‘A Tonic and a Treat’ – Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Celebration

Last Wednesday over seven hundred people packed out the main lecture hall of the Royal Geographic Society to hear Colin Thubron question Artemis Cooper about Paddy’s life in a joint event with the Royal Society of Literature, of which Colin is President. The event, sponsored by Art Tours, was entertaining, if perhaps a little shorter than one would have liked.

By Tom Sawford.

Artemis revealed how difficult it was to get Paddy to talk about his life, his experience and friends until on one visit to Kardamyli after Joan’s death she found every horizontal surface of his study, including the floor, covered with groaning piles of books, magazines, journals and personal correspondence (and I daresay some unpaid bills!). She offered to help him create some order and in doing so she started to ask questions: ‘I didn’t know that you had met so-and-so’ at which point Paddy, always happy to be distracted from his Herculean struggle with Vol Three, would brighten and start to expound on this outing, that visit or other glittering adventure. It was in this way that Artemis was able to make notes and get behind what she describes as the ‘waterfall’ of banter when asked directly to talk about his life.

It appears also that Paddy was perhaps always happy to receive visitors and recount old stories as he suffered both from bouts of personal depression and writer’s block.  Colin Thubron described the time that he and Paddy went for a long swim at Kardamyli and when well away from the house and others he talked to Colin about his struggles with this block, and his inability to understand this and his state of mind. Artemis said that Paddy was not ‘an intellectual’ and did not think too deeply. He was a ‘polymath’, less inclined to ask why, but rather dazzled, entertained, and fascinated by outward appearances and the sheer joy of being.

The other great excuse for not working was his correspondence with the three great correspondents of his life: Debo Devonshire, Annie Fleming and Diana Cooper. They were an ‘entertainment’ which Paddy approached with great enthusiasm and which ‘took up a lot of his time’ enabling him to divert his energies from his other writing.

We were also given a glimpse of The Broken Road (Vol Three) which is being edited jointly by Artemis and Colin. As the biography tells us it will be based almost entirely on the work that Paddy wrote in the early sixties for a US magazine ‘A Youthful Journey’ which was meant to be no more than 5,000 words. Once Paddy had reached the Romanian-Bulgarian border in this retelling he was suddenly gripped by a passion to write down this story in great detail, the result being over 50,000 words about the leg from Romania to Istanbul, although Colin said that the account does not include his time in the City.

Colin told us that this is difficult work, and they are being most careful not to add their own words. There is much work to be done but as I was told last week by Roland Phillips from John Murray, the publication date remains September 2013, not far short of the 70th anniversary of the start of Paddy’s youthful journey.

During the question and answer session a variety of subjects were raised from the condition of the house at Kardamylli – things are moving forward – to whether or not the Horace ode recitation actually did happen – yes it did but it may not have been on Mount Ida.

When it came to the last question a rather large man, wrapped in colourful braces stood up and shouted out that this was not a question but a statement, a Traveller’s Tribute. I think I could hear the whole audience groan quietly in apprehension, but all turned out well. Holding up a copy of the biography he boomed ‘This book is nothing short of a tonic and a treat! It kept me sane today during a long and boring train journey from Scotland!!’ Cue laughter and applause.

The event was sponsored by Art Tours who are arranging a tour of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Mani in the spring of 2013. Places are limited and already about half are taken so if you wish to go on this tour, which will include Artemis Cooper as a guide and key speaker, please make contact with Edward Gates at Art Tours as quickly as you can edward[at]arttoursltd.com

In addition Art Tours have 15 signed copies of the biography Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure to give away in a competition. To have a chance of winning, please send your Name, Postal Address, email address, and telephone number to Edward. Winners will be contacted in early November.

If you would like to know more about the Mani tour please download this pdf or contact Edward Gates at Art Tours Ltd on +44 (0)207 449 9707 or by email edward[at]arttoursltd.com



9 thoughts on “‘A Tonic and a Treat’ – Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Celebration

  1. Pingback: Patrick Leigh Fermor: the story was the thing « Patrick Leigh Fermor

  2. Richard Little

    UBIQUE for both, eh ! I shall tease my Gunner chums unmercifully with great take !

    On, on as we Beaglers have it and all success to your splendid Blog and initiative.


  3. Richard Little

    Dear Tom,
    Thank you for this golden opportunity to be in direct touch with you and to thank you for reporting my intervention after proceedings at the RGS on 24 October. What I actually stated was delivery of ” A Traveller’s Tribute “, which words you may not have heard, but which had been carefully thought through to go with ” tonic and treat ” , quite apart from the alliteration! I reckon, furthermore, they got in before the assembled silent groan too ! As a
    septuagenarian ‘ Former Naval ¨Person ‘ – and – ( needless to say – Paddyophile – him
    Soldier, me Sailor ) – we were taught to stand up, speak up; speak clearly, be brief and then shut up . The tribute was indeed from a traveller, even from birth and not just from Scotland ! ( And always armed with a good book _ and a spare ).Two peripatetic careers as proof, the second as an oil and gas pipeliner in some very ‘ funny places ‘. Now much looking forward to finishing the book before the Mani trip, for which applied, while entertaining my multi-lingual grandchildren here in France.

    Warm and special thanks to you personally for all you do in invigorating the eponymous blog for our hero. Repeated warm thanks to both Artemis the author and Colin the questioner. ” We are the pilgrims, Master; we shall go always a little farther.”

    Richard Little Former Naval Person

    1. proverbs6to10 Post author

      Dear Richard,

      So good to hear from you! I am glad that you enjoyed my rather weak journalistic licence but somehow one needs to keep these things both reasonably informative and light. I have edited the article slightly as you suggested; at least I hope that I got it right.

      Enjoy the Mani trip. It should be a corker.

      Tom (former Royal Engineer person!)

      1. Richard Little

        Hi Tom,

        many thanks for your reply and all sympathies with your tricky role, which I would not wish for all the tea in China ! Anyway your are clearly a professional, as well as a Former Sapper Person ! Where would any army be without this force, yet again so stupidly savaged by this Government ?
        My father was an RN Engineer and instructed Artificers at Chatham pre WW2, which task and location found him many stalwart Sapper chums to last his lifetime. I much enjoyed meeting them. Please advise Corps motto, slipped from my memory !

        FYI : the Mani trip is already full and I am – I hope – waitlisted; c’ est la vie.

        Salaams Richard

        1. proverbs6to10 Post author

          Sorry to hear that about the trip. Someone may yet drop out.

          The Corps motto is Ubique, which for us means everywhere. The Gunners have the same motto but for them it means all over the shop 🙂


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