#TryAlpha: Week One of the Alpha course


A car horn honked at me. In a daze, I’d wandered into an active driveway. Standing in front of the enormous church, decorated with fairy lights and a giant walk-through “WELCOME” sign, I was already kinda nervous. It’s not every Wednesday you finish work early to go to an Anglican Christianity-conversion course. Was my idle wandering into the road a subconscious message? Maybe. I joined the queue.

This is my first Alpha. I’m stood outside Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), freaking out.

Alpha is considered by the kind of people who take time out to consider this kind of thing, the most successful introductory course to Christianity since Jesus himself got chatting down the local fishery. There are, predictably, people who treat a Church-led course in spiritually as a bit, well, cult-y (two notable examples include this article by Jon Ronson, and this -poorly researched, imho- VICE article). I was here to test the waters myself.

Why am I here? Well, since I moved to London, I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis. Not like the one on the Alpha ads, where a dude who looks like he’s been holding in a really serious poo for too long asks important life-changing questions like “Is this it?” and “Pub or gym?”. No, my existential crisis is of a slightly more personal nature, and probably more to do with a lingering sense of loneliness since I moved away from all of my family and friends. I’m not hoping to find God, I’m not looking to be saved. I’m just curious about how other people can find solace and comfort in a religion. Plus I heard there’s free food.

alpha advert

Once assigned to a discussion group, I was led inside by a guy wearing a red t-shirt with “A-Team” emblazoned on the arm. Alpha’s pioneer Nicky Gumbel stood next to his wife Pippa. They both beamed at the enormous crowd. “Welcome!”

The talks were comforting. Nicky and Pippa told us to enjoy ourselves, that Alpha was intended to be a respectful and open place to discuss our thoughts about the meaning of life. They encouraged us to listen to, question and befriend our group members. A woman sang Amazing Grace. Nicky invited artist and once-ardent-athiest Charlie Mackesy to the stage to give a funny and charming speech. I tucked into my butternut squash

Speeches over, I feel relaxed. Mackesy spoke sense, took the piss out of Christianity a little, and had the audience charmed. It seems a lot less culty now. With a bit of chair reshuffling, we join our groups again, where cake and coffee is passed round. We play a name game, led by our host and her two helpers.

The atmosphere is a little awkward. We’re all here to dissect God in someway, and it becomes clear that athiests are in the minority. Which makes sense, really. What would an athiest be doing at a Church course? I take a moment to judge my decision to be here.

What if I’m the only person in here that doesn’t believe in God? That thinks all religion is a well-meaning, ancient system created by flawed people and exploited for war, money, selfishness? That thinks gays and women aren’t inherently sinners? That would rather blog than pray? I scan my group with my Christianity-radar set to HIGH.


Our host invites us to ask broad questions about God. After a silence, someone offers up “Why is there suffering?”. I sigh inwardly, wanting more in depth questions. I fire off “If god exists, how does he manifest himself in the world?”. The group nods, and falls back into silence. More questions are asked, with our host taking notes and sagely nodding at our queries. After a particularly long pause, she suggests the group breaks up and heads to the pub. Class dismissed.

A few conversations persist, then we all disperse out of the church. I had fun. I want to go back, to ask antagonistic questions and to compare the Christian answers with my own. I’m pleased with, but still slightly wary of the whole setup. I wonder if I’ll stick it out for the full ten weeks, or if something dramatic is going to happen. I make a mental note to ask one of the helpers where she got her shirt from next week. It was a nice shirt.


The awkward relaunch: I’m back, internet.

There aren’t very many ways to relaunch a blog without coming off as a little bit of a wimp, or at worst, nauseatingly self-important. So with that in mind, try to forgive this awkward-first-post-in-months. Here goes…

EverySecondSong.com is dead. I’m kinda sad about it, because it was genuinely a big part of my life at university, but I am an actual grown-up now who doesn’t get attached to virtual spaces full of passive aggression. I didn’t even cry the first time I tried to log on and found out the domain name had been bought by a Japanese acne supplement supplier. Really.

After I lost the domain name, I decided to take the internet’s hint and go on a blogging break. Honestly, blogging had become a drain. I surprised myself by letting what was essentially a side-project take over my day-to-day life. I started feeling guilty for not posting more,  I started taking a picture of EVERY SINGLE MEAL I ate, and my life had got boring. Seemingly everyone I knew was making the most of the sweet cushy months of post-exams and pre-un/employment, still funded by the remains of their student loans, and I was spending every weekend lingering around the Morrisons reduced section. Not much fun to blog about.

So I took a break. Cleared my mind, and started actually eating my food instead of just bloody Instagramming it. I got on with the big move to London, and slowly refuelled my desire to get back into writing.

Fast-forward a month or so, and I started pestering my boyfriend to set up a new site for me. After several terrible name ideas, I’ve settled on hellofarrah. It’s corny, a little bit of a cliché, and is a bit lame. But the best alternative, courtesy of my mother’s imagination, was ‘farrah-and-away’, and I just couldn’t bring myself to use my name as a pun.

And that brings us to this post. The new site is set up (thanks, Jonathan), the new name isn’t totally crap (thanks for trying, mum) and I finally feel like blogging again. Apologies, internet. For better or worse, I’m back.



Floating over Barcelona


Having trekked up a cruel amount of dusty steps to get the the peak of Montjuic, Barcelona’s home to museums, viewpoints and the old Olympic site, there was no way on earth you could tempt me and Beth to hike back down again.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to set up camp there for the indefinite future, as the nice folks at Montjuic provide a handy little cable car service.

There are two cablecar routes; one around the massive Montjuic itself, and one that acts as a courier between the peak of the hill, overlooking the Med, and Barceloneta beach. They depart from different points, so double check you’re getting onto the right route. We opted for the Barceloneta route, because otherwise we would have never made it down the hill again.


The views are just gorgeous. As you’re hovering over the ports, you’re treated to panoramic views of the city. On a clear day (-though is any day unclear in BCN?), you can see for miles. It’s such a lovely feeling, swooping (slightly faster than imagined) over the city, spotting the landmarks and pointing out your hotel. What a cool alternative way to see the city.


Depending on your route and whether you want a round trip, tickets cost between 10-17 euro, our one-way to Barceloneta was 11 euro. It’s a little steep (no pun intended) if you’re on a mega budget, as the whole journey lasts around ten minutes one way, but for the most part I’d say it’s worth it. How often do you get to float above a beautiful city, after all?



Don’t talk to strangers – or do

In London, there are secret rules.

Breaking them ousts you as an outsider, letting everyone in the immediate vicinity know that you’re a foolish, flailing tourist. They stir up feelings of mild contempt or pure raging hatred, depending on how serious the crime.

London is in fact designed specifically to identify outsiders- from impossible-to-pronounce towns to those pointless Open Door buttons on all tubes (HINT- none of them work, it’s just a sinister TFL ploy to reveal newbies to the entire carriage).

By far the biggest London rule, however, is to NEVER SPEAK TO ANYONE. Ever. Even if you’re squished up against their face between King’s Cross and Moorgate. Even if their rucksack just smacked you in the face. Especially not if you’re in the queue for something. What are you, some sort of sociopath?

**Top London Tip**: It’s really fun to break this rule.

So I bought a (toy) lion at the Zoo Late a week or so back, and being the cheapskate I am, refused to pay for a plastic bag to carry him home in. And as it turns out, being on a train full of drunk people while you’re carrying a toy lion is a great icebreaker.

We (me and my lion) were being mercilessly stared at. It was getting awkward. I had to break the rule. “I don’t just carry him around everywhere” I announced, startling a commuter who had been snoozing. The couple sat across from me caught my eye and started laughing. The man sat next to them, who was almost certainly a drug dealer, asked me what my lion was called. He suggested Tony, a la the Kellogs adverts. I pointed out that Tony was in fact a tiger, but nice try. More people laughed.

I sat quietly for the rest of my trip, feeling really bloody pleased with myself. I must be hilarious, I thought, sauntering down Shepherd’s Bush. I’d always secretly known I was a comedic genius, but these Tube strangers confirmed it for me. In two simple quips I’d made at least seven people in laughter. This must be what Peter Kay feels like all the time. I rang my boyfriend to tell him the good news.

A few days later, after a particularly bad night’s sleep, I nipped to the shop to get some milk. Yawning as I passed over my money, the guy commandeering the till asks me “Still in bed?”. I reply, “Yeah, and going straight back to it”, cue a ripple of laughter from him, the guy stocking the tobacco shelf, and the woman behind me in the queue. Wow, I thought, smiling, that wasn’t even that funny. Maybe because no one in London talks to each other, when they do make the slightest joke, it’s actually hilarious… I’m coming back here again.

I think London is dangerous for my ego.