Heavenly visions of harps, hill walks and cricket pitches

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The Independent Online
TO MOHAMED Al Fayed, heaven is Harrods on Christmas Eve; to Lord Archer it is a game of cricket with God as the umpire, and to Spike Milligan it is the simple beauty of a blade of grass.

These are among the visions of heaven described by the politicians, religious leaders and celebrities who contributed to a book by Father Michael Seed, ecumenical adviser to the late Cardinal Basil Hume.

The original letters will be auctioned tonight by Ann Widdecombe, one of the priest's many high-profile converts, who herself hopes for night- gowns and harps but not a single division bell in the hereafter.

The contributors to Father Seed's book, Will I See You In Heaven?, are among those invited to the auction at Waterstone's bookshop in Piccadilly, London.

Mr Fayed is among those expected to attend but some might prefer to stay away, such as Lord Archer, who writes: "I hope all my friends will get there, even though one or two have been rather naughty."

Sir Anthony Hopkins hopes to look back and laugh in paradise. "If I enter Heaven," he writes, "I hope to be galvanised by the sudden revelation of a truth we have always subconsciously known - that this whole life has been a dream, an illusion - and then have a great chortle at the joke of it all."

Suggs, the lead singer of Madness, envisages "a clear afternoon, drifting on the Regent's Park boating lake. The sound of a distant brass band, interrupted by the sploshing of a cold bottle of white wine appearing through the reeds, on a piece of string. The scent of blossom, the quacking of ducks, the woman you love."

Jilly Cooper, the novelist, writes that heaven would be where "dogs that had a terrible time on earth can find new wonderful angels to look after them".

For Tony Blair: "Heaven is a place you share with others, where there is comfort and peace finally from all the struggles, anxieties and tragedies of worldly life. Where there is good and no evil."

William Hague hopes eternity will be like the feeling he gets when he reaches the summit after a strenuous hill walk.

The proceeds of the auction will go to The Passage Shelter for the homeless, the Cardinal Hume Memorial Fund, Westminster Cathedral and the Franciscan Friars.

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare

"I'm not altogether certain I shall make it myself, but I expect to be well ahead of some people I could name ... I'm also rather hoping that God plays cricket, and if the rumour is true that God is an Englishman, then he can be the umpire."

Mohamed Al Fayed

"Heaven might be like Harrods on Christmas Eve ... everyone has that inner glow of contentment knowing that the struggle is now over and the real pleasure is about to begin. There is an air of joyful anticipation and a sense of relief."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"God is an infinity of beauty, goodness and love - a love that I believe would ultimately be compellingly irresistible. I wonder what we would do if we discovered a Hitler or an Amin in Heaven - they having found God's love quite irresistible?"

Spike Milligan

"There is much spoken about the afterlife and the glories that it contains but I cannot feel that such a place exists ... I find heaven is on earth, I am stunned by the beauty of a blade of grass. If there is a heaven then I will consider it a bonus."