Thos Henley’s personal tribute to Paddy

Thos Henley at Paddy's door

Thos Henley is a young musician and cites Paddy as one of his major influences and inspirations. He has already written two articles for the Blog and felt moved to provide his own tribute to Paddy …..

“A splendid afternoon to set out”, these were the first words that I read of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, the first of his beautifully constructed sentences that I whispered out loud to myself in a miasma of wanderlust; the first words of A Time of Gifts.

It is hard to sum up in words what this book and this man mean to me. Paddy has become somewhat of a deity for me and my travels in the last few years. I remember there was a time when I toyed and teased with the idea of walking to Italy and I knew at the back of my skull, deep in my conscious that this lust for walking was substantial, but at that time I had no real reason to do so. Paddy was my reason. I discovered A Time of Gifts in an old dusty maze of a bookshop in England’s old capital, in Winchester and was first stopped in my tracks by the wonderfully sharp, romantic imagery of John Craxton’s front cover. But this was nothing compared to the prose, memories, history and romance that inhabited its fading pages.

The storks that flow through his European rambles flick and swoop through the milestones of his adventures and I think I will always have a memory, a sight of those migrating long necked birds as they followed him through cold Holland, into shape-shifting Germany as he turned nineteen, and onto Stuttgart where he imitated the constructed Mr Brown, and from there; a drunken night in Prague, a lonely night in Hungary and onto Greece, love, war, heroism, Cairo, love again, legacy and literature. I wake every day in envy of this life of his and wonder how I (in my infinite competitive nature that inhabits all wistful youth) could ever match, or come close to this man. But with this jealousy, has revolved structure and reason. With the words of A Time of Gifts, or Between The Woods and The Water, Or Travellers Tree, A Time to Keep Silence, and the crackling, volcanic prose of his short, sharp masterpiece; The Violins of Saint Jacques, I have faith in this ever deteriorating, modern, seemingly unromantic world that we live in.

I visited Paddy’s house last year, on a personal crusade. It was my Hellespont, though the journey was less rough. He was too tired and old then to see me and I completely understood his situation. As I sat outside his house and wrote down a scribbled confession of my devotion for his personage, and wrapped the letter around my old Swedish compass, I could hear his deep dark voice, speaking Greek, still with his old fashioned, distinguished English accent, and that was enough for me. I will always remember that moment, when I was yards away from greatness and blessed enough to hear its tone.

I am (as I type this tribute) recording my first proper album entitled “In Hearing Taste” which features a song of the same title. This is my song to Paddy and I hope in some way it will live on along his words, his life and his memory, as an accolade and a tribute to what he stood, and stands for.

I could go on and on about what this man has meant to me and how he inspires me. In September of this year I aim to move to a small Greek island where 600 old Greek ladies live a simple, hermit like life. Greece has become a refuge for me. A place where legends lived and where relaxation and creativity swim side by side in caves and in cool, turquoise shores. Byron lived, rode and died in Messolonghi, Cohen found the guitar in Hydra, Durrell fell in love with Cyprus and Rhodes and of course Leigh Fermor built his house in the Mani. These are my influences, my heroes, the men to whom I escape to when a mobile phone rings, or when the buzz of electricity takes over silence, and thus I will join them in the Hellenic dream.

And so now, as Paddy has had to leave us, is our time to keep silence. Indeed we have a well stacked, inherited future in front of us, for he has left us with his legacy, his talent, his wit and his gift. Now is the time to open that gift, and indulge ourselves in his heroism and his beauty; he is our icon. Now is the time of gifts and I must say, it is a splendid afternoon to set out on this adventure that he has rolled out in front of us.

Thomas James Henley

Paris, June 2011

Related articles:

I knew Patrick Leigh Fermor through his words, and he will know me by mine

Lawrence Durrell and Patrick Leigh Fermor by Thos Henley


1 thought on “Thos Henley’s personal tribute to Paddy

  1. nugae

    Yes, indeed. The only true response to Paddy’s life is not to admire him or even to try to be him. It is to be us.

    As the thrown bloater to the sea-lion, so should life be to us.


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