Category Archives: Uncategorized

75th Anniversary of Kreipe Capture – proposed special screening of Ill Met by Moonlight

April-May 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the ‘Hussar Stunt’, and certain events will take place in London to mark the occasion. One idea suggested is to hire a cinema or suitable location for a special screening of the 1957 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger movie, Ill Met by Moonlight, starring Dirk Bogarde. It would be wonderful if we could manage this during the period of the anniversary 26 April to 14 May or thereabouts.

We are looking at the possibility of this now and what arrangements we can make, but it would help enormously if we could gauge the level of interest amongst readers of the blog. The idea might be something like the following. All subject to change!

  • Special screening in a central London location.
  • Drinks reception before the screening.
  • The main event.
  • Possible panel Q&A afterwards.
  • Further drinks and fork/finger buffet to follow

We have no firm idea of what this might cost yet, but fair to say in the range £25-£50 pp.

It would help us enormously if you can complete the above poll. There is no commitment whatsoever, and you can add comments by clicking on “comments” once you have voted. For instance, some of you might like to have a similar event in another city, in your country. Why not tell us and we can work together. Poll replies at your earliest convenience would be much appreciated.

 

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Holiday Planning? Crete, between the mountains and the sea

View from the village of Kapetaniana, Asterousia.

Thinking of going to wild and rugged Crete this year? It is the 75th anniversary of the Kreipe kidnap and there will be a lot going on. A nice little article here about one family and their efforts to create a unique holiday environment in Heraklion province.

By Michael Sweet.

First published in Neos Kosmos

On the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Cross, every September 14, the faithful from villages near Mount Kofinas climb its peak to observe an ancient rite. On the summit, three small trees – a species of white-beam – bear fruit at this time of year. The fruit, which looks like cherry-sized apples, is gathered, soaked in water, and blessed, before the priest shares the tiny ‘apples’ with the worshippers. They eat them not only as a holy Eucharist, but for their believed healing properties. Predating Christianity, this ritual dates back more than three thousand years, for here at this Minoan peak sanctuary, one of more than twenty across Crete, the echoes of deep history are carried in the wind.

What attracted the Minoans to settle at this sacred place is what brought the founder of Thalori Retreat – Marcos Skordalakis here: a spiritual energy which weaves its way through the peaks and passes, before sweeping down to the beaches that lie a dizzying thousand metres below.

The village of Kapetaniana, perched high on the western approach to Kofinas, is where Marcos began building (or rather rebuilding) Thalori in 2001. For six years the former restaurateur set about transforming a dozen ruined houses into some of the finest holiday accommodation available in Heraklion province. Combining rustic authenticity with contemporary comfort, Thalori opened in 2007 and today comprises 20 houses, a restaurant, and a working farm with riding stables.

“It was my dream to make a place that felt like a home, for my family and for my guests,” says Marcos, as we talk at one of the restaurant’s exterior tables and look out to the Libyan Sea. “I wanted it to be a place where guests could explore nature – all the special things the mountain and the sea has to offer.”

Below Thalori is the village of Agios Ioannis. Connected to Kapetaniana by an 8 km dirt road that spears downwards in a series of hair-raising bends, it’s a journey not for the faint-hearted. This is where Marcos keeps his boat, and it’s the set-off point for the remarkable cruises he offers along this wild shore. For adventurous types, in the summer he’ll even take you to your own beach (with cave) for the night, and pick you up the next day. [Read more]

The late Sergeant Fraser Stirling, 1 Royal Irish and the epidemic of PTSD

Sergeant Fraser Stirling, 1 R Irish

It is the time if year to thank you once more for supporting the blog and keeping interest in Paddy very much alive. A time also to wish all dear readers a very merry Christmas and a happy New year.

Many of you have got in touch commenting that I have not been on my annual charity walk this year; you seem to have missed my pleas for money! There are many reasons for this. The main one being that the subject of veteran mental health in the UK is reaching some sort of crisis point, and I don’t think that my time is best spent on just a simple fundraising exercise. I am exploring other ways of helping that may address the fundamental issues of supporting veterans.

This Christmas l ask that you consider making a donation to Combat Stress, the UK charity focused on veteran mental health and about to mark 100 years of support to veterans in 2019.

The importance of this issue is highlighted by the sad story of Sergeant Fraser Stirling, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, who, it is believed, killed himself on September 26, 2018. Sergeant Fraser Stuart Stirling, 1 Royal Irish Regiment, was just 30 years, and a fine soldier. He was the dearly loved son of Fiona and the late Karl Stirling, with a brother Eoghan, and devoted fiance Valeria. He was known as a loyal friend and colleague, and served alongside my son. Fraser was a veteran of three tours to Afghanistan, and rescued colleagues involved in an IED incident. Stirling, from Buckie in Moray, had offered to help other soldiers who were struggling with trauma-related disorders.

“He was helping me to help people with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” says Trevor Coult, a former Royal Irish colour sergeant who campaigns for better mental health care for veterans. “He had reached out to say, ‘Trev, I’ll give you a hand’, but he hadn’t said: ‘I need a hand.’”

Fraser’s death is just one of an estimated more than 50 veteran suicide’s this year. The true number is unknown as the NHS and MOD do not keep any accurate records. This report in the Daily Record indicated that one veteran committed suicide every 6 days in 2018.

The subject of veteran mental health is one that is pertinent to this blog. There is a strong belief that Billy Moss suffered some form of PTSD. I am sure many others from SOE will have experienced issues. It is much more likely that non-commissioned soldiers take their lives as research shows that not all have the strong support networks that many officers have.

The video attached to this story graphically shows some of the dreadful emotions felt by these soldiers. Jamie Davies, 4 Scots, the Highlanders, was a father of two, who killed himself in August during a period of almost an epidemic of suicide amongst Scottish soldiers. Before he died, Jamie filmed a powerful video detailing his post-traumatic stress disorder hell.

Donate to Combat Stress here.

Thank you and a Merry Christmas to you and those you love. Keep them close and support them.

Tom

Paddy arrives in Cologne: “I knew I was inside the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe . . .”

The west front of the completed Köln cathedral in 1911

A further extract from A Time of Gifts to mark the 85th anniversary of the “great trudge”.

After a first faraway glimpse, the two famous steeples grew taller and taller as the miles that separated us fell away. At last they commanded the cloudy plain as the spires of a cathedral should, vanishing when the outskirts of the city interposed themselves, and then, as I gazed at the crowding saints of the three Gothic doorways, sailing up into the evening again at close range. Beyond them indoors, although it was already too dark to see the colours of the glass, I knew I was inside the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Except for the little constellation of tapers in the shadows of a side chapel, everything was dim. Women knelt interspersed with nuns and the murmured second half of the Gegrusset seist Du, Maria rose in answering chorus to the priest’s initial solo; a discreet clatter of beads kept tally of the accumu­lating prayers. In churches with open spires like Cologne, one could understand how congregations thought their orisons had a better start than prayers under a dome where the syllables might flutter round for hours. With steeples they follow the uprush of lancers and make an immediate break for it.

Tinsel and stars flashed in all the shops and banners saying Frohliche Weihnacht! were suspended across the streets. Clogged villagers and women in fleece-lined rubber boots slipped about the icy pavements with exclamatory greetings and small screams, spilling their armfuls of parcels. The snow heaped up wherever it could and the sharp air and the lights gave the town an authentic Christmas card feeling. It was the real thing at last! Christmas was only five days away. Renaissance doors pierced walls of ancient brick, upper storeys jutted in salients of carved timber and glass, triangles of crow-steps outlined the steep gables, and eagles and lions and swans swung from convoluted iron brackets along a maze of lanes. As each quarter struck, the saint-encrusted towers challenged each other through the snow and the rivalry of those heavy bells left the air shaking.

Beyond the Cathedral and directly beneath the flying ­buttresses of the apse, a street dropped sharply to the quays. Tramp steamers and tugs and barges and fair-sized ships lay at anchor under the spans of the bridges, and cafes and bars were raucous with music. I had been toying with the idea, if I could make the right friends, of cadging a lift on a barge and sailing upstream in style for a bit.

I made friends all right. It was impossible not to. The first place was a haunt of seamen and bargees shod in tall sea-boots rolled down to the knee, with felt linings and thick wooden soles. They were throwing schnapps down their throats at a brisk rate. Each swig was followed by a chaser of beer, and I started doing the same. The girls who drifted in and out were pretty but a rough lot and there was one bulky terror, bursting out of sailor’s jersey and wearing a bargeman’s cap aske on a nest of candy-floss hair, called Maggi – which was short for Magda – who greeted every newcomer with a cry of ‘Hallo, Bubi!’ and a sharp, cunningly twisted and very painful pinch on the cheek. I liked the place, especially after several schnapps, and I was soon firm friends with two beaming bargemen whose Low German speech, even sober, would have been blurred beyond the most expert linguist’s grasp. They were called Uli and Peter. ‘Don’t keep saying Sie,’ Uli insisted, with a troubled brow and an unsteadily admonishing forefinger: ‘Say Du.’

This advance from the plural to the greater intimacy of the singular was then celebrated by drinking Brüderschaft. Glasses in hand, with our right arms crooked through the other two with the complexity of the three Graces on a Parisian public fountain, we drank in unison. Then we reversed the process with our left arms, preparatory to ending with a triune embrace on both cheeks, a manoeuvre as elaborate as being knighted or invested with the Golden Fleece. The first half of the ceremony went without a hitch, but a loss of balance in the second, while our forearms were still interlocked, landed the three of us in the sawdust in a sottish heap. Later, in the fickle fashion of the very drunk, they lurched away into the night, leaving their newly-created brother dancing with a girl who had joined our unsteady group: my hobnail boots could do no more damage to her shiny dancing shoes, I thought, than the seaboots that were clumping all round us. She was very pretty except for two missing front teeth. They had been knocked out in a brawl the week before, she told me.

Extract from A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, with thanks to John Murray Publishers

An exciting new travel writing talent?

It is rare for writers of the stature of Susan Hill to say “I was knocked sideways by this book”. Author Kamila Shamsie thought Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey, the debut book by young writer Adam Weymouth, “Dazzling, often in unexpected ways, Adam Weymouth is a wonderful travel writer, nature writer, adventure writer”.

Travel author Adam Weymouth has scooped the £5,000 Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award for Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey (Particular Books), about his four-month canoe trip through an Alaskan river’s remotest reaches, following “strong, excited consensus” from the judges.

The author who lives on a 100-year-old narrowboat on the River Lea in east London was announced as the winner on Thursday evening (6th December) at a ceremony at the London Library. His debut, Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey, follows his four-month “canoe odyssey” along Alaska’s Yukon river and the salmon who return to it, published by Penguin imprint Particular Books in April this year, after being bought at auction in 2015.

“The result is a captivating, lyrical portrait of the people and landscapes he encounters – and an elegiac glimpse into a disappearing world,” prize organisers said, with judges comparing him to Patrick Leigh Fermor and author Robert Macfarlane.

Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate, revealed he had failed to spot Weymouth and believes fellow journalists also missed a trick. “It feels as if we have found, ready minted and hidden in plain sight, a really outstanding new contemporary British voice – one who literary editors (myself included; I plead guilty) almost completely failed to spot on publication.” the judge said. “I’ve never seen such a strong and excited consensus among the judges for a winner.” Kings of the Yukon has so far sold 1,365 copies in hardback according to Nielsen BookScan.

The debut beat off competition for the £5,000 prize from the Women’s Prize for Fiction-shortlisted novelist Imogen Hermes Gowar for her debut The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock (Harvill Secker), Laura Freeman for her memoir about recovery through literature, The Reading Cure (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) and the Man Booker-shortlisted Fiona Mozley for Elmet (JM Originals), her Yorkshire-set debut about a family trying to find their place at the margins of society.

Author Kamila Shamsie, who was also on the judging panel, said: “Dazzling, often in unexpected ways, Adam Weymouth is a wonderful travel writer, nature writer, adventure writer – along the way, he is also a nuanced examiner of some of the world’s most fraught and urgent questions about the interconnectedness of people and the natural world.”

Fellow judge, writer Susan Hill said: “I was knocked sideways by this book and quite unexpectedly. Adam Weymouth takes his place beside the great travel writers like Chatwin, Thubron, Leigh Fermor, in one bound. But like their books this is about so much more than just travel.”

Holgate said: “Weymouth combines acute political, personal and ecological understanding, with the most beautiful writing reminiscent of a young Robert Macfarlane…He is, I have no doubt, a significant voice for the future.”

Sponsored by literary agency Peters Fraser + Dunlop, the Young Writer of the Year Award runs in association with the University of Warwick. In addition to the prize money of £5,000, the winner is also awarded a 10-week residential course with the programme. All shortlisted authors receive overseas exposure through the British Council, the international partner of the prize.

Sounds like this could be an ideal surprise Christmas present. Buy Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey

Joan – a blog review

When Simon Fenwick, a professional archivist, was asked to sort Paddy’s papers at Kardamyli after his death in 2011, one would imagine that it would be the illustrious Paddy who would fire Simon’s imagination to write a book. But, as Simon worked his way through the accumulations of a lifetime, it was Joan, the woman who lived in Paddy’s shadow who started to fascinate and inspired him to write Joan: Beauty, Rebel, Muse: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor.

Although Joan’s money enabled Paddy to write, and she accompanied him on many of his post-war journeys, there is barely a mention of Joan in Paddy’s work. Simon’s painstaking research has resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable biography that gives Joan real shape and depth. Not only has Simon managed to produce a book about a woman who barely left any archive of her own (a diary from 1936 and some letters from John and Penelope Betjeman is about it), he has a very engaging and entertaining style.

Paddy of course features prominently in the latter half of the book, but Simon is careful to retain the focus on his subject. We do, however, learn a lot more detail about Paddy to supplement Artemis Cooper’s 2012 biography Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure. Simon has had the benefit of access to a very wide range of different source information, and dare I say, material that now is much better organised than when Artemis was writing.

Simon Fenwick is very candid about the lifestyles and affairs of Joan, Paddy and their assorted friends. It was Joan who was friends first with Cyril Connelly, Maurice Bowra, John Betjeman, Patrick Kinross etc, and introduced Paddy into their world where he found immediate acceptance. There is a degree of honesty about his work which will appeal to those who want to know what the lives of these people were really like. We may think that we know them, but Simon Fenwick truly brings a new perspective and introduces us to new material. It is certainly a good read, and in paperback, an ideal stocking filler for Christmas.

Buy Joan: Beauty, Rebel, Muse: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor

The return of the Travellers’ Film Club

Those lovely people at Eland Books who publish the most amazing range of classic travel books have announced that the Traveller’s Film Club is to return!

Previously held at Waterstones, Piccadilly, the film club will be relaunched in the hall of the magnificent Holy Redeemer Church on Exmouth Market on Thursday 6th December.

The first film will be Night Mail, a 1936 black and white classic that documents the nightly postal train operated by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Narrated by John Grierson and Stuart Legg, the film closes with the much loved lines from W. H. Auden with a score by Benjamin Britten.

‘This is the night mail crossing the border, bringing the cheque
and the postal order.’

The film is widely considered a masterpiece of the British documentary film movement.

Entry is free. 6.30pm drinks and pop-up bookshop

8pm film showing (The film is 23 minutes long)