Wednesday 30 May 2018

Chris: Nine birthdays gone without you

Preparing for something
Today, I would have been so excited for the evening ahead. My best laid out plans for a sumptuous dinner at a swanky restaurant, celebrating another wonderful year.
Whilst, I do not consider myself a dancer, I would have loved to dance, caught in that embrace that always made me feel safe and happy. Infatuated and lovesick I would have been, my heart beating faster than I could gasp the breath to keep me standing. I would have swooned and fallen into those protective arms, those arms long and lanky.
I held back
As tall as he stood and indeed taller, my head never had the chance of getting in the way of my heart, I was silly, stupid and senseless in the elixir of love. I could never understand how in my sense of independence and individuality, I fell head over heels, tumbling down a hill of the most beautiful feeling I could not find the words to describe.
Then, there were times when I could have decided, but I hesitated, I was ready to take the plunge, but I faltered, I could have made a difference, but I left it different. If I had the luxury of a parallel universe, I would have moved out there to find out about what could have been, that never became it here.
Follow your heart
The hardest lesson I learnt in all this was I failed to follow my heart to the oasis of love, come what may. My fears overwhelmed my hopes and in that, I lost what might well have remained in my grip for the celebration tonight.
Chris would have been 45 today and we would have wined and dined just for the joy and fun of it. The story really is, Chris died at 36 and this is the ninth birthday without him. I cannot turn back time, I can only remember the good times, the fond memories and the rest that comes with smiles and sadness – that was the love I lost.

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Thought Picnic: On the sudden passing of friends

On the cycle of life
It happens every time, first, you’re overcome with shock and then a numbness when you hear the news. Your mind then races into the recesses of your memory, opening closets and pulling out drawers, looking under tables and dusting off tops seeking the snatches of moments that defined relationships that signified friendship and more.
An emptiness descends upon yon the midst of the depressing circumstances, as realisation dawns on you that what you heard is true even if you have no other means to verify the story. As you reflect, you begin to compose yourself in ascertaining the right order, form and delivery of words of comfort and sympathy to express, none of which is easy.
On searching and yearning
Questions come and go, many of which would never be answered, for there is none in the extended surviving ones to relate to on the matters personal as one would have easily been able to do with the principal. Too many instances of unanswered questions like these that plague the curiosity makes one wonder if friendship is ever complete without having a friend of the friend in that circle of friends.
Beyond this is the need of someone close you can just chat to, unburden yourself of the suddenness of the sad tidings rather than have it churn within you. In our mortal vulnerability, we all need a touch of humanity with which to absorb the issues of life and death that makes up experience.
On realisation and fortune
Then part of the reflection you have especially when circumstances are revealed in the shortest delivery of missives pertains to self, the thought of similar bouts and different outcomes. For one, it is that we survived, for another, it is that they did not.
That they did not, does not mean they could not, cancer, as much as it is understood is also misunderstood. For each, and there are many different kinds from benign to aggressive, from treatable through palliative to completely untreatable.
In that mix, as I learn in my own experience is the ability of one’s physiology to withstand the poisonous and gruesome onslaught of medication, beyond hope, if there is any, we can only watch and wait, hoping for the best or accepting the worst.
On mortality and memory
For every time I am told a friend died of cancer, I sense within me a vulnerability like I die a little, saddened and grieved by the news that the encounter once again took away a soul too soon.
Then, too many times the news comes completely out of the blue, and all we are left with are flashes of the last time we met, when the goodbyes were meant to mean, till we meet again, not a final salute to a friendship and life that in many ways was well lived.
He was a colleague, a gentleman, typically with old English reserve, very affable and amiable, I liked him a lot. A year into our working relationship, he retired, but much of the work and documentation he left with us, proved useful, long after he had departed.
The team found times to meet up, we met at one of the pubs in town for a drink where he regaled us with lots of extracurricular activities he was engaged in with his wife in the community. For all intents and purposes, he seemed an active healthy man. Yet, he passed on last week after a short battle with cancer.
Adieu Nick, may you travel well and rest in peace.

Friday 18 May 2018

Thought Picnic: Watching a blog have a life

When I do, it is still fun
In the fifteenth year of my blogging, I realise that I have not blogged as much as I used to. It is not for the want for what to write about, there is much from the mundane to the serious, but a kind of lethargy sets in beyond the feeling that there seems to be a monotony to covering the things that have been covered before, or so I think.
Yet, again, each event and day is different as reference points can be viewed from another perspective as products of both the imagination and introspection.
The life in a blog
Then, I remember writing a blog, five years ago today, it is just one of those topics about how people could sensationalise an issue based on false premises and quotes. There was nothing much to it until comments came rushing in and the readership climbed into the thousands. It is now just a few hundred reads below 30,000.
It goes without saying that a blog once written has a life of its own, some that I have expected to garner much readership have hardly budged and others that I may not have thought would be understood or interesting have just increased in readership much beyond my expectations.
What I would love is to rekindle that joy and fun in blogging, writing and opining about issues, in seriousness and levity, maybe with humour or disgust, finding expression for the many thoughts, observations and events that I find myself involved in.
Thank you!

Thursday 17 May 2018

#IDAHOT 2018: Of allies and acceptance

At Cologne Central Station on my way to work.
A workplace joy
I have come to see the 17th of May each year as a day to celebrate and remember in my own little way. It is the day that has been designated the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). [IDAHOT Website]
I became aware of this day when I was working at Barclays Bank, the organisation unfurled a big rainbow flag from the tower in the campus and with that were a number of events in branches all around the world to commemorate the day.
As an institution, Barclays Bank has been amazingly supportive of the LGBTI community, sponsoring and hosting functions within and outside the company on matters of inclusiveness and expression that I have not seen paralleled in any other place where I have worked. You had both a sense of belonging and safety in the work environment, that was just right.
Out and proud at work
Personally, I think I have always been out in the workplace since the early 1990s. I have been fortunate to have friends and allies who have not only been understanding and supporting who and what I am. They have in many ways been part of the network of confidence in expression and identity that has allowed me to thrive.
Whilst, I have never worn my sexuality on my sleeve, a direct question has always elicited an honest answer. I have had managers who have sought to learn and understand how and why we are wired so differently. Where homophobia has appeared to emerge overtly or covertly, I have seen managers call out such infractions and demand that profuse apologise with undertakings to be better behaved to be made to me.
To those as fortunate
In that, I have been blessed and fortunate, then I have to appreciate many others who have never had the opportunity to be themselves at work or at play, out of fear of persecution and prosecution, it is the reason we have an International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. To remind people of the inequalities and the dehumanisation of diversity and difference that still pervades in many societies and communities.
For that reason, the struggle continues, the recognition is needed, and the stories need to be told of those of us who have had it good and of those of us who suffer under laws and states that make them insignificant non-persons because of their sexuality. The violence must end, the persecution must end, and we must come to realise that difference is part of our humanity deserving of equality, respect and dignity.
It is for that reason that I celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, where the colours of the day, shades of purple, for the freedom to be who you are, what you are, wherever you are without fear, loathing or hate to contend with.
Happy IDAHOT!!!
Postscript: When I wrote this, I did not realise that the theme for 2018 was “Alliances for Solidarity”, but that is the truth, I have had alliances and allies for solidarity through most of my working life and I am thankful and grateful for the many friends and colleagues who have accepted me for who I am without reservation or question.

Monday 7 May 2018

Hotel life: Looking for "Helpless people"

Woken too early for my liking
Considering I am a very light sleeper, I cherish every minute of sleep I get which rarely is longer than a 3 to 4-hour stretch before I am awoken and have to work myself to sleep again.
This morning at my seemingly lovely hotel which is part of a large hotel chain in Cologne, I was woken to an emergency by the fire alarm and after the catechism in German, we were given an English translation.
Evacuation! Evacuation!
“There is an emergency in the hotel, please leave your room and close the door behind you, do not use the lift and follow the directions to the front of the hotel.” Then, it said something about the staff and that I should look for “Helpless people”.
Bags and everything
That would be funny if I was not woken at that hour, but as I was in my pyjamas, it was easy to step into my trainers without even doing my laces and with my key card to hand I grabbed my cane and made down the three flights of stairs.
The number of evacuees that had left their rooms with their belongings were numerous, if we were fleeing a serious emergency, it would have been a looming catastrophe.
As we approached the front of the hotel, the “Helpless people”, which I eventually got to realise were supposed to be the “Helpful people”, the fire warden and staff assigned to handle emergencies beckoned to us to come into the hotel.
The frying pan was saved
He explained in German to the many guests and just told me in English there is no problem. Someone came to my aid and explained in detail that it was a kitchen incident of the chef leaving the pan on the stove for too long which triggered the fire alarm.
Thankfully, no one was hurt including the frying pan, but have I seen how not to do a fire drill or event a real evacuation? Then, please, like I always say in countries where English is not the official language, whilst you all speak English better I can ever speak your language, always get a native English speaker or a teacher of English to review your public announcements. Helpless people, indeed!