This afternoon I was the examiner present at the start of the Part II (third year, finals) Aristotle paper in the Corn Exchange. An examiner has to be there for twenty minutes in case there are any questions about or problems with the paper. The hall was mostly full of the Part IB (second year) English students doing the Shakespeare paper, each with a clean copy of the Complete Works on the desk and a stern warning on the front of the examination paper: 'DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CONSULT THE GLOSSARY'... But there was a column of heroic Aristotelians at the very edge of the hall.
Anyway, I think it was having to do this that made me feel anxious all morning and in fact I felt quite sick at lunchtime. As if it was an odd physiological memory of being a student taking the exam. I had taken nearly all my own exams in that same place and, 17 years or so ago, I was sitting the B2 Aristotle paper there. Anyway, the smell of the bins outside the Corn Exchange on a hot May day, the sounds of the desks and chairs scraping and clanking and, finally, the noise of two hundred question papers being turned over at exactly 1.30pm by the clock hung on a wooden post on the stage at the front of the hall... It all made me feel quite ill. After twenty minutes I escaped along with an examiner who will have to plough through what must be a huge pile of Shakespeare scripts, thankful that I didn't have to take the paper. But I will be back on Monday to begin the Part II Plato paper and will probably feel the same again. Horrible.