Summer Sweat

Ever since we were released from the confines of secondary education last year, the mere word “Tap” has fully lodged itself into the vocabulary of essentially anyone who has a regular view of the traffic cone forever sitting on the statue of Thomas Waghorn. It’s a term which has become synonymous with summer in Medway, and of course refers to the “Tap ‘N’ Tin” night club which sits dormant on Railway Street for most of the week, except for Monday and Friday nights, where the queues sometimes stretch around the corner onto New Cut road.

It was inevitable with everyone’s exams finally over that it wouldn’t take long for myself and many others to end up passing through the famous green doors. It’s a wonder why we’re so drawn to the cramped and sticky maze of multiple rooms and floors which never fail to drench you in sweat after even the briefest of ventures into the humidity.

On the face of it, Tap ‘N’ Tin is one big house party that has gotten quite badly out of hand, and has continued that way for 18 years.

I think of the place as some kind of purgatorial afterlife. The simple reason being that if you’ve grown up in Medway, then you’re more than likely to encounter just about every single face you’ve ever known inside this club. In one night, it’s not uncommon for me to recognise someone from secondary school, primary school, or even nursery. On Monday nights, this is where all of your friends, past and present, perhaps even future, gather to share a leathering, thanks to £1 drinks and different genres of music on every floor.

Just three nights after the pub crawl around Rochester, impressively Gianni, Ethan, and Rob were raring to go again as I picked them up in the Warren Whip ahead of another sober night of ripping people from their homes, and then returning them home with liver damage and a chronic migraine.

Joining our line-up for the evening would be the fans’ favourite, Joe de Souza, still bearing the fresh scent of the south coast air, alongside Tap debutant James Reader who had also recently returned from his academic post in Canterbury.

The squad assembly was nothing like the Avengers, but was nevertheless still an exciting coming together after an intense spring. The biggest moment was the wait in Aldi’s car park for the emergence of the de Souza, who only lived a couple of minutes up the road:

Warren: Are you on your way?
De Souza: Yeah I’m just heading there now
Ethan: No ya not

In good time however, soon we were all set to go and rendezvous with James at another iconic setting, Jackson’s grounds.

Right after Joe popped in to get a few cans:

The sun may have been out, but from the high hills that overlook Rochester high street and the River Medway, the breeze certainly carried with it a fresh chill. Regardless however, soon the boys had cracked open a few cold ones and the spirits (both liquid and emotional) were raised.

As the sun went in, so did we, as we embarked on the short journey down New Road, and towards Tap.

I had good reason to join their high spirits as once again I got to knock a pound off my entry with the aid of my NUS card. Inside, the crowds were packed as usual, the music was blaring, and the night was just beginning.

The general consensus was that next week would be the big reunion for those returning from university, but that didn’t stop us from encountering a few familiar faces along the way. Most notably, CGSB OG Lior was parading around jubilantly after what seems to have been one great year for him at university. We also got to enjoy the dazed, but lovable figure that is Harry Lattimore- I’m certain we will be seeing him on the golf course again soon.

While that night at Easter was something of a one-off, this first summer night at Tap was very much the typical experience. Enter, buy drinks at the bottom floor bar, go outside, laugh at how terrible the bottom floor is, go upstairs and sit down, perhaps spend a few minutes in the other rooms, and then finish the night concluding that bottom floor is our favourite room.

The thing about the bottom floor is that it really does come alive when the bangers start getting rolled out during the last hour. It’s an exhilarating experience; for many they are just about using the last of their energy to jump, shout, and wave their hands in the air as 3am beckons, and the night draws to a close. At this point there’s a lot of love in the room, and everybody is dancing- it’s the most satisfying end to a night.

Once we left at 2:55am to “beat the traffic”, the release into the night bought with it an influx of fresh air. We had just endured the ultimate fat-burner dancing in the crowded rooms. Not only were we polished by a layer of sweat, but I discovered the following morning that I had last three pounds since I had last measured myself 24 hours prior.

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This was an unreal feeling though. This was freedom, this was summer. I’ve never felt so refreshed before. It was also here that we revelled at the unveiling of Gains Reader. The man has got some incredible definition.

Once we had returned to the Warren Whip, the post-Tap McDonald’s tradition was ignited once more, where we made the short trip over the bridge to Strood. What was once our seats in silence has now become what is essentially “Tap Part 2”, as quite a few people now have the same idea it seems.

As everyone finished their burgers, the veil of the night began showing signs of withering. The charm of the summer nights out is that they always start in the day, and finish in the day. I knew as soon as the sky began breathing into a royal blue that I would arrive home under the sunlight.

And so, one by one I dropped everyone home, until it was just James and me on the motorway back to Maidstone, reflecting on the night’s events. As I bid farewell to my last passenger, I looked ahead at the week which had only really just begun. There was still plenty of work to do. Running, sorting out the eBay auctions, painting up the house and shed, alongside the thought of commuting back up to London for JLPT invigilating. For the time being however, I just had to bring myself and the car home, and try to salvage as much sleep as possible once I pulled up in my drive at 5am. The work never really stops.

The midweek that followed did then consists of the very jobs just mentioned, alongside digging into a certain documentary which I have composed on article on right here.

Saturday gave me the chance to briefly escape for an hour after watching the most amazing finale to a Doctor Who series in memory, but that wasn’t enough to remove the reality that I would be up to early to commute to London the next morning.

In order to save money, I opted to drive to Rochester, park the Warren Whip for free on City Way for the day, and then take a direct train to St Pancras where I would then walk to SOAS.

 

This took a fair bit of time and energy, not to mention the very Japanese way in which invigilating for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test is organised. I had to be there at 10:50am, even though the exams would not start until around 2pm. In the three hour wait we would be given the test papers, although they were not to be distributed until the actual exam was due to begin. There would be a couple of announcements, and a CD sound check for the listening test. During a time where our patience would have to remain strong, I got to know my helper a bit, and had a good talk with a European lady about life at SOAS, living in London etc. Anyone you talk to can sympathise when it comes to finding accommodation in the capital. No matter who you are, or where you come from, it’s a complete nightmare. She mentioned this is also partially a factor in SOAS’ high dropout rate. It’s times like this I realise that getting to the end of this degree will be an achievement in itself.

Still though, walking around the streets of London gave me a weird sense of normality. I still felt like I lived there, and was still part of the working scene, which I very much still am. I’ve done merely one-quarter of my four year degree, so I better get used to the city sights in all the seasons. Dressed in smart jumper and jeans combo, I was pretty hot.

Having felt like I had already waited enough, in reality the work hadn’t even begun. Just like last December, I stood in front of the candidates, this time 50 of them all taking N2 in this cramped and humid oven of a room, and repeated the instructions loud and clear, emphasising every minute detail. Inevitably, due to the complex format of the answer sheets, people would make mistakes, and head office would have one stressful batch of admin to carry out while I waited for the next papers. During times where so many details have to be recorded, you have to spare a thought for the waiting candidates that were melting in the other room. As such, each time I would grab the envelope and sprint back over to the Brunei Gallery to ensure we wouldn’t finish late.

Even when the exams were in progress, attendance had to be registered, as with absentees, and the number of papers in use. In such a busy room, collecting the papers was an actual nightmare. With little room to manoeuvre, both my helper and myself would rush to collect answer sheets and test papers in precise candidate order while time to report back to head office quickly diminished. Somehow, and somewhat miraculously, we managed to finish only 10 minutes later than expected.

You may think that once the actual exams commenced that we’d have time to relax, however amongst the pages of admin, standing for two hours at a time proved to be one seriously draining task. With no chair and no food for six hours, I was ready to faint by the end.

However, it did eventually come to an end. It was no doubt the stressful experience that I had spent the past fortnight dreading, but with it now over I thought that finally, I might start to relax a bit this summer.

For undergraduates like myself, SOAS sleeps until the autumn. Knowing that I will definitely not be returning for a while means I can at last switch off from this tense state of mind that has occupied me weeks after the last exam.

Even with a raging stomach, screaming kids behind me, and the thought of 15 more miles to drive, the train journey still proved to be one therapeutic comedown as I once again departed the capital.

And so, with a bit more free time on the horizon, I can look forward to feeling like I’m on holiday once again. Joe and I have just had a meeting regarding the Canterbury half-marathon in August, and so now our sights are set on the next big event. I’m planning on beginning fartlek training next week, while the prospect of Wimbledon means I’ll also be spending a fair amount of time in front of the TV.

We’ve worked hard this week, regardless of the activity. As we head into July, the temperatures will remain hot, just like the grill on every barbecue. It’s a time for relaxing with those important now, but a summer sweat is a good sweat, and long may it continue.

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