Friday, 6 May 2011

Exam stress

Can you write it by four o’clock, please?” says the editor. I look at the time. It’s 12.30.

“Um…” I say. “How many words?”

We’ll need about a thousand.” she says.

“Um…” I say again, “actually, my husband is having a vasectomy today. He’s just on his way home.”

There’s silence.

“And, um, my eldest will be back from an exam any minute for lunch.”

There’s more silence. I know this trick. I’ve done it myself.

“So, I’ll give it my best shot,” I hear myself saying.

“Great,” says the editor, “and if you could interview some other parents and a teacher or two would be fantastic, to get their perspective.”

“Right.” I say, “no problem, I’ll give it a go, I once wrote something for the Thunderer in two hours, so, how hard can it be?”

I put the phone down. There’s a voice somewhere in the back of my head screaming, ‘Oh My God How The Hell Am I Going To Do This!’ but I ignore it and start writing.

Eldest comes home.

“I can’t talk,” I say. “I have to write a thousand words on a mother’s exam stress by four pm.”

“Oh,” he says.

He has to go back for his English exam in two hours. I was going to go through it all with him. Instead, we negotiate what he wants to eat for lunch (I offer scrambled eggs, he counters with a sausage sandwich).

“Alright,” I say. “I’ll put some sausages in the oven, that will be easier anyway, but you will have to keep an eye on them, turn them over…”

I put six sausages in the oven: two for me, two for husband two for Eldest. Then I go back upstairs to the office.

I interview a friend whose children did their GCSEs last year (Eldest is doing Year 10 exams at the moment).

Husband comes home. I dash downstairs to greet him.

“Poor you!” I say. He is walking very gingerly. “I’ll put the kettle on but I can’t look after you I’m afraid, I have to write a thousand words for The Times by 4 pm.”

“Gosh.” says husband, bravely, then he sits down on a deck chair outside.

I go back upstairs. I interview a teacher who teaches GCSE physics and has a son in Year 11; I interview a friend of the editor who gives me lots of anecdotes. I write it all up. By this time it’s getting quite late and I’m feeling rather hungry. Eldest walks into the office.

“Any chance of a sausage sandwich up here?” I say.

“Oh! Sorry.” he says. “I ate them.”

“What? All six?”


“What about Daddy?”

“He’s in the garden.”

Eldest gets ready to go back to school.

“How’s your English preparation?” I ask. “Did you re-read Journey’s End like I said?”

“No,” he says. “But I read the notes.”

“Did you re-read Of Mice and Men?”

“No.” he says.

This makes me feel stressed.

He leaves. I ring a friend and ask her if she can collect Youngest from school today and hold on to him for an hour and then, when husband wakes up, I ask him to cancel the drumming lesson. Then I write up the article, interviewing another teacher at a different school and adding that bit at the end, and file it. It’s okay. Actually, it’s quite good. I feel great.

Middle One comes home.

“I just wrote a thousand word article for The Times in three and a half hours,” I say.

“Mmmm” he says. “Mummy? I thought I did really badly in my maths test, but it turns out I didn’t because it was all Level 7 stuff.”

“Oh.” I say, “Okay, well, let’s wait and see.”

This makes me feel stressed.

Eldest comes home.

“How did it go?” I say.

“Not very well,” he says. “The questions were really stupid. They asked what was dramatic about this particular bit, but there wasn’t anything dramatic about it.”

“Right.” I say. This makes me feel stressed again - and frustrated.

I sit down. I suddenly feel incredibly tired.

“What’s for dinner?” asks Eldest.

No comments:

Post a Comment