Wednesday 31 October 2018

Thought Picnic: Responsibility is enlivening

Then I saw
I have come to the conclusion or more to the realisation that people require the weight of responsibility to gain focus and find perspective in the things of life.
Without responsibility, the purpose is ill-defined or non-existent and what gathers within the daily existence is lasciviousness, the absence of restraint or moderation and a careering down the road of self-destruction, sometimes at full speed or even at a slow pace, but the direction is evident.
Champions unsung
Some have the capacity to take initiative and assume responsibility, shouldering superhuman sense of duty and command of authority in spheres of influence directly under one’s control and well beyond, drawing in resources that they never knew they had and in perseverance and in fortitude they do not buckle under the pressure.
For each in that situation, their story is probably hardly known or told, they are pillars and columns of support that gives such hope and redemption in our humanity.
Then some
Others, however, for all sorts of reasons cannot assume responsibility, shirk it or have not been put in the circumstances where much is demanded of them, so they have no supply when required. The inability to assume responsibility might be due to incapacity, infirmity or handicap, to them, we owe the generosity of spirit to hold up strong in the face of their struggles, to give support, to give hope, to give purpose and to give love, and if there is much more to give, we do give more.
Those who are able, but shirk it need to be sifted out that they do not consume the finite resources that we strive to provide to those more needful of it. To them, some tough love and talking is required along with making them assume some of their personal responsibilities. To them, one two words are of import. Shape up!
Alive and learning
The others probably need guidance and mentoring, the education and example that can give them the impetus to find purpose and goals, that would inspire them to seek radical change. Those with a teachable spirit ready to learn and improve themselves regardless of where they are in life.
Sometimes, responsibility is maintaining a can-do youthfulness, the ability to reflect, to relearn and to rein in exuberance. Such a scene is what I saw on the Channel 4 television show titled, Old People's Home for 4-Year-Olds. An old people’s home of octogenarians to a centenarian of 102 were visited by 4-year old pre-schoolers over a period of 12 weeks and we watched the transformation of each person in both groups.
Responsibility reviewed
The pre-schoolers making friends of people who could easily be their great-grandparents and by that gaining social skills, building trust and confidence, whilst the usually sedentary and retiring old people were engaging, active, revived and even daring. It was a tear-jerking spectacle of the innate life-giving force of our humanity when a diverse pool of people interacts.
The shared responsibility of caring and befriending each other enforced engagement and more participation, but more tellingly, it showed why inter-generational conversation and activity is beneficial to all concerned. Responsibility, whether explicitly known or innately acted out, is simply bringing something, yourself, your enthusiasm and your willingness to be involved in a community and by that, value is created in people, in place and in participation.
Responsibility is striving to live the best you can be to yourself and to others.

Monday 22 October 2018

On celebrating a 30-year career in IT

Selling yourself, yourself
After graduation, I had no godfathers who could call their friends to get a job for their boy. I had somewhat passed the age of favours, sympathy or pity. I was almost a pariah to many but a few. Having lost 5 years of post-secondary education to multiple failures and kickstarts of life and career, I found new opportunities.
In fact, they were not opportunities, just a sense of daring. A new pair of shoes my mum had bought for me and a moment of epiphany. One night in early October 1988, I realised, I am the best representative of myself. So, I decided, that was what I was going to do, represent myself.
Walking the talk
I started out in Ikeja, walking the expensive streets one of which was named Cocaine Avenue which somewhat had a reputation for wealth acquired through dubious means. The same street had businesses catering to the moneyed, the influential and the well-connected.
Every few steps I took, led me to the door of another computer services business. I had the choice of pursuing a career in the electrical power end of things which is almost back-breaking work when I worked at the Flour Mills of Nigeria some 3 years before. Our every working day revolved around electrical motors, mostly high-powered drivers of turbines, belts, machines and much else. Those are memories I would rather leave in the past.
Confidence to access
My preference was to work on the electronics side of my Electrical and Electronic Engineering qualification. I immediately knew that it would pay less, but it offered a growing wealth of experience if I was ready for the challenge.
Without invitation or appointment, I walked into every business I could find, greeted the receptionist and politely asked for a job, stating I had just graduated. Everyone seemed to commiserate but had nothing to offer. I did not relent. Yet, I remembered a few years before that I lost a job offer to others who presented predatory opportunities to the gatekeepers of those businesses.
I did my Ikeja run for just over two days and in that time, I honed my introduction and conversation, working harder to present myself in a better light. My accent belied a foreignness, my demeanour some sophistication and my conversation, some uncommon politeness and maybe some confidence too. How do you walk into offices asking for a job and an opportunity to work and learn at the same time?
The sign welcomed
Having achieved no success in Ikeja, I boarded a bus for Lagos Island, when just opposite Baptist Academy on Ikorodu Road, I saw a big sign, IT Systems Ltd on a white building. I got off at the next stop and walked back on myself to this rather imposing building.
At the reception, I introduced myself and stated my purpose. She got up, went into the offices and came back out followed by a manager with whom I had a further conversation about my course, the projects I had done, my exposure to programming and my interest in computers. Then, I had worked with business machines that you programmed with assembler code and Apple 2c and 2e computers at school, programming in BASIC and FORTRAN 77.
The manager’s name was Felix Ogun, it was the 2nd Friday of October and he invited me to start work on Monday. That was the beginning of a career in Information Technology that this month has lasted 30 years.
Privilege and opportunity
I owe my career to the many who were ready to give me opportunities where I had no influence or leverage, just potential and some self-believe. The self-believe is a product of parentage and the early education I received, it trained me never to be fearful of person, personality, office or position. Privilege and opportunity can confer status, it does not make anyone else any more a human being than you are; if you can and you must at the very least treat each other with consideration and respect.
My uncle and aunt, the Soyinkas, who when I was at the time failing even though I wasn’t stupid or incompetent, but in fact, with hindsight, clinically depressed and unproductive. They gave me a home, amazing support, boosted my confidence and gave me the latitude to grow into the person I have become. To them, I would be eternally grateful, for I blossomed, I thrived and I succeeded in their care.
Belief and agreement
Deji Sasegbon was a lawyer, he owned the office block in which IT Systems had their offices on the ground floor and he had his legal publishing practice on the first floor. They sometimes had hardware problems and invited us to help out. For each solution, he offered money, I refused. He gave me my second career opportunity, I became a consultant in desktop publishing with an unusual contract arrangement.
The cost of my flight ticket whenever I decide to leave for the UK and a monthly stipend. This opened doors to many other opportunities. IT Systems was a year of sponging up knowledge of hardware, software, systems, business practices and networks. By October 1989, I had enough knowledge and expertise to branch out as a self-employed consultant and my first month of work paid 10 times my last salary at IT Systems. D-Sash as we used to call him, passed away a few years ago, I never really got to thank him for the doors he opened for my career.
Potential despite threat
Clifton Bissick offered me my first role in the UK. Everywhere I went, I was told I did not have UK-acquired experience, even though the experience I had borne out of curiosity, self-development and eagerness to learn and understand put me well above the skills profile of many who had the acquired experience I was said to not have.
At the BBC, even though I was probably the best-qualified candidate for the role, the manager called me to say I was selling myself short and so he could not offer me the job. I think it was a euphemism for suggesting I was considered a threat to the positions of people who had become entrenched in that system. It hurt, but I looked ahead. Clifton and I are still in contact, he was my manager until August 1994.
Trust beyond capacity
Eoghan Doyle, if there was ever a manager who had more confidence in both my person and my skills long before I knew what I was capable of, he stands tall amongst all those who had that influence in my career. He walked up to my desk one morning and said, ‘Akin, I have something I want you to do for me.’ That is how I started working with Microsoft Systems Management Server from version 1.1 in 1996 and all its various versions and incarnations to date.
Many others in friendships and engagement were part of the extensive support system of my career, Kola Akinola, my best friend from when we were innocent and doe-eyed, Steven Bicknell, my first long-term partner who gave me stability in turbulent times of finding myself, John Coll who I was never qualified enough to work for but always had the time, the space, the advice and the pep-talk to help me along immensely – now of blessed memory.
To all these wonderful people, I can never be thankful enough, for with them I have attained what might have been impossible and beyond reach, I have succeeded where I might have been overwhelmed, I have lived experiences that are the substance of unattainable dreams. I have lived in wonder and beauty and much more. And we are still talking about work that brings new excitement and pleasure, daily.
One other thing I have learnt is, when it is no more fun, walk away from it.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Nine years after Chris died

In my mind
For a love that dare not speak its name, I was alone in pain and grief, for I had hardly been out of hospital for a life-threatening condition when I learnt that the one for whom love was deep, sometimes requited, sometimes spurned, bordering on rejection and unrequited, yet having some enduring quality of suffering quietly whilst trying to laugh out loud had passed on.
The shock of the news was first hard to take and the pain of cancer that I already had just continued to glow with the feeling that I did not matter. In depth of grief, there was no one to share my sorrow with. I looked for comfort within and wrote a eulogy for a friend and lover.
In my heart
It was years before I came to terms with my loss, though I really cannot say I have fully understood what happened, each year and nine of them already, I wonder about the chances that came that I was afraid to take. The opportunities that I frittered away in doubt and uncertainty, what could have been and probably might have changed the course of things.
Then, I come to myself, I cannot live in a parallel universe of wishes and fantasies, writing a story that has no semblance in reality. I seem to have lost a grip on the romantic, constantly unsure of whether what is before me is worth my while. For where I have extended, I have been exerted to exhaustion. My pearls of affection get trampled on by the swine of ingratitude.
In my life
What more loss can a man bear before no more investment is considered for the affairs of the heart, all because the one that mattered got away. If one could redeem the time, so much more would have been done to redress the situation.
Alas! That chance is gone, the remembrance, the hurt, the regrets and the lessons return to haunt every year, on the birthday and on the death day. Three days ago, I remembered, for I have never forgotten, that the love I lost was a sweet love.
Adieu Chris, rest in peace, my love.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

On becoming anyone's guinea pig

Wards of discomfort
I have known hospitals from the very first day of my life that they do not seem that strange to me, but many a place have I been that it might not be as welcoming as to make one feel well.
In the last few weeks, I have 4 visits, check-ups, assessments, observations and talks, some could well be unsettling if not for a rather calm exterior. For it, all began with a suspicion, whether a growth, she could not tell, but it came with a referral.
Meanwhile, in another place we had a discussion for a change of medication, in my research, of the 4 options presented, none seemed like a safe transition as the listed side-effects were fearsomely avoidable if one just stuck to what one was already on for 8 years already.
Yet, they say, these are newer efficacious drugs, but the news out there suggests over 50% have returned to their original medication just because of the side effects.
A belly prod
At the referral, I could not say the consultant was pleasant. Much as I was invited to see another consultant who I had read up on, the one I saw had a bedside manner that served me lots of discomfort. The hand I offered was not taken and the introduction was mumbled or maybe I had suddenly become hard of hearing.
He referenced the notes, asked a few questions and then had me on the gurney but called in a chaperone nurse before he did anything. For God’s sake, I have been violated by medicine too many times to be concerned by a poke, prod or prick, but needs must for all the reasons in the world.
I felt no pain as his hands did the feeling all around my abdomen and elsewhere before I dressed up and he returned to the desk to scribble away. He was recommending a colonoscopy and a phlebotomy, whilst I was thinking, I would rather be with the people who know a lot more about me.
Pills of life
Then we decided, that was the best, it means my doctor who over almost three years has collected sheaves of medical material about me, but I have never met would be arranging for me to visit a department of probing analysts.
In all, I am now in new medication for which the side-effects have not been that serious, we would review the situation next week, at which point it might well be a full transition. My medication comes in a little box with a difference, I found I had to peel off a card that suggested certain side-effects could be life-threatening. Now, that is scary stuff. I have to travel with a card listing my doctor’s details.
I chose this because it offered no change in pill burden or mode of consumption, I could still take it at the same time as with my old pills and now, with or without meals. If I do suffer pyrexia; a medical type for having a fever, have a skin rash which might well be invisible considering, have shortness of breath, feel queasy, have a sore throat or a cough, I should consult my doctor immediately.
Just writing all that makes me feel unwell, but I thrive. Now, what is an umbilical hernia? That came from the prodding and poking. Whilst I protest that it is my body first before it is anyone’s guinea pig, sometimes, I find myself the latter, just because I am the former.

Inkwell shrapnel

The many stories I have wanted to tell,
All incubating in me that I might just yell,
In stillness like a water in a deep well,
With nowt a bucket to lift and expel,
To put it all in a nutshell,
I write in vain as I deign to excel,
So much a cause I became a rebel,
The book I hoped for but never could sell,
Might well be another novel,
How to life is one to foretell,
The things and strains that does one compel,
For what I have told has freed me from a cell,
As words and thoughts on pages they fell,
We read and run from living hell,
And that is hardly yet a farewell.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Essential Snobbery 101: For your noise be couth

Like really?
“That is what you say to unruly teenagers, not to 36-year old professionals.” She said at the top of her voice. I had just alighted from the tram on my way home as what came to perturb my silent contemplation made me look towards the commotion.
The sight I beheld left me raising an eyebrow accompanied by a snigger, she was in argumentation with two police officers, much of it quite disagreeable, as she sat on the embankment of the tram station on the side where the trams would come to stop, so she had to be moved on, but she was not budging one bit.
A raucous cacophony ensued as I minded my own business but could not help but think about what she said and how much like an unruly teenager she was in attitude and definitely not a 36-year old professional in appearance or demeanour.
What a pity
It might well be that at another time in her somewhat vibrant life, she was a professional of sorts, a confrontation with the law then welled up the urge for a sense of self-importance in order not to be treated shabbily, though every indication pointed towards a shamefaced humiliation.
She had with her demonstration brought a public audience to her pending predicament and there is no doubt that every pretension to being a lady had been lost to the vociferous outbursts that were quite unbecoming.
The moral of the tale being, never make noise when your cause is not in the quest of justice but in the folly of notoriety and the unnecessary charge of disturbing the peace. Little doth it take to respect thyself or none of it shall ye get.

Monday 1 October 2018

Thought Picnic: Conveyors of character

Show yourself
Frequent travel brings you in contact to different people from all walks of life that without probing and conversation, it is impossible if you are not clairvoyant to determine where they are from, what they do and why they are travelling.
Yet, I think there is one place where expression and impression are so profoundly displayed. It is not in sometimes drunken boarding of flights, garrulous or intemperate behaviour or even the basic social graces.
At baggage reclaim
The best observation point is the conveyor belt at baggage reclaim, it is as much as the revelation of character as any. The ones who gather at the entry point of baggage when the conveyor belt is switched on. As if their baggage would run away from them.
The parents with kids that are out of control, who clamber over the belts before they start and attempt to drag off luggage well beyond their physical capabilities. This, despite the sign that the conveyor belt is not a playground. If one were to read more into the situation of unruly kids in a public place, you can only wonder what happens at home.
Just as the conveyor belt starts, watch the ones who literally ignore you, if not shove you aside to get at their luggage without a word about their uncouth behaviour. Or the ones who get their luggage and don’t immediately move out of the way for others.
And your character
The conveyor belt is in motion, the luggage moves around and comes back again except if by happenstance it gets picked up by another passenger, though that rarely happens. Wherever you stand, it would eventually get to where you’re standing. If you have to pull off more than one and are not fast enough to get to it, it would come around again, it would not end up in a black hole, never to be seen again.
At least, one would think in the West, there is more safety for person and luggage, not to have to stress oneself at the conveyor belt. I can never understand the rush to retrieve your luggage if you’re being picked up until you've made it out to the arrivals halls, you really have not yet arrived. You might well be detained at immigration.
Is revealed
What the conveyor belt scenario reveals of character can be deep and interesting, from the disorganised to the untrusting, from the impatient to the harried, from the rude to the uncultured, from the nasty to the atrocious. Amongst these, you can still find gems of humanity, patient, helpful, friendly, courteous, disciplined, informative and just nice.
Being a frequent traveller does bring you in contact with a broad stratum of society, some members, you’ll rather not meet anywhere again.