The great city of Oxford, once romantically described as the ‘city of dreaming spires’ 🤨 is now more accurately a city of 650 fast-moving electric scooters, that zoom in and out around all the streets ~ trying hard to avoid people furiously peddling along on ordinary bikes or struggling to push themselves on ordinary scooters, all trying to keep up. They go so fast, I have yet to get one in a photo – only the ordinary bikes stay in focus! Such is Oxford’s morning rush hour as students head for lectures and others head for work. It’s busily bustling out there!
Last time I was in Oxford, in October 2018, I wrote this in my blog post, “I admit, I’m not an Oxford person. I can’t recognise any college or building or landmark, haven’t got a clue what the colleges are, nor why they’re famous, other than just being part of Oxford University. So all I can tell you is that the buildings and colleges are beautiful, and spires are many. Spires and steeples and towers and gargoyles and churches and chapels everywhere.” That much is still true.
And so today I ambled around Oxford looking at lots of old buildings, wandering here and there, trying to stay outside in the beautiful sunshine as much as possible and mostly avoiding anything that required me to pay to enter. So don’t ask me what any of these places are, just look at the photos!
The real reason for being in Oxford was to visit CMS (Church Mission Society) Headquarters, located south of the city in CMS House – it also lets office space to other mission agencies and church-related organizations. I was there all day yesterday, and, well, it rained most of the day. Hey, if the day is going to be wet, then the CMS office is the place to be, it’s so warm and welcoming! And by lunchtime, the rain was stopping and there was even a rainbow coming out….
Most of the people who work for CMS either work overseas, or if they’re based in Oxford, then since the pandemic, they work partly there and partly at home – so you never know who might be there in person on any given day. Ah, I love surprises! I took along my Taiwan teapots and tea, and was delighted to share them with all the people at CMS, along with a few smarties, chocolate money and a few other goodies – well I do want people to remember Taiwan and my visit 🤣🤣! I was so happy to finally get to meet Alastair Bateman (CMS CEO since May 2019) ~ he smiled all day long, he’s just so lovely!
And I saw lots of my other good friends at CMS too. These people are just so dedicated, cheerful, humble and kind, every single one of them. Some have worked there for years and years, and a few even worked in the London office before CMS moved to Oxford in 2007. Some I have only met on email, but now I realise who they are, wow, it’s so wonderful to meet them. My biggest encourager and supporter, Anne organized the whole day’s itinerary, arranged all the meetings, and kindly prepared a delicious lunch too. Thank you Anne – and thank you everyone!
After a morning of fun meetings, then at 1:30 pm I had 30 minutes to do a WOW ‘Window on the World’ session, sharing about Taiwan with pictures on a PowerPoint, and also with several people attending online ~ while CEO Alastair sat right at the front and wrote lots of things down as I spoke! 🤩 These are the action shots taken right at the start…
Meanwhile the online people could only gaze longingly at all those teapots and tea, and dream of the chocolate money and Quality Street as we munched away in Oxford! 🤣🤣
Thanks to Camilla for taking these photos – I discovered she’s often the person putting together my link letters, so I’m really grateful to her for so much! 😊😊
During yesterday’s meetings, I did invite Anne as Asia personnel manager to bring along her colleague to come together to visit Taiwan sometime in the next year or two. Neither of them have been to Taiwan, in fact nobody in CMS has come to visit for a good few years, so it’s about time! They were both so excited, and are making plans already ~ and since then Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang in Taiwan has sent me a message to welcome them to visit. Can’t wait! 😊 This was the WOW session…
Ah, it was such an amazing day! In the past, I have stayed at the CMS House in Oxford during my visit, but this time it was full. Thanks to recommendations from friends, I was able to stay instead at the guest house of the ‘All Saints Sisters of the Poor‘, located further along the Cowley Road. They have an amazing history of serving people in need, and within their grounds they have both a children’s hospice and nursing home. It’s an oasis of quietness and beauty in a busy area of the city.
The whole area around there is small narrow streets, which are now bollarded off, to stop cars going through, so although it’s much quieter, it’s also much more difficult to get from one place to another. Check out the local area…
There’s even a big mistletoe tree, looking spectacular, and located in the middle of the main roundabout there…
After my visit to CMS, so off I went to explore Oxford after dark….
So it was definitely a good 2 days in Oxford! And finally, today is a significant day, as I said a final goodbye to NatWest Bank after more than 4 decades – I’ve had an account with NatWest since I was 18. In July, NatWest notified all its customers who, like me, live overseas, to inform us that unless we are permanently resident in the UK, we have to close our NatWest bank accounts. 😭😭 This is a commercial decision, and even using someone else’s address is not permitted. 😢😢 If this affects you, then you have all my sympathy, because it’s not exactly easy to open a new bank account in this country, but finally it’s happened (thanks to CMS and all those who helped out!) and I was notified as I walked past this NatWest Bank in Oxford today that everything had now been transferred over. Fare ye well NatWest Bank!
And goodbye to Oxford tomorrow, as I set out eastwards for my next CMS church visit this weekend, taking with me so many happy memories of my visit to Oxford. It’s been great, and a big thank you to all in the CMS Oxford Office for your welcome yesterday and for all your hard work every day ~ and of course all the fun! 😊😊 And now, East Anglia here I come!