If the Copper Rooms were great, no one would go
I remember first year. As it happens, I’m proud to say that I remember a very large part of first year.
What defined first year? The complete absence of serious demands upon my time from my dripful little humanities degree? The residential tutor who wasn’t aware that his charges were students, not nuns? The kitchen cleaner who wasn’t aware that her task was to clean, not to anticipate and prevent uncleanliness? (together, they were a despotic axis of power that could ruin lives)
The convenience of ‘going home for lunch’? The civilised yet yobbish feeling of drinking around a kitchen table? The endless, bountiful and free hot water? The happy variety of knob-heads with whom I shared a building? The diverting activities facilitated by a long, uninterrupted corridor? The ritual of walking back from Tesco, complaining about ‘how much longer my arms have got’.
The hungover speed-walk to an apparently unmissable lecture or seminar, and inevitable crash (and table-face contact) that occurred fifteen minutes later? The Uniexpress ride necessary to get practically anywhere I thought I wanted to be? The sheer capacity of those washing machines, and the inconvenience of collecting change (or ‘credits’) in order to use them? The awkwardness that developed when you fucked/vomited on/profoundly insulted/openly hated/openly liked/blanked/was blanked by/shitted near practically anyone else in halls?
No. The defining feature of first year was the Copper Rooms. So proximate. So tempting. So shit.
‘It’s Friday,’ they’d say, (that’s flatmates, btw) ‘who’s drinking?’
‘Me, Sir, me,’ we’d say. And we would. We’d gather pleasantly around a sticky kitchen table and consume a diverse, zoological collection of bouteilles.
After a sufficient number of those, that kitchen would stop looking so pleasant. It’s sticky. It’s quiet. It’s really rather boring.
The place to be is the Copper Rooms. We no longer know, remember or care that they’re dreadful; that they’re a university administrator’s undiscarded wank tissue. We want loud, bad music. Some of us want to dance. Admittedly, I do not. Not now, not later, not ever …but maybe after two bottles of wine and some shots.
Leaving is slow. Girls must makes themselves more beautiful. Guys must dither and fuck about. Some change their shirts. Everyone fucks about some more. Depending on character, the intoxicated student either joins in or drunkenly complains of tardiness to everyone who’ll stand near him.
We leave. Someone is left behind, presumed dead. Someone is changing shoes. Someone has gone to meet someone they wouldn’t meet without stomaching a bottle of gin.
We leave all the same. They are casualties. We are going to [whatever the occasional Friday Copper Rooms night was called at your point of Warwick] and we know it’s not going to be easy.
Rootes people have it easy. The Heronbankers and Westbankers do not. A Westwanker myself, the walk was dangerous. The alcoholised psyche sees no boundaries — any obstacle to a shorter journey is scalable. Injuries of varying severity naturally occurred.
Devoid of our less coordinated members, the band of merry revellers arrives in the piazza. The civilised smoky French look down upon us from the Terrace Bar balcony. Regardless of season, the piazza feels cold. It urges us into the sweaty heat of the SU building.
First, however, everyone must withdraw cash. (After all, why should a university bar accept card payments in 2016?) Predictably, one of the machines will be broken and the queue of imbeciles will be, a) so long that we consider going home, or b) so little that we question the merits of going on.
Next comes the entrance queue, to which the same dichotomy applies. Some moron will have brought a coat of arctic proportions, which must be checked in. Only it’s Friday, and the SU has sold twelve advance tickets, so the coat room is not open. A kerfuffle ensues.
Obviously, someone else has no student card and no ID. We no longer give shits.
The joy of the experience is the bit with the computers. Manned by actual, real life students — ones with actual social lives — for once there is no judgement.
‘Pissed? So what, wish I was too. It’s crap in there by the way.’ The SU’s student employees are God’s gift to humanity.
Then all is dark. As bouncers look on, the double set of double doors seems an unnecessary challenge. Victory? The music is louder, and it’s completely shitty. Unless your taste is also shitty.
People are then divided threefold. One part — the apparent ‘party animals’ — push to the fence that separates the scant crowd from the unestablished and potentially talentless DJ. Another part — the economical pragmatists — forms a neat circle of subtle hip movements near the door.
My favourites — me and the other idiots who place undue faith in the powers of drink — practically run towards the bar. The bar is a marvellous place for finding a kindred spirit, whose heart and mouth — for a minute or so — can be opened with the offer of a free drink.
Gaining possession of that drink, however, is harder. Copper Rooms bars, even on a desolate night, are vicious and competitive places. The tall, as ever, receive preferential treatment. Bar persons prioritise their friends and acquaintances.
We find ourselves on tiptoes, leaning dangerously across the bar and brandishing a tenner in our fingertips. Prices are high. Incomprehensibly high. Higher than actual bars across the Midlands, the North and much of the South.
With drinks downed, the floor beckons. In Pop, it’s a sea of uniformed sportspeople, of friends (formed into the phenomenon of the ‘dancing circle’) and of recently formed couples. On Fridays, it’s a sea of linoleum. Three options are presented: 1) leave, 2) be stoic and stay, and 3) drink more. Actual people — you and I — drink more.
Henceforward, the night is a blur. Long, comfortable conversations with faintly recognised coursemates. Lips. Odd dancing. Lips. Emotion-filled moments of reunion with flatmates.
Then all is over. The Christians provide biscuits in the cold. Others have found bedmates. Someone, whom we have no memory of meeting, offers their kitchen as a venue for drinks and food. Things, again, grow blurry.
It is morning. All is ache. To vomit would be a relief, but to rise a violation. One thought infracts our minds: ‘why?’
Put simply: Warwick.
The Copper Rooms are proximate. They are a dire pleasure available freely during first year, and lost thereafter. They are supposed to be, are generally found to be, and are objectively shit.
Expectations are low. Very low.
…but when you don’t expect much, it’s hard to be disappointed.
The Copper Rooms, it turns out, are the very epitome of Warwick.