Let's move to a town just near enough to much better places for you to spend your life in transit! This week: Reading

What’s it about?

Famous for its eponymous music festival and still not having the Elizabeth line, Reading is a well-connected south-east regional transport hub that appeals to London commuters and county lines gangs alike.

Rare for not having its character ruined by rampant development because it never had any in the first place, it’s full of people priced out of London who tell themselves being 23 minutes from the capital makes up for life in a soul-dead purgatory.

Any good points?

It’s the kind of place you’ll want to get out of, and the town planners knew that: make the most of the M4, the canals, the Thames, the fast trains to London and Oxford, the coaches to Heathrow and the slow trains to Volvo-packed home counties villages.

If you can bear to stay, decide which of two shopping malls should be awarded Most Underwhelming status. Broad Street is your go-to for pound shops and pissed-in lifts, while its flashier competitor, The Oracle, offers you nothing you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

And of course there’s the music festival, when crowds too rough for Glastonbury roll in, erecting tents, dropping litter and urinating freely. You’ll feel so smug dodging pavement excrement on your short post-festival walk back home!

Reading’s been trying to gain city status for years but the Queen keeps telling it to fuck off, continuing a tradition of royal snubs dating back to Henry VIII demolishing Reading Abbey.

Wonderful landscape?

There’s almost no green space in the town centre but there’s always IKEA in Calcot if you fancy walking somewhere that isn’t a road. Otherwise take an endless tour around the Inner Distribution Road to see the real Reading.

It’s also within spitting distance of Henley-on-Thames, if you can cope with extreme chinlessness in boats, and unsettlingly close to the largest nuclear arms refurbishment factory in the country. And to London.

Hang out at…

Reading is rightly proud of its cultural history – Oscar Wilde’s spirit was broken while being incarcerated in the now disused jail and there’s a genuine Banksy on the outer wall.

The town’s managed to hang onto a John Lewis for all your Saturday shopping which used to be called Heelas, a slice of department store history still visible in the brickwork which locals still believe is worth mentioning.

Smelly Alley in the town centre is another favourite of residents, so-called because it always used to stink of fish. Must be a Reading thing?

If you want to impress visiting friends, take them to see a touring show starring Mr Tumble at The Hexagon and put them up at the local Hilton, which for some reason was built overlooking the recycling centre. Again: London is 23 minutes away.

And check out the station car park, the most expensive in the country – and rightly so, since the only reason to live here is to leave.

Where to buy?

Get yourself a flat in one of the expensive new high rises in the centre named after biscuit factories and enjoy far-reaching views over the completely uninteresting skyline. If you prefer the calmer pace of a fancy suburb with gridlock traffic and an M&S Foodhall, go for Caversham.

From the streets:

Helen Archer, aged 34: “Reading has been an absolute breath of fresh air since I left London. I definitely didn’t move here because I couldn’t afford to buy in the capital or in nicer commuter towns that actually have things going on. Did I mention it’s under 25 minutes to London when there aren’t delays or strikes?”

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How I paint my Space Marines, by Dame Emma Thompson

WHEN I’m in my trailer between takes on Cruella or Last Christmas, I settle my nerves and concentrate my mind by painting a Chaos Lord in Terminator Armour Space Marine. Here’s how I focus myself. 

Source your materials

It’s crucial to begin with the right materials. So visit the nearest store for models, paints, brushes, glue, flocking and base sprays unless you want your towering transhuman defender of the Imperium to look like a half-baked piece of shit. Christian Bale uses Humbrol and his Necrons are a disaster.

Pick a Chapter

There’s more than one flavour of Space Marine, and with chapters from the Adamatine Lions to the Wolfspear, don’t rush this. Choose what’s right for you. You might like the look of the Blood Angels or the Void Daggers, but don’t forget that the colour scheme you choose affects gameplay. I was filming Sense and Sensibility when I settled on the obsidian hue of the Iron Fists, and their badass chapter gives my artillery better daemon engine support.

Apply an undercoat

Boring but it’s got to be done. Skip this and the colours will look dull and crap. You can apply by hand if you’re a fucking mouth breather like Richard Curtis but a spray can gets it over and done with in the time it takes to have a fag. We kept losing the light in Love Actually while he added another coat to his Ordo Reductor.

Layer the colours

Work from dark to light and paint your whole squad in one go rather than individually, otherwise you’ll be doing it for twatting months, and we’re not all filming Avatar sequels like fucking Winslet. Try not to let the tip of your brush leave the model or it’ll streak. And for Christ’s sake sand your sprues down. This isn’t backstage at Pontypool Dramatic Society.

Don’t forget to drybrush

The toughest skill to master. Knighthood or not, Ken never did. Load your brush, wipe off the excess, lightly run over the armour. The raised area will catch the paint and look fucking boss. Then you just need to slide on some transfers, flock the base and you’re ready for battle in a dystopian future. Oh, I should mention I’ve got a film out.