Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Thought Picnic: Addressing irresponsible Facebook communication

Good manners still matter
I have at times had the misfortune of learning of the death of someone known to me on social media, however, I have hoped that the closest relations of the deceased did not suffer the indifference and insensitivity of being informed through the same medium.
It is just good manners to inform the bereaved on a more personal basis rather than have them collide with a wall of grief from a public and impersonal medium. Besides, I take cognisance of my cultural affinities that suggests news of deaths must never be conveyed with bluntness to the closest relations of the deceased either in informing them or in enquiring from them.
Wisdom and sensitivity applied
I remember a conversation I had with a close uncle over a decade ago, he did not know if I was aware that a cousin of mine had passed on, he did not blurt it out, rather he made a passing reference to my cousin that would have elicited a response or a question from me. The response would have indicated I knew, the question would have suggested I was oblivious to the death and then he would with wisdom settle me down before telling me.
I am writing this blog because after the episode yesterday, it is necessary to revisit the matter because I am quite incensed and annoyed. Another uncle of mine should have known better to be smart and wise about enquiring of me from my sister without putting them in unnecessary and preventable distress.
Utterly inexcusable conduct
I appreciate social media provides such ease of communication, the ease is no license to dispense with discretion, manners, decorum, sensitivity and empathy, all of which in my view was lacking from the question asked yesterday that it is contemptible and should be excoriated in the sternest terms.
Nothing makes the act of that distant relation uncle forgivable in the slightest, it was utterly irresponsible and reprehensible conduct. I have elderly parents, I would not want to predecease them, even as I am aware of my vulnerabilities and mortality.
The excuse is not social media or Facebook, it is just plain uncouth behaviour and bad manners channelled through a medium of expression.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more ...?

Blogs of fearsome death
I am in mixed emotions about this blog because it reads almost like a blog I read exactly a week ago. He had written that if that particular blog appeared, it meant he had lost his battle to cancer, the blog he wrote a few hours before that, he told us that it was possibly the last blog he would write alive.
So, imagine the feeling I had when a few minutes ago, I received a message from my sister on Facebook to call her immediately I got the message.
Losing my cool
She had been contacted and the message which in my view was in context an incomplete sentence read, “Pls, confirm is it true that akin akintayo is no more”.
I could take issue with many things wrong with that apparent inquiry, incomplete words, the gross levity and disrespect to my person in not capitalising my names; I guess I have suffered more indignities than this in life but accord me some respect in death if I am already dead. If that was a question, I am waiting for the interrogation mark.
I am still alive and well
However, let me assure you all that I am writing this as a living person, breathing, hale and hearty, all my functions intact and hoping that I have some retention of my sense of humour to laugh at this apparent attempt at my obituary long before it is necessary.
I can offer a few suggestions for this line of enquiry.
  • Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more under 50?
  • Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more angry at this message?
  • Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more distressed than my sister who was more upset than I could imagine for hours, unsure of what to believe that she received as a Facebook message?

I had everyone calling and messaging me to confirm whether I was no more communicating by whatever means possible as the enquirer himself is someone I have probably not seen or spoken to in nigh on 28 years.
Again, I am here, I am well, and I hope to God I get to write another interesting blog. Don't believe the rumours and lies, the man is still being the contrarian he is, and for another day, not suffering fools gladly, no, not once.

Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more writing another sentence on this blog? Yes!

Thought Picnic: The private grief we've had

The private grief we've had,
As close friends passed away,
Our silent mourning souls,
Couldn't share what made us sad,
In closets, we all wept,
As kith and kin ignored,
The truth of who we were,
The secrets of our lives,
The burdens we still bore,
Of friends that mattered more.
The secrets of our grief
I wrote the poem above in a tweet just a week ago when a friend who I had just learnt had terminal cancer passed away. The realisation that I was sorrowful and yet without those with whom to share that feeling of loss just dawned on me.
It was not the first time that I have shared the demise of a friend and within the compartmentalisation of my affairs, there are relationships that are as public as they can be and others that are private, discreet, secret and not open to scrutiny.
For those who knew every aspect of my life, to whom I have had the freedom to share my thoughts, feelings and secrets, much can be said about grief, not only of the loss but the fondness and memories that made the person significant, to others whose knowledge of my more private truths are not that obvious, you’re left second-guessing how they would react to being let into the privy of a life.
The love I lost
When I lost my lover just a few days after being discharged from the hospital, I was dealing with a major crisis in my health and other issues that got compounded with the death of a partner. The continuous badgering to get married which could easily have been met with the great disapproval of my choices in life meant announcing my grief and the depth of it would not be understood.
There are many I have met in my social circle, which is varied, diverse, alternative and different that have been of some great significance in my life, friends, lovers, acquaintances, buddies of all kinds that would put the faces of polite society to full blush, we all have our kind of company and those who various kinds of fulfilment to the joy of living and the pursuit of happiness.
For them, there was always a tear, a sense of loss, the heartbroken feeling of the end, with all that is left is memories, thoughts, reminiscences and dreams. They occupy a portion of life that cannot be denied or taken away, whether or not they are acknowledged by others.
We all have our normal
Maybe, it would have been easier to lose someone that fits some norm, the fact is we all lose many that do not fit any easy norm without the need for extraneous explanation that would leave the listener more confused and open you to the negatives of disavowal, disapproval, disdain, disgust and consequent distress or disgrace, all of which is unnecessary in the scheme of things.
You can be a man and lose your boyfriend or husband, be a woman and lose your girlfriend or wife, none of which is insignificant to the heteronormative. We would not be denied the feelings we have for the living and grief we have when they are departed, even if we are denied the opportunity to pay our last respects to them.
We are always the truth of who we are, even in the secrets of our exciting and sometimes turbulent lives, for we bear the burdens of those dear and loving friends over the times we had the pleasure and privilege of knowing them, to the truth that they did matter more than anyone else would ever know.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

ACT UP brought the focus back to the urgency for human lives

Setting the scene
I was all emotional when I left the cinema on Monday having gone to watch a film titled 120 BPM (Beats per Minute) [French with English subtitles] that was brought to my notice by my friend.
It was a historical perspective of ACT UP Paris in the early 1990s created along the lines of the direct-action advocacy group ACT UP in the United States.
To the many of us who live with HIV or have had the amazing turn-around from full-blown AIDS, we owe the greatest depth of gratitude to the people who initiated the ideas behind starting the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and how they carried through their advocacy until governments and Big-Pharma were responsive to the plight of all afflicted by the scourge.
At the expense of the dying
From the early discovery of that disease that began to cut a swathe through first the homosexual community, then drug users and unto haemophiliacs, the governments of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Francois Mitterand simply ignored the fact that people were suffering and dying from this new disease.
We saw pictures of emaciated bodies, scientists were involved in a race to understand the disease and especially in the United States mostly for personal glory and national one-upmanship rather than for those who stood to benefit the most from their research efforts. The people who were dying cut down in their prime out of institutional indifference and corporate inertia, there appeared to be no urgency towards the emergency.
I could not have felt a better sense of justice when The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008 honoured the French side of the research efforts and spurned the American side of the battle. Some of the people were playing with lives that were precariously at the precipice of total annihilation through AIDS.
Dragging their feet as people died
It was in the light of this discovery and understanding of the virus that pharmaceutical companies began to work on new drugs but were holding back research results and preventing the early adoption of experimental drugs that could possibly immediately health outcomes for people who already had HIV.
This is where ACT UP’s advocacy forced the question, pushed the debate and ultimately compelled governments and institutions to not only recognise the health emergency but get engaged in eradicating AIDS.
A primer on direct action advocacy
The film centred around the debating forum of ACT UP Paris with their Chatham House type of rules of engagement, the strategies for making the headlines, the resistance they faced from the authorities and pharmaceutical companies before they could no more be ignored and the real issue itself, for all the protests and advocacy, it was essentially about real human-beings, their private fears, their public rage, the loves of their lives and the loss of many who succumbed to AIDS.
More poignantly, ACT UP in its concept and activity was a model of activism that had people normally marginalised, usually persecuted, and generally ostracised decide they had had enough of being isolated and ignored by society, maybe even criminalised by the establishment to identify with a cause for which they had nothing to lose because many in their community including themselves were dying.
It was a movement of existential urgency and by that, it brought attention, engagement and radical change to the way HIV and AIDS was tackled and managed. There is no doubt that advocacy groups like ACT UP are needed today to fight for rights and freedoms that the comfortable and unafflicted enjoy. It is to those who found the courage to upset the status quo that I dedicate this, for without you, we would not be here.
If it is the only film you watch this season, it would have been worthwhile. 120 BPM (Beats per Minute) [98% on Rotten Tomatoes]

Monday, 9 April 2018

Cancer: You can’t keep winning this game at life.

Strumming the pain
It is heart-breaking and humbling to watch and he is strumming the ebbing signs of life in the departure lounge from a body wrecked even with a mind so lively and writing full of poetic movement.
I discovered on my Twitter timeline only a few days ago that a friend who had never met but was much an acquaintance was dying from terminal cancer. As I went through his timeline, he had cancelled a wish list, married his partner, signed over his house, began to receive visitors who had ignored him for years but were now seeking to see him for the last time.
The cancer commons
Cancer creates some sort of kindred spirit, in my case, I have been fortunate, I survived, but I never cease to feel as vulnerable when I learn of anyone being visited by this rotten scourge.
I immediately wrote a direct message to him expressing my deepest sympathies of learning of his situation. He had written in detail about all his feelings physical, mental and emotional, all of which I would well relate to. However, I have learnt that just because I have once had cancer does not mean I can say I know what you’re going through.
At best, I understand, maybe I can quite relate, but beyond that, each cancer experience is unique and different, from the diagnosis through the prognosis and the options you have to tackle the disease. In my case, I was given some hope, responding to treatment meant I would survive that episode else, I had just five weeks to live. In his case, it was an aggressive leukaemia or which all options had been exhausted.
He responded so graciously to my message wishing me a long healthy and happy life.
The slow goodbyes
I am the going through lots of emotions, a man so young watching his life ebb away because there is nothing he or medicine could do about it. Miracles we were taught to believe in seem to be in such short supply, they have become the substance of fable or fairy tales even if we are literally commanded to have faith.
Online, I am almost encamped in a vigil on his timeline at the sadness of this because this was one who brought love, joy, happiness and laughter to others in his prime and his strength.
His condition is at a point where what can be done is palliative, h has moved into hospice care and though he went in with his dog, he has sent his dog home with his husband because the dog can sense that things are not so good with his master and is taking on that strain too.
Reading through his blogs, I have not seen resignation or regret, but an acceptance of the inevitable and a desire to breathe his last in the arms of his beloved husband. Cancer, you can’t keep winning this game at life.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Keeping my blood pressure normal

Will Uber help my blood pressure?
My biannual check-up came up again yesterday, and it is interesting that much as the same things happen, each episode is a story in its own right. First, I needed to ensure my hospital card and medical journal where I record significant milestones were in my pocket and for a 10:00 AM, the job of getting there had to go to Uber.
Much as I gave myself enough time, the Uber driver not only took a circulatory route to the hospital, I was again afraid that by the time I had my blood pressure taken before seeing the consultant, it would be reading at levels brought on by anxiety as in the case of my last two visits. Literally, through the ride, he was chatting on his handsfree phone as I sat beside him, not an activity that prepares you for a high rating.
In any case, I kept calm, arrived with 7 minutes to spare before my scheduled appointment and sat in the waiting area expecting to be called to take a few measurements of my height; as if that would change, my weight; which does change frequently and my blood pressure; which read within the normal scales.
The nurse who tended to me was a slightly older man who I was seeing for the first time, he had made a career transition from a driving instructor to nursing, quite unusual but interesting.
The bloody tales are good
When the consultant called me in, she who had taken over the department from the consultant who retired last year and was involved in some charity work in Myanmar, I reckoned we had not seen each other for about 18 months. When we first met, I had done my research about her, seen most of her recent seminar and conference presentations and determined how she had come about her foreign name.
In her consulting room was a quiet student doctor that I tried to involve and engage in the conversation. I am freely aggregable to having students sit in on my consultations, considering others allowed that for the expertise and treatments I now enjoy.
We started with the pleasantries before reading the runes of my bloods, the tests were done six months before, the counts good, the loads good too, then kidney, liver and cardiovascular functions looking good too. That niggling issue with Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency anaemia was still there, improved, but not yet the acceptable region.
All the jokes about how folic acid helps my maternal tissue along with returning to be served by the Bra Advisor at Marks and Spencer’s seemed to flow in the conversation to initial confusion and consequent laughter. We scheduled in a facility to get my full results electronically and apart from doing the blood yesterday, I also got the kit for bloods for my next appointment.
Besides that, there were questions about my love life and sex life, the former is non-existent whilst I search for someone and the latter, we all have needs.
A change of pills after 8 years is possible
During that discussion, we reviewed the situation with my HAND test which I had last year and the possibility that the drug regimen I have been on since May 2010 might have some contributory factors. New drugs also have become mainstream and there was a need to begin to consider switching to the newer drug therapies.
Whilst I have resisted the switch to generics, I was willing to review the options if provided with the information. I was given three options to research and we would select a course in three months’ time.
I was 12th in the queue at the phlebotomists’ when on going in, I was told the computers were down and that I needed to return to the clinic to get a printout of the bloods to be taken.
More to the vials and the colours
It was there that I learnt from the nurse who tended to me earlier that the colour coding on the blood vials was pertaining to the kinds of additives or reagents that were added to the blood for testing purposes.
Certain reagents clotted the blood, others thinned it, then colouration and other reactions with the blood helped in the test selection for each sample of blood taken along with the timeframe within which the blood must be tested. If you need to know, I have provided a few links for you to review. [Geeky Medics – Blood Bottles Guide] [KCH Vacuette® Selection Chart – PDF] [UHB – Clinical Microbiology Tests]
In some ways. I am surprised that I was never that curious about what those colour codings meant, I was more concerned about the number of vials being drawn to sate the thirst of the vampires’ convention.

I returned to have my blood taken, picked up my 3-month prescription and that was my appointment done until I get an email for my results and possibly a letter from my General Practitioner (GP), that is what we call family doctors here to visit for a booster injection for Vitamin B12.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Thought Picnic: Gentlemanly conduct still matters all the time

The setting in which we find ourselves
On the sacking of Rex Tillerson as the US Secretary of State by President Donald Trump, I can reflect on an episode in my own life just a year ago. I was into my fourth year at the same organisation, where after a stint of two years I was invited back to work on another project.
When I was leaving the first time in 2016, every manager I had worked for and there were 4 by then, one on the verge of leaving the firm had the courtesy to meet with or call me, even from South Africa to thank me for the work I had done.
When I was invited back, I acquired other managers, intermediary and direct who I worked well with until a reorganisation led to my having a new manager instituted over me. For some reason or another, apart from the introductions, we never got on to a smooth start.
It was not working for me at all
For the six months that I worked for him, he did not appear to have any confidence in any I did, I was constantly asked if I knew what I was doing rather than being given the support, encouragement and backing to do the sometimes critical jobs I needed to do.
On many occasions, I was not accorded the formality or structure of understanding the direction in which he wanted to lead the team, rather, my roles, responsibilities and work activity were changed without notice, without communication and frequently learnt about through third parties.
My workplace in the space of half a year became a place of disillusionment and unhappiness as every attempt to engage my manager yielded no appreciable result. Then, one Thursday morning, it came to a head where after undercutting my influence in a change that was primarily under my control, I had literally been reduced from designing systems to shifting boxes.
In the 29th year of my working in IT in various levels of expertise and reporting to middle and top-tier personnel, the conversation in conference came down to macho talk as to whether I was going to do what I had been instructed to do or not. That for me was the very last straw that broke the back of the camel burdened with indignity and disrespect. I handed in my phone and badge and walked out of that job. I was done.
I handed in a formal notice the next day explaining the reasons for my leaving and received no acknowledgement nor compliment, I had become a nobody to him.
Maybe some of us are too old-fashioned for modernity
There are many things I have encountered in my working life and what least impresses me of everything kind of attitude is the occasional lack of courtesy and disrespect that some people in management seem to have a natural expression of their personality that they have apparently never learnt is bad or just think is normal.
As someone brought up in a somewhat old-fashioned style of comportment, decorum and formality, in address, dress, communication and interaction, it does affect me, if those graces are absent.
It is such a grace that was absent from the way in which Donald Trump dispensed of Rex Tillerson by the deployment of a tweet. Rex Tillerson was once the head of the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.
Gentlemanly conduct still matters all the time
The very least Donald Trump should have done if he ever were a gentleman, which in my mind he never was despite the money he has, the kitschy possessions, the company he keeps and the way he presents, should have been to meet Rex Tillerson face-to-face and inform him of his intention to fire him.
To have done that with a tweet is utterly discourteous and disrespectful to Rex Tillerson, but it says much more about Donald Trump, he is crude, he is not cultured, badly brought and definitely not a gentleman.
You do not sack one of most senior members of your team without meeting them and having a chat to them, but it is sad that these basic elements of courtesy are disappearing from our communication, we are deserting the cultured for the uncouth and accepting that development as the norm. I can’t, I won’t and where such persists, I would neither tolerate nor accept it.
When a man decides I am nobody’s boy
It spoke volumes that when Rex Tillerson gave a final public address to his department, he never once mentioned Donald Trump nor thanked him for the privilege of being asked to serve his country and many noticed.
Rex Tillerson did not need to be the US Secretary of State, he was not being promoted beyond his capabilities that he needed to have fealty and obeisance in deep gratitude to Donald Trump, he was his own man, not a yes man.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump is attracted to two kinds of people working for him, those given positions they are neither competent nor capable of that they just step in not believing their luck for opportunities they never earned and that comes with serious issues, the others are stars and the successful in their professions that he taps in order to be able to brag that he can get the best people to work for him.
These stars or trophies owe Donald Trump nothing and eventually, there would be friction when whatever they do does not feed The Donald’s ego or when disagreement on issues gets taken personally for a president so insecure and constantly found defending himself caught in the warp of an impostor syndrome.
Sometimes, you have to jump first
It could be said that the smarter person would never consider the idea of working for a garrulous, truculent and immature person like Donald Trump, but sometimes a greater call is made of you and you almost begin to believe that you can contribute, for Rex Tillerson, he probably should have walked away a while ago, jumped before he was pushed.
I had that inkling too, for all that I had already done, it was very likely I would have been pushed when my contract came up for renewal in a few months then, I decided, rather than suffer that indignity, I would jump at my own choosing and it was the right decision.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Thought Picnic: Of habits and habitué

The difference is in the same
I cannot help being a creature of habit, much I seek adventure, I have a tendency to get comfortable with people, places, events, things and ideas. I do make the effort to break away from the mundane and the routine, but some things might just remain the same.
Returning to the same places where I went on holiday because the memories are wonderful and the sense of being and feeling was more than palpable if the hotel has been exemplary, it is unlikely that I will consider an alternative, the familiar loses peculiarity and becomes natural. I could say the same for restaurants and much else, I become a habitué.
I do not easily make friends, but the ones I do make, endure for decades, it is just the nature of who I am, I am quiet, reserved, introverted and in some ways conservative, though you won’t see me and think that.
The Left of mind, a right of loss
Then, when I was in Edinburgh, having been away from home for a week, checked out in the morning and went to work before going to the station to board a train back home. It was when I got back home that I realised I might have left two things in my hotel room.
A can of Brut Original Deodorant and a bottle of Hugo Boss Number One Eau de Toilette, the former I have used for almost 30 years, considering it came on the market in the year of my birth and if my memory serves me right, it used to be in my dad’s grooming kit. The latter I have used for nigh on 23 years, I have not been persuaded of any other deodorant or fragrance.
Now, these are no more in the shops, I must order Brut by bulk from Amazon, Hugo Boss, however, is a strange one, the carton says it was made in the UK, but no UK shop stocks the item. Bizarrely, I am only able to get this when I pass through the Charles de Gaulle airport duty-free shop in Paris and it is not getting any cheaper.
Beating myself harder than with a rod
So, you could imagine my sense of loss when a barely used bottle of Hugo Boss was inadvertently left in a hotel room and I had no inkling as to how to retrieve it. Like gloves, I always have at least one spare bottle to hand, but imagine my utter discomfiture when on returning from a trip to London, I could neither find another pair of these fanciful smell repellents.
I searched all bags, high and low, I could not for the life of me think of how I might have lost them again. For weeks, I was resigned to the fact that I had been a second time careless and had relapsed into mental flagellation occasioning regret.
At one time I had decided I would not more travel with them if I could not trust myself to keep them and return with them.
Redemption of self and soul
Then, a few days ago as I was rifling through my new trolley case for my laptops and work materials, I happened upon the zipped-up cavity where I had stored a power bank and there also was the can of Brut and a bottle of Hugo Boss.
I had neither lost nor misplaced them, I just did not remember they were there. I promptly forgave myself, thought about my possibly fading mental acuity and decided, the world is not lost, these things happen. The habit that has been going on for almost a lifetime serves its purpose, though year on year, I have watched the price of Hugo Boss rise by at least 15%, at such prices, one cannot afford to be careless or even carefree.
To each one his own and thankfully Hugo Boss Number One stands out as a class ahead of the rest because celebrity piss water flooded the shelves of perfumeries that if you venture into such shop floors, your departure will be greeted with a vapour trail of pongy effluent that polite company would rather don a gas mask than suggest you reek of the unmentionable.
To retain certain habits, you have to careful, mindful and resourceful, it is the only way to retain a sense of wellbeing and sanity.

Friday, 23 February 2018

On wounded knee a screen is shattered

Cracking a screen
I have never had a cracked screen on my mobile phone, probably because I have been careful or just because the phones themselves are quite durable.
I remember commenting to certain friends who cannot resist an iToy that I have never seen an iPhone without a cracked screen, they must be a design feature and there is a business that thrives on replacing screens.
Yet, I have come to that experience and it happened last night, though there is much of a story to tell before we get to that episode. A few days before, I walked into a shop where I had been eyeing a pair of boots but had not decided whether they were for me.
Sizing my foot
On this particular day, the shop had three boots on display and for the very first time, it is strange to walk into a shop and find that the shoes where all the same size and that size is my size. There doesn’t seem to be a good standard measure for shoe sizes, though, on the law of averages, we can settle for Size 12 UK or 46 EU, though I have seen Size 13 UK fitting like Size 12.
When I went shopping for trainers a few months ago, I noticed that shoe sizes could be arbitrary when for a particular brand I was shod with Size 19, that was scary. My feet are long, they are not big and so the pejorative of Big Foot or Sasquatch is just what it is, pejorative.
Shoes matter especially from a childhood where my feet outgrew my shoes before I had worn them in and long before they were replaced, I suffered a lot, so the comfort of good fitting shoes is the banishment of childhood trauma.

Fitting the parts
These Undercover boots are no more on the market, sturdy 14-hole boots that demand a new way of lacing them, offering the comfort of ankle support, though not the easiest to slip on or take off. I had not worn them in when I decided to wear them for a journey without a spare pair of footwear.
My first tentative steps were adjusting to the weight of the shoes, the feeling at the shin where I have to pull the tongue to ensure the laces are a bit taut rather than loose, the shaft high up on my leg giving me a clunky feel to a plodding walk until I was well-adjusted to the newness of it all.
The collar is snug, the hem of my trouser leg will slip over the boot and yet when wearing a tracksuit, the track bottoms can be tucked right into the collar, giving a rather militaristic look to things.
Falling on hands and knee
In any case, I had just finished looking at my phone and since I was about to cross the road, I held the phone in my right hand, noticed that the cars had stopped and I crossed. Just as I absentmindedly mounted the pavement or thought I had, I really had not cleared the height either out of getting adjusted to the outsole, I tripped and almost as if I was in a drunken stupor, fell forwards breaking my fall more with my right hand than my left hand.
My left knee hit the ground hard and I was not down for long as my next step as a lady ask if I was OK was to get up and continue walking, thanking the lady for her concern whilst somewhat dazzled by the unexpected accident.
It was then that I looked at my phone and noticed the screen had cracked, it had taken the brunt of breaking my fall. The phone was not damaged beyond repair but I immediately saw that the pattern security lock was not as responsive that I had to change to a PIN code instead.
Nursing my wounds
When I got back to my hotel, I pulled off the boots, took off my trousers and my poor knee was both grazed and bruised, it had bled a bit and it hurt too. I cleaned the wounds but had not first aid kit to tend it. I wrapped tissue paper round my knee, fixed on a towel like a bandage and went to bed until the morning when I would get some antiseptic cream and plasters for my knee.
As my mobile phone is not a popular brand, the screen cannot be easily replaced except if I acquire one off eBay, the intention to replace my phone that I have vacillated about for months has now been forced upon me.
Invariably, I cannot say if it was the boot or plain clumsiness that caused my fall, it happened and that is the tale of the broken screen on bleeding knee.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Thought Picnic: The memories of times, places, events and people

The memories of another day
16 annual Sundays ago on February the 10th in 2002, we gathered for brunch at my favourite Paris haunt, Café Beaubourg to celebrate the 50th birthday of my dear friend Dick van Galen Last. We were both residents of Amsterdam, but we had met in Paris some 4 years before, when I still lived in England and kept contact through when I moved to the Netherlands in 2000, when he was my most friendly support in helping me settle down in my first month.
We had a tradition of meeting every few months for dinner, usually, at his place where he entertained an eclectic crowd, Dick was a global citizen with friends from all corners of the earth.
Dick would have been 66 today, but he passed on, on the 2nd of February 2010, just days short of his 58th birthday.
To memories of events that last
February presents to me in many ways, the end and the renewal, 2002 was a celebration of life and the joy of friendship, a few years after, I had two nephews born on the same day, two years apart, young boys coming into adolescence I need to make more than an acquaintance with.
On the 8th of February 2010, I had two events to attend, the morning was at a chapel where some crowd numbering hundreds on one of the coldest February mornings in Amsterdam gathered to bid Dick farewell, I could not make it to the reception after the internment.
For memories to recall in the future
Then, I hurried to the hospital for my penultimate session of chemotherapy with a nursing team who were just as shocked as I was at Dick’s demise, we shared the same consultant and oncologist. That session of chemotherapy when we finally found a vein to stick a needle in, turned out to be my last and the road ahead of me after that became one of recovery and recuperation.
The memories are keen and they are fond, to friends and lovers gone before, you are never forgotten. Let February bring life and happiness again.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

It's about respect and make that matter every time

Know your worth
A number of events have inspired me to write this blog, even one that I reminisced about to a colleague at work about the beginning of my career.
I was a 24-year old with 30% equity in a desktop publishing outfit with a well-established lawyer twice my age who was also a director of one of the biggest banks in Nigeria, if not Africa, almost 30 years ago.
During one of our conversations, he dipped his hand in his flowing gown and threw money at me across the table. I picked up the wad of cash, put in back in front of him and said, “My parents have never thrown money at me, I’m sorry, you do not earn the opportunity to do that to me.
He was aghast that he just could not understand that I was neither obsequious nor fawning, but forthright and bold. He wondered why because of what I had in my head I could so irreverent and for a few more times he did things to undermine and belittle me until I was compelled to tell him.
You don’t give 30% of a company to a 24-year old and think that is the end of it, I will walk away from this and start again somewhere else.” That is what I eventually did.
Take no shit
On another occasion, it was at work where traders had become demigods because of the kind of money they brought into the company. It meant everyone answered to their every whim regardless of how the demand was made.
It was one evening when I was on the phone to one of such demigod traders that he began with unprintable expletives, swearing and cursing at me without relenting. When I finally got to answer him, I said. “I’m sorry, I do not get paid enough to be spoken to like this, I will put down the phone and you can call me again when you are ready for me to attend to your issue.
I ended the call and a few minutes later, he was on the phone again, first apologising and then I was able to look into the issue he had and resolve it. The truth is, I really cannot be paid enough to be insulted and abused at work. In a way, I use my parents as the standard, what has never been meted out to me from my parents is unacceptable from anyone else, no matter how influential or highly placed that person is.
Money is not everything
It has defined an almost 30-year career, I set the standards by which I want to be addressed, with respect, with courtesy and with consideration. I am grateful to the managers I have had who have reciprocated with exemplary conduct and to those managers who have been unable to find the ability to act with standards of courtesy and address that are somewhat old-fashioned for these times, we have parted ways.
This is what happened last March when I had had my fill of being treated disrespectfully and discourteously by my manager, I handed in my badge and phone and walked out without notice. I had had enough.
This brings me to the conversation Jay-Z had with CNN’s Van Jones recently where he said, and I quote. “It is not about money at the end of the day. Money does not equate to happiness. You’re missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings…. Treat me bad and pay me well: it’s not going to lead to happiness.” [Source] [Recording]
Then, Amara Nwankpa on Twitter responded to a tweet, with “Greatness is hardly measured in money. It's nice to know you can buy things, but find your niche, make a difference in people's lives. Move society forward. The greatest name in the world died without any children or property to his name.

It should always be about respect
Ultimately, we have to be careful that we do not slip into materialism and begin measuring achievement and impact just to the sound and presence of money because money is just supposed to be a tool.
I have given up some opportunities because the situation and circumstance in the work environment will be bad, even though it pays really good money. In some ways, it is down to my upbringing, I have enjoyed plenty and suffered lac at various times, but I am not driven by the quest for filthy lucre to the detriment of everything else.
Indeed, we can do a lot with money, but money in and of itself can be the source of great misery, it does not equate happiness, health, comfort, rest or peace.
Fundamentally, It’s about respect, not money. If you can be guided by this thinking, it is unlikely that people regardless of what they have will deign to disrespect you, I might have left my job last March vilified, a few months after the manager was asked to leave and by that, I was indirectly vindicated.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Anyone for the gym?

So, I sauntered off to the gym,
Not really expecting to see a guy named Jim,
Even if many went there for the trim,
It was a feast of muscle filled to the brim.
To some classes, I got to late,
Before to music we repetitively did gyrate,
To exhaustion, we inflate and deflate,
Not once did the trainer berate,
I realised I didn’t know right from left,
My rhythm not anything near deft,
In sweat to my body, my clothes were cleft,
This was before we had much to heft.
For all the sizes there on show,
It was the Muscle Marys in afterglow,
Preening and prancing on the weights with gusto,
A distraction from the general flow.
Some exercises seem so tough,
Tugging on muscles that make you gruff,
With time and grit, you’re trim and buff,
The result of many a huff and puff.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Opinion: By the measure of homelessness in the UK, we are a poor nation

Our streets of people in need
Daily, I find myself wondering what kind of society I am in, what has broken in our society and communities to see such poverty, destitution and hopelessness amongst us?
There is nothing first world on our streets, despite being one of the largest economies in the world, with all sorts of prospects for the United Kingdom, we cannot judge our progress on the prosperity of the rich getting richer, companies declaring vast profits, the stock exchange hitting new records and anyone else with the opportunity and good fortune laughing all the way to the bank.
As a consultant, I work around the UK, literally living in hotels and walking the streets therein. Living in Manchester, then working or temporarily staying in Edinburgh, Norwich, Great Yarmouth and now Reading, I cannot ignore the obvious.
I see hungry people
I see hungry people, I see homeless people, I see people approaching strangers begging for some spare change for a meal or to get a place to lay their heads for the night. Then some billboards tell me not to give money to street beggars because the said charities are there to help them back to a different life.
I am pained by my own helplessness, I cannot think of what I can really do to help anyone who has been caught in this situation apart from offer a handout. If I stopped to listen to their stories, it is very likely their story will be no different from mine.
Why? I was self-employed and independent, then I fell ill with a sickness and disease that could easily have killed me off, but thankfully I am still here. As I took on my treatment, I had no money coming in, I used up all my savings, I could not pay the mortgage and because of my seemingly independent life, I did not know I was entitled to any welfare.
A precipitous decline
I soon found out about my entitlements six months after I fell ill, my creditors were very understanding, in fact, they probably had more faith in my recovery than I did, they had a good idea of what I earned before and my possible earning potential if I did recover. Yet, there were days I went hungry, my eyes almost popping out in the agonising pain of cancer, but for the succour and friendship of neighbours and friends, I could have despaired and expired.
I still had a roof over my head for another 30 months after my cancer diagnosis, but I could not sustain my situation, things were not looking as rosy as I had hope that I decided to sell up. The day before I moved out of my apartment of 126 months, I did not know where I would spend the next night, and then a free offer to occupy a vacated house come up which I occupied for two months.
After that, a young family put me up in their apartment caring for me for another 6 weeks before I decided to return to the UK after 12 and a half years in the Netherlands, with nothing but the hope that things will turn around, my cousin putting me up in a room as I returned.
As things looked up
Within 6 days of arrival, I had a job to travel around Europe for the next six months, however, some internal issues in the company meant the opportunity only lasted 5 weeks, it was another few months before I got a job in Wales where I was living out of hotels for the next 6 months.
Being in and out of work with no permanent residence could have taken its toll, I had many brushes on the brink of homelessness only to have people give me a place to recoup, reassess, rejig and reapply myself to getting back into useful employment and independence.
None of this would have been possible without a helping hand and there were many for which I am full of gratitude and appreciation that the best of humanity is still out there overflowing with the milk of kindness to help and to redeem.
Where is the help for all?
However, not everyone has that resource, not everyone has an angel, the angels to me were people like you and me. Many are homeless because of so many reasons too many to enumerate, from illness to unemployment, broken homes, divorce, a death in the family and even maybe substance abuse.
It is here that we must ask ourselves, what encourages substance abuse and is that not a symptom of some other underlying issue? I cannot sanctimoniously pontificate on these issues as if in my supposed saintliness I am beyond reproach, neither am I ready to accept as default that all beggars are beggars by choice, any money given them goes on drink and drugs or that they know where to get help and never use it.
I knew where to get help, as articulate and well-dressed as I was, I was both humiliated and turned away with the undertone of how dare I visit the homeless charity seeking help. I submit that if the charities were really doing their charitable duties, there would probably be fewer homeless people on our streets. I am doubtful they are doing anything that would encourage me to donate to the charities when I can open my hand to a person begging in front of me.
They are human beings first
It is a cancer within our midst that we have that many homeless people around us and from my experience, the very likelihood why the homeless would not visit homeless charities is because first, they are not treated as human beings, they are not treated with respect, they are looked down on as the dregs of society that there is nothing in place as the kind of helping hands I had to give me the opportunity and space to come out of the quagmire I was in.
Nobody wants to return to a workhouse environment redolent of the Victorian times and these places that portend to tackle homelessness must be more welcoming than they appear to be.
I see instances when someone begging needs £16 to stay in a hostel, it is unlikely if they make the £16, they would immediately spend it on one night’s shelter when there is food to think about.
The pall of homelessness
It is not without consideration that I think of a man I loved, Chris was ejected from his home by his mother at the age of 15 because he was gay and though he made something of his life to the extent that his parents relied on him to bury them well, Chris died 21 years after that ejection and it cannot be unrelated to the homelessness he suffered as a teenager before someone helped him.
I could see signs of that experience in everything that Chris did because these things are markedly significant, yet, he was amazingly loving and wonderful company to be with. Whilst he rests, I still miss him, 36 was too young an age to die and he’s been gone over 8 years.
I walk to the gym in my shorts on typical winter days seeing people in the dead of the night still hungry, homeless, cold and anything uncomfortable, I do not see anything happening to help them, I have not amazing solutions and sadly, we seem to be at the peak of government indolence and societal heartlessness.
This cannot continue, our society is the poorer for the hungry and homeless that roam around us in the vaunted prosperity of this great land. No, we are not prosperous, we are poor.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Caught skipping with the girls again

Between Jim and the gym
Just after my birthday, I thought about it again, the need to keep fit and trim, knowing that the passing of time leaves changes one must have in control before it is too difficult to rein it in.
Having been away from home for weeks, I first had to update my swipe card access to the village gym which has everything including a swimming pool, a sauna and games room. The swimming I have to get to eventually, I have been too much of a log or a stone in water, there is no fun in that.
Knowing me, knowing shoes
Then, I needed to get the best shoes to cushion the effect of running because of lifelong shin splints. My research online yielded lots of information which boiled down to the best shoes that had fitting, quality or durability issues, not one stood out as the best and I was in information overload already.
A visit to the shopping mall with sports shops belonging to chains did not seem to offer much encouragement, I did not see anyone who appeared to have any useful knowledge about running shoes or trainers apart from their projecting the necessity to make a sale to the most gullible customer who dared to believe anything they said.
A size for a length
I took a walk down the main street and happened upon a small family shop that had one customer inside who had tried nothing less than seven pairs of shoes, the attendant, patient, understanding, explaining and serving. He seemed to know what he was talking about as I pulled up my references to guide me in decision making.
It became clear that my shoe size for normal shoes was probably two sizes smaller when trying on trainers, but when I slid my feet into Size 19 shoes, I could only presume something was wrong with quality control or the sweatshop makers of the shoes were making skis rather than shoes.
Eventually, I settled for a pair of the most comfortable and well-cushioned shoes, the fitting was so good, knowing how my feet have suffered through spurts of growth that shoes did not expand to, this is like shoe heaven.
Altogether, with Christmas approaching, I got discount on everything and probably paid 30% less along with free merchandise to boot. I was ready for the gym.
Skipping with the girls again
I then revived my gym membership with The Gym Group with the bundle that allows me the countrywide use of any gym in the group and we were on to an exercise program for the first four weeks and then the next four.
Down in Reading, I registered for an induction that went well before opting for a boot camp class. No gym equipment, just running, jumping and stretching over the course of 30 minutes. The setting reviving a childhood experience as I was the only male apart from the trainer in a group of 10.
My childhood fragility meant I was left skipping with the girls rather than playing football with the boys, it appeared I was back doing things with the girls again. Such is life at the gym.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Essential Snobbery 101: Devoid of Perception

He walked away from danger
This is a blog I started almost two months ago but never got to finish because like some blogs that I have posted before, the ideas might be pertinent though the time and occasion is not ripe for publication.
A tweet I read this morning allows me the opportunity to finish this blog and hopefully get to post it. The tweet concerns a man who suggests he nearly just got killed by a cop. He was returning from the gym and he entered a shop to buy some things before he was accosted by the police with guns drawn shouting at him to respond to some commands.

He did not hear the commotion surrounding and directed at him because he had noise-cancelling headphones on, it was a matter of luck and fortitude, if not some restraint from the cops that meant that he walked away from that encounter unharmed.
Shutting out the world
It transpired that the shop assistant had called the police about some criminal activity going on in the shop and somehow that was read to be an armed robbery with this man the supposed perpetrator. There is much to comment on about this, but that is of no particular concern to me.
My issue is with the headphones and noise-cancelling ones at that. The man says in a tweet, “Sometimes I like to shut the world out and listen to music.” That is the problem, you are in a public place and you shut the world out, just imagine if he had walked into the shop and without that isolation bubble of his headphones blocking out the world, he might have seen and acknowledged the shopkeeper who then with that interaction would not have suspected him of being up to no good.

For all the commentary that followed his narrative, no one picked on the fact that the situation is as much his own fault in the first place and it could then be that of others. When you shut off any of your working senses to external stimuli in the world around you, you place the responsibility on others either to look out for you or the anxiety on others to consider you a threat.
Devoid of perception of others
The same goes for people who ride their bicycles in the streets with headphones on so that they are unaware of sounds and movements necessary for them to anticipate and avoid danger. It is just irresponsible at best and without doubt selfish and reckless.
The other day I got on the train the but could not get to a free seat because a lady was standing in the way. Thrice, I said 'Excuse me, please', and she neither heard me nor budged, she was too engrossed in her mobile phone to be bothered or aware of her surroundings, it took I poking her with a finger for her to respond and reluctantly step out of the way for me to pass.
This is becoming the norm, a lack of awareness and the absence of perception that reduces our humanity from that of being social beings to the exemplar of being wild animals, uncivilised, inconsiderate, unconcerned and apathetic.
Just selfish and inconsiderate
Then, on a Sunday night, in a hotel full of business guests, the fire alarm went off at 4:20 AM, because some restless and noisy young men decided to smoke in non-smoking rooms. To cover the evidence, they broke the window and lied to the night concierge about the deed. I doubt they suffered any other consequence for waking everyone up in the hotel.
For them, nothing and no one else mattered in their selfish quest for self-satisfaction at the expense of everyone else. Sitting in a railway station waiting room, a passenger thinks it is socially responsible to play their music loud to the hearing of others, unafraid of being asked to behave. In many cases, you cannot ask them to be considerate because that infuriates them, and it could lead to violent acts committed against you as such a challenge to their antisocial behaviour is taken as an act of disrespect.
Why does it happen?
Meanwhile, another brings a can of alcoholic beverage onto the tram platform as we await the next one, he finishes the drink and drops the can to the floor and walks away as if it had nothing to do with him, this is despite the fact there is a wastebasket 10 yards away. Then you imagine if everyone dropped their litter without any consideration whether we would have anywhere to walk without running the gauntlet of refuse heaps.
Too many episodes and events I observe of carefree and careless people lacking in consideration or social skill, devoid of spatial awareness and the useful utility of their senses to do the right thing. Unschooled, uncouth, untamed, uncultured to the point of stupid existence, upsetting everyone without any sense of offence caused or bad behaviour, you do wonder if it is a deliberate act of self-expression or just the absence of social graces, breeding, tutelage and much else.