When the early morning, slightly crinkled voice of Penny Richards, Chief Executive of the Institute of the Masters of Wine, replied ‘Mark?’ to my tentative ‘hello?’ she could not see the shaking of my legs that twitched in front of me as I perched, unsteadily, on the arm of the sofa.
The time was 12.08 p.m., Monday the seventh of September, (05.08 a.m. London time) and I was in a foul funk of a mood and had been all morning. The day was exam results’ day and those of you that follow the trials and tribulations of Sniff will know that afflicted by a cold I had been less than sparkling in my performance on the first of the three tasting papers taken back in early June. Such is the standard required I believed that I had blown it, a situation beyond rescue, and even though I felt the next two days went well, I believed they could not be so good as to repair the damage already done.
With the various crises that afflict the world at any given time, it is with some guilt that I tell you that during the last three months my sleep has been regularly interrupted by the spectre of that first morning. The investment of time, energy, money but more importantly emotion that students often attach to these once yearly exams, makes any failure achingly painful. So why was Penny ringing me?
When Penny told me I had passed the practical (tasting) part of the exam that now sees my visits to exam halls halted indefinitely having passed the theory part last year, I was gracious enough to greet her with a round of expletives that even my mother may have found hard to forgive. As inured to this treatment, as Penny must now be, it is with the utmost respect that I ask for her forgiveness.
So what does this mean? Well for nineteen people, the most in the Institute’s history, the phone-calls they received meant the end to years of hard work, doubt and anxiety as they had earned those two most coveted of letters; MW. For me it means two-thirds done, one-third to go with ‘just’ the Research Paper standing between me and what? One final heart-thumping, sweaty palmed, loose limbed, dry-mouthed, hot-eyed, bowel loosening conversation with Penny..