Thursday, 21 March 2013


The ins and out of caving, whether or not bird song is related to human speech and some pointers on how to become a scriptwriter. Since my Cambridge Advanced English exam last Saturday I am a bit of an expert on these and a a wide variety of other quite useless subjects. Let's hope though that I gave my views in correct English.

It's been roughly twenty years since I last sat down in an exam hall with my intestines dancing the samba. Allthough I had no reason to be nervous - my lovely English teacher told me again and again that I should pass without a problem - I found myself feeling slightly nauseous.

It didn't help that I was by far the oldest candidate in the room. To be precise: the main hall of the Kirchgemeindehaus in Winterthur was filled with 121 - I counted them! - twenty somethings and me.
They all seemed to cope so much better with the fact that we had to report in Winterthur (a 45 minute drive from my home near Zurich) at 7.15 in the morning. At least they could all still have a fag to wake up, whereas I am now at an age where most people, including me, have long given up smoking. So I had to make do with a bottle of water. And not a coffee machine in sight.
At exactly 8.09 we received our instructions from the man with the colourful tie, behind the desk on the stage at the front of the room. His main concern seemed to be the switching off of mobile phones, which we had to do unanimously before every paper. The devilish devices then had to be put into a specially designed red bag ('hold your hand under the bag in case it has a hole in it') and carefully placed under our desks. Oh joy!
We sat a total of four papers - reading, writing, use of English and listening - is quick succession, with fifteen minute breaks between the papers in which some 75 women needed to use the only three available toilets. Try and sneak into to the men's toilets and a Swiss Kirchgemeinde worker would get on to you quicker than you could turn around to check if someone noticed. I tried, only to find myself at the tailend of the women's queue for a very long time. I nearly missed the next mobile phone ritual.
I wrote a report on a newly published Language School newspaper, debated the correct spelling of enthusiastic (which I of course spelled with an 'o' following the 'u'), had some lunch and listened to some guy babbling away about his trip to lake Baikal in Russia.  At the end of which I felt like a wrung out tea towel. Ravenously hungry, without any clear idea about what sort of food I was after. I settled for a mars bar and a tin of roasted almonds, just stuffing myself without actually registering what I was doing.
But never mind, within a few weeks I should receive an email to tell me that I passed this bloody exam. That I will actually have something to show for my years of speaking, breathing, reading and thinking in English. Some weird form of closure after eight years of being an expat wife.