I think I've finally lost it

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
ONE morning two weeks ago, on my way to school, I found myself proceeding east along the Edinburgh city bypass towards Berwick. This was worrying, as I should have been heading west along the M8 to Livingston. I had no recall of how I got there. Even even more worrying, none of my colleagues batted an eye when I told them. Either they saw it as symptomatic of my general state of mind, or they recognised that, like them, I was suffering from end of session robotism.

It is daunting to realise what an automaton I become as the session grinds on. In my youth I rose to the groovy sounds of the good ship Radio Caroline. I now regulate my movements to the dulcet tones of John Milne and co. on Good Morning Scotland. Into the shower before Ali Abbassi finishes the travel report, shoes on as Gordon Webster rounds off the sport, and woe betide my timekeeping if I tarry to hear the sound of Father Steve Gilhooley's "Thought for the day". My wanderings on the bypass were, without doubt, because the BBC technicians' strike that day had robbed me of my aural bearings.

This morning routine creates the Dead Zone, the time between the radio alarm beginning to speak to you and that voice in the head saying "You have to get up now!" Lying there between sleep and what passes for wakefulness, all sorts of information enters the brain, maybe. And you can never be quite sure if you actually heard it or merely dreamed it.

Such is the state of current affairs that it's frequently impossible to separate the real from the imagined. The other morning I think I heard a guy announcing that he was doing a PhD on "Cheating in exams - and how to do it". I know it doesn't sound likely. . .

Then hours later, in a worrying example of synchronicity, I bumped into one of my favourite former pupils, Marie. Her dad, an old hero of mine, was one of Scotland's foremost middle-distance runners. I asked her how she had got on in this year's English Standard grade paper.

She looked uncomfortable. She pointed out that on examining the photographs provided to inspire candidates to creative writing, she had been amazed to see a picture of her dad breasting the tape in all his glory - not a usual exam experience for any student.

Still dazed from my morning ramble, it never occurred to me to ask if she'd written about the picture. Or, if she had, whether she had listed it as "personal experience". From the angle of the picture, he appeared to have beaten the legendary New Zealander, John Walker. So maybe she plumped for "imaginary writing".

Enjoy those long lies.

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