Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Eternal Invigilation

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Eternal Invigilation

Article excerpt

As the minutes tick by in exam-hall hell, Emma Rees ponders the potential price in dog lives of her rise to power

6.45am Alarm sounds. Press snooze button.

6.46am Begin middle-aged morning inventory. Husband - one - fast asleep; cats on bed - two; cats attacking human toes - two; knees - stiff; back - aching; sight - myopic; vanity - too great for varifocals; hours of invigilation ahead - three.

6.50am Alarm sounds. Hit snooze button.

6.55am Alarm sounds. Nurture dark thoughts about snooze button inventor.

7.00am Alarm sounds. Punch it in irritating, snoozy, insistent, stupid little face. Cats hurtle off bed. Husband gives me A Look. Goes back to sleep.

8.55am March into Sports Hall with as much authority as back and knees will allow. Rows of empty desks and chairs.

8.56am Remind self that am not taking exam. Anxiety allayed.

8.59am Set question paper and answer booklet on each desk.

9.11am Wait for students to be let in. Novelist Colleague, also invigilating, sits next to me. Reads me two pages of his new novel which is, he reports, brilliant.

9.19am Novelist Colleague asks if I think it's reminiscent of Proust. Snorts unnecessarily loudly when I say that I have never finished anything by Proust.

9.22am Woman from Registry tells me am Chief Invigilator. Am seized with fit of smugness. Give Novelist Colleague fleeting yet meaningful look to say "Uneasy lies the head that wears the Chief Invigilator crown".

9.23am Novelist Colleague surreptitiously picks nose.

9.24am Students begin to file in.

9.30am Exam starts.

9.40am Wander up and down aisles like keyless prison warder.

9.43am Wander down and up aisles.

9.50am Wonder as wandering.

10.13am Incontinence has apparently gripped students. Escort one after another out of hall. On third trip, left shoe starts to make comical "eekEEK" sound when I put weight on heel.

11.06am Student with hand up in Aisle C! Jump up, startling Novelist Colleague from resting eyes. Am up and eekEEKing way to student in authoritative manner, clutching treasury tag, biro and answer booklet. Student takes answer booklet. It is lilac; original ones are blue. "Does the colour matter?" hisses student. "No" (said in comforting-yet-commanding Chief voice). Student looks unsure; clearly oblivious to solemnities and power of role. …

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