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Trip down memory lane

A couple of days ago, I did the “Places I’ve lived” thing on Facebook.  They only allow 5 spaces which is clearly not enough (for me, or a lot of people I know).  Anyway, just looking at some of the pictures brought back so many memories that I wanted to say a bit more about each place.  I could have written about so many wonderful people I met along the way – but that would have been boring for everyone else.  I could have focussed on what was going on in my life at the time, what I learned, how I changed.  I might still do that on another occasion.  There were things in each place that I really didn’t like.  But somehow looking back they don’t matter quite so much.  So here is a fairly random collection of things I did and do appreciate about each of the places I have lived in.  Not complete by any means, and I would probably put different things tomorrow, but a snapshot.



Well, it’s where I grew up so of course I love it 🙂  But what I probably appreciate most about it is this:

Being a big port city and very trade oriented, you can never forget that there is a big wide world out there!  There is always a whiff of somewhere exotic in the air – whether it’s seeing the ships down at the port and dreaming of where they might be going, and walking past some of the many consulates of countries you might have heard of but whose flags you certainly wouldn’t recognise.



Exciting year – first time away from home!  A lot of freedom and not much responsibility – what a great combination 🙂

OK, so a photo of All Souls Langham Place is probably not the most recognisable one I could have picked for London.  But it certainly is the most significant one for me.  It’s where I first met people who followed Jesus and took their faith seriously, it’s where I first heard about God’s amazing love.  What first attracted me to it was the wonderful, totally international mix of people.  What kept me was discovering the reality of God.

Anyway, I really loved being in London!  I think my favourite place was Covent Garden.  It had only opened in its current form about 3 years previously and the whole concept was very new and fresh.  These days it’s all very commercial and so busy but at the time there was a real sense of excitement.  Such a fun place to hang out!  I’m always a bit disappointed when I go back now.

So much more I could talk about but I’ll leave it at that.



“Easy to admire but difficult to love” This is how I recently heard someone describe Paris and it sums up my experience quite well.  It is an amazing city – to visit as a tourist.  Not easy to live in, though.  But then – after the “perfect” year I’d had in London, what could possibly have compared?!?!

However, the cultural life is amazing!  I have never been to so many films, plays, concerts, etc in a year!  And such variety!  I still remember seeing “Huis Clos” by Sartre in this tiny theatre.  The audience were sitting on benches around the edges and the centre of the room was the stage.  Amazing! 



The first thing you notice about Bamberg is that it is very, very beautiful  (Unesco World Heritage site – – cycling through the town centre at night I often felt like I was in the picture book rather than reality. 🙂

I lived there as a student so I think my experience was probably more one of student life rather than of Bamberg as such.  I loved the sense of community you get in a small town.  You just bump into people as you go about your life, nothing is ever very far, meeting up is easy.

At the time, Bamberg was a bit isolated.  To the north was the border with East Germany, and to the east that with Czechoslovakia.  Neither of which was very easy to cross.  I always had to go quite a bit west before heading north back to Hamburg.  Now that the borders are gone/open, the atmosphere of the place has changed.  There are so many more links with other parts of the country, people are passing through, etc.



Well, going from there to Berlin definitely caused major culture shock!

Berlin is big, busy, noisy, fascinating, infuriating, surprising, moving, ever changing, full of contradictions – the list could go on!

This was the early 90s so things really were changing all the time.  Train lines and roads were being reconnected, road names changed.  You could almost buy a new map every few months because so many things had changed again. 

And the sense of history is something else.  Lots of places I could mention but here’s just one: I remember getting goose bumps walking across Glienicker Brücke (aka “bridge of spies”) which the Soviet Union and the United States used to exchange captured spies during the Cold War

I think my favourite place was Unter den Linden.  It’s gone very upmarket and touristy now but back then you could see the beauty but it also seemed a lot more normal and “studenty” (is that a word?  If not, it should be!), Humboldt Uni being right there.  I just really liked the atmosphere and also have fond memories of seeing productions at the stunningly beautiful opera house for very little money.

Other favourite place: my friends’ “Schrebergarten” (kind of like an allotment but so much more) out by the lake!



Oh how naïve I was at the time about the difficulty of living in such a very different culture, and not speaking the language at all!  Hence it was an even more difficult year than it would have been anyway.  Ulyanovsk isn’t the most immediately endearing place either.  Lots of industry and Lenin, and not much else.

However (and there’s always an “however”), I have lots of fond memories as well.  Seeing the Volga frozen over with cars driving on it is amazing! 

I love going on Russian (overnight) trains.  Second class, anyway – not so sure about third class… There is something about your body and your soul arriving in a place at the same time.

By far the best night I had out there was also my last one.  It was the 50th anniversary of the end of WW2 and there were street parties everywhere!  People were out on the streets singing and dancing.  What an amazing atmosphere, I have never seen anything like it!

What I didn’t really appreciate until after I had left was the depth of relationship with people.  The people I connected with, I REALLY connected with, and friendships went very deep.  Very special!

And CMETAHA – I just love it!!!



This is probably going to be the most difficult.  It’s where I live at the moment so I’m sure I am taking a lot of things for granted.  I find it’s often only after you leave, that you realise what you most appreciate about a place. 

Apart from lots and lots of great people, here are a few things I really like about Brum.

Though in some ways, the many different culture in Birmingham don’t always mix, you do see people of all different backgrounds everywhere.  It seems very strange to me now when I go somewhere else and everyone around me is white.  I’m not used to that anymore at all!

There is so much lovely countryside all around and it’s not difficult to get to!

The way the city council really makes an effort to have flowers in the centre of roundabouts and in the middle of dual carriageways.  There is so much green around!

And I do like the canals (hence the photo), they bring back memories of a lovely family holiday on a canal boat.

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High Mountain and Running River

I discovered something really cool this week: apparently in Chinese, the word for “close friend” literally means “understanding music”, and the phrase “High Mountain and Running River” means close friendship or wonderful music.  Here is the story behind this:

According to legend, in the Spring and Autumn Period there lived a lyrist Yu Boya, who was extremely skilled in music performance. One day his performance in the open air was overheard by a woodchopper Zhong Ziqi, who happened to pass by. Zhong Ziqi immediately understood that Yu Boya was describing lofty mountains and turbulent running water through his performance. Amazed to have found someone with an understanding of his music, Yu Boya developed close friendship with Zhong Ziqi. Later when Zhong Ziqi died, Yu Boya was in deep grief that he broke the strings and the musical instrument. Ever since then he quit performing music.

 What a gift it is to have people in your life who just “get” you – often better than you get yourself!

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Strolling through the camp

Deuteronomy is proving to be a lot more fascinating than I had expected!  Just when you think you’re just battling your way through a series of rules (necessary, but not that interesting) a verse like this pops up:

For the LORD your God walks throughout your camp to protect you and deliver your enemies to you; so your encampments must be holy. He must not see anything improper among you or He will turn away from you. (Deut 23:14)

Ok, so the context of this verse is all about bathroom etiquette (to put it delicately).

But isn’t it just amazing that God wants to walk among them, like He did with Adam and Eve in the garden?  They were a very long way from the innocence and purity of that time.  As are we.  And yet God wants to be close us, to walk with us.   Even if it costs Him everything. 

 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama

But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

(Mark 15: 33-34 and  37-39)


Thank you, Lord.