In Plymouth town centre at 10pm there’s a smurf, Papa Lazarou and a rugby club dressed in St Trinians outfits. Five youths all wearing tight white T-shirts and designer jeans stride past a grizzled old man with leathery skin, patchy white stubble and a woollen cap. He walks with a stoop; a carrier bag in one hand, a litre bottle of scrumpy in the other.
‘Hey. Hey!’ he shouts at the five lads, ‘are you English?’
They make sure they’re well past him before one shouts back ‘no’ in a public school accent.
‘Must be submariners then,’ mumbles the man.
There’s a dark pub with low ceilings that sells cheap shots of Jägermeister and is packed during term time. The management cultivates its popularity with students by pinning photos above the bar and leaving one wall empty for graffiti. The young people write slogans and sign their names to prove the pub’s authenticity – it’s their special place, they belong here.
Just before Freshers’ Week, the photos above the bar have gone and the walls are newly whitewashed. There’s a camera and a set of marker pens on a shelf by the optics ready for the next batch of customers.
A stunning but pretentious bar on the beach. They play South American jazz and there’s a beauty hierarchy among the staff – all the men have interesting facial hair and the women are fully aware of how unobtainable they are.
The fantastic view over the bay is reflected in the price of the drinks. Contemplating £9 for a pint of cider and glass of white wine, I remember I’m a student and entitled to a discount. I show my card to the barman with the deliberately zany haircut and he stops calling me sir and switches to grunts and shrugs.