I met Andrew Lascelles when I was an undergraduate at Kings College. I was an average student on the fringes of the room at parties, went to most lectures but as an attendee rather than person of note. Andrew had a very different profile: always a tad quicker than most others by any measure, a leader and shaper of opinions, and a master of the telling phrase with a nuanced perception which made him the standout figure of his year.
He had that charismatic, luminous quality which engaged the interest of many girls, including Lucy whose attention I sought for in vain during my first two years as a student before turning my attentions to Carolyn, the woman I later married, whose qualities were less evident to the casual glance and possibly to others. He, Andrew that is, was marked out as the man of the hour and of the future, and so it has transpired throughout a career during which he has been admired by those who do not know him.
Some decades later, now a titled gentleman of letters and sculpture of note, he was walking down the towpath near his home towards a lunch were I was to be an unexpected guest and replacement for a late absentee. At the lunch he told us he had spotted a tramp or “Homeless gentleman,” depending on your terms of reference, sitting on the bench surrounded by his worldly belongings and, pausing near him to admire the river, was moved to say, “You must enjoy this view”
The homeless gentleman, ex-businessman, raconteur, husband and philanthropist; now current drunk and as invisible to those who had previously known him as he could make himself, raised his eyes to this passing acquaintance and replied with surprising precision, “Every perspective comes at a price,”
“And so it does, and so it does” said our engaging artist, before walking off along the path and towards the restaurant where some old friends and others, were waiting to meet him. Sir Andrew recalled the tramp’s comment, realising it would provide him with an interesting “Hook” on which to hang a conversation.
Sure enough, once we were nicely settled at our table, and one or two remarks had been exchanged about the view and the thickness of the table cloth, our knowing artist told us of his recent conversation with a seated “gentleman of the road” and the illuminating reply he had given.
“Did you give him any money,” said one of his friends, slightly provocative it must be said, to which the sculpture replied, “I don’t patronise my fellow man,” which may have been insightful, before taking a sip of his well-chosen wine.
I was at that lunch more by chance than merit as I’ve said, and clearly unrecognised by him after some decades. After he had finished his discourse I asked him “What do you think it is which makes a nice man, as opposed to a person of mere ability?”
“Kindness and Understanding” said our noted figure with barely a moment’s hesitation, and I, driven by some lingering animosity no doubt, responded, “And is that what you showed to that gentleman?” He did not reply but his wife, now called Lucille, gave me a hard stare in which there was a dawning recognition.