Saturday, 2 July 2022

Thought Picnic: On strength to my bones

Changes bringing changes

Generally, I would think I am strong and doing my best to keep healthy. It is however likely that with the change of environments from Manchester to Cape Town even though winter in Cape Town would pass for a mild summer at home I became slightly indisposed.

Irritation in the throat and a bit of a cough, before you knew it, I was completely sapped of energy of verve. Walking around our apartment, I was shuffling my feet rather than properly lifting them off the floor; not a good feeling at all.

A nurse without equal

I sicken too easily, and recovery can be brisk, once I have taken a good rest and slept the apparent fatigue off. I must commend Brian for his care, I guess he is worried sick seeing me literally incapacitated and he has seen this quite a few times too.

He rustles up a ginger, honey and lemon drink which is quite helpful and if he can persuade me to take a vitamin, it might well be strength to my bones. I hate popping pills apart from the ones I have been prescribed and for the aches and pains, Paracetamol with codeine gets to the root of the problem. I am perking up and feeling stronger, I won’t be doing any domestic chores today.

I put it down to change and the need to acclimatise taking comfort from stepping out onto the balcony to view Table Mountain and the beaches of Camps Bay, in one sweeping turn of the head. We love Cape Town, and this is where we meet to love.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Rewards of privilege for loyalty

Comfort or no travel

For some, travel can be quite stressful, and I can understand how that can happen. When I decide to leave my home on a journey, the needs for comfort and ease are paramount in my mind. The journey is as important as the destination and the purpose of the journey, there is no point in leaving home if part of that experience presents distress, discomfort, or suffering.

Having been a keen traveller for decades, I have stuck with certain brands and built a kind of loyalty account with them that has benefits. Things like priority check-in, for instance, mean I do not have to languish in long queues, fast-tracking through security or passport control, or cooling off in the lounge, which suggests one is relaxed long before boarding the flight.

In praise of loyalty schemes

There are indeed more affordable options for booking flights or hotels, but you do not get to build a customer profile that earns loyalty bonuses in the long term. I have booked accommodation with hotels.com for almost 10 years. For every 10 nights booked, you get a reward stamp equivalent to the average cost of those nights to offset the cost of a future booking. I have redeemed over 50 nights and have over 10 in hand.

This has saved me over £1,500 in accommodation costs. Sometimes, a very expensive room in the high season is halved in cost using a reward night.

Obviously, loyalty schemes are not for everyone, but if you do something often enough, it might well make sense to enter their loyalty scheme if they have one. I have flown KLM + AirFrance for about 20 years, and the frequency of my travel has earned me a platinum card that opens doors of privilege that I use well.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Running the gauntlet of lazy recruitment agents

Anything but able

I want to believe that my LinkedIn profile is good enough and I would be the first to say any profile can be improved upon, but there is no perfect profile, we are just trying to project our best selves.

However, I get barraged with lots of emails from recruitment and talent acquisition specialists, though I am left wondering what the specialism is, as it is becoming obvious to me that they neither read nor assess my profile before proposing totally unsuitable roles that do not fit my experience, expertise, location, or remuneration requirements.

It would seem their professional acumen is vying for a world record in some sort of whack-a-mole exercise of flooding prospects in the hope that one or a few might be hit hard enough to be responsive.

Interest me, engage me

Too many times, I am asked to forward my CV on scant job information, they, thinking I would be interested when they have neither interested nor engaged me.

If you are contacting me, I would hope you have first read my profile and the embedded CV, your specialism coming to the fore by treating me as a professional, through reviewing my experience, roles, responsibilities, and broader profile, rather than as a mercenary for hire.

Then, interest me with a useful job profile along with the associated remuneration range - cut to the chase with the view that we do not want to waste each other's time.

If I am interested, you will get a response and we can have a discussion about the role and the prospects. Recruiters need to get better, the slap-dash approach is becoming an annoyance, hence this post.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Uncle Cash!

A giant has fallen

“I agree with them.” That was the last message I got from him to which I responded, “I see.”. WhatsApp was our regular mode of communication typing out messages to each other about our health, our wellbeing, and other developments.

Uncle Cash of all men was the most significant and most consequential person in the making of who I have become, I can say without equivocation that without him and his intervention in my life at the particular time that he did, I would probably not be writing any story and definitely not the one I have woken up to write this morning.

Only last night, I was thinking about sending him a message to inform him that I will soon be travelling to South Africa, I vacillated and thought, I would do that by the weekend. Alas! That time has gone.

There is a small question of an unpaid debt that has been a canon in our shared stories, and that is where I will begin. When we returned from the UK in late 1970, two impressions were made on my uncle, the first of a precocious boy who spoke only English darting about the place, for which I earned the moniker Ọmọ ìlú òyìnbó (The boy born abroad) to this day, then secondly, he was having difficulties passing his West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations that my father promised him £10, if he excels.

He went on to live a more than excellent and fulfilled life, that family debt for success, yet unpaid. When he visited us, I would get tickled to exhaustion, he was humorous, playful, funny, and approachable.

In early 1986, he became my guardian, I had run away from home and was in a totally estranged situation from my father and his near relations. Uncle Cash allowed me the courage of my convictions, he could be brutal with others, but he was always, always kind, and empathetic with me, treating me with such dignity and respect, usually against tradition or convention, that I had leeway and confidence to talk to him about literally everything that concerned me. I never had that kind of openness with my parents or anyone else, he ushered me into responsible adulthood.

Uncle Cash was a giant and a pillar, I knew I could have a candid conversation with him. At times, he would say to me, “Akin, you are dangerous with the way you write, let’s talk instead.” I am a product of the example of daring and self-assuredness that he instilled in me for the 4 years that he provided support and guidance on how to live with honour and integrity, not compromising on your principles and your vision.

Uncle Cash built a career in insurance to become a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Insurers, an industry stalwart and examiner, and circumstances in Nigeria led him to emigrate to the UK where like he was wont to do, he reinvented himself still generously impacting lives when he informed me that he was going back to university to do a bachelor’s degree, in his 60s.

In the classes he attended, the faculty and the university would probably say they did not have a student attending, but a polymath in the experience of life amongst them and for that, at graduation, they arranged to get him from the hospital to be honoured with a commendation and standing ovation.

This tribute hardly captures the stature of the man, Uncle Cash was, much of it would be in the fond memories, the reminiscences, the sudden floods of insight, his voice conveying wisdom and guidance. He was religious, affable, larger than life, a partier, he loved to party. I remember when he and I spent a long weekend in Paris during a visit to mine in Amsterdam, we just had fun.

That is how I want to remember Uncle Cash, a man, a mentor, a counsellor, a confidante, a benefactor, uncle, father, grandfather, friend, Uncle Omo Uncle, sùn re o.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A time for healing

Part I: Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A town of pain

An appreciation of Baba Cole

Joel Adebambo Idowu popularly known as Baba Cole, that was his nickname and I never met him, he died 4 years before I was born, he was my maternal grandfather. I have only recently begun to hear much about him. There are many ways we are supposed alike, he was an anglophile and an archivist, some sort of encyclopaedia of knowledge.

From what I have learnt and there is much more I need to flesh out, he was a literal man, of considerable influence, a prince of the town and a member of the ruling council of the town. He had three daughters, my mother being the middle one, there is a rumour that there might have been a brother, but no one has confirmed that to me.

Standing true for justice

Much as he respected traditions and conventions, he was not ready to sacrifice people for those causes and for that, he paid the ultimate price. As it transpired, an emissary was sent to our town from the neighbouring town just at the time when certain fetish practices required a stranger to be sacrificed to the town’s deities.

My grandfather made the case that an emissary from the neighbouring town who was to deliver a message and return with a response could not just disappear somewhere between the towns separated by 5 miles of forest and lands, it would be incomprehensible and incredulous. He won the argument, and the stranger was spared to return home.

Sacrificed for integrity

However, some traditionalists took umbrage at his intervention and through a combination of mystical and malevolent acts, my grandfather took on a sudden fit of involuntary body reactions and died. I inferred the rational and the irrational becoming a narrative and that has become the story of my grandfather, he was sacrificed to the malevolent forces in Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú when he stood in defence of an innocent person against the system.

That is how at around the age of 19, my mother lost her father and strangely at 19 I also had this break from the concept of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú that grew to epitomise my reticence to visiting Nigeria. If I were to create a narrative, I embody the spirit of my maternal grandfather who is owed more than an apology for the wickedness meted out to him when he rationalised against the irrationality of traditions that should have gone into abeyance.

Beyond redress to healing

I cannot say if one needs to ask for an apology from Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú for what happened to my grandfather, much as I am not asking for an apology for what I have experienced with my father. Some things we cannot change, but there is much we can work towards reconciling that we might have the courage to do the greater thing, the boldness to write better stories, and an acknowledgement that we can find some healing after all the real and perceive hurt.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú has been a spectre, a haunting, a looming danger, sometimes a fearsome place that suggests a mountain of the strangest beings seething with malevolence and evil, or we have just allowed our imaginations to get the better of us and our rationality. It is a process calling for progress. I think my journey has begun.

Narratives matter and they have consequential significance even if they might seem trivial to others. I have had experiences dismissed when what I heard and saw changed me into a completely different person. Much as there are perspectives to have, the more important thing is to seek the good rather than foster the bad. Beyond my introspection and the times, I have had people counsel me, I hope I am amenable to guidance and instruction. One should never be in a position where the only resort is for God to send an ass to talk to you. [Bible Gateway: Balaam, the Donkey and the Angel]

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A town of pain

A cause for appreciation

Waking up this morning from a dream that left me thinking I could do better with courses and causes, and I meant the kinds of courses of choice to travel and the causes that should be supported, the focus came back to myself.

When I spoke to Brian yesterday, I found every excuse I could, not to call my father on Father’s Day, I even checked as we were speaking if it was really Father’s Day in Nigeria, and then I got two Father’s Day messages from my brothers. Meanwhile, everyone online was celebrating Father’s Day and more poignant were those who shared memories of their fathers who had passed on, either recently or a long time ago.

In my wakefulness, I realised there was a lack of appreciation for the fact that I still have both my parents and they are thankfully doing well apart from the vagaries of old age. However, there are issues that I need to address about relationships that I only began to review as I stepped out for my walking exercise.

The town of my parents

I have a consequently very useful and good relationship with my mother, I cannot say that much about my father, and I think I know where that stems from, it goes way back to one event that seems to have defined so many things. It is the confluence of the irrational and the rational in what we call our experience that becomes the narrative whether it is plausible or not, makes no difference to the existential relevance of that perspective to the person involved.

My father, our little town of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú with its big history, my maternal grandfather, some aspects of numerology which could just be coincidental, but one cannot ignore patterns of a sort.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú or Òdo Àyányẹlú in Ogun State is not to be confused with Ìjẹ̀bú-Ìjẹ̀shà in Osun State exists with a history that could hair-raising as much as it is intriguing, that it leaves people from there either quite passionate about the place or seriously averse to being there. We all have been touched by an enduring aspect of that town that even my mother would pass through the town on her way to a consultation without stopping to see anyone.

It is the retirement home of my father and many of his peers, yet you can mistake the place for a stairway to heaven, but like my paternal grandmother who lived to over a hundred years old, longevity has blessed many even as tragedy has befallen some.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú became a project and a dream, its children, many of whom from my parents’ generation travelled abroad for studies returned with aspirations to build their village, give the upcoming generations better opportunities, and infest their children with the same enthusiasm. We all seemed to play along, as it was where we met with cousins, developed new friendships, and had amazing conversations with lively elderly people. We looked forward to visiting, but the novelty began to wear off.

The schism and falling away

In my case, it was sometime in the middle of 1985, we had gone to Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú for some event and then some of my friends invited me to party in another town. I went to ask my dad and he might have had his reasons, but he did not grant the permission for me to go, and I shamefacedly passed my regrets to my friends who from what I learnt had a very good time.

Much as I was a difficult teenager, I was not given to vices or the kind of criminality that would involve the law, I can say in many ways, I was quite restrained and more so with my religious inclinations, but between my father and I, there has always been this simmering conflict that by the end of that year, I left home and did not see my father for probably another 18 months after.

For that refusal of permission to go to that party, I swore to myself that if I ever were to return to Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú, it would be in a box. I have not returned for 37 years and in that time, I missed many significant events that would have required my presence there or thereabouts.

On reflection and possibility

Then maybe as I thought about this morning, there is an undercurrent of fear that if I do venture, that might be the case, I do not know, and I have not attempted to test out the premise. It has become a kind of handicap, and this is the first time I am sharing this information, for what it has done in terms of our relationship is my seeking to define myself so differently from my father as much as possible without totally succeeding in being that different.

However, with that recessed in my memory commanding my inclinations, great import has been that distance has helped avoidance along with other explanations that could be summoned to protect the situation I have created for myself.

After a morning of introspection, I did give my father a call, I might even see a path to visiting Nigeria after 31 years, I don’t know if I will see Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú again, but I can understand how a complete breakdown in communication and relationships can instigate lifelong consequences. Gosh, I have nieces and nephews I have only met online, I am known of, but who knows me?

Postscript: My father launched a book about the history of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú in April this year, there is much to learn about who we are, where we are from and what defines us. I saw the draft and my copy is wending its way to me, he is a formidable and quite accomplished gentleman.

Part II: Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A time for healing

Sunday, 19 June 2022

A clear view of the sky in life

A house burnt down

You know what happens when your house burns down? You get a clear view of the sky.” Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Swimming with the sharks (Season 21, Episode 15) [IMDB: Quotes].

I was about to go to bed when the twist in this episode of Law & Order: SVU was so compelling, that I had to see it to the end, and this was after I had put everything I needed in the bedroom and made to turn off the lights in the living room.

The quote above came in the closing stage of the episode after the issues had been resolved and the conspirators agreed to a deal. The protagonist on whom the storyline was based said, “I could've been a better friend. I've been thinking about it. When you arrested me. I thought it was karma. I burned a lot of bridges in my time. Hell, I burned my whole house down.

I could be better

There is so much to unpack in that statement, and I could relate to everything she said, for it got me thinking about how I could be a better person, a better lover, a better friend, a better son, a better brother, a better parent, a better colleague, a better anything that is good, wholesome and redounds to the goodness of our humanity.

Moving on, I think about the things I probably should have done or paid more attention to, from the personal to the communal and where commission or omission has found me wanting. There is time for a lot of introspection, for there is not lost in continuous improvement, it would be nowhere near perfect, but getting better is always worthwhile. Knowing you can put the effort into it to do better is always a consideration to entertain and act on.

On bridges, even when I am tempted, I have tried as much as I can, not to burn my bridges. I learnt almost 5 years ago that bridges are not only for your use but for the use of others too. They may need that same bridge you have crossed and long-abandoned to cross the ravine over to you, that is their prerogative, but never burn those bridges, make allowances even if those allowances are taxing on your exploited magnanimity.

Life burnt down

“Hell, I burned my whole house down.” I have probably done that too many times, but what have I done with the ashes? More significantly, when I allowed HIV to ravage my body, it became full-blown AIDS presenting with life-threatening Kaposi’s sarcoma skin cancer that if the therapies did not work I was given a prognosis of 5 weeks, the long tail of cancer that wagged me to exhaustion was I lost everything.

Indeed, I lost my house among many things, and things I had acquired over decades, but rather than look around the ruins that tried to define my existence, I got a clear view of the sky, it was blue, sunny, and beautiful. My view of the sky in the context of my life was hope, I had a resolution that reverberated through my whole being, this too shall pass, and we would get to write a better story; that was the spring of possibility and life that was welling up from within me.

Prospect and possibility

In Yoruba, there is a similar saying that asks us not to despair but to be encouraged with hope and new possibilities, “Ilé ọba t'ójó ẹ̀wà ló bù si.” Using a translation of contextual equivalence rather than an exact interpretation, “You have the prospect of building something more beautiful after the royal palace burnt down.”

I guess you need to acquire the disposition not to dwell on the misfortune, no matter how catastrophic, and we have seen many that would make some hearts fail and extinguish any semblance of hope. For me, that I was alive and living meant I was ready for things ahead, a future, a world of possibilities, the need to walk through this valley of the shadow of death to new still waters and green pastures.

The comfort of knowing that trials are part of the human story, they are milestones we can do without, but if they come, we must pass them and continue on that journey that makes a better story of our experiences. Always seek and find a clear view of the sky, regardless of where you are, let the spirit of hope and encouragement take you to the place where looking back you marvel at the fact that you did not know your own strength.