Wednesday 19 February 2020

On the gospel of flight

Board and preach
I was amused to find an event on my Twitter timeline a few days ago, a 25-second clip of a man in old-time religion garb waving a bible and preaching the gospel on an aeroplane. From indications on the screens at the back of the seats, it would appear the aircraft was just being boarded at that time.

However, ignoring that piece of evidence, in a fit of pique, I suggested with a twist in the scriptural phrase the following: “Can he be deplaned at 35,000ft? Angels shall bear him up in their hands lest he dash his head against a cloud.” Some did see the humorous side of it, but others took it literally and assumed my comment was both intolerant and violent.
I now remember that I did use a similar suggestion in a blog I wrote almost 13 years ago.
Preach the bus
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a culprit too. In the 1980s, I felt compelled to preach the gospel to all and sundry. With my clearly non-Nigerian accent, I would raise my voice in commercial transport to deliver my perspective of the gospel without scaring the listeners.
On the Lagos State Transport Corporation (LSTC) buses, I could stand near the front and face everyone to preach until a bylaw was promulgated to stop preaching on those buses at the risk of arrest. Whilst the audience might have been irritated, no one remonstrated probably out of fear of being thought anti-religious in a rather hyper-religious society.
However, with hindsight, regardless of how compelled I felt to preach the gospel and the presumed onslaught of officialdom to curtail a ‘divine’ commandment, I was an irritation and an encumbrance on the personal space and peace of other hapless passengers who probably after a hectic day didn’t need a bible thumper to assault them. Yet, preachers didn’t rise to sell salvation, purveyors of snake oil remedies had goods to sell with humour and encouragement better than preachers succeeded in their aims.
Outreach to each
Back to the preacher on the plane, everything suggests this was the wrongest place in too many respects to wave a bible around in too many respects. For when the plane is boarding, the crew are probably a bit stressed trying to get everyone to their seats, just as passengers are trying to get their carry-on luggage into the overheads bin whilst trying to make way for others to pass on to their seats.
I travelled about 100,000 kilometres last year, some door-to-door journeys including stopovers lasted about 28 hours. The last thing I need on the 2nd or 3rd leg of my journey, one of which could last 11 hours, is someone flailing the gospel with foreboding to my hearing.
Breach the peace
Besides, I would not be surprised if certain passengers became uncomfortable to the point of distress and insisted the preacher be taken off the plane out of fear that the preacher is a religious extremist up to no good. They would be right to demand it and the captain might have no other choice. We don’t take suspicious behaviour for granted when flying anymore.
If this happened after the flight had taken off, I would think the preacher would be advised to sit down and fasten his seat belt out of consideration for safety for himself and the other passengers. If that instruction were ignored, the plane could return to the airport to have him taken off as a public disturbance and he will be charged accordingly.
Yet, societies differ in responses to this kind of behaviour. I was not sure if I was amused or intrigued when I saw a preacher on the London Underground, I rationalised, if buskers did get away with it, the preacher though he had licence too.
Impeach the speech
My use of “Angels shall bear him up in their hands lest he dash his head against a cloud.” Could be termed a modern variation of “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:12 (KJV)
According to the narrative of the temptation of Jesus Christ, the Devil asked him to throw himself down from a height and quoted Scripture to suggest God will command angels to save him from harm. In my usage, the intention was as the preacher would be a man of faith, if he were taken off the plane at any height, the angels bear him up safer than a parachute to land safely on terra firma.
I had no doubt about this even if there were some expected the worst to happen. All said and done, if you are arrested by the urge to rise to preach the gospel on a plane, I most candid advice would be – Don’t do it! Thank you.

Friday 14 February 2020

Brian, My Funniest Valentine

Brian with an I and I
Like a dream, I never thought I’ll dream,
I have smiled wider than ever dared I could,
We played like children often do daydream,
With my Valentine, I am good.
I did wonder, if ever this could be,
Then before me, this beauty really stood,
But I feared, it couldn’t be for me,
Felt my Valentine, too good.
To my hearing, some lips did say hello,
Too astounded, to think it was to me,
Then I looked up, could this be Romeo?
Dreamy Valentine, I could see.
From that moment, I’ve lived a fantasy,
Fun and laughter, this loving is so fine,
In each other, we’ve found deep ecstasy,
My funny Valentine is mine.

Our song, he gets so emotional when he hears this song.
I remember the other Valentine blogs I have written all until I found my amazingly, handsome, beautiful, funny Valentine.
Happy Valentine, my love.
Blog - To My Funny Valentine

Saturday 8 February 2020

For friends and things we can't forget

A yesterday like today
It feels like yesterday, but it was 10 years ago today, a cold wintry Monday in Amsterdam where I had two things to do. First, it was the funeral of Dick van Galen Last, my dear friend who had passed on 6 days before and then I was booked in for my 7th session of chemotherapy in the afternoon.
The funeral service, which was well attended, vibrant and redolent of the amazingly outgoing personality that Dick was. I then followed the procession to the place of internment but never got to witness the committal to earth as I had to leave for the hospital.
Back to chemo
At the hospital, the cold had in natural preservation conceals all my veins that it was impossible to find a point into which to insert a cannula for my session of chemotherapy. Washing and soaking my hands in warm water could not tease them out. Eventually, the cannula was placed so high up on my arm close to where a phlebotomy would be done.
The 8th of February 2010 did become more significant as when I when in for the blood test preceding the 8th session of chemotherapy, I noticed a 10th session had already been scheduled. My chemotherapy sessions were on a Monday, 21 days apart, however, in the Friday before the next session, I have a blood test to determine the efficacy of the treatment and what further courses should be taken.
My voice considered
I did not know that the more you tolerated chemotherapy; they had a tendency to heap on the sessions rather than reduce them. We had gone from a session to two, then four and now eight. The eighth was to be on the 1st of March 2010.
On seeing one scheduled after that date, I began a discussion with my consultant. I was hoping to get on with my life after the 1st of March and I did not think I had the mental capacity to accommodate another session of chemotherapy. At the back of my mind, I remembered a nurse telling me that some patients have endured up to 14 sessions of my kind of chemotherapy.
My consultant listened and opined that he had been thinking about the situation too, my immunity was so shot up, he needed to see it begin to rebuild itself. He promised to have a word with the oncologist. Afterwards, I received notice that my 7th session of chemotherapy taken on the 8th of February would be my last. I was in clover.
Life goes on
The prognosis after that was, I needed at least 6 months of recuperation after the ordeal of my treatment. I, however, did not have that luxury. I sent out an email to my LinkedIn contacts explaining my situation. I started work on the 22nd of March, but the week after seeing how exhausting the activity was, just because of my lack of strength, we agreed that I could have the Wednesdays off.
Yes, it seems like a long time ago, it is one to celebrate for the memories of that time and the passage of time to this day.
It was another year before I returned to St Barbara Cemetery to visit Dick’s grave, for the good friends we’ve lost, there remains more than a memory and a fondness for the times we shared. They are never forgotten.

Monday 3 February 2020

Dick van Galen Last - A Decade On

In the circle of life
A week ago, I sank into sudden indisposition that resulted in hospitalisation, I am now back home in recovery and regaining my strength back.
In that short week, a lot has happened and much of it forgettable, but that is one subject I want to cover. It was exactly a decade ago that my phone rang with the Caller-ID of my friend, who I was unable to chat for a couple of weeks and too incapacitated to attend his PhD viva voce due to the effects of chemotherapy.
However, he was not the one on the line, but his lodger Ousmane Ndoye, who for the past decade then made a fortnightly visit to my apartment to clean it up and set things right. I was left reeling at the news he had to share. Dick and I had spoken just after Christmas of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, we shared the same consultant and oncologist. I remember saying to him, we might meet up at a chemotherapy session at the hospital.
In the presence of death
Alas, it never happened. The next time I saw Dick after that conversation was in his bed, dressed up and lying there mostly at the insistence of Ousmane that Dick had spent enough time in hospitals. Dick’s many friends had the unique opportunity to visit him in his room to pay respects before he was interred 5 days later.
Dick van Galen Last died on the 2nd of February 2010 just 8 days short of his 58th birthday. I had known him for 14 years, we met in Paris in 1996 and when I moved to the Netherlands in 2010, he was the one who welcomed me and gave me board for the first month before I settled in and found my own place.
In hope and remembrance
Dick was many things to many people; on the 8th of February 2010 when he was interred at the St Barbara Cemetery, there were over 300 attendees who came to celebrate his life and send him off. I could not wait until he was committed to earth because it had to attend what became my last session of chemotherapy.
We last met for a few hours at my place on the 16th of October 2009, just a week after my 18-day stay in hospital when I was diagnosed with cancer. To many, he was a friend, a helper, a raconteur, a polyglot, and an academic, the legacy of some of his research was republished with editing in Black Shame (2016).
Even after a decade, for this great and true friend, confidante, ever full of life and encouragement, outgoing, benevolent and always generous with his time and means, are the fondest memories.
Dick, rest in peace, always – you’re never forgotten.