Here are six things that only a northerner student at Exeter Uni will understand

An ode to Stuart Maconie’s ‘Pies and Prejudice’

I’ve been back in the north for reading week a few days now, and it’s reminded me of all the uncomplicated northern pleasures I’ve grown to love over my 20 years of existence. I’m only one sentence in and it’s already hard to write this without sounding like Deborah Meadon, “They’re a simple folk with an honest kindness” – but when there’s about five northern folk in the entire city, you do pick up on things (and that’s not just the lack of gravy). So, here’s six things that only Exeter northerners will get – we’re all in this together, lads.

1. A true love for Greggs

I know everyone likes a cheeky pasty from the Marketplace – that’s why the queues are so long, but is it the same love that us northerners have? Geordies are such Greggs fanatics that I came home last year to one that had been built in Primark, with a sausage roll swing and a DJ. Let’s not forget a vacuum sealed, boxed sausage roll that Sam Fender had nibbled (you really can’t make it up).

As a northerner, I can see southerners just don’t feel the same way. Have your southern friends been brought back to life by a full sausage roll inching through a hospital IV? Were they given piping hot Steak Bakes under their covers at night when the central heating broke? Have they faced the darkest, shakiest and more stomach churning hangovers with a 99p coffee and a bacon sarnie at their sides? Probably not.

Walking into a warm, well lit 24 hours Greggs at 2am is such a divine experience that it is the true example of the north-south divide – it pains me that some will never see the day.

2. How extortionate the drinks really are

Exeter’s drink prices are renowned for draining student loans and providing a monetary piece in your hangxiety – you’re welcome. Three Venoms is a great time until you’re set back nearly 30 quid the next morning. It feels like your pending bank balance is laughing at you. We’ve all sworn we won’t make the same mistakes again, but then Wednesday rolls around and the sweet nectar of a red Venom returns to our throats.

But, as someone from Newcastle, I have the unfortunate parallel of a life where you can grab three trebles for £9. If I surgically removed and traded my own spleen sprawled across the Castle Street bar, I reckon I’d get two Jägerbombs, max. That’s the difference: Northern generosity.

3. How long it takes to get home

Getting back to Newcastle from Exeter St David’s is nothing other than a military operation. Even if you’re only going home for a couple of days, you’ll get carried away and end up with a massive backpack. You’ll jump out the train at London Victoria to brave the underground with a suitcase bigger than you, inevitably depending on a muscular, middle aged man to pack it away on the third train of the day (and that’s only if you eventually get to Kings Cross). Nothing is certain in this world.

The journey takes no prisoners too. No one is safe. An unfortunate 20-something-year-old woman dressed in a smart suit learnt this when a sausage jumped out my bap and fell onto her Chelsea boot somewhere between Great Portland Street and Edgware Road. After all that, it’ll be 9pm when you get back and you left the house at 11am! Your parents will remind you that you chose the uni, rather than the equally respectable one 20 miles away when you inevitably complain. I’ll always be jealous of the girls who can hop on a quick train to Bristol or grab their car keys to meander back to Surrey – but I reckon it’s character building.

4. That tree in the news

This is definitely a niche one, but do you remember the Sycamore Gap tree in the news that someone illegally felled a few weeks ago? That tree has been seen by every northerner forced to go on a family walk. It’s been branded “Hollywood’s Tree” after being in Robin Hood. I was shocked when the Exetah girlies did not know about its existence. That’s all I have to say.

5. The post-night out food in Exeter does NOT cater for the northern tongue

First year me got a shock here when I rocked up to Alibaba fresh faced and full of hope just to find out you can’t buy a portion of chips and gravy within 300 miles of south Devon. I think they might have offered me curry sauce? It was quite heartbreaking. In Newcastle, the smell of that thick, meaty liquid mixed with the sweetness of a £2 pint perforates every drinking establishment after about 11pm, to the extent that just stepping on the street is like entering a regionally spread Toby Carvery. 

Exeter, in comparison, likes a bit of variation: Taco Bell one night, then some beautiful Efes chips the next. I’m definitely not complaining (but I would also dip them in gravy, simple as). Picture a half eaten quesadilla and a messy living room, followed by a real Geordie specialty (chips, gravy and cheese) – you decide what looks more tantalising!

6. Your accent will be mocked (and you’ll mock theirs too)

If you’re a northern student at Exeter, I can almost guarantee you know about two others (max), who you probably also knew before. You’ll be no stranger to having a different accent to basically everyone you come across, even if the legitimacy of this dialect is sometimes questioned: “But why don’t you have a Geordie accent?”. Because I live 20 miles away, not on the set of Geordie Shore. You might even be asked if you’re working down the pits over the Christmas holidays.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing more gratifying than seeing your language slowly work its way into the repertoire of a southerner. Calling each other “pet lamb” or the occasional “howayyy” is music to my ears. If they’re true friends, their mother tongue will creep its way into your speech too. I remember going home for the first time and being slated for elongating a couple of words in a taxi. And every time I return back after a long stretch in Exeter, they’ll all revel in telling me I sound more southern. So, it’s give and take. 

Also, I feel a bit like a traitor for saying this, but I’ve become rather a fan of the regularity of a southern accent. In the north, the dialect changes every five minutes you spend cruising the A69, but not in my uni house – you know what to expect.

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