Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Kokkaburra! Gay my life has been

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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)


The spirit of hope powers life

The news I was expecting
It was a Friday, the day was taken off to attend to a critical and important matter, a visit to the clinic to receive results of tests I probably knew would be as expected.
I had chatted to my pastor about it, as he was already aware of other issues that I had confided in him and then I had told him, I was not afraid for what I might learn at the clinic.
When I was called in to see the nurse, he left to chat to a doctor and then returned with a printout, he announced the result and I having not brought a companion with me to hear the news, he became distraught and began to shed tears. I comforted him as he went through the protocols of telling me treatment and care options and support groups I could join to see me through these difficult times.
Finding a message of hope
He handed me a booklet that talked about the way people react when they receive such news, denial, anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, disappointment, shame, despair, defeat and discouragement made the list as I leafed through the booklet.
Then I said to him, this booklet is missing the most essential message anyone on the receiving end of this news needs, the message of hope. Everything appeared to look downhill with no upside, I was not going to go downhill with that news.
I did not have a feeling of despondency as I returned home, I wrote in the booklet hope and then I began to contemplate the rest of my life.
I lived my life
In that time, I earned a post-graduate diploma, went to places I never dreamt of visiting before, lived with plenty to spare, made and lost friends, found people to give a better message of hope beyond their circumstances, had cancer, lost everything, began to rebuild my life and today I was in hospital to see my consultant 15 years to the day I received a diagnosis of being HIV+.
That diagnosis was not the end of my life and definitely not the end of my story, it gave me a new challenge to live with both a sense of determination and vulnerability, accepting the fullness of my humanity and knowing that until the day I die, I am living and bless to live well.
Thankful for the love of life
Through these times, I have had friends stand with me, stand by me and stand for me, without them, I probably would not have seen beyond the news I received. Maybe, I should have accessed HIV treatment sooner than I did, but I cannot live in regret of that, we are where we are, fuelled by the hope that it gets better and whatever is thrown in our way is a hurdle to be negotiated.
That is where I am today, through it all, I am thankful and grateful, not so much to celebrate an anniversary, but to recognise that what at one time was a sure death sentence is simply now just one sentence in a long story of a life lived in the love for life.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

My Great British Railway Nightmare

Training my waking
On Friday morning, I got up to the sound of the alarm clock on my mobile phone, I had a train to catch as I had done thrice already this weekend. It was 5:00 AM.
I love trains, and whilst train travel can be both expensive and uncomfortable compared to similar train services on the western part of mainland Europe, there is still a fascination with journeys through the English countryside.
Vicariously, I have journeyed with Michael Portillo who as presenter of the BBC’s Great British Railway Journeys using Bradshaw's Guide, has given us a sense of the beauty, colour and history of Victorian United Kingdom, but there is a world of difference between leisurely travel at a time of your choosing and that which you are compelled to do as a commuter to work.
Where is my coach?
From Tuesday, I found myself making a daily journey from Liverpool Street Station to Norwich, a course of travel I grew accustomed to in the 1990s when I died in Ipswich for 2 years. I cannot after 20 years say I lived in Ipswich, it is such a strange place with even stranger people, but I digress.
Then, the railway franchise was run by an ancestor party of Greater Anglia Railways and they still do today. I booked advanced tickets for all my journeys meaning I had seat reservations whilst limited to boarding specific trains.
On my way out on Tuesday, with my ticket in hand, I sought the coach I had booked a seat on in vain. It transpired that the train had been shortened because the coach had developed a technical fault, so I was advised and consequently helped to an unreserved seat. Electric sockets to charge mobile phones or power laptops and tablets, even free wireless internet connectivity in all classes of travel if it works. How civilisation has conquered rail travel.
Where is the crew?
My return journey from Norwich was without event, I got back extremely exhausted. Before the sun rose, I was out again for my second day at work. My train scheduled for 6:25 AM appeared on the noticeboard for a departure from Platform 9 and I made my way to board the train.
Halfway along the platform, an illuminated sign for the platform indicated the train had been cancelled. Between leaving the main concourse and walking 200 yards down the platform they realised they did not have enough crew for a train journey of 110 minutes just 10 minutes before departure. Go figure!
Twenty years on Greater Anglia Railways was the lesser at impressing me with their service just as they failed to way back then. We boarded the next scheduled train that arrived in Norwich 20 minutes behind schedule with an excuse I cannot be bothered to remember. On my return, I boarded a later train and thankfully the train conductor did not notice my error, else I would have incurred a penalty fare, I not realising I had booked an earlier scheduled train.
When would we get home?
My travel on Thursday was without event with trains running on time, I would not term expected service praiseworthy but by the foregoing experience, it was noteworthy. Now, Friday, I left for work at 5:35 AM and I am still nowhere near home at 11:51 PM. We arrived 2 minutes ahead of schedule with the conductor announcing that unique achievement.
I boarded the 18:30 from Norwich and between Stowmarket and Ipswich the train ground to a halt, then the conductor announced on the Tannoy that there was a fire on the railway and that no trains could traverse either way. Another 15 minutes later we were told the train would only stop in Ipswich and then travel nonstop to Liverpool Street Station. Fat chance.
After another indeterminate time of silence, we learnt the fire brigade had discovered gas canisters at the site of the fire, it could well be that we had just, fortunately, avoided being victims of a terrorist attack. We live in precarious times.
The train eventually returned to Norwich where we plotted a different course back to London with a change of trains at Cambridge. I left home yesterday and I am yet to get back home. In 4 days of travel between London and Norwich, it has been a Great British Railway Nightmare that should never continue like this into next week. Just imagine. I rang the bell at just past 1:00 AM.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Thought Picnic: Sustained by the power of hope and somebody somewhere praying for me

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For when I die
Somebody somewhere is praying just for you, it is the only thing I can say considering I have not been praying that much for myself.
Uncanny as it seems, I was in conversation with my friend about people I had somewhat chosen to be my pallbearers if anything ever happened to me just over 5 years ago. I was at my lowest ebb, I had lost every material possession and all I had left was hope, the hope that things would turn for the better.
On the eve of my leaving the Netherlands after almost 13 years of sojourning there, I wrote to my six friends informing them of my decision to return to the UK. My Netherlands odyssey was over and the future was just out there without anything in the horizon.
I told them of my desire to be laid to rest in the place where I was born, I was however surprised that some read it as a sign of giving up, I had not, I was just aware of my vulnerability and not ready to deny that it loomed just as large as the inner strength that bore me on through my toughest hours.
Suddenly and uncannily
Of the six, one is sadly deceased and many of the others I have not maintained that much contact with, the vagaries of life usurping the ability to concentrate and contemplate. One of my friends I had not spoken to in years, I surmised he was fine and we left it at that.
The next day, my phone rang and guess who was calling me? The friend I had not spoken to in years. He apparently was praying at home and there he had the unction to call me, which he immediately did and we talked at length catching up of lost memories and current events. I thought in my mind, there is something going on outside of my control.
In another conversation with another close friend, we chatted about my search for new work which had been going on for weeks with my resources and reserves literally completely dwindled and bills piling up. Then weeks ago, I suggested to her that the job might just come suddenly, I just did not know when the suddenly would be.
The unexpected job offer
It was last Friday morning; my phone rang the person who called had just reviewed my LinkedIn profile and decided I was a good fit for the role he had in mind for me. It was an interesting short-term contract and within that conversation we had agreed on a rate before he offered to have their CTO call me for a chat.
When the CTO called, I was expecting an interview with trick questions and all the wily interrogation that constitutes interview processes nowadays. It was a discussion and it came down to basically understanding my kind of thinking and mindset as regards the role on offer.
As the conversation came to an end, I was expecting another set of interview hurdles, however, what I got was a job offer, straight to contract negotiations, the word of a gentleman and by Monday morning the deal was sealed to start on Tuesday. The same job had been offered by an agency a week before at such a paltry rate that I could not at all countenance.
Really running on empty
Then I had another little difficulty, but for the sustenance of my best friend, I was living from hand to mouth, I had already lost 7 kilogrammes and in terms had nothing left to take up the opportunity in a city far from home. The quest to recoup loans was getting nowhere that my only option was to borrow some money and then find a place to couch-surf for a week or two until some income came through.
I sometimes wonder how much stress and strain a person can endure in the quest for a modicum of means and independence. It does not get any easier, yet hope endures in ways that even astounds me, it all looks bad, and something whispers in me that all these encounters of misfortune and brushes with penury will not last.
A life of gratitude
It will all come good, it just needs a bit of time and the hope that the little one has can stretch to the time when there is no need to fear for limitations and lack.
I say, somebody somewhere is praying just for me, angels are falling over themselves with supply and friends are holding me up from falling to the ground. I am reminded daily that my life and existence is one to be thankful for with every sense of gratitude.
Even when I don't seem to have anything, nothing can stop me, something keeps me going and there is everything to live for. It remains the story I am glad to tell.


Friday, 8 September 2017

Thought Picnic: What I feared from childhood had dissolved into the reality of a lived life

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From the passing of George Michael
In December just around Christmas, I was staying with my friend in London when we heard the news on television that George Michael had been found dead.
I had always liked George Michael from after his Wham days and was saddened by the event. More pertinently, I was well aware of his struggles with revealing his sexuality, the international embarrassment that came with his importuning as a result of law enforcement personnel presenting as an agent provocateur to entrap men.
He consequently took that event and made a global hit of the episode with Outside. Whilst, I had never really been closeted about my sexuality, I’ve been out at work since in the 1990s in the various places I have worked in many countries, it was not until just a decade ago that I came out to one of my closest siblings.
Out in a rout
That revelation came with much distress on her part that when I was asked about it from another sibling, I was coy, even denying it. Meanwhile, for a while I had been badgered and harassed on many occasions in conversation with my parents about my marital status, some commentary and questions were just too difficult to address. I utilised the convenience of distance to avoid too much analysis of what I might be.
Besides, I was battling for another thing, my parents were in the UK in the 60s, and much as there was all the emancipation in social values, I could well remember that the worst thing you could say to anyone was, “You are a bugger.” With all the uses of bugger, the derogatory intent when deployed was complete in its contempt of the person so abused.
Learning to love me
It is hard enough coming out having seen the reactions of parents to that kind of revelation from basic disapproval, through being disinherited, sometimes thrown out of the home and in some societies, murder. This in somewhat emancipated societies, that somewhere between fear, shame and embarrassment, I felt there was no need for my parents to know anything about it. An acquaintance did suggest my stance was out of shame, though I decided not to take umbrage about that opinion.
Living in Europe, I had come from a time of being convulsed in guilt, being caught in liaisons that I could not defend and being a subject of blackmail that I refused to be subject to. I had come to accept who I was, made peace with the fact that I could live my life in comparison to an alternative life of the normal and the conformed, whatever that may be.
I am a gay man and with that comes all sorts of issues that one has to live with, in which I have found love, lasting friendships, extended periods of grief and a full awareness of the fact that I am just as human as any other.
I’m coming out, out, out
However, that December night, I told my friend, Funmi Iyanda that I was ready to put it all out there, if anyone was still in doubt or questioning about my sexuality, they should be left in no doubt about it. In countless blogs, you did not have to read between the lines to know some truths about me. Funmi then got to the task of writing this piece, she asked a few questions, sought some clarification and then just before she published the piece, she asked if I was fine with it.
I might have been a bit reticent, even considered informing my family about the possibility of this revelation going viral, but in the end, I decided, whatever comes of it is what comes of it, I had given the permission for it to go public from the hand of someone who had a huge following and we will deal with the consequences and the fallout if any.
I never expected the piece to have the reach it did when it was published on the 3rd of January, it got within the sight of people I never thought would encounter it, and not soon after, my siblings were reading of this issue and maybe even displeased with me about it. I had laid my bed on this matter and I was going to lie on it, come what may.
The letter arrived in the furthest post box
In the week that followed, I kept a low profile as messages of support and encouragement came from far and wide. I probably only encountered two negative reports in all, and I thought it would all die down soon afterwards. It did not, for months, people found the piece, read it and then contacted me.
Just about 3 weeks ago, a message appeared on my phone with an instruction to alter aspects of my life along with an acknowledgement of my having followed that instruction, at 51? At first, I smiled and then I crafted a 4-part response about certain other intimate details of my life that probably no one else knew. It was sent and I waited, unsure of what might come of it.
Then I received a response, the recipient of my message after recomposing the parts that were first read from the third part had gone into shock. The realisation that there was much more to the situation than the specific ordering to act in a particular way. The reaction and the response were understanding, sympathetic, compassionate and conciliatory, it gave me the courage to pick up the phone and call to talk.
We are, where we are
We were sorry that some things had happened in the past that probably could no more be corrected, the answers being sought in all sorts of places appeared to have been revealed in the response I gave that touched on some sad events in my childhood. I was encouraged to just be myself and live my life. I suppose my response and the suggestion that the piece to read fully had given some perspective to a difficult situation.
I could not have arranged for any of this to turn out as it did, but there is no greater freedom in acceptance of self and being accepted for who you are. When it came down to it, it was about humanity, understanding and possibly regret, but never to cease the need to communicate, what I feared from childhood had dissolved into the reality of a lived life. My father had learnt through that piece that I am gay.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Thought Picnic: The incompleteness of existential turmoil

Sketches of complicated mien
Within the asylum of the mind as the channels of life-sustaining serum traverse, the flexible tubes that give and take, is the person of one who exists in a continuum of a known past, a present presence, and an indeterminate future.
Shaken at times to the core by circumstances that buffet but never overwhelm and thankfully will not overcome, there is much in the storms that rage, the winds the swirl, and the waters that surge that still gives you a sense of safety amidst the danger, terror at bay, trepidation at sight and premonition in thought.
You return to that age-old tradition, the need to count your blessings, the recollection of things to be thankful for and the sense of gratitude that informs the narrative that gets told again, only in a different arrangement of words. The words yet to find a composition that makes any sense.


Monday, 4 September 2017

The case of the abusive co-passenger

A short and eventful journey
On the 18th of December, last year, I was returning from a vanity trip to Paris to keep up my loyalty status with KLM/AirFrance. On arrival at Manchester Airport, I boarded the train for a 17-minute journey to Manchester Piccadilly Station. It was more eventful than I expected.
The coach I boarded was closest to the top of the platform and as the train was about to leave, it meant people were rushing onto the train through our coach. I could not put my bags away as other passengers were trying to get by. It meant, I had to lean over my seat, opposite me across the aisle, another passenger was leaning over his seat for the same reason.
It took a while for everyone to get through, but they all eventually did. It was at that point that my co-passenger on the other side accosted me and literally shouted in my face asking whether I would allow him to put his bags away. I ignored him because there was no reason to shout at me, but he continued being an irritant.
The abuse was a torrent
Then I answered him back, “If you want to address me, you do not shout at me.” He repeated what I said to ridicule me and then as he sat down he launched into a tirade of abuse. None of which I answered to until he got to say, “This is England,” and something along the lines that I needed to return to where I came from.
To which I responded, “I am English too.” Then another passenger adjured him to stop all that racist nonsense. Without pausing, he laid into the other passenger with torrents of unspeakable abuse. Meanwhile, someone else on the train had called the police and informed them of the ensuing altercation.
The train conductor came through, checked our tickets and then called me aside to ask about the fracas and whether I wanted to involve the police. The episode did not affect me that much, but I thought the man should not get away with such unwarranted and abusive behaviour, I acquiesced to having the police involved in the matter.
The goodly police acted well
When we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly Station, the police boarded the train, they invited me to state my case and got the offending passenger off the train, he was both shocked and surprised as they handcuffed him and took him away. I was taken to the police station where I was made comfortable, served tea and invited to give a statement.
Other passengers as we disembarked offered their names and addresses as witnesses to the episode, I felt buoyed by the support of all the other people who felt scandalised by the event. Going through the formalities, I was asked if I needed victim support, therapy and all sorts of help. I did not feel a victim even if I was shaken by the encounter and soon I was on my way home.
Charged and convicted
The man was kept in custody for the night and consequently charged with the offence of 'Racially / religiously aggravated harassment/alarm / distress by words/writing'. Apparently, as the case was being prepared, he committed another similar offence having not learnt the error of his ways.
The British Transport Police kept me informed of the developments through a liaison office, I was even invited to give a witness impact statement which I declined. Over months, a date was set for a court appeared and adjourned twice until it was completely resolved at the end of August.
The man pleaded guilty to the charges and he was fined £600 plus £100 legal costs, a chance encounter of unnecessarily boorish behaviour that he probably had gotten away with many times before had caught up with him and I am glad that I decided to allow the police to intervene, not so much for my sake, but to hopefully teach the man a lesson, that abusing strangers on a train may come with grave consequences and you never know which of those strangers could cause you avoidable grief.
That, I believe is the end of the matter, I will call the Witness & Case Officer later in the week to thank her for her help and support.


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Thought Picnic: Never underestimate the memory of a child

The danger of remembering
Sometimes, I consider myself a dangerous man, not because I am violent and ready to do any person any harm, but because I have dangerously keen memory.
I can observe and recall, experience and relate, participate and remember such ideas, events, places, things I saw or hear, what was or not done in such detail as to find myself somewhere on the autism spectrum.
How far bad my memory goes, I cannot tell to an exact time, I do not remember the trauma of my premature birth nor the months of incubation and I probably do not want to, it serves no particular purpose, though I have been informed of certain circumstances around my nativity and consequent development, probably grist for a possible life story.
Remembering from long ago
However, there are memories from around the age of three that I can recall, not only that, some do playback as vividly as if I were watching a film, all in my mind. Those almost flashbacks seem to be readily accessible and very useful, disarmingly useful indeed.
With a memory like that, it also means I do not forget, or it is not easy for me to forget what has been committed to memory with all the accompanying activities that make that memory within recall. A sound, maybe of music, perceiving a smell of something, seeing something that looks familiar, or thoughts that churn like delving into a lucky dip basket to retrieve a moment or moments.
Long ago a child did see
Then envision the scenario where a child is neither oblivious of or unperceptive of their environment, the tension in the home, the things adults attempt to conceal from our view that we see and understand too clearly but are given no voice to express. Like I said to an uncle something ago, we the children see all these things, do not be deluded into thinking we are blind or that the passage of time would bring a blurring of the memory into forgetfulness.
Yet, people forget, they ask questions they should not ask and get answers they never expect. They raise ghosts of the past and I built out the cities in which those ghosts once lived amongst us. The instigate issues today forgetting that every comet has a long tail, just as significant as the comet itself. Indeed, if there is a backstory, it is probably going to come to the fore.
See that you never forget
Maybe, it is a gift, or it is a burden, I cannot deny it exists and I am not shy to bring it out, my silence should never be taken for the absence of context, depth, reason and attribution. The things left unsaid have probably not ripened enough for that time and place.
Yet, people forget, they stir the still waters, plumb the depths of mysteries and miseries seeking some justification which when given a construct and a provenance might well change the outcomes. I do not want to be feared and I do not want to be taken granted, I will speak to the present and speak to the memory.
Never underestimate the mind that has little capacity to forget, all the good comes with gratitude, let us not talk of the other.


When the cult of mother becomes a curse

Speaking of the oracles
Òrìà bí ìyá ò sí. This is a saying in Yoruba that is not that easy to translate without losing the fundamentals of meaning and context.
Òrìà in Yoruba is the core of the indigenous animist culture representing the supernatural, elemental spirits that are varied depictions of polytheistic deities, powerful, revered, worshipped and honoured. In the main, they traverse the early plane in legend as human and the heavenly plane as spirits, they are the mainstay of the deepest cultural identity of the Yoruba.
Only, a decade ago, I had to reflect on who the Yoruba were when I met two Cuban professors whilst on holiday who appeared to have more insight and knowledge of Yoruba myths, mythologies and legend than I ever knew. Steeped in superstition in what Lord Lugard dismissed as a ‘vague dread of the supernatural’, you probably would never understand the Yoruba without being Yoruba.
The enduring hold of our oracles
I might extend that to suggest the Yoruba influence that remains strong in the practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji suggests some fundamental underpinning of the mother culture has been lost to the influx of new religions that have in most cases branded these traditions as savage, uncivilised and inherently evil.
Yet, these beliefs have sustained people for centuries and endure in the spirituality of the peoples and their descendants of the new world who were trafficked in the malevolence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Òrìà bí ìyá ò sí. Indicates that the mother or motherhood usually as seen from the perspective of the child is the genre of elemental spirits worthy and possibly demanding of worship, adoration and adulation.
In the cult of mother
Recently, in watching a film and a television dramatization, I was exposed to an interesting dynamic between mother and child, the blood relationship persisted to serve the purposeful hold of the Òrìà mother on the worshipper child, but it was progressively damaged through abuse brought on by drug addiction.
A child desires of a mother love, attention, care, protection, maybe encouragement and even guidance, but some children get little of that because the mother’s capacity to mother in a somewhat ideal mothering situation is impaired by personal struggles that distract the mother from that objective.
In the one case, as in the film, Moonlight, the mother only seemed to come to, late in life whilst in rehabilitation and she profusely apologised for being less of a mother than she could have been. It was a time of tears, of hugs and of healing.
Breaking the cult of mother
In the television drama, it was the 6th episode of the 5th Series of Law and Order: UK, called Deal where a drug-addict mother could care less about her son, first blaming her 13-year old son who for years had been told he was responsible for her problems and then when she was owing money to her drug dealer, she sold her son to the drug dealer to abuse as he saw fit.
The Òrìà mother bond was kept strong with threats to kill the boy’s mother if he stepped out of line. It is not until he saw that his mother had indeed sold him that the wicked Òrìà mother – worshipper child hold and bond was broken.
The travails of mother and child
The Yoruba culture places great burdens of responsibility and duty on the worshipper child to serve and sacrifice to the Òrìà mother, which in many cases is a willing and honourable function in the life of a child who has had positive influences of the mother, mothering and motherhood.
We as child strive to do as much as we can to uphold that Òrìà – worshipper bond, yet, that bond can be broken, broken beyond repair by agency or acts of either or both mother and child. The addiction that belies incapacity does not have to be drugs, it could be any other activity that brings on the infirmity breaks that maternal bond.
At peace, away from mother
As I wrote in my blog on Moonlight, the case of my mother is an addiction to a syncretism that combines elements of Judaism and Christianity with African-initiated interpretations of scripture along with strange animist traditions enlivened by incantations of the Psalms, rituals and holy waters, the result of which has broken the Òrìà mother – worshipper child bond.
Whilst it pains me that there is no relationship of any note between us, I cannot help but see my mother through the prism of those other mother addicts with no prospect of a Moonlight ending, because somewhere down the line she sold that motherhood to her devotion, hoping my fear of it would bring me into line, like the drug dealer’s threat to the boy.
Coming to terms with this has meant that I have decided not to waste precious time trying to make peace, but as I learnt in a conversation with a dear friend, I must find ways to be at peace with myself. I write about these things because I believe I am not alone in this kind of experience, it is also my own personal therapy in resolving the deep conflicts of the heart.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Thought Picnic: Running on empty

The eyes can’t see
Almost two decades ago, I had a daring adventure that had me calling up a driving school with the aim of learning how to drive. Now, it was an unlikely prospect, but it was a demon I had to face up to. To prove to myself that I could be in control of such a vehicle which unlike a bicycle had control abstracted from direct interference.
In the back of my mind, I had another issue, I was concerned about my sight, I am short-sighted with the complication of astigmatism in one eye, which means I find it difficult to have stereo vision and by consequence, judging distance versus speed is a poorly developed skill.
I did not learn I had the astigmatic condition until I was in my 30s and it was only then that I had some corrective measures in my glasses, but the damage had been done as I learnt that this could have been corrected at childhood and it probably explains why I was so poor at tennis as a kid, I could never hit ball, because I could not anticipate as it bounced towards me.
Braking suddenly
However, the driving school tutor arrived at my door, I got in the car and we went through a few preliminary issues of concerns, intentions and safety. Critical to me was that we should not drive onto a major road, that we should only do the quiet streets of my neighbourhood. We had not driven 5 minutes when ahead of me, I saw a busy road and I slammed on the brakes.
This could have been my first accident with whiplash to boot, for unbeknownst to me, there was a fire engine behind us. I scolded the tutor for putting me in that situation and he scolded me back for stopping suddenly and endangering both of us. I was having none of it as I stepped out of the car to stop me lessons there and then.
He successfully calmed my nerves down, I got back in the car and we did another 6 days of driving, by which time, I did make it onto major roads, managed the three-point turn, but never fully mastered reversing into a parking space. I knew I could do it, but considering my limitations, I aborted that quest.
Running on empty
Now, consider one of those scenarios where you are travelling in a car on a long journey late at night and from the passenger’s seat, you notice the fuel gauge is reading to the left on E, 'Empty'. I am told it does not necessarily indicate an empty tank, there is some reserve fuel that could give you another few miles, one cannot say.
The thoughts begin to fill your mind with anxiety and trepidation, whether the car would suddenly stop in the middle of nowhere far from civilisation, maybe that light in the distance is a petrol station rather than a motel or a fast food joint, it could be that you get to the petrol station and you have no means to buy petrol, but we are getting ahead of ourselves, until then, you are running on empty.
Running on empty is a test of resilience, the demands of hope over possible disappointment coasting on despair, one is living dangerously in possibly what was an avoidable situation. We have all been there before, and if you have never had that experience ever, you probably have a perfect life, good for you.
Life after plenty
I have found myself running on empty at many stages of life, completely unaware of how much reserve fuel I have in time, in expectation, in hope and in realisation when I find, time, means and place to refill my tank and put aside the heretofore looming catastrophe.
At the time, you agonise between going at your own speed and reaching out for help, how from a life of individuality and independence do you seek assistance when you need it most? Something in the psyche fights against vulnerability defining you and in the process, you probably deny certain qualities of your humanity.
The need to show emotion, probably a moment to shed tears, finding a shoulder and readily leaning on it, meeting someone who not only listens but is able and ready to meet you at that very point of need.
For a better story
How we survive and thrive can sometimes be a mystery and there are times when people do forget that you are weak even when you seem to be strong, you have nothing much as you present a veneer of plenty, your apparent destitution will only be discovered through engagement and empathy. Running on empty is not the end of the journey even if it presages a sudden end to that journey.
I am thankful that there is some reserve, I do not know how much or for how long this journey would continue and might get to a petrol station and fill up before the car stops. Such is the feeling of a job seeker, the savings are drained, the bills pile up and privations come to the fore as you eke out subsistence from literally nothing. Running on empty is an experience in the hope it becomes a story told from a better standpoint very soon.


Thursday, 24 August 2017

A storied story

When I look at my life story,
In the hope that I have more of a story,
I am amazed at the story,
Mostly unscripted, yet a story,
From the birth of my story,
Through an ever-evolving story,
My blessings are my story,
My hardships too, my story,
In my thoughts, I craft a story,
In my writing, I tell a story,
As I suffer, buds another story,
I become stories within a story,
For all I have done is a story,
I remain responsible for the story,
The mistakes that cloud our story,
The good fortune that lights the story,
With struggles of an overcoming story,
If I ever get to write a good story,
Ye all shall read of that story.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Opinion: The utter dehumanisation of Kim Wall

Responsibility is not outdated
This matter cuts to my heart that I am almost left speechless, yet, I find it is a topic on which I must comment even in the jumble of thoughts that afflict me.
A female freelance journalist researching a maverick submariner, met up with him one evening, apparently went on a submarine ride with him and unfortunately never returned home. The following morning, the submariner was rescued from his sinking submarine and as to the whereabouts of his guest, he said he dropped her off on an island the night before.
Eventually, the submarine was retrieved from the waterbed where it sunk and there was still no sign of the journalist, however, it was impossible not to hold the submariner responsible for the disappearance of the journalist, since he was last seen with her.
How you deal with accidents matter
Then, just as mystery piled on misery, a human torso washed up on a beach just as the submariner changed his story to suggest the journalist came to her demise by accident on submariner and he buried her at sea. The said torso, yet to be confirmed to be the missing journalist was apparently deliberately mutilated.
The journalist was Kim Wall, aged 30, Swedish and quite well accomplished, the submariner was Peter Madsen, aged 46 and Danish. [Independent]
This narrative disturbs and perturbs me on so many levels, accidents do happen whether by commission or omission, but most particularly, there must be a greater sense of responsibility at play. Kim Wall was the guest Peter Madsen on his possibly precarious vessel, it meant on a basic level that he had a sense of great duty to ensuring the safety of his guest and an all-consuming responsibility to ensure that he delivered safely back to shore after their meeting.
How reaction indicts you
Whatever, the accident might have been on the submarine, Peter Madsen should have come back to the surface if the submarine were submerged and immediately contacted the emergency services to come to the aid of Kim Wall to determine with certainty the mortal danger she faced after the said accident.
If Peter Madsen could not have delivered Kim Wall alive to shore, the basic sense of awareness of his responsibility should have been to bring her body back to shore and contact the police and her next-of-kin, ensuring a proper investigation of the event would lead to possibly acceptable conclusions.
I cannot speak to the state of mind of Peter Madsen, he was utterly irresponsible, his conduct extremely reprehensible, and his actions absolutely contemptible. That he did not readily assume responsibility for the safety of Kim Wal that he lied to deflect blame is not only cowardice, it presents a clear disrespect for the person and dignity of Kim Wall whether living or dead.
This was unforgivable
However, what shocks me to the core is how on Kim Wall’s death in his care, he arrogated to himself the right and authority to dispose of her body at sea without any reference or consultation with any of her family or friends. If that is not one of the greatest acts of gross inhumanity ever observed in recent times, I wonder what is.
Peter Madsen’s inability to immediately recognise the gravity of this criminality, for there is no other word to begin to broach this matter with any depth, is beyond belief. Whilst the death of Kim Wall might well have been an accident, for we do not know what happened aboard the submarine, one cannot divorce this matter from the violence against women that continues into death by the desecration of her humanity through throwing her into the sea like some dead fish.
Nothing Peter Madsen did can be found excusable, I cannot find anything defensible in the whole matter and it is necessary that justice for Kim Wall be found in visiting the full force of the law on Peter Madsen without mitigation. He was evil and grotesquely so, such as his ilk must never walk the streets where the civilised walk again, he is barely human and belongs in permanent sequestration for the safety of all. He deserves no mercy, not in the slightest.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Thought Picnic: Personal questions in the aftermath of Charlottesville

Where learning history matters
There are events in the world today that may not directly affect one, but cannot be ignored as they bring to the fore some critical issues of identity and identification in the context of residence, heritage, knowledge, history and an uncertain future.
In terms of history and knowledge, there is an understanding and appreciation of the trading of humanity as cargo for slave labour and the resulting burden of deprivation and civil rights struggle that reflects the plight of the underprivileged across the globe in terms of racial prejudice, gender inequality, wealth gaps, the voiceless minors, the sexuality minorities, the religiously oppressed and those for all sorts of reasons seemingly condemned to be the lesser of our diverse humanity.
A new angle of white privilege
The Charlottesville situation has become an instructive exemplifier of a broken society, that after so many protests and agitation in the last decade of law enforcement brutality in the senseless killing of young black people in America, it has taken the killing of a Caucasian lady in Heather D. Heyer by another Caucasian man in James Alex Fields Jr. to bring the issue of race and class into a turbulent national American if not global discussion. [Wikipedia]
African-Americans have hit the streets with Black Lives Matter, but the reality of Charlottesville shows that bizarrely and practically for anything to happen in America and possibly elsewhere in the western world, White Lives Matter in context and event first for engagement to become universal. This represents the epitome of White privilege.
A Nero on the fiddle
By consequence, it also revealed President Trump’s incapacity to reflect and consider his position as leader of a nation he intends to make great again to find the words and actions necessary to unite the whole country in all its diversity towards the purpose of greatness. Rather, he stood in the dividing line between the conflicting issues and spiritedly widened the gulf irresponsibly like Emperor Nero long before him who fiddled whilst Rome burnt down around him. [This is more metaphor of relevance than an allusion to historical fact.]
Where a man who such power should have found a way to walk in the worn shoes of the many whose soles bleed from treading the rugged roads as they flee the ravenous beasts of terrible American history roam to devour any that seek a semblance of freedom, like a cloven hoofed mule he laid a trail of dung from the beasts to people in flight exposing all to peril in senseless and unguarded verbosity.
We were once again intimated with the unfortunate observation that never in contemporary times has any man been given such great responsibility to only use the office he occupies with no inkling of duty or purpose, his breath-taking irresponsibility which has received deserved opprobrium might only well stiffen his unteachable mule-like imperviousness to reasonable discourse.
The questions that arise
However, the broader issue extends to how as a minority of many degrees this affects my status, my identity and sense of safety in a Brexit-convulsed United Kingdom. For instance, where have elements of privilege I have enjoyed by circumstance, upbringing and good fortune created both a profile and a shield against suffering what others like me do suffer?
What has given me the sense of highly-developed self-esteem that allows me to tackle racialised scenarios with the purpose to educate rather than take offence?
Why have I now begun to realise that I have in many cases endured and absorbed slight, abuse, belittlement, humiliation and denigration from people who in other circumstances besides the ones that brought us together in seemingly egalitarian settings where were it not for that, they would never have found the means to venture into my purview, but for the privilege of nature rather than upbringing?
Embracing my heritage and my humanity
Yes, I am presented with many questions I must find new answers to in the journey of self-discovery, yet, at the same time, I must not be absorbed by this quest as to lose my privileged sense of well-being, however, I hope it allows me to walk a long hard mile in the shoes of many who have never found opportunity, privilege, fortune or right as I have found to thrive everywhere I have lived.
I cannot deny who I am and the rich heritage that makes up my person, my personality and my outlook, but I have to embrace and contextualise how my own experience should engage better in either an individual or in a broader way redound to others who I may be blessed to bestow a greater sense of self-esteem and self-respect in our wonderfully amazing humanity.
There are lessons to learn from what happened in the aftermath of Charlottesville, whether that opportunity would be taken is to be left to history, I hope many are taking the better lessons to heart.


Thought Picnic: Scrambling from subside to upside

A meander between cities
Just a week ago, I went for a long walk through parts of my somewhat twinned city that I had never been before. My adventurous walk which brought me to parks and meadows I never knew existed also led to the discovery of the fact that the river that divides the city of Manchester from that of Salford is a meandering waterway that you could cross multiple times almost in a straight line.
If one was not aware of this feature, you could with the bearings you originally had of first crossing the river, think you are walking in one direction only to find that you are not. The good fortune of having my phone on me, even as I tried to use skyscrapers as my focal compass points that left me a little lost, was my salvation when I eventually crossed the River Irwell four times on my way back home.
A thought to unthink
Then, one night of crossing the river visited an end-it-all thought, a jump for the finish that was resisted with the thoughtfulness that the story I would love written about me should end differently. You are challenged by situation and circumstance, plenty of hope coupled with the lack of means, the privation that shows on the scales as you run out of belt holes on the shorter end in realisation and situation.
This is turbulence, severe and shaking, the jolts are demanding of your ability to reason and demands are made on resources running scarce and you begin to seek the comfort of self-assurances that you cannot account for. Daily, opportunities come for which you project and prospect in the anticipation of interest that leads to interviews that come and but for the grace of God you flunk. Uncertainty begins to wield and hold sway.
An anchor for a soul in turmoil
It is then that you seek a hold, a stay for your sanity, a grip for your mental state, an anchor for your soul, the reading that you will not be overwhelmed, that whatever it is would not leave you completely overcome and overwrought with infirmity; the inability to get a result. Pushed further down by those seeking more out of you in the pretence that they have something useful to offer.
You then appear to find that assuredness in the amazing sturdiness of certain congregations of faith where the numbered is of the ethnic minority as if this matters not much to the indigene but a few. There I was greeted, as a grandfather, I probably looked like one in my dressing and with my cane, and still, there is such reserve in me not to be drawn into the sentimentality of the genuflected and the emotional.
A best on its way
I find it familiar and maybe too familiar to old experiences that have made me too sceptical for assimilation whilst recognising that there is something radically different in the message that provides succour and confidence making you wonder about the significance of it all.
Deep in my premonitions, I know this all will pass, it does quieten me, relieve me for certain aspects of productiveness and even upsets me, but I calmly assure myself, things turn and they will turn, I just have to banish the fear of the worst and face the prospect of the best that is yet to come and quite well on its way to me.