They say when revising it is good to change location every now and again. Breathe in fresh air, let the recently learned grammar rules sink to the depths of the subconscious, to be summoned at the fifth hour of the coming exam. Although I am not sure they would agree with an afternoon down the pub.
I am waiting for my final exam. It happens to be a Turkish exam. My 3rd year is at serious risk of turning into my 4th year. There is nothing, it seems, I can do about this.
Well no, but that doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to a few hours pacing the mean streets, gawping at the tops of buildings and taking skewed, artistic photos, all to escape the relentless onslaught of Turkish suffixes.
So, to where does the everyday, intrepid, get-me-out-of-the-bloody-house-or-I-swear-I-will-drown-in-the-amount-of-tea-I-am-drinking explorer of Exeter head?
The Cathedral perhaps? Well yes I suppose that would make sense, but I went to WH Smith. Though before I dismiss the Cathedral completely it does deserve a special mention for containing the “Exeter Book”, the oldest example of English literature, dating from the 10th Century. Amongst other things, it contains one of the first known examples of obscene riddles (that most treasured of genres).
A short excerpt from one such riddle:
I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbors.
I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone.
My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below.
The answer? An Onion.
What were those Anglo-Saxons like.
So, after passing through WH Smith, stealing a surreptitious glance at the local tourist literature on the way, I headed to nearby Parliament Street (supposedly the narrowest street in the world). This street was in fact created as a sort of optical ramp for Jack Wills customers. As you walk along it the ever-narrowing walls and cleverly focussed perspective guide you, with a foreboding inevitability, towards a treasure trove of gilets and designer socks. Of course this system is only necessary for plebs. The gentry can walk straight in from the high-street entrance without a run-up.
It has been rumored that Stanley Kubrick helped design this feature. Jack Wills deny this. They haven’t heard of Stanley Kubrick. But as you walk along the cracked paving, losing all idea of what a street really is, it is impossible to ignore the encroaching sense of overly-priced tracksuits.
Other theories maintain that Parliament Street used to be called “Small Lane” until the middle of the 19th century and was changed to its current name as a way of mocking the Government. But enough, once I had disentangled myself from the claustrophobia and the impending Jack Wills (managing to just miss it by almost being run over by a bus), I fancied myself some culture.
It has been said by someone (probably wearing a woolen jumper over their shoulders and cradling a glass of vintage truffle wine) that it’s all well and good having an impressive cathedral, and some tight lanes, but a real city is defined by its art. Museums, galleries, exhibitions, I hear you cry. Weren’t you listening? I said the mean streets:
Graffiti. No, not what mathematicians throw over each other at weddings, though nice try. Think Berlin, and maybe Bristol, cities so adorned with this art form that it has become intertwined with the character of the place itself. But what of Exeter? The following specimens give you a taster of what the capital of Devon has to say on the matter.
Now with a head positively brimming with culture, if a little puzzled and prone to existential gazing, what left is there to do? Why, hop on a bike and ride along the canal to the Double Locks pub, naturally. Not before stopping off at Natwest (other banks are available) to take out a loan first, I’ll need it to buy a drink.
Fully-refreshed, I took a moment to reflect on the glory of Exeter through the words of its football club’s honorary director, the late Michael Jackson, who said famously in 2002:
“Hello you wonderful people of Exeter. It’s great to be here in this beautiful city. I love Exeter!”
To be fair there are 17 places called Exeter in the US alone (as well as one in Canada and three in Australia), so it was a safe bet for him. A case of: “If in doubt go for Exeter”.
And with that vaguely in mind I zipped up my duck skin gilet and pedaled home with a new found sense of urgency.