Last season was very tough mentally so I’m picking and choosing my games this season, withdrawing slightly with a view to not falling out of love with the game altogether. The away games I am selecting are special ones that I plan to craft epic trips around. First stop: Exeter.
I do like an early start for these away missions and was wanting to get away at 6am for this one. I’d packed what I could last night, Paddington had prepped the cool bag full of healthy snackage for the journey and Lee had fuelled up the car. When it came to setting the alarm for 5am, though, I thought ‘fuck that shit’. As it was, I awoke around 5.15am anyway, but it was 7am before we got moving.
After tapping our first stop into Waze, my next job was to research musicians from Exeter to provide the soundtrack to our southbound journey. The only name I recognised was Chris Martin and he could fuck right off. I just find Coldplay so dreary and whiny and I always change the channel when they come on the radio; it’s muscle memory now. I like something with a bit more va va voom, as you’ll find out when we get to Exeter. Anyway, this led me to do some digging into musicians from Exeter I hadn’t heard of, but would much rather listen to. First up was Tony Burrows, a repeated one-hit-wonder with various bands.
Other hits he sang on included:
- Let’s Go To San Francisco – The Flower Pot Men
- Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse
- My Baby Loves Lovin’ – White Plains
- Beach Baby – The First Class
- United We Stand – Brotherhood of Man
- Tiny Dancer – Elton John (not lead vocals on this one, obvs)
He also famously appeared on Top of the Pops numerous times as part of two different acts on the same show.
Another highlight was the Exeter University Big Band.
Exeter is a looooong way away so we were breaking up the journey about three-quarters of the way there, much as we had done by stopping at Stonehenge en route to Southampton. I had been contemplating the map with a view to calling in at Weston (I like visiting fellow seaside resorts) but Rich (looking over my shoulder) suggested Cheddar Gorge instead. When Rich speaks, I listen, as he’d previously recommended Concorde for the Bristol Tourist Guide and also Rabbit Hole, which we’re enjoying watching at the moment. I had no idea what Cheddar Gorge was but it was on the way and I enjoy learning new things on my travels.
This was the awesome sight that greeted us on our drive into Cheddar. And that was before entering any of the paid attractions! As with Stonehenge, we were only here for a whistlestop tour, so we selected just two attractions to visit. First up: Gough’s Cave.
In my haste to crack on and get away in good time for lunch, I’d waved away the offer of an audio guide, so we had no idea what we were looking at but it was awe-inspiring all the same. It looked like the setting for an Indiana Jones movie. We did pick up that Cheddar Gorge was formed naturally at the end of the Ice Age. Anyway, as with all of the places I visit, there’s a hyperlink in the heading if you would like to know more. I’m just here to guide you to it and show you how pretty it is.
Now across the road to the Museum of Prehistory to learn about the history of man and hopefully see some dinosaurs.
I’ve always been fascinated by cannibalism. Is it still a thing? And why is it such a taboo? Where food is scarce, I can see how it makes sense. Whilst I wouldn’t want to be killed for meat, I’m really not bothered about being eaten when I’m dead, although I’d prefer that my organs were donated, ideally.
Next stop was the gift shop to see what they had of interest.
Here’s what I bought.
Finally, we watched a video on Cheddar Gorge to learn more about it. Here’s Paddington video-bombing.
Of the activities we pointedly avoided (under the convenient guise of having limited time) were ascending Jacob’s Ladder and rock climbing which, I remarked at the time, they could fuck sky high.
Right – off to
the pub lunch.
Axbridge? Isn’t that the fictional village where The Archers is set? If Axbridge is real, does that mean The Archers is real? We entered onto what appeared to be a film set. Are they filming The Archers now? We struggled to find a parking space but eventually did.
As I headed into the pub, Lee approached the film crew to find out what was going on. Turned out they were filming A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder for BBC3. So tune in and, if you see a short woman sporting a bright yellow FC Brickstand shirt with MULDOON on the back, that’s me.
Anyway, to the baa!
That’s my pint of Rare Breed. I plumped for this as the lower ABV option and also thinking I hadn’t had that one before (although Untappd confirmed otherwise).
I’d brought Paddington with me to help me stay on track foodwise. He had already researched the menu of this Good Beer Guide pub in advance, giving it his seal of approval, so knew there would be safe options on here.
Meanwhile I went to check out the specials board.
While we waited for our food to arrive, we played our new game.
This was a lovely pub and the food was delicious. But, before we go, a loo review.
We went for a little nose at the beer garden before leaving.
Duly sustained, we were now ready to face the last leg of the journey. We’d run out of Exeter music (it was a long journey and I was standing my ground on Coldplay) so I banged on the band we were going to see tomorrow night: Ukulele Death Squad. Ooh they were good!
I noticed immediately on arrival in Exeter that it smelled lovely; the roses were particularly aromatic. Our apartment for the next couple of nights smelled lovely too, filled as it was with reed diffusers. We’d been met at the door by our friendly host, who’d invited us to help ourselves to all of the food provided, as well as the berries from the bushes in the delightful garden.
We were knackered from the journey, our first lengthy trip in three months. I’d quite forgotten how exhausting football is at the start of the season. We collapsed onto the sofa and popped on the TV while we recovered. And then we really didn’t want to get up again. By 7pm I announced that, if we were going out, we needed to do it now, or not bother. Nah, we really were tired after the early start and long journey and hearty lunch. Fuck it. We had plenty of food in (courtesy of Paddington and our kind host). This was my tea.
Ooh how silky smooth are these Sonia Moer sheets? I was asleep by 10pm and slept for a good nine hours.
I was up early on Friday, which allowed me time to plan for the day ahead. We had a lot to pack in, after doing fuck all in Exeter yesterday, given that I had this Football Tourist Guide to write. This is the danger of not having a full itinerary planned in advance, which I usually do. I booked tickets for two attractions and added a schedule for the day to my Notes.
I was up so early I had time to write my Morning Pages (where I brain dump whatever is on my mind onto the page, solve problems and set my writing goals). I also did some work on my book. And even found time to do some reading (Black Thorn by Sarah Hilary).
Breakfast was jam on toast because that’s what we had in.
We headed out around 10am for a stroll into town. I had my jacket on despite the good weather, conscious that I’d be going underground, where it might be nippy. I plotted in our first stop on Google Maps and was immediately confused by this annotation.
As I was taking the above photo, a man walking past hollered a warning in my direction.
‘Careful! It bites!’
As we passed the church we spotted two palettes of courgettes on the wall.
What was that all about? I wondered if it was something to do with SlimmingWorld, who held meetings at the church. As we continued on, puzzled, the aroma of fresh courgettes followed us down the street.
I wondered aloud why Exeter City were nicknamed The Grecians. We knew the Romans had settled here and this was confusing.
‘Did they invent Grecian 2000?’ mused Lee.
As we passed under the railway arches we paused to observe a beautiful mosaic.
Our walk took us across the River Exe.
Ooh there’s that pub that Ronnie recommended. I checked the time. We were against the clock today but the pub was open and I couldn’t just walk past it…
The pub was quiet, it being barely 11am, and was spacious, with a foody vibe. I strode through to the bar.
I had a taster of the Away Days (as we were on one, how could I not?) but plumped for the weaker Anthem as it was only breakfast time.
As it was such a beautiful day, I asked if there was a beer garden out back. There was, but only the terrace was open right now. That would have to do, so we headed through.
The rushing water visible on the right of this photo provided some very relaxing white noise. What with the stunning view and gorgeous weather, we could happily have remained here for hours, had we not got a lot to get through today.
Now onwards into the city…
We couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore underneath the city, having enjoyed our subterranean tour of Nottingham in that Football Tourist Guide.
On entry, we were directed down the stairs, where we were greeted by an odd guide, which was a mannequin with a human face with eyes that looked directly at you.
I was pleased that there was a toilet available after my breakfast beer, so here’s a quick loo review.
As instructed, we’d arrived 15 minutes in advance of our tour, which allowed us time to have a mooch round the little museum in the lobby.
These tunnels were originally built underneath the city to pump clean water into the cathedral and later the city itself. I did wonder if having the water pipes so far underground was the reason the water pressure in our AirBNB was so powerful (the shower came with a warning) but the water pipes aren’t there any more, although the tunnels remain.
We learned that Exeter was famous for its woollen cloth industry, which explained all the wool shops we spotted on our travels this weekend.
Our guide led us through the tunnels and told us about their history. They were used as an air raid shelter during the war. And the plumber used to send his boy down to check for leaks and wrap them in cloth soaked in animal fat. This led to an influx of rats. Our guide picked on an eight-year-old boy in our group and asked how he’d feel being sent down there with all the rats.
‘He’d be my fwend. I’d call him Bob.’
Now it was time to head back across town.
We didn’t go into the Cathedral because (a) there was a charge for this and times is hard; and (b) we were against the clock.
And we really were against the clock. By the time we’d walked back to our AirBNB to collect the car, it was 1.30pm, we were half an hour away from where I really fancied for lunch – and it stopped serving food at 2pm. I called them to see if they would serve us if we arrived a little late but the phone was answered by a monotone lad and I already knew what answer I was going to get. By now I was getting hangry. And we had to eat and get across to our next stop by 3pm. And the Friday traffic was rammed. We retired to our AirBNB to make our own lunch for expediency. I had another sausage and marmalade sandwich which frankly wouldn’t have been topped by anything I’d have eaten in the pub – plus it was free, as we already had all the ingredients in our fridge.
Now onwards to battle the traffic…
This visit was all about Sooty. In case you don’t know, Sooty is from Blackpool: Harry Corbett picked up the original Sooty on North Pier. He’s called Sooty because the original, all yellow Sooty was a star of black and white television and, to make his nose and ears stand out, they blacked them with soot.
It was around 3pm when we arrived and I immediately asked for directions to my joint favourite bear. Paddington was very keen to meet him. The website had said there was a live performance of The Sooty Show at 3.30pm and we couldn’t wait.
I was fuming at this sign – and Paddington was on the verge of tears. We’d missed out on Sooty by half an hour! But why had the website said 3.30pm? Lee pointed out that we hadn’t missed the actual show. Oh but if only we’d known we could have had a meet and greet with Sooty himself at 2.30pm! Well there was no time to feel sorry for ourselves – let’s find the Big Top Arena in time for the show!
I managed to resist sweets and an Izzy Wizzy light up magic wand from the merch stall, although we did buy a bottle of water to sustain us through the performance, as it was very hot in the Big Top.
The show was FAB and made me laugh out loud (historically a rare feat, but happily becoming a more common occurrence). Paddington enjoyed the show from the comfort of my handbag on the front row.
Now it was time to explore the rest of the theme park. Happily it was not too busy at this late hour (4pm) so there weren’t so many excitable kids and the queues for the rides were short.
I love love love this machine. I first spotted one in an (unblogged) arcade in Clee. Basically, for £1, the band plays Old MacDonald Had A Farm. Soo sings most of the words until they get to the animal impressions, which are all performed by Sweep, which of course is the same sound for each animal. It really tickles me every time. And at the end you get a little bag of Haribo as a prize. What’s not to love about this machine? As we walked away smiling with our spoils, it cried after us.
‘Attention! Sooty has run out of prizes. Please inform the attendant.’
We searched around frantically for someone to tell before we allowed ourselves to continue on with our explorations.
Lee was keen to go on the rollercoaster and I was anxious because I didn’t want to leave my handbag unattended. I’d managed to sneak it onto all the rides so far. As we queued, I spied a sign saying they took no responsibility for valuables and recommended we leave them with a friend or in one of the lockers. But we were already in the queue and Lee was coming on the ride with me. After some agonising, I decided to sneak it on with me, making sure to keep it secured with both my legs and one hand. Walking underneath the ride afterwards, I realised this had been dangerous so will be more organised next time and leave it in the car. I hadn’t anticipated going on rides – Sooty had been my sole focus.
Lee had a go on the go karts, finishing a credible third from starting in fifth position. A couple more laps and he’d have won for sure. I stood on the sidelines and filmed him for the video version of this Football Tourist Guide (subscribe to Lee Charles TV so you don’t miss this).
Theme parks are such joyful enclosed worlds and I do love them. But we had somewhere else to be, so it was on with the itinerary.
By now I had surmised that I may have telephoned the wrong pub when making lunch plans earlier. This pub’s website indicated that it was open all day, with food served until 9pm. I decided that, even if it had been the one I’d called, we were going here for tea anyway. It had been my Pub of Choice for scran, serving home-cooked food, being in the Good Beer Guide and conveniently located on the road back to Exeter.
We managed to find a parking space on the street outside (pub car parks didn’t appear to be a thing today) and stepped inside to a warm welcome.
I opted for the local beer and LOOK AT THIS GLASS!
There was a man sitting at the bar who, upon learning we were tourists and I was a beer blogger, began waxing lyrical about this local cider, which had won an award as the world’s best – a gold medal at the International Cider Challenge 2023.
This award had meant the cider was impossible to get hold of for a while but he was happy that he could drink it again now. Give it a go if you’re into your cider (but don’t order too much and upset the locals).
I enquired about food and was asked if we had booked (well I had tried). A table was soon secured and we were led to it. Our hostess said there was a restricted menu on at the moment but the evening menu would be available from 6pm (in half an hour). Never being one to be able to disguise my emotions, I must have pulled a face as I mulled that we didn’t really have time to waste, as we had somewhere else to be at 8pm.
‘I’ll just have a word with chef and see if he’ll start the evening menu early for you.’
Bless. That was good service. It must have been the wrong pub I rang earlier. They were lovely here! And, yes, of course it was fine for us to order from the evening menu. She reeled off the soup of the day and the curry of the day and obvs I was having the curry because I’d heard the trigger word curry.
This was a fab pub that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. It’s always a special treat to receive a warm welcome from friendly locals Down South.
Lee drove us back to the AirBNB and we quickly headed back into the city on foot.
I had loads of pubs plotted on my map to visit tonight but we were now short on time. I had to pick just one to visit before heading to the gig and this one was closest to the venue.
I opted for the Bitter Exe because it was local and didn’t have the word HOP leaping out at me. I was initially annoyed that, yet again, there was no dark beer available. But let me tell you, dear reader, that this bitter was so good that I almost immediately got up from my seat to order another one and take a better photo of the pump clip so I could Tweet out how lush it was.
On my walks from the bar to our table in the back room, I had spotted something at the top of the stairs leading up to the toilets. A loo review here was a must.
These birds were EVERYWHERE in Exeter and I simply had to find out what they were. Research on my way home revealed this to be Sid the Seagull, a creation of street artist Steve McCracken. You can read his story here and look at more of his wonderful art here. I particularly love the Green Chaos if you’re inclined to buy me any art for my birthday next month.
I could have stayed in here all night drinking the lush bitter (at 4% a safe one to drink all night, too). But we had a gig to get to on the quay. I was looking forward to this one.
This place was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more. It is exactly the size of venue I like (small). As we had arrived early (just after 8pm) there were some seats available so we joined another couple on the table right at the front by the stage. The food looked and smelled incredible.
My Notes inform me that this building used to be a wine distillery warehouse, according to Brian the owner, who Lee was chatting to.
I went to explore the bar.
I spied some jugs of the above on the counter at the rear of the bar so I asked for a taster. It was decent but once you go black…
Now it was time for the main event: Ukulele Death Squad.
We learned that this Australian punk folk band had selected Exeter as a venue for their European tour because there is a pub called The Exeter Hotel in Adelaide. I love this kind of randomness.
Anyway they were bloody brilliant and, as their set progressed, more and more people were losing themselves in the music on the dancefloor. That is quite some achievement for an unknown band playing unfamiliar songs. By the end of the night we were all up there dancing, hypnotised by the music.
I bought a CD from the merch stall despite never playing the things and already having downloaded the EP to my Apple Music. I did this because I had enjoyed the gig so much and wanted to offer more support than the entrance fee had allowed. One day we’ll have a music corner in the house where I can enjoy listening to these CDs I’m collecting. I should probably have bought a tee really as I’d get more use out of that and could promote the band but I don’t always make the wisest decisions after drinking 4.8% stout.
Anyway give them a listen and get their tunes downloaded pronto. They’ll make you smile and get you moving.
Saturday morning. Matchday. Double matchday. The Lionesses were playing in the World Cup quarter final and Lee was doing a watchalong from the AirBNB. Our kind host was happy for us to check out late and even tuned in to watch along. Bless him.
I felt a bit tight pissing off to the pub and leaving Lee to pack up the car after the match so I was content to mooch around the AirBNB for a couple of hours. Plus it was cheaper. And I was feeling a little delicate after that 4.8% stout. I could have done without that third bottle really.
I headed out to the rear courtyard with a brew, my phone and my book. I settled back to write my morning pages and then read for a bit. I then set to work on the next chapter of the book I’m writing. I try to fit in some writing every day – even if it’s just five minutes. Usually once I start the words begin to flow. You can probably tell from the length of these blogs that I find it hard to stop once I get started…
Back indoors after a good morning’s work, I looked around the AirBNB for things to show you, dear reader.
The final whistle blew on the Lionesses (who won) so we frantically got to packing the car with all Lee’s studio equipment. I’d already identified a car park en route to the ground, so we were able to head straight off, posting the keys through the letterbox on our way out. But the car park was full! Lee dropped me at the ground and drove off in search of street parking.
Exeter City v Blackpool
There were two things I wanted to check out at the ground: the real ale supporters bar and the fanzone. I quickly found myself in the throngs of the latter – and quickly remembered I get anxious in crowds at away matches. Fucking hell. So a whistlestop tour was all I could manage.
I quickly made my way round to what I hoped was the away end but stopped to ask for directions just in case.
‘Keep walking round and it’s just there. The first turnstile is for the seats and the second one is for the terrace. But you’re more than welcome in the fanzone, which is just back that way.’
How lovely were the Exeter people? I just knew they would be at a fan-owned club. They get us. They treat us like human beings.
I don’t know why I was surprised to find a person on the turnstile.
‘Ooh a person!’
‘Oh yes. There’s no scanners at Exeter. We’ve only just got electric down here.’
I chuckled on my way to review the loo.
Now for that pasty I’d been promising myself since yesterday.
I washed this magnificent pasty down with a bottle of water with the lid not confiscated because this is a nice club that trusts us with such things.
I smiled as the PA man announced there was a smoking area behind each stand for anyone wishing to smoke. Another lovely touch. It’s the little things
I smiled again as he repeatedly stumbled over the pronunciation of Ekpiteta. How hard is it really? It’s exactly how it reads. It’s not Jaszczun (the pronunciation of which was a highlight of away games between 2000 and 2004).
My seat was in what I deemed to be a safe spot, right on the edge of the stand, well away from most of our fans and any potential crowding. I would remain here until full time. From here I observed the Exeter fans – separated from me only by a couple of seats of netting. My favourites were a woman with a beehive and a man with the unusual combo of a Hawaiian shirt and a blanky.
I’d usually write a bit about the match here (granted never much) but there’s even less to say than usual. It was a good game played in the right spirits between two good sides and ended 0-0.
My anxiety prevented me from selling zines outside the away end as planned today (new sales strategy for the new season). If you haven’t got one yet please follow this link and I’ll sort you out via post.
Waze reckoned we’d be home by 9.30pm but we reckoned if we were home by 10.30pm we’d be happy; Google had told me midnight.
As we headed north, the rain set in. This called for my Rain playlist.
What with the rain and the end of hollibobs blues in danger of setting in, we decided to make a comfort food stop at our fave Gloucester Services Farmshop & Kitchen.
I was attracted to the jammage, having enjoyed it in our AirBNB.
Back in the car – with the rain having let up – I stuck on my fave radio station for the rest of the journey and we sang our way home.
And we landed home at 10.30pm, just like Waze said we would.
Thanks, Exeter. I’m already looking forward to coming back.
Next Up: Best Blackpool Boozers #4.