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Patrick Leigh Fermor – traveller, adventurer and author


Patriotism saves the day
John Julius Norwich Writer
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What was just as important really, with Paddy, was the sheer fun, I mean, the singing. He knew heaven knows how many songs and loved singing songs in a different language, making it up as he went along. 'Gnorízeis, John Peel, con su abrigo... you know, Gnorizeis, John Peel, and [...], Jan Stewer, Pietro Garni, Pietro Davi, Danieli Widden, Enrique Hawk, El Vecciozio, Thomas O'Cobbly, e tanti quanti...' he was... you know, anything like this. He'd get the whole thing going. And I remember a day when... on that cruise when we were in Santorini and having a drink in some little café, and there were some people next door in this tavern, the table next door which was, I think, fairly drunk. And this was the height of the Cyprus crisis in '55. And they started... they realised that this was an English table, and they started, according to Paddy... I mean, we couldn't understand a word they were saying, but they were sort of making rather nasty remarks for us to hear. And then suddenly they started to sing, and Paddy instantly said, 'Quick, stand up, National Anthem!' So we all stood up, and Paddy, of course, knew all the words, and sang them lustily at the top of his voice. And then, when they'd finished, he alone went on with verses two and three, which the other table didn't know, so it was game, set and match to us. And they did come over and apologise afterwards and we all had a glass of ouzo together and it was all right. But that was a very remarkable moment.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Patrick Leigh Fermor

Duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018