“Call me a dirty cunt,” the lady says to me, with her thick British accent.  This is the second, but not the most,  alarming thing she’s said to me and we’ve only just met.  I’m in Salisbury, England.

Earlier I told my friends that I wanted to find the “Gainesville, Florida” of England.   I grew up in Gainesville and having spent time in a number of American cities, I know how useless some of them are for experiencing America. My presupposition was that visiting London would be fairly useless when it comes to experiencing England.   During my time abroad people will tell me they’ve been to “The States” (that’s how they refer to it, holding on to that colonial ownership ’til the bitter end), and explain that they’ve been to New York.  I tell them that New York is so weird that other Americans go to New York to see how weird it is, and when they get home they breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t live in New York.  Being in New York is just not indicative of anything other than being in New York.

Gainesville, Florida is a nice innocuous city, population ~120k, with a footnote: “Home of the University of Florida.”  Salisbury, England is similar, except the footnote is “Pretty close to Stonehenge.”

Maybe this isn’t photo worthy to you, but look how much trash they *don’t* generate. Or maybe the collector comes every 45 minutes, I guess that’s a possibility too.

Except that’s not entirely true.  This is the problem with Europe.  Even your small ‘nothing’ town is SO old that it is just teeming with history.  Castles, everywhere, religious artifacts, significant wars.   There are people watching TV right now that are almost as old as America.

In addition to being Pretty Close to Stonehenge, it’s also the home of The Magna Carta, which you’ll know of as being something that Jay-Z referred to in his album which you’ve already stopped listening to.  The Magna Carta something something Democracy something Constitution something Church something old document.  To be honest, I didn’t even know that much about the Magna Carta.  It’s weird to think that, decay aside, there exists a piece of paper with my handwriting that proves that in 8th grade I almost certainly knew a LOT about the Magna Carta (and had to prove it to Mr. Beckmann in US History) but that piece of paper is (unlike the Magna Carta) not in a church, not in a Jay Z lyric, and really no one has asked me about it since.  I don’t have the slightest clue where it is.

This isn’t even a sightseeing place. This is the equivalent of a gas station next to a Starbucks next to a 7-11 across the street from a Quiznos.

Years before Mr. Beckmann’s class, I was at J.J. Finley, which, being kids, we renamed JJ Junkyard.   How did we know what Junkyard was? We were like… seven years old.  This was before we learned that you shouldn’t “shit where you sleep.” There’s something very sad about a group of children making fun of the public school that they’re currently attending.

KID 1:You know what’s terrible?

KID 2: This place where we are creating the academic foundation that will determine the course of our lives?

KID 1: Yeah, it’s not unlike a Junkyard.



JJ (Junkyard) Finley was the first time I’d heard the word Salisbury because of the lunch program.  The way it generally worked at Finley was that white kids brought “home lunch”: a paper bag, which had things like sandwiches, capri suns, and fruit roll ups.  The black kids had “school lunch” which had things that were sometimes edible and always gross.   One of those things was Salisbury Steak, a brown square of something we’ll call “meat” for the sake of argument, that I had exactly one bite of and NEVER ate again.

I never really thought about Salisbury again until I wanted to see Stonehenge.   It’s really a testimony of my own inner flexibility that my reflex wasn’t “Salisbury? No, thanks. Let’s check out Cornwall or something.” Childhood trauma sticks with you. I’m a fighter.

We make it to Salisbury by way of train, and then cab it to our AirBnB.  The car stops, and the cabbie reads off the amount and with a sinking sensation I realize that I don’t have any pieces of paper or metal coins that have that exact number printed/molten onto them. I’m going to have to make change.

If you live in a place without a history of segregation you can unapologetically have signs that say “BLACKS” and “WHITE STUFF.”


The currency exchange problem creates a situation where either I have to overpay people, underpay people. Every time. Also as a result I make every transaction take ten minutes longer than necessary while I try to figure out what coin is worth what, and how to convert that to dollars.   I didn’t want to make the guy spend more time waiting for me to do math than he’d spent driving, so I just ballpark it based on weight and hand over some coins.  “Hmm, this is hefty, have this.”

“You do realize you’ve paid me double the fare, right?”  Just by asking, I feel he’s earned it, it’s only…fair.

The house is super English and adorable.  I’m not sure when architects invented the “closet”, but it was sometime after most of the houses in England were built.  As a result, most of the rooms have a Narnia cabinet in them, because…you know… clothes, right?  The host is super English and adorable and says things like “The English are a bit mad about horses.”

 We see pictures of her (grown) kids who send letters addressed to ‘Mum’.  There are absolutely no pictures or references to a Man/Father/Husband type, so I make a mental note to place him in the Voldemort box, never ask about him and think “Well, at least she got the house.”

By now it’s pretty late, and we’re kind of slap happy tired but it’s also Friday night so we head down to the bars pubs.

The bar scene in a quaint English town is different, and I have to overcome a bit of resistance to the idea.  There’s something strange about discovering a quaint Hans Christian Andersen town with cobblestones and then immediately trying to get drunk in it.  The first bar we go to is called The White Stag or something.  The bartender smiles when she sees me (during our entire stay in Salisbury I see two black people, and none with dreadlocks), and then almost falls apart when I open my mouth to order a Perroni.  WHO HAS THE ACCENT NOW?

I’m halfway around the world, drinking a Perroni with my sick American accent, thinking about what a world traveler I am and how foreign and different everything is, how far away I am from everything and everyone I know when suddenly the club goes wild because the DJ has started the next song.  Beyonce.

Next Week: More Salisbury, probably some Stone Henge,  and why that lady asked me to call her a dirty cunt.

Last Week: The UK Customs Lady tries her best to determine if I’m here to do ruinous things to her nation.

I promise that I will NEVER sell or share your email. If I do, you can come punch me in the face as long and hard as you want. I would deserve it.



97 thoughts on “Travel #7: Salisbury Part 1

  1. Thanks Charlotte Louise, I will, the UK is fabulous. Is that a word people use there? They actually don’t even use it here, but I am. Probably a Christmas spirit thing.

    Joey Glanvill oh yeah? You’re lucky, that market in the square thing had one of the best sausages i’ve ever eaten in my entire life. It haunts my dreams.

    1. I’ve lived in salisbury since I was 6, and there are people with Dreadlocks in Salisbury, one example being my brother (although he’s just gone to Ireland) I’m glad you’re enjoying Salisbury, if you ever want to get a very cheap pint go to the Weatherspoons, they’re the cheapest around. :)

  2. This was very entertaining. I grew up in Salisbury and I spend most of my time there. I live in a village called Downton, which is about 7 miles from Salisbury (it’s even more dull and middle class). What I find bizarre about Salisbury is that people can’t decide whether it is ‘posh’ or ‘rough’. I guess the council estates and the amount of drug dealers I know add to the idea of it being rough, but most people in the area have an iPhone, even if they do keep it next to the weed in their pocket. It’s a strange place and I see the same people all the time, but I kind of like it for that.

    1. Definitely not rough. I’m biased, I live in LA, and can’t remember the last day they didn’t use a helicopter (Oooh do you guys call these “helis”?) to track down someone. Also, your cops don’t have guns. Any place where the cops basically have to fist fight you isn’t all that rough. :)

      Wait, is Downton like… Downton Abbey downton? I’ve never seen the show but everyone in my world is nuts about it.

      1. I’m going to LA for the first time in two weeks! The contrast is probably very amusing. Nope, Downton Abbey isn’t actually based in Downton. It’s all a lie. I could always pretend that it is though.. it makes it sound a little more regal.

  3. I live in Salisbury now and I loved this. I tried to guess where you were staying from your photo! Go to ‘Old Sarum’ as well as Stonehenge. If you want a quaint pub try the ‘Haunch of Venison’

    1. When I read this, I imagined you had an English accent. That’s the only reason it came across as charming, and not stalkery. :) Also, I’ve never been afraid of anyone named “Linda.” But it came close.


  4. This is absolutely brilliant, and having spent most of my 32 years in Salisbury, I have often wondered what outsiders have thought of our strange little city. I’m also thinking I will probably know the woman you are going to tell us about!

  5. Well that was am interesting read ..however most of us that have lived here all our lives generally dont think its that great..i mean im 31 and have never actually been to visit stonehenge… Our town is becoming less about us and more about what is available due to who can even afford it! Its quite simple getting worse.. The countryside or what is left of it is probably the better part these days!

  6. Well that was am interesting read ..however most of us that have lived here all our lives generally dont think its that great..i mean im 31 and have never actually been to visit stonehenge… Our town is becoming less about us and more about what is available due to who can even afford it! Its quite simple getting worse.. The countryside or what is left of it is probably the better part these days!

  7. I live in London but grew up in Salisbury and never fully appreciated the innocence of our shop names! Great blog – look forward to the next instalment :)

  8. Mate this is hilarious i love your writing style , you still in Salisbury? if not where are you . Might be able to make a good recommendation or two , not that im trying to stomp all over your trip that is .

  9. Lindsay May Culkin Yes, I think the general trend is pretty much the same deal with Grass, Backyards & Greenness. The town looks so much more interesting than huge chunks of the states.

    Although this girl I was talking to at some (pub?) bar, one where you walked through the dance floor area (kinda) to get to an outside area with chairs? Anyway, she was saying the *big* problem with Salisbury is that everyone knows (and is in) everyone else’s business.

    1. Wait, explain that again? We say two streets together? For example, I grew up at 1624 NW 8th Avenue. That lets you know that it’s on the corner of 8th ave and 16th street. Super simple.

      Finding Blue Boar Row sounds like I need to find…a boar.

      1. That is so very true!!!! When did Woolworths go out of business? Because we still say things like “It’s down by Wollies” Lol

  10. Salisbury born and bred. Greatly looking forward to hearing about the dirty cunt lady. The Italian larger is ‘Peroni’. Much love.

  11. Very much enjoyed your blog and looking forward to part two. The Salisbury Magna Carta is in probably the best condition of the four remaining copies and celebrates its 800th birthday next year – a very good excuse for a beer should one be needed. Interesting to read the comments on here – I moved here eight years ago and have noticed that among my Smallsbury (for it is) born and bred chums there’s a significant proportion who really don’t like it. I would highly recommend spending some time living in another part of the country e.g. London to truly appreciate what is here and in the surrounding area and what a great place this is to live for quality of life (not only for the proximity to a World Heritage Site or two). Anyway, apologies in advance if it was me that said “call me a dirty cunt”. Awaiting part two with bated breath. Incidentally I’ll be in Gainesville FL next year… Perhaps a reciprocal blog?

    1. I don’t *think* it was you, although I’m afraid to name the person because I’m also about to out a little bit of personal history about her, and apparently everyone knows everyone’s business there so I think it’s best if she/you stay anonymous.

  12. Next time you come to Salisbury, look me up and we’ll arrange one of our legendary barbecues for you. You can meet a good cross section of Salisbury people then. :-). PS: My wife is called Linda :-)

    1. Do check out Music4Fun. Anything goes on our open mic nights, which are held on the last Thursday of every month. We only have two rules: 1. We are anti competitive – You won’t find a more friendly and supportive atmosphere anywhere. 2. We discourage the fear of making mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn! :-)

    1. Hmmm I can’t really decide how i feel about that until you tell me where you moved away -to-. Like, if you moved to antarctica and came back it’ll mean something different than if you moved to Milan and back, you know?

    2. Haha, well nothing so adventurous… I moved to a variety of places, all in the UK and none were as appealing to me as here… But if it helps clarify I did visit Milan, among lots of other places, and they were (mostly) all awesome, but still the sight of the spire and the higgeldy piggeldy roofs on my way back home is always the best sight of all.

  13. Ha! This was great ( I too am from Salisbury), only one question though- are wardrobes an English thing..!!? For some reason I find this really shocking!! xx 😉

    1. Yep, I don’t think I’ve *ever* seen a wardrobe in an American house. They seem heavy and very awkward to move about. If I bought a wardrobe I’d basically have to die in that house because there’s no way I could take it anywhere else.

  14. Glad you enjoyed Salisbury – a great place! I have family there & used to live there myself. I am sure you contributed something to all those you met! Looking forward to reading the next episode!

  15. I’m a bit surprised about your comment about seeing a lack of black people because there is quite a few in Salisbury now! My husband is black African though minus the dreadlocks! He moved here 8 years ago, I must admit then there was a pretty tiny black population. I live in a small village just outside of Salisbury and when my husband moved in with me he was the only black man in the village! It used to be pretty funny at the time, especially with the older generation of villagers! They’ve got used to him now though so its not so much of a novelty. Our son goes to a small village school and hes only one of 3 children in a school of about 100 children that is mixed race, 2 Carribean mixed and my son being African mixed. One thing is though he has never been racially abused and he is 7 years old now so I am glad he is being brought up to not think that he is that different to anyone else! Thats how it should be everywhere. Also ‘blacks’ and ‘white stuff’, we’ve never thought of it in a racial way, it hasnt even crossed our minds. The local market in Salisbury sometimes even sell Okra and Plantain on their fruit and veg stalls. Most people don’t realise what plantain is, so when they are trying to sell it ripe (as in black & mouldy looking) nobody buys it, but we come along and buy it because ripe plantain are the tastiest! I think people think they are just mouldy bananas! My husband has however experienced some racism over the years but nothing compared with what we both faced daily when we lived in Italy (I am white English not Italian by the way), Northern Italians are very racist and are very openly so! So for all of Salisburys faults when it comes to race relations we are doing quite well from first hand experience! Looking forward to reading your next post!

  16. The reason people refer to the U.S. As ‘The States’ is because you all do. We’ve grown up with imports from your tv referring to ‘Stateside’ ‘back in ‘The States’ or ‘It’s bigger/better/louder/more extravagant/unnecessarily massive sized heart killing burger meal size in ‘The States’.
    Nothing to do with colonialism at all, we’ll leave that to today’s ‘The States’.

    1. You know, you’re right. I tried to imagine *what else* would refer to it as and everything else seemed awkward or overly patriotic.

      “Well, back in the United States of America”
      “Well, back in the USA”
      “Well, back in America…”

      I think the truth of the matter is Americans don’t really think of themselves as Americans. We more frequently identify by our state or city, but I think that’s because we don’t live very international lives, by and large.

  17. Hey Phil, not sure if you’re still in Salisbury or if you’ve moved on in your travels… thought I’d let you know though that this blog post has gone kind of viral on social media amongst us permanent residents; we can’t wait to see the next installment.

    Just for the record our “garbage” collections are fortnightly!

  18. Fab insight from an ‘outsider’ to our city! It is a very weird place really when I think about it! Great read and I look forward to the next edition! Just got back from ‘the states’ myself, so have done the reverse tourism if you will! ‘Wow a 50 year old building, my how old…!!!’ Haha! Keep em coming! Thanks!

  19. Great read and to get a prospective from a visitors point of view…. We just take everything for granted!
    I live 3 miles from Stonehenge and never visited!
    Ps. Downtown has nothing to do with downtown abbey … But highclear castle in Berkshire is actually downtown abbey – about 45miles North of Salisbury ????

  20. This post cracked me up! I’ve lived in Salisbury all my life; it’s a city, but a very local, small one. All the Salisbury people who have commented on this post probably know each other – or if not, they have siblings who know each other! In fact, we all probably know the lady who asked you to call her a dirty cunt.
    Great post, I’ll be back to read the rest!

  21. Ah this is brilliant! Made me chuckle. I don’t live in salisbury, I’m from amesbury, home of Stonehenge. Did you visit here on your way through? Was funny to see you describe salisbury as a quaint town though. :)

  22. Great read! Look forward to reading ur nxt blog, I live in Amesbury now but im from a small village called Chitterne out on the plains ( no streetlights there ) xx

  23. Brill reading.. and quite true! I live 2 mins from Stonehenge but Salisbury born n bred. .. interesting how peeps find it so amazing my little ones can’t quite understand why the car park is always packed. . Even on boxing day! We’re a pretty friendly bunch (love how we do all have connections one way or another!) Look forward to the next installment ????

  24. haha loved reading this I was born n breed in downton ( nothing to do with downton abbey as there isn’t even a abbey there) but spent most my younger years thru to late teens in Salisbury. The reason y u probably never saw a black guy with dreads is because most the black guys that are around here r in the armed forces (so obviously have to keep their hair short)which is how I met my partner who has by the way now got dreads since leaving the army. Can’t wait for the next blog

  25. I live in salisbury :) looking forward to part 2
    I do hope you enjoy your stay ….. Now I’m saying that with a Yorkshire accent :) x

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