Tag Archives: Carol McGrath

Finding Bruce Chatwin


Today marks the birthday of Bruce Chatwin, born 13 May 1940. This was sent to me by the author Carol McGrath’s husband Patrick. It’s a reminder of the close friendship between Bruce Chatwin and Paddy, as well as the stunning scenery around Kardamyli. I’m hoping to visit again in September; maybe second time Covid lucky!

A visit to the beautiful spot in the Greek Mani where the author Bruce Chatwin’s ashes were scattered.

Carol McGrath is the best selling author of The Women of Hastings Trilogy – The Hand Fasted Wife, The Swan Daughter and The Betrothed Sister published by Accent Press. She presently lives in the Mani, not far from Paddy Leigh Fermor’s house.

Breaking lockdown – let’s dash to the Red Ox in Heidelberg!

The author Carol McGrath in the Red Ox in Heldelberg

The author Carol McGrath in the Red Ox in Heldelberg

I don’t know if the Roter Ochsen is actually open or not at the moment, but when author Carol McGrath sent me a link to her blog post from early 2020, before all this crap descended on us, I just had to dream of a return visit to the Red Ox. I thought that you might like to run away there too and have virtual Pfälzer Bauernbratwürste and ein großes Bier vom Fass. 

Paddy Leigh Fermor in Heidelberg by Carol McGrath.

I have always admired the writing of Paddy Leigh Fermor. He lived in Kalamitsi a short distance from the village in the Mani where I base myself during the summer. I never did get to meet him but have twice visited the villa he designed himself and part constructed with the assistance of a Greek friend who was a local builder.

My first visit was shortly after his death while it still held the manifest redolence of his long intrepid life, personal photos, military memorabilia and the eclectic artwork he collected during his lifetime. The second visit was last Autumn after necessary renovations had been carried out by The Benaki Museum with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Inevitably this resulted somewhat in the loss of the aura of the man that previously had seemed to have been inured into the very fabric of the building.

It is still a magnificent memorial to a great Hellenophile, a British War Hero and a writer of unique talent. My introduction to his writing was in the early Eighties when I read his breakthrough book A Time of Gifts which to quote the back of my 1978 Penguin edition – “Like a tramp, a pilgrim, or a wandering scholar, an eighteen year old boy set out, one wet December day in 1933, to walk to Constantinople”

A few years ago, not on foot, obviously, I retraced his visit to Heidelberg and the Red Ox Inn which today looks remarkably similar to his description of it dating back as it does to 1933. This Blog records in pictures that visit combined with Paddy’s original prose. Enjoy.

On the far side of the bridge I abandoned the Rhine for its tributary and after a few miles along the Neckar the steep lights of Heidelberg assembled.

It was dark by the time I climbed the main street and soon softly-lit panes of coloured glass, under the hanging sign of a Red Ox, were beckoning me indoors.

With freezing cheeks and hair caked with snow, I clumped into an entrancing haven of oak beams and carving and alcoves and changing floor levels. A jungle of impedimenta encrusted the interior – mugs and bottles and glasses and antlers- the innocent accumulation of years , not stage props of forced conviviality – and the whole place glowed with a universal patina. It was more like a room in a castle and, except for a cat asleep in front of the stove, quite empty.

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