Please turn your exam paper over now. Please turn your exam paper over now. Please turn your exam paper over now. Perhaps you’re not hearing right.
Please turn your exam paper over now and empty the contents of your mind onto the paper. Whilst you’re at it, do it neatly so I can read it. Who am I? You’ll never know. All you need to know about me is that I have very exactly standards and if you don’t impress me, your life won’t be worth living. In fact, if you make a mess of it, you may as well give up. Alternatively, you could go through the humiliation of doing it all again next year.
Please turn your exam paper over now but do it at the same time as everyone else in the room. Don’t do it before or they’ll think you’re cheating. Don’t do it after everyone else because they’ll think you’re stupid.
Please turn your exam paper over now is uttered quietly, firmly, with a wry smile, a curl of encouragement in the lips or maybe a sneer from the teacher who predicted your failure.
Please turn your exam paper over now and no amount of wholegrains and fruit juice will save you; your mother’s voice wishing you luck diminishes to a tiny figure in your head, squeaking, shrinking, until she is mouthing silence and then she is just a dot.
Please turn your exam paper now and the silence is thick and pencils fall like heavy logs onto the wooden desk tops. Your nose starts to tickle as the pollen blows in through the open doors and the tissue on the top right corner of the desk sounds more like the page of a broadsheet as you crumple it in your sweaty fist.