Tuesday 30 June 2015

Nando's: Poorly run and rundown round the corner

Cravings for the simple
I have my fast food cravings that I indulge every once in a while and I get it at Nando’s a restaurant chain founded in South Africa serving a Mozambican-Portuguese fare based around chicken.
So I stepped out of my home to visit the Nando’s round the corner, since it was close and I discovered that just a few weeks before.
It was not a good experience, I was in and out within 10 minutes having hardly taken a bite of my chicken before logging on the Nando’s website to express my disgust at the place, the service and much else. They asked for feedback and they got the whole lot of lock, stock and two smoking barrels of irately annoyed.
At the end of the multiple choice interactive questions where most answers tended towards the dissatisfied and strongly dissatisfied, I was offered a free-form text box to give them a piece of my mind below:
Feedback the rotten tack
The staff was sullen and unwelcoming, barely interacted when I got there apart from asking if I had been to Nando's before.
The cable on the PIN machine was all screwed up, simple attention to detail like that became the revelation of bigger problems.
As I went to get a plate and cutlery, a complete order had the receipt slip put on the food, when my order arrived it was all piled up on one plate with the ramekin of coleslaw sitting on my chips, that was just disgusting, I was speechless up to a minute.
Though the waiter offered to replace my order, I kept it, but one taste of the chicken was enough and I just walked out literally leaving the food untouched.
This is the WORST Nando's I have ever been to ever, tables had bits on them and I had to dust off my seat, it is a poorly run and rundown place, it needs many new things from personnel to the look of the place - probably parachute in a manager from one of your better run restaurants to sort this place out.
A disgrace...
Then again
On that note, I still had a craving for a Nando’s still, so I went to another restaurant right in the centre of town where everything was an improvement on the last that it would not have bothered me if one thing was out of place.
Thinking of it, it might just as been the attitude of the staff at the other place that made for my seeing every minor thing wrong in that restaurant, but it goes without saying, I can excuse many things except with it comes to the service, the personality and the engagement that makes a restaurant experience worthwhile.
I do not go to eat out to take aggro with my food, no matter how gracious I am feeling. That is what I had to tell a French waiter in Paris many years ago when he seemed to feel a bit unhappy with his day that he felt he could take that out on the customers, I was ready to leave and by the time I had warned him to behave, he had lost the prospect of a generous tip.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Essential Snobbery 101: On good manners and seats

Well brought up
I grew up in a different time or rather, I was brought up in a different way and I am constantly met with the shock of contemporary attitudes and behaviour that the worldview I inhabit finds quite grating.
The reason why the different time matter is almost irrelevant is because I see people of my age behave in ways that leaves much to be desired that it must be the different way that is more significant.
I do not believe that certain things should become old-fashioned, be consigned to conservativeness and passed off as traditional values. Self-awareness and consideration of others still matters a great deal besides the fact that manners should never be negotiable, they must be acquired at all cost and deployed at every opportunity.
Give up your seat
Yet today, as I sat on the train, an elderly lady boarded the train at the next stop carrying some luggage, it did not appear she was helped on and there was no place for her to sit.
Even though I use a cane, I could not watch her standing, holding on for dear life as the train began to move. The many able-bodied people around us remained decidedly oblivious of her out of ignorance, the absence of breeding or sheer selfishness.
I got up and gave her my seat which is what any well-taught person is supposed to do, at least, in the different way I was brought up. It was another two stops some 20 minutes later before a seat became vacant for me to sit down.
Make all allowances
Meanwhile, further along the carriage, there was a heavily pregnant woman who in another time would have been ushered to take a seat somewhere in the carriage. Someone would have initiated the move and asked another to give up their seat. The person giving up their seat seeing the condition of the woman would have happily obliged.
However, this appears to belong to a bygone age, people rush for priority seats literally tripping up less able people in their race to be comfortable at the expense of seemingly more deserving people and they hardly ever care when reminded of the fact that the notices do state an incontrovertible fact.
On good manners
Ladies are surprised when I take off my hat to chat to them, some might even take offence if you open the door for them or if you ascribe to the chivalry of ‘Ladies first’. Other bad habits like coughing and yawning without covering your mouth, eating on the street, elbows on the table – the list is endless, makes one think we have become a global village of the uncouth and uncultured with air, grace, comportment or finesse.
Rough on all edges that we rub people up the wrong way, quite an appalling reflection on society today. It is not like one wants to rewrite Debrette’s guide on manners, etiquette, protocol, address or dress, but some things are just so, so as to really separate us from the wildness and chaos of the animal kingdom.
As I disembarked at my station, the elderly lady acknowledged me and mouthed a thank you, I tipped my head and smiled. We both knew there was a world we once knew that is fast disappearing from our present day experiences.
I am saddened writing this, but we have attained with the absence of certain aspects of social schooling a level of inconsiderate selfishness where manners are the exception rather than the rule. A shame indeed.

Sunday 21 June 2015

The UK: Our welfare system stripped of its humanity

Death helps the system
I caught a glimpse of the news but never really paid much attention to it until I saw a situation developing before my eyes.
Since 2010 starting with the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition and now with the slim majority Conservative government, there have been reforms to the benefits and welfare system, many of which will make the bean counters happy, but leaving real people in dehumanised situations.
In May, we learnt that 10 out of 49 benefit claimants had died possibly due to a regime of benefit sanctions where their payments were stopped.
It is not working
To say one cannot believe that this is happening in the United Kingdom of 2015 is typical of not having had to run the gauntlet of the system to see the strictures, the hurdles, the encumbrances and the demands made on people barely able to pick themselves up because of all sorts of adversity.
There is no doubt that some abuse the system, but they are very few, quite in the minority, only 0.7% of the welfare budget is lost to benefit fraud, many do genuinely need help and I have twice resorted to the system for help in resettling back into the UK and for times when I was out of work.
I can say that my ability to endure the humiliation that the system weighs upon you came more from an inner sense of self and abiding hope that things will change all coupled with the help and support of friends and family. The system is soul-destroying for the want of a better phrase.
He had no voice
I was out for a social event on Friday when this man who apparently was epileptic collapsed and was helped by bystanders to settle down and recover. I did not see the fit, but as I sat around, I heard the whole tale of his troubles.
He had taken seriously ill in a number of public places and his doctor gave no heed to his condition, this meant he missed critical meetings with Job Centres and consequently his payments were stopped.
Besides, going by what I could observe of him, the man was in no state to do any of the things of demanded of him. Like making 30 applications for jobs every fortnight, there is no way he would have been able to hold down any of those jobs down for any period of time with that state of mind and possible medical condition, complicated by the demands of the system on him.
At one point, he said he wished he were dead. That really cut to my heart because a whole set of circumstances had militated against him to create a situation of desperate hopelessness. A life that has lost hope is a difficult one to continue.
Anything but welfare
Now, one would think the welfare system was about welfare, about understanding, about humanity and about compassion, but everything that makes us genuinely human has been ripped out of the system to cater for ticking boxes and meeting targets to cut costs.
The goal is to frustrate you off the system and if by any unfortunate set of circumstances you are unable to assert yourself when abused, you so quickly become a nameless victim, a shell of yourself and worse might be in store.
I could see that the man made many others uncomfortable, but this was something I had personal experience of, what looked to others like a weak man in need of sympathy and playing it up for pity, to me looked like a man at the end of his tether.
This is our society’s shame
This bothered me for quite a while until the man left and as I said to the people left behind, the so-called safety net we believe is out there to catch people who need help really has holes big enough for elephants to fall through. Whatever the case, this man had fallen through that safety net and will probably never get picked up without some serious intervention.
That I live in a country that such heartlessness can be meted out to the vulnerable in the name of reforms and cost savings is deplorable, shameful and quite a crime against humanity, because we have the means and the wherewithal but have crafted ways to deny the needy their needs.

Thought Picnic: Pouring libations to our naked past

Secrets of loyalty
Two weekends ago, I had one of my incognito escapades where the planning and execution were literally revealed to no one. When I did tell my friend what I had planned, he was surprised because my planned trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp was both sudden and expressed in a way that seemed I was going round the corner from my home.
My recent trip to South Africa had boosted my air miles reward scheme status to enjoy a number of priority access services through the airport. I had garnered no less than 21,000 miles from that journey accumulated over 6 flights.
It meant I had fast track access through security regardless of the ticket I had purchased. As I did the typical security strip-tease without the music, the customs official engaged me in conversation about where I was from, where I was going and so on.
Maybe a coincidence
As it transpired, I answered, “I am English and my parents are Nigerian.” He asked what part of Nigeria and that got drilled down to the South West and Ijebu. He then responded that he was from Ijebu Imodi-Imosan.
That was quite uncanny because the traditional chief of Imodi-Imosan is also an Agemo masquerade and an uncle of mine.
He, however, was planning to return to Nigeria, to Imodi-Imosan where he said he was under obligation to offer appeasements to the animist traditions of his grandmother who apparently belonged to an Agemo masquerade affiliated lineage in Imodi-Imosan.
It occurred to me that this quite unlikely event of lives clashing on the improbability that we are linked by whatever degree by the familiar and yet strange coincidence calls for some reflection.
Not forgetting our ordinariness
For, no matter what the enlightenment of travel, exposure and schooling does to us, we are primarily human with the persuasions of the ordinary that goes far back before we existed, in genes that we bear or in the traditions passed down to us to return to the grottos of our ancestry where we take root having branched out literally beyond sight and mind of the roots that give us standing and sway.
The memorials are now in tombstones and fleeting memories, sacrifices and words now to be written on Facebook pages of those dearly departed too. We find imprints in the sands of time, weathered beyond recognition of frequency, but blown back like a leaf to obey the laws of gravity once the breeze settles.
For all the sense of culture we can muster, devoid of superstition and ceremony, we are essentially one step ahead of primitive, bound to things and secrets that rule our minds and decisions to walk into the future whilst keeping a keen eye on the past.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Essential Snobbery 101: Poshness tests and being British

Equally unequal
The underlying issues of Britishness and class reared its head and you will note that I did not qualify that head with ugly, in a number of situations that I read of this week.
First, it was the news that social mobility is still a myth, that much as we have striven for a more equal society, with the equality of opportunity pushed by a form of egalitarian meritocracy, people still fall short by reason of progeny and background.
A ceiling for many
There is apparently a “poshness test” that prevents qualified people from other backgrounds from accessing top jobs in Great Britain. You still need to have attended certain schools, gone to certain universities, speak a certain way and have parents who did not have to buy their own furniture; a point once made by Alan Clark about Michael Heseltine, to be eligible for consideration for certain jobs.
The fact is you cannot eliminate the elements of class from British society, it appears in so many ways just as some confuse the issues that separate the men from the boys on the matters of taste, expression and bearing.
Irksome privilege and opportunity
In a number of book reviews, I found myself laughing as a read this week’s edition of The Week in the Review of reviews: Books section.
In Peter Conrad’s review of Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories, he had to get his personal animus out of the way first, because Jeremy Hutchinson, the Baron Hutchinson of Lullington, QC is ridiculously well connected.
One could see why, son of a King’s Counsel, his mother a Strachey, his first wife was Peggy Ashcroft, his nephew, Jacob Rothschild, his inherited advantages were topped up by windfalls according to the reviewer as he bought his first house in Hampstead off the proceeds of a Monet bequeathed to him by an elderly friend. He attended Stowe and the Oxford, majored in PPE, he just oozed privilege and one could understand the typically British animus to this.
A different Britishness
He made a legal career of cocking a snook at the establishment defending lovable rogues, that included Christine Keeler of the Profumo affair and art thief Kempton Bunton whilst also challenging the hypocrisy championed in the Lady Chatterley trial and Mary Whitehouse’s morality activism, this book must be a joy to read.
Which led to the review of Michael Bloch’s Closet Queens, which is a basic study of how the establishment tolerated and sometimes accepted homosexuality at the top of British society. Notable was the case of Ian Harvey who was discovered in the bushes of St James’s Park with a guardsman in November 1958, thereby losing his political office.
It is reported that when Winston Churchill heard of the scandal he quipped, “On the coldest night of the year? It makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?” Stephen Fry narrates that story here.
Poshly enunciate
To end the book reviews, we have Brian Sewell, the art critic of whom it is said his accent is posher than the Queen, who whilst recuperating from an operation wrote his first children’s book, The White Umbrella, at the age of 83.
According to Sewell, he avers, “I never came out... but I have slowly emerged.” He also prefers to be identified as queer rather than gay, it only shows how times have changed. Yet, going back to the poshness tests, and the last paragraph of that article, It is 2015 and this is how Britain still works. Social mobility? All it takes is the “wrong” accent to put the working class back in their place.
It makes you say with a sense of wryness, “It makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?

Monday 15 June 2015

Thought Picnic: The lessons of why not me

If I could freeze the time
The preoccupations of my mind and my thoughts have been distracting me from my place of calm and peace that I have not been able to concentrate.
Every little demand suddenly feels onerous and burdensome, I have sought ways not to interact or communicate so that I can hopefully rediscover where I hope to be.
If only and if only one could freeze life, put things into some sort of cryogenic suspension until a time when one is ready to resume at a point where recovery and refreshing is complete.
Alas! There is no such luxury for holding time, space and existence in a standstill, we have to work through things towards the result we want with the hope that we get to that result we desire.
Why not me?
I recall a cartoon of H├Ągar the Horrible that I saw recently where the protagonist was lamenting, “Why me?” and God answered back, “Why not?”
You find cause in that kind of exchange to count the blessings of the victories that have come from the circumstances, how in life one has been toughened through experience and earned through labour. Where luck might happen, but planning was the foundation on which the success was built and study was what gave birth to knowledge that you apply with wisdom.
We do need the good times and the bad times to appreciate what times we live in, whatever time we have left and those are thoughts that appear to invade my thinking more and more each passing day.
The lessons in the passage of time
I understand that there are many lessons I would never have learnt and learnt well if I had not had my own lived through experiences. Hard and rough times I have barely shared, the scars indelibly seared into my being that they have become my life and my own personal story.
The greater feeling is one of gratitude that none of my trials, temptation, tribulations or travails consumed me. I found help, I found support, I found strength and like the dawn always comes after the night, no matter how long the night seems with all its fears and nightmares – it will pass.
It does pass, it shall pass, it must pass, because that is the mystery of time revealed to all of us, it passes continually for new refreshing seasons to come.
I will rise.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Thought Picnic: These Foolish Things

The online memorial
Yesterday, as I am frequently reminded by Facebook and my email would have been the 72nd birthday of a dear friend of mine who sadly died just before Christmas last year.
For the few friends who had a Facebook page before they died, I now find occasion to visit their pages on either their birthdays or the anniversary of their deaths to leave a bouquet of words of remembrance, of fondness and of that fact that I do miss their friendship and their presence in my life.
I remember John most fondly for being at the end of the line when I made those infrequent phone calls at times when I seemed to have a crisis of confidence in myself, my abilities or some purpose or goal I am trying to achieve.
A beacon in the dark
I could call on his wisdom and insight to give my clarity and direction, rarely by instruction, but by having me look into myself for the strength I have within or by counting my blessings, the blessings of the great and small victories I have had when I have pressed on with what I know to do.
He never once believed I was incapable of anything, must as he could be stern being once a schoolmaster, he was always encouraging, uplifting, advising, supporting and mentoring. He was a life-long teacher to whom I have referred many other friends who seem to have gotten something muddled up or confused in their lives.
He was generous with time, insight and resource to anyone who asked things of him without quibble and that is why he will always be sorely missed by those who knew him.
On some silly and serious things
I find that today I am bothered by many things, wondering what path to take, hoping to recreate that voice of John in my head to give me some guidance on how to project myself better, sell my skills better and even on the somewhat ordinary but significant issue of weight loss and body sculpting.
Even I wonder where all that came from, why I am getting into a situation where I am getting unhappy with how I look, where what my body is and what I want my body to look like is kilogrammes away from simply emptying my pocket?
You find yourself striving to gain some perspective before you begin to lose focus and along with the other things you have compartmentalised to avoid crowding out your sanity, you suddenly realise that it is the simple, silly and foolish things that remind you of who you miss and you smile at how different things might well be, even if they are not now.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Thought Picnic: Escaping the avalanche of woes

The questions that linger
Sometimes, we never really get the answers to the conundrum of the how’s, the what’s or the why’s in the lives of others that things have happened.
In the storms of life, we are like people out swimming, no one any the wiser that some of us might be swimming naked until the tide runs out. In other scenarios, it might be as fatalistic as with a skydiving adventure where you never know what the conclusion will be until you have jumped and sadly the parachute never opened.
There is nothing like the catalyst of the seemingly inconsequential, the probably irrelevant and the quite insignificant to trigger a set of emotions and decline in serotonin levels that you settle into a recluse and abandon essential communication hoping that the day passes to the next until that dark cloud over you moves on.
These silly little things
On the burdened mind, but in discrete compartments over the last few months were a number of events far away at home but significantly troubling to lose sleep over, worries as to how to face some challenges out of one’s control, at work; I found myself saying, “I love my job, I am just up against those trying to make me hate my job.” That covered issues from disrespect, poor management to the dishonesty of the agency handling my contract.
Home life was in disarray and a mess, I had become less house proud and had literally grown tired of the hole I was in. Then I was making no headway in building any relationship or companionship of any significance. I was in every engagement looking like I was being used and abused, tossed about in every stormy situation and protesting to deaf ears. Someone chasing bills with a robotic voice – this is not life.
One disagreement here, the absence of support there, an unnecessary argument, an expression of anger, a memory of the dearly departed, a forgetting to celebrate with others, a hope somewhat forlorn – it all piles up.
Then I missed a train
Breaking away for the catharsis of travel brought no lasting fun or respite, it was like a case of painfully plucking the feathers of a bird in the bleakest winter.
All this was brought to a head by the least significant of events. I made for the train to work on Monday where we usually had the option of buying a ticket before boarding the train or getting the ticket on the train. It so happened that as I hobbled to the train, I was waylaid by revenue protection officers one of whom was a lady so grey and lacking in charisma who refused that I get on the train until I returned to the concourse to get a ticket.
I did get my ticket and got to the door of the train when it closed, the conductor not particularly disposed to being helpful for the time it took for the train to pull away, gleefully chatting to me about my running out of luck for a service that ran on an hourly timetable. I missed that train. I walked back to the concourse where the once enthusiastic revenue protection officers refusing my access to the train earlier were now not bothered to check if I had a ticket.
Then I saw that fine and uncharismatic lady, “Thank you, very much. I missed my train.” I said to her as she gave me one of those stares that signified if she had a heart, it was made of stone and were she to have a soul it was betrothed to perdition. But for other aspects of good fortune in my life, she would have been Medusa and I would have turned to stone.
Escaping the avalanche of woe
I took in the moment, allowed it to link up the many angles of my turmoil and returned home to rue the many different things that brought me close to self-pity. Then one caring and lovely friend’s engagement has signified a dawn is surely coming after this long night of nightmares.
Sometimes, I wonder how I have functioned with all this hanging around me with the visit to South Africa, acceding to atrocious ideas and requests and yet trying to chart a course to the freedom to be myself in a better way.
One answer, I have been blessed and I really should not allow the swirling curses to get a blow at me. I will rise.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Opinion: Regardless of our sexuality, our past and future is our whole story

We are still learning
The issue of sexuality is a very complex subject that too many of us still have to get our heads around. Across the spectrum of moralism through to science, people hold as many views as they can about what determines why people turn out the way they finally decide they should be.
In some parts of the world, we have in the last hundred years reached a level of acceptance on the matter of human sexuality and the relationships that ensue from such, yet, in other places, persecution, prosecution, animosity and danger bedevils people who just happen to be different.
I have seen people got from seemingly fulfilled heterosexuality to bisexuality or homosexuality and the other way round. The preponderance of heterosexuality weighs heavily on those not so inclined that absurd views and therapies are deployed to convert or change people to a particular ‘norm’ causing more harm than comfort. It is gratifying that such activities are now being outlawed.
Transsexuality is their reality
One area we all seem to struggle the most with is transsexuality, the case of people with one sex who seemed to be wired as the opposite sex.
The fact that people have been changing from the sex of their birth to another is hardly a new one and there are processes and procedures that allow for that. What has gotten people talking is the very prominent people who appear to have fully expressed lives in one sexuality and gender going public about changing their sex.
I visited the issue of Kellie Palace Maloney last year, but the one of Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner has elicited much commentary, some positive and some negative.
A seething transphobia, it is
What got to me was a petition to have Caitlyn Jenner stripped of the Olympic gold medal she won as Bruce Jenner, the decathlete at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. The screaming preposterous absurdity of the idea left me utterly exasperated and the arguments put forth were but for the Englishman’s politeness in me ready for risible condemnation and that would have been the start.
Tearing away the veneer of faux righteous indignation of the petitioners you are presented with shameless and deplorable transphobia, a clear fear of the unknown to the seething anger that a bastion of some presumed norm had deserted that profile leaving others somewhat vulnerable.
I will not promote those arguments here, rather, my case was simple. Regardless of the fact that Caitlyn Jenner always thought of herself as female even when she competed at the 1976 Olympics 39 years ago, ‘she in her head’ and ‘he in his body’ competed fairly, won the competition handsomely and was justly rewarded with the laurel of Olympic champion. That fact of history can never be expunged, erased or repudiated.
See the person first
To use the ‘she in her head’ argument to suggest she competed as ‘she in her body’ and thereby was ineligible to compete will be to persecute and punish someone for what is invariably a thought crime. One cannot begin to imagine the conflicts and struggles to remain one thing when you really think you are another. For those able to come to a full expression of themselves and live that realisation, no greater victory could have been won in their lifetimes.
Thankfully, I found someone to help buttress my case, Ayo Sogunro elevated the discussion by saying the person won the medal and their current iteration should not impact on that clear evidence.

I am glad that the International Olympic Committee has rejected that petition, Caitlyn Jenner will keep the medals she won as Bruce Jenner, that is part of her life story and long may this reasonableness continue. The issue should never have been up for discussion in any case, but that is the kind of world we live in.
The story is never lost
In the same vein, I was glad to read that Kellie Palace Maloney has returned to the career she made as Frank Maloney and has taken two boxers into her stable as a boxing promoter. As a person, Kellie Palace Maloney has 30 years’ experience as a boxing promoter, nothing can take that away from her. Her decision to restart boxing promotion with a low profile will not suddenly make her a neophyte, she comes with a life story that people in boxing cannot ignore.
Apparently, the boxers, macho and male as they seem recognised that and sought her out to help their careers and that is the right thing to do, if you have the skill, the know-how and the ability to mentor and manage people, that you have changed your gender does not mean you have lost your well-earned experience.
We can’t lose our history
In her own words, she said, “I have achieved a lot as Frank. I could never totally lose him.” In my view, that is what stories are about, we achieve a lot as our younger selves, we do not totally lose that, we build on it. Women can achieve a lot with their maiden names and they never lose that because they adopt a married name.
Consequently, a person can achieve a lot as one gender and they should never have to lose that because they have changed their gender. The ability, the knowledge, the experience and person will still be there, that they have changed from male to female or vice versa should never ever be used to persecute, prosecute, purloin or punish them.
We can’t lose our history, but we can gain a great future.
That is the kind of world I want to live in, one that lives and lets others live their lives to the full.
Thank you.

Friday 5 June 2015

Opinion: The wild can have you for dinner

Not for role reversals
I was in South Africa for two weeks last month and one of the activities my hostess thought I might enjoy was a day out at Lion Park.
It took one look at the pamphlets at the hotel where people were in cages and lions roamed free for me to decide that was not my idea of fun.
Courtesy of Mukumela Shuttles (Lion Park)
The concept of zoo for me whilst I am no proponent of taking animals out of their natural habitats to be imprisoned in cages for human-being to gawp at, is that at least there is enough of a barrier between me and the wild animal if I am ever in close proximity to it.
It is no chicken coop
What has become disturbing is the sense with which people visit animal or safari parks and suddenly forget that most of these animals are not tame, docile or harmless.
This reminds me of a young man who won a competition to be a park ranger in East Africa from the UK. Whilst walking through the bush, a venomous snake spat at him and that hit his shin. Rather than leg it at the rate that would break a world speed record, he bend down to wipe the venom off his shin and the aggressive snake lurched him, biting his face, leaving him with lost sight in one eye and 50% loss of sight in the other eye.
He returned home to sue the adventure company, though, beneath the veneer of the pity and sympathy that I had for him, I could not ignore his foolishness.
Wild in the wild
Almost 18 months ago, it was the case of an elephant in Kruger Park, charging a car and toppling it. Now, three days ago, an Emmy award-winning editor on the Game of Thrones was mauled to death by the king of the jungle in Lion Park. She rolled down her window where instructions clearly state customers must never do so and the lion got her.
Cute as a lion cub or any wild animal might seem on television, even from afar on safari, they are no respecters of persons and your vehicle or cage only provides enough protection if you follow all the safety notices to the letter.
And whilst a majority of those who go on safari to see wildlife do return home safely, one cannot ignore the fact that a few never do or when they do, they return with radically life-changing experiences that leave an indelible mark on them.
Africa can change your life
Africa, vast as it is with all its nature and wilderness is no playground, much as the Australian outback is no walk in the park. The animals out there can be dangerous, aggressive, predatory and lethal, a close encounter with these animals might well be a very last encounter in life.
There is no reason why one’s story should become a tragedy because of some foolishness or stupidity, and that is the cause of many of these preventable attacks, injuries or deaths.
If animals kill in the wild, there is no court to charge them for manslaughter or murder, they would have acted naturally as supposedly smarter human beings would have acted stupidly. One will not expect that animal to be put down, but we can afford the victim the dignity of a burial if anything is left of them.
One is saddened to have to write this, but the truth must be told and reiterated. When out in the wild, take every precaution to ensure you do not become another story of the wild having you for dinner.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Where can this love be found?

The recurring questions
Does he still grieve at the loss of one he desired but never really got to have and to hold for long?
Does he still wonder why the other who he desired never really committed their heart to it?
Does he still reminisce about the stolen moments of pleasure and happiness he once had with those he thought he loved?
Does he still think he is probably just unlucky in love?
The questions are many and the choices are few, the people who seem to have everything he desires in a partner are rarely about to give much more than a moment in time.
Looking for an answer
Yet, he seeks not the perfect nor does it have to be so beautiful, but it has to be right, in the look and in the heart. In the sharing and the caring, the daring and the fearing, one must find love. A lovelorn romantic lost in the daydreaming of expectations and unrequited desires turning to ache and pain.
A love that dare not speak its name, but yearns to express itself with ululation that words cannot ever express. A companion for the heart-to-heart, the lip-to-lips, the head-to-shoulder, the hand-in-hand, the walk-in-stride, the cuddle-at-home, the ear-to-hear, the tears-to-dry.
He asks, where can this love be found? Where can this love be found, he asks?

Monday 1 June 2015

South Africa: The postscript

Not to my liking
One of the big revelations I had with visiting South Africa was that I had very high expectations and I basically had to demand that standards rise to meet them.
This was first with attitudes, then service and other minor irksome things that one could well do without. It transpired that I visited South Africa more as a European than as a black man.
Very little of what I had to show in expression or desire was African, yet in many cases, where black South Africans met me, they first defaulted to one of the local languages until I intimated that I did not belong.
In any case
In fact, the honest truth is I did not attempt to belong, adapt or imbibe and it made for a slightly unpleasant experience for me. Suffice it to say, I will not be on the next all-frills free junket to South Africa for much, if I could help it.
I did eventually encounter some good South African hospitability and friendliness, but it was well too late for my first impressions to be supplanted, the lazy, laidback, uncaring, lackadaisical pace to what we Europeans have fought to be serious about was just not to my liking.
If anything, I will much prefer Cape Town and its seeming quaint English town look, the people compared to the many Johannesburg residents seemed a bit more friendly and fun. My 11-hour stay quite made up for what I decidedly endured for two weeks.
Not at ease
Along with the other elements of society that left me quite torn and sad as the poverty, the insidious segregation by reason of means and opportunity, the unfortunate state of leadership that seemed to be in it for themselves and worse still that two people on a protest died at the nuzzle of police guns, in one week, the beauty of such a wonderful creation of nature and nurture can never compensate for the grinding reality of the majority of South Africans.
I went to help solve problems by meeting people and understanding what issues they encounter daily in the performance of their duties. What knowledge I gained was more than useful, it was very helpful and quite needful too. I met a few people I would be happy to call friends and some others about whom the least is said the better.
My conclusion
I doubt I will recommend a visit to South Africa to anyone except under extreme duress, but hey, that is just one opinion out the millions that will no doubt think much differently about that great country.
The scars and wounds still run deep and it is with every hope and consideration that I will say again, 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' – God Bless Africa!