30 March 2012

Attention to detail

We have had a week of extremely unseasonable warm, sunny weather, with daytime temperatures more typical of August than March, and in the last lecture of the year everyone is in summer clothes. Teeshirts and shorts are everywhere

Students behave differently in lectures. Some listen intently, never taking their eyes off me. Others talk amongst themselves in whispers which seem to have no obvious connection to what I may have to say. There are those who go to sleep, usually waking with uncanny accuracy as the lecture ends but occasionally dozing on in an empty auditorium until the premises staff come to lock up. Some hover intensely over notepads, never looking up, their pens scribbling and highlighting furiously.

Saoirse, today, is making different use of her ballpoint pen. Over the course of the lecture, in a process which has the sort of bizarre fascination which is impossible to ignore (both for the students immediately around her and from the lectern) she draws with the same total attention as the note takers; not on a pad, however, but on her limbs. By the time she leaves the room she has decorated her arms from clavicle to fingertips, and her legs from the hem of her shorts to her toes, with an intricate and exquisitely executed William Morris style ink tapestry of plants and birds.

You have to admire such dedication to an ephemeral enterprise, which can't last more than a few hours. Imagine what might be achieved if the same focused dedication were applied to her degree.


Julie Heyward said...

It's been incredibly warm here, also. Eighties on more than one day, and seventies on average. Wonderful and scary at the same time.

Your story made me think of Kafka's The Penal Colony -- which I realize is entirely inappropriate on so many levels, not least of which is the role into which it would cast you.

Felix said...


Saoirse MacDiarmid said...

Quaternions are all very well, but they are not summery!

(Nor, perhaps, is Kafka -- not in the right way at least)