passing by on conveyor belts. It’s absolutely nothing like Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but I was kind of glad about that because the Oompa Loompas always freaked me out a little. You got to eat loads of chocolates as you went round, and were given a huge bag of them to take home with you. I love all Mars chocolates except Bountys, so that was all right with me.

Oh, and just so you know: Bounty bars taste every bit as revolting when so fresh, they’re warm in the middle. Yuk!

Windsor

Unlike Slough, nearby Windsor is packed with tourist attractions and overpriced gift shops. Go see the Castle! Go buy very, VERY expensive fudge! It’s a lovely town, but you really need to enjoy rubbing shoulders with tourists if you’re going to visit.

Reading

Although the main reason I’ve stopped off in Reading in recent years is simply to change trains, it is a beautiful city in its own right. There are huge numbers of beautiful redbrick Victorian terraces, with incredible brickwork patterns. It’s probably best known to most Brits, however, as the location for the Reading Festival, and the former home of the WOMAD Festival too (which was a much more civilised affair). When I was a teenager I used to get free guest passes for the Reading Festival from a friend with connections, and even more fortunately, we could get the train back home again. Well, okay, we could get the train back to Slough, and then get someone’s parents to pick us up from there.

What this meant was that I got to attend a festival as a VIP, and was able to head home for fresh clothes and a proper bed every night. Woohoo! Now that’s the way to do a festival, especially in one of our delightful British summers. You can look on the mud with a smile when you know you have a bath waiting for you at home.

I used Reading as the setting for my novel, Handle with Care. I wanted somewhere big and close to London, and near but not too close to the nearest kidney transplant unit (that’s in Oxford) so it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I took some horrible liberties with Reading geography and put a skate park in the rather more stately Caversham Park. Sorry, people of Reading, but you seriously need more skate parks!

Handle with Care

The best things in life aren’t free…they’re freely given.

Ben Lethbridge doesn’t have many vices left. After raising his little sister to adulthood, he wasted no time making up for the youth he lost to responsible parenting. Two years of partying it up—and ignoring his diabetes—has left him tethered to a home dialysis regimen.

He can do his job from his flat, fortunately, but most of his favourite things are forbidden. Except for DVD porn…and fantasizing over Ollie, the gorgeous, purple-haired skateboarder who delivers it.

Their banter is the highlight of Ben’s lonely day, but his illness-ravaged body is the cruel reality that prevents him from believing they’ll do anything more than flirt. Not to mention the age gap. Still, Ben figures there’s no harm in sprucing himself up a bit.

Then one day, a package accidentally splits open, revealing Ben’s dirty little secret…and an unexpected connection that leaves him wondering if he’s been reading Ollie wrong all this time. There’s only one way to find out: risk showing Ollie every last scar. And hope “far from perfect” is good enough for a chance at love.

Warning: Contains superhero porn comics and a cute, accident-prone delivery guy with colour-changing hair. Readers may experience coffee cravings, an unexpected liking for bad mullets, and the urge to wrap Ollie up and take him home.

Jo’s website: http://josephinemyles.com/
Email: josephine_myles@yahoo.co.uk
Blog: http://josephinemyles.com/blog/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/josephine.myles
Twitter: @JosephineMyles

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About Josephine Myles

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

14 responses »

  1. LOL! Whenever I think of Slough, it’s Betjeman that comes to mind:

    Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
    It isn’t fit for humans now,
    There isn’t grass to graze a cow.

    Great post! 😀

    • I remember David Brent quoting that poem in The Office – Betjeman was right! Definitely a town with very little to recommend it, yet somehow I found it more interesting to waffle on about than Windsor. My mind is strange sometimes.

  2. Hmm, I might have to zip to Oxford some time to take a look in that museum. And can you believe of all the castles I’ve visited in this fair land of ours, I’ve never been to Windsor and it’s my local, so to speak.

    I must disagree about Bounty Bars. Although since I like mine cold from the fridge I doubt I’d want to eat one warm from the making process!

    • Ooh, the Pitt Rivers Museum is a must – so much to see and such a beautiful setting. As for Windsor, I did the tourist thing there as a child and have only been back once since. I got the heebie jeebies from all the milling tourists everywhere. Then again, I was living in Bath at the time, so I’d probably just had my fill of tourists already and was lacking in patience!

      I’ll freely admit I’m probably in the minority when it comes to Bounty bars, but the combination of coconut and sugar always makes me want to hurl. For some reason I can only cope with coconut in curries. I did give them a chance, though, as the man guiding our tour said they tasted amazing when still gooey inside, and everyone else was in raptures over them. I had to go and be the odd one out, didn’t I? Had to eat a Lion bar to get the taste out of my mouth 😉

  3. That museum in Oxford looks great – I’ll nudge Son#2 towards that choice for a Uni so I can go and visit :):). And I spent some time in Reading back in my auditing days, so it’s great to see it featured here. Great post!

    • LOL – aim high! It’s not that far from you anyway, Clare. Nice excuse for a day out, I would have thought 🙂

      Reading is one of those places that seems to get a bad rep, but I really like the place. I know it has a rough side, but what city doesn’t? Well, okay, Bath doesn’t have much of one.

  4. What a great post. I knew none of this stuff except about the Reading Music Festival thingie. So this was a really interesting read!

    • I’m glad it was educational in some way – it ended up being more of a personal reflection than a tourist guide, but my reactions to the area are all tied up with my outlook on life when I was younger 🙂

  5. Yet another area of which I did not wot – or whatever. I don’t see the point of going abroad when there are such amazing places close to hand.

    I’ve never visited the Pitt Rivers museum but I did train a lassie who ended up working there. My that was a long time ago. Anyhow, you’ve certainly sold it to me. 🙂

    • Oh, you must go! It’s one of my absolute favourite places. And I’d have to agree, we have so much to see here, you don’t need to go abroad (although I do love experiencing other countries when I can afford to)

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