Friday, 31 July 2015

Europe: The wetsuits from Calais that humanised the migrants

The Calais of our times
Yesterday night, a full understanding of the so-called Calais crisis dawned on me. In fact, it is now known as the Calais migrant crisis and it is seen through the eyes of business and tourism.
Business by the reason of tailbacks of traffic consisting of lorries needing to cross the English Channel between Calais and Dover in either direction. On the tourism side, it is about British holidaymakers unable to cross to mainland Europe and thereby a crisis of sorts in the Kent countryside.
The migrants in Calais consisting of people fleeing from areas of conflict and unrest as Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Libya along with seemingly economic migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa number up to 5,000 living in the most inhumane conditions in Europe and all trying to cross over to the United Kingdom.
A fantasy, at best
The draw to the United Kingdom, has elements of reality and fantasy, many do think they can easily be subsumed into the system through the black economy which we must accept thrives despite protestations to the contrary and the idea that we have an easy and accessible welfare entry threshold compared to other European countries.
Besides, many of these people come from countries where whatever standard of English they have is passable and will be useful enough for them to get by.
Yet, to view this through the lens of our convenience is to miss the greater issue of the humanitarian crisis on our borders, the fact that a possible majority of these people are desperate, fleeing conflict and danger whilst seeking any opportunity for a life that has a modicum of peace, stability and the ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Our peace is a draw
Peace in Europe is a more than a draw for those willing sometimes without any other choice or opportunity to embark on life-threatening, dangerous and risky journeys from their ravaged homelands for the opportunity of a new life – that is an undeniable draw that is just human in all its ramifications and something anyone in their position will probably do without hesitation.
The English Channel is just 33.1 kilometres (20.6 miles) at its shortest width and standing at shores of Calais it is easy to view the White Cliffs of Dover which are quite visible from Calais as deceptively closer than they really are. Many people have swum the English Channel crossing, the fastest being in 6 hours and 55 minutes, but is it not a feat for the faint-hearted.
Two young men in wet suits
This is how Mouaz al-Balkhi and Shadi Omar Kataf from Syria bought wetsuits and plunged into the busiest shipping lane in the world of the English Channel from Calais in order to swim to England only to perish in their attempt and wash up on the shores of Texel, an island of the Netherlands 465 kilometres away and the coastline of Lista in Norway some 850 kilometres away, respectively. [Their Story]
The lives and deaths of these two young men shows not just the desperation of the migrants, but the risks they are willing to take to make it to the United Kingdom, even if it costs them their lives. Thanks to the Dagbladet newspaper of Norway, these two young men did not end up just another migrant statistic of misfortune, the coincidence of two bodies in wetsuits found on foreign beaches, but they are people like you and me who might have had a different story if their homelands were as peaceful and as comfortable as ours.
This is the case of each and every migrant who has embarked on a perilous journey from the turmoil of war or any other uncomfortable circumstance in their homelands to seek a new life in Europe. Meanwhile, our politicians are suffused in rhetoric and constituency-pleasing banter as the migrant reality is toyed with as a poor reflection of our humanity.
We can do better than this, we surely can.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Africa and the mind-set of non-issues

Not waiting in vain any longer
I was not particularly ululating over Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya, neither did I find time to see what he was up to.
I did my share of waiting to wave at dignitaries in the 1970s when we stood as pupils of Corona School by the railway line at Bukuru, Jos waving Nigerian flags at the convoy of Yakubu Gowon the then Head of State of Nigeria and his friend Gnassingbe Eyadema from Togo when they drove up to Yakubu Gowon’s homestead near Pankshin.
Besides, every Children’s Day, the 27th of May, we went marching to the salute of the governor of Benue-Plateau, J. D. Gomwalk, really, I had had enough of that stuff.
Treating people differently
However, there were some things one could not miss about what Barack Obama said in Kenya, some brilliantly highlighted by the Independent.
Obama was always going to talk about gay rights, but he had a broader thing to say about rights which, unfortunately, was lost on his host.
When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.
He could not have said that in any simpler terms, to codify the treatment of people differently because of their difference in the law will not only erode the freedoms of those people, it sets the stage for eroding the freedoms of the next vulnerable group.
Missing the point totally
There is no doubt that there are many vulnerable, voiceless and somewhat powerless groups in Africa, women, children, girls, the poor, the sick, the indigent, the minority by tribe, religion or some other association, they are all in line for a form for erosion of their rights eventually, even if it does not seem obvious now.
Uhuru Kenyatta a few months younger than Barack Obama and son of Jomo Kenyatta who led the struggle for Kenyan independence said in response, ‘gay rights was "generally a non-issue" for most Kenyans’.
That sort of dismissiveness is dangerous makes you wonder about the allegations of culpability that led to ICC charges against Uhuru with regards to the post-election violence in 2007 to 2008.
How many other non-issues?
The question becomes how many other rights are generally a non-issue for most Kenyans? How many minority groups have had their freedoms eroded because they have become a non-issue, an insignificance, a nuisance, a distraction and are readily ignored because they do not matter?
For how long will the leadership of Kenya follow the inclination of the majority to the detriment of the minority who they are also elected to serve and protect?
It was a poor choice of words, but broadly the issue of gay rights in Africa has become a litmus test of what its leadership is ready to address progressively in the name of human rights.
We lost many opportunities
They have expended so much energy in promulgating anti-gay laws to persecute and prosecute people who are generally invisible and in the shadows whilst ignoring the critically important aspects of rights for women and children, national development, education, health and welfare for all.
In the meantime, the seriously disaffected who have already concluded that they are viewed as a non-issue to the majority, have found the comfort extremist Jihadist companionship to wreak the havoc of unspeakable terror all around Africa.
The non-issue talk is a mind-set, a rotten one at that, because it goes without saying that many who have resorted to terror would never have considered it pathway of protest or emancipation if those who were supposed to represent them listened, engaged, participated and contributed to their wellbeing that they did not feel they were a non-issue but were acknowledged, respected and included in the greater and laudable pursuit of being part of their nation for its good, its development and its progress.
In pursuing gays, we lost opportunities to improve the lives of, and consolidate progressive laws with respect to people we see daily who are affected the most by our inaction even if they support our actions against the minority of the different and the other.


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Thought Picnic: On the politics of adversity and the expectations I refuse to respect

Exemplary beyond words
I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 programme last night titled No Triumph, No Tragedy presented by Peter White who as the Disability Affairs correspondent of the BBC was born blind.
He was interviewing Melanie Reid who in 2010 suffered a fall whilst horse riding and the injuries sustained turned her into a tetraplegic. There were so many things she touched on the subject of life-changing adversity that I could relate to, that I thought I might write something in relation to my experiences.
One particular phrase she used was, ‘The Politics of Disability’, which I understood to be a particular thinking and mind-set that appears to create a community of people with a common experience and agitates to maintain or set a standard for how people in that setting should identify, project, speak or advocate.
The pressures to conform
As a tetraplegic and her stubborn desire not be defined by that condition, she had come against some opposition from others in similar situations who expected her to more accepting of her situation and a more vocal advocate of rights, positions and policies to serve that community.
Whilst, I have had my share of adversity and none as serious as the principals I have heretofore written about, the concept of politics is even broader than that of disability. It covers such areas as the medical, the economic, the social, the cultural, the religious and the familial dimensions of the person, their community and their society.
When you consider race, sexuality, long-term conditions, survival from cancer, attendant chronic conditions and adversity, there has always been some perception and thinking one has had to prevent from encroaching into what is essentially one's own personal story which is not entirely unique.
Expectations I refuse to respect
Yet, I find that from all those apparent groupings that have their loosely agglomerated communities, there are expectations and demands. That I am black, I am expected to identify with a political slant without questioning else I am a sell-out. That my sexuality is a private and not a subject for public discussion, I am considered either lacking pride or courage for who I really am, whereas, that is just part of who I am and hardly the whole.
Other matters on the issue of disease and the management of it, we've had cancer which in some cases is both politics and an institution beyond which it could even become a kind of lifestyle. A resignation to fate whilst the fight continues to survive and meet certain life goals. Last week, I was literally bullied into signing a petition to keep the NHS public, especially when I mentioned I was a cancer survivor, I got a good earful.
Knowing where your loyalties lie
Yet, I owe my survival not to the UK NHS but to the Dutch healthcare services that acted promptly on noticing that I had a serious condition, where they are more interventionist than reticent. A chronic condition discovered for well over two years now in our NHS has had doctors do everything but go for dealing with it. I have been observed and sweet-talked in the notion that the real damage is probably a decade away when we could address the condition now and be done with it.
It is unsatisfactory and it does make you want to find a pressure group agitating for quick decisive action rather than what looks lackadaisical almost to the point of uncaring with the hope that we expire before we cost the NHS anything for our treatments.
Reviewing this situation allows me know where my loyalties lie, knowing those who really did something as opposed to systems that pay lip service to situations they never practically affect in a positive way. In other spheres too, you begin to know that your loyalties must be borne of profitable experiences of humanity rather than have your loyalties determined by default to what pigeonholes you have been allocated.
Know your story and stick to your life
On the matter of adversity, the counts are numerous and only a few people know to any extent what the experience was, the losses were many, yet hope lives and thrives in ways that celebrate the resilience of the human spirit.
There are reasons to identify and conform, but in the end, you have to have your own personal experience written as your own story in your voice and in your time, extricate yourself from being a statistic or a number, not a patient, not a victim, not a mishap or an unfortunate reportage, but a person with a name, with a life and life they are living their own way.
Politics has its place, but the stubborn will to be different is the best story that can be told of any life that has lived on this planet earth. For that, I commend Peter White and Melanie Reid for teaching me more about facing life, not as a triumph or a tragedy, but as life the best way you can.


Monday, 20 July 2015

Childhood: Mr Piper

I remember
The advent of the Internet has somewhat meant that no knowledge of my exciting childhood will be left incomplete.
Times that memories of decades gone float back like eerie clouds into my mind, I only having an aspect good enough to research for and obtain the old and today, I had such to bring to completion.
When we lived in Jos in the early 1970s, we finally got a black-and-white television in 1974 and one children’s show that I remember from that time was Mr. Piper.
The theme song was quite melodic and the only that was clearest in my mind of the song was, ‘In my stories and in my songs’, the rest was a jumble with a tune that I never really got to know until today.
Completing the knowledge
So, today, I found out that Mr. Piper was a Canadian children’s television series made in 1963 that became popular in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s. The lyrics of the theme song like pieces of a half-completed jigsaw found and put in place.
Come with me,
Come and see,
All the wonders there will be
In my stories and in my songs,
And everywhere where fun belongs.
You’ll meet heroes, giants bold,
Visit lands both hot and cold,
With magic tricks to shiver your skin,
Laughs galore with animals in
My world of fun —
Pied Piper’s Home
And to complete the circle of recall, an episode of the Mr. Piper.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Nigeria: Deploying the Piggyback Exculpation Device

Behind every man
Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the erstwhile President of Nigeria who was democratically pensioned off in March 2015 has some very powerful women in his cabinet.
Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Federal Minister of Petroleum Resources from April 2010 until May 2015 and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Federal Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy from July 2011 to May 2015.
Whilst these women apparently had the chops to hold their positions without fear of sack and redeployment and could be said to have maintained the highest confidence of the president that they were hardly affected by the many cabinet reshuffles during his tenure, the perception of what they might be up to as regards the welfare of Nigeria left a perception of perfidy.
I didn’t do it
First in June, Mrs Alison-Madueke, popularly known by her first name Diezani protested vehemently with a clear conscience that she had never stolen a single kobo of oil money. In another news story yesterday, it was revealed that Okonjo-Iweala or NOI as we know her had handed over to the new president, Muhammadu Buhari a list of corrupt deals approved by Jonathan.
Since NOI held the purse strings, it would uncharitable to suggest a woman who once held one of the highest executive posts in the World Bank could have been co-opted into a corrupt enterprise by the seemingly unassuming erstwhile president, but what do we know.
Who stole the maize?
However, I have a little story, two very hungry boys walked by a maize farm where the corn cobs were ripe for harvest and they hatched a plan to go into the farm and get some for themselves.
The bigger boy piggybacked the smaller boy who also had a bag slung over his shoulder and they walked into the farm shielded by the height of the maize. The big boy did not touch anything whilst the smaller boy did all the plucking and put the maize in the bag and the made away to roast the corn for supper.
The farmer later found the leftovers and did a quick take that the corn might have come from his farm. As he corralled the boys for questioning, they both had a very plausible story and more or less got away with the theft.
The big boy protested that he did not steal the corn, whilst the smaller boy swore that he never set foot on the farm.
Piggyback Exculpation Device
I call this the Piggyback Exculpation Device because whilst the theft was well planned the plausible stories told meant without much interrogation the thieves will be exculpated.
That gave birth to the tweet I posted in June about Diezani and now with NOI also singing like a canary about what machinations for suspect inquiry Jonathan’s cabinet go up to, methinks these women are deftly deploying the Piggyback Exculpation Device of offering plausible stories to be left off for possible bad behaviour.


Now, I hope whoever hears their story is less than satisfied and meticulously picks apart the whole saga to ensure everyone and anyone who has been involved by omission or by commission in the so-called corrupt enterprise that seemingly was the raison d'etre of the Jonathan era is brought to book.
No one should get away scot free, not ever again.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Thought Picnic: I write to please myself

Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: write to please yourself.” Harlan Ellison.
And I have tried
I have probably failed at the first three hurdles, but always striven to do the fourth. That I know because I write mostly in my own space, where I have control and where no one can dictate, amend or edit what I have written.
My blog is my own refuge, the castle of my expressed mind in writing, crenelated with moats and drawbridges that makes reading but commentary difficult.
Commentary is difficult not because people cannot comment, but I am quite exactly about the quality, tone and context of comments left on my blog. I want to be engaged and engaged in a way that we might agree or disagree without descending to the point of being disagreeable.
I learnt to do this
I write to please myself because I am under no deadline to deliver nor am I under obligation to submit work for any remuneration. The views and opinions are mine and mine alone, sometimes borne of introspection or derived from things that have inspired me.
I learnt to love writing much later in my life, I never liked writing in primary school and I only entered one writing competition in secondary school where I claimed second prize. I helped co-found a press club but soon got bored with the idea and moved on to other things.
Looking at this blog in its twelfth year, it is probably the only thing I have consistently done for this length of time apart from breathing, sleeping and living. I sometimes feel I have left it like a plant, a weed to grow wild, an empty house at risk of going derelict and sense of unhappiness appears at time when I note I have not fed the blog with new material.
Writer’s block
It is not like there is nothing to write about, the mind is always in churn, the ideas are always in thought, it is just the drive and the inspiration that put words in an order to make a worthwhile blog that appears to desert me for hours, sometimes for days and it has happened for weeks too.
For weeks, it is usually the case of my having conceived something but decided the time is not yet ripe for the piece to be written. I have had that occasion where waiting for some time allows for another event or idea to overtake things and a better blog ensues. Yet, after over 2,500 blogs I find it strange that none are left unfinished in draft, ready to be revisited – I seem to write for the moment rather than for the future.
Writing for my pleasure
I love this stuff and I am still trying to master it, if it is ever intelligent, that will have been a great attempt on my part, if it is witty, I might have excelled myself, if it is wise, I will wonder what has overcome me, but for my pleasure, I am always myself.
Daring as much as I can dare and concealing enough to maintain a sense of mystery even with my predictability, I hope I can still spring a surprise and that is how this blog began, seeded by the quote at the beginning and finding pleasure in writing this with a smile.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Thought Picnic: The notion of men as they are rather than as they ought to be

You read me right
I guess after reading a few of my blogs, there will be no doubt in the mind of the reader that I have libertarian and liberal views about many things concerning our humanity.
Yet, I am hardly tolerant of abuses of religion, the law, in the family, of customs, traditions or somewhat long-held belief systems that either curtail or proscribe the opportunities for freedom, liberation and expression.
Vigilant nosey parkers
In 1894, at the tail-end of Queen Victoria’s long reign when supposedly Victorian values had become quite entrenched and were being exported to its colonial outposts, there was an upheaval taking place in England.
The licence for the Empire Theatre of the Varieties had come up for renewal, this was vehemently challenged under the leadership of Laura Ormiston Chant of the National Vigilance Committee with the charge that the theatre exhibited indecency on stage and tolerated prostitution in its tiers.
Whilst the new licence placed wide restrictions on the activities of the theatre, there was a wider debate in society as to whether entertainment and enjoyment should be so strictly regulated at the behest of a morality and purity brigade. Laura Ormiston Chant did not particularly have an auspicious backstory besides having run away from a home with parents that were strict disciplinarians and who run a girls’ institution.
The fallout
Meanwhile, the first anti-homosexuality laws were passed in 1885 in the Labouchere Amendment making gross indecency a criminal offence in the United Kingdom and many of those empire era laws that have now been expunged from our law books are being reaffirmed by many of the colonies that have since been independent from the British Empire since the 1960s under that guise that such is not according to our customs, traditions or beliefs.
One notable consequence of these Victoria purity drives was what ensnared Oscar Wilde when he file a libel action, lost it, which resulted in a new trial, a conviction and disgrace in 1895.
Men as they are
However, within the furore of the debate about morality laws, a young Winston Churchill wrote to the Westminster Gazette in 1894 and stated the following:
State intervention in the form of statute will never eradicate evil.
It may make it more dangerous for the evildoer.
But such a policy, while not decreasing immorality, only increases its ill effects.
The state should protect [its citizens] from harm,
and must govern men as they are and not as they ought to be.
This is where the issue of morality laws places all sorts of unacceptable constraints on the freedom of expression and articulation allowing for undue and unwarranted prosecution of people for harmless activities that have been rescheduled as crimes.
Live and let live
We have too many instances of the force and imposition of various unyielding and ultra-conservative belief systems with extreme tendencies given the weight of the law to force people to be a certain way rather than be themselves and by that be better participants in their communities and societies to the good and better of all.
There is no doubt in my mind that when we not only govern but begin to see, to accept and to celebrate “men as they are and not as they ought to be” having already put in place the systems to ensure none of the vulnerable amongst us comes to harm by reason of our liberties, being fully protected in their rights and privileges and full members of the society they are in, the world will no doubt be a better place.


Monday, 13 July 2015

Thought Picnic: Having just one life means you don't have to tough out a bad marriage

No examples of note
Of all the examples of I could learn of my parents and close relations, some mentors, others benefactors, mostly successful and respected people, I cannot quite remember if any set an example of a happy married life.
All that I seem to know about people living happily ever after, apparently comes from fairy tales, princes and princesses with no talk of the squabbles, the arguments, the pain, the tears and the break-ups and the not so break-ups.
How it affects us
Somehow, it is the not so break-ups that are probably the worst, where observers, usually the children live under a tension cloud of knowing something is wrong without being taken into confidence of the problems and the friction.
We are told that they are involved in a sacrificial life of being together for our sakes, yet through what we see, hear and feel, we are left worse off, bereft of the necessary tools to start rewarding relationships of our own later in life either out of fear or foreboding.
Divorce never really came into the picture, rather it was a kind of desertion of the most cruel kind, the spouse of the youth when the man was still being made, is supplanted by another, probably younger and more beautiful in a bizarre rediscovery of virility and excitement. Much acrimony is left in the wake of such activities, yet by the force of tradition or of resignation, we find ourselves accepting the unacceptable and thereby perpetuate and tolerate the reprehensible.
Doing it over again and again
Which brings me to the legend of Burt Bacharach who at 87 performed at Glastonbury in 2015 and was interviewed recently where he talked about his 4 marriages.
Each marriage lasted 5, 15, 9 years respectively and the current one is in its 22nd year, which gives a married lifetime of 51 years. It goes without saying that he has had time to reflect and in his words, he said, “He never meant to hurt anyone.”
However, more profoundly is the advice he had for his two youngest children, to the man of 22, he had this to say, “Do not to stay in a marriage that isn’t working. Whatever it costs and however much emotional damage it might cause, you have to get out, because you only have one life.
To his daughter, he said, “Don’t get knocked up in college.”
It goes without saying that whilst he does regret the break-ups and divorces, the hurt, the pain and much else including the unfortunate suicide of a child, on the possibility of having a marriage that could have lasted 62 years, 50 years or 33 years all off which ended somewhat unhappily, he seems to have now had a good 22 years of marriage.
In other words, if it is not working, it really is not working – get out of it and find something else that might well work. You only have one life and you can have a happy one too.

Opinion: Marriage as a commitment between consenting adults

Changing views
My views about marriage have broadened and liberalised over decades to the point where I am quite easy with the idea that any two consenting adults in love can decide to formalise their relationship with a marriage ceremony.
It is strange that though I have transitioned from High Church Anglican through almost fundamentalist Pentecostal to rather a relapsed and nominally assenting Christian, there were times when I thought divorce was unthinkable or even unforgivable, but with time by understanding human nature more, I have realised no marriage is made in heaven, the partners in a marriage have to work hard at it.
Then again, I will also challenge the young-earth creationist view that appears to put marriage firmly in the docket of a Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic construct. Maybe up half the world follows that belief system, but there are considerably large Asian religious groups, agnostics, atheists, apostates and non-religionists that do not subscribe to the Adam and Eve Genesis mythology of the human race, yet they all seem have a tradition of marriage with all its ceremonies. Religions of the world – Wikipedia.
Marriage is more civil than religious
Love carries a deeper relational context between people, be it between man and woman, man and man or woman and woman, but more broadly, marriage, whilst is still appears to cling to religious apron strings in many societies has long been extricated from the grip and hold of religion.
It is mostly a civil and legal contract of commitment with accoutrements that accrue to it, giving legal standing to the relationship, recognition of next of kin and a partnership that gives a greater say to the spouse over the family in important matters of life and death.
The religious part of marriage has almost become a kind of nostalgia, a sop to the innate spirituality of the participants who generally might not be regular attendees of the religious establishment that grants a blessing to the union.
A matter of equality, respect and dignity
It is in light of this that I welcome the Same-Sex Marriage ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges where James Obergefell sued to have himself recognised as the spousal survivor on his husband’s death certificate.
The majority verdict delivered by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy made a most profound announcement that should once and for all put paid to the culture wars and wedge issues that have long become the staple of conservative American rhetoric and religious disputing.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgement of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.
I read this to mean that love is the foundation of marriage regardless of the pairing of genders and it deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and fully honoured by the law of the land.
Just over a month before, Ireland, a recently very Catholic country voted in a referendum that garnered 62% of the votes accepting that, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
Fundamentally, marriage as an institution whichever way you view it is rapidly becoming more a subject of recognising a commitment of consenting adults and providing them with all the rights, the privileges and the benefits that such a union entails before the law. It must not be reductively seen in its primary purpose for procreation, else people cannot make choices about having offspring and to be found infertile will seemingly be too unnatural to contemplate, yet life is that different for different people.
Address the matter of consent
More importantly, what we should address is where minors or non-adults are conscripted by mechanisms of religion or custom into marriages outside of their fully informed consent, but coerced by parentage, relations, traditions or customs – such activities generally defined as child marriage can in no way be accepted as a contractual engagement of commitment between consenting adults or an expression of love, no matter how that illicit union eventually turns out.
Then, on the issue where people especially the Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Roberts averred that the majority ruling he dissented to might lead to polygamy, if the question of marriage with the view to equality does not fully enshrine and honour the rights to polyandry too, then polygamy should not have the free run to trample on the marriage commitments of the woman or consign her to sharing her husband if the man will not countenance the idea of sharing his wife.
One to one, on the matter of love and commitment, marriage is a wonderful thing and as James Obergefell did say, he hopes that the term ‘gay marriage’ will soon become a thing of the past as we just default to the simple term, marriage.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Agege Bread by desire and amazing consequence


Whistle-stop London
At the behest of Funmi Iyanda, I found myself on a train to London on Saturday soon after a conversation where we decided we need to have a chat.
I left home in shorts and a shirt, wearing boat shoes, a straw hat and nothing else, not even a jacket because we were having one of those unusually glorious summer days in England. Sunday morning was hardly the precursor to a summer's day, it rained and I was not dressed for it.
Arriving at hers, I settled down to a cassava meal with a mix of three different stews that I insisted on having despite her protestations to the contrary, I insisted and enjoyed it.
The evening passed with visitors literally exhausting us, so we never really went out to the US Independence Day picnic because as usual, our good friends are not the best or most reliable timekeepers for engagements.
Good view but the food
On Sundays when I am with Funmi, we have breakfast / brunch at Ginger & White where we meet an eclectic crowd of Bohemian types over scrambled eggs, assorted organic breads and spreads. Their baked beans and peanut butter are just completely something else.
Anyway, as it transpired, we did not make G&W round the corner, but were persuaded to make a beeline to Monument Station to Sky Garden on the 32nd Floor at 20 Fenchurch Street where the building widens at the top, earning it the name, The Walkie-Talkie. The curve on the building can exhibit the qualities of a concave mirror reflecting and concentrating incidental sunlight to the point of melting parts of cars parked in its vicinity.
Getting in the Sky Garden building almost exceeded the security requirements for international travel at airports; names, phone numbers, metal detectors and baggage scanning equipment, all for the sake of breakfast. We got up there and whilst we might have been bowled over by the views, that was the only thing going for the Sky Garden, the location, cold and unfriendly, the menu was at best perfunctory. A bloody waste of time, to put it mildly.
A place to forget
We left wondering whether to return to the tried and tested or explore the possibilities at Borough Market just one station’s stop down at London Bridge.
We decided on the latter and after perambulating for about 15 minutes, we settled for Le Pain Quotidien where the fare was passable for survivalist mastication rather than for taste or culinary skill.
Femi who had joined us at Le Pain Quotidien was very helpful as I had purposed that on my visit to London, I will get some Agege Bread. She called Anino who suggested we try the Agege Bread shop on Deptford High Street and along the way we would have been able to get some moin-moin for Funmi too.
The Agege Bread adventure
We caught a black cab and made for Deptford, stopping in front of the Agege Bread shop where on entry we were met with a feast of Nigerian delicacies that excited us beyond Pavlovian abandon.
Moin-moin, asaro, ewa aganyin, puff-puff, fresh fish stew, chin-chin, buns, jollof rice, fried rice, fried plantain (dodo), suya and much else, I was whooping with extreme glee that my order probably took the best part of 30 minutes. Visit the All Nigerian Recipes website for an introduction to the vast palate of Nigerian cuisine.
As we were making up our minds about what to get, the proprietor and owner of the Agege Bread business came in and a conversation started, first with Femi and then with Funmi and the next 3 or so hours we were entertained and regaled with his perceptions of living and thriving in the UK having arrived from Nigeria some 30 years ago.
An inspiration and new friend
Whilst Agege Bread might mean many things to many people, the trademark and brand belongs to the Agege Bread business in the UK and it is the standard by which imitation sweet breads are measured.
In all this, we got to visit the East Street outlet of Agege Bread walking through the workrooms and if there was enough time, we might have even visited the main factory in Greenwich.
We were inspired very much by this very confident, self-assured entrepreneur whose perspectives of integration and work ethic left us almost ashamed of what some other Nigerians come to do in the UK. Agege Bread is soon to have a shop at London Heathrow's Terminal 5 too.
Many of the points he addressed are probably best covered in another blog, but the great revelation and achievement of the weekend was how the simple desire for Agege Bread led us to an unforgettable encounter with an ambassador of values those of Nigerian heritage can espouse and exhibit if we decide to be the best we can be.
A friendship was blossoming and part of that was he gave us a lift, not to the nearest station but all the way back home in North West London before returning to his home in Kent.


Saturday, 4 July 2015

The plumber calls

Boiler leaks
The opening of a closet in my apartment revealed a mess I could do without, somewhere around my immersion heater boiler water had leaked onto the base soiling too many things and creating quite a stink.
Unaware of where exactly the leak was coming from the first thought was to electrically isolate the boiler to forestall the possibility of electrocution.
Having done that, I took out a few cardboard boxes and some other material that all had to go to the recycle bin and then I got a few towels to soak up the water. I literally got two buckets of water from the spillage and contemplated what next to do.
I found a cold water tap leading into the boiler and turned it off not knowing it was the water feed to the whole apartment. I only learnt this when I called the concierge realising there was no water supply to the cold water taps as I drained the boiler of hot water.
Why this?
He then explained how the water system works, the cold water inlet feeds into the boiler where the colder water settles at the bottom and the heated water rises to the top, I could still not say for sure how it all worked.
Somehow the overflow system had been messed up and that was why there was a leak and I was advised to inform the agents of the landlord of the problem which should be solved as soon as possible.
So, I sent an email to the agency and within an hour I received a response that the plumber will be available in the afternoon. It was going to be a lady.
And fixed
When the plumber finally arrived, it was a man and his apprentice sidekick, the lady stayed in the van. Though this did not stop me for quipping about the gender confusion making the news lately, to which is smirked and laughed.
He checked the boiler and found that the ballcock, and that is a real plumbing engineering part was not working closing off the water when the boiler filled up. Besides, this he noticed that the inlet pipe should have been placed higher than overflow pipe, but they were placed at the same level, hence the leak.
The ballcock was replaced and the problem solved, I wrung the towels dry and then set up a fan to dry up the cupboard overnight.
This was all done in the space of 3 hours and I was happy.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Thought Picnic: Flight from this reality

Flight now boarding
Family is a strange construct very much like choosing your seat on a multi-hop destination flight without being aware of who will be sitting next to you, if anyone will and who might be sitting elsewhere on the plane being nice or disruptive – the journey will eventually be what you make it.
Crude as it seems, the crew are usually already on-board to usher us in, there to cater to our needs and administer the necessities of order and discipline required for a smooth flight. The crew being the forebears in a manner of speaking.
As you board the first, you might be the first to take your seat or there might be others who have taken their seats before you. Once the manifest is correlated with assembled and seated passengers, the flight takes off to the next destination. It might traverse turbulence and more before it lands at the next airport.
Flight now changing
The experience is part of the journey and whilst one might converse with co-travellers in close proximity to oneself, one can be otherwise engaged in thought, in reading or some other activity.
At this stopover, passengers might embark or disembark, other seats might be left and whilst they are reassigned to others, or empty seats might be filled. Luggage unloaded and loaded on, fresh supplies brought on and waste taken away – that is the life of a flight in service.
We take-off again to a new destination learning of new arrivals, noticing them or ignoring them depending on the disposition of the moment.
The journey can be fun or a chore, breathing the shared air of depressurised cabins can have the most debilitating effects on your social interactions at certain times, but the journey must continue as the cycle of life exposes us to new knowledge, new acquaintances, new experiences and probably old memories.
Flight now rowdy
The bane of family remains one in which you have not much in terms of choice, but you can exercise a lot in terms of desire, the desire to be influenced or the desire to left alone. There are times when the latter is more than a welcome prospect, it becomes the best prospect.
We all need peace and quiet, the incessant squabbles where others are called upon not for the purpose of fresh objective eyes but to take sides in bludgeoning another just is not what many sometimes already isolated want to be engaged in.
Do we really need to talk? To be honest, we have all heard enough, if the crew will not deal with disruptive passengers, it is probably time to disembark than continue to the next destination. Find one voice of harmony to keep this journey on or I’m skipping the next leg for some sightseeing.
I’ll catch the next flight, sadly, I still can’t choose my co-travellers yet.