How to respond to a Greek tragedy

My post yesterday about the condition of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s house in Kardamyli – A Greek Tragedy? – appears to have stirred up the proverbial hornets nest which can be evidenced in the comments below the article and in the PLF groups on Facebook. Whilst everyone appears to share the disappointment, there is a split between those that say that “this is Greece and it will get sorted out in a Greek way” which appears to be a euphemism for “a long time”, and those who hold up their hands and say “something should be done”, and quickly.

dsc07296Let’s continue the debate on here. Many useful suggestions have been made. Some have talked about crowdfunding. Whilst this sounds good it is worth noting that the funds to restore the house are very substantial indeed; that attempts have been made to assist (see PLF Society aims); and maybe that funding is not the issue as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation appear to have offered the cash. Others have suggested raising the profile and mentioned contacting the BBC journalist John Humphreys who owns a house in the Mani and broadcast a BBC Radio 4 programme about Paddy and his Mani life a couple of years ago. If anyone has a direct line to him, then please go ahead as all publicity or pressure must surely help.

Unsurprisingly I have come in for some personal criticism for even mentioning the state of the house and appearing to blame the Benaki. A few have even gone so far as taking what I have written as implicit criticism of Greece, its people, Nana Mouskouri, and the Greek way of doing things. It is certainly not the latter but I am very critical of the Benaki who could at least take some basic measures like properly securing the house and its contents against the weather and intruders, and closing it to visitors until such time as proper arrangements can be made. They could also be more effective in their communications and keep to their stated timetable with regards to public updates.

One person has suggested that the most effective thing would be for all concerned to address their concerns directly to the Benaki. You can do this by emailing plfproject@benaki.gr

What I can assure you is that the Paddy blog remains independent of all organisations and pressure.  The views expressed are mine, and often yours. I will support the Benaki when it communicates effectively with all of us and demonstrates some real progress, for we, his fans and admirers, are stakeholders just as much as the Benaki management.

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17 thoughts on “How to respond to a Greek tragedy

  1. R W Seibert

    The prudent and minimal course would be to ensure the house is “in the dry”-water tight roof, doors, and windows-to protect the contents. This shouldn’t be an exorbitant expense.

    Reply
  2. Kim Rowan

    Hello. I’m in Australia, but if I lived in Europe I would be prepared to go to Kardamyli personally to contribute manual work to help to preserve the house until such time that future arrangements get going. It looks as though simple repairs, cleaning and maintenance may be useful. Perhaps the authorities could oversee a group of people collectively making their small contibutions? I am aware that this suggestion may sound naive, but many great things have been accomplished by this method in the past. People who care about this issue could offer their skills, as the flim maker above has, to move things forward. It’s a wonderful way to spend holiday time and money. For many, involvement with the house would be such an appealing proposition that there would surely be no shortage of people willing to pitch in. I understand that the Benaki has a plan, and the authority. Is there someone out there who has the skills to offer to work with them to draw up a possible, speedy plan to enable something along these lines? As far as I’m concerned this is a world heritage site. The people that agree would be happy to contribute if able.

    Reply
  3. Alison

    Oh the Art of perception and misconception!

    Having visited the home of PLF 5 weeks ago, I would like to commend the Benaki Museum and Elpida for ensuring the memory of Paddy lives on, and is accessible to all enthusiasts.

    Elpida and her colleague, escorted the visitors at all times, and yes, indeed we were allowed to fondly caress Paddy’s possessions. The atmosphere was one of reverance, profound respect and homage.

    I find it highly unlikely, that those present, were contemplating ” removing and pocketing” Paddy’s possessions! as you suggested.

    Anyone wanting information about the future of PLF’s house should contact Irini Geroulanou, Myrto Kaouki at the Benaki Museum.
    Tel 210 3671010 or 210 3671090
    Email plfproject@benaki.gr

    I personally feel, that attempts to “shame” or “criticise” are not constructive or proactive and not in the “true spirit of Paddy”

    As you rightly say, there was a stipulation “not to take photographs,” which sadly, I note you felt unable to respect!

    Your impression that the property is “dilapidated” Is pehaps a little overstated. Yes the woodwork is rotten, but the main stone structure is sound.

    The tours, and the 10 euros, entrance fee, has ensured the employment of 3 local people.
    Whilst we were viewing, a cleaner was also present, maintaining the general upkeep of treasured possessions.

    I welcome the opportunity to share my personal experience and appreciate that we all have our own and quite different perspectives.

    Reply
  4. Aidan O'Sullivan

    I havent been back here in this blog about PLF for some years, but was stunned to read this. What was it John Betjeman said, this was “one of the great rooms of the world”? It shouldn’t become a dead shrine or mausoleum to PLF’s writings – and it should be still a living room, within sensitive limits, for conversations, ideas, discussion. But neither should it be possible for masses of people to simply wander through it, thumbing their way through volumes, reordering the books, picking up postcards, perhaps walking away with something… As an archaeologist I would say this is a room in which everything is connected, people, places, things, memories, actions…books. It can be better than this…

    Reply
  5. Nassos Papalexandrou

    I agree with one of the commentators that the Benaki museum should care for the house exactly as it cares for other treasures in its possession. Patric Leigh Fermor’s creative life extended to (and was largely shaped by) the material universe he and Joan inhabited. It is therefore difficult to understand why the house does not receive the care it deserves as one of the cultural treasures of modern Greece. It is true that the Benaki museum has had its tribulations recently (e.g. the resignation of Dr. Delivorrias’s successor to the directorship) and is currently in transition but this does not go far enough to explain what seems to be an obvious case of neglect. I wonder whether what remains in place inside the house has been inventoried and documented with the usual methods of documentation for archival and preservation purposes.

    Reply
  6. Willie Scraggs

    What makes PLF worth remembering is not his shoes, his tie, his library, or dare I say even his house. It is the books which he wrote. Why not sell the house and contents – on condition of erection of a suitable plaque visible from the road – and use the proceeds for a bursary for an aspirant, but down at heel, travel writer? The new owners of the house would reinstate it to its former glory, or level it or whatever. And so nature, including life and death, would be again free to take its course.

    Reply
  7. Terry Moyemont

    Should there be a need to communicate this situation more effectively, I am available to produce a short video documentary on the house (plus additional materials) that might be a visual card to trump this inaction. I spent a number of years shooting the traditional village life in the Amari Valley of Kriti – Paddy’s bailiwick during the Kreipe operation. (Paddy had suggested to me that the village of Vizari would be a perfect place to capture the Cretan life.) For the cost of sending me there and putting me up, plus a modest stipend to keep my homefires burning, I would be quite glad to make something that might wake up the Seven Sleeper of Benaki. If anhyone would like to see my work, please go to my YouTube Channel. I suggest the following piece as representative samples:
    “On Tour with the Blue Berets” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAMXNO4HWNY)
    “The Glass Dimension” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDklShxbodg)
    “The Vlastos Farma” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKXf78Uggw8)
    It has been my dream, too, to visit Paddy;s house. I would love to be part of making sure that it continues to exist. This is a prime requirement of true myth.
    Terry Moyemont: info@headofsteamvideo.com

    Reply
  8. Triantaphyllo

    Thanks Tom for your blog and allowing replies. It has formed an interesting debate; allowing more clarity on the situation and hearing the different views of the posts here.
    There seems to be a large number of people out there willing to offer support and ideas to the project and of course the Benaki wants it to be a success too as they have outlined in their plans and costings.
    So, if I am correct, the blockage currently stopping this from moving forward is in the communication as well as the finances. It would be great if we could hear from the good people at the Benaki here so we know what support to offer. You have given us their contact details but I wonder if we could invite them to post something here?

    Reply
    1. proverbs6to10 Post author

      I have asked them to respond – having requested an update earlier – and of course I will post it here if anything is forthcoming. But what I am not saying is that “regular communication” is any substitute for real action in and on the house.

      Reply
      1. Triantaphyllo

        I quite agree Tom, but when we know exactly what it is they need next, then the myriad of ideas and possible contributions people have, that might be helpful (ie the action) , have no where to go.

        Reply
  9. samahab2000

    PLF left such a legacy for Greece, the Greek people and the world. To let his legacy fall into ruin is a shameful thing. I am Greek, I am also a devoted follower of PLF and his writings. No, there is no ‘Greek way’ excuse. There is a right way and a wrong way. This problem must be addressed sooner rather than later. Approaching high profile individuals is a good way to start. There are many ‘big ‘ names associated with PLF. Perhaps the Chatsworth estate or the publishing houses . This is a good way to start. When his belongs are gone and he house caves in on itself….then it will be too late.

    Reply
  10. Alun James Davies

    Thanks Tom for bringing this to our attention. It is clearly time to seek support and get things moving. Disregard any adverse criticism – it will be from those who prefer to sit on their hands.

    Reply
    1. proverbs6to10 Post author

      Thank you Alun. I can assure you I don’t worry about any criticism and certainly I don’t take it personally.

      Reply
  11. WJ

    It does alarm when the winter is coming on and the damp weather will just further deteriorate what has already started to disintegrate. It needs someone living there and managing it – whether appointed by the Benaki or the PLF Society – it doesn’t matter. Action needs to start,
    and quickly. You are quite right to voice everyone’s concern.

    Reply
  12. Paul Kelly

    Well done Tom. Let’s keep up the pressure. Without your post I would have been none the wiser as to the conditions of the house. It has left me angered. I am also surprised at the perceived “touchiness” of some people when justified criticism has been leveled.

    Reply
  13. antoon Van Coillie

    I think you have done the right thing ! it is important to mention this & it will have effect . It also shows that a lot care about the memory of PLF. If people take offense, then remember : Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense , or if a shoe fits, put it on . I was in touch with the PLF Societry & they are following this also . But maybe the house should become a private charity working together woth the Museum.

    Reply

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