Wednesday 31 May 2017

Thought Picnic: My regret at doing nothing about that love

I was crazy in love
Yesterday would have been Chris’ 44th birthday, the 8th since he passed away unexpectedly in London in mid-October 2009, just a few days after I was discharged from the hospital.
I loved him and yet could not stand him because he had this hold on my heart that left me too crazy to think with my head, I was just crazy for him.
Then again, I was afraid, I was unsure and I was hesitant. We were conducting a difficult long-distance relationship that had us rendezvous everywhere abroad but at home, except for the first time when he visited me in Amsterdam. I should have had him come over to live with me in Amsterdam, with all the sacrifices it would entail.
He was a crazy man
There is nothing I can do about it now but work with hindsight and hope that I have learnt some hard lessons about love, commitment and following your heart. Chris ticked all the boxes of looks and passion, great fun, wicked sense of humour but with an evil streak that sometimes made me wonder how I got involved in this crazy game.
There was a past that haunted him that sometimes clouded his better judgement, I could make allowances for a lot, but there were times I needed to escape from it all to give my heart a time for recovery.
This was crazy news
One such time was at the time when I fell ill, I did not respond to any of his messages, I was hurting too much, in the pain of love and indifference, his calls and questions in messages left unanswered and then I was in hospital without telling him I was gravely ill. He probably was gravely ill too, I did not know.
It was two weeks after I was discharged from hospital that I sent him a message, being sorry for not keeping in touch and how much as I love and miss him, we just had this crazy, crazy relationship. When I received a response, my heart skipped a beat, the first sentence literally killed me.
His housemate responding informed me that Chris had died just two weeks before of renal failure, the love I thought I had, had gone.

Saturday 27 May 2017

The message of the massage

Rubbing and drubbing
For years, I have endured and suffered a niggling pain in my right shoulder blade, it has not been too uncomfortable, but I only had to swing my arm in a certain way to feel that sudden stab of pain that made you either gasp or groan.
However, recently, my waking moments have had that pain arrest my attention that no amount of posturing and stretching alleviated, I was beginning to accept it as a norm.
Last night, I decided to do something about it and I went online searching for locations offering deep tissue massages, but after reading up a bit about it and conjuring in my mind the idea that a 'no-hands massage' meant I could be both be elbowed and kneed in certain delicate places, I decided on the more common Swedish massage.
That muscle from another
I have had massages before, but I was more interested in the professional angle of things rather than those that purported to offer a happy ending. I settled on one that offered sports massages called My Sports Injury with the view they’ll probably know more about muscles and what to do.
Making an early appointment for 8:30 AM and paying through PayPal, I made for the clinic and met up with Ray, the therapist who was outside and probably waiting for me. Friendly and nice, he introduced himself and took me into the basement gym that had the therapy rooms.
I filled in a few forms about my health and regions where I was having muscular pain, the particular muscle I was told was the rhomboid muscles that connect up to the upper end of the vertebral column.
Stripping down to my underwear with my socks kept on, I lay face down on the massage table and as he moved my arms, I felt that stab of pain again, he provided some additional support for my arms and began to rub and knead my muscles.
Pins and needles
In our earlier consultation, he talked about acupuncture and I related an experience when I accompanied a friend to see his acupuncturist. Each needle being tapped into his back was exaggerated in my mind as a re-enactment of the crucifixion, big crooked nails being hammered into flesh with humongous mallets. That impression kept me off accessing this ancient Chinese therapy for my muscle pains.
He worked my shoulders down to my lower back before he suggested acupuncture to ease the tension in my upper back, he assured me it would not be painful. Meanwhile, he had also done some deep tissue massage that did not involve being kneed or elbowed, I was beginning to trust him.
So, I let him put in the first needle, a bit of a tinge, but no pain, and before I knew it there were 6 needles in my upper back. Then working on my lower back, he tapped in another few needles into my back and at final count, there were 16 needles in my body. All the while, we were talking about life experiences and how to approach issues, he was a listening and interested therapist.
Cups and mats
I had pictures taken of the needles because being subjected to the acupuncture therapy has never been something I would have considered ever, and here I was the literal semblance of a voodoo doll, only that I was both the doll and the target. Working down to my legs, he introduced suction cups to my calves before removing the needles, offering a final rubdown and then a few exercises on a floor mat.
One must always be open to new experiences and this was both relaxing and rejuvenating, Ray was a consummate professional with an easy and persuasively encouraging bedside manner that eased me into situations I would never have countenanced. I’ll be back for another session, a massage done by those who know what they are doing, is good. The message in the massage is, muscle, shape up.

My HAND on my head - Memory Screening Tests

Now I Remember
‘It loves the brain.’ He said. In fact, there are many things that go after brain for all sorts of reasons my lack of medical expertise cannot explain.
Quite particularly, sexually transmitted diseases, everything appears to happen down there and once contracted they want to travel to the very top and take control. Nature seems to have beings in the ascendancy.
I had an appointment at the hospital on Thursday, if I can remember clearly, I thought it was in relation to the abdominal scan I had just two Saturdays ago since the letters literally arrived at the same time.
I took an Uber cab for the 9:50 AM appointment which was on a surge pricing and we made it on time without any of the stress of the appointment before the last. Ushered in by the staff, rather than stand on weighing scales I sat on one and it appears with clothes on, I am dropping kilogrammes.
Correct in my assessment
My blood pressure also read within the limits of acceptable for the first time in 4 visits which was really good news for me. I was called in to see the consultant where I was told it was my appointment for the HAND clinic or the Memory Screening Clinic.
Now, for a person above 50, I needed to be sure that certain elements of my activities in forgetfulness, responsiveness and anxiety which I somewhat have found compensatory mechanisms for were either age degenerative or as a result of my long-term condition.
The session which lasted almost 90 minutes started with filling in a Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale form that pointed towards elements of anxiety that needed a bit more analysis. However, since this was our first clinical assessment, much was dependent on what I subjectively thought were issues bothering me.
Suffice it to say, I completed that form and even annotated a grammatical correction to give a sentence a finality in context rather than the open-ended inquiry. Then I was passed the 'Questionnaire for HAND clinic' that required long form writing and I probably gave a detailed treatise to about 20 or so questions.
Convention is indistinct
After that, a number of cognitive tests were performed on transcription, memory, recall, acuity, reflexes, alertness and so on.
One such activity required drawing a clock with time 10 minutes past eleven, I went for a square face with 4 cardinal point numbers and then the minute and hour hands. A majority, I was told, draw a round clock face with all the numbers in before putting in the hands. Minimalist and functional works for me and that was some reflection on the kind of personality that I am.
I was good with the numbers tests, but I was never able to recall the words in the right order, even though every time I got all the words right and then after ten minutes of other activities. The reflexes seem to be fine and it would appear I have good cognitive skills that fall well within the standard deviation of normal.
Remember to smile
It would take a couple of tests over years to determine if there is any degeneration and whether through the results of the blood tests there are other noticeable indicators that can be controlled with reference to my thyroid, my liver, blood counts or folate functions. I might be in for a computed tomography scan of my brain – awesome, but will not be keen on a lumbar puncture for the drawing of cerebral spinal fluids.
By process of assessment, analysis and elimination, it is good to have this kind of activity in professional hands than leave it to my personal perception and watch some deterioration as a matter of course. It would appear there is not much to be concerned about, but I can in future request clinical psychiatric assistance if needed.
The ‘It’ at the beginning of the blog is HIV and the HAND is HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder which in my 15th year since diagnosis, though on my 8th year of treatment seems to be well managed with an improving CD4 count and an undetectable viral load. All other indicators from my blood tests of two months ago seem fine too. I guess I remembered most of what happened and kept some back for privacy.
Everyone with HIV should consider attending a HAND clinic and at least every 12 to 24 months thereafter.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Opinion: He was British, what changed him?

He was British
The Manchester bombing suspect has been named as a 22-year old British-born son of Libyan refugees. His parents were refugees from Muammar Gaddafi and they had recently returned to Libya.
Obviously, many questions arise and flags raised about how a person born in England, having attended local schools, was a Manchester United fan and was at one time a student at the University of Salford before he dropped out, became more religiously devout and outwardly hostile to his community before he took on a suicide terrorism quest against innocent people in Manchester.
In some of the news stories I have read, there are words and phrases that worry me, they show tectonic plates of acculturation that stand at the nexus of integration, assimilation, indifference or abnegation within the societies in which we exist.
How do we relate?
Wherever we were born, we have many roads to travel to some sort of self-ideation and completeness of personality and life within the communities and societies in which we live. I was born in England, I was exposed to significant culture norms of my parents but at the same time, I was raised in a culturally diverse community.
There are areas where certain animist activities of my father or the religious extremism of my mother could have impacted negatively on my outlook and worldview, for some reason, there was a part of my education and observation that meant that there was a more independent streak in me, as I have not so fully imbibed any culture, I am more of a world citizen with hopefully a healthy respect for our diverse humanity.
However, we cannot entirely ignore the influence of what the media terms ‘closely-knit’ communities, ethnic minority groups that cluster in areas for social, religious, cultural, economic and traditional validation and affirmation. To say I am suspicious of settings that attempt to create for offspring in host culture the semblance of home cultures long departed by forebears creates serious psychological problems for the children.
Dangers of little-stans
The tendency to create uprooted little-stans and ghettoes to ensure the children do not become alien to the culture of their parents, whilst laudable can be quite damaging too. Culture has become a fluid existence that is an amalgamation of many influences garnered from all the many places in which we interact, that to limit interaction to close-knit communities bereft of accommodation of the wider setting in which they exist is dangerous.
One such significant indication of this is where a cultural predilection to consanguineous marriages amongst certain communities in the UK is the leading cause of child mortality or congenital deformities in the newly born in the UK. The science is clear, but a deference to fatalism seems to reinforce the need to keep the traditional despite the avoidable heartache that comes with it.
The same goes for beliefs and teachings that appear to reject or criticise the norms and values of host communities. I remember whilst looking for a church to attend in the Netherlands walking into two services in different churches in two major cities one Sunday and thinking these were literally slum churches transplanted from Nigeria to the Netherlands.
The language was alien, the teaching was fundamentalist, the views were ultra-conservative that I left with the decision to seek out a church representative of the city in which I live, accepting of the broadest spectrum of humanity from all walks of life with an international and yet integrated cultural viewpoint. I found such in the Christian City Church which was consequently renamed to C3 Church. I felt I not only belonged but I could also contribute without the imposition of some Pharisaic authority over me.
We must attend to it
The process of acculturation is both slow and demanding, yet it is necessary for everyone who departs a home culture for a host culture to have discernment and make the best of every influence to be a net contributor to the fabric of society in which they exist. It means there is less stress on affirming who you are and reduces the necessity to adopt imported practices inimical to a proper and fulfilled life in host communities.
It should cut a swathe through demands of tradition that forbids intermarriage, that requires religious affinity or the person risks ostracism, that supports Female Genital Mutilation which is by terms an evil practice of butchering girls for some deluded idea of tempering sexual expression and worst of the lot, the murders termed honour-killing.
We must be careful what we project on our offspring as culture and traditions that they do not begin to rebel and revolt against sense, sensibility, reason, reasonableness and accommodations of diversity despite our innate beliefs.
What made the young man give up his life to such an atrocious terrorist cause? We may never know, but the signs were there and through the normal cause of minding our own businesses, he in plain sight became the mass murderer whose memory would attract eternal ignominy not only to himself, but maybe unremittingly and unfairly to his family and his close-knit community, when we should all gather together in our shared humanity to mourn the lost, comfort the wounded and strengthen the bonds that celebrate the best of who we are.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Manchester: Our humanity is our strength

21 years ago
On Saturday, the 15th of June 1996, I was visiting Manchester for the second time when just after 11:00 AM, I heard a very loud bang. I said to the man not far from me as I was on the towpath of the canal running through the centre of Manchester, “that sounds like a bomb”, he agreed.
Meanwhile, before the explosion, there were helicopters overhead and unbeknownst to me, there was already a warning about the bomb as the police had begun evacuating the town centre, but things did not seem to have an urgency around the situation.
Further on, a man had shards of glass fall on him, but he was not wounded, just shaken. There was no need to call the emergency services to his aid.
The revival
I left the canal towpath and walked into town and at Piccadilly Gardens I found a café where I decided to have a full English breakfast, it was open and serving meals even though the pavement outside was strewn with glass and debris.
It was almost an hour after that the police moved in to ask us to evacuate the place, we were moved out of the town centre and kept out for almost 10 hours before I could return to my hotel, late that night.
Whilst there were no fatalities there were 212 casualties, the centre of Manchester was rebuilt after that bombing that wreaked such great devastation on buildings and businesses.
Having been a resident of Manchester for over three years now, it is my home even if I don’t do much socially in the city apart from when I have guests. It is both a friendly and a hostile city, the latter is more evident in the somewhat parochial and insular native of the LGBTI community, it is easy to be unaffected and hence not belong, yet, and it does appear to have a thriving and bustling gay community.
A tragedy
Last night on the 22nd of May 2017, Ariana Grande whose music and career I have no inkling of was in town for a performance attended by kids, teenagers and some parents at the Manchester Arena, a venue that can host thousands. I know where the venue is, but I have never attended an event there before.
After her show, as her fans made to leave the venue, an explosive device was set off in the foyer, apparently triggered by a suicide bomber and between the danger caused by the bomb itself and the panic that ensued, 22 souls perished.
It is a very sad day for Manchester, I was not in town, but I caught wind of the tragedy on the news and through the night followed the developments as they unfolded.
It’s evil beyond words
There is only one to blame, the perpetrator who having lost the will to live had decided under the guise of a warped and misguided religious persuasion to commit such evil atrocity of dispatching himself from this mortal coil with the massacre of 22 innocent ones.
The sheer audacity and arrogance of a belief system that can constitute itself into judge and jury to determine in the stead of a deity who needs to live and who must die for the reward of paradise to the actor is plumbing the depths of inconceivable delusion, the fantasy of which there is no parallel.
To think that in killing the innocent anyone can appear before the courts of eternity and find vindication and exoneration just beggars belief. Yet, the instigators of this rotten criminality who set off brigands in jihadist and crusading fanfare would never subject themselves to the slightest privations as they sacrifice the gullible to manifestly evil exploits.
There is no cause that can justify murder, the murder of innocents is even more heinous and reprehensible, done in the name of religion, it must be so repulsive and repugnant to thought or concept, it is unmitigated cowardice by gutless cretins.
We will stand and memorialise
If there be an afterlife and a hell, the perdition that awaits them would be welcoming in its blaze, unrelenting in its torment and ruthless in its torture of every semblance of consciousness they might have. They will cry without respite and their bitterness will blacken them into darkness thick to the feeling and untrammelled foreboding, they will die continuously in pain and sorrow and yet not expire.
However, as we remain, they will not be remembered for our memory is for those who without fault were harmed needlessly and innocently. We will memorialise them and commemorate them as we unite in the celebration of our diverse humanity to comfort the survivors, bind the wounds of the wounded and unite in solidarity that none of the wickedness perpetrated on us would take root.
For Manchester, we would rise and stand for good and for life, we will not give up who we are, our freedom

Sunday 21 May 2017

Dreamscape: The dream-wake

In what looked like a generation ago, we had a dog, a bitch, a canine with an aggressive feline temperament, she was big and fierce, masterly in territorial presence, a terror to the unwary.
She came to us a matriarch from family friends who had moved into town but without the space in which to keep her.
We had an expansive compound, high walls and sturdy gates, we accepted her into the household with rules that indicated an apparent lack of discipline from her former home. She came with an appellation, the name Winnie.
The taming of Winnie
I became the ringmaster to inculcate the better habit of dog friendliness in here because she had become a demigod to serve with trembling and never to be approached when eating. An infringement of that unwritten rule risked giving a digit or a limb to Winnie for her dessert. That was unacceptable behaviour in our household.
At one time, she nicked the head of the household’s finger as he tried to remove a fish bone from her food bowl, that called for an intervention and it was immediate.
Soon, she delivered a litter of puppies, but Winnie had no maternal instinct, we could not help the distressed puppies and within a week the whole litter of five died.
However, as a guard dog, she was menacing, even if when I took her for a walk, the looks from some of the neighbourhood signified a meal. As she protected us, we had to protect her, she was a well-loved family pet.
The mystification of Winnie
It transpired that one Saturday morning as we all were having a lie-in, I was in REM sleep, the subject of my dreams was telling off workers across the road from us where a building was being constructed for disturbing our peace. Our compound had the building materials and each time they needed stuff, they would knock on the gates for us to not only let them in but out of fear of Winnie, they would not access the compound until one of us had Winnie on a leash.
Into my dreamy existence came the rattling of the gate with a bit of hollering to have Winnie curtailed. My aunt, woken from slumber at the same time got up just as I did, she was going to give the workers a stern talking to, but since I was already on the roll from within my dreamscape, I asked her to let me deal with the situation.
If my words did not strike terror in the workers, they were left in no doubt that any other slight disturbance from them again would have them fed to my dog. They were warned once and it never happened again.
The dream-wake
This kind of arousal from dreaminess into wakefulness with a continuation of the same theme of the dream is what I have called a ‘dream-wake’. I had one such dream-wake today when having had a night of insomnia, it was well into the morning before I got some much-needed sleep.
In my dream, I had rushed to the train station to catch a train with just a few minutes to spare. There was a queue of undecided customers in front of me buying tickets and asking questions as I fidgeted about getting a ticket and making it to the right platform. When I was finally attended to, the train was pulling into the station and I had to go up a footbridge to board the train, I never really go on the train because I was suddenly aroused and awake.
In my wakefulness, I looked at my watch and almost panicked; my train was in 25 minutes and I have not even packed my bag, in fact, there were so many things to do. Empty the washing machine, take out the rubbish, turn off the water mains, lighten my baggage because I was having a short week away and I could not afford to forget some essentials for my journey. Luckily, I had picked up my tickets from Friday night, so I only had to make it to the station, some 5 minutes away and get my stuff to the right platform.
Phew! I made it
There was no time to waste, I unloaded the washing machine, jettisoned one suit, packed my bag, forgetting to take out the rubbish or turn off the tap, I was out of the house with just 13 minutes to spare. Panting like I had just done a marathon unprepared, I got to the station, with all the heft I had, carried my baggage up the stairs rather than wait to use the lifts at the far end of the platform and only had to wait 2 minutes for the train.
Thankfully, I could choose one of two stations to board the train and the easier one did not require a labyrinthic journey to the platform. I had to board that train to make a connecting train just under an hour away. My ticket had restrictions that meant I had to be on the particularly booked trains or I risked a full fare penalty.
I made both trains, but the dream-wake experience must have been the subconscious saving me the accident of misfortune at great cost. Whilst I do not seek meanings to my sometimes vivid dreams, I do not ignore the simple lessons, insights, warnings or triggers the dreams offer in terms of preservation, information and caution. Without my dream-wake, I would have been left in dire straits.

Friday 19 May 2017

Thought Picnic: Having the courage of your convictions

The spirit
There are very few people with the spirit of courage, a boldness and daring to venture out of their comfort zones in the quest for something different and new.
Sometimes, what leads people to chart a course of short-term loss and hurt for long term peace and fulfilment is the desire to absent themselves from those situations where they have comfortable and unchallenged, where the danger of being settled is the encroachment of the predictable and mundane.
Indeed, I have experienced scenarios where self-satisfied ease with encumbrance presages a future of being left behind and having no other options but to descend the rungs to climb if there is scope to embrace change.
The disrespect
However, the worst environment to be in is where you are easily held in contempt, where you’re used and abused, belittled, patronised and disrespected. I have known people of high office but of no grace, breeding or manners whose only means of validation is to seek to hold in contempt others who are more confident, self-assured and fearless.
It is not long before a better person in the know of who they are in person, personality and the personable would decide they are taking no more of that kind of nonsense, be it from so-called friends, colleagues, acquaintances, bosses or strangers.
The courage
It is neither hubris nor pride to determine you are better than to be treated in a particular way giving you the impetus to walk, to have the courage of one’s convictions and act on them without looking back out of fear, dread or anxiety is the making of achievement small and great. In such people, I find encouragement because to dare is to stand with principle, integrity and honour.
I salute those who are ready to disrupt the norm, introduce that temporary discomfort into their well-laid out schemes to achieve a better outcome and story. They discover that the earth is not flat, they face down uncertainty with a steely will to bring in new certainties, they take the first step in what might be a journey of indeterminable length and time, facing forwards and pressing on to a goal that is only in the eye of the mind.
The eagles
Thinking differently, listening attentively, speaking carefully, understanding intently and loving life with infectious passion. In the little things and the great things, they rarely recognise that they are beacons of the possibilities that gives others the daring to leap out of their comfort zones to embrace adventure and the unknown.
They are the living examples of that – One step for man, but a giant leap for mankind. Keep doing what you know to do, aspire, inspire and conspire to make the world a better place. The ducklings who suddenly realised they were eagles, from then, they took flight and became the kings of the air, in poise, grace and class.

Thursday 18 May 2017

Blacket Avenue, Edinburgh

I turned onto Blacket Avenue,
One lonely road in Edinburgh,
An eerily quiet street,
With columns at each end of the road,
Like the gates of hell fell off them,
The way winds and wends,
And an avenue indeed it is,
With trees older than the earth,
Standing still with tales untold,
Little plants clambering up walls,
As if inhabited from yonder,
Houses looking lived in but deserted,
Walls so high that the residents sigh,
Almost forsaken if not for a cat’s meow,
There is much to be scared of,
The cemetery two streets up,
The dark holding court,
Yet I trundle with hesitation,
Shaking like I am eighty,
Walking no faster than the escargots,
That blessed my palate an hour ago,
In my youth, I like ancients spoke,
As I aged I became like the aged,
Yet I think like the demented,
Making stories of the unintended,
It is no accident that of crazy forebears,
Has arisen a crazier offspring,
Before I could imagine a fear,
I saw another two columns,
Blacket Avenue at an end,
Turn right on Dalkeith Road.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Social media in the dark art of necromancy

In memoriam
I have lost friends and lost relations, but I am keenly aware of their impact on my life and the blessing it has been to know them who I would no more see. Their sojourn on this mortal coil will, however, endure in the memories we recall and the fondness we shared.
Invariably, much as I love my dearly departed, I neither want to be terrorised or terrified of the moments that I remember them, I do not want to be haunted by a Casper personality nor by a poltergeist, I want to choose my own moments of reminiscing and remembrance, through the active choices that I make.
The rampage of algorithms
Unfortunately, there is a menace that has taken this out of my hands, a system completely oblivious of my situation and ignorant of its data pool, the annoying algorithms of social media websites that intrude on my tranquility with advert, notice and information in their inordinate quest for profits that would hopefully to accrue them from networking me to any random contact.
That random contact has by happenstance been one of my departed people. From as far back as before I joined Facebook, I received an invitation from Chris, my lover, but I was not interested in Facebook at that time, then Chris died in October 2009. Soon after that, I did join Facebook and a few months later, Facebook had trawled my address book and up came an invitation from the Great Beyond, Chris inviting me to connect with him on Facebook.
In that is some comfort though
It was a bit distressing, but in another way, the Facebook profiles of my dead friends now serve as an online tombstone memorial that I visit at certain times to leave a thought or pay a tribute, but I choose the time and the place of making that contribution.
I remember doing a spring cleaning of my mobile phone years ago and deleting numbers from my phone just because I knew those numbers would no more have a familiar voice answering back if I called.
Utterly dumb algorithms
We are told it is algorithms that make social media the potent socialising force it is for us today and the money-spinner for the owners; methods and ideas codified to determine my persuasions, my interests, my desires, my wants and my needs. If I were susceptible to the machinations of these sites, I would be persuaded to part with much more than I can afford in personal information and means, that is not to say that I have not been fooled before.
What I cannot understand is how these self-same intelligent algorithms have the nous to sell, but very little capacity to think. For instance, if a social media account has not been active for a while, it should not suddenly gain autonomy to interact with others, rather the algorithms should either contact the principals of those accounts or hibernate such accounts until the owners reactivate them with some input.
I do not, however, advocate a deletion of these dormant accounts because they serve some purpose as I have highlighted before. Though there might be a cynical gene in the algorithms that thinks to contact a network of contacts associated with the dormant account might prompt the receivers of the notices to nudge their dormant friends back to life on social media. The thought of resurrecting the long dead and buried through a social media nudge is scary enough.
The new online seances
Nowhere has this algorithmic menace become an apathetic atrocity than on the professional networking site of LinkedIn. We expect that LinkedIn is better suited to professional interaction until it begins to feel that each time I log on, I am being unwittingly invited to an online séance where I am inadvertently about to communicate with the dead on my professional network. There are too many examples to mention, some make me gasp and others leave me distraught, it shall pass.
However, this afternoon, I was shaken to the core when an email arrived from LinkedIn with a message of congratulations “You’ve got the most profile views out of anyone Oluwafeyikewa Akintayo knows.” Yippee! I should have said and everyone laughed when I told them my sister had viewed my profile the most of all profiles she might have networked with until I told them I lost my sister 7 months ago tomorrow.
There is no more to be said apart from the fact that I captured the screen and sent it to LinkedIn on Twitter and that upset me a bit until I regained my composure and continued with work. I do not want to be haunted by social media, that is not too much to ask any social platform to guard against.

#IDAHOT2017: The beliefs that harm us

A welcome picture
Midway through what turned out to be a 4.6 mile (a 7.6 kilometre) walk, at the North Bridge over the Edinburgh Waverley station, a couple I had spotted earlier taking pictures came by and the lady pleasantly welcomed me to their city hoping I was enjoying the views. Somehow, in my curiosity, reading signs and looking at the intricate architectural designs, I had probably exposed myself as a tourist of sorts.
I was attired my usual way that the male partner wielding the camera asked if he could take a picture of me, I willingly obliged and I was thanked for the favour.
An unwelcome digression
With a smile on my face, I had hardly walked another 200 yards when I overheard a man on his mobile phone. “He’s homosexual,” he railed and he went to remonstrate with his friend on the other end of the phone about the men holding hands on the street, that it was the wrong thing to do. The friend probably disagreed with him as he ended the conversation with, “I believe in the bible.”
Whether it was coincidental that a homosexual overheard that snippet of conversation is beside the point, I am writing about it to make an interesting observation. I do not think saying, “I believe in the bible,” is the same as professing Christianity as a follower of Jesus Christ. “I believe in the bible,” rarely has any relationship with the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ who went about meeting people, helping people, healing people, comforting people, saving people and encouraging people.
There is no place where Jesus Christ went pointing fingers except towards the religious establishment who believed in the holy book of the time and restricted entry to others into the grace and goodness of God. The religious establishment was even against miracles of healing being performed on the Sabbath when the law demanded people take rest, but everyone knows that adversity, illness, infirmity, disease and death do not take a rest on the Sabbath, they work every second of day piling on misery upon misery.
I like your Christ
Jesus Christ came with a message to relieve people of misery at every opportunity he had to do that including on the Sabbath. That was his gospel, not one to condemn or indict, but through goodness bringing people to the realisation of a better existence in spirit, soul, mind, and body. Giving people their full humanity, regardless of who or what they were.
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi. If I were persuaded to engage and challenge the man, that is probably what I would have said to him, but I was not part of his conversation.
As the story is told, it was the religious establishment of the day that conspired to have Jesus Christ killed. Many who profess to believe in the bible today would probably in the baying mob hollering at the top of their voices to have Jesus Christ crucified at the behest of their religious leaders.
Embracing our diverse humanity
There but for the grace of God and the preponderance of some modern human civilisation in the lands where some of us exist with a modicum of freedoms, we go. [Wikipedia]
There are other lands where no such good fortune exists, places where that man I overheard would not have the limitation of expressing his displeasure on the phone, but have untrammelled encouragement to join in a mob of like-minded people to lynch other human beings for their difference by race, by tongue, by class, by gender, by sexuality or any other distinguishing feature of diversity that celebrates our amazing humanity.
People who because someone believes a holy tome arrogate to themselves some divine right to judge and condemn fellow human beings in the deluded view that they have an unassailable authority to inflict grievous harm and escape sanction because they are doing God’s work.
They are by terms, a stain on our humanity and no representative of the grace, peace and love that exuded from the founders of the religions they appear to profess. For if they had taken on the teaching, the learning, and the exemplar, they would be radically different, but the mob is an easy crowd in which to find and exploit our basest instincts.
I must however celebrate today, the 17th of May 2017 which is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), it is a day to recognise those less fortunate than us who have freedom to be ourselves and the liberty to express ourselves with pride and love. [DayAgainstHomophobia]
There are 81 countries where same-sex expression is criminalised and 10 countries in which the death penalty applies, but the 17th of May commemorates the day when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1990. [WHO] This was 17 years after the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. [TheJAMANetwork]
The science is clear, homosexuality is NOT a mental illness, and even the Chinese Society of Psychiatry declassified homosexual from being a mental disorder in 2001. [Wikipedia]
Why we still fight for the right to be simply human beings
There is still a lot of work to be done, no one is promoting homosexuality even if it appears that some are a bit public about their sexuality. In the main, most people are private, in rural areas all around the world and just want to be treated as human beings, part of our shared humanity, with rights to be treated with respect and never having to face discrimination for who they happen to be. That is why IDAHOT exists.
Many discover their sexuality in isolation of others, unaware there are others like themselves and they struggle to come to terms with this thing, this same-sex attraction discovery that they are not particularly like others around them. That is why IDAHOT exists.
Those who live in fear of persecution, prosecution or societal stigma, are sheared of their dignity and made less of who they can be as productive and thriving members of their communities and beyond, they are signposts of a world that is less equal than it should be and that is why there is activism, advocacy, protest and demonstration. That is why IDAHOT exists.
We do not intend to impose ourselves on anyone, but we must altogether fight to recognise everyone as human beings first, who regardless of beliefs have every right to exist in our global village, choosing to live and love life without the threat of violence, blackmail or violence. That is why IDAHOT exists.
It requires that leaders lead in the quest for a more equal world of human rights for the child, for gender, for race, for freedom of religion or the absence of it, for disability, for sexual orientation, for age and much else, before the law, in the workplace and in the wider community. Nobody born into this world is a non-person, that is the starting point and each is deserving of being given a chance to just being themselves, within the spectrum heteronormativity to homonormativity and everything including bisexuality, intersexuality, and transsexuality. That is why IDAHOT exists.
These things we may still struggle to understand and find areas of conflict within our narrow or broad worldview, people are people, they may be the same, they may be different, and that is what makes our humanity, making everyone same or different feel at home and safe in our sphere of influence whilst influencing others towards a more accommodating perspective of diversity. That is why IDAHOT exists.
That is why we have international days for many things and today it is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). That is why IDAHOT exists.
I have all my purple colours ready to celebrate the day, shirt, tie and pocket square.
Courtesy of

Sunday 14 May 2017

Hospital: Gasping for breath on an ultrasound scan

Gasping and rasping
“Breathe in and hold your breath.” She said the second time and she must have forgotten to say I could breathe out. As a reflex, I took a sharp intake of breath, an indication of a number of things that I need to address.
Firstly, I do need oxygen more than I need to expel carbon dioxide and it was a sign of my being unfit that I could not hold my breath for as long as might be ordinarily expected. My morning walks do not seem to be enough exercise over the last couple of weeks.
Having returned from Edinburgh late on Friday night, I had an appointment for an abdominal scan on Saturday morning, quite a fortuitous appointment that would normally have been on a weekday. After my check-up in March that had me noticing that my last liver scan also included scans of my pancreas and gallbladder, the consultant suggested a review.
Scans of the innards
Going from the major cyber-attack that affected the NHS amongst other institutions and companies on Friday in about 99 countries, I was concerned my appointment might be cancelled, but on seeing nothing of significance on the hospital website or getting any notices by SMS text, I hoped for the best and arrived on time for the appointment.
Having an ultrasound scan [NHS] rather than an X-ray [NHS], a CT scan [NHS] or an MRI scan has many advantages, the preparation is less cumbersome and the side effects are minimal apart from the possibility that the high-frequency soundwaves might heat up tissue and cause air bubbles, but it has not been considered a serious risk. Ultrasound is also quite well-suited to reviewing soft tissue, though the most common application of this is viewing the foetus in the womb.
However, in preparation for the scan, I could not eat at least 6 hours before the scan and whilst I could drink water, I was to avoid carbonated drinks, milk or fatty foods before the scan. Having the scan in the morning meant I did not have to go hungry for long. I was to wear loose clothing too.
Gels for the cells
Soon after I was registered I was called into another waiting room where a few minutes later I nurse called me into the examination room. I took off my jackets and laid on the bed pulling up my shirt and my vest, in eventually had to take off my shirt. Lying on my back, she applied a gel to my belly which was pleasantly warm, warmed by the instruments in the room, I suppose and different from the cold shock I had some two years before.
The handheld probe was then put against my skin and she began to move it around, clicking on the keyboard at intervals, possibly taking snapshots. I must say, there was a bit of pressure applied and for my somewhat weak ribcage, it felt uncomfortable but not painful. When I had to turn on my side, more gel was applied, this time, a bit cold and this was where I had to breathe in and hold my breath for probably over a minute before respite.
Done and gone
The whole activity took about 15-minutes and though I knew not to ask her medical opinion, she volunteered that there were no radical changes to my gallbladder from what was observed two years ago. I will return in just under two weeks to see my consultant for the medical opinion.
Apparently, the hospital was not affected by the ransomware attack because the moment they learnt of the attack all ingress traffic to the hospital was blocked and technically, they isolated themselves from the world.
I guess I was in the hospital for just about 30 minutes before I left to do some shopping for ethnic goods and returned home to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I had not slept that well overnight, maybe out of excitement or anxiety and I had to rested well enough for my early journey back to Edinburgh today.

Friday 12 May 2017

Cursing the darkness of a drunken jaunt

I sipped and swilled
Blogs are bringing life to wry observations from which you might end up with a story or even a moral tale. Now, I do not have a ready palate for alcohol, I probably lost my thirst for strong drink by accident.
At the age of 10, whilst away from home taking common entrance examinations in Lagos, I found myself at parties where my choice tipple was Tennant's light lager by the can and with all the adult supervision around me, I was granted the liberty to indulge. I never got tipsy, but there was something about my privileged status that gave me a bye when other boys would have been scolded.
I was the son of the high-flying and most successful accountant from our village, I was the proverbial white boy in black skin, with an accent that when foreign guests were visiting, I was the one put forward to chat to and entertain when the children of the host were locked away and out of sight, I probably took liberties without consequence.
More for the drink, less for the taste
Everywhere I went in the 4 months I was down south, I was feted, indulged, tolerated, excused and well, abused too. Yes, that was sexually, but I did not know I was being taken advantage of. I was already used to being taken advantage of by two of our houseboys up north, this fumbling that went further was like pleasure and play.
By the time I was 15, my uncle who had just returned from the UK was both generous with means and things apart from offering good swills of rum that it got back to me that my parents were concerned that I was being introduced to drink, little did they know, in fact, with hindsight, my parents know so much and yet so little about me, it is almost an enigmatic paradox.
After secondary school at 15, I had a job in the laboratory of West African Breweries where I carried out water tests and introduced conveyor belt quality controls that fed back down the line to improvements in bottle washing and other bottling activities. My exposure to understanding fermentation, counting dead yeast cells, the tank farm and tasting the finished product put an end to my palate for a lager, beer, ale, cider and strong spirits.
I have little tolerance for alcohol abuse
I have the occasional wine with meals and sometimes an aperitif, but bitters and the rest are completely off limits. Essentially, I am dangerously sober in all that I do where people would require Dutch courage to attempt those same things.
That I have little tolerance of the inebriated and drunken is borne of the reasoning that I think the consumption of alcohol is an expression of discipline, you know when you’ve had enough and allow yourself the benefit of keeping your wits about you. We all make mistakes, but we can forgive ourselves and promptly begin to make amends.
A half-brain on a long train
So, as I was about to board the train from Edinburgh to Manchester, a man stepped in front of us with bravado and disregard to get on the train first. He did and as the train departed the station, he enquired where the train was going, the slurring of speech and the unsteadiness of his feet suggested he was all not himself, not by reason of ailment or infirmity, but for the abuse in excess of alcohol.
He was going due west to Bathgate some 18 miles away but had hopped on the train going southwest with the next stop at Lockerbie, some 76 miles away. Any other man might have comforted himself of his folly like Esau of old, but not this man. He fidgeted and buffeted, sighed and hollered, swore and cursed, murmured and blustered to the irritation of all around him that they left their reserved seats for other available seats.
For the lost of Lockerbie
He was by terms a bloody nuisance all because of drink and we endured the menace for a good hour until he disembarked at Lockerbie. Lockerbie itself brings some poignancy to me, it was where the Pan Am Flight 103 crashed on the 21st of December 1988, which happened to be my 23rd birthday.
That tragic event and my birthday somewhat creates an affinity with Lockerbie that I should one day disembark and visit the memorial to those who perished at that heinous act of terrorism for which I have not yet been convinced that the real culprits have seen justice.
Cursing the darkness sheds no light
However, the man railed and ranted, I thought of the proverb being played out before my eyes, “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” It is said to be an old Chinese proverb and at the same time attributed to a sermon titled “The Invincible Strategy” given by W. L. Watkinson and collected in 1907. The former attribution is suspect and the latter is contentious, but we have a saying to work with. [Wikipedia][QuoteInvestigator]
There was nothing the man could do other was sit still until he got to Lockerbie and hopefully he could get a train back tonight to Edinburgh and then to Bathgate, that is if the conductor on the other train was in the least compassionate, he could have contemplated his folly in the solitude of regret and silence, but he was literally cursing the darkness and it made no difference to the fact that he first had to get off the train and maybe get back home tonight.
In effect, he left an odious impression and the inspiration for this blog. Never drink yourself to not being aware of what you are doing and if you do, responsibly accept that consequences of your folly without becoming a public nuisance. Any of us could have compounded his situation by calling the police to attend to an unruly and drunken passenger at Lockerbie, in which case, he would have had free lodgings at Her Majesty’s pleasure for the night until sobriety gave him gumption and reason along with even more regret.
C’est la vie!

Gentle On The Mind

Back in the time
Every once in a while, my memories go back to my parents’ record collection, they were gramophone records also known as vinyl records, mostly of the 7” diameter range running at 45 RPM. I can recall that my mother loved All Kinds Of Everything, sung by Dana which won the Eurovision Song Contest 1970 for Ireland.
This weekend, we are back to the annual activity of determining the soppiest song of Europe in Ukraine. There is, however, another memory that comes in waves and disappears for a season, it is just so uncanny that in 6 days’ time, we would be celebrating 50 years of the release if this single.
I remember it a haunting slow recording that I have not been able to retrieve anywhere online, but the lyrics still speak a lot about relationships, knowing who you can call on about friendship and recall the things that have kept that relationship enduring.
Gentle on my mind
In the last line of each verse, there is much that speaks to my kind of person, the many back roads in the quiet and silence, away from the traffic of the hustle and bustle of life, where we find time to think and introspect, experiencing nature where the rivers flowing from hills and mountains teem with life and mystery, does bring peace and a much-needed gentility to the mind.
I crave opportunities to be by the water and watch both the stillness and the rapids, the tides ebbing and flowing, boats with people attending to work or pleasure, we find some sort of fulfilment in exploration and adventure, this is even made the better when there is someone to share those experiences with.
I am blessed that I have people to whom I can say, ‘That keeps you in the back roads, by the rivers of my mem'ry, that keeps you ever gentle on my mind.’ People who I always fondly remember and they make me smile each time I recall a moment in time that celebrates friendship and the joy of living and sharing.
Thank you.
It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch
It's knowing I'm not shackled by forgotten words and bonds and the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads, by the rivers of my mem'ry, that keeps you ever gentle on my mind
It's not clinging to the rocks and ivy planted on their columns now that bind me
Or something that somebody said because they thought we fit together walkin'
It's knowing that the world will not be cursing or forgiving when I walk along some railroad track and find
That you're moving on the back roads, by the rivers of my mem'ry, and for hours you're just gentle on my mind
I dip my cup of soup back from the gurglin' cracklin' caldron in some train yard
My beard a roughening coal pile and a dirty hat pulled low across my face
Though cupped hands 'round a tin can I pretend hold you to my breast and find
That you're waving from the back roads, by the rivers of my mem'ry, ever smilin', ever gentle on my mind
That you're waving from the back roads, by the rivers of my mem'ry, ever smilin', ever gentle on my mind
The original lyric sheet on John Harford’s website.