Saturday 31 August 2013

Thought Picnic: Extraterrestrial and far from home

Far and away
By happenstance and circumstance E.T. found himself on earth, marooned and far away from home. In the process he came under the care of kids who shielded him and protected him from dangers he might face in a wild and hostile world.
Eventually, he became integral to the family and much as they all had fun together was amazing with things happening to the kids that changed their lives forever, there was one wish E.T. had, a wish to return home but there was no means to take him back.
Away from home
That reflects a human story in many ways, away from home and those who knew us from birth until the time we flew the nest to distant lands to build new lives and experiences that become a story of its own.
The absence becomes a gulf, the things that are shared are no more as intimate as they were when you were in close proximity. If you never had the closest relationships then, it is unlikely they will enter into the inner recesses of your emotional state of mind and turmoil to appreciate who and where you are at.
Home of ideals
Meanwhile, where we can, we put up masks, display idealism with the veneer of everything being fine just to shield ourselves from questions and shield them from worry.
Then assumptions are made, that unlike E.T. you have not called home, you have not bothered, you are indifferent, you are doing life and forgetting them – you are nonplussed without easy answers to the questions where if you did attempt a response it would be blurted out without care and consideration – but that cuts both ways
Relationships are symbiotic, if you haven’t called and you have been accused as such, why haven’t they called too and we could all reflect on the fact that iron sharpens iron, when one part is blunt, it takes the other to give it its potency again.
Ideals most bereft
If we are both lukewarm we seethe in conflicted animus, disappointed and disparaging of the other for presumed indifference and the lack of fondness that should usually grow keener by the distance of space and time – the backstory is deeper than a telephone conversation can allow, there are reasons that demand the understanding we are rarely able to give in the presence of the sentiments we want to express.
We hurt others to assuage our hurt, we accuse them not to be accused, we flail with histrionics and melodrama, yet, it requires one compassionate act on the part of one to ease the tension, break the ice and rekindle relationships again.
Why haven’t I called home? That is a long story.

Friday 30 August 2013

Thought Picnic: Life today in précis

Eyes wide,
High tide,
No side,
To abide.

I confide,
My chide,
Caught inside,
A rough ride.

Find upside,
To this slide,
Can't hide,
Lost pride.

Now decide,
Be my guide.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Thought Picnic: Giving Them A Good Piece Of My Mind

A piece of my mind
Seeing a psychologist gives you the opportunity to speak your mind without prejudice and that is what I did when we met this afternoon.
I relayed to her what happened with regards to meeting with her, the social worker, the doctor and Lewisham Housing Services, then I spoke of my expectations making clear comparisons with experiences I had with similar circumstances in The Netherlands.
The gaping holes in the safety net
The fact is the system for handling exceptional cases like mine where I do not seem to fit into pre-defined categories, but have a compelling case worthy of assessment and consideration is disjointed, incoherent and basically a mess.

Anyone got a couch?

You’ve heard it all before
It has become a refrain, the monotony of a shrill choral piece ringing in the air that the haunting sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the willow tree in the cemetery at the edge of town.
Strange beds and funny pillows, stranger faces with smiles that reshape the face but have no heart in them, a constant wandering like a nomad in the desert with no paths to follow, no known watering holes, stumbling upon oases big and small but the journey must continue due north to the place where hope becomes reality.
He has fought to live and struggled not to die, but each respite is just like the catching of breath in the swirling turbulent seas where the strength to swim and stay afloat is slowly ebbing away – he is desperately hoping for a rescue or waiting for the last time when the eyes close, the life he has lived swiftly flashes by for one last memory of the best times to depart as if fulfilled.
Please, help me

I feel like I've been raped

Feeding the great database
They come with forms or sit behind computers, pens to hand or fingers oscillating between keyboard and mouse, they record my words for that great database beyond my reach.
The many times, I have told my story, I could have staged a play and put it in a theatre for entertainment, but this is not entertainment, it is my life and at present, it not fun.
Maybe they were listening with rapt attention, they feigned enough sympathy to appear concerned, and I was deluded into thinking something was afoot, the great database will lay out tables for food, build huts for shelter, hold my hand over unsteady bridges from uncertainty to stability, but no such luck.
They have harvested each meaningful part of my tale into statistics that show they are doing something, but I am seeing nothing.
Used and abused
The psychologist knew the urgency, too many papers were filled and signed, we need to deal with the immediate issue, she said, but nothing came of it, and yet I return today to be raped once more in the hope the abuse would get to the point that I cannot be refused.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Opinion: Davids, Jezebels, Nathans and the need for accountable men

Bigger issues at stake
The events of the last week that exploded into a scandal about sexual impropriety by a mega church leader in Nigeria has churned out commentary from all viewpoints that one is almost suffocated with analysis.
One recurring refrain has been the way the lady has been excoriated, abused, vilified, condemned, called names and much else.
Again, regardless of the truth of what happened between these consenting adults as some would put it, consent is the least of the issues at play in this matter.
Where are the Nathans?
It is without the doubt that many Nigerian Christians hold their leaders in trawl, they are dumbstruck, star struck, mesmerised, stupefied, hypnotised into a false sense of humility played out as respect, we would literally do anything to be in their good books than incur their wrath.
This in my view lays the foundation for what happened afterwards like in the biblical story of David and Bathsheba where King David laid eyes from his balcony on the lady having a bath, consumed with lust he acquired the woman, killed her husband and feigning empathy, took her into his harem to become his wife.
A sense of accountability was only met when Prophet Nathan visited the king, and by way of a story that called the king to order and in the process, the king repented and found redemption, and though the first child of that tryst died, Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon.
Again, if indeed the lady’s story finds true, the church is desperately in need of a Nathan because if one were to paraphrase something about interactions amongst men and between men and God, one must ask how anyone can suggest they are accountable to an invisible God if they are first not accountable to visible humankind up their chain of authority or sphere of influence.
A Jezebel for every Ahab
What I find even more irksome is the “Daughters of Jezebel” moniker that trails ladies who have been caught in these trysts leading to the apparent downfall of religious leaders as if these leaders bear no responsibility for their lapses.
For every Jezebel there is an Ahab, and though the biblical story suggests Jezebel a Phoenician princess led her husband, the king of the northern Kingdom of Israel astray, Ahab had the choice of who he chose or agreed to marry, he cannot be exculpated from his decisions, and he is documented as being one of the most debauched kings of Israel. As king he was a slave to what he allowed except if he was a dunce and an idiot.
Who men are
I have the following statements to make regarding this perspective.
Men have to own up to the responsibility of being able to control their urges and responses without placing the onus on women. This pertains to the many ways we attempt to regulate women in terms of views, dress, means, independence and opportunity to make up for our shortcomings.
Every time you use the phrase "Daughters of Jezebel" you are suggesting men lack self-control and are no better than animals. There are many examples of men who probably should have known better who have allowed themselves to be ruled by their basest instincts and then blame others for their failings.
We must stop subscribing to the idea that men are weaklings, lily-livered and devoid of character, principle or virtue. Men are more than capable of standing sure, it is a choice they can make if they will to do so or it is one they decide not to do if they believe they will not be found out.
Like the old Genesis story, Adam was not tempted, he freely went along where he could have been more discerning; he was irresponsible. Responsible for protecting his wife from influences if he stood up for what he was called to do, there is a mutual coexistence reinforced in marriage for the good or for the bad – choices abound.
Why let them lead?
If our religious leaders are so easily led astray, why on earth should we allow such unprincipled lascivious to men lead us? That is a big question, not so much that these men are infallible but if they exercise authority as if they are infallible without embracing their humanity, then we must demand a higher standard of moral rectitude of them, and they should be expected to act as such, failing which they must recuse themselves from leadership.
Character is the external expression of an internal virtue, if you don't have it, external stimuli would dictate what you are. What we end up doing is what we innately have in us as a makeup of our personality and character, we cannot be persuaded to do what we are not predisposed to doing from nature, nurture, experience and influence – that applies to religious leaders too.
Know your limits
Returning to that Indian protest placard, "It's a dress, not a Yes." If you don't know the difference, you have issues. This is succinct in defining how men react to external stimuli, the dress holds no message to anyone apart from those who have allowed animal instinct to rule over better judgement, there are no two ways about regardless of what you believe.
Fundamentally, if anyone must be so concerned about the apparel of women, it is best to restrict control and representation to those within their immediate sphere of influence of close relations, every woman on the street is not everyman’s wife to be curtailed, coerced, scolded and domineered – know who is really responsible to you and who you are responsible for.
It goes without saying that the pastor has a case to answer, either by denying the allegations with vehemence or accepting that he has erred in contrition, step down from the pulpit and make peace with his family and the flock. Silence whilst this scandal swirls with even more revelations by others is untenable, and it is intolerably hubristic to expect that this would just blow away like an ordinary storm.

Monday 26 August 2013

Thought Picnic: The earnest of a let-down

Churning thoughts
It is sometimes difficult to be left to one’s thoughts as event and episode provide material to ruminate over and over again of absence and occupation.
For life does go on for those who have much doing whilst those seeking something to do are left idling about course, cause, purpose, perspective and direction.
Yet, the days coming present opportunities to show oneself again as able and capable, even so there are some ready to prepare you for an unsure future which might well be bright and rosy.
Smothered from bother
Snapping back to the thoughts you wonder again, the sympathy moves nothing forward but the fact that things are known whilst the promises made remain unfulfilled that one must stretch to do what one is barely equipped to do.
Burdened by emotions beyond oneself of urgency and tendency, the day lays waste before the dusk is done.
One must however abandon the thoughts before regret and betrayal become the seeds of self-pity and dark clouds billow of despair and discouragement bearing acid rain because of being alone in the loneliness of a stupefying lonesomeness. They must not bother for the bothersome is nowhere but here.

Nigeria: A new horde of atheist super-zeroes

A new horde
It is amusing when you exercise a prerogative on Twitter and a certain lot believe that they have the inalienable right to override that prerogative having arrogated to themselves the entitlement to be engaged at all costs.
With time, it has become obvious that the opening line already shows the slippery slope to conflict, their feigned quest for understanding is never what it seems, they are perched ready to debunk, deride, excoriate and ridicule – they are the new atheist horde from Nigeria.
They believe that they are the bastions of logic, driven by scientific reasoning they have become completely unreasonable towards the reasons why others might believe quite differently from their apostate godless existence, they are right and you are wrong.
Seeking prey
If you have the smarts to refuse to engage them, they feign hurt, they demand a hearing, they flail and ache with shrill whimpers of an abused dog that you have had the temerity to deny them, but they must be denied.
For, they are the carrion seeking godless hyenas desperately seeking who to feast on, their forlorn existence given purpose by negating the beliefs of others. They are ready to deem you arrogant, condescending and disrespectful, but if you mount the rostrum they construct all in the ploy to wrong-foot you, they claim a form of superiority that appears to validate their existence.
Ostracised from their communities, they adopt multiple identities shape-shifting on the Twitter landscape hoping to find the luck of the draw, they are frustrated to distraction if you refuse to take their bait, if their persistence is rebuffed it is taken as rude.
Brusque, brash and brutish
They have no finery in language, no broad interest in the good things of life like fine wine or banter for all discussion must lead in one direction only, the purpose for which they exist, a life without God fulfilled by hacking down the gods of others.
Black holes that gravitate to endless disputing, argumentative to disagreeableness, they drive you to exhaustion, but as you review everyone else you engage of the thousands you communicate with on Twitter, these are radically different, odious and repugnant, they must be withstood at all costs and the best way to achieve that is to treat them like strangers – ignore them; if you must humour them, tease them but never fancy them.
They seek to unsettle your equilibrium and make you a drifting cloud bereft of water for rain, obscuring the sunlight needed for warmth, life and growth, you follow at your peril into the abyss of bottomless rancour.
The Taliban in new garb
My opening gambit was, “So take your ball back home, no one wants to play in the rain.” I should have brought a trailer of tissues for the sniffles that followed for I had not appealed to their sensibilities because their extroverted inferiority complex worn in every intonation to show some superior knowledge is too burdensome for them to engage without conflict.
If for once they can divorce themselves from the extremism that is quite similar to the Taliban but without the religion, you might take them for nice chaps, but even the social graces they might have once possessed has been lost with their kind of indoctrination, they must ram their guano down your throat and woe betide you if you attempt to gasp for oxygen.
Like those who have received their religion prone to error with obtuse interpretation and practice, so have these too, we seem to be predisposed to practice what was not intended of those who schooled us in the new knowledge and beliefs we have received – it is unfortunate – even where reason should prevail, we find ways to suspend intellect for the purpose of obstinacy at where we immovably stand.
I could be persuaded
Surely, there are reasonable atheists out there, ones who having railed about the divisiveness religion brings who do not go on to create another dimension of divisiveness their consciousness exudes in – I seek common ground in most things – where I see conflict looming, it is unnecessary to be unduly confrontational for kicks.
I am tolerant of others who are ready to be tolerant of me, the human race is too diverse in culture, beliefs, views and persuasion for anybody to think where they have arrived is the final destination of human knowledge be you adherent, agnostic or atheist – if we seek co-existence where we meet and when you go away fellowship with those of your persuasion, there is harmony and where we agree to disagree, it will never become disagreeable.
I might be persuaded differently of the opinions I have expressed here, but to date, these views have been reinforced, if this is a pattern, extremism finds a home in the character of anyone regardless of what they do or do not believe and that is a very dangerous thing.
[Comments are closed to this blog.]

Sunday 25 August 2013

Thought Picnic: Where Everybody Shares Your Pain

Some cheers for the dawn
This morning I woke up to the playback in my mind with the refrain - Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name – and as I thought that through, the words of the song formed into a sense of existence - And they're always glad you came.
But, I really did not feel like being there, the familiarity, the catching up, the questions, the answers, the concern, the sympathy, the empathy and much else was weighing on my mind – I wanted to be present somewhere whilst being absent elsewhere.
Somewhere elsewhere
Basically, I did not want to be where everybody knows my pain, and whilst some might be glad I came, I was not ready to take the strain, even though my excuse does sound lame.
There were some things I was not ready to deal with until a more convenient time. So, I moved to another section of the song - You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same; - I wanted to be in church, just not my church.
Antipodean flavours
My friend observed that the churches I seem to have an affinity for were planted by Australians, I dare say, there is something refreshing about the antipodean perspective of the same revelation that has been in Europe, gone to America to be exported round the world and emanating from Africa too with the contaminants that belie a tendency to error, levity and licence, I am persuaded of a different allegiance.
And though having attended C3 Amsterdam and now C3 London, I found myself visiting Hillsong London at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road where I found welcoming and friendly faces unified in song and common humanity that one had to reflect on whether one was being swept away by the awesomeness of mass hysteria or a personal experience similarly expressed by others.
Words and meanings together and apart
I began to understand the need for songs if you did understand what the words meant; for in song, you invariably were chanting the affirmative in the structure of verse and chorus almost repetitively without it becoming a mantra – the accompaniment of music then engaged your whole being with some being exercised or overcome with emotion.
There is life in participating, and when the prayers are said, you being to realise that our troubles are more or less the same and we all want insight, ideas, inspiration, results and solutions to take us to a better place.
Sometimes, that is what church is all about, amongst friends and amongst strangers, the fiendish and the strangest things can find root, but we can find firmer foundations in how we believe that together we can reach for a better day.
Making your way in the world today 
Takes everything you've got; 
Taking a break from all your worries 
Sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn't you like to get away? 

All those night when you've got no lights, 
The check is in the mail; 
And your little angel 
Hung the cat up by it's tail; 
And your third fiance didn't show; 

Sometimes you want to go 
Where everybody knows your name, 
And they're always glad you came; 
You want to be where you can see, 
Our troubles are all the same; 
You want to be where everybody knows your name. 

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead; 
The morning's looking bright; 
And your shrink ran off to Europe, 
And didn't even write; 
And your husband wants to be a girl; 

Be glad there's one place in the world 
Where everybody knows your name, 
And they're always glad you came; 
You want to go where people know, 
People are all the same; 
You want to go where everybody knows your name. 

Where everybody knows your name, 
And they're always glad you came; 
Where everybody knows your name, 
And they're always glad you came...

Theme song for the situation comedy TV series – Cheers, written by Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo – Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

Friday 23 August 2013

Opinion: Exploring a new level of grace in infidelity

Vile chattering
The Nigerian Twitterverse was caught lapping up the salacious detail that graced the pages of a newspaper with regards to the excessive caring of a pastor to the deeper attentions of lasciviousness on many levels of grace yet not understood. [The news story]
In what appears to be a confessional exposing the dynamic of power and authority over vulnerability and victimhood, depending on how you look at it, a lady laid out in exhaustive lettering the trysts that led from catching the eye of the parson to when she was persuaded to join the Pastoral Care Unit.
Good temptations
Out of sight and the purview of the handlers and sycophants back in Nigeria, the pastor let loose his charm offensive, playing on the reverence that was already accorded him by the lady began an incipient ploy that lured the lady from doing ordinary favours with attendant scoldings of not doing much more until somewhere in the penthouse suite of London hotel, mesmerised out her gumption, she was sitting on his laps, then kissing him and by the time we knew it, the bed was defiled with the romping of two people who morally should not be in copulative abandon.
Now, there will be many angles to this story with the likelihood as we have seen before than only one side will gain a full hearing whilst the other regardless of the truth of the matter will go the way of stone-faced denial stringing it out until the lady is labelled every contemptible name from Jezebel to witch.
Tolerating abuse
It does not really matter the whats, hows or whys, but we need to address some fundamental issues within our society where those in authority or leadership have the impunity to abuse or exert influence without question, be they parents, elders, bosses, lecturers, leaders religious or otherwise.
We are inclined to give the aggressor the benefit of the doubt long before the detailed experiences of the victim are given any consideration – we see this in child abuse cases, brutalisation of others, sexual harassment scenarios, institutionalised bullying, academics demanding sexual favours for marks and everywhere else where the respected absent themselves from being accountable for their deeds and being responsible for their actions.
We need to advance beyond the dread of criticising those who have done wrong just because they appear to derive authority from an institution or a potentate. There are things we as a society need to challenge of what we have accepted before that perpetuates egregious abuse from which victims find no fair hearing nor justice.
Influence of authority
Beyond this, the matter of consent is not really cut and dried, power and authority can override the resistance one might normally have in a different setting, the setting usually beyond the scrutiny of others can be hypnotic or cajoling – when a mentor or leader in the midst of manifest wrongdoing says, “I will teach you a level of grace that you don’t understand.” It will take a superhuman presence of mind to snap out of the spellbinding influence of making the abominable look like a worthwhile service to a cause.
We must be able to call out those who should by their status and standing know that they have been called to a cause greater than themselves to set example of moral rectitude beyond reproach and odious accusation that can bring the ministry they oversee into threatening if not debilitating disrepute.
Wayward moral compass
Cover-ups can only do so much but when the stench of corrupt enterprise becomes the incense funnelling the fires of hell rather than redounding to the sweet fragrance of heaven, those who have become too accustomed by acclimatisation to this environment better beware that their discernment has not lost direction and they are caught in an evil delusion thinking they are doing good religion.
In less than two weeks I have found myself questioning the moral standing of institutions that have allowed controversy and opprobrium to dog the leadership – it is time for a greater level of accountability to register in these places with no one being able to act above question, principle, tenet and accepted moral guidance just because of the position they hold.
The trustees have a duty to protect the institution they hold in trust above fallible people and founders, that is what they were elected or selected to do for the sake of the institution and the people who gather as part of the flock of that congregation.
Mud, glorious mud
Even if the mud does not stick, a big mud bath has been stirred and there is a good bit of washing and drying to do before the matter can be cleared up, what even matters more is the hope that if there be others so abused, this is a time for them to stand up and speak up to prevent situations where new victims suffer from what could be been completely avoidable if the timing and courage linked up with a clamour for fairness, justice and truth to do right.
Finally, even if the lady were a woman scorned, the question is what really happened and how far was the authority figure ready to try their luck before it all blew up? For morality and justice, the truth must be made manifest after this salvo.
The laps of God are ready to deliver a coarse spanking to anyone who has thought they have found all the levels of grace like in some video game because, there is a grace too fiery for words and hell will look like a cooler to those who should have known better but chose for the worse.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Thought Picnic: The New Parable of the Prodigal Son

Angels of gathering
For angels abound that walk the earth in the form of people you and I see on the street, whose humanity has heart and soul, beating with compassion and empathy, leaving you speechless in gratitude, disarmed in thankfulness and helpless in the tenderness that can expressed by those who in their time have become another narrative of the Good Samaritan story.
As he left that office yesterday, having bit his lip in utter regret of the experience he had just suffered, you found on the busy street, a bench to sit, famished for hunger, he sat to gather his thoughts.
The gathering of the shards of his life shattered in a history that really had become a drama almost too liveable for words.
The new prodigal son
He left his country which had become his fatherland full of health, full of promise, full of hope and much else to the land of a different tongue, he lived, he prospered and he wasted his means – prodigal he had become that all he left with and what he had gained was lost – health, promise, prospect, status, job, home and desire – as each day appeared to hold no tomorrow, he came to himself like the prodigal son and decided to return home.
For he thought, at least at home they speak his tongue, his fatherland, maybe he might find shelter, boarding, sustenance and some new hope, he was not expecting open arms, but there were many open to arm him with much to see beyond the morrow – it started well, though with difficulty.
The truth is, unlike for the prodigal son, there was no father that ran into the fields having sighted his son from afar to fall upon his neck and cry for joy that the son that was lost was now found, no new robes, no welcome feast but a resentful and judgemental big brother with a long checklist of eligibility for this and for that.
Checking the boxes to hell
Single, no dependants, no local connections, able, no proof of address, no bank account, no local references, no recent utility bills, no priority, not eligible for security clearance, not our business, no way here – the list was as long as judgement day had arrived and the only way was the way to hell or without saying the words, what he did hear from them was – Go to hell.
And hell it would have been because as he sat on the bench before nightfall yesterday gathering his thoughts until his angels came by to bear him away to safety from crawling with the swineherd and enjoying the Michelin star gourmet of pigswill, he would have been on a bench through the night drenched by the watering of the heavens that fed the trees and he would have found no tears to flow with the flood of sorrow that would have overcome him.
Barely netting the whale of the problem
The times have changed, the rules have toughened, the righteous are resisted and the cunning have run rings round the system, whilst England has no place for prodigal sons – it is mercy of angels, far and near, in kind and in means that ushered in another day.
The new parable of the prodigal son is not reading like happily ever after, the assumptions we made about safety nets are fallacies because the below on the jagged rocks of life lie those who have fallen through holes bigger than the size of elephants, we see them daily, the ones that checkboxes discarded without consideration, the ones society forgot and the ones that have become invisible but are there, in rags of clothing and prospect, in hope for the next meal having had none for longer than they can remember – they probably were not prodigal but have been put on the speedway to hell by a system bereft of heart and soul.
Yet, the politician and the comfortable mounts soapbox, rostrum, podium and lectern preaching about those abusing the system but saying nothing about those abused by the system and they be many too bruised to ask for anything but for some spare change from you and I – what will be done for them – he asks, what?

Wednesday 21 August 2013

England: How Lewisham Single Homeless Intervention Prevention humiliated me

Dead with connections
It was a shortcut, leading to a park and then a station unto the road I needed to walk up a hill to the place I had stayed until today.
On both sides of the path that seemed to split an old graveyard into two were tombstones of the long dead and buried, remembered by the names and the dates of birth and of death, sometimes with the years numbered, maybe with other family or information of relationships to those who put them there.
A father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, there were connections, with the place, with people and with a time, that is why they were there.
No protection for the living
Even then gravestones followed a trend, some were shaped in stone like Egyptian sarcophagi, maybe in celebration of the eternity of burial exemplified by the Pharaoh’s tombs of old, protected with curses and scripts that have no significance to the grave tampering archaeologists who brought us the remains of Tutankhamun and that cohort.
No, there is no protection for the dead as there seems to be no protection for the living if they do not tick the boxes of eligibility even if the person is in dire need representing an exception to the rule.
My grave circumstances were brought into stark relief when I strode down to the Lewisham Housing Services and there was nothing in my story, voice or plea that could made me a priority in their eyes, I had no connections with Lewisham apart from 5 weeks that I have lived here, but then I have no particular connections with anywhere else in the UK, I am as good as a just returned Englishman.
I’m no prodigal son
Maybe the lady was exasperated with the audacity I had to walk into any council office, talk less of the one she sat in to ask for help, I could have another set of phone numbers to add to the 5 I had called for advice and help – I was fast becoming a homeless switchboard.
Then I was asked why I had not made plans for my resettlement back in the UK before leaving the Netherlands last August, it is like asking the prodigal son in the Bible why he had not made plans for settling back at home when he literally had no claim to anything but the mercy and kindness of the people he left behind, especially his father.
The questions plumbed the depths of absurdity, there was no room for embarrassment but to state the facts and the fact is an Englishman who has generally lived an independent life and has now only resorted to state help in an emergency and desperate situation has no chance on God’s good earth of getting help today – there is no face of humanity or compassion to register in sympathy or empathy, rather you are met with obstinate indifference, apathy and checkboxes.
Scolded in my adversity
My humiliation was completed like the exhumation of the graves of yore when after I asked to make phone calls in a quiet corner of the empty waiting room, with the unfortunate result of not getting through a legal advice service but then called the hospital for help, I was curtly asked to leave, in the eyes of the doorman, I had become a vagrant, a nuisance and an inconvenience.
My voice trembled as I stepped out apologising profusely for taking up their time. I will come through this with my head held up high and for those who staff the Single Homeless Intervention Prevention office in Lewisham – I am single and homeless but you did little to intervene or prevent the predicament I was facing – we will meet again, God willing, I will be in better circumstances to say I saw the next day, in spite of and despite you.

Thank you.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Thought Picnic: More Tests ...

Of expectations
The day came with uncertainties and the answer to yesterday’s question is, I am sad. The first meeting was laden with expectations, at least that is what the nurse and the psychologist suggested, these people are clued in, they know what to do and they have solutions, the urgencies and immediacies will be assuaged with ease.
I soon became aware that they do not talk to each other and the view that things might have moved on from where they were left soon was discarded – I had to tell my story again, a third time to people who seemingly interact, but the object of interact is not the files, data or notes but the subject – I was the subject in this case.
Apparently, having lived on continental Europe for 12 years and now returned for the UK for one long year, left me rather bereft of some of the rights that UK residents would have been able to subscribe to – it was disheartening.
Of options
The picture painted even got gloomier as my countenance changed, I could feel the welling of my tear ducts but, I held it all back, I am the cast of my macabre drama, I cannot inflict any more hurt on myself than what I have suffered apart from a looming prospect of destitution and vagrancy – has it really come to this? The way it seems, it has.
There is no breeding, class, education, life, luck or fortune that is not represented in the homeless class and they all have stories just as good as mine, if not better of events in their lives that led to where they have found themselves.
The meeting ended with a list of numbers, addresses and ideas but without certainty, assurance or confirmation, I was forlorn. As it transpired, he had enough examples of people in my situation they could not help, I should have asked myself aloud – why am I in this meeting?
Of strangers
I gathered my thoughts in a few tweets as time passed, another 40 minutes before I meet my new consultant; at least that is what I expected.
She came to get me from the reception and as she introduced herself, confusion clouded my face, I had to interject – that is not the name of the person I was expecting to see and no one informed me in the almost 7 weeks since the appointment was made that the consultant had changed.
She was to do his rounds and by interference she had only leafed through my medical notes that appeared to contain the amalgamated detail from the Netherlands, Wales and the new interactions I have had since June.
Of preparedness
Again, by the first question, it was not so much my filling in the gaps but a new narration of the same tale that was already becoming a recital and performance at each gathering, I was not too pleased.
With time, I commandeered the notes myself, linking the data from the Netherlands to the information from Wales, whilst charting a historical progression of the tales of the bloods which on a chart would have looked like a jagged-saw graph, the current readings on a depression after what was the best indicator noted in almost 4 years.
Eventually, we warmed to each other, though not to the level I was accustomed to in the Netherlands, we discussed my drug regime, my options and additional tests.
Of innards
To be honest, I was not keen on being probed or prodded any further today, I was barely keeping up with myself on a mentally distressed level but in the process, we settled for 2 vials at the phlebotomist’s, prescriptions to last 4 months, which is unusual because beyond 3 months in the Netherlands, insurance requires you pay for the extra and then be reimbursed. I did not have €2,700 in my pocket in December when I was last in the Netherlands, so I left with 3 months of medication even though my consultant had prescribed 6 months with consideration of the fact that I was then resident in the UK.
I will also be visiting the imaging department, having secured an appointment for a month hence, I am to fast for 6 hours ingesting nothing but fluids prior to the largest organ in my body scanned – Gosh! I have pretty much really mucked my life up too seriously to unravel in one short afternoon.
In between all this, I also saw the pharmacist who ensured my prescription went ahead to the pharmacy that I did not have to wait as long as 30 minutes to pick them up.
Of life
At the end of all these meetings, I was not in the mood to socialise, I got on the train and made my way home, burdened with an existence that clouded the glimmer of hope I had earlier in the day and smarter for the fact that I refused to take on more than what I thought I should handle in one day as advice from other friends came in.
As I stepped out of the station, a man approached me, “Please can you help a homeless man with some change for a cup of tea?” He said. But for his skin tone, I might well have been looking in a mirror, though, it was a mirror of circumstances looming as I emptied the coins into the palm of his hand, I said to him, “I will be homeless from tomorrow.”
I made for the place I had called home for the last 5 weeks, tomorrow being my last day, found a short break from my turmoil with some sleep and woke up to write this before I start to pack my bags and think of what really will tomorrow bring – there is no point asking if I will be happy or sad, any comfort will do to find a place to lay my weary head.

Monday 19 August 2013

Thought Picnic: Traversing a wilderness to wonder

Estranged in stranger places
As the morrow comes, I will be seeing two strangers, people who I have never met before but will have enough knowledge about me to hopefully help and care, even though that appears to be what they get paid to do.
However, there is more to it than getting paid to do a job, the sense of sympathy, probably empathy and dare I say compassion comes from the inner recesses of our humanity, it is not what determines remuneration but it can endear the person to whoever they interact with and that is a good thing.
A difference in manner
Even though I did receive a very professional service when I sought help in Wales, there was something quite impersonal about our engagements, the meetings were not properly broken up and even though I received all I asked for, I was left with a sense of uneasiness that I just determined to endure because I could not change the circumstances.
Compared to when I used services in the Netherlands, my consultant who basically is a world-renowned authority in his field, exuded a very comforting bedside manner that always left you at ease, the decisions completely involved me to the extent that I was given choices, information and references.
It’s my body, first
Beyond that, where I was uncomfortable with a course of action, the situation was reviewed for the most convenient accommodation on my side; it determined the number of chemotherapy sessions I eventually had and it countermanded the demand for a neurosurgeon to perform a lumbar puncture I was not convinced was necessary.
I am no medical expert, but there is one inalienable truth, it is my body first before it is a specimen for medical analysis and that was quite well understood, appreciated and respected by everyone I dealt with in the Netherlands.
Let’s see what’s up
Now in the UK, upon meeting these strangers, I will have to determine what comfort levels I will have in allowing these experts to take over my medical care to the extent that they can provide medical, emotional, psychological and sociological succour in the ordinary times and at the less than salubrious times.
I am open-minded though a bit apprehensive going into these meetings, my bloods have told stories, my notes have painted a situation and all need urgent attention.
For the day after looms with wonder and wondering, where will I find to lay my head in peace? And after all that, will I be happy or will I be sad?

Sunday 18 August 2013

Childhood: Yikes! A snake visiting boarding school

Preserved for posterity
That night, there was much clamour as much of the boys' hostel emptied to chase after what then happened to be a yellowish tanned snake with a white belly - as I can recall - Poisonous snakes of Africa and Asia.
It measured about 2 metres and it was eventually preserved in formaldehyde in a large jar and put on display in the biology laboratory where specimens of other once wild and dangerous but now dead animals were racked on shelves to fill anyone with dread and fear.
Our biology teacher was a Canadian, much unlike other teachers, young, agile and rode a motorcycle, generally friendly and never menacingly cruel nor wielding a cane as the other sociopaths masquerading as teachers that our parents entrusted our care and education to.
Named for discipline
The aftermath of that night would have been grave for some, the commotion at close to midnight when lights were supposed to be out had roused the principal, a matriarch with omnipresence and omniscience that saw through you with a gaze that made you dissolve into nothingness in her presence; strict and motherly, Mrs Adebambo defined the regime of a tight ship.
She called out the sleepers; the spies and the eyes of the authorities, prefects in other words, to gather the names of the noisemakers who had breached every rule of discipline and order, that list almost as long as an arm included the great and the small, we only had to wait until the morning for the verdict which was most likely going to be a suspension rather than interminable hours of bush-clearing.
Bamboo and palm fronds
The grounds of the school were on the edge of a forest and it only had walls on the sides bordered by roads, the forest itself stretched for kilometres, I do not think we were ever sure of where the grounds ended and when we had begun to trespass on the property of neighbouring farmers.
For our annual sports days, each school house; Falode, Mellor, Igimisoje and Adedoyin built huts of a bamboo framework and palm fronds made up the walls and roofs, gathered from the surrounding forests though not too far from the hostel was a bamboo bush, probably decades old, a good few metres wide and a haven for much more than could be imagined.
Fire raiser
I had happened upon a box of matches, exuberant and carefree, as I walked past the bamboo bush, two fingers slid the match box out of its sheath, picked out a match, struck it on the igniter coating and threw it – the fire caught like kindling to tinder and I hurried my steps with the innocence of an idle pedestrian.
As the boys gathered in front of the staff building to receive the verdict of the council who were not aware of the cause of the commotion, the snake was laid lengthwise on the steps at the main entrance of the staff room, mercy came, relief came but why that all happened is only revealed today, I set fire to the habitat of creatures that could have brought a much different story than one told now.
The mischief of almost 35 years ago and that was a typical boarding school day.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Opinion: Redeem your integrity not the auditorium

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; Ephesians 4:11-13 (NKJV)
Religious chicanery
You get to a point where certain events in religious circles begin to create the impression that a particular portion of their holy scriptures has been misread or that the reading to our hearing and the actions that follow are completely opposite to that intended piece.
As the convention of a renowned and popular church with a following seeded around the earth in the millions drew to a close, the leader of the congregation launched into an appeal to extend the current auditorium where the people were gathered to a 3 kilometre square tent of proportions that will make the eyes water that those who have the misfortune of sitting at the back might well need at least high-powered binoculars or dare I say a telescope to see the pulpit.
Crowds are masks for trouble
Surely, there is a need to gather for fellowship but there comes a time when size becomes an unwieldy exercise in gargantuanism that other issues of health and safety are a foreboding for a dangerous experiment in crowd control and egress if an emergency occurs - this could spell disaster.
Even in religious settings, we are not given the licence to discard logic and reasoning for the sentimental belief that all is well when the intellect is given to perform a ready and needed function.
Evidence of the fact that things can go seriously wrong was revealed when a 5-year old was apparently abducted from the vicinity of that convention, called Redemption Camp.
It might well be a rarity, but for the parents and relations of that little girl, it is the closest thing to hell on earth at a place when heaven was supposed to meet with the congregants. If the girl does end up being found, and I hope she is promptly reunited with her family, the happiness that ensues should not overshadow the reality of the fact that crowds make it almost impossible to guarantee the safety and protection of little ones, as it also offers cover to those with ulterior motives to operate.
A public relations deficit
Now, this is not the first time that a child has disappeared from a gathering of believers. In another mega-church, the child was missing for two long years until it was returned to its family just recently.
These megachurches whilst majoring on selling the elixir of hope within grasp but out of reach also seem to be poorly equipped for dealing with these matters, as the news story suggests, “It was not the wish of the church that the news of the abduction be leaked to members of the public.
It begs the question how you intent to find an abducted child without informing the public and engaging the public because, short of a miracle of sorts, it might well require sighting and eye-witnesses as far afield as possible to get that child back.
Poor social responsibility
This theatre which by its size will be larger than any sports stadium in the world might well be the size of some of the largest calderas of mainly dormant volcanos and dormant volcanos are not by any means extinct.
Besides this, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that services this camp and many others that line up that road does not have the capacity today to handle the traffic and movement of people and goods for these meetings with tailbacks that upset the already poor traffic conditions in the Lagos megalopolis.
To literally triple the crowds that throng that camp borders on the highest level of community social irresponsibility that has been witnessed in that country where religionists had attained an exculpatory status from being questioned about what they do – it is as appalling as it is atrocious that this idea was conceived, it would be like tripling the size of a body without consideration for the arteries necessary to keep that body alive and well.
He gave some opportunity for show
More galling is the way the appeal was made for funds to build this monstrosity whose idea will give the Tower of Babel a run for its money, in fact, I am now of the persuasion that they all be inflicted with a confusion of tongues so that this hare-brained and ill-thought out scheme is abandoned with the urgency with which it was announced.
From what was reported, no idea was given of the total cost of this project, but the words of the leader were transcribed as follows:
“We need N1 billion from ten people. If you are one of them, please see my personal Secretary after we finish today, we also need N100 million from those who can afford it, if you are in that category. Please see my personal Secretary as well.”
“Nonetheless, we need everyone’s involvement. If you can afford N50 million, N20 million, N5 million, N1 million to as low as N100, kindly make sure you participate.”
Money, just money
If by that token, 10 people each stepped forward to donate these sums, the total will come to NGN 11,760,001,000.00 or at today’s exchange rate $73,280,622.39 and that is if 70 people stepped forward for that challenge out of the thousands gathered there.

The real money and pledges could easily take that to multiples of a hundred, just because they all want to see one man talk, you wonder whether the concept of delegation is anathema, for someone opined recently on Twitter that the organisation has produced more pastors than Nigeria has produced doctors since independent, I presume that is just anecdotal, it could be researched to ascertain its veracity.
Subscribing to the basest of our human instincts, I would suspect the billionaires club will have all the accoutrements of privileged access, helipad to land their choppers, fast-track to their thrones ensconced in the altar – they all have their reward already.
What we heard
But back to the quote that sits atop this blog, what we heard from that reading was more like – And he required some to give 1 billion, some 100 million, some 50 million, and some 20 million and 5 million, for the competition of the saints for the work of his ministry, the building of a larger temple for Christ, till we all come to the unity of derision of the excess and wanton abuse of responsibility in the name of Christianity.
This is not what we should hear, but as they act and do, this is what is happening as one preacher said, it is the junk religion in the celebration of Mammon.
My view
Now, is nothing wrong in building a large auditorium but that should be with reference to more than just putting up the building. One would have thought the reason why private jets are acquired by the glitterati of the preachers world was to visit parishes and outposts rather than attempt to create a new Jerusalem place of pilgrimage in Nigeria which has no particular significance apart from what is beginning to look like catering for the cult of personality.
And before anyone attempts to post a comment on this opinion, engage the reasonable side of your disposition before you script the objectionable side of your views, allow the latent Christian attributes to gain ascendancy over sentiment and emotion expressed with fanatical abandon.