Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Thought Picnic: In person or at keyboard, we are people

It is all about people still

There are places on the Internet where I have pitched tents and invited people to picnic with me in the Wild West frontier of the dangerous and unpredictable climes of an ethereal or Internet world that presumes to confer some anonymity where in reality, it hardly does.

The kind of abstraction that allows you to interact from your keyboard that whoever you engage is not so much human but characters you read on the screen might easily rob you of the essential qualities of humanity from basic courtesy and consideration to sympathy, maybe empathy, and a functioning expression of emotional intelligence.

That we can forget that we are dealing with other human beings can unwttingly creep upon us making us completely unaware of what we might be doing and the harm we are causing others. Now, in general, I might pass for quite old-fashioned, and to some, it might be a failing, but my demeanour is one cultivated over decades of education and example, necessary for establishing respectful relationships.

Just a greeting then begin

Just as I cannot see myself entering a room of strangers without offering a greeting before asking a question or making a statement, the same goes for what happens online, the comportment, the respect, the courtesy is no less valid if all you do is encounter people at the tap of your keyboard keys and from what you read on your monitor.

This became an issue when I engaged someone who had time and again visited a forum where on entering he simply made a demand without a greeting. For me, it was irritating and entitled with a bearing of utter disrespect, the audacity of such an attitude was an affront that it could just from its demonstration be acceptable, but not if I had anything to do with it.

Challenging the uncouth

I addressed it suggesting the immediate demand could likely be the formality in places I have never been and how it cannot be considered proper. To which he responded that no one else had complained and I was only one out of so many making an issue of it. Whilst I agreed that I alone took umbrage, you do not need a democracy or a vote to determine the need to treat others with courtesy and respect, it should be a given without any need for prevarication or argument.

The point I was making was simple, when you enter a room of strangers, whether in a live setting or online and have any requests to make, you gain their attention respectfully and courteously with a greeting, now, if that is not a reasonable premise, we might as well all be uncultured and Barbarians. My interlocutor was having none of it, I was an irritation questioning his lien to act as he will in an open forum.

Unwelcomed for obduracy

Open as the forum was, it had clear rules and unwritten norms of courtesy that hinting and addressing were not getting across to our friend. Upping the stakes, I suggested I could both complain and kick him out of the forum. He was not backing down, daring me to do whatever I would and still making his case that a singular request for decorum was insignificant compared to the silent majority of the unperturbed. Yet, to do the right thing should not be a subject of election but one of enthusiastic intention with commensurate action.

And so, with the vested ability and authority I had in the forum, the said person was ejected though not banned, their card is marked. Any new return without a requisite greeting will be frostily met with ejection and without prior engagement. What saddens me is how people act against their best self-interests with obstinacy and obduracy. There is a moment to acquiesce and accept failings when pointed out, and with some humility you can earn the respect of others, but if you default to haughty determinism, you will always come off worse and be excluded from polite company.

That is old-fashioned society and I like it, everyday.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Essential Snobbery 101: Writing letters you hate to write

It has always mattered

I remember once asking to go on an assertiveness course, those courses exist for a reason, my manager scoffed, he said, “Akin, anyone but you needs an assertiveness course.” Whilst I seemed to doubt myself, it appeared there was no doubt that I was an effective communicator.

In my engineering class, many of my classmates did not pay heed to the need to study English which was a necessary elective. Obviously, we had to run the gauntlet of English lecturers who came to show off their loquacious vocabulary, communicating nothing but providing the entertainment of malapropism and meaningless sesquipedalianism of words strung together without grammatical structure or purpose.

Put it all in

My view was, regardless of what profession you were in, it was essential that you could convey your ideas in your chosen language of expression with clarity to persuade and to convince. Now, when to comes to written communication, I like to think I am better exercised to get my point across, the intent, the context, the tone, the appeal to their humanity, the veiled insult politely delivered as a slow-working poison that causes little offence whilst eliciting praise, maybe an English putdown can find a showing too.

Concision is not my strongest point and brevity is probably only needed for telegrams, clarity in prose is what matters more to me that by the time the reader is done, I am both comprehended and understood with responses appropriate to my requirements.

That it might tend to flourish or the flowery is a temptation I have too often yielded to, yet as a copy editor and proof-reader of other material, I would be more conservative, active, and direct.

Then a grubby email

I guess I hate writing emails that have to do with contractual negotiations, they can be emotional and easily be grubby when professional persuasion is required. In such cases, it must be in the view of a sensible seamstress, like a good skirt, long enough to cover the detail, yet, short enough to keep the interest and close the matter.

Once a client wrote to demand payment on the premise that I had been overpaid, by the time I put together the whole chain of evidence that suggested otherwise, what I received was a curt thank you in response and nothing more. Too recently, I noticed an error in my remuneration, not too significant, but on a matter of principle we had an agreement that appeared to be irregularly and unilaterally recast as something else.

Now, I say

At first, I thought it was an error at the payment processing company, their prompt and useful response suggested it was further up the chain. Grudgingly, I made the case for respecting gentleman agreements and signed contracts that had no indication of the variation of terms then closed with the deployment of the polite 3rd person singular. “As such, one is owed moneys due.”

The purposeful switch from the apparently casual and familiar to the stuffily formal was for maximum effect. If as a person well known to me, you need to be addressed with titles and formality, you can be sure we are on the business end of issues that need to be addressed with alacrity, importance, and seriousness.

What mattered was my intervention was effective and what I have requested will be granted, the slight on their part might suggest the need for an apology, not grovelling, just the acceptance of an administrative error on their part that would be made right is enough. Effective communication matters always and if you are not that good at it, get the training to represent and express yourself better than anyone can.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Strained trained drained

Pricey and ordinary still

After a week in London, I was ready to return home with regrets I had not booked an earlier train back home. Arriving just an hour before my train at the station, I cooled off in the lounge which had taken on a rather exclusive veneer.

The lounge is usually quite busy on Sundays, but it was quite vacant, probably since Avanti West Coast has gone for price exclusivity over market share. Now, we get shown to our seats, and refreshments are served a la carte.

Reserved then unserved

When my train was ready to board, there was already someone in my seat, his ticket did indicate the seat number, but the idea that a seat could be double-booked did not seem that right. So, I asked if it was booked on the 16:12 train. He had a seat reserved alright, but on a different train, he had to vacate my seat and that was just lucky.

A few minutes before the train departed, the train manager unilaterally declared the tarin declassified with all seat reservations invalidated. Those with 1st Class tickets were to be compensated, but that was not the service paid for. Some ladies who were just asked to move to another carriage I advised to stay as per the notice we just heard.

Reasons most unreasoned

Engaging Avanti West Coast on Twitter, the responder suggested train declassification is usually a last resort for health and safety reasons. I begged to differ as the reason given was because trains were being cancelled and there were engineering works meaning another hour would be added to a typical London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly journey. The reason was commercial and logistical, not remotely anything to do with health or safety.

Then again, we should be used to the so-called compensation default in lieu of the services and goods paid for, it is the reality of rip-off Britain and annoying at that. I can afford the service I paid for in the first instance, I do not need pennies of compensation thrown at me to account for the inability of a setup to act professionally or aim at a modicum of excellence. They seek to get away with anything and you are to make do with the inconvenience and a handout.

Coronavirus streets in London - XXXIX

Peckham of the ethnics

Out from my hotel in the afternoon to meet my best friend at Highbury and Islington Station having realised it is the best place to get a train to Peckham Rye opened a century before I was born, we were caught in the confusion of two similarly named stations the first Dalston Kingsland was well known but Dalston Junction, where we had to change trains, was less so but got our changeover right and were soon at our destination.

Peckham is unwieldly schizophrenic, with ungentrified parts still ethnic and unreconstructed, stuck in the past of dreary and need, sounds and sights as familiar as parts of Africa you might want to avoid, some things here have never changed, you wonder, if ever.

Not a banger of taste

The restaurant I was taken to had a good menu sleeve with a menu that could do be helped with a professional touch, on the many choices on offer, we settled for the Banga soup and pounded yam. As I had never tried Banga soup before, I was in for adventure. It arrived in a clay pot, bubbling hot and ready to scald my fingers then sear my oesophagus, if we got that far.

I cannot say Banga soup was as exciting as it was made out to be, with fish, cow foot, tripe, and beef, the pleasure was lost to temperature control, and it is unlikely another attempt would be made of the fare. I was not disappointed, just not persuaded.

I used to live here

When we were done, the changeable weather could have stopped us from walking, but we started on Peckham High Street and a course of memories 30 years old came into mind. The National Westminster Bank where I opened an account, and I can still remember the Sort Code and Account Number from when the account was closed on my emigration to the Netherlands 21 years ago.

The North Peckham Estate lost to the modern development of pastel brick buildings, the Sumner Road access to Peckham Road is now a park and pedestrianised, I lived an estate to the right, it is all consigned to the history of the long forgotten, then abuse I received in my stretch jeans, I was called a ‘Bloody African’ too many times to count.

Stones on the sides

It rained a bit and soon, we were at Camberwell, the busy junction with a lot of traffic, we crossed the road towards the Oval and passed by the St Mark’s Church, we had to go into the churchyard to read the plaques on the walls. A historic place that was once notorious for being public gallows, the Wesleys, John and Charles did preach their Methodism nearby and the church that stands today was built by subscription. The father of Field Marshall Montgomery of Alamein was a vicar at the church too. [Wikipedia: St Mark’s Church, Kennington]

Old gravestones of what would have been the church cemetery are lined up against the walls of the church courtyard, this was quite all too different except in the ghosts that might have lingered since their markers were moved.

Memories of decades ago

At Archbishop Tenison’s School, named for a one-time Archbishop of Canterbury was the opportunity for a photograph that I sent to an ex, he was a teacher there over two decades ago. The Oval the cricket ground and home of Surrey County Club once sponsored by Foster’s and now by Kia.

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is a Grade II listed building protected from developers and the oldest gay entertainment venue in South London where on Sundays in the early 90s we came to see drag acts like Lily Savage before she had a television career and dropped that persona for being himself as Paul O’Grady. When the Sunday pub hours kicked in, we decamped to another bar that served Chilli Con Carne, on which site now stands the new American embassy.

Out to Vauxhall, we veered on to the river walk by the River Thames all the way past Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge with The National COVID Memorial Wall on the wall of St Thomas’ Hospital to the London Eye before parting ways at Waterloo Station. Another discovery of London that can only be experienced by walking.

Friday, 30 July 2021

It's walking and it's working - XII

Up on my feet

When it comes to my walking exercises, I must say I have had a rather lazy year to date. Yet, there is every reason to celebrate the achievements in relation to aspects of health and wellbeing.

It was a year ago that I decided to start walking as a form of exercise as I cannot run due to longstanding shin splints and gradual bone mass reduction because of my medication. There are times when walking itself can induce chronic pain in my legs that I just have to work through the pain barrier.

Really quite a feat

Finding out about the Brooks Ghost trainers of which I have had 3 pairs has made a whole world of difference. They are running shoes, but the cushioning effect works so well for me that I rarely need my walking cane when wearing them.

Looking at my 365 days of walking, I have put in 4,654,091 steps coming to an average of 12,751 steps a day. If I had managed 10,000 steps a day this year, I would have been another 120,000 steps ahead, but I will not beat myself up, I am not that far off the daily 10,000 step count which I first breached at the end of May.

And still keeping fit

I guess what concerns me is whilst I am apparently fitter, I have not been able to shed the pounds as much as I would have liked, though my friends and especially Brian are given to flattering me about my figure, I am not that easily fooled, the scales can do everything but lie.

If there is any consolation, walking costs nothing apart from finding the time to do it and hopefully in good enough weather. No gym, no equipment and no time-limited access to anything. Just getting out there and doing it is enough without distractions or intrusion. It is walking and even if I am not so completely satisfied with the results, it is working too.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Coronavirus streets in London - XXXVIII

We are not there yet

The pleasure of the walk is always fun. The discovery of London by foot and the surprise of finding strange and new places you have only heard of or driven past. It is the condemnation of the Tube to a loneliness it could never have thought could befall it. We are in the age of the pandemic, the Coronavirus has left us seeking the natural away from the superficial and we are the healthier for it.

English placenames are Shibboleths of possible embarrassment for I do remember playing the Monopoly board game thinking Angel Islington had the sound of the first syllable of island when in fact it began with the sound of is, for I began in Islington. Yet, I saw Angel, the London Underground station that is, danced by Sadler’s Wells and could have been a phantom of operatic earache in Shaftsbury Theatre.

The West End is alive

In the court of Palace Theatre were crowds gathered to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, queued up in a press without spacing, their expectations of entertainment probably delivering them from the plague of COVID-19 or so they think. I pulled on my mask without a second thought.

Into Old Compton Street, I strutted, a haunt from the 90s, now fully pedestrianised and barely passable because of al fresco dining, raucous and gay like a summer camp of queens or drag that would make you blush. There is no pandemic here, and you are not invited to the masked ball, as we have come to live life, to die would be unfortunate, and those who passed on will be remembered after we have enjoyed ourselves, is the message on the streets of London.

Nay, be not one of the Les Misérables that is doing time with the butler in Arthur, and I really did like Sir John Gielgud, he died at 96 and a theatre is named for him. Les Mis as we know it, once did 19 years at the Palace, it is the West End, the world of theatre and spectacle. That was after Oxford Street and Carnaby Street much changed from what I remember, memory is not just a lane but a bustling city of dreams.

History and pageantry

Eros did try to smile on me and Haymarket I ignored at Piccadilly Circus and turned onto Regent Street St James’s and do not be bewildered, the possessive James peculiarly carries a full apostrophe S and The Court of St James’s is the royal court of the sovereign monarch where the Queen receives ambassadors to the Court of St James’s never to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Now in peak Establishment territory, I was at Waterloo Place with statues of famous Field Marshalls, kings and politicians making an avenue of the revered, Florence Nightingale even lights her lamp here in the day and the night, if you have the vision for such. Down the steps by the Duke of York Monument whose fame is recalled in the risible The Grand Old Duke of York nursery rhyme.

To the river and over

I cross The Mall to Horse Guards Road with Horse Guards Parade where the monarch’s official birthday is celebrated in June at the Trooping the Colour, to my left and St James’s Park to my right, I could have ventured a walk to Buckingham Palace to see it for the first time, but that would be another time, for I was pressed and the toilets closed.

The Palace of Westminster, the British Parliament with all the surrounding famous buildings including Westminster Hall, came into view, but I could barely see Big Ben, it was bedecked in scaffolding and I crossed the River Thames on Westminster Bridge onto the South Bank with the London Eye on its last rotation for the day, my sister called from America as I was lapping a soft ice cream on a black waffle cone after which the Tube took me back to Angel from Waterloo Station.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Funmi, in your year of the Jubilee

Extraordinary mensch

Funmi Iyanda, I first met in circumstances celebrating the loss of a friend, there was no indication at the time that we would be friends, but through meetings and conversations, an unusual and close friendship developed.

There are many things to write about Funmi Iyanda, the talk show host, broadcaster, Film and TV producer, media executive, philanthropist, journalist, and blogger, according to her Wikipedia profile, but to view her through her celebrity alone would be to miss the beauty and the essence of the person, her humanity, her generosity, her qualities in principle, in motherhood, in friendship, her stoicism in the face of adversity, betrayal, and other challenges, her indomitable spirit, her tenacity, her storytelling prowess and the all-round extraordinary mensch that she is.

Humanity champion

Funmi has always championed unpopular and difficult causes, bringing light and life to people, issues, and events, extricating the detail and the underlying human story to which many can relate, from the time that she fronted New Dawn with Funmi to her recent venture of Public Eye.

In doing so, she shone the klieg lights on many, giving them insight and blazing the trail for others who have followed and gone on to become leading lights to their various areas of endeavour. She was the pioneer, the frontrunner, the blockbuster draw in an environment where the conservative, the patriarchy, the powerful, and the influential felt threatened by one who was neither fawning nor obsequious, her voice was strong, loud, and effective.

Life changer

In founding Change-A-Life Foundation in 2002, she with the team around her were intervening in the lives of vibrant, talented, gifted, determined, purposeful yet disadvantaged individuals, according to their Twitter profile. Even those who would not consider themselves disadvantaged were given platforms to showcase their abilities and from there found the global audience that brought patronage and opportunity to their worlds.

Having the courage of her convictions borne of a deep sense of duty and willingness to nurture, uplift, and promote, she has boldly showcased issues too many have been afraid to touch, associated with people who the generally supercilious won’t deign to entertain, but the haughty are the poorer for it, even if in their conceit they are oblivious of their lack of humanity, doing the motions without the heart.

Quiet dignity

I am sometimes astounded at some who were lent more than a helping hand who having now made it have surreptitiously pushed the ladder away, presuming to pay forward with no recognition of how they got where they are or who gave voice, mentored, advised, counselled, negotiated, and facilitated their rise.

It is an endearing virtue to witness the dignity and bearing of this woman whose quiet disposition and silence is too frequently taken advantage of by those who knowing the quality of person she is, feel safe from being exposed for their villainy, calumny, malevolence, apathy, indifference, wickedness, ingratitude, disrespect and much else. They are a lesson and story of the fallen human that would not change the grace, the style, the comportment, the humanity, and loveliness of this lady.

Trailblazing still

Those points being made, I have come to celebrate Funmi Iyanda as a friend, a confidante, a sister, an ally, a person of exemplary conduct that I so highly respect for who she is, her achievements, the successes, and failures are woven into a tapestry of life telling even better stories, the laurels of the past fading into the distance in the presence of new ideas, amazing opportunities, and projects leading to places that could never have been prospected or imagined; genius is just what genius does and it is awesome to behold.

There is a coming of age and the coming into the centre of who you were born to be, a world-changer, lauded and recognised by the powerful, the influential, the establishment and institutions around the world. Sometimes, a prophet is but without honour in their own land, it does not make the prophet any less an impactful messenger to the global communities and humanity where the gift blossoms.

Unbeatable excellence

Sometimes, I say, you have nothing left to prove other than to continually excel effortlessly in what you have perfected over decades. Indeed, many will be envious and jealous, probably militate against you, where they can and are able to contribute and team up, they hold back fearful of being eclipsed, myopic in vision and purpose, but we choose to be proud of you, celebrate your many talents, find encouragement in your many efforts and have great expectations of mind-blowing exploits by your individuality, initiative, industriousness, and ingenuity.

Your friendship, your playfulness, your wit, and your use of expression are things your friends exude in and treasure. Along with Morenike, you are both an incomparable, uncompromising, unbeatable, and unchallengeable winning team.

Happy Birthday

Dear Funmi, on your 50th birthday, may your smiles turn into joyous laughter and exuberant ululation, may your light shine as bright as the sun in the day and in the night, may love encompass, shield and bless you, may you find favour in every place, even in the impossible and unfavourable places, ways open that would leave many in awe of the opportunities that come your way that you are spoilt for choice.

May you rise to be seen, to be heard, to be honoured, to be celebrated, and to be feted in the stratosphere way beyond those who heretofore glowered at you with satisfaction, they will be dwarfed by the little things you do. It is your day to breakout and breakthrough with the impact and forceful demonstration of a nuclear detonation. Brian and I wish you a very happy birthday, you have been our greatest cheerleader and supporter, a friend like no other.

Most of all, remember the words of the brighter future that we have progressively lived in and continue to find new experiences to cherish. A ma fi pàtàn ni. Have a most wonderful day and many more glorious days and years are coming in your year of the Golden Jubilee.