Monday, 6 April 2020

Opinion: Apportioning the responsibility for a mishandled pandemic


A mishandled pandemic
Through several news stories, one begins to see the fundamental issues with how the Coronavirus pandemic has been handled by certain governments and how the infection and death rates have been reflected as a matter of consequence.
This especially with the admission of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to hospital last night for further tests having not shaken off the symptoms he acquired 10 days before. The real condition of the Prime Minister is subject to conjecture but generally immaterial. My comment on that matter is that all the best of my humanity wishes him well, yet there is nothing of his principles, his virtues, or his policies regarding the pandemic that persuades me to feel more that way. [BBC News]
Our sympathy towards a situation of human frailty should not automatically confer absolution from culpability and responsibility for the way the UK government has failed to grapple competently with this pandemic in scaling up tests to determine who is infected, in providing protective equipment to NHS staff, some of whom have unfortunately succumbed to the COVID-19 virus and in acquiring sufficient treatment facilities as ventilators.
Michael Gove confirms death of seven NHS workers fighting coronavirus [Evening Standard]
Indecision cost too many lives
A study puts the mean duration from the onset of symptoms to death at 17.8 days, the range being between 16.9 to 19.2 days. Whereas, from the onset of symptoms to hospital discharge with the patient having been through the worst of the disease to recovery is 24.7 days with a range of 22.9 to 28.1 days. [Estimates of the severity of coronavirus disease 2019: a model-based analysis - The Lancet]
The UK was finally asked to lock down on the 23rd of March 2020, that is 14 days ago, going by the data capture today at COVID19Info.live, 4,948 people have lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus, people who otherwise might well be alive if this virus had not complicated their underlying conditions and sped them to their demise.

These are the people who inadvertently took it on the chin as Boris Johnson suggested we should in early March and were knocked out. The loved ones who we have lost before their time.
People make up these numbers
That would imply the 625 people who have died in the full day of yesterday, the 5th of April were infected somewhere between the 17th of March and the 20th of March, by inference, if the UK government had acted a week earlier on the 16th of March, there is a likelihood for each day from the 31st of March, 3,529 lives might have been saved. The UK breached the 100 mark on the 26th of March with 115 deaths. [COVID19Info.live]
This could link up with the well-attended Cheltenham Festival that ran from the 10th to the 13th of March and the Liverpool FC match with Athletico Madrid with visitors from Spain on the 11th of March.
This is information we cannot ignore because too many individuals, people with names who through unfortunate happenstance died lonely deaths in hospital and had no immediate family at their funeral ceremonies.
Stripping off our human dignity
In the story of two COVID-19 victims, Pastor Landon Spradlin, 66, was survived by his wife and four daughters, an entertainer and evangelist, he was recently attended at the Mardi Gras, yet when he died there were two guests at his funeral and none of his immediate family. Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, 13, himself had parents and siblings, none of whom were at his graveside, he was buried by strangers. [BBC News] [ITV News]
The Coronavirus, in life and in death dehumanises us and strips us of all human dignity that decisions are being taken for reasons that do not essential protect life and more towards rationing treatment and intervention depending on assessments of viability determined almost unilaterally by GPs as seen in letters informing the aged and extremely vulnerable of decision not to attempt resuscitation if they should fall ill.
We were adequately forewarned
The argument of the benefit of hindsight is moot as we all had the warning signs from China, the extreme measures taken were indicators and as it swept into South Korea and then Italy, our government was not oblivious, just unpersuaded and caught flat-footed. Including in the US, we had almost a 2-month lead time and it was squandered valuing the economy over human life and the atrociously untested policy of herd immunity with a vaccine does not exist for a virus we know little about.
The lockdown has its usefulness, but the emphasis should be on social distancing rather than on people filling up parks. This considering many might just live in apartments without outer spaces as balconies or gardens. Obviously, going out should not be for the leisure of it, but for essential activity.
The responsibility is with the government
What would save the NHS the most is the social distancing and the equipping of the NHS staff with protective kit, the widespread deployment of testing and kitting intensive care units with ventilators to manage respiratory distress. There is enough space for us to keep our distance of 2 metres and maybe more, but I see a surreptitious ploy to deflect attention from where the problem really is, the incompetence, the ineptitude and the lethargy of Boris Johnson’s government.
We should not be inured into just seeing the numbers with recognising that the statistics are made up of individuals, people like you and I, over 4,000 families grieving the loss of loved ones over and above the nominal death rate, in the space of a month. That is why I cannot absolve my government from this somewhat avoidable human tragedy.


Sunday, 5 April 2020

Suffocated by ultracrepidarians


The wisdom of madding crowds
Never have we needed a surfeit of expertise in these trying times, people who have not just an idea of what they are talking about, but are ready, willing and patient enough to take the time to inform and educate to the point that others begin to understand and grasp the basic knowledge of things.
It’s been difficult to navigate the deafening cacophony of those in captivity of the Dunning-Kruger effect, those who have not even conspired to dilettantism that enter the fray to pontificate and postulate as authorities in subjects where they have no schooling but are so opinionated to the point that experts are relegated to the inconsequential or forced into the feigned balance of pitching their vocations against novices. Ultracrepidarianism is rife.
Conspiring conspiracies
With the Coronavirus pandemic, the person we probably need most to shut is President Donald Trump, he needs to get out of the way and let the experts take control. He speaks like an idiot, spewing a multitude of jumbled words redolent of someone who has done nothing in a long time to improve his faculties. [Jolted by Her Own Illness, Pandemics Scholar Gains Insight into Botched COVID-19 Response - Scientific American]
Excerpted from Scientific American
Hitching a ride on the Coronavirus bandwagon, 5G technology has now branched out into a deluge of conspiracy theories promoted by every useful idiot from religious leaders through politicians to celebrities.

I cannot begin to repeat or perpetuate much of what I have read or heard, only that the ignorant and illiterate have become willing hosts of propagating the contagion of pseudo-science, fables and incredulous stupidity with property at risk of destruction and possible loss of life and livelihood. They have become the personification of a virus. [The Coronavirus Collection: Conspiracy Theories – Snopes] [5G Conspiracy – Snopes]
The church online
I guess the only respite I had was in the celebration of Palm Sunday, we have reached the end of Lenten season and entered the Holy Week. Quite inauspiciously, we have now completed 2 weeks of the intended 3-week lockdown to expire on Easter Monday. There is a likelihood it would be extended. [Palm Sunday - Wikipedia]
The etymology of quarantine is Venetian of the 14th to 15th Century spoken in the northeast of present-day Italy, quarantena meaning 40 days anglicised to quarantine of which the Lenten period is also 40 days. [Quarantine – Wikipedia]
Yet, what a relief it was that I would able to attend the online Palm Sunday eucharistic season of the Manchester Cathedral, streamed life on Facebook from the homes of the clergy presided over by the Dean of the cathedral. There is a daily morning (09:00) and evening (16:30) prayer service streamed live too. [Manchester Cathedral – Facebook]
Experts of mercy
In a week suffused with the excess of illusory superiority, hubris, and cognitive dissonance almost presenting as schizophrenia, here were people not given to the eschatological incomprehensibility of those of another creed, but with humility, patience, service and love for their congregation led us in worship, adoration, and celebration of the day.
Was I glad to see so many clerical collars? We must be thankful for small mercies. In other news, I joined the Labour Party on the 19th of January, the day before the close of eligibility to elect a new leader. That contest is over, and Sir Keir Starmer was elected, my choice for deputy leader came second. It is my hope that the Labour Party that I have voted for since 1992 now has the opportunity of becoming a party of government after 4 straight electoral losses. I wish Sir Keir, every success. [BBC News]


Saturday, 4 April 2020

Hairy lends to hairless ends


Late growth spurt
My beau, just like the Jack Sprat of the nursery rhyme fame could not grow a beard, yet I like his wife just needed to leave it there, and so it grew wilder every day for 10 weeks. Grizzled and wizen, the highlights gained the kind of prominence of men of a certain age.
As I had written before, I dared to believe I would have no beard, I was in my late twenties when it began to show and having not shadowed my dad in grooming, I had no idea what to do with it apart from remembering he used Magic Fragrant Shaving Powder as a chemical depilatory and Old Spice as an aftershave.
The former didn’t work for me, I still came out in razor bumps and the latter was best left to that generation. After many experiments, I settled on the Gillette Fusion5 Razor that I have been using for over a decade. This became necessary when I began to show signs of male pattern baldness and decided it was best to shave both my head and face at the same time.
I can’t remember when 
Glee and plea
I rarely ever had more than a week’s growth before a shave because once that hair grew to a certain length, it became irritating. Now, my beau has this vision of a bearded and hirsute man, a younger Teddy Pendergrass figure, I could never imagine myself becoming, but I humoured him through the slight incapacity of illness to recovery, his excitement leaving quite bewildered.
Now, I had suggested ways in which he could acquire a beard, the stray threads under his chin never numbering more than 6 and that would have followed a hormonal surge of testosterone. Maybe he could graft it from elsewhere. Plastic surgeons can come up with interesting ideas if you want it bad enough.
Falling away to sticking there
When I underwent chemotherapy a decade ago, my consultant assured me that it was unlikely I would lose my hair, that was true, he, however, did not inform me that I would lose my fertility. Though in a life and death situation, you are probably thinking of surviving than procreating.
Then one morning, the moustache falling over my upper lip and stick up my nostrils was too much of a bother, the fine comb I used to groom the sideburns and beard seemed to up and leave for Bulawayo and I was left with no other option before my face became a Medusa of dreadlocks.
I produced a furball, not as a cat might, but good enough to roll up and put in the post with instructions to apply super glue and stick the ball as is directly on his chin. His wishes coming true out my selfless sacrifice of follicular hari-kari. Together, we would have switched faces.
Furball
For posterity sake, there is an evolution of hair, from when I can no more remember to what makes me feel a bit comfortable.
The Before

The Aftermath


Friday, 3 April 2020

Thought Picnic: Stop listening to those pandemic conspiracies


A marketplace of pandemic chimaeras
Yesterday, I had forwarded to me a WhatsApp message recording of a jumble of conspiracy theories that linked the Coronavirus, to China, to 5G telecommunications, to a new world order and the need to retain Donald Trump as the US President.
In these unsettling pandemic times, an environment of exploitation opens up for all sorts of activity, conspiracy theories are rife, peddlers of snake oil remedies makes even more outlandish claims, eschatologists reveal hair-raising visions of a precipitous end to the world, confidence tricksters engage to persuade you in a direction you’ll rather not go, you adopt new practices that contribute more to uneasiness, stress, and strain.
Tales from the crypt
Yet, what one needs is a sense of calmness and peace, the ability to relax without being overwhelmed by the terrifying news cycle, the worry about immediate issues, or the fear of an uncertain future.
The WhatsApp message was full of jumbled thoughts, bad science, stark ignorance, and too many fallacies to count. I had to upbraid my friend for not using his rational and logical thinking to consign the nonsense to inconsequential trash. Yet, to the unsophisticated, this appeals to their itching ears, it all sounds believable, it becomes their facts and it beclouds their outlook, heightening suspicion and diminishing trust.
The cult of mesmerised
When so persuaded, they expect you to be carried along with their winds of fantasy, if you resist, you risk losing the presumed respect they had for you. Having been deluded, it is almost like they have joined a cult of mesmerism and are behind a veil too thick and impervious to you being able to reason with them. They seek like minds with whom to reinforce their new insight.
In enough numbers, they can easily constitute a mob, like the arsonists who set a telecommunications tower alight in Birmingham having been implicitly instructed to go out and destroy the gathering of a menace ready to take away their view, status, standard and comforts in life. The sinister powers about to change the world into ways you cannot begin to countenance or accept. [Government slams 'baseless' conspiracy theory that 5G is linked to coronavirus – The Mirror]
They believe then commit
The words of Voltaire easily come to mind when these conspiracy theories gain traction, “They would can make you believe absurdities, will make you commit atrocities.” In times like this, one must be vigilant and sophisticated, be ready to debunk the absurd, question the assertions to the nth degree and do not let up without good answers. Mind what you believe that you will be convinced to commit.
Find incontrovertible sources, check the credentials of the purveyors, don’t be easily persuaded, read up on this not that well understood and don’t be unsettled by crazy fables that seek to capture and disable your rational mind.
Maybe it is best to give the new cycle a break, give little heed to the social media rumour mill and if you’re to be persuaded of anything, seek out the views of reputable experts, scientists, or professional. When a former director of public prosecutions said the teller at a car park thought COVID-19 was a global conspiracy, you could only resist the urge to laugh derisively, you might just muster a sense of pity too.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

#Coronavirus: Can commendable competence emerge from astonishing incompetence in the UK?


It’s damning incompetence all round
Every day appears to be overcast with a Coronavirus cloud, in the news, in our cities, in our limitations and expectations.
In the middle of this pandemic what is becoming obvious is the need for competence in government with the wherewithal to grapple with a complex and complicated issue that is presently impacting on lives in unprecedented ways. [The Irish Post - Virus crisis reveals Boris Johnson's astonishing incompetence]
It is literally impossible to deploy the kind of glib political spin that has been the stock in trade of the people who constitute our current UK government headed by Boris Johnson. People need answers to questions to which the usual obfuscation or verbosity with sophistry will not pass the muster. [Yahoo! News - Coronavirus: Two-thirds of Brits think the government has badly handled COVID-19 testing]
The numbers are real people
Today, the UK registered the 4th highest global death toll of 569 in the last 24 hours of people who succumbed to the COVID-19 virus bringing the 7th most deaths of 2,925 in a country that comes the 8th in the number of confirmed cases of 34,006. In the numbers and percentages game, there is a fatality rate of 8.6% and a recovery rate of 0.5% where China and South Korea have recovery rates of 93.7% and 58.4% respectively. [COVID19INFO.live]
Screen captured from https://covid19info.live/
To suggest that the management of the pandemic in the UK has been abysmal would almost be forgiving, look at the statistics as each an individual, each person named and their survivors accounted for constitutes probably in a majority of cases an avoidable tragedy visited upon UK residents and citizens by their own leaders.
Before we lose the context of what is happening in our country, we need to refresh our minds with what Boris Johnson said in early March.
Is death so insignificant to them?
“That’s where a lot of the debate has been and one of the theories is, that perhaps you could take it on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease, as it were, to move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures.”
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.
These are the people who when the Prime Minister allowed the COVID-19 to move through the population with taking draconian measures like the lockdown, took it on the chin and died before their time.
You can only wonder how many more will take it on the chin before the government really does come to grips with this pandemic by scaling up tests for the infected and all frontline staff acquires and distributes PPE to all that need it at the point of contact with the public, and ensure hospitals are adequately equipped with ventilators at the point of need.
I still hope for better
I want to believe that this government can rise to the occasion as they are the ones in charge with the responsibility for which they must ultimately be held accountable. Their need to be truthful, honest and scrupulous cannot be overstated or we would lose confidence in them. [Reuters - Under pressure, UK government promises 100,000 daily coronavirus tests]
People are dying daily and much as one can readily blame them for criminal carelessness and the recklessness that has unnecessarily endangered lives our of lethargy, inertia and unpreparedness, one would hope they are more aware of the gravity of the task ahead of them to find the means to excel beyond their heretofore cack-handed gross ineptitude. I wish them all the success and there can be no refuge in excuses anymore.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Chasing waterfalls of life


Delivered from drowning in waterfalls
From the song Waterfalls (Lyrics) by TLC comes the refrain.
Don't go chasing waterfalls,
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to,
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all,
But I think you're moving too fast.
[]
When I saw the lyrics beyond listening to the song, I did wonder about the many waterfalls I have chased and fallen over the edge into a ravine, breaking somethings and because I cannot swim, I would have probably drowned.
Then Prince reminds me with “Let's go down 2 the holy river, If we drown then we'll be delivered.” [The Holy River – Prince Vault]
If I will be delivered, I can afford to sail on rivers and lakes, even the open sea and oceans, if I did fall over a waterfall, I will see rise from what all assumed was death to live strong. There are too many examples of where three letters could have led me to my resting place.
The reckless and careless things that have looked to pitch milestones in my story are hammered out of sight for the billboards for triumph through adversity. Something to meditate on, on the rivers and lakes, I can go boating, kayaking, or canoeing, over waterfalls, I probably want to go hang-gliding than falling over the edge in the thundering roar of cascading waters.
I am grateful for life and opportunity that comes my way unexpectedly and that is the stuff of a storied life. A hope and fearlessness of whatever lays ahead including waterfalls will not be the end of the story.

Thought Picnic: From chills to thrills in health updates


Singing of life
There was a time I was in a church choir just before Christmas, my croaky voice landed within the baritone range with the likelihood that if I had voice training, I might well have improved the range without straining my voice box.
[]
For me today, I could either be singing ‘Good Christian men rejoice’ and ‘As with gladness men of old’, it is not Christmas, but I have had that state of mind. My Christian faith is a source and wellspring of hope and strength that I cannot relegate to insignificance. It gives me the ability to see beyond the inconvenient, the uncomfortable, the disturbing, and the difficult or seemingly impossible.
Banishing the anxiety
The muddled messages of the government about the extremely vulnerable needing shielding from the Coronavirus left me in a quandary that I was expecting a letter from the NHS informing me of my vulnerability and the need to stay indoors for 12 weeks. [GOV.UK]
Visiting the website today, I notice the cohort I belong to had been removed from the list, but that is not before I realised the full gravity of what the government was planning for those who are extremely vulnerable. In one of the worst expressions of an intention regarding the health outcomes, some people in Wales received letters that led one of the recipients to say, “It was like having my death warrant being sent by the grim reaper. It made me feel worthless.” [WalesOnline]
Asked to give up already
The intention, for the people with vulnerable conditions, if they did fall ill due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus or they had a deterioration in their health due to their underlying conditions to stay at home to be cared for by friends and family, not to call 999 for emergency services whilst agreeing not to be resuscitated if they stop breathing or their heart stops. The people were to grant prior absolution to medical professionals from following the Hippocratic Oath.
It is one thing to initiate discussion on your personal end of life care, it is another for your own GP to inform you that they will fill in a DNACPR (Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) form on your behalf because the state has decided the limited resources and personnel in a pandemic we were poorly prepared for makes you expendable.
Courtesy of WalesOnline [Link]

Reading the letter sent a chill down my spine, the prospect that if anyone falls gravely ill that no medical heroism would come to your aid, rather you’ll be left to expire. The thought that when I had the January, what could be cured with a few doses of antibiotics would have refused me until the bacterial infection presents sepsis resulting in agonising death does not bear thinking of.
From despair to great relief
This in my view is the culmination of the mendaciously, heartless and evil herd immunity madness that the UK government proffered on the 12th of March. Allow the vulnerable to be strafed by the Grim Reaper without respite, their martyrdom a glowing statistical sacrifice to the greater good of giving up their places in the health service to the presumably more deserving because they are younger, healthier and maybe still have more to contribute to society. Such is what makes cynics of a more caring humanity.
This morning the British HIV Association published an update, the first line was the summary and answer to many anxieties about vulnerability. “So far there is no evidence for a higher COVID-19 infection rate or different disease course in people living with HIV (PLWH) than in HIV-negative people.” [BHIVA]
Even better personal news
A few hours later, I got a call from the specialist nurse from my hospital, as my consultant had sent me a tweet that my scheduled appointment for the 3rd week of April will be by telephone rather than a visit to the hospital. We had a discussion regarding the results from my last visit in October, if there were any changes to my condition and how I was faring in my broader life.
One piece of information that would have determined where I was in the vulnerability spectrum was the CD4 count, it was the highest it had ever been from a nadir of 20 to over 400. For the past decade, it had struggled to stay in the 300s and now it had breached a somewhat magic figure. That made really happy and glad.
Obviously, that was because I have been religiously taking my medication which keeps the viral load undetectable, but I also think the beginning and growth of a romantic relationship has contributed in no small measure to my sense of wellbeing. I have my Brian with an I to thank for that. There is a life to live out there, a world of abundance to thrive in and love of inestimable value to appreciate, cherish, and enjoy.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Quarantined in my self-isolation


No fun in this
If I am to be honest, I am not enjoying the sequestration, quarantine, self-isolation, or social distancing rave of the moment as part of the scheme to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Much as I am a confessed hermit, I still like social interaction with other people and more on the physical than the virtual.
This social interaction is the equivalent of the grooming observed in a band of gorillas, we are all social beings. At least, I have not developed the ability to commune with inanimate objects and by that derive the benefits I would otherwise gain from seeing fellow human beings.
Obviously, I have to calm myself down and relax, there is another week and a half left of this matter and it could be extended. I would hate to think of what effect it would have on those of us who live alone at home or are used to social events that were so suddenly snatched away.
Sacred cows of our society
In our society, we lose objectivity when anyone suggests a cause is for charity, we are unquestioning and quite generous to charitable causes. You only have to watch the money mountain grow at nightlong television events like Sport Relief in the spring and Children in Need in the autumn, we have been had in a cult and many exploit it.
One other cult is our beloved and revered NHS, founded in 1948, we would not have anyone touch our National Health Service, yet, it has been raped, pillaged, starved through the decades, shedding many of its social underpinnings for the profit motive, but it is being called upon to fight this Coronavirus epidemic hobbled, restrained, underfunded, under-resourced, under-equipped and radically politicised.
A disservice to the NHS
It is not enough to throw money at the problem, someone should be solving the problem of throwing the NHS personnel in the middle of a pandemic without Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) against a virulent and highly contagious pathogen. Much as we applaud the NHS, we cannot justify sending them on a suicide mission for that is not what they signed up for.
They are there to save life and it only behoves the authorities to provide tests, protection and tools for them to perform excellently without having to be kamikaze heroes. Medical personnel are dying, many are gravely ill, and others are in isolation away from the battlefront where they are needed, because of failings in the system.
Exploiting our NHS love
To heap insult upon injury, NHS staff are being threatened with disciplinary action if they voice the dangers in their working environment, that is just unconscionably evil and whoever suggested that action should be booted out of the NHS forthwith.
On the message to the public, it was easy to attach the need for us to stay at home to the cult of the NHS. We are to stay at home to save the NHS, yet, the NHS staff are not given adequate protection and support to save themselves from ever-present danger at work and being vectors that take it to their homes. The government has been utterly derelict in their duty. Lest we forget it was used to drag us into the madness of Brexit that has consumed this country for 4 years.
If only we could see
I remembered reading books by Lobsang Rampa in my late teens which covered paranormal and occultic themes. In one of his narrations, he was in a physics class where electromagnetism was being demonstrated with iron filings used to visually show electromagnetic waves. He told the class he could see electromagnetic waves and he apparently went through a test of his assertion with him being able to tell when the waves were present or not.
Won’t it be wonderful to have that kind sight to see where the Coronavirus is, in the air and on surfaces and by that be able to navigate the world without interacting with it except when found in enclosed places with others or when someone expels droplets by sneezing or coughing?
Back to my feeling at the beginning of the blog, this self-isolation is having the effect that I want to further isolate and extricate myself, I feel I am losing the mental capacity to call up people and engage, I am tired.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Thought Picnic: In the days of useful ideas


Hour after hour
The days come and go, 24 hours ticking by with the concern whether much has been done or achieved. How minutes turn into hours as a perpetual movement of the ever-present that was the future in the last minute remains both the mundane and a mystery.
That passage of time is captured in the Today, the Thomas Carlyle poem that is also in the Anglican Hymnal, but I think I first heard it in primary school and that school in Bukuru, Jos was not religious at all. [Poetry Foundation - Today, Thomas Carlyle] [Hymnary – So here hath been dawning]
So here hath been dawning
Another blue Day:
Think wilt thou let it
Slip useless away.
Out of Eternity
This new Day is born;
Into Eternity,
At night, will return.
Behold it aforetime
No eye ever did:
So soon it forever
From all eyes is hid.
Here hath been dawning
Another blue Day:
Think wilt thou let it
Slip useless away.
Slipping out of done
That is my enduring fear, the many days that I probably, possible, inadvertently, deliberately, or lazily allowed to slip useless away, with no ability to redeem my time apart from working in the hope that the newly allotted day from eternity slips into the eternal past with a mark of achievement and the fulfilment of purpose.
In my frail and errant humanity, other weaknesses emerge, desires I should tamp down, ambitions I should aerate and allow to find the winds of inspiration and determination to execute. I have been thinking lately where ideas come from, the wellspring of thoughts that can be used to change things, make things, see things, do things, to the benefit of both myself and humanity.
Growing ideas
I have toyed with the idea of returning to school, I have learnt a lot in a structured environment as well as build new networks for connections, projects and friendships. I need to read more accessing diverse topics to broaden the spectrum of my ideas landscape. Maybe, I try too hard when I should ease myself into a comfortable use of my mind.
There are no easy answers, but one thing I know is my honeymoon with procrastination must end, my dalliance with good intentions that rarely proceeds beyond that is unhealthy, I need to regain the joy of adventure in learning and practice, I yearn for a daily record of the useful with the knowledge that next would be better. Somewhere in there is both the joy of living and the inerrant pursuit of happiness.



Sunday, 29 March 2020

Thought Picnic: The privilege of attending good schools


Catching a wish
As I leaf through my back catalogue of The Week news magazines many of which I have not read, but I have settled on February into March, the news stories are probably stale but the perspectives give an interesting insight into how people expected things to turn and how reality turned out.
For instance, in Issue 1266 of the 15th of February, the market view suggested, ‘“There’s a growing view in financial markets that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Kit Juckes of Société Générale on hopes that the coronavirus outbreak might be plateauing. Quoted in the Financial Times.’ With hindsight, that now appears to have been wishful thinking for on the 11th of March the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic. [WHO]
Summaries of the dead
There are many sections in The Week magazine, but this is not the blog for that topic, however, I read the full-page obituary of Issur Danielovitch, 103, whose life is definitely a story of note, it would go into my encyclopaedia of useless knowledge that comes in useful when making conversation with strangers somewhere. Yes, as your brow furrowed, that was the birth name of Kirk Douglas. [The New York Times – Subscriber access]
The next issue I picked up which I read part way through had two personalities in the Obituaries section, the first, Harry Gregg, OBE, 87, a former Manchester United goalkeeper who was a survivor and hero of the Munich air disaster where he rescued an infant and her pregnant mother as well as some of his teammates. [Guardian]
Yet, it is Wilfred De’Ath, 82, whose obituary had the most interesting story to tell as I read it. The heading read “Scrounger and vagrant who found fame through The Oldie.” It made me wonder what he could have done to deserve the exclusive real estate of a half-page reference in The Week magazine.
Good school plaudits
It got me thinking about why it was necessary to attend a very good school as part of the academic and life development. Whilst no knowledge is lost regardless of the school you attend, how the quality of school attended can set you up for life cannot be underestimated. For me, it would be my primary school education and then my postgraduate studies.
Now, The Week magazine touts itself as “The best of all media in one magazine”, it is an aggregator or rather, a curator of media from newspapers, magazines and journals from all around the globe for the week of publication, editing, abridging and excerpting articles, opinions, reviews, and schedules into a weekly magazine that I find a bit more informative than The Economist.
Wilfred De’Ath was of Huguenot and German descent, he attended Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet, ranked as one of the most academically successful secondary schools in England before going on to Oriel College, Oxford. He then became the youngest ever producer at the BBC, aged just 23, where he shared an office with the now Lord Melvyn Bragg. [The Oldie – Wilfred De’Ath columns] [The Oldie – 80th Birthday interview]
Going places
He worked with and interviewed many public figures, he was a well-connected man, moving in rarefied circles until a divorce and libel suit cost him his life savings. He chose to be a scrounger and vagrant, lived between England and France, stealing from church collection boxes and going to jail for leaving hotels without settling his bills. He appeared to enjoy the court appearances.
His apparent big break came when an Oxford contemporary offered him a column in The Oldie magazine that he was described as “a George Orwell for our times.” In the excerpted obituary, having set up home in Cambridge, he neither reformed nor repented, whilst still earning a reputation as a respected columnist.
Never belittle the small
This made me think about how many people we see dishevelled and unkempt who could have an interesting backstory, smart and intelligent that you’re left astounded if you engage them. In chatting to my mum a few days ago, I mentioned a neighbour from our ancestral village that no one had time for, the reviled Iya Soye, who at the break of dawn, was fully inebriated and staggering, always having an audible conversation with herself.
There were times I met and respectfully acknowledged her, we managed a conversation out of which were gems of wisdom and good sense, the lifelong lesson I took from those encounters was everyone has a story and you should expect to be surprised at what you might learn from people judged, stigmatised, castigated, or reviled.
Other school benefits
Then on the schools' side, some of the best friends we would ever make would be in school, whilst I do not retain close friendships from my secondary school, I am in regular contact with an acquaintance from primary school and my best friend is from my time in a polytechnic in 1984.
Furthermore, it is how the privilege of a good education which builds character moulded to your personality and your outlook to life to open doors before you by force of talent, association, opportunity, fortune, luck, or fate. He was not afraid to be reckless, the law did not scare him, he has well-written views, he knew himself and couldn’t care less what others thought about him.
Life is what you make it, with paths going in different and sometimes unpredictable ways. In the end, your obituary might just find someone writing a blog about things they learnt from how you lived.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - II


Emptied for a queue
As the world goes into lockdown, the menace of the invisible yet so significantly palpable holds sway in many communities fostering upon us an abnormality that can never be comfortable.
When I eventually got out of bed, I prepared myself with a shower and dressed up to get some essentials from my local supermarket. That walk to and fro would have to constitute all my exercise for the day.
The street was not busy, an eerie calm had settled on my neighbourhood apart from the cars on the main road and the double-decker buses that had just about 4 passengers in transit. At the supermarket, there was a queue, a strict orderliness of one going in only after one customer had left. I was 4th in line as we gave ourselves the 2-metre spacing standing in the chilling wind.
Shopping in vain
At a time, I began to wonder what everyone was shopping for, as quite a few shelves laid bare. My almost 20-minute wait ended with 2 customers coming out at the same time. I missed cornflakes on my last visit and they were still out. Potatoes too were not on the shelves; it might be sensible to visit earlier in the day.
I got the other things I required, checked them out the self-service counter left. My street, an artery that connects two railway stations in the centre of Manchester is nothing like it used to be. It shows that it is people and their activities that make up the heart and the soul of the city. Remove them and you have a ghost town.
Maybe Summer will be warmer
Though you could not ignore the many Deliveroo couriers, this would mean certain restaurants are providing takeaway food. I would think chefs, cooks and restauranteurs come under essential services, to cater to those who can’t cook. I did think of having a TV dinner, a fish pie that I wasn’t tempted to buy yesterday. Well, they had run out of that too.
I have not gone panic buying, but I have had to stock up on sparkling water, whole milk, and canned soups. It is good to have some choices of food at home. If I can get out of my lazy phase, I might get to cooking something substantial. I think that would be tomorrow.
This is one week down and at 2:00AM the clocks spring forward for British Summer Time, it means my lover would now be just an hour ahead of me rather than two. Gosh! I miss him but we are confident once this is over, we’ll be back together again, in the beautiful Cape Town.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Thought Picnic: Is Pharaoh Trump about to meet a COVID-19 Moses?


A Pharaoh in America
When I read that the approval rating of President Donald Trump had reached an all-time high because of his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, I marvelled at the collective amnesia of the people polled that were convinced of his command of the issue. [The Sydney Morning Herald]
As I gave it thought, another historical event came to my mind, at least I think some stories in the bible are historical and much as they can be revelatory, but this is not the place to debate it.
In the book of Exodus, the Israelites had been in Egypt for over four centuries and in the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II were deployed as slaves in the service of Egypt. Until Moses, the revolutionary was raised to seek their liberation with the demonstration of supernatural powers that are documented as plagues.
The delusion of approval ratings
There were 10 plagues inflicted on Egypt with increasing devastation until the Pharaoh relented. With each plague, the chronicler says God hardened the heart of the Pharaoh that he grew more defiant of Moses and his demands. I have always been puzzled about the part of the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. Then it dawned on me, for each plague, the Pharaoh would probably have addressed his subjects, given them resolve, confidence and hope that those plagues would pass. [The Plagues of Egypt – Wikipedia]
I think Egyptians would have heard their god-king and been satisfied with how he was handling the nuisance of Moses. The Pharaoh seeing the reaction of his people which in modern times could be termed approval ratings. Knowing his people were behind him with no fear of insurrection or a palace coup, he would have been convinced he could face whatever Moses had to show and triumph in the end. His approval ratings would have been at an all-time high.
When the price is too high
However, the last plague which took the firstborn of all Egyptians could not be overcome with the force of personality, charisma, or inspired leadership. That plague had touched the core of Egypt that it probably would have inspired a spontaneous revolt. The Pharaoh had to let the Israelites go and when he chased them to the Red Sea seeking revenge out of anger and loss, his whole army was lost in the deep.
Now, I do not expect Americans to lose their firstborn as their Pharaoh personified in Donald Trump defies scientific advice and damns the consequences of a marauding and unrelenting Coronavirus that has infected 94,108 and killed 1,434 at the tally of the 27th of March 2020, but statistics are derived from individuals who have families, friends and wider connections of influence. [COVID19LIVE.Info]
When it touches you directly
I can only wonder if the survivors of the victims have the full knowledge of how Donald Trump ignored, denied and prevaricated as the impending plague was gathering the force of a tsunami in January that it has now seized upon the whole country would be giving him accolades and applause for his stewardship of this crisis.
By extension, if any of those giving Donald Trump high approval ratings are touched by the Coronavirus either personally or loved ones, would the impending disaster and experience cause a review of their original position that they would change their mind about him? I guess the question is what price is too high to pay for loyalty, confidence, and support of the President of the United States of America before it moves the needle of approval ratings in another direction?
Yet, I hope no one has to face the all-consuming grief of losing the firstborn of Egypt to know the truth, the facts and the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, not only in America, but the world over.

Opinion: Now they stew in their ineptitude


I still cannot forgive it
I was chatting to a friend in Nigeria when it was brought to my notice that Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister had tested positive for the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The unrefined human in me if given vent might have thought it was just desserts, for this is a man that subscribed to the atrocious ‘herd immunity’ scheme that would have allowed the Coronavirus to run through the population without the shield of a vaccine in a Social Darwinism experiment that defied logic.
Yet, I hope I have more of the qualities of the best of our humanity in me to commiserate and sympathise, to walk a hard-long mile in the shoes of another to wish him a speedy recovery. With that, one would hope that the hubristic effrontery that informed the blasé view that the public should take it on the chin will be tempered with humility and a realisation that we cannot take life for granted and that the Coronavirus is no respecter of persons.
Only yesterday, we learnt that Prince Charles, the heir-apparent had tested positive too with mild symptoms, I probably felt more concerned for him than for our bombastic Prime Minister. Also, we found out that the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer were showing mild symptoms.
Stand up for frontline staff
To them too, I hope they recover as well as come out better men. In all, we must understand what is playing out before our eyes. We had the time and scope to act yet found ourselves at the point where frontline NHS staff are exposed to risk without adequate protection despite assurances the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was stockpiled and being distributed. In my view, that wasn’t enough, the staff should be fully donned in PPE garb at the point of contact with those suspected of infection.
They have been meeting these patients for weeks, the urgency to supply the demand is present and immediate. The same goes for testing the staff so they are not taken out of service in self-isolation when needed the most.
The issue of ventilators is another where the UK was invited to the EU procurement scheme, but it ideological recalcitrance lost us that opportunity that the contract for manufacturing ventilators landed in the hands of a caterpillar maker and a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, both of them have no expertise in that field, whilst British companies with the knowhow were ignored.
Accountability and hope
Even in these pressing times, the government has not been weaned off the penchant of jobs for the boys. I would hope an inquiry into the government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic would be independent, far-reaching and unrelenting. There must be culpability for failings, irresponsibility and ineptitude. With high office comes such demanding responsibility and accountability. For once, I hope Mr Boris Johnson feels the weight of office with the truth that the buck does stop with him.
I don’t know where in the spectrum of the curve of managing pandemics we are in; it is likely to be longer than planned for. I wonder what the aftermath portends for travel and the requirements to be satisfied before embarking on a journey. I am however hoping for a better world beyond this.