It’s a wet, warm morning in late August. I’m sitting in my car outside the school, worried about where my daughter is. She walked through the gates almost an hour ago with her mates to collect her GCSE results. My wife and I are waiting outside for back-up purposes only; under strict instructions to keep a safe distance but be ready for emotional support should things go wrong.
I tap at the steering wheel anxiously and study the faces of other kids emerging. Could their expressions offer clues to what’s going on inside? Why is my daughter taking so long? Is that a good sign or a bad sign?
“I think it’s a good sign,” I tell my wife. “If it was bad, I think she would have shot straight back out to see us.”
My wife doesn’t respond. She is relaxed about the whole thing. She has faith, I guess, that the results will be good. Or that, if they aren’t, we’ll work out what to do next and life will go on.
Sometimes, being married to someone so rational and calm can be as annoying as it is reassuring.
Mind you, I don’t suppose it’s as annoying as being married to a neurotic like me, who responds to moments of tension by pathologically filling silence. I begin to describe my own GCSE results day, 32 years previously, when I had attended the very same school. Only I didn’t go in to collect the results. I was on holiday in Europe and had to get my mum to read them out to me over a crackly phone line. “I think you got a kkkkzzzz crackle in Biology…and, um, let’s see, a fffffzzzz crackle ffffzzz in English…”