Can a single location have a major influence on your life? Perhaps your hometown or your place of birth? Or where your parents were born or where you grew up? Where you spent your formative years during the summer exploring, discovering, living a relatively carefree existence.
It is a strange fact that the English county (and proudly the Royal county I have called home for over eight years) of Berkshire has no cities. The large town in question is probably the ideal candidate that longs to gain city status but for perhaps good reason, this has yet to happen.
In the early 1970s, my Father attended Reading College (now part of the Activate Learning group) on the Kings Road for a brief period. I suppose that is the first link. That first initial connection. Reading is a solid hour by bus from High Wycombe and a good thirty minutes by car. Considering this close proximity, you would perhaps deduce I would have been a regular visitor throughout my childhood. This was simply not the case. We tended to venture east into the capital in our free time as a family. I had only been to the town once up to 1998. In the mid-1990s I came to a performance of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat at The Hexagon on a school trip. My middle school – Landsdowne County (now Chepping View Primary Academy) in Cressex were putting on a performance of the show and our teachers wanted us to see a professional performance for inspiration and guidance.
Sliding door moments occur throughout our lives. We probably think little about them at the time but these decisions trigger other wider ripples which only become clear years, sometimes decades into the future. I suppose as human beings we believe we are making binary choices based on the evidence before us at any given moment in time. We try to make the best decisions governed by our heads but also in some part our hearts. What feels right? What will my future self thank me for later down the line? In reality, we should be thinking third dimensionally. Will I regret or be proud of this next step in five or ten years time. This is the moment having a blog to record key points in my personal timeline, suddenly becomes an act of pure genius. I can actually go back in time and read what I was thinking and how I was feeling. For me, the decision was where to go to college. The reality, which may come as a big surprise to some readers is that I had no true desire to go into further education in the first place. To set the record straight, even University was not on the agenda.
During those halcyon summer days of 1998, while I waited with thousands of 16-year-olds my GCSE results, I was keen to at least explore some alternative options. I had secured an interview at IBM for their YT scheme. (A precursor to the modern-day apprenticeship). I passed the initial interview with flying colours but they were unable to secure me a placement at Big Blue. I also secured an interview at another tech company, now debunked Watford Electronics based in Luton. My Uncle ended up driving and waiting for me. I had to rethink my plans and next steps. There had been the option to stay at school and go into Sixth Form as many of my peers decided to. I wanted a fresh start. A new page. Encouraged by close friends I headed to The Henley College. Little did I know at the time how much a big impact this one decision would have on the rest of my life. Not just in terms of career but lifelong friendships.
Timing is everything and I happened to be heading into the second year at college just as The Oracle retail centre opened before the turn of the century. Add into the mix the right of passage which is passing your driving test (on the second attempt) forty-nine days before your 18th birthday. Reading quickly become the destination for pretty much everything outside of college over in neighbouring Henley-upon-Thames. Little did I know then that the town would become my place of work from 2011 to 2013 and then some six years later in 2019.