Thursday 31 December 2020

Closing the chapter on 2020

An unpredicted year

The year 2020 will be etched in memory for many reasons, but we must start with a sense of gratitude in the midst of circumstances and people in charge who were anything but. It began with a great sense of hope and expectations, none dashed, just delayed for more advantageous times.

As I was returning from South Africa, I was supposed to resume a contractual engagement, just before I boarded my flight, I received an email that it had fallen through. It left me no time to reschedule and delay my return, the wintry cold of Manchester beckoned.

As I was inadvertently thrown onto the job market, within two weeks of my return, I was down with a water infection that landed me in hospital, with some observation the prognosis was better than initially feared, I was discharged and treated as an out-patient but the time to full recovery took about a month.

The cloud that shadowed

This was as the threatening Coronavirus was looming in the horizon, ignored by heads of populist governments whose penchant for wishing away big problems with simplistic but unrealistic solutions were met with a reality that did not subscribe to the gullible bullshit that got them into power. When the UK government eventually acted, it was the only option they had and what a disaster it has been since then.

By the end of April, a job opportunity came up with the engagement process so different from usual, the context and concept of the workplace had so radically changed, and it transpired that an interview conducted by answering scripts was aborted for an on-boarding process and within days I was in work from May.

The pandemic had taken hold, the lean months presenting challenges that were assuaged by team meditation exercises that lasted 21 days beyond which faith and resolution brought calm as things swirled around with no inkling as to what will become the immediate talk less of the distant future.

Hope is a spirit

Each day, Brian and I conversed in the hope that soon we would be able to meet up, but the pandemic stood as an impediment, no progress could be made on that matter as lockdowns and tiers tested the resolve of the citizenry even as it exposed corruption, ineptitude and incompetence in many countries with the UK carrying the worst news of the whole of Europe until Italy recently overtook in the death toll.

Desire and longing not dimmed, the opportunity came, and it was seized, to end the year in the company of love and beauty could not have been a better wish fulfilled. We need to find ways to negotiate living with this pandemic, taking all care and precaution to keep safe. It has cast a dark gloom over our humanity and much as vaccines will help, it must not be sold as a panacea. It is one of the tools we need as we understand better how to contain and overcome this virus.

Pained and sorrowed

With 72,548 dead from CoVID-19 in the UK and another 28,033 dead in South Africa, there has been great grief and sorrow in the land for which especially in the UK I cannot find any reason not to hold Boris Johnson’s government for the carnage, it has been so fortuitous to have had such an unconscionable kakistocracy in Downing Street when demands of probity, capacity, and ability were needed to tackle a pandemic. If there is any justice in this world, for the lives, needlessly lost through the mishandling of this pandemic the people in this government would be held fully accountable.

Closer to home though not due to the virus, in October, I lost my stepmother so suddenly, just 4 days after her 56th birthday, even as I have issues with my father on this matter, my priority is the comfort and security of my brothers. There is much to do. Another two weeks after, my father lost his best friend from childhood. We were visited by mortality so close and venerations with remembrances to be done.

Arise to the new

In all, we learnt that communication was critical, contact was important, concern was human, and consideration was empathetic. Friends mattered, neighbours succoured, dreams lived large, hopes never die, faith sets you on the course to things you cannot see, a long pause presages a new beginning, the year 2020 was the year of reset. I am not aware of any prescience that foresaw this passing year, but it will pass into history for better stories to be told.

Entering 2021 will have its difficulties but human ingenuity is such that when presented with great adversity there is resourcefulness and innovation to bring healing, progress, and prosperity to renew, replenish, restore and rebuild what was lost. We are grateful for life through the year past and look forward to new awakenings. Have a wonderful and Happy New Year!

Wednesday 30 December 2020

From a Nigeria 30 years ago

The outlay

I really thought I will not write a blog today, but Brian said, I could do it and it will be an auspicious thing because it commemorates the day I have not forgotten.

It was a Sunday, the 30th of December 1990 that I took a delayed flight with Nigeria Airways from Lagos to London and that was my departure from Nigeria. Things moved quite quickly in the space of 7 or so weeks.

I was a partner in a desktop publishing firm we called NextStep Limited when we decided on updating our equipment by making a trip to the United Kingdom. The activity would have been performed by a former business partner of the principal, but at the last minute, I was added to the trip, somewhat to protect our interests.

The situation

On the 18th of November, I had arrived in England for a business trip that was to last a week, however, that stretched to two weeks because some of the kit we had acquired was to be delivered later than our previously scheduled stay. That night, Chris Eubank beat Nigel Benn in a boxing match.

That former business partner once worked for Nigeria Airways and knew his way around, all the VAT returns for our purchases of over £4,000 went into his UK account. Laden with our kit, I returned to Nigeria on the 2nd of December, by which time John Major had supplanted Margaret Thatcher.

Whilst in the UK, I learnt that I had the skills for a thriving computer technical support market if I ventured the idea, I got a copy of my long birth certificate as it was not obtained my parents when they got the short version. With that in hand, I applied for the Certificate to the Right of Abode which only had a 3-week processing time compared to the 18-month waiting list for a British passport.

The execution

The interview was a breeze, more the exchange of banter about failed interviews and with my special visa to hand, I bought my one-way ticket to London for the price of NGN 3,200. I was ready to go even if very few believed my plans would be executed. I had determined I was going to leave before 1990 was over.

My 25th birthday was given prominence at the Christmas party for the staff of Deji Sasegbon Publishers, a legal publishing outfit for which I was a consultant and through whom I had the bulk of my airfare to travel to the UK, as part of our contractual agreement signed some 14 months before.

The memory

The exchange rate then was NGN 15 to £1 and though I have left for a generation, Nigeria has not left me, I am impacted and affected by many things in Nigeria, most completely out of my control by inimical policies that take no consideration for the people. I cannot report that things have improved for the majority even as some have prospered.

On the matter of returning, even for a visit, I am undecided, and the passage of time has made it quite unlikely regardless of the event or the occasion, I think and dream of Nigeria, it is not home, just a place of memories, attachments, and influence. My hope is still that Nigeria finds peace and prosperity and hopefully at the hands of people who know what they are doing and will not squander the rare opportunities to do so.

My boarding pass from the 30th of December 1990.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Coronavirus streets in Cape Town - II

Regulations alert

I have just finished reading the 19 pages of the government gazette regarding the Adjusted Alert Level 3 restrictions instituted by the South African Government, presaged by the national address by President Cyril Ramaphosa last night. [BusinessTech: Here are all the new lockdown level 3 changes – including which businesses have to close] (The gazette is linked below the news story.)

During this pandemic, things have been in flux to such an extent that one cannot act in haste, you look to the long-term and act with discretion and discernment. It is important to be fully informed of what has been promulgated and how it affects one, especially when one is on holiday in a foreign land.

Whilst the restrictions would appear to be quite difficult for those visiting as tourists, I have lived under similar lockdowns in Manchester for most of the year. As long as we can go out for walks to take the breeze and get the essentials for living, we would most likely be fine.

A false sense of security

Cape Town has been determined to be a hotspot, from what I have observed in my just over 2 weeks of being here, I am not entirely surprised as I observed in my previous blogs, there are many who think this pandemic is behind us as the opening of certain establishments to things presented as protocols giving us a false sense of security to let our guard down.

The total prohibition of alcohol sales with the perceived or actual consequences of the consumption of alcohol suggests the government thinks there is an alcohol problem in the country. Besides CoVID-19 related hospital admissions, those that pertain to alcohol consumption follow closely exacerbating unruly behaviours, illegality, recklessness, and violence. The president mentioned amongst other things, bullet wounds in relation to this.

Coping with a pandemic

Being in the Cape, we would miss visiting the Cape Winelands that we have always enjoyed going to. It must be devastating for those businesses, but the fundamental is the preservation of lives first above all else. It is a shame that parks and beaches are closed, the botanical gardens remain open.

The borders have not been closed, international travel can still take place, subject to existing requirements, the presentation of a negative SARS-CoV-2 PCR test at arrival amongst other things. Hotel accommodations can take full capacity, but faith gatherings are prohibited.

The government has made it a criminal offence not to don a face mask covering both the nose and mouth when in a public space. Looking out of my window, most seem to have pulled up the mask to cover their noses, others might need a bit more persuasion.

We made the decision, Brian and I, to meet up again in Cape Town after 11 difficult months apart, for us as a couple, it has been wonderful, some plans might have to postponed for better times ahead, which is a shame. We celebrated our second anniversary yesterday and make the best of it all.

Monday 28 December 2020

Coronavirus streets in Cape Town - I

Doing everything possible

The incidents of Coronavirus infections in South Africa is quite concerning that there is a constant review of policies and options to gain control of the pandemic and reduce the spread of the virus.

Generally, the standard protocols apply, avoiding crowds, avoiding close contact, and keeping away from closed spaces. We wear masks that cover the mouth and nose fully, sanitise our hands anywhere we go, mostly in the shops. Some restaurants and establishments go further by scanning your temperature and taking down your details before you can access their services.

With all these precautions there still seems to be a lot of clear and present dangers, of much concern is closed spaces. We are masked and socially distanced but the closed spaces without extensive ventilation might well be unwittingly super-spreader locations.

Things of concern

The indoor places are usually not open enough and I doubt where air-conditioning is present, the recirculation of air is as safe as it portends. People are however still going about their business that makes you wonder if there is something amiss.

On the registers that document visits of patrons, there are fields for names, addresses, identification numbers (optional), phone numbers, and recorded body temperature. One would expect there to be a time in and time out column too. It is bureaucratic but necessary, you do not want to pile together all visitors to a location where it is unlikely any two people encountered each other there.

The absence of time recordings mean that if anyone contracts the virus and tests positive, everyone who attended the establishment on that day if records are clean and properly maintained, or who has attended over the last couple of days will get contracted of their possible exposure with no indication or detail as to the way and means by which they have been endangered.

Living on prayer

As much as we should avoid letting paranoia and suspicion become our lodestar, as we cannot tell whether anyone is affected on sight and as people are asymptomatic but infectious long before they present any symptoms, you have to assume everyone is a possible vector until proven otherwise. With strangers, you only have their word in terms of where they have been, who they have been in contact with and whether they will be truthful about their recent exposure and history.

All these factors weigh on one’s mind that you have to be very careful of what you do and where you go, or you complete sequester yourself and shun every circumstance that could put you in a vulnerable situation. There are ramifications in unintended and radically consequential ways, we need to be conscious, conversant, and conscientious. We can gain control of this thing, it will take time and as things are in such flux, we live from day-to-day alert, in hope, and in prayer.

Through the Fire

In the flux

The mind is a massive industrial complex of churn, with thoughts and imaginations coursing through spaghetti conveyor belts manufacturing products for which one might not have found a purpose. A recent situation had so many scenarios play out in my head, I felt like I needed a big red button to shut down the complex and get some quiet in me.

In the midst of all this, there was a voice, quiet and calming, asking for a voice to speak to my hearing. It is a place of refuge that in troubled times comes to the rescue to snatch me out of the funk, putting things in perspective and offering a kind of assurance that whatever might come will pass.

In the calm

In life, we are not promised a trouble-free existence, rather there are influences and experiences that seem to equip us to weather storms to new calms. It is like the Psalmist says in Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” [BibleGateway: Psalm 23:4]

I am comforted by that voice that says in my head, even in the face of terrifying circumstances, “Akin, everything is going to be fine.” It gives me a sense of security for travel and the assurance that I will reach my destination. Whatever the journey, it will not be the end of the story.

Sunday 27 December 2020

Thought Picnic: My foolishness in floodlights

Being plainly human

We are as humans most capable of stupidity and carelessness in the selfish pursuit of pleasures and desires. Indulging in such might bring personal satisfaction but it can adversely affect others, by distress or upset, we risk doing much harm to those closest to us.

Essentially, the frustrations are alarm bells of other unexplained turmoil for which desperation can present bad options and rotten choices. The path out requires a completely new mindset with a direction to achievable goals. Talk about it and seek help too.

There can be consequences for making the wrong choices out of impatience and or being inconsiderate. You then hope that it does not end in regret, with much remorse, you plead hoping to mend your ways. It begins with saying, I am sorry and working to rebuild trust and confidence from the fundamentals. A chance offered to write a better story.

Friday 25 December 2020

In the shadow of Table Mountain

Anyone out there?

In the shelter of the Table Mountain, there is a stillness and eerie silence that greets my ears, the cacophony hours ago, at street level, some two floors below has given way to snatches of sounds travelling distances unknown, probably of someone singing to themselves.

The insomnia phase I am in has been brought on by the slumber that caught me away on the couch soon after a sumptuous Christmas dinner. The many nights of unsleep caught up in an afternoon, an evening and a night of sometimes absented wakefulness that only my tracker can plot into any perceptible coherence.

Looking out of my window, it is only a quarter past one, and at the junction are two public safety personnel in their green and yellow uniforms, that it matters is strange because a major police station is hardly 6 blocks down, where another of the personnel appears to be walking up the street.

Someone out there

You might even hear a baby cry or a car drive past, we are supposed to be under a curfew, whoever it is must be on some essential or emergency activity. It is quite peaceful on occasion to just switch off even primary and local sources of sound and listen, though it would be nigh on impossible for me to sleep without the radio on.

Someone then punctures the quietude with the hoot of the car horn, you can only wonder why if the roads are free amongst the many other reasons I should not exercise myself about. I look out again, I am in both a modern city with all streetlights working and a place of inequalities, a man without the comforts I enjoy sits on the pavement pondering a homeless world.

Thursday 24 December 2020

Christmas eve even event

Closing close

The day was easy, nothing planned just a few things to do, only to find that many shops had already closed early for the day, Christmas Eve being a bit more special this time. We cannot have a midnight service because of a curfew due to the pandemic, so, it will be happening in the evening, though we are not attending.

One food shop will be closed until the 5th of January, I guess they decided to have a holiday. By the time we visited the main supermarkets in town, they had closed, and it was only 5 o’clock. There was no other choice but to go to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront where the shops at least stayed open another couple of hours.

Knowing nose

On my unaided and slow walk there, I met my 10,000-step quota and found some inspiration I hope would be pleasant. Windbreakers or breakers of the wind give scent to the air, and with that, we at least know we have not lost our sense of smell if we are not regaling with the wafting glories of flowers or culinary expertise.

We might just make Christmas a wonderful time, we did not get all we wanted but what we got will suffice with a bit of improvisation and the proficiency of some kitchen literacy. Have yourselves a very merry Christmas and we look towards better ones ahead.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

A rather surly place owner

Shit hot shit people

There are people quite talented in what they do and that is all they have to show. In business, they probably employ staff who are marshalled into a unit to perform with excellence on the force of the personality of one.

I walked into a restaurant this afternoon and saw one such boss, for she was not a leader, the banter between her and two of her staff was like an offcut of a Nollywood film, laden with abuse and invective, the staff progressively belittled that if it were a shrinking game, they would have been the size of ants in the space of a minute.

Suffering smiling staff

When I was noticed, I tried to put in an order and when it did not seem to be a big one, she became surly and truculent at the point of doing the same thing she did with her staff. That she then stopped addressing me directly even though she could face me, and she delivered her diatribe and belittlement through another of her staff.

All this because we were putting an order in for food even though we had bought foodstuff there the day before and had the pleasure of being served by friendlier staff. Rather than run the gauntlet of the nasty woman tomorrow, I went back this evening, thankfully long after she had left for the day and again found beautiful and helpful people to fulfil my order.

The staff saved that place of a nasty review, of the boss, no words, but the staff will perform better if they were treated better, with courtesy, respect, and dignity.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

The Wizard of Bulawayo

In the flux of thought

Sometimes, someone thinks I am crazy, thoughts and words, the conversation develops from topic to topic exploring ideas and possibilities, I find myself in a stream of inspiration, a muse to arouse, a hint to follow, a leading you cannot resist the temptation to follow, rarely to an end but on the way to something interesting.

I did miss the sighting of the Star of Bethlehem last night, I saw another star that I persuaded some could be what none had seen before and it just happened to be big and brilliant, high up on a resplendently lit Christmas tree, that one lady what wonder what I had been smoking. I probably stopped smoking before she was born.

However, what I have finally realised is there is literally nothing Brian cannot do, that somewhere from the recesses of thought and exclamation, the only fitting appellation that springs sonorously to the lips is the Wizard of Bulawayo.

Monday 21 December 2020

Are the 3 kings saddling their camels?

The drains drain

The many times I have visited South Africa, and this is in the southern hemisphere with all the times I have watched the moving maps of crossing the equator, I have never actively or purposefully observed the phenomenon called Coriolis force or the broader Coriolis effect.

I will not pretend to explain them in detail, but the direction of motion of how water goes down a drain in a clockwise or anti-clockwise way depending on whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. Yet, it would be interesting to observe, an experiment with dyed water, pulling out the plug and taking a video recording. Then, Snopes snuffs my interest out dismissing it as a myth. [Snopes: Coriolis Force Effect on Drains]

What a day to long for

One other thing I have not taken into consideration too is that the 21st of December is the Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere wherein they will have the shortest day and it is the Summer solstice in the southern hemisphere where we would presumably have the longest day. This is my second birthday in the southern hemisphere and my third Christmas here, but let’s not baffle ourselves with the how’s and why’s.

The radio had been going on about this aspect of the length of days that I decided to check on my weather app. As I write this, the sun is yet to rise in Manchester at 08:23 hours and will set at 15:52 hours for a daylight length of 7 hours and 29 minutes, we are two hours ahead in Cape Town.

Here in Cape Town, the sun rose at 05:32 hours and will set at 19:57 hours, giving us a daylight length of 14 hours and 25 minutes, 6 hours and 56 minutes longer than in Manchester where it is a calm 4 Celsius and comparatively already 24 Celsius here.

Presents for me

Another natural phenomenon of celestial consequence we will experience today is the Christmas Star of Bethlehem, where the planets of Saturn and Jupiter will align in the sky after sunset and will be observable from South African skies, this last happened almost 800 years ago. What a time to be in. [The Witness: Don't forget to look out for the 'Christmas Star of Bethlehem' on Monday]

To fill up this blog I could add names the names of people who were born on the 21st of December, but that would be a veritable list of heroes and villains, there is enough to celebrate in the day and make the most of it in natural and celestial significance and observations, and that is just wonderful too.

55 years of blessings

Every day a blessing

Every day from Tuesday the 22nd of September 2009 has been a blessing for it was the day I was admitted to hospital presenting aggressive cancer as a result of complications of HIV/AIDS for which the prognosis was probably only 5 weeks to live if I could not tolerate the regimen of medication and chemotherapy that was required to give me a chance of living.

Then again, each day from Tuesday the 21st of December 1965 has heralded blessings innumerable even on days I would never hope to relive but each and every one of them has passed into history to become a story, a testimony, a reflection of gratitude for the grace and mercies that have filled my life with wonder even if in the telling it rarely gets a feeling of awe. I was born at just over 26 weeks and here we are.

Thankful for the year

2020 has been a year of strangeness and difference, days became months of uncertainty but buoyed by hope and a sense that Psalm 23 revealed anew to me than it was a passing through a valley of the shadow of death from exhausted green pastures and stale still waters to fresh green pastures and refreshing still waters, we press on forward speaking of goodness and mercy that follows all the days of our lives. See the links below.

Blog - The changing texts of religious meditation

Blog - Psalm 23 comes alive with new insight

Writing today of my 55th birthday fills me with such joy and happiness, celebrating it with my lover and partner, Brian means everything to me. Yet, in everything, through sometimes strained communication and relationships, my parents have been beacons of amazing support, my many siblings give me a sense of family weighty at times and honourable in everything.

Grateful for life and living

Then my friends, Kola who I have known since time began, there are many trials I would never have seen through without his friendship, Funmi who I have missed for over a year since before the pandemic began, a confidante, and more. Patrick who especially in this year was available in every way to nurse me back to health early this year, fight my cause in the tardy response of the NHS, he became my neighbour and family for these strange times.

Beyond the named friends, many who have contributed in no small measure to giving me a sense of fulfilment and have contributed to the sense of gratitude that makes this day so special. Let us celebrate life even in the midst of a pandemic and most of all cherish every moment we have been given for the possible opportunity of telling a better story. Thank you for celebrating with me, the joy of living.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Back in church in Cape Town

Without notice or direction

Last Sunday, we did lie-in though it was unclear from visiting the St. George’s Cathedral website whether in-person services were taking place. When we finally stepped out, it was already three hours after the morning service starts, there was no indication that the church had been open earlier in the Sunday.

The big noticeboard had disappeared and the other one normally for announcing other events had the service notes for the previous week and when it was updated it was still lagging by a week. We determined we would find out today. Woke up early and made for church without knowing what the situation would be. We were already there before we were assured.

Finding order in our disorder

Stepping in, we sanitised our hands, had our temperature taken and then signed in our names before taking our seats in a socially distanced arrangement of chairs. Ours were probably the closest together, and on the row behind, the seats to be left vacant were marked with an X in masking tape.

The service is usually conducted from a pamphlet and an insert, shuffling between the two to determine where were we at was an art of resignation because some of the recitations referenced from pamphlet to insert and vice versa were in neither, we just followed the experience.

Between the standing and sitting, it was not entirely clear whether the congregation was to join in or not, I whispered that parts I could follow and the singing was best carried by the choir, numbering just a few but rousing in their renditions and voices. On the procession at the close of the service, I was surprised that so few could project so well, they were probably joined by angels.

A prophet of lustful compromise

After the sermon, we were about to recite the Apostle’s Creed, when from the back of the church in what we first thought was a variation to the Sung Eucharist, a man dressed well enough to evade suspicion called out declaring he was a prophet of God and began to rain curses like prophets of the Old Testament for some perceived sin of whoever got his goat, none of which I intend to repeat of what I heard.

The President simply continued the service unperturbed and the usher gently took him by the arms to go and find other wildernesses to rot away in. My understanding is the office of the prophet changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament, a prophet will speak by the Holy Spirit to edify and build the church, confirming things that are unresolved or remain mysteries.

The blessing we had

The age when the prophet had no grace and peace to offer is long past and those who proclaim to be prophets of God are tested of the truth and the alignment with scripture and that determines whether they are speaking their own vanities to instil fear and loathing or lifting hearts, minds, and lives to the amazing grace of God.

We continued our service to the end; the open doors of the church are inviting to those who solemnly seek to reflect and pray whilst being respectful of other worshippers. Holy Communion during pandemic times is just the bread without the wine. It was a blessing to be back in our church in Cape Town.

Saturday 19 December 2020

We are poor observers of extreme fashion

In retrospect

I cannot count the number of times that Brian and I have looked back suddenly, our faces dripping with shock at the things we have just seen. Obviously, we risked being labelled sententious discussing this subject, but as I opined to him yesterday, here we are not attracted to ladies and forced to take a second look.

Maybe it is a case of not having a mirror to look at before stepping out of the home, courageous and daring it might be, careless and carefree in other cases, we cannot tell. We cannot and should not judge anyone by their dresses, but we cannot ignore those who have worn clothes too short that every few steps they are struggling to pull them down to cover their modesty, something so completely avoidable if they had done a second take at home.

Skirting the issue

Yesterday, in what was generally a beautiful dress, it did not have enough fabric on the upper body that her assets were spilling out, I guess it had become too much for her to care anymore, she just let it go and flow. We were not ogling but definitely were almost scandalised, it is each to their own.

As we walked through the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront after shopping, we were afflicted and I use that word generously, by the glowing underside of gluteus maximus, the buttocks. She was wearing pants so hot they would not have been suitable for a bikini and here we were nowhere near the seaside and by the shoes she was wearing, she was not coming from there either.

In perspective

It reminded me of the dictum I share about blogging, to have the sense of a seamstress making a good skirt; it should be long enough to cover the detail and short enough to keep the interest, that is the aesthetic after which the rules unwritten and unspoken as they may be have been broken.

Yet, I veer into the dangerous territory of regulating apparel where no one can win, probably what I need is never to be offended regardless of what I see and just because of that one should not lose the freedom to comment without condemning.

Decency is a construct of personal tastes in the purview of public observation, from one perspective there is a likelihood the ladies to have paid much attention to this matter, on another, maybe they did my exertions here are just agitations over causes that have chosen their own representative path. Good for them.

Friday 18 December 2020

Thoughts on my arrival in South Africa

A labouring arrival

Arriving in South Africa felt like another world, with announcements going out every few minutes to warn us to be safe and to protect all by protecting ourselves. At Johannesburg, all the travelators were not working as I walked that long distance from one end of the airport to immigration control.

Before getting in line, I was asked for my negative COVID-19 PCR test which was compared with the name on my passport. I have found I need to use my full legal name rather than the shortened versions that I have been identified with for longer than I can remember than I might even miss the calling of my full first name just out of being unfamiliar with it.

Using a cane meant I could join the shorter queue of those being provided some assistance, my temperature was taken and then the customs official pleasantly took my passport, asked for my mask to be removed, checked all my particulars, stamped my passport and sent me on my way.

No thrill at no frills

Getting a trolley was an involved exercise, I was already sweating profusely but the closest trolleys were all locked up in chains. I eventually got one, collected my baggage that had not been checked through to Cape Town only to encounter issues with the number of suitcases I could check-in with the partner airline that was to cover the Johannesburg to Cape Town final leg of my almost 27-hour journey.

This was resolved at the ticket sales desk and I was checked in to this no-frills single class airline where we were seated 6-abreast before I gave up my window seat for a family to sit together. The lounge setup was perfunctory but acceptable, the shoe-shiners were nowhere to be seen.

On arrival in Cape Town, the e-hailing ride section had been moved to another location, properly signposted as I have demanded many times before. I have religiously worn my mask through the whole travelling experience, it cannot be said of many other people. We just need to keep alert, aware, appreciative of the situation we are in, and we’ll be fine.

Thursday 17 December 2020

The walking exercises still matter

The exercise continues

Since my arrival in South Africa, I have managed to get my daily 10,000 steps done apart from on Tuesday when I was 1,400 steps short of the target. I do not want to exert myself too much to catch up with the lean week before when I more or less self-isolated before my journey to ensure I did not, unfortunately, come in contact with any situation that could lead to an unfavourable test result.

Much as I would have liked to do the early morning walks, I needed to chart a course, and until today, the target had been reached by reason of the walks to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront mainly. I have not been able to set a course for the promenades of Sea Point through Mouille Point to the Foreshore. It has been quite windy where we are that the need for the sea breeze is moot.

A route planned out

Yesterday, I found a route to the Company Gardens away from the busier parts of town and that became my traipsing corridor this morning. I am still suffering from some discomfort down that back of my thigh to just behind the knee where nerve ends or tissue are irritated that I am half limping but not hobbled, I can still trek at speed and work through the pain. I think this calls for a professional massage.

The length of the arterial path through Company Gardens is just over a kilometre long and I have found a route that makes a two-kilometre round trip, the return trip to my apartment being 2 kilometres and three circuits of Company Gardens gives me just over 8 kilometres and around 11,000 steps in around 75 minutes. Anything else later in the day becomes a bonus.

The mornings are quite warm, I need to take more water and have a face towel to hand. I am probably a spectacle of a man who is neither jogging nor walking, handling my cane just in case it is needed somewhere in my pursuits, we strive still to keep fit. How is it that this apartment does not have a scale? Maybe the obsession with weight needs to be less so at this time.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Riding with those who have a nose for shit

Taxiing the news

When I lived in London over 20 years ago, one good place to feel the pulse of the country was to take a ride in a traditional black cab with a slightly talkative driver who addressed you as guv and had an opinion on everything under the sun. You listen and interject every once in a while so he does not take a fright that you have suddenly keeled over and died.

Now, what you hail is an Uber, the driver could be from anywhere and their opinions are from interesting to completely outlandish, you endure it because there is no point trying to correct far gone viewpoints that would require a frontal lobotomy. You cannot in the time you have together teach enough to help them unlearn what they have as literally as street-sweepers swept off the kerb from litter to dog shit.

Relaxing the nose

Returning from Parkland after shopping at a Nigerian foodstuffs shop, the Uber driver before he arrived asked where we were going, which should rarely be the case, your fare is a lottery. In any case, I told him and asked if he was taking the journey or up to something else. He did eventually arrive as we exchanged pleasantries and he went half-masked, covering the mouth and freeing the nose.

Many, I have seen going about with their noses free like expansive and untamed protuberances masquerading like elephant trunks and you could almost feel sorry for them if their noses put Pinocchio in the shade and not one lie had been told yet.

Taxing the ears

Our driver was endeared to us as he stopped in the middle of the road just at some traffic lights because he observed a mobile phone had been left on a car boot. As luck would have it, we cannot tell for how long the phone had travelled on the boot, but he got it as was able to alert the lady to her pending loss of her mobile phone. Boy, was she thankful and grateful?

It deserved a pat on the back for the quick-minded act and presence of mind to do something. It is unlikely trying to wave her down would have elicited the necessary response to stop and see what was wrong. After that, the conversation veered into the matter of luxury cars and then African leaders. I could agree with some stuff though much else was just out there like crazy, as we alighted with sighs, we concurred he was a chatterbox in excess though Brian might learn from here too that we were fed bullshit by the shovel and the tipper truck. We suffer and smile from A to B.

Monday 14 December 2020

Service does involve being serious about providing it

Hoisted by Houst

When Brian arrived on Friday, he tried to sort out a few issues with our apartment on Saturday, like he was able to connect on WiFi he was getting no Internet connection and getting a spare set of keys. Once again it showed why it is preferable to book hotels with apartments rather than AirBnB-type arrangements though this was presented on my portal where I have been a loyal member for 8 years.

Our apartment in a complex is managed by an agency called Houst that seemed to find ways to exhibit levels of intransigence and incompetence, this will not be the last word on the matter. Whilst they have garnered many 5-star reviews, the length of the 1-star reviews is well over half of the 5-star ones, with negligible reviews in between. This is indicative of probably an outfit that excels despite themselves and underperforms with deliberate urgency.

Brian’s call should have elicited a response email, a reference number and some idea as to when the Internet issue would be resolved, none of which happened. When I arrived late on Saturday, after attempting a call, we decided it all best dealt with on Monday.

Quick to the buck

Today, we began with the need for a second set of keys even splitting it into having just a key fob for the main gate and the entrance to the apartment block, to no avail. A hotel would easily have provided a second set of keys where there was more than one guest. It just pointed out the indolence of the agency.

On the Internet matter, I was having none of the nonsense about having not connected properly, this simple networking situation is my bread and butter, it has been for almost 30 years. As I suspected, I contacted the Internet Service Provider (ISP), the account for our apartment had been suspended for the non-payment of bills.

It might not have been the responsibility of the agency to pay that bill, but they should have taken on the responsibility of checking all advertised services were in working order before accepting guests. Nothing is as irksome as to find that you have been short-changed by unprofessional and inattentive outfits quick to the buck but slow at the muck, it just sucks.

Fixing it ourselves

At a point, I did consider paying the bill to get the service back pronto, though it would have taken 24 to 48 hours to restore the service and we were already in the 4th day of a month-long stay. Eventually, we decided on getting a MiFi dongle with oodles of gigabytes to play with and connect up to 16 devices. This immediately solved the Internet access problem, and if the apartment eventually gets the service restored, fine.

As we were going out, we saw the Building Manager’s office, but she was on the phone. On returning, I had a word with her, and she said I could have a key fob for a deposit to be returned on our departure. If Houst had bothered to Know Their Customer and the apartment they were letting, this information would have been present either for them to have spare key fobs or inform guests of that availability. My honest opinion is the service Houst provides or my experience leaves much to be desired.

At the end of 6 email exchanges where my views were clearly and forcefully expressed without losing my composure or courtesy, their last response was a boilerplate dereliction of service. “Thank you for your message. I will pass this on to the host and keep you updated.” I am not holding my breath on any improvement on their part. Never again is my consolation for any new booking and hopefully when we get our places and need to have them managed by an agency.

It is behind us and we can enjoy our holiday and time together without the frustration of dealing with atrocious customer service.

Sunday 13 December 2020

334 days of heartache

Time took longer to endure

Never could we have anticipated that when we said our goodbyes in Johannesburg in January, it would be another 334 days before we saw each other again to say hello and kiss again. We were still in the infancy of our relationship building up our commitments with the determination that we were going to get married soon.

It is quite likely we could have made that decision earlier, we knew our hearts and minds about what we were looking for and what we wanted, but in the normalcy of those times, we were giving ourselves all the opportunities and allowances to steadily make that move without having too many misgivings from our friends about the speed at which we were going at a lifelong commitment.

For a while, I heard repeated statement of Isabelle Allende to the question she was asked, “How do you fall in love at 76?”, her answer was, “Like 26, but with a little more urgency.” I am aware of the life-threatening condition I had over 11 years ago, I am grateful for the quality and goodness of my health today, yet, I cannot live like I have all the time in the world.

We are getting married

I have now, the moments, the opportunities that arise, and the options that present. I fell in love and I have pursued it with vigour and conscientiousness. I am more than fortunate that my partner feels the same way too. Back in July, I was proposed to and it is our hope that despite the situation with the pandemic, we indeed can tie the knot.

If we have learnt anything, every moment counts, what we do whilst we are together matters, it should be purposeful, fulfilling, and rewarding. Long-distance relationships are hard at the best of times. I hope we never have to wait for an extended period of time to see each other again. Meanwhile, every one of the 35 days we will spend together will be a celebration of love, happiness, smiles, and life. I have been gifted the joy of companionship; we will not let it slip listless away. Thank you, Brian, for being the one, I am so blessed to have you in my life and by my side.

The joy in travelling is on leave

The new state of travel

After 32 hours from door to door so much has changed regarding travel that flying is now just a rudimentary means of get somewhere, all the pleasures and accoutrements completely stripped out. The idea that the journey itself before you got to your destination was part of a rewarding experience is quite far gone.

As a loyal AirFrance-KLM flyer, my journey to Cape Town consisted of 3 legs, it could have been two, but I was not satisfied with the comfort level, the cost was higher and I would have arrived late at night. I travelled Manchester – Paris – Johannesburg – Cape Town with the stopovers in Paris and Johannesburg taking a little over 12 hours together.

Now, whilst the leg of travel between Paris and Johannesburg of almost 11 hours could not have been able to justify it, there was a noticeable difference from when made the same journey a year ago. The flights within the two-hour duration were completely no-frills, all Covid-19 security and safety measures brought to bear. No trolley service, heck, they weren't even hawking their tatty duty-free goods.

The end justified it all

On the European leg, we at least got a cup of water, none of that happened between Johannesburg and Cape Town. If you didn't bring your own sustenance, you had better have done enough to sustain you for the journey. It was a no-touch policy, the cabin crew weren't going to help stuff your unwieldy hand luggage in the overhead cabins and you are not to put anything in the seat pockets behind the seats in front of you.

It is unsettling and the only expectation is at the end of the journey the pleasure of meeting up with loved ones. Business travel will not be exciting and leisure travel is now without the component of leisure. The world has changed around us in ways we could never have anticipated, we progress undeterred, little frustrations paling into insignificance.

Having thankfully and safely arrived at my destination and in the company of Brian, for the little pain, the greater gain is the victory of love. I probably have curbed my excitement and enthusiasm better than him, boy, am I so glad to see him.

Saturday 12 December 2020

Pissing from a great height

A turbulent bladder

And so, I felt the sudden urge to use the toilet and got up just as the air steward was walking up the aisle towards me, she was insistent I sit down, and I told her I had to go the toilet. She disapprovingly asked if it was urgent and without hesitation gave me a lecture on turbulence and the concern I should have for my safety.

I was between two minds of either telling her I had flown to South Africa 5 times last year or I had been flying since the age of 4 and I am now 54. Why bother? I sat down, crossed my legs and fingers hoping not to wet myself.

Checking on the piping

I appreciate she flies that route and probably has the training to handle severe turbulence, she was not tethered to anything and the aisles do not have railings. My being of a certain age was brought into stark reality by the Uber driver that took me to the airport.

His father had an obstruction in his urinary tract that resulted in him having a urostomy, the minor detail of him being 55 that I will celebrate in 10 days. He advised I should be seeing a urologist if I didn’t already have someone professional poking around there.

Without making too much of a thing about it, I would have hated to have to tell unnecessarily personal stories about a condition that requires an urgent dash to the loo. I suppose my shaving conceals that evidence of highlights on my beard acquired naturally, but let's not labour the point. I soon got to ease myself, a Nigerian colloquialism with emphasis on ease.

Awkward nature calls

When I got up the second time, I had the privilege of having the door to the lavatory opened for me without any discussion as to why, when, or what. Well into the morning before we landed, I needed another visit, and this time, all the toilets were occupied.

We had to queue up and one of the toilets seemed to be in use for long, an air steward opined that it might be a lady freshening up, I thought I saw a gentleman go in, but you never can tell nowadays, who is who. I declined an opinion with you never know.

I literally ran into the next available toilet, I wasn’t as pressed, but it was good humour as everyone laughed and when I was done, I was quite at ease, took my seat and wondered about pissing from a great height of 10 kilometres.

Friday 11 December 2020

The world is not closed

To all the world

It is the last call for boarding a flight to Cairo, as people are also taking their seats to fly out to Bogota and Beirut. Going by most of 2020, you might think the world has closed and then you realise that even as we have been careful, closeted, and maybe considerate or just in the quest of self-preservation, people have been going about their lives and travelling long distances too.

Ocean cruises are probably not fashionable in these pandemic times as it appears to be a super-spreader vehicle of late. A cruise to nowhere from Singapore had to abandon the escapade when someone came down with Covid-19 symptoms.

Looking up at the flight schedule, Montreal, Tokyo, Nairobi, Manchester, Buenos Aires, Mauritius, Libreville, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Djibouti, Johannesburg, Santiago, it is like everyone is flying to all corners of the world, though I cannot help but note that for the rest of today, there are no flights to the United States of America. A dangerous place to go if the pandemic deaths are taken into consideration.

A ride that tried

If anything, we need the world to heal and revive, we need the ingenuity of our humanity to begin to put this pandemic behind us. Obviously, the vaccine will help, but we also need to be careful rather than carefree and careless. I have worn a mask for hours and thankfully I have straps to take the strain off my ears.

The Uber driver that took me to the airport was a Dutchman of Arabic ancestry, we had quite a good conversation, but somehow, he had convinced himself that the pandemic was 20% threat and 80% hoax. You can go and tell that to the 1.5 million people who started 2020 with us and are no more. Apparently, some doctors he picked up from the airport had winked and suggested governments were overreacting and enjoying the trammelling of our rights.

Like honestly?

Even worse, he opined that the elderly who are more affected are really being exterminated because of their cost to society in healthcare and pensions. I was not ready to engage in such a stupid conspiracy theory, I glibly said, we would eventually learn the truth of this pandemic. There was no point trying to point out that hundreds of health workers had lost their lives caring for others, it was not just an ordinary day at work for them.

The code remains, avoid crowds, close contact and closed spaces, get used to the face mask and as much as possible, socially distance yourself from others. For all the comforts and conveniences of technology, we still need to travel, meet people, see loved ones and find ways to make life a little better in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Travel in Coronavirus times

We all survived

Since I returned to the UK in mid-January, I have been in Manchester without any travel out of my city until now. My good friend was asking yesterday, how I had managed to survive the self-imposed lockdown that I had put myself in long before our government had a clue about what was happening. I just did.

The only opportunity I was looking for since the world was turned upside down was the window to get away to South Africa and be with Brian, our tentative plans for Easter were shot by circumstances beyond our control and when we thought things might ease up in South Africa, there was no respite until recently.

Plans and tests

Then as things began to clear up for us to plan our rendezvous, two months away would have been the minimum to consider, but that was negotiated down, but not by much. If anything, we have learnt that the moments we have together must be cherished.

Travel in these pandemic times presents all sorts of issues, at first, South Africa was not going to accept leisure travellers from high incidence of infection and deaths areas, then that stipulation was adjusted to require a negative PCR SARS-CoV-2 result at the port of entry, then my airline issued a statement that I will not be allowed boarding without it.

There was no getting so far before you hit the hurdles. I booked a same-day test that cost a king’s ransom and still had to do a self-swab of my throat and then up my nose, supervised by a nurse. Picking up mucus from my throat and sticking it up my nose was the ultimate in yuckery (a neologism expressing of yuck and distaste), but needs must.

Travel experience changing

Rather than wait up for the result which was to be delivered by email anytime between 4:00 PM and midnight, I went to bed and by the time I was up around 10:00 PM, the negative result had been posted just over two hours before. Brian’s test in Zimbabwe had a quicker turnaround, but it meant we would indeed be meeting up he is arriving a day earlier than I.

The first leg was uneventful, the lounges do not present buffets anymore, you are served instead with the staff now coming to inform you when your flight is ready to board. I have been maintaining significant distancing though there are others who seem to be unconcerned. From Manchester to Paris, we only got a cup of water, no other service. I would hope that is not the change to be expected in the future.

My mind is at ease, I have a great longing and we would make the best of it. This thing called love is a crazily lifegiving and overwhelming force, I yield completely to it.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Hearts do leap

Plans in cans

One can view the year 2020 as a veritable tale of the completely unexpected and completely unanticipated. You can only wonder if any of the resolutions made for the year by those wont to such activities even found the opportunity to kick off.

Even so, consider plans to marry, plans to travel, desires to see, do, get, give or transact some business, event, or any kind of endeavour, literally hamstrung by situations outside our control. Such is the effect this pandemic has had on most of the world. There is some return to normalcy in places where the leaders, the people, and the policies worked to contain and manage the Coronavirus, but we are nowhere near seeing the back of this plague.

Consider the disorder

Yet, we must find ways to live our lives and go about our business with a precautionary inclination to protect ourselves and our communities from being ravaged. Whatever people might believe, and some have sniffed and scoffed about this pandemic, 1,570,333 people as of today who saw in 2020 are no more due to COVID-19 disease. If that does not evince a pause for thought, probably nothing else will.

My tender heart over the years has loved and lost, there were times when I was at the point of acceptance that this thing called love happened to other people until I was unwittingly swept off my feet by an Adonis who in my wildest dreams would not have reckoned a fleeting glance of sight, talk less of being noticed.

Alert my heart

He became the prime mover, out of interest and daring he observed me for a while before approaching me and saying hello. A conversation, a lunch date, a meeting of hearts and minds, a burgeoning relationship and 2019 was livened with his company and companionship, I convinced myself beyond any doubt that this is the one. I found love in a hopeless place that gave life to hope I could never have had the courage to entertain.

My heart races, a feeling of expectation and anticipation, the preparation for a rendezvous is apace, we have many hurdles to surmount as things we did on a whim now requires planning, scheduling, deliberate consideration, and strategy, all of which we hope to breeze through to the point of our loving embrace. I am buoyed, love is beautiful, life is good, and God is on our side, for which we are all extremely thankful. 

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Congratulations on 17 years of blogging from Brian


On this day we join you in celebrating 17 years of writing blogs. From the first moment I was introduced to I have enjoyed reading every word. The views you share on the various topics in your blogs are always thought-provoking, insightful, and inspiring.

I have been amazed at how you seemingly get to write on so many issues and are able to get this done with such effortless ease. Many of the blogs that you have published are well researched and informative.

I admire your skill with words and it only makes me more believe that you are certainly a logophile. For someone like me, writing even a short text is always an enormous challenge but somehow you have successfully ignited a passion for the art of writing.

It is always a pleasure reading your blog as it leaves one greedy for more. From this point on we continue to wait and look forward to the publication of your book of which I am sure will be a best seller.

Once again, Congratulations on 17 years of blogging. May you continue to inspire us all with your good work, we all look forward to many more interesting reads coming from your desk.