Wednesday 30 April 2014

Essential Snobbery 101: The rules on suit buttons

Insufferable me
I generally tend to attire myself formally or semi-formally, this seems to revolve around the suit or the jacket with certain accessories as the tie for the office and the day cravat for other occasions, the pocket square without it being too flamboyant. I feel quite comfortable in what I wear.
I worked in the City in the 1990s, I wear hats too, first a thin-brimmed fedora until I walked into a millinery in Cologne where I took to wearing a porkpie hat with the front pulled down so it looks almost like a fedora. It is quite a nice fitting.
In the really cold winter months, my bowler hat is a trusted ally in the wind and preserves the warmth on my head, very unusual but quite fetching I’ll say.
Judged on appearance
Grooming and appearance says a lot about a man and nothing annoys me more than the ignorance of the rule about buttons on a jacket.
Sir Hardy Amies, the late dress designer for the Queen once said, “Never trust a man who does all buttons on his jacket up.” Sadly, much as I try to be forgiving about the lack of attention to this particular detail, some distrust of strangers and known people does creep in when that rule is broken.
Learn the rules
The bottom button is never done up amongst other snooty rules of class, bearing, breeding, comportment and deportment.
There is a dignity to knowing what is right at the very least, but I would leave the detail to Art of Manliness Suit School: Part III – A Primer on Suit Buttons.
With the detail and the pictures, I hope I would not be assailed by the erroneous sloppiness that makes the better formality of a clothes horse look like the jackets on a frog that I see daily on my commute and at work.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Opinion: For meetings that work

For meetings that work
Normally, I would tweet about this, but it behoves me to write a blog to accompany what the basic tweet would not do as efficiently as I would like it to.
A few days ago, you might have read a blog that appeared to suggest I hate meetings, having compared and contrasted the Dutch and English culture of office and team meetings.
Meetings do have a purpose, for interaction to create some familiarity between people, to share knowledge, gain understanding or give clarity and purpose to some venture so everyone appreciates intent, desire, context, theme, tone and drive of any undertaking.
Make clear with example
These meetings begin to lose their purpose when they have no agenda, when people ramble on and there is no control or when the simple language of communication is obfuscated with jargon.
Now, I tend to use very basic analogies to create a picture in the minds of the listeners to gain some effect, it is my way of carrying everyday experience into the seriousness of a situation with the hope that listeners would gain immediate realisation without wasting too many words. Probably, they get overused, but in many cases, I would see heads nodding in some understanding of what was said.
Not the English we know
What gets to me is jargon, the superfluity of endless nonsensical jumble of words that have become the stock of many management-types who have learnt this odious communication slant and threaten to bring everyone into speaking with the same vocabulary.
I was in a taxi cab with two work colleagues the other day, we were brought together by the need to share a cab since we were going to the same place, the conversation could have been as casual as any if they attempted to speak in plain English, but it was not long before I was lost to incredulity and bafflement.
I heard words I could for the life of me begin to understand even if I were to use the context of the sentence to elicit what the word pertained to. They were English words alright, but not used in the way standard English dictionaries define them.
Jargon is not cool
The conversation was suffused with business jargon that I was as perplexed as to wonder if people did have to go out and learn this stuff to sound knowledgeable and express a level of commendable expertise in some subject.
In my view, nothing beats the command of English that makes proper use of words, idioms and sayings, all of which the well-read would understand and the less so can at least reference somewhere and gain understanding.
That this kind of rotten jargon has crept into interviews has been a headache for me, some encounters have been so uncomfortable just because I do not speak the lingo. I state here with as must clarity as I can, I do not want to learn the lingo much as I do not use expletives that people are shocked if certain circumstances lead to my blurting out one.
Banish its usage
How much I would have liked to contribute to The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary, but I do not have an inkling about most of the jargon I have heard in the past few months.
There probably is no shame in asking a direct question or when washed down with a torrent of jargon, ask just what they really mean. “What do you really mean by that?” If after a couple of attempts there is still no clarity, then ask for a plain English explanation not forgetting to say, without the jargon.
Consign to oblivion
The curators of The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary have said, “We can only hope that you're not here to actually add buzzwords to your vocabulary.” This is not the time to impress with stupidity.
Meanwhile, if anyone knows what ‘steer’ in business jargon means, add to this dictionary. I know it does not mean to control or direct (verb) nor does it mean a castrated male bovine animal (noun), yet in context, I have heard it used as a verb and a noun. It is so annoying.
Let us work to consign jargon to oblivion.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Thought Picnic: For all that

Beyond that
There was a week when confusion and chaos reigned that fed into a week where confidence surged creating a sense of contentment.
Happy was the feeling and restful was the night, because thoughts and dreams were not occupied with the what’s, the how’s, the why’s and the where’s.
Above that
Such is the sense of fulfilment that almost sets you up for new challenges or other possibilities.
In essence, I try not to cross my bridges until I am at the bridge, because one can only prepare for so much, anticipate an eventuality or appreciate so much of the reality of a situation, without foreknowledge or prescience.
Imagine that
The reality when you see the bridge, hear the roar of water coursing the gorge ahead an below or the freshness of the air is sometimes different from imagined or considered.
This is where the ability to adapt and respond effectively is the result of experience and the presence of initiative. Sometimes it is just sheer luck, raw providence or unexpected provenance that colludes to make all the pieces fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle.
Thankful that
In all, you are grateful that the end of one challenge opens the way for a new one as lessons are learnt for now and posterity.

Friday 25 April 2014

Why? The Big Question With Unacceptable Answers - Homelessness Amongst Young LGBT BME Persons

Why? The Big Question with Unacceptable Answers.
This was my response to a question that Bisi Alimi posed on Facebook after he revealed a statistic about the percentage of homelessness amongst LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual) young persons of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups between the ages of 16 to 25 in London.
As a member of the Stonewall Housing Board (SHB), he noted that 75% of the young persons seeking housing support from the SHB were of African, Asian and Caribbean descent.
He closed his comment with, “My people, why would anyone in 2014, drive out a child in Britain just cos (sic) of their sexuality? Why?
No acceptable excuse
In my humble opinion, I cannot find any excuse that any parent in any situation or circumstance can give, regardless of what they believe or the positions and status they hold in society or in their community that would justify their unreasonable and unconscionable loss of humanity, humaneness, parental affection and responsibility to their child.
To throw a child on the streets at a vulnerable stage of their lives because of the discovery of their sexuality that does not seem to fit a construct they expect is heartless at best and downright evil.
Not the end of the world
Whilst very little can prepare parents for the realisation that their child is LGBT, it cannot be the end of the world and it should not be made the end of the world of the child.
The station of parent demands great responsibility and many situations challenge the capacity of parents to hold that responsibility with stoicism and courage, but a parent is what a parent should remain - understanding, supportive, protective and hardest of all, accepting.
It is hard enough for the child realising that they are different for all sorts of reasons with the possibility that they feel that the world is against them.
Sexuality is rarely taught
More pertinently, the child having grown up under guardianship in most cases cannot have been nurtured into homosexuality living in an environment where heterosexuality is the situational norm, which can lead to the conclusion that sexuality is innate and natural rather than learnt.
Then again there are children who have been reared in a same-sex parentage who are naturally heterosexual – it really is not the end of the world.
Children are not clones
Sadly, the truth is parents have to get to grips with stark realities about their children, they would be distinct, different, individual, distinguishable and accomplished in so many diverse ways, they would assume our likeness beyond which their character, temperament, imaginations, dreams, abilities, sexuality and whatever else that makes up a human being indicate they are not clones of ourselves.
That BME groups would remove parental protection on account of the sexuality of their child is beneath contempt, but I am thankful that organisations like the SHB exist to help, by providing shelter, protection, opportunity and a brighter future.
Many of these homeless child will in spite of and despite the actions of their parents find their own way, and though they might be bitter and helpless now, it is not like these children do not have a bigger heart of humaneness and compassion that would put their parents to shame.
The Story of Chris
I share a story about such a person who was thrown out of his home at 15 for coming out to his mother in 1988, and this was in Caucasian family whilst contrasting it with the attitudes of the other siblings.
When a child comes out to their guardian, that is the time to offer some comfort, strength, reasonable guidance and support, it is definitely not the time to wash your hands off the child you brought up and ostracise them by throwing them out of the home.
Any parent who does this should be ashamed of themselves, whether that parent were ever worthy of being one, is a question for another time.
Chris, a son, a man, a person of honour
I first met Chris some 11 years ago, just about a year after we began chatting online.
I cannot say how many people he told his story, but it has been one story that has stuck with me long after his sudden and unexpected demise in late 2009.
He grew up with a single mother and a younger brother when at the age of 15 she threw him out of the house because he came out as gay.
In the late 1980s, that is what most parents tended to do, dump their offspring who under their care and protection just by happenstance appeared to exhibit a same-sex attraction.
Someone else became guardian
Providence shined on Chris because an African-American saw him on the streets and arranged to give Chris a better life and future in America.
There he lived for 6 years, gaining an education and skills before returning to Europe and eventually settling down with a partner in Amsterdam who one day due to mental illness sadly drowned himself in one of the Amsterdam canals.
Chris returned to the UK then and engaged in a number of social and creative activities, in which time his health suffered, but he still had a wonderful outlook to life. That is when I met him.
A son without malice
In early 2006, the mother who dumped him for being gay was very ill, and ironically, of all the children she had, it was Chris she looked to for care and help.
He bore no anger or malice towards her and in February 2006 she died in his arms.
Chris did what was expected of a son and much more, he buried his mother with honour, dignity and respect. For all that he had suffered, he had the warmest heart to care even to the point of denying himself essential care.
A son with a heart
Yet 2006 was a horrible year for him because his father from whom he had been estranged for years and who was atrociously unsympathetic on hearing of Chris' mother's death was dying too.
His father who had many other offspring, at least three much older than Chris with their own children, desired earnestly that Chris be at his bedside.
Chris did not think twice about providing succour to his father who at times past was as nasty and horrid as ever can be, to Chris.
Something informed his father that of all the children he had, only Chris would do right by him.
A worthy son
So when his father died in December 2006, it was Chris that stood in the position of son and man to give his father a befitting funeral.
The child rejected and reviled almost two decades before became the child to honour those who spurned him. His father in his testament bequeathed all his worldly goods to Chris at the expense of the brothers and the grandchildren.
The brothers had the shameless temerity to contest the will, but Chris won in every court of opinion and process.
Chris was one of a kind, a gentle soul whose hard life did no becloud the opportunity to be forgiving and accommodating.
That was the manner of man he was and sadly he died of renal failure in London, in October 2009, a great loss to many who knew him and never will forget what a kind soul he was.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Thought Picnic: Meeting Spaces

Dutch Communion
When I lived in the Netherlands, I used to think meetings were a chore, highly soporific talk shops of near inanity, I suffered.
They are a cultural thing with the purpose being consensus and the achievement being you had spoken, having made your views known regardless of whether it did anything to promote consensus.
The convenor whilst heading the meeting never made unilateral decisions; that just created resentment, some meetings achieved nothing more than the convenience of a séance.
Time for crime
Amongst us was always a contrarian with a tangential thought planted in our midst as an advocate of Lucifer to bring disarray, disorder, distraction, confusion and chaos to the proceedings, it took tact to shut them up with finality.
Back in the UK, much as there is a culture to meetings, and like the Dutch, meetings that could go on until we were found centuries hence, bones of a long lost civilisation giving archaeologist grounds for specious speculation, salvation comes with the need to attend other meetings.
I once asked why we did not have the meetings standing up, they would be done in 10 minutes flat with clear decisions made, discomfort makes for agility and alacrity.
Useless words and sentences
We mostly attend teleconferences now, this links people together from various time zones and cultures.
Whilst in the Netherlands, many speak English murdering with aplomb the rules of grammar that the cringingly loathsome becomes funny and incredulous - accents abound, here, we do converse in English with the generous abuse of spiel, -speak and jargon.
Specious space
Everything as I have recently learnt is a space, we have all sorts of spaces for ideas, objects, plans, events, people, vacuums and dare I say, idiocy, or rather sensible idiocy and tolerable stupefaction.
The space is taken up by the space of fresh manure that an observer might creditably call bullshit. There is space for fertilizer in my garden too.
Yet, for all the space that takes up space in the space the agitates the eardrums, the sound-space does suggest the medium of interaction is the English-space, only that the space for understanding the multitude of words is void of meaningfulness.
Not my kind of English
It is as tortuous as it is desperately tending to intemperance to have to live through it without becoming suicidal, but many subsumed into this space revel in saying so much to say very little. It is English reserve that prevents one from stating the obvious.
At which point you really want to ask as the essential salvation of slumber does not spare you this encounter - Is there space for a little bit of plain-speaking effective communication?
The straw man touching base with his offline priorities can only look up at that point for inspirational Blue-Sky thinking, the kind of thinking that is outside the box.
Why am I in this meeting?

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Opinion: Save the children from these people - Part III - Helen Ukpabio's removal from the UK

A nasty woman
Nothing could have pleased me more than to hear that the self-styled apostle Helen Ukpabio had been bundled out of the UK with no option for future entry.
Helen Ukpabio is notorious for the absurd pseudo-Christian ministry of stigmatising helpless children as practitioners of witchcraft in Nigeria and then conducting macabre exorcisms that brutalise the so accused in ways too evil to depict.
What is most repugnant about her sorcery is having trained as a nurse, she propounds that if children are distressed at night, crying and running high fevers, the said kids are in the employ of Satan.
A religious quack
That anyone would believe this, let alone act on this criminally contemptible quackery is indicative of the mesmerising hold her atrocious doctrine in the name of religion has over an easily manipulated and vulnerable people who can be cajoled into ascribing every misfortune in their lives to some agency of evil spiritual forces.
In the process, stigmatised children have been abused, violated, brutalised, abandoned, starved and sometimes murdered. It sickens beyond anything tolerable that such barbarity finds adherents, supporters and proselytes.
That is why she was in the UK to promote amongst us unconscionably superstitious and animist-like rituals suggestive of questionable Christian provenance.
Frustrate this evil enterprise
From the moment she landed for her odious campaign, activists got onto her case, and had the venue owners hosting her meetings rescind the arrangement, then agitated to have her removed from the country.
Some children suffer enough in the UK due to all sorts of unfortunate, unforgivable and avoidable issues in parenting, care and the system than to have that compounded by the likes of Helen Ukpabio.
Her breakaway from the cultish Brotherhood of Cross and Star to form a ministry that trades in fearful stigmatisation along with the thugs in her ambit who foment violence on those who oppose her views makes her a danger to any community at home or abroad.
Prosecute this to all lengths
The ideal situation would be to close down her theatre of the absurd along with finding ways to make her responsible for the grievous harm committed against children as a result of her influential and abhorrent teachings.
Failing that, deportations, discomfort, disruptions and anything to arrest the abuse of the helpless and innocent in the name of religion must be done.
Helen Ukpabio must be persona non grata in any civilised setting and especially in Nigeria, her activities must be trammelled and supervised to ensure no other child comes to any harm.
She is evil, there are no better words to describe her.
Yet, it is imperative that we save the children from people like Helen Ukpabio who acts irresponsibly with the power she has to convince people of religious absurdities that gross atrocities are committed against defenceless and innocent children.

Opinion: Save the children from these people - Part II - The Boko Haram Abduction of Girls

Abducted and enslaved
In Nigeria, two issues are conflated with a religious dimension to them but the worst of it is the pain of parents not knowing where their children are.
It just makes ones blood run cold that for over a week, about 230 girls were abducted from their boarding school by an extreme religious sect, Boko Haram.
What compounds the issue is that over 40 girls have managed to escape, some during prayers or when they were already pressed into slavery cooking for the terrorists.
We must note that none of the girls have been rescued by the authorities, they escaped and one cannot say if any in the process of escaping have been recaptured by Boko Haram and probably summarily executed for their daring-do, the thought just makes one shudder.
It is just unimaginable
Considering how many of these sorts of religionists have persuaded sexually repressed men to become suicide bombers with the promise of 72 virgins in heaven, one cannot begin to imagine the possibility that the girls are also used as sex slaves and forced into marriage completely against their will and without any justifiability apart from atrocious criminality.
For the principal to say not enough is being done to rescue the girls is not just a damning indictment of the security services, it beggars belief that for a region under a State of Emergency the Boko Haram brigandage literally has writ large to perpetrate unmitigated and untrammelled evil and criminality with fear that they even visited the federal capital with a bomb last week.
What are they doing?
One also asks how it is that the escapees do not seem to have been debriefed to pinpoint where they escaped from and have the encampment surrounded as they lay siege on this rotten escapade.
Yet, one understands that the Nigerian security services are more trigger-happy than considered to be sent into such a domain without it resulting in carnage. What we need is probably people able to contact and negotiate the release of the girls in some sort of quid pro quo arrangement leaving the fighting until another day when there are no hostages at risk.
That the parents had to hire vigilante groups to go after the Boko Haram registers on the scale of extremely unfortunate and beyond words.
Failed by the system
We as Nigerians are sadly constantly failed by a system of leadership and apparatchiks completely bereft of empathy and redolent of their responsibilities we have to do everything for ourselves including go after terrorists to obtain the release of our most precious offspring.
How have we been so accursed with a system that sees no urgency and necessity to be out there, working everything possible to get the girls back is beyond sadness, it is a tragedy.
It is not enough to pray for their release unharmed and unscarred, we need the authorities to assume responsibility and start acting responsibly so that no other lives are put in peril in the quest to get the girls back.
My heart goes out to the girls and their parents along with the staff under whose care they were but would have been helpless against a marauding atrocious and rabid religious mob that has no respect for anything either of humanity or of the deity they claim to worship.
Yet we must save the children from those who have no sense of responsibility in their quest for aims that debase our humanity.

Monday 21 April 2014

Opinion: Save the children from these people - Part I - The South Korean Ferry disaster

The father in me
Maybe just a word or two needs to be said about a number tragedies that have involved children that I have tweeted about lately.
I find myself having never exploited the possibility of having children and now by reason of the effects of chemotherapy possibly having no ability to bear my own children.
That said, age and maturity suggests and imposes on me a sense of both parenthood and grandparenthood that it is impossible for me not to at the very least feel like a parent would about their child or children in every way from the ordinary things of life, the celebration of successes or the unfortunate waves of anxiety and tragedy.
A lost integrity
In faraway South Korea, it was the man-made disaster of a ferry sinking that took with it hundreds of children’s lives as the captain of the ship shirked his responsibility and posed as a victim to get treatment.
Maritime responsibility has changed since the days of the Titanic or before then when the captain, Edward Smith went down with his ship rather than turn up later with crocodile tears asking for forgiveness and what not.
The ethos and integrity of captainship does not seem to have been installed in the captain of Costa Concordia and now MV Sewol, which meant that passengers under their care suffered where they should have been better cared for especially where the accidents in both cases were caused by grave errors of judgement committed by men with character flaws undiscovered until tragedy struck.
English for disasters
There is the other issue about the crew who were both chaotic and indecisive considering it was clear that the situation they were in was beyond redemption. Maybe it is a problem with the Power Distance Index of the Korean language as Malcolm Gladwell observed in his book Outliers with regards to air accidents.
It makes one suggest that in times of an emergency one should dispense with protocols and get straight to the point about what the power is, who it affects, what help is needed and be clear as to how soon they need that assistance.
From what transpired between the crew in the harbourmasters, neither was authoritative nor clear, in the process we have the tragedy of the needless loss of life that could been avoided even if the ship was definitely going to be lost. English offers clarity removing unnecessary hierarchies and probably should become the maritime language of communication as we have for aviation.
Peace, they must find
The agony of the parents unaware of the fact of their children’s watery demise is beyond what words can express, beyond being sorry for their loss, even enforcing the most severe penalties against the cowardly crew would not begin to assuage the pain of the death of the innocents.
May they find strength, comfort and some peace through their faith or any support systems made available to them in these troubling times.
Yet, we must save the children from those who would not assume the responsibility they have in despatching their duties.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Half Of A Yellow Sun - Review of the movie

The flag of the Republic of Biafra - Courtesy of Wikipedia

A history missing
I was born just before the first military coup in the fledgling Federal Republic of Nigeria, far away from the madding cacophony and chaos that presaged the breakdown of order, the massacre of Igbos in the North and the civil war.
We returned to Nigeria, in the year the civil war ended, my parents excited and ready to participate in the new Nigeria led by the military leader Yakubu Gowon, whose surname became the reconciliatory acronym of Go On With One Nigeria.
The history of Nigeria that I did in school ended just after Nigerian independence and took off again after the end of the Civil War. It meant we as Yorubas from the South-West of Nigeria could choose wherever we wanted to live in the country, as we first set up base in Kaduna and then in Jos.
The stories that informed the reasons for the turmoil in the Western Region, the corruption and misgovernment that led to the first and second military coups of 1966 and the swagger of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu were just the subject of folklore.
Making history obvious
The closest I came to appreciating what happened in the Civil War was in the photographs taken by Peter Obe, in a book titled, Nigeria: A Decade of Crises in Pictures (Paperback) which contained iconic and haunting photographs of the Republic of Biafra during the Civil War.
Enter, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a novel that apparently wove the realities of Biafra into a human interest story of everyday lives and how people were affected by the war.
I never read the book, but I have just returned from watching the Half of a Yellow Sun film showing in just one cinema theatre in Manchester.
Having read and watched reviews of the film, it had somewhat prepared me for possible disappointment, but there was a compelling need to see for myself.
Half of a fading sun
The film was well made, the acting superb and worthy of great accolades, but I am not sure if what is said of the novel did translate properly to the screenplay that became the template for the film.
I cannot say that I learnt anything I did not already know of the Republic of Biafra apart from the visual representation of the geographical landmass that constituted Biafra.
The flag of Biafra, composed of a horizontal tricolour with the yellow glow of a rising sun was as optimistic as the braggadocio of the man that led the secession from Nigeria, but one can safely say the sun had already set on Biafra from the get-go.
A warped history
Whether much could have been done to have the original coups more encompassing that it did not seem like an Igbo coup in a futile power grab can be the subject of extensive debate, but the birth of Nigeria as an independent country was as flawed and fractured as it could ever be.
There probably was never a golden dawn of Nigeria beyond the speech that the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa gave on the night we gained independence on the 1st of October, 1960.
A privileged view of the war
However, back to the film, the narratives were unusual and somewhat foreign in my view, as it revolved around two highly educated daughters and their love and family lives.
Thandie Newton playing Olanna with her love interest Odenigbo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and her sister Anika Noni Rose as Kainene with her American husband Joseph Mawle as Richard.
I did not recognise the songstress Onyeka Onwenu for her part as Odenigbo’s mother; times do mature the visage of those one once knew so well, decades ago. Since, I am not a Nollywood fan, the other actors were just actors.
Half of a Yellow Sun in the movie was the Biafran War from the perspective of the very privileged and well-connected in the early 1960’s.
An unfamiliar Nigeria
Throw in infidelity, a love child, an adoption, an interracial marriage and the luxury of being able to pack a bag and drive off in a car when trouble came close, and this became a very different Nigeria from that of those who did see suffering.
The violence and tragedies in the film cannot be said to have done justice to bringing life to a history very few Nigerians born after 1970 know anything about.
Yet, there were two characters that found opportunity by being in privileged surroundings, Ugwu the houseboy who witnessed much, said little and had the benevolence of being sent back to school where at the end of the film we are told became a writer and Baby, the love child who was accepted by Olanna as her daughter and eventually became a medical doctor.
Just a good film
I do not know if the film was to spare us the gruesomeness of the war or it was more intent on the love soap opera at the expense of the war.
Yet, the mind of Odenigbo was interesting enough about his revolutionary zeal and his fearful view of Nigerian identity as was the capitalist machinations of Kainene as a profiteer in the war, who in one of her runs went missing and was never seen again.
A good film in general, but not one to do Nigerian history at a leisurely pace with sweet popcorn and Pepsi Cola.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Thought Picnic: Losing anger to gain more understanding

My little troubles to their deep grief
Just two days ago, I was about to write one of my stroppy blogs having been irked by an event as I returned home from work.
The first piece of news I read as I returned home, shocked me beyond words. At that point I realised that whatever level of pique I had could not in any way compare to the deep tragic grief people most affected by that news could be feeling.
A young mother of two toddlers, the mother who could easily be my daughter had in unexplained circumstances been pronounced dead.
No blame
This woman had only 14 years before lost her mother to unfortunate and tragic circumstances in an inadvertent suicide leaving a 4 daughters, the youngest, the half-sister of the other three, became an orphan, she had lost her father to suicide just a couple of years before. The pain was palpable for even the distant to feel.
Peaches Geldof had died. Yet, in the stories that followed her demise was something so profound about a short and one time wild life, haunted by tragedy and grounded by new reality.
In an interview in 2012, she said of her mother Paula Yates, “I don’t blame her, I’m not angry with her, I understand her… I honestly understand what she was going through.
Between anger and understanding
The emboldened part of that quote was more prominent to me and says a lot about some of the fractured relationships we have with our parents.
With time, I have understood my parents better, yet, some memory crosses my mind at certain times that still brings forth some seething anger.
Then again, Peaches never had the opportunity to talk things over with her mother, to go over the issues that would have pained or haunted her about her mother’s death, she worked through the issues without the option for engagement and got to a point where she could understand well and yet neither blame nor be angry with her mother.
Unresolved to resolution
It behoves us to realise that there are some things we would never get to chat to our parents about, about the past, the present, their decisions, their influences and even their mindsets as they move into the sunsets of their lives.
We however must begin to live our lives out of the shadow, the hauntings, the hurts and the unresolved anguish of being either the fortunate or the unfortunate offspring of our forebears.
What has happened has happened, whether we have been accepted or rejected as we strive at times to live up to the expectations of others limiting the scope of what is the pursuit of our own individual happiness and the lives we have built around ourselves quite separate from those who brought us into this world.
Finding purpose
There is a blessing in finding a way to move on, moving on from blame, extricating ourselves from the clutches of anger and getting to a point where we know nothing in perfect, but perfection comes from ability to adapt, to appreciate, to understand, to accept and to embrace the fullness of our humanity in our relationships with those close and afar.
It is time to escape the imprisonment of anger and walk into the freedom of understanding. With that little lesson from Peaches, I pray that she find peace wherever she is and that those that survive her might find strength and the fortitude to bear their very tragic loss.
Rest in peace, Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Thought Picnic: The Power of Example

Where I thrive
I am a man with many questions, seeking answers to many things some of which I really should not be bothered about, but then such is my nature, my curiosity and a kind of precocity that in ways have become the kind of person my parents believe I am.
Besides this, I am sometimes surprised at the amount of information that comes to the fore when I have found myself in all sorts of conversation.
People are interesting, people are amazing and people are amusing. Engagement brings new relationships, many of which I hope to walk away from with some kind of mutually beneficial impartation. Sadly, it is not always the case.
The power of example
What impacts me most is example, more pertinently, the power of example as opposed to the example of power.
Like yesterday, I attended a training session that revealed possibilities of automation related to the work I do. Just seeing the trainer do things revealed not only what could be done but also how it could be done.
The how leads to enthusiasm and the desire to practice what has been learnt, which in turn might create ability and the power also to demonstrate what I have learnt to others.
Rising to a challenge
In some ways, I have been slow in demonstration being preoccupied with other distractions I am trying to resolve to clear the air for opportunity and expression. These are constant churnings in my mind, sometimes over-active playing with logic, probability, preponderance and rarity, seeking to do something completely radical or at least somewhat deviate from the conventional and average.
Example is something I also saw in church today, a couple celebrated and honoured for their work and commitment in the church community.
With that one suddenly realises that the barriers one has once put up can be removed and replaced with new opportunity. There is always a place to make a difference where the power of example can be the kindling for the example of innate power and ability we have at our disposal to be and to do.
If … I can too
It starts off with, “If” and culminates with “I can too.”
Another question tackled and an answer dropped into my purview by situation and circumstance to consider and act upon.
Thank you for the many examples of exemplary ability and conduct you have all been, in all this, the quest to be a better man continues.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Thought Picnic: Those Conversations with Chris

Was good whilst it lasted
The memories that return as you find yourself doing something you enjoyed doing with someone special.
The realisation that the person with whom you did those things is now a just a memory, gone into a void into which you have no reach but depending on what you believe, there is nothing after or an eternity to live beyond this life.
The memories however are felt strongly tinged with some sadness and laced with a longing you can never fulfil, except if someone else takes that place.
Long instant conversations
Good old variants of the Instant Messaging utility, from MSN Messenger through Windows Live Messenger and today as I typed away in Microsoft Communicator though the more current version is Microsoft Lync in the enterprise.
I tried to remember the old emoticons that broadened our conversation from saintly to sinful, from angelic to devilish, from nice to very naughty.
Those were hours and hours of chat with Chris, besotted and infatuated, crazy and madly in love, hopeless romantics at keyboards between London and Amsterdam, what seemed far was quite near.
O, the memories as time flies, and in October, it would be five years since … the memories and another day.
Never forgotten.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Please do not walk on by

Life is not fair
As I passed through Manchester Piccadilly Station the other day, I saw an advertisement poster with the message, “Don’t fund the habit, fund the charities.”
There is a message there, but I do wonder if it is the true reflection of issues to do with many of the people I have encountered who beg on the streets in the many big cities I have been to.
In my own personal life, I have had plenty and very little, I have enjoyed extravagance and after illness I was reduced to penury, needing more help than my heretofore independence was able to ask for.
Doors slammed in my face
When I did ask for help, from a system into which during the good times I had paid all my dues and more, I encountered hurdles, bottlenecks, indifference and difficulty. [It took the hospital to unclog the system.]
The things I was entitled to were denied me because I did not look vulnerable enough or did not tick all the boxes of desperate privation authored by some comfortable apparatchik oblivious of the realities on the street.
I cannot vouch for anyone in terms of whether they are struggling with drug or alcohol problems, but I can say that if the so-called charities were really doing the jobs they suggest they are doing with the funds people throw into their collecting buckets or the ones that can be transferred through the simplicity of Short Message Service (SMS) text messages, I should not be seeing beggars on our streets.
Who helps these people?
Yet, step out into Manchester City centre every evening and quite every major street corner has someone begging for spare change. Then there are others who would approach you with a story, long or short, their need is immediate and it makes no allowances for the smartness of seeking the nearest entrée to officialdom to get help.
In a few recent encounters, these were people who truthfully or otherwise on a cold damp night needed a place to sleep in shelters that would demand a payment before accepting them.
Where these people have fallen through the safety net with holes big enough to let elephants through without entanglement, they simply have nothing and sometimes not even a blanket to take shelter in an open street doorway.
No way out
They are usually in a catch-22 situation, for without an address you really cannot do anything, even if someone ignorantly and naively thinks the system and the welfare state is in overdrive, on anecdotal evidence alone, I can well assume that many who need that help cannot get beyond the first hurdle to get the help they need.
I cannot ignore such people, having lived so close to the edge, the people who were once invisible to me are too visible to walk past. Having been given a second chance of life after cancer, in the little and plenty that I have, I desire to have an open hand.
Prepare to give
An open hand is one that can give and it is also open to receive, the former being more impactful. Much that we donate goes to child welfare or animal welfare in faraway lands and that is good, but we stand in rank hypocrisy if at our doorsteps there be many who are needy and we in response to those advertisements decide not to do the needful.
These people are our neighbours, the ones on the furthest spectrum of our diverse humanity who have for all sorts of reasons happened upon hard times. Times we may never and I hope many never come to experience.
However, I know what a very little gift can do for someone desperately in need, and if we challenge ourselves to address that need generously, for some, we would have become angels.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “There are people in this world so hungry, that God cannot appear them except in the form of bread.”
Where charities cannot bring bread to the hungry, I will do my bit, I hope the help I offer is helpful, but I would not agonise over what is done with the help I have offered.