Sunday, 31 December 2017

In 2018, begin to write a better story of your life

Bidding 2017 a farewell
As we countdown the final hours of the year 2017, I have wondered about writing the obligatory year in review blog, but I seem to have covered most of that in my blog 10 days ago which marked my birthday.
It would appear I have not been as prolific in blogging this year and it has not been for the want of people, events, attitudes, ideas and subjects to write about, I guess I have been preoccupied with other issues and by that left this medium untended for long periods of time.
Whilst recognising that, I am making no resolutions or promises about blogging, though I hope to maintain the blog better in the fifteenth year of my writing and to celebrate that day, I hope to invite people to write for my blog in commemoration.
For all the turbulence 2017 presented me, I am grateful for all the opportunities that came my way and for the difficulties whilst tough simply pass on with the passage of time, toughening me up and giving me new stories to write about.
2018 may present new challenges and well as amazing opportunities, I am hopeful and expectant of wonderful and beautiful things to come in my personal and professional life.
To all my friends, acquaintances, readers and detractors, I wish you a wonderful and prosperous New Year, full of your wildest dreams coming true beyond anything you could have ever imagined or expected and in that, I hope you will come to tell your hair-raising stories to the world.
We are all story people, in 2018, begin to write a better story of your life.
Happy New Year!


Monday, 25 December 2017

Making merry this Christmas in church

The questions remain
I am not as religious as I used to be, many questions and challenges from my somewhat rational mind continue to come up against things that were once taken for granted but now need to be explained.
That, we can discuss at another time, I realise I have been to many churches governed by all sorts of interpretations that become the doctrines and tenets of association and fellowship. Some assemblies have been welcoming and others quite hostile. I have concluded that the modern-day leaders of the synagogues are the people who set the tone for how great the reception is for newcomers and those who decide to stay.
The many shapes of God
In one setting, God was an Old Testament deity, fierce and unearthly, ready to exact a terrible revenge for human infractions, in others it was the eschatology of the end-times filling with fear and foreboding about falling short on every account. Then the rituals that were no different from what would obtain at a shamanist, waters and baths, Psalms read until they had no more meaning than incantations to a deaf-blind and mute god.
There was love and well as carping shown from the same congregation consumed with the quest for dominion and leadership above all else, none of which suited my temperament.
All is safe here
I find my comfort within the Church of England, traditional Anglicanism with all its inclusiveness, though that cannot be said of the African side of this movement of people. The simple message of Christly love and the acceptance of others is still a tough message to accommodate by some who make up the clergy, they rail with abominable vitriol, you shudder.
In Manchester, I find the time to attend the Sung Eucharist, I am a confirmed Anglican of over 36 years, the solemnity and quiet is endearing, the individuality of purpose of worship in a congregation of like-minded people from all nations is beautiful to participate in.
To many, church still matters
For the Christmas Midnight Mass on the night into Christmas Day from Christmas Eve, the church was literally full, the choir in full song and there were times they sang in Latin and I did not even pretend to keep up. I guess I still take communion differently especially in the Winter, I would not drink from the cup but dip the bread in the wine.
This morning for the Christmas Day Sung Eucharist, we had the Bishop of Manchester as the president and it was quite humbling to see him shod with sandals. I was in a moment transported to a Christmas morning in Bethlehem. The incense of the night before, the spirituality of the morning after made for a rewarding time of worship.
May the joy of Christmas be with you and your kin. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Loving 52 and the stories that tell themselves

My miraculous existence
It is almost stranger than fiction that today marks my 52nd birthday and this is for many reasons. It is my ninth birthday after cancer and I am still scarily within the timeframe of studies that suggest a precarious survival rate after the condition in which I was diagnosed.
Yet, I feel blessed that each year that I celebrate a birthday is one in which I can only be full of thankfulness and gratitude. Each birthday is for me very important, I mark each of them since 2009 as it would be my last, well aware of my vulnerabilities and still amazed by the grace, the favour and the resilience of the human body to recover where medicine seems to have reached the limits of its favourable interventions.
Emotional upheavals of thrills
It has been a long exhausting year which started with the lovingly sympathetic sharing of my story by my good friend Funmi Iyanda in forAkin on Bravery, Honesty and Thriving, a few days after, the love I thought I had was not ready for my love, it hurt.
Just imagine meeting your sister after 27 years, at The Terminal in Frankfurt, it has been a roller-coaster of emotional upheavals from the marriage of one sister, to the death of our baby sister to the rendezvous with my second sister.
In March, I made a radical career decision, one morning, I walked out of a job I had been doing for three years because I had endured enough of a new manager who over the 6 months of my reporting to him reduced me to nothing through disrespect, discourtesy and worse. He apparently did not last another 6 months after me, I neither applaud nor deride him.
Away but not astray
Since then, I have spent weeks away from home for work flung out to corners all around the United Kingdom, getting involved in challenging projects and meeting interesting people. I could not have planned how the year turned around for me that the greatest recommendation and support for the role I started in November came from one of the colleagues most affected by my departure in March.
I pinch myself at times wondering if any of it is real, considering August was a month where I literally had nothing and there was the sure and the steady rock of a friend like no other who kept me believing in tomorrow and myself. Kola Akinola, this is for you.
I am happy and thankful
In August too, my father found my story, his initial reaction was negative, then after an exchange of some long memories, there was reconciliation and acceptance, he remains one of the most reasonable people I have known in all my life. I have a mother too, that is all I can say for now.
To a point, I am very happy, I could be happier with someone to love and to share moments and experiences with, I need a man.
As I celebrate the number of years as there are full weeks in a year, even in my relapsed religious faith, I am thankful to God, grateful for friends, appreciative of moments, awed by experiences and looking forward to the opportunity to write again of another year of stories worth telling.
Thank you all for being here, being there and being near.


Friday, 15 December 2017

Opinion: Caught between the hijab and the Bar

Where religion should belong
Readers of my blog would be well aware of my many writings about religious expression and even more stridently of the need to send religion back to where it belongs from its intrusive and overbearing cacophonous disturbance in the public spaces to the private contemplation of the individual, to the heart and the conscience of the adherent and to the sequestration of the temples where people of similar beliefs can fellowship without encumbrance.
I feel strongly about the need for the separation of the state and religion, that it is our humanity in the expression of kindness, understanding, empathy and compassion that should reflect the consequence of having adopted any belief system as a religion.
Understanding constitutional protections
In many countries, the constitution protects religious expression and rarely dictates how adherents should choose to practice their religion, it, however, does not give untrammelled licence to any adherent to foist their belief system on another, even if the religion so adjures its adherents to proselytise and win converts.
My concern about religious expression in the public space is deep, the reason being when tenet is taken out of the ambit of society and given to a figure representing a deity, that construct makes the tenet unquestionable, unchallengeable and unaccountable. To the extent that the adherent might believe that their interpretation of their perspective of their deity figure is subject to no temporal scrutiny with the danger that zealotry leads to extremism and worse.
Why civil law must reign supreme
As I have said before, even between adherents of the same belief system, they cannot believe to the same intensity, be persuaded to the same duty of devotion and be equally compelled to act on unction without the prism of reason. It is important that this difference in religious perspectives is accounted for in civil society and also as long as we do not live in a theocracy, civil law must reign supreme in the public space.
It is with these foregoing arguments made that I categorically state that I have no sympathy for the principal whose call to the Nigerian Bar was deferred because she chose a form of religious dress over the formal and formally prescribed dress code for the ceremony of being called to the bar.
The Samaritan’s example was hardly religious
I do not believe that the choice of apparel is necessarily the deepest expression of religion or that it overrides our core humanity which when laid bare is nothing about beliefs but that we are just human. This is the standard set by the Samaritan who saw a fellow human being in distress having been robbed, beaten and wounded by the wayside.
The Samaritan made no enquiry of the victim’s beliefs before he tended to the victim and took the victim to an inn to be cared for, paying in advance for the treatment of the stranger. It was after the story was told that the Samaritan became the Good Samaritan until then he was just an ordinary, if not bloody Samaritan.
Fighting a cause rightly
Now, the principal on the matter of being called to the Nigerian Bar had opportunity and privilege that could have been better deployed, managed towards a reasonable goal, but we must look at the landscape in question.
The Body of Benches is the association legally constituted to call qualified people to the Bar, it is their sole responsibility and it is in no way delegated. They make the rules and have both the power to honour, to sanction and to discipline those to whom they have granted to become Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
There are a set of requirements in terms of qualifications and presentation that need to be met to be called to the Bar and in the ensuing ceremony, there are standards required of those so called to meet and respect. In those standards are explicitly listed dress codes that are formal, austere and broadly secular in nature. Being called to the Bar is no opportunity for conspicuous self-expression when formality and uniformity is the code.
Obviously, if any part of the code needs to be challenged, there are means by which the people concerned can bring their considerations to the organisation to which they are affiliated and through persuasion and discourse come to some agreement as to whether a change is necessary, or things should remain as they are.
Use your brains, not your brawn
In my view, the principal is schooled in the art of legal advocacy and persuasion, that skill could have been brought to bear on the matter of altering the dress code to accommodate different inclination from the norm, what an organisation like the Body of Benchers must not entertain is the precedence of people having licence without consequence to bend or break the rules because they feel so persuaded.
It would be uncharitable to opine that the principal is suddenly the most devoted of her belief system who has now received such compellingly new revelation that serves as a compulsory requirement for the Body of Benchers to supinely bow to, but that is the elephant in the room, the situation where someone has decided to challenge order with their interpretation of an unrelated belief system.
A perspective of equality before the law
If the Body of Benchers were to submit to this kind of expression without legal argument properly presented in a learned rather than in an activist zealot manner, it would create a recipe for chaos with no inclinations of what new demands might be chanced by others to put before the Body of Benchers.
Equality before the law has to mean something, just as the respect of the rules promotes that same equality. Once religious apparel is excused, what is to say the principal would not subject clients to extraneous hurdles of zealotry before representation?
There are many arguments to be made for and against this subject, a lawyer by training should make the right argument with case law, the principal was called to the Bar, but called to incite religious animus and be found at the front of a mob.
No one is stopping the principal from choosing what to wear, but when there is a dress code, that is the dress code.


Friday, 8 December 2017

14 years, a blogger

In 2017, I have not been as prolific a blogger as I had hoped to be, and it is not for the lack of stories or opinions to write about.
The year has been eventful as I was caught up in the maelstrom of circumstances sometimes beyond my control and definitely beyond what I was ready to endure that I took some rather decisive steps about where my career was headed.
I suffered for that principled stance, but I would not have a story uniquely mine if I have not throughout my life launched myself from the platform of comfortable certainty in the uncharted space of uncertainty about many things including whether I had enough to see through the day, talk less of the next.
Yet, this is a milestone I must celebrate, the 14th year of my blog and this would be my 2,846th blog, I would not beat myself up for not having written more than this, I am just glad and full of gratitude for the times that have filled me with new purpose. When I started this blog in a hotel in Berlin, I would have never thought it would still be active, this long after.
I constantly think of living and of dying, each having some sort of purpose with renewal being the recurring theme like the need to breathe to stay alive. I look forward to celebrating more years of writing and hopefully doing more with what I believe is the gift of expression.
I hope I can invite you, the readers of my blog to contribute blogs towards the 15th anniversary. Thank you for being there and being near.


Friday, 1 December 2017

World AIDS Day 2017

It’s strange, I’m in a different place,
As if I had run a really hard race,
In all the sweat and toil, I found grace,
No plans I made could ever retrace,
The steps that brought me to this place.
In the days and times of great pain,
Before my eyes, it laid so plain,
That the things I had worked hard to gain,
Were nothing if this scourge left me slain,
I learnt many lessons on the power of pain.
We who live as it courses through our veins,
And stand as beacons to hope that reigns,
With our HIV we run knowledge campaigns,
That AIDS and stigma won’t keep us in chains,
To know for sure, do take a prick to the veins.
With condoms maybe you’re protected,
Without it, know the risk of getting infected,
I take my ARVs as the doctor intended,
By PrEP or that, we know life is extended,
On being undetectable, we’re all protected.
The story that weaves a curtain of loss,
It was a death sentence not giving a toss,
Our knowns and holds beyond it cross,
Every World AIDS Day is not a gloss,
But one to give meaning and purpose to our loss.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Grand Despot of Africa is deposed

The revolution was over long ago
There comes a time when men are tested by circumstances and they fail to read the times rapidly falling from grace to disgrace slowing down time into slow motion crash.
Such was the end of the tyranny of terror of the man I have for over a decade referred to as the Grand Despot of Africa. In 1980, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was the revolutionary, the figurehead that took the entity of Southern Rhodesia from the grip of Ian Smith to the new dawn of Zimbabwe.
Since then, Robert Mugabe raised a revolutionary fist against forces known and unknown, enemies within and without, regaling crowds with revolutionary zeal, beguiling the people with the feeling that they are being assailed by the old colonialists whilst the reality was he was the colonist of the same colour as his brethren for the past 37 years.
Forgetting when your time is up
At 93, Robert Mugabe who could have long retired into revered African statesmanship like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania or Nelson Mandela did before him, fastened his grip on power, railing and raving, knocking down perceived opponents and easing the way for his firebrand and intemperate wife to assume dynastic succession.
What Robert Mugabe forgot was despite his iron grip on power, he was there at the behest and will of some of his people and the cohort that surrounded him that allowed the mystique of his inviolability and the myth of his seeming omnipotence to becloud his judgement.
He made one last miscalculation, egged on from the pillow of his bedchamber by the First Shopper of Africa, Gucci Grace whose vaunted claim to significance was being the wife of the President and by that she thought she was untouchable.
Bringing down the temple on his own head
He sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the 6th of November and with that came down the principal stone held up the cult of personality of Robert Mugabe. The sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa was like pulling the pin of the grenade and forgetting to throw it at a target far away, then run.
That singular act crystallised the mounting disaffection with first his wife and then Mr Mugabe, the army moved in and put him under house rest, sparing in his life in what was a coup in everything but name, Mr Mugabe failed to see that the end was nigh. The enemy without that was the rallying call of his rambling party speeches which defined his stubbornness and defiance was now at his doorstep, the army, the veterans of independence, his party, the youth wing that venerated him and his people.
Mr Mugabe was alone and asked to go, yet he refused to budge as every vestige of status, power and authority was being humiliatingly stripped from him, he then squandered the magnanimous opportunity to leave the stage the little dignity he had left in a nationally televised speech, Robert Mugabe had overstayed every toleration of his presence at the helm of Zimbabwe politics, it was no more whether he would leave, it was when.
The final humiliation
The parliament instigated the articles of impeachment to depose him, and then a letter arrived from the President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, read out in parliament, it was his letter of resignation. It finally dawned on him that he had run out of excuses and rhetoric to fight the groundswell of animus that had galvanised the people to ask him to go.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe is the apotheosis of the failure of leadership in Africa, he failed to transition from a revolutionary to a leader of his people, he exploited divisions amongst his people to retain a hold on power for over a generation. He failed to mentor successors, presiding over squabbling amongst his underlings seemingly secure in the impression that there was no one that could step into his shoes.
Failed leadership in Africa
What irks me most about African leaders that sit fast without budging under the hubristic delusion that no other countryman can do the job of leading their country is that it soon become a glaring lie. There are probably thousands of Zimbabweans, male and female alike that could, given the opportunity do a better job than Robert Mugabe ever could.
The legacy of Robert Mugabe is there for all to see, revolutionary zeal is not enough, he brought the country to its knees, from prosperity to poverty, entrenching a corrupt patronage that concentrated political power and economic clout in very few hands whilst he gave the people the prospect of wild dreams of adventure than became living nightmares.
No laurels for disgrace
No one will mourn that passing of the era of Robert Mugabe except for the few that profited from his being the emperor of an endemically corrupt enterprise, his resignation was greeted with celebrations on the streets of Harare not seen since the day of independence.
Robert Mugabe should now retreat into ignominy, insignificance, disgrace and silence, only to be read of when his longevity in life comes to an end. Our eyes are now on the remaining sit-tight African leaders vying for the crown of the Grand Despot of Africa.
Bye, bye Robert Mugabe, you shall like Ian Smith be consigned to the bad history of Zimbabwe.

To Iya at 75

Dear Iya,
I write to wish you a happy 75th birthday. I have said before, you are a survivor and you are tenacious.
I thank God that through a life experience that is incomparable, you stand and shine, a beacon of example to innumerable, including us your children.
I appreciate in all honesty that we have not shared common views on many things, we are individuals, you are my mother, I am your son, we have done some things with mistakes along the way.
I am not a devil and you are not a saint, we are both human beings and our differences go a long way because I am burdened with vivid memories that never wane.
That is how we can understand each other, not through digging up those memories, but in knowing no one gets excused just because of status, the equity we seek and the moral high ground we race to climb at slightest available opportunity neither comes with clean hands nor priestly robes.
It is like the touching of the nose, in knowing and saying nowt. You know I write and I know this would eventually get you because that is the way the world is today. The voice that goes out will be heard.
I have not been the best son, it comes with the territory, there are things I probably would never want revealing about my childhood, but I am the product of motherhood, mothering and parenthood that has given me an amazingly blessed life, that honour, no one can take from either you or my father.
We must get beyond estrangement to reconciliation, from the silence to a celebration, of the smiles and laughter I remember, of the songs happily sung and taught, of the pride a son has in his mother and that which a mother has in a son. Like rivers once driven apart by forces they could not control to a confluence of waters brought together by a greater calling beyond ourselves. 23 months! Anyone else would ask why?
You will not get tradition out of me, but knowing, feeling, humbling, respect and reverence are why you will always be Iya to me, we are blessed the greater with you fully engaged in our lives despite everything, I love you, mum. 
Happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.
Akin (Oludamilola)


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.


Thought Picnic: Once upon a time, he had no care at all

Once, it did not matter
I have history, I used to be a man without a care in the world, anything considered was met with the resources and means to manage, control, and handle any situation.
This year has however presented challenges that have tested my resolve to extents that make me wonder whether I have the resolve to weather the storms that swirl around me.
Yet, I want to count my blessings by telling my inner self that you have come a long way, you have face situations and threats graver than what the present throws at you, you are coming through this.
Close to broke, but not broken
Some of my recent writings might have been showing strains, like one is almost at breaking point, even if supply comes in to ensure one is neither crushed nor broken. There is a spring within that enlivens in the midst of the desperate and the difficult.
I cannot live in the past to then use that to overwhelm my present in pity, much as that nudges ever so close to my sense of calm. To imagine there was a time when where I find myself tonight would have meant nothing more than logging onto a website and booking a room for the night, without worrying about it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing today to meet that challenge.
Then again, it happens
It is as dire as not even having the means to take up a generous offer of a bed, counting the hours to the dawn have begun on a hard bench in a train station getting less busy than usual.
I boarded a train in Norwich that was to arrive at London Liverpool Street at 21:55, giving me 65 minutes to make the London Underground tube journey to Euston Square Station which is just 5 minutes from London Euston Station where I would have boarded a train home to Manchester Piccadilly Station at 23:00.
As I have so patiently suffered at the hands of the Greater Anglia Railways with late or cancelled trains, the train ran 45 minutes late, giving me less than 20 minutes to make my connection, I arrived at London Euston just as the train to Manchester was departing and that was the last train for the day until the morning.
Living life like life sometimes is
This is where I would not have bothered but settled into a hotel nearby. Alas! I cannot even use my Hotels.com free nights because I cannot cover the taxes. Then having not informed anyone of my coming through London at this rather late hour, I am somewhat stranded. The generosity of strangers beckoning me leaves me almost listless in delirium.
That I am in a bind is because of choices I have made and those choices I do not regret, where between denigration and dignity, I chose the latter and walked. The greater shame is in the fact that trust reposed in some and promises offered by others have been poorly served.
When faced with these things, I look to put it all down to experience. This with all its unpleasantness is called life and people live it, I have been granted the opportunity, though far from favourable to me, to live life on a spectrum of unfamiliarity. Even that inspires writing.


Saturday, 30 September 2017

Thought Picnic: Find your holy river in which to drown

[The video where he dove into a pool has been taken down, sadly.]
Let's go down 2 the holy river
If we drown then we'll be delivered
Courtesy of AZLyrics.
These are the first two lines of the lyrics of The Holy River that I probably heard so many times before when I received Emancipation, the 3-CD compendium of prolific songsmith genius by Prince.
Looking beyond ourselves
This is where many of us find ourselves, the need to go to a place where we can lose ourselves in the awesomeness of something so beyond ourselves that we are born anew. To imagine and believe that the in drowning there is a beginning of deliverance rather than the termination of death is to have faith in wonder that defies explanation.
It is without a doubt that when I look over events in my own life, I have stories of visits to the holy river where I dared to drown, to lose myself to the danger of the loss of life only to emerge delivered from a fate that once seemed ready to overwhelm me.
In times of untimely birth, or when I was within inches of becoming roadkill completely oblivious of the vehicle passing in front of me at full throttle on an expressway, and a life-threatening cancer diagnosis just a day under 8 years ago, I became a pilgrim to the holy river.
Escape self-deception
U can try and try but there's nothin' 2 hide
U can't run from yourself and what's inside
U got 2 find the answers 2 the questions that U most fear

So over and over U ask your soul
Why'd U come down 2 a world so cold?
And the voice inside says 2night the truth will be told
I will make no grammatical corrections of these lyrics by Prince because he writes his songs in this manner and that is the way things are. And so here I am with myself and the realities that so scare the wits out of me, yet in the darkness that attempts to engulf me, I strive and strain to see some light, a light the lights of the path to redemption.
The grace that has been granted me to live through things I could never on my own strength endure is unquantifiable and in such abundance, that as I appear to faint, I am revived. The day my sleep deserted me for the troubles of lack of supply in money, options and excuses necessary to liberate me from the quagmire and pressures of all corners I could face almost sapped me of all resolve.
Give despair no place
Worry solves nothing nor does it offer any ideas for the better, that truth became a revelation once again, even as the issues weighed heavily on my mind that it was almost a supernatural feat to avoid being distracted from the focus I needed to have on the assignment I had to hand.
U surrounded yourself with all the wrong faces
Spending your time in all the wrong places
Puttin' your faith in things that only make U cry
People say they love U when they wanna help
But how can they when U can't help yourself?
The more they say they love U, the more U just wanna die
So here we go again, the self analysis
Have another glass of Port and uh.. forget this
The band's playin' at the club 2night and they're bound 2 groove
At which point you are on the verge of lamenting that you are a lost cause, the cause and course you chose looking like the ignorant and unschooled you have become. The question rings out in self-flagellation, what have I done with my life. Bad choices, lost opportunities, rotten decisions, irrational angst and stupid advice all computing a result about to print out a 7-letter word that is the antonym of success.
Find your holy river in which to drown
It is enough to turn to drink and seek the solace or succour of escapism, even if in reality you have hardly escaped that circumstance.
And then it hit 'cha like a fist on a wall
Who gave U life when there was none at all?
Who gave the sun permission 2 rise up everyday? (Ooh, oh yes)
Let me tell it (Go'n)
If U ask God 2 love U longer
Every breath U take will make U stronger
Keepin' U happy (happy) and proud 2 call His name (Go'n and say it)
Jesus (Jesus)
One must remember, the source of sustenance that does not submit to rational thought, yet it makes a difference that no words that so readily explain. Why do I speak in tongues, words that escape my lips daily in a language I have no comprehension of? I pray for a difference, for liberty, for freedom, for security, for happiness, for companionship, for another with whom to share and bear the burdens of living and life.
Indeed, I want to go down to the holy river and take more than a sip of the crystal life-giving waters, I feel ready to drown in the swell that sweeps me off my feet and delivers me to the other bank lifted, resuscitated and refreshed by angels that strengthen me with every supply to be well beyond what my even my dreams could never contemplate.
Let’s go down to the holy river, if we drown then we’ll be delivered. My deliverance is here.


Sunday, 24 September 2017

The consequence of weight on the weight of consequence

Big Bertha puffed and panted quite indeed,
She leant as her walking feet disagreed,
Her hand to shelf and trolley did exceed,
The moderate quotas we accede.
With myself I always plead,
Don’t give in to that sprite of greed,
That makes you chomp and overfeed,
On things you never really need.
For Bertha could have one-time heed,
The helpful hints to follow the creed,
That if you ran that your soles did bleed
You’ll never be a poet’s seed.
Then so to us that would be freed,
From old-age labours that impede,
Should we become a sporty breed,
And there a healthy life to lead.
This was inspired by my seeing a lady who could be much less a burden of herself but filled her trolley with biscuits she did not need and so the result of her tired and heavy breathing, panting like she was going to pass out, leaning heavily on her trolley and almost praying for dear life.
In that, I saw a lesson for myself, in that, I like rich foods, but have cut down on sugar which I no more have in either tea or coffee, my doughnut cravings are reduced to probably one every two months, I rarely have fizzy soft drinks and would rather make milkshakes at home from fruits and nuts.
I don’t do as much exercise as I should, but I do a lot more walking if all I have to walk is less than 3 miles and I know my way. I am concerned about my weight and my body, and some of what my circumstances are helping keep that in check. Too many of us are piling on weight we could do without and it strains the heart and lungs whilst being stressful on the knees.
I am the last one to give health and fitness advice, but I see enough people suffering quite visibly because of what they are carrying in weight, it is an uncomfortable issue that needs some frank and honest discussion.


Friday, 22 September 2017

Thought Picnic: Under pressure

[]
Feeling pressure
Pressure and there are many definitions of it, the pressing, the feeling, the burden, the weight, a heaviness, a discomfort, an unease with a dissatisfying sense of being.
The pressure of time to get things done as demands and requirements tax your sense of calm, upsetting your equilibrium in ways you cannot properly account for.
The pressure of means or the absence of the same that limits your opportunities and choices, the things you want to escape that hold you bound like a slave to the moment, your only freedom is probably just that of your mind and only for a while before you are captivated again by circumstances.
Under pressure
The pressure of debts, bills due, rents late, sums of money owed, threats from faceless bureaucrats and intemperate businesses who cannot care less for the momentary change in your situation. You just need time when the time is not really on your side. You begin to wonder where it all began to fall apart around you.
The pressure of news, from places far and near, from family and relations some who have fallen on hard times just when you are enduring similarly hard times that there is really nothing you can do to help and that is just how things are.
The pressure that dictates, you are stuck in a place unable to manoeuvre, you can neither go home not stay where you are, just because you can’t. The horns of a dilemma begin to feel like the soothing hands of a masseuse as you hold desperation at bay.
Easing pressure
What can ease the pressure or take it away altogether, for there is only so much pressure a tyre can endure between it functioning optimally and the tyre bursting, just as an under-inflated tyre, where insufficient pressure renders it useless. An under-inflated tyre you can remedy and burst tyre calls for a replacement.
We must endure pressure as a course of life, the greater desire to be equipped to handle the pressure well can come out well having passed the test. I confess, I am quite under pressure and trying hard not to fear where I am at. Strength to the weak, hope to the forlorn, smiles to the saddened and relief to the burdened.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Kokkaburra! Gay my life has been

[]
I was tricked
I do not know who taught me the song but I remember singing it many times recapturing a sense of self in what was a foreign land of sorts.
How do I mean foreign land? I was tricked when my parents asked if I would like to go to Nigeria, they said nothing else about Nigeria to give me an idea of where we were going. I did not learn of the civil war that had just ended, at least not until I was leafing through the photographic diary (Nigeria. A decade of crises in pictures) of Peter Obe many years later.
However, they were excited, had packed up everything and we had gone to the docks to see our trunks of goods loaded on the ship. I thought it was the QE2, but it wasn't.
Us to float, goods to boat
We travelled in style, boarded a BOAC flight to Lagos, my mother heavily pregnant with my sister. There is a picture of that send-off party, many of those who smiled in the photograph and pinched my chubby cheeks in playful jest, now in the pantheon of the Great Beyond.
Style, it was because I first visited Gran Canaria amongst the seven Canary Islands in 2003 and toured the capital city of Las Palmas guided by my hotel host. Since then, I have taken time to visit Las Palmas at least twice on any visit to the island.
I then learnt that many Nigerians returning home from the UK, returned by ocean liner and always berthed at Las Palmas. I never had those childhood memories and then it became clear to me why people talked of Casablanca and Las Palmas with such longing of an exotic past never revisited again.
A very strange land
We landed in Lagos, I have no recall of the flight, I must have slept through it just as I do today if I find the comfort of a moving form of transport like a child being rocked away to sleep in a perambulator.
In the excitement of getting off the plane, I was momentarily lost and then made aware of the reality that I was in a foreign land, the place called Nigeria had noticeably more black people, I cried in my utter confusion as I was led back to my anxious parents.
I felt I did not belong there and many things I am usually reminded I said in the few days after our arrival showed I felt completely out of place and seriously threatened as a boy.
All the English world of school
We settled first in Kaduna, but it was not until we moved to Jos and I began to go to school at Corona School, Shamrock House that I began to reclaim my mixed identity of being English and Nigerian.
Our reading books, Janet and John were written by a New Zealander, I watched The Pied Piper by Canadians, I swotted on the revisionist history of the Americans and our Land Rover school bus was full of Britons. The song? Australian and how I ended up with the nickname of Yankee at home, I cannot tell, if I always say I am an English.
With words awry
I only knew one verse of which many words were wrong.
I sang:
Kookaburra sits on the oceans cliffs,
Merry, merrily on the bushes trees,
Laugh Kookaburra laugh Kookaburra,
Gay all life's must be.
When it should have been:
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry, merry king of the bush is he,
Laugh Kookaburra laugh Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be.
But who was listening and how did Australians come about the literary construct of the second line? In a time when gay meant happy, full of joy, merry; light-hearted, carefree, I do wonder how gay my life has been and I laugh at the thought of how things have changed. [Etymology of gay.]
Now for the rest of it and there is nothing politically correct about it apart from the fact that we all sang it with glee.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
Gay your life must be
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
That's not a monkey that's me
Kookaburra sits on a rusty nail
Gets a boo-boo in his tail
Cry, Kookaburra! Cry, Kookaburra!
Oh how life can be
Courtesy of KIDiddles and written by Marion Sinclair (1932)