I’m going to do a bit of a Derren Brown here and guess what is on your mind. You’re thinking that life is unfair. You’ve got over the royal wedding, the looming deadlines, the fact that summer came and went in those few weeks of April and now we’re back to rain. But here comes the part of the term when panic sets in and campus becomes a ghost town, its only visitors are the tumble weed that rolls through the square. The quiet period is the least of your worries. It doesn’t matter that you can’t recreate a low-budget episode of Skins in your kitchen or sing about whipping your hair back and forth at the top of your voice without being fined. What does matter, however, are those exams.
Picture the scene, if you will. It’s May, and although Lancaster is never going to resemble the Maldives, optimistic students are scantily-clad in hot pants and sunglasses, setting fire to campus with disposable barbecues and drinking cider from plastic bottles. I am stuck inside Cartmel’s JCR, which in itself is a reason to be depressed. I am supposed to be revising. To add to the solemnity of the situation, I am listening to Magic FM, which seemingly consists of Simply Red on repeat. This is supposed to help us pass our exams, or so my best friend Rachel informs me. Yes, Mick Hucknall is going to gain me a degree in English literature.
Exams aren’t my forte, never have been. I distinctly remember the ink on my GCSE science paper as incredibly tear-stained. The temptation to enclose a £10 note and a note of desperation was strong, I can tell you. I don’t think I’ve looked at the periodic table in the same way since. During revision times such as these, I have every good intention. I often purchase highlighters, with the promise of extensive timetables and colour coded mind-maps. The night before, however, always ends up with a traditional cramming session. Consequently, I relent to the Relentless and end up completely and utterly drunk on that deadly cocktail of caffeine and sugar, found hours later in a semi-conscious state, face down in a bag of jelly babies, eyeballs swimming in Vimto. This was a perfect depiction of the eve of my last exam. Sweet wrappers, cups of tea, internal screaming. As the sun rises over South West campus, the silhouette of buildings against the morning glow, one thing strikes me:
I am going to fail. Die and fail.
The walk into the Great Hall is the worst part. With everyone’s silence, it is easy to guess that most are relaying their seat number in their head repeatedly. 36? Or was it 26? I can’t remember. Please, let me have a pint of Sambuca. Remembering your own name is difficult in those first few moments, and signing it is even trickier if your hands are shaking like Shaking Stevens. However, once you’ve stopped sweating and started writing, you can almost enjoy it.
Interestingly, Rachel was sat at the best desk of them all for her exam. Amongst the scratchings and harmless doodles that adorned the desk, a message was scrawled in utter desperation: “Please God, I will adopt an orphan if you just LET ME PASS.”
See, sometimes they just provide good anecdotes.