Monday, 13 November 2017

Hotel life: In the mastery of charlatanry

For I looked for a hook
For a man shall endure many tribulations and suffer indignities too numerous to mention for the shame of having lived through those experiences, but none of this is the sum of a life that is a journey of amazing discovery that puts dreamland into the shade.
Down in Berkshire on the recent sojourns that have taken me far away from home in search of professional expression, I took lodgings in a budget hotel that provided not as much a hook to hang my coat or jacket that hangers would be a luxury.
Yet, with a fridge, cooker and microwave oven you find some home comforts in the midst of the inconvenience. The bathrobe hook on the inside of the bathroom door has found a new purpose, one finds the means to improvise.
Smokers of weed run riot
On returning from work this evening, I found a scruffy note snuck under my door which I thought was offering to clean my room at a later time because I left a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the doorknob.
The speed at which disgust and rage cross my visage cannot be measured by the eye when on reading the note, there was the suggestion I had been smoking in my room.
Staying in a budget hotel does not mean I have the temperament for provincial budget behaviour borne of the mastery of charlatanry that informed whoever came to that conclusion on matters in my accommodation. The smoke alarm did not go off, no one should have entered my room in my absence and the window was closed, so you do wonder how they ever knew that I was smoking.
No suffering this gladly
I was smoking for four years until 33 years ago and that is by no means yesterday. There is a time I would have in a fit of pique moved out of that hotel without delay, something I have done many times before, but I calmed myself down, tried to find a funny side to it, fired off an email to the hotel proprietor demanding an apology and then sat to write this blog.
One does suffer silently the inflictions of ignorance and stupidly in many places, yet, none of it must be suffered too gladly. They have beyond my stay lost custom and a customer out of either incompetence or ineptitude, I did not leave the comfort of my home to be heaped upon with a travesty.


Monday, 6 November 2017

In maternal discomfiture

In maternal dispute
Just about 6 months ago, I went for a neurological diagnostic test just to ensure that my concerns about memory and reaction were not a systemic degeneration of my capabilities, though for what I had noticed about my concerns I had designed elaborate compensations for.
It so happened that all my considered reflexes and powers of recall were fine even if order and precision were not exact, my consultant did not think there was a problem. However, he did recommend I do a barrage of blood tests just to determine if there were other treatable conditions to assess.
The results of the blood tests suggested a Folic Acid Anaemia Deficiency (FAAD) for which I was to take Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid supplements.
Keeping the flu at bay
To deal with the FAAD, I got Folic Acid 400 µg from the pharmacy and was not particularly comfortable with the label that suggested it was for pregnant women as it contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. As it transpires, everyone needs Folic Acid for cell growth and development, and this should be obtained sufficiently from diet except when pregnancy demands more than is supplied in the diet.
This morning I called my General Practitioner to schedule my influenza vaccine which I took for the first-time last year and has on the recommendation of my consultant to be taken annually. I was given an immediate appointment from an hour hence and I walked up two streets to see the nurse.
When I was called in, after the basic formalities of my identity and a few questions about reactions and allergies, she brought the vaccine out of the fridge, pricked the upper shoulder muscle of my left arm and injected me. I am usually surprised at how they call the prick of a needle a scratch because it is not. However, the needle is quite thin that it rarely bleeds after the injection.
In maternal balance
Then I asked about a possible Vitamin B12 injection booster that my consultant told me of at our last meeting in September, but the nurse needed to see recent blood tests to be sure of whether that was necessary. Going through me online file, she found a recent letter from my consultant which indicated my FAAD issue had gone and my readings had returned to normal.
To be honest, I was not keen on the Folic Acid supplements and I only took fortified cereals for breakfast for a few weeks. I am not a breakfast person, but I was glad to learn of the development, though surprised that I had not yet received a letter from my consultant about my latest blood tests from September.
A slight discomfort from the injection and I will be fine.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Thought Picnic: Collecting moments that appreciate

Recollecting moments
A lull in blogging lasting almost 3 weeks is not the absence of anything to write or say. A lot has been going on in my little corner of the world, stories and events shared with people I am close to and those who have recently become friends.
Being away from home for work, barely having enough to get by, successes in thorny situations, affirmation coming from peers and much else, all appear to give meaning, purpose and vitality to life and living.
Appreciating moments
Then October has also become a stranger month, of the celebrations of many births and the solemnity in the remembrance of a passing to the Great Beyond. All this together just created a sense of withdrawal and disinterest, the urge that fuels the need to write completely diminished that apart from November last year, you have to go back to some months in 2005 to see a less prolific blogging activity.
Even realising this, it is probably the first time I have not been overcome with angst about my quietness, days have come and gone as lived experiences without the distraction of needing to capture it for posterity. Sometimes, the experience matters more than the record, the memory is simply enriched with that moment.
We are blessed with the moment, let those moments not be lost to needless distractions.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

How climbing up the rungs of failure was my ladder to a successful career

Thoughts on how I was taught
If I had the charm and the gab, I probably would be in a professionally different place, but it really does not bother me, I love what I do.
It is strange that in deciding on a career, the many ideas that came to me were not so inspired by some passion, but by example, the example of the passions or decisions of others. I dreamt of being a brain surgeon or an avionics engineer, I never really caught the bug for the grades, especially in additional mathematics, my teachers did not have the tinder that when lit caused me to combust to a cinder.
How I would have loved to master French, I was teaching myself from a book in primary school until we landed in the cane-wielding tutelage in Mr Okonji in secondary school, his sadistic pleasure was to see us parrot French phrases contorted in pain from the beating he generously administered urging us to study. His nickname became Study-Study, he was a nasty piece of work and a bad teacher.
Wailings and failings
After secondary school, I toyed with the idea of Quantity Surveying after a brilliant uncle but ended up on a Chemical Engineering course by the persuasion of an old student. I did not get far with the course; one lecturer was so German in speech and mannerism than to be understood and more than half the class failed mathematics that the engineering department had to lay out special classes to pull us up.
Gbenga Daniel who eventually became the governor of Ogun State was the acting Head of Department and besides learning chess and playing Scrabble, I made nothing of that year. I, however, learnt enough to realise that I was more interested in Electrical Engineering as a gateway to electronics and computing, so as I failed that year and was asked to withdraw, I was admitted as almost the youngest in the class at another more prestigious polytechnic.
After three years there, student politics, religion and somewhat undiagnosed depression, 4 years after secondary school I had no further paper qualification beyond secondary school in Nigeria where the comparison with other failures was the persuasive force towards greater achievement. I was a lost child.
Mentored by one who knew the way
A year out and away from the overbearing influence of my very successful parents, but a ward of an uncle who knew failure young and with luck, good fortune and opportunity had become one of the leading insurers in Nigeria, I began to build my life again, not out of comparison to other failures, but in the spirit of knowing what could be possible for me, if I put my heart and mind to it.
The belief in me, culled the depression, managed the anxiety, emboldened my daring and sense of adventure and though, on my first day back at school, my junior in secondary school was 3 years ahead of me, I neither flinched nor shirked, I faced what I had to do, with dignity and purpose. The little detail that this junior was the very person I first wielded the power of secondary school seniority on, was a minor lesson of karma that I refused to allow consume me.
This was my second spring, no more the youngest in class that I had been from primary school through secondary school into two years of school after, I was a mature student with more knowledge of how tertiary education worked than most of my colleagues. I led the class, represented my colleagues and brooked no nonsense from either veteran students or lectures. Some came to respect the confidence and authority I exuded. In controversy, I was as measured as I was revolutionary, persuading rather than being confrontational. It served me well.
Mastery in immersion
I graduated with good grades, 7 years after secondary school and I landed in a job market without the influence peddling or favours I once could call upon out of the patronage of my father or the precociousness of my youth. Well shod for the roads of Lagos, with the choice of the industrial motors or stepper motors, I chose the latter and every computer outfit I could find I walked into asking for a job.
I had decided, I was the only one who could best represent myself and that is how I walked into this building that housed IT Systems and I was offered a job there and then. Like a sponge for knowledge, I learnt all I could about Personal Computers, repaired circuit boards, fixed software problems, taught myself desktop publishing and within a year, I went into self-employment consultancy and no one thought was a smart thing to do.
It was the smartest thing I ever did, it is strange to know that in 29 years of working in the computer industry, I have only been in permanent employment for 7 years, I suppose I have never been a corporation man, like my father was or anyone else that could have been a mentor, I was also not an apparatchik, my entrepreneurial skills are hardly top notch, but I hope I have been able to sell a skill that helps organisations achieve goals of efficiency, usability and affordability of computer solutions.
Questioning and listening
That is what I enjoy about my job, big problems reduced to simple solutions, thinking in ways that could be silly, mad and interesting, being the clown and exhibiting the furrows of a frown and then we go to town with something of renown. In large and small firms, meeting with people from all walks of life, I have made many friends and encountered the occasional prick of a manager, probably twice.
I guess that is part of the occupational hazard that weaves into a raconteur’s milieu. In that, I looked forward to new challenges, the opportunity to tackle a new subject, meet new people and craft amazing solutions. I am still excited when something works as it should and tenacious when things do not produce the expected results until they do.
My curiosity still has that childlike inquisitiveness, I have questions, I seek answers and much as I can be a fresh pair of eyes, those eyes come with eager to listen ears, each new day is fresh for learning things, tricks, truths and tips. Sometimes, it looks like I stumbled into this career, maybe I was right on course, just not by well-trodden paths.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Angels and strangers roam on Twitter

Stranger than fiction
“I know you well enough from Twitter! You need a good rest!”
This was an assessment of my Twitter activity given by someone I did not know was following me. A complete stranger who last night saw the predicament I was in having missed the last train to Manchester because of a late-running train from Norwich into London.
As I was being played irresponsibly like a political ball of railway franchise ping-pong between Virgin Trains that would have handled the London – Manchester leg of my journey from London Euston Station and Greater Anglia Trains that handled Norwich to London part that ran 45 minutes late, leaving me less than 20 minutes to make the tube journey between London Liverpool Street and London Euston. I faced the prospect of a night on the streets somewhere in London.
The best Virgin Trains could offer me was a supplementary ticket to travel in the morning, the alternative being a train to Wolverhampton some 75 miles from home. Between Greater Anglia Trains and Virgin Trains, considering I bought the ticket from the latter’s website, they should have arranged a means to me to my destination or accommodation for the night. Neither tried hard enough, it took the easy road without informing me of my rights.
Good Samaritan values
I learnt through my conversation with Virgin Trains that Euston Station closes at 1:30AM, but the King’s Cross St. Pancras Station is open overnight with some coffee and food shops open too.
Making for King’s Cross, my stranger friend asked me to come over on Uber, I was in more straitened circumstances than to take up that offer and I thanked him and bid him goodnight. He did not relent, over the next 90 minutes, he enquired about my welfare, my whereabouts and much else, my assurances not deterring him.
Then, he said he was coming to get me, he drove over from Putney in South West London and brought me back to his home which he shared with his wife and two friendly dogs. I had some mint tea and retired to the spare bedroom along with information for connecting to their wireless network.
Consideration and more
Between daring and trust, I slept well and I woke up to a breakfast, meeting his wife and a discussion that covered as many topics as we found interest to think about. When we arrived at his home at just before 3:00AM, he dipped his hand in his pocket and gave me some money, saying he did not want me to think about that issue.
I got dressed and I was given a lift to Putney Station, I arrived at London Euston Station in time to catch the noon train to Manchester. Fred is a friend, a friend indeed, to me he was an angel, kindly, generous and exceedingly considerate.
Our encounter came from certain views, expressions or opinions I have posted on Twitter, whatever that was, he decided to follow me and by that, out of the blue, on a day I desperately needed help, he was there to offer more than I could have imagined or wished for.
He was a stranger to me, I was no stranger to him, my Twitter conduct had made enough an impression to have him accord me the offer to spend a night at his home. Invariably, your conduct and conversation on social media matters, friends and enemies observe you, the family sees you, angels and strangers notice you.
Thank you, Fred, for your kind-hearted, magnanimous and generous friendship, I am in deep gratitude to you. Thanks.