And so I ran down North Street, late for my exam board. As I ran, I heard a woman calling my name, and I turned. ‘Hello,’ she said. ‘I’ve been sent to meet you. We’re just about to start the subject exam board, and then we’ll have the all-school meeting later in the day.’ I agreed that this was a fine plan, and she whisked me into the Buchanan building and up the stairs. I hadn’t been there before, and I had no time to attend to anything as she talked about the weather, and the train, and declining standards, and the difficulties of choosing a reliable external examiner, until we reached an unremarkable office door. She opened it and ushered me inside. ‘Here’s my office,’ she said. ‘Coffee, before we begin?’
She left, and I sat down and checked my emails. After a while, I looked around me. How strange, I thought, for a Russianist to have so many books in German. Shelves and shelves of them.
I was sidling out of the door when the woman appeared again. ‘We’ve run out of coffee, Karen,’ she said, ‘so I’m just popping to the union.’ I nodded.
Later that day I saw her in the all-school board meeting, accompanied by a woman with long red hair who was introduced to me as Karen, the German external examiner. Hello, I said. Hello, she said. And then we both looked away, and I went back to my discussion of the first year paper in Russian history, full of bloodshed, revolutions and its Tsar Dmitrys, I, II, and III, pretenders one and all.