Artemis Cooper’s superb biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor begins with an extraordinary evocation of his childhood.
The local children taught him how to run his hand up the dried stems of wild sorrel, and feel his palm swell with the kibbled seeds that he threw to the wind. They scrambled into half-used ricks and jumped; it was prickly but soft, so you sank into the sweet-smelling hay. They helped him clamber into the saddles of old apple trees, but soon he would be able to hoist himself into tall trees like the bigger boys. Then he would climb into the topmost branches, invisible, hidden by leaves, and no one would be able to find him. For now he hid in sheds and barns, and sometimes behind the big double doors leading into the yard of the Wheatsheaf, and people shouted, ‘Paddy-Mike, where are you?’ while he hugged himself because no one could see him, and no one knew where he was.
It was the last summer of the Great War. Patrick Leigh Fermor was not quite four years old and living with family friends in rural Northamptonshire. By the summer of 1919, before he was five, his mother would have returned from India and taken him to live in London. He would never return to that rural idyll. Continue reading