9th June

full blast at an appallingly high and ill-pitched frequency. Every time I feel like I am getting close it goes quieter again. As I turn another corner it seems to get louder. There is no pattern, like some tortuous parlour game of sonic hide and seek. I try the floor above but still the voice remains evasive. I head in desperation for the music department some distance from where the exam is actually taking place. Where could the voice possibly be coming from? The secretary points me in the direction of a rehearsal room two floors below where the exam is being held. As I follow the directions the piercing voice gets louder; this time I am on the right track. There are about a dozen practice rooms all in a line. The tuneless offender's discordant tones are emanating from Room 12. I knock. A small blond haired music student opens the door. It seems impossible that such an incredible din can be coming from such a slight frame. I tell her that there is an exam going on upstairs. "Ooh sorry," she says. "I'll come back later." It's probably taken 20 minutes to track down the culprit but it feels more like an hour. The exertion of running up and down stairs in the heat means I am 'glowing' slightly. The student who made the initial complaint still has a pained expression on her face, the anguish probably induced by an ambiguously worded question on the paper. At least it is quiet now - well, except for the jet engines, police sirens and the new addition of a barking dog! And then... Oh no, not again:


another uninvited guest in the sonic shape of a jazz saxophone. The melody is perfect but a chorus of sighs from the long-suffering students meets this rendition of Charlie Parker's 'Cool Blues'. I know where the guilty party is hiding and a few minutes later calm is restored. Returning to the exam room I pick up some pieces of string and sheets of extra paper and resume invigilation responsibilities, luxuriating in the relative peace of idle contemplation.

"Time is our arch enemy and our most intimate friend."
Amery, Jean (1994)

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14 June