A flock of seagulls flies through the night city air high over the houses, and is momentarily illuminated by a security light in the garden, of one of those houses. Thunderous sounds coming from the city center not too far away, seem to have brought them here. As they pass overhead, their squawks sound increasingly desperate, but then seconds later, they begin to lighten up. The fireworks continue to explode for another few minutes before the seagulls eventually drift back to the city to eat chips.
Tom Daley, the Olympic swimmer, who is expected to do well in London (about eight), stands on the top board and dives in, into the pool in Plymouth. A smattering of applause ripples from the small group of scuba divers assembled close to the pools' edge, and the sound of the applause resonates, in the state of the art Leisure Life's complex centre, recently opened. Meanwhile the enormous splash generated from Tom's dive reaches its' zenith, and begins magically looping back toward the pool surface like a mini Niagara falls. The scuba divers shuffle back as Tom climbs those lonely steps to the middle board, to try again.
Plymouth, or Argyle as it is sometimes known, lies by the sea close to Exeter, which itself it not far from Bristol, which as you know, has great transport links back to London (about eight). Plymouth or *Plyimmff* as it is sometimes known, boasts an efficient nuclear harbour, a famous football team, the biggest aquarium in the Plymton area, and a great variety of places selling mostly just gin or cider, admittedly at convenient times. If you're hungry, then it's the Barbican area, down town, which always has something the go. You may need to bring your own sausages. Check first.
Some history. Plymouth was founded by some pilgrims' fathers on a bit of a pilgrim hunch. They arrived by canoe but no-one, to this day, knows where they started their journey from, near Swindon. The new city prospered and successfully fought off waves of pirate attacks, until the really great war flattened the whole place. Today, the City is scarred, not from the flattenment but from the sixty or seventy big bad town planners it has had to endure since the flattening stopped.
Despite being descended from god people, the city has a lot of abandoned churches, which is a shame.
The pilgrims descendants today, are to be found at its giant sleeping football club, Plymstock Albion, and they turn out to play 'football' for the team on a Saturday at Home Park. To be on the bus, for the next away trip to a London club, is their ultimate goal.
In Plymouth, water connects all of its famous sons*. Heroes of the present (like the bomb diver), and heros of the past, Sir Francis Drake, Scotty and others who had some connection to water. No doubt future Argylers will also do the same, or at least wash.
The city is into sporty doll drums. Having lost out with a brave bid for the Winter Olympics 2014, you might think that the local 'spanners' (not derogatory, that's what they call themselves) would be feeling sorry for themselves. Not a bit of it. Ok, there is a bit of it, but you can avoid most of those ones, by locking yourself in your room in the modestly priced Premier Hoe Hotel, located on the Hoe itself, relaxing on the Hoe, as I did.
All spanners you speak to will invariably look at you with a face of intense bewildement, but they know recent sporting set backs can be 'let off', if their superstar Daley, Tom's son, brings home the bacon/bronze, on that crucial day in the future when he returns by train from London (eightish). There is a tangible air of expectancy and a few nervous twits, but they are all, to the man, behind south west England's number one/only genuine Olympic medal (?) prospect, Tom Daley who trains daily, except the usual knobheads of course.
Plymouth is best appreciated at night from a charter plane flying to some exotic location in Syria. Since the airport shut down earlier this year (seagulls), even this hasn't been possible. Argaylers themselves now need to head to their deadliest rivals, 'the Exeters'', just to find a runway for a plane to take them to Newquay, and this woes the rhino chasers, leaving the surf shorts hosing themselves. This is what they told me.
Despite everything, up and coming Plymouth is really worth a quick visit **. There have a world famous, refreshingly healthy green spirit drink, called Gordon's Gin, so you can grab a bottle, or two!, and take a ferry to France or Spain, with maximum one day wait, with Brittany Ferries. Please note that ferry services can be disrupted by bad weather or war.
Best time of year to journey to Plymouth, is in the winter, where the lower light conditions help to improve the architecture and also the general attractiveness of the population. Basically don't go.
The Premier Hoe
With special thanks to James Clamish from Exeter City Council for helping bring it all together.
Top tip: Stay clear of UNION STREET AT NIGHT, and day.
* couldn't find any daughters
** don't stay