Disclaimer #1: This is a really long post.
Disclaimer #2: Most of this post is written by me, Evie, but Sophie will be inputting some bits too. My inputs will be in italics, just so you can tell. The weekend just gone, I went away from home for the first time since March. Last time, it was for six hours. This time, it was for two whole nights! I was travelling down to see Sophie in Reading for the first time EVER! After, like, a year of me saying “You so NEED to come down!”. It was something that excited me, and daunted me at the same time.
I’ve been to Reading before, on a university open day. So, in theory, I should have known where I was going. But Alas, throughout the day Sophie kept receiving texts like:
“If I leave now, what time will I get there?”
“What underground train is the best one to get to paddington?”
“How many stops are there from Paddington to Reading” My answer of one or two depending didn’t help. She had either not arrived in Reading yet or had now just totally missed it.
All pretty dumb questions, that I could have figured out by myself. But I just wanted to be extra careful. I didn’t want to do what I did last time, even with sensible boyfriend in tow, and get off at the wrong underground platform, thus causing us to be lost. I didn’t want to miss the station to Reading, which at some point I thought I had.
“Is it normal for a train to stop and start again without announcing what station we’re at?” I texted her, slightly panicking. As I write this paragraph I can feel my mum’s facepalm, which is undoubtedly what will happen when she reads this later.
“What!?” Sophie answered not even a minute later. “Did you pass Reading?”
“I don’t know”.
The reason I panicked was this; when the train first stopped, a ticket-collector-assistant-person-thing came and asked to get to the door controls. I thought “great, we’re here” and waited for the doors to open. They didn’t, and the train pulled away again. I could have looked out of the window, had I not been sandwiched between businessmen on their commute back to home, or had it not been pitch black outside.
I kept going, and had nothing to worry about, as we pulled into Reading station just ten minutes later.
Eventually I got off the third, and final train of the day (thank god) and walked to where the signs indicated the exit was. I called Sophie, who was supposed to meet me at the station.
“Where are you?” I asked. “I went up one escalator, down another one, and now I’ve got no clue where I’m going”
“I’m by W.H Smith’s” she replied. I looked around, there wasn’t a W.H Smith’s in sight.
Evie forgot to say that when I picked up my phone I heard absolutely nothing from her end, it was just completely blank so I didn’t reply. My half of the conversation was more like: “Hello. Hello? Hello? Helloooooo? Hello?! I can’t hear you. Hello?…………….Okay, I can’t hear you but if you can hear me I am by W.H. Smith’s.”
“I’m lost!” I shouted down the phone, a few people looked at me funnily. I assume they were thinking “the exit is right there, dumb-arse” but with Sophie not in sight I had no clue what to do.
I left. And she was right there. Outside. She forgot to mention that bit. We greeted each other with cackles* (I don’t know what it about her, but I always sound like a witch in her presence. Probably something to do with the origin of our last name). And decided to walk to our hotel, the Great Expectations.
*I read somewhere that our last name, Hobbs, come from the Anglo-Saxon/ Old English for a high priest, often thought to be a witch. I also read that it could also mean “Son of Robert” but that’s nowhere near as interesting or as useful to the joke.
Now. My expectations were not great. After the room was booked I looked at reviews and photos and it didn’t look like such a great place to be. But what did it matter, surely whatever room I was in wasn’t going to be any worse than my actual bedroom. Alas, it wasn’t, and my sister and I dumped our bags into the room (after a payment kerfuffle and the staff-server-receptionist-person-thingy getting bored of it all).
“What shall we do?” I asked. “I’d say, let’s get something to eat but I stuffed my face on the train”. I had. Earlier, I had over-compensated on food for the journey. Buying a whole matter of things. I had bought twelve chicken satays, eight cheesestrings, two sausage rolls, and two doughnuts. Just over half of that was binned.
“I dunno. We could just take a walk around?” Sophie asked. I agreed. No way in hell did I want to spend all of my hours here in the hotel room. We ambled out of the room and onto the streets of Reading. By now it was nine p.m and the people with plans on spending the night in drunken revelry started filling out onto the streets. We kept searching for somewhere to eat, walking around for a total of a whole hour. Stopping briefly at a Sainsbury’s to buy some sweets for later.
Eventually, we found somewhere to eat, to no surprise for some, McDonalds. We agreed to eat somewhere cheap so that we could have a really nice meal the next day, on my last night there. We overcompensated on food again, just like we always do. We did so because we hated the idea of being hungry at night-time with no way of getting food. And we had to put some of it into our bags for later.
“Now what?” I asked. It was half past ten now. We decided to go back to the hotel room and figure out what to do.
“We could go to some bars or something” I said “First time in months I don’t have a responsibility to wake up to”
Disclaimer: I love my baby-O to pieces. But I was happy that I could do whatever I wanted and not suffer the consequences the next day, early in the morning.
We chose not to go out drinking. And instead opted to go to the cinema, deciding on the 23:30 screening of Fury.
Now, our stepdad hated this film when we saw it almost a week before. But I liked it. And Sophie did too. I didn’t just like it. I LOVED it. And we had always had plans to see it together. So that’s what we did. Paying for our tickets and these crazy frozen ice drinks. We walked into the cinema and sat on really good seats, not too close to the screen, but central, and there weren’t any giraffe-necks obstructing our view.
The film finished at 2 in the morning. But thankfully the hotel wasn’t any more than a five minute walk away. We got back to the hotel room and essentially just pratted about for another three hours. Not wanting to go to sleep and waste whatever time I had here.
At five in the morning we went to sleep, and had plans to wake up at half past nine for breakfast.
We woke up at eleven. But managed to head outside an hour later in order to complete our itinerary.
First up: a tour of the university.
The walk felt long and arduous, up-hill is never a good thing (thank goodness I didn’t go to Exeter!), but there were lot’s of nice houses to peek at and we got to play out our little property fantasies that we love to do (we aren’t the only ones!), which made the walk more fun.
“Look, bikes to rent! We could get one of those” I said, pointing to the bikes.
“After your last experience, I don’t think so”. She had a point. Last time I rode a bike I kept falling into the road, in my quiet little (it’s not that little thinking about it) town. She also nearly got ran over by a tractor. These sorts of things could only happen in Norfolk. No way was I going to risk my life on a main road in Reading.
We kept walking, only to wish we left the hotel earlier as we walked right past a man on the pavement, puking his guts out. I was glad we chose not to go drinking. Suddenly, the two of us were put off the idea of lunch.
Not that it mattered, as almost everywhere on campus was closed. No paninis for us then. Or even a tour of the archaeology building. But I did get to see a very nice looking library. And Sophie did let me fangirl about how awesome the film, theatre and television studies building was. On the way back from the campus, to the city centre again, we stopped at Starbucks for some iced mochas.
“Best drink I’ve ever had” Sophie said, a play on a Fury quote. You’ll find it A LOT on the IMDB quotes page if you have no idea what I’m on about. It’s literally the ‘best quote I ever heard’! This quickly became our inside joke of the weekend, and we found ourselves using it for EVERYTHING!
Then came the bit that always happens. Shopping! Totally and utterly predictable of us. We walked around for hours, and we hadn’t even eaten yet!
At first I think I’m being sensible, choosing not to buy a thing. Then choosing to buy a Brecht on Theatre book, which I’m super excited about. Whilst at Waterstones Sophie tried to show me a cool stained glass window. Led up the stairs, blindfolded- because who cares about safety precautions- she planned on a big reveal. It must be a REALLY nice stained glass window I think.
However, when she finally takes her hands away from me all I can see are dull browns.
“It was supposed to be more of a spectacle than this” Sophie said.
It honestly was supposed to be more of a spectacle. The store is built into a church that was first built in the 1600’s (or something) and then redeveloped in the 1800’s until it fell out of use. The original Gothic doorway and stain glass window remains as does some of the inner architecture. Normally the window is beautiful, but it must have been boarded up because the light wasn’t coming through.
We stop for KFC, another fatty fast food store -obviously I’m not used to variety (haha), Or food for that matter- only spending three pounds each. Not bad at all.
Twenty six pounds on a shirt at the click of a finger.
Suddenly sensible wasn’t within my character, and I walked around every single store screeching “I want thiiiiiis”. But, when you’re in a city with shops and products that cannot be found in the rather town that I live in, you kind of end up wanting everything. In the end, when I realised I didn’t have the budget to buy all of Topshop (the realisation didn’t take long) I resorted to adding the things to my Christmas List. Which is essentially a list of expensive things I want but no one will ever buy me.
After a long day of walking, our feet began to hurt (mine didn’t hurt, so to speak, but my little toe did start to tingle, which was a bit worrying), we decided to head back to our hotel room. But not without buying MORE food first.
We went into Krispey Kreme doughnut store for the second time in the two days that I had currently been in Reading. I thought we’d buy lemonade and a couple of doughnuts each. But boy oh boy was I wrong.
“What can I get you?” The server-person-thingy asked (I’m terrible with occupational names).
“An assortment of a dozen doughnuts please”.
ONE. DOZEN. DOUGHNUTS.
Obviously buying twelve doughnuts between two people was such an outlandish thing to do that the server-person-thingy asked us this:
“Are you going to a party or something?”.
Or something indeed.
Sophie froze on the spot, not sure of what to say. Did we lie, and say we were so that we didn’t look like such lard-arses? Did we tell the truth and risk getting laughed at?
We went for the truth. We were going to a very exclusive party in a hotel….room. For two.
“No….” I replied shespishly, feeling my cheeks go pink. “We’re just…. (Lard-arses? Greedy? Obsessed with doughnuts? All of the above?) pigs”.
The only thing that could make the choice of words in a doughnut store more ironic is if Sophie and I were policewomen.
(Hurrah! A job I know the name of!)
After hurrying out of Krispey Kreme with a HUGE box of doughnuts to share, we retired back to the hotel room. We had plenty of time until we deemed it fit to go out to eat for the evening so we sat in the room, changed our clothes and make-up and created videos of us cackling, like the Anglo-Saxon witches that we are, and just being the silly and outlandish people we were that weekend.
Eventually, it became time to go out for tea. We had set aside money for Nando’s (another place that can be found where I live), and so we walked there, trying to avoid the few cat-calls that we had.
“Are you okay?” Someone came up and asked us sincerely. I threw him a don’t-talk-to-me kind of look and he continued to talk. WHAT ABOUT MY FACIAL EXPRESSION DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND.
“Oh my god. You are seriously not okay” he spoke as he followed us down the street. I would have been okay if you left us alone!
We continued to walk to Nando’s, avoiding a group of drunk and disorderly teenagers and pulling faces not unlike Katniss Everdeen’s. Walking through a city at nighttime was proving to be very irritable.
Eventually we got there and saw the MASSIVE wait for a seat.
“It’s packed” I told Sophie, hanging in-between the doorway. An annoying trait we did when unsure of what to do or where to go. “What do we do now?”
“We could go to Pizza Hut?” (Another place found back home). Sophie suggested. So we walked all the way back to the Riverside, which took about ten minutes. Singing Miley Cyrus songs along the way. Suddenly we were looking like the drunk and disorderly.
We got to Pizza Hut.
Closed. For refurbishment.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW!?
The answer to that? Stand around a sweet stall singing and dancing to the Hercules song blasting through the speakers. It lasted no longer than a minute, but still, we had all the swag of the sexy gospel muses. The song was ‘Zero to Hero’ and we literally know all the words because, yes, we really are that pathetic. Also, I’m the muse with the long wavy hair.
Later on we walked down the riverside, trying to find somewhere to eat. Mexican wasn’t my thing. The steak-houses were expensive (notice we never tried to find anything healty). And everywhere else was cheap fast-food junk. No way was I getting glammed up and clipping about in gorgeous Kurt Geiger shoes for another McDonalds!
We walked back to the Nando’s ten minutes away. It was not ten minutes away. Five minutes, at the most.
Now, the time by now was ten o’ clock at night. Almost two hours later than we had intended to eat. Turns out, service at ten is really fast. The food came in literally under five minutes. I guess they just wanted to start getting rid of people to close up shop. We ate happily, and even managed to hold a conversation at the same time. Typically, this doesn’t happen given how much I get into Nando’s. We ended up spending an hour there.
“Do we get dessert?” I ask, looking at the menu, they do a mean choc-a-lot cake- the name says it all.
“No. We have six doughnuts waiting for us at the hotel”.
“Well, I don’t want to go back to the hotel room just yet? What shall we do? We could go to a bar, we’re dressed nicely?”
What do we do? In the end it’s take another walk down to the riverside. And go to the cinema again. To see…
But come on! It has my biggest celebrity crush in it (I don’t even mean it in a “he’s so fit” kind of way, I am literally obsessed). How could I resist!? She literally is obsessed. She texts me on a daily basis telling me how in love with Logan Lerman she is.
We meet a Ben and Jerry’s enthusiast and talk about different flavours, proving to myself just how pig-ish I had been feeling all weekend so far. We take our tickets and our ice-cream tubs, I regret my choice of peanut butter cup over strawberry cheesecake, and take our seats. Evie, the cheesecake one was delicious! I wish they did it in the big tubs. Also, I wish we could have talked to the “cashier-server-thingy” because Ben and Jerry’s is a perfect foundation for a good friendship and he seemed like a fun character.
We are the only ones in the entire movie theatre.
“I feel so sorry for the staff, because if we hadn’t come in they wouldn’t have had to screen it, and have to clean up all over again” I tell Sophie.
Turns out, sitting in a cinema with only a smartphone for company is kind of surreal, and we keep expecting Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko to pop up and take off his stupid bunny suit. I keep looking to the left of me, unsettled.
(I was going to insert an image of the Donnie Darko movie theatre scene but it’s, like, the middle of the night as I’m writing this and quite frankly (aha) the bunny freaks me out). Fine. I’ll do it.
“What do you keep looking at!?” Sophie asks me nervously. I don’t know, but something kept catching in my periphery (I realised half-way through the film that it was the glowing light of the fire exit that I kept catching in my vision). I want someone to walk in and join us so it doesn’t feel so empty.
I asked nervously because I, too, kept seeing things in my periphery only on the right hand side where there was no entrance and I was genuinely terrified that there might be a ghost in the cinema.
Eventually someone does. He creeps in so quietly that when I actually DO catch a figure heading towards me I jump, and freak out. I freaked out too!
“For a minute I thought he had come here to murder us” I joke to Sophie. He had the silence of a ninja, the idea wasn’t that out there surely? But alas, a ninja wouldn’t carry a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. He doesn’t come and keep us company, and instead goes to sit right at the back…. The whole cinema and he chooses the very back??? Only couples with the wish to get frisky sit at the back, and he was totally alone.
Turns out, I like Fury so much that I get fully absorbed into the action. But I guess surround sound, and creating a fourth-wall with the lights kind of does that. And forget how creepy the cinema is when there are only three people there. Or how much I really hope the staff don’t forget and lock us in accidentally. We still jump at the same moments, and I’m still not sick of Logan Lerman by the end of it. Or Brad Pitt for that matter, and he’s FIFTY! And Sophie later confesses she was attracted to Shia LaBouef even though he had a moustache.
Normally when I see Shia LaBouef I can only see him as the nerdy, totally not attractive ‘Even Stevens’ or ‘Holes’ Shia as that is sort of what I grew up and knew. Seeing him in Fury was different because he was no longer this weedy kid and just totally shed that past self. The only other time this happened was when he was in Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Also, he doesn’t have his weird beard.
I guess it’s the war-hero thing. And that, I guess.
At two am we head back to the hotel once again with intentions to go to sleep. But we don’t. We end up staying awake and talking and eating doughnuts (or half a doughnut), until I’m crying with laughter and my stomach hurts. I apologise to the rest of the people staying at the hotel for how bloody annoying we must have been over the weekend. Especially singing along to Taylor Swift in the morning.
The next day, the plan is this: go home. But oh! I don’t want to, the weekend is currently so much fun I can stay for a little while longer, surely? So I do! And Sophie and I have the intentions to go our and then I go home at about 2pm.
That plan went so wrong! Like, three hours wrong.
Firstly, we head out to a nice ethical shop just down the road to pick my baby-O up a present. We spend a long time finding the perfect thing, a wooden dog on wheels, perfect for baby-O! And then spend EIGHTEEN pounds on bracelets for each of us. Sensible is definitely gone.
Then it’s back to the hotel room to pack and check out after I receive worrying messages from my parents.
Turns out there is no trouble at all and there aren’t any extra charges and the staff is super friendly. We ask to keep our bags behind the counter and they agree. So the staff takes them, and is super extra careful with the nine other doughnuts that are left to be consumed. It’s tempting to give him some just to get rid of them.
We leave the hotel. With plans to finish off our shopping, and buy things we wish we had the day before. In H&M we splurge on jewellery, and I have to get Sophie to buy it all so I don’t wince at how much I’m spending*. But at least we had a discount voucher for twenty percent off. We then go back to Kiko Cosmetics and stock up on new lipsticks because they’re super cheap and super nice. And I throw in a gorgeous new nail polish too, because the sensible me is gone.
*When Evie says I had to buy it what she really means is she paid for it but I had to be the one to go up to the “cashier-server-thingy-person”.
It’s Starbucks next, because the two of us are absolutely exhausted from the previous two days and buy extra large iced mochas. If nectar is the drink of the gods then these aren’t far off. I find myself wishing for a magical cup like in Percy Jackson (incidentally another film with her true love Logan in) so I could drink this stuff whenever I please. They also have the most delicious popcorn squares. The wait for our drinks takes forever, and about a dozen people get their orders before ours until we realise something is wrong.
“Wow! Service is quick here” we overhear a customer say.
Bull****. We’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes. It’s been ten minutes, at most. The lesson in this post is that if Evie ever gives you a measurement of time then you have to take five minutes off it, unless she is late somewhere, then add five minutes.
Turns out they had forgotten about us. But my god the drinks are worth the wait. I can see why there’s so much hype between ‘basic white girls’.
Still not wanting to go home we look for more things to do. And we end up going into a small-ish museum.
“They have a copy of the bayeaux tapestry here” Sophie tells me as we go up the stairs “I have to study it for my course”.
Great. She’s going to do school stuff on our weekend of fun.
Turns out school stuff is a lot of fun, as we go around reading about the tapestry. Sophie reads out the Latin writing, with wild Italian-like arm gestures and all, and I read the English. We also throw in a lot of Fury quotes and laugh at miniature naked men, as the mature and sophisticated people we are.
It turns out that the Bayeaux tapestry is about half as narrow and fifty times longer than I thought it was. It was quite weird seeing it stretching out on the edge of the room like the same way the Elgin Marbles are displayed. It honestly exceeded expectations.
Then it’s into the Silchester exhibition, because I didn’t get to go on the last year of digging there because I had already booked a holiday, where we read vaguely about dress codes and ancient religions. But that’s fun too, and we try on ‘ancient’ togas and take a lot of selfies as Roman people. That’s a huge amount of fun too. Sophie: the history nerd, actually manages to make history fun.
The above picture is of me dressing up as a Norman king in the tapestry exhibit, though the painting behind me is from the 1800’s and not from c. 1066.
We waste more money in the gift shop.
And then it’s time to leave.
We go back to the hotel really really quickly to pick up our bags. Knowing there’s a three hour journey ahead of me I’m pretty glad, at this point, that I’m not the one that has to carry Sophie’s overnight bag (it was so heavy!). We also get our Krispey Kreme doughnuts back and I secretly hope that at least one has been eaten because I can’t be bothered to carry them either. But alas, everything is how it was when we first left them behind the counter.
Then it’s a quick quick run to the train station and I’m like “we can get the half past four train. It’s okay. I’ll get home soon enough”. But OH MY GOD the train is an hour LATER than I was hoping for. Thank god Sophie is still with me because I’d be bored out of my mind already by this point.
We decide to eat for the first time that day, and go to have a Subway. There aren’t many people in here besides us, the staff and a homeless man sat peacefully at one of the tables. I give the man a quick glance because I always worry about them for some reason. But he seemed okay to me so I think nothing of it. Sophie has a six inch, and I have an entire foot long (this is not a phallic euphemism I promise). I probably look like the world’s greediest person in the world carrying a whole box of doughnuts and ordering a footlong sub with a homeless man sat RIGHT BEHIND ME!
We sit down to eat. I’m okay. Sophie’s okay. The staff are okay. The homeless man has deteriorated and is definitely not okay.
“I’m kind of worried about him because he’s shaking a little bit” Sophie says. She’s sat directly opposite him, and this was probably a bad move because bad situations (like a shaking man) make Sophie a little anxious. A “little” anxious? I wish! I get VERY anxious.
I turn around to see what she means, just in time to see the man begin to fit. I freeze. Sophie freezes. Like WHAT THE FUCK DO WE DO!? I’m 100% sure the two of us would make a terrible hero-and-sidekick team (mostly arguing about who has to be demoted to sidekick to actually save people) (I’m totally the sidekick. I’m thinking back to when we’d play sing star, and other games, and you’d play all the main parts and I would have to be the supporting role). We thank the heavens that two policemen had came in to order food not even a minute before the incident. Like, talk about luck!
And everyone continues to go about their daily business like homeless men struggling to breathe on the floor is a regular occurrence here. I actually think at this point he wasn’t struggling to breathe but was actually asleep. I swear I heard snoring (but I suppose they’re slightly similar sounds)
Sophie gets put of her food.
I could scarf the entire shop but now is probably a bad time to do so.
So we do what any kind-hearted and compassionate person would do.
(That makes us sound like truly awful human beings, but I promise you, Sophie and I have a tendency just to get in people’s ways, so it was probably for the best).
And we end up going to find my train platform.
I’m slightly gutted that it’s not platform 9 and 3/4. But I remind myself that that platform is at Kings Cross and has just become a horribly tacky money making scheme that I’m no longer bummed out.
We get to the platform. And suddenly, literally out of nowhere, we start to get really emotional.
Well. Sophie does.
And she’s all like: “I don’t want you to go. Please stay. Please stay!”
And I’m like: “I can’t, I have a baby-O to get back to and I’m sick of this suitcase!” (Which explains why it only moved out of the living room yesterday, and not even because I did it).
And she starts crying.
I’m a sucker when it comes to Sophie crying. If she does it, I’m guaranteed to do it too. So I start blubbing as well and I’m trying to make light of it by joking about David Tennant and waterproof mascara but it’s not helping. And when the train finally arrives we’re just complete messes. We have no dignity.
I get on the train, composing myself enough so that it doesn’t look like I’m abandoning my sister. She’s still crying and I’m like “oh god. STOP! I’m going to cry on a train and that’s embarrassing. AND I ONLY HAVE DOUGHNUT BAGS TO WIPE MY DRIPPING NOSE WITH!”
So the train pulls away, and we both cry again. And I’m Tenth Doctor-ing all over the place like “I don’t want to go”. I want Sophie to run down the platform like we did at kids but I know she won’t because of her stupidly heavy overnight bag.
And the train quickens pace. And suddenly, I’m not in Reading anymore.
As the train was rolling out of the platform this security guard asked me if I was okay. I was definitely not okay (haha) and he offered to make me some tea, but I had my own train to catch so I declined- that and I don’t really like tea. I suck at being British. And I have a really boring, really annoying, really tedious train journey home. And a half an hour wait at Kings Cross watching the Harry Potter shop make a mint.
But that’s another story. One that’s definitely not as long either.