Friday, 7 January 2011

Bad news day for Eden

I love the Eden Valley and it makes me feel sad when I have to report the demise of services and places that are part of our life here.
Today the first story I worked on came from a statement to the stock exchange in London from Cumbrian firm James Cropper Ltd. They are closing all 15 The Paper Mill Shop. That means no more visits to Rheged to fill boxes of craft paper and buy scrapbook items.
Then came the press release from Cumbria County Council to say they are taking over bus concession passes from Eden Council. They announced Eden's over 60s will only be able to get free travel off peak.
Then the final piece of bad news came from an email about Penrith Cinema closing. A popular venue which the owner wants to keep open but the owners of the property want them out. The National Lottery gave a grant to help upgrade the cinema and the owner has invested in a 3D projector. With so many empty properties in the town why is this happening?
A sad day for Penrith and Eden. I wish I could report a good news story.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Everything's back to normal

The first working day of 2011 and one sure way of knowing it is the vast number of emails that landed in my inbox this morning.
Many of the stories we cover start off as a press release - hopefully accompanied by a good quality photo. From a new b&b opening at a working railway station to the new season tickets going on sale at Theatre by the Lake local news is flowing as normal gain.
For the latest news from your community visit your Messenger website. And if you have a story you'd like us to cover email me today .

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 3 January 2011

Facebook - citizen journalism in action

I've been reporting news for 21 years and in the past 12 months I've seen the growing role social media plays in news gathering. The first time I noticed it was listening to the World Service and the journalist quoting Twitter and Facebook Walls.
Today I got a message on my own Facebook page telling me about a local stargazer's guide to watching tomorrow morning's partial eclipse. It made a good story for the Lake District Messenger.
There is still a role for journalists and mainstream press in that there is so much information out there people are looking for a digest of news relevant and interesting to them. There's still only 24 hours in everyone's day.
For a roundup of news from your community visit your Messenger for local daily news just a click away.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 22 November 2010

Last blog from Cluj, Romania

The last Blog – Sunday

It is with a heavy heart that we write our last blog of what has been an exceptional time. We have spent the evening with Pastor Rufus and his wife Dee, Levi, Ioana, Corrina and Atti, plus all the children. We shall miss them all.

Our day started early as we had to set off for the church in Cluj at 8.30. When we arrived at the church Dr Stanca was there and she gave me a letter. In it she apologised for not allowing us to hug or kiss her when we first arrived, but she had been trained as a doctor in communist times not to do these things as bacteria could be transmitted – or don’t convey love one to another because as communist we don’t like you to share love. I only got a third of the letter written before I was in tears and went over to Dr Stanca and put my arms around her; she grabbed hold of my hand and began to kiss it and we cried together. The rest of the team went to her and gave her big hugs and kisses so, if nothing else has been achieved, it was worth coming just to see a dear old lady released to be able to love another human being.

After the service we went with Pastor Rufus to the Gypsy church at Pata Rat. So we had come full circle as this is where we started last Sunday and now we were finishing there. We had some lunch with Rufus in a small room where the children do Sunday school where there is a wood burning stove which filled the room with plenty of heat. It was a pleasure once again to share with the Gypsy community in their church and enjoy the fellowship that they gave. When the service finished we headed for Iulinus Mall to get some food for the evening.

John had said that he wanted and ice cream yesterday but forgot about it until we returned, but today as we walked in the mall we saw an ice cream vendor that had loads of flavours; the look on John’s face you’d have thought we had found a pot of gold. After a sumptuous ice cream and getting our food we headed back to FAF (Family Aid Foundation) at Deausa and spent the evening with everyone.

We have to up at 3am as we leave at 4.15am to get to the airport. Our lives have been changed in this short time of sharing our lives with the Romanian people, and although we thought that we were coming over here to bless them, they have in fact blessed us. The United Nations can pass sanctions, countries can go to war, lunatics can blow up people, but in the end the only way that things can change is if humanity has love one for another. As Jesus said, they will know that you are my disciples, when you have love one for another.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as we have.

A day to explore Cluj

Saturday’s blog

Throughout the night I could hear the rain falling and it seemed to never ending, was this going to be in for all of Saturday? The mist was with us again when we woke around 8am but this soon dissipated and the sun began to shine again.

We had arranged that we would go into Cluj with Ioana and the children at 10am. She was going to take us up to a hill outside the city so we could look down and get a panoramic view of the whole of Cluj, but the mist was about in the valley so this was not possible. Instead we headed into the centre of town and parked up and went for a walk. Ioana took us into the main squares where we saw a bit of the history of Romania and Cluj, but we also got a feeling of where we were too as the city is quite cosmopolitan. Being a university city, there are 12 in all, it is reflected in the architecture and the way of life, it has an open feel to it with wide streets and several large squares with statues and churches. There is an ornate theatre in centre opposite the statue of Avram Iancu, a Romanian leader who did much to bring the different factions in the country together, and next to the theatre are the law courts that also houses the prison where went to on Friday.

After a time looking around we then went to the ‘shopping mall’ the Iilnus Centre. This is an ultra modern building and could be anywhere in Britain. Maud had brought her disabled badge and this came in very useful when parking in the underground car park as we were able to park in the disabled bay, just like back home. As we entered the mall you were immediately struck by the globalisation as many of the shops I recognised from back home, and reflected too, that once again the effect of the shopping mall was to cause the decline of the city centre. We went around the mall but were heading for the Auchan or supermarket. Ioana needed to get some provisions and as we walked in it was just like being in Asda or any of the big four. What a contrast. Go just a couple of miles and you will come upon people who are in desperate poverty and live on meagre rations, yet here we were with an abundance of food, white goods, toys and household items – and oh yes, a whole isle of chocolate. Now there was the usual chocolate from Mars and Nestle etc, but also there was a lot of home grown stuff to be looked at. I must admit that I am partial to white choccy and so had to get a bar to test for quality control purposes, and the bar I got was silky white Primola which is produced in the capital Bucharest. As we looked around, at the end of just about every isle there was the opportunity to sample various foods – in an English supermarket there may be only one or two samples but here they were numerous and so I was able to have my starter, main and desert. English supermarkets have a lot to learn from the Romanians.

This evening we are all having a barbie and waiting for pastor Rufus to return from Odessa in the Ukraine. In the morning we shall be away early with Rufus to the first of our church services and which will be our last day in the country.

Romania an emotional roller coaster for John and team

Friday’s blog

We didn’t have to rush this morning as our itinerary did not start until the afternoon. After a leisurely breakfast Ray and Anita set off on foot to go into Deusa (Dewasha) which is the village just 500 yards from FAF and where the warehouse is. They met some local people but the language barrier prevented them having a meaningful conversation. On their return they said how friendly the people are as they will just start talking to you as you walk by. When they set off into the village the mist was rolling in as we are quite high up on a hillside, but then just as quickly as it arrived the mist would disappear. By mid morning the sun had broken through and we had another good sunny day, albeit slightly colder than previous days.

Last night after we arrived back from Mera we spent a long time talking and praying as this was the first time that we had any chance to do a debrief, because we have been so busy that we have been getting back late, do the blog and then to bed in readiness for the next day. Knowing that Friday morning was free we decided to leave doing the blog until then. It was very evident from how we spoke last night that we are not the same four people who arrived in Romania last Sunday. Our emotions have been on a roller coaster and we are quite overwhelmed by the welcome we have been given and the love that has been shown. We came here to bless the people with our material aid but we shall go home with a bigger blessing in our hearts.

Lunchtime soon arrived as we were having an early one because we needed to set off at 1pm for the prison visit in Cluj. Bridgette was coming with us; she is a team member from FAF, but I felt it would be good for her to join us and speak to the women in the prison about her faith because she has gone through many trials in her life and she is only 30. She has a servant heart and does all the cooking and cleaning at FAF and never grumbles, but it is obvious that she has more to give than serving.

And so we set off for Cluj. Dr Stanca once again was giving directions, which means that when you get to a junction and just level with it, she then tells you to turn in to it, either left or right. Thus, we would miss the junction and then she gives me an earful for missing the junction. I did try once to carry out a manoeuvre into a junction on her instructions and nearly got taken out by several cars. We were going to visit a prison I didn’t want to be staying in it for dangerous driving!! We arrived at the prison which is connected to the law courts and she wanted me to park on the pavement, and then when I said no she said to park in a space that was available. The space was the entrance to the prison. She was determined to get me in that prison.

Dr Stanca had said that they are short of ping pong bats and balls in the prison, so we bought seven sets that included a net for the table. When we gave them to the guard who looks after the education department he was overjoyed and said that they had been wanted these for many months. Unfortunately we could not see the men prisoners but that would give us more time with the women prisoners. After going down several corridors we finally arrived in the cell block. This time we actually met the women on the landing of the cell block and this gave us a better understanding of their conditions. Each of us spoke to them including Bridgette who had them captivated by her story; listening to how Jesus had changed one of their own countrywomen had a big impact on them. One of the women, Lydia, said that she had turned her back on her faith but now she was going to follow again and change her life. 13 women decided that they wanted to follow Jesus for their life. Throughout our time speaking with the women, one of them, Christina, never stopped looking at Maud. When the meeting finished Christina made a bee line for Maud and held onto her hand and asked how old she was; when Maud told her 78 she held onto Maud even more and began kissing her hand. It was evident that she and Maud had connected and she wouldn’t let go of her until we reached the gates. These are memories that we shall treasure.

On our return to FAF we were emotionally drained. Fortunately we didn’t have anything to do this evening which has meant that we could talk about the day and reflect on the visit to the prison. Levi and Ioana’s daughter, Beatrice who is 5, came to join us and began to sing songs that we were taught at her age. What a joy she is.

Tomorrow is a free day so we are going into Cluj to have a look around, so I am sure we shall have something for the blog.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Latest report from the House of Joy in Romania

Catch up on what Brough's town crier, John Dawson and the other three members of his church have been doing on their mission to Romania via this video montage of photographs.

Thursday’s blog

We awoke to rain falling on the roof and mist outside. The weather had finally broke, but never mind we have had several days of sunshine.

As today was to be the first of our two visits to the prison’s, we needed to be away early for the drive to Gherla which is about an hour away. Dr Stanca goes into the prison every week so we relied on her for direction – oops! She goes by train as she doesn’t drive. We ended up in the industrial part of Cluj which was in the right direction but a dead end basically. After asking for directions and going along an unclassified road we got onto the road for Gherla, but now we were falling behind time. Romanian road craft is.....? well let’s say frantic for the want of a better word. The best thing is to go with the flow and keeps your eyes peeled, so John went native as we drove to Gherla. Fortunately we arrived at the prison only a few minutes late.

The prison was built by Mary Theresa, queen in the nineteenth century for the criminals of Europe. The prison houses 1,500 inmates consisting of men and youths. The political cells are 30 feet below the river Somes and this means that they are very wet. I don’t think they are in use any more. We were taken into the education block and 28 men came to listen to us talk about our lives and why we had come to Romania. It was a pleasure to be with them and share; unlike British prisons there is no parole or early release system, if someone is sentenced to 20 years they serve 20 years. When we had finished talking to the men we were shown the painting room where the men paint Jesus for the Orhtordox church. These paintings are magnificent and done with an incredible amount of talent. We also saw other drawings and paintings the men had done and these are top class pieces of art. There is so much talent going to waste that could be of great benefit to humanity. Unfortunately for obvious reasons, we could not take photos. We left the prison after two hours, but in that time our lives had taken on a new perspective.

On our way back we dropped off Dr Stanca in Cluj and made our way back to FAF (Family Aid Foundation) for lunch. As we got out of the car Snitchell, Pastor Rufus’s dog, made his customary greeting and we filed in for minced beef topped with cheese and sour cream. After lunch it was time to regroup and prepare for the afternoon service at the Baptist Church in Mera, about 10 miles north west of Cluj.

Atti went with us and we arranged to meet Pastor Pal on the outskirts of Mera. This is Pastor Pal’s second church that he serves but is far poorer than the one at Luna De Sus. As we got further into Mera the road became steadily worse until it was mainly just mud and we arrived at this small Baptist Church that is over 100 years old. As we went inside the air was thick with smoke from the burner that sits in the middle of the church, I looked up to see if any fish or joints of meat were hanging for smoking. On the left the women were sat and on the right the men – very traditional. There was a real sense of the love of God among the people and we had a blessed time with them. When the service had finished we took photos and one of the women came up to Anita and gave her a necklace. These necklaces are made of plastic beads and are very ornate and colourful. The women make them and then go to the markets to sell them, so we ended up going to one of the homes to see more of these necklaces and ornate trinkets. We have brought some with us that we are going to see if we can sell for her at church.

Once again we got blessed more than the people we came to bless. We arrived back at FAF to a pasta dinner and enjoyed an evening of relaxing and talking.