Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Observing the subtle racism at black success

Racism touches us all
Racism is a general story and a personal story, the tales I have to regale are many in my almost 30 years of continuous living in Europe. Whether it be in the UK where from when I was beginning to become reacquainted with the land of my birth or on mainland Europe where somewhere between being patronised and being belittled was a covert disrespectfulness you just ignored, you grew a thicker skin.
Racism became a topical issue from the weekend and in football, when the England international and Manchester City footballer, Raheem Sterling, was racially abused at Chelsea Football Club.
Raheem Sterling took to Instagram to give context to how and why racism appears to thrive against young black footballers through the way they are depicted in the mainstream media.

Commissions of omissions
He gave the example of how the reportage on two young black football playing colleagues had bought new houses for their mothers, “mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are,” he said. The press had found a slant to paint these grateful boys in a bad light.
Not long after I had read that post, the BBC was reporting on Raheem Sterling’s Instagram post, quoting the post but incompletely and out of context. The BBC reported the boys had bought houses and left out the positive and mollifying message which was the boys had bought the new houses for their mothers.
That subtle omission of context painted the boys as excessively profligate rather than as endearingly grateful. That was enough to give a platform to forming negative opinions about people who had done some good, but in the reportage were made to look bad.
Jealousy needs no inspiration
It then no surprise that a black footballer as reported by BBC Sport who cannot exculpate themselves from being part of the problem, pulled out of appearing on TalkSport after their coverage of the Raheem Sterling story, for apparently, “former Reading striker Dave Kitson told the station that Sterling had incited ‘jealousy’ by exhibiting a luxury lifestyle on his social media.” [BBC]
Like seriously, a successful young man who happens to be black is exhibiting a luxury lifestyle on his social media? Nothing could be further from the truth, especially with Raheem Sterling.
In my own life, people would be jealous regardless of whether you’re frugal or profligate, the simple fact that you’re successful is enough to accentuate negative feelings, they need no inspiration to be rotten to you, given the opportunity of proximity in the hope to rile you.
We thrive, nonetheless
We have found accommodations or a state of mind, we have no reason to take offence, we ignore them, it is their problem and their headache. At other times, there is a gift of a quick wit, a riposte that sends them back into the crevasses from whence they emerge to glow in our light. Sometimes, it is others who observe the reprehensible and take action at no one’s behest apart from their good-natured disposition and humanity.
We are grateful for good fortune and success in our various fields and long may we have great stories to tell.
However, I leave the last word to one Jonathan Northcroft, the football correspondent for the Sunday Times, “Raheem Sterling represents the type of young black footballer that middle-aged white men of a certain type can’t deal with.”



Monday, 10 December 2018

Opinion: How much longer can we endure Theresa May and her #Brexit ineptitude?

She never could do it
News that Theresa May the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had decided to delay the meaningful vote on her much-vaunted deal from Europe for #Brexit was hardly a surprise.
It is depressing and a depressing state of affairs that a nation that in the last century was one of the leading lights of world leadership, diplomacy and political nous is in a state of ineffectiveness, utterly inept, incapacitated by infirmity, deformed in prospect.
I have never had the confidence that Theresa May could pull off #Brexit with any credibility or ability, she mastered and spearheaded a negotiating tactic that projected hubris and bluster, sending bombastic blowhards to Europe with delusions of grandeur convinced in the exceptionalism of the UK. Her powers of persuasion were deployed as dogged obstinacy, tinned eared in her hope that brinkmanship would yield a result.
A living insanity
For 29 months since she assumed office, she has followed the same course, mouthed the same mantras, repeated the same talking points and achieved nothing. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, "The definition of this #Brexit insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
It is insanity that bedevils this #BrexitShambles, she can win no support within her party and she has found no way to unite the country behind anything she has to offer apart from uniting us in disgust and revulsion of her deal.
Theresa May had ample opportunity and scope, she could have on becoming premier gone for a grand coalition to work on this #Brexit issue. Rather, she triggered Article 50 completely clueless of what she could achieve, then gambled away her majority on an ill-judged election before losing two Brexit Secretaries of State, a Foreign Minister and scores more from her cabinet.
Neither up nor down
Dysfunction and derision have become the hallmarks of this government hellbent of driven the country headlong into perdition on the force of ideology above reason. The Pound Sterling in the wake of foolhardiness not seen since the Grand Old Duke of York became a nursery rhyme of the utmost ridicule.
The problem is not in Europe, the EU-27 countries have already agreed the deal she wants to renegotiate with them, they all know it is the fact that she cannot persuade, convince, cajole, cudgel or bribe enough in the House of Commons to buy into her plan. She is an abject failure and if any Tory is ready to put the country above self-interest, it is time to pension off this apology wrecking the country and chart a new course in leadership and in Europe.
Stop this #Brexit nonsense now
The #BrexitShambles has sucked all productivity, progress and oxygen out of our national effectiveness and the ability for us to take our place in the comity of nations where we belong. There is no Kumbaya of rich pickings after #Brexit.
We belong in Europe, the best deal we could have we already have in Europe and we need to send better representatives than those of the ilk of Nigel Farage to Europe who would attend meetings, constructively engage our partners and win compromises, concessions and consensus that gives of the best of what Europe can offer.
It is time to end the leadership tragedy of Mrs Theresa May and consign her to the scrapheap of history. She has done enough damage already.


Sunday, 9 December 2018

Thought Picnic: Don't lose the honour of the opportunity to help

Regaining opportunity
“Opportunity once lost, can be regained, albeit, after a temporary setback.” This was a saying shared with me by an uncle figure when I was in secondary school. It became one of the most important pillars that stood for times when everything else seemed to have crumbled around me.
My parents from what I know were high-flying successful people in their academic lives and into their careers that I am not aware for any failures in anything they were educated and trained to do, except when they appeared to dabble in areas where they had no expertise. What I learnt from them was more along the lines of the age-old saying, “Opportunity once lost, can never be regained.”
Confidence and nothing over
Invariably, apart from aspiration and confidence, I cannot say I learnt anything about facing failure, really failing and finding the resolve and wherewithal to rise from that scrapheap to find new achievement. My dad would have been top of his class in his accountancy examinations in 1969, whilst he won other prizes, I am told he fell short out of over-confidence.
That story was told me when I decided on a minimum of 6 subjects for my West African Examinations Council finals out of secondary school in 1981, my mother intervened citing that I was exercising the same over-confidence that plagued my dad and ensured I had 8 subjects to contend with.
On finding opportunity after failure, that honour and privilege goes to other uncles who faced failure head-on, understood what it meant to fail and fail again, yet never relented until they succeeded. It is to them that I owe that other story of my life’s achievements, successes, privileges and good fortune. To them, my gratitude must remain inexhaustible.
The honour of opportunity
Which brings me to another perspective of opportunity and the use of the situation for the benefit not of ourselves, but of others. In all walks of life, we are provided to opportunity to open our hands and open our hearts, someone needing advice or help, a recommendation or reference, sometimes we are given the magnitude of influence to affect the future of someone else in ways that would put them on the trajectory of success well beyond what we could for ourselves achieve.
At some point in the life of another person, we are the sentinel, the gatekeeper, the possible force for good, that opportunity that has come in its time, yet, I am privy to information and circumstances where the myopia of some has beclouded their ability to see that for them to be in that position, it is an honour and a privilege, for that time alone, everything depends on them, and what do they do, they close the door.
You are not omnipotent
They have the power, the influence, the authority and maybe even the audacity and for their small-mindedness, they refuse others the allowance to progress. To them, there will never be gratitude, no praise shall be sung of them by others because they have sown bitterness and the curmudgeonly in the hope that all opportunity is destroyed.
Opportunity once lost, because of what you have done or refused to do, can be regained without you eventually, albeit, after a temporary setback that you put in place, but power and influence in transient.
The opportunity you once had to help can be lost forever, that does not mean opportunities are closed to the person providence honoured you to do something about at a particular time. The help you give is just a bonus, it makes you part of a better story, people would succeed with or without you.
Prepare yourself for gratitude
Yet, I must come back to the need for thankfulness and gratitude, honour those who see the honour of helping you as a privilege they would never let go of until they have contributed their utmost to the very best to see you get along. We have good people in this world amongst the fair-weather friends who are hollowed-out dregs of humanity, who pretend to smile with you only to find ways to be your detractors.
You know yourselves, you have betrayed the sacred trust of friendships and relationships, when you had the means to make a difference for the better. Your time will pass into ignominy. I am saddened to have lost respect for those of whom much more was expected.
Gratitude is an amazing uplifting spirit like I had my contract extended without prompting last week, on getting the news, I wrote to my managers thanking them for their confidence in me and the contract extension. In response, my manager wrote, “You’re welcome Akin, you deserve it!”


Saturday, 8 December 2018

It is always my body first

Remembering the times
Some 18 months ago, I attended a neurocognitive clinic out of concern for a long-term condition along with the possible long-term effects of the medication I was on. Now, I know from research that many barely tolerate this medication, whilst I have adjusted well to it over my 8 years of using it.
In the past two years too, the consultants have been incessantly persuading me to consider switching to newer lines of medication with lesser presumably lesser side effects and more efficacy. Beneath that concern for me was cost, for years ago, I had been switched to a generic and more affordable medication, which is prophylactic towards a recurring condition I have not been able to shake off.
Change your medicine
The HAND test suggested I had folic acid deficiency anaemia, the readings of which since then have fluctuated between satisfactory and concerning, it is best boosted through diet, but there might be a need for a booster shot at my doctor’s. That need has not yet arisen.
Eventually, I relented choosing from 4 drug options one that would not change my pill burden thus resulting in changing my lifestyle and other routines for a frequent traveller consultant. The only benefit that came with this medication was I could take it with meals.
Beginning in the second week of October, I was given a two-month prescription for review in two weeks. I opened a diary for a daily record of how I felt using the medication and in the 17 days to the first review, I probably had one happy day.
Days of avoidable horror
Unexplained aches in my joints and head, excessive flatulence, constipation and insomnia were the recurrent events. Two rather vivid dreams killed every prospect of catching any sleep for the nights that had those nightmares, it was beginning to affect my productivity at work. Then I stepped on my weighing scales to note that I was close to my heaviest weight in 6 years.
At the review, I told them that the 17 days was insufficient a timeframe to make the decision to send me off with a 6-month prescription on the new medication, I wanted us to conduct another review in 4 weeks.
The issue of my memory concerns was brought up a few times, much as I had noticed memory lapses, I had created compensatory efforts to mitigate those shortcomings. Besides, if the decision to change my medication was to be predicated on my presumed failing memory, then another HAND test should have been conducted to ascertain from the original if there was a deterioration in cognitive function. That had not been done, and so to my mind, the premise on memory was completely flawed.
Not working for me
I maintained my diary for 44 days and submitted a 44-page documentation of my toleration of the new medication, it was not working for me and I wanted to be put back on my original medication. Recidivism from this new line drugs is recorded in research at over 50%, they are not as tolerated for the self-same side-effects we are told are fewer and more manageable than we find with our original drugs.
When I next spoke with the specialist, she was offering another line of drugs and I was having none of it, not another 7 weeks of being a guinea pig of drug tolerance, with the time from my original medication increasing to a point where it might lose efficacy, or I might have built resistance to it. I remonstrated to a state of distress that I do not intend to be presented prospective drugs à la carte menu to find out what works for me, I already know what has worked for 8 years.
Done with playing guinea pig
That, I believe was enough to convince the specialist to put me back on my old medication until my next consultation in April.
Apart from the first night of use, my old medication has brought back some of my sparkle and banished all those rotten side-effects. For, whilst a doctor might know what is good for you, you alone can know what works for you. Sometimes, you must be as forceful as you can be to have that viewpoint noticed and acted upon for your own benefit.
At the back of your mind, this must be the resounding mantra, “It is my body first before it is your guinea pig.


It is my crystal (15th) anniversary of blogging

A new introduction
When my first blog was published on the 8th of December 2003, I was in a hotel in Berlin when I had the idea to begin writing and as a matter of coincidence, I will be travelling to Germany again.
Reading through my first blog, I reflect on what has happened over the last 15 years, what has remained the same and what has changed. I am still English of Nigerian parentage, that sense of identity has not changed, rather become more ingrained, but I have returned to live in the United Kingdom which is fermenting under the ructions of the train wreck of Brexit.
It is very likely my dad would be reading this, he is on Facebook, but I have not made a specific provision for my mum to join social media, she is probably preoccupied with other activities. The Internet has changed considerably in the last 15 years, there is no telling who else might get to read my blogs.
On the job
In October, I celebrated 30 years of an Information Technology career, I am still trying to make Microsoft products do what customers hope and expect they can do. Along the way, I am asked impossible questions, pressed to provide answers and expected to perform miracles.
Nothing has changed in finding that the crazy and the outrageous idea needs to be kept at bay through forceful challenge and dispute. Solutions still require a good deal of thinking and I am no less excited by what can be done with the tools we have to work with.
The unconcerned purist
“Language is a tool of total expression.” That is a quote from my first blog, I still find myself a bit of a purist railing against malapropisms, neologisms, Americanisms and much else. I am probably not as pernickety and pedantic, there are times, I can’t really be bothered to react. I observe and move on.
I used to read the Daily Telegraph, it has lost many of its good writers, it is badly managed, and it has become a shrill village rag for Brexit, I cannot abide it, even if it were the last newspaper to hand. I have replaced the Economist with The Week and as I seemed to gather volumes of The National Geographic without time to read much of it, I stopped the subscription.
The crazy politics
When looking at politics, I must say it is the stump of the Liberal Democrats that appears to represent my views. The Conservatives are in a state of self-immolation over Europe as if that is news, the Labour Party has been hijacked by a leftist fringe of peddlers of unrealisable Utopia, it is depressing to watch the mess our politics have become.
It is about mantras rather than conviction, Brexit has sucked the oxygen out of any progressive activity in the UK for 30 months, it is as unrelenting as it is suffocating, we are led by crazies with an ideological bent devoid of any sense.
In the meanwhile
Now, back to my blog, I still love travel, it relaxes and refreshes me.
In 15 years, I have had an amazing life full of experiences of academic achievement, different jobs, surviving cancer, making friends, long before Twitter and Facebook became the rave.
I am thankful and full of gratitude for the years and everyone who has found something on my blog, you are welcome, and you affirm the purpose that inspired the 2,897 blogs that have graced this place.
Maybe, I would write more, I don’t know, but we must celebrate today. To follow the thinking of wedding anniversaries, this would be my crystal anniversary of blogging.


Thursday, 6 December 2018

Recovery always takes some time

Laughing at the gas
Since I last wrote on my blog, there have been experiences and victories, none to great celebratory aplomb, but all to be grateful for.
The colonoscopy procedure is as uncomfortable as it gets, though nowhere near other health or therapeutic challenges I might have faced before. To say I was not apprehensive would be to deny my reality as it lay before me.
All procedures come with risks and some can be quite serious, ending in fatalities, for that is just a possibility. It is one of the reasons why I was not keen on sedation, that itself would have required having someone with me for 24 hours to ensure any turn was immediately addressed.
Rather, I opted for Entonox, a medical combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen, commonly known as laughing gas. I did at one time in the midst of the discomfort begin to laugh too.
A mile of tubing
Arriving at the hospital a fortnight ago, fully evacuated for internal examination, I noticed that MoviPrep had in just under 16 hours had me shed 5 kilograms. That is nominally the weight of stuff moving through your digestive system, depending on your kind of appetite.
I changed into a hospital tunic, and we were advised to bring a dressing gown and slippers, we did the formalities of questions, waivers and gagging orders, exculpating the hospital from loss of many things including life and then the rather affable doctor came round to see me, assure me of the ease of the procedure, what would be done and that I did not need to worry.
The room in which I was invaded by instrument and curiosity barely held the bed, the equipment and three seats for the staff attending to me, I got comfortable and was offered the breathing apparatus that was left for me to regulate how much I wanted to inhale to attain the delirium to banish the discomfort.
After a digital insertion, the procedure began, a probe with a camera and lights travelled the whole length of my large intestine, it was like they had travelling a mile, from whence a total of 21 biopsies were excised by pincers that looked like pliers in a mechanic’s workshop. The discomfort mainly came from the air that was passed into my entrails to help increase visibility and navigation through my system. I felt like a balloon at one stage.
All well and good
All they viewed was on a monitor that I had one of the best views of, it was interesting to learn that the appendix was not as close to the end of the colon as I thought it was, it was at the other end, at where the colon first descends. The vivid red colour of my innards was a view of something I would never have contemplated seeing in a lifetime or without a career in medicine.
On the way out, which took much longer than the insertion process, a polyp was excised for laboratory analysis an in just about 50 minutes we were done.
For all my discomfort, I was considered a good patient and was soon wheeled out to the recovery room where other patients, some of whom I had chatted to before the procedure were recovering too. One of them had had 7 colonoscopies before the one he was going to have on that day, a veteran of sorts with just enough comforting words for a first timer.
In recovery, I was offered some tea and a sandwich as I had been nil-by-mouth for over 24 hours. The effects of Entonox are supposed to leave the body in under 10 minutes. However, from the bloating and the biopsies, there is quite a great risk of internal bleeding and infection, so care must be taken after that procedure.
Just over an hour after the procedure, I was ready to leave the hospital, I called a taxi cab and returned home to recuperate fully for the rest of the day. After this, the advice is not to fly for at least a week, or better still 2 weeks.
I think I am feeling a lot better after that encounter to the tunnels of life, the somewhat short recovery time is, in reality, longer from the experience, not necessarily the trauma.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The colon will see you now

Evacuations in the extreme
It is called MoviPrep, and that is what it is, lots of movement and the extreme preparation of the bowels. They want to have a look and need a complete evacuation exacerbated by MoviPrep which is an experience you can hardly wish on anyone.
The preparation starts the day before the colonoscopy procedure and there are protocols to follow for a morning appointment or an afternoon appointment. As I am scheduled for a morning engagement, I was to stop the ingestion of any foods after 9:00 AM on the day before and embark on a starvation diet or mainly clear fluids.
Taste is not an option
Early in the evening, I mix up the first batch of MoviPrep, the taste of which is most vile, a witch’s brew that could well serve as an emetic as it is a prescribed laxative. I learnt it was best taken chilled and through a straw. Have a few cans of fizzy drink to hand to drink after every sip of the MoviPrep concoction, this to replenish fluids and deal with the aftertaste.
No gastronomic skill was expended to make MoviPrep palatable and if I know beforehand, I properly would have asked for a preparation without Aspartame, the artificial sweetener that has been known to give me migraines.
Not working for me
Meanwhile, there was a visit to the hospital today to consult on the new medication that has not abated in its side effects of insomnia, flatulence, constipation and unexplained aches in the joints and the groin. I took a 44-page litany of my daily experiences to the consultation, I have been on this drug for 44 days.
It would take a couple of days to come to a decision, but we can agree that after over 6 weeks, this is not working for me. I would rather return to my trusted pills to which I have an affinity developed over 8 years.
Dressing and address
The visits to the evacuation receptacle have been frequent all evening, in the double figures as I prepare to bed for the next day. The second batch was taken some 4 hours after the first meant I had consumed 2 litres of MoviPrep and much more in fizzy drinks.
I guess the next conversation would be something along the lines of I as a receptionist announcing, the colon would see you now and the visitors coming in and going deep.
The hope is Entonox would make the passing of tube and time a forgettable experience. Bathrobe, slippers and magazine, packed for the day out. I have forgotten, I am hungry.


Sunday, 18 November 2018

Dreamscape: An excursion to the factory of dreams

I can think it
When I consider it, I probably have lots of inspiration, much from unlikely things like thoughts, events, observations and circumstances.
The engine room of ideas and machinations in the cranial crenellations that provides the obverse of identity in my visage is constantly scheming position and opposition, purpose and dispute, decision and indecision, a battleground of conflict and agreement, it is a wonder it is not projected on the world as a deafening cacophony.
I often dream it
When it comes to the dream world, I have to be careful of what inspires the incredulous, my vivid dreams have an impossible script which if written may have the author immediately certifiable in the first act. I have dreamt dreams Joseph would not dare to go to sleep for.
It is not the haunting that gets to me, it is the remembrance, the fact that it gets to a point that I so many dream worlds deep, it is like my dreams are having their own dreams within dreams, my waking up is a series of wakeful episodes within dreams before I finally come awake.
This is most evident in dreams where I find myself needing to switch on the lights, my flicking the light switch yields no result and something in my subconscious tells my dream, you are in a dream, you need to wake up. I wake up and realise I am still in a dark room, so, I flick the switch again, where I am reminded by the central director of dreams, you are still in a dream.
Then I escape it
The process repeats itself until I come awake and aware. As I always sleep with the lights on, I wake into the light and then begin to ponder the dream I have just had. I cannot consider my dreams nightmares, though other people who dream my kind of dreams who probably be having nightmares.
In the stranger dreams, I have had are seeming recurrent chapters of the same people, events, circumstances and awesome architecture that has the capacity to drawf you into an insignificant Lilliputian. Thankfully, I am never lost in the corridors of those vast edifices, rather, I find myself a burrower attempting to traverse spaces and tunnels too small or narrow for my frame that I contract dreamy claustrophobia.
Now, that for me is terrifying that I wish I had an instant tap out or an Italian Job event where with the relief of freedom to a large expanse of space and untrammelled access, the stroke of luck allows me to express gratitude in those famous words, 'You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!'.
Yet, I love it
I love my dreams, for the impossible is effortless, the unthinkable is mundane, the insurmountable is rudimentary, the undefeatable is vanquished, the enemy never gets the better of me, for there are tools I could never have conceived or imagined that I wondrously adept at deploying. There is blood and gore, the macabre and the mediaeval, it is primal and primaeval, yet a magical fantasy of ability and capability you can only find in dreams, for which a reality can be conceived to extricate oneself from sticky situations.
The disputes I have been given the wisdom to resolve in dreams becomes manifest in circumstances where I would never have had the first inkling to resolve. Dreams are good, for, in all that, there is beauty, there is vision, there is achievement, there is hope, there is faith and there is love. It harbours a timeless landscape where all memories converge from all times with people of blessed memory and those to come.
The mind is a factory of unique and bespoke dreams.


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Ikoyi London - Bring a full wallet to an amazing experience

Decisions in flux
We had planned to meet on Monday evening without any clear plans as I decided to spend stay over in London. We have been friends on Twitter for years and she was coming to Europe for a number of necessary #MeToo events.
I was unsure of what we would do, but when she said we should meet to have more than a drink but to get to know each other, this, I thought, could only be done over a meal. As I do not live in London, I could not suggest a favourite place, but Pitanga was on my mind, however, they open at inconvenient hours closing at 5:00 PM every day except for Friday and Saturday when they are open until 11:00 PM. They are closed on Mondays.
I floated a few other alternatives whilst seeking ideas, Ikoyi London, by interest and by reputation came to the fore and we decided on that.
Impressing impressions
I was greeted at Ikoyi London by a waiter ready to take my coat and my hat, I was then given a check-in ticket, a card, the 8 of clubs. Any restaurant that without prompting defrocks you and knows what to do with your hat has had staff see the four walls of a finishing school.
Making my way to our table by the window where my friend was already seated, embraced with kisses on the cheeks before contemplating what was to come before us. Starting with drinks, we took the non-alcoholic cocktail of Ikoyi Chapman – a concoction of hibiscus, guava and sour passionfruit, it was a tasty shade of pink that lasted through the seating.
Ikoyi London only serves a fixed tasting menu of 7 courses for dinner, which made it difficult to decide on the wine, so, we took on the wine pairing that came in from the third course. Ikoyi London does not follow the good rule of the skirt that any seamstress has learnt from the very first day, that it should be long enough to cover the detail and short enough to keep the interest. The courses were small enough to keep the interest but hardly big enough to sate the hunger – that is for another conversation.
You don’t say
The first course arrived which in terms was a new look on plantain and stew, my two Nigerian grandmothers of blessed memory would have been spinning in their states of repose, but this is an exercise in open-mindedness, where familiarity is dispensed for the whimsical. Authenticity gives way to the uniquely original and surprise. It went down a treat.
[Plantain and a scotch bonnet dip]
Little did I know that I had entered a West African version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, I was living the lines of Ikoyi London saying to me, “Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination.” The course had more plate like a tree trying to be a forest, a burnt pepper and a sprinkling of dust with something related to cassava in the narrative. This was a long way from Eba and stew, the ship of our common reality had sailed.
Within 4 visits from crockery to buccal cavity, we were done.
[Burnt pepper and cassava]
Exciting the taste buds
Mackerel is not necessarily fish you will find on the plate of the bourgeoisie, but we were told the next serving was caught today, strips of seemingly poached mackerel on a bed of banga fish paste with vegetables. It was savoury and comfortingly feeling like home cooking. The paired wine only seemed to assume any character in taste after we had tasted the dish. Though I would be honest, all the pairings were lifeless at first taste and not entirely exciting afterwards.
[Mackerel and a banga sauce]
By the fourth course, we had pumpkin and that was a revelation. I had to ask, could you really do this to pumpkin? By now, we were sold on this visit, it was one to write home about.
[Pumpkin]
Jollof the duck
The fifth course was, in fact, two courses, the duck arrived first and then a steaming bowl of smoked jollof rice, both of which were a titillation of a different kind, filling with excitement and a screaming desire for more. Oliver Twist would have died for the lust of the more that cried for.
[Duck and malt bread]
[Smoked Jollof Rice]
You can wish for death
By then, we have the table next to us occupied, in that group of four of probably Europeans or North Africans, the light or my eyes were dim was one Nigerian who was unaware he was being brought to Ikoyi London. The look of amazement, despair and incredulity at what was presented to him could easily have had someone of a different disposition toss the tables and walk out in disgust.
As soon as I ascertained he was Yoruba, I began in a language that would communicate the experience was to be cherished as the difference for which there would be stories to tell about a place called Ikoyi London. It was not about pretensions but innovation, the challenge to open one’s mind and consider that what we once knew does not have to be sacred and impervious to design, artistry and review. That is what Ikoyi London is about.
It’s a lot more wonderful
He asked if the restaurant was one to visit regularly, I could not say that would be wise, but for the whimsy and the occasion, a conversation and gastronomic banter, Ikoyi London would come ahead of many a restaurant. It is the deconstruction of the mundane and typical to create a new essence. This is bold and hardly experimental, it works.
The dessert was a rice ice cream with a biscuit I cannot remember the name of, paired with a cider. One sip had me reaching for my old cocktail. I do not have a palate for lager, beer, ale or cider. It was a miss for me.
[Rice Ice Cream]
It is easy to forget that dinner is a tasting menu and not a meal, which suggests the portions are for tasting as opposed to filling. We had a wonderful time before walking down Jermyn Street and taking a picture with the statue of Beau Brummell.
Ikoyi London is a variation, an exploration, an interpretation and an experience, you will lose more weight in your wallet than you’ll probably gain in ingested food, that is the nature of the location, the standard of service and daring proposition the proprietors have decided to unleash on its adventurous clientele.
There is a discretionary charge and I suppose we rarely exercise the discretion to refuse the charge. The service was top class, the waiters gorgeous and interesting. The restaurant was full by the time we left. Ikoyi London is what is possible if we decide that excellence matters above all else.


Friday, 2 November 2018

Thankful for the privilege my parents created for me


As Pharaoh.

A thankfulness reappraised
Sometimes, I just want to appreciate and be thankful for some of the things that have become the stories of my life.
In a life filled with privilege, opportunity, good fortune and blessings, or is it sheer luck, you can only be grateful. I was watching a programme on television yesterday title Rich House, Poor House on Channel 5 which is a documentary-style reality television programme that follows two families from opposites ends of class and wealth divides swapping their homes and lives for a week to experience what the other side lives.
On an abstract level, it was just entertainment, but it was also a social anthropological study to which one can begin to relate and understand the broad spectrum of society, the depth of empathy, the ability to reflect and the willingness to adapt.
Money helps but there is more
In yesterday’s show, you saw the amazing dynamic of community and neighbourliness in what one might call the deprived, yet the absence of means did not define them as lacking in humanity, love or the sense of belonging. The lack of money is not necessarily being bereft of happiness.
On the other side, where there was hardly any neighbours and a weekly spending kitty ten times what their counterparts in the exchange had to live on, the father of the house had cut down on life as an executive for health reasons and his wife reflected on how he could have worked himself to the death and whether life would have been worth it to be a rich widow. It is not all about money.
Yet, I could see privilege and opportunity in different guises in both families, the aspirational in terms of exposure and the inspiration in terms of experience ministered to me as lessons in life.
The lessons outside classes
What amazing luxuries that accompanied my early education in an international setting of races from all ends of the world in Nigeria, I born in a foreign land and those, not of Nigerian parentage born in Nigeria, we all equal and the same without one being favoured over the other.
The daughter of the headmistress once pinched me and when I returned home to tell my parents, my dad said I should never let anyone take advantage of me, I should retaliate. So, the bully who was older and bigger came again and I did to her what she did to me, she went crying to her parents. Her father was the head of the company where my dad was a middle manager.
A conversation ensued between her mother and my father, they settled on the fact that she was the bully and I refused to be bullied. She never tormented me after that and we became friends. The lasting effect of that encounter cannot be discounted.
Of privilege and access
My extra-curricular activities after school like being driven to art classes and my sister to ballet classes or when I was Pharaoh in our school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, exemplified the richness of education unquantifiable in examination scores but trenchant in character building, self-affirmation and confidence bordering on exuberance. You find the ability to express yourself in places where normally others would be tongue-tied.
The parental quest to toughen me up and give me a sense of my cultural roots was sending me off to boarding school hundreds of miles away from home. In some ways, it was a hellish experience for the first few years, but I adapted.
I had other classmates who travelled by train from the north of Nigeria alone, catered for by strangers until they made it to school and they endured the same on their return home. I was put on a plane, there was someone to pick me up and ensure I was delivered safe and sound to the care of the housemaster. I also had relatives close by for the short holidays as well of visitors who when they came to visit their wards made it a duty to see me too.
Knowing who you are
I was raised in a bubble of sorts, an idyllic existence in Rayfield, Jos and in Tudun Wada, Kaduna, desperately shielded from many influences, though some were unavoidable due to proximity or circumstance, they became defining moments of exposure to sexual abuse, morbid fear, extreme religiosity, encounters with fetish priests and much else. All this is part of the narrative that has become my story.
In many ways, I have retained the accoutrements of privilege which have given me the various instances where I have been able to seize upon opportunities. It does not mean that I have not been visited by failure, infirmity, incapacity or misfortune, but they are not definitive of who I am, rather they are parts of the journey of life for which I have been grateful to traverse, survive and thrive.
I owe the grit and the suppleness to the exceptional upbringing I had and one more thing I would never repudiate is that I have been a child of privilege, not necessarily born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but given the tools and the means to navigate wealth and class in having both or neither without losing the quality of the person that I am. I have my wonderful parents to thank for that and I am always grateful to them.
Other members of the cast including me at different times in the musical play.



Note: All the pictures were taken of our performance of the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Sacred Heart Primary School, Kaduna in December 1975. I was Pharaoh of All Egypt.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Like swallowing a poison pill

This is scary stuff
When I opened the packet of my new medication just over three weeks ago, reading through the medical notes was an experience in itself. Then, I had to tear off a “Patient Alert Card”, to which I wrote in my doctor’s details and was at all times to carry the card with me.
If I were to have a hypersensitive reaction, I was not to ingest any more of the medicine as I risked a life-threatening lowering of my blood pressure or even death. Before I took the medication for the first time, I already had the severe side-effect of a psychological upset.
Having done my research of the options, it is fair to say that the documented side-effects are a compendium of misery, it is no wonder that it is reported that the attrition rate of switching back to old formulary is close to 50%.
I needed another review
I kept a diary of the side-effects I suffered over a period of 16 days before our first review that was to completely switch me fully to the new medication for the next 6 months before another consultation. I did not think 16 days was long enough to make that decision, as adjusting to new medication would normally take longer and I would rather we had an assessment to ascertain the efficacy of the new regime than to discover a treatment failure 6 months hence.
The side-effects included insomnia, a tingling skin rash, a feeling of constipation, joint ache and flatulence amongst other minor complaints and two episodes of vivid dreams as nightmares that left me unable to sleep for the rest of the night.
At the review, I was asked why I made the switch as I was seeing another medical personnel who did not know that I had been nagged by the department to consider a switch for almost two years. My understanding was the switch was necessary because this new line of drugs had lesser side-effects and obviously they cost less.
What kind of a pill is this?
I was comfortable with the medication I have been on for over 8 years, the issues I had with my memory were well compensated for, I would not have considered a switch for the kinds of side-effects that I have recently suffered. Bloods were drawn and we agreed to meet in three weeks for a second review.
Meanwhile, I am taking my pills 2 hours earlier than before with no change to many of the side-effects, especially insomnia. I am also keeping my diary as a documented trail of how I feel, which is not helped by my realising that I am gaining weight – apparently, this is one of the other side-effects and no new medication is worthwhile if psychologically you are left bothered by a negative body image, the danger of sudden death and much else.
Have I decided on a poison pill?


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Thought Picnic: Responsibility is enlivening

Then I saw
I have come to the conclusion or more to the realisation that people require the weight of responsibility to gain focus and find perspective in the things of life.
Without responsibility, the purpose is ill-defined or non-existent and what gathers within the daily existence is lasciviousness, the absence of restraint or moderation and a careering down the road of self-destruction, sometimes at full speed or even at a slow pace, but the direction is evident.
Champions unsung
Some have the capacity to take initiative and assume responsibility, shouldering superhuman sense of duty and command of authority in spheres of influence directly under one’s control and well beyond, drawing in resources that they never knew they had and in perseverance and in fortitude they do not buckle under the pressure.
For each in that situation, their story is probably hardly known or told, they are pillars and columns of support that gives such hope and redemption in our humanity.
Then some
Others, however, for all sorts of reasons cannot assume responsibility, shirk it or have not been put in the circumstances where much is demanded of them, so they have no supply when required. The inability to assume responsibility might be due to incapacity, infirmity or handicap, to them, we owe the generosity of spirit to hold up strong in the face of their struggles, to give support, to give hope, to give purpose and to give love, and if there is much more to give, we do give more.
Those who are able, but shirk it need to be sifted out that they do not consume the finite resources that we strive to provide to those more needful of it. To them, some tough love and talking is required along with making them assume some of their personal responsibilities. To them, one two words are of import. Shape up!
Alive and learning
The others probably need guidance and mentoring, the education and example that can give them the impetus to find purpose and goals, that would inspire them to seek radical change. Those with a teachable spirit ready to learn and improve themselves regardless of where they are in life.
Sometimes, responsibility is maintaining a can-do youthfulness, the ability to reflect, to relearn and to rein in exuberance. Such a scene is what I saw on the Channel 4 television show titled, Old People's Home for 4-Year-Olds. An old people’s home of octogenarians to a centenarian of 102 were visited by 4-year old pre-schoolers over a period of 12 weeks and we watched the transformation of each person in both groups.
Responsibility reviewed
The pre-schoolers making friends of people who could easily be their great-grandparents and by that gaining social skills, building trust and confidence, whilst the usually sedentary and retiring old people were engaging, active, revived and even daring. It was a tear-jerking spectacle of the innate life-giving force of our humanity when a diverse pool of people interacts.
The shared responsibility of caring and befriending each other enforced engagement and more participation, but more tellingly, it showed why inter-generational conversation and activity is beneficial to all concerned. Responsibility, whether explicitly known or innately acted out, is simply bringing something, yourself, your enthusiasm and your willingness to be involved in a community and by that, value is created in people, in place and in participation.
Responsibility is striving to live the best you can be to yourself and to others.


Monday, 22 October 2018

On celebrating a 30-year career in IT

Selling yourself, yourself
After graduation, I had no godfathers who could call their friends to get a job for their boy. I had somewhat passed the age of favours, sympathy or pity. I was almost a pariah to many but a few. Having lost 5 years of post-secondary education to multiple failures and kickstarts of life and career, I found new opportunities.
In fact, they were not opportunities, just a sense of daring. A new pair of shoes my mum had bought for me and a moment of epiphany. One night in early October 1988, I realised, I am the best representative of myself. So, I decided, that was what I was going to do, represent myself.
Walking the talk
I started out in Ikeja, walking the expensive streets one of which was named Cocaine Avenue which somewhat had a reputation for wealth acquired through dubious means. The same street had businesses catering to the moneyed, the influential and the well-connected.
Every few steps I took, led me to the door of another computer services business. I had the choice of pursuing a career in the electrical power end of things which is almost back-breaking work when I worked at the Flour Mills of Nigeria some 3 years before. Our every working day revolved around electrical motors, mostly high-powered drivers of turbines, belts, machines and much else. Those are memories I would rather leave in the past.
Confidence to access
My preference was to work on the electronics side of my Electrical and Electronic Engineering qualification. I immediately knew that it would pay less, but it offered a growing wealth of experience if I was ready for the challenge.
Without invitation or appointment, I walked into every business I could find, greeted the receptionist and politely asked for a job, stating I had just graduated. Everyone seemed to commiserate but had nothing to offer. I did not relent. Yet, I remembered a few years before that I lost a job offer to others who presented predatory opportunities to the gatekeepers of those businesses.
I did my Ikeja run for just over two days and in that time, I honed my introduction and conversation, working harder to present myself in a better light. My accent belied a foreignness, my demeanour some sophistication and my conversation, some uncommon politeness and maybe some confidence too. How do you walk into offices asking for a job and an opportunity to work and learn at the same time?
The sign welcomed
Having achieved no success in Ikeja, I boarded a bus for Lagos Island, when just opposite Baptist Academy on Ikorodu Road, I saw a big sign, IT Systems Ltd on a white building. I got off at the next stop and walked back on myself to this rather imposing building.
At the reception, I introduced myself and stated my purpose. She got up, went into the offices and came back out followed by a manager with whom I had a further conversation about my course, the projects I had done, my exposure to programming and my interest in computers. Then, I had worked with business machines that you programmed with assembler code and Apple 2c and 2e computers at school, programming in BASIC and FORTRAN 77.
The manager’s name was Felix Ogun, it was the 2nd Friday of October and he invited me to start work on Monday. That was the beginning of a career in Information Technology that this month has lasted 30 years.
Privilege and opportunity
I owe my career to the many who were ready to give me opportunities where I had no influence or leverage, just potential and some self-believe. The self-believe is a product of parentage and the early education I received, it trained me never to be fearful of person, personality, office or position. Privilege and opportunity can confer status, it does not make anyone else any more a human being than you are; if you can and you must at the very least treat each other with consideration and respect.
My uncle and aunt, the Soyinkas, who when I was at the time failing even though I wasn’t stupid or incompetent, but in fact, with hindsight, clinically depressed and unproductive. They gave me a home, amazing support, boosted my confidence and gave me the latitude to grow into the person I have become. To them, I would be eternally grateful, for I blossomed, I thrived and I succeeded in their care.
Belief and agreement
Deji Sasegbon was a lawyer, he owned the office block in which IT Systems had their offices on the ground floor and he had his legal publishing practice on the first floor. They sometimes had hardware problems and invited us to help out. For each solution, he offered money, I refused. He gave me my second career opportunity, I became a consultant in desktop publishing with an unusual contract arrangement.
The cost of my flight ticket whenever I decide to leave for the UK and a monthly stipend. This opened doors to many other opportunities. IT Systems was a year of sponging up knowledge of hardware, software, systems, business practices and networks. By October 1989, I had enough knowledge and expertise to branch out as a self-employed consultant and my first month of work paid 10 times my last salary at IT Systems. D-Sash as we used to call him, passed away a few years ago, I never really got to thank him for the doors he opened for my career.
Potential despite threat
Clifton Bissick offered me my first role in the UK. Everywhere I went, I was told I did not have UK-acquired experience, even though the experience I had borne out of curiosity, self-development and eagerness to learn and understand put me well above the skills profile of many who had the acquired experience I was said to not have.
At the BBC, even though I was probably the best-qualified candidate for the role, the manager called me to say I was selling myself short and so he could not offer me the job. I think it was a euphemism for suggesting I was considered a threat to the positions of people who had become entrenched in that system. It hurt, but I looked ahead. Clifton and I are still in contact, he was my manager until August 1994.
Trust beyond capacity
Eoghan Doyle, if there was ever a manager who had more confidence in both my person and my skills long before I knew what I was capable of, he stands tall amongst all those who had that influence in my career. He walked up to my desk one morning and said, ‘Akin, I have something I want you to do for me.’ That is how I started working with Microsoft Systems Management Server from version 1.1 in 1996 and all its various versions and incarnations to date.
Many others in friendships and engagement were part of the extensive support system of my career, Kola Akinola, my best friend from when we were innocent and doe-eyed, Steven Bicknell, my first long-term partner who gave me stability in turbulent times of finding myself, John Coll who I was never qualified enough to work for but always had the time, the space, the advice and the pep-talk to help me along immensely – now of blessed memory.
To all these wonderful people, I can never be thankful enough, for with them I have attained what might have been impossible and beyond reach, I have succeeded where I might have been overwhelmed, I have lived experiences that are the substance of unattainable dreams. I have lived in wonder and beauty and much more. And we are still talking about work that brings new excitement and pleasure, daily.
One other thing I have learnt is, when it is no more fun, walk away from it.