Monday, 27 January 2014

A Little Lone Wolf - Andrew Crofts

          “The eagle is probably the most powerful bird in the world, always flying alone, never in a crowd,” The Middle Eastern merchant prince I was ghostwriting for was talking with his eyes shut, a habit which, when coupled with long pauses, sometimes made it hard to tell if he had fallen asleep mid-thought.
          My recorder was taking care of preserving his widely spaced words, his closed eyes giving me the opportunity to look around the Aladdin’s cave of a room. Every inch of the mighty floor space was filled with objects elaborately decorated in gold. Anything that wasn’t gold was white or cream, from the endless sofas and the cushions of the heavily gilded thrones that we were sitting in to the tissue boxes that were carefully placed in order to be constantly within reach of anyone wishing to expectorate unexpectedly.
Around us were panoramic views of Hyde Park from the windows of one of the apartments in the newly built Knightsbridge block which was reported to contain the most expensive homes in London.
          As a child I had often visited the site in its previous incarnation as Bowater House since it had contained my father’s office. Bowater House was one of the ugliest modern office blocks to go up in London after the Second World War. The building was demolished in 2006 and replaced with this equally controversial structure which seems to many to typify the dangerous gap that is opening up between the global super-rich and the rest of us in the Twenty First Century.
          “Birds that move around in flocks make easy targets for any lone predator,” my client resumed his musings without lifting his eyelids. “If you move in crowds you often end up being punished for the sins of others.”
          He fell silent again, his eyelids still lowered and I pondered his words. I remembered an afternoon soon after starting at my first boarding school. I was seven years old and walking on my own in the grounds in one of the few moments of the day that was not crammed full of sport, lessons and pointless regimentation. One of my school reports of the time, which my wife sweetly unearthed from the cellar recently to amuse the children, claims that, “Andrew believes his contemporaries offer limited intellectual stimulation – he is not always an easy person to deal with but one that is learning to be more tolerant”, which could explain why I was walking on my own, at several levels.
          Rounding a corner I bumped into a teacher on routine patrol duty.
          “Why aren’t you with friends, Crofts?” she asked in a voice that was not without a hint of kindness. “You’re a funny little lone wolf, aren’t you?”
          I preferred my client’s analogy of the lone eagle soaring proudly across open skies. 










12 comments:

Lee said...

The lone wolf/lone eagle metaphor of the (genius) writer - a bit of 'a worn paradigm of artistic ego', isn't it? (quotation courtesy of Amelie Groom, an art critic who has edited a fascinating volume about time and temporality).

madwippitt said...

It is a lonely job, being a writer. Something you do on your own ... so I guess there must be something of the loner in all of us! (Although I'm not sure about your Arab's comment about the flocks making birds easy targets - they are for safety in numbers, to make it more difficult for raptors to pick them off.)

Bill Kirton said...

I'm a sociable enough person but I love the solitude of the writer's life. What's bizarre is how people seem so readily to equate solitude with loneliness.

Kathleen Jones said...

I'm with you on that Bill. I really need solitude, though I love socialising when I'm in the mood. It's the W.H. Davies moment!

madwippitt said...

Lonely vs solitude: discuss ... :-) Yes, I too need solitude to get on with anything useful. But I also find it lonely at times. So maybe both states are feasible. And requiring solitude to work is a distancing-yourself-from-the-rest-of-the-pack thing ...

madwippitt said...
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Dennis Hamley said...

Lee, I read Andrew's blog, then saw your comment, read the blog three more times very carefully and ended up certain that Andrew was using his client's grandiloquent flourish, so typical of the rich and powerful, ironically. Surely, however gregarious you normally are, when you are writing you are completely solitary, sometimes lonely, in a world of your own construction - and you don't have to be a genius to feel it.

Lee said...
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Lee said...

Dennis, of course you're right about the irony of 'lone eagle'. Nevertheless, what makes you think a writer is any more alone than someone doing manual labour, for example? We are all alone inside our heads, and as much as I dislike the buzzword 'conversation', I nevertheless view the idea of the lone wolf writer rather skeptically - as a vestige of the romantic notion of the Great Artist (usually male), in fact.

Andrew Crofts said...

Dennis, your dedication to duty in pursuit of the ironic is to be commended - and the gallant defense is greatly appreciated.

Lee, since I was apparently already a lone wolf at seven, I suspect the condition would have persisted whether I had become a writer or a bricklayer. I certainly don't think that liking living in your own head is a preference exclusive to writers.

Lee said...

Andrew, Dennis's 'gallant defence' is, well, gallant, but it ignores the subtext of your post - and what is essentially a tiny bit of cultural criticism of on my part. Lonewolfedness seems to me an outdated way of viewing the artist in our world today, the process of creating something. And ask yourself how many women would even call themselves a lone wolf? Most of us are far too busy!

Andrew Crofts said...

You have spotted a sub-text I hadn't even seen, Lee. I was just writing about my own liking for being alone.I can only speak for myself. I know a lot of writers, both male and female, who are extremely gregarious. Nor did I mean to imply any gender stereotypes. Men can be busy too, I think.