Making a splash at Thames Lido, Reading


If you know me (or if you’ve had a look at my hair), you’ll know that I am always looking for new places to swim. I find disused lidos and abandoned outdoor swimming pools extremely depressing – you just can’t help but think of all the history and memories that the place retains.


So when a pool is brought back from the brink, it’s truly cause for celebration. And that’s why I’ve kept a keen eye on the developments in Reading on the site of the former Kings Meadow Lido. The team behind the hugely successful Bristol Lido have now worked their magic on the site in Reading and have opened a beautiful little oasis called Thames Lido.


The site is right next to the Thames and dates back to 1902 when it was the ‘Ladies Swimming Bath’. Sadly the pool closed in 1974, but after three years of building work, it’s now a contemporary spa and restaurant.


I was so keen to get in to see it that I asked to be shown around by a lovely staff member who didn’t mind me oooohing and aaaahing all over the place.  It’s such a beautiful building and probably best to think of it as  an affordable spa rather than an outdoor pool. With a nod to its past and touches such as beautiful tiles, it’s bang up to date with the pool at the centre with the seating area around it.  You can book massages and other treatments and even have a Christmas party there. Thank you to everyone involved for preserving this bit of history and see you at the deep end!




Hungerford Literary Festival

If I could have attended all of the events on the programme, I would have done. I was lucky enough to get to three of the Hungerford Literary Festival events and without exception, each was exhilarating.

The theme of the festival was ‘journeys’ and these ranged from the local to the far-flung.  The first I saw on the Saturday morning was travel writer and journalist Tom Fort who gave a light-hearted talk on village life.


“You may be expecting a jolly jaunt in the style of Penelope Keith meets Bill Bryson, but this book is about something completely different,” he said.

 The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to preserve their village’s life while remaining modern and vital. This is an author who has written entertaining books about the A303 and also on lawnmowers, so it was great to see his equally witty, but forward-thinking take on development.

The next event we attended was travel supremo Alastair Sawday who talked on his new memoir Travelling Light; Journeys among special people and places. And while there were occasional references to his highlights of a career in globe-trotting, the talk focussed mainly on responsible tourism; highly topical in light of the recent backlash against tourists in Barcelona and Venice.

Last, but definitely not least was Jules Mountain who provided the finale to the Hungerford Literary Festival, with a nail-biting talk on his book Aftershock.

This was a fascinating, yet understated talk from a man who has cheated death on more than one occasion. After undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, the plucky engineer decided that he would put his physical ability to the test with an attempt at climbing Mount Everest in 2015. Midway through the expedition’s ascent, an avalanche hit, triggered by the infamous earthquake that devastated Nepal. He returned the following year and this time successfully reached the summit.




Armed with a slideshow and the actual suit and oxygen tank he used, this was an exhilarating  talk. It would have been hard to exit the Town Hall on that Sunday night without being inspired by this extraordinary story of survival and resilience. Profits from his book go to a cancer charity.



Hungerford has a post office again!



It’s been an interesting few months since the shutters came down in Martins on the high street. If you wanted to post a parcel or use any other post office facilities, you could head to Kintbury (which meant a bumpy cycle ride or two-hour there-and-back-again walk along the canal path) or Shalbourne; or use the makeshift post office in the library.

While it was kind of the people who ran this to provide the service, the hours were limited to a couple of lunchtimes a week and every time I tried it, I was met with a huge queue, an IT glitch, the inability to print a receipt, or annoyingly, a note on the door saying there was no service that day.


So when I saw a man on stilts striding up and down the High STreet at the weekend, I crossed my fingers that it was good news. It was! The post office is back! I can eBay again!


Hungerford Literary Festival



Just off to see Tom Fort talk on his new book The Village News; The Truth Behind England’s Rural Idyll as part of the Hungerford Literary Festival. I’m also suffering from a huge bout of wanderlust at the moment, so excited about the talk tonight from travel guru Alastair Sawday.

The theme for the weekend is ‘journeys’ and culminates with a talk tomorrow night from Jules Mountain who conquered both Mount Everest and cancer.

Check out the line-up here and I’ll take this opportunity to post a review I wrote on Will Self at the neighbouring Marlborough LitFest a couple of weeks ago 🙂


Will Self

Golding Speaker

Town Hall

Friday, 29th September.

“There’s barely anyone under 40 in here” observed novelist and journalist Will Self during his talk to a full Town Hall at the opening of the eighth Marlborough Literature Festival on Friday night.

The ‘ageing’ audience might well be a reflection of Self’s own protagonist Dr Zack Busner, who is now almost 80 in his latest work, Phone, the final novel in Self’s trilogy. The collection explores the inter-relationship between psychopathology, warfare, and technology. Each of the three novels explores emerging technologies and how they can ruin our collective mental health.

The consequences of this are all around us, Self says. In Phone, Busner is in the early days of dementia.

“Pathologies that have come to the fore are Alzheimers and Autism – things that we’d barely heard of 25 years ago. Now they’re all we hear about.”

The first in the series, Umbrella, tells of Busner’s interactions with encephalitis lethargica sufferers and “awakening” them using the drug L-Dopa. Shark is named after the fate of the Indianapolis. This was the ship that delivered the nuclear bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima. More than a thousand of its crew perished in after being torpedoed by the Japanese – languishing in the water in a shark attack, some say, as punishment for their part in the war.

Fittingly for a literature festival, he also talked movingly on the future of books. Fans of the printed word will be reassured to hear that in 2016, sales of physical books increased. But Self says literature is losing its place in society and claims the increase is ‘cannibalistic’ as many of these titles were written by vloggers.

Self wasn’t sure whether to take questions, citing “Brexit” as the reason why. One poor soul who argued the case for antidepressants got short shrift, putting paid to any other questions.

Self is a force of nature and his talk will be on people’s minds for a long time to come. A fitting opening for the Marlborough Literary Festival.