By James Chow

Protected: Back to Church

I’ve been a Christian all my life, but I’m probably not one of God’s favourite followers.

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I only went to church twice during my entire time in Bristol. And even back in KL the number of times I’d been to church were pathetic. The only time when I’d diligently attend Sunday services were those when I was in Ipoh. Haha parents pressure!

But since I started living in London, I’ve been attending church with Rebecca quite frequently on Sundays whenever I was free. My attendance wasn’t too bad! This morning was the FIFTH Sunday I went to this church! Angel

Rebecca has been attending All Souls Church, Langham Place for many years now. So I was quite happy to not have to attend a new church as a complete stranger.

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All Souls Church is a member of the Church of England but to my surprise is very, very different from the other (two) Anglican churches in Bristol that I’d been to (not including visits to churches without attending service).Smile

My (very ignorant) impression of Anglican churches is that they follow rigid service routines, sing boring hymns, use pipe organs only for music, bishops wear traditional ‘priestwear’ and light up the altar with candles etc.

Oh and not to forget huge church buildings. HUGE.

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All Souls Church has nowhere as impressive an exterior as Bristol Cathedral (above), but everything else is exactly what I was looking for in a church.

The congregation size is large, but they’ve got friendly ushers and welcome groups. The worship hall is contemporarily designed, very spacious and has many large LCD screens to make sure that every member of the congregation, no matter where you sit, gets a nice view of the speaker and the stage.

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I think the most unique thing about this church (or maybe it’s everywhere and I’m just being naive) is that it combines both modern and traditional elements of a church:

It follows the traditional Anglican doctrine but adopts a modern, lively way of praise and worship with emphasis on youth and student ministry.

It has a classical-looking stone monument as the entrance hall (2nd pic above) but has very modern interior design and arrangement. Set on the stage wall is an oil painting of Christ which is a favourite of traditional cathedrals; contrasted by a futuristic, almost Star Trek-looking lectern in front of it in the middle of the stage.

And what I loved the most was their music! At the back of the gallery is a huge pipe organ used for hymns…

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… and at the front are the instruments that you would usually see in a contemporary church: drums, bass and electric guitar, keyboard and piano etc.

But once in a while, they would summon the entire orchestra (with everything from trombones to clarinets to cellos) for the worship service!

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It could be just me, or it could be that they’ve got just so many talented musicians (the Royal Academy of Music being so near by) that their praise and worship music is soooo incredibly moving!Angel

In fact, they’ve got a huge annual event (called Prom Praise) featuring the All Souls Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall this year.

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Huge event … I mean this huge:

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IMBA right? I mean, I’m a not a huge fan of mega churches and I sincerely do not think All Souls is a mega church… although it is very close to being one.

Churches are supposed to facilitate personal growth and foster fellowship among its members. Mega churches run the risk of having a huge proportion of their members being entirely inactive in their activities other than Sunday services.

I think All Souls is doing a pretty good job in addressing that risk in that they’ve got loads of weekly activities, and they do indeed put in extra effort to welcome international students and tourists – something that not all churches are eager to do in practice.

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OMG it’s been so many years since I’ve been regularly going to church. Vampire bat

If you see me in hell please don’t bother to say hi.

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By James Chow

Protected: Halloween and Goals

It’s Halloween and I’ve just got home and extremely tired so this is gonna be a short post. Smile

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A group of friends was coming over to London all the way from Bristol to party and I had planned to draw some really cool stuff up on my face before heading out. However, I got stuck to the TV by the Chelsea v. Man U match which was so freaking awesome, you know, with penalties and extra time and stuff…

In the end Chelsea won 5-4. Nine goals in a game! Can you imagine that? Something is wrong lately, like the goal-o-meter is broken or something because just yesterday Arsenal defeated Reading 7-5. How often do you see twelve goals in a game?!

I’ve been watching quite a lot of football since I moved to Rebecca’s place, which has a TV. I love how the live matches are in the afternoon or evening and not freakin’ 3AM in the morning! Open-mouthed smile

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It was already 10.30PM when the match finally ended and I was already late. I abandoned the makeup, rushed onto the tube and headed straight to Piccadilly Circus. The tube was filled with walking zombies and hot drunk vampires.

The area around Soho was jam packed with party monsters in all sorts of crazy costumes. Unfortunately, taking lots of pictures is apparently an ‘uncool’ thing to do especially when none of my friends brought cameras, so I refrained.

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I need to just quickly say this: I hate walking through the streets of Soho on my own at night! As I was waiting for my friends, I was approached by an uncountable number of hookers and pimps asking me if I wanted sex, and dudes asking if I wanted to buy weed.

I figured I must have looked really horny or something. The same thing happened in Amsterdam when I was there with Ameer.

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We were walking in the heart of the red light district and I was always being targeted as a potential customer, as though there was a sign on my face that said I was needy. Ameer, on the other hand, was mostly left alone. This makes me think a lot of Asians might have been regular customers and therefore Asian faces are all high in their prospective customer list. Hot smile

Anyway back to tonight, a friend’s friend booked a table at the Picadilly Institute and managed to put us on the guest list, which was good because the walk-in queue was almost the length of the building!

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It was a pretty awesome night. The megaclub had five (or six) dance rooms which rivalled even the Matrix Club in Berlin. Prices, however, were expensive and the place was a bit overcrowded. I met a number of really cool costumes that night, including an Ash Ketchum and a Pikachu! Red heart

I had to leave earlier because I had to catch the last tube back to Stratford. Although I loved the Halloween atmosphere here, I kinda miss last year’s Halloween in Bristol where my flatmates and I had a quiet but blissful night carving pumpkins.

Can you guess which one is mine? Rolling on the floor laughing

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Gotta sleep now. Nites!

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By James Chow

Protected: I Am SO Failing My Driving Test

Just finished my FIFTH driving lesson today and I am still sure that I will fail the practical driving test if I took it now.

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“Fifth lesson only?”, you ask?

Please bear in mind that I’ve driven a car for over FIVE YEARS, and almost daily in the last three years of my undergraduate life – plus ZERO accidents with me behind the wheel. Smile

I passed my theory test and hazard perception test weeks ago, effortlessly. I was sure that I needed no more than 3-4 practical driving lessons and I’d be good to take on the practical driving test.

Boy, was I wrong.

Two weeks ago, before I started my lesson, I smugly told my instructor that I’d never driven in the UK but had many years’ experience driving in Malaysia. I confidently assured him I just needed a quick brushing up on the test manoeuvres and familiarising myself with the road conditions in London and that’s pretty much all. I also didn’t forget to boast that I passed my theory and hazard perception tests with very high scores. Hot smile

The instructor seemed impressed and told me that in that case I wouldn’t need more than seven or eight lessons before the test.

Seven or eight lessons LOL! I scoffed in my head as I adjusted the interior mirror. I’ll show him.

As I pulled out the instructor reminded me to use the signal lights. I checked the road: it was deserted. Nevertheless, I took his advice because I knew examiners would be very particular about small stuff like this.

I continued driving but as I was turning around a corner, the instructor told me that the way I turning the steering wheel was wrong. I was bewildered: how in the world do you turn a steering wheel WRONG!? You just turn!

Apparently neither of my hands should cross the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock points of the steering wheel. He showed me the proper way to do it: I was supposed to hold both hands on either side of the wheel and do a rather stupid upward and downward sliding movement that I’d only seen bus drivers use. It looked like some kind of weird taichi move.

Plus, I was not supposed to let the power steering drift back to the straight position after turning and instead taichi it back!

Later, I stopped at a perfectly level junction waiting for some cars to pass before moving on. I dunno, like 6 seconds stop on a flat ground. My instructor said I had to engage the hand brake. … WHO THE HELL DOES THAT?!

I know… it’s to prevent the car from sliding back in case we stopped on a slope. But dude, if we did stop on a slope, I would have known! Even if we didn’t, my foot was on the brake pedal!! Baring teeth smile

Regardless, I courteously obliged.

Then I was approaching a red light and as usual I stepped on the clutch far before I reached it to – you know – in case the light changes, I’d be able to change gears quickly and zoom pass it. OR, if some bloody queue-jumping car wants to cut in in front of me, I’d be able to immediately engage 2nd gear and accelerate to block his selfish ass. All without wasting a friggin’ 0.5 second to move my foot onto the clutch and step on it! You know what I’m talking about right? Everybody does it!

Plus, it saves fuel when the clutch is disengaged! Less engine drag means you’re left with more momentum = less acceleration = save $$$! Rolling on the floor laughing

BUT NO.

Apparently I had to slow down in high gear like a n00b (no ‘coasting’), give way to whichever asshole who’s trying to jump your queue, use the signal lights even if it is bloody obvious you’re on a left-turn lane, and depress the clutch only right before you stop.

And hand brake, man. Don’t forget the goddamn hand brake. Annoyed

Okay I know… All these are for the protection of transmission and gears, safety issues blah blah blah, and I can vaguely remember myself having to do all these many years ago when I was learning to drive in Malaysia. I swear they didn’t seem so annoying and stupid back then.

Anyway, everything got like ten times worse when I started practising the manoeuvres: three-point-turn, reversing around a corner, and parallel parking. These manoeuvres were supposed to be peanuts coz I’d been doing them for ages back in Malaysia, WITH PERFECTION.

But with the introduction of all those petty stuff that most drivers justifiably neglect, I found myself struggling just to perform a UK DSA-approved 3-point-turn.

All the mandatory signalling, keeping a precise distance from the curb, deliberately stretching my neck to show that I was checking the mirrors, and having to friggin’ engage the handbrake all the fking time (THREE times in a three-point-turn, imagine doing that in real city traffic) was absolutely driving me nuts.

And all this while we were just driving in sub-urban London. What will happen when we actually hit the city centre?

Observing my exasperated face, my instructor gently remarked: “Don’t worry, it’s always more difficult when you’ve had experience driving. The small habits just stick on.”

I thought back at how confident I had been at the beginning of the lessons and felt like a fool.

He however encouraged me by saying that my vehicle control skills were good and I just needed to weed out the bad habits and I’d be ready for the test.

I hope he’s right. Driving lessons are expensive and I’m so desperate to earn my driving license here and get over with this rubbish.

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