Friday, 14 February 2020

Brian, My Funniest Valentine

Brian with an I and I
Like a dream, I never thought I’ll dream,
I have smiled wider than ever dared I could,
We played like children often do daydream,
With my Valentine, I am good.
I did wonder, if ever this could be,
Then before me, this beauty really stood,
But I feared, it couldn’t be for me,
Felt my Valentine, too good.
To my hearing, some lips did say hello,
Too astounded, to think it was to me,
Then I looked up, could this be Romeo?
Dreamy Valentine, I could see.
From that moment, I’ve lived a fantasy,
Fun and laughter, this loving is so fine,
In each other, we’ve found deep ecstasy,
My funny Valentine is mine.

Our song, he gets so emotional when he hears this song.
I remember the other Valentine blogs I have written all until I found my amazingly, handsome, beautiful, funny Valentine.
Happy Valentine, my love.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

For friends and things we can't forget

A yesterday like today
It feels like yesterday, but it was 10 years ago today, a cold wintry Monday in Amsterdam where I had two things to do. First, it was the funeral of Dick van Galen Last, my dear friend who had passed on 6 days before and then I was booked in for my 7th session of chemotherapy in the afternoon.
The funeral service, which was well attended, vibrant and redolent of the amazingly outgoing personality that Dick was. I then followed the procession to the place of internment but never got to witness the committal to earth as I had to leave for the hospital.
Back to chemo
At the hospital, the cold had in natural preservation conceals all my veins that it was impossible to find a point into which to insert a cannula for my session of chemotherapy. Washing and soaking my hands in warm water could not tease them out. Eventually, the cannula was placed so high up on my arm close to where a phlebotomy would be done.
The 8th of February 2010 did become more significant as when I when in for the blood test preceding the 8th session of chemotherapy, I noticed a 10th session had already been scheduled. My chemotherapy sessions were on a Monday, 21 days apart, however, in the Friday before the next session, I have a blood test to determine the efficacy of the treatment and what further courses should be taken.
My voice considered
I did not know that the more you tolerated chemotherapy; they had a tendency to heap on the sessions rather than reduce them. We had gone from a session to two, then four and now eight. The eighth was to be on the 1st of March 2010.
On seeing one scheduled after that date, I began a discussion with my consultant. I was hoping to get on with my life after the 1st of March and I did not think I had the mental capacity to accommodate another session of chemotherapy. At the back of my mind, I remembered a nurse telling me that some patients have endured up to 14 sessions of my kind of chemotherapy.
My consultant listened and opined that he had been thinking about the situation too, my immunity was so shot up, he needed to see it begin to rebuild itself. He promised to have a word with the oncologist. Afterwards, I received notice that my 7th session of chemotherapy taken on the 8th of February would be my last. I was in clover.
Life goes on
The prognosis after that was, I needed at least 6 months of recuperation after the ordeal of my treatment. I, however, did not have that luxury. I sent out an email to my LinkedIn contacts explaining my situation. I started work on the 22nd of March, but the week after seeing how exhausting the activity was, just because of my lack of strength, we agreed that I could have the Wednesdays off.
Yes, it seems like a long time ago, it is one to celebrate for the memories of that time and the passage of time to this day.
It was another year before I returned to St Barbara Cemetery to visit Dick’s grave, for the good friends we’ve lost, there remains more than a memory and a fondness for the times we shared. They are never forgotten.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Dick van Galen Last - A Decade On

In the circle of life
A week ago, I sank into sudden indisposition that resulted in hospitalisation, I am now back home in recovery and regaining my strength back.
In that short week, a lot has happened and much of it forgettable, but that is one subject I want to cover. It was exactly a decade ago that my phone rang with the Caller-ID of my friend, who I was unable to chat for a couple of weeks and too incapacitated to attend his PhD viva voce due to the effects of chemotherapy.
However, he was not the one on the line, but his lodger Ousmane Ndoye, who for the past decade then made a fortnightly visit to my apartment to clean it up and set things right. I was left reeling at the news he had to share. Dick and I had spoken just after Christmas of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, we shared the same consultant and oncologist. I remember saying to him, we might meet up at a chemotherapy session at the hospital.
In the presence of death
Alas, it never happened. The next time I saw Dick after that conversation was in his bed, dressed up and lying there mostly at the insistence of Ousmane that Dick had spent enough time in hospitals. Dick’s many friends had the unique opportunity to visit him in his room to pay respects before he was interred 5 days later.
Dick van Galen Last died on the 2nd of February 2010 just 8 days short of his 58th birthday. I had known him for 14 years, we met in Paris in 1996 and when I moved to the Netherlands in 2010, he was the one who welcomed me and gave me board for the first month before I settled in and found my own place.
In hope and remembrance
Dick was many things to many people; on the 8th of February 2010 when he was interred at the St Barbara Cemetery, there were over 300 attendees who came to celebrate his life and send him off. I could not wait until he was committed to earth because it had to attend what became my last session of chemotherapy.
We last met for a few hours at my place on the 16th of October 2009, just a week after my 18-day stay in hospital when I was diagnosed with cancer. To many, he was a friend, a helper, a raconteur, a polyglot, and an academic, the legacy of some of his research was republished with editing in Black Shame (2016).
Even after a decade, for this great and true friend, confidante, ever full of life and encouragement, outgoing, benevolent and always generous with his time and means, are the fondest memories.
Dick, rest in peace, always – you’re never forgotten.

Friday, 24 January 2020

My good conscience is my guide on my spirituality and sexuality

In church for service
The last church service I attended was two Sundays ago at The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr (St George’s Cathedral) in Cape Town, just a 10-minute brisk walk from our hotel.
My partner and I were out the night before, but as it was our last weekend together, we were determined to attend church that morning. I got up first and to get Brian out of bed I had to sprinkle water on his face, I eventually succeeded.
We left our hotel dressed in matching jackets and just missed the processional hymn. We settled in our seats and joined the sung eucharist of the 1st Sunday after Epiphany.
Sharing our spirituality
Brian is the first partner I have had with whom I have been able to freely express my spirituality and this in the Church of England, the history of its inception is somewhat irrelevant to the scheme of things, because whilst the church appears to attempt to conform to conservative values, it has to exist in contemporary times and there is much adaptation going on, despite the public pronouncements.
We chose St. George’s Cathedral because it has a history of tolerance, acceptance, and the subversive, especially during the Apartheid era. One of the stained-glass windows has a depiction of the Garden of Eden with a black Adam, from the mid-1960s.
A traditional welcome
It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cape Town who is also the Primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa occupied once by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu from 1986 to 1996. He has always been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and the church in its outreach beyond the tenure of this world-renowned and well-respected archbishop continues to invite all people to fellowship and take communion in the congregation of the blessed.
It is interesting that my home church in Manchester does not appear to be as traditional as the one in Cape Town, canticles, incense and Latin feature a lot in the service. There are times when I almost feel lost in what is going on. In Cape Town, the clergy conducts most of the service in English, but the readings will be done in isiXhosa and Afrikaans along with the Eucharistic and Communion prayers.
Bearing gifts to all
It makes for an inclusive and representative church and it is impossible that we have not been noticed since we began attending the church since Easter 2019. That last Sunday, as the offering was being taken, we were approached by the ushers to help take the communion bread and wine to the altar.
Confused as we were, we were well instructed and walked the full length of the church down the aisle just behind the incense bearer to the altar where we presented the gifts, bowed to the clergy and then stood aside for the gifts to be blessed before we walked back to our seats.
The surprise, the amazement, the suddenness of being randomly chosen to serve in the church, only for a moment meant so much to us. Whilst not reading a vindication of our relationship to it, at the very least, when Brian and I get married, we would indeed seek to be blessed at the St George’s Cathedral.
On the matter of who we are
On the issue of the pastoral guidance [PDF] issued by the Anglican Church regarding abstinence from sex in gay or straight civil partnerships, it is a matter of conscience for me. That they have adopted the directive that sex outside marriage “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings” is understandable as it helps avoid the straining schism in the church between traditionalists and modernists, I do not intend for it to be dogma, instruction or commandment. [The Guardian]
I am as a human being and sexual being, I find expression for it in the relationship that best helps me thrive as a human being. I am a gay man, I am in love with another man, our relationship is predicated on more than just sex, it is a matter of the heart, of the soul and of the body, the moments shared, the love we have for each other that is not available to another, just between us. I do not also intend to return to an early time in my life where who I was consumed me with guilt and self-loathing, for what I could neither change nor deny.
In my good conscience
Maybe some people are called to abstinence and others to celibacy, it is a gift for which not everyone is equipped to observe without fallibility. The pastoral guidance seeks to impose the impossible about human expression and humanity in the fulfilment of a loving relationship, something everyone who is of age should be able to enjoy with impediment when in a committed relationship.
I will neither deny my sexuality nor my spirituality, both are a complete declaration of who I am, what I am, how I exist and where I belong. Jesus Christ went to the cross for all, not for the few. If I in my good conscience before God and man is not convicted of wrong in the person that I am, I approach the altar with humility and service, partake in the Communion and fulfil the calling on my life.
In that, I am satisfied, it is guidance rather than diktat. We live at peace with each other and get called suddenly to serve in the body of Christ. Shalom!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Thought Picnic: Avoiding creepy headlines of misfortune

Creepy headlines
I cannot help but notice a kind of headline that appears after news stories culled from the web as related material, interesting topics, or as a result of dastardly algorithms.
The one that got me writing this blog along with others similar in nature was:
Where [Famous footballer] Lives At [Age] Will Make You Especially Sad.
Add to that others like:
What [Celebrity] looks like today will amaze you.
Remember [Celebrity Picture]? Take A Deep Breath Before You See What They Look Like Now.
What [Celebrity] is worth today shocked his family.
[Celebrity] who starred in [Film, Drama, SitCom], now works an everyday job.
Now, none of these headlines or the stories behind them interest me, but the topics cannot be ignored because someone is making money on the backs of the possible misfortunes of others. I say this because these links are almost always sponsored by third-party outfits unconnected to the original news site.
Purveyors of misfortune
For one reason or the other, this type of news sells, it almost reads like a kind of inverted snootiness where the reader is invited to revel in the misfortune of another in some sort of disconnected Schadenfreude, a glee that derives from comparing one's lack of luck to the failing luck of another to give you a good feeling in your bad place.
I cannot fully appreciate why this kind of unnecessarily vile gossip masquerading as news and offered as kind of moral tale of the ephemeral nature of wealth, health and fame is one that attracts so much attention, for there is no particularly good intention for publishing this stuff apart from its easy appeal to the innate busybody complex we all possess to varying degrees, yet, exercise some restraint to refusing to allow this tendency to define us.
Celebrate better things
Naturally, I am all for celebrating the rise and success of good people and much as some might fall on hard times, I take no pleasure in poking fun at them. In the cases where the situation or circumstance was completely out of their control, I would hope to commiserate and where I can help, I will.
We also have a tendency to stupidity and foolishness, we find ourselves doing incomprehensibly absurd, reprehensible, criminal, or idiotic stuff. In those things the greater battle is in getting to the point of accepting our prime responsibility for the situation and then moving on to forgiving ourselves, whilst opening the scope for recovery, recuperation and restoration.
There is enough suffering in the world for each episode of the life of an individual, my hope is that we all find more pleasure in celebrating the successes, the triumphs, the victories, the recoveries and the wonderful stories of those near and far, whilst resisting the urge to click of those sponsored links to misfortune, as it diminishes us as much as the subject has been diminished too.