Thursday 30 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Know the joy of hope

Open to embrace
In the last 5 and more weeks, I learnt a lot that came from doing what I know to do and continuing in doing what I know to do best, being myself and no other.
In probably 4 days of interacting with my colleague, he could read me like a book, imitate my accent, take words out of my mouth, laugh at me and laugh at my jokes, we were developing a bonding trust that I hope would result in a lasting friendship.
The people I work with are my friends; if part of your life and some of what gives meaning to life and existence is at work, then the people you meet at work should be trusted to form productive relationships with, I do not do miserable at work, not if I could help it.
Thankful for the past
No clearer has this been than in the many congratulatory messages I received on LinkedIn, the moment I changed my status that I had found work, it was not just the congratulations, but the blessings of encouragement that accompanied them from wishing me the very best to saying it was well deserved – I can only be thankful.
I did continue doing what I knew best, I attended too many interviews to mention where what was asked of me was well within my capabilities but my answers to their questions were not entirely to their satisfaction.
They chose others or returned to the market seeking a more perfect fit, yet, I desired not to be perfect but to be human, to know and yet to be curious, to be smart and yet inquisitive, to be challenging and yet understanding, my pursuits are many yet I would not be chased down by things, I have received the blessing of knowing myself without knowing what the future holds but one of hope and expectation.
Battered but not weary
That hope and expectation led me through days, weeks and months as I pondered and thought, but returned to write in the strength of knowing that whatever it was that bothered me in health, in wealth, in good fortune, in choice or in opportunity shall pass, and pass it did.
I look for the opportunity to bless for words have been granted me to speak and to write, though some seek the lesser of me by using the worst of themselves to interact, neither of us come away blessed from the encounter as I am both saddened and restrained in what great damage the appeal of words so unedifying could have, if written or spoken – in that, I seek to be a more perfect man.
Driven by desire, I have erred and still I find time and place to repent for the better I can be, my darkness fades to let in more light.
In hope, I still stand
When I left home, I had nothing to my name, but the possibility of building a reputation, friend and dear friend open their hands and urged me on, what I feared became what I could dare and as some other heaped indignity upon indignity on me, I walked the path before me unsure but assured that change has come.
Three weeks ago, I wrote something that informs a result today, I stuck with what I knew and with it came something I never knew was held in store for months when I had little or nothing peering into nothingness.
Then at the limit of what I thought I could endure, I wrote again, something difficult to express, yet a reality I could not suppress.
The joy of living
What I thought I would have to wait for because I had literally completely run out, yet I never panicked about, but left it to take care of itself, today brought surprise, amazement and laughter. That is the joy of living.
Know the joy of hope, be ready to bless, keep expectation high, desire good in all things and watch the unexpected work in your favour by people, things, times and circumstances all without your prompting that it seems miraculous. Before you pooh-pooh it, I have faith, tomorrow is another day.
Thank you.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Murdering the wheel

A journey to pain
For we found a road so rough that we thought we would reinvent the wheel to make the ride smoother than it had ever been.
So is the wisdom of they with whom we have to deal and yet the pain that results from our shaken bones, neither the ride nor the journey brings any comfort than a terror for a future we must prevent at all costs.
The horse in gallop was given too great a wallop, it died in stride the rider fallen, broke his neck, but lived to tell a tale never looking like he once looked or anyone looks if they were well.
A journey to gain
A lament, a fidget, a curse, yea, bless the man who sees a rope and hangs himself instead, why bring woe to things so simple because ye knowest not what to do when a rope is given thee?
May the sun set on the day when what is easy is made difficult by the atrocious, the wise in their own ways, but hardly in the ways in the really wise – what a battle to fight, a victory to extract, may peace come to his soul, the writer of these words and his anger be quelled by reason appealing to those who can see reason and will be persuaded by the reasonable.
It hurts, it pains, it bleeds, the wheel is strong, the work must be on the road. Be gone, ye workers of iniquitous scripts, be gone. Let us rescue the wheel from vandals of true progress who complicate things to assure their indispensability and their selfish places.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Thought Picnic: The Nourishment of Irksomeness and Hunger

Tales of the past
The small agonies of yesterday were promptly erased today as all the dread became stories retold to mirth and laughter.
My colleague arrived to pick me up at the Bed & Breakfast in the morning and returned me safely at the close of the day.
I could not help but observe this morning that despite the available parking spaces in various car parks around the office campus there were people who looked quite able-bodied that plunked their cars on the kerb talking up space on the pavements in what appeared as a lack of consideration for others.
Kippered and smacked
In my view facilities management should take a more disciplined stance towards this abuse, a radical rethink of campus requirements and provision is more than necessary, it is as essential as it is critical.
One has the good mind of picking up all those badly packed cars and hanging them up, front-down like kippers just slightly beyond the jumping reach of their respective owners until they were penitently reformed.
Testing and trying
We had our Starbucks breaks and a time of productive engagement before we had another conference to clarify a number of issues that arose from our conference last Thursday.
My patience was tested with the persnickety requirements of security to fill in some detail in the access badge forms, it was with great restraint that I wrote an email to remediate the situation; that was my third visit to reception where helpfulness was in seriously short supply.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a system that could be so simple, but has been complicated by atrocious process and timewasting to suggest the activity is useful, needful and wonderful. I could add no more to that.
I shrink
Yet as I plan to retire tonight, I realise I am in a real Bed & Breakfast, far away from civilisation on a farm where the road is pitch black in the dark with dragons lurking in the gutters ready to grab at you if you dare wander the half mile down the road to the busy main road that begs to be crossed with the risk losing a limb.
Breakfast is good, lunch is ordinary and it is to bed with just a milk drink for supper. I am beginning to shrink and fade away – what am I saying? I just downed a can of Dunn’s River Nurishment, vanilla flavour, this time, I also like the banana flavour too.
Good night!

Monday 27 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Yet I Celebrate My Handicaps As Signposts Of Thankfulness

The heat of a seat
Vulnerability is what defined today for me, and this to a point that I risked self-pity before I dusted it off as life, and life just happens.
I just about boarded my train and found a comfortable space to seat when the announcement came that the train that had rolled into the platform was in fact not the train I wanted and that another was expected before this left the platform.
There was no need to rush but the crowd had gathered for the other train that the choice priority seats were taken by the able-bodied as is usually the case in London where they ignore clearly labelled seats before they ignore people who clearly need those seats.
At the next stop, people with bicycles got on, four in all, and as the third man tried to fit his bicycle in, you could see he was annoyed that I was sat where I was, completely oblivious of why I did sit there.
Unseen to the mean
Sadly, the pleasure of being picked up in the morning was lost to circumstances beyond my control that I had to queue up for the free bus ride to the office. When the bus arrived, the driver got off to tuck my luggage in the luggage compartment, and as luck would have it, the first seat was occupied by someone who felt the seat next to him was best used by his bag.
No, people with apparent mobility problems are somewhat invisible and thereby not catered for or responded to with consideration or dignity most of the time, so haltingly, I made my way to the back of the bus, where in my more able-bodied state, I would have offered my seat closer to the front to someone who was now how I appeared to get around.
Every excuse to refuse
At the reception, I had hoped the situation would get better but compelling security requirements meant that the receptionist just had every unhelpful excuse even after being informed that I use a cane, I almost waved my cane in remonstration, and my office was on the second floor up two flights of stairs.
Bottling up my emotion, I apologised for expecting any help and eventually lugged my stuff up to my office, and when I closed from work, I did that same again, with effort but maintaining my dignity.
Yet, when we were picked up for our induction session that morning, the leader raced off ahead and by the time I knew it, being the third out of the door, I ended up the last as I quipped, we are never noticed are we? The man ahead of me then considerately decided to take up the rear as we arrive in the conference room, much later than when everyone had settled down.
The day passed without the company of my colleague, but I met up with acquaintances for lunch as I occupied the day with going through documentation and installation until the day darkened.
A bright dot on a blind spot
Knowing I had to walk to the bed and breakfast inn, I left with little light to spare, but I was aware that the road to the inn could be enveloped in pitch black darkness.
I had to contact GoogleMaps to be sure of where to go only to realise that I had to cross a road at a point where cars travelling at speed came round two blind spots that it was more their lights I needed to be out of sight because I really cannot judge distance from me and the approaching speed of a vehicle to be able to cross a road safely.
That was a 10-minute wait, and it could have been longer as I reflected on the favours I have enjoyed and how I could easily find myself in a very vulnerable spot if the help I had before taken for granted was not forthcoming.
For to be seen by the keen
Nevertheless, whilst momentarily, one has scope for self-pity, one still needs to get on because the world just gets on with being the world with or without you.
It was made more palpable when during the induction we were shown a DVD on fire safety which featured a lady with crutches who needed help, but was obstructed by things that had fallen over in her pathway, it took a while for someone to have the presence of mind to help her.
It is important that one recognises what one can do, where there is a danger or the risk of such, know those who would be concerned for more than themselves to be aware of others and their surroundings to lend a hand when needed.
An attitude of gratitude
I can only feel for those who are less able than I am in settings where people are less considerate and in buildings that are not fitted for accessibility. We need to get on with our lives regardless, and these little indignities would hopefully take no greater significance in our lives than as fodder for a raconteur.
We would live as independently as we can, with patience, with determination, with deliberate effort and stoicism whilst being thankful for the thoughtful, the mindful and the helpful. Thank you for your Good Samaritan humanity.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Thought Picnic: My old ways in new church services

A church for Sunday
Much as I have the tendency to seek out an Evangelical church with a Pentecostal leaning, I have many times before harked back at my Church of England, Anglican roots.
The order or service, the hymns, the read prayers, the confessions of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the solemnity and the ceremony that accompanies Sung Eucharist still excites me.
Spending the weekend in Manchester, after searching for church where I could give thanks, I decided on the Manchester Cathedral. At the very least, because I am a confirmed Anglican, I can also partake in the Holy Communion.
Books and pamphlets
I arrived just as the choir were doing a processional hymn and I was offered a hard-covered green book and two pamphlets.
It took a while for me to catch on about what I needed to do to follow the service. I thought the book was a bible and the hymns were in the pamphlet, but then I realised it was the other way round. It appears the laity are allowed to participate in the singing and recitations but the bible and its interpretation is the job of the clergy.
A modern-day version of the Levitical priesthood, at least in the church setting. However, the readings between Isaiah and Matthew heralded the coming of Jesus Christ and it did not occur to me until this morning that Galilee was of the Gentiles and not of the Jews, much as it might have had a significant Jewish population.
The old and new
As we service progressed, I found that my knowledge was based on the Book of Common Prayer (1662) but the recitations were based on Common Worship (2000), I suddenly realised I am quite old school, Old English, cut from Ancient and Modern practice. Christ! I was confirmed 33 years ago.
It appears my ‘thou helpeth me as I prayeth to thee, O God’ was no more the vernacular, where have I been all this time as the Church of England moved on?
At Communion, I did not drink from the cup, rather, I dipped my wafer in the wine, this I learnt from the fear of catching colds or flus, how we have been seized upon but such modern ideas.
Water and tea
At the end of the service, I join the congregation for tea and then made conversation with a lady who happened to walk in with a watering can in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.
Mischievously, I quipped about how unusual that combination was as she watered the flowers that should have gone into the nave but for constraints of time before the service.
She had the office of the Head of Flowers and to me that was just as much a calling and ministry as any in the church. That is something I miss about church when I was in Amsterdam and in London when I attended C3 Church, there was always something to get involved in, the ushering or the cleaning up was always a pleasure.
For convenience of travel in London, I recently started attending Hillsong London that meets at the Dominion Theatre, which offers the choice of one of four services on Sunday, though, I think I would just find a church to attend on Sunday and critically, it must reflect the community in which it is set.

Opinion: My Views About That Human Trafficking Exclusive

Revisiting that story
I did think I should do a piece about my reading of the Premium Times piece about Human Trafficking by the investigative journalist Tobore Ovuorie.
A few days have passed since I first read the story, and I have been able in some way to begin to appreciate some of the detail shared in that four-part piece.
Now, I am driven to write this now because Ikhide R. Ikheloa, who we all fondly refer to as Pa Ikhide on social media has raised some rather pertinent questions as to where this narrative lies between fact and fiction.
Healthy scepticism
Indeed, one should harbour a healthy scepticism towards such incredible stories and challenge many assumptions by posing some serious questions that need clear and detailed answers.
This is importantly part of the verification process, yet, some stories because they are narratives possibly taken without the convenience of notes, but a debrief after a traumatic experience might suffer the conflicts between the trusting part of taking it at face value and the verifying which is somewhat a distrusting it with closer scrutiny.
I would not rewrite Pa Ikhide’s piece here, rather, it is pertinent people read that along with other narratives and make up their minds.
Follow the money
On my reading of Tobore Ovuorie’s story, a number of things jumped out at me that made me feel that the matter of man’s gross inhumanity to man is an extant evil fuelled by the quest for filthy lucre and no particular care for anyone who gets trampled on in the process.
If I were to go by the catchphrase, ‘Follow the money’, as a breadcrumb trail through this Hansel and Gretel forest of narratives, I see two trails, one paid up by the mafia that smooths everything from the acquisition of willing victims, through their inductions, the officialdom that provides passports, passage and providence, to the inability for many victims to extricate themselves because of the rotten contracts they sign, signing off their lives.
The love of money
The second trail is that which cajoles and beguiles the victims who believe in the possibilities that the mafia gang promises in great returns from making it out of a difficult Nigeria to Europe where the pickings – yes, pickpocketing was a new one to me and the macabre organ harvesting was even more gruesome.
However, when I read of what informs the Nigerian psyche of success in the acquisition of things as cars, building houses, partying with the powerful, money being passed around in jute bags and the apparent hierarchies of progression through the system, I am persuaded to err on the side of plausibility.
The risks
Having lived in Amsterdam, I did a quick check for where ZAM Chronicle purports to operate from, and I am quite concerned and at the same time interested that a journalistic outfit would choose to site their offices under a railway arch at Tussen de Bogen 66, 1013 JB Amsterdam.
However, the bigger question which Pa Ikhide raised is about the risks Tobore Ovuorie took and the willingness for all the parties to this enterprise to allow the journalist to go through this activity which carried the possibility of her losing her life. I ask, do we have war correspondents? Is reporting from a war zone a carnival? Do reputed news organisations send people on such projects? Do we lose journalists in war zones?
Considering, the number of witch doctors that suggested she might bring bad fortune to the business, and the tale that two of such harbingers of bad omen were taken for the slaughter in the presence of the ladies about to be trafficked, the venture was careless bordering on recklessness, but then, it is possible from a Western perspective to measure risk in those terms and yet realise that none of this story would have been possible without the willingness to entertain this possibility.
Mighty dread
Much as I am wont to believe the best of everyone, I could very well see in the more African or Nigerian context where the outrageously outlandish seeking excoriation and sanction is an everyday issue and I would not be surprised if Tobore Ovuorie’s motivations were as compelling as she proffers, informed from watching her friend expire from an AIDS-related illness some 14 years before. She had the antecedents, the possibility came, and the opportunity presented itself for her to embark on this venture, and for that, I seriously commend her.
In this story, I see what Lord Lugard in his rotten assessment of Africans in 1922.
The religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural.
There was lots of fetishist activity and the use of the dread of the supernatural to terrify the ladies about to be trafficked into compliance either by the ritual or the murders for organ harvesting. I would think the organs were harvested for ritual purposes rather than for medical procedures. The evil and savagery was palpable.
Used and dumped
Again, having lived in Amsterdam where prostitution is legal and regulated, the people in the trade have access to social, legal and medical support whilst those seemingly trafficked to other parts of Europe simply had utility when healthy and were dumped when their health failed without respite or care.
Such was the fate of Tobore Ovuorie’s friend who died of AIDS-related Kaposi Sarcoma, this is a type of skin cancer and it is the same cancer that killed Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Worst still is the heartlessness of the trafficking mafia that had no concern for the deterioration of health of their victims, that once their vile chattels stopped earning money, they were discarded.
The pain and agony of cancer is something I have once experienced, this cancer is treatable though the treatment is expensive, first with Antiretrovirals and then chemotherapy. It goes without saying that the trafficked were used like animals, they engaged with unsafe sex which some punters would have preferred, they contracted HIV and probably passed it on to others without once thinking about it – that is if they even knew that they were infected.
The system is paid up
Before I entertain the needed healthy scepticism at Tobore Ovuorie’s story and the many unanswered questions that need to be addressed promptly, the deeper core of my humanity suggests many are probably going through worse than Tobore Ovuorie attempted to share, and one can only wonder about the even more unprintable backstories that inform this sordid human trafficking enterprise.
This is the system we are up against, bought and sustained on the lives of many with no name sacrificed to this evil activity of human trafficking.
Don’t worry about crossing borders and getting caught,” she had told me. “Immigration, customs, police, army and even foreign embassies are part of our network. You only run into trouble with them if you fail to be obedient to us.
This alone shows why the risks were taken and possibly how the moneyed, the powerful and the influential are turning a blind eye to this, because, they are the system.
The real fight
Our altruistic desire that the institutions we have from law enforcement, through non-governmental organisations, the international aid organisations, our governments, politicians and representatives engage in abolishing the human trafficking should take us back to a historical parallel and the length of time it took to abolish the slave trade.
As long as great profits are there to be made from human lives sold and traded like dirt, much as the truth is critical, the reality of just one conscripted into this evil enterprise should inform our desire to eradicate these narratives from either the fact or the fiction of our humanity.

Sensory perceptions of silencing smoke alarms

A clarion to slumber
When I first heard the sound, it was like my mind was playing with me, I came from deep within my slumber at the point where the effects of my medication were beginning to exhibit that stoned feeling. It was just after 2:00AM
Then as someone who regularly sleeps with lights on and sound in the background, I began the process of elimination, trying to determine where the sound was coming from.
There was no urgency, yet my life could have depended on it as I checked my phones and pressed a button; the sound stopped. It was not another minute before the sound started again and it still did not occur to me in my half wakened state that it could be more serious.
Like a cricket hunt
In my mind, I thought I was the source of the annoying sound, so as I moved around the room as if to echo-locate the source of the sound, I pressed the power button on my laptop and the sound stopped momentarily before it started again. This time I switched off the laptop and it began to dawn on me something more serious was afoot.
The sound very much like the chirping of a cricket and those who know, know that it is nigh on impossible to locate a cricket in a room by its chirping sound, except if you are dog-eared.
That might be an alarm, I thought, so I phoned reception and no one picked up the phone, my heightened senses now primed for escape, I dressed up for the cold, and properly dressed and presentable I was, as I grabbed my cane and my hat and stepped out of my room, not forgetting my hotel room key.
Comforted I was
Located on a mezzanine floor and at the very end of a long corridor, I had earlier noted where the fire escapes were, I would be descending 6 floors in total, but I was comforted by the sight of a uniformed member of staff at the other end of the corridor, making it down the stairs.
No one seemed to be in panic mode as they called the lift, but I needed to be sure it was not my senses playing games with my reasoning. I hailed the security man and he assured me there was nothing wrong, that I could return to bed.
Not by half, I do not sleep that well to have my sleep disrupted so flippantly that I could roll over and shut eye back into slumber-land at the flick of a switch, neither was my mind ready for work, I had to step out.
You don’t say
Apparently, a guest, (Room 318?) whilst having a shower and how it adds up escapes me, there was a leak which entered the fire alarm system in the room below and yes, it was the fire alarm that went off when I was pressing keys in my room thinking the sound was centred on my own little world.
What was more upsetting was the realisation that I did not realise that it was a fire alarm and that I should have gotten out of my room at the earliest opportunity to safety.
My reflex, my conditioning, my alertness all deprecated by reason of medication and almost being too smart for myself. This requires a radical readjustment in my conditioning. Strangely, I have a way to compensate for this kind of situation, I know now that when I hear this sound, I should err on the side of caution, thinking it is warning of a fire before I start engaging my brain in the stupid exercise of endangering myself.
Alright now
One can rationalise and beat oneself up afterwards, but there are things you do not trifle with, fire alarms, for instance.
As for sleep, maybe in another hour, I would have had that before this gets published because, this was first drafted away from the hotel at about 4:30AM.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Thought Picnic: And At The End of the First Week

Logjam of blogs
It is one of those weeks where you find that many events that require some commentary have been left to bunch up into an almost insurmountable task. Yet, the thoughts of what to do would continue to percolate in the mind until the time is right.
At least, that is how I feel, for there is a blog I think I should write about workplace stress and another which was inspired by the terrifying horror of the human trafficking business in Nigeria.
The horror alone
The latter written with palpable graphic detail challenges issues of values, priorities, culture, traditions, money and a system that exacerbates the atrocious abuse and heinous murder of others without any sense of restraint.
For now, please read Tobore Ovuorie’s ordeal as published in the Premium Times, a four-part series on Human Trafficking and realise that we have bigger problems in Nigeria than the distractions that regularly exploit our religiosity so unconscionably.
An avoidable death
On workplace stress, I posted a number of tweets in relation to the unfortunate demise of television presenter after whose demise we learnt of serious health issues quite indicative in West Africans, hypertension, stress and heart disease.
It would appear the warning signs were clear enough to make serious life, lifestyle and work-life adjustments but the young man pressed on, taking on the pressures and struggles until his heart gave up – it is a very sad tale and it serves as indicator to many of us – know when to walk away, know when to walk away with your life and whatever you have left of it. That is for another blog.
Getting into the flow
My week at work was interesting, an extensive learning and adjustment process as we bonded in my team and got to appreciate better the task we have ahead of us.
Whilst I have many ideas whirling around in my head, I have to curb my exuberance and enthusiasm, because there are reasons why things are the way they are, yet, there are even bigger persuasive reasons why things need to be looked at from a different perspective. It is early days yet.
The bed-hopping has started again, I am already in my third hotel in a week, and it would probably take a few more weeks before I finally find a place I can settle down in and live.
A good start
In the first week however, our mobile phones, laptops and basic accounts have been sorted out, we have an induction on Monday and that would presage the creation of privileged access to certain areas but actual and virtual.
I would say, it was a good week and with this blog out of the way, I can begin to work on the others, soon.
Thank you to everyone who helped ensure this week went well, I owe you more than I have ever given my heartfelt gratitude for. Bless you all.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Squaring the wheel

Out and about
Earlier than usual, the day started that I only had time for a shower and dressing up before making out to work without breakfast.
As we prepared for our meeting and conference, the idea that we could have breakfast before this fell through as time caught up with us without even a second for a Starbucks latte.
We found a room, and we entered a conference that had the first 15 minutes doing introductions, we were that many and it appears we would be interacting with many of them over the next few weeks and months.
Tinker bells
Meanwhile, I got the rights to look into what had been crafted for the UK, there is a danger that the wheel is being reinvented and in the process a perfectly efficient wheel is being underutilised.
I appreciate that technical people can be insufferable tinkerers with the impression that they can always craft something better than what has taken year-man-hours of amazing minds with untrammelled exposure to environments and scenarios too diverse to fathom, but I say, you must always determine what the tool can do before you retool.
Yet, I am learning, listening, reading, assimilating and appreciating what has been done before, lessons abound.
Reflection on inflection
Starbucks lattes after the conference, after lunch where we indulged in tuck shop cakes which became the desserts to a better prepared Italian pasta meal. The chef should probably stop experimenting with other cuisine.
The verdict from the conference was, too many assumptions abound and we need to challenge all those assumptions until each issue is clearly defined, understood, agreed upon and signed off.
That was the end of another day apart from getting clarifications between our signed contracts and the scheduling – what a relief, to all concerned.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Indulge Incidence

Ingress into
All our focus is geared towards a three-hour conference call with our colleagues in South Africa tomorrow morning.
Much as we might have many questions to frame and scope what we have to do, my view is that we be more the listening party than the talking party.
In fact, even when we should seek clarification, it is somewhat important to allow with consideration and patience everything to be said whilst we take notes and contextualise issues.
Incubate indicate
The day started slowly as we reviewed the agenda over Starbucks lattes ensconced in high-backed privacy seats with cushions to either prop us up or give some support to our backs. Usually, these places are taken up that we sit around ready to pounce on a place that comes free.
We are in danger in getting bored as it is early days, I would say we savour the moment because when things start we might be squeezing 36-hour days into typically 8-hour working days offset by the two-hour time zone ahead where South Africa resides.
Our laptops arrived in the morning, all stops pulled and favours cashed in, ready for our mailboxes to be flooded with idea, indication, intention, invention and interjection as we respond with interest and inquiry hoping that our induction has adequately invested us with information.
Insight ingénue
This would probably all be down to introductions first and the much that would follow. The first design activity we embarked on was to craft our email signatures from the template provided by the boss, obviously with a personal touch.
Some observations mean that our minds would be active with suggestions to bring finesse to some wonderfully crafted solutions before I start squinting at logs to divine what has gone into the some products being tested at present.
Insipid ingestions
The apparently Chinese meal I had prepared at the restaurant was served in a dish best reserved for Italian pasta which meant using chopsticks was almost impossible, and after the rice was stirred into the black bean sauce, we were closer to risotto than oriental fare – this barely made a passing grade.
That is not to talk of the coleslaw yesterday which scored average for my colleague which in my view was almost too generous a compliment – you ask – how do you get coleslaw wrong? Apparently, you can, and to add insult to injury, we paid for it. That it did not presage a sick-bag moment must be credit to our incredibly robust constitution.
And so, tomorrow is another day with thanks.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Hands of favour

Bless my soul
The favours I have obtained I can only be so grateful for, from those who open their hands to those offered their time, it is like a time of blessing for which I must be very thankful.
For the end of the last day at my accommodation did start in darkness, darkness for work was being done on the pylons. In fact, that was twice experience for the morning had a cut-out too when a new generator was being installed.
There wasn’t much to do in the dark than to snuggle under the duvet until the lights returned just about an hour later.
Peaceful the night was as ensconced in the room one did nothing else but for the pill time. Sleep was restful for the day to come which started as early as just after six.
No small town
As I prepared, a message came offering a lift to work; not one I could refuse and one I gladly accepted as we met at the tail end of my breakfast.
Traffic in this small town in the morning is close on horrendous whilst parking at the grounds of the stately home that represents the campus of offices was almost fraught, a sea of cars as far as the eye could see in the almost 15 car parks littering the place – it was hardly 5 minutes past 9.
Getting a scope
We met with our manager and then made for our new desks where we covered a number of agenda issues we would be discussing on a telephone conference with the antipodeans of Africa on Thursday.
The much it appears we have to do is obscured by the lack of clarity as to who, what and how the people we would service will be affected. So many bridges we would have to cross but we cannot cross those bridges until we reach those rivers.
Yet, as introductions go, we are getting the feel of how far technology would go but the bigger issue would be with people, process, procedure and politics.
The important thing is to know what to engage and when to escalate, striking a balance of compromise and coercion. In my view, this would be quite interesting and great fun.
Useful conversation
Over cups of Starbucks lattes we talked and considered, assumed and then debunked those assumptions, we should be weary of crystal balling the issues when we should ask direct questions and only be satisfied with clear answers.
My new place, smaller than the last was a comforting welcome and then the offer to take me to the shops to get things I might need, very generous and affable, you then realise that travel is the source of knowledge to share in making really wonderful conversation.
Pleasant, it was and yet, this is only the second day. With thanks I look forward to the next.

Monday 20 January 2014

Thought Picnic: The Beginning Begins

Beyond access is action
Interest, inquiry, intention, invocation and intervention greeted the circumstances that presaged my arrival at my new project that began with an absence of any means but hope.
Difficult as it seemed the options one had were few and answers not forthcoming apart from some interest and some inquiry.
None of those took the issue forward and sometimes it made ones condition worse because it was fertile ground for worry that presaged stress where in fact its presence did not help matters than precipitate the apparent rut one was in.
So, for those, with as much courtesy as one could muster, one closed those lines down. Now, that is not to say one is not bothered, it is just that just productive came of it.
Beyond acquisition is acceleration
One decision however one had to avoid, in fact, it was never an option, the opportunity was to be taken and the nuclear option which could bring much hardship, the subject of many news stories by those caught in the need to do desperate things.
The seconds ticked away into hours and the time closed in, and then the help one desired came, just in the nick of time and before one set out on the journey that was a little under four hours.
We arrived to comment, comfort and compassion, composed and collected, the night passed restfully though with connections that failed.
Beyond acquaintance is acquisition
The day began refreshingly, well and expectantly, fed and helped we arrived to introductions and interactions, a long discussions of why and where framed the scope of what was expected of us.
This would be interesting and all thanks to what resulted from invocation, then one supposes part of what appears to irritate was to address the conscience and it could be uncomfortable.
The light and the night was the first day, with gratitude and more. Thank you.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Opportunity, Lack and Situation - Help!

Look up
You sometimes find yourself at a place where you literally have no answers to the problems you face that what is left to do is look up.
Looking up is important because it is the best response to preventing a situation where you are overwhelmed with the gravity of your circumstances.
At the same time you hope that a bit of detachment would present a light of inspiration and insight, maybe an idea or an indication of what path you should take.
That is where I find myself having exhausted the opportunities that I mentioned yesterday as I spoke with the social services who put up as many hurdles as they could so as not to help in my re-engagement.
After almost 3 hours of discussions and disputing, we agreed that they would defray transport costs but that is just one of the many scenarios I face.
I have no accommodation and no means of subsistence for the possibly first two weeks of work, and that presents a dangerously precarious situation that might impact on my ability to take up this new opportunity.
Much as I try not to think about it, I realise that there is little time left, it is crunch time, a case of the great warmth of sunshine in the daytime obscured by thunderstorm clouds raining cats and dogs with no shelter to run into.
The wind as boisterous as to lay waste the purpose of an umbrella, yet one can only hope because that provides the possibility of something and something good always happens to me.
That is how I find to smile to dress up my face even when turmoil swirls around me. This is one of those difficult personal blogs that you just realise must be written because it matters too.

Friday 17 January 2014

Thought Picnic: From Welfare to Well Being

The system we have
Ahead lies opportunity when it appears that one’s hand is shortened to grasp it. I sometimes feel like I have exhausted the channels that I once readily appealed to for a fillip.
The first few weeks of a new posting are not the easiest and when it is far away from home some things usually taken for granted are harder to manage from subsistence to accommodation and other essential things.
We have a system to tide us over during times of unemployment, it is the welfare state, hardly generous but useful. The system is primed to frustrate us off the queue with subtle tactics, like visiting our advisors weekly, filling in job search activity forms, attending courses that belittle you, but you persevere.
The system we work
In the process, you learn better job search skills in the hope that this help can become a thing of the past, and it does for some of us. They could not wait to get rid of us.
There are guidelines in terms of looking for work, I went further afield, looked at more options and presented myself for as many activities as I could.
I attended interviews until became routine, some stretched on, some gave feedback but most came back with disappointing news but one did not relent.
Now, I have an offer, one that took a month from the time of the interview to the signing of the contract to complete.
The system we leave
It is far away from home so I have to relocate but that is two weeks of scrimping and scraping before the first remuneration comes in.
You are then caught in the midst of a promise of opportunity and the lurking inability to do much about it.
One would think those who want us off the queue would open-handedly offer something to see the back of us. Fat chance!
The system we trust
Yes, we need to do the paperwork that we are coming off welfare but moving from welfare to wellbeing is like they are telling me, you’re on your own.
I go for a meeting now just to see whether much can be done, I get a loan or for the worst possible option, reject the offer because I cannot get there to start.
I am hopeful, the better would come of this.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Thought Picnic: Comfort and comforting

Where is it?
Making it out to the hospital for my quarterly check-ups was a bit fraught as I literally turned the room upside-down looking for my Oyster travel card.
I mentally know where I put it but having had some cleaning up done in the room by someone else, things might have been moved and hence the bit of an upheaval.
In the end, I had to use a spare Oyster travel card, but that meant a call to the hospital that I would be running a little later than the scheduled appointment.
Don’t cry
My doctor was duly informed as I arrived some 10 minutes late and waited in the waiting room to be called.
There sat a beautiful and quite tastefully dressed lady almost opposite me, and as she contemplated and collected her thoughts, her face contorted, and she began to cry, that was quite upsetting for me.
So, I approached her and asked if she was fine, she responded and composed herself for not even a minute before she started to cry again.
I went to sit beside her and tried to comfort her, holding her hand, she had received a diagnosis just two days before, and she was lost about the realisation that this was life-changing and possibly a life sentence.
She did not know if she could tell her parents and she was very scared, each concern she had very valid and understandable, so I started with my own story.
Care to share
I learnt of my own status over 11 years ago and before me lay difficult choices and decisions, some that I tackled and others I ignored until my health deteriorated precipitously in 2009 leading to a cancer diagnosis. With that came the possibility that I would be gone in 5 weeks, yet in December I celebrated my 5th birthday after diagnosis.
Fear, is a natural response that we all can entertain, but we need to decide what to do with that emotion, be frozen in despair or gain new determination beyond it.
This situation calls for primary concerns, first to yourself, your well-being, your happiness and then your extended support circle which might or might not include your relations. However, it is left for your relations to decide if they would reaffirm their love and care or walk away but that should not occupy one’s mind.
Learn and accept
I advised her to keep to the regimen of drugs prescribed, ensure she understands all the intricacies of the tests, what they mean and how the outcomes impact other decisions she might have to make in the future.
Most importantly, I told her, we are where we are today and what she must begin to do is gain acceptance of her diagnosis, in doing so, she would have the opportunity to look beyond the present and commence the new pursuit of happiness, living her life to the full.
During this session, the nurse had arrived for her but did not disturb us until I finished. I do hope she would have gained the strength to face things beyond the tears she shed today. I believe she would.
Soon afterwards, my doctor called me in and as we reviewed the tale of the bloods, one indicator that had stuck on a low reading for years finally exceeded a number I last saw in 2005.
All other indicators looked good too, what is there not be thankful and grateful for? To help, to comfort, to share and then to hear good news – that is the essence of life, even though we carry in ourselves the sentence of death, we do not live like we are dying, but live in the fullness of knowing that this one life we have is worth living well.

Opinion: To Be A Homosexual in Africa Today

The freedoms I have
Sometimes I forget that privileges and conveniences I have by reason of birth and location, taking many things for granted that many others desire to see, if they can beyond, the next hour.
The life I have today I cherish, the health I have has been a constant blessing - each day I desire the world is a better place for all people, sadly, for some, each day is a worse hell than the day before.
I have no answers to many of these problems, but I hope for the few I meet, I can seed a word of hope, some encouragement and maybe more to brighten them up towards the things they face.
Justified to do justice
Yet, I have watched as people secure in the sense of who they think they are from their religion, their status, their morality, their identity or their beliefs of superiority bray like an irate mob to consume those who are different.
They have found an easy outlet of convenience, justified in their words and deeds to act in the stead of God and culture to remove from their communities those that do not conform.
The hatred dripping from their fangs like vampires after a feast of bloody abandon, they have whipped up a frenzy of hysteria; we must protect our values from corruption, but the corruption they perceive has always been part of our humanity, from the time there was the opportunity between people to find affection and express that affection as intimately as they dare to care.
Difference and diversity
Before the law that instructs about whether things we right or wrong, we existed almost oblivious of each other yet enjoyed the brotherhood and neighbourliness of our humanity until knowledge came of how different we were.
Some celebrated and embraced our diversity, others exploited and exacerbated our differences, the former was the selfless act of love in the mould of the Good Samaritan, and the latter was the selfish act of hatred giving scope for unimaginable evil.
Yet, we are allowed the courage of our convictions to take the easy path of convenience and follow the crowd of thoughts that would ostracise the other to belong to the many.
We have schooled ourselves to not acquiesce, groomed ourselves never to tolerate, and decided we cannot accommodate those that are to our thinking different, bad, dangerous, evil, degenerate, repulsive, hell-bound and condemned.
A fellow human being
Such is the homosexual to many of us, a fellow human being, who should if we had our way never be fellow, nor dare to be human for their being does not deserve to walk the streets we walk.
But think on this matter; in any population on the face of the earth and the diversity that each unit when compartmentalised might contain, anything from 1% to 10% or more would be so radically different from us – shall we treat them like dogs for their status, their race, their tribe, their handicap, their sexuality, their speech, their beliefs, their views, their culture, their lifestyles, their origin, their mix, their loves, their hates and much else?
Then think on this, if you belonged to any minority where the tyranny of the majority reigned supreme to blackmail, to persecute, to bully, to prosecute, to excoriate, to condemn, to lynch and to put to death.
That is the unbearable existence of the gay African (a fellow human being) in their hostile communities; anything up to and possible more than 80 million* Africans who have always lived in Africa and hardly been exposed to influences outside Africa are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual, they have nowhere to go but to live in Africa, where they belong, by birth and by right.
*[The 80 million figure is an estimate of possibly 8% of the total population not being heterosexual. More references appear below the blog.]
Worst examples of leadership
The purpose of leadership in the face of vulnerable minorities is not to accentuate the differences amongst the people they lead that would persecute the few, but to demonstrate the magnanimous virtues of maturity, to offer all the protections of the law possible and to moderate all their expressed views and actions to minorities amongst them.
This is the failure of leadership we have witnessed in politics and governance being demonstrated in pandering to populist demagoguery, for the truth is that homosexuals have always been amongst us in Africa until someone found some political gain in pointing fingers at them.
The almost 80 million African homosexuals are not going to disappear overnight because some law has been promulgated to the glee and satisfaction of the majority.
What are you doing?
The lynching of homosexuals in streets near you, where you have given your support to depriving your own fellow citizen and countryman of life by your words, your actions or your silence would not eliminate them.
By God, if sexuality were a matter of choice like one could change clothes, homosexuals would definitely wear different clothes from what they wear now to conform and be assimilated into your norm.
For all those that debate and contend that homosexuality is a choice and a lifestyle, if you walked a long hard mile in the shoes of a homosexual, your choice and lifestyle would be that of a heterosexual but we have enough science to prove that homosexuality is as set as the colour of your skin – you can tone or tan your skin, but you cannot change your race.
Address your humanity
As we acquiesce to the 21st Century extermination of the African homosexual, each one of almost 80 million of them, the lives lost in World War I which we celebrate the centenary of this year and those lost in World War II combined, along with the gruesome evil of the Holocaust, would not begin to number close to the task of ridding ourselves of this homosexual menace.
This is not about the West, this is about our own, our own people, fellow human beings, their lives, their livelihoods, their existence, their pursuit of happiness, all quietly seeking to fulfil their potential in their own countries, provinces, states and communities, like any other person born into this world desires, given the opportunity.
If you for a moment were homosexual, what would you do?
Address your humanity and with that see the humanity in others.
Thank you.
Other readings