The final week of the spring holiday has come and gone in an instant. Most are already back at school/university, and a strangely welcome sense of urgency has suddenly crept in over the past seven days.
This week has ended in very different circumstances to how it started, and that’s partly because a suspected hydraulics failure in the Warren Whip brought an early end to the week’s plans. Although I have been locked into revision for the majority of the week, I still managed to attend one Monday night session at a certain Tap ‘n’ Tin, which ended the Easter adventure off in memorable style, but for all the strangest reasons.
The night began in daylight hours; the group consisting of myself, Gianni, Ethan, Mark, Elysia and Brandon gathered outside the Mecca of Asian cuisine in the Medway towns- Tai Won Mein.
Once again the portion size of the chicken noodle soup was large enough to last me a whole week at university. Having also finished off all the prawn crackers and Gianni’s leftovers, I was pretty well fuelled for another sober night at Tap, which terrifyingly opened as early as 7pm.
We departed with Ethan and Mark who wouldn’t be continuing with us until the 3am comedown, and drove from Gillingham to City Way, the closest free-parking vicinity to Tap- a journey notable for the Warren Whip’s superb move up the inside of Elysia’s black Fiat 500, going wheel-to-wheel until the two lanes merged, and Warren found fourth gear.
The queue was surprisingly short, and so getting our stamps was a simple task before we headed back to our parked cars for pre-drinks. It was then we all gathered under the royal blue roof of the 1100cc 206, and began one of the most legendary karaoke sessions I have ever attended.
The atmosphere inside the Warren Whip was nothing short of merry; Brandon and Elysia were drinking steadily in the back while Gianni was on top form reaching K3. We began with none other than The Best of Morning Musume 1, belting out the classics including Love Machine and Love Revolution 21. Even if it’s mostly in Japanese, I loved it when Gianni joined in with the various bits he knew- these iconic tunes are made even better when shared.
As we found our voices, Gianni then put on a playlist of hits from past decades while I fetched the lyrics on my phone. It’s hard for words to do justice to the noise we generated, but the passion in our vocal chords to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” really was one of those moments. By 9pm my car had steamed up substantially.
Once we returned to Tap, we encountered many faces, both familiar and unfamiliar- the mood was electric. There was so much going on, epitomised rather well by this picture, featuring Gianni sitting on Matt’s lap, Brandon rolling a burn, and Harry writing out his bets for the horse racing.
With everyone enjoying themselves in (and on) good spirits, my sober and cynical figure amongst the crowd couldn’t help but ponder whether everyone had peaked a little too early. It was such an enjoyable atmosphere, but one which was short-lived. By 11pm, Lily wanted to go home, which cued a mass exodus led by Matt Webb.
From that point onwards, it was just Gianni and me. Brandon and Elysia had disappeared off on their own adventure, Anna would sporadically appear, while Lattimore was off tending to his own devices. Additionally, getting lit on three Ks doesn’t last forever, and so Gianni and I retired to one of the lesser populated rooms; whereabouts it is located I can never remember, but I like to dub it as “Tap’s back seat”. We sat there for a couple of hours and talked about all aspects of life, occasionally looking at the time and just laughing at the fact there were about 4 hours still to go.
Before long, Gianni’s hunt for a burn led us into tagging along with a group sat nearby; one of its members was my supporting full-back from the days of playing for Woodlands Primary School’s football team. After a few more introductions, we eventually found ourselves led into the drum and bass room, where before you knew it, Gianni and I were raving like fire to some familiar songs from FIFA 12 which had been remixed to such hyper proportions, that we left drenched in sweat with our heads blown completely off. It was around that time that we concluded “tagging along” wasn’t quite the way forward.
Instead, we didn’t need to go around seeking entertainment, rather it came directly to us. Throughout the night’s remaining hours we were joined by fond figures such as Ross and Lior, while I had my photo taken for apparently resembling Ed Sheeran. Weird friendships are forged in Tap; there was an English/French bloke who gave us a cracking chat for about an hour before business began cropping up for the Warren Whip Lift Service. We’ll probably never see that man again, but that’s half the charm of these odd nights out.
And so, with Gianni next to me we began our night’s lifts, first to St Mary’s Island for Anna and her friend, followed by Harry Lattimore to the lands beyond the tunnel. Finally, we cruised back to Gillingham, and I watched on as Gianni headed back indoors after an eventful night.
So I thought. Instead I watched him fondle for keys which he didn’t have.
We scanned around the car to try and find them, but to no avail. Gianni was inches from his own home, but there was no way in. So instead I took him 15 miles up the motorway to mine in Maidstone for the night. Understandably, he was quite tired, and nodding off missing a large part of one of the most pleasant drives on the empty motorways at 4am. Still though, he knew we had reached Hollingbourne when we disturbed one of the resident hedgehog’s late-night strolls.
Once I dropped him off in the morning it was just me, myself, and I once more. The attention quickly turned to the weekend’s long run where finally we would break the 20 mile barrier. I had refined the fuelling strategy, replacing bananas with energy gels, and this time opted to begin at 9am, the start time for next month’s Kent Circuit Marathon.
The conditions may have been even more favourable than last week, but I believe it was the best training session of the year so far. It wasn’t all perfect; I dropped half my jelly babies just over a mile into Lap 1, and my new belt wasn’t able to hold my energy drink without shooting it at passing pedestrians. Despite those small issues and the continuing need to improve the overall strategy, I managed to get faster with each lap, rather than slowing down each time like last week. It was also very encouraging that the gels worked tremendously. I can understand why people may dislike them; the gooey sensation at first is a little unsettling, but soon they begin to taste just like yoghurt. At 23g of carbohydrates per sachet, they gave a significantly bigger kick than bananas did last week.
To accomplish 20 miles is a big step forward; with the marathon only next month I’m starting to believe I’m getting very close to being able to complete the distance, with two long runs still remaining before the tapering period. It was also very motivating watching the London Marathon immediately after- I will definitely be running those streets one day. Maybe not next year, as the ballot system looks like quite the lottery, but definitely one day. I was also looking at the Honolulu Marathon earlier; it’s light years away, but an ambition I want to one day fulfil.
As I have written in previous entries, this preparatory stage is probably the most gruelling; certainly for running, the harsh and uneven Maidstone terrain has proven that statement true. I’ve lived in London since September, and apart from the slight incline from King’s Cross to Dinwiddy, haven’t found a single hill. It was important I did the hill training here and now; the effects were already noticeable at the weekend, and could potentially make the following 22 and 24 mile runs around Hyde Park much less of a challenge. We will see.
I did have plans to see everyone one more time before we head off to our respective workplaces. However, one evening when moving my car in the drive the clutch pedal felt strangely loose, and I couldn’t get it into gear. The Whip and its Warren were stranded.
I therefore didn’t realise that Monday would be the last time I see Gianni, Ethan, Matt, Brandon, Mark, and everyone else until the summer, but that’s not a problem. Over the past year I’ve realised that even with these frequent stints away from Medway, nothing really changes once we’re all back together and doing our usual things.
At first, after having been in London for two months, Gianni and Ethan’s visit to Dinwiddy felt like a reunion of some sort. But time passes quicker now, and soon the academic year will already be over. There’s less anxiety now for the future and for change, because if anything, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. We’ve had one pretty amazing Easter, with adventures at Tap, Lordswood, and Gianni’s house to name a few. Because of this I know we’ll have another great summer too.
But first we’ve all got to attend to our working lives, and for a lot of us that means exams.
I’ve full faith we’re all going to end this academic year on top form. Matt’s going to cruise his way out of UCA and from next year he’ll begin his degree in Nottingham, where already Brandon is doing well and in control. Elysia and Lily will breeze through their first years, while Joe will battle his persistent weekly vocab tests and finish strongly even though he’s forgotten to take his textbooks back to Southampton.
Back at CGSB, Kiran is already halfway to starting university, and will complete her A-Levels with flying colours. Frank is juggling a lot of difficult subjects, made harder by the fact any sort of science doesn’t really complement Japanese at all. He’s a committed worker though, and I know he’ll keep up the effort all the way, even if right now exams still feel far off. The same goes for Ethan, who has been in full focus since the start of the year, made sure he’s sorted himself for university life, and now has merely a few papers lying between him and a new start in Oxford. I have full faith that he’ll nail those exams, and by the end we’ll be satisfied in knowing we’ve all worked very hard this year.
The potential for success is there, but now we are getting closer to the real thing. The mindset has to change to now. Being back in London, I feel the pressure once more. I feel the tension, the adrenaline, and most of all, the need to revise, and revise hard. I have so much to get through. These next two weeks really will shape the entire exam period, and I need to get them right. I have a plan in place, targets to hit, and very little time to lose.
We’re back in our offices now; now is the time to focus.