Tag Archives: Joan Eyres Monsell

Paddy’s attempt at buying a hat for Joan

It often takes me quite a while to post items that have been very kindly sent to me by some of our many readers. This is just one such example and I have to apologize as I have lost the details of whoever sent it to me. Suffice to say that the content on here is often the result of your hard work in finding items and sending them to me so please do keep it up and I will always acknowledge your contribution. This is unique example of being unable to do that. If you sent me the original link and are reading this please step forward! PS – the mystery contributor has been found. Thank you Rob MacGregor!

Below is an extract from Neville Phillip’s 2008 biography The Stage Struck Me! in which he mentions an amusing episode involving Paddy at the shops! Can you imagine him shopping?

You can actually read the whole book online via Google Books where we are told:

“The Stage Struck Me!” is a funny, informative and sometimes sad account of the life of a jobbing actor and writer in the 1940s and 1950s, full of anecdotes about the famous, the infamous, the charming and the downright loopy people he met along the way. After joining the South African Army and serving as a gunner in the coastal artillery, Neville Phillips was transferred to the entertainment unit where he spent four years doing shows for the Allied troops in North Africa and Italy. In 1946 he was demobbed to London and it was here that Neville Phillips met and got to know some truly remarkable people, as well as writing West End reviews, pantomime, cabaret, and a musical starring Pat Kirkwood. “The Stage Struck Me!” is a fascinating and sometimes poignant account of times, places and people that played such an important part in a young aspiring actor’s life.

buying a hat for Joan

Read the extract in pdf format here.

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Patrick Leigh Fermor’s estate auctioned by Christie’s: A Life’s Collection

The auction house Christies will present the principal contents of Mill Farm, Dumbleton for auction at their sale rooms at 85 Old Brompton Road  London, Greater London SW7 3LD, on Tuesday 15 May 2012.

The collection includes furniture, books, silverware, and many works of art. How many of these were collected by Joan and Paddy, and which came from their families is difficult to assess.

You can view the e-catalogue here.

Remember that you don’t have to be present to buy but can bid on-line as described in the catalogue. I hope that some of you have the opportunity to make a purchase.

Let’s celebrate a full life, and one well lived

From left: Tom Fisher, Paddy, Joan , John Craxton, Margot Fonteyn, Frederick Ashton and Ruth Page. Photo: Costas Achillopoulos in Ian Collins’ book on the life of John Craxton

Today we can celebrate the memory of Patrick Leigh Fermor, whether we attend his memorial service in London, or are just able to take a moment to reflect on all he gave to his family, his many friends, to us his admiring readers, and of course his service to his country and to Greece.

I thought the best way to mark this day on the blog is to feature this fine photograph sent to me by John Chapman. It is from Ian Collin’s book about the life and work of John Craxton, the artist who illustrated most of Paddy’s book covers.

John tells me that Craxton “met Joan in wartime London years before he met Paddy, but became enamoured of Greece and for a large part of his life lived in Chania, Crete. It was both an escape from dull northern climes and a chance to express his sexuality.”

Craxton designed the sets for Daphnis & Chloe at the Royal Opera House in 1951 where the lead ballerina at the time was Margot Fonteyn. According to rumour they had an affair, and in the summer of 1951 they cruised together around the Meditterranean. Paddy was their guide to Greece, and it was at this time that this delightful photograph was taken which shows Paddy looking very happy, with good friends, and his much loved Joan.

The photograph shows Tom Fisher (a New York attorney and husband of Ruth Page) Paddy, Joan, John Craxton, Margot Fonteyn, Frederick Ashton and Ruth Page (choreographer). It was taken in the theatre at Epidavros, and is attributed to Costas Achillopoulos.

Lawrence Durrell and Patrick Leigh Fermor – Bitter Lemons

I am republishing something that was first on the blog back in May 2010 following a request by Lynne Sanders.

In Bitter Lemons, the writer Lawrence Durrell describes a visit from Patrick Leigh Fermor –

“In that warm light the faces of my friends lived and glowed….Freya Stark…Sir Harry Luke…Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Corn Godess, who always arrive when I am on an island, unannounced and whose luggage has always been left at the airport (‘But we’ve brought the wine-the most important thing’).” [pp102-3]

“Last night the sound of the front door closing upon breathless chuckles and secretive ranting, then the voice of Patrick Leigh Fermor: ‘Any old clothes?’ in Greek. Appeared with his arm round the shoulders of Michaelis who had shown him the way up the rocky path in darkness. ‘Joan is winded, holed below the Plimsoll line. I’ve left her resting half way up. Send out a seneschal with a taper, or a sedan if you have one.’ It is as joyous a reunion as ever we had on Rhodes.

“After a splendid dinner by the fire he starts singing, songs of Crete, Athens, Macedonia. When I go out to refill the ouzo bottle at the little tavern across the way I find the street completely filled with people listening in utter silence and darkness. Everyone seems struck dumb. ‘What is it?’ I say, catching sight of Frangos. ‘Never have I heard of Englishmen singing Greek songs like this!’ Their reverent amazement is touching; it is as if they want to embrace Paddy wherever he goes.” (pp 104-5)

Related article:

Lawrence Durrell and Patrick Leigh Fermor by Thos Henley

Paddy died in England

I have heard via a source that Paddy died last night in Evesham, Worcestershire. Another source informed me that fairly recently he had become gravely ill and had asked to be brought back to England so that he might die here. He was evacuated to England on 9 June.

We can only presume that Paddy wanted to be near to Joan and their English home in the village of Dumbleton, Gloucestershire. Joan is buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s church in the village.

Paddy visits the wonder that is Ohrid

I suppose it is a good thing to aim to be objective in life. It shows wisdom and maturity, and an ability to balance all the arguments. For me however, all objectivity vanishes when I think of Ohrid! The setting of this beautiful city on the edge of the vast and wondrous eponymous lake is simply stunning.

Although he does not state it specifically, I believe Paddy visited Ohrid and its environs when on a motor tour from France to Greece with Joan in her Sunbeam Rapier in 1960. He tells the story to Debo in a letter dated 23/24 October 1960 (see page 67 of In Tearing Haste). Paddy describes visiting “Serbian Macedonia and wonderful lakes with frescoed Byzantine monasteries on the shores … (which) held us up for days.” There is little doubt in my mind that he is referring to Ohrid, and having been there myself I can understand why; it is a wonder that he ever left!

It is said that Ohrid, Macedonia, once had 365 churches although there are now only around twenty-five which remain open. Its name means City of Light and it has over 220 days of sunshine each year. The town creeps up the hillside surrounding a central esplanade and harbour dominated by the statue of St Clement, who was the student of Saint Cyril and his brother Methodius. They were the authors of the Cyrillic alphabet (approx 864 AD) which was created by the Byzantines to bring the Slavic nations into the Orthodox Church rather than let them fall under the influence of Rome during the early days of the schism between the two churches.

Ohrid is full of Byzantine history. The influence of the Empire can be seen everywhere from the statues to the fortress but principally in the churches and the ancient Basilica. The original church of St Clement was destroyed by the Ottomans who built a mosque on the site which has a clear view of the Lake. Clement’s relics were secretly moved by the Christian citizens of Ohrid to the smaller and less important Church of St Mary Psychosostria. Over time this church became known as the Church of St Clement, but the confusion is now ended as in 2000 the Macedonian authorities rebuilt the Church of St Clement on the original site. His relics have been moved back there to rest in peace. The site includes the remains of original Baptistry, and there are many mosaics all in very good condition.

The Church of St Mary is a wonder. Built in 1295 by the deputy Progon Zgur who was a relative of the Emperor Andronicus II Paleologus, it has twenty-nine scenes from the life of the Virgin around the walls. These frescoes are in generally excellent condition with little of the wear or defacement one often finds elsewhere. The reason for this is that most of the frescoes were obliterated by soot from candles. They were cleaned and restored only since 1960. The have to be seen to be understood. The ‘keeper’ of the frescoes is an amazing Macedonian lady with long black hair, with braided pigtails; the church and the frescoes are her passion, probably the centre of her life. She has produced a long book and the frescoes were the subject of her PhD. She says that the fresco of the Virgin that dominates the Apse is painted from lapis lazuli originating in Afghanistan. That one fresco would have cost something in the order of one kilogramme of gold (at today’s prices that is roughly $56,000).

Opposite the Church is the national Icon museum of Macedonia with over forty masterpieces. All this within just a few yards of each other!

If you ever get the chance to visit you will find all this and more. You will also meet friendly people, find good quality low-cost accommodation, and a wealth of Byzantine architecture and art. This CNN video shows many of the places I have written about and I know you will like it. If you do ever visit Ohrid, please contact my friend Katerina Vasileska who runs a tourist business in Ohrid called Lost in Ohrid. She will be happy to arrange good accommodation, local tours, and generally be of assistance during your visit.

Finally, don’t forget that for the intrepid there is an opportunity to walk through Albania to Ohrid in May of 2011 with the Via Egnatia Foundation. See my recent post Walking back to Byzantium along the Via Egnatia where you can find out more and how to register your interest.

Click to play … there is a 30 second ad before the Ohrid movie starts.

Paddy’s eye for detail: Ian Fleming, Bondage, James Bond and Pol Roger

Sean Connery and Ian Fleming

As background to the Imperial War Museum’s 2008-09 exhibition For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James BondThe New York Review of Books  featured a discussion of the merits of Ian Flemings’s work by Geoffrey Wheatcroft. Entitled ‘Bondage’ it is a wide-ranging review, and for shock factor it intially does tend to focus on Fleming’s penchant for what Wheatcroft calls ‘schoolboy sexual fantasies’. One critic found Fleming’s ‘sex distasteful—male brutality and female submission, or what Bond himself called “the sweet tang of rape”—he lamented Fleming’s “vulgarity and display” and his love of luxury goods.’

Well, that all makes for good reading but two things caught my eye. First of all there is some mild criticism for the overrated Sebastian Faulks and his 2008 attempt at writing a Bond story Devil May Care; more on Mr Faulks at a later date. Not only do I not particularly rate his writing (and I doubt he cares) but he is also a critic of Paddy’s.

The second was a letter that Paddy wrote to Ian Fleming picking him up on a point about Pol Roger champagne. Fleming was probably the first proponent of what would now be called ‘brand placement‘. As anyone who has read a Bond book or seen a film cannot fail to have missed, Bond does not get by with ‘Tesco Value’ when he can obtain a top brand alternative, presumably on Her Majesty’s expenses.

Paddy and Joan were friends of the Flemings, but, along with Debo Devonshire, were particularly close to Anne Fleming, and supported her through the difficult times following Ian’s death and his failure to get his estate in order. Read In Tearing Haste for more on this.

The particular part of the NYRB article that caught my attention is below, and shows Paddy’s excellent eye for detail, which we see constantly in his own work:

“While Devil May Care is short on sex and sadism, it does begin with one unfortunate having his tongue torn out; but then Faulks’s own tongue is a little too obviously in his cheek. We get Gorner, an impossibly horrible villain, a brutal enforcer called Chagrin (nice touch), a glamorous heroine with whom James is far too diffident—and a distinctly autumnal flavour. The book is set in 1967, when Fleming not only didn’t write it but could not have written it, and 007, as he admits, is showing his age. Now and again the writing flags. Bond has been in Tehran a few days when he lunches alone on caviar and martinis, before spreading out “some maps he had bought from the hotel shop…. The country was between Turkey to the west and Afghanistan to the east. Its southern frontier was the Persian Gulf, its northern limit the Caspian Sea.” Well, yes.

There are a few other lapses which it would be tedious to list, including a tennis match that is not only implausible in itself but whose scoring goes awry. We all make mistakes, including the originator. After Fleming published On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, that worldly sophisticate was mortified to receive a magisterial rebuke from his friend Patrick Leigh Fermor: Ian surely knew that Pol Roger is the only champagne never sold in half bottles.”

You can read the full article from the NYRB here. I will publish it at some later date for the archive.