They tuck you up, your mum and dad


Someone said that the future is an open book - alas, last night I realised that too many closed books were littering my past!

Nevertheless, I awake feeling surprisingly refreshed and confident, ready to tackle whatever the Department of Education has to throw at me in the exam hall. No doubt this self-assured individual will deteriorate into someone too terrorised to even read the exam paper as soon as he enters the exam hall!

But I am forced to remind myself to stop being so melodramatic. I reflect on all those Sunday mornings over the past year when I dragged myself out of bed (with a lot of verbal pressure from my mother) to try studying with the aid of a rather large and uncompromising hangover. At least then I found it easier to relate to Hamlet in one of his grief-stricken soliloquies...

One thing is for sure: even Hamlet couldn't have but enjoyed the breakfast being laid out for me: eggs, sausages, rashers, pudding, toast - the works. Forget about the proverbial "exam breakfast", the need for carbohydrates, fruit, etc. an unhealthy, fat-filled feast will set the tone for the day. Over family breakfast my mind will surely drift to the other side of the world, to the other event of the day. I have promised myself I wouldn't think about it, that my exams are more important, but I just can't help it. Sandwiched between the two English papers is that match, Ireland versus Germany, in Ibaraki, Japan (how could they be so cruel?). So the one-hour break will bring a sizeable dilemma.

Back to the task in hand, the English Leaving Cert higher-level papers. I am cautiously pleased that English is the first exam, as it is both my favourite and my best subject. My ambition is to be a sports journalist. I developed an interest after Transition Year work experience in RTÉ. Having an aptitude at English is a good start.

The English course is a new one, last year being the first year it was examined. All things considered, the course isn't too difficult. But try telling me that when I'm sitting in an arduous double period studying the poetry of Emily Dickinson in forensic detail! The remainder of the new poetry course is fair, though studying poets such as Dickinson, Shakespeare and Philip Larkin when you are unsure whether or not they will even be on the exam paper can be particularly monotonous.

The choice of literary texts is broad and varied in genre. My teacher, Kate Bateman, gave me some concession, allowing me to opt for Brian Keenan's An Evil Cradling while the rest of the class studied The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing. I made this choice simply because I find Keenan's account of being held hostage in Beirut thoroughly fascinating.

So here we go, here we go, here we go, embarking on a journey that may well shape the next few years in our lives. Here come the good times!

Patrick O'Brien is a Leaving Cert student at Stratford College, Rathgar, Dublin.