As many of you may know, John Chapman, the author of Mani Guide, not only provides us with excellent pictures (here) and comments, he also a regular correspondent to the blog and contributes articles which I am always happy to share with you. Here is his most recent note to me. Clearly the man has too much time on his hands. Lucky him!
I spent the whole of April 2013 in Mani. A welcome change from that never-ending British winter. I was perched in an isolated house high above the Messenian Gulf with views over Kalamata and the distant Arcadian mountains. Often just accompanied by the tinkle of goat bells and hum of bees, and the loud meows of the two feral cats who adopted me.
Kardamili was 15 minutes drive away. I didn’t revisit Paddy’s villa, but I did talk to a number of locals, and foreigners who’d known him and the house. Prof. David Mason – Poet Laureate of Colorado, no less, was over with a group of extremely keen, bright eyed and bushy tailed students. Dave had lived in Kardamili in the ‘70s and had lived rough, with his first wife, in a small hut just above Paddy’s villa. He was soon invited for lunch by Paddy and Joan and remained a close friend and correspondent with them until Paddy’s death. I’d met Dave in Oxford some few years ago and it was great to see him again over dinner, with other locals and his students, overlooking the harbour at Kardamili.
David’s book, ‘News from the Village’ (Red Hen Press. 2010. ISBN 1597094714.) is highly recommended as a portrait of an American’s love affair with Greece and Kardamili in particular. He’d shown his students the hut he’d lived in, and they’d all swam off the same rocks as Paddy had. Frankly the Med’ in April is damned cold, and I certainly didn’t emulate them, but as one of them commented, ‘we’re tough in Colorado!’
Things were quiet in Kardamili. The Greek Easter was exceptionally late, early May. And I therefore had time to sit over a frappé or two with various friends. No-one was certain what was going to happen with Paddy’s house. Though towards the end of the month I heard, unverifiable of course, that a rich Englishman was going to restore the house, live in it for three months of the year, and let the Benaki Foundation use it for the remaining 9 months. We’ll see.
One myth I wanted to enquire about was Paddy’s linguistic skills. He certainly could speak Greek fluently, but some have claimed he spoke it like a native. I’ve seen TV footage of him speaking Greek and frankly his accent struck me as being very posh English. I asked someone from the Troupakis family, who knew him well, who confirmed my suspicions. Paddy had perfect Greek, but a marked English accent.
He was also an appalling driver. One of the Dimitreas family (Paddy’s Mourtzinos family) had once lovingly repainted their boat, only to have Paddy reverse ineptly into it. It seems it was a toss of the coin as to who drove the car. Joan was allegedly just as bad a driver!
Another oddity is that when Paddy signed a copy of his book about the Mani he would often draw a sketch of the coast near his house. This was reasonably accurate and certainly evocative. But he invariably added in about four or five seagulls. Very odd as they are a rarity in the Mani, and I’ve never seen more than one solitary seagull flapping over the bay in the more than twenty years I’ve been visiting the area.
Catch up with more of John’s contributions and photos by clicking here.
If you would like to send something to me to share with your fellow Friends of Paddy you can find out how in the About section.
David Mason also has an article in “The Sewanee Review”,summer, 2007, about his friendship with Paddy–entitled “Getting to know Michali”.
Indeed he has. And has written a number of poems about Kalamitsi. Plus other articles. Try googling his name and Paddy’s.
Robert – I have a copy but need to tidy it up and will publish later this summer
I have just had a look at my signed copy of Mani. I have the usual cloud with half a dozen seagulls. Still, that’s better than just the signature which on its own was always welcomed.
Yes, I don’t have a picture signature, merely a signed Book Club edition. But I’ve a scan of a fly leaf with the sketch. Maybe seagulls were more abundant in the sixties, as would have been the fish they fed on? Then again I’d guess it was merely Paddy’s artistic licence.