Where not to take a toddler outside London


It’s just grim and crazy. Oh, now I’ve offended all the people in my readership who live in Bracknell. I’m sorry. But really, have you looked around you?

A small explanation – today we went to a friend’s BBQ in a small village, just south of Reading. En route we needed to stop at a Mothercare to exchange a stairgate (wacky nighttime fun with my amazing little Houdini…but that’s a whole other story). I wanted to avoid the masive faffiness of going into Reading itself on a Saturday and my perfect Plan A (branch just off the M4, next to a lovely big park that I could write a more interesting blog post about) fell through because Reuben rather inconveniently fell asleep just before we were due to turn off.

So, plan B it was then. Bracknell. I know very little about this place other than it’s the same junction as ouir eventual target, on the same side of the M4 and a smallish town. I know its neighbour Wokingham a little better and had imagined Bracknell to be much the same – a market town, with a single high street and some picturesque tea rooms and stuff.

No, it’s Croydon-on-Berks.

I should have known from the sat-nav directions – “Take the first left at the roundabout, bear left on the double roundabout and then straight ahead at the roundabout”. When has a large collection of roundabouts signified anything good? Basingstoke? Swindon? Milton Keynes? (Aggghh, and now I’ve alienated anyone who lives in those places. Sorry Allie). We drove round and round in circles looking for Mothercare before being directed onto a road which appeared to lead into some kind of car park.

So we parked there, relieved to get out, especially after many screeching turns (no, not that first left – that’s part of the larger gyratory over by the Hollywood Bowl). We got into a lift that I swear was from some kind of low-budget horror movie and went down to the ground floor. And then we were back on the road which appeared to lead into some kind of car park and NOWHERE ELSE so we went back up in the lift, I made another remark about how it was the kind of lift no-one would ever try and kill us in, back to the floor we were on, round a corner, almost into a hotel, across another car park and down into some luridly painted ramps (dark green and lime green, to match Roo’s dino shorts), with some kind of world music being piped through. There was a large picture of children happily playing in a fountain. We didn’t expect to find happy children. And guess what – we didn’t.

Emerging onto another set of ramps, we heard the aforementioned fountain (thought that was the rain for a minute but hooray! the rain was only a drizzle) and saw a shopping precinct lifted directly from mid-90s Basingstoke. And Mothercare! Huzzah! I was crazy-hungry at this point but the only food outlets I spied were the hot-dogs and candy-floss van (really? Were we at the fair?) and a stall called “Troll’s Kitchen”, selling bogey stew and used tissues. Didn’t fancy it much.

Then I noticed the whole area was covered with people flyering for the English Defence League. One girl had a t-shirt on saying “Proud to be English”. I felt like saying “I’m proud to be a random mix of English, German, Scottish and Polish, Did I mention I’m Jewish?”. They got a flier into my hand before I realised who they were so I had to get rid of it before going into Mothercare. I don’t normally litter but in this case, I made an exception. You don’t want to exchange a stairgate if the sales assistant thinks you’re a racist. Just imagine!

Through this, I noticed that the world music that was being piped into the corridors of doom was coming from a real live band, as part of an event called “Love Bracknell”. I wasn’t loving Bracknell. Neither was the band, I’m guessing, seeing as they were an ethnically diverse band playing in front of a load of white fascists. We did what we had to do in Mothercare, then Nathan dragged the new stairgate back to the car and me and Roo desperately searched for an outlet – Superdrug or somesuch – that could sell us a packet of crisps. Eventually I found a cafe where we could buy three flapjacks, for a pound each. And then we got the hell out of there.

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3 Responses to Where not to take a toddler outside London

  1. Rat says:

    I share your love of Bracknell. Area managed there and oooossshhhh it was rough! I think Croydon could well be offended by your comparison!

  2. LOL! I live in Wokingham and tend to avoid Bracknell like the plague….running in to Sports Direct or the Next superstore is about the closest I ever get! You haven’t offended me but I probably won’t tweet this as half of my friends live in Bracknel ha ha ha!!

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