There’s a place across the sea where some of my favorite stories were born. Aslan, Frodo, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Hazel and Fiver of Watership Down, King Arthur, young Diamond (who visited the Back of the North Wind), Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes—they all haunt the cobblestone streets and grassy downs of England, and when I’m there I feel like the kid I was when I first read about them. However you may feel about Peter Pan, it’s hard to deny the magic of seeing Big Ben, that majestic clock tower, rising out of the moonlit clouds as the Darling children glide past. And after two quick trips to London over the years, I can tell you the sight of the real Big Ben still contains some of that magic. But London is only part of the story.
A short train ride from away you’ll find the ancient city of Oxford, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and their friends gathered in the original Rabbit Room to share their stories (and a few pints of ale). I would wager that anyone who’s had their heart nourished by some of these tales has wished at least once to visit the ground where they sprang up like Samwise’s vegetables. I jokingly called it my C.S. Lewis Pilgrimage as we saw the Kilns, Tolkien’s house, the Eagle and Child pub, Addison’s Walk, and Lewis’s resting place beside the old stone church he attended. While Jamie and I stood in silence I spotted long-haired cows grazing on the adjacent hill, and the cold spring sun broke through for a few minutes while I thanked God for good stories and their tellers.
It’s not that there aren’t places in America that are just as beautiful or spiritually significant; I’ll never forget the first time I drove across Kansas and into Colorado when at last I caught my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. I grew up reading about those, too. I’m a proud American, but I’m also a shameless Anglophile. Now that I’m in the process of finishing the Wingfeather Saga I’m thinking more and more about that faraway land and how I long to visit it with my children before they outgrow me. So I’m going back. We’re touring Sweden again (as lovely a country as ever there was), then heading over to the U.K. for several shows—and this time the kids are coming with us. I can hardly wait.
When I first visited London and Oxford with Jamie a few years back, I had two regrets. First, I wished I had more time. We were there for three days, I think, and there was no way we could see it all, or have time to process what we were seeing. (Hutchmooters, think about the brain-weariness you feel at the end of the weekend, then add jet lag and culture shock.) Second, I wished someone had been there to lead the trip to Oxford. We popped in and out in an afternoon without much help, and Jamie and I both would have gained much from a curator or docent to help us to know what we should see and why.
I’m telling you all that to tell you this. In July, Dan DeWitt (from Boyce College/Southern Seminary in Louisville) is leading a trip to England, sponsored by the seminary, and I’m planning to meet you there. Since the Peterson family will be in the middle of a European tour anyway, Dan and I agreed that an acoustic concert by a self-professed Inklings nerd would be more than appropriate. The trip is more than two weeks long, includes time in both London and Oxford, and will be led by three smart professors dudes (including my friend Dr. Dan DeWitt, an expert on all things Lewis and Tolkien) who will conduct field lectures. It’s not cheap, but an adventure never is (one way or another). I guarantee you that it’ll be worth every penny. As old Bilbo said, “It’s a dangerous thing, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you’ll be swept off to.”
Maybe even an AP concert in England?
And just for fun, I dug up these photos from an impromptu, last-minute concert at a pub in London back in (I think) 2009. I posted on Facebook that I’d have my guitar at a certain pub at 10:00 one morning, and these fine Londoners showed up. It was just as fun as it looks.