A Time of Gifts

Daniel Coward rides through Dodford on the road that is a river, through the village once former home of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Fairport Convention’s ‘Meet on the Ledge’ rings out across the air. It is the¬†perfect accompaniment to the grey drizzle that is clouding London. The view from the top floor flat of Anna and Tom’s sky rise home is not quite so inspiring this morning. Nearby Finsbury Park and Highbury have vanished within the thick mist. The usually green tree tops and red roof tops that sweep down to the Thames have even absorbed the monochrome. The air is still,¬†and the dripping trees beside the wet, grey slate and fading brickwork call us down to start the first morning of this journey:

Navigate London, onto Harwich for a night crossing to the Hook of Holland.

Yesterday we stalked St. Katherine’s Dock dreaming, hoping that the arriving London barges or luxury yachts would turn East again, offering us to sail with them to Harwich. No such luck!

Patrick Leigh Fermor, however, did manage to secure a ride on a beautiful barge from the Thames across the North Sea to the Hook of Holland, in 1933. After being given a copy of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s book ‘A Time of Gifts’, we have realised an abundance of coincidences… and so the start of our journey will follow the path he stepped.

When aged 18, he left London, bound for Constantinople (Istanbul), on foot. Over the next four years, Patrick Leigh Fermor walked, sailed and hitched his way across 1930’s Europe. As well as his route being similar to ours, both Krista and I have shared the towns, villages and countryside where he grew up. As a child, he lived and played in the Northamptonshire village of Dodford, just near Daventry where I grew up. Amused by ‘the street that was a river’, he played there as I did when I was a boy. He later lived and studied in Canterbury, where Krista lived for a large part of her childhood.

I expect his account of Europe, as he walked its breadth, will be different to ours, but as we start our journey, we are inspired by his adventure.

Posted by Dan

4 Responses to “A Time of Gifts”

  1. Anna Smith Says:

    Lovely piece of writing! Hope you guys are going well on your first few days! Miss you already!

  2. brother moses Says:

    hi dodfords

    I hope the wind is in your backs all the way

    : )

  3. grand dad Says:

    enjoy your selves and take care, love Grand dad

  4. grand dad Says:

    i am off to Oz & Nz tuesday, keep going strong
    grand Dad

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