Tag Archives: UK

Today would be a good day to be in Salisbury, UK (or the difference between space and place)

My sister reminded me this week of some of the places we have travelled together over the years. So in thinking about where I’d love to be spending time this Monday, I decided to reflect on a place we visited together ten years ago. Salisbury in the UK is well known for two of its stone structures: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. It is also home to the site of Old Sarum, a settlement dating back some 5,000 years. We were particularly excited to stumble upon this site, as we both read the book Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd while in high school after it was recommended by our beloved Pa. It remains on my list of favourite reads. With the areas around Salisbury as its setting, the novel tells the history of those who lived there from ancient to modern times, bringing this place to life.


What did I love about Salisbury?

I love the lush green beauty of the English countryside, even on a grey day!


The river with its swans was particularly picturesque.


I loved seeing the remains of the ancient site (Sarum) …


… as well as its view towards the more ‘modern’ (but still quaint) town (Salisbury).


What did I learn from Salisbury?

Salisbury is full of beautiful spaces. But it also makes me think about the difference between space and place. Space, to my mind, is the more abstract concept of physical location generally. Place, a subset of space, is that which has been named and given significance and meaning. Place matters because of what has happened in that particular space. And so while I loved the beautiful spaces around Salisbury, it is the significance of its places that has me remembering and pondering it today.


Stonehenge is a place, one that obviously had meaning and significance to those who established it, even though we still can’t seem to figure out exactly what!


Sarum is a place, one that has significance because of how early and how long it has been settled.


Salisbury Cathedral is a place, one that has a 750 year history of worship and reverence for the people of God.


And Salisbury, for me, is a place, because of the time I shared there with my sister. We laughed together over our visit to Woodhenge, a place far less popular with tourists than its rock-hewn cousin. (Note to ancient monument builders, if you to be well-remembered, try to build with materials that last!)



And we cried together in Salisbury Cathedral, as we prayed for some of the difficult situations in life we were experiencing at the time.


And its that experience that perhaps even makes Salisbury a sacred place for me – a place where my sister and I met together in the presence of our God and knew His mercy and love upon us. I believe that can happen anywhere, and everywhere. But I also know that sometimes it is important to mark out that kind of place,  to place a physical or metaphorical stone of remembrance there (a common practice throughout the Old Testament), so that we don’t forget. And I think that is really why I’m remembering Salisbury today.

Today would be a good day to be at Oxford

Perhaps some people who are new to my blog might find it a bit strange that I alternate between serious posts on social, theological or political issues … and well, travelogues. But I’ve often said two of the things I’m most passionate about are God’s Word and God’s world – and I’m always keen to explore how those intersect with my life and the issues of those around me. So today is Monday again, and therefore as I often do, I’m imagining a place I have previously visited and what it would be like to spend the day there today.


I have lots of study to get done this week as I am heading off on some real life travels shortly. So today is just a short post for inspiration. If anywhere should encourage study, it’s Oxford!


What did I love about Oxford?

All the Universities I have studied with have been great places of learning, but as relatively young institutions they just don’t have the “hallowed halls” of places like Oxford.


My sister and I spent the day at Oxford a few years ago, and there was certainly a sense of being in another time, imagining life as a scholar in this place.


It’s hard not to wonder about all the great thinkers who have passed through these doors throughout the centuries.


I’d love to spend the day in just one of the libraries, discovering all the ideas and passions of those who have written in the areas I am interested in. For me, one of the joys of study is getting to “meet” people through their books!


What did I learn from Oxford?

I am reminded why I am a lifelong student: because I love learning. I love discovering new ideas, sharing ideas with others, thinking about things differently, asking questions and seeking a range of possible answers, imagining new ways of doing things, and considering how I might be able to change my small corner of the world.


Going back to study since lecturing has also helped me have some sympathy for the struggles of students – yes, sometimes it is hard to stay motivated, and sometimes it is hard to see how some things you are learning will make a difference to your life.


But I have been to too many places around the world where education is denied to many, particularly young women, to take my studies for granted. Learning is a great privilege, and it can be part of both growing in understanding and being formed in character, if we let it.


I also believe education brings a responsibility. I don’t study to amass knowledge for myself, but rather to be better equipped to teach and share and engage with others in ways that are helpful, inspiring and challenging, that they too might engage more thoughtfully with God’s world in whatever way they are called and equipped to do so.


It’d be lovely to be learning at Oxford today, but really, it doesn’t matter if you are in a famous institution or in the school of life, or somewhere in between – if you are reading this it is likely that you have the opportunity to learn something today! I’d encourage you to be grateful for the privilege, and to consider the responsibility it brings to share with others as you can.

Today would be a nice day to be in Stratford-upon-Avon

Today is a public holiday, which would seem like a nice day to stay right here, but I have lots of writing to get done, so I’m thinking a place with some literary inspiration would be a nice getaway. Where better than the town of William Shakespeare?

Map of Shakespeare's Stratford
Map of Shakespeare’s Stratford
What did I love about Stratford-upon-Avon?

For starters, it’s a very pretty place.

The river Avon
The river Avon

It was April when we visited, so the trees were green, the river clear, and the flowers blooming.


We stayed in the most charming English Bed and Breakfast, although I’m not sure I could have coped with the colour scheme for more than a couple of days!

Bed and Breakfast

Coming from a country where a 100 year old building is OLD, it is pretty cool to see places that have been there for hundreds of years and wonder at all those who have passed through in that time and what might have occurred there.

Old Houses

The Guild Chapel has been hosting worship gatherings for 850 years.

Guild Chapel

The building next to the Guild Hall was added more recently … in 1490.

1490 building Guild Hall

We had a great English pub lunch at The Garrick Inn, thought to be the oldest house in Stratford-upon-Avon, with parts of it dating back to the fourteenth century.

Garrick Inn

What did I learn from Stratford-upon-Avon?

Really, as a visitor, Stratford-upon-Avon is all about Shakespeare, and I learned much about him. Touring town is basically a walk through the places of his life.

Where he was born, the son of a glover who later became an alderman and High Bailiff but then fell on hard times and narrowly avoided debtor’s prison.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare’s Birthplace

The church where he was both baptised and buried, and likely attended services whenever he was in town.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church

His wife’s cottage, the older woman he married at 18, seemingly spent twenty years apart from while he wrote and performed, returned to live with and left his “second-best bed” to in his will.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

His daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall’s house.

Hall's Croft
Hall’s Croft

The site of the house where he died.

The New Place
The New Place

His grave and funerary monument inside the church.

Shakespeare's Grave

And of course no Shakespearian trip would be complete without catching a performance of one his famous plays … we saw Henry IV, although it was back in London at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Globe Theatre London

From all accounts, our William was a complicated man who had in many ways a messy life. But his legacy is a reminder of the incredible power of words … words that live on and are shared and inspire. Words that can even change lives. As someone who works with words in my teaching and preaching jobs, who is currently engaged in finding words to express my research and learning, and who enjoys playing with words in this adventure of blogging, that is a powerful reminder.

Shakespearian Boats

P.S. And finally, speaking of words, I’m not sure there is anywhere else but an Old English village where you would find such politely expressed parking advice.

Pretty Parking Sign