Tuesday 24 May 2016

The karma of the vending machine

Enzymes on the run
Every once in a while, I get peckish, a feeling of wanting something, maybe anything to eat just to sate a craving or a hunger.
I am not one given to snacking, nor am I a vulture that eats between its meals. A workday would be a breakfast of oats, a few biscuits and lots of tea until when I get back home for a proper meal that almost always puts me to bed before I have to get up at 11:00 PM for my pills.
Working it out
On Friday, I had sworn to spend the weekend at home, but a thorny problem as I left work meant I spent my time swotting into the witching hours trying to understand the whys and wherefores of the conundrum at work. When I seemed to make some headway, I decided I would be at work the next morning to try out the possible solutions and catch up on a number of elements I felt I could close out.
Arriving at work, an uppity security guard reclining in his seat tried to put officious obstacles in my way, only courteousness held me back from delivering a needed putdown, though as I signed in, I measured him by asking if he was the chief security personnel for the weekend, he replied in the affirmation and that invariably put him in his place.
A chocolate jackpot
The day brought heavy rain and great results, at least, I achieved most of what I came in to do before a taxi cab came to take me to the station. At the station, I decided to get a bar of chocolate from the vending machine. I put in a pound coin and once I got my chocolate I was given some change of £1.70. My luck, I thought, so I told the station master and pocketed my jackpot.
Monday came and I was leaving late, so a colleague offered me a lift to a major station where trains are more frequent than the local station in the town where I work. The newsagents had close because it was already after 06:00 PM.
Stuck against a fall
I bought a ticket and walked up to the platform which was a good walk away from the station master’s office. Feeling peckish again, I decided to get a packet of crisps from the vending machine at the station. Again, I inserted a pound coin and made my choice. The dispenser whirled and the packet of crisps got stuck at the lip of the dispenser where it should have obeyed the law of gravity and fallen into the chute where I could have retrieved it.
There was nothing I could do to retrieve my quarry and a notice on the vending machine indicated none of the station staff would be able to help if I had problems, the only option left was to call a number and give a machine reference.
The karma of the machine
The number being a premium rate number would suggest if I called I might well end up spending well over a pound in calls to determine whether I would get a refund or a service engineer would be sent out to fix the problem. On balance, the trouble wasn’t worth more than the pound I had apparently lost. Since that packet of crisps was the last in that row, there was no point putting more money in to get the next packet of crisps to push off the earlier packet of crisps.
I made do until my train arrived well aware of the fact that I had just been a victim of the karma of vending machines. Winning big and losing some.
C’est la vie.

Sunday 22 May 2016

On the milestones of health checks

A schedule ahead
The highlights of my year or rather the more obvious plans scheduled far ahead in each year for over six years now has been my appointments with consultants.
People with vast medical expertise who I face on many occasions to discuss the state of my health, what discoveries have been found, what diagnosis has been arrived at, what the prognosis is, what prophylactic or therapeutic course of treatment is available and eventually what decision has been made in the end.
The cosy conversation
Whilst it is literally impossible to affect the bedside manner of certain dour and boring doctors, and I have met a few, in the main, I have met quite outgoing, understanding, engaging and interesting consultants. This makes for a better environment to discuss issues and many times things in a broader context of life, livelihood, and living.
I get on well with consultants who despite their status, achievement and authority have a listening ear, a sympathetic mien, and a completely unprejudiced view, regardless of what the subject becomes in our conversation.
Many faces seen
It is a bit disconcerting that in England, I have rarely had the pleasure of meeting with consultants that have been assigned to me at the times I have booked my appointments, which is quite different from meeting consultants in The Netherlands or in Wales. Maybe a better scheduling system is required, however, I am told that is how the department is able to attend to a wider number of patients.
On Thursday, I was in hospital and again, I saw another consultant, I always do my research about consultants, see what they qualified in, what their research projects were, review academic, research and professional papers they have written and what conferences they’ve contributed to.
Be read up
At one point the consultant had to accede that I had done considerably more research on her, her background and on some of her personal life than she had on me with the little time she had to glean through my medical file. It has become common practice to elicit my medical history from me than wade through physical or computer files, I am comfortable with that.
In my view, it is incumbent on a patient to be versed with their condition so as to be able to give knowledgeable information and most importantly, you can ask better follow-up questions in relation to how the discussion develops. This helps ensure that any decision made with regards to medical expectations and outcomes takes into consideration your concerns, your anxieties and also your expectations too.
A glad finishing
Beyond the medical, we talked about professions, hobbies, travel and the general things before I was booked for some tests that included a visit to the phlebotomist and two future appointments to review my situation.
I do look forward to these hospital visits and the more prepared I am for the consultation, the better I feel afterwards. I always take notes and in particular the key indicators that come from the blood tests, which gives me a general indication of what my health condition is and so far, I am doing very well.
It is easier to take an Uber cab ride to the hospital than getting one back and I have on occasion ended up getting on a bus going in the completely wrong direction as I did on Thursday. It didn’t bother me, I just got back on the bus at the terminus and rode back until it got me to the ethnic minority superstore where I stocked up on ingredients for my local cuisine before getting back on the bus on the same route that got me back to my street.

Thursday 19 May 2016

In gratitude and thankfulness

Thankful and joyful
Gratitude is a feeling that words never really find the breath and scope to express. Yet, one must never fail to be thankful for the mercies large and small that form the basis for lasting gratitude.
Eight weeks ago, I entered a regime of medication that was to treat an ailment that was discovered over three years ago. Doctors and committees disputed and vacillated in three different cities about the prognosis, the options and invariably the cost.
Fear and fair
New treatments were coming on-stream to replace older therapies that had been tried and tested, but were gruesome and difficult to handle, that was the prospect I faced just over 8 weeks ago and I was not particularly ready to suffer the ordeal.
When I got to the hospital on that day, I learnt that I had been considered for the new therapy, just a pill a day for 8 weeks with check-ups at Week-2, Week-4 and the end of treatment at Week-8.
The tests at Week-2 showed an amazingly dramatic improvement of my condition, the Week-4 result that I received today also showed such markedly improved progress in my condition, my organs recovering as a result of the treatment.
The expectation is that the visit to the phlebotomist today will indicate a complete eradication of the condition. Though, the assurance of a cure will only be determined at the twelfth and twenty-fourth week after the treatment.
Done and gone
I am very hopeful that this situation will become a part of my history as well as a heart full of thanks to the doctors, the nurses and the institution of the NHS that has given me many opportunities to survive since the day of my birth and consequently, I have thrived thereafter.
For all its many failings and problems, I have been blessed with option and opportunity in the NHS, sometimes slow and sometimes late, but still working, helping, encouraging and supporting the healing process.
Thanks and gratitude
There is no doubt that without the European health services I have availed myself of in The Netherlands, The UK, and Spain, I probably would not be writing this piece.
Beyond this, I am also grateful to my friends and family, my various acquaintances on social media who have offered support, prayers, encouragement, consideration and succour.
Thank you all, I am blessed.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Essential Snobbery 101: David Cameron was being silly

In company of class
I arrived home yesterday to the conversation recorded between Her Majesty, The Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister after being introduced by the Speaker to the Queen, decided to engage in small-talk (polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions) with the Queen and this would have been separate from the formal weekly audience with the Queen where the Prime Minister visits the Queen in camera to discuss the matters of state.
Quite nasty talk
As the camera rolled capturing this seemingly private banter, the microphones, hot and ready picked up a declension into unguarded commentary by a Prime Minister who once had a life in public relations. Almost boastfully boisterous as if to show familiarity and ease before royalty, he declared, “We've got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain ... Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.” [BBC News]
Now, there is no doubt that Nigeria and Afghanistan have great and almost overwhelming problems with corruption. The Prime Minister had invited the leaders of these countries to his much vaunted anti-corruption summit and it now appeared that he had in mind to ridicule them for the problems in their countries.
Reprehensible indiscretions
On the one hand, this kind of banter which skirts the bounds the typically politely rude English also smacks of old colonial snobbery of the worst kind. The very kind where someone jocularly abuses, insults and offends you and then pats you on the back with the faux-sympathetic apology of not meaning to hurt you.
On the other hand, as we observed of George Osborne some years before, it is the kind of indiscretion that obtains from public school educated toffs who fawn obsequiously in the presence of royalty or money, people who have a heightened sense of self but are immediately self-conscious in the presence of those who for one reason or another they deem their betters.
Fishing for laughs
Now, the well-educated Englishman was usually gotten away with utterly bad manners as a matter of status, class and privilege. Their misdemeanours happen behind closed doors with witnesses holding their peace in disgust and disapproval, but shine a public spotlight on any of this and it stinks to the high heavens of odium most vile.
The Archbishop, given to circumspection interjected, saying, “But this particular president is not corrupt... he's trying very hard”, the Queen concurred, before the Speaker hoping to make a joke of the slight and bring humour to obloquy, then asked, “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?
This would have been funny if it was not to add insult to injury, the Speaker aping the Prime Minister in an off-hand game of attempting to amuse the Queen.
Just a silly boy
The end result of this contemptuous activity was that this became the headline news of every media outlet and the papers the next day. Quite unbecoming, very uncouth and socially maladroit, one could almost subscribe to the conspiracy that this deployed intentionally by the Prime Minister to take Brexit away from being the centre of cynosure for a day or more.
Yet, it can only be one thing, a silly boy trying to show off and slipping on a banana skin, a spectacle with a necessary sense of schadenfreude. Aside from all the offense caused, the only conclusion that can be drawn is, David Cameron has been a rather silly little boy. Even if you could get a good laugh, some thoughts are best left unspoken.

Saturday 7 May 2016

A story of languages

She speaks
Sometimes I wish I had a better ear for languages like my mother does. Not only is she a polyglot, she had the ability to gather context, tone, understanding and react even to languages she has heard only once.
At least, languages she seriously puts her mind to, she masters, however, she said of her German language experience whilst studying in the UK, they all made fun of both the teacher and the language that they gained nothing from the class apart from snippets for derision or laughter.
Then again, my father related an incident where they were looking for a home in the UK, the landlord then started a side conversation with his partner in a language they did not understand, it was one of the Ghanaian languages, enough for my mother to respond first to their unfriendly banter, their tendency to price gouge as my parents made their excuses to leave.
She deigns
She relayed a story to me about walking up a 1960s London street with a relative when they encountered a sluggish old man and the relative quipped in Yoruba that the craggy old man should move out of the way. To their shock and bewilderment, the old English man responded in accent-perfect Yoruba, that they were craggy spoilt kids.
It transpired that the man had lived in Lagos for 25 years, this experience informed my mother’s decision never to assume she will never be remotely understood, regardless of where and when. I have always taken that lesson to heart.
So, imagine my surprise when having had our puppy rescued from the backyard well by the Lagos State Fire Brigade, we called in the carpenters at the top of our street to construct a protective covering over the well. My mother was quite particular about what she wanted done as the carpenters cussed under their breath that they had never had to deal with such a demanding customer in Igbo.
They learnt
She responded in fluent Igbo and a dialect I soon found the Igbo-speaking teachers in her school where she was principal did not speak. Now, I know my mother grew up in Northern Nigeria, she could well pass for a Hausa woman, she had never visited anywhere to the South-East of Nigeria to my knowledge, at least until a few years after this event when she attended conferences, where did she learn her Igbo from? That was a mystery.
Meanwhile, my father attended every Hausa class and lecture he could find when we lived in the North of Nigeria in the early 1970s and could barely muster a few sentences. His attempts at Pidgin English were comedic at best. My aunt’s first numbers in Hausa have constantly been the stuff of jokes, and suffice it to say that almost 13 years of sojourn in The Netherlands never brought me close to mastering Dutch to any proficiency beyond the rudimentary, yet, I could read enough and speak enough to get by if I had to.
I spoke
I encountered a man on crutches in a lift at Euston Station who was having a conversation on his hands-free phone, it was in Hausa and there I was with Hausa I had learnt as a pre-teen over 40 years ago having a conversation in a language I rarely get to use except on Twitter or on the rare occasion of meeting office cleaners from Ghana in Holland over 10 years ago.
I am always fascinated by languages and I guess if I were a parent in The Netherlands, I probably would have had no other choice than to immerse myself in the greater society of my children, rather than live as an Englishman abroad. The pillow talk, as far as I could remember, was always in English.
Languages still matter a great deal, even if it just starts with the greetings, the numbers and the basic phrases.

Friday 6 May 2016

Thought Picnic: The currency of courtesy

Aerating a need
Courtesy is a priceless commodity and like thankfulness, gratitude, respect and consideration, it comes out of our basic humanity as something we either possess or do not.
Most especially in a professional setting, it is the lubricant of goodwill, an acknowledgement of value and contribution which sets in motion the willingness to be amenable, well beyond the call of duty.
It is a currency that matters such that the absence of courtesy or respect, does much to poison work relations, sowing discontent and sapping goodwill.
Calling out wrong
That one has to ask for courtesy, is unfortunately, a situation that leaves all parties quite embarrassed, if not close to ignominy and shame.
In the same vein, it is also interesting to realise that some people who have been tolerated in their uncouthness and bad behaviour, never seem to be trammelled in their unbecoming conduct that they are oblivious of this.
Incapacity is no excuse
For instance, a lady who lounge-splayed herself occupying more than one priority seat on the bus refused to budge declaring that she was epileptic and so in need of the priority seats. Whilst I could only agree that she needed one seat, it was no excuse to have atrocious social skills and a lack of consideration for others.
It remains necessary to seek harmony and demand a sense of order for the peaceful coexistence of all, at home, at work and on the streets. Someone has to do it and more join in when someone steps forward to bell the cat.

Monday 2 May 2016

A view in city living

The apartment
The chute is at the end of the corridor to the right, through four doors, some serving as fire doors and others I am yet to properly determine apart from the fact that one of them is useful.
The communal living in an apartment block offers an interesting social experiment in engaging with people you don’t know but leave the evidence of both their existence and irritation.
The building we access with electronic codes and are not supposed to let anyone tailgate us into the building if they are unknown to us. Yet, we all somehow work on the premise that anyone who follows so closely behind us probably has business in the building that is unlikely to be nefarious.
The people
I am of a reticent disposition, I rarely tailgate access to a building where I am a guest, I will wait for the host to acknowledge me and give me access to the building. At certain times, my bell rings and the person at the door is unknown, to the unknown, I will not provide access, no matter the tales they have to tell.
Our post-boxes stacked on each other within a hall to the back entrance is on two sides on the walls and there is nothing as irksome as receiving junk mail, but worse still is those who drop their unneeded mail on the floor. I will be asking the concierge to keep an eye on the closed circuit television camera to catch out the culprit.
I could not help but notice that someone had taken a brutal implement to the post box for flat 27 and the door to the post box is left open, warped and damaged. It is likely that the occupant of that apartment is tenant rather than an owner because no owner would nominally exhibit such vandalism.
The chute
The room where the electricity meters are for each floor sees much activity; parcels and packages delivered to the concierge who serves many purposes including this; storing the goods in this room which is more a cubicle.
The activity in that space presages inactivity in my department, thrice goods have been stored there and in the process, the main switch to my apartment tripped off. There was a time I was away in South Africa and after the first week out of four I could no more contact my computer, well, the power had gone and with that, all was stored in my freezer went to waste with an unbearable stink.
That was a number of visits to the chute that allows every floor to send their household rubbish and waste apart from recycled stuff to the huge waste bins in the basement. You chuck your rubbish in the chute and it should slide down and land with a thud that you should hear.
Sometimes, it requires the swinging of the chute door to allow the bag fall through, yet some on my floor do not wait to see that their rubbish has left the receptacle and fallen into the bin. Usually, these are bigger than normal bags and it takes a bit of working at to let the bag fall through before you could put yours in.
The Concierge
The absence of housetraining that includes the consideration of others is evident in these bugbears, litter, rubbish, spills, smells, blockages, noise and those are just a few of the problems with sharing an apartment block. Were it not for the presence of the concierge to attend to some of these issues, existence here would have bordered on the unbearable.
This is life in the city centre, the conveniences, however, almost always outweigh the inconveniences.

Sunday 1 May 2016


May I have permission to say?
May, all months you count on a hand,
May of the desire that begins with a day,
May of wishes many like grains of sand.
May this which you wish to pray,
May of which this is the first,
May you contemplate the day?
May it fulfil your thirst.
May you stir to rise,
May the day shine so bright,
May the clarity in your eyes,
May it bring you to the light.
May you be happy,
May all fear be banished,
May it be sweet like candy,
May joys like this never be finished.
May there be a friend,
May this friend be close,
May they see how you bend,
May a hand stay when it blows.
May you grow old,
May it be with one you love,
May the fondness be readily told,
May your stories show much love.
May what you long for,
May it bring much laughter,
May health, wealth, strength and more,
May it be yours now and ever after.