‘Do you remember the time we took you to the youth club and you stood looking gormless?’

There was no answer to be made, there was no memory of such a moment, no belief that it had ever occurred. There is a recollection of being invited to go and deciding to stay in and watch television, but it is hard to contradict three independent accounts.

There was something unsettling in the question. It had been good-humoured, but had raised doubts.

The doubts had been exacerbated by making a careless, unnecessary comment that had caused offence to someone.

Standing watching the musicians on the stage from afar, there was a sense of a need to be somewhere secure, to be sitting watching a detective programme, to not feel threatened or uncertain.

Solitariness always seems more attractive; no-one to offend and no-one to cause hurt.

The post-doctoral researcher seeking to share ideas on education of people with learning disability asked those at the seminar to take out a sheet of paper and a pen and to draw concentric circles, placing oneself in the middle circle and then placing those with whom one was familiar into circles of friends, their closeness or distance from  the centre reflecting  the strength of friendship.

There was a notepad in the backpack underneath the chair and a pen in the inside jacket packet, but it was more comfortable to appear to have neither pen nor paper, for the circles would reveal the extent of the isolation.

There had been a shadow over the proceedings of the day, an anxiety about the guesthouse car park. In the midst of a medieval city, parking spaces are not plentiful, and what if it became necessary to ask someone to move their car so as to be able to leave?

There had been an intention to go somewhere to watch television coverage of a football match, clusters of people in England colours sat outside the pubs.

The intention faded, much better to return to the guesthouse room, to close the door, to feel secure.

Two of the papers at the seminar had been given by people with an autism diagnosis, both of whom had recognised in adulthood that there were situations with which they struggled, small things that might cause them undue anxiety.

Having realised that relationships are difficult because it is always impossible to understand what the other person might be feeling, there is a sense that there might be an explanation. There is an awareness that the capacity to cope in challenging pastoral situations might arise not from compassion, but from an incapacity for empathy.

The seminars may have been an important personal lesson.

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