One term down…

As you’re well aware (because you all live and you have heard it repeated innumerable times): time flies!


This time last year I had just left Jordan, where I had stayed for 3 months, university felt like a long way off. Now I have completed my first term of my Arabic and Economics degree. One term down, 11 more to go!


When people find out what my degree is, they then ask me what I want to do (and almost always make a joke about spies or oil) to which my honest answer is: I just want to make it through.


Not to be pessimistic, but one term of university has solidified this as my outlook: I need to pass first before thinking about anything else.

Not that I’m currently failing, but it is jolly hard work, and I would much rather be aware of the extent to which I must apply myself in order to succeed, than to be thinking only of my next step.

I cannot just see this degree as a stepping-stone to something else; at current it is my number one responsibility.


This opportunity to be in a place with the predominant purpose of study is such a privilege; I have never enjoyed studying as much as I have this term.


Sounds a bit lame, but indulge me.


Never before have I had to apply myself to a subject in the way I do with Arabic. In school, you are given the basis of what you need to know, you are taught it, you do some individual study on it, then you sit an exam on it. There’s a right and a wrong. There are limits on what you need to understand.

University is nothing like this. You cannot know all there is to know about your subject, particularly with a language, thus you reap exactly what you sow in terms of reward for your studies. (Although in my case it so far feels like an awful lot of unproductive sowing with no reaping whatsoever!)


One can always study more, so the complaint of ‘I have nothing to do’ is constantly and completely invalid.

This has been such a blessing for me, as I despise feeling like I have nothing to do, and far prefer intensity to relaxation (which is occasionally to my downfall).


Surprisingly, I sometimes find myself having has such a busy run of things that I actually desire a few hours in which to do nothing! This is partially why I have not been ‘partying’ more than a couple of times; by the time the evening comes around I’d far rather be in pyjamas eating cake and watching The Crown! #jussayin


Even if I had no studying to do, there would still be an ample supply of opportunities to keep me busy for London is full to the brim of places to explore, galleries to see, foods to eat… I love it.

There are many terrible and tragic things about London too, but that makes me love it more, as it exemplifies the living nature of the city and makes me feel for it, and for the joys and the brokenness of the lives it contains.


Regardless of the wealth of opportunities to be had, and of the seemingly unending new discoveries to be made here, true to human nature and it’s long for routine, I have formed a few London favourites.


Regent’s Park is one; I just adore it. Other than at my halls and university, the majority my time is spent in the park, meandering along the paths, through the leaves, and by the lake.

One thing though: I do wish people would stop mollycoddling the squirrels, they’re vile! (The squirrels not the people…)


The architecture here is something else that makes my heart (and eyes) happy. When you look above the modern entrances to shops and offices, you see the most glorious melange of buildings. The beautiful old brickwork sitting adjacent to bizarre modern constructions makes for a fascinating patchwork city.


My church, Grace London, is another. I’m so thankful for this church family, it means I am incapable of feeling homesick (at least for long). If you’re a Londoner seeking a church, I cannot recommend it highly enough.


A more recent discovery of mine is ‘The Late Shift’ at the National Portrait Gallery. Every Friday evening one can go along and draw in one of the rooms, all materials provided. I went along last night, and 2 hours passed in what felt like 10 minutes. Very therapeutic.


Another thing: London does Christmas lights so magnificently. Once you put out of your mind the disgusting amount of money and energy that goes into the light displays, it really is a thing to behold.



So, one term in and I love my course, my church and my city.

The blessings are too many to count. Thank you, God!



The commuter


In London people don’t so much walk as they do rush.

Regardless of whether you’re a highflying businessman, without a home, or one of this generation’s top minds, you’re all savages when it comes to getting where you’re going.

It’s a bit frightening to think about the selfishness people display when they are rushing about, particularly when you consider how much power that individual may possess over the welfare of others. I hope they don’t push people out of the way and step on the back of their heels when they’re in the boardroom or lecture theatre, that’s for sure.

What’s worse is the way you become normalised we are to this as Londoners. We may not like it, but we accept it and soon enough we imitate it. London’s pace and pushiness seeps into one’s psyche seemingly overnight; perhaps it is inhaled along with the fumes of vehicles and clouds of smoke.

But why are we in such a rush? Why are we so inconsiderate of other’s journeys? We care so desperately about our own agenda that we single-mindedly plough on through living breathing human beings, without thinking twice about where they might be going, or how they be feeling that day, or what might be happening in their personal lives.

My pastor said in his preach this Sunday “you are least likely to see need when you are in a rush”, and how true this is. When you are rushing, you are consumed with yourself, with your present ‘need’ of getting wherever. If you slow your pace a fraction, you will be amazed at how much more there is to take in than the slow man in front of you with a suitcase that you’re eager to overtake.

There are far greater needs in this city than speed.


The step counter


The advance of modern technology has made it possible to collect data on pretty much anything, including the amount of steps one takes in a day.

10,000 steps daily is given as the marker of an ‘active’ lifestyle, causing many people to take it upon themselves to try desperately hard to reach this target. They feel some sense of achievement, I believe, when they accomplish this number, as if it adds to their sense of worth. Perhaps it is consoling for them, making them feel that- at least today- they were a better person because they succeeded in fulfilling someone else’s definition of ‘active’.

We’re so busy counting our steps, have we bothered to stop and consider if our steps count? How are you spending your daily steps? With each step, what is achieved?

Are you walking around the office to get your extra steps, or to encourage that colleague you know is struggling?

Are you pacing through life hitting business targets, taking Instagram worthy pictures, and looking good? Or are you taking time to appreciate those around you, to look out for those who might need you?

What’s more valuable to you, do you think: completing 15000 steps in a day that you went to work, did your work, came home, went for a run, and interacted with no one on level deeper than ‘yeah good thanks, how was your weekend?’ or only completing 1500 steps in a day spent with someone you know is lonely?


The stranger


The density of the population in London means that pavements are often crowded, meaning as an observer you are never sure who is walking with whom, and who is walking alone. I have seen beauty and sorrow in this.

A man and woman may be walking along the same piece of pavement in the same direction; the man pulls a suitcase. At a first glance, one could judge that perhaps he has picked her up from the station, or he is visiting, or he is leaving. Then, one of their paces changes, and before you know it the man is yards in front of the lady you presumed to be connected to him.

This is beautiful because it reminds me of how we are united in our humanity; the fact that I could assume that two people had a relationship is a reminder to me that we all have the capability of forming relationships. Every person you walk past has a life of their own, in which there is a personal storyline of friendships, hobbies, jobs, and passions.

But it is saddening because so many people are isolated. For the huge amount of people, London can be a very lonely place. Most people are pursuing their own personal something with such diligence that anyone else is of secondary importance.

Why are our agendas more important than any others?



All of these observations of movement, and the problems I see within each, come back to the concept of community or lack thereof.


Without community, we walk alone. We rush, we set goals, we reach them, and we cross paths with people then go our separate ways. But what have we achieved?


Community ensures that when you fall, there is someone to pick you up. Community welcomes in the lonely, the ill, the anxious, all with open arms.

Community protects the individual, sees the individual, loves the individual.

Community ensures that you never walk alone.

Community makes your journey meaningful.

As we enter this Christmas season, I urge you to reflect on where you find your community, and to consider who might be looking to you to provide them with theirs.


I have found that all these pure and beautiful aspects of community in one man: Jesus Christ.

Jesus left the splendour of heaven in order to come to this earth, to live among his creation, and to die a death which would restore humanity into community with God.

We had been separated from God due to our human mess- our lying, our selfish hearts, our cruel thoughts-, for how could sin dwell with perfection? But, in taking the punishment for the sins of the world upon his shoulders as he died on the cross, Jesus took away the blame from us. When he rose from the dead three days later, this marked the triumph of God over death, and the hope for all who believe that we have been restored into a loving relationship, into community, with him forever.

Because Jesus lives, community is.



If you want to ask me anything about my beliefs, or to find out more about Jesus, do not hesitate to be in contact.


London 1: brief update

Despite the silence, I’ve had some inspired ideas for blog posts during the last month. None of these have come to fruition because no matter how lovely the concept, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to coherently express it even if I’d tried.


That is because my brain is ‘noodle soup’, as my friend Paulina so eloquently expresses.

It is a jumbled mess of letters and squiggles and thoughts and words and faces and sounds and places and times and dates and most of it is in Arabic (well… in something vaguely resembling that wonderful, frustrating language).


I’m into week 4 of my studies *update since began this wretched thing: week 5*, the momentum of which has been dramatically increasing with every day of further study, so much so that I feel physically out of breath when I think about it (okay not really but creative license etc.).


Back in week 1, one of my professors spent the entire first hour of our time together explaining how ‘Arrrabic is not a subject, it is an arrrrt, a way of life’ Rs rolled for emphasis of courrrrse. The ‘way of life’ part is for sure, I go to sleep thinking about Arabic and wake up still thinking about it (I usually only stop thinking about it around the time my professors start to talk about it, which is terribly unfortunate and highly inconvenient).

And it’s also true that it is something of an art; what a beautiful language. Each word can be traced back to a root of 3 consonants, from which are derived a whole family of nouns, verbs, adverbs, particles, passives, yadayadayada.

I do love it. But man is it hard- there are so many flippin’ grammar rules. And to those rules are, naturally, numerous exceptions.


In fact, when I downloaded my Economics task sheet and saw that the first question was solving equations I nearly squealed in delight because it was such a welcome relief to conjugating.


On the extracurricular side of things I have found the plethora of potential activities so overwhelming. You would have thought that choice would be liberating, but turns out that I find too much of it crippling. Rather than just choosing a few things to do, I curl up into a ball and put my defensive spikes up in case anyone tries to invite me to yet another activity.


Don’t worry; I am getting involved in things other than study though. Routine has emerged right in time for reading week to go and mess it up again.


But, seriously: I am adoring being in London, and feel incredibly privileged to be studying in a city that I can learn so much in about the world. Where people are, there are ideas and cultures intermingled; creativity and entrepreneurship can blossom and thrive. Exciting!


I’m going to stop now and get on with posting this, else I’ll ramble on too long, get sidetracked, and forget about it again.


Keep well!