..writer, scholar, adventurer and war hero died yesterday in Worcestershire at the age of 96. This remarkable man set off at nineteen years old to walk across Europe to Constantinople sleeping in a barn one night and a castle the next, rode in a cavalry charge in Greece, could speak seemingly any number of lanuguages including German, Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian and at the age of 70 , swam the Hellespont between Europa and Asia in Turkey.
In between he found time to lead one of the most audacious special forces operations of the second World war as he parachuted into Crete, lived in caves with the resistance before dressing up as a German corporal and kidnapping the German General Kreipe who was in charge of the occupied island. This was fantasy stuff and was duly made into a film starring Dirk Bogarde – Ill Met by Moonlight.
He wrote a number of travel books which were astonishingly erudite and interesting with fantastic levels of detail and insight. I re-read one in particular called The Mani when we went to this area of Greece on a holiday to Stoupa in 1999. A local tour guide noticed the book and asked if I “was reading the book of Patrick” and went on to tell me that Patrick Leigh Fermor lived with his wife in a clifftop villa in Kardimyli, a village only 3 miles north of Stoupa. I could not resist this one moment of celebrity schmoozing and I wrote to him saying how much I genuinely loved his books and enclosing a postcard of the area. He duly wrote back ( on the postcard ) wishing me luck and saying how glad he was that I liked “his stuff”.
Leigh Fermor was a real legend, a word so pitifully overused these days, find out some more about him, read some of his work and perhaps you will feel as I do , permanently a boy next to a man like this.
Kalo Taxidi, Mihali