TOO CLOSE TO HOME

The terrible tragedy in Kensington last week caused me to once again ponder about the uncertainty and fragility of life.  It was the second most horrific event in London this month following the June 4th London Bridge terror attack and the Finsbury Park terror attack the other day.  In all three London atrocities, and particularly the blaze that ravaged the 24-storey residential building in west London, really did hit too close to home than I might want to admit, literally and figuratively, the realisation that a disaster can happen without an apparent warning.

On the 4th of June, eight people were killed and forty eight were injured when three men ploughed pedestrians with a van at London Bridge before slashing Londoners and tourists alike at Borough Market.  And then the Grenfell Tower blaze occurred ten days later; seventy nine people had been killed (as of today’s count), many people are still being treated at hospital, and no one knows for sure how many more remain unaccounted for.  Then five days later Londoners once again woke up to another terrible news — the Finsbury Park terror attack that killed one person and injured 10 people.

I could not even begin to imagine what the survivors as well as the victims’ families are going through right now.  It must be a dreadful experience.  Some have lost not just a family member and/or friends but also their homes and possessions.  Just the thought of it sent chills down my spine. 

It was wonderful though to hear the stories that people shared — the survivors who revealed their dramatic escape as well as the people who helped the victims.  How the emergency services arrived quickly and risked their own lives to save others.  How the doctors, nurses and other medical staff worked round the clock to help those severely injured.  How the neighbours and strangers from across England came together to distribute relief goods and reach out to the evacuees.  There are other tales of tragedy and heroism following the fire and terror attacks that were very touching and heartwarming.  They influenced many lives and made people feel loved and valued.

There’s a story about some of the residents in the tower hanging out of the windows crying out for help.  And a young woman who, out of desperation, dropped her baby from the window of her 10th floor flat and a man on the scene ran forward to safely catch the tot.  This poor mother got a backlash for what she did.  But she probably made the wisest decision she could ever make given the circumstance.  These are just some of the harrowing accounts in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.   

It’s a haunting experience to come upon the debris site as I was making my way closer to Grenfell Tower on Wednesday afternoon.  The fire trucks and other equipments were already removed, but pieces of the shattered building are still strewn across the neighbourhood while the emergency services are still trying to recover the remains of those who were trapped inside the tower.  It was heart-wrenching to see people huddled in small groups weeping together, some of them were waiting to hear some news about their loved ones; others were hopeful that the firefighters will be able to pull out from the ravages of fire any physical remains of a missing family member.

On my way back home I noticed the street sign ‘Clarendon Road’ — it leads to Holland Park, one of Britain’s wealthiest neighbourhood, and I thought about the evacuees, the homeless people who used to live at Grenfell Tower, most of them are London’s poorest and are on welfare or state benefits.  As I look back and saw the dark gutted tower block it dawned on me that Grenfell Tower is too close to Holland Park, that it is not that far away, yet it really is a world apart.

It’s not the first time that a blaze and a terror attack hit London, and sadly it’s not likely to be the last.  In fact, there is a serious danger of terror attack or other type of disaster and it could happen to any of us at any time.  It is indeed a sobering thought.  A week ago I stood on Grenfell Road astonished at the devastation; I then looked up at the bright blue skies and this passage came to mind, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV)As I stood there taking it all in while watching the firefighters come and go, I prayed for the victims and their families, the emergency rescue team on the ground, the government leaders and the British people as a whole.  I particularly prayed for the Christians around the country that they will continue to stand up for the truth and try to make a difference in the lives of others, and I ask the Lord to give peace to those who keep their faith and trust in Him.

There’s so much craziness going on around us — terrorism, persecution, violence, crime, economic uncertainty, etc.  We fear for our safety, we fear for our families, we fear for our financial future, and the list goes on.  There actually is so much we could potentially worry about.  But the scripture tells us to “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, KJV)

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Featured Image: BBC 

Spring Blooms in Notting Hill

Other than seeing blossoms, there are other things I am so thankful for when spring arrives in London.  For one thing, the sun finally makes an appearance; I get to wear my spring jackets and put away my winter coats!  Consequently, I get to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and get Vitamin D from sunlight.  The days are also longer with temperatures rising; the trees begin to burst back to life, and the flowers are blooming making the parks and the streets look a little bit more magical.

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Things I learned about the British Culture: Christmas Traditions (Part 2)

In this series: ‘Things I learned about the British Culture’ Part 1.
Before I moved to London I knew next to nothing about the Christmas traditions in the UK. I had no idea that the main Christmas meal is eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day; that the dinner table is decorated with Christmas Cracker; that people eat goose, brussel sprouts, pudding and mince pies for dessert (I thought mince pies were made with mince beef!), that they drink mulled wine, and that they tell their kids that their presents were from Santa. Seriously, every kid in the Philippines knew that Santa is a fake. Houses have no chimneys so how was he supposed to climb down to deliver the presents? Besides, it’s hard to believe that Santa is real when you see a skinny Filipino guy at the shopping malls or a hotel lobby dressed up in a red suit with fake cotton beard. 😆 Continue reading “Things I learned about the British Culture: Christmas Traditions (Part 2)”

Quintessential Mews in Notting Hill (2/2)

In my previous post I talked about how my fascination with mews housing came about, and how mews evolved from its lowly equine function to expensive homes. Continue reading “Quintessential Mews in Notting Hill (2/2)”

Quintessential Mews in Notting Hill (1/2)

Prior to my first London trip back in 1999 I had no idea what a ‘mews’ was.  My very first visit to a mews was in west London, at Jared’s family home, located in a quiet enclave called ‘White Swan  Mews’ in Chiswick.  But it’s not the typical Victorian period mews with a cobbled-street and two or three storey cottages.  White Swan Mews is a rather modern, a post-war era gated neighbourhood with three-storey houses and a spacious backyard garden. Continue reading “Quintessential Mews in Notting Hill (1/2)”

Things I have learned about the British Culture: They love to talk about the weather (Part 1)

Let’s face it, those of us who come from far flung countries like the Philippines or Japan, have no full comprehension of the British culture even after living in the country for over a decade. If you’re like me, the first few months of living here must have brought some culture shock to your system. And I’m not even talking about any difficulty you may have encountered in trying to understand the British accent (it can be a challenge), but rather I’m referring to the British way of life; how the Britons conduct themselves and what motivates them to behave in a certain fashion.  I deem the topic of such interest that I decided to do a series of post about all the things that I have so far learned about the British culture in the last sixteen years. I’ve lived in England that long, I’m afraid! 😉 Yet there are far too many things I don’t understand about my adopted country.  But let’s not even go there, I’m here to talk about the things I have come to fully understand and eagerly embrace.  Here’s the very first one . . . Continue reading “Things I have learned about the British Culture: They love to talk about the weather (Part 1)”

Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute

A ninetieth birthday is a remarkable achievement by any standards. But when the person celebrating also happens to be the longest reigning monarch in British history, it is an occasion worth celebrating. And that’s exactly what the members of the royal family did in this documentary to honour the Queen’s nine decades on earth.  Continue reading “Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute”

New Faith Family Children’s Home

Our visit to an orphanage was one of the highlights of our recent trip to the Philippines. I first heard about this place from my friend, Ann, who has been supporting this ministry for many years now. She brought us to Cainta to meet with Mr. Jeff Long, the founder/director of Kids International Ministries, who runs this place along with his wife and children. Jeff and his family have been living in the Philippines for over two decades now. He first came as a teacher at an international school and decided to quit his job to open up an orphanage. Jeff has shared with us a story that since he arrived in the country, he and his family have always give out food to the street kids. And one day as they were eating at McDonald’s, right after they’ve distributed meals to the street children, his oldest daughter asked him,”can’t we do more for this poor kids?” That’s how New Faith Family Children’s Home came into existence. Since then the Long family’s efforts continue in helping Filipinos see God in a tangible way by offering abandoned children/orphans homes, as well as community development which includes building houses, working with schools, sports camps, water projects, and community centers developed to reach a variety of needs for impoverished people in the community.

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Sky Garden: London’s Highest Roof Garden

London’s highest garden is located on top of the capital’s newest skyscraper, 20 Fenchurch Street, and it occupies three floors, 34th to 37th , and offers some of the most scenic and iconic views of the city. The building is the 5th tallest in the City of London Continue reading “Sky Garden: London’s Highest Roof Garden”

British Monarchy: Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II

Today, the 9th of September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II has become the longest reigning monarch in British history overtaking the record held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Over a period of 1,500 year history of the British Monarchy, there have been 66 monarchs and only these two have celebrated their Diamond Jubilees after six decades on the throne. Looking at similarities and differences of the two reigns, neither one of them expected to ascend to the throne, yet as the result of abdications and deaths, both found themselves crowned at remarkably young ages. Continue reading “British Monarchy: Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II”