I have now finished the whole trilogy of A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and The Broken Road. The first two are written by Patrick Leigh Fermor and the third was written by his literary executors after his death in 2011, using material from his diaries. The three together tell the story of his walk, at the age of 18, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. It is fascinating reading not least because it tells the story of countries which are now so changed as to be unrecognisable. If you like travel books these are for you.
Leigh Fermor was a real swashbuckling character. I read somewhere that Artemis Cooper (one of his literary executors) invited him to come to dinner after he had been to some gathering where he had drunk 17 glasses of champagne. She suggested at dinner that he might like water after all that bubbly but he said no, he would like a small whisky. He half filled a tumbler and put in just a drop of water and after drinking that he drank a bottle of wine with his dinner!
He then suggested to the gathering that he should read them a couple of pages from Vasari's Lives of the Artists, which he did without a single stumble As I think Tom (Stephenson on my side bar) will agree - they don't make them like that any more. And he lived well into his nineties.
The reason I am reminded of him today is that the farmer is off shooting and I am on my own. I shall light the woodburner when I go off my computer and I shall settle down with a cup of coffee to
watch Dirk Bogarde in 'Ill met by Moonlight' an old film DVD which my son has lent me about an escapade in Greece in the Second World War which was led by Leigh Fermor. I might even allow myself a biscuit although I am trying hard to lose the excesses of Christmas and New Year. Watercress sandwich for lunch - that should make me feel virtuous again.