Tag Archives: Kardamyli

Video from the dinner held to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Things have been so very busy since the 24th June that I’ve not been able to provide a report about the dinner held at the Aphrodite Taverna, London, on that evening.

Suffice to say it was a great success. Many thanks to Chris Joyce who arranged it all. There were around 24 of us in attendance, including a number of notable writers: Artemis Cooper, Antony Beevor, and Alan Ogden. Former Coldstream Guards officer Harry Bucknall was also present, making a public confession which made The Times the next day.

Following requests from some of you to make a public record, here are some videos from the event which I hope you will enjoy. They are in “running order”. Enjoy!

Tom Sawford on the Paddy blog and some tributes posted ten years ago.

A little continuation of that one here starting with a memory by Nick Jellicoe, the son of George Jellicoe …

Chris White talking about the kidnap route and a proposed film documentary

Alan Ogden and the legacy of the kidnap

Artemis and Paddy’s charm …

Antony Beevor and the story of when Paddy met Helmut Kohl 🙂

Harry Bucknall’s confession …

Paddy’s thorough reading of They Were Counted …

And to conclude the fantastic evening, Isabelle Cole, one of Billy Moss’ daughters, offers a rendition of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary in French, as sung by Paddy.

Paddy’s 10th anniversary – a personal commemoration by James Down

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.

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.

A paean to Paddy for his birthday

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…

#SirPatrickLeighFermor #MANI #MESSINIA #MarMorStories

The Mani Sanctuary of A Hero-turned Scholar

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.

If these walls could talk… Furniture, books, personal items, mementos of an adventure-filled life, have remained untouched in the home of Patrick and Joan at Kardamyli. © Julia Klimi

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.

Sofka Zinovieff is a British author • http://www.sofkazinovieff.com

Stavros Niarchos Foundation artists fellowship visit Kardamyli

In 1996 Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor donated their home to the Benaki Museum expressing the desire to host scholars and artists, and to remain open to the public.

Thanks to a significant grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), necessary repairs have now been completed, and the House is ready to function as an educational center.

On Monday, September 23rd, 2019, ten young Greek artists participating in the ARTWORKS Stavros Niarchos Foundation Fellowship Program visited the House in Kardamyli, Mani.

This is what happened.

This is probably it! Official Benaki pictures of Leigh Fermor house

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.

Tom

Paddy’s house – some photos showing progress

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.

Benaki update: Progress of Repair Works at the Leigh Fermor House

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 plfproject@benaki.gr . The Benaki Museum page dedicated to the project can be found here.

The romance of the past: that’s what drives the traveller’s impossible quest

‘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.”

By Ian Jack

First published in the Guardian

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.

Benaki Museum and Aria Hotels announce alliance for the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House

The Benaki Museum and Aria Hotels have announced an alliance for the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House, situated in Kardamyli, Southeast Peloponnese, Greece.

In 1996 Sir Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor bequeathed their home to the Benaki Museum with the express wish that the house would host intellectuals and scholars who wanted to work or study in an inspiring setting. The Leigh Fermors also granted the museum the right to rent the property for a period of three months per year, in order to cover the running costs of the house. Under the alliance the museum will ensure the preservation of the house and its contents, and enable members of the public to have access to the property, while hospitality services will be provided by Aria Hotels, a hotel and villas company that specializes in the provision of authentic retreats in restored, historic Greek properties.

In the 1960s Leigh Fermor and his wife Joan chose to spend the rest of their lives in Greece and to build their home, lavishing much love and attention on it, in the idyllic coastal town of Kardamyli. At present, repair works at the buildings and the garden are underway so that the original character of the property is meticulously preserved.

The Benaki Museum-Aria Hotels partnership will be launched in 2020. Aria Hotels has pledged that it will undertake operation of the property during the rental period with particular sensitivity to its unique legacy, offering guests a rare residential experience in an environment of immense charm and character. The Benaki Museum’s collaboration with Aria Hotels for the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House will extend over the three-month rental period every year, in accordance with the terms of the bequest.

Aria Hotels is a family-owned boutique hotel and villas company that offers holidaymakers authentic Greek hospitality and the ultimate in simple, effortless charm. The company has several hotels and villas, all in exceptional destinations: Crete (Chania, Heraklion and Lassithi), Cyclades (Kimolos, Serifos, Milos, Santorini) and Epirus (Metsovo & Zagori). They are chosen to appeal to the discerning traveller looking for a secret hideaway in Greece. Each hotel has been selected for its architectural merit, and its contribution to the preservation of local heritage. Outstanding quality in service and accommodation are the core of the Aria Hotels experience.

A recent visit to Paddy’s house

An update on the house from blog reader Nigel, who was recently in Kardamyli with his wife and visited Paddy and Joan’s house.

I still greatly enjoy your e-mails. Keep them coming.
Just a brief note to say that my wife and I were in Kardamyli as usual in May this year and went to visit Paddy and Joan’s house.
We have walked past for years, including when he lived there, and always wanted to see it.
The house is of course stunning as indeed are the gardens.
The Benaki museum will make it into a wonderful centre I am sure but it was good to visit before the changes start whilst it is still as he left it and retains the atmosphere of his time.
We were shown round by Elpida Beloyianni who is in charge of the restoration and was charming and most hospitable.
I just thought that you would be interested to know that all of Paddy and Joan’s effect have now been moved to Athens and the house is empty. Restoration can now start!
The exception is the amazing table in the main room, which I’m sure you know. It is too heavy to move.

There will be a huge amount to do to upgrade the house for its future role. I commented on the lovely but ruined wooden windows and Elpida said that all they needed in the past was painting now and then but Paddy never bothered!

Benaki update on Paddy’s house

The Benaki museum have provided an update on Paddy’s house. You can visit the webpage on their website. The highlights are as follows:

– the Benaki Museum has applied for the necessary permits to the Greek State (Structuring Service – Municipality of Kalamata) and is waiting for their issuing so that the works can start.

– the informative event planned for November 2016 in London has been rescheduled for early 2017, so that the availability of the speakers of the event is confirmed. The final dates of the event will be announced soon.

– discussions with educational institutions regarding collaboration in the future operation of The Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre are progressing.

– a book in honor of Patrick Leigh Fermor, dedicated to his life and work, is in preparation and will be completed within the first semester of 2017. Another publication on the house in Kardamyli is also scheduled to be published soon.

The scope of the repair works:

According to the study and the proposal of the future and considering that the PLF house can provide ideal accommodation for up to 5 people/couples at a time, minor building interventions will be carried out without altering the form of the house. More specifically, the 5 guestrooms will each include a bedroom, an independent workplace and bathroom. (Basic kitchen equipment will be provided in the guesthouses located outside the main house). This setting ensures that all guests will be offered a large separate living space, perfect for isolation and uninterrupted concentration. Moreover, common spaces will be used as places of assembly and not as workplaces. All spaces created – apart from the basement, which may be considered the least privileged – will include large openings, a view and plenty of light and ventilation.

Apart from the fireplaces in some of the rooms, the house hasn’t had any other form of heating up till now. A heating and cooling system will be installed underground or through the roof, in order to keep the façades intact. The plans also include the full replacement of the electrical, plumbing and sewerage system, as well as the repair of the bathrooms and kitchen. Furthermore, repair and partial replacement of the roofs as well as reconstruction of the hencoop are also planned.

Along with the construction works, the garden shall be thoroughly cleaned, properly pruned and any damaged plants will be replaced. The current form of the garden will not be altered. Members of the Mediterranean Garden Society, who have visited the house, have expressed their interest in helping with the works in the garden.

Visit the Benaki website here.

 

Behind the scenes at the Benaki

dsc07322The debate about the state and status of the house at Kalamitsi continues. Despite asking for input I have heard nothing from the Benaki. However, I received a very nice email from Michael Torrens who wishes to offer a different perspective to my own in the article below, and is critical of my stance and that of others who appear to lack patience with the Benaki or who may, in his opinion, have got their facts wrong. We shall see how things turn out. I disagree with some of his comments e.g. the state of security during the visit. I remain dismayed that the Benaki cannot respond officially.

I was reviewing some recent articles and was reminded that in June 2016, Dominic Green wrote a similar report to mine which I published here.

Following my article some suggested that we should write an email in Greek to the Benaki to seek a response and to ask for reassurance that items will be removed and the house properly secured. If you would like to draft something for me (and that you could all send to the Benaki) to send in Greek please get in touch. See how in the About and Contact page.

Michael’s email went like this:

Dear Tom,

I must first congratulate you on your blog. It is, de facto, the most important and widely read vehicle for communication between those who appreciate Paddy and wish to have a finger on the pulse of developments. It must be a lot of work for you but it is irreplaceable.

However that makes accuracy all the more important. That is why I respectfully ask you to read through the attached document and publish it on the site.

As I intimate, I have been concerned at the degree of misinformation and the level of dissatisfaction, which I decided to investigate in my own way, totally independently. I know a lot more than I can state, but it is essential to be diplomatic and let some things evolve in their own time. I may be able to answer any personal questions of yours as long as I do not overstep my confidentiality agreements.

It is really very important over the next months to repair the damage and set up an atmosphere of trust and reconciliation so that fundraising for the functional stage of the Centre can get started efficiently.

That is why I hope you will be objective and supportive even though the document may appear mildly critical even of you. It is supposed to reset the balance.

Thanks for your time,

Regards,

Michael

By Michael Torrens

I visited the Kardamyli house this summer with a group from the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society. The condition of the property was surely the same as when Tom Sawford went but my conclusion was rather different to that which he communicated recently. Certainly major refurbishment is indicated but my impression was that there is no urgent structural work necessary to protect the place until the whole integrated renovation project starts. Therefore replacing (e.g.) broken shutters separately would be an inefficient use of funds.

I, too, have been interested by what is now called the PLF Project and aware of certain differences of opinion. Rather than contribute my own unsubstantiated view I decided to discover what problem, if any, actually existed. I was fortunate (as a resident of Athens traveling frequently to London) to be able to initiate personal, face to face, ongoing discussions with both the staff at the Benaki museum and also the trustees of the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society. All have welcomed me and been exceptionally cooperative for which I wish to express my thanks. I would also like to thank John Kittmer, the British Ambassador, for meeting me and giving his advice.

The only problem that I have been able to identify is a profound general lack of trust and confidence, associated with inadequate information, distortion of information and false conclusions.

Perhaps I am in a good position to be objective about the situation and so I venture these comments.

  • Anyone familiar with the combination of raising a huge sum of money and performing renovations of old buildings (I once worked in an ecclesiastical architect’s office) will know that it takes time. A long time.
  • The renovation project is now fully planned and funded. I consider that the achievements of the Benaki up to the present, bearing in mind the current economic climate, are little short of miraculous.
  • I have been privileged to see the formal AEA feasibility study, architect’s drawings and business plans and consider, within the limits of my experience, that everyone should be reassured that the project will be managed at an international level and stop moaning.
  • Benaki has had a security policy in place, especially when there were more than ten visitors; the fact that someone did not see it is perhaps how it should be. Items of more significant value have already been removed. Perfect security would require no access at all. Those concerned about danger this winter should know that all the contents are now in the process of being packed for storage and/or restoration during the building work.
  • It has been suggested to the Benaki that information should be provided more frequently. I would also suggest that anyone who feels the need to criticize such information because they believe they know better should just keep quiet and await results. I have been privileged to learn a lot of confidential information, for example on the proposed management structure. Please be patient, all will be revealed when appropriate.

Paddy had many personal discussions with the Benaki on his vision for the future of Kardamyli. The property was finally left to the Museum at the start of the financial crisis without any form of endowment. It is necessary to re-emphasize that the Benaki museum has the total legal and financial responsibility. I hope that everyone can be persuaded to help this project and create a favorable climate for fundraising when the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre opens and needs additional funding for running costs in a couple of years’ time. I have examined the relevant documents and collected as much objective information as I can. I am satisfied that the Benaki have proceeded exactly according to the wording of the deed of gift. Those who are not satisfied with the speed of response should spend more time appraising the practical difficulties.

The making public of a private opinion may be said to be justified by the concept of freedom of speech. However it is, in the age of blogs and the Internet, also a form of journalism. I would like to suggest that the quality of journalism depends most particularly on the veracity of the source material. What was it Alexander Pope said about ‘a little learning’?

A Greek tragedy?

dsc07302It comes as no real surprise that the follow-up to the announcement made by the Benaki Musuem in July of this year (see Stavros Niarchos Foundation to Fully Repair and Restore Patrick Leigh Fermor’s House) regarding the donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is, well, what should we say? Non-existent.

by Tom Sawford

The July press release did state that commencement of repairs were dependant upon the issue of certain “licences” but nothing appears to have happened, and worse, the house faces yet another winter in a condition that one can only describe as dilapidated.

In August, Elizabeth and I visited the house which was being used by an Italian writer and his family as a summer retreat. The Benaki arranges tours. Naively I imagined that the tour, led by Elpida, would be for perhaps 4-6 people. In the end we had around thirty visitors milling around picking up what they liked whilst Elipda spent about half an hour writing out receipts by hand for the Euro 10 entrance fee. There was more concern about “take no photos” than for the house and its movable – or should I say, removable – property.

Dismayed was how I would describe our feelings when we found Patrick Leigh Fermor’s house in Kardamyli house in such a very poor condition. Window frames and shutters were rotting. Furniture was worn and torn, and getting worse by uncontrolled use. Most distressing of all, despite the Benaki’s statement that “artworks and valuable books have been transferred to the facilities of the Benaki Museum in Athens for conservation and safekeeping,” I found almost his entire library of first editions were available to pick up and read, mark with greasy hands, and who knows, perhaps pocket? Items that most of us would categorise as valuable, at least for their symbolism and sentimental value, such as medallions and small photographs of Paddy and Xan etc, were lying insecurely on shelves and mantelpieces. One would think that most people who visit would be respectful, but who knows, someone may be tempted to remove a few of these small items.

We have to hope that real progress will be made, but the events mentioned in the original press release, including a talk in London in November to update us all on progress have not occurred – your Blogger has heard of no plans. At this rate, by the time anything happens and work commences, the initial ten year period that the Benaki is required to implement Paddy’s wishes will have passed. My understanding of the bequest is that the cash-strapped museum will then be free to sell the property if it so chooses. We can each make up our own mind about what might happen then.

A selection of photographs that I was not supposed to take follow.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation to Fully Repair and Restore Patrick Leigh Fermor’s House

Patrick Leigh Fermor working at his home studio on 3 October 2004, then aged 89. Kardamyli. by Sean Deany Copyright 2012

Patrick Leigh Fermor working at his home studio on 3 October 2004, then aged 89. Kardamyli. by Sean Deany Copyright 2012

At last some very good news about the house at Kardamyli. The Benaki museum has made the following announcement in a press release as follows.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has approved a grant to the Benaki Museum to fully cover the repair and restoration works as well as the cost of the necessary equipment for the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House in Kardamyli. This unique property will soon start operating as a centre for hosting notable figures from the intellectual and artistic worlds as well as a centre for educational activities in collaboration with Institutions in Greece and abroad.

The donation of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor

For many years Patrick and his wife Joan Leigh Fermor lived in Kardamyli in Messenian Mani, in the house which was designed by the architect Nikos Hadjimichalis in close collaboration with the Leigh Fermors.

In 1996, Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor bequeathed their home in Kardamyli to the Benaki Museum, while still in life, with the intention that ownership of the house would be transferred to the Museum after their deaths. The option of donating the property to the Benaki Museum was suggested by their close friend Tzannis Tzannetakis. The bequest was accepted unreservedly by the Benaki Museum, particularly given Leigh Fermor’s close relationship with the Museum’s founder Antonis Benakis and his daughter Irini Kalliga.

According to the donation contract, the property must be used to foster the success of the Benaki Museum’s work, based on the decisions of its Board of Trustees. In addition, it may be used to host researchers seeking a quiet and welcoming place to work, while there is also provision for the option of renting the property for three months every year in order to secure its operating costs. Taking into consideration the donor’s personality and standing, the Museum added certain categories of guests such as writers, poets, artists and so on.

The Museum acquired full ownership of the property after the donor’s death, in the autumn of 2011. After receiving the gift, a study on its future use was initiated, and in parallel, a preliminary study on the repair and restoration of the property’s buildings was undertaken in collaboration with architects Andreas Kourkoulas and Maria Kokkinou and a budget was also drafted for the project. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, in response to the Museum’s initial request for funding for the repairs and the acquis ition of the neces s ary equipment for the operation of the hous e, commissioned—and funded—a feasibility study, which was conducted by AEA Consulting, a firm specializing in the organization and management of cultural institutions. This study, which was based on the Benaki Museum’s proposal for the future operation of the house, led to a number of changes, mainly in regard to the financial planning respecting the sustainability of the project.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced the approval of the Benaki Museum’s request to fully cover the repair works and the restoration of the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House as well as its equipment, so that it can start operating as soon as possible.

The Benaki Museum’s Board of Trustees would like to once again thank the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for its continued and very generous support, and the inclusion of this project in its arts and culture grants. The unique location of the Leigh Fermor House, its distinctive architectural form and the luminance bestowed upon it by the author himself, in conjunction with the Benaki Museum’s supervision and the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, guarantee the creation of an exceptional centre which will gain a high place among the many similar centers in Europe and the United States.

The property

The property is located in the Kalamitsi area on the outskirts of Kardamyli, in Messenia, and has a total area of about nine stremmata, a little over two acres. It is, by general consensus, one of the most beautiful properties in Greece. Its direct contact with the sea—narrow stone steps lead to a small pebble beach just below the estate—the low, discreet, stone buildings and the Mediterranean garden that goes down to the water, comprise an ideal environment for focus and the creative process.

In short, a sojourn in this place is a great gift that Greece can offer to notable figures from the intellectual and artistic worlds.

The vision

The creation of a centre in Greece (working title: The Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre), the operation of which, will commence in stages and planning of the following years will be based on evaluation of its activity.
The operations of the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre will include:

– hosting of young writers and scholars for work and research purposes,
organization of higher-educational activities in collaboration with Universities and Institutions in Greece and abroad,
– honorary hosting of notable representatives from the fields of literature, the arts and other fields,
– organization of educational and cultural events for the general public and residents of Kardamyli,
– scheduled tours of the property, focusing on the donors, the history of the house and its use by the Benaki Museum,
– short term honorary hosting of benefactors and major supporters of the Benaki Museum.

As per a decision by the Museum’s Board of Trustees an international committee is to be set up, which will form and advise on the operation program of the Centre. The advisory committee will be unpaid, it will monitor the project underway and it will make recommendations regarding the selection of guests.

The Benaki Museum’s legal, financial and other services (including departments such as Educational Programs, Sponsorship and European Programs, Public Relations and Communication, and Conservation among others) will support and assist the project taking place at the Leigh Fermor House.

The Benaki Museum is aiming for the creation of an endowment based on third-party donations, which will be able to cover operating expenditure of the Centre and allow the proposed educational activities to evolve and grow.

Brief history – Up to date
– the archival material found in the house has been delivered to the executors of the will, in order for it to be handed over to the National Archives of the United Kingdom, as stipulated in the will,
– the staff selected by Leigh Fermor himself have been retained to ensure the ongoing care of the buildings and surrounding area are on a daily basis,
– the property has been insured,
– cataloguing of the library has progressed,
– detailed photography of the house and the recording of the household effects have been carried out,

– artworks and valuable books have been transferred to the facilities at the Benaki Museum in Athens for conservation and safekeeping, until completion of the requisite repairs,
– detailed mapping of the property has been completed as has the architectural and electromechanical study for repair of the buildings and maintenance of the gardens, with the principle of maintaining all those elements that render the property so unique (study team: Maria Kokkinou-Andreas Kourkoulas, Pantelis Argyros, Dimitris Pastras, Helli Pangalou),
– the process of legalizing buildings on the estate has been completed,
– the feasibility study by AEA Consulting on the future use, operation and viability of the house has been completed with funding from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation,
– two successive disinsectisations have been carried out for the protection of the house and
household effects, and in particular the wooden elements of the house such as the ceilings of the rooms, furniture, and so on,
– one bank account has been set up in Greece and one especially activated in the United Kingdom, in order to facilitate donations,
– discussions with Greek and foreign educational institutions regarding collaboration in the future operation of the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre have been initiated,
– an implementation study for the repair work is in progress,
– a book in honor of Patrick Leigh Fermor, dedicated to his life and work, is in preparation and will be completed in 2016, and another publication about the house will follow,
– finally, a short—for the time being—presentation of the Leigh Fermor House has been uploaded onto the Benaki Museum website. A separate website for the house is currently in preparation, where detailed information about the project’s progress, the operation of the house, and scheduled events and guided tours will be posted. These presentations will also provide all the necessary details for donations to the endowment for the future operation of the Centre,
– from the day the Leigh Fermor residence came into the ownership of the Benaki Museum, the Museum has organized and/or coordinated a particularly large number of visits. During many of these visits, individuals working with the Museum have informed the guests about the house’s prospects and future programs. Revenue from visitor tickets is used exclusively for the needs of the house.

From now on:

– The commencement of the repair work is entirely contingent on the issue of the permit. It is anticipated that work will be completed in about 12 to 18 months from its commencement. Until such time as the preparation of the house for the repair work begins, the organized visits, upon arrangement with the Museum, will continue. (www.benaki.gr)
– The Benaki Museum is in the process of creating an endowment for the collection of donations, which will ensure that the operational expenditure of the Centre is covered and that the proposed educational activities will continue to evolve and grow.
– With the dual objective of informing the public of developments and the collection of donations, the Benaki Museum is planning a series of detailed presentations on the progress of the project and its future operation.
– More specifically, it is organizing a detailed presentation in early November 2016 in London, where there is a keen, ongoing interest in the author and the Kardamyli House, while in the interim, similar presentations are planned for Athens and Kardamyli.

For information about the Leigh Fermor House please contact Irini Geroulanou or Myrto Kaouki at the Benaki Museum, on the following numbers: 210 3671010 and 210 3671090, or by email: plfproject@benaki.gr

Download the full press release here.

Who was Stavros Niarchos?

What is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation?

Five years on – the house at Kalamitsi

The house in Kalamitsi, September 2014 (John Chapman)

The house in Kalamitsi, September 2014 (John Chapman)

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Paddy’s death, an opportunity to ponder a little on his full and colourful life, and to think about his memory and all that he left us. This includes the house at Kalamitsi which to this day remains in some sort of limbo: uncared for; mouldering away; and its future unsecure. Most importantly, nowhere near meeting Paddy’s intentions that it should be available as a writers’ retreat and part-time holiday home to provide an income. To mark this anniversary I am happy at last to publish some thoughts from regular correspondent Dominic Green, FRHistS, who is a writer and critic who resides in Newton, Massachusetts. Dominic wrote to me following reports of frolicking nudes at Paddy’s house in 2014. It retains its relevance two years on. Dominic discusses an idea that I had shortly after Paddy’s death that the house be leased to a UK based charity or society that will carry out his wishes.

Dear Tom,

It was reading your website that sparked my interest in writing about the posthumous saga of the PLF house. So I’m delighted to return the favour by contributing some personal reflections.

I spoke with Irini Geroulanou, the deputy director of the Benaki, a couple of times on the phone, and also sent her lists of queries. She always replied promptly and helpfully. Without her help, I wouldn’t have been able to get inside the house, and might have suffered the disappointments of Max Long. Irini is, by the way, a reader of your site.

My impression is that Irini and the Benaki are committed to honouring the terms of the bequest, but on their own terms. My impression is also that this may take many years, if it’s done according to the Benaki’s current plan for what Irini calls a ‘holistic’ solution; ie, that no work be started until all the funds are secure. When I asked if the Benaki, having failed to raise funds, would sell the house, she insisted that this would not happen.

As we know, the Benaki has had severe financial problems. The outgoing director, Angelos Devorakis, has spoken of severe salary and budget cuts. Irini told me that the financial problems are not solely due to the expansion in Athens: since the crash of 2008, the museum has been obliged to restructure its relationship with the Greek government. I’m not an economist, but this also suggests that not much will happen for a long while.

Another of the questions I raised with Irini was whether the Benaki would be amenable to working with a British-based charity, which could raise funds for the restoration. I had heard that something along these lines was proposed to the Benaki a couple of years ago, and that the museum turned it down. Irini said she hadn’t heard about this offer; perhaps Angelo Devorakis might know.

Irini, though, was against the idea anyway. She said the museum preferred to receive direct donations, and a request directing the money to the PLF house, as opposed to the Benaki’s numerous other projects. She was under the impression that donors could do this through the Benaki’s website. But, at the time of going to press, this was not the case, at least on the English website. To me, this shows how high the PLF house ranks on the Benaki’s to-do list.

I thought that a combination of money troubles and institutional inflexibility might be the source of the problem, and that both might reflect high professional ambitions. So I was astounded to find that the house has no resident caretaker, and that many of PLF and JLF’s personal possessions are still in place [as seen recently by Rick Stein]. Having read PLF’s books and Artemis Cooper’s biography, I was able to identify some of the items as biographically
important. Anyone could break in and walk off with them.

While Benaki has stored the most important books, the majority of PLF’s possessions, including almost all of his books, items of handmade furniture and clothing, and many original photographs, are not secure. It is this majority of items that preserve the ambience of the house. If the Benaki is allowed to rent out the house, then there is no reason for it not to install a local person or a couple of interns as permanent caretakers. I suggested these ideas to Irini, and she rejected them.

This is not a safe state of affairs, andnot one I had expected to encounter, given that the Benaki is a major museum.

Clearly, the Benaki cannot find the relatively small amount of money needed for restoration – or even to secure the place in the meantime. Therefore, it should either sell the property to a institution capable of fulfilling the terms of the bequest; or allow a foreign ‘Friends of Paddy’ group to raise funds – perhaps on the understanding that it wouldn’t have a say in how the Benaki spends its donations. But I have the strong impression that the Benaki would rather do nothing in the hope of dealing with other institutions: EU funding was mentioned. To me, this is the wrong kind of inflexibility: the kind of bureaucratic inertia that is creating a dangerous situation at Kalamitsi.

I am not unsympathetic to the Benaki’s financial troubles, not all of which are of its own making. But I left the house deeply concerned by the risks the Benaki is running in its handling of the bequest, and disheartened by the apparent absence of prospects for improvement. Three and a half years have passed since PLF’s death. Publicity from the publication of The Broken Road and Artemis Cooper’s biography has created a unique opportunity for fundraising. But the Benaki seems determined not to use it. Perhaps my article will stir things up a bit. If the Benaki changed tack, and invited a British group to raise funds, I would contribute immediately. I’m sure that many other PLF readers would too.

Finally, I was greatly impressed by Elpida Beloyannis and Christos the gardener. Both have both done their utmost to keep the house going. Shutters aside, the interior is clean and cared for. It was a privilege to visit the house, and see their devotion to it and the memories of JLF and PLF.

With thanks for your website,

Dominic

Benaki appoints new director, and visiting Paddy’s house

Olivier Descotes

The Benaki museum have a website page dedicated to Paddy and Joan’s house which you can view here. It includes details of how to arrange a visit to the house.

Furthermore, the Benaki has appointed as its new director, Olivier Descotes, who has been director of the French Institute in Athens from 2011 to 2015. He takes up his post in March. An announcement about the future of the house will be made in April. Ekathemerini reports:

Olivier Descotes, artistic creation inspector at the French Ministry of Culture, has been appointed new director of the Benaki Museum, the organization’s board of trustees has announced.

Descotes, formerly director of the French Institute in Athens, will replace Angelos Delivorias, who headed the museum for 41 years before stepping down in 2014.

Descotes was among 82 candidates who applied for the position through an international competition carried out pro bono by global executive search firm Egon Zehner.

The Benaki Museum was founded by Antonis Benakis in 1930 and subsequently bequeathed to the state.

In Paddy’s Footsteps: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Greece and Crete

The PLF Society are arranging a cracking tour of Greece and Crete between 17-30 June. The outline is as follows.

In Paddy’s Footsteps has been designed exclusively for members of the PLFS and is a unique journey into Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Greece and Crete. Between 17th and 30th June 2016, a group of no more than twenty travellers will visit major sites in PLF’s life: from his favourite restaurants and hotels, to the homes where he lived and wrote; from Classical monuments to the caves in which the Kreipe kidnappers hid. Guides will include several Leigh Fermor experts.

The tour begins in Athens, including a meal at Tou Psara, where Leigh Fermor and George Katsimbalis often met. It then travels through Mycenae and Epidavros to Leigh Fermor’s preferred hotel in Nafplion. From there, it visits Hydra, where much of Mani was written, and the mill at Lemonodassos where Leigh Fermor lived in 1935-36. Then, after stopping at Mystras, it will visit Leigh Fermor’s house at Kardamyli and explore the Mani. Next, it travels to Crete where, after visiting Knossos and the Kreipe kidnap site, it will trace the kidnappers’ journey into the mountains, and tour the Resistance sites of the Amari Valley. The journey ends at Rethymnon, where it will link up with the International Lawrence Durrell Society for dinner at the Old Fort.

• Four-star hotels, air-conditioned private transportation.
• Expert speakers and guides, including Chris White (contributing author of ‘Abducting a General’), Costas Malamakis (former curator, Historical Museum of Crete), and Simon Fenwick (archivist who has been researching the Leigh Fermor and Xan Fielding archives).
• Private visit to Leigh Fermor’s Mani home, guided by his housekeeper Elpida Beloyanni.
• Guided tours of the Kreipe abduction site and escape route, and the Resistance sites of the Amari Valley.
• Entry to the International Lawrence Durrell Society’s conference, On Miracle Ground, whose theme is ‘British Writers in World War II Crete’.
• Optional tours of the Benaki Museum,the Hadjikyriakos-Ghika House, the town of Chania, and the Samaria Gorge.
• The tour is strictly limited to PLFS members, and for a party of no more than 20 travellers.
• Cost: 2965 Euros per head, including hotels, breakfasts, 16 lunches or dinners, conference fees, guide fees, Athens-Heraklion flights and all private ground transportation.

To register or request further details from the organisers, please email the PLFS at info@ patrickleighfermorsociety.org.

Progress on the house at Kardamyli

If anyone was wondering I hear that there is news of a sort.

As you may recall, the Benaki Museum was seeking approval for funding of the proposed renovations. From my sources it appears the the proposal as submitted has been turned down, and the museum has now re-submitted the proposal in a reduced form. Quite what this means no-one seems to know. No real surprises there then.

My own view, which has not really changed for a few years, is that the only way forward is for a group to seek to either buy the house outright, or lease the house for the remaining few years that the Benaki have the right to create the writer’s retreat, do that job for them, and then purchase the house outright at the end of the term which may be 2024 if I recall correctly. Any takers?

Tom

Rick Stein served moussaka by Elpida at Paddy’s house

Stein at Paddy'sThe global reach of the “celebrity chef” Rick Stein is unknown to me, but certainly for those of us in the UK he is a well known figure and is perhaps almost single-handedly responsible for the gentrification of the beautiful port of Padstow in Cornwall.

Unfortunately for most of you outside the UK you will remain unaware of the qualities that make Rick such an attractive figure (!!) as I understand that BBC iPlayer is unavailable outside of the UK.

But if you use your imagination, in this episode from Stein’s current TV programme – From Venice to Istanbul – he arrives in the Peloponnese, visits the obligatory taverna followed by Paddy’s house at Kardamyli, where he takes a tour and Elpida cooks him moussaka to her secret recipe. Apparently Paddy did not like moussaka, but one day Elpida served it to him, he loved it and the dish was then a firm favourite. We also discover what is Elpida’s favourite English dish. Angelica Deverell describes the whole scene is “quiet moving”.

Watch the episode here. Dive in at 33 mins 30 seconds if you don’t have time to watch it all. Only available until about the 9th of October under iPlayer rules.

Print

From Mystras to Kardamyli: A hike in honour of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor

John Kittmer, the UK ambassador in Greece,recently completed a four-day hike, together with the Danish ambassador, from Mystras to Kardamyli, recreating part of PLF’s similar walk described in Mani.

The blog post starts as follows:

This morning, thanks to the Benaki Museum, I was standing in the study of the great man – war hero, romantic, philhellene – who wrote these words. Scanning the bookshelves of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose love of Greece was nurtured by wartime experience, by a lifetime of conversation and friendship with Greek people, and by deep reading and learning, I felt an inestimable sense of good fortune, veneration and humility. I fell in love with Greece because of Greece. But every would-be lover needs friends who encourage and nurture the love affair. For me, my teacher Gerald Thompson, about whom I wrote (in Greek) in February, and the travel-writer Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor, whom I never met, were those such friends. In the past five days, I repaid through imitation the great debt I owe to Sir Patrick.

You can read more on John Kittmer’s English blog and one in Greek.

The House of the Mani

paddys house at kardamyliI wonder what John Humphrys will say about Paddy’s house in the programme on Monday? In fact I wonder more what the Benaki will say. I want to highlight a comment on a recent post from Michael Hanson, which if correct describes a property that is falling apart. Given that Paddy probably did little restoration and it has now been four years since his death, during which nothing appears to have been done, one can imagine it must look dilapidated and in serious need of attention.

I was in kardamyli recently and visited paddy’s house covertly. It is in a decrepit state, shutters rotten and falling off. Garden overgrown. Totally unloved and a disgrace, given that paddy gave it to the Benaki Foundation to be used as a haven for writers. Hopefully this programme will shame the Greeks into doing something. They say it will cost over £100,000 to restore. Nonsense!
We photographed paddy’s child hood public school trunk languishing in his study. Heartbreaking!

The PLF Society want to raise funds to cover immediate repair work and you can donate. Read how here. The higher figures mentioned above are not just for restoration and repairs but to cover renovation and reconfiguration to prepare the house so it can be used as a conference centre. The Benaki are due to report In July on whether it has been successful in raising finance for the main renovation works planned for the house which are expected to cost some € 630,000.

The Man of the Mani – BBC Radio 4 Monday 22 June

johnhumphMS2010_468x402Final scheduling for the John Humphrys’ BBC Radio 4 programme about Paddy is available on the BBC website. It will broadcast at 1600 hours on Monday 22 June and will be available later on the BBC website. Which tells us …

John Humphrys travels to Greece, to the village of Kardamyli in the Mani, to explore the life and work of travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.

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 website here for further details.

John Humphrys presents Paddy’s world on BBC Radio 4

John Humphrys on the Today programme

A little while ago I was approached to help provide some background information to help with research for a one-off Radio 4 programme about Paddy and his life in and around Kardamyli which will be presented by John Humphrys.

Kevin Dawson from Whistledown productions has confirmed that all is on schedule and the programme should be transmitted at 11.00 am on Monday 22 June. It will include interviews with Artemis Cooper and her father John Julius Norwich, as well as a contribution from the Benaki which may update us on progress about the house.

John Humphrys has a property in the Kardamyli area and is a fan of Paddy’s work. I believe that this may be his own idea which is great and will go someway to making up the deficit of BBC programming about one of our greatest writers.

Initial fundraising for Kardamyli

The PLF Society has been moving forward quickly in its dealings with the Benaki over Paddy’s house. Achieving its restoration, and Paddy and Joan’s goal of turning it into a writer’s retreat is one of the main aims of the Society. Today they report on progress and are making an appeal for initial funds to finance critical works at the house until funding for the long-term work has been raised. The Benaki have come up with a plan which encompasses many uses which if achieved would meet the goals of Paddy’s bequest.

A summary of the PLF Society’s appeal is below, with further details to be found on the attached PDF.

Steady progress is being made on the Kardamyli house. The Benaki Museum has now sent us a document that sets out its plans and we have finalised the team that will look after the interests of the Society and its members: our lawyers Watson Farley & Williams are now supported by an experienced architect and we have appointed Grant Thornton as accountants.

You will see from the attached summary that we are now able to proceed with raising 20,600 € (about £15,000 or US$24,000) for preliminary things that need to be done at the house. As the amount of this initial fundraising is relatively modest, we are hoping that it will be possible to raise it from our members and others associated with the Society.

In July the Benaki will know if it has been successful in raising finance for the main renovation works planned for the house which are expected to cost some 630,000 €. In the event that some or all of these funds are not raised by the Benaki, the Society has pledged to find the remainder and for this we have made contingent plans to extend the fundraising to include external sources.

Read the full initial fundraising PDF here.

Why you should never meet your heroes

Would you have been disappointed if you had met Paddy?

By Philip Sidney

First published in The Spectator 14 October 2014

As we become steadily accustomed to life in the Age of Celebrity, it’s become a truth that, as Mark Mason put it in the Speccie last month, ‘meeting your heroes is almost always a bad idea’. Reading the letters page in the London Review of Books, it seems that this advice extends to visiting any place associated with your heroes. Last summer Max Long, an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford, arrived at Patrick Leigh Fermor’s old house at Kardamyli in Greece, hoping to pay homage to one of his heroes (see The House is Not Always Empty). His visit, he reports, was unideal:

‘To the hairy, shirtless, sandalled old man who occupied Paddy’s studio as though he owned the place, and who refused entry on a sweaty August morning to a travelling student, despite his pleadings (and tears): you ruined a young man’s pilgrimage.’

It’s hard not to sympathise, particularly given the hospitality with which Fermor was himself received on his travels. But this kind of disenchantment isn’t exclusive to unsceptical youth. Jeremy Clarke laments the speed at which authors’ auras disperse:

‘Nothing lingers. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Even with a commemorative plaque on the wall, one is left only with a sense of vertigo at how easily all vestiges of even the recent past are obliterated and we move on.’

Both Long and Clarke are part of a rich tradition of disappointed pilgrims which began in the late 19th century, the joint result of improved transport networks and the growth of a mass audience for literature. In those days it was possible to be rebuffed by the great men themselves, as were the rather impatient tourists that called on Thomas Hardy in 1903:

‘[…] I have given mortal offence to some by not seeing them in the morning at any hour. I send down a message that they must come after 4 o’ clock, & they seem to go off in dudgeon.’

After any famous writer goes their own long journey, the difficulties of preserving their home for would-be pilgrims become more fraught: whether a literary shrine is tended or neglected, there will always be enthusiasts claiming that their idol has not been treated appropriately. As Simon Goldhill observes in Scott’s Buttocks, Freud’s Couch, Brontë’s Grave, Charlotte Brontë would have been horrified had she seen her stockings on public display at Haworth Parsonage, but in the 21st century they’re a precious link – however creepy – to a great talent now gone.

What options remain, then, for the would-be literary pilgrim? Continue to travel hopefully, sifting the let-downs for a trace of longed-for genius loci? Or stay at home, cherishing places in the imagination? Nick Hunt’s book, Walking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn, provides a possible answer. His journey across Europe in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor shares the landscapes through which his hero moved (not to mention the physical strains incidental to thousand-mile walks), while also conscious of the changes that have reshaped the continent in the intervening 80 years. However fervently we revere our literary pin-ups, we must remain conscious, and as far as possible accepting, of the things that stand between us and them: be they an accumulation of years, a glass vitrine, or hirsute jobsworths in shorts.

Philip Sidney is a writer and academic, specialising in travel, literature and travel literature

The house is not always empty …

It appears that some lucky people have been allowed to stay in the house at Kalamitsi. Who are they and did they pay? From a lovely new blog by Max Long.

Eventually I did find a room, and wallowed in the privilege of having a bed, a balcony overlooking the mountains, a table to write on. On my first night I had considered, in utter disappointment and desperation, going to Paddy Leigh Fermor’s house just a few kilometers south from the main village, to find some comfort by camping there. As I was to find out two days later, it was a very good thing I didn’t.

A few years ago, a Guardian journalist came to Kardamyli with similar intentions. He swum to Paddy’s house from the harbour, and I decided that it would be a nice idea to do the same. Following the footsteps of a footstep-follower.

I am not a confident swimmer, and have barely swum out a few tentative strokes in all the beaches I’ve been to so far, so it was quite a mental struggle for me to embark on what was to be a half hour swim along the rocks to the little pebble beach with a flight of stone steps leading up to the house. When I got there, there was a couple on the beach, but they spoke little English and could not confirm that this was Paddy’s house, so I walked up the steps anyhow, and soon the pebble mosaics on the floor, the large house of stone and painted grey-blue French windows, the seating area looking over the bay, confirmed that I was indeed at the right place.

However, it was with utter horror that I saw the freshly trimmed garden plants and trees, the recently used hosepipe… the open windows, the sound of plates watering the mouths of lunchers… the exposed breasts sunning themselves in the corner. I scuttled away, undetected but nevertheless thoroughly embarrassed. I later made for the front door. I could hear voices, evidence of clear use. I felt for a moment I might have traveled back in time to a former splendor of the wonderful house. All the reports by journalists and bloggers online had been of a desolate, abandoned home. I inquired at the front door. Yes, this was his house. No, I couldn’t visit. I walked away, burning with disappointment, but also with curiosity. The house is now in the hands of the Benaki museum, and my understanding is that it will be converted into a writer’s retreat or museum of its own. Who were these people who had the privilege to enjoy the place in the meantime?

(I visited the house again on my last morning and it was only after a lot of pleading that a disgruntled, shirtless, hairy and sandalled old gentleman allowed me a brief – less than two minute – look at the place. None of the moments of contemplation I had hoped for. The insistence with which he refused to allow me to access the house, and the simplicity of my request, made me think he could only be an extraordinarily cruel man. Sitting in Paddy’s study surrounded by books, he refused to give me either his name or any inkling of the Benaki’s future plans. I left, once again, in a rage.)

Full article here.

Another correspondent in an email to me this week coroborates the fact that people seem to be staying at or using the house …

I too was in Kardamyli in August.  I too walked around the outside of the house and up the steps from the beach.  I didn’t want to trespass, but when I realised there were people living there I decided to knock at the gate and ask them what was happening to the house.  Two twenty -something year old Greek girls in bikinis were there, and obviously staying there.  They wouldn’t let us visit.  I’ve no idea who they were.  My first reaction was that Paddy and Joan would surely be upset that their wishes are clearly not being respected.  On the other hand, perhaps it is good that someone is there because there are clearly a lot of Paddy pilgrims, and sooner or later there will be someone with less honorouble intentions, who enters the house and takes something away with them.
I can only assume they were local girls and that his old housekeeper or someone local must have an eye on who is there.  The place is obviously in need of urgent attention.
Mark