On the Map – Simon Garfield

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On the Map by Simon Garfield gives an overview of the history of maps and mapping and covers a range of related issues. It is aimed at the general reader.

Garfield begins with the size and shape of the world and shows how the Greeks managed to work this out as early as the pre-Christian era. It involves some simple trigonometry, which Garfield explains, before going on to look at what else the ancients knew about the shape and size of the world, and how they recorded and displayed that information.

He moves on to the Mappa Mundi, describing its place in the cathedral at Hereford, and explaining how it was nearly sold to mend the roof. He shows how this map, and others of the time, were oriented not by the magnetic compass, but towards Jerusalem, the centre of the earth.

There is a chapter on how the Vikings sailed to Greenland and to what is now Canada. Then Garfield goes on to look at the increasingly accurate maps developed in the Renaissance, and describes the explorations that took place at that time.

This is a complex period of map history, and Garfield appears knowledgeable and well informed. He considers different claims about the discovery and subsequent naming of America. He points out that it was the prominence of his name on one particular map that popularised the name of the explorer – America Vespucci – and gave rise to the name we use now, but that his claim to have discovered the continent was in fact quite flimsy.

Garfield moves back to mathematics when he describes the development of the Mercator projection, and looks at other, different projections of the world. It’s always a challenge for me to visualise the way three dimensional objects are resolved onto two dimensional spaces, so I enjoyed this section.

As he summarises the history of map making, Garfield includes chapters on mapping a city, and on the craze for atlases in Holland in the 17th century. He traces the growth of the Ordnance Survey. He looks at some of the errors that found their way onto maps, and persisted into the twentieth century. These included the clearly marked but totally fictitious Kong mountains in West Africa.

Later in the book Garfield is more haphazard in his choice of subject matter. The chapter on the map that stopped cholera in London was interesting. It’s a well known story but I had never come across the details. Chapters on treasure maps and journeys to the South Pole are followed by another on the A-Z and one on Hollywood maps of the stars’ homes.

There is a section on a man who gave up his day job to build globes. Garfield visits his studio in London, and watches him at work. Another looks at the modern day value of historic maps and describes some of the map thefts that have taken place. Want to steal a valuable map? There are suggestions here.

In the final chapters Garfield illustrates the development of SatNav, and looks at maps in games. This was interesting, covering simple games like Monopoly, as well as more complex maps such as those used in Dungeons and Dragons and Grand Theft Auto. Finally Garfield writes about mapping the brain. It’s an eclectic list.

As you can see this is a good book for anyone who enjoys non-fiction, and likes finding out more about things! I don’t want to be sexist, but as a boy I loved books like this because they made learning informal and interesting. I’m in a men’s book group and I guess most of the blokes in that would like it too for the same reason. Many of them are not that keen on fiction and bring along biographies or history books, regarding fiction as a bit of an indulgence.

On the Map is especially good for dipping into if you have particular interests – such as maps in games. Especially in the second half the chapters stand alone, and can be read in isolation from the rest of the book.

Garfield tries manfully to be entertaining throughout, choosing interesting and unusual characters, stories and ways in to the different aspects. He always gives us the human angle, and tries to avoid being dry and boring. But it is a long book and at times he was clearly straining a bit to find amusing things to say, and maintain that cheery tone.

I’d certainly recommend this book to the general reader who wants an informal and entertaining account of the history of maps.

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Ten Cities that made an Empire – Tristram Hunt

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Harewood House, Leeds, paid for with money from the slave trade

Ten Cities that made an Empire tells the history of the British Empire from a new perspective. Beginning with Boston, which Hunt claims was the first city of Empire, and finishing with Liverpool, a city bound up with the empire’s rise and fall, it examines the stories of these cities to reveal how the British empire began, grew and finally declined.

Hunt arranges the ten cities chronologically, showing the development of British power and prestige. The empire experimented with new forms of government as the old failed and faded, always seeking an identity and form that would be permanent and lasting. In fact this proved impossible, and implicit in Hunt’s argument is the point that the empire was only ever an extemporisation, a reaction to the political realities of its time, and never a successful or coherently organised institution. It never had a plan.

Hunt begins with Boston. The city grew out of a spirit of religious freedom, and as a consequence of the Reformation. However it was not long before it became a significant business hub, benefitting from the trans Atlantic trade in sugar, tobacco and cotton. Later, in the wars with the French, much of the wealth of its prominent citizens came from supplying the British army.

Boston was a patriotic city, celebrating English festivals and traditions such as GuyFawkes. Its wealth was displayed in the form of luxurious imported goods such as china and cloth from the industrial heartlands of Britain. It was loyal and patriotic.

But the English felt that the colony was not paying its way in the wars with France. The consequences are well known, and the first city of Empire was lost to the revolution.

Bridgetown is the second city on the list. It’s a simple story of the slave trade. Bridgetown was never home to the British elite, who poured the wealth they gained into stately homes in England. These included Harewood House outside Leeds, which even today is an extravagant reminder of the wealth plundered from the plantations.

Dublin comes next on Hunt’s list. After the American revolution a different approach was adopted, and Dublin was allowed more independence during the period called the Protestant Ascendancy. Dublin developed a strong identity. The institutions of government brought income and the city became a vibrant cultural centre. However after the 1798 rising, and with fears that the French may invade, direct rule from Whitehall was imposed in the act of union. The institutions of government left for London, and Dublin once again became a backwater. Resentment over English dominance was to some extent mitigated by the project of Empire which gave a sort of unifying purpose, but it never disappeared.

Cape Town was the next step in empire, and a key stepping stone to India. First occupied by British forces in 1797, it became increasingly anglicised and was a key strategic outpost until 1955.

Calcutta developed from a trading post, and from here came Clive to conquer India. Many British in Calcutta adopted Indian customs, and lost their commercial edge, relying instead on land ownership and taxation, and milking the interior for all it was worth. Bombay was a different proposition, cut off from the interior by a range of mountains and so more dependent on trade. Hunt describes the development of both these cities up to the present day.

There are descriptions of the depravities of empire in the section on Hong Kong, which begins with the establishment and development of the port, and the initial commercial fears that investment there would be wasted. It was the opium that made Hong Kong profitable, and the gun boats that enabled the British to trade opium against the wishes of the Chinese government, and the interests of its people. Hong Kong was linked to England, India and Singapore by the profits from opium.

Melbourne was chosen as the Australian city, rather than Sydney. Melbourne developed largely through the Victorian period and the urbanisation of the area mirrors developments in London. Hunt claims the first ashes victory by the Australians marked the beginning of a new independent attitude, though the links with England remained strong through two world wars.

New Delhi and Liverpool focus on the loss of Empire. The idea at Delhi was to build a capital that would last, but Hunt argues that before it was built, and with Gandhi already set on the path to independence, India was lost. Liverpool grew as a slave port, and became the first multicultural city in Britain. It was already in decline before we joined the EU, but that and the loss of the Tate and Lyle sugar refinery accelerated that decline. Now Liverpool is expanding its container freight terminal and developing links with China, which will expand with the opening of the new Panama Canal. (This is open now, but was not at the time of publishing.) Hunt claims this will allow Chinese goods to reach the heart of the country, turning Liverpool into a different kind of colonial city, and England itself into a colony of China.

In Ten Cities that made an Empire Hunt returns frequently to the question of trade. After all it was an empire built on trade and for trade. There were tariffs and laws that excluded the Dutch and French from trading with Boston, and the intention was to secure sole rights to the Atlantic trade for the British. Cape Town was seized in order to facilitate trade with India. It provided supplies and shelter.

Later the free trade movement, inspired by the Manchester School is mentioned. This led to the repeal of the Corn Laws, reducing food prices. But one perhaps unforeseen consequence of the emphasis on free trade was that British products were undercut by cheaper goods from India.

Indeed empire seemed to work better under protectionist trading arrangements such as the Commonwealth, rather than under extreme free trade policies. Of course the empire and the gunboat were very good at facilitating these kind of exclusive deals.

It was when trade with the Commonwealth diminished in the 60s and 70s, as more colonies gained independence, that Britain joined the EU, swapping one customs union for another, as industry struggled to thrive in an open market.

One of the most interesting aspects of Hunt’s book is the focus on architecture and town planning. Each section contains a map of the city in question and Hunt considers the way the streets developed, including the significance of street names, and the architecture, which of course often reflected aspects of empire.

The classicism of Bath was recreated in Dublin, whilst Melbourne saw the development of suburban housing: we are shown plans of houses at different price brackets. These types of home exist in British suburbs now. In India the debate about architecture struck at the cultural issues underlying British rule. The buildings were magnificent, but often European rather than Indian styles were used. At times there were odd marriages of the two, and the country was subject to the vagaries of European fashions, as classicism gave way to Gothic styles.

In New Delhi Lutyens was employed to design the whole new town. But this carried the seeds of its own destruction, separating the ruling classes into an enclave that left them out of touch with reality and at odds with the local population. The British were left with nothing but grand displays of power, designed to impress and intimidate, and the end of empire was nigh.

 

 

The Work of Jesus – F.F.Bruce

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I found The Work of Jesus a really helpful book. It explains the role, or work of Jesus by giving a summary of what the Bible says about Him.

The Work of Jesus begins with Jesus’ earthly ministry. It shows how He is identified as the Messiah by the Holy Spirit during His baptism by John. He hears God confirm His status by calling Him My Son, and there is more confirmation when the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove. Jesus is then tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Instead of power He chooses humble, devoted service to God.

Jesus goes on to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom – the New Testament in effect. But this is a new kind of kingdom. It does not value pomp and power and wealth, like  the kingdoms of Herod and Caesar. Instead it is a kingdom in which the poor, the humble and those who mourn will be blessed. It is not a kingdom whose power is imposed by force, but one which conquers by turning the other cheek.

The world is under the yoke of illness and spiritual oppression. It is controlled by abusive and selfish politicians, including the religious elite. Jesus confronts and defeats the spiritual powers, the forces of darkness that underly human sin, and that create cruelty and chaos. He carries out works of miraculous power which embody, or epitomise the nature of God’s kingdom.

Jesus brings physical and spiritual healing, has control over the elements of nature, and provides moral and spiritual teaching. The ruling powers of this world are thrown into consternation by the challenge He poses to them, and determine to get rid of him. Their opposition is strengthened by the claims he makes about His own divinity.

Finally the disciples who have accompanied Him during the time of His ministry realise the truth and acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.

This opening chapter contains the core of the New Testament, yet its message is very contemporary. Now, as then greed and self interest arise from evil forces that oppose God and His Kingdom of love. But their physical embodiment is in fallen human beings.

Now as then corrupt and self seeking politicians exploit patriotism and nationalism to their own devilish ends. But Jesus rejected the call to be a nationalistic hero, and chose instead God’s path of compassion and care for the oppressed. There is a lesson for our times.

The Work of Jesus goes on to describe Jesus’ journey to the cross, charting His conflict with the authorities of His time. Finally He is condemned to death because of the lie that he was a nationalistic leader claiming to be a King. The penalty for blasphemy was not death, but this offence against Caesar received the death penalty.

The next chapters explore theological issues. They look at the role of the Holy Spirit in continuing Jesus’ work after his death. Though physically we carry out this task, we are doing the work of Christ.

There is a chapter on Christ our Righteousness showing that Jesus’ death did what the law could not do, and reconciled us to God. The idea of Christ’s work as our redeemer is explored in two more chapters – Christ the Conqueror, and Priest and Sacrifice. It is also central to a chapter called Worthy is the Lamb, which focuses on the book of Revelation.

The Work of Jesus concludes by looking at the presence of Jesus in the prophecies and people of the Old Testament, and at His presence in various of the letters, or epistles in the New Testament.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting a clear explanation of Jesus role in salvation and in history.  It was published in 1979 as part of the I want to know series, which explores a range of different themes, including Christian LivingSalvation and The Holy Spirit. There are 12 titles in the series. This one is hard to find, so contact me, but the one on the Holy Spirit is still available second hand from Amazon.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

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Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostov and Andrei Bolkonsky in the BBC production of War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It’s the size of a small loaf of bread. It’s a cultural icon. But is it any good?

I had promised a very old friend to read War and Peace, and so I did. All of it. It was hard work in places I have to say, but a bit like removing all the grains of sand from a beach, if you stick at it, and do a bit every day, you can get there in the end.

Tolstoy’s War and Peace is generally considered to be the best Russian novel, possibly the best novel, ever written. That’s interesting considering Tolstoy himself said it was not really a novel at all. I agree with him. War and Peace is very much Russian but not really a novel. It contains multiple genres.

It tells the story of three well to do Russian families set against the background of the Napoleonic wars. It begins about 1805, and has an epilogue that finishes round about 1820.

Tolstoy’s story consists of sections about life at home, in Russia, Moscow, St Petersburg or in the Russian countryside.  These seem to be completely fictional, and are written in the style of a novel. They alternate with sections set on the battlefield or in the army camp. These are more like fictionalised accounts of historical events  – today’s equivalent might be a drama documentary.

Pierre Bezukhov is possibly the most interesting of the main characters. He is a foolish and fairly simple young man whose life is changed when he inherits a large estate. He becomes the victim of goldiggers. and is tricked into an unsuitable marriage, which he does not have the gumption or resolution to resist. His wife is a dissolute character who cuckolds him and spends his cash. Paul is a bit of a dreamer. Looking for a philosophy to follow, he drifts into masonry, then finds himself at the battle of Borodino, and subsequently wanders round Moscow during the French occupation.

Two families, the Bolkonskys and the Rostovs, are part of the Russian nobility. Each suffers bereavement as a result of the war. I won’t go into too many details here. Put simply, the Rostovs suffer from a profligate father, and the Bolkonsky men from pride, bad temper and snobbery. Andrei Bolkonsky’s first wife dies in childbirth, and later he becomes engaged to the beautiful Natasha Rostov. But they are both flawed characters and this leads to tragedy.

These elements of the book, set in peace, are interesting. Tolstoy is writing about the corruption and foolishness of the Russian upper classes. The characters are rounded, and the plot arises naturally from their interactions and personalities. The character of Pierre is a bit odd in this respect. His story is mostly separate and quite tangential to the soap opera of family relationships explored through the Bolkonskys and the Rostovs.

The sections in the war are to some extent completely separate, though the men from both families are involved in the fighting and at times the political manoeuvring that surrounds it. Tolstoy goes into immense detail about the battles, especially the Battle of Borodino, and apparently spent days wandering around the battlefield getting the geographical and historical facts right. In these sections he also makes use of historical documents, at times quoting from or paraphrasing them.

The focus is really on a patriotic vision of Russia. Kutuzov, the general at Borodino, is a major figure. Tolstoy contrasts the romantic idea of war promoted by literature, and embodied in the patriotic fervour of the upper classes, with Kutuzov, a plain speaking down to earth commander who almost accidentally stumbles on the realisation that only the way to defeat Napoleon is never to fight him.

The scale of War and Peace is vast, and it’s probably true to say that the real subject of the novel is Russia itself. Tolstoy shows us both the emperor and the peasant. In the epilogue especially he presents us with an idealised version of Russia, showing peasant and noble working in moral harmony. Above all, this reminded me of the section of Lord of the Rings set in Hobbiton which offers a similarly idealised view of England! Tosh, really.

Tolstoy has a lot to say for himself, especially about the nature of history. He opposes the theory that great men determine events, and this is of course significant considering much of the book is about the impact of Napoleon on history. The second part of the epilogue deals with this theory, and Tolstoy shares the idea with us liberally throughout the rest of the book too. I would have hated to go on a long train journey with him across the steppes. Let’s just leave that there.

War and Peace is a novel, in the sense that Tolstoy deals with many literary themes – love, marriage, death, greed and chivalry amongst others. But I would have preferred to read a shorter book with a clearer focus on these main characters and their flawed and tragic lives.

Aristotle valued the unities of time place and action, which he saw as essential to creating a coherent work of art with a dramatic impact. Of course Shakespeare played fast and loose with these rules as well as Tolstoy. But a Shakespeare play is only three or four hours long. It took me six months on and off to read W and P and much of the drama was lost in Tolstoy’s self indulgent philosophising.

That’s a shame, as he can really write well. The death scene of Andrei is especially moving and I would have preferred the novel to end around that point, where the story of Pierre also reaches a dramatic moment. Instead the book goes on. Pierre’s wife rather conveniently dies, leaving him free to find a happier ending in the Hobbity version of Russia that the book concludes with.

 

Reality is Not What it Seems – Carlo Rovelli

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Reality is not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli begins with a brief history of man’s ideas about how the physical world works. It then introduces modern theories about the quantum world, and about the loop theory of gravity.

Rovelli begins in classical Greece with Democritus, who first conceived of the idea of atoms. Rovelli claims that Democritus’ reasoning still holds good today – the world cannot be infinitely divided, but is made up, finally, of small indivisible parts. Rovelli compares Democritus favourably with other Greek philosophers such as Plato, whose idea of reality is is quite absurd in comparison. He mourns the fact that we only know of Democritus through what was written about him by other ancients, as none of his work has survived.

Rovelli writes a history of physical science covering the major figures – Newton, Einstein, Rutherford, Heisenberg. This is brief and interesting. There are various anecdotes to keep the reader going, and the explanations of the science are clear and fairly easy.

He concludes each section with a simple diagram showing how these scientists and their peers conceived of the world at each stage of the process of discovery. Ideas such as space, time, particles and fields have all been used by physicists to describe reality, but the intention has always been to offer the most simplified interpretation. The introduction of quantum mechanics reduced the world to two key ideas – spacetime and quantum fields and Rovelli claims that these two have now been reduced to one. The world is made of covariant quantum fields!!

Reality is Not What it Seems is a convincing and inspiring book. Years ago I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and found there were parts I could not understand. Since then I have read many books on this subject, and they have cast some light into the darkness, but this has perhaps been the best. Here are two others:

From Eternity to Here – Sean Carroll

Why Does e=mc squared?

The issue of Schrödinger’s cat has always puzzled me. How can something exist and not exist at the same time? But Rovelli steers the reader round this issue quite simply. He then goes on to give an elegant explanation of how two particles can be linked whilst being far apart. This had been another stumbling block for me. But Rovelli makes it all very simple, and at the same time introduces the reader to some of the basics of information theory.

Rovelli goes on to explain why there is no such thing as infinity. At the smallest level, even when squashed in a black hole there is a limit to how small something can be. The size of the Planck constant, or some equation involving that, comes in there. At the other end of the scale, whilst vast numbers, beyond our comprehension may appear infinite, there is a finite number of particles.

The universe is an expanding bubble of quantum particles. Within that, like bubbles of soap, it consists of interlinked networks of matter. At the quantum level the world is a cloud of possibilities. Particles gather together in a cloud of uncertainty and become things or people. That’s all there is.

It is no surprise that as an Italian, Rovelli is quite critical of religion. I say that because the organised and politicised forms of religion must have been prominent in Italy, the land of the popes. The imposition of dogma is at the expense of true Christianity. Galileo is an example that would strike a scientist like Rovelli very hard.

For him religion is a myth, it’s just the tales the old men of the tribe tell. Only science can be true. Everything is a mystery. If science has not solved the mystery now, it will one day.

Rovelli seems very confident about this. But I’m not sure whether in the end science will replace religion. It does not look that way to me, in the USA or the Middle East! It seems there is a need for religion. Maybe that is just human weakness, or superstition.

But the environment, indeed the world, is in a parlous state,and science is just a tool. The so called myths of the Old Testament prophets, in the form of the three religions of the book, dominate the world. It is a truth that works. The clouds of particles that believe and have faith have prospered and grown, like the Bible said they would.

At times religion becomes corrupted, but we need it. It embodies the values of love, compassion and stewardship, which science can never have.

Waiting for Godot – Tobacco Factory, Bristol

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On the top floor – The Tobacco Factory Theatre, North St Bristol

What a treat – one of my favourite plays in my favourite theatre. The Tobacco Factory is a great venue – small and intimate, with a strong local company that regularly chooses interesting plays which would rarely be performed in larger, more commercial venues, plays which educate and entertain.

Every city should have a theatre brave enough, and with enough financial support, to introduce the next generation to plays like this – that challenge the intellect and stir the emotions, that make the audience laugh out loud, but recognise the frailty of life.

Waiting for Godot is a modern classic, and you could argue that it epitomises the C20 in its rootlessness, and value neutral world.

It is in fact a theatrical embodiment of the philosophy of existentialism. Vladimir and Estragon stand and wait, but nothing happens. They live in a desolate and empty environment – in la boue (the mud) of existential philosophy – the state of nausea and anxious being that precedes realisation and the actualisation of the self. They do not know who they are. And they will never find out, because only action defines the self. You are never anything till you do something, and they never do.

In this interpretation of the play Lucky is a further example of what happens if you fail to act. If you don’t make choices, they are made for you. Lucky is constrained by Pozzo in the way that we are constrained by our humdrum and meaningless lives. He will not break free of his chains and claim his authentic self. Instead he chooses slavery and bondage. When Pozzo and Lucky return in Act 2 the fruitlessness and foolishness of this choice is shown. Pozzo is blind. They are going nowhere.

It’s ironic of course that existentialism was originally a Christian philosophy. The general tenor of Kierkegaard’s approach was that I can only know I am a Christian if I act like one. It’s actually what the Bible says. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. 1 John 5.3

Waiting for Godot can be seen as a condemnation of religion and especially Christianity. But it’s approach to religion is very shallow. It offers a neat summary of why religion is foolish – after all nothing happens! Godot never comes, there is no easy answer. It’s a kind of Govian soundbite, easy to understand, but not likely to survive a lifetime’s scrutiny. You can’t dismiss Christianity on basis of a witty metaphor and a couple of hours on the stage.

Of course the interlude with Lucky and Pozzo also introduces that other great c20 philosophy – Marxism. The ideas stretch even further back, to Rousseau – man is born free but everywhere he is in chains.

The great thing about Waiting for Godot is the elusiveness of its allusions. That is what accounts for its durability and the endless fascination it provides for the audience. It’s a metaphor for life that means something new every time you see it.

This time for me I could see Rees-Mogg in the figure of Pozzo, and the British public as Lucky. They know he will only keep them in chains: that is the job of the ruling classes, of which he is one. But they keep on coming back for more. They tie themselves to him.

This was a good production of the play. The audience laughed out loud frequently, and the lines were delivered with aplomb. Lucky was brilliant – a panting, exhausted, beaten lackey who wouldn’t put down his bags and was willingly at his master’s beck and call.

There was an Irish Vladimir and a northern Estragon – or was it the other way round? I never know which is which!! That brought a kind of vitality to their characters. I wasn’t sure if the Northern one was meant to be Compo from Last of the Summer Wine, but he had drawn a lot from that character, which was ok, but didn’t really add to the play. They were funny and at times tender, though that aspect was perhaps a little muted.

The setting was typical of the sparseness of most productions. There were bits of industrial rubbish around, and a tree made of metal. The pile of bricks two courses high may or may not have been a reference to Carl André’s bricks in the Tate gallery in the 1970s, and the controversy they created about what counts as art. Waiting for Godot certainly does.

The theatre was not quite full, which is a shame. The Tobacco Factory should be supported more. We can’t afford to lose it.

But there was a strong evidence of life. There were two audience members dressed as Lucky, and the whole audience had a young and to some extent beatnik aspect. There were some old fogies like me, but unusually we were in the minority. The Tobacco factory has brought Beckett to life for the next generation. Like Socrates, they are interrogating the world. All power to their elbow.

Dirty Glory – Pete Greig

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Dirty Glory, or Red Moon Chronicles#2, is a sequel to Red Moon Rising, and brings the reader up to date with the story of the continuing growth of the 24/7 prayer movement.

Pete Greig has an exceptional ability to bring a scene or a situation to life with a few key words or a vivid description, and this makes the stories he tells in this book credible and vivid for the reader.

He had begun as a child to pray in faith, and he describes the experiences which taught him that God was real, and that prayer could be answered.

On holiday as a young man in Portugal, at the most western point in Europe, Greig had a vision in which he saw thousands of ghostly figures rising up in prayer. He did not understand the meaning of this at the time, though it was to become clear to him in later years when he was involved in founding the 24/7 prayer movement.

In this book Greig fills in the details of the growth of 24/7 as it expanded its work into Mexico, Ibiza and the USA. The book is autobiographical, and Greig offers many personal insights. As new characters are introduced he tells the stories of how they came to God, always with the emphasis on prayer, the Bible, and God’s presence and support. There are striking stories here that show God is not concerned with past mistakes or bourgeois conformity, and Greig has a knack of bringing the characters to life with wit and humour. He is not an ordinary writer, and has considerable talent.

Greig describes his arrival in the USA where he went to develop the movement, and shares the problems he and his wife faced with family illness. She developed a brain tumour, which was an incredible challenge, to say the least! Meanwhile his infant son swallowed some of the very powerful tablets prescribed for her condition, yet miraculously avoided death. For Greig, God was always there during the trials.

Dirty Glory gives many examples of people brought to faith, and shows the power and influence of prayer in this respect.

In one university residence, due to the prayers of a single student, every member gave their life to Christ. Elsewhere a young woman set off alone to a Mexican border town to pray for the prostitutes and drug dealers living there in a neglected ghetto. It seemed a hopeless task, but she remained for eighteen months, continued to pray, and slowly became aware of the transforming effect her words were having on the lives of the inhabitants.

For Greig, Europe is the most difficult missionary field of our time. In Ibiza many young people were saved from the dangerous consequences of their own actions. Rather than being left in a vulnerable position when found helpless, ill or drunk on the streets, they were ferried back to hotels, or given other kinds of support. Gospels were distributed, and though not always used appropriately, or fully understood by the recipients, the scheme impacted on a group that is hard to reach.

The tattooed and pierced new Christians in Ibiza were not always welcomed in the local churches and so a new church was established for them. Greig explains how God was present in the decision to go ahead with this project, showing how if we listen, pray, and read the Bible, it becomes easier for God to guide us.

Greig has shown incredible faith in his own life, and explains that faith and prayer have a key role to play in the world today. The answers to prayer in the Bible were not just of their time: God is here now and will act.

This book is called Dirty Glory because Christ was here in the flesh. He had dirt in the creases of his hands, and made tables. At first, Greig claims, he probably did not make them very well!! Christ is there with us in the coal face, or the chalk face of life. Wherever it is you spend your day, that is where you are his representative, where you are his hands. You need to get them dirty for him – get involved.

God is not interested in religious activity for its own sake, but in righteousness and justice – I despise your religious assemblies – your festivals are a stench to me…But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream Amos 5: 21-23