A Time of Gifts

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Time of GiftsPatrick Leigh Fermor died on 10 June, at the age of 96. Of course I read Time of Gifts – the first part of his walk (as an 18 year old!) from England to Istanbul. And of course I loved it and over the years I’ve had other Fermor encounters. Last year, on our London-didn’t-quite-get-to-Australia flight we stopped in Crete where the History Museum in Iraklios features the story of his extraordinary abduction of General Kriepe. In 1944 the Germans occupied the island and the 29-year-old Fermor – ‘a cross between James Bond, Indiana Jones and Graham Greene’ – was a key part of the British-Greek group which captured the island’s German commander. They marched him around the island for a month before a British ship spirited him away to Cairo.

Back in 2004 I was in Munich at Beerfest time as a guest of German publishers Andreas Langenscheidt. Of course we went to the Beerfest and he later sent me a wonderful quote from Time of Gifts about the 18 year old Fermor’s 1934 visit to Munich, a night of heavy Hofbräuhaus over-consumption with a fine conclusion. I had my own tale of over-consumption from that night, after one too many maas, litres of Bavarian beer, I was amazed to discover Freddie Mercury had been reincarnated as the female lead singer of the band performing in our beer tent. Seriously I don’t think he ever performed ‘We Are the Champions’ with as much sex appeal as she did and he certainly didn’t look anywhere near as good.