December is always enlivened
by a set of Christmas decorations. It means that what would normally
be a fairly bland bit of urban landscape - in this case in the
Berkshire town of Reading - can be brightened up with strings
of brightly-coloured bulbs, randomly scattered smatterings of
white lights and a large conifer.
Reading does, however, always
have a relatively bright shopping centre. There are a lot of
towns and cities which have built their main shopping districts
around canals, but they have in the main covered the old waterways
over first. This always seems to be a waste of a decorative waterway,
though it does avoid embarassing incidents like the time that
a Cardiff policeman managed to drown in the remaining four inches
of the Glamorganshire Canal while trying to rescue a boy who
was busy drowning likewise.
The Kennet and Avon Canal,
much to the credit of its restoration team, always gives an impression
that it is way too important for anyone to even dream of covering
it over - although at this stage, towards its very eastern extremity,
it is less the Kennet and Avon Canal and more simply the River
Kennet. As a result it flows more than is normal for a canal.
It cuts magnificently through the centre of an otherwise rather
businesslike town, with sweeping curves and handsome bridges.
To prevent policemen drowing in the several feet of water that
stream down the Kennet into the Thames, the town's designers
have had to invest in some interesting designs of fencing. Behind
this are then some spacious wandering areas, rakes of outdoor
seating and Christmas rides. All in all, the Oracle shopping
centre makes a good place to finish off the Christmas shopping.