Help needed – high resolution photos of John Pendlebury

John Pendlebury at Knossos

Hello all. I have a request from Crystalia Patouli who is writing an article for a magazine in Greek and English. She would like to include some high resolution pictures of John Pendlebury. If you can help please contact Crystalia – cpatouli[at]

Thank you.


A forlorn ultimate border of reality

Kapka Kassabova’s Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe is a timely, powerful story of immigration, friendship and travel.

By Caroline Moorhead

First published in The New Statesman

When Kapka Kassabova was in her late thirties, she decided to return to the place where she had grown up, but had not seen for 25 years: the borderlands of eastern Thrace, where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey meet. Her parents were Bulgarian scientists who, after a spell in the UK, had settled in New Zealand, where, she writes, the Kiwi speech made “fish” sound like “fush” and “chips” like “chups”, where the stars were rearran­ged and the seasons inverted: an “upside-down world, but then it always is, for the immigrant”. It is again as an immigrant, a wanderer, that Kassabova – who now lives in the Scottish Highlands – went to find the forbidden places of her childhood.

“Forbidden” because her early years were confined by the militarised border that separated the three countries, acting as a cut-off line between the Warsaw Pact states of the Soviet bloc and Nato members, in the Western sphere of influence. Though the end of the Cold War and shared EU membership “softened” the border between Greece and Bulgaria, it was once “deadly”, she says, and it “remains prickly with dread to this day”. This is an exceptional book, a tale of travelling and listening closely, and it brings something altogether new to the mounting literature on the story of modern migration.

Kassabova started her journey on the Black Sea, dropped westwards to the border plains of Thrace, crossed the passes of the Rhodope Mountains, and made her way in a circle back to the sea again. (A better map would have been invaluable.) Everywhere she went she paused, took time to make friends and hear people’s stories, to look at her surroundings and understand them, to meditate on the nature of borders and to remember her own confined childhood, when she first became conscious that, unlike other holidaymakers to the Black Sea, she was not free to leave Bulgaria. A border, she writes, is something that you carry inside you without knowing. Like Freya Stark, who also wandered through remote parts, Kassabova has a gift for relating the past to the present: Herodotus, Atatürk and the Greek gods all accompany her on her travels.

The countryside she describes is wild, remote, sometimes scary, covered in the blackest of forests, where wolves, boar, bears and vipers are to be found, where the villages are inhabited by old people, the young having long since left, and where “entrepreneurs and consumers, desperadoes and smugglers” hold sway. She meets former border guards, traffickers, foresters and lighthouse keepers. Many of them are refugees from earlier migrations, expelled from their homes by conflicts, victims of nationalist feuds that had lain dormant for years, or the children of immigrants, whose love of their homeland is strong but who exist in a permanent sense of limbo, ever poised to flee.

With some of her new friends, she crosses backwards and forwards across the former border, travelling in cars so old it seems unlikely that they can cope with the steep mountain tracks. With others, she just sits and talks. There is Ivo the herbalist, a man with a “heroic” moustache, forced through bankruptcy to settle in what was once his holiday home, who grows aubergines as heavy as hand grenades and makes an ointment that cures everything from psoriasis to alopecia; and the divorced former teacher Ioanna, now a mountain climber, who patrols the forests for poachers, illegal loggers, drug dealers and illegal immigrants as she searches for abandoned treasure; and Mr Karadeniz, whose father was five years old when he threw a stone at a pig requisitioned by Greek soldiers and whose grandmother, fearing reprisals, whisked her son over the border to hide with Bulgarian neighbours.

Into this mix have come today’s refugees, the Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, struggling to find safe routes to the West, their journeys truncated by new wire fences and hostile officials. “Europe,” one Kurdish woman marooned in a village on the Turkish border tells her sadly, “is where you are not afraid.” She fled with her eight children to prevent them being conscripted to fight Isis; but where she will go now, no one can say. The strength of Kassabova’s book lies in the skill with which she interweaves the narrative of these people into that of the inhabitants of the borderlands, giving the context for their lives in a way that the dozens of current books on the travels and travails of modern refugees seldom do. They enter her journey, and she listens to them, as she listens to everyone. It is an important reminder that refugees are not a separate species, moving inexorably away and towards, but part of a vast, complicated pattern of history.

Everywhere she goes, Kassabova takes stock of her surroundings, the birds and the mountains, the ruined monasteries and caves, the rock formations and waterfalls. Sometimes charmed, sometimes frightened, sometimes haunted by the ghosts that seem to inhabit these lost mountainous lands, she writes about roses, about belly dancing, fire worship and dragons. Her curiosity is limitless.

Patrick Leigh Fermor once wrote about a “forlorn ultimate border of reality beyond which a cloud of legend, rumour and surmise began”. This is Kassabova’s territory. And if, at the end of the book, it is hard to name the many characters she has met, or to recall with precision the places she has visited, she leaves a vivid image of these lands and the people who occupy them. Equally powerful is her own sense of sympathy for the uprooted and dispossessed. “I felt very strongly that within my lifetime, we may all become exiles,” she writes. “That we may all be robbed by devouring daemons disguised as policy and industry, that we may all walk down some road carrying in plastic bags our memories of forests and mountains, clean rivers and village lanes.” At a moment when Hungary has promised to incarcerate all who cross its borders ­illegally, and when asylum-seekers are adrift from one end of the world to the other, Border makes for timely reading.

Buy Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe


How an idyllic Greek hideaway inspired a British war hero and travel writer

Nikos and Barbara Hadjikyriakos-Ghika with John Craxton, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Joan Fermor, in 1958. Photograph: Benaki Museum – Ghika Gallery, Athens.© Benaki Museum.

By Jamie Doward

First published in The Guardian

24 December 2017

Oh, to have been a fly on the bougainvillea-clad wall as the drinks flowed and the sun sank behind the beautiful house tucked away in a remote part of Greece.

One night a visitor might find Stephen Spender or Louis MacNeice. Another, Lawrence Durrell and John Betjeman.

But always holding court, cigarette in hand, ouzo glass raised, would be Sir Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor, the war hero and travel writer often said to be the inspiration for his friend Ian Fleming’s most famous creation, James Bond.

In the late 1950s, the house Leigh Fermor built with his wife Joan in Kardamyli, a seaside village located in the Mani peninsula, in the southern Peloponnese, became a haven for writers and artists drawn to its owner’s extraordinary charisma and the wild, arid beauty of the surrounding landscape.

It was here that Leigh Fermor, who died in 2011 aged 96, built his close friendship with two men – the Greek artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, who lived on Hydra before moving to Corfu, and the British painter, John Craxton, who lived for a time on Crete. Now the remarkable friendship is to be explored in a new exhibition at the British Museum that will open next spring.

Charmed Lives examines the influence that post-war Greece had on the three men and brings together in the UK for the first time their artworks, photographs, letters and personal possessions. Among the items on display will be Leigh Fermor’s typewriter (which he never managed to master), his binoculars and a Leica camera belonging to Joan, a professional photographer.

Striking paintings of Greek landscapes and local people by both Craxton and Ghika will feature alongside extracts from Leigh Fermor’s many books.

John Craxton’s ‘Still Life with Three Sailors’ reflects his Greek inspirations. Photograph: John Craxton

Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith, a former British ambassador to Athens, who knew all three men and is one of the exhibition’s curators, conceded many would be drawn by the cult of Leigh Fermor, a polyglot and autodidact once described as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene.”

“There’s a tremendous fashion for him,” Llewellyn-Smith said. “In a way you’d expect it to diminish over time but the opposite is happening and it’s very difficult to explain. I don’t think it’s fully related to his work. It is for some people but there are others who are attracted by the legend.”

Much of Leigh Fermor’s legend is burnished by his epic walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, made as an 18-year-old, and his heroics during the second world war when, leading a group of Cretan resistance fighters, he captured the German commander General Heinrich Kreipe in one of the most audacious acts in the history of the Special Operations Executive.

While his postwar books such as A Time Of Gifts cemented his legend and led to Leigh Fermor being regarded as one of the great travel writers, it transpires that the real-life 007 also dabbled as an artist and several of his works will be on display in the exhibition. These include six portraits of Cretan resistance fighters painted in 1942. They are the only ones out of around 20 similar paintings to have survived. The majority were destroyed as the Germans advanced.

“Paddy had an extremely acute visual sense and was himself an artist, an amateur,” Llewellyn-Smith said. “When he was walking across Europe, when he was 18 to 20 years old, around Vienna he had virtually no money and so he started drawing portraits of people to get enough to get a crust of bread or more.”

Llewellyn-Smith said the fact that all three men had died only relatively recently –Ghika in 1994, Craxton in 2009 – meant there was much to be gained by producing an exhibition of their lives and friendship now.

“A lot of people who knew them are still around, and therefore for those organising the exhibition, such as myself, it was possible to talk to them and get their memories and anecdotes. This couldn’t have been done if the exhibition had been delayed by many years.”

The organisers say they hope it will offer visitors an opportunity to reflect on Greece’s enduring role as a source of artistic inspiration. It may also offer a subtle reminder that British-Hellenic relations can be about more than that most famous of British Museum attractions, the Parthenon marbles. “This period when these three men got to know each other was a period of artistic and literary collaboration, almost a renaissance between British and Greek artists and writers,” Llewellyn-Smith said. “It didn’t have anything to do with politics and returning sculptures to Greece. That’s a different century.”

It may also offer clues as to why, despite smoking around 80 cigarettes a day, just like Fleming’s Bond, Leigh Fermor managed to live so long. “When he was in the Peloponnese he would go for walks every day in the mountains behind the house and he’d swim for half an hour every morning,” Llewellyn-Smith said.

In his will, Leigh Fermor gave the house to the Benaki museum in Athens with instructions for it to be turned into a writers’ retreat. While some of Leigh Fermor’s devoted fanbase have grumbled about the pace of its renovation – which at one stage appeared to have fallen victim to Greece’s economic woes, – there are hopes the exhibition may elicit funds to speed things up.

If so, it would mean that more than half a century on from when Leigh Fermor built his idyll, it will once again help nurture a new generation of artists and writer.

Charmed Lives in Greece the exhibition will run at the British Museum 8 Mar-15 July 2018


Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Pleasures of Places and People

Patrick Leigh Fermor in later life

We are fortunate to have a number of articles by the American writer Ben Downing on the blog. Downing specialises in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British social life and literature. His three part A Visit with Patrick Leigh Fermor can be found here. The following article is his review of Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Life in Letters.

By Ben Downing

First published in the Wall Street Journal

1 December 2017

In a 1958 diary entry, the writer and Bloomsbury Group member Frances Partridge recalled a dinner during which “the conversation turned to present-day pessimism, or cafard. Where can one look to find enthusiasm for living? I could only think of Paddy Leigh Fermor.” Called Paddy by his legion of friends, Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) struck many as a paragon of zest, a man on whom scarcely a crumb of life’s banquet was wasted. Prodigiously smart, charming, funny and handsome as well, he dazzled most who met him. His social gifts, however, threatened his literary ones: Why struggle to write at a lonely desk when you can swill whiskey on the terrace all night and talk like a Roman candle?

Fortunately, Leigh Fermor did struggle, some of the time. The result is a body of prose—travel books, mostly—radiant with his brilliance and unique experience but also with his exuberance and warmth. Especially in his magnum opus, a three-volume account of walking as a teenager from Holland to Istanbul, his erudition and descriptive skill are balanced by simple likability—never, one feels, has so much riveting detail been so beautifully served up by such an irresistible person.

Leigh Fermor published little during his last decades, but the years since his death have yielded several books by or about him. All rewarding, at least to fans, were Artemis Cooper’s biography, Wes Davis’s account of Leigh Fermor’s most celebrated military exploit (the abduction of a Nazi general on Crete) and Nick Hunt’s book about retracing his route across Europe. The real treat, though, was a book few expected ever to see: the last part of his trilogy, posthumously published as “The Broken Road.” Leigh Fermor’s inability to finish it, despite a quarter-century of fitful labor, was the great frustration and sorrow of his life, yet the manuscript his executors assembled was nearly complete and full of his usual panache.

Nor was that the last of the manna. The publication, in 2008, of Leigh Fermor’s correspondence with Deborah Devonshire (the youngest Mitford sister) had shown his letters to have many of the virtues of his books, including a more casual version of their tumbling, gloriously idiosyncratic style. But the bulk of his letters—untold thousands of them—remained unseen. Then, last year, a selection, edited and introduced by the outstanding biographer Adam Sisman, appeared in Britain. Now available here, it spans 70 of Leigh Fermor’s 96 years. Like his travel books, it amounts largely to a gushing expression of pleasure in art, history, places and people, but it also gives glimpses of his battles with indolence and the toll they took.

Addressed mainly to friends, lovers and Leigh Fermor’s longtime partner, Joan Rayner (whom he married in 1968), the letters are notable for, if nothing else, the variety of their postmarks. Even after he got a place of his own—a house in the Peloponnese that he and Joan built in the early ’60s—Leigh Fermor spent half his life as a wandering guest, and from age 18 to almost 50 he hopped constantly between dwellings, most of them romantic, secluded, and either dirt cheap or free. A 1953 letter contains a typical update: “I am established in a damp and ruined Aragonese fortress on the edge of the Tuscan Maremma, a sort of Zenda, really.”

Though he often sought isolation in order to work, Leigh Fermor’s gregariousness and polyglotism made him a poor hermit. Ensconced in a French monastery in 1948, he wrote that its chatty abbot had befriended him. “Occasionally he lapses into Latin. . . . It is the first time I have ever heard it spoken as a living language, and . . . I flog my brains to construct a sentence, feverishly trying to get the syntax right, usually a question that at last I enunciate with as much nonchalance as I can muster, to keep going the flow of this silvery monologue.”

Odd encounters were routine for Leigh Fermor. In a 1975 letter he describes one three decades in the making. After he accidentally killed a Cretan guerrilla during the war, the man’s hothead nephew, Yorgo, refused to forgive him. Revisiting “old haunts in Crete” in the 1950s, he was warned that Yorgo, a crack shot, planned to assassinate him. Intermediaries pleaded fruitlessly with Yorgo for years after that. Then, out of the blue, Yorgo asked Leigh Fermor to be his infant daughter’s godfather. (“This is the classical and only happy ending to a Cretan blood feud.”) The very next week he flew to Crete for the baptism. At the drunken banquet for 300 that followed, Yorgo hugged him and offered to eliminate “anyone you want got rid of.” “I hastened to say that there was no one, absolutely no one! ”

Not surprisingly, Leigh Fermor’s sex life was robust: With Joan’s consent, he enjoyed flings, affairs and the low delights of the brothel. This activity rarely makes it into his letters, but the exceptions can be piquant. Writing in 1958 from Cameroon, where he was on the set of a John Huston movie, he told a (male) friend: “ Errol Flynn and I . . . sally forth into dark lanes of the town together on guilty excursions that remind me rather of old Greek days with you.” One of the book’s zaniest passages is in a 1961 letter to Huston’s wife, Ricki, with whom Leigh Fermor had been sleeping. “I say,” the passage begins, “what gloomy tidings about the CRABS! Could it be me?” Riffing on pubic lice and their crafty ways, he conjectures that, during a recent romp with an “old pal” in Paris, a force “must have landed” on him “and then lain up, seeing me merely as a stepping stone or a springboard to better things”—to Mrs. Huston, that is. As comic apologies for venereal infection go, the passage is surely a classic.

If high spirits dominate the letters, pain often throbs at their edges. What Leigh Fermor termed “neurotic literary paralysis” led to spells of depression, and the pattern worsened with age. “My reaction to any demand for writing,” he confessed to his long-suffering editor and publisher, Jock Murray, in 1965, “seems to be to dig an enormous bog and flounder in it.” The acute phase began after the publication, in 1986, of the second volume of his trilogy. Istanbul in sight, he hoped his sails would fill with steady wind but instead found himself largely becalmed.

Full of self-deprecation (“I can be a terrible gasbag”) and profuse apology (most often for his slowness as a correspondent), Leigh Fermor’s letters are remarkably free of backbiting, bellyaching and other standard epistolary vices. When referring to the Oxford don Maurice Bowra, he cannot resist the mocking anagram “Eroica Rawbum.” And in 1974 he rants, ever so briefly, about the decline of Greek civilization: “I can’t help feeling there has been a serious break since the times of Theocritus.” That’s about it, though.

However appealing, Leigh Fermor’s sunny disposition somewhat constrains his letters, which lack variety of tone and the kind of frank, piercing comment on human behavior and emotion one looks for in the genre. (An exception is the handful of psychologically astute letters about his troubled mother.) It is this that makes me not quite agree with Adam Sisman’s assertion that the best ones are “as good as any in the language.” What’s more, to fully appreciate Leigh Fermor’s letters you need to be familiar with, or at least curious about, the circles he moved in. If names like Lady Diana Cooper mean nothing and you couldn’t care less about the half-bohemian, half-aristocratic world of footloose Brits in the Mediterranean (dating back to Byron and Shelley), this might not be the book for you.

Then again, it might. For all their beau monde glitter, Leigh Fermor’s letters are touching in a universally appreciable way. Writing to, among others, the widowed Diana Cooper and his former lover Balasha Cantacuzène, a Romanian princess and painter who endured many hardships under communism, he displayed a tender solicitude and eagerness to raise spirits that must have brought both laughter and tears and that are, in the best sense, chivalrous. (When he was knighted in 2004, it seemed appropriate not just to his achievements but his character.)

Most moving of all is to watch Leigh Fermor maintain his gallantry, verve and humor to the end. (He was nearly 95 when he wrote the last letter in Mr. Sisman’s selection.) Having gotten to know him in 2001, I received a few of these late letters. Embellished with drawings of clouds and birds, they seemed at first sight to be written in Linear A, but as I slowly deciphered their scrawl I found jokes, flights of fancy, extravagant mea culpas, deep learning worn lightly as silk. Thanks to Mr. Sisman, readers everywhere can have (minus the furrowed brows and headaches) a similar experience, discovering how this wonderful man made sheets of stationery, like the pages of his incomparable travelogues, glow.

—Mr. Downing is the author of “Queen Bee of Tuscany: The Redoubtable Janet Ross. ”


Sisters Queen Margrethe and Queen Anne-Marie make rare joint appearance at “To Greece with Love” symposium

It looks like the PLF symposium held in Copenhagen was a great success with Royal attendees.

This report from Royal Central.

Her Majesty Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her younger sister, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece made a rare joint appearance together yesterday at the University of Copenhagen for the “To Greece with Love” symposium.

The two-day conference, attended by people from as far away as Texas, USA, was organised around the British travel writer and freedom fighter in Greece, Patrick Leigh Fermor. Their Majesties heard various lectures, including one from Patrick Leigh Fermor’s biographer, Artemis Cooper.

The Queen of Denmark had met Artemis Cooper in 2017 during a lunch in the United Kingdom.

Queen Margrethe, who has reportedly read all of Fermor’s travel books, and Queen Anne-Marie were private guests at the event and were welcomed by Charles Lock, an English professor at the University of Copenhagen upon their arrival.

Patrick Leigh Fermor died in 2011 and was considered as one of Britain’s greatest travel writers during his lifetime. He played a prominent role during the Second World War in the Cretan resistance in Greece.

Queen Anne-Marie (born Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark) is six years younger than Queen Margrethe. They have another sister, Princess Beneditke, who was born in 1944. Anne-Marie was 13 when she first met her future husband, the then Prince Constantine of Greece and Denmark in 1959. Their engagement was announced in July 1964 – just a few months after Constantine had become King of Greece. They married on 18 September 1964 and have five children: Princess Alexia, Crown Prince Pavlos, Prince Nikolaos, Princess Theodora and Prince Philippos.

The family was forced into exile in Greece in the late 1960s when a military junta took over. They first lived in Italy before relocating to England. They were not permitted to return to Greece until 1981 when they were allowed to enter the country for a few hours to attend the funeral of Constantine’s mother, Queen Frederika.

King Constantine, Queen Anne-Marie, their son Prince Nikolaos and his wife, Princess Tatiana now reside in Greece.


Where exactly is Paddy and Balasha’s watermill?

I have been contacted by Pilar Gonzalez, from Spain, seeking more information about the watermill where Paddy stayed with Balasha in 1935.

This May, Pilar and a friend plan to go Greece and they want to find the mill, named Los Limoneros. This apparently is in Lemonodassos in the southeast of Galatas, overlooking Poros.

Pilar would be grateful for any ideas or information about the exact location of the mill. Please get in touch by making a comment or emailing me (see About & Contact page).



A tour of Paddy and Joan’s house

A Greek video showing the house, Ethan Hawke, local characters, and a cat.