Archive for May, 2011

Simple Singers at Holy Trinity

May 28, 2011

It was the end of evensong at Holy Trinity in Guildford, when in strolled a crowd of Danes.

You have timed that well, I told them, you are lucky to find the church open.

We are here to sing, they told me, please join us as we like to have an audience, not sing to an empty church.

I was actually on my way home, and had only been at evensong by accident, but I decided to stay.

I was treated to a wonderful hour or more of choral and harmony singing by Simple Singers, a choral group from Denmark. James Bond theme music (with vocalisation of the instruments), Danish and Latvian folk songs, spine-tingling performance of Gershwin, spiritual and gospel and at the end their own version of Bridge over Troubled Waters. [see Danish rhythmical choir visits London and Guildford]

The acoustics were perfect. A pity the concert was not recorded with a simple pair of crossed microphones. It was also a pity that so few people were there. Beside myself, five people, later joined by four more.

The concert had no publicity, no mention at evensong.

Simple Singers are twenty people. For the concert at Holy Trinity there were fifteen, five men and ten women. They were accompanied at times on piano. Plus a conductor and a man at the door.

The next day, ie today, they were to sing in Covent Garden in London.

I gave them a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho to say thank you.

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The Shack

May 28, 2011
The Shack

The Shack

People rave about this book, which immediately put me off reading it.

Mack finds God in a deserted shack in the middle of a wilderness. What God is doing there and what Mack learns is for us to find out.

Stranger things have happened. Disgraced politician Jonathan Aitken (in prison for perjury) claims to have found God in prison. At a party I was at in London, either Mark Thomas or Jeremy Hardy quipped what was God in for?

Missy, youngest daughter of Mack, goes missing on a camping trip. Her bloodstained dress is found in a dilapidated remote mountain shack. Her body is not found and she is assumed brutally murdered by a child serial killer. Four years later, Mack receives a note, allegedly from God, inviting him back to the shack for a weekend chat.

The last time God was on record sending messages is the communication of the Quran to the Prophet Muhmmad. Is this a cruel hoax? The only way for Mack to find out is to return to the shack.

The Shack by William P Young is an amazing and humbling deep metaphysical discussion on the nature of God. It will shatter most people’s stereotype image of God.

We know Jesus was a carpenter. Why are we therefore surprised to find him portrayed as of Middle Eastern appearance, looking like an Arab?

I find three copies of The Shack within three days, well a week at any rate. Each copy differed in a slight detail on its front cover, namely one, two, three million copies sold. A couple of weeks later I find another copy. Maybe someone is trying to tell me something!

Most recent copy I have seen displayed as best selling item in a Christian bookshop had seven million copies sold on the front cover!

With no publisher interested, with a little help from his friends, Willie created a publishing company with the sole purpose of publishing The Shack. Life is about following our dreams, taking risks. [see The Alchemist]

William P Young worked on odd jobs during the day to earn a living, at night he wrote The Shack. Not a single publisher was interested, “too much Jesus”, therefore with the help of friends and family he established a publishing company to publish The Shack. They thought they were being ambitious when they printed 11,000 copies to sell on the internet, but they sold out within four months, fuelled entirely by word-of-mouth. In the UK it was published by Hodder and Stoughton, where pre-sales reached 25,000 even before it hit the shops!

Word of mouth can be very powerful, especially with social media. I was recommended The Shack. I do not hesitate to recommend it to others.

Top story in The Religion Daily (Sunday 29 May 2011)!

Finding God In The Shack
Does it matter how we pray?
What’s So Amazing About Grace?
The Jesus I Never Knew
Suffering
The writer and God
God is
A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God
The Alchemist
By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
– Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Beautiful sung evensong

May 27, 2011

Beautiful sung choral evensong this evening with Guildford Cathedral Choir at Holy Trinity Church in Guildford.

Sometimes we need these rituals. Instead of going away reflecting on the words of the priest, we immerse ourselves, experience the glory.

I was about to go home, when in walked a Danish choir, Simple Singers. Please join us they said. How could I say no? [see Danish rhythmical choir visits London and Guildford]

Does it matter how we pray?

May 25, 2011

Do we kneel, our head bowed, our hands together, our eyes closed? Or do we stand, wave our arms about and shout in an egotistical display for all the world to see? Or do we as in the Russian Orthodox, stand in silent prayer? Or do we as a devout Muslim, five times a day, lay prostrate on the ground facing Mecca?

To pray is to communicate with an Infinite Being. To communicate implies a two-way dialogue.

Too often we make demands, when these are not met, we go off in a huff, get in a strop.

We would do well to heed the advice of St Benedict: Listen, listen to your Master. The Master in this case was the Abbot.

We need to learn to listen, to be patient.

At Alton Abbey, visitors will go away with three or more books on how to pray. They would be best served in devoting their time in prayer, not reading the books.

The Jesus Prayer can be used as as mantra, an aid to meditation, but there is a danger if we do this without a spiritual guide.

There are too many churches where one is greeted on arrival as though a long lost friend, but it is a false sense of friendship, there is no depth, no sense of community.

Alton Abbey has a congregation of about ninety people. They do not all turn up at once which is fortunate as the church is only small. They turn up because they are made welcome, they find they are members of a community.

The follow up discussion descended into a discussion on the format of church services.

At a St Joseph’s Day Party in Istanbul, Paulo Coelho invited everyone to join him in prayer. It was not an obligation, but if you did participate he asked that it came from your soul. He asked everyone to join hands. It was a very moving experience.

I spent three weeks in the spring, of which nearly every day I visited an old Spanish colonial church. At the same time I would sit in the plaza reading By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. I tried a technique described in the book. To sit very quietly and open ones mind. I was amazed at what happened. I discussed this with Father Dom Giles Hill. He said yes, now try it with a group of people.

A special thanks to Dom Giles Hill, former Abbot of Alton, for the talk he gave at St Nicolas, Guildford, 8pm Wednesday 25 May 2011.

St Nicolas Church by the River Wey, is one of the oldest churches in Guildford

Alton Abbey is an Anglican Benedictine Monastery in the beautiful Hampshire village of Beech, just outside Alton.

Pathway to disaster

May 20, 2011

Jokingly called a promenade, the Mayor’s pride and joy, the path under construction across Protaras beach is an unmitigated disaster.

The path runs along the top of the beach alongside the beach front of the hotels on the seafront. The construction of the path, the noise and the dust, is causing a major nuisance to the beachfront hotels and their guests. Such is the level of the nuisance and the complaints tour operators are receiving, that major tour companies have threatened to pull out of Protaras.

Scant regard for health and safety. Power grinders used on the concrete, dust everywhere, no attempt to dampen down, the workmen wearing no protective gear. Silicosis anyone?

Scant regard for the beach-front hotels and their clients. One morning a digger excavating the foundation for a shower-toilet block which when complete will obstruct the view from Sunrise Beach Hotel.

The path will focus walkers along the boundary of beachfront hotels. Ideal opportunity for thieves to nip in and out, snatch belongings by sunbeds.

The beach at Protaras is only a thin strip. The path is encroaching upon the beach. In parts there is significant encroachment on the beach.

It used to be possible to walk along the waters edge, look up at the hotel and see the grass of the hotels tumbling down to the beach. Now all one sees is an ugly concrete wall.

The pathway from Protaras to Perneria was constructed a few years ago. No problem with the path per se. It is well constructed and of good design. The only problem is the wrong path in the wrong place. It replaced a lovely sandy track which dipped down to the rock pools. As one approaches Protaras along the path a lovely view of the bay, or there was, now obstructed by wooden shacks alongside the pier.

There appears to be not a disliike but a strong hatred of the natural world.

Concrete and decking covers wave cut platforms in the low lying rocks. Before Vrissiana Beach Hotel was the rare remnants of Mediterranean flora that was once common. This has been all but wiped out, what little remains isolated from the beach by a concrete wall. Before it was protected by a wooden fence and had the opportunity to expand into the beach. At the Ayia Napa end of Fig Tree Bay a cliff has been destroyed, a cliff that in spring was carpetted with Hotentot Fig and wild onions in flower.

The concept of a 12-kilometre Kapparis to Cape Greko coastal path was an excellent one, but not the way it has been implimented. The obvious model, the South West Coastal Path along the coast of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. What was needed was waymarking and rights of way, not concrete.

If nothing else, the path makes an excellent cycleway. The irony is cyclists are barred from using it!

What we have is an unmitigated disaster, an appalling waste of public money. The project cost is an unbelievable 3 million euros!

Public money could be better spent. The road through Protaras needs landscaping, trees for shade. The fountains either end are sitting derelict. The path on main road that bypasses Protaras is in an appalling state of repair, as is the cycleway.

Has money been allocated for the repair and maintenance of the path? If not, in ten years time it will be in a poor state of repair.

Cypriot love affair with Protaras makes a tough job easier

Kleftico at Nicolas Tavern

May 19, 2011

The choice was Cypriot night at the hotel or kleftico at Nicolas Tavern. No choice really, so kleftico at Nicolas Tavern it was.

Traditionally kleftico is cooked slowly slowly in a wood-fired clay oven. This is how it is cooked in the villages and this is how it is cooked at Nicolas Tavern in Protaras, the only Greek-Cypriot taverna in Protras to use a clay oven.

If in Protaras and you wish to try Greek-Cypriot cuisine, then Nicolas Tavern is the place to eat.

Ayios Charo Lambos

May 19, 2011

A few nights ago my lovely Russian friend Olia and I walked back from Nicolas Tavern the long way round along the main road, then took a short cut through Eden Square.

As the footpath drops down into Eden Square, we found a beautiful little church that was under construction last year.

This afternoon, I again walked down this path and to my pleasant surprise, I found the church open.

Inside icons, and beautiful carved woodwork. Wonderful craftmanship. Outside is a cast bell with its own little bell tower.

On inquiry, I found the church had been constructed by his family in memory of the head of the family Charo Lambos who died of cancer.

I am reminded of medieval chapels that were often constructed in memory of someone.

Construction of Ayios Charo Lambos was completed February of this year. It is used for special occasions, such as baptisms, the priest coming from Paralimni.

Paralimni

May 17, 2011

Paralimni is the administrative centre for the tourist resort of Protaras in the South East of Cyprus within the Famugusta area.

The centre of Paralimni consists of three churches, the oldest the 13th century Ayia Anna, a few shops, bars and restaurants, around the corner the Town Hall and Mayor’s Office and that is about it.

Just off from the centre, an excellent net cafe.

I spent an hour wandering around Paralimni, having spent the morning with the Mayor. Lunch at a little cafe overlooking the oldest chuch I have to say was absolutely disgusting (it may explain why it was devoid of customers).

It was though a pleasure to find all three churches open. After lunch they were all closed, as were all the shops.

The bus I caught back to Protaras looked as though it had been rescued from a Third World scrap yard.

Mavis and Harry Parkins meet Mayor of Paralimni

May 17, 2011
meeting Mayor of Paralimni

meeting Mayor of Paralimni

Andreas Evangelou the Mayor of Paralimni

Andreas Evangelou the Mayor of Paralimni

This morning Mavis and Harry Parkins spent the morning with Andreas Evangelou the Mayor of Paralimni. They were given an award in recognition of having visited Protaras over 50 times. They were also given a bag of goodies from the people of Paralimni.

Centre piece of the Mayor’s office a present from the Mayor of Moscow.

Centre piece of the Town Hall on the ground floor, a stone anchor recovered from the sea.

Paralimni is the administrative centre for the tourist resort of Protaras in the South East of Cyprus within the Famugusta area.

A special thanks to Windmill Car Hire and Sunrise Beach Hotel for setting this up.

Magic Dancing Waters

May 16, 2011

5 euros maybe, 10 euros maximum, 16 euros was pushing it, but I had agreed to go with my lovely Russian friend Olia to see the Magic Dancing Waters Show.

We sat in the middle, not too near the front as we had been warned we would get wet. We were surprised to find tables and chairs (we expected ranked seats). Drinks were also served (though these we declined).

In front of us was a large pool with coloured fountains playing. We appeared to be overlooking the outskirts of Protaras. What we did not realise was that this was a trick of the light. Once the show started, we saw we had a backdrop of pyramid-shaped structures.

At the start, we were not impressed, a few fountains and coloured lights set to music, so what I thought, I could see the New Year’s firework display in Red Square or on the Thames for nothing. [see London Fireworks on New Year’s Day 2011]

But then it really got started to the sound of Ludwig van Beethoven, and yes it was impressive.

The fountains were followed by lasers, by volcanic eruptions, all set to music varying from Ludwig van Beethoven, to Strauss, to what we thought was David Bowie, to Tchaikovsky, to a volcanic finale with Vangelis.

The show was an hour long and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

On the negative side, the sound system could have been much better. And please, no smoking, it was very unpleasant for us having smoke blown in our face from a nearby table.

What a pity on leaving we had to walk by McDonald’s.

We then walked out to the church, climbed the rock atop which it sits.

We had hoped for a brandy sour at Nicholas Tavern, but by the time we got there it was too late, so we went in the bar next door.

A special thanks to my lovely Russian friend Olga for inviting me to join her and for a very lovely evening.

Magic Dancing Waters is the No 1 star attraction in Protaras in Cyprus. Not difficult as it is the only attraction! What is surprising is the ranking as the No One attraction in the EU with a large silver cup on display to prove it!