Thursday 30 April 2020

A calendar month of blogs

Nothing of importance, sometimes
When you are in the 17th year of blogging, there are times you just blog for just blogging sake. Though, I have now realised that there are seemingly meaningless blogs that carry an incongruous message that another reader might find useful.
I have written many of those silly blogs, I just write as I am either inspired or for the want of starting off something that might, in the end, look plausible even if it makes stupid a term of endearment. I guess the volume of writing just compels you to do more.
Making it up to better
For this blog, it would appear that apart from in December 2013 when I celebrated a decade of blogging and found 35 contributions for “Your Blog On My Blog”, I have never written a blog for every day of a calendar month until this month of April 2020. This apart from the fact that some months do have more blogs than days in the month.
I also note that I have not been as prolific as I was in 2007 when I wrote 400 blogs, and now with this blog, I will match the number of blogs I wrote last year and much more than the year before. Maybe I will persist and persevere to have a record tally, I do not know.
I will just keep at it, for there is no perfect situation for blogging, it is inspired or compelled by many situations, some good and some bad, even indifference can be just the impetus to tap at your keyboard. I love blogging though and in the multitude of the over 3,000 blogs, there is always something there to remind me, I am blessed.

Thought Picnic: Leaving footprints of lasting impressions

Impressions are footprints in the mind
Looking through your professional life you begin to realise the importance of both making a good impression and leaving a lasting impression. This is something you visit each time you require a reference for a new posting.
A new engagement having decided they want to use your services would as a matter of course and probably due diligence, seek to determine whether other places where you have worked before might if the opportunity presented itself with adequate resources and the requisite demand for your skills, engage you again.
Obviously, this is not to suggest that one wants the same old things, progress and time can change perspectives or prospects, but this is part of what could set you on for your next opportunity. As a matter of courtesy, one should inform and seek the permission of prospective referees to present their names for that purpose.
Good is good is good
Remembering a visit to an office almost 3 years after leaving, just catching up with colleagues and acquaintances, when one of the directors walks by, sees you, greets you warmly and then parts with words to the effect, the solution you created for them stands the test of time.
When references require you mine contacts going back 3 to 5 years, you really want to be sure you not only did a good job, but you also got on well with others and contracting is probably more a test of your adaptability amongst other important abilities. To contact references and receive enthusiastic responses with indications that your work remains commendable even if it was foundational and built upon by others, leaves you with a good feeling.
You need to do good, keep good, live good and never burn your bridges, even if you do not intend to use the bridge again, someone from your past might need that bridge to cross over to you. Be the bridge on which good and favour choose to travel to places that give you access and opportunity. You are your own testimonial long before you need to check it.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Of things that make you go, Wow!

The gift of a good story
The unexplainable becoming a story of good fortune, in that one cannot trace or determine the circumstances in which something has come to pass, is the stuff of miracles.
Whether you believe in miracles or not, there are times when you realise there is nothing in your own power you could have done to bring about the results that are laid before you as a gift and a blessing. That is when you look up as there is nothing to look around to and give thanks for providence has come with a bounty to put warmth in the heart and rouge on the cheeks that scaffold your smile.
The summary of a pleasant day
Today began so ordinarily and even quite slowly too, then time in the majesty of eternal motion took up speed, things that did have any prospect of happening soon were happening next, before you could catch your breath, another thing was bearing swiftly to you a distant future to within a present with reach.
Once again, I am given a story, brought from the brink of the prodigal into the embrace of the benevolent, that I can only be thankful and full of gratitude. The morning and the evening is another day, yet, a day that the Lord has made. Say a word of thanks on my behalf and may we all receive unexpectedly, a story better than we could ever have contemplated or imagined.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Bronzes, marbles and cheap clay on tour?

An ageing traveller it is
There is a memento I have had for probably 29 years; it was a gift from my landlords which they brought back from their holiday in Greece. This was a time I was just getting used to England and the furthest I will eventually travel was Brighton.
I looked up at the top shelf where it was thinking of how long I have had it and how it has travelled with me around London, to Ipswich, to Amsterdam and now to Manchester. I thought, how you have really gotten around dear friend.
Seeking and seeing
Obviously, it is mass-manufactured piece probably after a real sculpture, I cannot tell if it is fibreglass or clay, I checked today to find out it is a copy of The Discobolus of Myron, there is Greek lettering on the side of the base spelling it out too. It is a youthful discus thrower probably made around 460 – 450 BC and was apparently first in bronze. [Wikipedia]
There seem to be many marble versions of this sculpture, and one, the Townley Discobolus was bought by the British Museum and may be displayed there. When this national sequestration is over, I hope to visit and seek it out. As for who the amazing musculature reminds me of, that is a secret I will keep.
Whilst I am there, I might just have a dekko at the controversial Elgin Marbles. It was this that inspired me to write the blog. [The Week]
My very own Discobolus

Monday 27 April 2020

The changing texts of religious meditation

Seeking calm for the soul
Meditating on Psalm 23, because I was inspired and directed to look at the context of the first part of verse 3, ‘He restoreth my soul:’, my quest for calmness and peace brought me to a newer understanding of this Psalm along with a much needed peace. [Psalm 23 – BibleHub – KJV]
I would normally start my Bible study with the King James Version (KJV) and then access other translations as the Amplified Bible (AMP), The Message (MSG), New Living Translation (NLT) and the New King James Version (NKJV). I addressed the differences in the Bible translations in a blog I wrote in 2013.
Tongues are changing
Then, much as English is my mother tongue, Yorùbá, spoken in southwestern Nigeria is my mother’s tongue. I learnt Yorùbá under duress because my mother insisted on my reading the Psalms in Yorùbá rather than in English, though I did my Anglican confirmation study in English.
I then happened upon the Yoruba Contemporary Bible Copyright © 2009, 2017 by Biblica, Inc.® - BÍBÉLÌ MÍMỌ́ YORÙBÁ ÒDE ÒNÍ (BYO) on the Bible Gateway website, which jumped directly to my reference text of Psalm 23.
I did not realise it was a different Yorùbá translation until I read the beginning of the first verse, "The Lord is my shepherd..." which now, had a literal translation of "The Lord is the shepherd and I am His sheep."
"Olúwa ni Olù́ èmi àgùntàn rẹ̀"(BYO)
For I remember my traditional Yorùbá Bible writing that as, "Olúwa li Olù́-àgùntàn mi."
I was in for a treat, a revelatory one at that.
It was like the Amplified Yorùbá version, and read quite differently, even more expository, somewhat abandoning the classic Yorùbá grammar for an easily accessible vernacular.
Old Bible
I just found an old Yorùbá Bible by the Bible Society of Nigeria © 1960 and the differences in the text are starker than I realised. The accent diacritical marks are only applied for context and not on every word. ‘Li’ is used rather than ‘Ni’ for the English ‘Is’. My observations are not exhaustive, just a point of interest.
Comparing the ancient to the modern
Psalms in the old Yorùbá Bible was Orin Dáfídì which translates to Songs of David, but the BYO has not attempted to translate the name of the book at all but left it as Saamu without the diacritical marks. Taking liberties, one would think, saying an English word with a Yorùbá accent and all its inflexions, as we require a vowel sound ending except for the usually nasalised or gritting 'n'. 
I have nothing against modernising religious instruction for easy consumption and lax grammar rules, it just sometimes makes it quite unfamiliar to those of us brought up on the traditional text. It's the same thing when in the Anglican Church, the Apostle's Creed I was confirmed with does not read like the Nicene Creed of the current liturgy and when saying The Lord's Prayer, 'Thy kingdom come' could attract disapproving looks in church, as I might be reciting an 17th Century version when the rest of the church is living in the 20th Century.
In all, it is quite fascinating how so much more insight can be gained from meditating on Psalm 23 that I have probably repetitively recited a million times and yet, it yields new meaning.

Thought Picnic: Winning the battle under my skin

Helpless to helped
I have no easy answers to my difficult problems, I look for opportunities where there seems to be no prospects. In my history that appears to have cycles of experience, I steel up myself with that inner voice, I will come through this and come through well.
Yet, beneath my skin, under the façade of cheeriness is a sense of foreboding, my human frailties almost determined to shake me into panic as I attempt to hold back the pressures that seek to overwhelm me.
Draw me closer to peace
There is a comforting voice I need to hear, it comes from somewhere in my past, a miracle today for which I cannot find reason nor explanation, just an overflowing of gratitude that good fortune and blessing has decided to come my way.
The battle between my ears is raging, the expectation of the wonderful against the terror of dreadful. The better to the best will win out because that is the story I have been frequently blessed to tell. That from the depths of my despair when nothing I had or knew could change things, a light showed up, a hand grabbed me, a voice soothed me, my peace came in as all worries and anxieties took the flight to a place of the forgotten. Everything that bothered was smothered and sorted out completely with much to spare and share.
I am raining on the inside with no shelter yet to keep me warm and dry. I have hope, this turmoil is on its way out, it will pass. I am living to laugh the loudest last. I have not abandoned the faith to soar.

Sunday 26 April 2020

For those without a care

Then I found something
Out the apparent lack of inspiration for anything to write today, when one would have thought the expanse of it could easily provide myriad opportunities to craft the silly to the serious many times over, I found something to muse about.
My slow consumption of The Week magazines that I have on subscription yielded something of interest. That I am still 5 issues behind the current one should neither be a study on procrastination nor propriety. I am on retreat and so the shuffling through old magazines can be a leisurely act, as I am reading curated opinions and insights rather than the news.

In a lighter mood
The consumer page usually presents sections titled, ‘New cars: what the critics say’, with three reviews, ‘The best … any product, accessory, tool, or gadget of interest’, ‘Tips of the week …’, and ‘Where to find …’. Between the last two is the whimsical ‘And for those who have everything …’ which is everything you probably expect to it to be.
I guess it is written for those of a rather leisurely disposition without a care for the cares and concerns that dog everyday life. Though, I do wonder if this particular object of distraction and attraction will present a sense of welfare or safety for the time and times.
An illicit affair, maybe
We are presented with the Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux Jour watch from the Love Stories collection of Van Cleef & Arpels French luxury outfit. The hand movement of the watch is unusual as it is a scene for a lovers’ rendezvous on a bridge, the gentleman dawdling as a minute-hand back and forth with the top of the hour at the middle of the bridge. The lady, however, takes her time as the hour hand arriving at a dalliance only at noon and midnight.
Bejewelled with precious stones, the function of time is lost to the extravagance of the setting, it might be both something exquisite as it can be quite vulgar. For those who normally can’t keep to time whilst wearing the most expensive watches, this is an opportunity to flash your wares in all its vanity for others to ogle either out of envy and the covetous need to acquire one to the detriment of all else or incredulity of wondering why anyone would deport that much to a vaunted trinket.
One would not in any case begrudge anyone who finds comportment in this choice of accessory or apparel, but an eye-watering £110,000 must come with adequate insurance and security without the possibility of flirting with your mistress on a bridge where the mysterious presages fearful consequences. Even if I had no care in the world, I doubt I would spend any time in this shop.

Saturday 25 April 2020

Thought Picnic: Considering the blessing of people in my life

Finding people of influence
I decided to review some of the handwritten notes I took with regards to the Deepak Chopra Creating Abundance: 21-Day Meditation Challenge. The exercise for Day 1 having completed Day 0 which was the invitation to consent participate was to make a list of 50 people who had influenced my life.
We were given the latitude to consider people living or dead, relatives, friends, celebrities, writers, and personalities who I might no9t necessarily know who might have influence and contributed to my growth and development.
It looked like a daunting task because at first, I did not think I would have 20 names, then I ended up with 54, comprised of lovers, friends, relations, managers, writers and religious people. I am surprised I had no performers, though some on the list were artists, and I could not find a distinctive identification related to professions, even though they all covered a broad spectrum of endeavour.
Why they each mattered
In listing keywords beside the names, I began from the last name listed through to the first, the first in the list was my boyfriend, Brian and then it radiated out of my immediate circle to different albeit significant influences. I had about 30 keywords distributed amongst the names, some having multiple keywords.
In my review today, I decided the count the occurrences of the keywords to assess the weights in the categories of influence listed. I found that Friendship came first, then Story, Teacher, and Opportunity shared the second place, the shared fifth place went to Mentorship and Leadership, the seventh places were Love, Generosity, and Adaptability, with the tenth places shared with Humility, Companionship, and Belief.
My friendships are significant
Now, this was not to rank the importance of each keyword because it would not tell any story in the proper context, yet, I do cherish Friendship, I was surprised I had that many in the categories of Mentorship and particularly Leadership as I am somewhat averse to concerted efforts to lead even though it is important in the management of people, their talents and towards certain objectives.
Love and Companionship obviously came from my lovers, the current who has the pride of place as first amongst others, yet, I maintain good friendships with most of my previous significant romantic relationships. I think some of the significant ways I have been influenced are not by direct instruction, but through observation, experience, and example.
The seeds they sowed in me
I love to stories, we are story people, I hope that I am teachable much I desire to be able to teach purposefully, and as I have been given many opportunities, I sometimes see an opportunity where it appears there is none and hope to present an opportunity for others to see prospects and well beyond themselves. The people who have believed in me gave me a world to explore well beyond what I could have imagined.
In all, the exercise probably allowed me to reflect on the different people who have entered my life at different times, some having gone, some forgotten and others enduring, everyone, regardless of the state of our relationship today needs to be cherished for I owe them all a debt of gratitude. In each of the people on that list, I find I can count a blessing in my life, naming them one by one and realise what I privilege it has been to be have been given the gift of these people to sow a seed of positive influence in my life, that grew into a tree of life.

Friday 24 April 2020

#Coronavirus: Normalising peak Trumpian insanity

Disinfecting the wisdom of Mar-a-Lago.
A cretinous ultracrepidarian who takes dilettantism to the level of terrifying sociopathy has me now caught on the violently raging horns of a dilemma. For out of the choice of disinfectants and cleaning products in my home, I counted 17 and chose 3.
Then I thought, should I make a cocktail of the three, have each one after the other in an order and dosage yet to be determined, or the efficacy of one might suffice as the scientists are being driven to distraction by wild assertions and snake oil remedies?
We now have it on good authority that with a bit of sun, well, ultraviolet light, and I must find my free sunbed usage vouchers and the injecting of disinfectants, I buy myself freedom from the Coronavirus with a quick and painful death for which the administration of an antidote would be futile. Venesection rather than ventilation, if ever a respite exists. [BBC News]
Swallow the stupid cleaner
Maybe, like the old lady who swallowed a fly and then swallowed many other predators to catch the fly, I might just swallow a string of Christmas lights so each predator can find their way to the prey, whilst the lights expose the hidden places of the Coronavirus in a game of peek-a-boo or catch the mouse.
It beggars belief that a man able to utter such crass stupidity stands as the leader of the free world. What do I know? There are people I love and respect who believe he is anointed of God. I doubt the prophecy of the disinfectant just as that of hydroxychloroquine would be read as anything but a sign from above.
This death cult that puts Jim Jones to shame is an abomination to humanity, but the light we need to see better is lost to things reason, sight, hearing, or wisdom cannot deliver people into.
Don’t try it
Meanwhile, to my amazing good fortune, my cupboard has wrestled the disinfectants out of my hands, my gratitude goes to the door that did not yield to my fleeting folly.
Wipe it away, but don't leave it on your skin, definitely not in the eyes and anything you consider subcutaneously, intravenously or intramuscular; better know it is not prescribed by an idiot with a global bully platform.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Childhood: Remembering the times I had no one to talk to

If we could turn back time
I do not know how I would have been able to help my parents redo elements of my upbringing that might with hindsight has made me a better person. However, I do notice there are things that I picked up by example and other things that probably would have been better imparted by clear instruction and relatable lessons of life rather than relying on the osmosis of parenting.
Two specific things I think my parents left to osmosis, the hope that I turned out the way they expected without their active engagement, first, the management of money and secondly the real usefulness of school and academic achievement. I think I understood I was lacking in financial wisdom when I was sent away at 10 to take common entrance examinations.
I was given some money which I frittered away and spent on things I rarely had access to like comics and gave some away to the cousins who could take advantage of my naivety and generosity, I was no wiser. During that visit, I was also given money by relations, it is strange as I remember today that I was able to account for everything I was given by them, but not properly for what my parents gave me. The way the questioning went, about how I spent the money suggested they were quite displeased with me.
No reason I knew
I attended primary school because that was what you did, I effortlessly passed my examinations usually coming second or third in the class, but I hated revision or homework. There were many times I was caught out in class, lying that I had submitted my homework when I had not. It was a shameful and embarrassing experience when Mrs Onyemenam would put me in front of the class and have my classmates call out in unison, Liar!
There was a time I was a bedwetter both at home and in the first year and a half at secondary school, yet, in the almost 5 months I spent with relations in Lagos and Sagamu before secondary school, I never once wet my bed until my father came to visit and I spent the night with him at his hotel when he was down for a business trip.
In secondary boarding school, I probably had serious child psychology issues that were attended to with rituals, amulets, and crazy animist practices. I always lost my things, rarely took notes in class and by the third year, I played truant hating some of the classes because they were exhausting and boring. It ended up on my school report, my mother a school principal was completely exasperated that she had a truant for a son.
The cane was not my bane
Whilst I never face corporal punishment for my academic achievements or failures even when I had to withdraw because I failed a repeated year in polytechnic, there was no shortage of criticism and excoriation especially from my father, a brilliant and a high-achieving accountant who must have sometime wondered how I came to be his son.
I can say in polytechnic I was clinically depressed, I had instances when I attended classes and I could understand what was going on or why I was there. I was not abusing substances or anything, I just had a head that seemed to be completely unaware of what I was doing. It is strange that I seemed to keep my sanity by falling into religion. It did not make matters any easier at home.
It was in these areas of disagreement and misalignment with my parents’ philosophies that I suffered the most and received the severest corporal punishments, they together ganging up on me, it was also an opportunity to humiliate, as I was ejected from my room and made to sleep on the floor.
The home was not a school to success
Now, in the minds of my parents doing everything they knew how to bring up successful and well-adjusted children, they were doing their best with the tools they had. Too many times, the comparison was the weapon to refocus, an uncle there or an aunt there who somehow had some opportunity but apparently wasted it became the terror of what you did not want to be.
In the end, the greatest lessons in life that helped me out of the rut I was in was not the discipline, the disagreements, the fights that included a headbutting from my father, or that backhand swipe of my mother that so connected well with face momentarily blinding me, it was in the understanding of other uncles and aunts who had experienced failure and overcome those circumstances to be successful.
It is ironic that many of them had some guidance from my parents when they were at their lowest ebb, they repaid by giving their nephew allowances, opportunity and encouragement to turn my life around and believe I really could make something of my life. None of this is to spite my parents, but there are aspects of child development that have left scars even if they seem to be healed.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

I have somebody to love

Can’t be a nobody,
Known to nobody,
Lost to nobody,
No one nowhere as nobody,
He’s nobody’s nobody.
I’m not as anybody,
Like just anybody,
Beyond anybody,
Anyone anywhere to anybody,
Not anybody’s anybody.
Now if by everybody,
Longed like everybody,
One from everybody,
Everyone everywhere in everybody,
Like everybody’s everybody.
I am too somebody,
I love somebody,
He is somebody,
Someone somewhere for somebody,
I’m somebody’s somebody.

Thought Picnic: Traversing the universes of the mind

Deep calling upon deep
As human beings we are a mystery unexplained and sometimes too complex and indecipherable to comprehend. The physical we see does not begin to plumb the depths of our nature, our thoughts, and our inclinations.
In the world of dreams the mind travels beyond the realms of the possible to universes of experiences unfathomable. The people who crowd into the movies of our subconscious bridging the expanses of time and space that is it impossible to fully relate or remember.
The stuff of dreams
That I have covered amazing distances in incredible leaps or flown like a superhero between continents is not so much a strange thing. Traversing the worlds of the natural and the supernatural with superhuman abilities display the unlimited expanse of the imagination only trammelled by the extent to which we can afford to be curious.
Whilst it might be alarming to some, that at the same time and place, voices and faces of the long departed, the knowing present and the unknown future can play in conversation, admonition or the creation of new experiences is a wonder that words can never fully explain. I have fought in my dreams and talked loudly in some, caught up in battles I can never understand how I got into but given the means to win through.
Dimensions unmeasurable
I cannot afford to be afraid of the power of my mind to conjure and to compel, they are gifts of the subconscious we all have to gain strength to surmount things we heretofore would never have had the courage to face.
A human alive is a mystery and through trial and tribulation, there is a force of hope, the assurance of faith and the power of love to take us beyond the ethereal existence of dreams to a reality that is the stuff of miracles come true.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Finding my safety in a cultural chasm

Invisible until I speak
One subject of personality development that probably needs study and research is one of cultural invisibility and this is a somewhat complex topic that is coming out in stories of third culture kids. I first broached this subject when a friend highlighted her cultural identity issues being mixed race Nigeria.
In a comment to her article then, I talked about looking like everyone else until I began to speak, my natural accent had become an amalgam of being born in the West Midlands, though without a strong Brummie accent and the influences of spending a later childhood in Nigeria, first in the north and then the south. This to the Nigerian ear was a British accent, yet, to the British ear, it was not clearly English, yet to a degree well-spoken in grammar and diction.
Cannot find a longing to belong
This set us apart, the moment we spoke, we were different, separate, excused, or exploited. There was no sense of belonging for that which set you apart and inadvertently it came with labels that identified you as the one born abroad. Caught between these conflicts of identity, when my father said I always thought like a Westerner, and then my brother said, “You’re not one of us.” I realised my quest for identity would be defined by what I am comfortable with rather than my progeny or ancestry.
In a conversation with my mother some time ago, she relayed a time when I returned home from foster parents and I was stealing food from the fridge. She could not understand why I had taken to thievery until she learnt that I was being starved. These were people entrusted with my care and paid for the service who abused that trust without scruples.
The scars of cultural schisms
From what I was told, my mother travelled the length and breadth of the country looking for suitable nanny parents and I still ended up in the hands of reprehensible and nasty people. I do not think they realised I carried the emotional scars long after the situation.
For when we moved to Jos in the early 1970s and I was attending Corona School, Shamrock House, the pupils left their lunch packs on the floor outside their classrooms, it was open season just before school started for some of us to raid the food packs. I did not need to, I was well fed at home, yet, it happened.
There are many more aspects of being caught in the middle of cultural divides and finding a way to exist in that complex. I think my agreement with my identity is set in the context of being an Englishman of Nigerian heritage, whilst also a European. The story of understanding and refining identity along with the stories is in progress.

Monday 20 April 2020

Lazy minds and easy finds for conspiracy theorists

Another wild conspiracy shared
As I sighed, I managed a wry smile because another WhatsApp video had arrived with a title suggesting some incredible and wild conspiracy attached to the Coronavirus pandemic and I have seen quite a few.
It reminds me of a passage in the Bible, 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 New King James Version (NKJV)
If I were to attempt a paraphrase of the above passage, I would say, The pandemic has presented the opportunity for people to depart from sound reasoning, their inclinations attuned to confirmation bias, they will seek those who would help them along with fantastic conspiracy theories and incredibly unbelievable schemes.
Lazy minds are easy finds
What saddens me is many people do have the ability to reason out things if they are inquisitive, questioning and seeking the rationale around things, but are too lazy to consider that when like chicks in a nest they could be fed regurgitated worms. I have sometimes considered naivety a virtue of the unsophisticated, but it looks more like a sin, the more I examine it. Almost a moral failing borne of an incapacity to broaden the mind either through reading, study, or sheer curiosity.
We have in these times a willing multiple of sheeple, primed and ready to be triggered into a murderous mob, murdering reason, truth, justice, and anything of value in their wake. To them and to us is a cautionary tale succinctly condensed into a quote from Voltaire, “They who can make you believe absurdities will make you commit atrocities.”
Question everything deeply
During this pandemic, it is important not to swallow, listen, or read everything you are given, whether they are qualified, dilettantes or disqualified, check the provenance, check their reputation, validate the sources, see if they are peer-reviewed, sort out opinion from fact, verify always and maintain a healthy scepticism. If what you read is too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t run with it, let it prove itself or ditch. I guess the greatest need for anyone is discernment, the ability to judge a situation well, it might require a bit of research, what you don’t want to be is a stupid fish who swallows it all, hook line and sinker.
Where the information is incomplete, then have as much sense as an old cow, eat the hay and leave the baling wire. Sift the data, filter the deluge, drain out the sludge and seek the value, the truth, the purpose, the motive, the fairness, the justice, and the greater good towards giving you the knowledge and helping humanity. There is so much advice to give, get some antihistamine cream if you’re unfortunate enough to have itching ears.

Perfecting my lessons in kitchen banditry

Ila Alasepo
A mouthful of chicken
Imitation they say is the best form of flattering and there is one act I have learnt too well from my dad and uncle. When I was out at the ethnic shop last Tuesday, I bought a kilo of chicken gizzards and another kilo of chicken drumsticks, this apart from the whole leg of lamb that I asked to be cut with the meat chainsaw.
I cooked the chicken first and then grilled it in the hope that it would be used in a simple tomato stew. The gizzard was supposed to be destined for a mix of gizzard and diced plantains in a chilli sauce. The grilling had considerably dried the chicken that it could keep for a while before use.
As I took the chicken out of the oven to make way for the grilling of the cooked lamb pieces, I left the drumsticks and gizzards in a bowl by the stove taking a bite or two of the gizzards, then the drumsticks and watched the contents depleting at the inspiration of my dad and uncle who usually stole into the kitchen at home as if to offer some help and escape with a piece of meat as a basic snack.
Cravings for something spicy
Obviously, one should not be surprised that a few rodent visits to the kitchen can change the quantity of ingredients laid aside for another purpose. Then yesterday, I decided I wanted to make Ila Alasepo, a variation on stewed okra, but not as fancifully decadent as the recipes. I had bought the okra as frozen, cut rings of fresh okra, bagged and frozen, it was the first time I would use it. Then out of the freezer, I took out 4 distinct kinds of chilli to be defrosted along with spicily hot scotch bonnets, all of which I blended this morning.
I had a bag of dried catfish cuts that I steamed for an hour, then prepared the pepper stew separately from the okra, before pouring everything in one pot and simmering until ready. By the time I knew things were done, all the chicken drumsticks and gizzards had undergone no further transformation apart from the mastication of my mandibles.
Then I wondered how this could be, the only excuse I had was I learnt to do this from my mentoring dad and uncle. I guess next time, I will just buy 2 kilos each just to forestall a mishap like this again.
Frozen okra fingers as chopped rings
Palm oil
Green bell pepper
Scotch bonnet chillies (use according to preference)
Long green chilli peppers
Diced onions
Salt to taste
Lamb stock from previously cooked lamb
Lamb pieces
Dried catfish cutlets steamed before use
Kaun – potash for the initial preparation of the okra
Seasoning with herbs, I don’t use seasoning cubes in my cooking.
You can follow the recipe with these limited ingredients or extend them as needed.

Thought Picnic: The enduring art of wordy silviculture

Seeking the words for a tapping
“When ideas fail, words come in very handy.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Sometimes, I am caught on the horns of a dilemma, seeking ideas for a blog and failing to find any form of inspiration, insight, or direction. That way, I apparently run into a wall, what they term Writer’s Block.
I would not arrogate to myself the status of a writer, my stuff is whimsical and light, where silliness collides with levity that if anything I published here were to find another forum not in my control, I risk being dismissed with the risible laughter of a braying mob.
Limited courage to extend
That belies my constant angst of reaching beyond the comfort of my blog, I do not have the myriad opportunities for returning to correct spelling or grammatical errors. Many of those I submitted articles to have not bothered to proofread my copy, they publish as it was delivered apart from changing the formatting to suit their aesthetic preferences.
One would think anybody receiving copy for syndication would have a pendant ready to pore of the text, not so much to change the editorial slant, but to help it pass the muster of grammatical rules. Though, nothing scares me as much as to have someone change the context, tense, import and content of anything I have submitted for publication.
The safety of your island
Worse still is where the publication offers open commentary with liberal rules suffering for the freedom of expression without allowing a modicum of courtesy or politeness. In that, you are left at the mercy of the elements. Invariably, the words of Roger Scruton the philosopher who passed on in January ring true, “The mob is by nature innocent: it washes its own conscience in a flow collective indignation.”
Yes, you risk a pile-on and it is not in any way pleasant. Maybe there is contentment in just having your personal blog that has existed for 16 years. I can live with that; I seek neither fame nor infamy, maybe relevance in the insignificant.
My blog is an island you can view from afar and visit by express permission. It becomes the safety my seed words need to gain a life of their own without the tares of malevolence choking the process of growing a forest of words that become trees.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Held like Bernadette would do

Messy clues to play with
There was a line of a verse from lyrics of a song performed by Bette Midler, the words of which were a mondegreen from a body of song I could not match to anything. I typed in what I had in memory in the hope of finding what I needed without success.
Eventually, some clarity came, still missing some words but it was enough to find what I was looking for, and to my surprise, it wasn’t the song I was expecting. The lyrics however, were very relatable to an experience I had when I was 10 that still makes my hairs stand on end when I remember.
The Song of Bernadette was written by Jennifer Warnes, Leonard Cohen and Bill Elliott about Bernadette Soubirous the girl who saw visions of the Virgin Mary that led to the creation of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Enshrined in minstrel calm
When it was revealed no one believed her, yet, there were people who through the experience got miracles from the wellspring the sprung from the revelations she received. I did visit a Marian shrine once when I was in Lisbon, Our Lady of Fatima, my experience there was profound and revelatory. I brought me back to the desire for solemnity, silence, reverence and meditation in worship, well away from the ululating cacophony of environments I sought refuge in.
For what I saw and heard, no one believed me, but it changed me from the day that it happened. I did not see a vision like Bernadette’s for it had no comfort, but terror. I found solace in Psalms and prayers prayed long and hard for a peace that seemed to desert me when I needed it most. Sometimes, it is the minstrel ministry of classical music, gospel worship music or the music of ladies like Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Billie Holliday, or Dionne Warwick that brings a calming influence.
A heart mended in an embrace
From the Song of Bernadette, the lines from the lyrics that were churning in my mind were; “So many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine, torn by what we've done and can't undo. I just wanna hold you. Come on, let me hold you, like Bernadette would do.” [STLyrics]
There is more in the song that talks about human frailties and the way we seek to make amends for things that may have gone wrong. In all that, we find some hope in life and maybe the embrace of someone who has a vision of the miraculous for us. One night in December not so long ago, I fell into the embrace of a miracle, not Bernadette, but Brian and even if my head had not figured it out then, I felt a coolness, calmness, serenity descend on me like my blood pressure came down a good few points.
With it came the end of grief, the mending of the broken heart that did not seem to mend for almost a decade. Though we are apart, our hearts are knit in a relationship I look to last a lifetime for I have been blessed by providence where I could never have expected to find it.

My thoughts on the Deepak Chopra 21-day Abundance Meditation

Persuaded to meditate
Three weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the Deepak Chopra Creating Abundance: 21-Day Meditation Challenge, the introduction from my friend was easy enough and non-committal, most particularly, it was non-judgemental, we could choose to exit without having to explain ourselves or suffer for it. [Spotify]
I believe everyone invited stayed the course, which speaks more to the persuasive acumen of our friend than anything else. On reflection, I cannot think of anyone else who would have been able to persuade me to engage in this sort of thing that was patently so left field of my vision. I had heard of Deepak Chopra before and I thought he was one of these New-Age gurus who have a surfeit of motivational feel-good spiel that left you just feeling good.
All on willing trust
The medium of communication with the group was a WhatsApp group where the principal for each day posted instructions, a task, a phrase to remember, a mantra, and an audio file that guided the meditation process. There was a preference for documenting all activities in a notebook with longhand writing, something, I do rarely do, yet found quite therapeutic.
I would normally have researched a programme like this before committing, but I took it on trust that it would be a new experience and bought into it. The slight misgiving of chanting mantras of words I had no understanding of left me concerned as I hope that I guard my utterances enough to choose the words I speak carefully, measuring what message I am about to convey.
Tasked tasking tasks
The first day required listing at least 50 people who had influenced my life, it looked like a daunting task, yet, I did exceed that number, and documenting how they have influenced me was a revelation in itself, some assignations would not have been in consideration, if it were not a task. I could see myself working on appreciating all these people more.
By the fifth day, we were being asked to create our own meditation groups by inviting others to participate from a new Day 1, flashes of multi-level marketing went through my mind much as I thought it was quite ambitious to insinuate and expect that level of trust and allegiance to the scheme. Deeper down, it was the most challenging thing of the whole exercise as it pitched itself against every English bone in my body.
It showed that despite the adaptation of the meditation activity to Western cultures the mantras in Sanskrit with the background mood music more classical than Asian, this was not going to leap over cultural boundaries with effortless ease, we are too individualistic to subscribe to communal New-Age and alternative medicine philosophies. I almost dropped out at this point, but in a discussion with my boyfriend, I stayed the course.
Some benefit in it
In general, I think the exercises or tasks were illuminating about relationships, anxieties, understanding place, person, and personality, how we fit in the universe of ideas, events, and people, and how to unburden ourselves with cares, worries, and difficulties that might beset us. Many of these aspects I could relate to from my Christian philosophy, for I could see what we were getting at. Calmness, resolve, and resilience.
I am glad I was invited to participate in this mediation challenge, I saw it as a useful experience, and the daily phrases will come in handy for meditation and thought processes. Though it is unlikely I would enter a challenge like this in the future or in this format, I could see gathering friends for times of reflection, introspection, and the exchange of views and ideas.
My conclusion is, that the challenge is a participatory exercise in discipline to be considered at least once, and you might gain a lot more than you put in it, for me it is knowledge and insight along with a sense of calm. Once I got into the spirit of things, I was looking forward to the next day along with the surprises of leading and direction which inspired me in ways I appreciate a lot. From the audio track, there were times when all that seemed like thank you for taking on this challenge was the Namaste greeting at the end.