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  • I walked through the door. My heart sank. The hall had been stripped of all its character, with desks standing forlornly isolated at perfect angles to each other. Here I was supposed to cough up all the information that should have been given to me by my teachers; to show that I deserved an opening to higher education. Something other than the tedious life as a secretary or the soul destroying work of a nurse beckoned me.

    Typical, I thought, as I picked up the exam papers with trembling hands. Two thirds of the questions were about the nitrogen cycle; and only one question was about human biology (my preferred subject).

    I had only been absent from school once in the past term and that was the only day my biology teacher decided to cover the nitrogen cycle; only one lesson for the major part of the exam questions.

    I had copied my friends notes from my missed lesson but had not taken much notice of the subject.

    I had spent hours lovingly drawing the digestive system, the respiratory system; the reproductive system in three dimensions with in reds and blues.

    Life is bitter, I thought. What chance have I got to succeed?

    I answered the one human biology question. I drew the organs of the digestive system, taking time over the colours and labelling. Then I turned the pages over to the last question. Oh, very clever, ‘what is the difference between an amoeba and a motor car?’ What is life they mean? Well I will turn the joke back on them.

    I wrote a long stupid list:

    An amoeba has no wheels.
    An amoeba has no windscreen wipers.
    You can’t put petrol in an amoeba.
    An amoeba does not rust.

    There, I thought; let them put that on their plate and eat it. There goes my chance to go to Art College. Why do I bother anyway? Life is just tedious and dull. I have no choices. Who wants to spend hours typing what someone else has composed?

    I looked around to see if anyone else had problems with the exam paper. Jenny was looking into space, tapping her upturned nose with a pen. I had spent a great time with her out of school, gloing to the movies and the Yardbirds’ gigs. In school I was out of her league. She was a prefect; a conformist.

    I had lost my chance to be a prefect when I slipped away from my group of students in uniform following the teacher like sheep; on a day trip to Boulogne, France. With two other girls, I walked down a side street taking the chance to explore the town and get a sense of peoples’ life in this town. We were spotted by a group of French school boys, who took us to the highest hill so that we could survey the whole area. We noticed our group was about to board our returning ship and raced down the hill in full view of our teacher shaking with laughter.

    Full of despair I sat with my arms folded glaring at the examination adjudicator until the exam hour had finished. I did not realise I was harming myself, not the examiners. The clock ticked maddeningly slowly. Finally the examiner started gathering our work. Hold on, I thought, if I had at least ninety per cent for only two answers, perhaps I could have passed. Too late. The joke was on me.
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