It's GCSE results day, so the news gives us the regular mixture of female-only celebrators ("fruity girls!") opening their envelopes and academic killjoys telling them their results are worthless and they will all die of malnutrition by the time they're 25.
I didn't have to go to school for my GCSE results. They arrived in a tiny brown envelope in the post. Well, eventually they did. Our post frequently wouldn't turn up until midday or later and I had pretty much chewed up and spat the entire stair carpet to fight the nerves and adrenaline by the time the mail eventually did poke through.
I also took about 17 phone calls from friends, all of whom had received their envelopes via their more efficient village post offices and were telling me, excitedly, that they'd got enough Cs and above to go to Wyke Sixth Form or something. Back then, Cs and above were regarded as the achievement. I hope As and A*s are not more common now because the exams are easier. I'd like to think it's because kids are cleverer and teachers are better.
Two Bs and a clutch of Cs for me, resits permitting. The whole exam process when I was 16 is a blur now. I remember just bits, like the question in my Chemistry exam to which the answer was cobalt and nickel (buggered if I know now what the question actually was, though - are they the only metals that don't rust, or something?). I remember writing an essay about the Poor Law in History that couldn't have been more improvised if it had been John Sessions writing it in the style of commedia dell'arte, but I passed, possibly through sheer cheek. To this day I struggle with negative sums (my overdraft situation means I regularly have to such calculations) but I scraped through my Maths at intermediary level, having decided that iteration wasn't for me. English and French were the only comparative doddles. Biology was absolutely hideous. Geography the dullest subject of all - bollocks to sedimentary rocks, tell me about India and Brazil and what's at the bottom of the sea!
My A levels are much more vivid, undoubtedly because I totally loathed sixth form beyond all measure. And to those GCSE students who keep hearing the exams are too easy, fret not. We got that too - from the pro O Level brigade (mainly students who took the last O levels in 1987 and developed a sanctimony that even Tony Blair would have repelled) complaining that they had it harder than us. Boo bloody hoo. We did O level papers as exam practice and the only real difference seemed to be that GCSE didn't provide many juvenile euphemisms for fellative activity.