I've only ever been to Exeter once, and I was convinced, back then, that it was a highly sexed-up place.
Maybe I'm wrong. I have genuinely only been there once. I've done the surrounding places - Bristol, of course, more than once (and I went there before the first Eroticon, too, twice, SO THERE!). I've done Bath numerous times, and even had a bath in Bath, which is less meta than it sounds. I've been further west, too - as far as Land's End. For some reason, however, Exeter just seems to pass me by.
Why am I mentioning it? Well, it came up in conversation the other day. My mother spent some time in Exeter in her youth, and insisted upon showing me bits of it (Exeter, not her youth) when we went there. I was about 13, obsessed with Warhammer and Super Mario 64 and other things; I wasn't particularly interested in lampposts that used to go off if you kicked them at the right point.
I was, however, more interested in the "candy condoms" box that somebody had dropped into the gutter. I'd never, of course, really bothered to find out what a flavoured condom did - I assumed it was like something Willy Wonka may have invented: you put the condom on, had sex and somehow managed to generate a taste in your mouth because of enzymes or chemicals or I know not what. (Nobody had bothered to tell me, so I didn't know).
I was also interested - very interested - in the condom machine in the motorway service station at which we stopped en route to Exeter (via Bath) on the outbound journey (the actual destination was Cornwall). It, too, sold flavoured condoms: minty ones called "After Elevens" (ho, ho) and other flavours given frothy names. I seem to recall spotting a hearty beef and potato one, but that may have just been my imagination.
Then there was the sign in the bathroom in the hostel we stayed in. "Please," it read. "No tampons, STs etc. down this loo. Put into bin." Followed by "please" again, just to make sure.
I hadn't been told what a tampon was - I wasn't even told when I did sex education in the following year, because I was a boy and didn't need to know, or something. I had a vague idea, but assumed it was something to do with sex. As for the mysterious "ST" - well, I had absolutely no clue. My brain got around, somehow, to assuming that an ST was a brand of condom, and that randy guests had taken to flushing them away, necessitating the neatly hand-written sign.
All this in a hostel run by a nice Quaker family. I just wanted to talk about millipedes and how not all cheese is vegetarian, and yet here I was, being constantly reminded of the existence of sex by the remnants littered all over Exeter. I was still a bit weird about sex then, trying to forget all about it, worried that I was some sort of deviant because I'd started to get erections and had sex dreams and stuff. But I couldn't let it go. Exeter just had to remind me.
Maybe that's why I've never been back. I just couldn't stand all the filth.