Sunday 30 December 2007

Nightmare Nurse

Self-inflicted excess

I saw a world I never knew existed or ever thought I would ever encounter and I received such great understanding of the quest for health and healthcare and the role of money.

I left my hotel rather late to participate in the Saturday night life, at the main entrance to the hotel an ambulance was being called for a “lady” who had done it to excess, she was retching and vomiting like Niagara Falls, I shook my head.

There were enough friends and people around her including the police, so I walked on by shaking my head at what people get up to, on holiday.

Mugged by thugs

I reached the back-end of Yumbo Centre and noticed some commotion, two guys appeared to be beating up a man, so I hollered at them as they picked up bottles and threw at him and kicked him to the ground.

As a couple of other people gathered round the boys walked away, they just walked away. I went down to talk to the man, he was seriously bloodied, his face covered with blood and his clothes stained all over.

He was a victim of a mugging and it appears he was taken advantage of just as he recovered from an epileptic fit, thankfully, they did not make away with either money or his phone.

The Devil’s Clinic

So, I helped the man up and told him he should be able to get treatment at the Policlinica run by Dr. Felipe Caceres Arvelo which is in front of the tourist office – we went there together and I rung the bell.

In my naivety, I thought the nurse would come out, see the emergency and attend to the man immediately then talk about the formalities later.

I was wrong, the first thing he asked for was insurance and the ability to pay, I said no problem with that, and asked him to take the man in for treatment.

But we were met with such bureaucratic spiel as the man bled and began to shake, I could not believe that a nurse could see another human-being in that condition and still be so particular; as if anyone goes out on a Saturday night with passport, insurance and health papers – this was an emergency, a man was seriously wounded and needed help.

I cannot believe this

I was so distraught, I found myself wailing in disbelieve as I opened my wallet and threw all I had in it on the floor – if you want money, there is the money treat the man – I shouted.

I was drama-queen, histrionics and melodrama personified, making a scene that was getting quite embarrassing for the nurse – it was enough to invite us in and then go through the formalities of filling in the forms and taking all sorts of details before he cleaned up the wound and recommended the man go to a hospital for an X-ray of his face.

The Good Samaritan had an easier time because the people at the inn had a bit of humanity in them – this “nurse” or the business masquerading as a clinic had no soul, in fact, the man could not wash the blood off his hands and arms because the clinic had no hot water at night.

People first, money later

Now, I am not advocating private clinics should be run as the social services, but the primary premise should be service to humanity especially where it was an emergency and where they are in proximity to the scene of the incident – we can sort out the details later.

This really contrasts with the situation I had in Paris when I had taken off a good chunk of skin from my toe after hitting my foot – the nurse at the chemist immediately attended to me, dressed the wound and refused payment – I could not let such kindness go unrewarded.

I fear though that the love of money and only money at the expense of everything else is sapping us of our humanity and compassion, we express greater love for animals than for fellow human-beings.

For the shoddy job the nurse did, I parted with EUR 90, not that it matters, but I would have been happier if he had just got on with it at first.

Finally, I helped the man into a taxi for his hotel where he was to collect his passport and insurance to have his nose X-rayed at another hospital. We are people and human-beings first, everything else should revolve around that.

Unfortunately, my altruistic views are becoming too old-fashioned that I am lost when the simple things like consideration, kindness and compassion are missing from the interaction with others.

It makes one wonder what the world is coming to.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Zoe's wrecked ark

A zoo is not that safe at times

I have always enjoyed visiting zoos but never been under the illusion that those animals behind fencing, walls, enclosures or cages are not wild, dangerous and when let lose could wreak untold havoc.

When on Wednesday I heard of the tiger mauling in the San Francisco Zoo where there was one fatality and several injured, it brought home the fact that all is not that as tame as it seems in the zoo.

The thickening plot indicates the enclosure wall was a metre lower than the recommended height; tigers we forget are climbing animals and it only takes a moment of animal inspiration for those enclosures to dissolve into nothing and people to become victims like another episode in the Netherlands where a gorilla broke out to attack the unwelcome amorous glances from a lady visitor.

The new adopt-a-kit

And so the angels of mercy and saviours of little Africa have returned from Chad to France to serve the remainder of their 8 year sentence for kidnapping Chadian children ready to selling onto foster parents in France who would lavish love and care on helpless, hopeless children.

There are many who would have thought after Madonna and Angelina Jolie took their gift-wrapped African pseudo-orphans out of the deepest darkest Africa, anyone with a Western bleeding heart can traipse into Africa and forklift a child from the foreboding oblivion of starvation and deprivation into the grand opulence of Western excess.

Whilst, every little helps from people who selflessly commit themselves to helping Africa where untold governments have failed in their basic duty of governance and the care of the children of Africa, there isn’t enough in place to ensure that the desire to adopt is properly channelled though the requisite legal means.

Zoe´s Beached Ark

The workers of Zoe’s Ark might have either exploited the absence of checks and balances to ensure that children are not extricated by enticement or duress from their families, labelled as orphans, exported to Europe, robbed of their heritage and their identity.

In another light, they might have been naïve, situations are tough in Africa and just as the slave trade of old, it took locals who knew the lay of the land to get the slaves and then sell them to merchants who took them to the new world.

There might have been unscrupulous people who for the money to be made, seized Chadian children, presented them as Darfuri orphans and cajoled the Zoe’s Ark people into thinking their mission of mercy for the children and benevolence for the foster parents was as humanitarian as it could get.

Hard African Lessons

I think it is now clear that Africa is no playground for naïve Good Samaritans, you can get caught up in a very serious situation as these people found themselves and were sadly almost cut adrift by their government.

Naivety, however, is no excuse for such debacles and whilst these people would not suffer the hard labour conditions of a Chadian gaol, having been returned to France , it might just have become ever so clear that people with a humanitarian inclination should approach Africa with smart caution.

Extra steps should and must be taken to ensure that any activity undertaken regarding the adoption of children in Africa is above board, stands the scrutiny of Western standards and are properly signed-off by the competent authorities in the countries, failing which a clear set of UN guidelines must by applied and reviewed by independent personnel.

Beyond this and the media frenzy that surrounded this case, one wonders if the children would all be returned to their families and the government that fought to keep them in Africa would now step up to provide the promise that leaving to France was supposed to offer them – a future, a life and the possibility of being able to change their world – this must be the attainable aspiration of every child born in Africa.

Rottweilers are NOT pets

Note (2nd May 2010): Dog lovers, I appreciate the strength of feeling you all have regarding your dogs, their temperaments and the castigation of breeds. Rottweiler can crudely translate to village rout which spells trouble rather than a sense of comfort and sadety.

Our lawmakers made a law banning those dogs and I am just reflecting the public outcry about dog-owners who train their dogs to be aggressive maulers or have allowed a naturally aggressive streak to arise in them - whilst rottweilers might be cuddly and lovable, you don't hear of anyone training a poodle to be aggressive, it just does not have the look and the fiercesomeness that is required even though there might be accidents.

I am taking no more comments on this blog, if you feel so strongly about your dogs, go and write about them somewhere else, more so, I wonder if some of the commenters really should have those dogs if their comments end up on other blog topics – cool-headedness no matter the outrage about views you have read can help one write an encouraging opinion about rottweilers.

So far, I am sorry to say, a majority of the comments have not persuaded me that the dogs are friendly or the owners are able to manage those dogs with a sense of societal and communal responsibility.

Pet kills child

I am saddened to read again that a child has been mauled to death by what is purportedly a family pet – the dog.

I have seen many a menacing dog, built like a brick house and almost as ugly as the owner who is straining on a lead where it is more or less the dog taking the human for a forced walk.

There have been too many instances of little children being caught in the jaws of dogs that are naturally wild, vicious fighting animals and as the case of Michael Vick in the States shows, these dogs have to be treated badly with menace, cruelty and brutality to take on the nasty fearful reputation we all know of these dogs.

Act to get them all

I remember the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 which came amidst the media frenzy after the mauling to death of a little girl, after that, we have seen pictures of people who have survived attacks and many more children mauled.

There were four breeds identified in the Act the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro. I have seen the pit bull terrier too many times in public, un-muzzled and ready to pounce – there are times I have thought sighting one was an emergency enough to alert the police.

There is many ways in which I feel this law has not been properly enforced and where it has, the penalties for infringement are not strict enough.

Many countries have banned the breeding of this dog, but one clear breed that should have had specific mention is the rottweiler, it was noted as the number two breed responsible for human fatalities between 1979 and 1998.

They are NOT pets

A pet rottweiler is responsible for the recent tragedy where a one-year old has met so horrific a death due to the irresponsible actions of family and relations.

Why anyone would want to keep such dogs amazes me and no doubt many are caught in the hubris that their dog is so well trained that it should pose no danger to children. The fact is, these dogs are wild and vicious, they are animals regardless of time they have spent in the company of human-beings.

One can say that the breed of dog is not the problem because naturally such dogs should not be domesticated; they have their roles in policing and maybe as guard dogs but not as cuddly pets.

Bringing such dogs into the close confines of a family setting sets off a lot of unintended situations and since the size of a child is hardly bigger than that of a dog, a shake around like a rag-doll is likely and once it has tasted blood you cannot be prepared for the worst that would definitely happen.

Literally a year ago, a bigger girl of five as mauled to death by her uncle’s rottweiler, she was in the care of her grandmother and though the case went to court the greater sentence would have been living with the fact that she was responsible for the horrific death of her grand-daughter.

Keep the dogs out of homes

But, we should not have to be regaled with such terrible tales of loss of life or mangled limbs – these dogs have no place in our communities as pets, like I said, they have their functions but they should be controlled just like arms.

They should be handled only by professionals in a service industry and taken completely out of homes – we cannot predict if any of these dogs would stay tame or go wild and there is no reason to run the risk of finding out and learning to great horror.

Thursday 27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto, 1953 - 2007

Killed in the safest place

If I thought the year 2007 would run out on the note of events that have already taken place with the effects of the credit crunch, the prospects of recessions and economic show-downs coupled with low consumer confidence and Madeleine McCann, I was wrong.

I had hardly had breakfast and returned to my room when I heard of a suicide bomb attack in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on the convoy of Benazir Bhutto, we were first told she was safe, that was not the case, she was mortally wounded.

Rawalpindi if you may know is the military headquarters of the Pakistan; it has the intelligence services and obviously should have the best security measures you can hope to have in such a volatile country.

The question remains how a suicide bomber first took a shot at Benazir Bhutto´s neck and possibly her chest before compounding the commotion with a self conflagration that wasted over 20 lives – in Rawalpindi.

That would be point of discussion as one hopes that all the people behind this heinous, cruel, shameful, cowardly act of gross terrorism are caught and punished.

The Pakistan of today has all the hallmarks of Pervez Musharraf´s misgovernment and pseudo-democracy that has proved more ruinous for Pakistan over the last 8 years.

But we have to pause for thought as our prayers, heartfelt sympathy and condolences are conveyed to the family of Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated this afternoon in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan looking forward

The future of Pakistan is in the balance as our overriding policy of the war on terror is condemning to the scrapheap essential matters of true democratic reform in favour of comfortable but corrupt alliances with the West.

Ms. Bhutto was a flawed personality amidst allegations of corruption and other accusations of impropriety, but in all that Pakistan has to offer of leadership, it appears she still embodied the aspirations of the masses as they flocked to her rallies in the hope that she had a message and a solution to their ills and situations.

This chapter closes with 3-days of mourning for a lady who served her country twice as Prime Minister, the ramifications however would be more far-reaching than we can begin to fathom, eventually, one would hope Pervez Musharraf would be swept away then allowing the governing institutions of Pakistan to thrive as bastions of real democracy.

Pakistanis deserve that much and like President Bush said in his statement about this killing – they should honour Benazir Bhutto memory with a return to democracy. My hope is that it would be a properly representative democracy rather than the charade that now exists.

Benazir Bhutto – leader, voice, hope and martyr – Rest in peace.

Save Nuhu Ribadu

The thief nabs the victim

There is a saying in Yoruba spoken in South-Western Nigeria and I would try to translate whilst keeping the context. If you are not soon after the thief you stand the risk of becoming the suspect. (Àì tètè m´ólè, olè n mólóko)

This saying brings true in many situations and I first wondered about this when about a month ago in an interview with ex-military President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), he accused the erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo of entrenching corruption in the body polity of the Nigeria.

In some circles, IBB is noted as the Godfather of Modern Nigerian Corruption; military regimes or governments that fail to gain the audited fair mandate of the people become vehicles of patronage and impunity where all those who have fully imbibed the machinations of sycophancy and nepotism fuelled by corruption gain ascendancy over meritocracy and technocracy. See excerpt from The Military and Politics in Africa – Google Books.

Honourable thieves

These selfsame people who have milked, pilfered, plundered and looted with wanton excess have gained to themselves followings that seek crumbs that fall under their tables – these followers then become the power-base that begins to offer these thieves a form of respectability.

Before long, these thieves use all the leverages of the law or menace to shield themselves from retrospective auditing of their means and justice when pursued by anti-graft agencies.

The presidencies of both men are unravelling with amazing interest but they have also become demigods, almost immune to probes that their hypocrisy is so ingrained they and their followers believe they are now victims of some vendetta – we the wronged by these men whose legacies should read as those who had opportunity to change Nigeria for the better but lead the country to a place far worse than when they took office are now the suspects.

The tough job of the EFCC

There was hope when the EFCC was formed to begin to address corruption issues but the position of the head of that organisation has been an unfortunate political football to be kicked around by anyone who has opportunity to get on the field of play.

Mr. Nuhu Ribadu has a tough job by any standards and as he said a few weeks ago – when you fight corruption, corruption fights back – he has been in the crosshairs of everyone who has felt the agency breathing down their necks – the suspect “crooks” have pulled every kind of lever of influence to undermine, castigate, coerce, threaten, sack or eliminate him without much success.

One critical matter absent in the status of this man is independence – independence of the executive, confident liaison with the judiciary and accountability to the legislature where a committee of eminent legislators can help strengthen the reach and powers of the anti-graft agency.

Eliminate unnecessary hierarchies

Whilst he started as a policeman and has ranking within the police force he should have been retired from the force such that he does not have to answer to that hierarchy in executing his duties, but kept in synchronicity with a pay-grade that befits his status.

The development that he is being asked to take a compulsory one-year study leave by the Inspector-General of Police as a possible prospect for the top job in the police force is too suspect not to warrant more scrutiny because it would definitely turn the heat off the culprits the EFCC has been indicting of recent.

The executive having failed to muzzle him though the banditry of the Attorney General of the Federation has found another route through the police hierarchy, which also reports to the executive to sideline the man and possibly put a pliant figurehead in his place; this person would first have to grow into the job and then begin to exercise his discretion – quite unlikely.

Save Nuhu Ribadu

I would hope that the legislature would intervene in this matter and seek to disconnect this police force influence since the man is doing a worthwhile duty in service of the nation; if he has not yet learnt enough on the job to qualify for the top police job he probably would not after the course – it is a surreptitious means of taking the man into the oblivion of insignificance.

No doubt, the EFCC is a work in progress, not all the instruments are perfect and the work of improvement must continue, in that light, what is most required is an uninterrupted leadership structure buttressed by deputies who see the greater vision of making corruption in high places an anti-social, disgraceful, shameful and serious criminal act worthy of very punitive sanctions.

The dragnet of the EFCC is beginning to catch big fish and it is homing in on the whales, is if not the time to head for the port but the very appropriate time to put more hands on deck and more boats to the pull.

Whilst I am not given to placard activism, one might have penned one saying – Save the EFCC - Save Nuhu Ribadu

Are you buying trainers?

Without Prejudice

Notice: I have had to reword this post to take out the obvious references to a large maufacturer of sports apparell and shoes, however, my opinion about this remains that the staff should have been paid and it if results in the worldwide shaming of that organisation - so be it. It is a disgrace, to say the least.

I only have the word of one person about this and whilst I have not been able to corroborate this story, I would hope it is not the truth.

As it transpires either the whole of BigTrainers UK or some franchisee of BigTrainers in the UK pays their staff on the 27th of the month.

However, we all know that in the UK, Christmas means all the more to everyone and so in December, everyone gets paid before Christmas, there usually is no debate about that.

My source indicates that the pay-run should have first occurred on Friday the 21st of December but they were offered excuses and promised they would be paid on the 27th of December. After Christmas – How hellish it would have been for the little person that works for BigTrainers who lives from salary to salary and might have had to borrow to meet the demands of Christmas.

Well, the 27th has come and gone and the people who serve you with smiles in a BigTrainers store you might have visited shopping for Christmas presents in the UK have received no Christmas cheer from their employers as the tills are ringing in the cash. They have not yet been paid. The company is doing very well.

I also hear that people who have returned to BigTrainers stores to either exchange their products or seek refunds have be asked to return on a later date because they are swamped with post-Christmas sales crowds.

Are you buying trainers? Spare a thought and think again.

Have we now imported sweat-shop practices to the UK? However, that is beside the point, if in fact, there are any employees that work for BigTrainers either directly or through some agency and have not yet been paid their December 2007 salaries, this is one time to live up to their big-time slogan. JDI spells the acronym.


If however, this is not the case, some failure in management and staff development is allowing for a rumour like this to thrive. One can only apologise.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Stable table tablet

Motion the table

Even I could not believe my presumed luck when I got to table 38 and found it had been occupied by other guests. Either the guests strayed from their allocated seats or the bumbling waiters were about to exceed the bounds of incompetence.

So, I walked back to the entrace to inform the usher that my table had been occupied - like yesterday, I was not believed again, so I was escorted to my table first to confirm that I knew what the number 38 looked like and then when they realised their error the guests were moved to another table a good 20 metres away.

We can assume it wasn´t the guest who strayed but a conspiracy at work to deprecate the quality of my holiday through the seating plans in the dinner restaurant.

I got served still water instead of sparkling water sprained my neck trying to attract the waiter to change the damned thing to what I asked for - easy now.

I love lobsters and I was sat close to the sea food table, but the lobster I saw was sat at the table in front - red as the glow of hot coals, the crustacean (Caucasian) had definitely gotten seriously sun burnt or was in a continuous state of embarrasment.

Then this lady - no lady at all really - barged in to get at the potato wedges and it was obvious she had never been in a kitchen, she struggled with the spoon and after a minute of being observed by everyone literally shaking their heads, she got 2 potato wedges onto her plate - silently, we all felt sorry for her husband.

Our maître d' now averts his gaze when he walks past my table, however, the other waiters are warming up to the fact that they are in the hospitality industry - a good few tourists would have left the island after Christmas, I might find myself asking to be moved from this hotel to one I know really does care about its guests.

Or I just need to take a good chill pill and overlook this part of what is essentially an opportunity to relax and get rejuvenated for the new year.

Nigeria: 34 burnt to death siphoning oil

Pipeline breach deaths again

There is a fundamental issue that does not seem to receive adequate redress in Nigeria. It has become so recurrent that it is both an embarrassment and a tragedy.

News arrives that another pipeline was deliberately breached and in the process of people siphoning highly volatile and flammable fuel from the pipeline it was ignited and at least 34 people have been burnt to death. Exactly a year ago, we had the same thing happen.

The toll would definitely be higher for those who have momentarily survived with serious burns that may not get adequate treatment from our poor triage services.

Fuel for cooking

Evidently, the reason why these pipelines are breached is because fuel is needed for literally everything in urban settings like Lagos, first for cooking, then for lighting and transport.

Cooking most especially makes the most demands, the West African cuisine does not lend itself to cold foods that much, literally everything needs to be cooked and spiced – all for taste and the prevention of food-borne disease or dangerous parasites.

That does not in itself justify the vandalising national infrastructure for personal needs and that is where the government of the people for the people has a serious responsibility that it has failed to wake up to.

The transport angle becomes a harrowing tale of despair and the hopelessness when petrol stations were giving priority to hearses that had to show the presence of cadaver cargo to be served – it makes you weep; though this particular case was in Zimbabwe.

Affordable fuel for the people

Nigeria being an oil-producing nation should have in place the means and infrastructure to ensure that this oil is both available and affordable to the general populace.

We need to invest in refining capacity that means both the needs of our contracts in the international marketplace and the critical needs of our people for the primary aspects of survival and development. It is outrageous that Nigeria as the 7th largest oil-producing nation in the world needs to import refined product to meet its needs.

Again, people cannot continue to countenance that fact that the pipelines in their backyards are the source of such unbelievable sums of money that comes nowhere near affecting their lives positively.

It is this same problem that gives oxygen to the insurgencies in the Niger Delta Region, people seeing their land and water laid to waste by national and international conglomerates; the profits from extraction ending in white elephant projects or corrupt enrichment.

There has to be fairness and equity in the management of our natural resources for the benefit of all people of Nigeria and it takes a government that understands its mandate to govern and service to humanity to take on that hard job.

They perish for need

The folly of people who approach leaking petroleum pipelines going from the many incidents that have happened in recent years is lamentable, but the underlying problem is evident – they cannot afford what is supposed to be a produce of their own land and our attention to protecting national infrastructure through maintenance and security is very poor.

It is a very horrid thing for those whose lives were lost and a sad time for those they left behind, possibly on the premise that they only wanted to feed their families and needed fuel to cook the little food they had to share.

Get doing something

The criminal element needs to be addressed, but the issue is in the causes of this activity, we should not need another panel of experts to write another white paper about the obvious – some sleeves need to be rolled up for this matter and none of getting it bogged down in some task force quango.

There have been probes which are simply a euphemism for appearing to do something but really achieving nothing and learning no lessons, they are a travesty.

May they who have perished in so horrific a mishap rest in peace, one cannot begin to feel the pain of it all – so sad it is.

Other readings

The affordability of refined product in Nigeria – Chippla’s Weblog

Nigeria: They were burnt like tinder to cinder – March 2007

Unnamed, unknown, unsung and undone in Nigeria – May 2006

Canary Droppings

Fawlty Towers

Yes, I finally got to my new table but not without event. I looked quite different and that not my tan – I was in African garb, a white kaftan with matching trousers.

As we were ushered in, I was about to ask one of the waiters for where my table was since I missed breakfast and did not have the presence of mind to check that out yesterday night and I missed breakfast on Christmas morning.

The maître d’ I had seen the previous two nights was a stand-in, the bigger Big Ben was back and singled me out asking if I had a table. Yes, I do have a table and the number is 38, which should have sufficed; the only thing was I did not know where it was.

But, our headmaster was not convinced, he wanted my room number which checked out right and no apology came after that.

Makes you wonder where these people get their training from or maybe I am an extra on Fawlty Towers and I have already had enough run-ins with Basil and Manuel – at least Manuel learnt English from a book, these people are lacking in every bit of courtesy for a hotel that aspires to the standard it advertises.

I can see my write-up for TripAdvisor taking a very unflattering flavour and when I leave on the 9th I wonder if a worthwhile tip would lighten my wallet, quite unlikely, the way things are.

Watching for time

As I returned to my hotel in the witching hour I could not help but notice that dotted around Playa del Ingles are neon signs that show the time, date and temperature. However, I do worry if the sign at the chemist is 20 minutes off, how can other information be trusted?

I would be very careful if I were to get my prescriptions from that chemist, nothing as dangerous as ingesting the wrong dose – maybe one can get the stomach pumped, but when injected, you better have a guardian angel who knows about antidotes.

As for time, I need to do something about my watch, it does dual-time and I switch to other regions using the world time function, the hour and minute hands however need to be advanced by the push of a button when one is on the Hand Adjust mode.

So far, my watch has not budged one bit for the hand adjustment so, I am reading two times and having to compute if I am where I am supposed to be – I think I should just get a plain watch, nothing fancy and probably one that self-winds, has automatic date adjust, shows moon phases, has a second hand and does dual time.

Gosh! I am back where I started again – I hate my watch being crowded out with all these functions which is why I got this one and now, hardly 3 months on, it is not exactly what I want.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

My maître d'hotel is a car salesman

Stars without class

I have stayed in many hotels some have stars and some have class – one must confess compared to the Riu Palace Maspalomas where I stayed in September and regret not getting a room there this time, my current abode – also of the Riu brand – shares the same number of stars but has nowhere near the class.

I was late for dinner on my first night; just 25 minutes into what normally runs into 2 hours at what was essentially a buffet dinner and the reception had no sense to arrange for me to be accommodated considering it was the last session rather than the early dinner schedule.

Draft cooling curiosity

Then on the second night, I was put on a table near the entrance where the draft helped cool my food before my fork touched the plate, it was also a bit isolated – I like to make conversation with people around me – so when the maître d’ came round I asked for a table more in the middle of the restaurant which he promised to resolve the next night with the assurance that the table I was on for only for the night.

Imagine my disdain and discomfiture when I arrived yesterday night to be told I had been promised the new table for Wednesday – I could only see that the maître d’ was not so much a sophisticated well-bred host but a car-salesman in a tuxedo – the thought sent shivers down my spine.

Later he tried to make amends by grudgingly offering me table from the Christmas night until the end of my holiday somewhere in the middle that I have to find when the evening comes.

Buffets and society

Buffets bring out a lot in a place that brings together all sorts of people and one would expect that no matter what standing you have in life, when you join up to a social setting like a hotel resort, the very basic middle-class values are required like queuing up, taking your turn, serving yourself just enough and not mixing the serving spoons.

I am afraid to say I observed too much; the big bluff man who put the sardine serving spoon into the egg mayonnaise having jumped the queue and piled up the world on his plate or was it the lady who after getting her cream-cake dessert then poured some milk over it – Yuk!

Beyond that, some people look like they have just come from some ordeal of chronic starvation that they have four plates of all sorts in front of them – utterly dreadful gluttons they might as well be the kitchen waste-bins and never be satisfied.

Taking half-board accommodation on holiday has its benefits, you do not have to book restaurants or search for different kinds of cuisine, sometimes you end up doing your own cooking – really, not when one is on holiday – it is all inclusive apart from drinks and there is some routine to the whole thing. Care should be taken to appreciate the quality of the restaurant before making that decision though.

It is a microcosm of the good, the bad and the downright ugly – we all have a bit of that in ourselves and what we try to do is accentuate the good, eliminate the bad and hopefully conceal the ugly and try and make it beautiful, if we can.

The bulge of the balloon

Balloons, I love Christmas balloons – all colours and all shapes – but the ones I have seen were not blown up with air for Christmas but over years of careless ill-disciplined lives or sometimes plausible medical reason are blown up with lipids and fat.

Rather than be more discrete about show it off, they pour themselves into ill-fitting tight clothes that then give them ballooning characteristics, bulges in the wrong places – sights too shocking that one is almost compelled to protest vehemently for the assault to ones viewing space.

These people are in need of a serious resolution and they should not wait till the New Year to begin to shed half that weight and they would have barely hit the mark for being the right weight – the trouble we put our bodies through, 4 paces and panting like you’ve done a marathon – life can surely be better than that.

Now, I have nothing against people with Body Mass Indices over 25, some people are predisposed to that kind of anatomical development, this particular diatribe is directed at ones who delude themselves into wearing clothes multiple sizes smaller than their frame in the hope that something fantastic is happening – such self-delusion is typical of people who spend the first one hour in a gym for years and start looking in the mirror – it is a body not plastercine.

To bring some Christmas cheer, the sun is out, it is about 24° Celsius and time to top up my tan.

Have a Merry Christmas and keep an eye on the turkey.

Sunday 23 December 2007

Unfasten your seat belts

Arrived safely

An update to the events of yesterday, regarding my flight to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The control tower did not suffer complete radio silence; we arrived at our destination just about 4 hours 10 minutes behind schedule.

When I wrote the piece yesterday, my flight was delayed for a total of 2 hours 20 minutes, we finally boarded the alternate flight just after 3 hours of waiting and it was interesting to see one of those Dutch attitudes at play.

Seats for bags

I have written before that people have a tendency to occupy an extra seat for their bags on the bus, trams, trains and metro – well, since we had open seating on the plane, as I got on the plane, there were seats all up to halfway down the flight which were occupied by bags.

This is reminiscent of the generalised view that Germans pre-reserve beach seats and sun loungers with their towels in the witching hour (Someone burnt the towels) – my hotel has a big notice advising people to desist from that poor social attitude.

Indeed, there is some administrative encumbrance with pre-allocating seats but that means seating is efficient and people are forced to use the overhead bins or the space on the floor in front of them under then the seat.

Now, other advantages meant people could seat together with their large companies, it also meant, I was far from squealing children, especially, the ones that are completely implacable.

Safety instruction – unfasten seat beats

My fear however was about the flight being crewed by people unfamiliar with the layout of the plane considering I had recently watched the sinking of ship that lead to the major loss of life because the ship was crewed by people unfamiliar with the layout of the boat.

As we settled down, the captain welcomed us on board though without an apology from TUI, rather, he said they were stepping in for AkeFly, however, we had another 30 minutes to wait because the plane needed to be refuelled.

When the fuel truck arrived we were told more than twice to take off our seatbelts, I suppose that would be as a precaution if the highly volatile fuel were to spill, cause noxious fumes or catch fire.

In read now that in 2000 there was such an incident about fuel estimation/starvation and short landings - Hapag-Lloyd Flight 3378.

For the third possibility, I could not imagine how that tightly packed plane would have been evacuated – in fact, in the 80s there was a fire at the Johnson Wax aerosol factory in Lagos where my uncle worked and one of the things people said was people were getting seriously burnt but no one could see the flames – thankfully, my uncle was far away from the event though for a while there was someone else who shared his surname who had been caught in the inferno and eventually needed treatment in the States – we were beside ourselves for a while.

I cannot remember seeing the safety choreography and that is probably because the crew of HapagFly were German, but then English should have sufficed.

In fact, none of the safety instructions would have helped save passengers – seat belts, air masks, life jackets, brace position or getting to the emergency exits – we were put at very serious risk, though thankfully nothing untoward happened.

Better than ArkeFly

We took off and we were served hot meals, probably a stable for HapaqFly denied the Dutch on ArkeFly; same company but different services for different countries.

When flight TFL 119 which replaced OC 109 finally landed, there was sporadic applause for work well done and now an apology for the delay – my travel agent says I should still get a basic refund for not travelling Comfort Class, but I do not think charter flights are covered by the EU Passenger Rights charter that would have had some major compensation for delaying the flight for more than 2 hours.

Having learnt from the coach transfer experience that had us delivered last to our hotel, my taxi transfer was smooth and the only bit of detail not satisfied was I asked for a room as high as possible in a 7-floor hotel and ended up on the 3rd floor.

Today, I am not one shawl short of an Eskimo warding off the cold, but one g-string short of a beach bum – it is about to rain, but we have had temperatures in the 20s of Celsius already.

Rain tales of egrets

Talking of rain, when it did rain yesterday the sun was also shining – it reminded me of what we were told as kids – the rain and sun at the same time indicates a midwifery duty of nature as the lioness is having cubs. Ekùn ń bímo (Yoruba – The lion is having babies).

Another such tale was when we saw cattle egrets flying past we waved our back hands and sang out that believing we would get a white pigment stain on our finger nails (If only we knew that was a sign of some serious medical condition) – the egret in Yoruba legend is known for being white and clean no matter how dirty it gets. Lékeléke gbà mí léèke (Yoruba – Egrets please give me a mark).

Ah! The sun shines again – should I use factor-10 with UVA/UVB protection?

Saturday 22 December 2007

ArkeFly TUI Holland International group of cowboys

Extending a root canal

I think it is now a given that my travelling is always an event and almost always irksome. As if I did not promise myself that I would not travel ArkeFly anymore because their Comfort Class was just as much comfort as being cooped up in Economy apart from the fact that one had to buy ones refreshments.

Well, it so happened that my holiday destination only had offerings from ArkeFly (NL) which is part of the TUI AG group that has Thomson Travel (UK) and Holland International as part of its stable of travel companies.

At first, I needed to extend my holiday; one would think it was just a open web site, type in reference number, get prompted with choices to cancel, modify, check-in etc, then if any other payments need to be made, that all gets updated.

Not really, the travel agents lamented the fact that the Holland International staff are usually very helpful but they are seriously let down by the rotten inflexible system they have to work with.

Suffice it to say that a holiday extension is best done by cancelling the existing booking and setting up a new one with the extension included, you can then pay the difference.

After a 10-minute wait and some 30 more minutes of stop-and-start conversation, it got done.

My ride to the airport arrived just in time at 3:30AM – I am still beside myself as to how I ended up booking a flight as early as 6:20AM – when I got to the airport I collected my updated ticket and went to check-in.

Arke-Flying Carpet

One look at the departures screen revealed I was going to have an exciting day – my flight was already delayed 1 hour 40 minutes, by the time I posted a letter in the postbox, another 40 minutes had been added to that delay.

As I checked in at the Comfort Class desk, I was trying to get an upgrade when I was told the flight we were to board was still in Las Palmas due to technical problems and ArkeFly was hiring another plane from a German company to take us there.

Trepidation! Foreign crew, strange pilots – just the mindset you need for a long holiday. I have been watching too much National Geographic television.

The greater humiliation was to come – there would be no classes on this plane but cattle class and then the seating was open. I had to run that past the check-in clerk again – “You mean we are going to get on that plane like we are getting on a bus?”

She nodded in the affirmative, this is definitely not how I intended to start my holiday and I am being placated with a Food & Beverage Voucher for Menzies Aviation to the mighty cost of EUR 4.95 for a continental breakfast, which seems to cost less than a snack.

There are some rights I think I am entitled to somewhere, unfortunately, people would not be too forceful about this because, we all want to go on holiday and the last thing we want is some rotten company which happens to be the one of the largest travel companies in the world messing up our holiday with cack-handed incompetence.

I’ll rather pay for a coffee than go around presenting a food stamp for a mendicant’s sop.

Friday 21 December 2007

Six Sevens are ...

Giving Thanks

And Blessed be the Most High God who by His great mercy and loving-kindness when the fruit was shed before its season brought me to life and health to the joy of my parents who first held me in the single palm of a hand.

Thus far, I have been blessed, loved, honoured, lifted, encouraged, inspired and rewarded – I am grateful and thankful that He that has brought me this far would see me through to the end.

Much has been done, much more needs to be done and a lot is yet unfinished – a continuous work in progress seeking perfection, seeking completion, seeking fulfilment and seeking rest.

And so, like Apostle Paul did say of old – “we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead”, one sees that faith takes you to a place beyond your strength and abilities to a place of the miraculous.

We have to trust that our impossible situations are changeable beyond our myopic perceptions and I have seen many this year and in years gone by.

Today, at 42, my life is still a miracle, there might be many like me, but I would never be like anybody else but myself – at the end of my 6th 7-year period; I shall enter into a rest of rewarding comfort, a time where nobody lives in this world without leaving a mark and having touched someone else - they also leave memories - fond and bad, one thing we can never deny is that they were once part of our lives – let the building of a legacy continue.

It is amazing what birthdays bring out of you. Thanks first and then really crazy thoughts (+_+).

Birthday Blogs

Two Score and One - 2006

Life Begins again with 40 refreshing breaths - 2005

39 Steps - 2004

Birthdays - 2003

NB: (I remember reciting the times tables in primary school; we never said six times seven 42, we said six sevens are 42)

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Cold Work Letters

Being an Eskimo

What a week this is turning out to be and one cannot say all is in complete order as the brook that runs beside my office complex is already frozen over, my bowler hat is having more of a showing - hardly a fashion statement; I am looking one shawl short of an Eskimo – it is dreadfully cold here and snowing in Spain – more like Global Cooling to me.

We had a meeting on Friday where I more or less offered a draft job description for a new role they are considering me for. So far, it looks like the carrot too far off for the giraffe to have a sweet gnaw – the last day at work might well be Friday.

Since, I have hardly had time to myself, we might just make that Thursday, I have left it too late to plan a decent birthday buffet at work, taking the day off might just help me prepare better for my holiday – sometimes, I wonder how I ended up on a flight leaving at 6:20AM – some things just pass you by even if you are deep inside the detail of the event.

Two minds on one job

Besides, I find myself with two understudies having lost my trusted sidekick to a long indisposition and work piling up like the Three Gorges Dam robbing us of all that is good in nature – I still have my deliverables to manage as I have to do this, comment on that, advice on something and letting nothing get me livid with rage - difficult!.

The difference between a national headquarters and international headquarters in the Netherlands is simple; there is hot water in the lavatories of the latter. A visit there earlier today confirmed what we knew all along, our Oracle developers have to solve a performance problem that have tried hard to foist upon us.

Indeed, there was once a performance problem on our systems, but that has since been patched away, the pre-existing Oracle performance problem has persisted through our transition and not been resolved.

That is my problem with developers, they are fanatical, fundamentalist and believe themselves infallible in thought, deed and code – such delusion hampers productivity and holds up the business as others have to conclusively prove that the problem is squarely with rotten code in production serving the function of helping run the business – Shocking!

Credit Crunch Reprieve?

Meanwhile, amidst the Christmas cards and early birthday cards in the post, I am expecting a letter that would never arrive.

Was it not cheap credit first and lies that got us into the impending 2008 recession (imagined or debunked) and the current credit crunch?

But rather than stand up for fiscal rectitude and tough monetary policies the central banks in Europe, the UK, Canada, Switzerland and the US are offering cheap loans to banks to help them trust each other enough to lend to each other. See illustration of the sub-prime crisis here .

Now, in the light of such laxity and lack of backbone, one would expect my mortgage company to offer a double-whammy present for my birthday and Christmas with the title – Credit Crunch Reprieve, the message being my mortgage rates have now been refrozen to the rate I had in November 2005 for 5 years. Fat Chance!

Saturday 15 December 2007

Out of the mouth of babes - PNG at Climate Summit

Almost farce

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was at the risk of precipitating into a farce – apart from the decision of Australia to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol there was very little good news coming from the convention.

It took the new blood of a new government to change the view of Australia, but we have still had to deal with the recalcitrance of the United States which is now isolated amongst the big Western powers on this subject.

When Al Gore, the Nobel Laureate took centre-stage at the convention he was solemn in stating that his own country was the main impediment to progress in coming to the right kind of consensus, it was the inconvenient truth.

Engage first for consensus

There is no doubt that there is some sense in involving the emerging and developing countries in any framework, but the leadership of the developed economies is first critical by example and persuasion with firm objectives to gain support of all concerned – this climate issue is a global emergency to many losing lands, habitat, water, species and means to survive – something we in the comfort of our detached affluent existence cannot begin to fully appreciate.

The UN Secretary-General reluctantly had to address (BBC Video) the delegations expressing his disappointment that no agreement or consensus was being met, then an accusation that the head of the conference was not running the conference with professional conduct left the poor, exhausted man in tears – offering tissues to wipe the tears would have left me bereft of green credentials even if empathy matters.

Lead, follow or get out of the way

Then the delegate from Papua New Guinea (CIA World Fact Book) had something to say and before we get to that, I would rely on Wikipedia to give us a general idea of where it stands in the world – 54th in land space, 104th in population, 204th in population density, 131st in per capita GDP – he said – “We have a saying, if you are not prepared to lead get out of the way”, he went on to excoriate the United States and pointedly asked them to “either lead, follow or get out of the way”.

By all accounts, it was the most stinging rebuke and I would not be surprised if the media is not showcasing that delegate - Harvard-educated Kevin Conrad - every time countries meet up about climate change and things are getting tough and strained – no doubt, these conferences thrive more on brinkmanship than diplomacy; but for countries we expect to be in leadership to become the stumbling blocks of process, progress, compromise or consensus, we recognise their inability to listen and inability to persuade – consequently, their inability to lead.

It is quite poignant that Mr. Conrad was using America's own words against it when at the beginning of the week, James Connaughton, President Bush's climate change adviser said, "We will lead. We will continue to lead but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow." I am sorry, one other thing he should have realised was that he cannot expect blind follower-ship - we are not ready to fall in line with bad leadership - that should at least be the prerogative of the follower and not at the coercion of leadership. (Source of quote: The Daily Telegraph )

A looming embarrassment

We must not forget that George W. Bush’s alternative climate summit scheduled for January next year was at risk of having no guests if no agreements were reached this time round, and this would have been a serious embarrassment – I am of the view that it should be boycotted anyhow, the United States has to learn to adapt to consensus global politics in issues that affect us all.

It might take the new blood of new government to gain a fully engaged partnership the United States in the climate change debate, but we do not have the time to wait till 2009 for that to happen.

If it takes Papua New Guinea and their sense of the obvious effects of climate change to tell the United States to wake up to their responsibilities – so be it – like the Scriptures say – Out of the mouth of babes … We now have an agreement of sorts.