Monday 25 February 2019

Search your conscience

Some things we let all scatter,
So we can rearrange it after,
By dismissing the serious with laughter,
We so live and falter.
We must not suffer the pretence,
Or stand in any defence,
If as one forsakes their conscience,
For a life of convenience.
We have walked against the grain,
The norms are down the drain,
In principle, you bear the strain,
Even if you are held in disdain.
For what indeed is a life?
In which compromise is rife,
Against which you never strife,
Even without the threat of a knife.
Those of whom are well written,
Are of some who never did fit in,
They did not recant when smitten,
In their example, we must listen.

Saturday 23 February 2019

On parental interference and sundry matters

Dealing with parents
I could imagine that many people after reading this would probably nod their heads in agreement on the issue of parental interference. I love my parents and when things are generally fine, which means knowing their boundaries and not interfering with my life, we have quite interesting and lovely conversations.
There are however areas of concern that I would hope that parents around the world gain some maturity on. I called my brother yesterday quite upset about a comment my father posted on my activities on Facebook. He had said, “The earliest you make a good change in your lifestyle the better, it is not too late. All the best.” From my perspective, this was utterly uncalled for, and as I have written many years before and frequently as in the links below, there was a clear notice to all concerned that they accept my choices or lose to their voices in my affairs.
Children provoked to wrath
Parental advice is good at any time, the kind of advice that helps you, builds you, encourages you and gives you the confidence to face the world. There was a time when as a child parental advice was an order, your agency was within the ambit of the latitude granted by your guardians. When that child becomes an adult, the parent needs to begin to adapt to new realities, the advice should come in that context, readily when asked for and tactfully when completely unsolicited for then offered like a reprimand.
In my last long conversation with my mother, who I lovingly call Iya, she offered the scripture about children honouring their parents, for it is commandment given with a promise. We were engaged in some banter as I had reported an issue, I was annoyed about to her about my father. I retorted that further down, it does say the parents should not provoke their children unto wrath.
We all have responsibilities, parents do as much as children do. If you as the hubristic almighty parent think there are no limits to how you interact with your grown-up child who is living quite independently of you in literally every sphere of their lives, then you are on the way to provoking your child unto wrath, the result of which cannot be healthy for either party.
No such ambition
The other thing is, I am very proud of my parents’ achievements in their lives, coming from their backgrounds, their professional successes and how those gave us their children amazing opportunities in life. I am probably the greatest beneficiary of it. I would be the first to confess that at some time I was a difficult child, I had my issues, and for some time, I probably was not a great source of pride to them.
Then, in resolving my own issues, I grew out of just wanting to make anyone proud as an ambition, if anyone was to feel a sense of pride in my regard, it would be incidental, not as a goal of mine. There might be a disconnection between them knowing that fact and realising I am not in a hamster’s wheel of life, trying to please anyone. I probably should have written a memorandum to all concerned.
My parents do not have that much influence in my life, not for a long time of at least three decades. Maybe in their mind’s eye and so in that of many other parents, they still see a child, we are always going to be the children of our parents, but we all grow up and that child is no more a child, but an adult. Many parents are in for a rude shock because they sometimes must be jolted violently into that new reality.
I make the decisions now
My situation is made worse for the fact that my father as a patriarch still has fully grown adults around him who have failed to gain any independence for themselves and thereby unfortunately becloud his view of things and the ability to discriminate between people who still need to be ordered around and those who at the very least should command both his courtesy and his respect in his dealings with them.
We are presented with many teachable moments which may not be immediate learning experiences but have to be reinforced time and again. I would never be a model child because my experiences and worldview are completely different from those of my parents. I try to be a good respectful child, but there are limits to what I can do. Whatever they have to say or do, the final decision would always be mine and mine alone to take.
This is a rebuke
When I have had to push back, I have not minced my words, that is the quality of education and influences around me, whilst I am reverential and respectful, when lines are crossed, order must be restored. In response to his comment, I wrote. “I do not expect to be reading these kinds of messages from you, I am 53, if you can't accept my choices, I appreciate your situation, but please, respect me for who I am. Thank you.
Then, I blocked him on Facebook for the simple fact that, if he does not approve of my ‘lifestyle’ and that so-called lifestyle is published without reserve on Facebook, it is not helpful for him to be assaulted with it. I was only being kind.
I have however learnt that there are busybody informers on Facebook who have taken on the job of reporting my views and opinions on social media to my father from which he makes background inquiries to ascertain things without consulting me. The poor man is caught between societal encumbrances to be seen to act on the information he has received even after knowing there is little he can do than piss me off.
Well, I would hope those informants would get to read this and inform him that this is both a rebuke to him and them. Back off or this is just the beginning of some interesting storytelling. Thank you.

This is my life, this is me

Things I would not brook
There are a few places where I would brook no intrusion, the violation of my space and where I am being treated with disrespect. In both cases, I would tend to take remedial action before my dignity, integrity and sense of well-being suffer.
Only a few months ago, I welcomed a close relation to Facebook and even celebrated it with a blog as I usually write about the serious and the mundane. In my writings, I could sometimes be circumspect or nuanced but never misunderstood.
I have a broad social media presence from the professional, which is LinkedIn to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and my blog in order of longevity. I used to have my tweets automatically feed into Facebook, but that facility was removed my Facebook over a year ago. I, however, do have my Instagram posts feed directly into Facebook and Twitter.
My decisions, my terms
In the space of just under three months, I am back in South Africa for business as much as for leisure, my previous visit gave me an opportunity that I wanted to explore further including the accident of meeting someone with whom we agreed to begin a relationship together.
Whilst I appreciate my life straddles the old world and the new, an age of ignorance through into one of enlightenment, I can understand some people like some of my parent's generation would get left behind even if technology forces them to interact with a world quite radically different from the one in which they had been raised.
For over three decades I have made my own decisions in terms of my expression, my career, my choices, my partners and much else. I am grateful to many who have encouraged, supported, celebrated, and rewarded me as my journey of life has become a tapestry of stories. I would easily make friends rather than enemies, my philosophy is for the peaceful coexistence of living and letting live.
Ancient and modern in one life
Social media provides a platform of varied expression, I have neither stepped away from controversy nor frankness of view, in many cases, I would either mind my own business or keep my counsel. It allows for you to make acquaintances with the broadest range of opinions, ideas, people and things, knowledge is a good thing, and understanding how to use it is a better thing.
Then, last night, I had to run the gauntlet of this comment posted to a status that was fed to Facebook from Instagram. I have edited the text from a proofreader’s perspective, but the context and the import remain unchanged. “The earliest you make a good change in your lifestyle the better, it is not too late. All the best.” This, without doubt, came from someone who I can sympathise has my interests at heart, God bless them, as much as it is intrusive and completely unnecessary.
This is not a lifestyle, this is life
I can only guess as to what aspect of my lifestyle is being referred to as in the old world, the expression of sexuality is a lifestyle choice as opposed to an innate state of being that professionals and a growing public, a majority of whom are in the West have now better understand with systems and processes put to place protect the rights and liberties of people who have a sexual orientation not common with the majority populace.
Indeed, if this were a lifestyle, it would have been easy to adopt another, and as one wrestles with the issues and complexities of extracting oneself from influences and travails of that lifestyle life stopping smoking or the consumption of alcohol one can find better outcomes in life. Sexuality is not a lifestyle, it is a lived experience that in childhood has left any confused and conflicted, as one grew you questioned your sanity and normalcy whilst secretly seeking some expression of it, unsure of whether there was anyone else like you.
If you came from a religious background, that worsened your sense of unease, you’re found in a cycle of seeking cures for ailments that do not exist. The psychological trauma, angst, and guilt weigh heavily on you. Even if you live in countries where the freedom to express yourself exists, you still find you are not really that free and those of a heterosexual persuasion have been in the main.
Coming to terms with my own struggle
You find common cause with others like you and grow in confidence within communities you have formed to promote your interests, the need to be who you are without fear of persecution or violence in every sphere of life has been achieved in some societies whilst it is criminalised in others.
Something natural happens, someone comes into your life offering companionship beyond friendship, a life of happiness and support with fulfilment. We all have the capacity for love regardless of gender pairing or sexuality. I dare say, that is celebrated in some instances and condemned in others. I could have satisfied the needs of my society to follow certain heteronormative choices, found a girl, married, had children, and lived a lie, but I didn’t.
I made a solemn oath to myself that I would not complicate another person’s life with my issues, they are tough enough to deal with without messing up other lives living on the down-low. Imagine my difficulty, I once had a relationship that lasted 7 years, but never could share with my family, my happiness and fulfilment.
Then another who I so loved and might have had the opportunity to build a life with died suddenly, neither could I share my bereavement and sorrow with my family in the middle of recovering from cancer. I am sorry, these experiences are not lifestyle choices, they are long and enduring events of my life.
It is life, it might be different, it might be unconventional, it is not a disorder and definitely not a lifestyle. Being homosexual is NOT a lifestyle.
My life is mine to live
I sympathise with those who would have preferred a parallel universe of assumed norms for me, but that universe would contain the same diversity. You do not choose your sexuality; your sexuality is part of who you are whether you decide to express it and live your life to the full or conceal it and live a limited version of yourself.
I have been circumspect, I have not been out to everyone I have encountered, some of my family do already know, others, it is on a need-to-know basis. At work, from as far back as the 1990s, I have not concealed the fact that I am gay or in a relationship, I have been respected for my candour and have never been adversely affected by the revelation of it. Amongst most of my managers, I have found allies. I am grateful for all that.
In this season, I found love, and I intend to pursue it fully for my happiness and well-being, it is part of why I returned to South Africa, to meet up with my new love and explore the opportunities we can have of life together. I do not intend to live in the shadows about this and I can understand it would make some uncomfortable. I am not here to live the life and expectations of others, but my own life and the happiness that fortune has gifted me in the process.
In view of the comment that was posted to my Facebook status which was a second infraction of what I would not brook being violated, I made one decision, if the person who feels so concerned about my lifestyle disapproves of it, it is best to spare them the inconvenience of my social media persona as a happy gay man with his partner. This is my life, this is me, and I will not sacrifice it for anyone. I have blocked the said person on all my social media accounts, that person is my father.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Big mama Africa belittled by cartographers

Crossing into the southern hemisphere,
Over a line that makes you wonder where,
Strange and familiar names do appear,
This is the Africa we probably should not fear.
Three villes say the French Belgians were here,
Libreville to Franceville are not quite near,
By the time Brazzaville is at your stare,
You're in Congo and it is not a dare.
Mbandaka sticks in my mind like a crime,
It was Coquilhatville once upon a time,
Congo and Ruki rivers make it maritime,
As it sits on the equator just in its prime.
Africa is a place of distances far apart,
The maps conceal a secret we never chart,
If Bakwanga does play a part,
It is four thousand miles from your start.
In Livingstone a place to which he came,
Even Victoria falls he did name,
Much he did to build his fame,
Yes, the British left many marks of shame.
If we knew our basic geography,
From our narrow African philosophy,
We'll realise it's extensive ethnography,
And redraw the misleading cartography.
A Flickr slideshow of flight tracker places mentioned.
The flight tracker playback of the journey, you can zoom in on the maps to see the place names that came up in the poem.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Finding me do what I would not do

In the knowing
You cannot overdo appreciation as it stems from the acknowledgement of person, deed, event, or action. You acknowledge and notice, commend and compliment, give praise and sometimes as lavishly as the mode of communication chosen can afford it is all part of gratitude.
I have learnt to be thankful, thankful for so many things, the gift of life, the lifting from deathbed to enjoy life from a new perspective, the blessing of means to do things that would heretofore be impossible, the honour of friendships, people who give time, place, love, consideration and more for reasons you sometimes cannot comprehend, but you are grateful for them being around.
In the doing
The appreciation of love is a higher calling, one we tend to take for granted because love is always there open, ready, willing, able, exerting beyond duty, empathising in a oneness of spirit and soul, ever giving rarely demanding, it is mysteriously powerful.
To it we must respond with consideration and without confusion, knowing the genuineness in which it is offered and we learning to reciprocate in ways that enhance that exchange that is deeper than can be comprehended.
In the living
We must appreciate, we must celebrate, we must immerse ourselves in the beauty of love’s expression and in that find healing that no other medicine can give. It mends the hearts, glows in the face, puts a spring in the step and renews the youth tremendously.
There probably isn’t anything that can’t be done for love, because when it comes to it, it is unconditional and unconventional, selfless, and generous to a fault, you will do for love what you normally will not do. That is the full expression of appreciation.

Thought Picnic: I was sodden too sudden

To prophesy, I did not
Suddenly, is not a word I use that often, though I do sometimes pretend I rarely act on impulse but on slow determined and considered thought and reflection before I do anything.
However, what I cannot account for is how casual commentary becomes prescient as if one has been gifted a power of benign prognostication that has hardly developed beyond reviewing issues in hindsight.
The decision to go to Cape Town at Easter was made in early January and in deciding that, there was a throwaway comment that South Africa might again see a visitor sooner than planned. We were already counting down the days towards the meeting in Johannesburg for our onward flight together to Cape Town.
To manifest, I sure did
Then suddenly, a furlough and an uncertainty intervened in a situation where time became available to consider possibilities and opportunities. This all got clarity yesterday evening and with it comes a trip to the southern hemisphere. Now, who would not jump at a business trip to South Africa?
The execution was sudden, but the thought process had been sown, watered and tended over weeks of flux, wherein, the indeterminate follows on to the definite. With ticket in hand, board on high, affections in overdrive and meetings planned for the eruptions of ideas, goals, aims and hopefully more than one ever desired. We face life as a journey of people, hearts, and minds.
Providence shines on me and I am grateful for all that gives me a story to tell, eventually.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Nigeria: Can we radically rethink our political machinery?

Resisting the laughable
I was not surprised when I heard on BBC Radio 4 in the very early hours of this morning that just 5 hours before the polls opened in Nigeria, they were postponed for a week. [BBC]
It would be convenient for me to write from the western comfort of my abode to rant and rave about the systemic dysfunction that bedevils Nigeria and runs counter to the words of Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa on the day of independence, when he said, “We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination.” [AkinBlog][Dawodu]
The courage of reality
In that assertion at the dawn of independent Nigeria, the claims and the want are no more the subject of debate, the conclusion is an everyday indictment of a nation that is full of potential and that is all we have, potential.
Yet, for all accusations by the main political parties that the postponement could presage the manipulation of the vote in favour of either, I must commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for having the courage to realise they were not ready and taking the difficult but necessary decision to postpone.
The pressure to carry on regardless would have been immense but having recognised that certain locations would be denied suffrage and appreciating the logistical problems of getting election materials to the various places that might have been sabotaged, this was the only reasonable option.
The saboteurs gaming the system
The problem with Nigeria is myriad, we have a rentier class of political jobbers who have no occupation apart from peddling influence, they suck the oxygen out of every other viable and productive sector of the economy, society and government, such that things can only work with their agreement.
Then, amongst them, because the remuneration within politics far exceeds that which can be acquired out of qualification, hard work or merit, they employ every means to disrupt and sabotage the electioneering process that represents the will of the people in order to entrench themselves in positions where they can control the commonwealth arrogating to themselves untrammelled fiat over the helpless masses who are best kept in the vassalage of only having begging bowls, living hand to mouth and driven by survival by the belly.
That is the failure of Nigeria that has resulted in postponing the elections for a week. There are people who have a vested selfish interest in what they can usurp to the detriment of others and without any scruples as to whether anyone gets hurt or killed in the process.
Rethinking our political machinery
Sometimes, I wonder what it is that can fix Nigeria in the state that it is, but we can start with one thing, slash the remuneration of the political class to just basic allowances for board, meals and transport. If they need additional income, they should earn it like everyone else.
Nigeria cannot afford a fulltime legislature, at the exorbitant cost at which it is run today, there is no reason to feather the beds of the legislators when ordinarily the middle classes on their earnings cannot afford the basic things without the temptation to malfeasance, corruption or fraud.
The legislature should have a term time with a clear agenda like a syllabus of activities and bills to debate, run with the efficiency of a principal of a secondary school, clearly with objectives and penalties for not producing results. An Office for Government Accountability having the independence to review and sanction the executive and the legislature when they fail in their responsibilities.
As a consequence of this
Taking the remuneration surplus out of politics would immediately divert the eyes of the heretofore political jobbers to other honeypots and troughs, whilst hopefully allowing Nigerians with a sense of altruism and commitment into politics. At least, they would not be politicking for the money but for the opportunity to serve.
Then, reduce all political terms to one term, none should seek re-election without having been succeeded once, within that, cascade the elections such that the executive branch is not elected in the same year as the legislative branch. This is radical, but I think it would go a long way to taking the leeches out of the decision-making framework of Nigeria.
There is still hope
There is a likelihood with this rethinking of Nigerian politics, we might come close to the what Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa dreamt was possible in Nigeria, “that our claims to responsible government are well-founded.”
In the meanwhile, I hope that when Nigerians do finally get the opportunity to elect their political leaders and representatives in a week, INEC would be ready, the people would have chosen wisely and their express will be presented in the validated results.
Long live Nigeria and God bless Nigeria.

Friday 15 February 2019

In My Time

Songs that touch the heart
There are many songs that I have heard that touch a part of me that nothing else can. Sometimes, it is just the music, the easy listening that brings a calmness and restfulness to my spirit, I feel I want to play it back continuously until I fall into slumber.
Then, beyond the sound of the music, you look at the lyrics and find such meaning that you can completely relate to as if the words taken out of your life and published to the strains of music that take your thoughts to another place.
All that I know now has to go
Recently, I found a life experience I never thought I would ever have again, I have a long history of relationships, some good, some bad and the others are forgettable. Some of my past loves are still friends and I cherish their friendships, but there would be no rekindling of what we once felt for each other, that has gone.
How again I realise experience limited my ability to move on and find new love, I built crenellations around my heart for it had been hurt and broken too many times, I did not want to hurt anymore. I was protecting myself from heartbreak and by that not opening my heart to those who might have been more caring and careful, considering and considerate, in love and loving, I was exhausted.
I let my heart be touched
Even with that, I thought I was on guard by default, then someone came and in a short embrace, my heart settled, a calmness enveloped me, I felt peaceful and drawn to this person in ways impossible to resist. There was no conflict between my head and my heart, both were telling me, there is much in this than you could ever imagine. Go with the flow, dare to ask and fear for nothing about what might happen.
I followed my deepest premonitions like I was walking through caves towards a welcoming light and comfort, I was being led into love unbeknownst, I was in love before it dawned on me that this was happening to me. I accepted there was no escape from this feeling. Crazy as it seemed, it was real, it was true, and it was growing in strength, in meaning and in prospect.
I let my heart be touched, I let my mind be caught, I let my life be changed, I let my love be shared and the past has become its own story because the present is a miracle of dreams that come true for the very few. In that, I have been blessed, for after all I have been through, in my time, I have found love – it is a wonderful thing.
This song touched me deeply
You know, I'm no beginner
My heart's been to the wall
I'm a tried and true romantic
Who's seen and done it all
And when you walked into my life
Suddenly I knew
All the love I had inside
Was leading me to you
In my time
I've lived and loved so much
Through each high and low
I let my heart be touched
In my time
There isn't much I've missed
I've seen love come and go, but heaven knows
I've never loved like this in my time
After all that I've been through
I'm in love with you
I've won some and I've lost some
But us dreamers don't complain
We keep reaching out for passion
No matter what the pain
When I looked into your eyes
It all fell into place
I found, what I was searching for
Shining in your face
In my time
I've lived and loved so much
Through each high and low
I let my heart be touched
In my time
There isn't much I've missed
I've seen love come and go, but heaven knows
I've never loved like this in my time
After all that I've been through
I'm in love with you
In my time
I've lived and loved so much
Through each high and low
I let my heart be touched
In my time
There isn't much I've missed
I've seen love come and go, but heaven knows
I've never loved like this in my time
After all that I've been through
I'm in love with you
In My Time lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Thursday 14 February 2019

To My Funny Valentine

When the time lags
What the passage of time is, long and enduring like tomorrow would never come and then in its passage, the speed at which history takes hold is amazing if not unfathomable.
I once lamented where my funny valentine was having just lost one who I so desired to take that place, it was painful knowing the person had passed away just exactly 4 months before.
Three years later, I wrote about the quest for love and companionship that had so eluded my grasp in many ways I could not understand. Much about love unrequited or the knowledge of what one did not want beclouding what might have been available. In the background, grief still held one back from exploring opportunities, I guess I never found one to lead me into love again.
When the time comes
We arrive at another Valentine’s Day with a different story as a journey that appeared to start 9 years before, now has the hold of something meaningfully amazing, for I have found my funny valentine and in him the words of the song brings a reality that I could not even dare to dream when the last season passed without event.
In paraphrasing an excerpt of the lyrics to the contemporaneous, we find the truth to something that transcends everything, for love conquers all.
My funny valentine, now I know where you are – Sweet comic valentine, so would I like to laugh to the sound of your voice – You make me smile with my heart, such joy you bring.
Your looks are laughable, who cares you are the best – Unphotographable, but I see you every day so perfect – Yet you’re my favourite work of art, and nothing can compare to what I adore.
A play on the lyrics of My Funny Valentine
Dedicated to my funny valentine, you know who you are.
Thank you!

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Opinion: Resurrect your dead blogs

Dead blogs as Internet zombies
Sometimes I go checking on blogs I once read fervently and notice there has not been a newly written blog for years. It makes me wonder about when blogging seemed to be a trend and once the novelty wore off the interest in blogging died.
More so, I visit corporate and establishment websites with links to blogs that were enthusiastically written for a while and have had no recently new content. Now, apart from my personal blog that I have consistently contributed to for 15 years, I do have a professional blog that has had no new content for almost 5 years.
We all have stories to tell
The question then becomes, have we all run out of stories to write about? On a personal level, there is always an idea, an event, a circumstance or a personality engaging enough to write about along with having a perspective of things that can become a blog.
My view has always been, we are story people, we all have stories that can only be best told in our own voice, written in our own style and related uniquely from our own perspective. A blog is who you are, what you see, how you feel and the way you are affected or unaffected by that or other situations.
Blogging is easy, honestly
That means, there can be no reason not to have a blog in the first place and then keep it running as much as you could. There was a time when people religiously kept diaries and journals, captains of ships kept logs. The issue of documentation and record keeping is both for reference and posterity, removing dispute from ascertaining the facts as the reckoner has archived the situation.
Not that a blog is as formal as that. For where some have seen blogging as a means to a livelihood, mine is written out of interest, I have opinions and I write them down in a blog, I address social issues and those sometimes find resonance with other people, they begin and interaction that leads to a conversation.
Resurrect yourself in a blog
A blog does not have to be a serious endeavour of academic rigour, do your proofreading, do not dispense with the rules of grammar for the chosen language of communication and follow the common sense of a good seamstress making a skirt; make it short enough to keep the interest and long enough to cover the detail. I hope that analogy is relatable without appearing sexist.
As you read this, why did you stop blogging if you were once a blogger? The excuse that you haven’t the time for it would come across as lame; you can knock out a blog in less than 15 minutes and it does not have to be a treatise. Then the other question is, why are not blogging? That is, if you have never had a blog before, you cannot convincingly say you have no ideas, no opinions or no perspective of the things that surround your life.
There are too many blogging tombstones on the Internet on which we have written; Here lies the exhausted ideas of a person who once regaled us with stories that many once came here to read. Alas! You can resurrect your blog by posting one today.

Shortening time with longing

Time is a measure,
In which we find the pleasure,
Wandering for leisure,
With a heart full of treasure.
There comes a time,
For which there is no chime,
We come into our prime,
With the hopes of a lifetime.
Counting down the days,
The weeks you dare set ablaze,
The months you want to raze,
Till when you face their gaze.
If time will gallop on,
To finish the marathon,
No more to wait upon,
The wish to liaison.
The heart is full of love,
Like a blessing from above,
Time is like a dove,
Freed and better off.
We wonder what to do,
With what we never knew,
As sure as we come to,
The day to meet anew.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Furloughed: Checks, posts and views

A furloughed week
As a consequence of a frank professional assessment of a situation I was working on, I have found myself inadvertently furloughed to work just one day this week, as that is the only billable activity on my schedule. The disadvantage for me is that I do not get paid for days that have no billing, I am dependent on my resource manager to assign new projects to my schedule, or I am technically out of work.
However, not to be idle, I chose to book a sexual health check today, as before now, each visit to that clinic has me spending almost 5 hours there, I seem to always be the last to be seen. They have changed the arrangements from a walk-in clinic to an online appointments system that is open at noon for slots the day after. I caught the first slot of 8:30 AM today and still did not get called by a doctor until 9:15 AM. An improvement, but I arrived first, two people arrived after me and they were seen before me.
In any case, we had a pleasant session from answering questions that were heretofore embarrassing to me giving a detail medical report of my situation. Blood was drawn, swabs taken, and I gave a urine sample; all done in about 30 minutes.
I left to post a letter that was processed as registered post, taking time to ask questions about the normal operations of equipment and systems in the Post Office as part of my activities in the last few weeks included investigating the performance of Post Office environments.
Legacies that last
Then as I made my way home, the Whitworth Art Gallery which had undergone renovations a few years before became a point of interest. I decided to consider some appreciation of art, so I walked in first for a coffee and a croissant before looking around.
The gallery is named for Sir Joseph Whitworth Bt. who donated funds for the gallery and is renowned for setting the standards for the screw thread known as the British Standard Whitworth and the pioneer of the sniper rifle. His name features prominently around Manchester on Whitworth Street; where I live, Whitworth Hall, the Christie Hospital which he funded and is now one of the foremost cancer treatment centres in Europe. His legacy also funds 10-15 scholarships for engineering degrees and now to doctorate level.
At the gallery, is saw prints by Francisco Jos̩ de Goya y Lucientes (1746 Р1828), known to all as Goya and William Hogarth (1697-1764) in a curated exhibition titled Prints of Darkness: Goya and Hogarth in a Time of European Turmoil which runs until August 2019. The subtext is these men challenged orthodoxy and the abuse of power in times when the powerful had an untrammelled ability for impunity without accountability.
History is panels
At the exhibition, I learnt that Hogarth as an active governor of the Foundling Hospital founded by retired sea captain Thomas Coram in 1739, persuaded other great artists to donate works to the hospital and thereby pioneering socially engaged artists.
Then in his moral depiction of the Four Stages of Cruelty, he works progressively from childhood cruelty against pets, to adult cruelty against beasts of labour, then criminality that includes robbery to murder, ending with the reward of cruelty where the criminal having been condemned to disembowelled when brought down from the gallows.
On seeing the print of The Cockpit, I did wonder when the meaning evolved from watching a cockfight to being the helm of a water-going vessel or the flight deck of an aircraft.
We always need rational thought
Hogarth like Goya was a fierce critic of organised religion that held sway over people with superstition leaving little room for rational thought. In his Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, he satirises and excoriates the belief in the Cock Lane ghost and a Mary Toft who was the perpetrator of an elaborate hoax suggesting she gave birth to a litter of rabbits.
One can aver that we desperately need a Goya and a Hogarth in these times to challenge the illogical and mad dash to Brexit along with the lies and terminological inaccuracies that has bewitched the populace into accepting that what is essentially damaging to them is more desirable than the status quo.
Another exhibition, Four Corners of One Cloth: Textiles from the Islamic World, filled me with fascination. On show was a piece of Kiswah, the cloth that covers the Kaaba the holiest shrine of the Islamic world which is apparently changed annually on the 9th day of the month of Hajj, divided and sent around the world.
Until I saw the narrative of the items of clothing from the last nomadic tribe of the Qashqai from Iran, I had always wondered where Nissan got the name for their Qashqai. Now I know.
I guess I made more use of the day than I could ever have envisaged.
Some of the pictures of panels, prints and exhibits I took at the gallery are in this slideshow.

Monday 11 February 2019

Our mother, the example of community involvement

Our mother, the partisan
My sister, Ibukun Olawepo-Johnson, wrote on Facebook about our mum and her activism, even I learnt a few things too that I had to ask if I could share what she had written, below.
Yesterday I was talking to my cousin about the presidential visit (to Lagos), I told him I can bet my last kobo that my mum was at the stadium in Surulere.
It dropped in my mind that we have a lot of lazy youth in this country, my mum retired from the civil service after 35 years of service. I think she was even kept on for one extra year because of the beautiful work she did when she was in service.
Our mother, the principal
All throughout the time I knew her, she was a principal and she was a principal in all the trouble areas in Ejigbo, Okota and Oshodi where she had running battles with thugs and difficult students, (I would add, teachers and some presumably family friends who thought she did not deserve her position), she fought them to a standstill and won the battle. She was last promoted to special principal grade.
[Some backstory information, my mother was asked to start a school from scratch at the age of 34 in 1977, she created and ran Ejigbo Community High School for probably 13 years. Just over a year ago, I think in the 40th year of the establishment of the school, the alumni of the school honoured her with a commemoration and thanks for her leadership, mentorship and contributions to the community.]
Our mother, the activist
After she left service she was still very active, later when she moved to her house in Ejigbo, she joined the Community Development Association (CDA) group on her street and became the Chairman of her CDA, somewhere along the line she joined politics and she is a strong member of APC in her area.
My mum had the option of retiring and watching things unfold in her community, but she chose to be involved. Even when my younger sister was ill, and she was her primary caregiver, she still found the time to be involved in what was going on in her community.
When glaucoma almost made her blind, she was still attending CDA and APC meetings and activities at over 75 years old. [We were able to get some of the best medical help to save her eyesight. She is even more up and about with community, political and church activities.]
Our mother, the example
It's a shame on all of us that are under 70, we have the power to be involved in our communities, yet all we do is make noise on social media, criticising the government in our various offices and the country without getting involved to bring about the changes we want.
No one will hand power over to us, we need to be involved get involved in politics.
It is time we clean it up if we feel it is a dirty game.
We need to stop all this ranting and noise making, we need to make the next necessary move to bring on change and take our communities to the next level.
The elders will only hand over to the youth if only the youth are actively involved.
Campaign for your own candidate, don't say my vote does not count; go out to vote and ensure that votes are counted before leaving the polling booth. Demand good governance in your locality and attend CDA meetings.
Change begins with you and me.
Start from your house, move into your street, on to your local government area, then your office, all the way until you get to the very top.
This characteristic of community involvement is not unique to our mum, our dad is also quite involved in the community also. From as far back as I can remember when we returned from the UK, the renovation of our homestead, the bringing of electricity supply to our village, the building of the new village cathedral, a new secondary school and many other activities to help people in their careers, businesses and general needs.
They are examples of a standard well beyond whatever we have ever attempted, yet they show a way to what can be achieved when we have the commitment, drive and a vision to make a difference in people, situations and communities.
In this, we begin to commend that exemplary lives of our parents.

Friday 8 February 2019

A Decade on Twitter

A quarter of a century online
I review my life on social media that appears to go back 25 years when it was not a popular term. My first email address in 1994 and then a CompuServe subscription through which I participated in Usenet groups.
When I moved out to Ipswich in 1995, I found an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who I discovered unilaterally blocked adult websites. I paid him a visit and demanded that as an adult, my access to the Internet should be untrammelled, including the ability to view adult sites, as I am an adult and I do not intend to be policed if I am doing nothing illegal.
I guess he was embarrassed for the fact that I was unabashed, my request was granted that evening and he must have glad I did not have to visit him about anything again.
Throwing off and throwing down
Soon, we were on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), I think that was 1997, opening channels for all sorts of interests until people found ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the TCP/IP stack and knock you offline with DoS/DDoS attacks or those that broke IRC connections, called nuking. We had to implement countermeasures to prevent nukes and the takeovers of IRC channels.
As the popularity of IRC began to wane in the early 2000s, I was in a Berlin hotel when decided to start blogging in December 2003. I hope to have written my 3,000th blog sometime this year. It was not for another few years before I joined another social media platform. In my early blogging years, I formed significant and lasting friendships from which I began to grow a social network.
Along the line, I joined other niche social media networks, many of which have fallen out use, favour or are dead. Then came LinkedIn, which many did not consider social as in other forums we participated in, I guess, we compartmentalised, trying to keep our strictly professional lives separate from our lives outside work. I have been a member since the 16th of March 2006.
Can you hear the chirping birds?
One morning just before I left for work, I created a Twitter account and waited for a confirmation. Meanwhile, I travelled to Arnhem where I was working, and it was there that I posted my first tweet on the 8th of February 2009. Today is a decade since I joined Twitter. As I relayed in a blog, I wrote a couple of days ago, I had to change my mode of communication from long-form writing of a blog to the contextualised concision limited to 140-characters. It was a challenge I took on with relish.
I might have been more prolific on Twitter and somewhat become less so on my blog, I have tweeted just under 153,000 thousand times with a following just short of 6,000. I find it a very useful forum for sharing ideas and for getting a prompt and effective response for customer service issues.
A call from beyond
In December 2009, just a couple of days before my birthday, I joined Facebook. I probably resisted jumping on this bandwagon for years. My first invitation to join Facebook came almost two years before when I eventually joined the person who invited me had been dead just over 9 weeks. His Facebook page then became a memorial to lay wreaths and bouquets of thoughts and reminiscences at different times of the Facebook.
Facebook also upended the concept of social media, because the network not only exploited proximity, it allowed you to mine your past. By the time you put in names of your old schools and old friends, many long forgotten, you were caught in a time vortex from which you had little an inkling how to escape.
Mimes and rhymes
Until early last year, most of my Facebook activity came from my Twitter posts and that linked was broken. I would comment on things I find on Facebook, but it is more likely that new posts would come from Instagram or blogs that I have written. I joined Instagram on Christmas Eve of 2014.
Most of my Instagram posts are accompanied by bad poetry or musings about the things I have observed. I have not convinced myself that Pinterest or SnapChat would add any value to my social media landscape. My social media life is lively enough as it is.
This all because of my decade on Twitter and long may we have the opportunity to celebrate life, happiness, love, and the freedom of expression.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

The way you make me smile

Juggling words to give meaning to how I feel,
Is my mind at work to express and reveal,
For a moment comes in time and place,
Where one person does take centre place.
Your priorities are suddenly rearranged,
Making the space for what has changed,
Your loyalties you promptly realign,
Everyone else now has to fall in line.
To that one needs not preach a homily,
It’s redefining the context of my family,
I have entered this quite solemnly,
The occasion warrants some honesty.
The dawn breaks to the sweetest messages,
To which I respond with funny passages,
My day started to the fun of encouragement,
Then closes with a lengthy engagement.
I find myself now under obligation,
In response to my deepest emotion,
To guard my heart with the utmost vigilance,
As I am now lost in this crazy romance.
These things are borne of moments sublime,
For which could last quite a lifetime,
Daily we work on building a relationship,
That creates the very best of friendship.

For World Cancer Day and every other day

In remembrance
I probably take no notice of the many days that are celebrated in commemoration of something throughout the year. However, the 4th of February 2019 was one day I could not ignore because I was called out as an inspiration with regards to what the day represents.
World Cancer Day is a day to remember for many reasons apart from awareness and taking action for I belong to the cohort of those who have cancer in remission having survived the ravages of the disease almost a decade ago. Yet, I recognise and aver that we who seemingly and apparently have survived cancer are hardly valiant, we took no sword like knights to battle and vanquish the enemy that invaded our bodies, we are just fortunate.
Not in vain did they die
Rather, I want to commend those who did not have the good fortune I had, who like others would say lost their battles to cancer as if to confer some sort of heroism on those who survived as winners. Those that died are not insignificant, in fact, they in what they suffered and in all that medicine and anything else attempted to do to prolong their lives have immeasurably contributed to the body of knowledge that gives medicine the courage to face up to new incidents of cancer.
When I was verifiably diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma on the 30th of September 2009, this is what my consultant had to say to me. “We can treat this, but it depends on how your body can take the treatment if you can, you’ll be fine, else, you probably have 5 weeks.”
On courses of chemotherapy
That knowledge and confidence came from experience and developments in treating others before me, some of whom did not survive the disease but, that had passed to the professor, to his students and the broader field of cancer medicine and oncology. On the fifth day of October 2009, I took my first course of Liposomal Doxorubicin (Caelyx) and I wrote a blog as a primer for cancer and chemotherapy, in trying to explain my condition to a friend.
“The course recommended for me is Liposomal Doxorubicin – liposomal meaning encapsulated in some fatty molecule and Doxorubicin is a very strong antibiotic. What happens is the liposomes allow for a slow release of the disease-fighting chemical into the body after intravenous introduction which just takes an hour, and this is not fully excreted from the body for up to six days.”
I took 7 courses of chemotherapy every 3 weeks until the last course on the 8th of February 2010, by which time the blackened cancers lesions had completely disappeared, the necrotised skin had been removed and I had fresh, tender skin in place of the foul and fungating tumours.
The battle for life
The battle I fought, in the end, was not with cancer, but with life in general. Cancer stripped me of everything except my humanity and my dignity. I literally lost my career, I lost my home of over 10 years, things I had acquired I basically gave away and had to start all over again. I gained a new perspective on life and the transience of things, the way the seemingly inviolable and easily become the complete vulnerable.
I learnt of the power of hope, the desire to live, the appreciation of life and an understanding of suffering. I stepped off the rat race and tempered my views with patience and consideration. Most pertinently, as I did not or do not know how much time I have left, I have lived a life of the living rather than of the dying. I am inspired to aspire and for as long as I have breath in me, I intend to thrive and be a story of being granted a second life of purpose.
None of this would have been possible without those who underwent more gruelling and horrifying intrusions of medicine so that my consultant could say with confidence, I could be treated. They are the specimens on which researchers concluded their research and came up for new ideas, solutions, treatments and discoveries. I commend those who died because of cancer and those who learnt from them to improve the treatments for cancer. It is by them that we get to write a different story.
World Cancer Day 2019