To my mind, it would have been fairer to Alan and made him more understandable to those who did not know him if my mother had mentioned some matters which contrasted sharply with his many virtues. My mother implies that his many eccentricities, divagations from normal behaviour and the rest were some kind of emanation of his genius. I do not think so at all. In my view, these things were the result of his insecurity as a child, not only in those early days at the Wards, but later on as his mother nagged and badgered him. This, however, is all theory which I am content to leave to the psychologists.
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I am concerned only with Alan's behaviour as it affected other people and it was not, in my view, so amusing for those who were at the receiving end. I will give a few examples. Alan would descend upon any household at any moment of the day or night with or without warning and seldom with more than a few hours' notice. (When he was stationed at Teddington after the war, he discovered that the distance to Guildford corresponded roughly with the marathon distance, so the first we knew of his impending arrival was a badly made parcel containing a change of clothing. About twelve noon, he would come running up the steep hill of Jenner Road and straight up the stairs and into a bath.) Alan hardly ever wrote a letter to his relatives. I understand that he carried on a huge correspondence with the other eleven mathematical pundits all over the world, the Japanese included, but all we rated was a postcard, usually arriving a day late, or the inevitable telegram. Alan was great on telegrams. "Arriving today" (not specifying exact date or time but well within the allotted shilling) was typical. My mother received loads of telegrams of this sort and they drove her wild, but nobody reading her book would think so.
Alan could not stand social chat or what he was pleased to call "vapid conversation." What he really liked was a thoroughly disputatious exchange of views. It was pretty tiring, really. You could take a safe bet that if you ventured on some self-evident proposition, as, for example, that the earth was round, Alan would produce a great deal of incontrovertible evidence to prove that it was almost certainly flat, ovular or much the same shape as a Siamese cat which had been boiled for fifteen minutes at a temperature of one thousand degrees Centigrade.
Alan's hatred of "vapid conversation," his fear of "unsafe" women and the value he placed on the importance of time -- that is to say, his own -- did not make him the most amiable or helpful of guests.
I made the great mistake, once, of inviting him to a sherry party at my house. As a matter of fact, I find this sort of occasion pretty boring myself, but that is by the way. Alan arrived nearly an hour late, dressed like a tramp (hippies had not then been invented) and vanished within ten minutes without a word of apology or excuse. It was a silent and, perhaps, well-merited comment on our frivolous life. Frankly, I wished I could have done the same and I greatly envied him for having achieved a modus vivendi in which the feelings of others counted for so little.