Monday, 6 December 2021

Coronavirus streets in Cape Town - L

This city wins us

Cape Town is like our city of dreams; we have so fallen in love with this place and found that we take in life with gusto finding quiet locations in this bustling city to feel the warmth of the weather and watch the idling nature be what they naturally are.

Then you wonder, there are troops and troupes, groups and teams, friends like gangs, families with children left to the abandon of carefree and unconcerned expression, that they could literally be out of control but for the grace of God.

There is no pandemic here, omicron is as Greek to them as their probably knowing such a letter existed only a week before. I thought I had flown into a curfew and would have to spend the night at the airport, the law was not as strict as it appeared to be, the knowledge that a flight had arrived late to the international airport made allowances for the passengers to be taken to their chosen destinations.

Omicron be on the run

Out at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the crowds were milling, and most facemasks were like stirrups hanging off the chin rather than covering the mouth and the nose. For those who even attempted to cover something, their noses stuck out like protuberances much longer than when Pinocchio had told his third lie.

Then as we looked around for Zakhele Popo, he approached us, not yet in his regalia and we hugged so tightly like old friends do. Everywhere else was lively and heaving, even the dry dock had a large vessel to provide a cacophonous background sound that robbed the waterfront of any stillness.

Blog - Zakhele Popo of V&A Waterfront

We made for the Marina that was secluded as usual, sat on the benches, hugged and kissed many times as the clouds billowed and rolled over Table Mountain, the winds boisterous to the point that the main door to the V&A Waterfront Watershed had to be closed. We were recognised by some and identified by others. We felt we were back. Omicron, go and find another city to give your grief.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

In flights of intermittent piquancy

The gut is a prophet

My deepest premonitions, I should trust a bit more, for they forestall frustration, disappointment, resentment, and complaint. You can set your expectations to the level where you are accommodating not so much of incompetence or even a residency in cynicism but in the realism of what can obtain when systems are not perfect because the human beings who designed it with all their best efforts and the those who use the system are just not perfect too.

My flight from Manchester to Paris, or in airport code MAN-CDG was early, something I rarely do to punish myself, it was to take off at 6:05 AM, if I had to be at the airport at least 2 hours before, it meant I had to get a cab there from home round 3:00 AM. That whole setting meant; I did not sleep overnight.

Timing without priming

The flight itself took off at 6:25 AM, 20 minutes late and with a stopover in Paris for my connecting flight being 1h25, I was concerned about me getting on that flight from Paris to Cape Town (CDG-CPT) and then of my baggage making it too. There was no time for shopping or lounging, I was straight to the gate in Paris where boarding had begun.

It was to take off at 10:10 AM, but that was delayed until 10:39 AM, meaning my Paris stopover had extended 24 minutes to 1h49. The captain had announced that the reason for our delay was they were expecting baggage, which seemed to allay my fears that my baggage would not make it, how wrong I was.

A flight in slight

On the MAN-CDG leg, the Airbus 320 had on-board Wi-Fi which I used to communicate with friends and I was expecting that same service on the CDG-CPT leg, which when I bought the flight ticket was supposed to be a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, but we ended up on a Boeing 777-328(ER), the seating configuration completely different from when I booked a seat, it was a 2-3-2 seating plan instead of a 1-2-1, though seats were occupied as if in a 1-2-1 configuration.

There was no Wi-Fi for that 10h40 journey apart from the seating being a bit cramped, yet from my reading of the flight details, it has only been in service for 5 years. Having a spare seat beside you is quite different from having a wider space to occupy, my 6-foot frame I had to pull up as my seat did not fully recline as would have been the case on the originally designated flight and my long feet always scratched the top of the foot compartment. I made myself as comfortable as I could.

To places from above

The most I do out of in-flight entertainment is listen to music, I am more fascinated by the interactive maps that I have in constant view except when it is switched off because I have fallen asleep. I was surprised that we took a southwestern bearing from Paris towards the border with Spain flying over the majestic Pyrenes which are always a wonder to behold especially in the winter.

We left Spain, just by Valencia over the Mediterranean Sea into another beautiful mountain range, the adoring folds of topology are a sight to behold from above. We did not fly over it, Mascara was to the west, it is not etymologically related to cosmetic mascara which has an Italian origin. Then the flight path took into northeast Mali, pinching the southwest of Niger and then northeast of Burkina Faso before flying the length of the Benin Republic and exiting the African landmass into the Gulf of Guinea at Porto Novo.

Flightpath from Paris to Cape Town.

The person of my baggage

The greater length of the flight was over water until South Africa and the approach to land at Cape Town. The aircrew was extremely pleasant and nice with a genial and warm disposition. I caught about 5 hours of sleep combined as it was a daytime flight, after an early lunch, we pulled down the blinds to darken the interior and caught as much kip as we could. I usually change into my pyjamas for these long-haul flights, you shouldn’t be sleeping in a suit, and I always wear compression socks.

On arrival in Cape Town, we filled in passenger tracking forms and showed my Fitness to Travel (PCR test) certificate and made it through passport control to pick up my baggage at carousel 2. That was when we learnt that more than half the baggage that should have been on our flight had been left in Paris. I think I should get an additional set of air miles for the journey of the baggage which I have been able to ascertain took the route CDG-AMS-CPT and might have arrived late on Saturday night for my collection, sometime on Sunday.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Setting off for something

Packing neat not heat

I cannot at all understand where all my friends get the idea that I pack too much when going away. In my view, I pack what needs to go with me, for it is better to have more than you need than to be met with missing what you should have taken.

I am nowhere in the league of Donatella Versace who arrived at London Heathrow in one of those Airport television programmes and she was missing a suitcase out of 63. The airport staff were searching high and low for it, it made for interesting television viewing.

In any case, because I have a Platinum card with AirFrance/KLM, I have the standard quota of 2 pieces of checked-in luggage and one more. Since there were things, I was taking over for myself and for Brian, I utilised the full quota, even as my friends protested over the phone that I was going to overdo it, I am moderation personified, damn it.

Loyalty creates priority

Obviously, I had to call an Uber XL to carry 3 suitcases, a suit bag, and a rucksack, all brimming with goods, as one does. It meant I had to get a trolley at the airport to get my stuff to the check-in desk. There was a long queue for the standard check-in and just 2 people ahead of me in the Sky Priority queue.

At the desk, I presented my passport, then proof of vaccination, 3 jabs of Pfizer BioNTech and a Fitness to Travel Certificate, a negative result from a COVID PCR test, which is standard for any travel consideration and thankfully a lot less expensive compared to what I paid to the same test in December last year. The directors of that company are probably sunning themselves on their yachts in Dubai having made a killing in the pandemic. Disaster capitalists, all of them.

Far, a longer way to lounge

Then, I was through to security, the Fast-Track Lane as I displayed containers of liquid, electronic devices, then through a scanner where I had inadvertently forgotten a pound coin in my pocket and some creams were secreted in my rucksack. It’s been a long week.

Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport is new, and I had never been through it before. I cannot understand why the lounges are so far away, tucked away from the madding crowd and presenting an ordeal to get to if you use a cane or need some mobility assistance.

Once late, twice deflated

My flight to Paris was to take off at 6:05, the lounge had been open early and it was good to settle there for just about an hour before leaving to board my flight which left Manchester 35 minutes late and that ate into the time I would have had to shop and lounge in Paris, I had quite a short stayover, I had to go straight to the gate for my flight to Cape Town.

Now, I was expecting to be on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, that was what was advertised when I booked my flight, well, fancy ending up on a Boeing 777-300, cramped, noisy, no WiFi and well, let me not complain, I sip the champagne and lie down, it is a 10:40 hour flight to Cape Town. Savoir-faire.

This is deep stuff now

In thought without words

All year long, we have been preparing for this, the almost 11 months that we have persevered, supporting each other with daily communication, along with the occasional tiff, it has not been easy at all.

Strangely, I do not have that excitable buzz of youthful wistfulness and exuberance, I seem to be my totally English self, betraying no emotion at all. I guess we are now in serious territory, it is not a longing infatuation with the novelty of discovery even if the pandemic insinuated two 11-month separations in the last two years.

This man means a lot more to me than I am sometimes willing to volunteer, he is my partner and everything in me is yearning to be in his arms. That, itself would do that talking, as at times, the most and best is said when nothing at all is spoken. I’m in love.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

World AIDS Day 2021 - A reflection

I was unpersuaded

World AIDS Day is what I mostly celebrate in quiet contemplation rather than with fanfare and symbolism. I reflect on the life that I have lived, the good fortune that has smiled on me and the privilege of living at a time when possibilities existed long after all hope was literally lost.

I have been living with HIV as diagnosed since September 2002, I might well have had it for much longer, I cannot tell. At diagnosis, I threw caution to the winds and lived in a careless and carefree world, almost daring the worst to happen, like I was invincible and inviolable.

In mid-2005, I attended a medical check-up where the consultant proposed a regime of strong Vitamin B medication with some prophylaxis to protect my kidneys, it seemed a rather severe action to take when I was not presenting any issues. For that consultation, however, my wallet was lightened by €1,800. The knowledge and experience made me quite averse to learning more about what more I could do, including getting a second opinion.

The signs were screaming

By late 2008, the chef de reception, Javier, at one of my holiday haunts had noticed things about my pallor and wellbeing, he suggested I have my health checked out, I went through the motions but did not do a lot about it. Then in June 2009, some friends came to visit me in Amsterdam, and we went out to Kinderdijk to see the windmills, but on our way back, I was overcome with tiredness and weakness I had never experienced before, on the day they left, I broke out with shingles.

Blog - Javier

Meanwhile, I was nursing what I thought was athlete’s foot on the sole of my left foot, it was not clearing up, it was getting painful and beginning to weep. Another part of my folly kicked in, I seemed to desire more miraculous healing than a medical intervention. All that messing around in me, I still travelled to Berlin for the Christopher Street Day celebrations, then returned home to nurse myself back to a semblance of health.

Laying on of wands

In August, the foot became even more bothersome, and I was still desperately seeking some sudden rather than a gradual easing of my pain. A visit to a friend who was able to persuade me to attend her birthday, having recently had cancer in remission, she introduced me to new pain medication, which helped a bit as I endured in my foolishness.

I travelled to London in early September to attend a church service with Jerry Savelle, a word of faith preacher ministering, who laid hands on me, and I felt nothing, but it was at that point that came to my senses, I think. It was not going to be a magical moment.

I showed my best friend my foot and told him how I was suffering, not giving him the time to even say much than just acknowledge that he might just lose me. I told him; I had allowed my condition to deteriorate to a stage that I might have no other options left.

Only left with Plan B

Returning home to Amsterdam, I sorted out my insurance provisions and visited my doctor on an emergency appointment because I was in excruciating pain. She took one look at my foot and immediately said, this looks serious, I need to refer you. There and then she booked an appointment with the hospital, dressed my foot and prescribed some strong painkillers. My visit to the hospital two days later called for a further referral which was scheduled for the Tuesday after the weekend, once I told them I was HIV positive, they had reached conclusions I was yet to realise.

The HIV until September 2009 had been untreated since the September 2002 diagnosis and what was presenting was evident immunodeficiency, opportunistic infections, and the heretofore untreatable athlete’s foot, was in fact, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (a kind of skin cancer), I had full-blown AIDS.

I am fortunate and privileged

What World AIDS Day means to me is even in that extremely dire situation, I lived in a country with healthcare, service and support to attend to my immediate need, that there was an extremely high level of medical competence and expertise available to me without castigation or judgement, I just presented a challenge they had met many times before.

Fundamentally, they had confidence borne of experience and understanding drawn from the many cases and lives before mine whose contributions to the body of knowledge in the management and treatment of HIV and AIDS whether they survived or not meant that people like me had better chances of survival. I was not a lost cause.

Your miracle is in medicine

Indeed, it was a medical intervention that saved me, I did not abandon my religious beliefs, for that really helped me keep my mind and my head through the toughest times and I have told of that in many stories. I have by adversity been won to the miracle of medicine and medical expertise, why it matters, and it is not a negation or a repudiation of any other belief system, it is as much a gift to humanity as it is the emancipation and progression of civilisation.

You ask, how could someone so westernised, educated, enlightened and knowledgeable have allowed his condition to deteriorate to such a life-threatening situation? Then you begin to understand that the strengths and weaknesses of our humanity are myriad, amid apparent wisdom and knowledge can be stark ignorance, irrationality, stupidity and worse. Sometimes, we just need to forgive our own stupidity so we can learn to use a bit of wisdom.

Let’s just say, we have been steeped in such bad education that the process of unlearning to allow some new learning can be painfully difficult and consequently life-affirming. I am well, healthier than I have been in decades, on antiretroviral medication with an undetectable viral load for over 12 years. All thanks to medicine and the wealth of lives and deaths that have made it possible for all of us living with HIV to be productive members of our small and large communities. This needs to be shared around the world more.

Happy World AIDS Day!

Blogs – The Cancer Tales.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

End of work year 2021

Listen attentively first

It has been a wonderful work year with much to celebrate even if the challenges and the frustrations that seemed to greet one at many turns. The job of being a subject matter expert in a big team of long-staying members who are steeped in the traditions and culture of an organisation whilst being hardened by their experiences along with the histories that have defined their presence or absence of amenity to change can be interesting.

Someone like me is supposed to visit first with a good pair of listening ears and a fresh pair of eyes long before I have a compelling speech to review the long-held perspectives, persuading colleagues, partners and hierarchies of alternative methods and best practice. It is more a battle of wits than anything else, the encounters can be bruising, yet necessary.

Make your footing sure

My view is, I am engaged to challenge the orthodoxy, expose the dogmatic and align towards the pragmatic, shepherding change, not as a hard choice but a progressive march which is rarely at speed but at snail’s pace with the purpose of incremental and beneficial improvements that the managers can highlight as big successes.

Sometimes, I cannot get in edgeways, all arguments deployed, most debates exhausted, glaring evidence presented that it is literally incontrovertible, but the political climate will not budge a nanometre.

It is usually political

You begin to learn to choose your battles carefully, find where you can build agreement, move that towards a consensus, manage the compromises well, so the main thrust of your ideas are not lost, then bring forth the benefits and the gains whilst assertively debunking woolly thinking, needless experimentation and pointless solutions crafted from the poor use or knowledge of the tools available to fulfil the requirements.

This, I aver is the bane of being in a technical role at a high level, it is usually more political than technical, and it is where you have to master the art of communication. How to point out bad practice that it becomes a learning opportunity rather than it being taken negatively as criticism. Accord praise liberally and acknowledge fully ideas proposed and activities beautifully performed by others even if you wish you had that idea first.

Be dependable more than indispensable

Win confidence and trust, not so much to make yourself indispensable but valuable and dependable, this is what 33 years in the field of computer information technology has taught me, 26 of those years, I have mainly been a freelance consultant. I don’t get moved along like I am part of a glacier, I have to earn my place and prove my worth constantly through continuous learning and practice, education, excitement, enthusiasm, curiosity, and grit.

My work year 2021 is now over for me to go and deal with the essential matters of the heart. A stand-in has been invited to provide support to my standard of expertise and know-how, whilst I am away. I did not achieve everything I hoped I will in the organisation in the year past, but I think there is enough understanding that I can be helpful in matters of architecture, policy, implementation, and administration.

To the coalface of the work front, I wish you all a wonderful yuletide season and a more rewardingly, prosperous and fulfilling New Year, maybe, just maybe, we would also see the back of this global pandemic and launch into a new life of cherished experiences and exciting adventure. 

Of dreams and battles in other tongues

I dream active dreams

Vivid dreams find a landscape in my sleep, and I cannot account for when they occur apart from when there is too much fat in my food close to when I take my pills, that the interaction between the chemicals allows for that side effect.

At other times, it is a busy day that leaves me so utterly exhausted, once I fall asleep, there is a kind of incapacitation that helps my relaxation, but I get any sleep I can whenever I can, for there is a tendency to insomnia that I try to arrest before it takes hold.

One apparent sleep disorder I have endured is parasomnia, where undesirable and physical events occur in my sleep that I am punching out or kicking out, at other times, I am talking in my sleep and rarely in typical conversation but in serious confrontation with people or situations that occasion possible or imminent harm.

Winning in all fights

From deep within my psyche, I find myself engaged in some sort of spiritual warfare, speaking out against assailants to the scheme of the Acts of Apostles. Fundamentally, I am a man of intense spiritual persuasion and belief that some realms in which I dwell are multidimensional and needing of presence in attention, observation, assertion, understanding, engagement, and conflict where you should triumph.

One other peculiarity is whilst English is my mother tongue and Yoruba is a learned language, my dream language is usually strongly Yoruba than English, I seem to be more assertive and sure of myself and what I determine to do in that language with a lot more clarity and forcefulness. I marvel at the power of dreams and what many victories I have been conferred with when met with an attack.