Reading… Bracknell… Winnersh… Burghfield

You probably caught the episode on Monday 4th November 2002 over on BBC2. However, more likely you caught on demand on iPlayer in more recent times (remember the BBC catch-up service was launched five years after this particular episode was broadcast.) Why am I boring you with pointless facts you do not need to know? As always, there is some method in the madness.

When Wernham Hogg branch manager David Brent is going through redundancy in series two episode six of The Office, he quotes eight towns within Berkshire, Hampshire, and South Oxfordshire. When you look at the subset (five) that sit in the Royal County I call home – they are all towns as Berkshire is one of the few (perhaps only ceremonial county of England without a designated city – long may that be the case)

  • Reading
  • Aldershot
  • Bracknell
  • Didcot
  • Yateley
  • Winnersh
  • Taplow
  • Burghfield

This list would be insignificant for me at the time, as I was almost halfway through my industrial placement at a medium-sized law firm based in Bedfordshire. I was travelling approximately 600 miles a week for the 120-mile day round trip to a place of work. How strange that feels to type in our post-pandemic world. It is worth noting that I had only just started taking my blog seriously at this point in my timeline. (A meagre 4 posts were recorded for the penultimate month of a World Cup year)  As usual, I digress, what is the point Andrew – please get to the point! I have already typed 158 words but have not gone anywhere. What is the importance of these eight places, five of whom are within the Royal County?

Having lived in the Royal County in some capacity from October 2008 to October 2009 and then from April 2011 to date – I feel very well placed to consider myself a man of Berks. Although, of course, it is common knowledge – I was born and bred, across the county border in Bucks. This reminds me of a moment when Borat is at Henley International Regatta watching a boat race between teams of both counties. Thankfully I managed to dig out the clip from YouTube – the action starts at 3:59 but the entire clip is worth a watch at less than five minutes running time. Our reporter from Kazakhstan is told to back Bucks, while his fellow Englishman and teacher/mentor for the segment is supporting local rival Berks. The rivalry between bordering counties is not as big as the varsity rivalry between the two elite University cities of this once great nation – Oxford and Cambridge – with their annual boat race being a firm fixture in the watersport calendar.

Linking back to my Industrial Placement – while looking for roles for my sandwich year – I had an interview at National Grid, which have offices in Winnersh (the technical name is National Grid Control Centre). Super diligent me, arrived early for the interview (driving down from my university city of Leicester) and popped over to Sainsbury’s – to kill some time and settle any nerves. The question is what would I tell that 20-year-old Andrew in the spring 2002? 21 years ago. I used the time in the car park of the Home Retail Group supermarket to compose myself, reviewing the notes of my presentation prior to heading off around the corner for the interview.

Back to the $64,000 question – what would I tell my 20-year-old self, with the experience of not just twenty-one years but the maturity of knowing what truly matters versus what you think matters? I would probably be as brief as possible. Let us be honest, I would not do that. I would find it near impossible. I would say everything is going to be fine, everything is going to pan out better than expected. You are going to have two beautiful boys and you are going to live in a new house around the corner, which is currently farmland – Bell Farm. You are going to achieve your goals of working for the biggest tech companies on this dear Earth. You are going to get the opportunity to travel and see some of the amazing cities around the world. You are going to meet some fantastic people along the way and some of them will go on to become lifelong friends. Technology is going to take your breath away and thanks to that technology, most of it you will be able to relive because you decided in the summer of 2002 (a few mere months from this point in my timeline) to take your little niche project of a personal blog a little more seriously

This blog post was inspired by the following tweet from David Brent as a response to the local elections across England on Thursday 4th May 2023 and their subsequent fall-out for the Conservative government.

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