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.
At least this is new to me. I discovered it recently appended to an article about the new John Craxton biography (more on that later). I thought that we might all enjoy this image of two young men in their prime, two great friends, just larking about in their favourite place.
There are many excellent profiles of Paddy, but I have recently discovered this oneby the prolific American biographer Jeffrey Myers. It includes some original quotes, with an interesting section about Paddy’s time filming The Roots of Heaven in 1958. Something new to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, still very much missed by his family and many admirers around the world.
I met the handsome, charming and dashing Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) in May 2002. He belongs with authors as men of action — Melville, Conrad, Hemingway, Malraux and Orwell — who did not go to university and learned their lessons from violent experience. Leigh Fermor, whose reputation is based on three impressive achievements in travel, war and literature, has enjoyed after death a well-deserved revival of interest in his life and work. In 1933-34, in his late teens and after expulsion from school, he spent a year walking south-east across Europe, passing through nine countries from Holland to Turkey. In his leisurely 1,700-mile ramble, rough when solitary and poor, hedonistic as guest and lover, he moved effortlessly between peasants and patricians. Though his journey did not equal the agonising treks of Henry Morton Stanley through Equatorial Africa or of Wilfred Thesiger across the Empty Quarter of Arabia, it was a considerable feat of social and cultural exploration.
In April 1942 Leigh Fermor landed in Crete by parachute and set out, with resourcefulness and courage, on his second and most famous Byronic adventure. He spoke modern Greek and joined a handful of British Special Operations Commandos sent into the mountains of the Nazi-occupied island to organise the resistance and unleash a guerrilla uprising. His men attacked airfields and blew up a fuel base. He also watched helplessly as the Nazis took revenge by destroying whole villages and massacring thousands of civilians. While on Crete, he fired a rifle he thought was unloaded and killed a Greek comrade, setting off a blood feud that was not settled for many decades.
Leigh Fermor’s greatest wartime achievement was the daring capture of a German general, Heinrich Kreipe, on April 26, 1944. Dressed in German uniforms, Leigh Fermor and his men set up a roadblock. As the car slowed down around a sharp curve, they poured out of the darkness and restrained the general, who shouted, swore and punched until he was handcuffed and shoved onto the floor of the vehicle. They then smuggled their prisoner through the main town, Heraklion, west along the coast and into the mountains.
The general turned out to be a cultured captive, well versed in the classics, and had many lively talks with Leigh Fermor before he was taken to Egypt and then to a POW camp in Calgary, Canada. A moment of true understanding came when Kreipe, gazing at the white hills, quoted Horace’s Ode (1.9) — “Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte” (See, the snows of Mount Soracte glare against the sky) — and Leigh Fermor quoted the rest of the Latin poem from memory. In April 1972 they appeared congenially together in a Greek television programme. When asked if he’d been treated well, the general replied, “Ritterlich! Wie ein Ritter” (Chivalrously! Like a medieval knight).
Leigh Fermor’s bold exploit inspired a book, Ill Met By Moonlight (1950), by his comrade-in-arms William (Billy) Stanley Moss and a 1957 film of that name with Dirk Bogarde as Leigh Fermor. (The title comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) Moss — handsome, six years younger than Paddy and a veteran of the North African campaign — was educated at Charterhouse and spoke French and Russian but not Greek or German. He does not provide any historical or military background, bases his memoir on the diary he kept at the time and writes in a plain, often clichéd style. The first rather uneventful half — mostly marching, hiding and planning, with a few close calls — expresses admiration for the Greek partisans and leads up to the daring capture of the much older General Kreipe (born in 1895).
Leigh Fermor carries “an ivory-handled revolver and a silver dagger” and cuts a dashing figure. They had hoped to capture General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, a cruel “tyrant much loathed by the islanders” who was later hanged as a war criminal, but he was unexpectedly replaced by Kreipe. The capture takes place between the German headquarters and the general’s residence in the Villa Ariadne, built by Sir Arthur Evans during his excavations of the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos. After driving through Heraklion in the Opel, with Leigh Fermor wearing the general’s hat, they bluff their way through 22 German checkpoints — though one map shows only four checkpoints. (The gullible sentries, some suspected of complicity, were arrested and probably sent straight to the Russian front.) The commandos evade all the German patrols searching for Kreipe and, with many difficulties, bring him through the slopes of Mount Ida and down to the British ship on the south coast.
Kreipe — “a thick-set man . . . with thin lips, bull neck, blue eyes, and a fixed expression” — had come for a rest in Crete after two tough years on the Russian front. Concerned more for his dignity than for his life, he worries about the lost symbols of his rank and valour: his general’s hat and the Knight’s Cross of his Iron Cross. Though fairly stoical and cooperative, he complains about his minor injuries, poor food and lack of sleep. He and Leigh Fermor also exchange Greek verses from Sophocles, but do not establish a close connection. Though the commandos leave evidence suggesting only the British, not the Greeks, had captured the general, the Germans razed the nearest village and eventually killed 2,000 civilians.
Leigh Fermor’s version of the incident, Abducting A General (John Murray, £20), published last year, is a short, blatantly padded book. The foreword provides useful historical background. Only half the 189-page work contains the main text. Seventy pages reprint his hastily written intelligence notes sent from Crete to headquarters in Cairo. The most interesting dispatches describe his accidental shooting of his close Cretan friend and his part in the executions, without trial, of Cretan traitors. (When I asked Sir Alec Kirkbride, the last surviving officer of T.E. Lawrence’s Arabian campaign if he had really killed a lot of lawless Arabs after the capture of Damascus in 1918, he casually replied, “Oh, not that many.”) The last 20 pages provide a detailed guide to the abduction route that few visitors to Crete, apart from fanatics, would willingly endure.
Leigh Fermor’s account has already appeared in his anthology Words of Mercury (2003) and been the basis of the two chapters on Crete in Artemis Cooper’s biography (2012). Based on memory rather than diaries and written in 1966, 22 years after the event, Abducting A General, like his earlier travel books, is filled with invented details. He gathered intelligence, carried out sabotage and prepared the Cretans to help the British recapture the island. His major difficulties were faulty radio transmitters, lack of transport, “rain, arrests, hide and seek with the Huns, lack of cash, flights at a moment’s notice, false alarms, wicked treks over the mountains, laden like a mule, fright among one’s collaborators, treachery, and friends getting shot”.
He is excited by the constant danger and, when disguised as a Cretan, by his close proximity to German soldiers. His book is more detailed than Moss’s about the history and geography of the island, more stylish and lyrical. He is devoted to his brave, loyal and sacrificial Cretan friends and comrades, whose language he speaks and whom he idealises: “we could not have lasted a day without the islanders’ passionate support: a sentiment which the terrible hardships of the occupation, the execution of the hostages, the razing and massacre of the villages, only strengthened.” But he ignores the conflicts between the Greek Communists and the pro-British partisans, which led to a civil war after the liberation of Greece. His hyperbolic and Homeric tributes to the Cretans — “their capacity to cross several mountain ranges at the same lightning speed on an empty stomach after swallowing enough raki and wine to lame other mortals for a week” — are excessive.
The main dangers of the abduction were the possibilities of stopping the wrong car, encountering other German vehicles and provoking savage reprisals. The identification and immediate escape in April 1944 was helped by Kreipe’s coloured metal pennants on the front fenders of his car. When seized, Kreipe lashed out with his fists, was manacled and had his legs tied. The whole episode took only 70 seconds. His badly injured driver, who could not keep up with the escaping partisans, had to be killed.
Since Leigh Fermor could also speak German, he writes more fully and positively than Moss about his relations with Kreipe, who bears up stoically under humiliating circumstances. The youngest son of the large family of a Lutheran pastor in Hanover, Kreipe was 48 years old and unmarried. He had a broad pale face, grey hair and jutting chin. A professional soldier, he had served in the army since 1914 and had recently won a Knight’s Cross on the Russian front. His moods during this ordeal ranged from cheerfulness to depression, and he sometimes slept under a blanket with Leigh Fermor and Moss, huddled together against the piercing mountain cold. Leigh Fermor writes in comradely fashion: “The General’s behaviour was most friendly and helpful throughout and he put up with the hardships of mountain travel and living rough with fortitude. Moss and I had the impression that he had lost his nerve a bit after the first contact with us. He certainly made no attempt to escape.” If he had broken his word, he would have been shot by the Cretans. On May 14, 1944, after 18 anxious days in the mountains, they all boarded the ship to Cairo. Spared the disastrous German defeats in Russia and in Greece, Kreipe remained in British custody until 1947.
The crucial military and moral question, which Moss ignores and Leigh Fermor answers with qualified affirmation, is whether the abduction of General Kreipe was worth the brutal German reprisals: whole villages destroyed and the massive slaughter of men, women and children in August 1944. The survivors rejoiced; the dead remained silent. But Leigh Fermor’s heroic exploit, still famous all over Greece, boosted morale during the dark days of the German occupation and gave a glimmer of hope for the final victory.
Leigh Fermor’s third major achievement was the travel books about his youthful journey that appeared decades later: A Time of Gifts (1977), Between the Woods and the Water (1986), and the unfinished and posthumously published The Broken Road (2013). A slow, procrastinating writer, blocked for much of his life by the weight of too much material, he resembled Penelope unwinding at night what she had woven by day. His wanderings abroad to write in Benedictine and Trappist monasteries, which he described in A Time to Keep Silence (1953), were also an escape from writing.
Fermor often indulges in unseemly displays of erudition. His learned digressions and serpentine style, his mannered mandarin, even baroque prose, which Lawrence Durrell called truffled and dense with plumage, were influenced by the work of Charles Doughty, T.E. Lawrence and Norman Douglas. This florid style clashes with his descriptions of colourful gypsies and cave-dwelling bandits — dressed in sheepskin jackets, high boots and billowing breeches, with daggers tucked into their belts and bandoleers charged with cartridges — rioting, feasting and firing their carbines into the air or, during a vendetta, into their enemies.
Fascinated by his achievements, I corresponded with Paddy (as everyone called him) while writing my biography of Errol Flynn. He had written the screenplay of one of Flynn’s best movies, The Roots of Heaven (1958), and been on the scene during the disastrous filming in French Equatorial Africa. He thought Hollywood screenwriting was a lark that enabled him to hang around and drink with colourful characters in an exotic setting. Flynn, Trevor Howard and Paddy were all drinking heavily, and there was some conflict when Paddy fell in love with the French singer Juliette Gréco, the co-star and mistress of his boss, the producer Darryl Zanuck. In a vivid letter of May 5, 2000, Paddy described the horrendous conditions — heat, disease, swarming insects and dangerous animals — while making the movie in the tropics. He got on well with the flamboyant Flynn, a kindred spirit, and gave a perceptive account of his character:
Errol seemed distinctly more intelligent than the run of actors. Full of original tangents, a great narrative gift, and a great sense of humour. He often referred to his learned father, a marine biologist at Belfast University. He loved reminiscing, largely about Hollywood. I asked him what the leading and most beautiful stars of the day were like. “Well, pretty good,” he said. “They’ve all got my scalp, I’m afraid.” There were lots of memories of his early days there, and his adventures. He was very funny about a yacht he shared with David Niven, and the girls they would take on trips. “We looked on them to supply the food. One pretty girl came on board with nothing but a loaf and a contraceptive device.” He took his acting seriously, and was absolutely adequate in his not very exacting role. He was on very good terms with all the other actors. His physical condition wasn’t too bad, troubled by hangovers now and then.
When I wrote again while working on my life of John Huston, who directed The Roots of Heaven, Paddy vividly recalled the savage Darwinian scene. Bangui, now in the Central African Republic, was the roughest and most primitive place of all:
The forests near Bangui were inhabited by very intelligent pygmies. We were “shooting” in the forest when the clouds broke and a large deluge of rain came down. Our procession of vehicles headed back to the ultra-modern hotel, like an up-ended mouth-organ on the banks of the Shari river, which was full of crocodiles. I got there with Errol and his girl, and we were astonished to find the whole of the ground floor a foot deep in termites, over which small bright green frogs from the Shari were leaping about in parabolas, while Juliette’s mongoose ran riot among them, killing and swallowing as many as he could, two legs sticking out of his mouth. A strange sight.
I also got in touch when writing my life of Somerset Maugham. Paddy was an Old Boy of Maugham’s alma mater, The King’s School, Canterbury, and as a student had read Of Human Bondage. He was also a close friend of Maugham’s admirer and confidante Ann, the wife of Ian Fleming. After the war he had visited Maugham’s luxurious Villa Mauresque on Cap Ferrat. Since Paddy lived in Kardamyli, a remote village in the southern Peloponnese and my daughter was a Foreign Service officer in Athens, it was a perfect time to see him. So we rented a flat for three weeks, overlooking the sea and a few kilometres from Paddy’s village.
I rang him up from a local shop and he immediately invited me to come round for a talk. Since his house was hidden away and hard to find, he walked up to the main road and hailed me as I approached. Tall and straight, white-haired and sun-tanned, he was at 87 still a virile and impressive figure. He had designed his low, rambling, whitewashed, red-tiled home himself, and called it “a loose-limbed monastery and farmhouse with massive walls and cool rooms”. It had a shaded patio facing the Mediterranean, a flourishing garden, and a huge library filled with books in ancient and modern languages. He had created the setting he wanted and the life he wished to lead, travelled widely and wrote well, charmed everyone and seemed content.
Paddy wanted to correct Ann Fleming’s version of his embarrassing visit to Maugham, which she had exaggerated — with shattered drinking glasses and blood on the floor — to amuse Evelyn Waugh. Maugham had asked Ann to bring Paddy with her for dinner, and then (always generous to good-looking young authors) had invited him to stay on as his guest and write at the villa. Unnerved by Maugham’s severe expression and icy manner, Paddy drank far too much. Falling victim to the perverse tendency to talk about the very thing he was strictly forbidden to mention — Maugham’s debilitating speech defect — Paddy quoted the absurd belief that everyone in the College of Heralds had a stammer. That was bad enough. But noting that the day was the Feast of the Assumption, he mentioned Correggio’s painting of that subject in the Louvre and repeated a stammering friend’s bon mot: “That is a m-most un-un-w-warrantable as-assumption.”
Deeply offended, Maugham became even icier. Rising from the table and taking his leave, he rescinded his invitation by saying: “G-G-Goodbye. Y-Y-You will have left b-b-before I am up in the m-m-morning.” The wretched Paddy, who had not intended to wound his host, contrived to make matters even worse. Instead of waiting for the valet to pack his bag, he hastily threw his things together and caught a precious monogrammed sheet trimmed with Belgian lace in the zipper of his suitcase. He rushed down the stairs with the rest of the sheet trailing behind, frantically tore part of it off and escaped from the villa with shreds of fabric hanging out of his bag.
After our talk, Paddy signed some travel books I’d brought along. Specially buying another one, Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (1958), in the village shop, he inscribed it, surrounding his words with a cloud and a sketch of birds flying around the title page. When he mentioned bees and my daughter used the unusual word for “buzz” — zouzounizo — which he hadn’t heard for years, he praised her fluency in Greek. After drinks in his house Paddy invited all of us to dinner at a simple restaurant, set on a promontory overlooking the glistening sea, which he’d bought for Lela, his former and now ancient cook. I noticed that the cook’s son Giorgos — who greeted us warmly in excellent English and recommended the best dishes — was tall, blond, blue-eyed and very un-Greek looking.
Paddy, who didn’t see well at night, asked me to drive him home in his battered old Peugeot, which had stiff gears, negligible brakes and holes in the rusted metal of the floor. As we went down a steep hill towards the sea, which had no barrier, I suddenly realised that the brakes didn’t work and had to swerve violently to avoid submersion. Paddy, who’d had many close calls, was jovial and unconcerned about the dangerous episode. My instinctive feeling that Giorgos was Paddy’s son was confirmed when my daughter returned to Athens and impressed her Greek friends, who knew the truth, by mentioning that she’d dined with a national hero.
Paddy was the Byron of our time. Both men had an idealised vision of Greece, were scholars and men of action, could endure harsh conditions, fought for Greek freedom, were recklessly courageous, liked to dress up and displayed a panache that impressed their Greek comrades. Paddy also reminded me of a Bedouin chief’s tribute to another famous warrior, T.E. Lawrence: “Tell them in England what I say. Of manhood, the man, in freedom free; a mind without equal; I can see no flaw in him.”
Following on from the list of potential options to mark the 10th anniversary of Paddy’s death, we are starting to see some ideas come to fruition as people have taken up the mantle and got on with things.
Dr Chris Joyce has arranged the first definite event, a dinner planned for 24th June at the Aphrodite Taverna, 15 Hereford Road, London, W2 4AB. Artemis Cooper will attend. The format is likely to be drinks followed by cold mezze, then hot mezze; plenty of wine and Retsina. Some toasts, short speeches, short readings. Chris regrets, no dancing on the tables.
Drinks probably from 1830. Maybe limited to 24 people so it will be first come, first served, and a deposit will be required at some point. Probably cost around £25 per head plus drinks.
To reserve your place, please contact Chris Joyce via chrisjoyce14 [at] outlook.com. Thanks to Chris for making all this possible!
Thank you all for the terrific response to suggestions to mark Paddy’s upcoming anniversary. They came in by email and comment, and I have summarised the ideas below.Please feel free to continue to submit your ideas by comment on this article or contacting me at atsawford [at] gmail .com
NOTE – THE POLLS I CREATED DO NOT WORK . SOME WORDPRESS NONSENSE. PLEASE IGNORE AND JUST ADD A COMMENT INDICATING YOUR PREFERENCE IE INTERESTED/ATTEND/ATTEND AND OFFER TO HELP. I MAY BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING TO FIX THIS OR PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE BUT NOT TODAY! MY APOLOGIES. IF YOU HAVE SUBMITTED A POLL RESULT PLEASE NOW ADD A COMMENT.
PLEASE INDICATE IF YOU ARE WILLING TO ORGANISE, OR HELP TO ORGANISE, AN EVENT. I SHAN’T BE DOING ALL THIS BY MYSELF!!!
Chris O’Gorman suggested ” a virtual Paddy mini-conference. It is very short notice I know, but equally there are some very knowledgeable people around who might have talks that they have already written, ready to go? It would also be good if we could get some press coverage – or maybe there could be a PLF anniversary crowd fund for something Paddy would have cared about? Maybe for the Benaki, or for Greek or Cretan veterans?”.
Julie Vick echoed this idea. She wondered “if it would be possible to have a virtual conference where members could volunteer to give short talks on some aspect such as Paddy’s life and history, his writings, Greece, as well as why he is important to them.”
This is a great idea, but perhaps time is short.Having a reliable platform to use would be key. A Zoom licence for up to 100 participants is around £120 pa. If everyone made a small pro rata donation the cost per person could be kept very low; just a few pounds. The event could be recorded and hopefully accessible afterwards.
One alternative might be to encourage those who have material to make a video or audio file to upload to a selected You Tube channel. Have a think.
Please comment and show your interest by adding a comment.
A Detailed Bibliography
Stefan at Southwing Fine Books in Australia has suggested a proper, and very detailed bibliography, or as he says, a “proper” one! I’m working with Stefan to enable this.
Event in France (or anywhere else for that matter)
Nicolas Ruelle has offered to see if something can be arranged in France. Over to you but please signal interest here and I’ll pass on your email details to Nicolas.
If you wish to run an event of any kind (dinner, conference etc) please contact me and I’ll help suggest a format for you to promote it.
A lunch at Dumbleton Hall
Alun Davies has made the marvellous suggestion of a lunch the Dumbleton Hall hotel. I recall going there after Paddy’s funeral (16th June) and it would be a marvellous, and obviously appropriate, venue. Current UK Coronavirus restrictions to end “all social distancing” may come into effect on 21st of June so a proper lunch may be possible after that.
If you are interested in a lunch, or dinner at the hotel during the period 23rd to 26th June please add a comment.
James Down wrote to me with this “
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, or an explanation as a stand-alone item, or perhaps as a part of wider mosaic of your reader’s personal interactions or memories with Paddy and his wider orbit.
I love the idea of doing something in fear of never having the chance again,. Perhaps that should be the theme? Paddy in a sense did that. It does not have to be Paddy related, just something that is important to you that you would like to share? I can post it anonymously for you of you wish.
I’ll be asking James to get his stuff together and make his contribution! It would be great if any of you felt you would like to contribute something (you know we have a very wide editorial brief so come on 🙂 )and I will make a very special, extra effort to get it out there in your name on the blog in a timely fashion! Best to send to atsawford [at] gmail .com
A Greek themed dinner in London.
Like Alun’s suggestion above, Dr Chris Joyce has suggested an event involving refreshment. Possiibly a “Greek Themed” dinner somewhere in London with the sort of food, and most importantly, the drinks that Paddy liked. If you are interested please add a comment.
This coming June it will be ten years since Paddy’s death. I feel it is appropriate that we should somehow mark this anniversary in one or more ways.
I have a few related items which I may be able to post, but I would like to ask you, loyal readers, for any ideas that you may have or anything that you wish to share.
Let’s open the floor to anyone, any idea, and anything, and let June be a blitz of Paddy related memories and material.
Send me your ideas via the comment facility here, or email me as found in About & Contacts. Whilst we are on that subject, I have recently discovered that BT Internet appears to block emails originating from Gmail accounts. There is nothing I can do about this. So if you have mailed me and I have not replied it may be that I never received the email. You can also send me email via atsawford [@] gmail.com and that should get through.
This short paean to Paddy was written in both English and Greek by the writer Maria Mavroyenneas on her Facebook page and shared to a Paddy Facebook group. It celebrates Paddy and marks his birthday on 11 February 1915.
The wonderful British author and last great philhellene, was born on this day in 1915. He lived in #MANI and we all knew him simply as “kir Michalis”, Mr. Michalis. I idolised him as a child but, over the last twenty something years of his life, my husband and I became firm friends with “kir Michalis” and his wife, Joan; or “kiria Joanna” to all us locals.
After being knighted on his 90th. birthday, he called us. His usual British reserve slipped as his pride and pleasure shone through. He was, in every sense of the word, a gentleman and we, too, were all pleased for him; not to mention proud. Other than his foreign circle of friends and dignitaries, he mixed with us local people, showing his love and concern for his fellow villagers. Sir Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor were beloved members of the community. I have so many happy memories of them both.
It is difficult to find the words to describe the man, a living legend with all the attributes of children’s fairy tales. His enjoyment of life was unique, his passion, his thirst for action and adventure; right to the end. Speaking in excellent Greek, showing the great depth of his knowledge of Greek idiom, as he got older, he would say to us,
“I have eaten the bread allocated to me,” before adding with a rueful smile, “and some bread allocated for others!”
It was as if he did not age, did not tire of life; his hunger for life was so strong that it could have spanned ten lifetimes, a thousand years. The slightest thing inspired his curiosity, his enthusiasm and he enjoyed sharing it with others. I struggle to describe him; an incurable romantic, a dreamer, an intellectual brimming over with feelings and ideas but, also, possessed of a childish innocence. Ever the heart and soul of a party, he would steal the show with his humour, laughter and songs. He would, however, disguise his own sadness so as not to dampen others’ spirits when, one after another, people he loved departed; friends, comrades-in-arms, his beloved wife.
He was a wanderer of the intellect and of dreams, who could never get his fill of knowledge or reflection. Always on the go, a perfectionist, on occasion stubborn. In the middle of a conversation he would jump up and fetch one his many books, all well read by the way, to reinforce an argument or emphasise a point. Talking to him could, sometimes, be like an interrogation, “what do you think of …. what about ……. what is your opinion of ……… ?” His attention would always be fixed on the answer, as if the speaker were imparting some fascinating insight. Just like in his great youthful voyage, he listened to ordinary people, touched their lives, was not afraid of adventure, to get involved. Later in life, assisted by his wonderful soul-mate, he started to write, drawing on his incomparable wealth of words, places and experiences. He made his home in Mani, then still hidden away and undiscovered, far from his merrymaking friends in Crete where, at the sound of one of their mantinadas, he would abandon his pencil and paper to set off to eat, carouse and drink “white bottoms” (“down in one”) with them.
His daily life was simple and uncomplicated. Never one to cause offence, he showed great respect for local customs and traditions. A friendly greeting was always on offer. He never said a bad word about anyone. Without being directly asked, he never spoke of himself. “I” was not his favoured pronoun, wherever possible it would be replaced by “we”. Honour and friendship were, I think, his two favourite words. To him friendship was to the death, which he proved by his deeds. He was a complete, wonderful human being.
On our last visit, we found him writing. The chance to break off for a friendly chat made him happy. He tried to sing an old Greek folk song but his vocal chords, affected by illness, struggled. We knew it was time to go. After all, he should not even have been talking. Our last conversation was by telephone as he lay in a hospital bed, accompanied by his friend and housekeeper, Elpida, able only to listen, not to reply. We were all emotional as we told him that everyone in the village asked after him, sending their love and best wishes. When would he be back?
One of the most moving memories we all share in the village is of kir Michalis standing at attention in the village square and singing proudly, along with the rest of us, the Greek National Anthem. To him it was a duty and an honour to attend our National Festival Days. His example showed us the way. On the 25th. March, 2011, he made his last visit. He left us shortly after, on the 10th. June at the age of 96.
He was handsome like any true man of spirit should be, an authentic intellectual who inspired us all.
The Canyon’s Echo, my e-novel, is devoted to Sir Patrick & Joan Leigh Fermor for their kind support and guidance.
Σαν σήμερα γεννήθηκε ο σπουδαίος Βρετανός συγγραφέας κι ο τελευταίος μεγάλος φιλέλληνας ΣΕΡ Πάτρικ Λη Φέρμορ ή απλά κυρ Μιχάλης (11 Φεβρουαρίου 1915 -10 Ιουνίου 2011), ο οποίος, έζησε στη Μάνη. Τον θαύμαζα απίστευτα από παιδί, αλλά τα τελευταία είκοσι και πλέον χρόνια, εγώ κι ο άντρας μου υπήρξαμε πολύ στενοί φίλοι του ίδιου και της γυναίκας του, Τζόαν ή κυρίας Ιωάννας. Όταν στα 90α του γενέθλια χρίστηκε ιππότης απ’ τη βασίλισσα της Αγγλίας μάς πήρε τηλέφωνο να μας το ανακοινώσει, και ήταν τόσο συγκινημένος, ενθουσιασμένος και περήφανος για τον εαυτό του που δεν μπορούσε να το κρύψει· το καύχημα και ο κομπασμός δεν άρμοζε στους τρόπους ενός αληθινού, με όλη τη σημασία της λέξης, τζέντλεμαν που ήταν. Πέρα απ’ τον αριστοκρατικό του κύκλο (που ο ίδιος διέφερε κατά πολύ!) συναναστρεφόταν και με μας τους ντόπιους όπου με κάθε τρόπο μας έδειχνε την αγάπη και το ενδιαφέρον του.
Αλήθεια, τι να πρωτοθυμηθώ;
Το λεξιλόγιο φτωχό για να περιγράψεις αυτόν τον “ζωντανό” θρύλο με τις ιδιαιτερότητες ήρωα παιδικού παραμυθιού. Δεν έχει ξανα υπάρξει άλλος με τέτοια φλόγα, τέτοιο πάθος για ζωή, τέτοια δίψα για δράση, για περιπέτεια… μέχρι το τέλος! Θυμάμαι που μας έλεγε: “Εγώ τα έχω φάει τα ψωμιά μου”, και συμπλήρωνε με αυτοσαρκασμό, “και… τα ψωμιά των άλλων!” Δεν έχετε δει άνθρωπο να μη μεγαλώνει, να μη χορταίνει τη ζωή, να θέλει να ζήσει δέκα ζωές, 1000 χρόνια, να ενθουσιάζεται με τα πιο απλά, με το κάθε τι και να το εκδηλώνει κιόλας! Ένας αθεράπευτα ρομαντικός, ονειροπόλος, γεμάτος συναισθήματα και με μια αφέλεια παιδική. Η ψυχή της παρέας, ο “κλέφτης” της παράστασης που σ’ έκανε να γελάς και γελούσε και αυτός περισσότερο, αλλά που θα καταπίεζε τη δική του θλίψη με γενναιότητα για να μη σου χαλάσει τη διάθεση, όταν, ο ένας μετά τον άλλον, “έφευγαν” οι αγαπημένοι του: φίλοι, σύντροφοι συμπολεμιστές, η λατρεμένη του γυναίκα…
#Ένας_ταξιδευτής_του_νου_και_του_ονείρου, που δε χόρταινε να ρουφάει τη γνώση και να στοχάζεται. Αεικίνητος, τελειομανής και πεισματάρης. Εκεί μου σου μιλούσε, ξαφνικά άφηνε το ποτό και πεταγόταν για να φέρει κάποιο βιβλίο απ’ τα εκατοντάδες διαβασμένα που είχε, το οποίο, περιείχε κάτι σχετικό με την κουβέντα. Ήξερε που ακριβώς να το βρει, ακόμα και που ήταν το κομμάτι μέσα στο βιβλίο που αναζητούσε. Η κουβέντα μαζί του ήταν τύπου… “ανάκρισης”: πες μου γι’ αυτό, για το άλλο, τι πιστεύεις γι’ αυτό, για εκείνο… και σε άκουγε μαγεμένος λες κι έλεγες το πιο σπουδαίο πράγμα του κόσμου. Έτσι και στο νεανικό μεγάλο ταξίδι του ΑΚΟΥΓΕ τους απλούς ανθρώπους, χωνόταν στις ζωές τους, δεν φοβόταν να βάλει τον εαυτό του σε περιπέτειες, να μπλέξει… Και ώριμος πια, με τη βοήθεια και τη συμπαράσταση της υπέροχης συντρόφου του ξεκίνησε να γράφει αναπολώντας λόγια, τόπους και εμπειρίες, κρυμμένος στην άγνωστη μέχρι τότε Μάνη, μακριά απ’ τους γλετζέδες Κρητικούς φίλους του που με μια μόνο μαντινάδα τους, πέταγε μολύβια και χαρτιά κι άνοιγε πανιά για φαγοπότια, μπαλωθιές κι άσπρους πάτους μαζί τους!
Ο βίος του λιτός και απλοϊκός, δεν προκαλούσε, έδειχνε σεβασμό στα ήθη και έθιμα, θαύμαζε τους πάντες και ποτέ δεν έλεγε κακό λόγο για κανέναν. (Όχι ότι δεν είχε κατά καιρούς τις διενέξεις του, αλλά έκρινε πράξεις/συμπεριφορές κι όχι ανθρώπους) Ποτέ δεν μιλούσε για τον εαυτό του, εκτός κι αν τον ρωτούσες. Η λέξη “εγώ” δεν υπήρχε κι αν χρειαζόταν να υπωθεί πάντα έβρισκε τρόπο να την αντικαταστήσει με το “εμείς”. Οι πιο ιερές του λέξεις ήταν ΦΙΛΟΤΙΜΟ και ΦΙΛΙΑ, πιστός φίλος μέχρι θανάτου και το αποδείκνυε με πράξεις, ένα ολοκληρωμένο παράδειγμα ακέραιου, άριστου ανθρώπου…
Όταν πήγαμε να τον δούμε τελευταία φορά τον βρήκαμε να γράφει. Η συζήτηση τού έδωσε τέτοια χαρά που όπως έκανε πάντα, άρχισε να μας τραγουδά ένα παλιό ελληνικό τραγούδι. Καταλάβαμε, τότε, ότι ήταν ώρα να αποχωρήσουμε· είχε καρκίνο στις φωνητικές χορδές και δεν έπρεπε καν να μιλά. Η τελευταία μας επικοινωνία τηλεφωνική και μονόπλευρη, εμείς μιλούσαμε εκείνος άκουγε. Η φωνή πρώτη τον εγκατέλειψε. “Κυρ Μιχάλη μου, όλο το χωριό σε περιμένει και ρωτάει πότε θα ξανάρθεις”, κι ήταν να μην τού λεγες τίποτα για τους ανθρώπους και το χωριό (#Καρδαμύλη) που τόσο λάτρευε…
Απ’ τις πιο συγκινητικές στιγμές που έχουμε όλοι να θυμόμαστε ήταν η στάση προσοχής που έπαιρνε στην πλατεία του χωριού όταν δακρυσμένος σιγοψυθίριζε μαζί μας τον Εθνικό Ύμνο. Θεωρούσε καθήκον και τιμή να παρευρίσκεται στις Εθνικές μας γιορτές· η 25η Μαρτίου 2011, ήταν η τελευταία φορά, “έφυγε” τον επόμενο Ιούνιο στα 96 του χρόνια.
Ήταν ωραίος, όπως πρέπει να είναι ένας άνθρωπος του πνεύματος, ένας αληθινά διανοούμενος, και βέβαια, όπως πρέπει να είναι ο καθένας μας…
I hope that you are well. It is a colder day here in Winchester, with wintry showers, sleet and rain, suddenly interspersed with dazzlingly low and bright sunshine. Despite the virus, there’s a lot of activity as people in this little city prepare for Christmas. I shall be putting up the tree tomorrow.
The response to the call for your lists of out of print books produced some interesting ideas. I thought that it woul dbe useful to list all the responses. So here they are, culled from your comments appended to the post, or sent to me by email.
The sharper ones of you have already joined some dots, linking this to our friend Nick Hunt’s assignment for John Murray which may see some of these books published next year to mark the tenth anniversary of Paddy’s death.
I offer “Journey to Khiva” by Philip Glazebrook and “Vanished Empire” by Stephen Brook.
Robert M Davison
Xan Fielding’s Hide and Seek
Sandy Rendell’s Appointment in Crete
Mary Chubb’s City in the Sand
City in the Sand is connected because Mary was (in the 1930s) associated with the British Egyptology Society’s excavations that were led by John Pendlebury, another larger than life character in the Cretan theatre.
One more – Theodore Stephanides – Climax in Crete
Incidentally I have copies of all the books I mentioned (and many more besides) but it is sad to see them so long out of print.
Over the years, in different places, I was able to collect quite a few books related to the Cretan war – from many different perspectives. The German perspective is well (and humanely) told in von der Heyde’s Daedalus Returned.
Two out of print travel books which I think Paddy in particular would approve of are Kiwi At Large and Kiwi Vagabond by E S Allison.
Errol Allison was born in NZ in 1918. He served with the 20th Battalion in Egypt, Greece, Crete and Libya. Captured in 1941 he went from prison camps in Italy to Germany. After escaping twice and being recaptured he spent weeks in a Gestapo gaol and eventually took the identity of a Belgian and met up with the Russians in action. He returned to NZ and resumed teaching.
(Taken from the dust jacket)
In 1954 he embarked on the travels described in Kiwi at Large. Leaving home with £80 he wanders 22,000 miles alone in twenty countries, to see places he had a lifelong curiosity about, and to satisfy his longing to see places where he had fought. He travels rough in seamy third class Indian trains, in crowded Arab coaches, on donkeys and on foot. His bed, sometimes under a tree or in a Persian stable, is more often in peasants’ cottages, in Greek monasteries, in Arab dives, in cheap hotels of shady character, in deserted ancient cities – though occasionally in wealthy homes.
Kiwi Vagabond is the sequel, telling of the journey from England across Europe and Asia.
I read both books some time ago and loved them. They are little known and deserve to be read by a much larger audience. I believe Errol subsequently worked at a quite high level for the Red Cross. He comes across as a marvellous individual. Highly recommended.
Anything by John Hillaby, who I think has been rather forgotten since his death in 1996, but a big favourite travel writer of mine in my childhood and teens. Slow burn and not so showy, but a genuine love of outdoor and place comes shining through in his writing and a rare focus on the local when exotica was the thing.
Dr JP Simpson
One of the most interesting travel books I have (and it took some getting) is ‘John Blades Currey: Fifty Years in the Cape Colony’, one of 1,000 copies superbly edited by Phillida Brooke Simons and published by the Brenthurst Press, South Africa in 1986. Brasenose, Oxford-educated Currey’s account of his travels in Outeniqualand and Namaqualand and his involvement in the Eighth Frontier War cover the period 1850-56 and are immensely enhanced by his watercolour illustrations. The book is remarkable for its balance and impartiality at a time when the indigenous inhabitants, Boers and British were increasingly pitted against each other for rich farmland, gold and diamonds. The book is historical “gold dust” because Currey was private secretary to Cecil Rhodes. In the flyleaf of my copy is a handwritten copy of a letter dated March 27th (1902) from the Archbishop of Capetown to Currey that reads in part: “….So our friend is gone from us! It was like him that being owner of large mansions and estates he should die in a simple cottage. He was in death what he had been in life. Now that he is gone, I trust the rancour of his enemies will cease to pursue him. I am dreadfully grieved that I never was allowed to visit him and pray with him and that Jameson did not keep the promise he had conveyed to me through Michell.”
antoon van coillie
Black Lamb & Grey Falcon , Rebecca West : such an incredible book on the lost world of Yugoslavia just before the Second World War & any of Freya Stark’s books….
George Bean’s books on Turkey
What a wonderful idea. I have spoken here before so some will know that I’m a bookseller and book collector. I’ve managed to travel fairly widely in my seventy-odd years and I’m still a bit fit. I always said you travel to faraway places only to see if it’s worthwhile going back again. There are five places on earth which I hope to see again before I die. Only one concerns us here. I lived in Crete in 1977. We rented a house in Xaniá on Psaromilingon St which cost us all of 2000 drachs a month— about thirty quid. I wonder what the rent would be now, just off the harbour. I have managed to pick up a good collection of Crete and PLF but I’ve never been able to afford a decent Pashley: Travels in Crete or Spratt’s Travels and Researches…
In my opinion the best modern writing about Crete is still Llewellyn Smith’s The Great Island. It did get a second edition and you can pick it up at a reasonable price. Do so, because you will never prise my own copy out of me. Some people read Tolkien every year. I read Crete. Another excellent work is easier to find and cheap: Gail Holst’s Road to Rembetika. I had been back to Crete (I’ve been back many times) with a party of four and we walked from Chora Sphakion to Xania via Pachnes. It was only February and what a February we picked. I have never seen such snow. The locals in Chora Sphakion said we could do it in day. But you don’t believe Cretans, do you? Four days later, we came down with broken backs and broken tents, exhausted, to a small spring in the woods below the snowline. We knew we must be getting close. We were soon in Zoúrva. My diary at the time got stolen so I cannot recall the name of the kyría who served us. She was wonderful. There were no tourists at that time of year. Three of us were vegetarians but that was no problem. We intended to continue our journey but large amounts of krasí and retsína meant we camped overnight. Later, we were back in the kafeneion. Zoúrva is still only a tiny village but that evening, with only four tourists, some old men walked in. They had the lyra and bouzouki and one was playing some kind of drum. Yes, they were playing for us but, somehow, they seemed far away and were playing themselves into some kind of mesmerism.
I am not particularly interested in the Minoan and archaeological stuff although Dilys Powell, The Villa Ariadne, is superb. The dark ages are not well covered in Cretan literature but by the time we get to the Turks and Venetians we are starting to hear Cretan voices. This was when Cretans became Crete and there are lots of titles to read.
A work of fiction, Prevelakis’s The Sun of Death, ought to be on the pantheon of world literature. It is apparently not so much fiction either.
There is a little-known work by Tasos Dourountakis: Anezina and Me: A True Cretan Story. It’s a family history of the kind all too prevalent in the English-speaking world but not often found in Crete. It would be for the better of all if Cretans, however old or young, started writing their family histories. You don’t have to write well; you just have to write. Go for it!
Dr JP Simpson
In reply to Stefan.
You mentioned Dilys Powell in a post. Is her ‘An Affair of the Heart’ still in print? I re-read my copy almost annually!
In reply to Dr JP Simpson.
Yes, that’s another excellent work. It’s still available in those wretched print-on-demand things but decent first editions are still inexpensive.
I’m back again. I shall mention another area I’ve been fortunate to spend quite some time in—Ladakh in the far north of India in the Himalaya.
Most of the old travel books can be found in the print-on-demand industry but I much prefer “real” books. Where Three Empires Meet is by E.F. Knight (not a female). It’s Victorian but is immensely readable and was very popular. It went into many editions. A first is becoming expensive but some of the later editions are reasonable. Get one with the author’s photographs.
Lieut-Colonel Torrens’ Travels in Ladâk, Tartary and Kashmir is another surprisingly readable Victorian work. If you can afford it, make an investment and buy yourself a first edition.
And the book that set it all off for me was Zanskar: the Hidden Kingdom by Michel Peissel. All his books are worth reading.
You mention nature books too, Tom. So, closer to home, I have to admit I was very late stumbling across John Wyatt’s The Shining Levels. What a superb piece of writing! All of these books and many more still continue to bring joy as you get older. I shall confine any future post to just a list of titles.
Dr JP Simpson
In reply to Stefan.
‘Ancient Futures: Learning from the Ladakh’ by Helena Norbert-Hodge… the humanism of old ways? Would that be a fair summary?
In reply to Dr JP Simpson.
She gave me a lift once when I was on my way to Choglamsar. I found her intellect intimidating but I would say “the humanity of old ways,” a superb expression, thank you. I think Tom, and PLF, would understand. In 1986 I had befriended a Tibetan refugee. We did some serious drinking together. In 1989 I tracked him down. He was in a broken condition with an older wife and a very young child. I got him out of the gutter and he acted as guide and interpreter for my wife and myself for a few months. In 1998 they were all doing fine and their young girl was growing to be a proud Tibetan. She spoke Ladakhi, Tibetan and English (as well as I! Albeit with a US accent).
Modern travel narratives on Ladakh tend to be the “look-at-me”, Lonely Planet stuff. Nevertheless, two works on Alchi stand out:
Alchi: Treasure of the Himalayas. Ladakh’s Buddhist Masterpiece by Peter van Ham, Amy Heller & Likir Monastery; Hirmer Verlag, Munich; 2018. This is outstanding and cheap! Publication was heavily sponsored. (Available in English language edition).
Alchi: Ladakh’s Hidden Buddhist Sanctuary. The Sumtsek by Roger Goepper; photography by Jaroslav Poncar; Shambhala Limited Editions, Boston, 1996. 1500 copies. This will cost you a few bob more but don’t bother with the later New Delhi paperback imprint.
A slightly dry, but still fascinating work is A History of Western Tibet, A.H. Francke; Partridge, London 1907.
We ought to include also some biographies. Nicholas Shakespeare’s debunking of Chatwin. I don’t mind reading Chatwin but I am aware that some (a lot?) is fiction. Julian Evans’ biography of Norman Lewis: Semi Invisible Man: the Life of Norman Lewis is superb.
Dr. JP Simpson
Well, Stefan, your memories of Ladakh brighten a dull Irish Sunday evening! I think Helena Norbert-Hodge self-publishes now but it was her editor and friend of 30+ years ago, Tessa Strickland, who put me on to her. And, yes, Nicholas Shakespeare’s QUALITY biography of Bruce Chatwin scrubbed the scales from off my eyes but even so, I cannot ‘diss’ him, just as I cannot ‘diss’ T.E.Lawrence.
In reply to Dr. JP Simpson.
I knew, but forgot to point out, that it’s “Norberg”.
Chatwin will be worth reading for generations to come but I fear readers will be lovers or haters. My own sister is a bookseller in the north of England. Her husband is a book tragic also. He is a PLF fan (and has a collection I envy) but my sister thinks PLF is awful. She thinks Chatwin is the bee’s knees. Her husband doesn’t and I don’t.
I read Lawrence about 45 years ago and found him hard going. I still have a copy somewhere so I shall go rummaging. He is not the flavour with bookbuyers at the moment because of his prejudices so collectors (and booksellers with nous and shelf space) should be snapping things up.
Do you know what?—I have never finished Byron’s The Road to Oxiana. I have tried and tried but it’s boring. His story is tragic, yes. In my opinion his achievement was a seemingly trivial guide he wrote in the 1930s for London Underground for London’s sightseers.
Tom has invited us to dine on on travel, environment and nature. This is probably half the British Library but I think many more of the PLF subscribers should be helping Tom out with his list here.
A meal with friends around the dining-room table designed by Fermor himself. His house was frequently visited by leading figures of the arts and letters.
Another profile of Paddy and the Mani from 2015, this time by by Sofka Zinovieff. First published in Greece Is.
A modern-day Odysseus, Patrick Leigh – Fermor spent the most peaceful days of his remarkable life in a now-famous house near Kardamyli, surrounded by olive groves.
When people talk about Patrick Leigh-Fermor, they often use superlatives: “the greatest British travel writer,” “the most daring wartime secret agent,” “the last great romantic.” I first met him when I came to the Peloponnese to do research as an anthropology student nearly 30 years ago and I went to stay with him in Kardamyli. Although I then knew little about his life, I was, like so many, immediately won over by his charisma. Paddy, as he was always known by English friends (Greeks called him Michalis, his nom de guerre), lived with his wife Joan in a house just outside Kardamyli that they built in the 1960s. At that point, Mani was still an extremely remote, even wild corner of Europe – the inaccessible middle peninsular of the Peloponnesian three-fingered “hand,” with its striking stone towers reflecting centuries of blood feuds and the dramatic, rocky landscape of Mount Taygetus.
The couple gradually created their remarkable home – a mix between a Byzantine monastery and an English country house: carved stone arches, comfortable armchairs, walls covered in books and paintings by Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas. Cats (and sometimes goats) prowled over the beautifully designed stone terraces with paths made from smooth pebbles. They had picked their spot carefully – close enough to Kardamyli to have neighbors, shops and a few tavernas, but isolated enough to have the peace they desired. Steps lead from the house down to a beautiful little cove from which they and their friends would set out on long swims. And all around them, olive groves.
Over the years, Paddy became a friend, and I gradually read all his books and learned more about him – the fast living that recalled his hero, Lord Byron, and the daring and resourceful- ness that conjured up a modern-day Odysseus. Wonderfully handsome as a young man, he was always beautifully dressed and remained charming, witty and courteous to the end. A man of action and of letters, Paddy was just as comfortable in grand English drawing rooms or mountain shacks in Crete and he was irresistible to women. A BBC journalist once described him as a mix between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene.
Paddy was one of the most cultured people I have met – constantly interested to learn about the people and places he encountered. He not only read literature and poetry but adored reference books. At dinner in Kardamyli, he would jump up to find a dictionary to illustrate a point or an atlas to locate the precise name of something.
An autodidact, he didn’t attend university, but in 1933, aged 18, walked across Europe. Carrying only a rucksack, he started in Holland and made his way through Nazi Germany, Hungary and on to Constantinople.
During the war, Paddy served in the Intelligence Corps and helped organize the resistance to Crete’s Nazi occupiers. He grew a large mustache and dressed as a shepherd with baggy pantaloons and a dagger in his belt. In 1944, he devised a bold, even crazy plan that has fascinated people ever since. Using German uniforms as disguises, he, Billy Moss and a group of Cretans kidnapped the Nazi chief of staff on Crete, General Kreipe. Living in remote caves, they avoided detection for two weeks, ultimately escaping with him back to Egypt.
It was in Cairo that Paddy met Joan, a tall, blonde intellectual and photographer, the daughter of Viscount Monsell. The pair traveled together – in the Caribbean in 1949 (resulting in Paddy’s first book, The Traveller’s Tree) and then in Greece. In Athens they became friends with many artists and writers of the day, including Giorgos Seferis and Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, and discovered Greece on foot and by mule, bus and boat. These explorations are described in Paddy’s two masterpieces, Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese and Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece. Richly erudite but also humorous and anecdotal, they remain among the best things written about Greece by a non-Greek. Mani is also a eulogy to the place that Paddy and Joan chose as the ideal place to make their home. Although it was one of the most inaccessible parts of Greece, they quickly became friends with many of their neighbors and there was a stream of visitors from Athens, England and around the world. By the time he died aged 96 in 2011, Paddy had been awarded medals and honors by both the Greek and British governments (he was knighted in 2004). He left the house at Kardamyli to the Benaki Museum, with the intention that it should be used as a writers’ retreat.
Characterized by contrasts, Paddy was playful and scholarly, he drank impressive quantities and could sing folk songs in countless languages, but he regularly went into silent retreats at Cistercian monasteries. Set between the silvery olive groves of Mani and the lush, green fields of Worcestershire, Paddy’s remarkable life would be almost unbelievable in a novel: walking across Europe, falling in love with a princess, abducting a general, taking the best from Greece and England and becoming the finest travel writer of his generation.
Paddy’s house is open for guests from 1 July, but the costs are high, and most “adoring fans” are unlikely to be able to afford the prices. This article sums it up – ‘the house has been modernised to entice the kind of people wealthy enough to rent it’. It strikes me that we should suggest to the Benaki to set aside 2-4 weeks per season for lower cost rental and application by lottery for those less able to afford it. Are these prices in-line with the spirit of Paddy’s wishes?
It was February, and I was inching towards the waves that lap Kalamitsi beach, just south of the village of Kardamyli. The brilliant morning light — sharper than the haze of summer — fell on cliffs fringed by cypress trees; beyond them were orange and lemon groves, and the distant bleat of goats. There was no sign of human life. I am usually a fair-weather swimmer but the blue-green water was exhilarating, clear to the white sand and rocks below.
I looked back to shore; peeking out of the treetops was the honey-coloured house belonging to the English adventurer, Hellenophile and former second world war spy Patrick Leigh Fermor.
He designed and built it in the mid-1960s with his wife Joan and their architect friend Nikos Hatzimichalis. Most of the stone, prised from the foothills of the Taygetus range, was brought by mule; some large pieces were manhandled by Leigh Fermor and his team of local masons, “sweating and tottering” as they moved them into position.
About 500 metres from the beach below the house is a small, forest-covered island. Every day, until two years before he died in 2011, aged 96, Leigh Fermor would swim around the island and back, emerging “svelter and browner with every passing day”, as he wrote in a letter in 1985. I took a few, frozen strokes in its direction before swimming as fast as I could back to shore.
The house is almost as celebrated as the man himself, and there has been much excitement about its reopening. With no children to inherit it, the writer bequeathed it to the Benaki Museum, an Athens art museum founded by his friend Antonis Benaki. Leigh Fermor specified that he wanted his home used as a writers’ retreat, while acknowledging that this would be expensive, and granting permission for its rental in summer months.
After a painstaking renovation, it will finally receive its first paying guests on July 1, a fortnight after the easing of lockdown restrictions allows Greece’s seasonal hotels and villas to open up. It can be booked in its entirety, for up to 10, or as three self-contained parts: the main house, for six, and the guest house and “traditional house”, both sleeping two.
When I knocked on the imposing double gate, a smiling, middle-aged lady opened it — Elpida Belogianni, who worked as Leigh Fermor’s housekeeper in the final decade of his life. Behind her, workmen strolled around a manicured garden stretching down to the sea, and electricians checked newly installed air-conditioning units. “Come,” said Elpida, ushering me in.
I knew from photos that the house was beautiful, but I was unprepared for the way it lays itself open to the sea and sky.
Medieval arches wind around the main house, mimicking a Byzantine monastery. The walls, a metre thick to keep out the summer heat, are covered in art (the most valuable paintings by Leigh Fermor’s friends — Edward Lear, John Craxton and Nikos Ghika among them — have been replaced with facsimiles). On the terrace, the pebble mosaics reveal paw prints (cats were Joan’s favourite animal) and a winding snake (Patrick’s), while painted snakes grace almost every room of the house.
In his study, I noticed an anachronistic-looking copy of Gone Girl (second edition, 2013), presumably abandoned by a passing visitor but nevertheless duly catalogued by the Benaki Museum; Leigh Fermor’s signature in Greek characters had been stamped on its inside page.
Inevitably, the house has been modernised to entice the kind of people wealthy enough to rent it — each bedroom now has a television, and a newly built swimming pool is visible in the lower garden, just above the beach (“Paddy would have hated it,” Elpida confided). Leigh Fermor was house-proud, but also liked the shabbiness of his creation, as he explained in the 1986 anthology The Englishman’s Room: “The room and its offshoots sound grander than they are; but from the stern Mitford test — ‘All nice rooms are a bit shabby’ — the place comes out with flying colours [thanks to] time, wear, and four-footed fellow-inmates.”
When the Leigh Fermors arrived in Kardamyli in the 1960s, they had very few neighbours — the tiny chapel near their house, dedicated to the archangels Gabriel and Michali, was almost a personal one. Now, in part due to its extraordinary natural beauty and in part to his legacy, the bay has become a popular destination for both Greek and foreign tourists, especially for hikers.
The morning before my swim, I had set out on the mountain trail from Kardamyli to Sparta, a path much trodden by Leigh Fermor himself, and described in his book Mani (1958). I climbed up past medieval tower houses, surrounded by colour: almond blossom, anemones, irises and mysterious wildflowers; soon, the sea fell away behind me and ahead of me the last of the snow was visible on Mount Taygetus. For those wanting to experience the magic that kept Leigh Fermor here for nearly half a century, the view from the mountain to his house will reveal even more, perhaps, than the view from the sea to his house.
Paddy by Mark Gerson, bromide print, February 1954 (National Portrait Gallery)
In all the excitement (or is it boredom) of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, I failed to complete a post I was drafting in mid-March to mark ten years since starting this blog. So here it is!
By March 2010 I had been “blogging” for a year on my other site MyByzantine. It was a new world for me and I had enjoyed seeing that site grow from four visits in February 2009 to 1,600 a month one year later (and remaining over 2,000). That site has clocked up over 460,000 visits since its launch.
During that time I had also read all three volumes of John Julius Norwich’s Byzantium history series, losing one volume into the Shkumbin river in Albania when a laden donkey fell into the thrashing river losing my baggage during my journey to find the Via Egnatia in Albania and Macedonia (you can read an account here). The insurance claim process was amusing, but I digress.
Through John Julius Norwich I had discovered Paddy and started to read and enjoy his books. Doing a little bit of Googling I found out that Paddy had no website like most other authors, and from what I read was very unlikely to start one at his age. I had also found a lot of interesting material about him, and by him, scattered across numerous sites on the web. I decided to use my “skills” from the Byzantine blog to bring all this material together into one place. The idea of the Patrick Leigh Fermor blog was born.
The first post was not about Paddy at all, but an obituary of his SOE colleague Ralph Stockbridge. This was published on 21 March 2010, and has had over 800 views since then. This was followed by a couple of obits about Sophie Moss. Many other obituaries followed of George Lane, Paddy’s wife Joan, and John Craxton. It was a “soft launch”, but visits had risen from a massive 23 in March 2010 (I recall wondering if there was any interest in this aging writer), to over 2,200 by May. Since then there have been over 1,850,000 views!
It was very sad that Paddy died in the following year. By then the blog had a strong following with over 14,000 visits on the day that his death was announced. There are now 970 posts on the blog and I do have a great backlog of genuine Paddy related material, as well as the more prosaic that I now post that is, mostly, well received by you my dear readers. You continue to send me new material, and I can’t really keep up, especially now that I have to wash my hands every five minutes 🙂 .
Thank you for your continued support. I have to say that having this “audience” during the lockdown has in some way helped me through this difficult time of being apart from many of those I love, and I do hope that the posts have in some way helped you to get through the first part of this difficult time.
I would like to finish by reposting the first article of new Paddy written material that I found and posted on 2 April 2010. It is from the Spectator and called Sex O’Clock High. Some of you may have been following from the start, others stumbling across this crazy site more recently. However long you have been reading I do hope that you all enjoy reading Sex O’Clock High. For some of you this might be the very first time you have read this amusing, and so typically Paddy piece.
A man of simple tastes, who ate his meals at the same time every day, could hold his drink, and was an avid smoker. That’s how Elpida Belogianni, who worked as a cook for the late writer from 2001 until his death in 2011, describes Patrick Leigh Fermor.
She approached Paddy, or “Kir Michalis” as he was known by everyone in Mani, about the job at his house in Kardamyli when she heard that the previous cook had left her position. Being an old acquaintance of her father, Giannis Belogiannis, Leigh Fermor hired her on the spot.
For health reasons, Leigh Fermor’s wife Joan made sure that he stuck to a strict diet, Elpida recalls. When she passed away however, he loosened the restrictions and made new rules, personalized to his tastes: he started eating a lot more meat, which he loved (particularly pork chops with butter and onions, and oven-roasted lamb with vegetables), as well as dishes like moussaka, baked gigantes beans, and eggs sunny-side up with bacon. He created his own dietary plan, which he then stuck to happily and religiously.
In the mornings, he would have one cup of Chinese tea, one orange, and three slices of toast: one with orange- or Seville orange marmalade, a second one with butter and marmite, and a third one with gentleman’s relish (a type of anchovy paste).
At 11.00, he would have a “medium-sweet” cup of Greek coffee. For lunch he ate whatever Elpida cooked. His afternoon snack consisted of another cup of tea with two Digestive biscuits. Then dinner.
He was never a fan of elaborate delicacies; he preferred simple meals, even when hosting large groups of people. He often declared that nothing could beat a plate of lentil stew drizzled with olive oil or a freshly fried fish, dipped briefly in seawater to achieve the perfect saltiness.
Famously gentle, he was always polite and good humored, never angry or irritated, and he showed no desire to try other types of food, so Elpida avoided experimenting with new dishes. “Any time I did cook something new, his response would either be: ‘Very tasty, I’d like to have this again’ or ‘Very tasty, but I don’t want to have it again’,” she laughs.
Asked if she remembers any moment in particular from cooking for Paddy, she ponders for a while, then enthusiastically recalls: “One evening – he was widowed by then – I had cooked him his favorite lamb in the oven, and I thought to recite the poem “The Lamb” by Alexandros Katakouzinos. He listened to it carefully, and it led to a discussion about Greek poetry that lasted all night, as we sat in front of the fire and had large amounts of wine.
“He was an experienced drinker, but I got really dizzy, and woke up in the morning with the worst headache. As we sat down for lunch that day, I couldn’t speak from the pain. He, on the other hand, was completely fine. Eating his meal in silence while reading a book, he looked up every now and again, shook his head with guilt, and muttered: ‘Poor Elpida, poor Elpida…’”
In early March Gastromos magazine visited Kardamyli, to prepare their Easter issue, aiming to bring to life the most authentic Greek celebration of the year in nature and the labyrinthine house of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor. They brought along their own photographer Alexandros Antoniadis, and all images are by him. The following is an auto-translate from the Greek, complete with all errors (set your browser to auto translate).
Shortly before the mid-1960s, Patrick Le Fermor, an intellectual, traveler, writer and award-winning war hero with a decisive role in the Resistance in Crete, on one of his many trips to Greece was in Messinian Mani, in Kardamili, in a cape where “there was nothing on it but olives on the terraces, donkeys, daffodils and no turtles ever.”
A genuine Manichaean landscape, but it was to capture him and become the location where he would build his iconic home – his first. Kardamyli seemed completely different from any other village he had seen in Greece, with “houses built of golden stones”. With this stone and with the help of local craftsmen and stonemasons, but also with the decisive contribution of the modernist architect Nikos Hatzimichalis, the construction of the main house will begin in 1964, as Le Fermor supervises and monitors impatiently for two whole and full of enthusiasm. years, installed in a tent in the cove. When it was completed, she settled there happily, with his wife Ioanna (Joan Rainer), a professional photographer.
He wrote books for this band, lived happily ever after and hosted good friends. The people of Kardamylia used to come here, who every year on the feast of the Brigadiers on November 8, after the service in the homonymous church, came to his house to wish him well. You see, for the people of Mania – and earlier for the Cretans – Patrick Le Fermor was “Mr. Michael” or “Philandem”, names he acquired in the two years he lived in the mountains of Crete, organizing the Resistance on the island and participating in one one of the most important military operations, the abduction of the island’s military commander, Lieutenant General Heinrich Kraipe. Gradually, however, the house inevitably fell victim to the wear and tear of time.
Today, after the total repair undertaken – with the generous support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation – the Benaki Museum, in which Patrick and Joan Le Fermor granted the entire complex with a donation in 1996, his house lives a second brilliant life and us waiting to meet her up close.
Love for Mani and nature
Spring is undoubtedly the best time to be in Mani. Its wild and windswept landscape is sweetened by the eruption of herbs and wildflowers and the spring sun emphasizes the golden color of the local land. So in the spring we visited the Le Fermor House, to prepare our Easter issue, to bring to life the most authentic Greek celebration of the year in this nature and in the labyrinthine building complex of the house. Also, to discuss the construction and its unique architectural and decorative features with two excellent ladies, who guided us to its premises: the president of the Board of Directors of the Benaki Museum, Irini Geroulanou, and the head of the house, Myrto Kaouki.
In the large kitchen, all kinds of festive dishes were cooked at a hectic pace by the immovable food stylist Alexandra Tassounidou and the photographer of the mission, Alexandros Antoniadis, was concerned only with one issue: where to lead the dishes, having to choose between countless angles, or carved tables and chairs, windowsills, pebbles (designed by Lee Fermor’s good friend, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Gika), gardens full of wildflowers and rosemary.
Within a few hours it rained and rained down, giving way to bright sunshine and sweet warmth. But every now and then Le Fermor House remains a place of unexpected calm, welcoming like an open arms, with each window and balcony facing a different side of the bay low and the sea in front of it, the olive groves that connect it from three sides and the vertical one. Terrible end of Taygetos to the east.
In every space, in every niche and corner, the immense love that Patrick Le Fermor had for this house, the care and the importance he gave to detail, is visible. “In his correspondence, while the house was being built, one can see his obvious impatience to complete the building,” Ms. Geroulanou explained. “Every fragment and fragment he collected from demolished buildings in the area, but also throughout the Peloponnese, every impression and influence from his countless trips to Greece, the Mediterranean and Asia have been carefully and lovingly integrated into this home,” he added. . So it is: The covered galleries that connect the wings of the house are clearly influenced by Mediterranean monasteries, the wooden ceilings with hundreds of panels and the loggia on the southeast side of the great hall are continental influences, the built-in cylindrical fireplaces are inspired by Persian architecture, the endless spaghetti pacifiers are reminiscent of the Aegean, the unusual. No one is satisfied to enjoy the beauty of the huge hall, with the built-in sofas and the view, different and fascinating from each window, the floors paved with Pelion tiles, the whitewashed walls with the paintings of Craxton, Hadjikyriakos-Gikas, Robin Iro , the built-in libraries that house the more than 5,000 Le Fermor books. I inevitably focus on the stone rotunda in the center of this stunning room. This all-marble table, “Inspired by the marble of Freya Stark (explorer, traveler and writer of Anglo-Italian descent) in Venice”, he writes to his wife Ioanna, he is inspired by a tondo (s.s. artistic Renaissance term that refers to a round work of art – in Italian “rotondo”) in the church of St. Anastasia of Verona, its decoration depicts white flames of Udine stone to be emitted from the center of the design, of gray-colored stone and red marble, “Vera 3” writes with obvious enthusiasm.
The books on the shelves around the table are not at all randomly placed around this navel of the house, from dictionaries and scriptures to architecture, ancient Greek literature, painting, sculpture, but also for “birds, wild animals, reptiles, fish and trees, because if one is going to settle in the wilderness, a dozen shelves with encyclopedic books are the minimum that will be needed, and they must be located near the dining table where disagreements arise, which will be resolved either by at that moment or never “4, Paddy wrote.
House maintenance has proven to be extremely difficult. The Le Fermor couple did not pay much attention to practical matters. He preferred to host numerous groups and enjoy their company. The house was open to everyone – sometimes not just to people: “From time to time, a hen that has lost her way enters, looks around, and no cat or damage comes out. Last month, a white goat came out of the yard and after a while six more were lined up behind it, walking inside their house, tapping their feet on the floor […], crossing the gallery, descending the twenty steps and they are lost again in nature, ”wrote Le Fermor.
This attitude inevitably had a cost: the house gradually fell victim to the wear and tear of time and the elements of nature. Le Fermor’s relationship with people at the Benaki Museum, such as Irini Kalliga, Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Gikas and Angelos Delivorrias, certainly influenced his decision to donate it to the Museum. But it was Tzannis Tzannetakis, his close personal friend, who convinced the couple that this decision was the right one.
Patrick Le Fermor passed away in 2011 and since then a true Golgotha has been on display for the museum. “The challenge was huge,” says Irene Geroulanou. “The wood, the walls, the windows, everything was in a miserable condition. The repairs were of a very large scale “, he adds. Myrto Kaouki points out that “the idea was for the house to remain exactly as it was and for the repairs to be done in such a way that its original atmosphere is not altered in the slightest.”
And that’s exactly what happened, despite the terrible difficulties. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation undertook the huge cost of repairs and equipment of the house, while, according to the terms of donation of Le Fermor, which stipulate that the house will be used for the purposes of the Museum, but also according to the wishes expressed, the Museum plans fellowships, honorary hospitality of important personalities from the field of letters, arts and sciences, as well as the organization of educational activities in collaboration with universities in Greece and e oterikou as the Freie Universitat, Princeton Univesity and UCLA.
Working hours were set at two times a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. It all started with the hosting of the first seminar organized by Princeton University last summer. “At the same time, the cooperation with the company Aria Hotels starts this year, with the rental of the property during the summer months, as provided in the donation, in order to secure part of its operating expenses”, says Myrto Kaouki.
Le Fermor House is open to the public on certain days and hours of the week, with organized tours, by appointment (T / 210-36.71.090).
1, 3, 4, 5: Translation from the book: Alvilde Lees-Milne & Derry Moore, “The Englishman’s Room”, Viking / Penguin Books 1986, pp. 91-95. 2: Patrick Lee
Julia Klimi and Patrick Leigh Fermor, July 2007 (copyright Julia Klimi)
Julia Klimi is a renowned Greek photographer. In 2007 she was holidaying in the Mani when a friend suggested that they should go to visit Paddy. She made it in with Paddy’s doctor and was bowled over by the house, its position and the views ‘I had never seen such a house in Greece, so perfectly in harmony with the surrounding landscape.’
She has posted a short article on her website with some very beautiful photos. These are of the house before its recent renovations. It still has everything “Paddy and Joan”. We may have seen some of these rooms before, but Julia’s photography somehow brings a different perspective. There are some of her pictures of Paddy as well as Lela.
You can access the article here on her website. It is in both Greek and English and you have to keep scrolling down to find the further paragraphs.
Paddy would have been 105 today. Let’s take a moment to remember him.
Here are a few pictures from a colourful life.
Paddy by Mark Gerson, bromide print, February 1954 (National Portrait Gallery)
Patrick Leigh Fermor with Spiro and Maria Lazaros, owners of the watermill at Lemonodassos, Greece, where he first stayed in the summer of 1935 (Patrick Leigh Fermor Archive/Trustees of the National Library of Scotland)
Paddy after the war in Byronic costume; Filedem? Courtesy of Benaki Museum
Patrick Leigh Fermor with Dirk Bogarde
Paddy on the roof of Tara in Cairo
Patrick Leigh Fermor, left, met Heinrich Kreipe, his former captive, at a reunion in Greece in 1972 which included the famous Greek TV show
Paddy by Patrick Kidd
Patrick Leigh Fermor in later life
Patrick Leigh Femor sharing lunch with friends in Kardamyli
Paddy as Filedem?
Patrick Leigh Fermor by Nikos Ghika
Paddy at the house in Kardamyli. Photo by Joan Leigh Fermor, Courtesy the New York Review of Books
William Stanley Moss, PLF, and Manoli pose before the kindap of General Kreipe
Paddy, General & Mrs Kreipe, and members of the abduction gang, Greek TV 1972
From the left: Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, John Craxton, Barbara Hutchinson-Ghika, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Joan Leigh Fermor, 1958
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Paddy and Debo 2008
Debo and Paddy 2008
Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor,by Steve Pyke (1991)
Paddy disguised as a German NCO during World War II, when he and fellow Special Operations soldiers carried out the daring kidnapping of General Heinrich Kreipe
Paddy in 1966
Paddy at home in the Mani
Patrick Leigh Fermor in 2005 – Photograph: Eamonn McCabe
In keeping with my mission to host all that is relevant about Paddy in one place on the web, I offer you these high quality photographs of the the house sent by the Benaki museum. We have had quite a few, so these may be the last. Probably, but no promises! Enjoy them.
This is the official press release issued by the Benaki which details the background to the endowment, and the story of the works with the role of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation explained. Read it here.
I’m so glad that you have been enjoying the photographs of the house. It has been ‘improved’, and may have lost some of its character, but that was entirely necessary, to make it into the functional building that Paddy envisaged. The Benaki supported by the funding of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation have done a great job.
Michael Torrens, whose photographs I used before, has provided a few more for us to enjoy over the weekend. Thank you Michael.
“One of the great rooms of the world” (Micheal Torrens)
Courtesy Micheal Torrens
Patrick Leigh Fermor house garden pool. Courtesy Micheal Torrens
Patrick Leigh Fermor house mural. Courtesy Micheal Torrens
Patrick Leigh Fermor house – the living room with fireplace designed by Paddy. Courtesy Micheal Torrens
Patrick Leigh Fermor house garden pool. Courtesy Micheal Torrens
Patrick Leigh Fermor house kitchen. Courtesy Micheal Torrens
I have been able to compile a photo montage for you of the renovated house, and its opening, from various sources including Facebook (Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Micheal Torrens/Facebook) as well as elculture.gr . Enjoy them all.
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – external view
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – external view
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – guest room
Prokopis Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic
Benaki press conference
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – living room alcove
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the inauguration of Patrick and Joan Le Fermor’s home INTIMENEWS / DG / PAPAMITSOS DIMITRIS
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – external view
“One of the great rooms of the world” (Micheal Torrens/Facebook)
The living room alcove
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – external view
Inside the house of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house
Inside the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house (photo Micheal Torrens/Facebook)
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – external view
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – external view
Bust of Patrick Leigh Fermor
Inside the house of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor
Welcome packs for the opening (to a Paddy design!)
Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor house – Paddy’s study
Inside the house of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor
Benaki press conference
New bust of Patrick Leigh Fermor (photo Michael Torrens/Facebook)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the inauguration of Patrick and Joan Le Fermor’s home INTIMENEWS / DG / PAPAMITSOS DIMITRIS
Yesterday I was dreaming of warmer climes whilst having to spend the weekend working on a project. I had previously received a kind invitation from the Benaki museum to attend the official opening of Paddy and Joan’s house, which took place on Saturday 19 October, but had to decline. The Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and many other dignitaries were in attendance. Enjoy this report first published in protagon.gr and translated by Google 🙂
Mitsotakis at Patrick Lee Fermor’s house in Mani: “As a Cretan I feel double debt” The Prime Minister attended the inauguration ceremony of the renovated house donated by the British writer to the Benaki Museum. And he talked about the “Paddy” of the Resistance and his attachment to Crete, Mani, Greece … Πηγή: Protagon.gr
It was an evening when Mani honored her biggest friend. The iconic writer Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915 – 2011), who loved the land and its people and spent most of his life there after World War II. On this warm Saturday night in Kardamili, amidst stones and trees, Kyriakos Mitsotakis inaugurated the renovated home where the British writer lived with his beloved Joan. And the Prime Minister diagnosed a thread in all this.
“I am pleased to see that the initiatives of institutions and individuals in the field of culture and historical memory are multiplying. Twenty days ago we had the inauguration of the Pagrati Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses the unique collection of Basil and Eliza Goulandris. Today we had the opening of the house of Patrick and Joan Lee Fermor. Our government will stand by all such action, because we believe in a culture, a carrier of double growth, economic when combined with our history and culture, but also social, when it forms cultivated people, that is, true citizens. ”
Mr. Mitsotakis emphasized this, among others, speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the renovated house donated by Patrick Lee Fermor and Joan at the Benaki Museum.
Speaking about Fermor, Mr. Mitsotakis pointed out that “all Greeks owe Patrick Lee Fermor, but as a Cretan I feel double debt, because” Paddy “, as his friends called him, during the Nazi occupation and for two years was Michalis, supposedly the shepherd of the mountains of Crete, who was also the link of the allies to the resistance on the island and of course the orchestrator of the great and emblematic business in the history of World War II, namely the kidnapping of the German general Heinrich Kraipe » . As he added, “this impressive energy then upheld the morality of all free consciences in Greece and everywhere in the world.”
The Prime Minister also said that “Patrick Lee Fermor chose to stay in Kardamili, after a hectic and certainly extremely interesting life, perhaps because the harsh landscape of Mani reminded him of Crete and the time of action for Crete. freedom, but unfortunately he never wrote the story of those years spent in Crete. ”
Continuing, Mr. Mitsotakis gave his own explanation: “Patrick Lee Fermor may have come here to Kardamili, because he loved genuine Greek values, authentic folk, Cretan kouzlada, modest hospitality, manic hospitality, in their wisdom. ”
At the same time, he pointed out that Patrick Lee Fermor “showed us how a particular way of life, which he himself adopted, can be transformed into a pole of attraction for an entire country, starting with the natural environment, passing on daily living, dieting, stopping at culture and tourism and finally reaching what we call mild sustainable development. ”
Elsewhere in his speech, the Prime Minister stressed that “Patrick Lee Fermor’s wish came true with the care of Benaki Museum executives, the assistance of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the cooperation of the children of Giannis Tzannetakis, who was also her supervisor. donation. ”
“All of them, ” he added, “honor his memory in the best possible way, and I want to thank them warmly and at the same time assure them that I and the responsible ministry will be with them.”
Earlier, the Prime Minister visited the town hall of West Mani, in Kardamili, where he was welcomed by locals and agencies. There he had the opportunity to discuss with the mayor, Dimitris Giannimara, the city council and residents about the problems facing the area.
We are very used to book reviews, but less so to house reviews. Here is one on the newly restored Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House by Dr John Kittmer, chair of the Anglo-Hellenic League and formerly Britain’s ambassador to Greece.
All of us hope to lead one good life. The fortunate seem to pack enough into their time to live twice over. But Sir Patrick (known in English as “Paddy”) Leigh Fermor led three full lives. As a young man he undertook an epic walk from Holland to Istanbul, having adventures, falling in love with penurious countesses, and creating a considerable personal legend.
During the Second World War he was an agent in the Special Operations Executive, aiding the Resistance in the mountains of Crete. And in the post-war years, he become one of the greatest English traveler-writers of the 20th century. Opinions differ about which is his greatest work, but “Mani” (1958) and “Roumeli” (1966) have had the greatest impression on me.
Since his death, Leigh Fermor’s life and works continue to expand. Two new volumes of his letters are in print, his account of the kidnap of General Kreipe has been published, Artemis Cooper’s compelling biography attracted considerable attention, and the Benaki Museum issued a worthy homage to the writer in 2017.
But there has been considerable interest too in Leigh Fermor’s material legacy. In 1996, Paddy and his wife Joan agreed to leave their house to the Benaki Museum. The property, built at a place called Kalamitsi near Kardamyli in the Mani, would become a writers’ retreat after their deaths. Paddy died in 2011 (Joan predeceased him), and the bequest materialized at a difficult time for Greece, with the economic crisis in full swing. It posed the Benaki Museum a big challenge.
The building of the house began in 1964 and it had scarcely been modernized since. I visited it in 2015 and saw how much work would be needed to make the house function for its new purpose. The roofs, windows, doors, shutters, bathrooms, kitchen and electrics all needed renovation. There was no air-conditioning or Wi-Fi. Thousands of books had to be catalogued, works of art conserved, security improved. All of this promised a big and costly undertaking.
Thanks to the Benaki Museum, a large grant was secured in 2016 from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The work began at once and was completed several months ago. I had the privilege of spending time at the house this summer and saw the completed restoration with my own eyes. It is magnificent: It has been done to the highest of specifications but has also preserved the authenticity of the original designs. The house is now ready for its new life as an educational center, but still feels like a home.
The house is built in an olive grove, overlooking the Messenian Gulf; behind it looms Mount Taygetos. The plot is uneven: On one side a precipitous cliff encloses a small bay, on the other the land tumbles down in terraces to a beach, which can also be reached via a public dirt-track. The main property consists of the house itself and the writer’s studio, set a few yards apart. On its principal level, the house is surrounded by a huge terrace, covered in terracotta tiles and interspersed with pebble mosaics. Into the terrace are sunk separate areas for seating, each formed around a stone table. From the terrace, the house looks like a single-story property. But in fact it spills over the terrace edge to enclose a lower level.
The house reveals itself only from within. It is unique: neither Maniat nor English, but the product of the imagination of the Leigh Fermors and their architect, Nikos Hatzimichalis. A barrel-vaulted vestibule leads into the heart of the house: an open arcaded gallery of stone, which resembles a medieval cloister and unites four suites of rooms.
The most magnificent is the enormous salon: the principal seating and dining area of the house. Its floor is made of green stone from Pelion, its ceiling is a fretwork of honey-colored pine. At one end is a beautiful Turkish hayiati with divan set around it. At the other end, the divan is warmed in winter by a stone fireplace, in Persian style. Into all the walls are set bookcases, each full of books. Also on this level are the two main bedroom suites and the kitchen. In the basement there is more accommodation.
Across from the main house is the studio that Paddy completed in 1969. It too is built of stone, with a pergola on the roof-terrace. The center of the study is the writing desk, around which are arranged the reference books, histories and literature that disciplined the author’s imagination. You feel his presence here.
To me the house has a split personality. On the one hand, it is wonderfully gregarious. It cries out for guests, for good company, for human conversation, for laughter. But it is also a place for study and for intellectual pursuits. Almost every room has spaces where you can sit down and quietly read and write, and the same is true outside. It will be perfect for a community of writers.
This is a glorious house – a unique expression of Anglo-Hellenism, built by two unique philhellenes – and it was a great honor to be the guest of the Benaki Museum. The president of Greece will formally reopen the house in October. The writers arrive next year. I wish them every inspiration and congratulate the Benaki Museum and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for a magnificent restoration job. Thanks to them, Paddy and Joan’s memory and their love of Greece live on. Their legend will continue to grow.
In 2015, the experienced BBC reporter and presenter, John Humphrys, hosted a BBC Radio 4 programme about Paddy’s life in the village of Kardamyli in the Mani, exploring his the life and work. The programme is now available (for how long I don’t know) on the BBC Sounds website. Maybe take half an hour this weekend to listen to one seasoned veteran talk about his passion for another.
At the time the BBC website introduced the programme thus:
Fermor is arguably the most influential travel writer of the 20th Century. At the age of eighteen he took off, with notebook in hand, on a walk across Europe. During the Second World War he fought in Greece and Crete, and is still remembered in the country today for his daring exploits with the resistance. His most celebrated action came in 1944 when he led a commando operation to abduct the German General Heinrich Kreipe.
In the early 1960s he moved to Greece, to the Southern Peloponnese. He built a house in the village of Kardamyli in the Mani. It was here that he wrote much of his most celebrated work and where he remained until his death in June 2011.
John Humphrys visits Fermor’s village to explore the influence that Greece had upon his life and work, and also to consider the impact that he had on the village and the people he lived alongside. John visits Fermor’s former home, now in the care of the Benaki Museum in Athens, and discusses the plans for its future. He meets those in the village who met Leigh Fermor when he first arrived in the 1960s – a man in his nineties recalls how they “danced on the tables into the night” – and he hears tales of influential guests, great writers like Bruce Chatwin and John Betjeman, even a King and Queen.
Accompanied by Fermor’s book ‘Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese’, John Humphrys also travels into the deep Mani, one of the remotest, wildest and most isolated regions in Greece.
Visit the BBC Sounds website here for further details.
I’m digging deep into my archive of draft articles to surface some items about Paddy that have been languishing there, in some cases for years.
This piece tells us nothing new, but fulfils my original purpose to bring together all that I could find about Paddy online into one place. It also reminds us how much web pages have changed since 2004!! More of these to follow.
An article about the house that explains a little about how you, my dear readers, might stay there!
The house is preparing to open as a luxury boutique hotel for three months of every year. The Benaki will collaborate with Aria Hotels, a hotel and villa company that offers so-called authentic retreats in restored, historic Greek properties.
From 2020, people can rent the villa throughout the summer period in parties of between two to fourteen people. More specifically, there will be five guestrooms, each including a bedroom, an independent workplace (equipped with basic office equipment) and bathroom. Three of the guestrooms will be in the main house where the bedrooms are connected by an arched colonnade, an intentional echo of the Greek monasteries that Leigh Fermor had visited. The fourth guesthouse will be located in the studio where he used to work and write; and the fifth,, at the secondary stone house. To foster sociable interactions in the tradition of the Leigh Fermors, there will be communal spaces such as the main living room that has coffered Ottoman ceilings and ogive fireplaces inspired by Paddy’s Eastern travels. Outdoors, scattered amid the lush gardens, there will also be several scenic sitting areas – some punctuated by serpentine pebbled patterns designed by the great Greek artist Nikos Ghika. (Insider has been told that rates will range from €300 a night for the individual houses – including breakfast, concierge and cleaning, and use of the outdoor pool – and from €2,200 per night for exclusive use of the entire villa.)
A weekend communication from the Benaki states that the repairs are complete and all on time! This is a very welcome achievement. Well done to all involved.
Here is the full press release:
The repair works at the Patrick & Joan Leigh Fermor House have now been completed, well within schedule. They had begun in August 2017 and were fully funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
The main objectives of the repair works were maintaining the ambience of the House and improving its facilities in order to enable its operation as a residency centre. The garden was revived; where necessary, damaged plants were replaced and new ones were added, chosen among Mediterranean and Greek species.
The project proved successful thanks to the efforts of the team involved: the contractors, Ballian Techniki, the study and supervision team Maria Kokkinou, Andreas Kourkoulas, Pandelis Argyros, Dimitris Pastras and Helli Pangalou, as well as the consultant Efi Delinikola from STADION.
The Benaki Museum would like to extend particular thanks to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and to all those who participated to the realization of the project.
It is worthwhile visiting the House section of the Benaki website. It looks like it has been updated and there are some interesting sections, inclusing notes on conservation of the furniture etc.
For visitors to the Mani, it seems that the house will once more be open for viewing in summer 2019.
As we reported a few weeks ago, the progress of repairs and restoration at Paddy and Joan’s house appear to be on track. The Benaki sent me a few more photos showing work on the exterior which is looking very good. Hopefully more to come on the interior at a later date.
A short update in Greek and English has been issued today by the Benaki Museum. Unfortunately no photos other than the one above appear to be available at the moment.
Works at the Leigh Fermor House are progressing very well within schedule. The largest part of the repairs has been completed using as much as possible the same traditional techniques and materials employed by the Leigh Fermors. For example, roofs were tiled anew with the original handmade ceramic tiles and the internal walls were plastered with a preparation reproducing the 1960s mixture. Furthermore, the new timber doors, windows and stone lintels, are exact copies of the originals.
The House will reopen to the public in the summer of 2019 and guided tours will be offered to the public.
The repair works are carried out thanks to the major donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
If you have questions, I suggest that you direct them to the Benaki email@example.com . The Benaki Museum page dedicated to the project can be found here.
‘Kardamyli now makes most of its money from tourism. It wasn’t as immune to tourism as Leigh Fermor imagined or wanted it to be.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Writing in 1958 about the little Greek town that was eventually to become his home, the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor was satisfied to note that the Guide Bleu gave it only half a line. “It is better so,” Leigh Fermor wrote. “It is too inaccessible and there is too little to do there, fortunately, for it ever to be seriously endangered by tourism.”
His next paragraph describes the town in early evening when, waiting for a freshly caught fish to cook on a grill, he and a few fishermen sit under a mulberry tree outside a taverna and watch the sun sink over the mountains. Caiques – the wooden working boats of the Mediterranean – rock gently “with each sigh of the green transparent water … tethered a few yards above their shadows on the pebbly bottom”. One of Leigh Fermor’s typically exact (and perhaps exacting) images follows when he describes the sea lapping over a flat rock “with just enough impetus to net the surface with a frail white reticulation of foam which slid softly away and dissolved while a new one formed”.
Some of these things still exist. The Mediterranean is clear and green and blue, and on a calm day it will rise and fall against the rocks as Leigh Fermor describes. The sun goes down as he depicts it. There is even a caique or two; and, of course, tavernas – more tavernas than ever. But in most other ways the township of Kardamyli in the Peloponnese is utterly changed. Charter flights land at the little airport in the regional capital, Kalamata, and from there a twisting, expensively engineered road takes taxis, hire cars and air-conditioned coaches over the mountains to a resort that has nice hotels, trinket shops and olive-oil boutiques, as well as pretty restaurants with tea-lights on their tables that look down on the sea. The usual story: Kardamyli now makes most of its money from tourism. It wasn’t as immune to tourism as Leigh Fermor imagined or wanted it to be, and the writer himself is partly to blame.
The tumbledown factory loomed on the shore, a picturesque ruin in brick and concrete where fig trees grew. First, he published an account of his travels in the southern Peloponnese, the peninsula known as the Mani, which was then not much visited, and invested it with the beauty and mystery of a place and people that the 20th century had passed by. Then, six years later, in 1964, he bought a plot of land there – in a bay to the south of Kardamyli – and built a beautiful villa that he lived in almost to the last day of his life, in June 2011. Today his books are available in at least three languages in the local bookshop. People go there because of him – to experience similar sights and sensations to those he saw and felt, even though they understand this can never be completely accomplished, the world having moved on.
But was it ever quite as he described it in the first place? Leigh Fermor’s view of the Mani was essentially romantic: there are few better describers of landscape, but it’s a landscape with omissions. His first sight of Kardamyli is of an enchanting, castellated hamlet at the sea’s edge, where towers, turrets and cupolas rise above houses built of golden stone. “It was unlike any village I had seen in Greece,” Leigh Fermor writes in a page-long depiction that somehow ignores the village’s tallest manmade attribute: the factory chimney of the old olive-oil works. This is difficult to miss. Look down on Kardamyli from almost any vantage point and there it stands, its bricks pale against a background of blue sea and rather more noticeable than the towers and the turrets lying further inland among the cypresses and the olive groves.
The towers date from the age of banditry, feuding clans and resistance to the Ottoman empire. The chimney has cleaner and more peaceable origins. This month I lived next door to it for 10 days in a fine little hotel, and swam morning and afternoon from a ladder bolted to the rocks. The tumbledown factory loomed on the shore behind, a picturesque ruin in brick and concrete where fig trees grew and rusting pipes sprang from the wall at odd angles. A high fence surrounded it, with warnings to keep out.
Olive oil had once been made here – not virgin, cold-pressed or estate bottled, but the roughest kind, which goes into soap. Some accounts online suggest it was owned by the Palmolive company (and when I read this I understood, for the first time, how that familiar name had come about); others say a local family were the proprietors. It used olives – and the residues left from edible oil production – from as far away as Crete, shipped to a concrete pier nearby whose size was inexplicable unless you knew its original purpose. It was said to have employed 150 workers, with steam machinery that, as well as operating its crushers, had the spare capacity to supply the village with its first electricity. Opened in 1932, it closed in either 1958 or 1975 – local memories differed – when new techniques of oil production made it redundant. Since then, a dispute among the site’s three or four owners had prevented demolition or development.
I liked the chimney; three stepped rings of brick, progressively larger in diameter, gave its top a decorative flourish. But then, I’ve always been fascinated by factory chimneys of all kinds, for reasons that I’ve never really examined, the most important probably being that I spent some of my childhood among them: the great smoking verticals of the Lancashire plain, formerly beloved of geography textbooks as the illustrations to the chapter on the textile industry. To find them situated outside what might be considered their natural homelands – the old industrial towns of northern Europe and North America – is always a surprise. They look solitary, like isolated monuments to a faraway and not properly understood revolution. One still standing on the coast of Argyll marks the site of a Victorian factory that made acetic acid from the oak and birch wood. Another on the Ionian island of Paxos served the same kind of mill as Kardamyli’s.
Smoke was most probably still drifting from the Kardamyli chimney when Leigh Fermor reached here in the mid-1950s, but he can hardly be blamed for omitting it from his picture. Like many travellers in our age, he had a distaste for modernity. (He hated radios, for instance, and was relieved that the Mani had so few of them. “Rabid wirelesses should be hunted out and muzzled or shot down like mad dogs.”) He travelled to reach some agreeable form of the past, which has been a motive for the holidaymaker since the days of the Grand Tour.
On an afternoon last week in Kardamyli, I climbed up the ladder from the sea to find three or four men inside the factory fence inspecting the ruins. One wore a pith helmet and carried a theodolite. Another unpacked a drone from its box and directed its flight to the chimney, which it hovered above rather threateningly. It looked as though change was in the offing. I’d known of the chimney for less than a week – and, really, what was it to me? But already I felt a slight alarm that it too might pass, just like the fishermen who watched the sunset with Leigh Fermor from underneath a mulberry tree.
From the April 2018 edition of The Oldie magazine, a remarkable podcast interview with the late John Julius Norwich to celebrate the Charmed Lives in Greece retrospective exhibition at the British Museum. John Julius recalls the special life and tremendous spirit of his friend Patrick Leigh Fermor, the man whom John Julius credits with opening up the Byzantine world to him – the subject of his first book on the subject Byzantium: The Early Centuries.
John Julius talks about Paddy’s incredible intellectual curiosity and lightness of touch: ‘All the time you were aware of being in touch with perhaps the most extraordinary man you’d ever met.’