Author Archives: proverbs6to10

About proverbs6to10

Interested in Byzantium and Patrick Leigh Fermor

Adventures for Harriet – A literary hike along Paddy’s route in memory of Harriet Clarke

As those who correspond with me know, I can be very slow to follow-up on the messages and suggestions that so many of you send me, but on the whole I do tend to catch-up eventually. Jennie Harrison Bunning, who is in charge of Marketing and Publicity at the always brilliant Slightly Foxed – a quarterly magazine for book-lovers who don’t feel entirely at home in the here-today-and-gone-tomorrow world of overnight publishing sensations and over-hyped new books – got in touch just one month ago to tell me about a great cause that they are supporting, and as it is Paddy (and Nick Hunt) related, I’m happy to bring it to your attention, and to ask for your support.

Jennie wrote:

Dear Tom

Congratulations on your very good website pertaining to all things PLF! It’s a brilliant tribute, and filled with really useful and interesting content.

I’m writing to let you know about an upcoming Paddy-related adventure that I hope you’ll find of interest. On 1 May 2017 Katy Macmillan-Scott is embarking on a 600-mile journey by foot across Europe, in memory of her best friend Harriet Clarke and to raise awareness for Never Too Young, Bowel Cancer UK’s campaign for the under 50s. Her route will follow the first leg of Paddy’s 1933 journey, from the Hook of Holland to Budapest.

We all very much enjoyed Nick Hunt’s book about his experience of walking in Paddy’s footsteps and I believe Katy has been in touch with Nick who’s been encouraging. It’s the same trip but will perhaps rather different through the eyes of a ‘lady adventurer’, as such! You can find out more about her walk here: https://www.adventuresforharriet.co.uk/

At Slightly Foxed we’re going to be supporting Katy by donating proceeds from book sales, and by sharing news of her journey through our news and social media channels. She’s an incredibly inspiring young woman and has already almost doubled her fund-raising goal of £1000, which is brilliant.

Just to give you a quick overview of what we’re doing.

· We’re donating 10% of the sale price of all books listed on our online shop here: https://foxedquarterly.com/products/adventures-for-harriet-a-literary-hike-from-rotterdam-to-istanbul/

· On Friday 24 March we ran this full-length article on A Time of Gifts in our newsletter to subscribers

· While Katy is away (1 – 20 May) we’re going to be sharing a daily extract from A Time of Gifts and other books, interspersed with Katy’s diary entries, original archive images and photos from her trip, on our blog and through social media channels.

· We’ll be using the tag #adventuresforharriet and #literaryadventure (among others) and will start to post fairly regularly from now on. Our Instagram and Twitter handles are @FoxedQuarterly and we’re on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/FoxedQuarterly/

Would there be an opportunity in an upcoming newsletter for you to share news of Katy’s adventure with your subscribers? And might you be able to share news in any other way, or temporarily encourage sales of the books though our channels to raise more money? We’d be happy to supply Andrew Merrills’s article for you to use.

It would be wonderful if we could coordinate efforts to help raise awareness of Katy’s walk, and bring a new generation of readers to the great PLF at the same time.

I hope to hear from you soon.

With all good wishes

Jennie

Clearly the issue of cancer is one that offers a challenge to us all, but the fact that Harriet could die from bowel cancer at the very young age of just 32 is a great tragedy. Read more on Katy’s website or donate directly via her Just Giving site here. I hope to keep you updated over the coming weeks.

Advertisements

Where Travel Writing is Now

A thought provoking piece for the Easter holidays from Barnaby Rogerson, founder of the wonderful Eland books. May I wish you all, wherever you are, a very happy and peaceful Easter (remember Paddy had arrived for the great Easter celebrations at Esztergom on the Danube).

By Barnaby Rogerson

First published in Errant Magazine 18 September 2015

I don’t just read all the new travel books I can get hold of, I collect whole library editions as well. Aside from their texts, they summon up a once devoted and attentive readership: Those lovely cloth-and-gilt-titled Everyman hardbacks are scented with craftsmanship and muscular Christian decency. The bashed-up magenta paperbacks produced by Penguin just before the war were part of a mission that made democratic socialism possible, while I imagine the blue-cloth hardbacks of Jonathan Cape’s traveller’s library, being read by the more thoughtful members of a colonial clubhouse in the 20s. From my own youth the massed volumes of the rival Picador, Penguin Travel Library and Century lists sit prolific on my shelves.

I acquire them to aid my work (which is to dig out lost classics of travel literature and add them to the Eland list) but there is also something more obsessive going on. The libraries allow me to watch how the ‘immortality’ of authorship ebbs away, how tastes evolve and how that which was so ‘needed and now’ to one generation, becomes so much recyclable garbage to the next. But like inspiring pin-pricks in the night sky, there are still travel books that keep shining, and have kept generation after generation of readers enthralled.

And, like it or lump it, we seem to be passing through a crunch point in travel writing at the moment, the long-term effects of which we do not understand. The revival of travel writing so brilliantly led by Bruce Chatwin in the 1980s, and aided and abetted by Redmond O’Hanlon, Colin Thubron, Bill Bryson, Eric Newby, Norman Lewis and Dervla Murphy, is coming to a close. The role of the professional travel writer will soon be at an end. You only have to look at how some of the most promising contemporary travel writers have adapted, to feel which way the wind blows. William Dalrymple, three books into a career as the darling of his generation, switched very successfully to history, just as the three very talented travel-writing Jasons of my acquaintance (J. Webster on Spain, J. Goodwin on Byzantium, and J. Elliot on Afghanistan/Iran) have all headed for fictional waters, as most recently, has Tim Mackintosh-Smith. There are still some stalwarts – Sarah Wheeler, Ian Thomson, Tim Parks, Philip Marsden, Hugh Thomson, Antony Sattin and Jeremy Seal – at the top of their game, delivering works that combine energy with a lifetime of experience. But in private conversation there is an acknowledgement that the advances from publishers are slipping away. It is a common joke that their agents dont reveal to them their sales figures because it would only discourage them from writing the next book. And as a corollary of this, as a basic rule of thumb, in the last decade the publishing advances have slipped from something near £50,000 for a top writer (an admirable sounding sum until you divide it by three years of travel and work) to a period when ‘fifteen is the new fifty’, which has now seeped down towards six. But travel writers are by nature adaptable, and are used to bolstering income by acting as tour guides, lecturers and jobbing journalists. Certainly the slow collapse in sales has not yet had any effect on the quality or the range of travel writing, though it is intriguing to reflect that the joint winners (Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie) of last year’s annual travel-writing prize, the Stanford-Dolman, are both fulltime academics, supported by a university salary.

Where have the readers gone? The easy answer is that they have gone travelling to see for themselves. There’s also been a gradual increase in translated fiction (a process entirely on the side of the angels) which has diminished the travel writers former role as cultural interpreter. And if they were alive today, it is not difficult to see that such prolific travel-writers of the past as Sacheverell Sitwell would surely be on television, conducting Michael-Pallin-style whirl-wind tours or architectural investigations à la Dan Cruikshank.

And there are other concerns. Over the last fifteen years, almost exactly mirroring the advance in the use of the internet, there has been an incremental collapse in the guide-book market by ten per cent, year on year. In their heyday, the big publishing outfits like Rough Guides, Dorling Kindersley, the AA and Lonely Planet (supplemented by smaller fry like Cadogan, Blue Guides, Hedonist, Footprint and Bradt) launched dozens of new books a year and a fleet of updated texts and foreign translations. Collectively they acted as a forcing house for talent, employing, training and feeding new writers, editors and travellers and producing a rich spin-off of travel magazines, maps, dictionaries, pocket histories, guides to world music, food and travel writing. Now this industry is virtually silent, like some old cotton mill in Bradford.

This experience is also reflected in the coverage of the broadsheet papers — The Sunday Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent — who even ten years ago were commissioning independent writers and photographers on a weekly basis, not to mention the half a dozen intelligent glossy magazines. Now their travel pages are dominated by churnalism (the re-writing of press releases), celebrity interviews, list-making and readers advice and ‘trip-advisor’ experience columns. The lyrical, investigative literary travel piece is not being published. On my last trip with Britain’s great post-war photographer, Don McCullin, we found ourselves stuck in southern Algeria. There I was able to have a long series of interviews with him which revealed just how important these papers had been to the careers of Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby and Norman Lewis. He had worked with them all and watched their ideas incubate on the road.

So it looks like very slim pickings in the years ahead. But is this necessarily a bad thing? There has always been something determinedly quirky, if not down-right awkward, about a great travel writer. If I was given a vast lottery foundation by the Ministry of Books to fill this gap, could I be sure of nurturing a new generation of talent with the careful distribution of travel bursaries, salaries and decent advances? Go figure, or ask the Churchill Foundation how many of their grant-receivers have come good. I have also recently begun to notice how many of the travel writers were self-taught, if not actual autodidacts. Bruce Chatwin left university before they sacked him, Paddy Leigh Fermor learned most of his history in the bedroom and in the arms of his various lovers, Colin Thubron side-stepped university in order to try to make films. Dervla Murphy’s youth was locked in a caring relationship with her dependent, bedridden mother whilst Norman Lewis avoided college and spent his youth repairing crashed racing cars (picking them up cheap from grieving wealthy parents) and setting up a Leica-camera dealership.

I also like to tease myself about what sort of typescripts I would not like to be sent to read by an aspiring writer. I certainly wouldn’t be interested in reading a story about a couple of middle-aged men having a career break (so there goes Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush), nor about a middle-aged woman’s first bycyling trip abroad (there goes Dervla Murphy’s Full Tilt) and I most certainly wouldn’t look forward to reading about two bored young Swiss youths escaping their bourgeois parents by setting off on a road trip (there goes Nicolas Bouvier’s The Way of the World).

So what’s the trick? There is no formula, though you need a lot of skills. You have to get people talking and remember the flow of words. You have to be able to live for the moment and yet remember the scent and the touch of it on paper. You have to wish to learn through travelling and through the truth of chance encounters rather than through interview appointments, library-life and web searches. You also have to possess that sliver of ice near the heart of any writer, that ruthless search for story coupled with brutal honesty and the ability to ditch the dull from your pages. You have to be good company yet also inspiring on the page. You have to ‘catch the moment on the wing.’

Barnaby Rogerson has written a Biography of the Prophet Muhammad; a History of North Africa; an account of the early Caliphate, The Heirs of the Prophet; and the story of the battle for the Mediterranean from 1415-1580, The Last Crusaders. He has most recently edited a collection of sacred numerological traditions of the world, Rogerson’s Book of Numbers; co-edited a collection of the contemporary travel writing Ox-Tales for the charity Oxfam; edited a collection of the travel literature of Marrakech the Red City; a collection of contemporary travel encounters with Islam, Meetings with Remarkable Muslims; a collection of English Orientalist verse, Desert Air; and a collection of the poetry of place of London. Previous to this, he had written half-a-dozen guidebooks to the historical monuments of the Maghreb and the Mediterranean, including Morocco, Tunisia, Istanbul and Cyprus and created the text for Don McCullins photographic study of Roman North Africa, Southern Frontiers. Barnaby is on the advisory board of Critical Muslim, the editorial board of Middle East in London and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Geographical Society. He has been elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and an honorary member of The Travellers Club. He is also a book reviewer and journalist. Visit him at BarnabyRogerson.com.

His day job is running Eland, a publishing house that specializes in keeping classic travel books in print. To find out more about the over 100 classics in their catalogue, please visit http://www.travelbooks.co.uk.

Exo Mani hiking map 2017 revised edition available now

Our friends at the mapping and publishing company Anavasi have released a revised 2017 version of their 1:20,000 scale hiking map of the Exo Mani, which includes details of Paddy’s house at Kalamitsi. Just in time for your spring walking break or summer holiday planning.

Anavasi say this about the area:

Mani is the middle and southernmost peninsula of the Peloponnese and is split between Laconia and Messinia. Exo Mani is the name of the northwestern part, which belongs to the prefecture of Messinia. Exo Mani preserves a treasure trove of Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches and castles in breathtaking landscapes.The new map covers the entire Exo Mani, the are formerly covered by the three older maps “Verga-Kampos”, “Kardamyli-Stoupa” and “Agios Nikolaos-Trachila. ” The area has wonderful cobbled paths ideal for walking all year round.

Anavasi was created in 1997 by people with deep knowledge of the Greek countryside. They offer the traveler, the hiker and the researcher the best mapping material in terms of quality and reliability for Greece. The current catalogue numbers more than 100 titles in a variety of scales (from country scale maps, to maps of very small areas). The hiking maps are their flagship products and already cover most of the mountainous areas and many islands.

The company says “Our maps are cherished by hikers and “hip” travellers for the richness and accuracy of their data, but also for a variety of information provided in the form of comments or text for paths or sightseeing areas on the back side of the map.”

You can buy the Exo Mani map for 7 Euro here, and you may enjoy exploring the rest of their products from the homepage.

Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence

Our friend Nick Hunt has a publication date for his long-awaited new book Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence in which Nick sets off on an unlikely quest: to follow four of Europe’s winds across the continent.

His wind-walks begin on Cross Fell, the highest point of the Pennines, as he chases the roaring Helm – the only named wind in Britain. In southern Europe he follows the Bora – a bitter northerly that blows from Trieste through Slovenia and down the Croatian coast. His hunt for the ‘snow-eating’ Foehn becomes a meandering journey of exhilaration and despair through the Alpine valleys of Switzerland, and his final walk traces an ancient pilgrims’ path in the south of France on the trail of the Mistral – the ‘wind of madness’ which animated and tormented Vincent Van Gogh.

These are journeys into wild wind, but also into wild landscapes and the people who inhabit them – a cast of meteorologists, storm chasers, mountain men, eccentric wind enthusiasts, sailors and shepherds. Soon Nick finds himself borne along by the very forces he is pursuing, through rain, blizzards, howling gales, and back through time itself. For, where the wild winds are, there are also myths and legends, history and hearsay, science and superstition – and occasionally remote mountain cabins packed with pickles, cured meats and homemade alcohol.

Where the Wild Winds Are is a beautiful, unconventional travelogue that makes the invisible visible. Due out on 7 September 2017, pre-order Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe’s Winds from the Pennines to Provence here.

The Travellers’ Film Club season continues on the 5th April with Man of Aran

Eland books, who run The Travellers’ Film Club, have said that the season continues on the 5th April with Man of Aran, Robert J. Flaherty’s masterpiece of the drama of noble simplicity. It documents the heroic life of a traditional family from one of the Aran isles, the cliff-girt archipelago off the west coast of Ireland. 18 months in the making, and first screened in April 1934, it was acclaimed ‘as a film that will influence directors all over the world’. Eland hope to have the film historian, Mark Le Fanu in the audience to answer questions.

The Club meets in the basement Travel Bookshop of Waterstones (where there is a café) from 6pm. Screenings in the meeting room start around 6.30pm, prefaced by a brief introduction with the opportunity for questions afterwards. These events are free, but please email to reserve a place events.piccadilly@waterstones.com

The Chiddingstone Castle literary festival

The festival season is rapidly approaching, and as a Kentish Man, I was interested in this one. Held in a very beautiful setting, the second Chiddingstone Castle literary festival runs over the first May bank holiday weekend, from Sunday, April 30 to Tuesday, May 2, with 22 authors appearing over three days.

The line-up is headed by Terry Waite. Joining him will be Artemis Cooper and Adam Sisman, discussing the life and writings of travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, and Radio 4 presenter of Saturday Live, Rev Richard Coles will give a reflective account of life as a parish priest and broadcaster.

Further details can be found here.

A funeral at Melk

The abbey at Melk

The abbey at Melk

Paddy described it as a “quinquireme amongst abbeys”. It is a benevolent sleeping giant above the little town of Melk and the Danube. To the east lies the Wachau, one of the most magnificent stretches of river scenery in Europe, and the eastern foothills of the Alps, to the west, Mauthausen and Bavaria. The huge and imposing Abbey at Melk continues to fascinate.

By Roslyn Jolly

First published in The Saturday Paper

This sure is a quiet town.” I’m almost whispering, unwilling to have my voice ring out in the silent streets. “Where is everybody?” It’s about seven in the evening, and as we climb the zigzag pathways to the great church on the hill, there is scarcely another soul around.

We’re going to a funeral. My friend saw the notice pinned unobtrusively to a post in the hotel bar: There will be a service at the abbey tonight for one of the monks, who has died suddenly, before his time. A popular man, a local favourite, highly regarded, sadly missed, the notice says. The community is invited to pay its respects.

We are not of the community, but we are curious, so through the dark streets and up the stone staircases we go. I haven’t yet connected the desertion of the town with the funeral at the abbey. As we approach the elegant arched entrance to the monastery precinct, we see fire engines crowding the forecourt. My friend interprets the scene better, and more quickly, than I do. I’m thinking, “A fire at the abbey? During a monk’s funeral? How very Umberto Eco.” But my friend has lived long enough in Austria to understand that not a Gothic but a civic explanation is required.

The people of Melk and all the parishes of the surrounding Wachau district have turned out in force, in uniform, through whatever structure of collective identity they can call upon, to mark the passing of their brother. Every club, team, order, guild, society, brotherhood, sisterhood, Bund, Verein and Gesellschaft is here. Not just represented here, but actually here, in body, en masse. Every fireman, policeman and Boy Scout wears his uniform; every teacher, nurse and union official is badged. The farmers are here, and so are the municipal councillors from nearby villages. Their gleaming trucks, cars and engines, freshly washed and highly polished, identify the various communities, trades and professions to which these people are clearly proud to belong.


This is the guard of honour outside the church. We walk through it. At the church door, uniformed officials keep watch. I would have turned away, but my friend is unabashed. His six years’ residence in Vienna probably helps. “We’re here for Brother A—’s funeral,” he says confidently, I forget whether in English or in German. The young man in his uniform scrutinises us for a second or two, then opens the door and gestures for us to proceed.

Inside there is colour, gold, incense, music, faces, voices, more gold. The Stiftskirche is a baroque jewellery box, glorious in candlelight, vibrant with song and incantation. There is only standing room. The service is already under way and, of course, being neither Austrian nor Catholic, I understand very little of what is being said or done, but experience the funeral as a dance of feeling between priests and townspeople. A modestly draped coffin is the focus for the energies of community expressed in music and liturgy, which, soaring, match the visual splendour of the scene.

Tomorrow we will come back, and we will see the abbey as the guidebooks and the travel writers promise it. We will see the palatial exterior, painted in sunny Schönbrunn yellow. We will see the beautiful rococo courtyard, with its palms and fountains, and think of it as a prettier Versailles. We will see the famous library with its ancient books, and peer into the pastel-coloured whorl of the shell-like spiral staircase. We will stand on the terrace and gaze at the lovely view of the Danube Valley. We will do all that a visitor to Melk is supposed to do, and it will be wonderful, but it will not be like this.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, in A Time of Gifts, called Melk Abbey the “high noon” of Europe, the highest point of the “high baroque style”. The prose he used to describe it is sunshiny and light-saturated. He even makes noon at Melk his hour of epiphany as well as his key metaphor: “Meridian glory surrounded us as a clock in the town struck twelve.” But I’ve fallen for Melk Abbey at night – not at midnight, the Gothic hour when romance writers find dark mysteries in conventual spaces, but at a civil hour, between seven and eight in the evening, when the river cruisers have gone back to their ships and the people of the town may come out, after work and an early dinner, to interact with the real working life of the monastic order that has existed here for more than a thousand years.

The funeral ends and we file out with the hundreds of mourners to watch the coffin carried to a vehicle that will take it to a burial ground beyond the monastery walls. My friend is troubled by the seeming severity of this custom. “But he would have served here his whole life,” he says. “Why can’t he be buried here too? It’s as if, at his death, he’s being expelled from the religious community.”

We puzzle over this and can’t really do anything with it. It feels harsh. The coffin looks very solitary as it waits to be conveyed through the gates into the darkness beyond. After the uplifted atmosphere in the church, the mood in the forecourt has become sombre, almost austere. All stand in silence, many with heads bowed. We – my friend and I – watch our unknown brother set out for the undiscovered country.

After the coffin has left, the firemen return to their trucks, the policemen to their cars. The Boy Scouts form lines and leave under the supervision of their troop leaders. We depart through the same archway by which we entered. At first we’re part of a throng, but the crowds quickly melt away. No one walks the same path as we do, the path that leads down stone stairs and through narrow alleys to the main street, where the hotels and restaurants are.

Melk will glow tomorrow in autumnal sunshine and we will see all that should be seen by a visitor to this beautiful mediaeval town. But tonight we’ve seen something different. We have interloped. We have slipped through the net that keeps tourists within the spaces designed for them. We’ve found our way to the secret life of a town. Just for an hour, we have gone to the other side.