Return to Rochester

Summer kicked up a gear this week. As the temperatures soared to highs of 33.3℃- breaking records that have stood since 1976- it wasn’t long before I was back on familiar high streets, enjoying this blistering heat.

On the subject of records, for the first time since 2006 it appears I might finally be getting a tan. This is a terrific revelation that greatly exceeds the hopes my ghostly pale self had back in the winter.

Yes, this is the week that will be remembered by many for the heat wave which rendered the country an unproductive oven until the temperatures finally “cooled” to the modesty of low 20s. By the time it was over, walking around at night actually felt rather cold- consider me now a tropical islander.

For me personally, this week has not been so much of the “chilled” summer I envisioned, and I mean that in every sense of the word. I’ve been keeping myself busy.

The fact of the matter is, summer is long, and I don’t need to start concentrating on university until October (still a chance it will be early September if that Japanese culture exam turns out a flop). Before the academic chaos resumes, I plan on doing an entire review of the past year and consider which areas need improving, however for the time being I’ve placed myself in a two-week hectic period of purely sorting myself out. Basically, I’ve a list of things that need attention:

Running: period of light runs up to 10K to regain fitness
Jobs: prepare for invigilating; polish CV; dish myself out for the sterling
Living: forget about trying to find a property in London until September; sort out possessions in room, try and rekindle a little bit of that ‘minimalist’ lifestyle from university.

The latter has been particularly intensive this week. My room has undergone one drastic blitz. When I returned I noticed myself struggling to get comfortable again in the room which I had spent most of the time in for the best part of six years, it was almost claustrophobic. It made me think, even if I did have to hitchhike home last week because my suitcases almost caused me muscle failure and heat exhaustion, having so little items needed to adequately live in a small, not too big space was actually a pleasant experience which I didn’t realise at the time. In London my room was small, and so were my possessions; I had everything I needed. Some of the things I thought would be nice to keep or have on me were largely forgotten. I realised that I own a lot of things that I don’t actually miss, and therefore wouldn’t be too concerned about selling/donating/chucking them.

It’s also opened up the possibilities of finding some exciting new furniture, and the whole revamp idea is a mini project in itself- something to keep me occupied with all this free time.

In the act of tidying and organising my possessions, I soon amounted enough to warrant attending my first ever car boot sale. Isn’t it funny how one door leads to another? I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be parking the Warren Whip on a field in Hempstead to showcase my items on a sunny but awfully windy Sunday afternoon. Granted, it wouldn’t be such a wild dream to have, but it happened anyway.

Here I am in my vest, with my hat turned backwards and ready to do business. The primary aim was to just sell my stuff rather than generate those monopolistic supernormal profits, and so I flogged most of my items for ridiculous prices- it worked for the better though. I still have a fair bit left, but the charity shop is always available.

In this advanced digital age you could be forgiven for thinking that the classic boot sale following is all but dead, and you would be wrong, because I thought the same, and was quite quickly disproved. As soon as I pulled my handbrake up, there was an old man peering through my window- one of the few occasions where that would be socially acceptable. I then sold one of my items before I even took it out of the car, and had four people rummaging through my bin bags full of clothes before I could even unpack them. It was like they had been restrained in a cage for the whole morning; the boot fair was technically not due to begin until 11:30, but by 10:50 I had already sold a fair amount of my stock.

I hurried to get everything on display knowing that my best business would be done early on, and soon the Warren Whip was decorated with well, Warren.

The people there were lovely, and great to talk to. Only slight disappointment was when one guy came up to me and asked about this weekend’s Grand Prix before proceeding to completely air the mountains of classic F1 books I had to offer for generous prices.

The fair was due to end at 3pm, but everyone including myself were out by 2pm as all of the buyers had gone home. It was a rush early on, and a slow-burner for the latter part. While it was certainly worthwhile, I cannot lie in saying I was pleased to fold up my chair and drive home after sustaining a decent sunburn from the lethal combination of wind and sun.

Keeping the Discipline

I was keen to carry my diet back with me to Maidstone, and I got the perfect opportunity when yours truly went and took a hold of the weekly shop. Astonishingly, in the bigger Tesco stores you can pick up a scanner and literally scan as you shop. Once you’re finished you then scan your scanner, and a member of staff then comes and scans what you’ve scanned with your scanner with her scanner, and then to pay you scan your debit card on the self-service machine’s scanner (not your handheld scanner). Simple, isn’t it.

It’s all marvellous technology and I like being able to see my total as I shop, but then again am I not doing the exact same task as someone wearing a Tesco badge who is getting paid to do all this scanning for several pounds an hour?

Regardless, I took full advantage of the season’s fruit and had enough to feed an entire village by the end. I am currently looking to fat-burn this summer, and will then look at adding mass in the autumn. It was nice shopping in a superstore for a change, but too overwhelming, and some of the items I would buy regularly at the Metro in King’s Cross were more expensive. Luckily my shop was full of the good stuff like apricots, which are cheap at 49p.

I do realise however that the only picture I took of my shop was in the alcohol aisle with the only visible items being sausage rolls and poppadoms. This requires too much explaining.

As for exercise, it’s been difficult to really adjust to a proper programme, as I’m not too sure whether it’s worth investing in gym membership for the summer. My nearest gym, Maidstone Leisure Centre, is relatively inexpensive however, and I got the chance to try it out on a 7-day free trial.

I only went twice, and twice felt enough. I’m not saying it was bad, the facilities are top class, and it’s a great place to exercise. However for me, it just didn’t feel worth it. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Student Central gym being just around the back of the SOAS campus, with its University of London merchandise shop, cafe, and 33m swimming pool alongside its gym facilities. It just did not feel very good making a six-mile drive to the centre, and then try to get comfortable in what is a large area, but still feels crowded. In London I went to a gym which was used by students only, whereas here, you do feel the difference between what is purely a gym and what is a leisure centre. My worst experience of this came when I tried to share a lane with six other people in a 25m swimming pool- it just felt so cramped. I wasn’t the only one frustrated, another woman was having a go at the lifeguard while I struggled to find any sort of rhythm. It was unfortunate that there were only two lanes divided by speed, both of which too busy, with the other two reserved for classes. After an hour of weaving in and out of people like an LMP on a train of GT cars, I decided the swimming pool wasn’t for me. Additionally, I decided that I much preferred the longer length of the pool in London- 25m just felt too small to work up a rhythm.

So there have certainly been frustrations in trying to sort my exercise out so far, but a lot of things are also going very right. I’m starting each morning with a measurement on Wii Fit U, strapping on the Fit Meter, and then if so scheduled, running around what is easily my favourite area to run. Yes, being back in Hollingbourne means I get to train amongst the stunning greenery, running on the authentic undulating surface with varying terrain on a variety of routes with absolutely zero traffic. For me, there is no better place to train- my biggest improvements in this year’s marathon training came when I spent the Easter completing long runs around the six-mile Hollingbourne route.

Additionally, I’m on the verge of posting a review that gives Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard a well-deserved five stars. The stuff is working wonders for my goals right now.

Faces, Places

But of course, while I’ve had a lot of admin to sort out this week, I’ve also been back in the scenes most associated with summer. As the title states, I was back in Rochester with the familiar company of Gianni, Rob, and Ethan- who had finally finished his exams and thus has completed his eight-year sentence at Holcombe Chatham Grammar Manor School for Genders, and Non-Genders.

It was a familiar story of the Warren Whip lift service touring around the towns and ensuring everyone gets a safe journey home, piloted by the sober and incredibly tired Warren himself. I had previously spent the last six months going to bed at 11pm, and so to wind up back in bed at 4am certainly left me feeling drained the next day.

But it didn’t really matter how tired I became, nor how long the night felt at times as everyone around me drank themselves merry, because from the moment I picked up Ethan and Rob, and travelled to Rochester to rendezvous with Gianni with the summer playlist in full swing, I knew I was experiencing the summer in its purest form- a time of year when the weather is good, the days are long, the people are positive, and the worries are minimal. For one evening I could forget every errand that needed running, and just relax a bit with my mates. We really shouldn’t take these things for granted- our vulnerability as humans means we never really know how short our lives really are.

The night itself was peppered with little events which made it memorable. Our pub crawl began at Ye Arrow, with the four of us sitting under sunlight skies with sober eyes. As the evening continued, Ethan, Gianni and Rob gradually got more lit, and we made modest progress across the many pubs of Rochester High Street.

On one stop, Gianni made a bold move with a pint of Guinness, where eventually to our surprise, he swiftly went outside for a well-executed tactical chunder before walking away calmly. To our further surprise, he still radiated the same budding energy that he had started the night with. Usually when someone is sick it means we’re in the advanced stages of what has obviously been a very successful night, but tonight was different- it’s a different year, and I suppose a pub crawl has different conventions to the usual night of clubbing.

Midnight beckons as we continue to march through the ever energetic streets. Someone makes the call to visit Subway with the prospect of seeing our good friend Brandon on duty for one of his summer jobs. To our amazement, as soon as we enter he pops out of the kitchen, and we stand there in shock. Rob then ordered Brandon to make him a sandwich and we were out in a flash.

No, what really happened was we stood there for a considerable amount of time talking while he fed Gianni slices of ham over the counter. An emotional reunion- Brandon will undoubtedly be joining us on another adventure soon.

Rob certainly had an interesting night, he found himself all of a sudden in talks for a job in our last pub, and then scored a free McDonalds when we arrived to wind down the night at 3am. The early morning McDonalds is a lovely way to close off the night, I then dropped each of them off and hit the motorway with the soothing night medley of my summer tunes guiding me home.

All in all a tiring, but pretty fitting way to kick off the summer in Medway.

With plenty of my room still to do, eBay auctions set to end, and a trip up London for this summer’s JLPT exams means next week shall be just as busy. Yes it’s tiring, but who cares? It’s summer.


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