Preferring not to limit myself to the confines of a normal calendar, I like to time my revision period by the sun. It makes me feel at one with the natural world, and the instincts of early man in a time before clocks and dates dictated our every action, or something. So I don’t start my revision until the weather tells me to. Some might call it being lazy – I call it being attuned to the needs of one’s own life cycle. And lazy.
So here it is: third year, six exams, final ever stab at academia. Until now, nature didn’t want me to start revising. It wanted me to eat pie by a fire in a pub, read the Guardian supplements and fall asleep wearing massive socks, and I obeyed. But this weekend, clear as day, there was the call (actually, the call IS a clear day…so the metaphor falls down a bit). Sunshine, general good cheer, the sudden urge to eat many, many Calippos — all the primary signs have appeared. It is time.
First comes the sun: that means I must begin contemplating the savage schedule of study that lies before me.
Then come the men in shorts: By the sighting of the first white, hairy knees, I must have gone to WH Smith, purchased notecards and highlighter pens, and taken them out of their packets.
Next is the sinister tinkle of the ice cream van, the siren that says "Make a revision timetable! Then hurl it in fury at a wall when it won't allow you time to watch America's Next Top Model."
Then, finally, the dermatological oracle, the clearest call of all: sunburn. Like a big red flag to happiness, sunburn means serious, serious work time. No pausing to peel.
Of course, it's generally accepted that whoever set the first summertime exams was an embittered, sadistic hater of humanity (it was probably the Greeks — if QI has taught me anything, and it really has taught me everything, then it's that the Greeks were responsible for more or less everything modern, except shrink-to-fit jeans). Exams don't test our intellectual prowess, they test our superhuman ability to ignore the words "water fight", "white chocolate Magnum", "attractive topless men playing frisbee on lawn" and "Is elevenses too early for a nice cold beer?".
They challenge us to dismiss, with a smug wave of a textbook, all the noble and sacred traditions of the British summer. They're like tearing down the bunting and wiping the sunblock off the vicar's nose. They're wrong.
And, naturally, we all have our optimistic fits of believing we can combine the two. But show me a person who's ever got a shred of work done at a communal barbecue in the park… and I'll show you what is actually a shred of coleslaw. Stuck to a massive empty page.
Ask any of my schoolfriends what Lord of the Flies is about, and the response will be "rolling up our blouses to minimise tan lines". Ditto fractional distillisation, the Treaty of Versailles and Pythagorus' theorem (when one tan line was equal to the sum of the two opposing tan lines).
Which was all very well and good at GCSE, where a friendly relationship with Sparknotes.com was enough to ride a wave of A*s right into college, but now it's a degree. A DEGREE. Even the word itself is terrifying — third degree burns, first degree murder, Bananarama's 1987 hit Love in the First Degree. Only bad things can come of it.
And, of course, there's the unshakeable weather relation, as perceptively foreshadowed by my friend Liz in the year 10 maths lesson where she asked "a 90 degree angle — is that centigrade or Fahrenheit?"
Now, because I've just seen a whole army of hairy white knees march past my basement window, it's time to leave you and answer the call of nature… after which I'll do some revision. Promise.
*Anyone thinking "unless you fail" gets a swift flick on the forehead with a 30cm ruler.