It was not until 1980, thirty-seven years after being born, that I first realized that there was a world of difference between seeing and observing. All those years I had found my way around with unconscious lack of precision, only observing when I needed to remember a route, or a page for an exam or the face of someone who might turn out to be important to me. I was a doctoral student, in a classroom in London, supposedly in search of the way that teachers introduce complex concepts to learners. I remember vividly the sense of frustration of wondering when and how I might be able to record a complex concept. It was as though I was one of those lead-lined receptacles deep beneath the earth’s surface, filled with a liquid which would capture the momentary path of a neutrino as it winged its way through matter. A section of my notes for the event, looked like this:
Snippets of conversation drift by and attract my attention. ‘A mate of mine fell forty feet off a tree on Saturday…’
The two girls next to me are doing graphs for mathematics’ homework. One says, ‘Oh I see…!’ She corrects her homework. Peer teaching. A sign, a further sign, of the bond between them. They touch regularly. They talk a great deal and share private jokes. Their eyes meet and they smile. They dress almost identically in pale green V-necked jumpers and blue jeans. Watches. Necklaces. Hairstyles.