Neville was a third-year mathematics student, then twenty-four, but mathematics was not a cement but an embarrassment in their relationship, for although Neville had won a scholarship, this was 'a flash in the pan'.
It made Neville feel inferior that they were in this respect on quite different planes.
Once Alan said, 'When you know what the Entscheidungs problem is, you will know what a great mathematician I am,' with a sad twinkle, but Neville never did find out.
Neville thought he was very ordinary compared with the more glamorous side of King's, and that he was just 'the best that Alan could get'.
But for Alan, it was probably an attraction that Neville, a Geordie from Sunderland Grammar School and the Army, was someone down to earth and rather tough.
His problem lay far more in having to remove the anaesthetising shell with which he had protected himself for so long. Perhaps it was too late.
To Neville, it seemed that Alan had enjoyed ill luck with people, and that it was not surprising that he was keen on machines to replace them.
Once he said to Neville, lying on his bed, 'I have more contact with this bed, than with other people.'
He also unburied a little of the past.
Christopher still prodded him, if only because he would faint at the mention of blood or dissections in the physiology lectures.