Exam Fever…..

I’m feeling rather mean…. And extremely lucky….

Because while my fellow students are back in the UK feeling the pressure of looming exams, I’m sitting on a warm terrace with my cup of tea writing this post. The skies overhead are an unbroken blue, there’s the gentle sound of running water from the pool nearby, and I’m wondering if breakfast here on the terrace is a good idea or whether to wander along under the shade of the pines by the sea’s edge to coffee, fresh orange juice and emsaimadas (that’s Spanish doughnuts to the uninitiated) in the Cappucino bar in the port.

It’s a tough life….

So why am I not suffering from exam fever when the rest of my fellow students are still right in the middle of it?

Because…. yippee, hooray, hurrah…. I’ve already done them.

I booked my summer holiday before I started this mad crazy course and got the dates muddled up. Luckily for me KLC were kind and allowed me to sit the exams early so I could still go away as planned. So Wednesday morning saw me battling the traffic to get to Hampton Court for nine o’clock. I parked my car and made my way through the shady corridors and bright courtyards of the palace as usual. But I was in an alternative universe.

Because when I made my way up to the KLC studio Annie was there at her desk in the office, and Claire was preparing to teach her class, but the rest of the cast were different. The names on the sign in sheet where we students check in and out were unfamiliar. And smiling, friendly Humaira, who looks after the admin side of things and keeps us cheerful when we’re feeling the pressure, had become smiling, friendly Phillipa.

The other diploma course, which started the term after we did, comes in on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and it was as if I had slipped through the time barrier and become one of them. Until Annie showed me into the smaller of the two studios, where a pen, pencil, and stack of paper were neatly arranged on the desk in front of a solitary chair. She handed me the Garden History exam paper, wished me luck and left me to the silence of an empty room.

Let me tell you…. It’s a very, very long time since I last sat an exam. In fact it’s 32 years ago. And I was 23, and sitting the bar finals in order to qualify as a barrister. So it felt extremely weird to be writing my name on the front of the paper, reading through the questions, picking up my pen and wondering how to begin.

But you know what…. it was fine. An hour and a half of garden history. A break for a coffee and mead cake from the Hampton Court coffee shop. (You don’t get coffee and mead cake when you’re sitting your bar finals!) And then an hour and a half of plant science, horticulture and construction. I had to guess the answers to a couple of the questions that I’m pretty certain I knew the answers to but just couldn’t drag them out of my brain. I struggled at times to stay focussed – lack of sleep is not good for remembering details. But I actually quite enjoyed it.

And now the exams are done. And the summer has started. And I know there’s lots of work to do, projects and work experience, and fitting in all the other stuff which comes under the family/home/garden umbrella and which I’ve had so little time for this year. But now that I’m feeling more relaxed life seems exciting and full of potential.

It’s amazing what a difference a few days holiday can make….

And to any of my fellow students who happen to be reading this – hang on in there. I’m thinking of you.