Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Opening: Church with a difference

Opening - Andrew Rudd, Manchester Cathedral Poet-in-Residence.
The closing of life as we knew it
I was last in church at the Manchester Cathedral on the 8th of March some 17 weeks ago because of global circumstances well beyond our control, but within the ambit of managing, if our government had given a bit more consideration to what the Coronavirus pandemic portended.
I believe the church held services for another Sunday before they put up restrictions on public worship and then soon the nation was put on lockdown barring all social, religious, and most economic activity. My reading of the situation from the day after I was in church was that I belonged in a vulnerable group that needed to take more precautions than were prescribed, I did not receive good enough assurances to attend services again.
For a new beginning
From then on, I tried to attend services on the church’s Facebook page, it remained a means to stay connected with my religious community. On Friday, following the announcement to ease lockdown restrictions, the church published the resumption of services under a COVID-19 sensitive arrangement that was primarily a ticketed event.
I acquired a ticket and was all excited in anticipation for church today. With hand sanitiser and Chinese fan in my bag, along with a facial mask in my pocket that I did not eventually use, I took a brisk walk to church noting that either the campanologists or whatever substitute of the chiming of the bells was not engaged to announce the call to the sanctuary.
A setting like none before
At the door, I showed my invitation and I was ushered in to first use the automated hand sanitiser dispenser and advised to find a seat to occupy. To the right of the altar was a free chair at the very front and without hesitation, I took it.
The chairs were well-spaced out accounting for the required social distancing, except for those occupied by the family social unit. The processional hymn was played through loudspeakers and a live recording was relayed by a tablet device on a tripod to the church’s Facebook Live page.
The Dean presided over the service which dispensed with many of the Anglican traditions of rising to sing, singing out hymns, kneeling to pray, offering bowls passed around or receiving the full gifts of the sacrament of the communion. We did not even have leave to assemble to socialise for tea and coffee after the service. It was a new awkward and unusual dispensation that might run for a while.
A newness to embrace
We did everything sitting down, and whilst we participated in the call-response elements of the service, we placed our offerings in a bowl at the black of the church and only receive the bread of life for communion, the clergy fully protected with facial masks and gloves.
It was a well-attended service, the opening became like when after the flood, Noah sent out a dove to help determine if there was land to which the ark could be brought to rest. The same sentiment was presented in the poem that I took a picture of at the end of the service.
In the newness of the times, may our hopes be rekindled for the celebration of abundant life in the goodness and mercies of the Lord.

Beautiful Romantic Intimacy Attractive Nascent - V

A love nest in Jo’burg

The opportunity to meet in February was one I could not pass up. I arrived a day earlier than him and was at the airport to pick him up the next day with a sign, ‘Brian with an I’. It is likely our hearts were pounding unsure of what to expect of each other. Our only other meeting was at the bar and then for lunch. We had a lot of learning to do about each other.
This was a holiday of moments and experiences, fully laden with activity, mainly touristic. Then dinner at night. It afforded many ways of getting to know who we were, the pictures we took together began to look like this couple were made for each other. How that South Africa constitutionally recognises same-sex relationships meant we had liberties to be expressive and we used every opportunity to revel in it.
Much more than it seemed
It is likely that the 10 nights went so far, but I never cancelled the plan for Easter, we had that pencilled in and an agenda that was filling up that little did I know that some of the arrangements he had in visiting Johannesburg at my behest were in fact, first-time experiences.
I commandeered the moments and activities, yet found in both the company and the companionship, some I could converse with and relate to. We were becoming friends and lovers at the same time. Maybe I was thinking ahead of myself, but I felt there was a lot going on between him and me, not just platonic but quite involved. We were not going to make an apology for having become lovers.
It was 46 days to our next meet up in Johannesburg for Cape Town, whether I was counting down the months, the weeks, the days, the hours, or the minutes, there was no doubt in my heart and mind, I could not wait to see him again.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XII

Not a publican’s fan

The public house social event or pub as we know it, of the Englishman is one I have never adapted to because there is a history to that. As a teenager, I worked in a brewery where lager was made according to German traditions. I was in the laboratory where I conducted tests of water chlorine levels with o-Toluidine which the chemists reliably informed me was carcinogenic, though no one felt they should not be having a 15-year old kid handling that substance.
Yes, I tasted a lot of lager and the concoctions through the process, the first wort which comes from the boiling of the barley was said to be an aphrodisiac, again, you would wonder what I have needed that for, but you get told many things, people completely oblivious of the inappropriateness of it.
Maybe it was when I was to fill in my tax forms and some of my colleagues advised me to have at least two dependants. My two children of a certain age as if I were a daddy from the age of 10. In the end, I never took a liking for beer, lager, ale, or cider, considering away from the scrutiny of parental control I did have a light lager from time to time when I was much younger.
An early beer to fear
With the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the government agreed on the opening of pubs from 6:00AM today. Why anyone would attend a pub at that time of the day escapes me, even if we have not had that luxury for over 3 months.
On my way out to the shops, the local pub had already opened it’s doors, the short queue forming outside were ushered in and those patrons taking up pavement space apart from the bouncer or doorman were smoking and chatting excitedly and possible beyond their regulated social bubbles.
My street was busier than usual, it was the most crowded I had seen it in months. The Mexican restaurant which had barely opened at the beginning of the year took in two customers who knocked on the door and it was apparently left open for possibly other visitors.
Neither the hotel nor the theatre at the road junction further on seemed to be ready for business yet. The local supermarket was not that busy, I had some luxury coleslaw in mind, the only thing on the shelves was the vegan variant. My head said no, instructed by misgivings, fables, and stereotypes, but I dared, and it was not that bad.
A new normalcy beckons
My first social event outside of our neighbourly soirees on Sunday and that meeting in the park would be attending the Sung Eucharist at Manchester Cathedral tomorrow, a ticketed event for which I obtained an invitation on Friday. I can only wonder if my sobriety would be afflicted by the inebriated in my path that has unfortunately not yet found their way home.
I hope that more of us are wise about the liberties we have newly acquired not to have us all go into lockdown in a fortnight. I guess we have the future to look to and the moments to cherish, some lessons learnt about who matters, what matters, with the resetting of priorities. The Coronavirus streets in Manchester and coming back to life again.

Brian Really Is Adorably Nice - IV

Daring to step up

With just under two weeks in South Africa when we parted ways, but I was not parting company, I was a bit forward in maintaining communication with him, and I initiated without asking our first long-distance interaction using WhatsApp on video.
If I had not planned to spend the New Year in Cape Town, I might have done something crazy like make an unannounced visit to Bulawayo, maybe I shouldn’t be too eager, but I knew where my heart was heading to. Every day, we exchanged messages and nightly calls, whilst I was not that inquisitive, I was learning a lot about him that heightening my admiration and respect for him.
The chance meeting we had seemed to have another touch of providence, he asked if I knew of a computer company, a very close friend and mentor who died five years before owned it and with that came other interesting and troubling revelations that we hope will be resolved eventually in the estate and bequest of my friend to him and other parties that we have assembled to work in concert.
Again, we met up
I had decided we will meet again for Easter, the rendezvous being Johannesburg and us flying out together to Cape Town for a longer break, all tickets booked by the end of January. The green shoots of love were growing fast, we seemed to have decided we had something going. When Valentine’s Day came, I received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers.
How was I to know that an issue with my schedule of work would free me to pursue a passionate affair in late February? As good fortune would have it, he could take time off and we met in Johannesburg for 10 nights. This thing called love is too beautiful for words, dreams and fantasy became my new reality.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Having no fear of missing out

Powering down and resetting goals

I get distracted, something like losing a sense of direction or some focus, it is unsettling and upsetting, but I know it is momentary, it would pass. I have learnt not to try and force things because it only yields frustration, the kind that dogs you with the feeling that certain things you could have done did not get done, all in the wake of procrastination.
Yet, in these times where there is no social activity apart from that which you create in another form of distraction to give your mind that time to rest and recalibrate to matters better absorbing, you might also get some sleep. Like I have written before, this s no time to be driven or set inordinately ambitious goals because of the availability of time, it is a better time for a complete power down and reset.
The world is going nowhere
I think like this because the world is also at a standstill, even in Formula 1 racing, if you took a pitstop, somewhere behind the leader, you probably do not expect to come out ahead, only better equipped to catch up. There is no fear of missing out [FOMO], the world is not running away.
I am learning new things, both for my career and in self-development, all at an easy pace, using the leverage of my curiosity to get beyond the immediate and exploring further to obtain enlightenment.
It goes without saying that the greatest distraction that affects me the most is the desire to somewhere with someone, in the eagerness and expectations, we harbour, we know it would be soon. I can live with that because hope is a good thing, it keeps you looking forward and looking up, who I care for will soon be in my embrace, it is a comforting and peaceful thought.

Bashful Reticent Introverted Amusing Naughty - III

Patient in impatience

The morning could not come soon enough, I must have dreamt some of the most beautiful dreams in a long time. What I could not forget was the embrace we had, it was like my body was more prescient than my head. The feeling was calming like my blood pressure had come down a good few points. Not something I could remember I felt but from 15 years before.
I was eager for the day to get on, yet I had to curb my enthusiasm. Mid-morning was the limit of my restraint when I sent a message inquiring if he slept well and was up for the lunch date. When he responded in the affirmative, I sent a cab for him as I prepared for our meeting. I had a good mind of where we should go.
Soul with a soulmate
At the hotel, we made for Melrose Arch and found a restaurant for a healthy lunch. I probably spent more of the time talking. He was reserved, he later said he was nervous all through. I was too mesmerised to notice. After lunch, we called a cab for Sandton City during which I discovered his quick wit and nothing could conceal his smile that took over his whole face.
After ice-cream at Häagen-Dazs, we returned to my hotel to relax, taking pictures before he left for his friend’s place and then for Bulawayo. I think by then, I had decided there was going to be more to our encounter, I was already planning my return to South Africa. His overnight bus trip back to Zimbabwe might have been totally inconvenience by my messages. I think I have found a soulmate.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Thought Picnic: Be a fool, quietly

Abuse is free like air

Now, I have been at the receiving end of all kinds of abuse that it is a waste of mental energy to begin to find categories or classifications for those different types of abuse. What has mattered is how I dealt with abuse, the ones I could to run from, the ones that caused harm, the ones for which I was equipped to withstand, or the ones for which maintaining my counsel was the higher moral ground. Abuse, in the end, will not define me.
However, on reading a story and commenting on it on Twitter, I thought giving my views a bit of flesh on a blog can be useful. Some might say, having seen some of my blogs that I have opinions and many of them. I probably have many more than I have dared express and I hope that is the beginning of wisdom.
Be at home with your thinking
A football player based in Canada decided to go on a homophobic rant on Twitter, reinforcing his views with more deeply held opinions, and don’t we all have the urge to say just what is on our minds without let or hindrance? It is a free world. [Queerty: Football player goes on antigay rant, says he doesn’t care about getting fired, gets fired]
I would have felt that his being on a football team meant that he understood the rules of football and he was a good player. Also, as a Canadian resident, and I do not care to check if he is native or immigrant, this is a matter of knowing where you live. He could not have been unaware of the societal needs to accommodate diversity, no matter how diverse from his worldview.
Know when you’re mouthing away
I was a bit surprised that as a football player, he appeared not to know the difference between playing home and playing away. I would even aver that, in Canada, when expressing homophobia, you're quite dangerously playing away and not at home where your supporters would cheer you on to score a goal.
Basically, as I continued my Twitter thread, I stated, there are certain antics you never get up to when playing away, the consequences of which might be dire and grave for your team and the little troop of supporters that showed up for the away game. Therein is my lesson in football etiquette.
The unerring winds of social backlash
We live in times of the instant consequence for the slightest infractions, not to talk of the gravest sins of commission that would land in the docket of the unforgivable. By all means, you are free to have any opinion, it takes another force of providence, insight, intuition, or just reticence to realise you just need the discipline not to express every opinion you have.
I concluded, speaking more to myself than to others, in terms of expressing views that are discriminatory, exclusionary, or hateful, know the law of the land, the sway of moral outrage, and anticipate the unerring winds of social backlash that can dispossess you of your livelihood and make you a pariah. Be a fool quietly. Be not intrigued, I write first to adjure myself, whether it relates to others can only be an unfortunate coincidence.