Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Nine years after Chris died

In my mind
For a love that dare not speak its name, I was alone in pain and grief, for I had hardly been out of hospital for a life-threatening condition when I learnt that the one for whom love was deep, sometimes requited, sometimes spurned, bordering on rejection and unrequited, yet having some enduring quality of suffering quietly whilst trying to laugh out loud had passed on.
The shock of the news was first hard to take and the pain of cancer that I already had just continued to glow with the feeling that I did not matter. In depth of grief, there was no one to share my sorrow with. I looked for comfort within and wrote a eulogy for a friend and lover.
In my heart
It was years before I came to terms with my loss, though I really cannot say I have fully understood what happened, each year and nine of them already, I wonder about the chances that came that I was afraid to take. The opportunities that I frittered away in doubt and uncertainty, what could have been and probably might have changed the course of things.
Then, I come to myself, I cannot live in a parallel universe of wishes and fantasies, writing a story that has no semblance in reality. I seem to have lost a grip on the romantic, constantly unsure of whether what is before me is worth my while. For where I have extended, I have been exerted to exhaustion. My pearls of affection get trampled on by the swine of ingratitude.
In my life
What more loss can a man bear before no more investment is considered for the affairs of the heart, all because the one that mattered got away. If one could redeem the time, so much more would have been done to redress the situation.
Alas! That chance is gone, the remembrance, the hurt, the regrets and the lessons return to haunt every year, on the birthday and on the death day. Three days ago, I remembered, for I have never forgotten, that the love I lost was a sweet love.
Adieu Chris, rest in peace, my love.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

On becoming anyone's guinea pig

Wards of discomfort
I have known hospitals from the very first day of my life that they do not seem that strange to me, but many a place have I been that it might not be as welcoming as to make one feel well.
In the last few weeks, I have 4 visits, check-ups, assessments, observations and talks, some could well be unsettling if not for a rather calm exterior. For it, all began with a suspicion, whether a growth, she could not tell, but it came with a referral.
Meanwhile, in another place we had a discussion for a change of medication, in my research, of the 4 options presented, none seemed like a safe transition as the listed side-effects were fearsomely avoidable if one just stuck to what one was already on for 8 years already.
Yet, they say, these are newer efficacious drugs, but the news out there suggests over 50% have returned to their original medication just because of the side effects.
A belly prod
At the referral, I could not say the consultant was pleasant. Much as I was invited to see another consultant who I had read up on, the one I saw had a bedside manner that served me lots of discomfort. The hand I offered was not taken and the introduction was mumbled or maybe I had suddenly become hard of hearing.
He referenced the notes, asked a few questions and then had me on the gurney but called in a chaperone nurse before he did anything. For God’s sake, I have been violated by medicine too many times to be concerned by a poke, prod or prick, but needs must for all the reasons in the world.
I felt no pain as his hands did the feeling all around my abdomen and elsewhere before I dressed up and he returned to the desk to scribble away. He was recommending a colonoscopy and a phlebotomy, whilst I was thinking, I would rather be with the people who know a lot more about me.
Pills of life
Then we decided, that was the best, it means my doctor who over almost three years has collected sheaves of medical material about me, but I have never met would be arranging for me to visit a department of probing analysts.
In all, I am now in new medication for which the side-effects have not been that serious, we would review the situation next week, at which point it might well be a full transition. My medication comes in a little box with a difference, I found I had to peel off a card that suggested certain side-effects could be life-threatening. Now, that is scary stuff. I have to travel with a card listing my doctor’s details.
I chose this because it offered no change in pill burden or mode of consumption, I could still take it at the same time as with my old pills and now, with or without meals. If I do suffer pyrexia; a medical type for having a fever, have a skin rash which might well be invisible considering, have shortness of breath, feel queasy, have a sore throat or a cough, I should consult my doctor immediately.
Just writing all that makes me feel unwell, but I thrive. Now, what is an umbilical hernia? That came from the prodding and poking. Whilst I protest that it is my body first before it is anyone’s guinea pig, sometimes, I find myself the latter, just because I am the former.

Inkwell shrapnel

The many stories I have wanted to tell,
All incubating in me that I might just yell,
In stillness like a water in a deep well,
With nowt a bucket to lift and expel,
To put it all in a nutshell,
I write in vain as I deign to excel,
So much a cause I became a rebel,
The book I hoped for but never could sell,
Might well be another novel,
How to life is one to foretell,
The things and strains that does one compel,
For what I have told has freed me from a cell,
As words and thoughts on pages they fell,
We read and run from living hell,
And that is hardly yet a farewell.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Essential Snobbery 101: For your noise be couth

Like really?
“That is what you say to unruly teenagers, not to 36-year old professionals.” She said at the top of her voice. I had just alighted from the tram on my way home as what came to perturb my silent contemplation made me look towards the commotion.
The sight I beheld left me raising an eyebrow accompanied by a snigger, she was in argumentation with two police officers, much of it quite disagreeable, as she sat on the embankment of the tram station on the side where the trams would come to stop, so she had to be moved on, but she was not budging one bit.
A raucous cacophony ensued as I minded my own business but could not help but think about what she said and how much like an unruly teenager she was in attitude and definitely not a 36-year old professional in appearance or demeanour.
What a pity
It might well be that at another time in her somewhat vibrant life, she was a professional of sorts, a confrontation with the law then welled up the urge for a sense of self-importance in order not to be treated shabbily, though every indication pointed towards a shamefaced humiliation.
She had with her demonstration brought a public audience to her pending predicament and there is no doubt that every pretension to being a lady had been lost to the vociferous outbursts that were quite unbecoming.
The moral of the tale being, never make noise when your cause is not in the quest of justice but in the folly of notoriety and the unnecessary charge of disturbing the peace. Little doth it take to respect thyself or none of it shall ye get.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Thought Picnic: Conveyors of character

Show yourself
Frequent travel brings you in contact to different people from all walks of life that without probing and conversation, it is impossible if you are not clairvoyant to determine where they are from, what they do and why they are travelling.
Yet, I think there is one place where expression and impression are so profoundly displayed. It is not in sometimes drunken boarding of flights, garrulous or intemperate behaviour or even the basic social graces.
At baggage reclaim
The best observation point is the conveyor belt at baggage reclaim, it is as much as the revelation of character as any. The ones who gather at the entry point of baggage when the conveyor belt is switched on. As if their baggage would run away from them.
The parents with kids that are out of control, who clamber over the belts before they start and attempt to drag off luggage well beyond their physical capabilities. This, despite the sign that the conveyor belt is not a playground. If one were to read more into the situation of unruly kids in a public place, you can only wonder what happens at home.
Just as the conveyor belt starts, watch the ones who literally ignore you, if not shove you aside to get at their luggage without a word about their uncouth behaviour. Or the ones who get their luggage and don’t immediately move out of the way for others.
And your character
The conveyor belt is in motion, the luggage moves around and comes back again except if by happenstance it gets picked up by another passenger, though that rarely happens. Wherever you stand, it would eventually get to where you’re standing. If you have to pull off more than one and are not fast enough to get to it, it would come around again, it would not end up in a black hole, never to be seen again.
At least, one would think in the West, there is more safety for person and luggage, not to have to stress oneself at the conveyor belt. I can never understand the rush to retrieve your luggage if you’re being picked up until you've made it out to the arrivals halls, you really have not yet arrived. You might well be detained at immigration.
Is revealed
What the conveyor belt scenario reveals of character can be deep and interesting, from the disorganised to the untrusting, from the impatient to the harried, from the rude to the uncultured, from the nasty to the atrocious. Amongst these, you can still find gems of humanity, patient, helpful, friendly, courteous, disciplined, informative and just nice.
Being a frequent traveller does bring you in contact with a broad stratum of society, some members, you’ll rather not meet anywhere again.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

The memories of sexual abuse never fade

No two are the same
Each case of sexual abuse is different and unique. The age at which that abuse first happened can be life-defining. However, one thing you cannot discount is the personal memory of the abuse to the individual, to the person and to the child.
Following a blog written about friendship early last year, the write-up went viral and by happenstance ended up in the readership of my father.
He had a perspective and an expectation of who I was supposed to be and where I might have been lacking, in another conversation from over a decade ago, it was one lacking responsibility. That comes with all sorts of connotations, but I challenged it.
Stand up for who you are
My response was, “If after all this while, you think I am irresponsible, that is unfortunate.”
He replied, sensing my hurt and disappointment, that was not what he meant. As I shook and trembled, I was not backing down when I said, “I know what you meant, I speak English too.”
Even to our parents, we have to come to a point where we are ready to stand up for who were are, regardless of who they expect us to be.
Soon, we continued our conversation on other topics until I received a text message of instructions to follow and respond to last August, following his knowledge of that blog.
The memories well up again
I was a few months short of my 52nd birthday when my father learnt that as a child under his roof and where people employed to care for us, were on the side, taking sexual favours.
It was not my intention to share certain dark episodes of my early life that my parents were completely oblivious of, but occasion warranted the need to talk about it at that time.
My memories of these events over 40 years ago are keen and vivid, they are not insignificant and for all that I have written about abuse in well over a decade, I have been fortunate not to consider myself a victim or be victimised for the experiences I have had. I have been blessed and lucky.
I know how the loss of sexual innocence consequently affects relationships, healthy choices, trust and confidence. This is always on my mind when people talk about their experiences of sexual abuse. We would prefer we never had to recall and recount any of it, and whether or not anyone believes us, one thing they can never do it consign us to irrelevance and relegate our lives or history to obloquy.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Your father is on Facebook

Yes, it is him and no one else
This question came from my sister this morning.
“Morning (or whatever), Is your father now on Facebook or one of his sons is impersonating him?
To which I responded, “Your father is on Facebook.”
Even I was surprised that he was on Facebook, but the story goes back to some time ago when I was trying a get a laptop over to my dad. The last few months have involved a lot of impromptu travel related to work that it has been impossible to plan anything.
Time, space and wherewithal
On another note, I sometimes contrast my professional life to that of my father, he was a corporation man with assistants and people he could call upon to do the somewhat important and mundane things. Almost 23 years of my working life has been as a self-employed and freelance consultant, maybe, if I had entered a partnership of consultants, we would have employed an office manager to handle affairs like that.
Then, in arranging to send the laptop, he also asked for a phone making the point that he wanted to have a go at technology before he departs.
An unexpected response
As it transpired, I took a few pictures yesterday evening and posted to Instagram with a cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook, I also included a short poem.
The absence of bright lights,
Does not diminish the clear sights,
My face showing the provenance of my father,
Especially now that I've refused to lather,
The unshaved greys are proof of a youth,
Before you say I am long in the tooth,
For many times I was addressed as young man,
I laughed for that was just another fan.
Shortly after it was posted, I received a message with two pictures of my dad from my brother, who then informed me that the pictures were my dad’s reaction to my pictures and poetry. And there was my discovery that my father had joined social media to be engaged under the tutelage of my brother.
Welcome to Facebook
Obviously, my sister is concerned that she might have to temper her views because of the scrutinising pair of eyes of her father. However, I am of the view that if he did not know we were opinionated, forthright, controversial and frank in our postings, he would soon find out on Facebook, and that is a good thing.
He would be proud to know that the privileged education we all had has not gone to waste, we can discuss, debate, argue and banter, with grace, erudition and dignity.
My father is 78, he lives an active life pottering around on his farm or being actively involved in the community. Now that he has the added occupation of Facebook engagement, all I can say is welcome.
For all who care to know, our father is on Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Thought Picnic: Am I just being silly?

This, I have desired
All my life, I have always wanted to be a positive influence on the people I met in different walks of life. In social and formal settings, at work and at play, I have hoped that any encounter would be enabling, encouraging, inspiring and building.
In many ways, I hope I have a good sense of self, some awareness, the ability to reflect and take a long view. There is a backstory that is full of events and episodes of life that I am grateful to have been able to review with the knowledge that tough times pass, and tough people laugh.
Yet, there are people I have been unable to influence in any way towards a better self and direction. I get to a point where I begin to regret and find fault in places that bother me in not sometimes enabling, encouraging and acquiescing to the demons that afflict the lives of others.
May I never burden you
By terms, I am an easy-going person who grants latitude and scope to explore and express, my entreaties and advice would always veer towards realising great potential and I see a lot of that in people, long before they see it in themselves.
My hope invariably is to steer people towards what I believe they can achieve whilst not driving or urging them but giving them a clearer vision of possibilities that they can work towards if they so wish. In most cases, I have achieved between limited to glowing success, however, I fear that some have become abject failures.
What I have desired my example, my conduct and my deportment to convey to some by proximity and observation has made no impact. Some people are quite set in their ways that I dare say have become impervious to persuasion.
Finding perspective beyond ourselves
Now, it is no desire of mine to create clones of myself, I would hate that I am mimicked, copied and mimed. That is never my intention when I am involved with people. There are in my view certain things I still hope to impart, the ability to handle responsibility, the ability to face adversity with a sense that one would not be overwhelmed, having function and bearing to manage situations that the avoidable does not become a disability, the practice of moderation even in your vices.
Beyond that, I hope there is humanity and empathy, the knowledge that the world owes you nothing, nor does it revolve around you. The ability to be grateful and full of gratitude for all things, recognising the need to count your blessings and by that fill your mind with an appreciation of the good things in life.
Some of this is probably too much to ask of some. They are selfish and self-centred, navel-gazing and full of self-pity, constantly complaining of others without any inkling of how they might well be complaining of themselves, by which they lose perspective, direction and focus. If by then I have found a way to extricate myself from the negative influence, I find myself burdened with issues I could well do without.
I am just being silly
I do wonder if I have had expectations that have crashed into disappointment, high hopes that have left me despondent and a deluded sense of influence that has left me feeling responsible for what is heading for the rocks and a shipwreck.
Maybe, I am incapable of tough love, the point where my liking a person beclouds my ability, to be frank, and honest about the truth of a situation. I am slow to wrath and sometimes my patience holds for longer than is necessary to retrieve a situation.
Then I think, why do I even think that I can influence anyone either way? What hubris has infected my sanity to suggest I can help anyone to any end? Whilst it is possible by some accident of circumstance, someone somewhere might have benefitted from knowing me and I knowing them. I do wonder if I am just being silly.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Hotel life: Habits and loyalty

On loyalty and benefits
I would be the first to tell you that loyalty schemes and customer loyalty matter. This especially when you are a frequent traveller for business and for leisure.
Now on holiday in Gran Canaria, as is my custom when I have the time and the means, which I did more frequently before my encounter with cancer, I see that benefit even more.
On a broader note, it is only in exceptional circumstances that I fly on airlines outside the SkyTeam alliance, usually when there are no connections or I really want to save time on travel, as travelling out of Manchester always included a stopover in either Paris or Amsterdam. Being a SkyTeam elite member by reason of frequency of travel or the class one chooses to travel grants privileges of access and service that takes the humdrum out of the travel experience.
When it comes to accommodation, most of my bookings are through, with them, for every 10 nights spent in hotels, I get the average cost of the 10 nights as an award to use for another stay.
A hotel to show and tell
However, back to Gran Canaria, I cannot stay anywhere else but the Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas, which sits as a white colonial-style edifice backing onto the dunes of Maspalomas. I first came here in September 2007 and I have probably spent over 200 nights at this hotel altogether, which a number of stays were up to 3 weeks at a time.
Too many things set this establishment out as unique, exquisite, exclusive and one of the top hotels to stay at in Playa del Ingles. On service, on location, on comfort, on friendliness, I feel so much at home here. I walk into the hotel and there is always someone that recognises me at the reception and I am known by name. I have never had to introduce myself after my first visit.
In all, I am welcomed, like family, well beyond just a returning guest. Firm handshakes, the banter, the laughter, and much else, signals to the new recruits at the reception or the restaurant, that this is a guest that is also family. The refrain is almost always, “Welcome Mr Akintayo, to your second home.”
Just what service is about
On the quality of service, I will just leave this here, I was last here in time, November/December 2016 with my best friend. Once we had dispensed with greetings, the Chef de reception went into the inner office and brought out an envelope containing a USB key that had been forgotten by my friend.
There are many observations to follow this, that they kept a seemingly insignificant thing that even my friend had no idea had been lost at this hotel, that they believed sometime in the future, I will return and that they immediately had the presence of mind to present the lost item even before I was checked-in.
Then, upon being given a room, I was not satisfied because it was on the first floor and the view obscured by palm trees. Without insisting, I just asked if it was possible to change my floor. One of the newer receptionists recognised I was a returning customer and had a chat to her manager. The next day we were moved to a top floor room with stunning views.
Whilst, I may have noticed some changes to the service I have been accustomed to, the quality remains high and the number of returning guests still maintains a high percentage. People might say hotels usually have a high attrition rate of staff, that is rarely the case with this hotel. I know staff that have been at this hotel since I first came in 2007. That is life at this hotel and a little homage to loyalty.

Friday, 31 August 2018

God bless Aretha Franklin

All respect
As the world bids farewell to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, the tributes are many from far and wide for the sensational person, artist and figure she was.
Yet, for most that mourn and also celebrate her wonderful life, she will be remembered mostly in her many songs. What is so amazing is the number of songs that she covered that she brought a life and an interpretation to that went well beyond the original.
Respect was written and first recorded by Otis Redding, with the man, the husband, pleading for respect when he gets home, Aretha Franklin took it and sang it from the perspective from the woman, the wife and the rest is history. Two Grammy awards and the induction of her version into Grammy Hall of Fame.
The salvation of talent
There are many other songs that people have come out to sing in charted a literally 7-decade-long career.
A difficult childhood, she had, parents divorcing when she was 6, her mother died of a heart attack just before she was 10, having 2 children at the ages of 12 and 14 respectively, she was a preacher’s daughter, but it did not save her from a cruel world out there. Her talent did, and it did greatly.
However, the song that registers the most to me as delivered by Aretha Franklin was written by the Beatles, she again took it and rendered it in both a haunting and a somewhat uplift tempo, the words of the song, full of meaning that made you think. It isn’t Think. She wrote that with her then husband, Ted White.
Eleanor Rigby was written in 1966, first by Paul McCartney and completed by the Beatles, but credited to Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

Remembering the lonely
Between the version written by the Beatles and the version that Aretha Franklin performed, she basically took a fictional person with a life story of a nobody, about whom nobody cared except for what needed to be done in burying her after she died.
The Beatles – 1st verse.
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
Aretha Franklin – 1st verse.
I'm Eleanor Rigby
I picked up the rice in the church where the weddings have been
Yeah I'm Eleanor Rigby
I'm keeping my face in a jar by the door
If you want to know what is it for, Well
The juxtapositioning of being unknown as a nobody and the reality of being a lonely person is a haunting and fearful thing to think about. Yet, there are many, unknown, unsung, unseen, unheard, untouched, unloved, and more that have a life and then a death that would speak like that of Eleanor Rigby.
When Eleanor Rigby died, she died in the church, Father McKenzie whose frugal life is noted in darning his socks, having written an eulogy, a tribute to Eleanor Rigby, to the hearing nobody to the fact that in the Beatles version, nobody was saved by what may have been a moving tribute, but who can tell?
Making a person real
Aretha Franklin takes the abstraction to the involved, creates a person and speaks in the voice of that person. This is deep empathy rather than plain sympathy.
This is where Aretha Franklin made Eleanor Rigby somebody, a person, a story that began in the first person and then it became a story told to many. Eleanor Rigby took a place in our minds, the minds of many of us seemingly lonely people in many ways social, emotional and much else, with the promise that we would be left unsung.
When I first heard Aretha Franklin’s version, I thought Eleanor Rigby was someone who lived at a certain time and after her death was recognised for something. I had not heard the Beatles version before that.
Eleanor Rigby is almost a premonition, a niggling anxiety, yet, whatever happens when one is dead is really for the living to take care of, and that is a hope of sorts.
Aretha Franklin herself is definitely no Eleanor Rigby, she did not have to pick up the rice where the weddings have been. She died surrounded by family and will be eulogised by the high and mighty, along with millions paying tribute. She, however, has given a voice and life to the lonely people and at the end, she said, ‘God bless, yeah gotta love some lonely people.’
God bless you, Aretha, you made more than a difference.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Thought Picnic: Damn, I was so into you

Like you used to do
The thought started with, ‘Like you used to do’, the sad reality of loves that I once had and have lost for reasons I have not fully understood. I reflect and wonder at what could have been, yet we never really got to explore that unity of mind, of soul and of life.
The moments are collected as memories, each reminder a cut to the heart as the search of real and true love continues in a resignation to fate rather than a determined yearning for it, even though the latter is a deeper feeling than the former.
My life appears to be crowded out with exes, lovers who became dear friends, lovers who passed on, lovers who became fleeting acquaintances, lovers, long forgotten with the pain that they brought and the baggage they refused to shed.
I’m ready, you’re not
However, what is most striking is what I was ready to invest and what they were not ready to put much faith in. It is no doubt that I bring a challenge to certain lives and with that optimism that upsets the sedentary with new possibility. Elements of my personality, though introvert can provoke either the positive or the negative.
Reactions to it also can inspire or tire me out as the balance and stability I seek is in finding refuge in person, place and situations. Arms to embrace, shoulders to lean and the absence of inhibition to be free with each other.
Writing about this does not make it easier, for I have been blessed with means and ability well beyond those of partners that there was rarely any thought given to sharing of that abundance in everyday life, the pursuit of happiness and the pleasure to be derived from it. Just like you do.
Damn, I was into you
I have had those fears before, that where you could have taken then leap but hesitated, vacillated and procrastinated until time and tide took away all the options and left you with regret. Anticipation is also another thing on the part of both partners, I have plans and I have dreams, they can neither be executed nor fulfilled in an instant.
There is a process of growing and knowing, flowing and glowing, sowing and owing to the point where the stars are aligned and destiny takes the wheel.
For all that the heart wants to do, the head must review and assess, lest, in the end, we become as fools. For the few, I really could say, ‘Damn I was into you’, I can only wonder when did it go astray.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Young men need to calm down

Kicking the bus in the balls
He was shouting and probably remonstrating about something when he got off the bus and without catching his breath, still in a tirade, he proceeded to kick the bus. The bus winched and groaned at being kicked straight in the balls.
Not exactly. Whatever might have started the altercation, he was really ejected from the bus, in his anger and petulance, he began kicking the bus to make a point. Meanwhile, the bus rolled away from the bus stop and he was left there to kick a bin and then the bus stand.
It is not the end of the world
Young men need to learn to calm down. Take control of their emotion and exercise a bit of self-control. Whilst, a lot can so easily escalate, that same situation can be tempered down to irrelevance. It all depends on how a person decides to react.
He missed a bus journey he probably could have enjoyed and had to wait probably another 15 minutes before another bus came by. It is quite likely, he would have simmered down by then, rather than have fire, smoke and steam coming out of his mouth, nostrils and ears in that order.
As I pondered on this matter walking back to my hotel, at another bus stop, someone asked me a question in French that I did not understand. Before I could explain myself, he began swearing and cursing at me, he also kicking the bus stand. I was exasperated, saying nothing, I kept walking along, now wondering about the many angry young men who lose out just because they cannot calm down a bit.
Maintain composure and perspective
This brings me to an event in the news a few weeks ago. This about two young men who by my reckoning could easily pass for my son, if I had by happenstance had issue. They were fledgeling models building a profile in their professions when the one said to the other than he had slept with the other’s girlfriend. [BBCNews]
By the time you knew what was happening, they had met up for a fight, one side armed with dumbbells and the other armed with three knives including a machete, over an unsubstantiated claim of one having slept with another’s girlfriend. The young man who took umbrage at having his girlfriend in the arms of a rival got stabbed and he died.
What needless, senseless and careless loss of life over what by terms should be a trivial matter. Egos and personalities without capacity or inclination to contemplate consequence. A gross lack of apprehension for the future, by living only in the present and now. Respect has become a precious commodity, linked with a feigned sense of honour and dignity that everything is sacrificed to maintain that status after which all is lost.
What if they decided to reflect for once and step back from careering down the road to perdition? A silent voice that spoke into the consciousness of one that suggesting, backing down does not mean a loss of face, defeat or person.
Calling me chicken doesn’t make me one
I know the number of times I have been called a chicken, in the desire of that person to get me to do what I have decided not to do. A chance encounter could define an entire future, but that encounter alone when veering towards the negative is probably the best sign to disengage.
Walking into a park one sunny afternoon and seeing a friend, I went to offer greetings and pleasantries as one of his acquaintances urged me to sit on the grass. I had no intention of sitting on the grass, so I stated, I would rather sit on a bench. At which point he called me a pretentious git and asked if I thought I was better than those sitting on the grass.
I responded, everyone has made their choice to sit where they want to, I have decided, I prefer to sit on the bench and I don’t care for whether he accepts my decision or not. We parted company, not in the friendliest of terms, but I knew that only that circumstance would have put us in the same space. There was every likelihood, there would be no other encounter between us.
Take a time out and take it easy
I take a laidback approach to things, I hate to be in a rush, I make time for activities I have planned, I would step out of the way of those to whom time has become the most expensive commodity. I can take offence yet refuse to be offended or slighted. This all comes with a keen sense of self and the ability to brush it off.
The quest for respect is not a goal, it grows out of conduct, comportment, demeanour and stature. There are cases where respect needs to be demanded, it is never with brawn. We have reached a level of civilisation where conversation, ideas, knowledge and wisdom should suffice in settling issues. We can agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable as we aspire to a greater level of gentlemanliness.
I do hope that young men begin to realise there is more to life beyond that momentary hot-headed where the absolutely regrettable becomes an ever-present possibility. There is more respect, honour, dignity and integrity to be had in the future if you can walk away from a volatile situation now.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Paris: Boulevard de l'Unpretty - Revisited.

Talking hair is not cheap
Hair is politics, or should I say political. It is also commercial, it is big business. Yet, it is quite personal, the choice of expression with or without hair is interesting and sometimes just left to the observation.
Then, you come to the real issue, the one of hair for black women. I was walking down the road on Boulevard de Strasbourg, just after the Saint Laurent Catholic Church on the left, before the street changes to Boulevard de Sebastopol and I observed something I had not seen before.
There were men stood in front of shops accosting women and doing everything to persuade them to come into the shops, black women that is, and these shops had dangling from every window and hook as you peered in from the shop windows and the doors, hair of every dark shade, ready to be used as augmentation of natural hair.
How long has this been going on?
Now, I have seen architectural works of the hair that I cannot fathom how much skill and time it has taken to put those creations on the heads of the wearers and they do not come cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
I have written of this section of Paris before, both sides of the street teeming like an African ghetto that even I feel too much of an outsider to be able to relate. Literally, every shop sells hair and cosmetics, and as they are all selling the same things, you do wonder about what makes each shop unique as competition is brisk, if not cutthroat, you probably need men to literally muscle in the customer off the street.
Travelled the world and the seven hairs
The hair, however, is a different story, having travelled off the shorn heads of poor people from the hinterland of Brazil and India, the hair has become the travelled dream of people who probably would never see miles beyond their locality for a lifetime.
The profits from these lengths of follicular fancy would hardly get to them. That is absorbed somewhere in the value chain by people who have probably become billionaires in the purveyance of this fleeting enhancement to beauty.
I would not know if there is a fair-trade hair construct that ensures a bit more of the profits of this arbitrage goes back to the source communities of the hair. That is another element of the opacity of capitalism.
Where’s the shampoo?
I guess for me, the only hair product I use is a razor and shaving gel if that counts as hair products. I shave my head just while I shave my beard, or whatever those itchy bristles are. It was funny and cheeky when my friend as he was using the shower ventured then declined. He then said he could not ask me for something I basically could not have. Shampoo!
That is another story. The trade in hair is about to get nasty and it is in the pulling of customers rather than of their hair.
Like TLC does say, “You can buy your hair if it won’t grow.”

Friday, 3 August 2018

Thought Picnic: Remembering the day you were told, you smell like a toilet

In juvenile detention
I left the office early today at the end of a 2-week working visit to Berlin to be able to beat the rush-hour traffic to the airport. Even that did not mean we were not caught up in traffic until my taxi cab driver used his smarts to cut a detour that took probably 20 minutes out of our journey time.
Down one of the byroads, I noticed high fences and barbed wire on top of the walls. Military, I thought until I saw the sign in German for young offender’s institution. The taxi cab driver said it was a place for pickpockets.
I thought about the parents of the kids in that institution and how they might have helped or failed their kids. Maybe there was nothing they could do about the situation.
The threat of detention
Just then, my thoughts wandered to the many instances where in my father’s displeasure, he threatened to have me locked up in a police cell, for no other reason than the breakdown of communication and the thought that the experience might just toughen me up and make me probably more amenable to the thinking and the respectful subservience to his obstinate will.
Whilst the threat was never carried out because others intervened, and I was to humble and humiliate myself at his feet to placate him, the thought that he would threaten this police cell idea remained a lasting blot to what could have developed into a more rewarding father-son relationship.
It is no stretch of the imagination that I was at times a difficult and unruly child, in some ways the rebelliousness was seeking a way of independent expression, some of which might well have landed me in a young offender’s institution.
When to them you smell
Things finally came to an irredeemable schism when on failing my course he decided I would be more useful on his failing farm. It was conceptually a gulag neither I nor my mother was keen on the idea. I guess on the running of my luck, I had become more of a mother’s child than a father’s child. The morning we were to go to the farm, my sister gave me some money and I left my home for good.
However, I find myself writing this blog because I just read reports of an excerpt from Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book called Small Fry in which she talks of the difficult and sometimes strained relationship she had with her father, the legendary Steve Jobs. [The Telegraph]
She visited him just before he died and sprayed on an expensive rose facial which she found in one of her father’s bathrooms and his acknowledgement? “You smell like a toilet.” This after hugging her.
A destructive streak
It is sometimes difficult to write about the complicated relationship between a parent and a child. The joy in your being born could soon dissipate into condescension, obloquy, disparagement and condemnation. “You smell like a toilet”, is a paraphrase that means many things from disappointment, disillusion and anger on the part of the parent.
You’re not measuring up, in the many ways you by osmosis were supposed to not just to meet the standard but exceed it, whatever that unspoken standard was. The times I was not fast enough, I was not man enough, I was not athletic enough, my teeth were rotten, my mouth was smelly, I was stupid, blind, dumb, an altogether a sense of shame that I could ever have been their offspring. When nothing else worked the ultimate putdown was, you were not responsible.
Take heed what you say
There is a coming of age to this whole process though, from the earnest desire to please and receive praise, through the fear of offending locking you into a state of stupefying stunted lack of agency, the need for acceptance then tires you out to the point of seething resentment, by which time indifference leads you to live your own life the best way you can regardless. You shrug it all off.
I cannot remember when the desire to please my father lost its drive, it was before I was 20 and I had already failed at simple and difficult things. I became the ward of another who allowed me to explore possibilities in ways that gave me a sense of direction.
In some ways, I have a good relationship with my father now, in others, flippant statements in the tone and intent of “You smell like a toilet” have a way of sticking in the recesses of your memory for a lifetime. They are never forgotten. You always remember those things, for they cut deep, stab you in the heart and recovering from the blow is almost impossible, maybe only time can heal the pain.
Take heed what you say to a child.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Thought Picnic: On life giving us another chance

Grindr for an update
Passing through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport a few weeks ago, I had a few hours to spare. Whilst Grindr will not offer opportunity, it still remains fascinating as people publish their presence in search of liaison and probably more.
One glance at proximity talent revealed a young man I had known and met a long time ago. At the age of 23, he was diagnosed HIV positive and we just happened to be chatting online when he revealed he was fed up with life, he was suicidal, unsure of what to do and apparently had no discernible career path.
My disposition has been never to run out of hope, regardless of the circumstances one is in. Times that I have comforted myself with the thoughts and spoken words that the storms will pass, the calm will come and the sun will shine again.
Giving life another chance
It was just about the time that I embarked on a post-graduate course, I was doing new things rather than considering my situation terminal. As we talked, I began to put ideas in his head about possibilities and opportunities. More so, I stressed the fact that an HIV diagnosis was an opportunity to give life another chance rather than end it.
What I said might have been a seed of hope, I do not know. A year after he was working as a shop attendant at the airport, a number of times, I passed through the airport and I always sought him out to say hello.
Living the life of happiness
In other forums, I found he fell in love, then got married, went on holidays and soon, I left the Netherlands. For almost 8 years, I did not encounter him anywhere. The few times I had passed through Amsterdam, especially with the reconfiguration of the airport, I thought he had moved on to other things.
So, my surprise to see him on Grindr at the airport that I sent him a message that I was in the lounge and asked if he would want to meet up. He responded and said he would come round to my side of the airport.
For the telling of better stories
Our very first conversation was 14 years ago. He looked happy, healthy, thriving and satisfied with his job where he had been promoted with additional responsibilities. He was still married too and he said he could not be happier as he hinted at the original conversation we had.
I defaulted to the refrain, that we are all stories, that we may get times to tell better stories of ourselves, the things we had been through and how they have become part of a distant past.
More pertinently, having given life another chance, or was is life that gave us another chance to revise our stories for a better narrative? We are full of gratitude and we cannot deny that singular fact, above all else. For now, we are still here and we are thankful for that.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Football: A time to mope

Quite downcast
It is the strangest feeling and emotion that words cannot really be found to express. That low, dark, uncommitted and seemingly resigned state of being that holds you down like you’re beneath the water for longer than you could hold your breath until some reflex lets you bob your head out for a death-defying gulp of air and whatever it might contain.
It was the same feeling I had exactly 8 years ago today when I watched the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in Spain of all places. I was on holiday in Gran Canaria at the time. I found a bar of fellow Hollanders and the football match at one time looked like a wrestling or mixed martial arts match, with my people from the Netherlands playing a game I never expected of them. We lost.
As the Spaniards rejoiced in their conquering of the world of football, I took a slow, sullen, sad stroll back to my hotel, unable to muster a smile or respond to the revelry that surrounded me. That night, I went to bed and dreamt away my sorrows and relapsed back into holiday mode for the nine days left of it.
Each player a team
Today, like any other time England plays, I knew I could not watch the match, just as I can hardly watch Nigeria play. The tension is just too high for me. I was feeling exhausted by the thought of it at noon. I probably should have acted as if I had no dog in this game for the Netherlands were not in it and I had for the last two World Cups donned my orange colours instead of those of my birth country or the country of my heritage.
Nigeria visited the World Cup and basically took away the trophy for the best kit, their performance was all hype and no goals. Eleven brilliant players playing as eleven amazing teams. Which brings to mind the assessment of one foreign coach about Nigeria. They are so disorganised that the disorganisation will upset structured and organised teams, by that alone, they are able to exploit and win games.
The death knell of Nigeria’s foray was already sounded by Croatia in their first match, now, it is Croatia again who have put a stop to that English anthem that I had dreaded would not come true.
Three lions should take a nap
When England sent Sweden home, I curbed my enthusiasm, when everyone including the Queen’s Guard, yes them, decided to play the Three Lions anthem in front of Buckingham Palace on Saturday evening as I tried to miss the excitement of it all by boarding a train for a 2-hour journey.
For all intents and purposes, the Three Lions song, released for Euro 1996 is a good rallying song, but it is almost too hubristic for my liking. To my mind, it is the worst anthem to have if you have not already won the competition for which it is being sung. This for the simple reason that if we fall short, others would find the means to ridicule us beyond the utterly risible and that is never a comfortable place to be.
I would rather I was singing Football’s Coming Home after the England Team captain has his or her mitts on the trophy. Then, we can celebrate and those waiting to make fun of us if we faltered would have no other choice than to join in our celebrations.
Just what I feared
I returned home from work and went to bed, having a few waking moments to check the live text review of the match between Croatia and England, we scored early but never improved on that scoreline, whilst Croatia equalised and then scored the winning goal in the second half of extra time, the god of miraculous football turnaround having gone to sleep, time seeped away like sand emptying to the force of gravity in an hourglass.
We have only pride to play for in the third-place match against a Belgium who have already trounced us once in the final match of the group stage.
It’s nope for us
It is quite likely that France would lift the cup, but Croatia are not pushovers, they can quite easily become the surprise dark horse of this tournament that left Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Brazil as has-beens. My money was on Belgium, or rather, my hunch was on Belgium, my money stayed in my pocket.
If I had any consolation, England has won the World Cup in my lifetime, albeit, I was only 7 months old. I think this young England team came well beyond our expectations, their temperamental was even, level-headed and focused. They might soon bring a trophy home. There is hope and there is scope, we would cope, given a moment to mope.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Thought Picnic: Exercising the art of the unflappable

When they project
One morning last week, I woke up to find a message on one of my social media profiles from someone who took exception to appearances on my profile.
What people feel about the way I look or choose to present myself is left to them, I cannot deny them the need to be silent, to compliment or to castigate.
On the point of silence, I cannot read minds, so it does not bother me. When I am complimented, I hope I have the grace, gratitude and courtesy to acknowledge it without becoming disagreeable. Then also, I try not to be suspicious as to consider every compliment as a means for some to inveigle their way into my affections and confidences. Who knows motives and maybe there is no motive at all apart from appreciation.
When they abuse
However, when a complete stranger is overwrought to the point that they have to castigate me rather than hold their peace, you have to wonder what they are really up to. In most cases, I have ignored them and where the facility is available, I block them.
The one last week went a bit further than was necessary that I was compelled to react. When people come at you out of the blue, I default to seeing it as a projection of themselves rather than a reflection of myself.
I responded, “Is that a cheap shot at me to make you feel good about yourself? I don’t care for what you think. Go and find someone else to project your negativity on.”
He responded with derision and then addressing me as a bozo, he ordered me not to respond again. I was having none of it. I responded, “I don’t know what side of the bed you got off on, but just because you are frustrated and probably unloved, should not have to make me a target of your ire. Then, I was a sleeping dog that you have kicked, you can’t now control the narrative.”
When they repent
I expected him to go away. He didn’t, in fact, I was surprised at his response. “I have just read over what I posted to you,” he said, “I’m sorry, it was nasty and rude, I apologise.”
To which, I responded. “I accept your apology. Have a nice day.” Then he went on about how sorry and contrite he was, he thought I was a nice guy and he hoped I would not close him down after what happened.
To that, I had no further responses, for whilst I have made acquaintances and friends after some conflict, I do not necessarily see that as the best avenue for cultivating friendships. Conflict, argument and disagreement whilst respecting each other courteously and nicely, I can abide. When you go down the line of abuse, you have burnt your bridges before you have had the opportunity to cross them.
When you don’t care anymore
More poignantly, the moral tale behind all this is to know when people are projecting their negativity and by that, refuse to allow that to define you, confuse you, aggrieve you and rile you to the point that they can take advantage of your composure and sense of wellbeing.
As I have written before, when I have faced racial abuse, I have mostly seen it as an opportunity to educate and not take offence. I have found that the same works for when you are abused or something negative is said about you.
Then, when a respected mentor inadvertently suggested I was failing to show an example, I simply said, that was just part of my failings. He meant the opposite, but when you have reached the point where you are not driven by the need to please and you are comfortable in your own skin, you will be unflappable in the face of anything they throw your way.