Monday, 23 November 2020

Walking is not just a good pair of shoes

Equip yourself for the walk

When I stepped out for my walk this morning, I first checked the weather forecast, it was not going to rain, but it was 2 Celsius, I knew by the time I got back home, the tips of my fingers would feel like I had been rearranging and poking red hot coals in a fireplace.

Then I put into consideration the range of paraphernalia that goes into the simple act of walking as a form of exercise and it reads like an interesting acquisition of trinkets and baubles, but we must not be deluded into thinking they are not both essential and necessary.

First, my trainers, a trusty pair of wonderfully cushioned running shoes for someone who cannot run, but needs the support that takes the strain off shin splints whilst making allowances for the softening effects on the feet, the ankles, the knees, the thighs and the hips. For someone who has over time suffered back pain and uses a cane, they are a miraculous workmanship in footwear – Brooks Ghost 10, now completing their 3rd year of wear and tear.

I did get the Brooks Ghost 11, 2 years ago, they are the ones I wear out in South Africa, I ventured the possibility of the latest version a few months ago, they just did not have my colour.

In the rain and the dark

As the weather began to change with rain, I first got a waterproof poncho with high visibility bands, but after 3 uses, it was not as comfortable as it seemed that I had to shell out for a Patagonia all-weather jacket with hood and zippered side vents.

The driving rain blowing into my face and obscuring my sight through my eyeglasses meant the hood did not suffice that I donned a baseball cap to shield my glasses until the rising heat from my scalp made that uncomfortable. So, I found I could get a run visor.

The shorter days as we moved into autumn along with scheduling my walks for early mornings before dawn broke left me a vulnerable target a few times. A cyclist almost ran into me and swore he did not see 6-foot of I. I was taking no risks, so I got LED armbands, a high visibility vest with useful pockets, and high visibility clips to wear round the wrist or ankles. I might well be lit up like a Christmas tree than be run down by unaware cyclists or inconsiderate electric scooter users and they are a growing menace on our roads.

From the cold of ice

With experience comes the need for possible remediation. I do have a good pair of leather gloves, but they are no match for the biting cold that I have now ordered a pair of Yobenki thermal gloves able to handle the freezing cold, with cuffs to go under the arms of my jacket so the rain and wet does not get to my hands, with the added luxury of an index finger for the touch screen of my phone.

I could not help but notice an accident this morning, a car had run into a tree, most likely because it had slipped on black ice, with the drop in temperature and no gritting of the roads, the pavements or pathways yet, I have on occasion felt that absence of grip between my shoes and the surface I am walking on. It is a scary prospect that calls for a solution, anti-slip spikes or what I found to be Yaktrax Walk, come snow, I will be all prepared and ready for any eventuality. One very important point read the instructions too.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Thought Picnic: We lose when we have none to question us

Who can speak to you?

I think of this a lot, the danger of primacy, the curse of being at the pinnacle of power and authority with a court, courtiers, or acolytes who pledge fealty and extraordinarily little truthfulness and honestly.

More and more, I realise than a man needs to be answerable to another man, it behoves us to surround ourselves with people who can challenge us, question our motives, withstand our opinions and persuade us of alternatives in direction and decision. At the very least, if we are not to be dissuaded, we should be able to defend our positions with conviction, courage, and truth.

No place is lonelier than to be where you are out of the reach of checks and balances. Where reality is bent to your will and none that see you can say what needs to be said to bring a sense of reflection and ground one in the incontrovertible essences of existence, that power is transient, life is not immortal, and deeds with their consequences are rarely forgotten.

Honest counsel is more than gold

Through history into the present day, you wonder what better decisions to change the course of history might have been visited if kings and queens long gone were better advised, generals and leaders did not rule with terror and an iron fist that even the truth was trammelled and out of reach in their counsel and counselling, if my own father was subject to the scrutiny of some of decisions and actions.

Yes, these thoughts occupy my mind when it comes to myself, the things I have done that with better insight and advice with counsel, direction and mentoring might have saved me from the foolishness and stupidity of my ways. Yes, much as it can be bruising, I desire friends and partners that will be honest and unrelenting in their engagement to make a better person. I will deploy my wiles and caprices, but they can and do put a mirror up before me that I can see myself clearly.

Seek to listen to glisten

We would normally say, we are our own greatest critic, that is good, but have people around you who can critique rather than criticise, who can appreciate with all its caveats, yet not excoriate. We need iron to sharpen iron, the forge to heat the iron, the anvil to shape the iron, none of which in its processing is easy work, but the result is a fine tool or instrument for the task in hand.

I know I have such friends; I ensure that my ears are not clogged with earwax so I can hear and listen, understand and comprehend, working towards a better representation of myself. I hope also that I am equipped, courageous, able and persuaded to offer the same to help my friends be the best they can ever be, either in giving them the assurance they need or the persuasion that is required. 

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Walking to see more results

Still driven but eased

Having met the goal of doing at least 10,000 steps a day for 100 days in a stretch, there is no major achievement in sight until I make it to 10,000,000 steps in probably over a year. However, that would require keeping at the pace I was of about 600,000 steps a month, and that really is not currently happening.

I am still getting out for my walks, usually getting in just over 10 kilometres before I start work which could vary between 13,000 steps and 15,000 steps depending on my stride, but I am not as worked up about my workouts.

One thing I have noticed though is no matter how high my heart rate gets, my breathing remains constant, I neither gasp for air nor pant, it is like I am quite used to the activity or somewhat conditioned to the level of exercise.

Still working it off

The weight is not budging as much as I would like it to, I have not had a reading below 80 kilogrammes since the 17th of October, though it is steady around that mark.

Getting out this morning into a downpour, I varied my route from the river towpath to the pavement on the road that runs beside it. It was a better walk this time as the fallen autumnal leaves had been swept away, though I was still left with wet trainers and dampened track bottom leggings. On the home straight, the weather had improved. I will not be deterred by inclement weather, once I am out, the workout will be done.

Fat, that is always on my mind, much visceral fat I have lost, the subcutaneous fat still lingers, though I am informed, keeping at the exercise will eventually yield results. I hope so, whilst I enjoy walking and feeling fitter for doing so.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Opinion: The humiliation of Donald Trump is a lesson well taught

Expected no less

When Donald Trump stated 4 years ago that he would only accept the results of the election if he won, we should have taken his word for it and believed that if a situation warranted his loss he would be curmudgeonly, nasty, unsportsmanlike, and completely intolerable.

Here we are, two weeks after the elections, having been trounced in both the popular vote and the electoral college, he is nowhere near accepting the fact that he lost to the man he nicknamed Sleepy Joe. There is no telling what it would take for him to accept defeat, but such is the character of a man of no virtue worthy of emulation that became the 45th President of the United States of America.

A nasty piece of work

He has railed with disgusting vituperation, maligning the people and institutions that have volunteered to determine the express will of the people that have regardless of the numbers he has now, rejected him by giving the majority of their support to Joe Biden. That he cannot accept the fact that he has ended up second best in a country where he incessantly stoked division rather than unity just beggars belief.

When Chris Krebs, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency contradicted the president by categorically stating that the elections were the most secure ever in history, he was terminated with immediate effect. Donald Trump is flailing and fuming, poisoning the waters, and undermining the sacrosanct traditions of the country for his own personal ends, whilst complete oblivious of how good the country has been to him and recognising the honour of being asked to serve.

He did not rise to lead

Some even suggest that were it not for the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, he would have won the election. I beg to differ, being president is not an easy throne, and though some have taken office without as much as an event in their tenure that they have been unremarkable, the test of leadership is the ability and capacity to rise to the challenge and the occasion. Donald Trump neither acknowledged the severity of the pandemic nor rose to the challenge of managing and containing it.

With a death toll exceeding 248,000 on his watch, justice would not have been done if he were rewarded with another term after that debacle of indifference, incompetence, apathy and quite possibly sociopathy. He governed like a reality television celebrity, campaigning and holding rallies with his incoherent spiel from the time of his inauguration to the day before the election, speak mainly to his base rather than to the broader American people.

Good riddance to rubbish

I cannot wait to see him gone, he was a bad omen to the world even though the religious right and right-wing groups appeared to embrace him. He represented the basest of our instincts, the least palatable expression, a manifestation of megalomania and ego, mirroring the worst of values, conduct, etiquette, and manners. If you did not want to try to be good, considerate, courteous, respectful, understanding, and accepting of others, Donald Trump gave you how to channel the vicissitudes of inhumanity without scruples.

His complete humiliation cannot be soon enough whenever he concedes or he is bundled out of the White House. For an example should be made that kind of person for a lesson that we should always strive to be good-natured, kind, empathetic, engaging and nice. To his sort, a chapter must be closed in the history of the United States of America and Good Riddance will not have fully given vent to the glee of his defeat.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Always and Forever

Just the warmth in my heart

My heart bubbles with expectation and the warmth of love indescribable that I feel from the most special person in my life. The many times I have fallen in and out of love, cannot compare to what has come to represent what we have and want for each other.

The separation of distance and time with its difficulties and strains have only made it too obvious to us that this thing called love that we have expressed towards each other is real, is true, is pure and is to be made even more perfect in a union of hearts, minds, and lives.

We can begin to plan ahead; the horizons are visible, and dates are coming into view with something to look forward to and the quality time we have promised to spend with each other to make the best of every single moment we spend together. As I yearn for your warm embrace and long for the warmth of your touch, know that I will forever love you, always and forever, my Brian With An I.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Annoyed and disappointment doesn't capture it

One is certainly not amused

It probably did not come as a great shock because he is wont to acting with impunity and a sense of superciliousness that has rarely been challenged to the point that it is indeed impunity.

It is his prerogative whatever he decides to do, the affairs he decides to have, and the ones he decides to commit to matrimony, unholy as it is, in every sense and every way. Here we are still mourning the passing of one and put into a situation supplanted by a complete lack of consideration, I am quite incensed.

The name we all share is not in the exclusive preserve of one, not even the patriarch can use the name without an eye on posterity. We have to carry this name forward in deed and in seed. When I was asked on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the extreme how disappointed I was with him, without hesitation, I said 10. There is much to write and it will be written.

Blog - The parable of Henry VIII

Friday, 13 November 2020

The Cummings and goings of the transience of status

History is a mocker of man

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Karl Marz

Dominic Cummings took a first in history at the University of Oxford, had he taken a spare module that took him back a few centuries, he might have seen today coming. It is Friday the Thirteenth, have you no sense of paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Like Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell before him in the court of Henry VIII became powerful and prominent figures of the court that they even had histories written of them, their meteoric rise to power presaged a catastrophic fall from grace.

Purposefully absentminded

As Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, it was only yesterday as internal battles raged between advisers in Downing Street that we were informed that he will be gone by Christmas. Whilst to date 51,304 have lost their lives to the Coronavirus pandemic, the court of Boris the Jape was busy playing musical chairs. [BBC News: Dominic Cummings: PM's top adviser leaves No 10 to 'clear the air']

However, I take many lessons from this departure of Dominic Cummings, he was not a particularly likeable character, what he had in the ability to win political campaigns was matched to his lack of charisma.

That the government was willing to expend all political capital and goodwill on this man at the expense of keeping faith with the people during the pandemic lockdown in May, showed how little they care, the consequence has been an unnecessarily inordinately large loss of lives.

Power is transient, O man

The speed at which he was defenestrated simply shows that you should never think the knives when properly drawn are not sharp enough to be plunged into your back with great efficacy and efficiency. In the scheme of things, your back is butter to the knives when faith has been lost in your counsel.

It is the curse of Ahithophel, the counselor whose advice King David in the bible ignored. I guess the proverbial setting his house in order was his walking out of Downing Street having cleared his desk in a public show of ignominy. [BibleHub: II Samuel 17:23]

It would be easy to mock his downfall, but the most important lesson of all is, in power and in politics, if you do not occupy the office by right, you are soon expendable. I wonder, who could have thought the fall of Cummings would rival the fall of Lucifer, just 48 hours ago? Power is transient, use it wisely, with great consideration, a sense of responsibility, and most of all humility.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The Vulture died of a ripe old age

Boys being boys

Gúnugún kìí kú léwe, in Yorubaland, there are sayings put to song and then played out with the talking drum. The tonal percussion of the talking drum with its musicality immediately registers with us and we engage by singing out the lyrics being played.

Then some boys probably took one of those sayings in songs and made a catcall out of it, whistling to the tune of the song. It became their call sign through adulthood into old age. Whenever one arrived at the other’s house, you heard the visitor whistle and the host responded. We soon learnt what it meant to great amusement.

Every kind of old

The first part, as written above translates to, ‘The vulture never dies in youth.’ The full saying itself speak to growing old and growing old well.

Gúnugún kìí kú léwe, kí ẹ dàgbà kì ẹ dogbó, kí ẹ fi gbogbo ara hewú bíi ti ́́ Ẹfun. The vulture never dies in youth, may you grow old and wizened, growing grey hairs all over your body like the beaded crown of the Alaafin of Oyo.

The monarch of the Oyo kingdom in Yorubaland is known as the Aláàfin, meaning the owner of the palace. He wears the rare ́́ Ẹfun crown which according to tradition is first worn at least 10 years after coronation. It was made centuries ago. The colourfully decorated white crown has a veil of white strings looking like braids of hair, hence, the simile of grey hairs and the ́́ Ẹfun. Click on the link for the pronunciation of ́́ Ẹfun.

The ́́ Ẹfun crown courtesy of NairaLand.

The whole saying reads like a prayerful incantation for long life and between these boys and lifelong friends, it seems to have been fulfilled.

Back to their story

Their lives more or less ran in parallel similarities, both went into the same profession of accountancy, whilst debatable, they were lotharios and Casanovas at one, they took second wives and started second families, built homestead houses literally opposite each other in our village. The comings and goings of one were always known by the other. The children are good and tight friends even if we live in far-flung places.

He was a jovial, affable, humorous man who anytime he saw me called me by the nickname Akinse, Akinse, and the last time we chatted on the phone he wondered why I hadn’t visited after all this while. That is another story. I do recall that my stepmother also pressed me about visiting Nigeria for years, it was left an unfulfilled promise that the vicissitudes of the times has put out of reach. She passed on just over two weeks ago.

He was my father’s best friend from childhood, and I know he will be sorely missed by many, including his children. Adieu! Otunba Ogunjimi Taiwo, may your gentle soul rest in peace. The vulture did die at a great number of years in his 80s. A life to be remembered, celebrated and honoured.

In gratitude, I acknowledge the help of @KolaTubosun & @Bishopade who on Twitter helped me find the meaning and use of ́́ Ẹfun.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Thought Picnic: Nothing consumes agency like jealousy

Standing up for me

In was in Sunday School that a characteristic of my personality changed, on New Year’s Day 1980, whilst attending a church service I witnessed too many events of the superintendents and teachers physically abusing attendees. We were in church, the children separated from the adults and under the charge of people who abused the honour and responsibility of helping bring up the child in the ways of the Lord, it grieved me. I resolved; I will not condone such abuse on my person.

However, from those Sunday School stories, we risk viewing what we learnt then as a single story. The Garden of Eden as the fall of man, the judgement on Cain for being a murderer, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as the condemnation of homosexuality, the list goes on, a reductive assessment of deeper human experiences that can never have just one perspective and if we dare, there will always be new perspectives.

Other perspectives to the common

I am not a strict creationist, I believe there is much that is figurative, metaphoric or allegorical in the Bible before it is literal. Setting, context, import, intent, moral, tradition, culture, language are many variables that influence the understanding and the interpretation of these stories, they should be brought to bear and I can assure you, I am no expert in hermeneutics.

I could return to the Garden of Eden and view the situation not so much about Adam and Eve, but contest for attention between God and Lucifer. As Lucifer was kicked out of heaven when he wanted to claim the place of God as pride consumed him with a passion. The relationship that the new creations of Adam and Eve had with God was so sublime, the kind of personality Lucifer was would indeed interfere. They were warned but got suborned and the result in antiquity is the fall of man.

In the practice or in the mind

Moving on, when apparently God was happy with Abel’s sacrifices but displeased with Cain’s, there is a whole unknown backstory as to how anyone knew to sacrifice and or to do it right. Either way, Cain could have humbly asked Abel what he was doing right and learnt to make the adjustments to his own sacrifices either in the activity or the mindfulness at doing it.

But no, he took umbrage and though he was warned it might get the better of him, it eventually did and so, Cain smote and killed his brother Abel because Abel was a better man than him.

In the case of Lucifer and Cain, one thing comes to mind, it is a demonstration of jealousy and jealousy is not a single thing, but a multifaceted negative virtue of our humanity that lends itself to bringing out the worst in us.

Jealousy is a dangerous thing

Jealousy generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety. Jealousy can consist of one or more emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness or disgust. [Wikipedia: Jealousy]

Wikipedia has extensive texts on the topic because it relates quite closely to human relationships, how they are forged and how they break down. How feelings and emotions in one might regulate, indicate, obfuscate or even excoriate views of another and entirely at no fault of the other. For instance, Abel did nothing wrong, but because Cain could not stand what he was doing right, he lost his life.

The Wikipedia article goes on to contrast jealousy with envy whilst agreeing that modern usage tends to conflate the two as synonyms.

The common experience of jealousy for many people may involve:

  • Fear of loss
  • Suspicion of or anger about a perceived betrayal
  • Low self-esteem and sadness over perceived loss
  • Uncertainty and loneliness
  • Fear of losing an important person to another
  • Distrust

The experience of envy involves:

  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Longing
  • Resentment of circumstances
  • Ill will towards envied person often accompanied by guilt about these feelings
  • Motivation to improve
  • Desire to possess the attractive rival's qualities
  • Disapproval of feelings
  • Sadness towards other's accomplishments

When we act on it

I guess what scares me most about jealousy is when people act on it and there is no telling what the confluence of events and triggers might be with drastic consequences. Irrational fear, unwarranted suspicion, projected distrust, the list of negative feelings is endless.

In 1967, Joe Orton was bludgeoned to death by his partner Keith Halliwell, Joe was a successful playwright, author and diarist, Keith was not particularly so. He could, on the one hand, have celebrated, appreciated and supported Joe, they had been in a turbulent relationship since 1951. However, when Joe was considering breaking up with Keith, what resulted was a murder-suicide.

Yesterday, and the seed inspiration for this blog, a brother shared memorable images of his sister who had been murdered in 2015 with a meat cleaver by her jealous husband. It was so gruesome that the lady was unrecognisable after the deed. Jealousy can give vent to unparalleled wickedness and dangerously so. [The World News: Brother shares heart-breaking image of his sister]

Arresting the feeling

This is not to suggest one is perfect, there are times these emotions come to the fore, but what matters more is how much leeway you give these emotions to fester. I would soon believe the best of people than distrust them and if I cannot trust them, I hope not to hold it against them but make allowances for the human condition both on my part and theirs.

There is a likelihood I could have been more successful, but it does not matter, I have been blessed in ways that make me thankful and grateful for what I have and what I have achieved. To those who have done much better than I from the same starting point or ahead of me, good for them and I will congratulate them and urge them on. It redounds to the prosperity of all.

I have learnt to appreciate, acknowledge, and praise, take into consideration, be respectful, be courteous, and treat people with dignity. Seeing the good in others far and above their faults closes the avenues to jealousy. I suppose having a good sense of worth, some self-esteem, self-respect, confidence, and the wiliness to improve oneself regardless of who or where you are learning from helps a lot.

I hope I can handle any situation that appeals to my basest instinct but reveals the higher moral purpose in me, that I exhibit from the heart exemplary virtues towards being a better person to everyone. We always can do better and by that get to tell better stories.

Humbled by one's failings

Quick to the bad draw

You cannot be in the 33rd year of a career without having stories to tell, not so much of your genius but more of your stupidity. I guess my first booboo was when I was a computer technician with an outfit called IT Systems. We had a few computer maintenance contracts with some big firms like International Merchant Bank, Arthur Andersen when it still existed and Elf Nigeria, the oil company amongst others.

It was early in 1989, I was out on a maintenance run at Elf Nigeria when I used a disk that was supposed to do a disk drive head clean, the disk was given to me by a friend working in a desktop publishing outfit and we lived together, it just looked like an efficient tool for the job besides getting the dust off the innards of the computer case.

These foolish things we do

That disk introduced the Ping-Pong virus into Elf Nigeria and with it, all their computers became unusable with a green dot bouncing off the sides of the computer screen, it was not long before the fingers were pointed in my direction and a crack team spent the weekend reformatting and restoring data, I did not get sacked.

That was when we acquired our first antivirus solution and became the go-to company to fix such issues around Lagos. However, I guess there was no retribution for my foolishness at first we didn’t know anything about computer viruses, it was an honest mistake and like everyone else, someone had done something foolish before and recognised that this kind of thing happens.

Humbled by knowing me

Maybe also, they just liked me and that helps, having an affable, friendly, and approachable personality with a good working relationship with your colleagues means you do not get thrown under the bus at the first sign of problems. I can attest to many other mistakes I have made at work that would make me cringe at the thought of what was wrought by my hands.

So, I could understand when a colleague thought I had shopped him for having done something in error, tried to amend it, but the damage had been done. The evidence was there if you knew how to find it, and I did. As it was a puzzle put to the team the source of the problem had to be revealed to the team. I forewarned him of the situation before making the public revelation.

In the interest of kindred spirits, I spoke of some of the things I would rather forget that I did at work. I have known understanding, consideration, and dare I say, mercy from managers who could just terminate my contract there and then. Recognising that keeps us humble and helps us remember we are only human, striving for perfection and sometimes falling short. We live to learn and hopefully do better next time.

Monday, 9 November 2020

It’s walking and it’s walking - V

Breaking to press on

As I informed of yesterday, I did not go out for my walk on Sunday and that became a break, in the streak of walking at least 10,000 steps daily from the 30th of July. I guess I was demotivated by not getting an acknowledgement of my 100-day day streak which should have arrived on the 6th or at worst the 7th.

This morning, I was out of the door at 6:05 AM and I slightly varied my route because the daylight had not arrived over 4 kilometres into my walk. I was a bit concerned that for my slow pace that 9’24” per kilometre, my heart rate was in the extreme region where the maximum heart rate for my age should be 166 beats per minute (bpm).

A heart in a race

Of the 1:49:55 hours I took to complete 11.69 kilometres, 82 minutes were above 149 bpm and peaking at 184 bpm with the final 27 minutes falling to the anaerobic and aerobic heart rate stages. I put it down to my apparent lack of sleep overnight where I barely go 3 hours in.

I then began to gather the evidence to make a complaint to Huawei about the discrepancies in the walking records of the last week of November, that aggregated the tally but was only showing in one day as the average for the week, rather than discretely tabulating the steps for each day.

Proof, I did it

As I clicked on the chat button, there was a popup on my phone, the achievement medal I was waiting for, was delivered, and it indicated I had completed my feat today when it should have been on Friday. I guess that they have confused the date of attaining the achievement with the date of the granting the award because my streak was broken yesterday.

However, I am not complaining that much, the medal has arrived and the next goal that will take a while is the medal for completing 10 million steps. I wonder if I will have any legs left by then. Getting an achievement boosts encouragement and helps one unto higher goals. I hope to be back with more evidence of, It’s walking and it’s walking.

Blog- It's walking and it's working

Blog- It's walking and it's working - II

Blog- It's walking and it's working - III

Blog- It's walking and it's working - IV


Sunday, 8 November 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XX

No meeting at church on Sunday

When we went into what is now termed Lockdown 2 nationally on Thursday, I regretted that the main social gathering of attending church that we began under limited and COVID-19 aware circumstances on the 5th of July will be stopped.

Apart from that, not much will change from my routine, the daily walks, the shopping for household essentials and the living at work would still follow the same order of things. The ban on travel is a moot point as South Africa that I want to visit still has the UK on the high-risk country list. It is my hope that by December, the opportunity will come to travel and meet up with Brian for Christmas.

The people we meet each day

As I stepped out on Thursday morning, I noticed that the local gym that opens at 6:00 AM was closed with closure notices posted on the door. It felt weird, though further down on my route, two lovers were sat on a bench in amorous embrace, that early. You can’t put a schedule on love, I thought.

Getting to the first park, I met up with the lady who takes her dog on a walk in a perambulator, she chunters to the dog which I think is old and infirm shaking a rattle at it. In the other park, the old lady with her usually one and sometimes two companions exchange pleasant greetings as she feeds the birds. The lady in a hijab I have not seen in weeks and the young man who sprints like a gazelle never acknowledges anyone.

Some open some closed

On the home straight, I was surprised to see that the two Starbuck’s cafés open whilst the Nero coffee shops were closed. I guess what surprised me more was the outdoor gym by the River Irwell was taped over whilst the children’s play area in Peel Park was available with children on the swings.

The roads do not look deserted, just as many cars seem to be plying the roads, indicating people are still going about their business. Many of the restaurant with outdoor seating have kept their seating arrangement stacked indoors as they have transitioned to mainly takeaway and delivery services.

Whilst I am not entirely convinced that Lockdown 2 will yield the benefit of getting the Coronavirus under control in England, it is my hope that enough time would have given policymakers ideas on how to rejig their restrictions to travel and commerce to allow some modified return to normalcy. Meanwhile, we cope and thrive in this lockdown with much consideration to our mental health and wellbeing whilst looking towards possibilities borne of imaginative solutions and human ingenuity.


It's walking and it's working - IV

An app in a tizzy

I am a bit crestfallen but not discouraged. On Friday, the 6th of November, I should have completed a 100-day streak of at least 10,000 steps daily which started on the 30th of July. My Huawei Health app should have unveiled the medal of achievement for that feat, it did not.

On further scrutiny of the situation, it seems there were was a glitch in the app that messed up the statistics for the week commencing the 25th of October, the weekly report is not tabulating the daily counts from the 26th for that week, though the daily view evidently shows I completed each threshold comfortably.

When looking at the monthly report, it is the 26th of October that is missing, and it might require working with the Huawei support teams to fix this. So far, I can report that at the end of the 6th of November, I had walked 1,922,073 steps.

It still works beautifully

I probably will not go out for a walk today, I have been trying to catch up on some lost sleep, the last week was fraught. My average night’s sleep for the week was 4 hours and 29 minutes, just not nearly enough.

On the walking front, there is progress, I have not been able to shift my weight much below 80 kilogrammes, it would probably be stuck around that number. My waist size is reduced that I can fit in shorts that I had forsaken months ago and generally, I feel fit, but for the niggling insomnia that commands some interest, concern, and attention.

On the whole, I can still attest to the fact that it is walking and it is working, I do not have to lift weights, run, jog, or perform any other exercises. It is likely I might have to do some abdominal exercises to firm up my stomach, but the distinctive paunch from earlier in the year is gone. Much as I see many jogging on my early morning walks, I have found the routine and regime that works for me and I will continue with it.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Thought Picnic: Patience is a place of calm

Process is patient

We learn the work of patience as a continuous experience in life. There are things that need to begin, grow, and mature, they require a timeframe that in our knowledge will allow us to reap the best harvest of a situation.

You want fruits to grow to a size and ripen, you’ll be suspicious of fruit that instantly grows like air being blown into a balloon and ripens like flicking the switch of a lightbulb. Yes, there are people with a snake-oil remedy disposition that would love to pass off fruit like that in the market for a quick buck. They will do so and disappear.

Destination travels patient

Those who intend to return to the market time and again, will let patience do its work because it builds reputation, shows character, reveals integrity and espouses humanity, because they do unto others what they expect others to do unto them. They are in their souls, the good neighbour, the Good Samaritan, the people of whom we learn by example, who we can trust with the reins of power to do right.

We must be patient, because no matter how fast you are going, you will not be going beyond your destination and those caught in the slow lane will eventually get there. We should just be wary of those who have no destination, wandering in the wilderness with a path or direction who might soon wander into the path of predators to be consumed.

Preparation grows patience

Patience is a virtue we can so easily run out of, yet, it gives a different sense of calm when you know that what is coming will come because things are in motion by reason of activities in place to make it happen. It is borne in quiet contemplation away from the noise of the madding crowds and the maddening situations.

Give patience its place and anxiety will have no hold. It is taking so long to reach the decision, what we no more fear is regardless of how long drawn out it becomes, the general idea of what is expected will take its incontrovertible and tangible form that no realities from alternate universes can dispute.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

He shall preserve my soul, even forevermore

A sleepy escape from evil

A few days ago, I woke up from a nightmare, like I was nudged out of slumber into wakefulness to spare me. So vivid was the dream that as I collected my thoughts about what had transpired in my subconscious, I was shedding tears, like everything in my being had come to help me manage the stress of my ordeal.

Brian in his wisdom arrested my irrationality before I did something stupid with the thoughts crowding my sense of sanity and proportion. He said, ‘Last week, you went through some challenging days causing some stress and hopefully, the brain is just filing away all that.’ There could not have been a better assessment of the situation along with the other things that bothered me.

He obviously has witnessed nights of my disturbed sleep from my talking in my sleep, to acting out and apparently kicking him in bed too. I’m mortified. Anyway, it was a lot to process and I tried to tackle it from all perspectives I could muster, as it all played out like a deliverance from adversity.

He keeps me safe

As I was writing down the parts of the dream I could remember, recurrent thought like some inspiration interrupted my flow. It was in Yoruba that I translated to English and searched for on the Internet.

It happened to be Psalm 121:4 “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” However, reading the whole Psalm put it into context. My help comes from the Lord in all situations and circumstances. [Bible Gateway – Psalm 121 (KJV)]

I cannot remember when last I read this Psalm if I ever had to recite over water to drink or bathe with, a well-practised ritual of my childhood by reason of the African-Initiated Christian denominations my mother has an affinity to.

He preserves my soul

For the last two nights, I had decided to sign myself off the news cycle because of the US elections, I first thought of playing back my classical music collection but ended up playing Amy Grant on Amazon Music before clicking on a playlist of gospel music.

One track was unmistakably Psalm 121, Jacquelyn Gouche-Farris had taken inspiration from the Psalm to write My Help which has been performed by many notable artistes backed by choirs. I am taking the time to learn the words of the song to hum and sing on my walks. For the times, this is one to give you a sense of peace, comfort, and assurance. [Genius Lyrics: My Help][Amazon Music: My Help]

The Psalmist says, “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”

The singer gets to the point without beating about the bush, “He shall preserve thy soul, even forevermore.” Then take all the pronouns and personalise them in the first person. What better prayer is there when you can confidently say? “He shall preserve my soul, even forevermore.”

[YouTube: My Help (Better sound quality)]

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Dreamscape: A Psalm of the stirred and troubled

 We are guarded by greater than you know

Take me to see what you were shown,
Tell me of the journey to that place,
For out of a dark hole that opened like a mouth,
He was pulled back out by the underarms,
In the uncovering of an act so unnatural,
Ere Abraham found the ram in the thicket,
Abraham was old and will not bury Isaac,
The hole that opened is closed from all sight,
The prayers of the congregations were strong,
For they prevailed upon the unholy sacrifice,
Averting the abomination of patriarchs,
Who are given to the rituals of the cursed.

That to which he was a witness in a dream,
Was made manifest as light shone on his deeds,
In it, he will not prosper or even survive,
The tree is one generation to raise new seed,
Come away from the place he was urged,
His shoulders rapped to bring him round,
As he woke his eyes were filled with tears,
Marvelling at the machinations of forebears,
We will not strive over things that do not last,
Not at this time or in a distant time to come.

He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,
It is by him that we are lifted from the pyre,
Even by the son of man who became the fourth,
After the heat is seven times strengthened,
By hand and foot and terror in their faces,
Their ashes not found dispersed in the wind,
What shall become the story told of them?
The past that attempts to consume the future,
Itself shall not be remembered or spoken,
Their hands were red and so involved,
The blood of the innocent now for justice calls.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Jabbing a finger at the idiots of Downing Street

Any wonder he won?

When Boris Johnson won the general election in December 2019 on the promise codified in the “Get Brexit Done”, he must have thought he had won the lottery along with the immunity that gives power the impunity to do anything with an 80-seat majority.

With much regret, we grudgingly congratulated him and wished him well as we licked our wounds for the second time of voting for the sadly unelectable Jeremy Corbyn.

We broke for Christmas and ushered in the New Year then left the EU for a transition period on the 31st of January, just as a menace brewing in China leading to radical measures was growing global tentacles. An epidemic evolving into a global pandemic was about to unleash itself on mankind, but Boris Johnson could not be bothered.

As an island nation bewitched by the populist sweet-talk of taking back control of our laws, our sovereignty and our borders, you began to realise it was all empty talk because none of that was done as the coronavirus cut a swathe through northern Italy and we saw the restrictions being deployed in China and South Korea, but scratch all that.

As if life really mattered

The UK now stands 5th with 46,853 reported deaths from COVID-19 for the simple reason that in acquiring power the government of Boris Johnson seemed to have forgotten that it comes with great responsibility, the responsibility for lives. I believe that was his mind when on the 12th of March, he said to the nation, “I must level with you, level with the British public, more families, and many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” [Source: COVID19LIVE.Info]

Blog - Thought Picnic: The vulnerable to be martyred to the Coronavirus in the UK

Whether he is ready to admit it or not, the government has still not found the way to grapple with this pandemic, as they were advised on the 21st of September to put the whole nation in lockdown but he has prevaricated and delayed with hubristic inertia, indecisiveness, and absence of resolve that we are now to go into a 4-week lockdown that does not portend an end to the crisis.

Failing on all counts

This pandemic thrives on crowds, close contact, and closed spaces, to tackle it, we need not just capacity for testing, but a prompt turnover of the testing results that feeds back into a tracking and tracing system, none of which are working despite the billions of pounds shovelled off to friends of the powerful.

We are at this point because despite all that is obvious around the world and in the territories of our neighbours, as Sir Keir Starmer with forceful conviction, “They failed to learn. They failed to listen. And they failed to lead. The result is tragic – but all too predictable.” [The London Economic: Sunak’s ‘name is all over’ delaying lockdown claims Starmer saying ‘result is tragic’]

They have consistently failed to learn time and time again, as populists, they will only listen to convenience and have to be railroaded by circumstances to take tough decisions late, much like shutting the stable door after the horses have bolted and rather than lead, they have had to follow disaster, defeat, death, when they should have prevented it.

If only leadership were just about Brexit and populist postulations, however, it cannot always be an easy ride, for when it is called upon by situation or circumstance, those in power must have the capacity and the ability to meet the challenge, or lives will be lost. We have not had this kind of loss of British lives, not since we were in WWII. Ineptitude has been compounded with unbelievable incompetence never seen in Whitehall or Downing Street, this is going to the record books.

Blog - Opinion: Of our PM, cometh the hour, cometh no man

Can anything rid us of the grip of this unconscionable kakistocracy? I’m afraid, this blog offers nothing more than a review of Boris Johnson’s unimaginative, talentless, gormless, ill-fitting cabinet of discarded woodwork. We’ll do some thinking elsewhere.



The high tides of River Irwell

Just walking along

I generally take a standard route for my walks with some subtle variations to the path whilst not wandering off to give me something from 9 kilometres to 12 kilometres of brisk walking exercise in the morning. How I set off usually determines how well I perform, though I am sometimes shocked that there are times I have spent over 11 minutes to a kilometre when I have once managed under 6 minutes.

What gives me the most pleasure is getting 7 kilometres done in under 60 minutes, it means I should average 8 minutes 30 seconds to the kilometre. Usually, if I get 5 kilometres into 41 minutes, I know I can do it.

Not slow, big flow

One fascinating feature of my walks is the River Irwell that meanders through the City of Manchester and the City of Salford, serving as the boundary between them. I will cross the river about 6 or 7 times and up to 5 kilometres can be walking beside the river.

The river course of River Irwell
The river course of River Irwell - Wikipedia

I now have an eye for the currents of the river, the sedentary and fast flows, the latter which I noticed today and by the time I reached the bridge crossing into Peel Park, the river was the fullest I had ever seen it. Apparently, the river from the flood gauge can measure from 0.78m to 3.00m, the highest was 5.67m on the 26th of December 2015, it was even much higher during a flood in Victorian times. In 1866, the river rose 14 feet (4.3m) above its normal levels.

Today, the embarkment towpath of the river was completely covered with water apart from the slipway, it was a murky brown flow and the tide was at 2.495m when I arrived at Peel Park and still rising to a peak of 2.733m at 9:30 AM. [Flood Information Service: River Irwell]

Tidal readings of River Irwell this morning.

If I had wings

The quiet feel of nature before the cities rise is calming and except for the kilometre indicators from my phone, I stopped listening to music or wearing earphones. The birds of River Irwell are a spectacle, sometimes, I have to walk through lots of guano. They never go hungry as there are people who have weaned the birds and ducks on a diet of bread.

Our local birdwatchers have sighted sand martins, blackbirds, Canada geese, great tits, wood pigeons, carrion crows, jackdaws, little grebe, starlings and much else. If only I could tell one bird from another apart from their generic names. [All bird references courtesy of The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)]

River Irwell at Peel Park this morning. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Thought Picnic: Welcome November

A month of strain

Arriving in November with a bit of dogged insomnia, I literally spent the hours of reluctant wakefulness thinking about the month that had just passed. If I did not have a memory or a penchant for dates, seasons, and anniversaries, it probably would not have mattered.

For a long time, October was mainly a month of many celebrations, first of births of at least 10 in family and relations, then a wedding anniversary and four years ago added a death that doubled in the past week.

Not that I want to attach anything to a month, for time is more a structure for the reckoning of humanity that exists in a framework of unfathomable eternal past and future, the present being a sliding indicator on the scale of our limitless universe.

Significance in insignificance

The vastness beyond our world where the light of stars probably extinct long ago still appears to us in expanses of lightyears is just awesome. We are both significant here and almost insignificant as we attempt to chart galaxies we can only imagine exist but can’t reach limited by the knowledge and expertise we deploy in that research.

We lay our footprints in the sands of time and in the memories of how the relationships we forged are remembered for good or for bad. Yet, we only have the present with us as we progress into a future near and far with the hope that whatever becomes our stories are evidenced in having made the telling of them better. Welcome to November 2020 and the wonder it holds.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Cherishing love and the person who gives it

Love is the reason

I know in my heart of hearts that if I did not have the love of Brian and despite the difficulties presented by the distance between us and the restrictions by reason of how the pandemic has ravaged my country through government ineptitude, I would have lost mental competence.

This is what keeps me going, hopeful, and expectant. We talk, supporting and encouraging each other. I have many close friends, but there is something more that comes from someone you love. That something in love, in concern, in comforting words, the sound of his voice, the sight of his radiant smiles, makes a whole lot of difference.

Love is the purpose

We live in the hope that soon this whole situation will blow over, or considerations will be better calibrated for those who have had to put many critically important things in relationship on hold, out of necessity.

We could never have anticipated that when we kissed goodbye in Johannesburg in mid-January we would not have met again for at least three between then and now. Maybe by Christmas, we’ll be together again. I cherish the love I have, the man I share it with and the beauty of knowing that it all makes sense with him in the picture, in my thoughts and in my life. Thank you!