Sunday, January 03, 2010

Patrick Leigh Fermor- MY HERO!

"To meet, Leigh Fermor may still have the speech patterns and formal manners of a British officer of a previous generation; but on the page he is a soaring prose virtuoso with hardly a single living equal."

-William Dalrymple, The Guardian

I think Patrick Leigh Fermor may be one the most important people that has ever, literally, walked the face of the earth. If you don't travel than you don't find out who you are. If you go back two generations, I come mostly Italian peasant stock; people we don't really like to travel long distances. By nature Southern Italians are friendly and open yet suspicious, staying close to their respective towns and countryside. When Sophia Loren's equally beautiful mother, Romilda, won first place in a Greta Garbo lookalike contest, her family was so scared of her going to Hollywood for her prize winning screen test that she was forced to concede to the runner-up. They believed that the "Black Hand" that possibly had a part in Rudolph Valentino's shocking death, would be targeting all Italians from the Old World. The familiar is a guarantee of equanimity. And, apart from mother's grandmother who made nearly half a dozen trips between Calabria and the United States around the turn of he 20th century, I'm part of the first generation of my family to do any real extensive overseas travelling.

Yet, while I've travelled often, I've "Bilbo Bagginsed" it a great deal as well. In fact when I arrive somewhere on a journey I'd rather explore the street I'm staying on. Why, after already taking a flight, a train, a cab, unpacking and then getting settled would I get up go travelling again? That is precisely how I see the proverbial day trip. Even if the day trip is to a cathedral across town with the Magna Carte in it, I'm happier on the nearby high street at Boots testing shimmery blue eye liner. I get into adventures too though, like trudging through forests that incidentally lead to occult like landmarks or walking into Sawrey from Hawkshead. Not quite seven years in Tibet or even seven days in Euro Disney but that's just me!

Paddy Fermor embodies that spirit of the happy wanderer yet he also took his time. I think that is why he eschews the title of "Britain's greatest living travel writer" although he alone is. The same age as my own grandfather, a jaw dropping 94 years young and due to turn 95 on the of 11th February, he resides in Mani, Southern Greece, in a home he built mostly himself where he can look out over the Aegean Sea.

Last spring when I was pregnant and could not sleep, I watched a splendid programme on the BBC all about Paddy and his splendid life. Do read up on him if he is new to you as he is without equal.

Original Tribute by Finger Style Guitar Man

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Blogger par.nordstrom said...

No , am not familiar wid Paddy , but from yer description I see dat I wanna be his pal too.Shall watch da documentary abt him asap. / Intrestin fact : As I understand it , in Gaelic/Irish ´Fermor´ means ´Big Man ´, which seems to be a fittin epithet for him > names r important . Can nevva be too careful , when ye baptize a child . Name sumbody ´Wimp´or ´Pimp ´& he becums one .../Yay, Amanda , I chuckled when I read yer description of yerself : ´Friendly but suspicious ´ sums it all up, really ... I also enjoyed yer description of yer Bilbo Baggin´s way of travellin : First stayin close to home . Circlin circlin da block where yer stayin . Studyin evry last detail . Stores people windows dogs lamp posts kitties shoes & doggie piles .& den ,warily, workin yer way out in evva wider circles gettin familiar wid evry minute detail .Until , finally ( in a year or so ) ye have da full picture . But dis is not only how a person of ´Italian peasant stock´ travels,it´s also da way a writer travels .& ye r one !//Haha yer kiddin .. did our Sophia win a Greta Garbo look-alike competition!? Dat´s hilarious , Sophia sure looks sweeet , but not verry Swede at all !

7:20 AM  
Blogger Amanda and SuperAmanda™ said...

Sophia Loren's equally beautiful MOTHER, Romilda, won first place in a Garbo lookalike contest! Sophia's mother looked more like Garbo than Garbo-it is amazing.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Hi Amanda,

Fascinating (but LONG!) article. I skipped my way through it.

And fascinated to see the W. Somerset Maugham connection (as one of my favorite books is Of Human Bondage).

This part made me sad though: Yet there is something unmistakably melancholy in the air: a great traveller even partially immobilised is as sad a sight as an artist with failing vision or a composer grown hard of hearing.

But that's life! And he's had a long and full one.

No time to read everything (as I'm currently juggling The (long) Far Pavilions and The Past is Myself).. but I'll definitely keep Fermor in the back of my brain in case I run across him serendipitously again.

1:55 AM  

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