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  • For the last week or so emails of varying degrees of hysteria have been hurtling into my Uni inbox.

    Hysteria I said. Add incoherency to that. At times, my responses have had to take on the proportions of a novella in the attempt to rephrase the students' wanderings at the keyboard into what might have been their problem: the reason they are writing to me.

    And whyohwhy do write these things at 4 a.m? Do they need to be squiffed, because I suspect they are, to communicate with a teacher?

    Oh. I do get exasperated at times. Then, I write 'yes' or 'no'. Just the one word. And arbitrarily. I'm sorry, but there comes a time when enough is enough.

    I have had multiple messages, too; culminating, Praise Be, in calls to my mobile - the Faculty website clearly states that they are welcome to speak to me direct, in office hours, of course, if they can't face coming to the lessons or seminars themselves. In these cases, and only here, cutting through their distraught sobs and offering auditory 'tea&sympathy;', has it been possible to calm them down a bit.

    What is it about the university student here that leads them to be so laid back as to be catatonic during the year, only to fall in blind panic one or two days before the exam.

    And to be so expectant of oh so special, individual treatment! This must have something to do with that variant of the Italian Female: the Italian Mamma. She dedicates her life to her children, and they expect all the rest of us to do the same.

    So. Yesterday. Last exam call for us, for the summer session (Italian students have six exam sessions a year: autumn 'appello unico'; pre-Christmas 'ditto'; winter, with two calls; a pre-Easter possibility if enough students ask for it, 'appello straordinario'; and finally, gloriously, summer, with two calls. An Italian student, if he so desired, could spend the whole year just taking examinations).

    I and my bestest assistant, riffing the day before, had decided to try lightening up the atmosphere a tad: Union Jack earrings for her; Union Jack necklace for me. The walking stick you see in the pic is a present necessity for me: not even I would dream of doing song-and-dance routines, however good the cause.

    Well. I have this to say. It worked. My assistant, the Rottweiler to those of us in the know, and a very very efficient carabineer, had relatively little to do. You see, your average Italian student, in exams, and only in exams, firmly believes in the collaborative effort - that's 'copying' to you and me.

    And the whole thing ended, after 4 hours and in 40°C conditions, all quite amicably.

    Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, all are going to be as solid a 'marking frenzy' as the mother of two teens and dog-owner can manage.

    I'm not going to even open my Uni email account.

    But I'm afraid I can't turn off my mobile. Oh Lordylor'

    Image: original photo that catches me in the middle of a fit of the giggles. Why? Rosa, you can just make her out taking the photo, had wanted to immortalize our mise. Béa, one of the secretaries, for some reason had understood we wanted copies of the photo printed out asap and asked as much. Dott.ssa N.Skin's reply was " Yes, please. 25" by 35", and six of them, please. We're going to hang them up around the Faculty."
    'Dott.ssa N. Skin' was her choice of name, not mine. That's making me giggle now.
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