You find me in the Professor Sir Basil Lovage Greater Badminton Hall, with my lifesaver whistle and my qilinbian.
I hang my qilinbian on the wall behind me, and survey the scene.
By my side is Annabelle, University Examinations Officer, with a clipboard, standing next to a row of trolleys.
Before me, several hundred students sit hunched in serried ranks, their lucky mascots wobbling on their desks as they scribble as fast as they can.
Dear Reader, if you listen closely, you too will hear the snuffling, the sniffing, the sobbing, the small but persistent squeak coming from the patent leather shoes of one of the professors emeriti who patrol the rows in orange tabards,* and the tick of the clock on the wall behind me.
I look over my shoulder at the clock, watching the second hand.
Patience, dear Reader.
I put my whistle to my lips, dear Reader, and blow.
Immediately, the students throw down their pens and rush outside. Cries of ‘Hey, Tristram, what did you put for question six?’, and ‘Oh, I didn’t put anything for that or for the next five questions either’ fade in the early evening air. The professors emeriti scurry from table to table, shovelling answer booklets into bin liners.
I turn to dear Annabelle, who is busy ticking her clipboard as the bin liners are loaded onto the trolleys.
‘I’ll take my script now, my dear’, I say to her. ‘RUN301: The Runeological Ode through History; one candidate, surname Bob, first name Salty’.
Annabelle frowns, still ticking her clipboard. ‘All marking is anonymized’, she says. ‘And the script will have to go to Central Exams Office with all the others. Exams may be collected from 11.00 AM next Wednesday. Please bring ID.’
Clearly, dear Reader, Annabelle is unfamiliar with Chekhov. I reach for my qilinbian.
*Tabard reads Guantanamo Bay ‘Exams Office Here 2 Help’