Over-the-counter skin lighteners work by inhibiting the natural pigment called melanin, which lies deep in the skin, with an active ingredient called hydroquinone. It may take weeks for the new lightened skin cells to reach the surface and for the liver spots to reduce, but it does work.


After breakfast I would wander down to Plymouth Hoe, the sea-front area, with some of the others and then walk around the Barbican, on the cobbled streets and alleyways, watching the Americans taking photographs of where the Pilgrim Fathers embarked on the Mayflower. Sometimes we would go the cinema, to sit in the stalls and wolf peanuts, whiling away the afternoon. A few cadets would just loaf the whole day, staying in bed until lunchtime then shambling around in the afternoon. I couldn’t do that; couldn’t lie in a hot bunk for hours and hours into the body of the day, even if I were hungover from Saturday night, which was usually the case. I always telephoned my parents on a Sunday, usually in the early evening, telling them the sort of things that teenage sons tell parents – which was pretty much nothing. I certainly told them nothing of the wild antics that I was involved in. Usually I spoke to my mother, who generally answered the telephone. The news from home seemed as dull as the staid news I was reporting; perhaps they were also hiding wild antics from me. Sunday lunch was casual; many people didn’t bother to turn up, especially if the weather was fine. It seemed strange, in a daring sort of way, to eat in the dining hall out of uniform with no one serving the top-table.

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