I have just dropped my son off at the station to go to what we all hope is his last ever Maths exam. He has a horrible week this week: 8 GCSEs, and most of them the hefty ones - nothing fluffy at all.
One of his exams is English Literature. Son and a friend were talking about their respective Eng. Lit exams over the Half Term. "How is the quotation learning going?" I asked. They looked at me blankly. "Ma, we take the books into the exam," said son, gently, to a mother he knows is old and incapable. Seeing my look of horror, friend added, trying, to cheer, "The books have to be clean!"
From one point of view (that of a mother whose son's revision has been virtually invisible) I am glad - one less thing to worry about. At least he'll be able to write SOMETHING. From another, I am horrified. For my exams, in the late 1970s, I learned epic amounts of quotations. My dear, noble, mother, used to sit there on our tatty sofa, listening to me as I paced up and down, repeating lines until I sure they had gone in (fortunately we had that hideous glass fibre carpet so there was no chance of my wearing a hole as I paced).
But the thing is, those quotations did go in: and they stayed in. Getting up one morning recently, faced with an event I really did not want to go to, I muttered to my daughter, who looked suitably horror-struck, "My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk." I know my feeling of doom has absolutely nothing to do with nightingales, but that quotation to me always sums up that feeling of sleepy dread when you wake up knowing you have something to do you really don't want to. It is part of my internal landscape, and is always what I think when I am curled in my bed, wishing I could stay there instead of get up and face the horror.
There is a lot more that is part of my internal landscape too: Ozymandias, when looking at some bloated bit of architectural posturing; Wilfred Owen whenever the First World War comes up; screeds of Shakespeare, though I am not, I must admit, that good at remembering which quotation comes from where.
And none of that would be there, none at all, if it had not been for the fact that I had to learn it. My dear son, and all his peers will not have that, and that is dreadful.