Sunday, 23 October 2016

Secret References in The Durrells Television Series

Lawrence Samuel Durrell, father of the family who died in 1928.

I have noticed in The Durrells television series several insider references, things that only a very few people of the audience would recognise, a kind of knowing wink - 'We know and you know even if it means nothing to everyone else'.

One of these occurs twice in the first episode when Mother picks up a photograph of her dead husband.  There was no need to show the photograph to the audience and probably no need for it to be really a photograph of Lawrence Samuel Durrell.  But the photograph is shown and it really is the father of the Durrell family, the missing presence which in a sense lies behind their journey to Corfu, a journey of healing.

Margo sunbathing on a rock.
Another insider reference is the scene where Margo goes sunbathing.  In The Corfu Trilogy this happens near Mouse Island off Perama, south of Corfu Town. 
No sooner had Margo landed and arranged herself attractively on a rock then he would come stamping down the long flight of stone steps that led up to the church, shaking his fist at her, and mouthing incomprehensible Greek from the depths of his long, unkempt beard. Margo would always greet him with a bright smile and a cheerful wave of her hand, and this generally made him almost apoplectic with rage.
Margo accosted by the monk.
But in The Durrells television series the scene is filmed not at Mouse Island but in the north of Corfu near Kalami where Larry lived with his wife Nancy. The scene is two coves south of Kalami below the shrine of St Arsenius.

Larry's 1930s photograph of the shrine of St Arsenius.

Readers of Larry's book about Corfu, Prospero's Cell, will recall the shrine of St Arsenius, for it was here that he and Nancy would come to be out of the way, to swim and lie on the rocks unseen.
Causality is this dividing floor which falls away each morning when I am back on the warm rocks, lying with my face less than a foot above the dark Ionian.   All morning we lie under the red brick shrine to Saint Arsenius, droppig cherries into the pool - clear down two fathoms to the sandy floor where they loom like drops of blood.  
I reckoned that my neighbour Simon Nye, the scriptwriter and co-producer of the series, had dropped these references in, so I went round to see him and asked, but he knows nothing about it.  Maybe it was his co-producer Sally Woodward Gentle or, who knows, maybe the cinematographer who slipped in the references without telling anyone that they are there, a one-man secret.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Magical House

The front of the house.
On Thursday I went to Bournemouth where, among other things, I had a look at this unremarkable house.

I stood for a while and looked at the front.  And then I walked to the garden at the back.

And I gazed up at the rooms under the roof.

The back of the house.
And I cast my mind back sixty years to the house as it was then. When there were chimpanzees wandering round the house, inside and out.

Chomley the Chimp at the back of the house.
And when a young man sat up at the top of the house, writing in long hand his book about his childhood in Corfu.

Some family and friends at the front of the house.  Gerald Durrell is on the right.  The woman on the left is Margo Durrell ; she was the owner of the house which was always open to her brother and an animal or two or ten or morel
The book was My Family and Other Animals.  The house is at 51 St Alban's Avenue in Bournemouth.  The chimpanzees living in the garden behind the house were the first denizens of what would become a world famous zoo.

This is the sort of thing that happens in nondescript houses here and there in England if you know where to look. Magic happens.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Durrells in America

This report in The Christian Science Monitor announces the arrival of The Durrells in Corfu series in America this autumn.  Click here to read the article as it appears online.  And click here to see The Durrells in Corfu on the PBS website.

Lunch in Corfu.

 'The Durrells in Corfu': PBS adapts Gerald Durrell’s 'Corfu' trilogy

Gerald Durrell was a British naturalist whose passion for animals blossomed when his oddball family, headed by his widowed mother, decided to leave England for Greece, hoping for milder weather, new adventures, and a cheaper cost of living.
    This Sunday night, public television’s Masterpiece Theatre begins “The Durrells in Corfu,” a six-part adaptation of c that will run each week through November 20. Drawn from three humorous memoirs of Gerald Durrell’s childhood years on the Greek island shortly before World War II, the new Masterpiece series is inspired by Durrell’s stories but only loosely based on them.

    That’s all the more reason for readers to check out Durrell’s books for themselves. Gerald Durrell was a British naturalist who lived between 1925 and 1994. He was always interested in animals, but his passion blossomed when his oddball family, headed by his widowed mother, decided to leave England for Greece, hoping for milder weather, new adventures, and a cheaper cost of living.

    The young Durrell found Corfu a paradise of plants and animals, and the experience helped him grow into a world-renowned zoologist, wildlife preservationist, and nature TV host for the BBC.  He also became a popular author, penning some two dozen books about his zoological adventures, of which his Corfu books are the centerpiece.
    A primary theme of Durrell’s sharply funny narratives – think Bill Bryson by way of Sir David Attenborough – is that of all the odd creatures in the world, humans are the oddest. That vision is aptly reflected the titles of Durrell’s first two Corfu books, "My Family and Other Animals," and "Birds, Beasts and Relatives." They were followed by an equally charming sequel, "Garden of the Gods," later published by David R. Godine as "Fauna and Family."

    Godine has done much to keep Durrell’s legacy alive in recent years by reissuing some of his books in handsome new editions. Along with "Fauna and Family," Godine has also reprinted "Fillets of Plaice," a smattering of his travel adventures, and the small publishing house is releasing "Beasts in My Belfry" soon.

    In Durrell’s books, the landscape looms brightly as an abiding character in the story. He’s a poet of place, as in this memorable passage about the Durrells’ home in Corfu:

    The villa was small and square, standing in its tiny garden with an air of pink-faced determination. Its shutters had been faded by the sun to a delicate creamy green, cracked and bubbled in places. The garden, surrounded by tall fuchsia hedges, had flower beds worked in complicated geometrical patterns, marked with smooth white stones. The white cobbled paths, scarcely as wide as a rake’s head, wound laboriously round beds hardly larger than a big straw hat, beds in the shape of stars, half-moons, triangles, and circles, all overgrown with a shaggy tangle of flowers run wild. Roses dropped petals that seemed as big and smooth as saucers, flame red, moon white, glossy and unwrinkled....

    Durrell’s brother Lawrence, who figures prominently in his Corfu books, was a writer, too. Lawrence (1912-1990) was primarily a novelist, known best for a series of Egypt-based fictional works called "The Alexandria Quartet," but like his brother, he was an accomplished travel writer. Axios Press has a fine reissue of "Bitter Lemons," Lawrence Durrell’s beautifully rendered account of his three years in Cyprus in the 1950s, and many of his descriptions of Cyprian locales are keepers as well.

    Watch “The Durrells in Corfu,” a lavishly executed production in the Masterpiece tradition, but read Gerald and Lawrence Durrell’s books, too. They offer pleasures that promise to endure long after this public TV series is through.

    Michael Haag's The Durrells of Corfu is published in the spring.

    Thursday, 29 September 2016

    Postcards from Lawrence Durrell's Avignon

    'Onward,' writes Deborah on the back of this postcard as she begins to read The Avignon Quintet.

    Some while ago I had an email from a woman called Deborah in America.  She was in the middle of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and wanted - in fact needed - to talk about it with someone.  When she was finished I suggested she read his Avignon Quintet, though I hedged my suggestion saying she might find it rather loosely constructed, unevenly written, possibly completely awful (I was repeating various remarks I have heard about it), but that I thought there are at least two and a half very good novels within the five, including a powerful and brilliantly observed historical account of the German occupation of Provence during the Second World War.

    In the event and right from the start with the first volume, Monsieur, Deborah swept away all my qualifications about the Quintet which she read with a freshness and enthusiasm that reawakened my best feelings about the books. 

    For example I had this email about the first volume.

    'I enjoyed Monsieur, I certainly did not want to stop reading it.  My bookmark was covered with new words to look up too!  If I have anything to complain about it is my own fault - I was reading it a little more analytically than usual, having read the Alexandria Quartet. Certainly comparisons are inevitable.

    'I love Durrell as a writer, and this book is so beautifully written, line for line.  And I admire that Durrell was always trying to do something new with the novel form: I was captivated by the layering of the stories within the book...

    'The book is grim, and the clouds of death and mental illness make it, for me, a great read.  It is a book written by an older person. I am in a place to appreciate that.

    'I love the complexity of the religious aspect, and having been a zen Buddhist who studied the old koans with a teacher for more than a decade, I was moved by the search, the questioning, the being knocked-off-one's-pins aspect of Piers' religious search.  That rang true. 

    'I think Durrell was a wordsmith and poet, as ever.  There are some unforgettable moments, and it is haunting, atmospheric.  I do want, and yet don't want, to read more - if you know what I mean.'

    I very much enjoyed getting Deborah's reports, mostly by email, but sometimes very briefly on the backs of postcards.

    I like postcards, sending and receiving them, and encouraged Deborah to do the same.  And so a flow of Avignon postcards have passed back and forth between us, in some cases Deborah creating her own.  A selection follows with some of the remarks which Deborah scribbled on the reverse.

    'This card has a very different perspective than most Avignon cards. I am experimenting with the "write-over" technique.'

    I had told Deborah that it did not matter if the postcard was already written on; just write over it, using an interlinear, or at a right angle, or in a different colour.  Deborah wrote across this one at a right angle in fuschia; the original postcard was first sent in 1935.

    'More nightwalking in Livia, with Felix and Blanford both in turmoil together, ending up propped in oil cans in front of a brothel window in the dark.'

    'The open windows, the curtains blowing, the smell of lavender in the air.' 

    'I am just now exactly halfway through the Quintet.  Sam's death, Freud, Alexandria in the collage with Avignon.'

    'Having finished Constance, and in awe of that last chapter, I am carrying Sebastian which has begun with that intriguing gnostic-oriented conversation between the Prince and Affad. Hours of pleasure ahead. From my own experience it was interesting to see Constance enter the world of yoga in Sebastian.'

    'I am reading and enjoying Sebastian, thinking about Durrell.'

    'The sun is harsh but the shade is dark.  Scent of honeysuckle at dusk.  Plenty of olives.  Don't you wish you were here?'

    'This photo with its summerlight does not match the darkness of the Tu Duc chapter I have been re-reading in Constance.  Durrell really captures the cold and darkness of Nazi occupied Avignon - what a contrast to the warm golden days before the war.'

    'Here the calendar page turns and we start to feel summer is already behind us.  And soon I will turn the last page of Quinx with its confusion, dancing and startling revelations.'

    Deborah took her time over Quinx, as she told me in this email.

    'I succumbed, after overnight guests, to a nap, but woke after minutes, so I read Quinx, which has been sorely (and deliberately in some ways) neglected.  I completed the chapter where Sabine reunites (in more ways than one) and leads our characters to the fortune-telling.  What follows is a most engaging stream of dream as they head off to Avignon - almost like riding off to the underworld - I loved it.

    'I really don't want this series to end.'

    A few days later another email.

    'I meant to say before I came down with this cold (I have had no rest and the most fitful sleep) that I found I had very little to say at the end of Quinx.  I found it to be a very satisfying ending, and I am basking in all the bits and pieces which I enjoyed very much. 

    'The Constance volume is of course the climax of the whole quintet, but what comes before and after is quite curious and engrossing.  It will stay with me for a long time.

    'Blanford says "And here I was hoping not only to tell the truth but also to free the novel a bit from the shackles of causality....An impossible task you always tell me, but the higher the risk the greater the promise!"

    'I think Durrell succeeded.'

    Saturday, 17 September 2016

    The Durrells for Spring 2017

    The spring 2017 catalogue of Profile Books announces the publication of The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag.

    Monday, 5 September 2016

    Arabic Edition of Alexandria: City of Memory Published in Egypt

    The Arabic edition of Alexandria: City of Memory
    by Michael Haag has been published in Egypt this August by the Supreme Council for Culture along with the National Centre for Translation.

    Wednesday, 31 August 2016

    Upstairs Downstairs

    Fitzjohn's Avenue rising to Hampstead.
    I came upon this postcard recently and though it is well over a hundred years old I immediately recognised the scene.  Directly ahead is Fitzjohn's Avenue rising to Hampstead, one of the highest points in London.  The avenue was laid out in 1876 and lined with chestnut trees and handsome villas in a variety of often fanciful styles; already in 1883 it was described by Harpers Magazine as 'one of the noblest streets in the world'.  Its early inhabitants included Lloyds underwriters, shipowners, auctioneers, silk manufacturers, a wine merchant, a director of Hull Docks, an Arctic explorer, an Islamic scholar and several artists.

    The same scene today.
    I went to the spot and took this photograph to compare it with the postcard.

    The postcard shows a water trough in the foreground for horses about to make the climb. And to the left there is a fountain under a conical roof.  Today the trough is gone and the fountain serves as an occasional flower stall.

    A winter's day.
    This monochrome photograph, dating to about the same period as the postcard and taken on a winter's day when the trees were bare, shows the scene clearly.  To the left is an open plot, no house stands on it.  Today it is built upon by a Territorial Army centre.  Beyond the fountain is a house whose address is 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue.  You can see the same house through the trees on the face of the postcard.

    To Florrie Sambrook c/o Lady Salt.
    From this house at 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue my postcard was sent by Lucy to her friend Florrie on 3 September 1907.

    From Lucy at 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue.
    Lucy's message reads:

    3 Fitzjjohns Avenue
    Hampstead NW

    Dear Florrie
    I am afraid you will think I have quite forgotten your tie pattern, but hope to send it the end of the week, been so very busy.
    Goodbye  Love to all.

    This message on the back of a postcard is almost all we know about Lucy.  She is in service at 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue; in what little spare time she has she is working on a pattern borrowed from her friend Florrie who also is in service but far away in Staffordshire.  'Love to all' suggests that Lucy knows not only Florrie but others there.  It is tempting to think that they 'all' know each other from Staffordshire, that they all come from there, but as we shall see they probably first knew each other not in Staffordshire but in London.

    Isaac Lewis, diamond merchant and financier.
    The addresses in London and at Walton on the Hill tell us more, if not about Lucy and Florrie then about the people who employed them.  The house at 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue was built in 1876 in the Arts and Crafts style and first bought by Isaac Lewis, who was born in Lithuania, then part of Russia, and in 1870 went to South Africa where he made his living as a travelling merchant with his cousin Samuel Marks. Their fortunes flourished when they found themselves among the first to be at the Kimberley diamond field as it was being opened up; they sold provisions and equipment to the miners and soon ventured in diamonds themselves.  In 1873 he came to England where he married Sarah Ann Tickton, the daughter of a rabbi of Sheffield, and returned with her to South Africa where he and Marks built up a large financial and industrial enterprise.  In his later years he lived in London to oversee his company's affairs in Britain and on the Continent before returning to Cape Town where he died in 1927.  He is buried, however, at the Jewish Cemetery in Willesden, London.

    At some point before 1916 Lewis sold 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue to August Ries, a banker born in Wurtemberg and a British citizen. Ries was a partner of L Hirsch & Co, a firm that made its money from South African gold mines and British coal mines.  Ries and Lewis must have known one another through their business affairs: the London business addresses of Lewis and Ries were the same, Warnford Court, Throgmorton Street.

    But I do not know when Lewis sold 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue to Ries.  Was it before or after Lucy sent her postcard in 1907?  Whatever the date and whether her employer was Lewis or Ries, Lucy was working for an extremely wealthy man with business dealings in South Africa, England and on the Continent.

    c/o Lady Salt
    Lucy's friend Florrie was working for Lady Salt in Staffordshire.  Lady Salt's husband, who was knighted for his services to banking, died in 1904.  That is when she moved out of London to Walton on the Hill, to the house where she had lived as a girl.  So quite possibly Lucy and Florrie knew one another first in London, but when Lady Salt removed herself to Walton on the Hill she took her staff with her.  These would be the 'all' that Lucy sends her love to.

    Lady Salt at Walton on the Hill
    Lady Salt's mother was the daughter of a West India merchant who became Governor of the Bank of England.  Her mother's older brother, that is Lady Salt's uncle, was Henry Edward Manning, a high Anglican Church clergyman who famously converted to Catholicism and became Cardinal Manning.  Helen, which was Lady Salt's name, remembered the family visits her uncle would often make when she was growing up at Walton on the Hill.

    Cardinal Manning
    Like her friend Lucy in London, Florrie in Staffordshire was serving a family of bankers, though by the time Florrie went to Walton on the Hill, Cardinal Manning, son of a governor of the Bank of England, had long since gone to his maker.  Lady Salt lived at Walton on the Hill until 1920 when she returned to London; perhaps Florrie and Lucy enjoyed a reunion then and exchanged more sewing patterns.

    Then in 1921 August Ries sold 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue to Philip de Laszlo, the society painter who lived there and used it as his studio. De Laszlo was born into humble circumstances in Budapest but his ability as an artist got him a long way, including marrying Lucy Guinness of the banking branch of the Guinness family.

    Philip de Laszlo's self portrait; he married a banker's daughter.
    Among the people who had their portraits painted by de Laszlo at 3 Fitzjohn's Avenue were Andrew Mellon, President Calvin Coolidge, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten, Queen Marie of Romania, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George VI of the United Kingdom and his wife Queen Elizabeth when they were still the Duke and Duchess of York, and their daughter Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II. You can see a film of him painting a mannequin of Lady Duff-Gordon's fashion house in 1928.

    De Laszlo's portrait of the then Duchess of York, mother of Queen Elizabeth II.
    De Laszlo also painted a man I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, the diplomat and great desert explorer and wonderful writer Ahmed Hassanein, author of The Lost Oases

    Ahmed Hassanein
    The house at 103 Fitzjohn's Avenue has recently been converted into flats.  And to give it a cachet it has been named De Laszlo House. 

    The home of Isaac Lewis, August Ries and Philip de Laszlo.

    A blue plaque identifies the house as that of Philip de Laszlo.

    A blue plaque honouring Philip de Laszlo on 103 Fitzjohn's Avneue.

    Lucy and Florrie are remembered by their postcard.

    The old fountain turned flower stall.  Beyond it is the Territorial Army centre and beyond that is the house where Lucy wrote her postcard to Florrie.

    Sunday, 28 August 2016


    A postcard from a friend.  Hope the voyage is a long one.
    As you set out for Ithaka
    hope the voyage is a long one,
    full of adventure, full of discovery.
    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
    you’ll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
    as long as a rare excitement
    stirs your spirit and your body.
    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
    wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
    unless you bring them along inside your soul,
    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time;
    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
    to buy fine things,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    sensual perfume of every kind—
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    and may you visit many Egyptian cities
    to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you are destined for.
    But do not hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you are old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
    Without her you would not have set out.
    She has nothing left to give you now.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

    (C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)  

    Book a Greyhound bus to Ithaka now.

    Thursday, 25 August 2016

    The Durrells of Corfu Cover

    This is the cover artwork for The Durrells of Corfu.  From left to right are Larry, Leslie, Gerry, Louisa (Mother) and Margo - as they really appeared when they lived in Corfu in the late 1930s.  The book will be published in early 2017.

    Saturday, 30 July 2016

    Postcard of a Man with a Bow Tie

    Man with a bow tie.
    I recently received this postcard of a man wearing a bow tie.  Thank you.  You know who you are.

    Thursday, 28 July 2016

    Not in the Footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor

    The Taygetus range in spring rising like a wall above Sparta.
    Over the years I have spent quite a bit of time in the Mani, that central finger of the southern Peloponnese.  Down its spine runs the Taygetus range, its highest peak Profitis Ilias, which though rising to only 2404 metres is the highest mountain in the Peloponnese and the third highest, after Olympus and Parnassus, in Greece. On the eastern side of the range is Sparta and the Laconian Plain; on the western side, in what is known as Outer Mani, is the small town of Kardamyli and numerous villages along the coast or on the mountain slopes behind them.

    My first full view of Viros Gorge from the village of Tseria near Kardamyli whetted
    my appetite for the traverse a year later.  Profitis Ilias is in the distance at the
    upper left of the photograph.
    From many places along the coast and in the foothills of Outer Mani I would catch sight of Profitis Ilias, which always fascinated me because its peak looked snow-covered even in summer, or shielded in electrum as the ancient Egyptians used to do with the Pyramids.

    That fascination led to a desire - and it was a desire, something like a lust and a need - to traverse the Taygetus range from east to west, from Sparta down into Outer Mani.

    My copy of Mani.
    I had read Patrick Leigh Fermor's Mani and had followed most of his adventures, to the towerhouse villages of Kitta and Vathia, for example, and Old Kardamyli, and also out onto the Tigani peninsula with its ruins of a Villehardouin castle and the bones of Latin knights visible in the opened crypts.

    Patrick Leigh Fermor's house outside Kardamyli.
    But Leigh Fermor's description of his traverse of the Taygetus range offered little clue to his route.  All he says is that with the help of a guide he followed a gorge down into Kampos well north of Kardamyli.  Otherwise he is entirely unhelpful and vague.

    Recently at the Durrell conference at Rethymnon I met Chris White who is an expert in Leigh Fermor's exploits in Crete and has tracked down his routes and hideouts from the time when he and the resistance kidnapped the German commandant General Kreipe.  I asked Chris about Paddy's traverse of the Taygetus and he agreed that his description is vague, most probably because he never did it, instead that he made several shorter explorations and then linked them up in his book to look like a traverse.

    Which confirms what I began to suspect at the time.  After poring over maps looking for Paddy's possible route I eventually gave up and decided that the only thing to do was to keep it simple and direct.  I would climb Profitis Ilias from the Sparta side and then come down into Outer Mani along the Viros Gorge with spills imto Kardamyli and the Messenian Gulf.

    Wending my way up Profitis Ilias.
    That winter back in London I talked about my idea with my friend Neville Lewis and he agreed to join me in the traverse.  Meanwhile I bought a pair of stout boots and did some walking across the south of England and also in the Greek islands in preparation.  At the end of August we met up in Athens and drove down to Outer Mali via Sparta and the Langada Pass through the mountains to Kalamata and so down to Kardamyli and beyond.

    Having shown Neville the eastern approach and the western flank of Taygetus and had a good look at the peak of Profitis Ilias and the Viros Gorge, he announced himself game and we set off, friends driving us back to the Sparta side.  If they did not see us again soon, they were to do something, though none of us knew what.

    Michael atop Profitis Ilias.
    Climbing Profitis Ilias from the Sparta side is easy enough.  The Spartans used to do it all the time and worshipped at the top.  Even the Orthodox Church has constructed a ramshackle chapel up there with a tin roof for the occasional ceremony.

    Neville looking for a way down.  There is no way down except the gorge.
    Getting down is another matter.  I discovered that what had appeared as a snow peak in summer, or a cap of electrum, was actually scree, that is loose stone which covers a considerable amount of the upper part of the mountain.  Being loose underfoot, it makes it difficult to descend without slipping, which I did, destroying my water bottle at the same time.  Even a bottle each was too little, it soon became apparent.  This was early September and there was no water anywhere.  And we now had one bottle of water between us for a descent that I hoped could be accomplished in a day but maybe not.

    Neville after navigating the scree slope.
    Just follow the gorge, it was as simple as that, I thought.  But the gorge was a torrent in the late winter and was filled with gigantic boulders.  Sometimes you could walk round them but more often than not you had to climb over them.

    In the gorge, climbing over boulders.
    By late afternoon we had no more water.  Neville was hallucinating and shouting for a beer.  Fortunately as it got dark a full moon rose to illuminate our way.  Just keep going along the damn gorge; it will take us eventually into Kardamyli, I told myself.  Then Neville spotted a path rising off to the left, a rocky defile rising out of the gorge and up past streams of water pouring from the rock face where we drank ourselves silly before continuing into the village of Exochori.

    The long dry descent.
    At Exochori there is a pantopoleion which doubles as an ouzeri and general drinking hole.  We went in for a beer.  Next to us two men were sitting.

    We finally reach the tree line but still no water.
    They asked us where we had come from.  From Sparta, we said, over the top of Profitis Ilias and down through the gorge.  They said nobody has ever done that before.

    Two days after our traverse of Taygetus, myself and Neville at Old Kardamyli at the mouth of the Viros Gorge, somehow alive and well.