Walking home for Christmas like a tramp

Tom in Bath at journey's end 2014

Tom in Bath at journey’s end 2014

Last year many of you made generous contributions to help me raise £2,500 for the homeless charity Shelter. This year I am almost doubling the distance I walk, and the nights out sleeping rough in the cold December weather, to achieve a doubling of the target to £5,000.

By Tom Sawford.

In December I will walk along the byways of England from the parish church of Ottery St Mary in Devon to Winchester Cathedral to raise awareness of the curses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and related homelessness. The route of around 120 miles will take me about 5-6 days and I will walk as a tramp, living off the goodwill of strangers, and sleeping rough in order to meet the goal of raising £5,000 for two charities that work tirelessly to assist those who struggle with these issues.

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading Veterans’ mental health charity. Mental ill-health such as PTSD affects ex-Service men and women of all ages. Right now, the charity supports over 5,900 Veterans aged from 18 to 97, and spends over £15 million per annum delivering its unique range of specialist treatment and welfare support which is always free of charge.

Winchester Churches Nightshelter provides a vital lifeline to the homeless, and remains the only night shelter offering direct access emergency accommodation in Hampshire. They support up to 200 homeless people annually. Residents benefit from a programme of practical and emotional support to help them to rebuild their lives and escape homelessness for good. Many of the people they deal with are ex-military. There is a direct link between mental health problems such as PTSD and homelessness. Money raised will go direct to the homeless which I feel may be a better outcome than through a larger charity.

I hope that you will feel inspired to support the fundraising and make some (doubly !!!) generous contributions at the Just Giving page where you can choose to split your donations between the two charities if you wish.

Some of you have asked about joining the walk and you would be very welcome to do so for some or all of the route. The dates are likely to be 12th or 13th December to 17th or 18th although these could shift to the right by a couple of days. I will publish the full route very soon.

There is a public Facebook page if you want to follow the progress. https://www.facebook.com/walkinghomeforchristmas/

Thank you all very much. Please donate here. https://www.justgiving.com/teams/likeatramp

#combatstress #homelessness #homeless #veterans


Paddy’s World

None who attended the talk by John Julius Norwich on Tuesday were disappointed, as he gave a wonderfully warm and personal tribute to Paddy. One Greek lady praised John Julius so highly for his talk and his work as a Byzantine historian that she described him as “the loveliest man living”!

By Tom Sawford.

Apart from a few hearing difficulties there was little to indicate that age had slowed John Julius. His voice was strong and his recall of the times he spent with Paddy and Joan was vivid. He quoted a lot from letters between Paddy and his mother, Diana Cooper, to emphasise the range and scale of Paddy’s intellect.

This was no hurriedly put together speech. Reading from prepared notes, it was clear that John Julius had planned the talk in detail and kept to his subject clearly answering the question “what was Paddy’s world?”. It appears that the answer was Europe, in particular, its more easterly reaches, with Greece, and the lost past of Byzantium of course, at its centre. Paddy rarely travelled beyond its boundaries, the same boundaries that I often describe as the widest extent of the Roman Empire. He travelled only once to South America, recalled in his Three Letters from the Andes, and visited North America on a single occasion at the invitation of the Greek diaspora. Apart from his wartime experience he never ventured into the Levant. Paddy’s world was the one that he had walked through in 1934, but one that he mastered by speaking all of the main languages and developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of its history and customs.

John Julius ended on a very personal note, and holding back some tears, he said that he was blessed to have known Paddy and clearly misses him. During questions he described Paddy as the least self-centred of men, rarely talking about himself, happier to entertain people with his stories and singing, and only talking about the Kreipe kidnap when pushed into a corner. We can probably recognise this Paddy; despite extensive writing we know little of his personal thoughts. Apart from his introductory letters to Xan Fielding, John Julius said that Paddy never spoke about his life before his “great trudge”.

Thank you to John Julius Norwich for a wonderful presentation, and to the PLF Society for organising a very successful evening.

Maggie Rainey-Smith’s new novel set in Greece

maggieFew of you may be familiar with the writing of Maggie Rainey-Smith, but you will most likely have seen her wonderful photographs taken at Paddy’s house during Maggie’s 2007 visit to Kalamitsi when researching the book that was to become Daughters of Messene. I am looking forward to reading more about the book but here is some background from a recent press release. You can review Maggie’s pictures and her tribute to Paddy written after his death here.

Maggie’s book is titled Daughters of Messene and seeks to shed light on the experiences of young Greek women shipped to New Zealand fifty years ago. The press release continues …

When almost 300 unmarried Greek women arrived in Wellington in the early 1960s, the established Greek community feared the scandal that might follow. Instead the women settled into life here and the event has largely been forgotten. Inspired by this migration, Maggie Rainey-Smith’s powerful third novel Daughters of Messene, explores the complex interweaving of family and political events that caused one young woman to flee Greece after the Civil War, and half a century later motivated her daughter to return.

Wellington writer Rainey-Smith’s idea for Daughters of Messene started with a friendship with her neighbour Maria, one of the original ‘Greek girls’ to settle here.

“My father was in Greece during the Second World War and was captured on Crete, spending four years as a prisoner of war in Poland,” says Rainey-Smith. “As a result, he was awarded a medal and certificate by the Greek Government in the 1980s. My neighbour at the time was Greek, and she helped me to apply to the Greek government on behalf of my dad.”

“We became good friends and I discovered that she had emigrated from Kalamata in Greece as part of a deal done between our two countries. The girls all had to be under thirty, unmarried, and they came to work in the hospitality industry. I became fascinated by their stories.”

Maggie’s two previous novels About Turns and Turbulence (Random House) are set in New Zealand, but research for her third novel – published by Wellington’s Mākaro Press working in collaboration with Whitireia publishing students – took her to Greece for three months in 2007. Although the trip wasn’t quite what she had expected.

“I spent most of my time in Kalamata searching for stories, but found that people were reluctant to speak of the Civil War. In desperation I caught a bus to the Mani and ended up staying ten days in picturesque Kardymili, where I had the great good fortune to meet eminent travel writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor. It seemed like a blessing on the story, and so I persevered with working through the secret and sometimes shocking stories of what was a terrible time for Greece.”

The book has taken seven years to write, and has been released as part of NZ Book Week this week.

Daughters of Messene is described by Owen Marshall as “A strong, fresh novel, dense with closely observed and convincing detail of life in Greece and aspects of its history.”

Greek-NZ poet Vana Manasiadis says, “In many ways Daughters of Messene is a tender love poem dedicated to a place and its people, to the profound bonds of blood, and the legacies such bonds leave us. The tale is both touching and vivid, the unfolding masterful, and the novel’s heroines, spirited, huge-hearted and tough (in the very best sense).”

You can pre-order Daughters of Messene here.


PLFS event – Paddy’s World with John Julius Norwich

John Julius Norwich in 2008

A reminder to you all that John Julius Norwich, who is patron of the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society and knew PLF for more than fifty years, will be giving a presentation at the Hellenic Centre on 10 November. This is a unique opportunity to hear from one of Britain’s greatest historians, and one of Paddy’s few remaining close friends.

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

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

RSVP info@patrickleighfermorsociety.org


Sons of Odysseus by Alan Ogden

Layout 1Sons Of Odysseus is a fascinating study of SOE heroes in Greece. Respected SOE expert and author Alan Ogden recounts how SOE missions through their courage, patience and determination, attempted to come to terms with reconciling British political and military objectives in the cauldron of internecine Greek politics.

From the very beginning, ‘political headaches’ abounded as SOE tried to establish a unified Greek resistance movement. For most Missions, it was a steep learning curve, accelerated by the experience of finding themselves in the middle of a bitter civil war during the winter of 1943 – 44, having to endure attacks by Axis occupation forces at the same time as being caught in fighting between EAM-ELAS and EDES guerrillas.

Living behind enemy lines for long periods of time, SOE officers and men were nevertheless able to bring off a series of spectacular sabotage acts and with the assistance of Greek partisan forces doggedly harassed German forces as they withdrew North in the autumn of 1944.

Ogden has been in contact with many of the families of these SOE heroes and has had access to letters, photographs and diaries. Drawing on these sources as well as official archives and published memoires, Sons Of Odysseus profiles the service records of nearly fifty SOE officers and men as they battled against a ruthless enemy, endured the privations of the Greek mountains and struggled to prevent civil strife. Their extraordinary stories illustrate the many and varied tasks of SOE missions throughout the different regions of Greece from 1942 – 44 and thus provide a fascinating collage of the history of SOE during the Axis occupation and in the run-up to the tragedy of the Greek Civil War of 1944-49.

Buy Sons Of Odysseus


Time to get your running shoes on: time for the Kreipe Run!

Kreipe runI suppose it had to happen. An endurance run is being planned for 21-22 May 2016 which will follow the general line of the Kreipe kidnap route. I’m not entirely convinced by the choice of name for the event but it is as it is.

The race is not for the faint-hearted. A distance of 100 miles, with an elevation gain of 5,500 metres all to be completed within 30 hours. It would be great to hear from any of our intrepid readers who will be signing up for this inaugural event.

Find out more here.


Travel writing creates adventurers

I saw this on the Stanfords website the other day. I liked it and thought many of you may as well.

Good travel writing makes you jealous.

It makes you want to walk in an author’s footsteps;
to see what they saw and feel what they felt.

The best travel writing inspires.

It instils the desire for discovery.

It challenges you to think new thoughts and find original experiences.

It creates adventurers.