Panic station

Antonia Quirke listens to distraught teenagers discuss their A-level results.

Sara Cox sits in for Fearne Cotton
BBC Radio 1

It's A-level results day and Radio 1 has brought in the big guns to sit in for Fearne Cotton. "This is Exam Surgery - let's not get in a tailspin of panic!" insists Sara Cox, before introducing her co-presenter, Aled Haydn Jones, and his Welsh friend Phil from Ucas. "Big day today," they nod. "Give us a call." Phil and Aled march next door to man the phones. "God," says Cox. "I've got a horrible feeling for you all in my belly. Here's Calvin Harris."

Just then my sister texts from a wedding where she's been hired to play the violin. It reads: "typical. coldplay then nimrod for the signing of the registr", followed by "ive chips for every meal fr the last 2 wks". I remember the day I got my A-level results. Stunned that I'd passed, my mother made the fatal mistake of permitting me to get my ears pierced. Next thing she knew, I was "going it alone" in a flat off the Palatine Road and working for Scottish Amicable.

Aled and Phil are back in the studio now. "There's lots of stress and confusion out there," says Aled - "let's hear from Dec." Dec says, dazedly, "I was meant to get two Ds and a C, but when I retook I got two Ds and an E!" Aled sits in close. "Check your tracking on the website, Dec. Keep an eye on it. Any moment it could come up that you're in clearing. Any moment. Keep checking. Keep tracking. And keep calling the admissions department."

“But is it wise to badger the university?" challenges Cox. Aled quite literally scoffs. "Look after number one!" he articulates. "Don't be sympathetic to universities! Sort your situation out! It will be frustrating. It will take time. Call them! Call them now." There's a silence as the nation pictures Aled being dragged away from the microphone by NSA operatives, who proceed to back over a child's bicycle as they reverse away at speed. (Currently I'm toying with the idea of calling Aled myself. I can't think of a single person in their right mind who wouldn't.) Next it's Amy, making her case in between suppressed sobs and other terrible noises. "I got an . . . A and a . . . b-b-B and two Cs . . . I got . . . distracted by my friends! I just want to do English and drama . . ."

“Bad news for Amy," intones Coxy. "She might get into Sussex," says Pete.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 30 August 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Face off