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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure

Paddy Leigh Fermor was just 18 when he set forth from the Hook of Holland, bound for the Golden Horn . . .

Artemis Cooper, Paddy’s biographer, and Nick Hunt, author of Walking the Woods and the Water, join the Slightly Foxed team to explore the life and literary work of Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Equipped with a gift for languages, a love of Byron and a rucksack full of notebooks, in December 1933 Paddy set off on foot to follow the course of the Rhine and the Danube, walking hundreds of miles. Years later he recorded much of the journey in A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. In these books Baroque architecture and noble bloodlines abound, but adventure is at the heart of his writing. There was to have been a third volume, but for years Paddy struggled with it. Only after his death were Artemis and Colin Thubron able to see The Broken Road into print.

The trilogy inspired Nick Hunt to follow in Paddy’s footsteps. What were country lanes are now highways, and many names have changed, but Nick found places that Paddy had visited, with their echoes of times past.

Following discussions of a love affair with a Romanian princess, Paddy’s role in the Cretan resistance in the Second World War and Caribbean volcanoes in The Violins of Saint-Jacques, we turn our focus to his books on the Greek regions of Roumeli and the Mani, and the beautiful house that Paddy and his wife Joan built in the latter, Kardamyli. And via our reading recommendations we travel from Calcutta to Kabul In a Land Far from Home, to William Trevor’s Ireland and to Cal Flynn’s Islands of Abandonment.


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Show Notes

Books Mentioned

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 59 minutes; 44 seconds)

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles mentioned on the podcast and listed below. Please get in touch with Jess in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

Nella Last’s War, Slightly Foxed Edition No. 60 (1:12)

– Graham Greene, A Sort of Life, Plain Foxed Edition (1:18)

– Artemis Cooper, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure (2:32)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water (4:15)

– Nick Hunt, Walking the Woods and the Water (6:52)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Broken Road, edited by Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron (23:05)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, Three Letters from the Andes (24:23)

– W. Stanley Moss, Ill Met by Moonlight (34:31)

– George Psychoundakis, The Cretan Runner (38:25)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Traveller’s Tree is out of print (40:06)

– Simon Fenwick, Joan: Beauty, Rebel, Muse: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor (41:11)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time to Keep Silence (43:24)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Violins of Saint-Jacques (43:27)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani (46:27)

– Patrick Leigh Fermor, Roumeli (46:31)

– Robert Macfarlane, The Gifts of Reading, inspired by A Time of Gifts

– Syed Mujtaba Ali, In a Land Far from Home (49:05)

– Taran Khan, Shadow City (51:21)

– Eugenie Fraser, The House by the Dvina (51:44)

– Cal Flynn, Islands of Abandonment (53:49)

– William Trevor, Fools of Fortune (55:33)

– Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September (56:10)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles

A Great Adventure, Andy Merrills on Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of GiftsBetween the Woods and the Water, Issue 38 (4:15)

Off All the Standard Maps, Tim Mackintosh-Smith on Patrick Leigh Fermor, Roumeli, Issue 2 (46:31)

Siân Phillips reads from A Time of Gifts

– Read two extracts from A Time of Gifts: Dropping anchor at the Hook of Holland and The largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe

– ‘When I first read A Time of Gifts I felt it in my feet’: Robert Macfarlane reads from The Gifts of Reading

  • A Great Adventure
    1 June 2013

    A Great Adventure

    In late December 1933, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on foot for Constantinople (as he anachronistically termed it). Recently expelled from school for the unpardonable crime of holding hands with a local girl, and insufficiently inspired by the prospect of Sandhurst and a career of peacetime soldiering, the 19-year-old decided to head east on foot. His backpack was evidently stuffed to the brim, with a greatcoat, jerseys, shirts (including white linen ones for dressy occasions), puttees, nailed boots, a selection of stationery, a copy of The Oxford Book of English Verse and the first volume of the Loeb Horace.
  • Off All the Standard Maps
    1 June 2004

    Off All the Standard Maps

    The only time I have been to Greece as it appears on the modern map was when I was barely out of short trousers. I went with that indispensable aid to travel, an aunt, and with the idea that I knew quite a lot about the place. My aorists and iota subscripts, however, were useless; that crucial moment for quoting Simonides on the dead Spartans never turned up. Even the sights were an anticlimax – bones of buildings, hordes of charabancs; the glory that was.
  • Siân Phillips reads from A Time of Gifts
    30 April 2017

    Siân Phillips reads from A Time of Gifts

    About lamplighting time at the end of a wet November day, I was peering morosely at the dog-eared pages on my writing table and then through the panes at the streaming reflections of Shepherd Market, thinking, as Night and Day succeeded Stormy Weather on the gramophone in the room below, that Lazybones couldn't be far behind; when, almost with the abruptness of Herbert's lines at the beginning of these pages, inspiration came. A plan unfolded with the speed and the completeness of a Japanese paper flower in a tumbler.
  • It was still a couple of hours till dawn when we dropped anchor in the Hook of Holland . . .
    1 May 2017

    It was still a couple of hours till dawn when we dropped anchor in the Hook of Holland . . .

    Snow covered everything and the flakes blew in a slant across the cones of the lamps and confused the glowing discs that spaced out the untrodden quay. I hadn’t known that Rotterdam was a few miles inland. I was still the only passenger in the train and this solitary entry, under cover of night and hushed by snow, completed the illusion that I was slipping into Rotterdam, and into Europe, through a secret door . . .
  • I knew I was inside the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe . . .
    8 May 2017

    I knew I was inside the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe . . .

    After a first faraway glimpse, the two famous steeples grew taller and taller as the miles that separated us fell away. At last they commanded the cloudy plain as the spires of a cathedral should, vanishing when the outskirts of the city interposed themselves, and then, as I gazed at the crowding saints of the three Gothic doorways, sailing up into the evening again at close range. Beyond them indoors, although it was already too dark to see the colours of the glass, I knew I was inside the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.
  • Robert Macfarlane: ‘When I first read A Time of Gifts I felt it in my feet. It spoke to my soles . . .’
    9 May 2017

    Robert Macfarlane: ‘When I first read A Time of Gifts I felt it in my feet. It spoke to my soles . . .’

    Listen to Robert Macfarlane reading from The Gifts of Reading. Recorded especially for Adventures for Harriet: a 600-mile literary pilgrimage across Europe by foot.

Other Links

– Artemis Cooper’s website: www.artemiscooper.com

– Nick Hunt’s website: www.nickhuntscrutiny.com

The Leigh Fermor House in Kardamyli, Greece – Benaki Museum

Artemis Cooper on the Leigh Fermor House, Condé Nast Traveller

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No.3 in E Major by Bach

The Slightly Foxed Podcast is hosted by Philippa Lamb and produced by Podcastable

Episode 42: Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

  1. Katharine Hunter says:

    I loved listening to this episode, as I do to all Slightly Foxed podcasts, but Patrick Leigh Fermor has been a particular hero of mine since I first read A Time of Gifts. I also smiled when I heard the recommendation for A House by the Dvina as I thought it was just the sort of book for Slightly Foxed when I read it recently.

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