Tuesday 31 December 2019

From 2019 into 2020

Giving thanks
As we bid 2019 goodbye passing into the annals of the eternal past, I have much to be grateful for, being alive and celebrating 10 years after a full-blown AIDS and cancer diagnosis in September. I count myself blessed and fortunate to be in few who after my kind of diagnosis continues to thrive.
I was in Cape Town at the time, and I had great cause to give thanks in church for reaching that landmark decade.
As we took on the new year, I fell in love and though there was quite a distance between us, we found a way to make each moment matter, that in the course of this year, I have been back to South Africa in February, April, September and now December. I look forward to making my relationship with Brian the most significant and most relevant I have ever had; we hope for exciting things in 2020.
Focused south
On the work front, despite the promise of much activity, things were a bit slow, I probably only found engagement for about six months of the year. The fallow periods affording me the opportunities for quality romantic time.
For someone who happens to travel a lot, my compass has only pointed to the southern tip of Africa all year. It is my desire to visit the Netherlands to thank the consultants who handled my health crisis with such professionalism and empathy, it should happen soon. Other European cities as Berlin, Paris and Barcelona need a reacquaintance, much as Scandinavia remains undiscovered apart from Sweden.
Family keynotes
In October, we celebrated the 80th birthday of our patriarch, my siblings did a sterling job of honouring him and making him proud, it was celebrated in the manner and style he wanted and we are thankful for his long life and rude health. The matriarch clocked 77th though there were times when I offered to swear an affidavit on her behalf if out of envy, she wanted her 80th early.
Other things that I got to do were to begin learning to play the piano, it is something I need to put more effort into. With a sudden furlough in mid-November, I took project management and enterprise architecture classes and went on to pass the certifications for both, all within a month.
Good year
2019 could easily have been a year of little, yet, counting my blessings, it was a year of great, exiting, magnificent and wonderful things. There was a supply for where there appeared to be little, I believe 2020 is a harbinger of greater things to come.
Generally, whilst it is unfortunate that the Brexit juggernaut is in full throttle, the world will not end, we will do well despite the odds. For all the dislike one might have for Boris Johnson, his success as Prime Minister would be for the good of all. How he intends to unite our nation with acts, activities, policy, and purpose, I am yet to see, beyond rhetoric, platitudes and verbiage.
Arise 2020
For love, we live; for happiness we strive; for blessing, we pray; for success, we desire; for great stories to tell, we yearn; and for truth and justice we fight.
May 2020 be the new beginning for things we could never have imagined possible, exceeding the realisation of our wildest dreams. I look to have Brian by my side through it all. Thank you for being here, being there and being where life begins to have new meaning.

Thought Picnic: On the attraction of blogging

Blog rehousing woes
Reflecting on my 16 years of blogging I dug into some analytics of my blogs, followers of the second incarnation of my blog for it first hosted on the blog-city.com domain from 2003 and I had to move each blog, brick by brick from mid-2010 to the Blogger platform, when this local blog hosting company decided they were having no more fun with blogging.
I had a transition period of about 18 months, until the domain closed in January 2012, it was a punch in the gut and left me with a terrible experience from altruistically supporting small businesses that provide services I might need.
The old blog hosting site did not have a migration or export facility I could use to move my blog and I could not allow the accumulated work of over 7 years to be lost. Though, I did lose readership, followership and statistics for the blog that was at the time registering about a million views a month.
Old bloggers just memories
The migration process was also imperfect, many of the blogs retain link references to locations that no more exist. I only get to review those links when informed or when I retrieve one from the archive that I check before sharing.
Now that the blog has been on the Blogger platform, I acquired a domain name in 2010 and ensured there was a bit of portability, just in case Google decides hosting blogs is no more fun. I hope not.
One aspect of the blog analytics that saddens me is the number of linked followers to my blog who are no more blogging again. I visited some that were extinct, the other apparently live ones had not been updated since somewhere between 2010 and 2012. Only two were actively posting something, whilst one endured to early 2016.
The live blogs also had links to other blogs I used to read from the mid-2000s, many now with dead links or in the state of hibernation for years. It made me wonder why people are blogging no more. Apart from those who blog for influence or business, the art of blogging for leisure, having stories, experiences or insights to share has been lost to other micro-blogging or less intensive unstructured forums.
Distractions and attractions
I can say that my engagements on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram might have affected my prolific blogging output, but it has not led to my abandoning blogging altogether. The other social media platforms have their purposes and they cannot entirely replace blogging.
I believe we need more blogging not less, more perspective to life, stories that we can relate to told in a unique voice, style, and fashion, all contributing to the amazing tapestry of our diverse humanity. People also ask how they can begin blogging, but never follow through, some think it is difficult to blog, but I beg to differ.
A blog written on the fundamental basis of where you are, what you see, how it affects you and what you might have learnt, is already four paragraphs of information that can turn the mundane into the very interesting, that is a great attraction, the simplicity of writing a story.
Just a few things to note, a spelling checker is necessary, a grammar checker can be useful, always acknowledge and attribute anything that is not your original thought, it does not take away from your perspective, and give it your best shot.
I sometimes read some of my old blogs and wonder if I wrote them and what might have possessed my fingers as they typed out the musings bordering on the insane. Some are funny and others just strange. I still derive much pleasure from blogging, though the promise to do more never really happens.

Monday 30 December 2019

Nigerians, I hail you

29 years already
I wrote a blog exactly a year ago and ended it with the paragraph below without telling that other story. I do not this blog would be the space for it either, it would probably go into my story, if I get the inspiration, motivation and will to take it beyond the chapters I have already written.
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.
I wonder why I commemorate the 30th of December, it has been 29 years since I left Nigeria, it is strange that if work commitments had not necessitated my travel to South Africa in 2015, I would never have set foot in Africa since I left.
Gone but not done
Like I would normally protest on Twitter, my having left Nigeria that long ago has not meant a disengagement from the country of my forebears. I cherish and guard my Nigerian heritage jealously as much I try to be informed and well acquainted with issues and events therein.
The contention with parents, relations, and friends is whether I can be persuaded to return for a visit. I have not convinced myself of the sense of security, safety, or comfort that this would afford me. Until I can get that sorted in my head, I can categorically say, it is not on my agenda.
The retiree then
We can only hope that the man who has negotiated for himself the best retirement package of his generation and peers soon moves on to a sort of retirement home. Our witness of his first regime in the 1980s is what ushered in the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, the annulment of the 1993 elections and then Sani Abacha.
Whatever his plans were then appeared to be a systematic regimentation of Nigeria towards a North Korean style of socialist control of not just the systems but the minds of the people. Whilst we were not barred from leaving the country, the message was we shouldn’t. It is without a doubt that Muhammadu Buhari has some animus towards Nigerians based abroad, maybe because much as we can criticise him, we are beyond his junta-inspired grasp. [See the blog below.]
The retiree now
Meanwhile with his 1980s mindset, he rules the roost, retired of ideas, policy or direction much as we can recount that after he exited national politics he was involved in no activity until he rekindled his entitlement to leadership that he fought for thrice before winning. The people beguiled with the spectre of integrity that doesn’t appear to radiate beyond the man.
Now, he lives in the best residence gets the best medical attention in London that flounces off to at a whim, flies in a presidential jet arriving in countries where all courtesies to a head of state are a diplomatic necessity whilst the country teeters on the edge of incomprehensibility, the youth unable to adequately plan a future in their country of birth, they are leaving if they can.
Nigerians, I hail you
Yet, I must commend those who have found ways to thrive in that environment, but there is another wave of the Exodus like those of my generation who left about 3 decades ago and they are not planning on returning.
In my view, you can make a success of your life anywhere in the world if you have the drive, the ambition, the skills, and the sheer determination, by God, we have spunk. Many leave Nigeria and get to live their best lives. I just hope we have enough people left to really take the country forward, even those of us who have left, pray constantly for a better Nigeria.

Something has been postponed

Escape town now
When we arrived in Cape Town, we noticed a number of businesses had already closed for the year from the 13th of December and would not be returning until the 6th of January.
Some somehow endured another week of work before closing, but it seemed everyone was ready to down tools and put their feet up for 2019. I guess we got a deeper sense of disappointment when our friendly place for breakfast was closing from noon on the 21st until the 7th of January.
This became concerning because we wondered if there’ll be places to go out to, if everyone was abandoning the rest of 2019. Then a food market that I expected to be open had closed from Christmas Day. We get it now, just we are done with 2019, others were too, and that desire will not be postponed.
Playtime Cape Town
Walking around the V&A Waterfront in that first week too, we could not help but notice sparse promenades and restaurants bereft of patrons. I had to ask and was told by a waitress that custom was considerably down compared to the year before. We also thought there was a difference between our September/October visit and just before Christmas.
It would appear the Christmas week did pick up, the church was full that we ended up on the last row, the communion organised for us to take it at narthex in the back rather than at the bema near the altar. This probably confirms why Hotels.com showed there was a 95% occupancy for this period.
Out and happy
Our visits to the V&A Waterfront now seem to be more vibrant and livelier, the views of the Table Mountain awesome as ever, with or without the tablecloth of billowing clouds. Camps Bay is traffic chaos, though for a walk in the chilling waters of the beach and that trek to Mouille Point, we would have done enough to want a Uber rescue.
In all, work and busy has been postponed and the holiday feeling will be held back no longer. It speaks to why we could find no tables for Christmas lunch that I had to cook. We can’t persuade ourselves enough about going out for New Year’s Eve, not that we haven’t tried.
We are having a wonderful time here, it’s so good to spend this time with Brian in this city we love.
Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

Saturday 28 December 2019

I am who I am and happily so

Untold Facts S4 E5 - Hate Crimes, Impunity and Humanizing Queer Nigerians
I have written this blog in the context of the plight of LGBTQ+ persons of Nigeria as depicted in the YouTube video above.

Not ashamed of me
On the matter of my sexuality, it has not been one I have worn as the representation of who I am, it is a part of my personality and humanity that I have come to understand I do not have to be ashamed of.
Indeed, when viewed in context of some cultural and social influences in my life, it is different and can be termed alternative, but that is for others to presume. My realisation of this state of being goes back to just around the age of 7, I did not understand it, it was just there.
Into my teens, I began to realise there were others that appeared to exhibit the same feelings, though for many for which it was a phase that they appeared to grow out of once they gained the courage to approach the opposite sex. I never had that attraction.
The process to acceptance
Over years, through guilt, self-loathing, and revulsion, I wondered about the way I was, yet, I could not in the search for some solution pretend to heterosexuality by involving someone innocent in my somewhat complicated situation. I had decided, I would rather be single without issue as that was a better recourse than any other.
By my mid-twenties, I had come to accept who I was because there was an environment in which I felt comfortable. Though, when I was about to leave Nigeria, I was being blackmailed, however, I dared the blackmailer to go ahead and expose us with the explanation of how he and I got into the realisation that our desires might be aligned.
In any case, once I had accepted who I was, questions posed to me either had a direct answer or something along the lines of warning the enquirer that they should be ready for the answers to the questions they were asking.
My burden, my expression
Meanwhile, pressure was mounting from other parties to conform, to settle down as they know and become responsible. I was settled in acknowledging who I was and responsible for the choices I made. The point at which my desire was to fulfil a path I chose rather than the requirements of others, I began to find my own happiness whether or not others were happy with me.
From that point, I found fulfilment in same-sex relationships, one that lasted almost 7 years. At work, I was not in the closet as much as I did not set out to make my sexuality a prominent part of my identity, it is the same resolution I took regarding my race, to not be offended by abuse but see it as an opportunity to educate.
I guess there are other aspects of my personality and humanity that endeared me to people and managers who became my allies. My sexuality was never a negative issue, but one to which there was interest and engagement to understand this person. I was probably the first homosexual some got to know beyond the stereotypes.
Closets are claustrophobic
In deciding not to live in the closet, I had ample opportunity to thrive at work and at play, some relationships endured, some transformed into friendships, there were many bereavements, all became my own story of life with its blessings and experiences.
I realise and recognise that back in Nigeria, many suffer for their sexuality, I am no activist, nor do I intend to proselytise, but for a man in his 50s, I want people who have a life like mine that it could get better, there is scope for fulfilment and expression of sexuality in the fulness that allows a person be the best they can be.
I found love again, a year ago, it has brought me amazing happiness, we cherish each moment we have together in this long-distance relationship. We look to eventually ask one to another their hand in marriage and live our lives together somewhere where we can happily exist.
For societies to flourish
Like for instance, we meet in South Africa where the laws protect LGBTQ+ people at work and at play. We can even hold hands or kiss on the streets without the threat of violence. It is not what we want to impose on anyone, it is just a case of living and letting live.
Broadly, in Western Europe, our rights are well protected, few are fearful of being outed as the potency of blackmail has diminished over the last few decades. By that alone, we begin to flourish.
I have watched gay rights activism change laws and bring same-sex marriage to societies that would not have countenanced it only a decade ago. AIDS activism not only helped gay men who were strafed by the epidemic in the late 1980s into the 1990s, it has brought benefits to heterosexual cohorts that were more affected in the global South.
No apology in the quest for justice
Rights denied one section of society eventually creeps to deny the rights of the next vulnerable group, the march of rights must proceed progressively to embrace our diverse humanity. Sententiousness would never help a society heal itself, nor will moralisation to the exclusion of minorities.
Yet, whether societies rise to the acceptance of the other and different or not, diversity would always exist and the persecuted will find their corners to thrive until the right course of justice and history gives them the freedom to be who they are without fear of reprisal or discrimination.
I am who I am, the labels matter not much for the better human I seek to be. I make no apology for finding my own happiness and living the good conscience of the choices that give me satisfaction and confidence in my beliefs. I appreciate might be of different persuasions, that is what human diversity is all about, difference, uniqueness and originality creating people who make the world a better place.

Friday 27 December 2019

Nigeria: You'll keep hearing from us in the diaspora

Out, yet about
I have been out of Nigeria for a long time, 29 years in 3 days and I have my reasons. However, my absence from Nigeria has not become isolation or disengagement from Nigeria. I have a Nigerian heritage, I share elements of my identity with Nigerian, and I have significant members of my family, parents, and siblings in Nigeria.
What gets me agitated is when people assume Nigerians abroad have abandoned the country and by that should have no say in what happens there. There is a trope of othering that is becoming the mainstay of some influential commentators n social media who expect us to shut up and slink into insignificance rather than be heard or seen.
Fossils endure still
I had to deal with this way back in 2007 when a son of the then President of Nigeria working for Microsoft visited home and regaled us with pictures of servants at the presidential palace of Aso Rock sleeping in atrocious penurious conditions without any sense of appreciating how unreflective that situation was.
He went on to say, “I like how Naija (jargon for Nigeria) people who have abandoned their country like you carry on as if they are more Naija than anyone else.
In my addressing this issue in the blog I wrote then, I gave reasons why I might have abandoned Nigeria, it was however rich of him to suggest those in the diaspora were carrying on as if we were more Nigerian than anyone else, considering he is of great privilege and his father was still around 3 decades after he first left power in 1979.
See us here
Then, I do not presume to suggest that Nigerians in the diaspora should arrogate to themselves primacy in the affairs of Nigeria, but they can neither be ignored nor be seen as insignificant. A few months ago, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers averred that Nigerian migrants remitted 6.1% of its GDP in 2018 at $23.63 billion which was a 17% increase on 2017, with estimates expected to rise in the next three years to US$25.5bn, US$29.8bn and US$34.8bn respectively. [PwC Report PDF]
The Central Bank of Nigeria disputes the estimate suggesting it is closer to a tenth, what is surprising is how nothing is said to account for the sudden downward trend that had been growing linearly for over a decade. [CBN – Vanguard]
I have used the case of the volume of remittance to propose the idea that like as taxation might spur a popular demand for government accountability, leading to better governance. The contributions of the diaspora cohort should earn them a right as stakeholders to have a say in what happens in Nigeria.
We’re all affected
The truth is everyone who has a Nigerian heritage is affected by the situation in Nigeria whether at home or abroad. The prosperity of Nigeria is the prosperity of all of us and the less of a burden on those who sometimes have to cater for the absence of a social welfare system and other social services and infrastructure deficits that hold progress back in Nigeria. Beyond that, we should be able to have a conversation on the political, economic, social and human rights situation in Nigeria towards affecting and improving outcomes.
Last night, I had to tackle another of those myopic and reductive views of Nigerian in diaspora and their contributions to the Nigerian system in all its ramifications. We might have left Nigeria, we are still involved, engaged, affected and contributing in varied measures to address issues that concern family, friends, strangers, charities and any other sphere we can find to influence for the better.

Our voices will be heard
We are not going away and those who cannot stand other Nigerians abroad having a voice would have to lump it or leave it, we all have a stake in the country and earlier we begin to realise we need each other, the better it would be for us to create the unity of purpose to bring the change, we desire to see in Nigeria.
Our silence will not be bought nor will our contributions which arrive as remittances but permeate the full-body polity of Nigeria be considered insignificant as to render us voiceless.
In brotherhood/sisterhood we have to stand to make a difference, we the unwitting ambassadors of Nigeria in our respective foreign communities creating the impressions that help positive views of the country along with the hardworking hands and minds in-country making a direct and effective difference in the lives of their localities.

Thursday 26 December 2019

Beware of insects with moustaches

Water must flow for all
I have written about my obsession with showerheads before, the way I tease the rubberised nipples if it is restricted or no water flow from any of the teats, this usually due to calcification.
It is not enough to stand under the shower, I look up and if just one of the teats is restricted, it needs to be sorted out. Every teat must be supplying a spray of water at its optimal capacity. In our apartment, I was met with a little extra difficulty, the teasing of the nipples did not work on two of the outlets of the innermost circle of 5.
The overhead shower which is a Hans Grohe product, the company founded in 1901 and is probably a global leader in faucets, showers, and taps with the model ‘Raindance’ of which there are many variants.
A census of the teats
After a few trials, I attempted unpicking the teats with a toothpick to no avail. Eventually, I dismantled the showerhead and found calcified deposits in the feeder assembly that I was able to unpick with a toothpick. On reassembling the showerhead, all the teats began working as intended.
Another thing that had bothered me was finding a simple mathematical formula to calculate the number of teats on a showerhead. There are diverse types, square, circular, rectangular, oblong and so on. This determines how the teats are arranged in the showerhead.
I have mostly encountered the circular arrangement with concentric circles with a quintuple setting in the innermost circle radiating out to 6 or 7 concentric circles. On the basic count, there were 5 on the innermost circle, then 10 on the next and 15 on the following.
A formula is reused
This would suggest an arithmetic or mathematical series. So, if there were 3 concentric circles based on multiples of 5 teats in each concentric circle, the total number of teats would be 5 + 10 + 15 = 30.
What makes this interesting is the cumulative number of teats and the series developing. On the 1st circle it is 5 or 5 * 1, for the second it is 15 or 5 * 3 and on the third, it is 30 or 5 * 6. I well-known series of 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28 … is forming in the process. This, I have learnt is the triangular number sequence.
The detail from the link about suggests a formula of n(n + 1)/2. This would deal the determining the number of teats for regular concentric circles where each consecutive circle is a multiple in the natural sequence of the innermost circle. The series in the paragraph above would suffice for where the innermost circle has one teat and the next concentric circle has 3 using the triangular number sequence.
Hansgrohe Raindance showerhead
All numbers matter
The showerhead in the picture has m = 5 teats on the innermost circle with n = 6 concentric circles. For which I now have the formula m * n(n + 1)/2 and whilst the formula can be decomposed further, it is neater to keep it this way. I would then have 5 * 6(6 +1)/2 = 5 * 6 * 7 / 2 = 105 teats.
On the referenced blog where the rainfall showerhead at the Royal York Hotel had 7 concentric circles with 5 being the multiple, the applied formula would result in 5 * 7 * 8 /2 = 140 teats.
With my showerhead conundrum solved, I will happily bother my head with something obscure and productively silly as finding out if there are really any insects with moustaches in Cape Town, this showerhead mystery already fits the bill.
 Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

Wednesday 25 December 2019

To what end ... is ingratitude?

Be thankful for everything
I saw a tweet earlier that made me reflect on the power of gratitude and the curse of ingratitude. This person out of the blue had paid into the account of a cousin, not substantial and yet not insignificant. The cousin rather than thank his benefactor suggested he was too big for the ordinary sum of money paid into his account. As fate would have it, the transaction was reversed, the benefactor richer with the opportunity to bless someone else, the cousin left with nothing.
So many thoughts crossed my mind about the reaction of that cousin, the thinking that informed him that it was better to project entitlement rather than gratitude. We make interesting assumptions about others when we have needs and ask for help without any inkling about the other responsibilities and calls upon the resources of the benefactor.
The tendency to feel that in the midst of our pressing need we have become the centre of the world to which everyone else should beckon first with priority before anything else is inconsiderate, selfish and demonstrate a lack grace.
You can’t decide for others
You cannot decide for a benefactor how they should dispose of their resources whether they be parsimonious or generous, it is their prerogative alone to decide who to give to and whether they are disposed to give at all. Now, even if the beneficiary is a person of great means that the gift is little or insignificant, the better sentiment is to think of the motive and the consideration with a thankful response.
I constantly check on my thankful spirit, whether I have been appreciative of the little as I have been of the much. I want my sense of gratitude to be alert, full of initiative and ready to give expression long before it is instigated. Its importance can never be overstated.
Gratitude as talent
I am reminded of the parable of the talents in the Bible, where a master about to travel distributed 8 talents amongst three servants. To one was handed 5 talents and I presume that servant had the capacity, the aptitude and the responsibility to handle 5 talents, when the master returned, he had doubled the investment. To another was given 2 talents according to their ability and the same doubled that investment. [Wikipedia]
The last was given one talent, my view is the servant given the talent for that sake of not being left out, the servant from the master’s opinion had none of the capacity of the other two servants and the master was proven right, the servant buried rather than invested the talent, then blamed the master for his failure to act like his wiser colleagues.
That one talent servant had the talent taken off him and given to the servant who managed 5 talents. The one talent servant was then thrown out of their job into destitution. In today’s setting it could be an unproductive employee who gets no promotion then gets sacked and receives no positive references to help them along.
Appreciating the power of gratitude
Yet, the spirit of gratitude is an enabler in ways we can never fully appreciate, it is in the being helpful, being considerate, being respectful, being available, being generous, being empathetic, having a listening ear, it is the open mind, the open heart, the open hand, the accepting rather than rejecting, the presence of mind to find a good perspective regardless, overlooking offence in the quest for agreement.
You get remembered favourably when opportunity comes, next time the benefactor has much more to give, I doubt the cousin will be in the list of those to be blessed. Ingratitude closes the small doors that lead to the grand gateways to amazing things in life. Sometimes, we need to have periods of introspection that help us realise whether a sense of ingratitude might have closed the door to new opportunity and make to redress that failing.
I have too many examples of where my perception of the power of gratitude as expressed in this blog has given me amazing opportunities and successes. I am thankful for the little and the plenty, every blessing is worthy of a sincerely grateful heart. There can be no good end to ingratitude but loss, penalty, punishment or to be forgotten where others are remembered, it is self-harm masquerading as arrogance, pride, delusions of grandeur, or an inflated sense of self.
Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

Monday 23 December 2019

Where shall we put our hope?

In plenty and in poverty
There is no doubt that we love Cape Town, but we visit a city of stark contrasts. The opportunities and privileges we have brings into a Cape Town of luxury, of access, of comfort and a relative sense of safety and security.
Yet, around the hotel where we are staying, we cannot miss or ignore another face of Cape Town, not so much that of the poor, but one of the destitute. I differentiate between the poor and the destitute from a personal viewpoint of the poor having shelter and sustenance, those who have basic needs met, but are stretched to consider wants.
In the case of the destitute, they have no shelter or live in makeshift settings prone to changes in nature and the abuse of authority figures, they cannot determine when or where their next meal will come from. Some are in threadbare clothes and probably have no access to basic cleaning facilities.
Great policy minds required
The other day, I walked into a convenience store and I was accosted by two people, not for money, but things, I acquiesced and by the time I was paying, there was milk formula, baby diapers, soft drinks and basic foodstuffs at the checkout. One of the men, knelt in thanks, I was quite embarrassed as I asked him to get up.
It was an opportunity for them, and for me, there was both the means and opportunity to affect a situation, though, it was nowhere near the solution. There are no easy answers to the poverty and destitution issue in South Africa. You can’t even begin to think of jobs before you have installed a kind of welfare system to make these people suitable for any work environment and this is if they have the skills required to do the jobs.
Either way, there would have to be some poor laws and institutions for the poor to give them a sense of human dignity to raise them to some kind of opportunity. It would take some creative and inspired policy-making to address the destitution problem and this would should be different from policies to address basic poverty, accommodation, access to services and the broader unemployment issues with the matter of giving the majority the skills to exploit opportunities that arise.
Is there hope for the many?
Another cohort is the pre-teen street kids, in any progressive society, these kids should be in school and cared for by responsible adults in some setting. I fear residential institutions because of histories of physical and sexual abuse. However, society does owe these unfortunate young members the possibility of a bright future. This requires selfless humanitarian work for which the government should be a major sponsor and supporter.
There is much that ails South Africa, not everyone has a voice or one that must be heard and acted upon. This especially for the poor and destitute for whom the wasted Jacob Zuma years and the preoccupation with the state capture machinations have left them further behind than humanity should countenance for much longer.
We who come to appreciate the beauty of South Africa do contribute to the growth of the economy, but we are not the answer to the question that many South Africans have been asking since 1994. Where shall we put our hope?
Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

Essential Snobbery 101: The majestic art of conversation with a fork and knife

The distraction of gadgetry
There are times I tend to check my old-fashioned view of things just to determine if I have been left behind by the times or I am being too judgemental. Yet, there are some things that should never become old-fashioned, like respect, courtesy, consideration, the art of conversation and basic table manners.
On our trip to Cape Town, there was a family sat in the front row, the young man of about 10 years old was wearing his mega headphones connected to some device on which he was playing dexterity games that had him hooked on the stroboscopic effects of the lights and colours as if hypnotised as he pressed buttons incessantly without being able to get to the next level. I saw that much.
In that time, getting his attention was literally impossible, for each announcement, the air steward had to come round to have his mother prod him to take off his headphones. The same for when the food and drinks trolley came down the aisle, he was completely disengaged from our reality. He had left the responsibility for everything, his comfort, his safety and maybe his welfare to others.
No human skill gained
It would be easy to blame this on technology, but we have been doing technology since before it became commonplace, the benefit in human interaction cannot be underestimated. It is the responsibility of guardians to ensure that this aspect of growth, education and development is nurtured and fostered because it would always matter above the version of the game being played.
From my perspective of grandparenthood, I could see no particular development beyond gaining the skills to be a forklift operator, maybe even by providence the operator of an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as combat drones, I just fear for the victims of decisions made without human or humane insight, which cannot be gained by just playing games, for life and lives are not a game.
Fork and knife 101
In another setting, we were in a restaurant where another family on a night out were tucking into cuisine that called for the basics in table manners. The use of cutlery for which the abuse I witnessed began to look like entertainment. Now, how people choose to their food is up to them, you can have your soup through a straw for all I care, though, that is why a spoon is provided.
I have occasional issues with chopsticks, they are quite different in Chinese restaurants where they are wooden, roundish and long, suited for eating from shared dishes, compared to Japanese restaurants where they are short as the communal sharing of food is not traditional and the for the Koreans, they are metal, as a test for whether the food offered to royals was poisoned. If my handling fails me, I switch to the customary cutlery.
I would guess the spoon, knife and fork are the somewhat universal standard of cutlery and any education should include the basic use of the knife and fork. Yet, from what I observed, my tendency to disgust quickly became one of sympathy, as I could not have been the only one to have watched the swordplay and farmhand’s use of a garden fork without the urging of a heel, all on a plate of pasta or a pizza.
Opening doors with skill
If anything, just as it is important to give our kids swimming lessons, it is critical to impart the appropriate use of a fork and knife, whether at home or as part of a primary school curriculum. I hate to say, these rather fundamental skills have decided whether one has access or not to certain circles. How conversation, social skill, emotional intelligence has been the determining factor to fitting in or being an outcast. We can’t all be anarchists in the service of some obscure counterculture raging against the establishment. It is not a bad education to ensure this done early, adults devoid of this skill are not a sight to behold if one were to suggest it a situation to be pitied.
On another table, everyone was on their phones, to prefer the virtual to the company of those you are attending dinner with, I can only wonder what to say. It is bad manners at first and where do you cultivate the art of conversation if you cannot do it at the dinner table? Except for emergencies, the phone can wait, respect the company you have or decline the invitation for your virtual world. We can be better behaved; we only have to put some effort into it.

Friday 20 December 2019

On my 54th birthday, I give thanks

Even for this
Unexpected as I was, I became the first child and son of a young couple on a cold winter morning in the UK. I have however learnt to be thankful and full of gratitude for the life that I have been blessed with.
The many trials and tribulations that have set me up for opportunities I could never have seen from the downturns that could have suffocated me but for the spirit of hope, expectation and good fortune that has guided me to a solid and firm height out of the doldrums.
There is much
I am grateful for the privileges and the accidents, the stories I have been given to tell. I found love and happiness with some who has fixed smiles on my face, my heart and my soul, Brian is a soulmate like I have never ever known before, I hope to share the rest of my life with him.
Here I am giving thanks, a decade after a cancer that could have ended it all, situations and circumstances have become signposts of history, friendships have grown, and achievement has surpassed achievement towards new recognition and prospects.
To be thankful
My heart overflows with thanks and tribute to my parents, my siblings, my friends, colleagues generous with time, space, commendation, and reference, I have been loved, helped and supported much more than I deserve.
I mark my 54th birthday in the company of my boyfriend, thank you for making every moment count for ones to cherish. I give thanks, thanks, thanks again, I cannot shirk in counting my blessings and having a grateful heart, for life, for health, for love, for hope, for opportunity, for laughter, for joy, for the future and for more things to be thankful for.
To God mostly
I have music in my heart and most of all, I give thanks to God, I cannot have planned this life and many of the ways it has turned out feels like I have been a living miracle. From the day a boy no bigger than a hamster was born at just six and a half months to the day that the Lord as made.

Thursday 19 December 2019

Winter will end at 11 AM

In preparation
Travel is an expectation and excitement rolled into a flurry of emotions that you cannot fully express apart from just being the experience being lived.
I had ample time for plan for my journey to South Africa, once I had passed my TOGAF certification last week Tuesday in London and returned home to Manchester on Wednesday, I had 6 days to get things sorted. My first plan was to get the laundry service to pick up my laundry on Wednesday evening to be returned 24 hours later.
Daily, I had begun to gather the things I needed for my journey, trying to ensure nothing was forgotten, and this without making lists even as a small still voice was advising me to consider a list. I would think I have everything I want and also something for Brian and I to wear, as for weeks I had been looking for matching jackets, Brian being two sizes smaller, but with the same length of arms.
Hefty baggage
I did most of my packing the day before, using compactors for my shirts and trousers with my underwear, then shoes, hats, and other essentials. My portable scales put the suitcases at 19kg and 16kg, I think there was another few kilograms added by the time I got out of the door. I hailed a Uber cab to the airport when 5 minutes into the trip, I realised I had left a wallet at home.
This happened my last trip too, fortunately, it did not contain the essential cards. I got the driver to turn back whilst I retrieved my wallet and we took a more scenic route to the airport. After checking in and being ushered unto the Fast Track lane which was anything but, you begin to realise why you should have more than enough time to clear security.
Security dexterity
Without a doubt, those with toddlers need to research how to traverse security at ease and at speed, I had 4 families ahead of me and everyone looked like first time travellers, babies implacable, mother extending like an octopus granted a few more limbs to unpack bags, hold the baby, keep the other child from running around and attempting the contortions of a double-jointed gymnast. A sight to behold and a good 30 minutes of my life frittered away before the wand wielder checks my watch, cufflinks and affinity bangle, then waves me through.
I proceed to cool off in the lounge, the need for travel to be stress-free cannot be exaggerated, there are two stops before Cape Town tomorrow afternoon. We are coasting at 4C, the thought of leaving winter behind warms my breast.
Hiding the winter props
In Paris, angels were on assignment, that is all I can say. Having walked through the literally inscrutable Charles De Gaulle airport, it is a beast of an airport as friendly as a hyena is to its prey, if it were avoidable, but why simplify the complicated, when you can make it a harrowing experience.
The boarding gates for my next destination of Johannesburg were in the same terminal and I still had to lug my things through security, the obligatory striptease without music has become a dramatic art worthy of an Academy nomination. Thankfully, but thankfully, there were no families with toddlers, pushchairs and kids on fizzy drinks running around like they were buzzing on drugs.
The disarray at the security check is not worth reckoning with, we survived it and I made for the lounge. There, I should have shown my paper boarding pass, but I resorted to my mobile phone boarding pass. With that in hand, I made for a seat with the aim of charging my phone and putting my overcoat into my suit carrier.
Angels working overtime
That was a struggle as I put my phone down and knelt on the suit carrier to get the zipper done up. I only had time for a drink when I noticed my flight to Johannesburg was boarding. I picked up my bags and it was close to a 10-minute walk to the boarding gate and on getting through, I found my seat, put up my hand baggage and was about to sit down when an air stewardess presented me with a mobile phone.
I was completely oblivious of the fact that I had left my phone in the lounge, I cannot account for how the phone made it from the lounge to my seat. The gravity of realising how it could have been a disaster to lose my phone only began to dawn on me hours after. I got me some angels watching over me.
Winter did end at 11:00 AM
As we arrived in Johannesburg, it was 11:13 AM, two minutes ahead of schedule, I was hit with the heat of summer, my winter was over as I was informed I would need to collect my baggage and recheck-in with the local airline that would get me to Cape Town, this after I was told that my baggage had been checked through to Cape Town, I guess that was figuratively rather that literally. I collected my baggage and no additional labels are attached to them.
My seat was pre-allocated, and I could not change it because it was with another airline, Brian had a seat 3 rows from mine as we had arranged to be on the same flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. We met up in the lounge and I was expecting him to use his charm offensive to get us to sit together. As luck would have it, whilst I was given an aisle seat, the window seat was free, it meant Brian could come to sit beside me for the flight.
We arrived in Cape Town without much fuss, the captain’s parting message beyond the Christmas wishes was the hope that South African Airways would still be a thriving company that provides the wonderful service we have enjoyed over the decades. How Jacob Zuma and his clique almost ruined that bastion of South Africa expression with incompetent and unqualified people.
I was soon in my shorts and amongst the teeming crowds of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

Sunday 15 December 2019

There Will Be No Epiphany

My Anglican Communion
I like the community and the camaraderie of the church I attend. Having been to many temples of varying Christian interpretations of worship and liturgy, I have found a welcoming in my Church of England - Anglican roots.
The Manchester Cathedral or by its proper name, the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and Saint George became a cathedral in 1847, it was granted collegiate status in 1421, but it is believed a church has existed in this location for over a millennium.
It mixes the traditional with the modern, and I am thrown by the Latin pieces of music for which there are English translations that are sung interminably that if the words were put to the three lines of verse, you might find it stretching to over 21 lines.
Consideration of others
Occasionally, there is incense, but every Sunday morning at 10:30 AM is the Sung Eucharist which is a service that culminates in holy communion. The community starts with the call-response between the president and the congregation when we offer each other the sign of peace with handshakes and after the service, we gather for a drink of tea or coffee with biscuits. There, we get to start conversations with strangers who would become acquaintances and then friends.
The sermon today broached on the subject of wickedness, not so much on being evil but on attitudes and behaviours to others in terms of indifference, disrespect, lack of consideration, selfishness and so on.
It made me reflect on an encounter earlier in the day where one that could be called a friend had taken liberties in the display of a complete lack of consideration for the other that a gentle entreaty quickly escalated into an unnecessary but essential outburst of rage. Yet, in spite of and despite the sometimes incomprehensive and usually reprehensible machinations of this friend, in the heart, there is a liking that prevents the termination of the friendship. It is a trying work of patience.
A pillar of the community
We are given a pamphlet as we enter the church, it is the order of service with the hymns, the readings and notices. One of the notices was for Friday the 20th of December at 10:00 AM which had been moved back 30 minutes, the memorial service for Michael Oglesby CBE DL, it goes to reflect how I appear to live in Manchester and hardly know what is going on in my city.
Michael Oglesby owns 20% of the commercial office space in Manchester city centre and owns more than 120 buildings in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham through his Bruntwood property group. [MEN]
Tributes to him followed from the University of Manchester where The Oglesby Cancer ResearchBuilding is named for him. There was a good spread in the Financial Times that talked of his reviving Manchester and Liverpool along with his philanthropic activities. This was no doubt a great pillar of our community whose life will be celebrated on Friday. [UoM][Financial Times]
A revelation of difference
My sense of belonging is getting stronger too, The Dean of the Cathedral is from South Africa and he is known at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, which I attend when out there. Now, the Sung Eucharist in Cape Town is even more traditional, always incense, singing canticles and a lot of Latin too. The church used to be the archbishopric of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
As we weave between conversation, coincidence and communion, there will be no epiphany even as we close on that feast, for the communication of our faith becomes effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus. Our Anglican community brings good things out of us. [BibleGateway]
Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.