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Salisbury and Stonehenge

Salisbury_1Stonehenge

Welcome to the third visit of our Bucket List Challenge to Visit 12 UK Cities in 12 Months and this time we’re in Salisbury and Stonehenge.

On the 5th of January we set off on a day-trip to Salisbury, a city of about 40,000 inhabitants situated in Wiltshire. Salisbury has an extremely rich history, not least, Stonehenge which stands just a few miles North. Obviously we could not visit Salisbury without including a visit to this renowned World Heritage site.

As it’s January, we expected the weather to be cold and overcast…and we weren’t disappointed! Dressed up warm and prepared for the weather, and a Bad-Hair-Day, we set off for the 100-mile outward journey, which was easy and uneventful.

As we approached Stonehenge I felt an increasing feeling of excitement, and even though I was hoping to see ‘The Stones’ from the road as we approached, the landscape was giving nothing away.

Stonehenge has a brand new Visitor Centre (opened in December 2013) which is sleek and modern. The car park was already busy when we arrived at about 10.15am on this cold January morning, which gives you some idea of how popular this monument is. We were told (via the Salisbury_2free audio) that Stonehenge receives around 1 million visitors a year and if our experience was representative, then it’s clear that people come from all over the world to visit.

From the Visitor Centre we were taken by small, regular buses to The Stones. It is possible to walk up to The Stones, but since it was so cold, damp and muddy, we decided the bus was the best option.

The Stones are immediately visible from the drop off point, and you are encouraged via path markers to switch on your audio tour as you enter the ‘park’.

The Stones are striking in appearance and this is further enhanced by use of the audio which helps to bring the story of their existence to life. However, despite many years of research, there is still no agreement on the reason for their existence. Some believe that they were magic or had powers of healing, others believe that the Stones are sacred and still others believe the Stones are a primitive calculator for plotting the movements of the sun and planets. In a lot of ways, this disagreement only adds to the mystery and appeal of the place.

In terms of size, the circle itself is more compact than I was expecting, but this in no way detracts from the size of the Stones. Some of the larger Stones, known as Sarsens stand 9 metres high and apparently have two meters also buried beneath ground. They weigh approximately 25 tons each and it is believed that they were brought to this location from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles away. The smaller ‘Bluestones’ enclosed within the circle are much smaller and are believed, by some, to have magical properties.

Despite not being able to enter the circle, the whole experience was remarkable. There is definitely something magical about Stonehenge, from the rich but mysterious history, to the fact that the Stones have stood there, through civil unrest and World Wars for thousands of years and continue to bear the testament of their importance. For me, this was a wonderful and enlightening visit.

Tip: Take a set of earphones, it’s easier to listen to the audio through headphones, although it is possible to hold the audio set to your ear like a phone and listen this way too.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury_3In keeping with the plan to visit the Cathedral in each city-visit, we made our way to way Salisbury Cathedral.

As we arrived within sight of the Cathedral, there’s no doubting the importance of the building to those who built it. The Cathedral is a huge and imposing structure, set apart in a picturesque park. On this particular day, with the gloomy weather, it had quite an ominous feel.

The Cathedral has an interesting history, having started out life in a different location, about two miles North from its current site in a place known as Old Sarum (Old Salisbury).

Old Sarum is the site of the ‘original’ Salisbury which had been established in about 400 BC as an iron age hill fort. By the medieval age, William the Conqueror, recognising its strategic importance strengthened the fort by adding a motte and bailey.

From 1078, major work was undertaken on the cathedral on-site and further building and furnishing work was continued under the patronage of various bishops until around 1180. However, by about 1220, dissatisfaction had grown with the site and in 1226, the new location was ceremonially founded in its current setting.

On entering the Cathedral, the warm welcome was in contrast to the cold, gloomy weather outside! The Cathedral hosts many historical artefacts and there are many staff and volunteers on hand to provide a guided tour, or just to chat with.

Importantly, Salisbury Cathedral is home to one of only four remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. The ‘Great Charter’ is a legal document, issued by King John, which, at the time, was an attempt by the King to avoid civil war. However, its importance remains today as it established guarantees for such things as the right to a fair trial. The document is also significant because it limits the authority of the crown and ensures that the monarch is not above the law.

Unfortunately, on the day we visited the Cathedral, the real Magna Carta had been taken away and replaced with a copy (not that you Salisbury_4could tell by looking at it!). The reason for this is because 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Charter and the Salisbury copy, along with others, will be displayed together in London later in the year.

Despite this, we enjoyed an interesting conversation with one of the Cathedral volunteers who filled us in on the history of the document as well as the celebrations planned for later this year.

As well as the Magna Carta, the Cathedral houses the tombs of the three bishops Osmund, Roger and Jocelyn who had overseen the work on the original Cathedral at Old Sarum, their tombs having been moved to the new Cathedral when the old Cathedral was demolished in 1226.

Another claim to fame is that the Cathedral hosts the highest spire in England at 404 feet, which, from the ground looks incredibly high. However, to give you a better feel for what it’s really like to be suspended from this Spire, I have been lucky enough to discover this video on Youtube which was filmed in December 2014…scary!

…And The Rest

We had intended to visit two other ‘attractions’ whilst in Salisbury – Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, an aviation museum where visitors can sit in the cockpits of the planes as well as view the planes from the ground. Also on our list was a visit to Arundells, the home of the former Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath.

Unfortunately both of these places were closed, due to the time of year which was a shame, so instead we finished our trip with a visit to the The Salisbury Museum, a very friendly (and warm) museum where we were able to see more of the historical artefacts, particularly from Stonehenge, Old Sarum and the surrounding area. The museum also houses an interesting collection of historical clothes through the ages, and a collection of WWI/II memorabilia.

Stats and Useful Links

  • Mileage – about 210 miles (round trip)
  • Spends
  • Fuel, Parking & Bridge Toll = £36.00
  • Entry to Stonehenge x 2 =            £28.00
  • Entry to Salisbury Cathedral x 2 = £13.00
  • Entry to Salisbury Museum x 2 = £16.00
  • Food & Drinks (approx.) =    £40.00

My thanks to Geraint Hopkins for pointing me towards the video.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our latest City Adventure.  Is anyone else inspired to undertake a similar challenge yet?!

Black Hole Focus

Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives

By Isaiah Hankel

Why I Bought This Book

As the book title would suggest, I bought this book at a time when I felt that I lacked focus on my goals. Whilst my motivation was at a reasonable level, I felt that my efforts were scattered and consequently progress had become slow and painful.

What were the key lessons?

There are a myriad of lessons in this book and lots of useful examples given to bring the lessons to life. Here’s a snapshot of some of the lessons I picked up from this book:

  • The importance of turning pain into gain, ie, strive to make the pain go away, don’t just settle.
  • It’s important to be clear about what you want and then make a determined plan to achieve that outcome.
  • The potential for success is all around, it’s not reserved for the privileged few.
  • Always tell yourself positive and inspiring stories!
  • Recognise that this is your path, others may not understand and that’s ok.
  • Your decisions and actions will determine your outcomes.

Plus much, much more.

The Pros

This book covers a lot of ground, from talking about how the brain functions (why negative thoughts take hold so much easier than positive thoughts, for example) to providing tips on productivity and goal setting. As an all-rounder it does a pretty good job of inspiring, challenging and offering some practical guidance on the whole focus-success formula.

The Cons

I would have liked some extra depth in some of the areas covered, however, this is a fairly minor negative given the amount of information which is contained within the book.

Did it help?

Yes, but here’s a proviso. I bought this book in July 2014, but didn’t actually finish reading it until early January! That’s a very long time for me as I usually get through books that draw my interest within a week or two. But, to be fair to the book, I need to put this statement into context.

2014 was a bit of a tough year with some “interesting” challenges! In July, when I bought this book, these challenges were beginning to bite, hence the feeling that I needed some help with focus. As it turned out, the challenges worsened before they improved and reading (one of my joys in life) became a victim of my limited time and focus (oh the irony!).

But, having previously found value in the book, I returned to it in late November and soon finished reading it.

Recommended?


Yes! I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to gain greater clarity in their goals and in so doing achieve superior results. There are some particularly useful pointers for those coming to their goals later in life than they would’ve wished, with some practical suggestions for how ‘mastery’ may be accomplished quicker.

 

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Resilience

Resilience_1We admire people who appear to be resilient. They have an aura of calm and don’t seem to crumple under the pressures of everyday life, regardless of what that looks like. As Kipling eloquently put it “They keep their head when all about them are losing theirs…”. In other words, they keep the faith and don’t down tools every time a new obstacle appears.

Resilience, by definition means:

The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. (Oxford Dictionary)

Oh that we could master this!

Slowing our Reactions

It might be a little too much to expect to ‘master’ resilience, but, as a skill, we can always develop and hone our ability to be resilient.

All of us have our share of upset, frustration, anger, disappointments and regrets. But have you ever taken some time to review your Resilience_2reactions to the events that caused the emotional response? Were you able, on reflection, to see areas where your reaction could have been improved, or, even better, had you controlled your reaction, a healthier result would likely have ensued?

Of course, this is much easier to say than to actually put into practice. I think when we react in a less than desirable way, it’s because we feel helpless or overwhelmed. We feel that our options are limited and then we often think that it’s hopeless to try.

But by reacting, rather than taking a little time to think through a considered response, we either make things worse or surrender control to the other party. In other words we wash our hands of the situation, assign blame elsewhere (it’s not my fault!) and expect others to put things right.

Unfortunately this doesn’t really help our situation. It can be very difficult to come back from an angry exchange, we may feel sorry or contrite but not have the strength to offer up an apology or a way to make things better. These unresolved exchanges can cause negative feelings to fester on for years with neither party being willing to make the first step and offer up the proverbial olive branch.

Hanging On To The Pain

But seriously, does this feel good? Does living with all this pent up negativity inside, whilst hanging on to the feeling of having been crossed make us happy? I’m sure for most people the answer to this is no, and yet, we continue to let these unhappy feelings occupy our lives.

How good then, would it feel to remain in control even when everything around seems to be falling apart?

Seeing the Situation for What It Really Is

Of course, life is never as easy as this, although it is possible to remain calm, or at least keep a semblance of calm even in the most extreme circumstances. But in order to do this we need to learn to control our emotions and our reactions. We need to learn to give ourselves a moment to think before we jump to an un-suitable conclusion and act it out!

We know from experience, that quite often after the ‘catastrophe’ has subsided and we think rationally, we realise that we could have acted in a different manner, and, had we done so, the outcome might have been better handled.

Practicing Our Resilience

So in this vein, let’s get back to the idea of resilience.

The truth of the matter is that we all have depths of resilience that we don’t mine nearly often enough, but in the main this is because until we are faced with ever-increasing difficult circumstances, we don’t need to dig so deep. Consequently, there are degrees of resilience which we acquire as time goes on.Resilience_3

However, once we’ve been to that place, then we know we can always call upon that resilience again. We might not want to, after all, who wants to attract difficult circumstances? But, the truth remains that if we’ve done it before, then we can do it again, and, quite possibly, even better the next time.

The main benefit of being able to call on our resilience is that it allows us to move on with our lives. Yes, difficulties have happened, yes, they were painful to deal with, and yes, they have left a scar, but, being resilient means moving on in spite of the difficulties, pain and scars.

It also means being able to look at the bigger picture because there will be many times when people do or say things that we don’t like, but it’s not always appropriate or even worth the effort of saying our piece. It’s useful to bear in mind that sometimes we have to release our need to fight the battle while we soldier on through the war.

Staying in Control Feels Better

In many ways this is self-preservation. If we already have too much to deal with or too much stress then it’s in our best interests to occasionally let some things go. Yes, they may irritate us, but, in the bigger scheme of things, or, within the overall plan for our life, does this irritation really matter? Will it, by not dealing with it now, have a detrimental effect on our plans in the future? Well if not, then why bother with the hassle? Acknowledge and assess, let go and move on whenever you can.

In the end, the perpetrator of our ire probably doesn’t care about how it affects us. Indeed, they may actually want us to feel upset, angry, guilty or despondent. But by tapping into our resilience, we acknowledge how we feel and we may even need to rant, but ultimately, we will continue with our plan. We will not allow the offender to knock us off course and dictate a different outcome.

We will not allow the offender to knock us off course and dictate a different outcome.

No one is immune to the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, but over time and with effort and fortitude we can learn to strengthen our armour so that more of them fall away without causing pain.

Acknowledge, let go and move on. Let this be your new mantra for continued progress and peace of mind.

I’ll finish with the wonderful and fitting poem by Charlie Remiggio

Never Give Up

Never give up, never lose hope
Always have faith it allows you to cope
Trying times will pass as they always do
Just have patience your dreams will come true
Put on a smile, you will live through your pain
Know this will pass, and strength you will gain.
~ Charlie Remiggio

What do you think?  For me, this is something I must work on continuously, sometimes I win, sometimes I fail dramatically!  How resilient do you think you are?

Photos: BK , TheTorpedoDog , Amanda Hirsch

Determined To Achieve

Determined_1Have you ever tried shifting a steadfast object? A tree trunk that spoils the lines of your front lawn, permanent black marker accidently applied to a white board or maybe a person who is determined to achieve their objectives?

The tree trunk can be removed with time, effort and determination. The process will likely create a lot of mess and will leave an indelible mark in the lawn for a few seasons, but, eventually the mark will blend into the rest of the lawn and the unwanted tree trunk will become a distant memory.

I’ve seen first-hand the results of efforts at removing permanent marker from a white board. The board had been scrubbed until the ink faded, but, the words were still there. The room monitor was frustrated at the effort involved and also at the person who had carelessly applied the ink. There was now bad feeling between the two. Eventually the room monitor gave in and just painted over the marks with white paint! It seems this was the lesser of two evils, but in the end, a mark of sorts still remained.

And what of the determined person? The one who has a very clear goal in mind and is determined to achieve the outcome no matter the price? Also, let’s assume for this purpose that the goal is positive and has been well-considered. In the longer term success will result in a Determined_3life improvement for the goal-maker and is also likely to have a positive impact on those around him/her. Some goals of this nature might be:

  • To actively pursue a promotion at work or to set up his/her own business
  • To lose weight by following specific diet guidelines
  • To improve fitness by joining a gym or signing up to a fitness challenge (eg, run a marathon)
  • To leave home and set up independently
  • To work towards financial independence/early retirement
  • To study for a degree or learn a new language
  • To improve confidence and assertiveness

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