For the better part of nine years, I lived and worked, on and off, in Reading in Berkshire (rather than the one in New Hampshire!). Over that time, I became quite fond of the place. It has some surprising features for a large southern town so close to London (only 25 minutes or so by train, providing there aren’t leaves/floodwaters/people on the line), like a canal and Muntjac deer*. I rented a flat and used that as a base, when I wasn’t working, to go on holiday (a Railair bus to Heathrow took about 40 minutes).
thesnailofhappiness would come and visit at the weekend occasionally (to save me heading back to Wales) and it was she who first noticed that Jacksons, pictured above, was a) clearly a visitor from 1930 and b) sold all manner of wool, knitting needles and crochet hook things (the technology of which is alien to me and I do not understand).
In fact, it had been there 138 years until it closed its doors for the last time at the end of 2013. It was one of those wonderful old-fashioned department stores, in a labyrinthine building, where the tills were manual and had paper rolls on which to write the receipt and, in 2010, they still only had one credit card machine.
When the store closed, there was local concern that the building would end up being another supermarket, “executive luxury apartments” or, worse still, “office space”. Just 100 yards down the road from Jackson’s Corner there is a whole caboodle of “office space” that was empty when I first went to Reading in 2001 and was still empty last year when I went past. So, I was delighted to read this on my Facebook feed this morning(4th June 2014). AltReading describe themselves as “a not-for-profit online magazine that aims to provide people with more variety and choice: providing a space for independent and local businesses to shine.” This is what is happening at Jackson’s Corner: there is going to be a Bicycle Kitchen. Yup, you read it right, a bicycle kitchen:
Reading Bicycle Kitchen is currently funded by the council’s Sustainable Travel Fund. It is a not-for-profit community interest company that aims to serve the town by providing low cost access to bike tools and mechanics. Based on similar projects around the world, it was set up Dave Sage after he was knocked off his bicycle in Reading last year. Bicycle Kitchens, also known as Bike Co-ops are not-for-profit assisted-service cycle repair shops. They began in San Francisco, USA, in 2003 and quickly spread to Europe. They are united by a desire to provide informative and affordable ways for individuals to maintain their bikes. The UK co-operatives hold an annual Bike Gathering, hosted last year by Broken Spoke in Oxford.
How great an idea is this? And what a great use of an historic building!
People thought that there would see yet another chain store moving in here. I guess, in a way, they were right!
* The Muntjac deer and the canal are kept separate, for reasons of safety.