Wednesday 30 September 2015

Thought Picnic: To those who didn't push me

Regimen is not me
When I review a number of things in my life, I realise I do not have heroes and the mentors I have are not mentors in the traditional sense. It is not like there was some clear example to follow, but observation and experience have informed how things have turned out.
I know how much I resent regimented settings, the moment I left boarding school and the regulatory environment of the secondary school, there was no way I could be persuade to consider doing A-levels when I could go where I would be treated more as an adult.
The kick in the back side
Yet, I remember when after a period of almost terminal decline after I lost my home and was graciously offered accommodation for two months free how my landlord then thought I was not doing enough to sort myself out, I was relating my experience at an interview I attended in Berlin when he said, “So, they are going to give you a kick in the butt to get a job.”
I wrote then that I was uncomfortably looking like I was work-shy with to reference to the somewhat successful life I had prior to being stricken with cancer and how difficult it had been for me to restart my life after that.
Not pushed, not rushed
However, my greater gratitude goes to the many people who probably had great influence over my life because of their authority or my circumstance that did not push me, they have me latitude and opportunity to find my way, believing in me, implicitly and explicitly, rarely questioning, but constantly giving support and guidance.
People who refused to impose themselves even if they could, whose gave advice to offer me additional options and choices rather than as instructions to be followed to the letter.
They let me be myself to work things out both in my head and in execution, then came along to cheer me on hinting that they knew I will come out good despite all the odds.
All latitude
The fact is I have always performed well when I have been allowed to set the agenda, dictate my own pace and take things in ways that allowed me to assume positions in comfort and assurance of why I am where I am.
I choosing my career, in finding jobs, in times of flux when I was still finding my feet with respect to living and livelihood, the freedoms many have allowed me has been more than helpful in not being rushed into bad choices and circumstances. I love autonomy.
It does not mean I could not have done better, nor would I suggest being laidback allowed for a sense of lazy abandon to critical issues, I just had people who believed in me enough and never imposed an ultimatum on me.
To them all, I owe a great debt of gratitude.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Opinion: Asking for the opportunity to prove ourselves

This is good acting
I watch very little television if I watch any at all, the things that fascinate me are murder mysteries, educational documentaries, detective series, trains and travel.
However, from the moment I saw the trailer for How to Get Away with Murder starring Viola Davis, I was hooked, by both the title and the drama. When I eventually got into the series, I was quite enamoured by the strength of the character of Professor Annalise Keating as portrayed by Viola Davis, I recorded the whole series.
In the weekend, Viola Davis, unbeknownst to me became the first African-American lady to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series and her acceptance speech so seriously deviated from the norm by paying a glowing tribute those who had opened the way before her in the quest for the recognition and adoration of their peers in entertainment.
A speech well made
This is the full text of her acceptance speech as transcribed by the New York Times, but one cannot help but excerpt a cogent part of the speech. “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity.
Whilst, I will not be too forward in suggesting I have suffered the loss of opportunity, I can fully understand the sentiment that informed her speech where for whatever indecipherable reasons I have missed out on opportunities not offered to me when for all intents and purposes I am well qualified for the job I interviewed for.
Then again, I cannot put it down to overt racism, yet when having been interviewed and well considered an executive at the BBC in 1991 decides he’ll rather not give me the job because I was not extending myself enough or in his words, I was short-selling myself, you wonder.
Open for opportunity
More recently, it was an interview with a major bank where apparently I did not pass the muster for Miss Congeniality for the job. These experiences begin to introduce doubt and literally beat you down that you have to find strength from within to rise beyond that situation.
Yet, I could paraphrase Viola Davis and say that for many, “The only thing that separates minorities in any society from everyone else is opportunity.” Being given the opportunity to prove that they are both able and capable because some assumption, presumption or dare I say, prejudice has led to people at the gate not letting others into their fold for all sorts of reasons.
She goes on to say that, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” By extension, you cannot win accolades, praise, recognition or promotion for opportunities not granted to those who generally by default are not amongst the first to be considered for such placements.
Entitlement debasing opportunity
Then again, I see other areas where people who generally get given these opportunities abuse and squander them foisting their sense of entitlement into the situation.
In the light of this, I find myself antithetical to the smart and apparently beautiful Charlotte Proudman and I note the significance of her surname when on being complimented for her looks in connecting with an eminent male lawyer on the LinkedIn professional network took umbrage at age-old chivalry to deem it sexist. [The Student]
There is an element of political correctness in this reading that bothers somewhat old-fashioned people like myself who will have the tendency to compliment, offer a seat to ladies, take off my hat when speaking to a lady or step forward to open a door for a lady – that is the cultured and expected decorum expected of gentlemen and it in no way belittles the professional attributes of the lady.
Try some emotional intelligence too
In a way, I felt quite sorry for Alexander Carter-Silk who being a generation ahead of the lady was slightly conscious of the possibility that a compliment might be taken wrongly and yet chose to make it in good faith. The Internet shaming of the man shows how discretion is no more a matter of valour for another generation. [LegalCheek]
For all the commentary for and against that episode, I will very well understand and quite sadly appreciate that Miss Proudman with all her academic intelligence and feistiness might have blown certain opportunities that would naturally be open to her in the pride that always presages the self-fulfilling prophecy of a fall. The requisite amount of emotional intelligence always helps in communicating umbrage or agreement.
Then again, Miss Proudman because of her extrovert self-esteem and intelligence displayed a sense of entitlement and effrontery that can be both emasculating and aggressively off-putting, she will go far.
Yet, I commend all those who grasp any opportunity they are given to become and excel and for that also I commend Viola Davis.

Boy weakness when man strength is required

What am I to do?
It is probably one of those feelings of helpless abandon when one is overcome with some incapacity or infirmity, the inability to complete a task.
Earlier this evening I thought of putting together another concoction with my NutriBullet blender, I almost foresaw the end of my impending pleasure as I screwed on the blade assembly to the beaker, that last twist did it.
I had meticulously taken off the hard brown skin of the coconut pieces just to use the white solid of the coconut, poured in milk, then vanilla yoghurt, some garlic flakes, almond flakes and hulled sesame seeds.
I thought of adding some organic honey but forgot and screwed the assembly shut and set it on the NutriBullet blender for a few minutes. In the last week, I have had a few portions of this delicious food-drink for dinner and liked it.
For now, I can’t do it
However, my frustration is compounded by the fact that for the past 90 minutes I have been unable to unscrew the assembly and have my drink. I even tried putting the assembly in hot water without must success, it is all plastic.
Progressively, I have realised that my grip and twisting strength has been failing to be efficacious at the first few tries, but this has been the worst experience of realising I cannot do a simple domestic activity and yet it is no one to call in the emergency services.
I probably will get to open it eventually, though I have one had a lady in the house do what essentially we would expect a man to do without a fuss. I have my weaknesses and really, I am not afraid to ask for help, it gets difficult things done.
I thought of this over an hour ago, I finally donned my Roeckl leather gloves which are stowed away for the winter, this gave me the grip I needed for the twisting action I required. I will have the pleasure of the food-drink and have this in mind for the next time.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

A certain death from cancer loomed large

The pain, the pain
Six years ago today and it was a Tuesday too, I was wheeled into hospital by my partner, in excruciating pain and unsure of whether I had the hope for respite or not.
As we left home, he suggested I take a change of clothes just in case I am kept in hospital for observation, but all I did was take a change of underwear and I did not even take my trusty little notebook.
Before this, I had seen my doctor and the people at surgery, I was on painkillers that did nothing to kill the pain and this was my second referral in the space of a week.
To a bed, I was led
My left foot had taken on an otherworldly life of its own, something innocuous as a summer affliction of athlete’s foot was browning, oozing, serious and killing me.
The consultant internist came down to see me and he had no doubts in his mind that I was not going home that day and he came to the decision within minutes that they had a bed for me upstairs.
To him, I was a sight he had seen many times before, a bit of neglect, ignoring a seemingly little thing, wishing and hoping it would go away with the encumbrance of religious presumptuousness that a miracle is more efficacious than what medicine can offer, we expire almost unsung having fought a fight of failure and foolishness that gets rewritten as a fight of faith.
The iniquity of my stupidity
I knew better, yet it took a long time for me to be re-schooled to an alternative, I was about to die of stupidity if smarter people had not arrested me with palliative care at first, whilst I traversed the realities of the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief as applied to disease. I was in denial, in all my pain and suffering, I was still in denial that I was at death’s door.
I was settled into a bed on the sixth floor in Ward B at the Onze Lieve Vrouw Gasthuis in Amsterdam which doubles as a teaching hospital and if I could look in a particular direction, I would have been able to see my apartment block from my bed.
Within the hour, I was wheeled out to a theatre where my blood pressure was taken at all extremities to determine whether my condition was diabetes related, I guess we all knew, it wasn’t, it was just the need to eliminate other variables.
Some morphine, an intravenous drip to address a fungal infection, I read up later that it was to treat fungating tumours, that was the first time I realised I probably had cancer brought on by another diagnosis I had received 7 years before.
It is now history, for to tell a story
The more we learnt of my condition, the more it was clear that I could have died anytime from when I arrived in hospital to a maximum of five long weeks, if I had received no treatment at all. Phew!
Six years ago, I had cancer, six years on, I am telling my story like I have done many times before of the amazing wonder of medicine, the good fortune of landing the hands of competent medical staff, of friends far and near who stood with me in my most trying times, of getting to the point of acceptance beyond which I could begin to see a future.
Each day after I left hospital on the 9th of October 2009 has been a blessing beyond compare and I am thankful for each opportunity to speak of hope beyond adversity, of life, of love and of kindness, of knowledge, truth and understanding that we are all stories of the amazing force of humanity.
Blogs from the 23rd of September, 2009 to the 9th of October, 2009 were written when I was in hospital.

Essential Snobbery 101: To reach and to retch

Friends frightened
Sometimes, a good telling off will not eventually end up with smiles or friendship in the future and this is what I meet each morning on the train, the stony faced silence of people I have upbraided for bad behaviour in a public place.
Some have been subjects of my Essential Snobbery 101 blogs not only in the way I told them off for putting their fully shod feet on seats, but also for the way they responded and reacted to being told they were in the wrong.
The trains also have a way of bringing together a broad spectrum of society, from the well-groomed to the unsophisticated, all of whom one can find a means to engage and converse with, it is the downright dirty that leaves one literally weak and speechless.
Of the yuckiest sort
This morning, I sat across from such a person, as I was leafing through my issue of The Week magazine, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him stick a finger in his nose, bring out a string of the yuckiest colour of mucus and deposit it in his mouth.
I can only wonder why I was destined to be a witness of this nauseating spectacle, but there was more to the problem that I had to resist the urge to look again. He had a sniffling running nose and nothing to with which to blow his nose, so he devised this means of rubbing his nose with sides of his forefinger and discreetly licking it off, like a cat grooming itself with its paw.
The only thing was, it was neither discreet nor surreptitious and it makes you wonder about where the age-old parenting and community moderation breeding fell off the rails. Things like covering your mouth when you cough or yawn, sneezing into a handkerchief and well, not picking your nose – at least not in public.
Some good old advice
I guess many do subconsciously pick their noses and do nasty unprintable things with the stuff, and I am not against people doing what they are wont to away from the public glare, as it will cause no revulsion in others who are unequipped for the ultimate reaction to the revolting, which is reaching for a sick bag and retching uncontrollably until emesis creates a total evacuation of food seen again after mastication.
It makes one suggest that every man and boy, just as the girls and the ladies do, must never leave home without a handy pack of tissues for the emergency of blowing their noses.
Much as this matter called for an intervention as I was quite ready to throw my pack of tissues onto the paper his was reading rather than politely offer him a sheet or two to blow his nose. It would have been almost too aggressive, but I cannot end up making so many enemies on the train just because I am being old-fashioned. The times have indeed changed. Good manners in public are too much of a rarity today.

Sunday 20 September 2015

British Airways must prosecute BAF 2276 emergency rule breakers

It is criminal
When I read of the criticism of passengers by the pilot of the British Airways Flight 2276 that caught fire just before take-off in Las Vegas, I pondered about the attachment of people to things.
This was a situation where everyone was in grave danger, a fully fuel laden flight with one of the engines on fire, one should not contemplate the consequence if they were not able to evacuate saving 172 souls.
Yet, in the emergency as observed in the picture that accompanied the news story, there is at least two passengers running from the flight with their bulky hand luggage.
What informs this attachment?
Their getting their so precious goods could have been the difference between life and death and there are too many stories through our humanity where the attachment to things has meant the end of all things for that person and a story of regret told by others.
Part of the aircraft safety instructions suggests, maybe advices, but should command that when an evacuation emergency is in process, we should abandon all whilst ladies take off their heeled shoes and make for the emergency exit in an orderly fashion.
Putting goods in or taking goods out of the overhead bins in an aircraft is rarely the smoothest activity. Even in premium class, the space is tight, people can hardly pass by when one is either loading or unloading the overhead bins. In an emergency, accessing the overhead bins is not only an impediment to safe evacuation, it presents a grave risk to passengers and crew alike.
How we endanger others
Only last week I was doing the mandatory health and safety course at work and I noticed that I risked prosecution if I ignore alarms for fire drills or real emergencies. The fire warden usually leaves the floor or building last, it means they are under obligation to ensure everyone has vacated the building or they and the organisation can be deemed negligent.
I think the same rule applies to disembarking an aircraft during an emergency, just as it is the age-old rule that the captain is the last to leave a ship in distress.
Yet, there is a psyche of acquisitive hedonism that seems to possess the mind of some who regardless of how their life is endangered cannot be separated from their things and I fear that things will be the end of them.
A prosecutory deterrent is necessary
However, the need for a lesson of deterrence must not be missed, the said people who ignored the basic safety rule by picking up their hand luggage must be sought after, prosecuted and have heavy penalties imposed on them. It might not moderate their behaviour to things, but it must signal a complete intolerance of people who selfishly impede an emergency evacuation exercise foolishly endangering themselves and most especially and unreasonably the lives of others.
Yes, they got away with their lives and their precious things, but this must never be the end of the matter and I hope it isn’t. They were lucky but they took unacceptable chances that could have led to grievous consequences and possible loss of life. I would hate to have people like this on my flight, anyone should.
If you feel you are boarding a plane with your most precious possessions and I think everyone is, it is our lives most of all, get insurance for your goods at the very least. If in an emergency we are to evacuate an aircraft leaving our things, with life all things lost can after a temporary setback be regained, a life lost, is a life lost, hopefully without the tag of foolishness.

Saturday 19 September 2015

My food haunts in Berlin and Paris

My habitude
The creature of habit that I am means I have a tendency to do visit the same places, watch the same series or similar genre, eat the same cuisine and repeat some things without tiring of the experience.
It is like I am comfortable, fulfilled and happy when I find something I like and cannot be persuaded to consider something else.
On my recent visit to Berlin, having stayed in hotels all around the city, I have more recently gravitated to staying right in the centre, Schöneberg, in fact, it would most likely be bordered by the Wittenbergplatz and Kurfürstenstraße metro stations.
Apart from the ease of getting around Berlin from this central location, most of the places I will frequent will normally be within walking distance.
Ebe Ano, again and again
On such place I cannot miss when in Berlin is Ebe Ano at Pohlstraße 52, a Nigerian soul food restaurant that I must say is second to none in all the Nigerian cuisine outfits I have visited in Western Europe.
What it does not have in variety is full catered for in service and passion with what is on offer. The proprietors are a multi-racial couple, the man being the chef majoring in the exquisite stews from the eastern part of Nigeria.
I do the deep dive with a starter of pepper soup or suya and follow that with one of the many vegetable stews that includes any of Bitterleaf, Oha, Ukazi, Utazi, Egusi, Ogbono, Ugba, Okro vegetables with pounded yam, semolina, garri, amala, ground rice or wheat puddings.
Hands and more
The stews are not heavily spiced or too hot for the Western palate, though you are provided a side ramekin of red hot chilli paste, if you want to up the ante.
We go the traditional way and eat with our fingers rather than with cumbersome cutlery, and you will probably see many non-Africans digging in with just as much pleasure beyond the unadventurous rice or jollof rice with plantains and moin-moin into the amazingly exotic.
My understanding is that they have a growing non-African patronage and it is always a pleasure to meet up with friends there. For the taste of something original, different, exquisite, ethnic, inexpensive and delicious, you cannot afford to walk past Ebe Ano without looking in and having a go. I always do.
CDG is an impossible airport
Then, if I do stopover in Paris and have time on my hands, navigating Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is hellish at the best of times and whoever designed that airport should get invited for tea with Madame Guillotine at the Bastille.
The staff at CDG are well aware of the absolute inscrutability of this airport, my only advice to anyone transiting through CDG is to never be pressed for time navigating this place or you’ll miss your flight. Let me introduce the EasyCDG website which is not affiliated to CDG but is the labour of love of some who knows the CDG is anything but easy.
Getting into Paris
I finally found my way to the RER B trains to Paris with a long wait at the counter-intuitively impossible self-service ticket dispensing machines that up to 70% of the users operated with great difficulty before I boarded the 45-minute train journey to Châtelet – Les Halles in the very heart of Paris.
The station sits beneath a sprawling shopping centre that is being reconstructed, it does have the feel of a construction site with directions a bit messed up apart from the fact that escalators and lifts could be out of order.
Generally, I want to make it out of the Rambuteau exit towards the Georges Pompidou Centre that I have viewed for as long as I have visited Paris but never entered.
Just Café Beaubourg
My rendezvous is the Café Beaubourg [Not a flattering review, but hey!] which is to the left of the centre if you are stood with your back to the centre. This is where I meet with friends in Paris and where I take anyone I meet in Paris for brunch.
The brunch does not come cheap, but the view from a first floor window towards the centre and the square in front of it is one where you can watch the world go by without being disturbed by the charade outside.
It is also a place to reminisce for there I have been with friends some gone away and some long gone leaving me with just the memories and the realisation of how the passage of time brings people through your life like a river flows under a bridge. Sometimes an eddy is created that lasts long enough for one to behold with wonder leaving more than an impression.
These are things creatures of habit are born to suffer, the living and the memory and then a smile and a tear. The moment is replayed in the mind like a film and then we move on from that encounter with the past to be tried again at another opportune time.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Berlin: With friends at the Graphic Novel Day

Needs be done
My visit to Berlin in the weekend presented an unscheduled opportunity to provide some moral support to a few friends of mine at an event they were present for.
I had found out through a posting on Facebook that Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, the publisher of Cassava Republic, Sylvia Ofili (She needs a Wikipedia page) and Elnathan John were going to be at the 15th International Literature Festival.
Through collaborations with the Goethe Institute in Lagos, Sylvia and Elnathan were working with graphic artists to create two graphic novels based on themes of the boarding school experience and the coming out of a young man respectively.
As graphic as it comes
Before their presentation, we listened to Wiktoria Lomasko’s presentation titled “Opposition with the Pencil” where as a Russian, the recent retrogressive reforms to the freedom of expression in Russia had put people like her in fear and threat of persecution and prosecution.
She and her collaborators had found ingenious ways to critique the system through art and illustrations, it then dawned on us how the stifling of opposition and other voices in the public space in Russia could never be a welcome development in the 21st Century. The allotted hours was not long enough for her piece which was translated from Russian to English, but we began to understand what forces of repression the Putin government brings to bear on alternative thought.
The Nigerian graphic novel
In their presentation titled Imagined Realities, they discussed the inspiration, drive and collaborative difficulties in creating graphic novels and conveying ideas between cultures and distance that meets the expectations of sponsors and publishers alike, whilst opening up a new interest groups and readerships in Nigeria and beyond.
Knowing Sylvia as a writer of socially diverse topical issues and Elnathan as a novelist and satirist, I was quite intrigued by this new direction of storytelling they were charting, both ventures will be completed within a year.
Significant social media friends
Bibi, Elnathan and Slyvia were friendships I formed through social media from my blogging to Twitter. I first met Bibi just over 4 years ago when she was visiting Amsterdam for a few days, Sylvia was reading my blog when I was in hospital in September 2009, and she sent me a large bouquet of flowers on my first day of chemotherapy, the 5th of October 2009 then visited me in Amsterdam in December.
We last met in October 2010 in Stockholm. I first met Elnathan in Berlin in June 2015 at Ebe Ano (More talk about that in another blog.) We have met again in London before this new meeting in Berlin again.
After their session, we retired to the author’s tent for a few hours of catching and reminiscing, if they had not been partying too hard the night before, we might well have had another rendezvous at Ebe Ano.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Berlin: The price tag misery in Germany

A drift from purpose
Being exhausted from a number of unexplainable things resulting in lacking focus and losing my drive that I was not being as productive as I would have liked, I had to get away.
It is quite possible that having not yet taken an annual holiday in over a year, I have become lethargic and somewhat listless, the concern of what to do for my 50th birthday in December is beginning to weigh on my mind too.
At this and I planned at the very last minute a weekend in Berlin where it is very possible all I will do is sleep in my hotel and get some rest whilst the world moves on, invariably, this will not help and it adds to my utter discomfiture.
No sleep for the determined
Yet, I still have some of that sharpness in my rather tired head, I have only just caught up on the sleep I lost for a whole night. Occupied by thoughts, I decided to fix my trusty Toshiba NB100 notebook. It runs an Intel Atom CPU and though it is specified to take just 1GB of RAM, at the point of sale, the shop manager replaced it with a 2GB module and it worked and that at no extra cost.
This was about 8 years ago, then it had Microsoft Windows XP which I upgraded to Microsoft Windows 7 and a few months ago I installed the Microsoft Windows 10 Preview which worked for a few days but the WiFi dongle that worked in the earlier version of Microsoft Windows conked out when I tried to update the drivers in Microsoft Windows 10 and with it an inability to boot up.
Nothing I did could fix the problem, even wiping the system and starting from scratch, so insomnia gave me the opportunity to start with the installation of Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional and the Microsoft Office 2013 Professional, it was slow, especially the Click-to-run aspect that took almost a day.
Not what it says on the price tag
Anyway, I arrived in Berlin and decided to get a German SIM card for my dual-SIM phone, I walked into the electronics shop, asked for a SIM card and was presented with one that gave me a number of call minutes, a Short Message Service (SMS) texts and 1GB of data.
The SIM envelope had €9.90 printed on it, but I was being charged €19.95, at least that was what was on the till. So, I asked then to explain how they arrived at €19.95, the shopkeeper said he knows, but he could not show me how the figures add up.
I guess this is an interesting difference I have found between the United Kingdom and German, in the former, the price tag attached to an item takes precedent, in the latter, the price displayed at the till takes precedent. I was having none of it.
I got a better deal
For instance, so what happens if you go shopping based on the price tags or on an advertised price and find that at the till you are paying more than what the price tags indicated? The whole reason for price tags is obviated if the price of goods you want to purchase remains a mystery. I can understand if you need to barter, but a shop that uses price tags on goods must always match that price with what eventually gets displayed at the till.
In my view, it was a raw deal, and maybe in jest or seriousness, the shop manager said I will remember them after our exchange and dispute, indeed, I will remember them for failing to prove to me how they came to the price they wanted to charge me, besides, as I told them, I will probably get a better deal in town.
I did, for the same price, I got 5GB data, but the Germans desperately need a Trade Descriptions Act something that takes the mystery of pricing away from the price tag being some guidance that might only be proven at the till where you are probably embarrassed to pay up, because that is the norm – one I will never subscribe to.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Quite eccentric and borderline crazy

Traits on the strange
There is a trait I can find so useful and at the same time quite debilitating, beyond seeing, I have a tendency to observe to the point of obsession, my senses are somewhat attuned to a low-spectrum autistic level that I could combine pedantry with facetiousness without thinking of how burdensomely boring or silly it might appear to others.
On the other side of this, I might see things in a particular way, either rightly or wrongly and fail to persuaded of another perspective, which sometimes means I will rather keep my counsel than give an opinion. The worst part of this trait is when I am quick to react to things I should have been slow at deciding on and slow to react to things I should have been quicker to react to.
I embrace this all as part of my humanity, the successes and the regrets whilst trying as much as I can to improve myself.
Noticing the errors in notices
On my visit to Yorkshire two weekends ago, we stopped over in Leeds before spending the night in York, I saw things I could not ignore. I have a penchant for reading notices, plaques, signs, instructions and much else.
Not that I read to find fault, but where there is fault and you will find a lot of that on my blogs because I rarely proofread my drafts before posting and only get to correct errors in grammar and construction much later, but where I find fault, as I was saying, I cannot seem to ignore them.
In the Leeds Corn Exchange, I found the toilets in the basement just as my bladder was indicating it needed emptying. Having done the business and washing my hands, I was drying my hands when I looked up and saw the notice that seemed to start off well. [Wikipedia]
The Oxford comma and after that it all went downhill from there, normally hyphenated words missing the hyphen, American spelling, phonetical spelling, personalisation and number agreement errors. Three sentences on a notice and these many problems?
Assemble on Assembly Street
The Leeds Corn Exchange is a magnificent Victoria building, we were quite taken by the ornate design of the ceiling and obviously, for modern times there are health and safety regulations to adhere to. [LCE Website]
On the landing of the upper floor, having been through some of the shops, not too far from the vintage camera store, there was a Fire Action notice which anyone should take seriously in the event of a fire. Somehow, this notice looked funny and almost like a joke because the assembly point if we were to evacuate the building was Assembly Street.
On first reading, one would really have thought they got it wrong, however, there really is an Assembly Street in Leeds and don’t mess about if you are caught in an emergency just because the designated assembly point looks unusually funny or strange. I also hate to report that stranger things and crimes have happened on that street too. A woman was raped there in June. [Yorkshire Evening Post]
Teasing shower nipples
Now, onto one of the more bizarre traits I have. The bathroom of our not-so-well-appointed room at the Royal York Hotel had what you might call a rainfall showerhead.
A stationary ceiling fixture that apparently rains on you with controls on the wall for flow rate and temperature. However, this also had rubber teats extending from the metal surface that was supposed to distribute the rain shower evenly.
Yet, as with many shower heads with rubber teats, I cannot help but look at the flow and in that identify which teats are not working or distributing water out of alignment with the general flow because of blockages, usually limescale.
Then I pinch those shower head teats which seems to free them of blockages until all the teats were working. I somehow cannot stand the sight of the water flowing out of the teat out of alignment without doing something to fix it.
You can call that finicky or pernickety, but I end up with a good rain shower and it also shows that no matter who well things seem to be cleaned up, some things are just not up the standard expected. In this case, the showerhead, and to someone with my kind of fixation, well …

Saturday 5 September 2015

Thought Picnic: Losing my religion

A new realisation
My Christian upbringing is carved from that which I have experienced from my mother; intense, intolerant, cultist, fearful, stressful, encumbering and consequently presumptuous.
Compared to my dad whose Christian devotion is borne of reason and reasonableness whilst still being an active level-headed member of the laity, I have now found that experience and knowledge leaves me quite understanding of Christian doctrine and some interpretation without much affiliation.
Yet, I have my own stories of stupidity and foolishness that I once thought were demonstrations of faith and conviction with guilt seemingly tailoring my instinctive schizophrenia that vacillated between saint and sinner after each breath. It was unhealthy.
Losing my religion
The sum total of my religion is now tending towards the agnostic, I doubt I will ever become an atheist or apostate, there is too much superstition primed into my upbringing to be so entirely rational as to be humanist, experience of the unexplainable indicates there are things that have no clear expository words to relay to others of an unencumbered mind.
There are intricacies about interactions within humanity and inexplicable circumstances be they fate, luck, destiny or providence that make up a mix that is captured in the past, playing out in the present and unknown beyond that. We are all the more products of every kind of influence, direct or otherwise, conscious or subconscious, by commission or by omission, even by nonchalance, indifference or accident.
Finding a place of rest
This becomes the mystery of individuality and commonality, the maze many of us negotiate through success, failure and stagnation, it is why I am sometimes close but mostly distant, having relationships that last decades and others I have never been able to advance to any meaningful end in which loss and grief has been suffered.
Also in that is the inability to cherish familial ties well enough, the unresolved and unforgiven by reason of not communicating looms at every point that the big elephant in the room seems to be not measuring up in many ways that do give others a sense of dissatisfaction about me as I try to be unburdened by the expectations of others. It is my kind of keeping a low profile.
And yet
Between depression and hurt, the squabbling amongst those who invite me to take sides rather than placate and ameliorate conflict, I am no more sure of who to hold dear or to love. This leaves a sense of the unfulfilled and the unaccomplished, a grasping for something that seems to be out of reach yet driven by the view that anything is still attainable. I am caught in the horns of a dilemma that brings its own excitement.
All the talking and the therapy sessions are running in my head, my discomfiture is one new understanding of the complexity of an individual, the man you see is just a fraction of the man himself.
I started this blog a few days ago having written the first three paragraphs and this was supposed to be linked to the previous blog, I hadn’t finished the third paragraph before I realised that the link that seemed to be well formed as the inspiration for writing did not seem to so well formed after all. I left this blog where it was and went on to write the one before this with a new line of thinking. I returned to finish this blog with a narrative and ending I never before anticipated until now.

Friday 4 September 2015

Opinion: Kim Davis is in jail because she is a clerk, not a cleric

She is a devout Christian, no doubt
Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky is in jail for contempt of court and I think that is right and just.
The reason why Kim Davis is in jail was because she refused to grant marriage licences to gay couples after she had been instructed by the courts at various levels up to the supreme court to do her duty.
Now, Kim Davis would have us believe that she is a devout Christian and I have no reason to question her beliefs, her convictions, her persuasions or her conscience.
She is also a public servant
However, Kim Davis as a public servant is someone who has a duty to perform for which she is paid and for which she should be accountable if she fails to perform her lawful duty. A public office in civil society must never be where to wage religious wars of conscience and conviction.
I say this because any community setting might have the same religion, but rarely have similar convictions or devotions, the imposition of which can so easily infringe on the rights of those who are not similarly adherent.
When I last checked, the United States of America is a democracy and whilst many might deign to wear their religion on their sleeves, it is not a theocracy, it is not governed by religious books or dogma, but by a constitution and amendments to the same along with a body of living jurisprudence that interprets questions of law, rights, freedoms, liberties, causes, policy and much else.
She is clerk, not a cleric
I also note that Kim Davis ran for office to be a clerk and not a cleric, so for the multidimensional community that she serves, she is duty-bound to treat everyone to whom she provides the service of granting a marriage certificate equally, with respect, with dignity and without prejudice.
Yet, I respect the fact that Kim Davis due to her religion, her convictions, her beliefs and her conscience might well disagree with the law that grants the right for same-sex couples to receive marriage certificates, those elements of her devout Christianity do not automatically confer on her the right to disobey the law, most especially a direct court order commanding her to do her job.
She has every right to do her job reluctantly, grudgingly, even abusively if she is so disposed, but the law must be upheld.
We should not mistake Kim Davis’ tribulation with one that represents the persecution of Christians, rather this is a case of stubborn presumptuousness engendering stupidity and ignorance.
Why we have civil law
There is a reason for civil law, it makes everyone equal before the law and allows for everyone to be judged on the merits, the facts and the arguments properly made to defend a position based on extant law and constitutional interpretation along with appellate processes that can be exhausted to the highest court after which the decision of that court is final and it must not be impugned.
If we have a situation where everyone is allowed by reason of their devotion and conviction to act according to their conscience regardless of the dictates of the law we risk a society falling into anarchy. We cannot have public officials acting on the whim without regulation or conduct, where depending on how they feel, what they perceive, which prejudice appeals to them most or what judgement they have in their heads they serve without any public accountability, but to God alone.
This brings me to a blog I wrote on the matter the separation of church (religion) and state, I implore you to read the blog.
The state must think for itself
The aptly named Lord Justice Laws made a number of pertinent statements in his judgement, which I highlighted in that blog, one that I find most critical I have copied to this blog.
“The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.”
Invariably, the learned judge is saying the people need the option to decide who makes their laws and this option is exercised through their judges and their governments, it is only then that the people can truly say they are free because the state to which they belong does not have to answer to anybody else but the selfsame people from whom are selected those who are the judges, the representatives and the government. That is human government in a nutshell.
Kim Davis by her histrionics was trying to take this option away from the people and give it to her preconceived higher power of God, she can do that in her own house as an act of individual conscience, but as public servant, the people decide through their representatives and this is the judge.
There was a scenario in the bible where the rulers questioned Jesus Christ about the paying of taxes and in the ensuing conversation his answer was good enough to send his challengers on their way.
Don’t confuse the renders
“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” Matt 22:21 (KJV)
Jesus as the initiator of Christianity knew clearly the difference between civic duty and religious devotion. In his answer, one must note that he first addressed the matter of civic duty where the understanding of the rules is clear to everyone before talking of God where that might well be a matter of individual conscience.
I make bold to say that what Jesus intended in his answer was without equivocation that regardless of personal conviction or individual conscience, the laws of the land must be respected. The disarray and disorder comes when certain ignorant religious adherents or extremists confuse the instruction by rendering what is Caesar’s to God and what is God’s to Caesar, sometimes not even knowing what is Caesar’s from what is God’s and that is why Kim Davis is in jail.
Obey or resign
As a clerk, she should have been rendering what is Caesar’s to Caesar, respecting the law and doing her job, she decided to render what is God’s to Caesar and well, Caesar does not trade in God’s currency and technically, that is fraud and frauds go to jail.
Kim Davis in my view belongs in jail until she is ready to obey the law as a clerk who grants marriage certificates to all who are legally entitled to one, including same-sex couples, regardless of her conscience or conviction or she should resign and go home to worship her God without interference from the law or the people.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Thought Picnic: Fucked-up, but coping well

You want to know how to rip the child out of a child? Fuck him.” [Judgement on Bailli]
Just as crude as it is
Following on from the conversation I started yesterday about the freedom to speak the truth regardless of whether it shocks or it is brutal, the excerpt at the beginning of this blog speaks volumes. It does not have to be gender specific, it applies to all children.
On the matter of child sexual abuse, I cannot say when I read the many harrowing ordeals others experienced that I suffered anywhere along the lines of what they endured, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Yet, the crudeness of the opening statement does not begin to describe the loss of innocence of a child when exposed to such atrocious abuse and being made the object of abuse without any sense of humanity for the inordinate pleasure of the perpetrator.
We cope, either way
Though some of us who once were victims of abuse have found coping mechanisms to live somewhat well-adjusted lives, none of what happened then is without lasting consequence.
One such consequence for some of us was in getting this early practical and harrowing introduction to sex, we became like suckling toddlers who before being weaned had our diets changed from milk to meat. I covered that issue the blog below.
Carrying on the theme from the introduction, one can in the colloquial say, these acts of child sexual abuse in ripping out the child out of the child fucks up their heads and fucks up their lives and that is the beginning of many other fuck ups that people may not understand.
The signs missed
A usually normal gregarious child that suddenly becomes withdrawn and introverted, performance at school going downhill, unexplained and out-of-character behaviour giving guardians concern, a tendency to unhealthy habits leading to inexplicable addictions – these are usually symptoms of something gone wrong and usually never properly understood without professional help.
Then you begin to wonder why certain children later in life do not measure up to all sorts of expectations of them. Enough mental anguish and energy is expended in attaining a sense of normalcy without being harangued by parent, relation, friend, acquaintance or anyone to fit to some model of responsibility and status.
No more abuse
Yet, many suffer all the more for trying to please from when they were under threat after abuse through to the present time. Not that we give much thought to being let down or finding no protection where ideally there should have been support, succour, comfort and protection, in most cases we harbour no grudges.
However, there comes a time that if the pushing and urging does not stop the ensuing torrent of bottled up emotion and hurt will sweep people completely out of the way like a flood with shock.
It behoves many that these stories be told at a convenient time and that what many may not understand about that others read to be habit and attitude might well be the ultimate act of self-preservation. We might be just a bit fucked-up, but we cope well, however, if you encroach too much on our space, do not be surprised when we firmly say, fuck-off!