Two of my dearest advisors had concocted a birthday surprise for me at the end of February – a mystery tour of a mystery place. All that I knew was that I needed my passport.

Exciting!

We drove past enticing places such as Basingstoke, Bracknell and Salisbury, then past Stonehenge until it became clear that I was either being taken to Exeter or Newquay. What is in Exeter I wonder? What government enterprise might be of interest to me that is located there?

After a spot of lunch and a chance to listen to 6 women loudly cackling next to us, we made our way to the Met Office, for their open day.

One could imagine a tour being dumbed-down for Average Joe, however it wasn’t – the content was often explained using more detailed terms – they explained how they use the weather models (and how I use them!) and gave a generally interesting presentation. We had a tour of the building, from the Met Office library, to the instruments they use (less interesting), to the massive super-computer, and through the empty part of the office (empty on Saturdays) and outside the chief forecasters office.

Even the building itself was of interest – really spacious and calm, the kind of inspiring building where you would actually enjoy working inside. None of this basement shit like I have to cope with (albeit not for much longer). There was a stress on the building being environmentally friendly with the heat from the super-computer being recycled to heat the building, for example, and everything having a recycling bin – most companies I work at don’t even have one recycling bin.

The only downside was their insistence on global warming, and the idea that the UK will be 6.5’C warmer in 2080 than it is now. Just seemed utter bollocks.

On the positive side, they seem to appreciate my question on Sudden Stratospheric Warming – though they couldn’t answer it. I’m not sure there is an answer yet to my theory.

We stayed at this super-cute barn in the middle of nowhere, having to drive through those tiny windy one-way lanes with few passing points. We were pretty high up – the next morning the mist was beneath our level…such nice weather too. We didn’t go out in the evening – staying in to cook a pretty damn awesome steak dinner and watch a movie.

Exeter centre itself was impressive. A mix of historical buildings like the Cathedral and some wall remnants, some more upmarket shops and what looked like pretty decent pubs – alas my detox and also the lack of time meant that they weren’t visited. Also there was a harbour area which I imagine would be very pleasant in the summer for drinks and people-watching. I particularly enjoyed the font on the bus station:

On Sunday, we visited the Medieval passages under Exeter – where pipes used to bring water to the Cathedral originally, then the rest of the city later. Quite a tight squeeze, the tour guide would annoyingly stop to talk sometimes when crouched down – not something my back and knees found easy. Was a bit weird squeezing through underground tunnels, but something different.

Then it was back in the car to get back to London in time for a roast dinner.

Exeter was definitely a charming little city, a shame that we didn’t have longer to spend there.

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