I woke an hour ago from a dream in which I was sitting finals again. This circumstance will pop up behind my eyelids every so often, even though the grim reality is nearly thirty years behind me now. In this variation on the theme, candidates sit in individual glass booths. Mine affords little peace or privacy, however, as the girl in the adjacent booth is singing happily, as if she were in the shower. Each booth contains a mock-leather briefcase in which we will find the equipment this oneiric Cambridge deems necessary for examinees: several complementary leatherette diaries, postcards, leaflets and glossy spiral-bound booklets advertising this and that, souvenir pencils and a laptop. This latter has a bizarre keyboard, a dome-shaped affair like the top of a phrenology skull. I rifle through the mounds of bumph in the briefcase and at length locate the question paper, which is to be found in another leatherette wallet along with a few uncomplementary hand-written notes about me from supervisors to some third party.
Well, I start to type, cursing the sadistically user-unfriendly keyboard, which is reducing me to about a word a minute, and the minutes, obviously, are ticking away. The girl next door with her trills and arpeggios is definitely not helping. And then the computer packs up - the files are being destroyed by a virus as I watch, for this is graphically and dramatically represented on the display by a blazing bonfire. (Of a piece, I suppose, with the real-world theatrical stuff about 'permanent fatal errors' and 'firewalls'.) Suddenly my college accommodations officer and the headmaster of my junior school are back from the grave to help; Betty says I'll be allowed extra time, and Mr Dodson calls for a B537A (huh?) to be brought forthwith. All we need to know is exactly how much of the exam has been wasted already. I search among the papers, postcards, leaflets and assorted freebies for my mobile phone to check the time. (None of us has realised that this is 1981 and mobile phones don't exist yet.) When I finally locate it... I wake up. Why, bless us, 'twas but a dream!
The 'finals fuck-up' dream is usually trotted out if I am feeling in some way threatened or emotionally vulnerable. Well, today is my day with the Algerian winchmen, a day that always makes me feel totally useless as a teacher, so this probably explains it.