Degrees of difficulty

Monday 21st May 2012

DAFT and entirely self-centred, but I set the alarm to make sure I was at the desk ready to start writing at 9.30 this morning. Turn over the paper and begin: the first of several to be completed within a time limit: in my case, Call My Scientific Bluff scripts; in hers, finals, in Classics, at Oxford.

You can only do so much, as a parent. Her knowledge of Greek surpassed mine ages ago. Now it’s all about reassurance, being there if she wants a chat. But she has had to be remarkably self-disciplined of late. No harm in me behaving likewise, at least for a few hours.

Gaius Marcus Jack Moore was born on 31st May 1971, during my final university exams. After three years of doing the minimum academically, I had a great excuse to do as little work as possible.

My wife did more revision than I, but sat only a few papers – at the health centre – before going into labour, subsequently being granted an aegrotat degree: from the Latin, meaning, ‘he, she or it is languishing’, which, technically, she wasn’t.

The aim is to finish the Bluff stuff, make two phone calls, send a text, and reply to emails during the three hours. I’m allowed coffee, of course; she won’t be, sitting there in her subfusc (also Latin): the traditional Oxford dress of gown, black tie, black shoes, white blouse, carnation of the correct colour et cetera.

Such was my excitement at becoming a father, admittedly sooner than expected, I paid only cursory attention to the remaining exams, leaving the two-hour Greek Unseen paper after about forty minutes in order to rush up to the maternity hospital.

We’ve agreed she’ll only ring during the ten minutes after it’s finished if it has not gone well. Lunch will be more pressing.

I look through the Bluff answers, make another coffee. Suddenly an extra question arrives in the inbox. I rattle off a reply.

It’s 1.25 when she phones, giggling, pub noise background.

“Hi, dad. Yay!”

It’s one of the hardest examinations anywhere in the world, you know: writing Bluff scripts.





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