Archive for October, 2011

Sermon on the Steps at St Paul’s in-the-Camp

October 31, 2011
Revd Dr Kevin Snyman

Revd Dr Kevin Snyman

Canon Paul Oestreicher  of Coventry Cathedral

Canon Paul Oestreicher of Coventry Cathedral

here to stay

here to stay

root out usury

root out usury

Saturday afternoon, Sermon on the Steps at St Paul’s in-the-Camp took place outside the West Door of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Pandora and I got there mid-afternoon, a little after it had started. We found Anglican clergy, Catholic clergy, Christians of all denominations, a Sikh, a Rabbi, a humanist, a Rastafarian.

A canon from Coventry Cathedral told us of the sadness at hearing of the resignation of his friend Giles Fraser who had resigned two days earlier, but he added that the Dean and Chapter were not our enemies, that they were his brother clergy.

A Catholic priest told of a message from the Vatican, a message that strangely was overlooked by the media, that the markets had to be regulated.

Bruce Kent said he had been waiting decades for something like this to happen.

I do not know who said it, it may have been Bruce Kent, it may have been his fellow Catholic priest: You are only strangers and guests on this earth.

All had the same message to convey: Jesus worked with the poor, Jesus would have been here among us, Jesus was here among us.

All were highly critical of St Paul’s closing for a week.

Why was St Paul’s closed?

As we wandered around, Pandora and I could see no health and safety issue requiring St Paul’s to close. The public highway was not blocked, access to St Paul’s was not hindered or obstructed.

We attended evensong, the second day St Paul’s was open. It was a full house.

Evensong at St Paul’s

The tents were in neat orderly lines, the public highway was clear and unobstructed. Indeed walking there we walked side-streets with narrower pavements with traffic thundering by. Every day I encounter cars parked on pavements forcing people out into the road.

The only health and safety issue we encountered was lack of any street lights. Over to you City of London Corporation.

The i on Saturday showed a picture with the heading: visitors pick their way through protest tents at St Paul’s Cathedral. Not true! It showed someone wending their way to the food tent. If it was a visitor trying to enter St Paul’s then they were able to walk through a wall!

The Mail on Saturday claimed Anarchists were taking over. Not true! If any group is taking over and no one is claiming they are, it is Christians.

God moves in mysterious ways. The protest was intended to be outside the Stock Exchange. But things happen. It found itself outside St Paul’s. As a result, Christians have been motivated to join the protest.

Everyone has been very impressed by the Christians who have joined the camp.

We found a very friendly, helpful atmosphere. Pandora helped distribute leaflets.

Last Wednesday and Friday, Flash Evensong organised evensong on the steps of St Paul’s. Saturday Sermon on the Steps. Sunday morning the Bishop of London and the Dean of St Paul’s came and talked to the camp. Sunday afternoon London Quakers organised a service on the steps.

Flash Evensong at St Paul’s-in-the-Camp

It was sad news to hear of the resignation of Giles Fraser last week. Sad news to hear today of the resignation of the Dean of St Paul’s the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles. No one has called for them to resign. Who is forcing out these senior clergy at St Paul’s?

Resignation of the Dean of St Paul’s

This goes far beyond St Paul’s. It raises issues far more important than gender, women Bishops, gay clergy. I would urge that the Church of England calls a General Synod as a matter of urgency.

I would urge churches up and down the land to send a delegation to St Paul’s in-the-Camp. Please if possible bring food to donate. To then report back to your congregation and community.

St Paul’s must not back an eviction. Any attempt at eviction will be protected by a ring of prayer.

We are seeing real democracy in action, not the fake democracy of the neo-Gothic House of Horror called Westminster, craven puppets jumping to the tune of the City of London.

The City of London is the last of the Rotten Boroughs. It must be abolished.

During WWII St Paul’s stood as a symbol against Nazi tryranny. There is a famous photo of St Paul’s standing surrounded by London burning. During the Blitz, Sir Winston Churchhill ordered that St Paul’s be saved.

Directors of the FTSE 100 companies awarded themselves an obscene 49% pay increase, their workers a mere 2.5%. Many in the private sector have seen their pay decrease, it is either that or lose your job. In the public sector pay has been frozen.

The Church led the fight to Abolish Slavery. The Church must now lead the fight against the tyranny of the City of London. St Paul’s should once again be a symbol of hope. The clergy must work with the camp. St Paul’s Institute must publish their report on corporate greed.

Note: Special thanks to Pandora for pictures.

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Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

October 31, 2011
Hail, Mother of the Redeemer - The Sixteen

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer - The Sixteen

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer, music by Tomás Luis de Victoria, performed by The Sixteen (sadly without founder and director Harry Christophers) at Guildford Cathdral.

The musc was sublime, on a par with Hildegard von Bingen, who said she was a feather on the breath of God.

I thought Guildford Cathedral would be far too big. I was proved wrong, I was sat in the nave about a third of the way from the front and I was probabably in a perfect position, excellent acoustics.

The Cathedral was packed.

Coro, the record label of The Sixteen was on hand with around half a dozen recordings on offer. I picked up a copy of Hail, Mother of the Redeemer, recorded last year at All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London. I now regret I did not pick up a copy for my lovely Russian friend Polina.

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) composer, priest, scholar, mystic and organist.

Guildford Cathedral is currently celebrating 50 years.

Tomas Luis De Victoria – Composer of the Week – BBC Radio 3
Discovering Music – 16th Century Polyphony

Flash Evensong at St Paul’s-in-the-Camp

October 27, 2011
St Paul's in-the-camp

St Paul's in-the-camp

True godliness don’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavour to mend it. — William Penn

I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land. It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent. — Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Reverend Giles Fraser

It is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St Paul’s Cathedral. — Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Reverend Giles Fraser

Yesterday evening Flash Evensong performed an impromptu evensong on the the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Flashmob choir makes its point outside closed St Paul’s Cathedral
“Flash evensong” and the crunchiness of God’s word
Musical flashmob at St Paul’s Occupy London Stock Exchange protest

I caught a glimpse of it as an intro on World Tonight (last night news on Radio 4) to an excellent interview with the Editor of the Church Times who was highly critical of the closure of St Paul’s and said if St Paul’s sided with the City of London they would be siding with the wrong side. He added that the protesters had strong church support and that a poll in Church Times had given them 2/3 support.

Yesterday St Paul’s announced they hoped to re-open on Friday having engaged in talks with the protest camp, which begs the question why did they close?

OccupyLSX welcomes potential re-opening of St Paul’s Cathedral

Flash Evensong will perform evensong on Friday evening and there will be a service on the steps of St Paul’s Saturday afternoon.

Friday Evensong at St Paul’s-in-the-Camp, 6.15 for 6.30pm
‘Sermon on the Steps’ this Saturday
Sermon on the Steps at St Paul’s in-the-Camp

This morning the very sad news that Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral Rev Dr Giles Fraser had resigned. This opens the way to hardliners in cahoots with the City of London to clear the camp.

St Paul’s row: Giles Fraser resigns
Canon of St Paul’s: church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence
Statement regarding resignation of Reverend Canon Dr Giles Fraser
God Bless Giles Fraser

Bishop Selby on Radio 4 World at One lunchtime news today said it was very sad news to hear of the resignation of Giles Fraser. He was concerned this would put St Paul’s on the side of the City Of London who he called duplicitous.

Speaking for St Paul’s, Rev Rob Marshall said St Paul’s had strong links with the City of London.

Writing in the Evening Standard the Bishop of London gave the impression of having lost the plot! Maybe the Bishop should move out of his palace and spend a week living in a tent outside St Paul’s.

Bishop of London writes in the Evening Standard
Bishop of London offers debate with Occupy protesters if they disband
A chauffeur-driven bishop, and a Church that refuses sanctuary

Great deals on two Paulo Coelho books in WHSmith

October 27, 2011

WHSmith has Aleph by Paulo Coelho, his latest book released 1 September 2011, on display at a massive 60% off, ie £5-99.

At least that was the offer earlier in the week. Now from today ie Thursday for next ten days in an up-to 75% offer but still 60% off.

If you are very lucky the store may have vouchers which give 20% off any purchase, no minimum purchase.

Also on offer is The Alchemist at £2-99 if bought with a copy of The Times. This offer runs until the end of the week.

The Alchemist will also be one of 25 titles to be part of the one million books to be given away next year. [see World Book Night]

An introduction to Verdi’s opera Otello

October 26, 2011

The Guildford Opera Company are celebrating 40 years. As part of the 40 years they will be performing Verdi’s Otello in the Electric Theatre.

The stage director of the performance Jackie Shearer gave a talk on the opera at the Guildford Institute.

Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare’s play Othello. It was Verdi’s penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.

Verdi is his notices for the opera described it as after the tragedy by William Shakespeare, or in other words based on or adapted from.

Otello is set in Cyprus, the Venetians have just kicked the Turks out of Cyprus.

In Act I Shakespeare sets the scene. But, Othello is a play with a very tight plot, not much to cut. Verdi cuts out the entire first Act. In Otello we open with a storm and a triumphant Otello returning to Cyprus. A very dramatic opening. We have lost the wooing of his wife, defeat of the Turks.

For Otello, his marriage and who he was married to gives him his status, attack that and you attack the man.

At the end of Act I we have a duo between Otello and his wife that explains how they met.

No one knows what evil the bastard who is plotting against them is capable of until it is too late.

Wife of Otello does not see what is happening, why her husband is becoming jealous. She has beauty, is loved by her people, but has no brains. She is a loving wife.

It all reaches a climax when Otello turns on his wife at a state banquet.

The talk was illustrated with musical extracts.

The opera will be staged at the Electric Theatre. A small intimate theatre which has its own problems. The orchestra has to be scaled back, but it should be mush easier to hear and understand the singers.

Even with a full house the performance will make a loss.

GLive was highlly criticised by everyone as being a bad venue for anything. Input from people who wish to use the venue was ignored.

World Book Night

October 25, 2011

World Book Night a million books to be given away on 23 April 2012, the same happened this year, to mark World Book Day and Shakespeare’s birthday.

Last night the 25 titles to be given away were announced. These include: A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak.

Some booksellers do not like as it will steal sales, or so they say, others that it will encourage more people to read.

For independent booksellers their main problem is the absence of fair competition with others being offered massive discounts with which they cannot compete.

Next year the scheme will operate in the US as well as UK.

Members of the public are now able to apply to be one of the 20,000 World Book Night givers, who will receive 24 copies of their chosen title to give away to anyone they choose. Further copies will be distributed through prisons, libraries and hospitals. The US is set to host its first World Book Night the same day, replicating the UK format with one million yet-to-be-selected books given away.

World Book Night titles unveiled
World Book Night giveaway: a night of Good Omens or Misery?
World Book Night: the great giveaway

Guildford Book Festival 2011

October 25, 2011
Guildford Book Festival 2011

Guildford Book Festival 2011

Guildford Book Festival 2011

Guildford Book Festival 2011

Guildford Book Festival is an annual book event in Guildford that takes place over a period or around ten days sometime mid-October.

It used to be the programme that was eagerly looked forward to, spolit for choice with events to go to.

Sadly not last year, a big disappointment compared with previous years.

Guildford Book Festival 2010

Hopefully a blip, better things this year. Sadly not, as with last year, another disappointment. Everyone I spoke to felt the same,

But, as with last year, one can always find something to go to, and as it was this year.

Amnesty International can always be relied upon to put on something worth attending and this year was no exemption. The ricin terror plot that never was.

Ricin the terror plot that never was

The other excellent event was Spies in the sky at the Guildford Institute, a look at photo-reconnaissance.

Spies in the sky

But why were there women with Guildford Book Festival sashes at the Guildford Institute event but not at the AI event? I asked. Apparently AI can be relied upon to do their own thing, which implies Guildford Institute cannot.

One Tree Books had an excellent book display at the Electric Theatre, though a pity no Aleph on special offer as I would have bought a couple of copies.

Waterstone’s were once again not chosen as the official bookseller. Though apparently they were asked and declined. Usual sour grapes from Waterstone’s, no mention of the book festival.

Better use was made of twitter, but too much gushing crap which bordered on spam.

Please can we have a better book festival next year? I even suggested authors and could have invited them but the festival organisers did not have the courtesy to respond.

The best book event was not part of the official programme and happened the week before the book festival. This was Sarah Foot talking about Medieval translations of the Bible that led to the King James Bible.

Medieval translations of the Bible before King James

Maybe the best way forward is an Alternative Guildford Book Festival or a Festival Fringe.

Hive offers independent bookshops a raw deal

October 21, 2011

Heard of Hive, an independent on-line seller of books for independent bookshops?

Neither had I until I heard of them on You and Yours this lunchtime.

Apparently you buy on-line, get a book delivered to your home (for a fee) or pick it up at your local bookshop.

What is in it for your local bookshop?

As Simply Books said on You and Yours, not a lot, they get a small cut of the discounted price.

How are people to know of this service?

I guess through a notice in their local independent bookshop. But this would be like putting up a sign saying: Why buy from us full price when you can buy cheaper on-line?

If people are going to buy on-line, why buy from Hive (who they have never heard of and probably will never hear of) when they can and more likely will go direct to Amazon?

All Hive are doing is encouraging people to buy on-line, to get in the habit of buying on-line, not in their local bookshop.

The latest cookbook from Jamie Oliver was given as an example. This has an artificial cover price of £30 which no one bar a fool is going to pay.

– Waterstone’s £15
– WH Smith £15
– Sainsbury’s £9-99
– Hive £17-50 (plus shipping)
– Amazon £14 (free shipping)

All prices are walk in off the street prices bar Hive and Amazon.

Why would anyone buy Jamie’s Great Britain from Hive when they can get a better deal elsewhere?

The problem is the publishers offering heavily discounted prices to eveyone bar independent bookshops, but it does not have to be.

Aleph is currently on offer from independent bookshops at £10, ie one third off cover price. This is better than Waterstone’s who were offering £3 off and is now full price.

– Hive £9-79 (plus delivery)
– Amazon £7-50 (free delivery)

On their home page, Hive claim a recent review of Aleph. No, they simply regurgitate the blurb from HarperCollinsUK. That is not a review.

Independents are also offering the Paulo Coelho backlist at buy two get one free.

That this offer is available at all, is due to efforts by Paulo Coelho, myself and others, not due to a push from the independents.

Good news Paulo Coelho fans in independent bookshops

Hive is supposed to let you easily and quickly find your local independent bookstore, or so they claimed on You and Yours. If so, I do not know how. Maybe it is on their website, but if so not obvious as I did not see it, and I was looking.

There is an image where it asks click here to select your favourite bookshop. But when I did, it took me to a page where I was asked to sign in to check the status of my order!

The website is awful, slow, overbloated and image intense.

All Hive is doing is extracting the last drop of blood from failing bookstores who are so desperate they will clutch at straws.

Hive the online bookstore
Indies could earn 30% from books sold via Gardners’ Hive
Tangent One launches Hive – an online bookstore that supports the high street
Gardners Hive responds to feedback with indie offer
What’s gone wrong with our bookshops?
A quarter of independent bookshops lost in last five years

Michael Moore explains Occupy Wall Street to the BBC

October 20, 2011

Michael Moore explains Occupy Wall Street to the BBC.

Spies in the sky

October 20, 2011
Spies in the Sky - Taylor Downing

Spies in the Sky - Taylor Downing

When we think of spies in the sky, we think of satellites, U2 spy planes and unmanned drones.

Spies in the sky have a long history.

A man in a tower, on a rocky outcrop, in the crows nest of a ship. Anything to give an advantage over the man on the ground.

The modern era of men actually up in the sky started with balloons and Sam Cody with his kites.

During World War One, pilots would go up in a Vickers FB5 with a large plate camera, stick the camera over the side, take a picture, change the plate glass in a black bag, replace the glass, then take more pictures.

In the interwar years, the experience gained by the RAF in gathering intelligence from aerial photography was lost. The strides that were made were in the commercial sector.

At the start of WWII, the RAF was very ill prepared. They used low flying aircraft flying at low altitudes, wrong cameras, wrong lenses. These were suicide missions, aka dicing flights, dicing with death.

An Australian maverick Sydney Cotton was allowed to set up his own unit using high flying modified Spitfires, no armour, no weapons, to gain altitude and speed. Lone missions of 2-3 hours. They would fly at an altitude above interceptors but below where they would display a contrail.

Sydney Cotton upset too many of the top brass once too often and on returning from a mission was fired.

It was a flight over a Norwegian fjord that identified the Bismarck. Absence of torpedo nets indicated it was about to set sail. It came to be known as ‘the picture that sank a battleship’.

Auschwitz was captured by chance. It was picked up by the camera because it was photographing an IG Faben chemical plant. The picture shows the rows of huts, the pits where bodies are being burnt, the crematoria, a train at the station unloading the next batch of Jewish prisoners to be killed. As this was not a priority, the picture was filed, not to be uncovered until 1979 when the CIA was examining the archives for pictures of Poland.

One of the most famous photos of WWII is of the Dam Buster raid showing the breached dam and the flooded countryside below the dam.

Mosquitoes were used for reconnaissance as was the Lockheed F5 by American pilots though by choice they preferred the British planes. During heavy bomber raids, Avro Lancasters also took photos.

The cameras used were in special mounts to minimise blur.

Taking photos is only the beginning, these then have to be analysed.

Bletchley Park is well known and the contribution it made to the war effort with code breaking, less well known RAF Medmenham, a requisitioned house, Danesfield House near Medmenham, in Buckinghamshire.

Trying to make sense of the bigger picture is like putting together a jigsaw with pieces missing.

Archaeologists are very good at this. The entire archaeology department of Cambridge University moved to RAF Medmenham. Soon the house was not big enough and Missen huts filled up the grounds.

A very academic atmosphere, but also artists, painters, cartoonists. The to be head of the Royal Ballet was there, Sarah Churchill daughter of Winston, Dirk Bogarde. Those in the enclosed arena had entertainment, lectures.

A large number of women were at RAF Medmenham, many of who were officers heading up their own teams. The best known Constance Babbington-Smith, a journalist with The Aeroplane magazine.

RAF Medmenham identified the V bombers, V1 and V2. From the size of a V1 and knowing the fuel the Germans used, it was possible to work out the range. London appeared to be the target. Drawing an arc centred on London, many more site were found.

From the information gleaned from RAF Medmenham, repeat missions were flown over identified sites.

From the different types of railway wagons used by the Germans it was possible to see what cargo they were carrying.

It was possible to measure objects with a great deal of accuracy.
From the length of shadows, knowing too the time of day, time of year and latitude, it was possible to calculate the height of objects. A special machine an Altazimeter was designed to do this.

With overlapping photos and using a stereo magnifier viewer it was possible to create 3D images.

Information was fed in by French and Norwegian intelligence and others in Occupied Europe. Aircraft would then take a look.

RAF Medmenham would create 3D models.

For the Dambusters Raid, they created a 3D model that was lit as it would look on the night of the raid lit by moonlight.

For D-Day, 30,000 models were created.

At the end of the war Germans had jet interceptors.

Germany did not place much emphasis on photo-reconnaissance, even though at the beginning of the war they had better aircraft and better lenses. They had no central intelligence facility like RAF Medmenham. Information would be handled locally.

Loosely based on a talk given by Taylor Downing at the Guildford Institute during the Guildford Book Festival.

Taylor Downing is author of Spies in the Sky. Taylor Downing is a TV producer and has produced more than 200 TV documentaries.