The Exam Controller

“I won’t pose with an empty glass, I’m getting a full one!”

For someone whose first words to me were, “I can’t give you a story, I have none!” Mark Rawlimson is a man with plenty to say. He’s a former Air Force officer, and now works as an exam controller at a college in London.

“It feels amazing to be able to shout at guys who are six feet tall.”

Mark is not six foot, but he more than makes up for that with the confidence with which he makes every remark.

“I’d dreamt of becoming an exam controller one day since I was five and beat the hell out of exams!” he says, “Do you believe me?” I tell him I’m not sure that I do and he laughs.

Mark took the exam job after he retired from the Air Force, and although it wasn’t what he’d expected to do, but he does enjoy it now.

I ask him about the pub we’re in, the Moon on the Hill, and he tells me that he often buys a couple of pints here. I thought the name of the pub conveyed a sense of romanticism, but Mark dispelled this completely by pointing at a group of old-aged men.

“All these men out here are single and alone.” He says, his voice almost a shout, “Nobody talks to these grey beards.” Two of the men remind me of Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter.

Mark told me he’s been single all his life, but he didn’t seem put out by the situation.

“It’s incredible, huh? I can be all by myself, do what I feel like doing!” He told me that he plans to spend the upcoming weekend in Scotland.

I brought the conversation back to his job, and asked him why he likes it so much. He told me that he finds it satisfying to be able to order people around, and that it’s the only way he can.

Mark has no family other than the sister who lives with him, and I wonder how happy he actually is, for all his joking and laughter.

“You aren’t interrogating me enough?” he asks, after telling me he’s originally from Newcastle. I explain about Met down the Pub being the brainchild of a bunch of student journalists, and he agrees to pose for a picture, which is when he realises his glass is nearly empty and rushed to pick up a full one.

When he gets up to leave he pulls on a check blazer, picks up the cap that apparently reminds him he was once an Air Force officer, then heads out to catch the night bus.

Reporting by Shefali Saxena.

Behind the Story : I was consciously sipping my coffee at Moon on the Hill where I spotted a group of old men. One of them looked like Dumbledore. He definitely had a story.

But, to my surprise, he was a bit similar to Dumbledore’s character. Open ended sentences, not much food for thought. His old, drunk friends were busy arguing in a flirtatious way with my colleague about he religion and ethnicity. They were scaring me.

Dumbledore never helped personally, but he arranged help for others. Likewise, this man whom I was addressing as Dumbledore in my mind, called someone and said to me, “He has stories. Interrogate him.”

The exam controller trying to ditch me in the first go saying, “I can’t give you a story, I have none!” melted when I said I was a student journalist. When I insisted on talking further, I asked him about his occupation. It was difficult to question an exam controller.