Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Thought Picnic: The Red Hot Chilli Pepper of Crazy

Peppered in life
The joys of capsicum delight are best expressed in another interesting Yoruba saying that I will attempt to translate thus, “A life without eating chilli peppers is a flimsy life.”
I would guess that is as good an old wife’s tale as any that instructs one should try hot chicken broth for colds amongst many other similar spicy remedies.
We use the scotch bonnet (ata rodo in Yoruba) a lot in West African cuisine as well as the cayenne pepper (tatashe in Yoruba), but I will not be mistaken to notice that back when I lived in Nigeria we used a lot more scotch bonnets for our stews than we will attempt to use here in Europe. The ones grown or imported are somewhat spicier.

Scales of spice
However, this little write-up is caught up in the picture above, which came from a packet of Nando’s crisps. I could not help but notice the Peri-ometer scale, which in a way indicates the spiciness of their products.
Whilst I am not a fast food fan, I have been a patron of Nando’s from when they opened their first outlet at London’s Earl’s Court probably in the late 1990’s, if I remember correctly and now, my choice of easy cooking without the class of an a la carte restaurant is between the preferable Vapiano and Nando’s.
On the Peri-ometer scale and there are many representations of it, I do like this one because I do remember when I visited my friends’ aunt in Kaduna at the age of 9, she cooked for us, dark yam flour pudding (amala) with stew.
This is mental
Eating with hands, I dipped into the pudding and took bite-sized bit that I first touched to the stew and then to my mouth, when all hell broke loose. It was a case of “I need my mum.” Not only was my tongue and mouth on fire, I was close to spontaneous combustion as the hotness of the chilli in the stew.
I cried, I drank lots of water and then settled for a bowl of cornflakes as my friends lapped up the stew as if they could use it for eye salve. They belonged off the Peri-ometer scale.
However, today, when I go to Nando’s, their fare does not seem to be hot enough, besides the fact that chicken needs to be cooked and dry to keep me from being nauseous. The piri piri sauce made from dried chilli peppers called African bird's eye chilli helps a lot and I have my chicken at the Peri-ometer scale where “I need my head examined.”
Which is no surprise, because I guess I am crazy and to write a blog about a crisp packet, I probably do need my head examined too.

From measuring liver stiffness to stiffneckedness

Probed from the side
Please pull up your shirt, lie with your back on the bed, then have one arm down your side and the other up and folded with your lower arm under your head and hand down the middle of your back as much as you can stretch.
I was arched like this for just over 10 minutes when a cold gel was applied to my right ribcage and then a pulsing probe pressed again the gap between my ribs to take measurements, 10 of which were successful out of 14.
In another age, this would have been a more intrusive and uncomfortable invasive procedure requiring a biopsy of my liver.
Another amazing gadget
The liver is a big deal in human anatomy and it is presumed to perform close to 500 functions, its critical need within the body cannot be overestimated and yet we abuse it with excess and other vices. It is quite resilient, but it can only do so much.
My visit to the hospital was for a FibroScan, a non-invasive means of measuring liver fibrosis or stiffness. The FibroScan [Wikipedia] is new technology and extensive study indicates it is literally as good as having a liver biopsy whilst covering more area of analysis than a biopsy will offer.
In the end, the only discomfort I had was in the application of the cold gel and the stretching, I did consider having a conversation whilst being probed, but I thought the better of it.
Comfortable and comforted
The letter fixing this appointment is better worded than the original one that invited me to attend a clinic and I was not to have taken any food for at least two hours before the FibroScan. This compared to when I had an ultrasound scan of my liver to check for scarring some 19 months ago which required I had not ingested anything for almost 6 hours.
At the end of the session, I asked the nurse for a basic opinion and she said things looked good, I also asked for explanations of the readings before she wrote them down for me to conduct further research.
Within a healthy range
When I checked the kPa reading against the Liver Fibrosis card; for my condition and health, I found that I was well within the green range, which for me means, any considered deterioration in my liver function can be arrested and even reversed with the right treatment.
The kPa (kilopascal) which is 1,000 pascals is a multiple of the International Standard of Units measurement for pressure.
Before going for these tests, I was not sure of what to expect, but I am happy that on moving my treatment to another hospital, they are keen on learning things first-hand than relying on the aging reports from my other medical interventions.
Now looking forward to the next appointment. Meanwhile, you wonder if there is an instrument for measuring stiffneckedness or headstrongness.

Monday, 2 March 2015

2,500 Blogs in just over 11 years? Not prolific at all.

The madness of writing
I am not what you might call a prolific blogger, I barely get 200 blogs out a year. At times, I may not blog for a week, and this not because I have nothing to write about.
There are ideas buzzing about in my head, many like the end of an orgasm, billions of sperm rushing to a destination of sorts, but only one getting to fertilise the egg.
Yet, that is just the beginning, there is a period of incubation or gestation, the thinking, the crafting, the suffering and yet sadly the miscarriage or the abortion. Ideas that will never come to term, formed but never fully, deformed and sometimes silly, or informed and probably dangerous.
I’m normal
There is a whole editorial panel of advocacy and rivalry trying to gain ascendancy as the black wall of Writer’s Block becomes the constipated discomfort to creativity.
Nonsense, sometimes, all I have to do is start typing and what materialises is nothing like I originally imagined or thought I wanted to write. Like a man possessed, the subconscious takes over from the inner recesses of the mind to the fingers and my eye watch with amazement as I begin to understand that what I have written is that bit of crazy that you have just read.
Thank you!
However, this blog had to be written because it is my 2,500th blog, it has taken just 11 years, 2 months and 24 days to get this far. No, I am not a prolific blogger, but I think I can say, I am a consistent blogger.
In all, I want to thank all who have read my blogs, some have commented, some have disputed, some have supported, some have excoriated – that is the story of life and I hope I can get better at this, it is first personal and really, I like it that way.
Thank you, all.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Thought Picnic: The wonder of identity in kids

Were we ever kids?
There is a Yoruba song from which I derive a very poignant saying, and it goes, "Wonder if you grown-ups can swear that you were never kids before."
Such was it that as I queued up to check-in my baggage at the poorly manned KLM/Air France desk at Hamburg Airport, a family with two small kids arrived behind me, just as I offered to help a lady going to Ghana get her boarding pass when her German husband was flummoxed by the touch-screen technology.
All for play
They helped move my baggage along with the queue, but the boys were playfully boisterous that their mother was quite apologetic.
I dismissed her concerns as what was to be expected of kids excited about travel, to which she ruefully opined, it was not like the adverts of well-behaved and quiet kids holding the hands of their parents.
I responded we were all kids before and she replied with, 'Karma!’
The boys with probably 18 months between them with the older looking no older than 4, conversed agitatedly whilst jumping around a bit and then I saw an opportunity to introduce myself.
I shook hands with the elder whilst the younger was overcome with shyness that he ran to the refuge of his father's legs and started the hide-and-seek peeping game.
Polyglots by nature
They were returning to France, and yet I could see what the future of the world was in them, as the question, "Where are you originally from?" Will make no sense to them as it doesn't to me.
They spoke German with their parents, the parents conversed in English, she being probably a speaker of English as her first language as the father was German and the kids attended a bilingual French-English school.
As it happens, the kids will naturally speak German at home, French at school and will only speak English to people who could manage neither German nor French.
Identity by influence
I do not know where they were born, these are the archetypal third-culture kids who are defined more by environment and experience than by where their parents are from. The issue of originality is complex, if not confused, just as it is for me.
When I am asked where I am originally from, it is not an identity crisis to say I am English, I was born in England, yet my parents are Nigerian, but we have different identities and experiences.
I have lived in Nigeria and have been fortunate to master Yoruba as a second language and Hausa at a rudimentary level, but I am more defined by the wealth of many cultural influences - English, Nigerian and lately Dutch.
No pigeonhole identity
The fact is many will have to begin to appreciate is that we no more fit into the traditional pigeonholes of singular national identities and we will not repudiate any of those influentially diverse identities, but embrace them as third-culture kid world citizens.
The passport is just a travel document, we are a lot more than what it says we are. As for the boys, they could not care less who they were, they were happy and it is really the system that forces us to identify with a nationality, they probably have the choice of one of three passports, a decision will be made by their parents until they decide otherwise.
Yet we must never belittle the world of wonder that is the world of kids, oblivious of these strictures and expressive of their will within the loving care of responsible parents.

Thought Picnic: May I calmly state?

A balm for calm
The last week has had me in fits of all sorts of rage at work and at play, it has begun to bother me that I need to dial back and consider what is setting me off.
Most of the time, it is disorder; the kind of order that is usually outside my control, the issue of communication, miscommunication or the lack of communication, basically, communication breakdown. It is one I desperately try to reorder, first by intreaty (an archaic word) and then if amends are not made, frustration sets in.
Deliberate deliberating
I have written a few emails and messages, the kind I do not feel comfortable with, but I realise are necessary to clear the air, and they usually do.
The danger is really for those who unaware of my circumstances try to engage me from a negative perspective where normally I am courteous and accommodating, I can be remorselessly curt and nasty.
In some cases, I will apologise, but where my patience is tested, and I am generally a patient man, a discovery can be made. An expletive might creep in shocking those who know that one is rather more refined than to be caught out.
Avoiding the peril
Evidently, I am quite aware of these changes in my demeanour and I try to disengage, calm down and reflect to regain my composure and disposition. I am always a better man than my anger, displeasure and frustration sometimes betrays.
For some, it is the letting off of steam, in my case; it is more like giving away that piece of my mind I do not want to retain, in a frank and blunt expression of views. What I will not brook is those who not knowing me question my premise, for that will be the dangerous case of a boy scratching his itchy nose with the gaping fangs of a viper.
That is lethal and consequently fatal. I can handle this, a few deep breaths and thinking about the lasting impression I hope to leave. Here’s to a better month, march on to better things.