Paddy’s 10th anniversary – a personal commemoration by James Down

After calling for ideas to remember Paddy on the 10th anniversary of his death, James Down asked if he could offer a small personal memory. Here are James’ photos and his commemoration.

I’m not sure it would be of interest, but just after I graduated, in fear of never having the chance again, I did a trip in 2014, starting at Paddy’s House, then hitchhiking up through the Balkans to Croatia, catching a boat across to Italy, then walking all the way back home, to Sussex on my own. The thing I thought may appeal or be relevant to the anniversary is that I have some pictures of Paddy’s house as it was before anything was updated as part of the Benaki project. I also fell asleep there, to escape the heat, inside the arched entrance way and had an amusing encounter with a very shocked Elpida. I’d be happy to contribute them, captions and/or an explanation as a stand-alone, or perhaps as a part of wider mosaic of your reader’s personal interactions or memories with Paddy and his wider orbit.

By James Down.

I live in Kigali, Rwanda and have been a follower [of the blog] since 2012 when I discovered Paddy as a student. The accounts, biographies, memoirs and historic content of the blog I use frequently, to remember the life and opportunity there is out there, when stuck at a desk, unable to get out anywhere. As well as to remind myself there is more than one’s job around every corner, if you look.

Paddy’s house, as everyone says, is hard to find amongst olive groves and cypress trees. It is also as beautiful and as personally designed as everyone says. The Taygeytus Mountains do indeed soar up and away behind it from the sparkling sea. 

In fear of never having the chance again I did a trip on foot across Europe after graduating. I started at Paddy’s House, then hitchhiked up through the Balkans to Croatia, catching a boat across to Italy, then walking back home, to Sussex, on my own. It is clear that Paddy’s writing, character and spirit had a hand in all of this and so I felt his home would make a good starting point. 

What I think was his writing room was the first thing I came across, separated from the main house, which still had piles of books stacked on tables inside it at the time. Then the flowing, concentric, pebbled-patterns of the spreading terrace.There were the stairs down to the small half-moon shaped beach, looking out to a small island in the glittering sea. I sat on a carved pew inside the vaulted stone entrance to the house, cool compared to the crackling heat outside. The books, the open wooden doors and wooden shutters, the smell of rosemary and lemon verbena made me feel like someone had just left. The house that had known so much life was now quiet, but it was not a void, it hadn’t let go of the special feeling I imagined it had held.

After a swim and a quick walk I returned to the vaulted inner terrace and fell asleep on my pack. What must have been a couple of hours later, when the shadows were getting longer, I was woken very suddenly and remembered that, technically, I was trespassing. I recognised Elpida straight away from her photographs in Artermis Cooper’s book, she was as shocked as I was. I said hello and sorry in the same breath and gathered up my things to leave. I apologised again and made my way through the olive groves back to Kardamyli, stopping a little distance away above the house to look back at the house. 

I am very lucky to have been able to see it, alone, for a few hours, as it roughly must have been at the time of his death. I felt Paddy would excuse the trespassing and would have given me his blessing as I began my own walk. 

I am certainly not alone in having been affected by Paddy and his approach to life. But I do hope this escapade and experience provide a slightly different and personal vignette of the famous house on the occasion of his 10th anniversary.

4 thoughts on “Paddy’s 10th anniversary – a personal commemoration by James Down

  1. Jeremy Bassetti

    Great post here and wonderful images of the house and the writing room. Hopefully I can visit one day. Thanks for sharing. Just a note to say that my podcast on Paddy (Travel Writing World) will be published on Monday. I speak with Artemis Cooper, Nick Hunt, and Colin Thubron leaves drops in. It is a bit late for the 10-year, but I suppose better than never. Anyway, thanks for your work here (as always). Cheers!

    Reply
  2. jim wade

    Thanks, much appreciated; great pics and beautifully written, a memorable experience nicely evoked. I suspect that your relationship with Paddy is similar to that of many his admirers; you express it perfectly. Enjoy ‘your’ Africa. Paddy’s experience there, as you doubtless know, was brief, dramatic and hilarious. (I lived in Nigeria for 49 years, so can empathise.)

    Reply
  3. jim wade

    Thanks; much appreciated! Great pics and beautifully written. Lucky you! Your relationship with Paddy is I suspect similar to that of many of his ‘fans’, but you express it especially well. Enjoy your Africa! (I lived in Nigeria for 49 years!!)

    Reply
  4. Barbara Boling

    Thank you for sharing your memories. You write so beautifully. I have been a fan of the great Paddy for many years and still hope to someday visit his home.

    Reply

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