Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor

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This morning, I opened my computer to eleven emails alerting me to the news that Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor has died.

In 2007, I had the great good fortune to catch a bus to The Mani, seeking inspiration for my third novel, a Greek New Zealand story for which I am currently seeking a publisher.   Believe it or not, back then, I had not heard of Sir Patrick (call me Paddy) Leigh Fermor.   I was living in Kalamata in the Southern Peloponnese for two months, searching for the muse, and one day I caught the bus to the Mani and stopped in Kardamyli and ended up staying there for ten days, and discovering not only Paddy’s book on the Mani, but the man himself.

The article I wrote about this encounter was published in the Herald on Sunday

At Paddy’s house, I took several photographs both inside and out, but felt afterwards that perhaps I had naively overstepped the mark taking such liberties.  I was so excited and had no thoughts of writing an article or publishing photographs, just in thrall to the man, his writing and his beautiful home.  Today it feels like the right time for me to share my amazing morning with the man himself, his generous hospitality and indeed, his bookshelves.    I hear that his home has been purchased by the Benaki museum, and so hopefully this will mean that many devoted fans, travellers, and writers will get the opportunity to pay homage and visit this beautiful sanctuary, of a much loved Englishman, war hero, practically a Greek Saint, the man from the Mani.

and this is the inscription (which I have never quite been able to decipher, even with the help of Greek friends

My photos, taken on Paddy’s Name Day in November 2007 include a few movie clips of the local women singing and at one stage Paddy pretending to fire a pistol.  I have hesitated in the past to post any of this intimate and personal images, but because Paddy has died, I am hopeful that the locals featured in these clips won’t mind being part of history.

And, here is a link to an obituary by Artemis Cooper

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33 thoughts on “Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor

      • jlalqueres@gmail.com

        Thank you very much for the images.
        I`ve been reading everything about Paddy but images tells a lot. A close couple just visited the house , now in very poor condition. It is a pity.
        Your images told us of a vibrant period. Hope it could be back
        José-Luiz Alquéres ( Rio de Janeiro, Brasil)

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      • Thank you for stopping by to comment, and I’m so glad that you enjoyed my post on Paddy. Yes, for me, it was a very special time and it would be really sad if his beautiful home is left uncared for. Here’s hoping that some funds can be found soon to restore, maintain and I had heard, perhaps turn the home into a residency for writers down track.

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      • Dear Maggie:

        Following up on Diana Wright’s note about PLF’s dedication, I re-read Jan Morris’s remembrance of PLF and noted that she describes something very like the illuminated inscription in your book:

        He wrote that message on a picture postcard of Kardamyli, where he and his wife were living in the adorable house above the sea that they had themselves designed, and he wrote it in a form that had become by then a sort of Leigh Fermor trademark. The text was written within a loosely scrawled cloud, and around the cloud, meticulously disposed, were 10 or 12 birds, seabirds I suppose, which gave the ensemble a delightful sense of liberty. Leigh Fermor was an able artist, as those clients of Mitteleuropa had discovered, and he used this agreeable device to make the mere signing of a book, or the dashing off of a picture postcard, a small ceremony of goodwill.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/12/patrick-leigh-fermor-by-jan-morris-obituary

        Enjoy that!

        Charles

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  1. A wonderful record of your time spent with a wonder of a man, Maggie.

    I have been pouring over the photos of PLF’s books. Freya Stark, Robert Byron, Doughty, Gerald Brennan, & much, much Henry James — the books Paddy kept closest at hand bear eloquent testimony to his mind, his manners, and his taste.

    Appreciation!

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    • Yes, the book-shelves tell a story, and you’ve reminded me that I have another photo of his book-shelves that I haven’t posted – it is more intimate still and somehow I’ve felt guilty about these photos, but I can see from your comments, that they matter – so will post another photo which stars a Nancy Mitford cover on the shelves.

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      • Thanks for that reply, Maggie.

        It strikes me that you have caught in the photos something terribly rare and perishable — something quite possibly irreplaceable.

        These were the books as PLF used them everyday, touched them everyday, read them, and then left them behind. The way the books sit alongside neighbors or slouch against each other on a shelf is a sort of imprint of the movement of his hands and his thoughts. So are the wear marks on the spines.

        I also like the fact that the selection of titles and copies collected show how this was a reader’s library — nothing extravagant or sumptuous about them — with the odd volumes cropping up throughout and a mismatched pairing of the Doughty volumes &c. Books the man wanted and needed, where he needed and wanted them.

        My thanks for your offer to post more photos. As I have told Tom, please do pass me the news if you hear about any way we can assist with the effort to keep this library whole and in place.

        Charles Sligh
        Chattanooga, Tennessee

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  2. Hello Charles. Yes, I can see how important the book shelves and books thereon now are, but too, after rashly photographing them, I felt a sense of having invading his privacy, which is why I have waited. Your comments make me feel a lot better and I have agreed to give the photographs to Tom for his PLF website library. I am new to blogging and when I update posts, I seem to end up with more than one version of the same post – most frustrating – anyway, I have slipped the extra book-shelf photo (with the Nancy Mitford book clearly visible) just before the video clips and fingers crossed, you can view it. Nice chatting to Chattanooga!

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    • Much appreciation, Maggie.

      You did the right thing, I think. During PLF’s life, you were conscientious. That was a tribute. Now, at his passing, you are being conscientious about how we will remember him. Another point of tribute.

      “Votive” is not a common word in our day. But I think that posts such as yours are very much in that line — bright remembrances lit against the dimming.

      Charles

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      • And, of course, I was looking out for PLF’s gift-copies of books written by Gerry and Larry Durrell — cf. bottom shelf for My Family & Other Animals, Reflections on a Marine Venus, Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea.

        Good to see the mutual remembering. . . .

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    • I finished my essay on your photos of Paddy’s library, Maggie. Between my appreciation for what you saved against loss and my bruised and tender sense of loss at Paddy’s passing, this piece cost me some tears. But I do hope that my appreciation shows through.

      You did a great thing — or even many great things — that November day. Paddy could not possibly know it, I think, but he would understand that your visit that day was indeed something necessary to help the room “come into its own at last.”

      My thanks and tribute —

      Charles

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  3. Hello Charles – thank you for the link to the clouds and birds by Jan Morris – I can’t work out how you slipped that comment in under Diana’s so that it is in sequence. I’m still getting the hang of this blogging business. But yes, without Diana being able to read Paddy’s handwriting, I would still be puzzling. And how special is my paperback copy of ‘Mani’ with this inscription – and too, I have a first edition hardback (unsigned) copy which a dear book-club friend bought for me as a gift when I got back from Greece and was raving about my encounter with PLF.

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    • How special?

      Immeasurably special!

      And you might have a book-box made for the book and the pictures.

      But then it strikes me that it might be more in Paddy’s spirit to keep the inscribed book right at hand, for ready-reading. Yes, I think so. Take it out on to your patio and read it!

      I am betting that those many of those books at PLF’s home are gift-books, inscribed to Paddy by his friends and admirers. (Certainly Lawrence Durrell would have gotten copies to his old friend Paddy.) I like the obvious fact that he used the gifts — these books are hard-worked!

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  4. And would you believe it Charles, I took a copy of my first novel as a gift to Paddy on his Name Day (it was all I had on hand at the time) and how I regret not signing it, but anyway, he graciously received it. I sometimes wonder what an archivist will make of this odd antipodean paperback about marching girls and book clubs – if indeed, Paddy did keep the book – among the more weighty tomes. I have my ‘Mani’ beside me in my study at all times – I’m hoping it is my talisman for my third novel.

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    • “I have my ‘Mani’ beside me in my study at all times – I’m hoping it is my talisman for my third novel.”

      I love that, Maggie.

      I have several books like that — for example, I have Lord Inverchapel’s two-volume Marius the Epicurean — little pencil marks all throughout the margins — Kerr Clark (Inverchapel) was such a singular character that this gives me a chuckle every time I stroll past that shelf.

      Here’s one anecdote from a career and lifetime of brilliance:

      GREAT BRITAIN: Missions Accomplished (TIME MAGAZINE)
      Monday, Sept. 01, 1947

      Lord Inverchapel, Britain’s suave Ambassador to the U.S. (who looks like a cigar-store Indian with a Valspar finish), went to Britain last month for his first vacation in ten years. In the midst of Britain’s crisis, the Foreign Office ordered him back to the U.S. immediately. But he had come to Britain, protested Inverchapel, on important personal business: to acquire a wife and to exorcise a witch. The Foreign Office thought this a sample of the celebrated Inverchapel wit. It had hardly stopped chuckling before Inverchapel had accomplished both missions.

      In an Edinburgh registry office, Inverchapel (65) remarried fortyish Chilean beauty Maria Teresa Diaz Salas, whom he had first married in 1929 when he was envoy to Chile. His wife was known to her Santiago friends as “Sweet Candy.” Inverchapel divorced her in 1945 (for desertion, in 1941, when he was Ambassador to China).

      After the wedding he repaired to his beloved estate of Loch Eck in Argyllshire. His housekeeper there had complained that a local witch was slowly destroying a stone wall that obstructed a path used by witches northward bound to sabbat revels. Inverchapel ordered the wall repaired. Then he solemnly exorcised the witch. Among the paraphernalia of exorcism: a fire on the house terrace, burning brandy, and champagne (taken internally by those in attendance). The housekeeper was satisfied. After all, she said, it was probably only a “wee witch.”

      Lord and Lady Inverchapel were then free to obey the Foreign Office, returned to the U.S.

      Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,887602,00.html#ixzz1QzE8dwfO

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  5. Evangelia Dascarolis

    …hello,Maggie…I just found your photos & video clips& have read all the posts.Today I finished Paddy’s biography & will begin the 2 volumes of his early travels.I feel like having a good cry.I love the photos ,it’s a good thing to share them,thank you….evangelia………….

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  6. Brian Blackwell

    Better late…I have just read your blog and seen the photos you took of the late and great PLF. Thanks for those. I have been a fan of his for many years – totally envious of his amazing life. You are lucky to have met him, even if for a little time. Best wishes, Brian Blackwell, Spring Hill, Brisbane.

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  7. jlalqueres@gmail.com

    Dear Maggie
    The idea of turn the residence in a temporary home for writers or would be writers , if I do remember well, is the purpose envisaged by PLF. From what I did here in my country the previous and essential step is to find the champion, the hero , that will push the idea, through all obstacles and barriers . Certainly somebody from the nearby village, that could identify some side benefits for the local community. Cheers!

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