One of my Bridge partners is a gentleman who has lived in Greece since 1958; he studied Classics at university, picked up some Modern Greek along the way and after graduation decided to spend a year teaching English on Spetses. He arrived the year that John Fowles left and, like Fowles, he too was a guest of Petros Botassi at the Villa Giacemia. However he hasn’t read The Magus, ‘it’s not really terribly good, is it. It’s half enquiry and half statement. ‘After all’ he tells me, ‘he was a good enough man but not that interesting.’ I’m unsure if he means Fowles or Botassi but by now he’s chiding me for not having played my ace and we’re moving on to other stories.
“Now, Paddy‘ he tells me, ‘Paddy could write a story.’ It turns out that he and Patrick Leigh Fermor would drink their way around Athens and Kardhamili in the Mani. They met when both were ‘dragged’ to the Residency for a dinner. Back then, according to my friend, there were only about 20 Brits in the whole of Greece and ‘only about a dozen of them that could be approached by the Embassy’.
This last weekend we went to Kardhamili, where Fermor spent much of his life. He scattered Bruce Chatwin’s ashes high above the village outside one of the tiny little churches that are scattered over the countryside. One of my favourite novels is On The Black HIll and in a few weeks time that part of the country will be within striking distance for me. As I walk those hills in the rain I can think of Kardhamili in the sunshine.