Please consider supporting Wild Carpathia 4

Over seventy people have now backed the funding of the next Wild Carpathia film, White Carpathia, and many came from this site. They have pledged over £9,000, but much more is needed to meet the target of £50,000 over the 25 days left for fundraising.

As we saw with the shooting of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in July, wildlife and habitats all over the world are in danger from thieves, poachers, corrupt officials, and frankly the rich trying to enrich themselves even further or taking what they think they can buy. This is our collective heritage and no-one has the right to take it away from us. The countryside of Romania, and the Carpathians in particular which are rich in native trees and wildlife including wolves, European bear, lynx and deer, are true gems with a complex eco-system which need to be preserved and managed to provide income for local people. What is happening there now with the illegal destruction of the pristine forest is not management but rape.  It is theft, aided and abetted by corrupt officials and locals who just need a job.

Please consider giving something to this cause to ensure that the film is made, which can only add to the common understanding of the the beauty and value of this land that Paddy loved possibly even more than Greece. Raising awareness leads to raised pressure on politicians and authorities to do more. A small donation now may make a big difference.

You can pledge anything from a few pounds to as much as you like at the Kickstarter site here. Thank you.

Read more here.

An award in memory of William Stanley Moss at University of Crete

Gabriella Bullock (Left) and guests at the inaugural awards 21 July 2015

Gabriella Bullock (Left) and guests at the inaugural awards 21 July 2015

In July, Gabriella Bullock, one of “Billy” Moss’ daughters, travelled to Crete with her husband Hugh to present the inaugural prize in Billy’s memory at the University of Crete in Rehtymnon. The annual William Stanley Moss award is open to graduate students of the Faculty of Philosophy studying the subjects of Philology, History and Archaeology.

Gabriella is funding the award from royalties of her father’s books as an expression of gratitude and debt to the Cretan people on behalf of her father. She described the whole experience as ‘very moving, very dignified and warm and emotional for everyone.’

The ceremony on 21 July was attended by the Metropolitan of Rethymno and Avlopotamos the Reverend Nicholas Nikiforakis, the Rector Euripides C. Stephen, the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy Lucia Athanassakis, the Dean of the School of Education Anthony Chourdakis, the Chairman of the Department of Literature Angela Kastrinaki the President of Department of History and Archaeology Antonia Kiousopoulou, Emeritus Professor Anastasios Nikolaidis, Professors of academic departments of the University of Crete, Foundation staff and students.

Gabriella and Hugh went on to deliver talks in Anogeia and Patsos where they met many relatives of those who worked with Billy and Paddy in those desperate days of the war.

Upcoming PLF Society events

A couple of dates for your diary from the PLF Society. A daughter and dad act for the autumn.

Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece – Artemis Cooper

DATE: Tuesday 8th September 2015 TIME: 7:15pm

LOCATION: Great Hall, Hellenic Centre, 16-18 Paddington St, London W1U 5AS

RSVP info@patrickleighfermorsociety.org

Paddy’s World – John Julius Norwich

John Julius Norwich is patron of the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society and knew PLF for more than fifty years.

DATE: Tuesday 10th November 2015 TIME: 7:15pm

LOCATION: Great Hall, Hellenic Centre, 16-18 Paddington St, London W1U 5AS

RSVP info@patrickleighfermorsociety.org

 

 

Why (some of) the Most Popular Hiking Memoirs Don’t Go the Distance

Whilst I find Bill Bryson amusing, his, possibly contrived, whimsey would probably get on my nerves if I read too much of him. I have never read A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, but I have sometimes thought how it must be to walk it. During my Camino to Santiago de Compostela I walked for some days with a guy who had done it three times; he was all at once a loner but at the same time he craved company. I guess that you really do have to be a loner to walk all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I thought that you might find this article interesting, and it may whet your appetite for watching the movie of the book (walking movies are all the rage) which stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, due for release 2 September.

By Robert Moor

First published in the New Yorker, 21 August 2015

When I was eighteen, I bought a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail which remains, if my conversations with strangers are any indication, the only book anyone has ever read about the Appalachian Trail. It was summer. My friend Andy and I had driven across the country and ended up in the town of Sheridan, Wyoming, where we stayed for a week with a genial middle-aged couple, family friends of my friend. Scanning my hosts’ bookshelves, as I have a tendency to do, I was quietly horrified to discover that they were exclusively stocked with works of pop evangelicalism (Rick Warren and the like). It was a literary desert: xeric, Mosaic. Bryson’s book was the only one I’d brought, so, while Andy rode dirt bikes with a guy named Dusty, I lay on a fold-out couch in the basement, consuming it in controlled bursts, as if bolting food rations.

I had dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail since I was ten years old. From Bryson’s wry, well-researched account, I began to learn how it would feel to walk through two thousand miles of mountainous wilderness. What stood out most were the descriptions of “tranquil tedium,” a seemingly endless trudge through the “cubic” vastness of deep woods. “At times,” he writes, “you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already. But most of the time you don’t think. No point. Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below. Walking for hours and miles becomes as automatic, as unremarkable, as breathing.”

Around page one hundred, I reached the passage where Bryson and his hiking partner study a wall-map of the trail in an outdoors store, in Gatlinburg, and, overcome by the sight of how little of it they had already walked, decide to skip the state of North Carolina and drive to Virginia. I let out a howl of indignation and threw the book against the wall. But, needing to know how the book ended, I picked it back up again. I repeated the cycle (howl, throw, retrieve) when Bryson decided to skip the northern portion of Virginia and just drive up the trail, taking hikes here and there, and again when he quit a quarter of the way through the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, at which point he concludes, defiantly, “I don’t care what anybody says. We hiked the Appalachian Trail.”

There, in that basement, I resolved that one day I would hike the trail the right way: from end to end, in one continuous trip—what’s often called a “thru-hike,” always with that peculiar, abridged spelling, otherwise reserved for fast-food signage and nineteenth-century poetry.

I eventually did so, in 2009. It was roughly how Bryson described it: long, hard, and monotonous, but also beautiful and enlightening and wonderfully (and then, later, worryingly) slimming. While hiking the trail, I learned that whenever a thru-hiker met a day-hiker (as thru-hikers somewhat dismissively refer to those who are “just out for the day”), the day-hiker would invariably ask the same question: “Have you read ‘A Walk in the Woods’?”

Many thru-hikers bristle at this question. By quitting in Gatlinburg and then hop-skipping up the trail, Bryson bastardized the central conceit of a thru-hike, which is that you hike through—through mountains and valleys, through farms and small towns, through pain, through hunger, through nagging doubt. For thru-hikers, the continuity is the point, in the same way that running a marathon is more meaningful than running four separate 6.5-mile races. Certain thru-hikers, referred to as “purists,” take this emphasis on continuity to obsessive lengths. Some touch or kiss every blaze of white paint along the trail, while others carefully line up their shoes, like Japanese slippers, in the precise spot they entered a lean-to, so as to know exactly where to resume hiking the next day.

Bryson thus finds himself in the curious position of being both the outward face of the Appalachian Trail and its most inwardly mocked figure. This discrepancy will likely intensify when the film version of the book, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, premières on September 2nd. I gather that some people who have thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail feel similarly about “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling hiking-memoir-turned-feature-film about hiking one third of the P.C.T. There is also the curious case of Paulo Coelho, the author of, among other books, “The Pilgrimage,” a best-selling account of walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the famed network of pilgrimage routes across Spain (and beyond). Coelho quit in the town of O Cebreiro, some hundred miles short of his destination, and then rode in a bus to Santiago de Compostela. According to a profile of Coelho published in this magazine in 2007, the proprietor of a hotel along the Camino told Coelho that his book had done wonders for his business. “As Hemingway was for San Fermín, you are for the pilgrimage!” he exclaimed.

The question arises: why are the three most famous accounts of hiking three of the world’s most famous long-distance trails written by people who did not hike the whole distance?

One obvious answer: great writers are simply less athletic than your average human. But this theory crumbles upon closer inspection. John Muir walked a thousand miles, from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico, while Vachel Lindsay walked from Illinois to New Mexico, Matsuo Bashō walked the length of Honshu and back, Rory Stewart walked across the mountains of South Asia, Robyn Davidson walked across Australia, and Patrick Leigh Fermor walked across Europe.

In fact, I would argue that the loneliness and skull-bound nature of a long-distance hike fits quite nicely with the thinking out, if not the actual writing, of books. The dusty back aisles of Amazon are glutted with first-person accounts of successful thru-hikes, most of which tend to be buffed-up re-writes of the author’s trail journal. These books have a limited audience (namely, other thru-hikers), whereas the books that become best-sellers speak to people who would never embark on a long-distance hike in the first place. “A book about hiking the Appalachian Trail? Spare me. I could imagine it: We walked. We saw trees. We went up. We went down,” snarked a 1998 article in the New York Times, before praising the many charms of Bryson’s book.

The rare best-sellers leap this pitfall by hitching onto other well-established genres: Bryson’s is a humorous travelogue, Strayed’s a memoir about healing, and Coelho’s a quest novel. They also avoid the doldrums of strict, day-by-day linear storytelling. Instead, Bryson chunks his trip into discrete regions, drilling down into the history of each; Strayed pares the story back to a string of anecdotes, and then interweaves them with flashbacks from her rocky upbringing; and Coelho structures the walk around a series of spiritual “exercises”—battle a dog, climb a waterfall, raise a cross—assigned by his guide, Petrus. The reader is never tempted to skip ahead to see if the author finished the trek or not, because that has ceased to be the point.

Finally, all three narrators share the nervous, wide-eyed enthusiasm of a greenhorn. Reading the list of extraneous items that Bryson and Strayed packed for their thru-hikes—folding cutlery, a plastic dish, a spare gas bottle, four bandannas, a “big knife for killing bears and hillbillies”; a towel, binoculars, a foldable saw, a stainless-steel digging trowel, a metal votive-candle lantern, shampoo, conditioner, a hairbrush—made this minimalist’s teeth grind. But I imagine that a non-hiker might read that same list and think, “Oh wow, is that all? For four months?” Because they began in places of utter ineptitude and painfully ascended to the status of hardened veterans, Strayed, Bryson, and Coelho were able to fashion engaging emotional trajectories for their books. But that same lack of preparation and training made it exceedingly difficult for them to finish the trail, so they were ultimately forced to trim back their ambitions.

It has been twelve years since I last read A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail I picked it up once following my thru-hike, but I found I was too close to the material; I quibbled over every description, guffawed over every misstep. Recently, while working on my own book about trails, I picked up my old copy again. Reading it as a writer, rather than a hiker, it felt fresh. In a voice at turns erudite, acid, and tender, it somehow manages to provide a brisk overview of both the long history and the vast expanse of the trail. Bryson captures the alienating shift in perception that attends a return to civilization from an extended stay in the wilderness, and uses that weird lens to inspect the more grotesque aspects of American society. He manages to sound the depths of a lifelong friendship without becoming maudlin. And he ultimately succeeds in claiming a personal victory from an otherwise botched expedition. In the book’s concluding pages, he catalogues all he gained from his hike: “For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for the wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of woods. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists. I made a friend. I came home.”

In the end, as at the beginning, I found “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail to be a delightful little book. Still, I don’t care what anybody, including the author, says: Bill Bryson did not hike the Appalachian Trail.

Buy A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Views of Dumbleton Church

Thank you to Brooke Rozorio for sending me these recent shots of Dumbleton church to share with you all.

Help to fund Wild Carpathia 4

After a glorious few weeks enjoying Italy, its food, landscape and sites, I am returned and will get some interesting posts up on the blog. First up is an appeal to help fund the fourth in the wonderful series Wild Carpathia which will be set in winter and called White Carpathia. Charlie Ottley and the crew are looking for £50,000 to produce the film expected to be released in summer 2016. If you love Romania as much as Paddy did (and I do) then please consider helping via the Kickstarter page where Charlie makes a very impassioned plea for your support surrounded by beautiful images of Romania. Together, let’s make this happen!

Here’s what Charlie says on Facebook:

Hello everyone and……help!. We need to make another Wild Carpathia urgently – to promote the beauty of Romania through the winter, and show the world what an amazing country this is, any time of the year, especially given recent bad press like The Romanians Are Coming on UK’s Channel Four. In light of further illegal logging and the recent scandal involving Schweighofer we must again highlight the plight of Europe’s last great forest.

We also need to protect the cultural heritage of Romania’s rural areas, by encouraging, Eco-tourism, sensitive development and modernisation. The film we must make to help do this, will be seen by millions of people across the world (the previous episodes had over 3 million hits online) and screened first on Romanian national television. We have half the money from foreign donors. Help us raise the other half so this can be a film for Romania by Romania, something we can all be proud of. Even a few euros each will make a big difference. And please forward this post. if you and your friends all contribute, we can make this happen – together. Click on the following link and go to our Kickstarter Campaign.

Enjoy the previous films here on You Tube.

Episode One: Wild Carpathia

Episode Two: From the Mountains to the Sea

Episode Three: Wild Forever

The reader’s guide to walking: Why we do it and what we think about it

Walking for pleasure … No, let me start again. Walking as a recreational activity dates only from the late 18th century. Prior to that human beings walked because they had to – either they were nomadic or walking was their only way of going on a necessary journey. The Wordsworth family were pioneers; William and his sister Dorothy ate up the miles around their home in Grasmere. To read Dorothy’s journals is to be flabbergasted by how much walking the pair did, most days, in all seasons, all weathers, walking for maybe three hours at a time, Dorothy in her ankle-length skirts, and often just for a cup of tea. The curious side to this is how often Dorothy reports one or both of them as “ill” – bowel problems it seems – they got the exercise right but not the diet.

by Gerard Windsor

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 2015

Yet the Wordsworths were primitives on the recreational walking scene; generally they went out their own front door and were home the same day. As the 19th century wore on and the railways opened up, walkers could select a protracted itinerary far from home. That sub-species of travel writing, the record of the walking tour, was born.

First among the writers were the now unread George Borrow, and the rather more read R. L. Stevenson with his 1879 Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes​ (read not least because of its re-enactment by the young Richard Holmes in his 1985 Footsteps). The genre flourished in the 20th century – Hilaire Belloc’s The Path to Rome (1902), Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958), Patrick Leigh Fermor​’s trilogy of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul between 1933 and 1935 … On and on they stride.

Walking of this kind is a rarefied activity, restricted to the better-off citizens of First World countries. Compulsory walking, the endless forced marches of pedestrian refugees, is as common as ever. And over the whole enterprise of walking hangs the armageddon imagined by Cormac McCarthy in The Road where there’s no alternative, if there’s to be any salvation at all, but to walk. For a man such as McCarthy, whose other fiction has been so equestrian centred, this pedestrianism is the ultimate degradation.

Meanwhile leisure walking is a snowballing business, and increasingly up for analysis. A Foucault scholar, Frederic Gros​, has given us A Philosophy of Walking, a fair example of the Gallic intellectual’s blend of non-sequential abstraction and soaring rhetoric.

Gros doesn’t actually let on whether he himself has so much as walked to the boulangerie, but he does micro-studies of prodigious walkers, notably Rimbaud and Nietzsche. Given that one gave up his poetical vocation for a career (highly unsuccessful) in trade, and the other went mad, I can’t unravel Gros’ argument. But he does make one striking point – walking is very monotonous but never boring. I think that’s a very French, and fair, sort of distinction.

Much more feet on the ground is Canadian Dan Rubinstein​’s Born to Walk, an encyclopaedia of the benefits of walking, scary to the delinquent and cheering to the virtuous.

It’s full of facts and the results of studies – sitting is the new smoking, the catastrophic plunge in the number of children walking to school is in inverse proportion to the rise in obesity levels, regular exercise in a park or forest will halve chances of developing a mental illness, Australian adults average 9700 steps each day while Americans only manage 5100, and there was an epidemic of the wonderfully named hysterical fugue, alias dromomania, alias compulsive wandering, in Europe in the late 1800s.

Rubinstein, who likes to walk in the snow, is earnest, and also very secular, so that he’s sniffy about pilgrimages. But they’re not to be sneezed at; the walk to Santiago de Compostela​ is engendering books on an industrial scale: pioneer producers included David Lodge (solid), Paulo Coelho​ (an acquired taste), Shirley MacLaine (nutty).

For many Santiago pilgrims the walk ends on the Galician coast, at Finisterre. So Land’s End in Cornwall is also a fitting terminus for a walk. The superb Yorkshire poet, Simon Armitage, recently elected the new Professor of Poetry at Oxford, spent three weeks on the road in 2013, starting from Porlock (of Coleridgean memory) in Somerset and following the South West Coast Path for 250 miles to Land’s End. (He actually went on to the Scilly Isles, but not being Jesus he had to take a boat, so Land’s End is where he stopped walking.)

He records the trip in Walking Away, a sequel to his Walking Home, an account of his 2010 walk along the Pennine Way, the spine of England. He ends his new book unequivocally: “I won’t be doing any more long walks.” Twenty pages earlier he records his father (a great bit part) phoning him and saying, “I think this will be your last long walk”. Armitage comments “it’s less of an observation and more of an instruction, issued partly out of concern for my skeletal structure and partly as a response to increased child care duties.”

I wouldn’t bet on either of them being right. For both walks Armitage arranged in advance to give a reading every evening, pass a capacious sock around at the end, and spend the night as a guest of the local organiser. The strategy works well, and so do the books. Not least because Armitage is a born humorist, particularly adept at recording (or maybe recreating) snatches of dialogue. At his last reading, on the island of Tresco, a woman asks if she can come up and read some of his work.

” ‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea,’ I say. ‘I’ll be good at it. I’m an auctioneer,’ she replies.”

Walking books rely on two staples – the trials and the encounters of the way (once upon a time these were combined – dragons, or giants). Armitage’s encounters are fleeting; his hosts for the night, locals who accompany him part of the way. His family pop up in cameo appearances and he is joined periodically by his oldest male friend, an apparently charming sponger known as Slug. There is also a beautifully delivered story about someone thanked in the Acknowledgements as “the hooded lady who propositioned me on the path between Clovelly and Hartland Quay”.

In all these encounters Armitage presents himself as reticent, but readily recording the topics of the garrulous. There is no suggestion of any conversations about emotional issues or the meaning of life. It’s that sort of book. In one way Armitage’s main encounter is with the landscape. A student of geography at university, he weaves precision of observation and naming with a poet’s unforced lyricism.

The second staple of the walking book are the trials. The grimmer the better. I can’t think of a greater masterpiece of the genre than Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s 1922 The Worst Journey in the World, his account of an ordeal that no human should have survived during Scott’s fatal expedition to the Antarctic. Beside this account anything else is a stroll, a doddle. Cherry-Garrard has permanent rights to his title.

For Armitage the Pennines were infinitely bleaker than the South Coast, the weather far worse, his chances of getting lost stronger, the likelihood of his giving up more immediate. This gives an edge and a tension to Walking Home that Walking Away lacks, but the pair are a treat, just the things to slip into for a winter hike, around the heater.

Gerard Windsor’s most recent book is Angels Before Me: The Road to Santiago. He is about to attempt the European Peace Walk from Vienna to Trieste