Thursday 24 June 2004, A level Year 2, Surrey, England

This summer term was the best term. The rainy cloud hanging over England for the past nine months had finally cleared. Surrey Hill, where Hurtwood was located, offered a stunning view of the English countryside with trees and fields extending all the way out till the horizon. Every day, I felt I was living inside a beautiful painting and I wished this could continue forever.

There was some pressure to study. British universities mostly gave out conditional offers demanding certain final grades. But the pressure was not high. The module nature of the exam meant one only needed to worry about a subset of the syllabus at a time. In addition, a large proportion of the grades were known by this stage already from the modules taken earlier.

However, Uncle Bob, our beloved physics teacher, was not ready to let us relax just yet. In the begging of the term, he announced that our class was the best class he had ever taught so he was going to put us down in the Advanced Extension Award (AEA) paper. “With three of you going to Cambridge, or two actually as one of you was going to be a bloody economist, you guys have a decent chance of doing well.”

With the date of the AEA exam at the very end of the term, our reaction from the class was not as enthusiastic as Uncle Bob hoped. Or according to Bob, when there was one economist in the room, everyone else became just as lazy and greedy as well. At the end, Bob had to make a deal with us to get us onboard. He offered to invite us to a BBQ at his place if we put ourselves down for the exam.

“You mean a BBQ today, Bob?”, we pressed.

“Of course not. Only after you sit the paper, I am not that stupid.”, Bob answered back, ready to throw us out of his lab.

Me, Uncle Bob and Michael

Fast forward to this morning, the few of us arrived at the big prep room and sat down for the Physics AEA exam. It started at 9 am and was scheduled to finish at noon. So Bob was very surprised when we knocked on his door at The Lodge at 10:30 am.

“You guys managed to finish the AEA paper so quickly?”

“No, Bob, we sat the exam as agreed, we never said we would finish it.” Michael replied innocently.