Friday, 22 January 2021

Self-Isolation - V

Between Cape Town to Manchester

I have now had some time to reflect on my outing yesterday to participate in the International Entrant Test requested of me. The contrast between being in Cape Town and Manchester was glaringly obvious.

Stepping out of my home, I did not see anyone wearing a mask apart from those about to enter a supermarket or at the testing centre. In South Africa, it was an offence to appear in public without a mask covering both the mouth and nose. I had one on for the entire time of my being outdoors except when I had to swab my throat and nostril.

Arriving at the testing centre, I literally bathed my hands with sanitiser, there were no temperature checks like we had in Cape Town and if it were not necessary to register for the test, I would have been anonymous and nondescript, completely unacknowledged and invisible at a time when testing, tracking and tracing are critical to gaining control of a pandemic.

For the few that don’t

It remains my concern that had I not correctly entered my detail in the Passenger Locator Form that I filled in online a week ago, no one would have known I had flown into the UK from South Africa through Paris. Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that I was contacted on Monday and then on Thursday by the Track-n-Trace team, but I doubt I am being monitored for my movements. I am in self-isolation obeying the rules, I wonder who else is not as adherent.

Having a friend to call to help with shopping and errands is more than useful and I do appreciate the love and kindness of my friends.

Understandably some fathers will not get to acceptance

Hard truths of sons

From a personal perspective I can understand how difficult it must be for a Nigerian father to countenance the idea that their child is not heteronormative. If it were a matter of choice or lifestyles, it is likely they might have been different, but the world we live in is diverse with expressions of individuality and uniqueness that may not follow the orthodoxy.

When I father challenged the public acknowledgement of my sexuality as a gay man years ago, I was directly instructed to come out of the gay world. I had no other alternative than to tell him without mincing words some truths about my life he might have been suspicious of or never knew. Until then, I was hiding my reality from him in the misconception that I was saving him the shock of my person and my personality. [For Akin – Funmi Iyanda]

From aberration to acceptance

In the 1960s, I appreciate the cultural aversion to homosexuality in the UK even as acceptance of the fact that homosexuals exist and are neither mentally incapacitated nor deviants. In 1967, homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, though it took decades for acceptance to gain traction towards non-discrimination based in sexual orientation. [Wikipedia: Sexual Offences Act – 1967.]

When I returned to the UK in 1990, I did not shy away from who I was, considering I was being blackmailed in Nigeria. The way I dealt with the blackmailer was to say he would have to explain how he found out, why were involved for an extended period and whether he would not be just as exposed and unlikely me with an exit plan, he had to exist within a homophobic environment.

My son

When my father responded, he said, “You are my son, I cannot reject you.” Whilst I did not read that as a wholesale acceptance of who I am, it was conciliatory enough an acknowledgement that there was nothing he could do about it if we were to retain any form of relationship. We have developed that filial relationship despite occasional hiccups.

Dr Doyin Okupe, a former presidential spokesman for the President of Nigeria today from the papers finds himself in the same situation of first acknowledging against every gain in his religious and patriarchal body that his son, Bolu Okupe is gay. The most important and significant statement he could make was, “He (Bolu) is my son.” [The Nation: Doyin Okupe, son in a row over ‘gay status’]

Beyond that, any discussion by anyone else is an exertion in conjecture and vain jangling. It is no doubt a trying period for heterosexual fathers, but their homosexual sons do have their lives to live. I have a partner to whom I hope to get married. I affections have never had any inclination apart from a homonormative existence, I accepted myself long before I needed to tell anyone about who I am, even at work from the 1990s.

A deluge of ignorance

What I find utterly irksome is the crass and ignorant reportage that masquerades as journalism in Nigeria. With the abundance of knowledge, expertise, academic material and legal precedent in many countries not only acknowledging homosexuality but conferring rights and freedom with the criminalisation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, we have people who offer stupefying opinions, bias and bigotry as fact, that I read, “He resides in France where the law allows him to experiment with his sexuality.” Experiment?

You do not experiment with sexuality, it is embodied in the person, their expression and their identity, it is their life and they live it in or out of the closet, depending on the agency and autonomy they have. We need to banish the concept of lifestyle or choice from the canon of sexual orientation or we risk being refused access to societies where the debate about sexual orientation has long passed from a wedge issue of societal and cultural exclusion.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Self-Isolation - IV

The river overflows

Stuck indoors yesterday in quarantine, I did not realise it had rained so much in the wake of Storm Christoph that brought with it floods, snow and evacuations, our usually tame River Irwell flooded its banks in the city centre.

As I have always been fascinated by the ebb and swell of River Irwell, I have missed my early morning walks which would have brought me close to seeing the malevolent side of nature. The river breached the minor flooding height of 3.00 metres at 9:15 PM on Tuesday the 19th of January and reached the high-water mark of 4.30 metres at 7:00 PM on Wednesday the 20th of January before it began to recede, though it is rising again to 2.68 metres as I am writing this blog. [Flood Information Service: River Irwell]

River Irwell level, this morning

Testing my mettle

At closing time, the Track-n-Trace or the UK Government Test for Coronavirus Service called using the information I had entered in my Passenger Locator Form last Friday to ask if I will participate in an International Entrant Test (IET) programme to determine if I had contracted the Coronavirus from South Africa and ascertain what kind of strain it is.

If I were to take into consideration the inconvenience of my enforced quarantine, I would have declined the offer and stayed at home. I am under no obligation to submit myself to testing apart from for the benefit of science and maybe society at large.

The registration process was laborious, cumbersome and intrusive even as they wanted me to take the test today. Having no mode of transport, I would not have been persuaded to test if the testing centre were not within comfortable walking distance. It was just under 2 kilometres away.

Testing my patience

We scheduled the appointment for 6:00 PM and I made my way out to the walk-through testing centre where the conversation and guidance was easy in a completely hands-off manner. I took a swab of my tonsils as I still have then, then stuck it up a nostril for 10 seconds before spilling the contents of the swab kit and obtaining another in which to place the swab.

Then I had to call a freephone number to register my test, following prompts like a manic depressive making time to goose-stepping with 1s and 2s in different orders, I probably did 1221211 before I got to speak to someone who put me back on hold because they probably did not know what an IET was. Passed on to another, a few questions and back on hold to listen to the Top-40 chart of music I could neither make head nor tail of.

A few seconds from 14 minutes into the call, they had obtained as much information as possible, linked my details to the sample and I was ready to have my pizza box kit shipped to London for expedited analysis. Bathing my hands in sanitiser, I stepped into the rain slightly becalmed and got back home with just as much a Poirot shuffle in my gait to spend another six days in self-isolation.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Self-Isolation - III

Working on an earpiece

The day started early at work as we were well into conferences from not long after 8:00 AM and were dipping in and out of conversations for the rest of the day. My rather tenacious colleague who can at times drive me to distraction was making considerable progress as we began to get a grip of the issues that consumed manpower and time yesterday.

Holding back the occasional exasperation we can address the frustrating and laugh about the infuriating, it all ended up being very productive.

Times are indeed changing

I was also looking forward to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the sense that some relief and comfort has swept away the incomprehensible and destructive atrocity that occupied the White House for the last four years.

Every moment of the pomp and pageantry, ceremony and performance was like a return to old traditions and new normalcy, an intelligible speech, impactful, sincere, and emotional with properly constructed and understandable sentences, you wonder, whatever happened to America?

Running low on some supplies, I had my friend do some shopping and deliver to the door. The hermit complex is settling in, even if we are hardly halfway there. 

The Horror Apprentice is cancelled

Something to celebrate

Today heralds a new dawning in the world order and global leadership with the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America. We need to take time to let that sink in, it is significant.

The outgoing president in his bitterness and truculent will hopefully slink into obscurity only to be noticed when his many legal and financial troubles are given the burning tails to chase after him and whether he is able to escape opprobrium or justice is left to be seen.

A piece of work

Donald J. Trump was an aberration visited upon us with a temperament most unsavoury even if entertaining for many. We had completely different worldviews, he’s was entirely self-centred with the pretensions to public service he was never disposed to. Apart from ambition, there was nothing exemplary in his conduct, demeanour, attitude, or deportment.

In speech, his excessive use of comparatives and superlatives with repetition for emphasis showed a man who did not read, was ready to dish out but averse to receive, he had the bully pulpit of the presidency and wielded it with a tyrannical ferocity attacking anything that did not serve his ego or redound to his personality. Basically, he had no humanity.

Vote with knowledge

The thought that he could have been rewarded with a second term was scary until it became obvious that he would not so be granted that opportunity.

If anything, we learnt of how power in the hands of one who breaks all the rules and does not subscribe to the orthodoxy can radically affect our lives. The vote is not something to be gambled away on the whim, for it is not enough to just assume power, the responsibility that pertains to power is tested when met with a crisis. That crisis became the Coronavirus pandemic.

401,777 people have died of CoVID-19 disease to-date, there had to be consequence and repercussion for this. [Johns Hopkins: Coronavirus Resource Centre] It is therefore gratifying that he lost the election to the person he nicknamed Sleepy Joe and has to the very last day not conceded to him. The systems and institutions have stood strong against the Trump onslaught and his quest to undermine democracy in America. He came into power with his party in control of all arms of government and he departs having lost it all for them.

No new season

Personally, it was essential that Donald Trump’s tenure end in disgrace with all the accoutrements of his malevolent character in global display as lacking in grace, in deportment, without gallantry, and full of calumny. He had no acquaintance with the truth, the Washington Post says President Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading statements in his presidency. When the truth is absent from our leadership and democratic system, we are left with little to trust about how we are being governed and the policies implemented that affect our lives. [Wikipedia: Veracity of statements by Donald Trump]

This became the hallmark of this woebegone presidency, an antithesis of decency in every ramification and a black spot on civility. He cannot be gone soon enough and to many it is good riddance. One however must not forget those who hitched their wagons to this apology of wanton excess, who believed every word he uttered, bestowed on him cult followership, and sacrificed everything to his cause. Some paid the ultimate price others will pay more than they bargained for. It is a veritable and cautionary lesson and tale to be told for history and wisdom.

In closing, one can only wish President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris the very best on their tenure, my prayers follow them and we hope that the leadership we have always excepted of America will be restored for some semblance of peace and the embrace of our common, yet diverse humanity. The future beckons as The Horror Apprentice has been cancelled for a second season because the ratings were rotten and the host was indescribably atrocious.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Self-Isolation - II

Counting tartan sheep

Today has been a slow day, hours spent on a telephone conference where hysteria promoted an issue to the highest priority when reality revealed it was hardly so. The problem, nebulous as it is has acquired a workaround that is being set in motion.

Looking outside my window a man in a yellow and blue tartan jacket and pair of trousers with a flat cap of the same material provides some amusement and he might well have the occupation of a clown, though there is no circus in sight. It is only the second day.

Someone to blame

My Brian has finally returned home to Bulawayo and we would soon be back to video messages on WhatsApp, text messages and video calls before we go to bed. We need to fix this thing.

I think I will cope well with this self-isolation malarkey, I did well with it most of last year, it should get better even though it is an imposition of inconvenience. I might just start with cooking something. On that too, I stepped on the scales and the numbers showing are not that encouraging. Only one person is to blame for this, he knows himself.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Self-Isolation - I

All in form or a fine

As per the mandatory CoVID-19 precautionary measures of the UK and England in particular, I am just completing the 1st of 10 full days of self-isolation (quarantine) because I was in South Africa. During the last week of my sojourn in South Africa, the UK had the requirement of a negative CoVID-19 test or the risk of a £500 fine within 72 hours of my departure effective from 4:00 AM on the 15th of January.

I took my test on Thursday and it would have just fallen within the 72-hour range, but by the time I got the result, the government website had updated the effective date moving it back 72 hours. In any case, I still needed the test because it was checked at the check-in counter for my local travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then when I was about to traverse customs and immigration in Johannesburg.

Another requirement from the UK was filling in a Passenger Locator form within 48 hours of arrival with details of where I was travelling from, where I will be transiting through, Paris, in this instance, and where I will be staying for my compulsory self-isolation which could attract fines of up to £10,000 if broken.

We are slow on the uptake

The checks were quite efficient in South Africa, masks compulsory, hands sanitised, temperature checked registration at the lounges. There was a tracking and tracing system in play with notifications from the South African authorities obtained from when I registered for the test.

Through the flight from Johannesburg to Paris, we had to keep our masks on and AirFrance offered mask to everyone whilst strictly requiring those with cloth masks to change to standard-issue surgical masks. In Paris, I was a bit concerned because the lounge did begin to fill up and the social distancing requirement was not that adhered to. The transit bus to the flight we boarded from Paris to Manchester had us packed in like sardines.

When we arrived in The UK on Sunday in the early afternoon, there were no checks whatsoever. Whilst there were hand sanitising stations, I was through the e-Passport gate in a minute and in a black taxi with windows open in the cold for ventilation after baggage reclaim in under 15 minutes.

Speaking foreign like English

Just before noon, I received a phone call, an unknown number but the lady on the other end with a foreign-sounding accent, presumably Indian was calling on behalf of the UK Government for public health purposes to inform me that my household and I need to self-isolate for 10 days. All that information I already knew. One of the questions she asked was whether I would like to continue the conversation in English, I did not ask what alternative languages were available, Welsh, Gaelic or Yoruba, Dutch, maybe Afrikaans, if she spoke slowly enough.

It was like the information I had submitted that included my passport particular had no significance. I was also back to work, my accounts needed to be reactivated as they were disabled when I was away. A long slow day, it was. There are only 9 more days to go.