Sunday 30 December 2018

My last 4 weeks in Nigeria, 28 years ago (The business angle)

My departure boarding pass issued on the 30th of December 1990.
Taking the next step
Twenty-eight years ago today, I left Nigeria to return to the UK, I had only returned from the UK 4 weeks earlier, having been on a business trip for a firm in which I was part owner with a 30% stake, we called it NextStep Limited and it specialised in desktop publishing, offloading the burden of typesetting and printing from traditional methods to technologies provided by personal computers running Xerox Ventura Publisher.
NextStep Limited probably would have gone far if the majority partner was not too full of himself expecting subservience and obeisance, but two events in the 4 weeks of my return put paid to that relationship. The first was during a conversation when he dipped his hand in his pocket and threw money at me across the table. I picked up the wad and put it back in front of him saying, my parents have never thrown money at me, neither can you.
Maybe not a good step
The second event resulted in me saying to him, “You don’t give a 24-year old 30% of a company and think that is the end of his life, I will throw it away and start over again somewhere else.” It wasn’t that I was not full of gratitude, I just could not stand being treated with disrespect just because I was younger.
Whilst I was beginning to give more of my time to NextStep Limited, I had 4 other contractual engagements going. The most important was with Deji Sasegbon Limited, a legal publishing outfit that had just finished publishing the Nigerian Supreme Court Cases in 40 volumes and it was this that brought me into the purview of my patron and majority partner at NextStep Limited who was also a lawyer and a director at the United Bank of Africa.
On an earlier step
He was a Nigerian bigwig and I was an atypical young ‘Nigerian’, well, Deji Sasegbon who gave me my big break saw me differently, he had the wealth, influence and authority to employ me outright to work for him. Instead, he offered me a deal, he said, “Akin, I want you to consult for me, teach my staff to know the workings of desktop publishing, take on the complex stuff and for that, I will give you a monthly stipend and your flight ticket whenever you are ready to leave for the UK is paid for.
Deji Sasegbon, unfortunately, passed away two years ago, to him I owe a great debt of gratitude, more importantly, he treated me with dignity and respect, it was always a pleasure to work for him. When I told him I was leaving for the UK, whilst he was saddened, he understood and bid me Godspeed.
Definite the worst step
At NextStep Limited, one of the jack-of-all-trades businesses my partner was involved in was selling Christmas cards. Some staff in that other business had stolen some of those cards and my partner corralled every employee including my own staff at NextStep Limited and had them banged up in a police cell without the courtesy of informing me. I spent a whole day negotiating bail conditions for my staff, or at least my staff did the negotiating because I did not speak with the language or accent the police understood. I got them out, but that was the very last straw for me.
Whilst, there was a kind of youthful exuberance in the way I decided to break that NextStep Limited relationship. In the circumstances, that was my only option. There was no other engagement where I had been treated as disdainfully as I was with that man. I divested myself of my other engagements and handed over to my able assistant and threw away NextStep Limited.
After my departure, my ex-business partner attempted to besmirch my name to my family and other contacts I made on my business visit to the UK, suggesting I had made off with material and some other stuff. The only thing I took from NextStep Limited was my participation. It was his desperate attempt to assuage his ego when he had been dealt the same hand of discourtesy he had dealt me.
My good friend later wrote to me saying, when you left NextStep, there were no other steps to take.
On an airline step
This was a man who got his sister a job for in the foreign exchange department of the Central Bank of Nigeria, on arranging the foreign exchange for our business travel, she pilfered a full 20% of that transaction. He had more leeches and hangers-on around him filching, dissembling, needing and stealing, everyone was coming to him with business deals and scams, he probably invested in more scams than viable businesses.
He came to me with a proposition that I accepted because I thought it was a good idea, with hindsight, I should have taken some advice and I would have gotten the best legal advice money could buy for free from Deji Sasegbon or any of his partners and lawyers, all of whom I had a good relationship with.
On the 30th of December 1990, I left Nigeria, on Nigeria Airways flight WT808 running almost 3 hours behind schedule. I had £15 in my pocket and a future ahead of me. That is another story.

Monday 24 December 2018

The journey to identity goes further than the many destinations you travel to

The journey to identity is personal
I have just watched the documentary Black Sheep that has been shortlisted for an Academy Award in the short film category, about the quest for identity of a young black man in England of mixed African parentage, the actions the parents took, and the journey travelled by one of the children who followed.
The blog I have written is not a review of the film, rather it illustrates how journeys to destinations to live are different from journeys to a settled identity.
We as children embarked on many journeys with our parents to many places to live, to adapt, to school and by that been influenced by situations and circumstances in the home and our wider communities.
However, much as we have followed, it is unlikely that our parents have followed us in the journey of knowing who we really are. In my own case, my father has always had the presumption that we have the same identity and are would eventually be driven by the same passions, nothing could be further from the truth.
Marked as different
He never embarked on my own personal journey of discovery, for the idea that Nigeria is my home bears no reality to my circumstances. Despite the accident of fortune that had me born in England and spending much of my childhood into adulthood in Nigeria, I was never accepted as a Nigerian.
It was not in the way I looked, for in that, I was no different from any other Nigerian, but the moment I began to speak, my accent betrayed a foreignness that cast me as another, from somewhere else and that changed the way people interacted with me.
To those who knew me, they knew I was born abroad, not steeped in the customs and essentials of our tribal and societal strictures, so, I was excused, forgiven and may be excluded because I was not one of them. I was caught in a flux of identity between where I was born and defined by it and where my parents were born and alien to it. In that, my mother tongue was English and that was different from my mother’s tongue which is Yoruba.
Environments and influences
Parents have great determination, in terms of the provisions and opportunities they, if they have the means, put in the way of their children. Mine was of privilege in my primary education and the ease that was put into my life, but it did not spare me from other issues that attempted to cripple the joys of childhood, our once nuclear family infused with characters and characteristics that created negative experiences that leave a black spot in the childhood story.
For secondary school, they determined, I needed to be toughened up, whilst experiencing some cultural affinity with our clan. I was sent away for months to live with relations and then to boarding school. My first term was horrific and a terrible experience for my mates who were woken every night by my recitation of Psalm 23 because I thought and believed I was seeing ghosts.
As a bedwetter too, that was seen as weakness rather than what we now know as having psychological underpinnings that we eventually work through either by grace or good fortune.
I got resilience
Then, rather than recognise some of the turmoil I was going through, I was considered too slow by my father and my mother thought I gave away my things to curry favour. Everything or situation had a pearl of wisdom they are conceived in their minds was the cause to which they made what they thought was adequate provision.
Yet, somewhere in our lives, we had gathered tools and coping mechanisms that have given us resilience and strength to overcome crises after crises.
The question, “What is the matter with you?” was rarely asked in genuine concern for welfare or wellbeing, rather it was spat out in disdain, criticism and condemnation because one was not measuring up to an expected standard. It is possible that my memory fails me, but if I can recall outright praise, it had little impact.
How do you talk about clinical depression?
It all came crashing down after I left secondary school. The first two schools I attended after for a total of 4 years yielded nothing, I was asked to withdraw twice, and it was not because I was a dunce, I just did not know why I was in a class on certain days. With hindsight, these were times of clinical depression, the signs my mother in her religiosity would have thought required more prayer and ritual and the patriarch just saw as a weakling in his firstborn.
No, parents can never embark on that journey of personal discovery of their children, they can only facilitate, provide opportunities and paths. Most importantly, have an ear to listen to a cry, because children still cry, cry for help, cry to be heard, cry to be lifted, cry to be accepted. I fear parents lose that listening ear sometimes much too early for the benefit of the child.
I had no one to talk to about what I was going through, I needed professional help, but I was failing son fit to be taught a lesson of life so that I would sit up and begin to take responsibility. I smile today because I have been given the good fortune to make stories of the dark times of my life.
I love who I am
I was never on a quest to get an identity, that journey was always one of discovery, realisation and acceptance. Too many influences have interacted with my personality towards understanding and loving who I am. I embody many characteristics of my parents’ personalities and some that are uniquely mine.
I love who I am now, I accept who I am and live who I am for who I am, and all this would be radically different from who or what my parents would have expected me to be. I am a product of influences, circumstances and environments of fate, fortune and force, none of which I choose to repudiate.
When asked, I am an Englishman of Nigerian parentage, that is a settled matter. There is a long story to tell, because, in one conversation with my father, he said, “You have always thought like a westerner.” I am still deconstructing that platitude, for it is deep.
I recognise that this might read like an unfinished blog, this is because as I was writing I realised there are many strands to the story, too long for a blog and better put in the context of a book, whenever I get to write it. I have also written on this in other blogs from other perspectives.

Friday 21 December 2018

The look of 53

Counting blessings
When I think about the loveliness of birthdays, a day of reflection and gratitude as one gives thanks for another year added to the many that have come and gone, a story gets told.
This is my tenth birthday after a cancer diagnosis in September 2009 that offered a worst-case prognosis of 5 weeks to live, and here I am celebrating my 53rd birthday.
This year has been amazing and eventful, it is one in which I have been blessed so abundantly in too many things to mention that I have had means and opportunity to do things and thrive in those things.
Grateful in gratitude
Whilst there have been concerns about my health, they have just been concerns, all foreboding consigned to the record of nothing to worry about. I could do more exercise and get fitter if I do not want my age to get the better of me.
All my gratitude is to God and man, I have been sustained, supported, encouraged, praised and promoted. Goodness and mercy following me like the Psalmist said in Psalm 23.
Looking back, I have great cause to look ahead, inspired to do newer things, discovering things that once I did not see and knowing that each passing day brings forth a better story.
Sing better stories
To my friends, the few I have who stand steadfast at all times, good or bad, in leanness or plenty, thank you for being there, being close and being you.
May we all joyfully celebrate even more than we ever had the capacity to conceive or imagine. I raise a glass to 53 and may strength, peace, health, joy, love and kindness take us to places that make our best dreams strive to reach our new reality.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Nigeria: Close this marketplace of institutionalised paedophilia called child marriage

These were not sweethearts
The headline read, “Man, 70, marries 15-year-old sweetheart in Niger”, and this was accompanied by a photograph on Twitter, the news story has a few more photographs. [Daily Nigerian]
My first reaction to the story as opprobrium, abuse and obloquy was heaped on the man was the feeling why in these times we did not have a system to extricate girls from such inappropriate pairings and end this atrocity.
Everything is inappropriate with this match and to suggest they were sweethearts is contemptible in the extreme. A sweetheart is someone with whom one is in a romantic relationship. You would normally see sweetheart qualified with childhood, people of comparative ages in love. Where this is deployed elsewhere the expectation is both parties in that affair are both adults and have free agency.
Excused to afflict
Mr Yakubu Chanji apparently has a reputation of keeping a tally of four wives in his harem and has allegedly acquisition of close to 20 wives, the attrition rate being subjects of him being predeceased or his divorcing wives who have lost their novelty.
However, Mr Chanji, it appears can do no wrong as the report says, “He is a philanthropist in Kwangila area of Minna. He has contributed immensely to the community, especially the building of the community mosque.” For that, he appears to be excused to celebrate his proclivities and his propensities without sanction.
A girl of 15 has a life of her own, marriage is hardly one of the life decisions she should be involved in, she is a child, should still be in school, amongst her peers, daydreaming and imagining a life that is not limited to providing sexual satisfaction to a man old enough to be her grandfather.
Where is the girl’s identity?
Our world of humanity has been humanised and civilised over centuries, not to live beliefs in the times of their origins of a primordial world, but to have been adapted to the changes towards better respect and protection of rights and agency, and it makes this arrangement one of the worst expressions of our thriving humanity.
If the girl had any say in this matter, it would have been imposed upon her, all the pictures in which she appears with the man do not show a maiden with her lover on her happiest day, it appears she would rather be elsewhere. If indeed ‘family and friends were in attendance’, where are her friends? Where are her bridesmaids, her peers, the other girls she played with before she decided this is what she wanted for her life?
I see lots of old men and some women who are probably making up the numbers. There are no two words for celebrating a paedophile given the licence to violate a minor with the law seemingly incapacitated to act in the interest of the girl.
This picture is wrong, this practice is wrong and there is nothing to celebrate here than the shame and disgrace that this can be condoned, allowed, publicised and given the free rein to impunity it must never have in the 21st Century.
Divorce is just too cheap
How is it that in reporting about sweethearts, the man has all his names and sobriquets on show, but the girl is nameless, voiceless and soon to be invisible when she ends up in the paedophile’s lair until he either predeceases her or she is found to have outlived her usefulness and divorced?
Divorce itself is too easy, the man can extricate himself with literally no responsibility or liability, the woman he took off their trajectory of life and achievement left destitute and depending on alms. If only we had better divorce laws, ones that required divorce payments and alimony with the possibility of bankrupting the man if he found a penchant for divorce.
A woman who through a marriage has been dependent on her husband through marriage keeping the family home should by rights when divorced have the husband legally liable and enforced by law to make the provision to give the woman a sense of independence in means and ability. What has been truncated by marriage in the possibility of a career and some semblance of a fulfilling life must by restitution become a responsibility of her ex-husband until she can find her own two feet or becomes contracted into another marriage.
We have a long way to go in terms of the abuse of child marriage in the name of any persuasion, we must strive to end this market of institutionalised paedophilia pretending to a holy matrimony, which it is absolutely not.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Observing the subtle racism at black success

Racism touches us all
Racism is a general story and a personal story, the tales I have to regale are many in my almost 30 years of continuous living in Europe. Whether it be in the UK where from when I was beginning to become reacquainted with the land of my birth or on mainland Europe where somewhere between being patronised and being belittled was a covert disrespectfulness you just ignored, you grew a thicker skin.
Racism became a topical issue from the weekend and in football, when the England international and Manchester City footballer, Raheem Sterling, was racially abused at Chelsea Football Club.
Raheem Sterling took to Instagram to give context to how and why racism appears to thrive against young black footballers through the way they are depicted in the mainstream media.

Commissions of omissions
He gave the example of how the reportage on two young black football playing colleagues had bought new houses for their mothers, “mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are,” he said. The press had found a slant to paint these grateful boys in a bad light.
Not long after I had read that post, the BBC was reporting on Raheem Sterling’s Instagram post, quoting the post but incompletely and out of context. The BBC reported the boys had bought houses and left out the positive and mollifying message which was the boys had bought the new houses for their mothers.
That subtle omission of context painted the boys as excessively profligate rather than as endearingly grateful. That was enough to give a platform to forming negative opinions about people who had done some good, but in the reportage were made to look bad.
Jealousy needs no inspiration
It then no surprise that a black footballer as reported by BBC Sport who cannot exculpate themselves from being part of the problem, pulled out of appearing on TalkSport after their coverage of the Raheem Sterling story, for apparently, “former Reading striker Dave Kitson told the station that Sterling had incited ‘jealousy’ by exhibiting a luxury lifestyle on his social media.” [BBC]
Like seriously, a successful young man who happens to be black is exhibiting a luxury lifestyle on his social media? Nothing could be further from the truth, especially with Raheem Sterling.
In my own life, people would be jealous regardless of whether you’re frugal or profligate, the simple fact that you’re successful is enough to accentuate negative feelings, they need no inspiration to be rotten to you, given the opportunity of proximity in the hope to rile you.
We thrive, nonetheless
We have found accommodations or a state of mind, we have no reason to take offence, we ignore them, it is their problem and their headache. At other times, there is a gift of a quick wit, a riposte that sends them back into the crevasses from whence they emerge to glow in our light. Sometimes, it is others who observe the reprehensible and take action at no one’s behest apart from their good-natured disposition and humanity.
We are grateful for good fortune and success in our various fields and long may we have great stories to tell.
However, I leave the last word to one Jonathan Northcroft, the football correspondent for the Sunday Times, “Raheem Sterling represents the type of young black footballer that middle-aged white men of a certain type can’t deal with.”

Monday 10 December 2018

Opinion: How much longer can we endure Theresa May and her #Brexit ineptitude?

She never could do it
News that Theresa May the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had decided to delay the meaningful vote on her much-vaunted deal from Europe for #Brexit was hardly a surprise.
It is depressing and a depressing state of affairs that a nation that in the last century was one of the leading lights of world leadership, diplomacy and political nous is in a state of ineffectiveness, utterly inept, incapacitated by infirmity, deformed in prospect.
I have never had the confidence that Theresa May could pull off #Brexit with any credibility or ability, she mastered and spearheaded a negotiating tactic that projected hubris and bluster, sending bombastic blowhards to Europe with delusions of grandeur convinced in the exceptionalism of the UK. Her powers of persuasion were deployed as dogged obstinacy, tinned eared in her hope that brinkmanship would yield a result.
A living insanity
For 29 months since she assumed office, she has followed the same course, mouthed the same mantras, repeated the same talking points and achieved nothing. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, "The definition of this #Brexit insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
It is insanity that bedevils this #BrexitShambles, she can win no support within her party and she has found no way to unite the country behind anything she has to offer apart from uniting us in disgust and revulsion of her deal.
Theresa May had ample opportunity and scope, she could have on becoming premier gone for a grand coalition to work on this #Brexit issue. Rather, she triggered Article 50 completely clueless of what she could achieve, then gambled away her majority on an ill-judged election before losing two Brexit Secretaries of State, a Foreign Minister and scores more from her cabinet.
Neither up nor down
Dysfunction and derision have become the hallmarks of this government hellbent of driven the country headlong into perdition on the force of ideology above reason. The Pound Sterling in the wake of foolhardiness not seen since the Grand Old Duke of York became a nursery rhyme of the utmost ridicule.
The problem is not in Europe, the EU-27 countries have already agreed the deal she wants to renegotiate with them, they all know it is the fact that she cannot persuade, convince, cajole, cudgel or bribe enough in the House of Commons to buy into her plan. She is an abject failure and if any Tory is ready to put the country above self-interest, it is time to pension off this apology wrecking the country and chart a new course in leadership and in Europe.
Stop this #Brexit nonsense now
The #BrexitShambles has sucked all productivity, progress and oxygen out of our national effectiveness and the ability for us to take our place in the comity of nations where we belong. There is no Kumbaya of rich pickings after #Brexit.
We belong in Europe, the best deal we could have we already have in Europe and we need to send better representatives than those of the ilk of Nigel Farage to Europe who would attend meetings, constructively engage our partners and win compromises, concessions and consensus that gives of the best of what Europe can offer.
It is time to end the leadership tragedy of Mrs Theresa May and consign her to the scrapheap of history. She has done enough damage already.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Thought Picnic: Don't lose the honour of the opportunity to help

Regaining opportunity
“Opportunity once lost, can be regained, albeit, after a temporary setback.” This was a saying shared with me by an uncle figure when I was in secondary school. It became one of the most important pillars that stood for times when everything else seemed to have crumbled around me.
My parents from what I know were high-flying successful people in their academic lives and into their careers that I am not aware for any failures in anything they were educated and trained to do, except when they appeared to dabble in areas where they had no expertise. What I learnt from them was more along the lines of the age-old saying, “Opportunity once lost, can never be regained.”
Confidence and nothing over
Invariably, apart from aspiration and confidence, I cannot say I learnt anything about facing failure, really failing and finding the resolve and wherewithal to rise from that scrapheap to find new achievement. My dad would have been top of his class in his accountancy examinations in 1969, whilst he won other prizes, I am told he fell short out of over-confidence.
That story was told me when I decided on a minimum of 6 subjects for my West African Examinations Council finals out of secondary school in 1981, my mother intervened citing that I was exercising the same over-confidence that plagued my dad and ensured I had 8 subjects to contend with.
On finding opportunity after failure, that honour and privilege goes to other uncles who faced failure head-on, understood what it meant to fail and fail again, yet never relented until they succeeded. It is to them that I owe that other story of my life’s achievements, successes, privileges and good fortune. To them, my gratitude must remain inexhaustible.
The honour of opportunity
Which brings me to another perspective of opportunity and the use of the situation for the benefit not of ourselves, but of others. In all walks of life, we are provided to opportunity to open our hands and open our hearts, someone needing advice or help, a recommendation or reference, sometimes we are given the magnitude of influence to affect the future of someone else in ways that would put them on the trajectory of success well beyond what we could for ourselves achieve.
At some point in the life of another person, we are the sentinel, the gatekeeper, the possible force for good, that opportunity that has come in its time, yet, I am privy to information and circumstances where the myopia of some has beclouded their ability to see that for them to be in that position, it is an honour and a privilege, for that time alone, everything depends on them, and what do they do, they close the door.
You are not omnipotent
They have the power, the influence, the authority and maybe even the audacity and for their small-mindedness, they refuse others the allowance to progress. To them, there will never be gratitude, no praise shall be sung of them by others because they have sown bitterness and the curmudgeonly in the hope that all opportunity is destroyed.
Opportunity once lost, because of what you have done or refused to do, can be regained without you eventually, albeit, after a temporary setback that you put in place, but power and influence in transient.
The opportunity you once had to help can be lost forever, that does not mean opportunities are closed to the person providence honoured you to do something about at a particular time. The help you give is just a bonus, it makes you part of a better story, people would succeed with or without you.
Prepare yourself for gratitude
Yet, I must come back to the need for thankfulness and gratitude, honour those who see the honour of helping you as a privilege they would never let go of until they have contributed their utmost to the very best to see you get along. We have good people in this world amongst the fair-weather friends who are hollowed-out dregs of humanity, who pretend to smile with you only to find ways to be your detractors.
You know yourselves, you have betrayed the sacred trust of friendships and relationships, when you had the means to make a difference for the better. Your time will pass into ignominy. I am saddened to have lost respect for those of whom much more was expected.
Gratitude is an amazing uplifting spirit like I had my contract extended without prompting last week, on getting the news, I wrote to my managers thanking them for their confidence in me and the contract extension. In response, my manager wrote, “You’re welcome Akin, you deserve it!”

Saturday 8 December 2018

It is always my body first

Remembering the times
Some 18 months ago, I attended a neurocognitive clinic out of concern for a long-term condition along with the possible long-term effects of the medication I was on. Now, I know from research that many barely tolerate this medication, whilst I have adjusted well to it over my 8 years of using it.
In the past two years too, the consultants have been incessantly persuading me to consider switching to newer lines of medication with lesser presumably lesser side effects and more efficacy. Beneath that concern for me was cost, for years ago, I had been switched to a generic and more affordable medication, which is prophylactic towards a recurring condition I have not been able to shake off.
Change your medicine
The HAND test suggested I had folic acid deficiency anaemia, the readings of which since then have fluctuated between satisfactory and concerning, it is best boosted through diet, but there might be a need for a booster shot at my doctor’s. That need has not yet arisen.
Eventually, I relented choosing from 4 drug options one that would not change my pill burden thus resulting in changing my lifestyle and other routines for a frequent traveller consultant. The only benefit that came with this medication was I could take it with meals.
Beginning in the second week of October, I was given a two-month prescription for review in two weeks. I opened a diary for a daily record of how I felt using the medication and in the 17 days to the first review, I probably had one happy day.
Days of avoidable horror
Unexplained aches in my joints and head, excessive flatulence, constipation and insomnia were the recurrent events. Two rather vivid dreams killed every prospect of catching any sleep for the nights that had those nightmares, it was beginning to affect my productivity at work. Then I stepped on my weighing scales to note that I was close to my heaviest weight in 6 years.
At the review, I told them that the 17 days was insufficient a timeframe to make the decision to send me off with a 6-month prescription on the new medication, I wanted us to conduct another review in 4 weeks.
The issue of my memory concerns was brought up a few times, much as I had noticed memory lapses, I had created compensatory efforts to mitigate those shortcomings. Besides, if the decision to change my medication was to be predicated on my presumed failing memory, then another HAND test should have been conducted to ascertain from the original if there was a deterioration in cognitive function. That had not been done, and so to my mind, the premise on memory was completely flawed.
Not working for me
I maintained my diary for 44 days and submitted a 44-page documentation of my toleration of the new medication, it was not working for me and I wanted to be put back on my original medication. Recidivism from this new line drugs is recorded in research at over 50%, they are not as tolerated for the self-same side-effects we are told are fewer and more manageable than we find with our original drugs.
When I next spoke with the specialist, she was offering another line of drugs and I was having none of it, not another 7 weeks of being a guinea pig of drug tolerance, with the time from my original medication increasing to a point where it might lose efficacy, or I might have built resistance to it. I remonstrated to a state of distress that I do not intend to be presented prospective drugs à la carte menu to find out what works for me, I already know what has worked for 8 years.
Done with playing guinea pig
That, I believe was enough to convince the specialist to put me back on my old medication until my next consultation in April.
Apart from the first night of use, my old medication has brought back some of my sparkle and banished all those rotten side-effects. For, whilst a doctor might know what is good for you, you alone can know what works for you. Sometimes, you must be as forceful as you can be to have that viewpoint noticed and acted upon for your own benefit.
At the back of your mind, this must be the resounding mantra, “It is my body first before it is your guinea pig.

It is my crystal (15th) anniversary of blogging

A new introduction
When my first blog was published on the 8th of December 2003, I was in a hotel in Berlin when I had the idea to begin writing and as a matter of coincidence, I will be travelling to Germany again.
Reading through my first blog, I reflect on what has happened over the last 15 years, what has remained the same and what has changed. I am still English of Nigerian parentage, that sense of identity has not changed, rather become more ingrained, but I have returned to live in the United Kingdom which is fermenting under the ructions of the train wreck of Brexit.
It is very likely my dad would be reading this, he is on Facebook, but I have not made a specific provision for my mum to join social media, she is probably preoccupied with other activities. The Internet has changed considerably in the last 15 years, there is no telling who else might get to read my blogs.
On the job
In October, I celebrated 30 years of an Information Technology career, I am still trying to make Microsoft products do what customers hope and expect they can do. Along the way, I am asked impossible questions, pressed to provide answers and expected to perform miracles.
Nothing has changed in finding that the crazy and the outrageous idea needs to be kept at bay through forceful challenge and dispute. Solutions still require a good deal of thinking and I am no less excited by what can be done with the tools we have to work with.
The unconcerned purist
“Language is a tool of total expression.” That is a quote from my first blog, I still find myself a bit of a purist railing against malapropisms, neologisms, Americanisms and much else. I am probably not as pernickety and pedantic, there are times, I can’t really be bothered to react. I observe and move on.
I used to read the Daily Telegraph, it has lost many of its good writers, it is badly managed, and it has become a shrill village rag for Brexit, I cannot abide it, even if it were the last newspaper to hand. I have replaced the Economist with The Week and as I seemed to gather volumes of The National Geographic without time to read much of it, I stopped the subscription.
The crazy politics
When looking at politics, I must say it is the stump of the Liberal Democrats that appears to represent my views. The Conservatives are in a state of self-immolation over Europe as if that is news, the Labour Party has been hijacked by a leftist fringe of peddlers of unrealisable Utopia, it is depressing to watch the mess our politics have become.
It is about mantras rather than conviction, Brexit has sucked the oxygen out of any progressive activity in the UK for 30 months, it is as unrelenting as it is suffocating, we are led by crazies with an ideological bent devoid of any sense.
In the meanwhile
Now, back to my blog, I still love travel, it relaxes and refreshes me.
In 15 years, I have had an amazing life full of experiences of academic achievement, different jobs, surviving cancer, making friends, long before Twitter and Facebook became the rave.
I am thankful and full of gratitude for the years and everyone who has found something on my blog, you are welcome, and you affirm the purpose that inspired the 2,897 blogs that have graced this place.
Maybe, I would write more, I don’t know, but we must celebrate today. To follow the thinking of wedding anniversaries, this would be my crystal anniversary of blogging.

Thursday 6 December 2018

Recovery always takes some time

Laughing at the gas
Since I last wrote on my blog, there have been experiences and victories, none to great celebratory aplomb, but all to be grateful for.
The colonoscopy procedure is as uncomfortable as it gets, though nowhere near other health or therapeutic challenges I might have faced before. To say I was not apprehensive would be to deny my reality as it lay before me.
All procedures come with risks and some can be quite serious, ending in fatalities, for that is just a possibility. It is one of the reasons why I was not keen on sedation, that itself would have required having someone with me for 24 hours to ensure any turn was immediately addressed.
Rather, I opted for Entonox, a medical combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen, commonly known as laughing gas. I did at one time in the midst of the discomfort begin to laugh too.
A mile of tubing
Arriving at the hospital a fortnight ago, fully evacuated for internal examination, I noticed that MoviPrep had in just under 16 hours had me shed 5 kilograms. That is nominally the weight of stuff moving through your digestive system, depending on your kind of appetite.
I changed into a hospital tunic, and we were advised to bring a dressing gown and slippers, we did the formalities of questions, waivers and gagging orders, exculpating the hospital from loss of many things including life and then the rather affable doctor came round to see me, assure me of the ease of the procedure, what would be done and that I did not need to worry.
The room in which I was invaded by instrument and curiosity barely held the bed, the equipment and three seats for the staff attending to me, I got comfortable and was offered the breathing apparatus that was left for me to regulate how much I wanted to inhale to attain the delirium to banish the discomfort.
After a digital insertion, the procedure began, a probe with a camera and lights travelled the whole length of my large intestine, it was like they had travelling a mile, from whence a total of 21 biopsies were excised by pincers that looked like pliers in a mechanic’s workshop. The discomfort mainly came from the air that was passed into my entrails to help increase visibility and navigation through my system. I felt like a balloon at one stage.
All well and good
All they viewed was on a monitor that I had one of the best views of, it was interesting to learn that the appendix was not as close to the end of the colon as I thought it was, it was at the other end, at where the colon first descends. The vivid red colour of my innards was a view of something I would never have contemplated seeing in a lifetime or without a career in medicine.
On the way out, which took much longer than the insertion process, a polyp was excised for laboratory analysis an in just about 50 minutes we were done.
For all my discomfort, I was considered a good patient and was soon wheeled out to the recovery room where other patients, some of whom I had chatted to before the procedure were recovering too. One of them had had 7 colonoscopies before the one he was going to have on that day, a veteran of sorts with just enough comforting words for a first timer.
In recovery, I was offered some tea and a sandwich as I had been nil-by-mouth for over 24 hours. The effects of Entonox are supposed to leave the body in under 10 minutes. However, from the bloating and the biopsies, there is quite a great risk of internal bleeding and infection, so care must be taken after that procedure.
Just over an hour after the procedure, I was ready to leave the hospital, I called a taxi cab and returned home to recuperate fully for the rest of the day. After this, the advice is not to fly for at least a week, or better still 2 weeks.
I think I am feeling a lot better after that encounter to the tunnels of life, the somewhat short recovery time is, in reality, longer from the experience, not necessarily the trauma.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

The colon will see you now

Evacuations in the extreme
It is called MoviPrep, and that is what it is, lots of movement and the extreme preparation of the bowels. They want to have a look and need a complete evacuation exacerbated by MoviPrep which is an experience you can hardly wish on anyone.
The preparation starts the day before the colonoscopy procedure and there are protocols to follow for a morning appointment or an afternoon appointment. As I am scheduled for a morning engagement, I was to stop the ingestion of any foods after 9:00 AM on the day before and embark on a starvation diet or mainly clear fluids.
Taste is not an option
Early in the evening, I mix up the first batch of MoviPrep, the taste of which is most vile, a witch’s brew that could well serve as an emetic as it is a prescribed laxative. I learnt it was best taken chilled and through a straw. Have a few cans of fizzy drink to hand to drink after every sip of the MoviPrep concoction, this to replenish fluids and deal with the aftertaste.
No gastronomic skill was expended to make MoviPrep palatable and if I know beforehand, I properly would have asked for a preparation without Aspartame, the artificial sweetener that has been known to give me migraines.
Not working for me
Meanwhile, there was a visit to the hospital today to consult on the new medication that has not abated in its side effects of insomnia, flatulence, constipation and unexplained aches in the joints and the groin. I took a 44-page litany of my daily experiences to the consultation, I have been on this drug for 44 days.
It would take a couple of days to come to a decision, but we can agree that after over 6 weeks, this is not working for me. I would rather return to my trusted pills to which I have an affinity developed over 8 years.
Dressing and address
The visits to the evacuation receptacle have been frequent all evening, in the double figures as I prepare to bed for the next day. The second batch was taken some 4 hours after the first meant I had consumed 2 litres of MoviPrep and much more in fizzy drinks.
I guess the next conversation would be something along the lines of I as a receptionist announcing, the colon would see you now and the visitors coming in and going deep.
The hope is Entonox would make the passing of tube and time a forgettable experience. Bathrobe, slippers and magazine, packed for the day out. I have forgotten, I am hungry.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Dreamscape: An excursion to the factory of dreams

I can think it
When I consider it, I probably have lots of inspiration, much from unlikely things like thoughts, events, observations and circumstances.
The engine room of ideas and machinations in the cranial crenellations that provides the obverse of identity in my visage is constantly scheming position and opposition, purpose and dispute, decision and indecision, a battleground of conflict and agreement, it is a wonder it is not projected on the world as a deafening cacophony.
I often dream it
When it comes to the dream world, I have to be careful of what inspires the incredulous, my vivid dreams have an impossible script which if written may have the author immediately certifiable in the first act. I have dreamt dreams Joseph would not dare to go to sleep for.
It is not the haunting that gets to me, it is the remembrance, the fact that it gets to a point that I so many dream worlds deep, it is like my dreams are having their own dreams within dreams, my waking up is a series of wakeful episodes within dreams before I finally come awake.
This is most evident in dreams where I find myself needing to switch on the lights, my flicking the light switch yields no result and something in my subconscious tells my dream, you are in a dream, you need to wake up. I wake up and realise I am still in a dark room, so, I flick the switch again, where I am reminded by the central director of dreams, you are still in a dream.
Then I escape it
The process repeats itself until I come awake and aware. As I always sleep with the lights on, I wake into the light and then begin to ponder the dream I have just had. I cannot consider my dreams nightmares, though other people who dream my kind of dreams who probably be having nightmares.
In the stranger dreams, I have had are seeming recurrent chapters of the same people, events, circumstances and awesome architecture that has the capacity to drawf you into an insignificant Lilliputian. Thankfully, I am never lost in the corridors of those vast edifices, rather, I find myself a burrower attempting to traverse spaces and tunnels too small or narrow for my frame that I contract dreamy claustrophobia.
Now, that for me is terrifying that I wish I had an instant tap out or an Italian Job event where with the relief of freedom to a large expanse of space and untrammelled access, the stroke of luck allows me to express gratitude in those famous words, 'You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!'.
Yet, I love it
I love my dreams, for the impossible is effortless, the unthinkable is mundane, the insurmountable is rudimentary, the undefeatable is vanquished, the enemy never gets the better of me, for there are tools I could never have conceived or imagined that I wondrously adept at deploying. There is blood and gore, the macabre and the mediaeval, it is primal and primaeval, yet a magical fantasy of ability and capability you can only find in dreams, for which a reality can be conceived to extricate oneself from sticky situations.
The disputes I have been given the wisdom to resolve in dreams becomes manifest in circumstances where I would never have had the first inkling to resolve. Dreams are good, for, in all that, there is beauty, there is vision, there is achievement, there is hope, there is faith and there is love. It harbours a timeless landscape where all memories converge from all times with people of blessed memory and those to come.
The mind is a factory of unique and bespoke dreams.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Ikoyi London - Bring a full wallet to an amazing experience

Decisions in flux
We had planned to meet on Monday evening without any clear plans as I decided to spend stay over in London. We have been friends on Twitter for years and she was coming to Europe for a number of necessary #MeToo events.
I was unsure of what we would do, but when she said we should meet to have more than a drink but to get to know each other, this, I thought, could only be done over a meal. As I do not live in London, I could not suggest a favourite place, but Pitanga was on my mind, however, they open at inconvenient hours closing at 5:00 PM every day except for Friday and Saturday when they are open until 11:00 PM. They are closed on Mondays.
I floated a few other alternatives whilst seeking ideas, Ikoyi London, by interest and by reputation came to the fore and we decided on that.
Impressing impressions
I was greeted at Ikoyi London by a waiter ready to take my coat and my hat, I was then given a check-in ticket, a card, the 8 of clubs. Any restaurant that without prompting defrocks you and knows what to do with your hat has had staff see the four walls of a finishing school.
Making my way to our table by the window where my friend was already seated, embraced with kisses on the cheeks before contemplating what was to come before us. Starting with drinks, we took the non-alcoholic cocktail of Ikoyi Chapman – a concoction of hibiscus, guava and sour passionfruit, it was a tasty shade of pink that lasted through the seating.
Ikoyi London only serves a fixed tasting menu of 7 courses for dinner, which made it difficult to decide on the wine, so, we took on the wine pairing that came in from the third course. Ikoyi London does not follow the good rule of the skirt that any seamstress has learnt from the very first day, that it should be long enough to cover the detail and short enough to keep the interest. The courses were small enough to keep the interest but hardly big enough to sate the hunger – that is for another conversation.
You don’t say
The first course arrived which in terms was a new look on plantain and stew, my two Nigerian grandmothers of blessed memory would have been spinning in their states of repose, but this is an exercise in open-mindedness, where familiarity is dispensed for the whimsical. Authenticity gives way to the uniquely original and surprise. It went down a treat.
[Plantain and a scotch bonnet dip]
Little did I know that I had entered a West African version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, I was living the lines of Ikoyi London saying to me, “Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination.” The course had more plate like a tree trying to be a forest, a burnt pepper and a sprinkling of dust with something related to cassava in the narrative. This was a long way from Eba and stew, the ship of our common reality had sailed.
Within 4 visits from crockery to buccal cavity, we were done.
[Burnt pepper and cassava]
Exciting the taste buds
Mackerel is not necessarily fish you will find on the plate of the bourgeoisie, but we were told the next serving was caught today, strips of seemingly poached mackerel on a bed of banga fish paste with vegetables. It was savoury and comfortingly feeling like home cooking. The paired wine only seemed to assume any character in taste after we had tasted the dish. Though I would be honest, all the pairings were lifeless at first taste and not entirely exciting afterwards.
[Mackerel and a banga sauce]
By the fourth course, we had pumpkin and that was a revelation. I had to ask, could you really do this to pumpkin? By now, we were sold on this visit, it was one to write home about.
Jollof the duck
The fifth course was, in fact, two courses, the duck arrived first and then a steaming bowl of smoked jollof rice, both of which were a titillation of a different kind, filling with excitement and a screaming desire for more. Oliver Twist would have died for the lust of the more that cried for.
[Duck and malt bread]
[Smoked Jollof Rice]
You can wish for death
By then, we have the table next to us occupied, in that group of four of probably Europeans or North Africans, the light or my eyes were dim was one Nigerian who was unaware he was being brought to Ikoyi London. The look of amazement, despair and incredulity at what was presented to him could easily have had someone of a different disposition toss the tables and walk out in disgust.
As soon as I ascertained he was Yoruba, I began in a language that would communicate the experience was to be cherished as the difference for which there would be stories to tell about a place called Ikoyi London. It was not about pretensions but innovation, the challenge to open one’s mind and consider that what we once knew does not have to be sacred and impervious to design, artistry and review. That is what Ikoyi London is about.
It’s a lot more wonderful
He asked if the restaurant was one to visit regularly, I could not say that would be wise, but for the whimsy and the occasion, a conversation and gastronomic banter, Ikoyi London would come ahead of many a restaurant. It is the deconstruction of the mundane and typical to create a new essence. This is bold and hardly experimental, it works.
The dessert was a rice ice cream with a biscuit I cannot remember the name of, paired with a cider. One sip had me reaching for my old cocktail. I do not have a palate for lager, beer, ale or cider. It was a miss for me.
[Rice Ice Cream]
It is easy to forget that dinner is a tasting menu and not a meal, which suggests the portions are for tasting as opposed to filling. We had a wonderful time before walking down Jermyn Street and taking a picture with the statue of Beau Brummell.
Ikoyi London is a variation, an exploration, an interpretation and an experience, you will lose more weight in your wallet than you’ll probably gain in ingested food, that is the nature of the location, the standard of service and daring proposition the proprietors have decided to unleash on its adventurous clientele.
There is a discretionary charge and I suppose we rarely exercise the discretion to refuse the charge. The service was top class, the waiters gorgeous and interesting. The restaurant was full by the time we left. Ikoyi London is what is possible if we decide that excellence matters above all else.