Wednesday 30 September 2020

Different speeds on two feet in the park

Every little step I take

Stepping out at the break of dawn, the morning breaks with a chill and the morning dew, the weather turning as you make your way almost too far from home for you to turn around, as the need for shelter is lost to the quest to complete a quota before you resume for work.

Briskly, as you set your walking exercise, the tracker on your wrist buzzes reading your heart rate as you set out to either break personal records or just have it on the record. In the business district, you weave, and you are notified of the first kilometre.

The doorways or the nooks of large shops have sleepers, the homeless whose stories we know little of, whether they are warm enough, or will have a supply for the day and can dream of a future, we do not know. Yet, fortitude and providence does raise people from the strangest places to make a fantastic story, maybe we can angels in that journey too.

A river of curls

Reaching the edge of the city centre, you have crossed the River Irwell twice and the industrial suburb beckons for your second kilometre, though your third crossing of the river is a few hundred metres short of your third kilometre and you are well into the City of Salford.

Your fourth crossing of the river and soon after then fifth is leaves your fourth kilometre between, and the park is just in view where the circuit you walk is just about 2.2 kilometres. When you begin to make your way home by another route on a busier road, there is probably another two crossings of River Irwell and you realise this is a river that meanders through Manchester, though its course is unlikely to change in the near future.

The people of the park

The park begins to come alive as the light of day bathes it with a welcome giving you the sight of others roused to move. An elderly lady with two male companions take a walk she speaks, they nod, it is the first morning greeting, as she feeds the birds, the ducks and the geese with bread crumbs.

Further on, one man and his dog on a leash, then another man with his two dogs, one dog walking into my path whilst the other is taking him for a walk, pulling hard and demanding of motion. The lady in a hijab, sometimes walking and other times running, says good morning, we smile and she’s gone.

It’s in the family

A father pushing a perambulator combining baby-sitting with running, whether it is fun or not, the baby remains in deep slumber, as would I if I have the rocking motion of a vehicle to comfort me.

A mother brings her son to the park, he rides his bicycle as she goes for a run, then over the bridge, two kids on their scooters arrive with their dad, they make for the children’s play area, but it is still in the quiet of the day. Eschewing the cacophony that comes with music from my headphones, I take in the sounds of nature, the river rolling over rocks, the leaves rustling in the trees, the birds making different sounds a haven of the variety of life.

Another few people visit the park to run, each with a different circuit, all of different sizes and have I just recognised a face from one of those profiles of idle distraction, not that I venture a confirmation of my curiosity. The many greetings I make turn into a short conversation with a couple that walks through the park, each time noticing how different I was from the day before. It is a quick chat; I might get to know their names.

Then I return

As I leave, I have 9 kilometres in my trek and three more to go for my doorway. People walk or run, but none are doing the brisk walk I do. I can’t run and yet, I work up a good sweat that calls for my flannel at certain times.

Workmen sauntering to work are surprised at my hurried passing, I am only held back at the traffic crossings until one of them picks up a traffic cone and bellows out to me about exceeding the speed limit. I acknowledge him with a wave and 20 minutes later, I am at home.

This blog covers the subject of the blog I lost yesterday; I do not know if it is as good as the original but getting it out of my system means I can go on to other things.

Blog - A lost blog inspiration

Touched and violated by the incompetence of my government

Bullshit is just shit

When the grime minister of the United Kingdom and I do mean grime rather than prime stepped up to the podium to front a press briefing on the Coronavirus pandemic this evening, his voice was a repulsive grating sound to my hearing and probably to many others around our country.

The hollow unconvincing rhetoric with the attempt to stir and rouse us to a national cause to defeat this pandemic rang hollow with an unerring absence of sincerity or conviction. Anyone would commiserate with us on how this great country could have been afflicted with this impersonation of an atrocity too mean in its deathly grip of the notion, principles, and history that had made this our country a beacon of hope, power, and force for good.

The Coronavirus showed up this government in ways that no other event could, it did not come out of the blue, it was evident that it could be devastating from what was seen when in started in China and for weeks as we saw it sweep through northern Italy. Yet, we were caught flat-footed.

The walk must match the talk

The tools of bombast and bluster that had served this cohort of shysters and confidence tricksters were just hot air in the face of a pandemic, words had to be met with action, optimism was no substitute for facilitation and operational efficiency.

When Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was required, it had to be properly sourced to meet our requirements ordered and delivered to the individuals who needed the protection to save themselves from contracting the virus and many health personnel died because the government’s weasel words of assurance met anything but the stark reality.

The same is the case for testing, for contact tracing and for knowing how far the testing is available to those who need it as a matter of urgency or criticality. The whole mission has been a catastrophic bungling that has left the UK with the highest death toll in Europe at 42,143 and the 5th highest in the world.

They gave the gift of death

As a proportion of our total population, that statistic is more damning, because the UK rises to the 3rd position behind Peru and Brazil. To match the UK death toll, only Spain is close, with 262, all other countries except the first 2 will have to record thousands of lost lives. That is how bad things are when it comes to the UK and the comparison in the top-10 countries in the numbers of the dead from this pandemic.

Figure 1: COVID-19 Statistics

COVID-19 data from and population data from U.S. and World Population Clock.

What makes this situation most compelling and personal for me is that South Africa is opening its borders for international travel from the 1st of October; Brian and I were looking forward to meeting up there as soon as it was possible as we were last together in January.

As a result of the mishandling

We obviously need to see how things pan out, but my reading of the situation is quite bleak because the Foreign Minister released a statement that leaves me quite deflated and worried. “South Africa has developed a risk categorisation model for different international travellers. This model classifies international travellers according to a scale of high, medium and low risk.  High-risk travellers are those who come from countries with higher numbers of COVID-19 infections and reported deaths compared to South Africa.” This is the issue, “Leisure Travellers from high-risk countries will not be permitted.” [South Africa Government]

South Africa has only suffered 16,667 deaths due to the COVID-19 compared to the UK at 42,143, and that puts us in the high-risk country category and one can only wonder for how long. There are 12 countries above South Africa with a higher number of deaths, and that includes the United States, Italy, France and Spain.

It reminds me of a scripture, ‘For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.’ Hebrew 4:15 (KJV). Wherefore, in the UK, we have been touched by the magnitude of our government’s rank incompetence and ineptitude at the handling of this Coronavirus pandemic, part of the consequence is we might not be able to travel to countries where we were once very welcome.

I cannot be more pissed off with Boris Johnson and his cabinet for the situation in which we find ourselves. It is damning and it should have consequences, sadly, they might just get away with it too.

Normalising HIV Challenge against stigma

A challenge worth entering

One thing I have learnt about Social Media as I am just an amateur is that you never know what you post that might catch fire and go viral.

Just over two days ago, I joined the Normalising HIV Challenge with the hashtag #NormalizingHIVChallenge, the American spelling notwithstanding. What it involved was a short profile of oneself, one’s HIV status and what one is doing about it. Then, you can add a tagline.

This was all in aid of banishing HIV stigma, for there are many who are HIV-positive and living normal productive happy lives, going about regular and exciting activities the pills helping a long way.

I posted my tweet with the tagline, “I'm not dirty and clean is when you've had a shower.” This comes from what I have seen on certain profiles or in conversation where you are asked if you are clean. By implication, anyone who is HIV-positive is not clean or consequently dirty.

Courtesy of The Stigma Project

Blog - Dealing with sexuality and HIV stigma

Blog - Experience is not enough to teach you to understand things

Clean after a shower

This is after well-published and peer-reviewed studies that show HIV-positive people on antiretroviral drugs and by consequence with undetectable viral loads cannot pass the virus on to sexual partners. We can live healthy and passionate sex lives under the right medical supervision.

It does not mean we should be reckless with our sexual health, regular check-ups are necessary and it is unlikely that anyone who is HIV-positive is not completely clued in about this. Yet, ignorance persists in communities that should know better and the wider public who are usually deluded into thinking they are safe without any awareness of their real status.

Owning my experience

Literally, all the responses to my tweet have been supportive apart from one where the person in his cynicism thought I was being paid to demonstrate a false status in my search for clout and to trend. It was a shame that after he apologised, he deleted his tweets and then blocked me, out of embarrassment or shame or the inability to face up to his calumny, I would not know.

However, this much I know, a long time ago, I decided to own my situation, understand my condition and share my experience, if, in any little way, it might help others.

I know there are aspects of life I went through that others might well relate to and seek prompt medical attention rather than delay it. As I alluded to in the blog below.

Blog - When I had the murderous cancer of denial

Even this is normal

For the commendations of bravery or daring, I am thinking of neither, rather it is a simple case of acceptance, I am already a miracle of medical prowess that has come of the body of knowledge acquired through the medical interventions in other lives affected by HIV and related medical conditions. Forthrightly, I have to live with what I have, if I can't, what is the point of living and where is the joy of living?

We will continue to challenge HIV stigma, not so much to normalise being HIV-positive, but to aver that regardless of your HIV status it should not define you and you can live normal and amazingly productive lives. That is the goal of #NormalizingHIVChallenge from my perspective.

Childhood: Early 1976 in Mushin, Lagos

Experience to new experience

A piece of childhood history has just been triggered by a Facebook friend request that I am ambivalent about honouring. In early 1976, I was sent from the north in Kaduna where we lived to stay with relations in the South West, and this was to attend common entrance examinations to secondary schools in the region my parents came from.

I was picked up from the airport in Lagos and on our way to where I was to be staying, I was sick in the car. Everyone was gentle with me, I survived and recovered well after that.

In Ibadan, there was a rite of passage, probably what put me off learning to drive when the driver distracted and attending to other activities asked me to grab the steering wheel just short of careering into a ravine. Though it did not appear I passed the examinations having flown from Kaduna, it was the time that I had a full sexual experience with a 16-year old.

Then, I happened to be in Sagamu in February, at the time that the Head of State, Murtala Mohammed was assassinated. Then also for examinations and another 16-year old finding his pleasures with me. I might well have been a catamite.

A Lagos of a dream

Returning to Lagos, I was in Mushin on Araromi Street, number 29 if I can recall. An older cousin of my father with adult children, the last, just about my age. He worked in the same company as my father but in a slightly junior capacity. His wife worked at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in the catering department and his mother-in-law lived just up the road, we called her Ma Mije.

His father was a lay reader of our old St. Jude’s Anglican Church in our village, known to all with the corrupted version of his honorific title, Lerida. A friendly and jovial man who entertained with hot sweet and milky tea and loaves of bread. He was the tea connoisseur of our village and well-liked.

One of his sons was in his twenties, he had finished secondary school, two others were close to the end of their secondary education. The December before, their big sister got married, remnants of the wedding cake kept on top of a cupboard. She put to bed soon afterwards, but her husband was abroad studying whilst she lived in the newly developing suburbs.

Surely not a negative

She sometimes visited and helped with my lessons, that was when I learnt of negative numbers in Mathematics for all I knew before then was Arithmetic, the concept of negative numbers were so alien to me and questions of that sort featured a lot in the common entrance examinations.

She had just graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos and when we visited her, I drank Tennant’s Light Lager, it is strange a 10-year old was allowed such leeway.

In the Easter of that year, we went to Bar Beach, the big boys picked me up and threw me in the raging surf. That experience probably informed my fear of water and so my inability to swim until this day.

Representing them to some

During my stay, there was a visitor to the company from Japan, they worked for a textile company with my father being the chief accountant. In Lagos, I was the one wheeled out to converse and engage with the guest as everyone else was shut away. We went over maps of the world in an atlas and when he was leaving, he gave me lots of Yen.

I returned to Kaduna late in the month of May, but it is very likely that was last time I saw the eldest son of the family, who has now asked to be a friend on Facebook. There are so many things I remember, the star clock on the wall in the living room, the scent of Oil of Ulay that was quite off-putting.

The incomplete third storey roof where the big boys went to smoke cigarettes, the girl in the ground floor apartment that won a place to Mayflower School, Ikenne when I ended up down the road at Remo Secondary School, Sagamu.

My tenth-year harbours much to remember about childhood and some things I would rather forget as I touched on my 11th birthday. It was both an adventurous and scary time, I sometimes wonder, what were my parents thinking when they made some decisions from 1975 into 1976?

A lost blog inspiration

I lost my blog

Yesterday afternoon, I wrote a long blog about the mornings and the people I meet each day as I go out for my walks. In between conversations with a friend and pasting links to other published blogs, I managed to lose the blog I had written and completely irretrievably.

I did not have the AutoSave feature in Microsoft Word on and my hopes that it might have been caught in a temporary file were not met. I had somehow managed to close my word processor application without saving the document and I really cannot remember how.

Much as I could remember what I had written about, I was deflated, the second attempt would never feel like the original. I have decided inspiration for a blog like the one I lost will eventually come and I might end up with an interesting narrative, I don’t know.

Once bitten

Meanwhile, I have turned on the AutoSave feature with the inconvenience that the order in which I do things has changed. For normally, I will write the whole blog first, then delineate the blog with headings, the first heading becoming the name the blog is saved as in Microsoft Word before it is formatted and copied to the blogging editor for publication.

Now, my blog has a name that might not consequently be related to what I end up writing. I guess I can live with that and it is better than losing it all. What I cannot understand is how the Recover Unsaved Documents did not come to my rescue yesterday. C’est la vie, ce sera.  

Monday 28 September 2020

Thought Picnic: Leaving them to grudging and numbing

Refusing the obvious

Denial is probably the desire to live a different reality. Presented with the obvious, we find a delusionary diversion in thought and in deed to create an existence of the utmost deception in the hope that circumstances might just align.

There is the occasion where one exhibits reluctance with grudging acceptance, then another is engaged in persistence with numbing insistence, either way, none can alter the course of events as life and its decisions are primarily that of the principal regardless of expectations or prayers.

Defusing the devious

That one was offered the option of a village girl was quite amusing even as it was deftly declined, there is a city boy to whom one is betrothed, many traditions sacrificed to realities that have more relevance for heart and mind.

It is with warmth though that when in conversation with the dean after the Eucharist yesterday, the mention of marriage was embraced with easy accommodation of all genders not presupposing anything and welcoming of the response given. He is marrying him and whoever is in denial cannot be helped beyond facing the truth of what life really is.


Saturday 26 September 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XVIII

New arrivals as potential vectors

It was only two weekends ago on a Saturday just into the second kilometre of my 7-kilometre walk to the banks of the River Mersey ensconced by the Chorlton Water Park and Sale Water Park that I saw arrivals to the student halls of the Manchester Metropolitan University. Young men and women brought over by their parents to begin a new phase in their lives.

Then, I wondered about how my city was changing as if we had now found a cosy arrangement with the pandemic where life could somewhat return to normal. Life did return to a kind of normalcy for the freshers’ week, for each time I went out for a walk there were crowds and groups, hardly social distancing, revelling into the night, it was concerning.

Neither here nor there

Then at the beginning of the week, the government began backpedalling on the lifting of restrictions, their urging that we return to our offices was less so, we were now to work from home as much as possible, the whole saga was becoming more comedic and tragic than how the Grand Old Duke of York marshalled his men up and down the hill till they were stuck in the middle, being neither up nor down. At least they were receiving clear directions even if the purpose was unclear.


On a personal level, health is wealth, to a country in the times of a pandemic, public health is national wealth. The latter cannot precede the former. The bungling administration of Boris Johnson who when he resigned as Foreign Secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet suggested there was a failure of statecraft, in his case, there is a total lack of imagination.

Believing in human ingenuity

Without assuring public health, the national wealth will suffer and all efforts to protect the economy would be exorbitant and consequently fruitless.

We have to believe in human ingenuity that when all things are equal with public health, regardless of how the economy has been battered, it can be revived. History has shown how war has damaged economies and the end of the war ushered in growth and productivity through some pain, but the trajectory is always upwards.

The failure to address the public health emergency with competence and strategy has left us in the throes of a second wave that would be more damaging than the first and possibly leave the economy in a more sickened state than if things were properly dealt with in the first instance.

A student life halted

The students that returned to campus life have somehow met up with the Coronavirus with 127 of them testing positive with COVID-19 leading to the self-isolation of about 1,700 students in Cambridge Hall and Birley Campus, just within 2 kilometres of my residence.

Their self-isolation is to prevent them from spreading it in the community and further down the line, if this is not contained, there is a likelihood that students will not be allowed to return home for Christmas, just to prevent community contact spreading. [BBC News: Covid outbreak: Manchester Metropolitan University students in lockdown]

Can’t blame the students

From another perspective, the students have been short-changed and scammed, universities opened to justify their tuition fees, the hostels opened to keep the landlords afloat through their justifiably collecting rent. Now, they are stuck in their rooms, they can neither attend classes nor return home. It was a catastrophe in the making for which the government would shift the blame to the victims of this pandemic, the students in this case and the public in the general surge in infections nationally.

Whereas, it is without a doubt that the UK government is totally responsible for the mishandling of this pandemic and that is why we have the highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Europe. We cannot spin that any other way than say it with conviction as the incontrovertible truth.

Everyone for themselves and for all

On our streets, one thing is evident, the virus is invisible, it is pervasive, it is spreading and the need to maintain social distancing, wear masks, avoid gatherings, wash hands and so on remains a matter of personal safety and self-preservation. There is no telling where in this city of three large universities there are other pockets of infection. Within the week of opening primary and secondary schools, 15 schools were shut with the pupils asked to self-quarantine.

My other concern is how from outside the UK, other countries might be watching things go awry and so place us on a restricted list of travel as both a destination and place of origin. It is obvious that Boris Johnson and his big tent of circus clowns will never get to grips with this pandemic, we as individuals must save ourselves.


Thursday 24 September 2020

When I had the murderous cancer of denial

When I was in denial

Amongst the many other things, I find to do, this September week usually starting from the 20th day of the month and on to the end does provide a time of reflection in many ways. Writing about the 20th, I remember it as the day I got an HIV positive result confirmed from the week before in 2002.

As I reflect on the circumstances, it is quite strange that for years I had been taking tests but expressly said I did not want to know the result. How that could have served me any good, I cannot say, but either way, my wishes were respected in both the UK and the Netherlands. Whether that would have been negligent and unethical on the part of the medical personnel, if any of the previous tests proved positive, I cannot tell.

It was another 7 years before that diagnosis began to run its full effects on my physiology, my immune system was completely compromised, and I was now vulnerable and presenting opportunistic infections. That at the end of June, the loudest alarm bells of impeding danger was ignored is still something that bothers me.

When I was foolish

Suffice it to say, I was looking for a miracle, a sudden and spiritual Eureka moment when something I did out of faith or someone renowned of the calling would lay hands on me and I would be miraculously healed. Though, the healing would have been suspect as I had not to that point given myself to essential medical scrutiny first to confirm the conditions manifesting in me, before a confirmatory check proved the fact.

I was looking for a shortcut, absolving myself from any responsibility for my situation and in denial of the seriousness of my condition even as others were beginning to notice the rapid deterioration of my health. It took the better part of 3 months from the 22nd June when I came down with shingles through July and August as fungating tumours formed on the sole of my left foot with associative pain that the only way I could walk on the foot was to have it firmly bandaged up, for me to come to my senses in a way.

When I was persuaded

The process eventually got me visiting my doctor who then expedited referrals to consultants that culminated in my admission to the hospital in the 22nd of September, after which I began to understand what I was facing and the graveness of my situation.

There are many factors that contributed to my reticence, I was wishing and hoping, it would just go away, the real danger was, I could just have died, foolishly, stupidly, ignorantly, and unnecessarily, when there was much medicine could have done to help me.

Those factors, I need to find time to articulate, products of positive and negative influences, incomplete understanding of ideas, principles, doctrine and spiritual matters, religious naivety and the convenience of sticking my head in the sand.

The 18 nights I spent in the hospital 11 years ago are journaled and bookmarked in The Cancer Tales section of My Blog Themes.


Wednesday 23 September 2020

It's walking and it's working - II

Getting it done early

Just over a week ago, I decided to start putting in a lunchtime walk exercise to take the burden off trying to meet my 10,000 steps in the evening into the night. At first, I was satisfied with getting about 6,000 steps in, so that whatever I did later filled up the quota easier and the extra was just a boost on my activity.

However, on Sunday morning before church, I had done over 10,000 steps that when the day was over, I was just 231 steps short of 30,000 steps, it should not have taken much more exertion to beat the most steps of 31,687 steps that I set on the 13th of September.

Useful results to celebrate

Four weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that all my exercise was just walking and it was working, I am losing weight which has fallen from 88.2 kg to 80.9 kg today, I am sure the girth around my belly button has reduced too, the prominent and ironically named love handles are literally non-existent and I am breaking other personal records in the process.

Blog - It's walking and it's working

For instance, on Monday and Tuesday, I got my 10,000 steps during my lunchtime walk, then yesterday, I did 7 kilometres in 56’47”, this morning, having walked 11.76 kilometres by the time it was a few minutes past 8:00 AM, the first 7 kilometres were done in 58’33”, until yesterday, I had not been able to fit 7 kilometres into an hour.

The other amazing thing was I also broke the 4,000 steps in 30 minutes barrier, I stepped out at 4081. All this I did in the pouring rain and with much gusto. My goal is to bring my weight below 80 kg, though, I can’t convince Brian of taking it down to 75 kg.


Monday 21 September 2020

I remember, it was in December

Love started intending

I do remember the many times that September brought us back onto the dancefloor as the disc jockey realised that the last few tracks did not inspire any excitement.

It is to the credit of the lively beat that Earth, Wind & Fire’s September still endures 42 years after it was recorded. You can be sure to get the party started with this, not to mention a night a passionate of love.

Besides, the lyrics also, signify a night in which love became the reality between two, the rest was the stuff of sonnets, hearts, hands, nights, skies, the whisperings of tenderness and much else that is implied, that we know goes a long way beyond unrequited teenage infatuation.

For me, it was the 27th night of December, in which I met someone who made my heart glow, it was as if I knew, for in my first message I said, “You’re every dream of a man.” I have been living that dream since.

Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember? [Genius: September – Earth, Wind & Fire]



Sunday 20 September 2020

Thanks for the day

A day attached to things

The 20th of September when it comes to dates is one that just happens to have offered itself up for association, whether it was 40 years ago when it fell on a Saturday with a housewarming ceremony and birth of a cousin or 18 years ago; a Friday, when that dreary morning I was visited with a medical result that changed my life.

The 20th of September becomes a placeholder, something to set focus on in the midst of many distractions, like every other day, yet, one that by arrangement heralded a new beginning, by expectation ushered in a new life and by accident revealed a new prospect.

In all, what is means is one new opportunity to give thanks for the house still stands, the lady does thrive, and we are still here as a new year begins the count to the next.


Friday 18 September 2020

Psalm 23 comes alive with new insight

A Psalm in troubled times

Psalm 23 was the recitation of refuge that I woke to say every night probably hundreds of times in my first term of boarding school, haunted by things only I could see and sounds only I could hear. Such was the menace of my disturbance that the first half of my second term was spent as a day student living with my aunt.

Psalm 23 however is like a rare diamond, which when put up to light has a colour too mesmerising for words, a cut by the craftmanship of divine providence, a clarity in message that is individualised in revelation to those who meditate on it and a carat weight of priceless value.

I say this because just under 5 months ago, I received a revelation that came at a time that I needed to understand how the Lord is my shepherd. With it came a calmness in my soul and an assurance that things would turn out right. Soon, I got a new job in the midst of a pandemic and the way it came about was just too amazing to describe.

Blog - The changing texts of religious meditation

New treasures in old mines

As I was engaged in a conversation this evening, I was persuaded to share my new understanding as a word of comfort. We were communicating by text on WhatsApp as I began to write what I thought I was going to share.

What transpired just blew my mind for as I was writing, some new insight came to me that I had never seen before, unveiling to the eyes of my understanding that it was as if I was now sermonising to both myself and the person I was chatting.

A Psalm of David. [KJV]

1.    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2.    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3.    He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4.    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5.    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6.    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Doing waters and feeling pastures

There are a number of themes running through these 6 verses, repeated over and over again, whilst each successive verse reinforces the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. I have before indicated that if the Lord is my shepherd, by inference, I would be His sheep and that is why we end up at the green pastures where the sheep can feed and the still waters where the sheep can peacefully drink.

I also find that there is the thread of what the shepherd does as a shepherd and for the sheep and what that does for the sheep and how the sheep feel. There is an anthropomorphic quality to these relationships, but please forgive my amateurish attempt at expounding this text.

Finding the recurring themes

Taking each verse, I address the themes.

1.    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Here, what he does is shepherd and by reason of that, I want for nothing.

2.    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Here, he does lead the sheep beside the still waters, a place of peace and refreshing, as the sheep lays in the verdant pastures they feed to their satisfaction unperturbed.

In King James’ English, the -eth suffix denotes a present continuous tense. So, read maketh and continues to make and leadeth as continues to lead. The job of a shepherd when the sheep are about is never left undone at any time.

3.    He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

As he leads the sheep in the right and sure path continuously, for that is what the shepherd does by profession, by duty, and by name. There, you see a form of still waters.

Where he continues to restore the soul bringing comfort, peace and assurance reads like a form of green pastures. An abundance of mental restoration means we are never left exhausted by any situation.

4.    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The still waters might get turbulent or the green pastures might be exhausted after a time of grazing. This would mean the shepherd has to herd the sheep to new green pastures and still waters.

The sheep are always led by the shepherd and the shepherd knows the many green pastures and still waters all around the wilderness to lead the sheep to, to ensure never want for provision of comfort.

Getting to the next green pastures and still waters might include traversing the valley of the shadow of death where dangers lurk from the sheep straying and brought back into the flock with the rod or where predators are warded off with the staff.

The shepherd, ever vigilant is with the sheep and the sheep should fear no danger or accident as the shepherd is there. In our lives, we also traverse difficulty, adversity, trials, tribulations and negative circumstances. The Lord with us will lead us out of it to new triumphs in life.

5.    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Here we are, having gone through the valley of the shadow of death with the sheep, the new green pastures are a table set before us where our enemies can see but never assail us. The new still waters are the anointing of the head, succouring and empowerment with capacity. We can only thrive for we are in a place of joy.

We have become warriors, celebrating victories over situations, circumstances and issues in life.

6.    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Yet, the table is just a place of transition for there is another possible valley of the shadow of death that the shepherd has to herd the sheep to, where the still waters are now goodness and mercy in all the days of our lives and the green pastures of the final destination is dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

At this point, we are no more mere sheep, but people, living and enjoying the blessings of the Lord. Goodness being everything right, good and desirous for wellbeing, health, and a sense of contentment in not wanting for anything. Mercy in that there is no guilt or condemnation, we have been continuously led in the paths of righteousness from verse 3.

Some insight into the Jews of Manchester

A religion of observances

A few years ago, after walking past the Manchester Jewish Museum on Cheetham Hill Road, I decided to go in for a visit. As I am wont to do, I had seen a plaque celebrating Dr Chaim Weizmann who once lived in Manchester and went on to become the first president of Israel, there was much to the history of the Jews in Manchester, I thought. [Wikipedia: History of the Jews in Manchester]

In my mind, I thought I knew a lot about Jews and Judaism, I was knowledgeable as an outsider but hardly informed. I had learnt from the Christian bible how the feasts of Judaism related to Christian festivals, teachings derived from the customs and traditions of Judaism giving some context of how Christianity is by terms a Middle Eastern religion that just happens to be so radically westernised.

Difference without indifference

In church last Sunday, during the sermon, the preacher said we should consider our relationships with other religions, seeing first the person before their beliefs, accepting we are in the quest for some spirituality and that we should not claim either superiority or inferiority in relation to other belief systems, for we each in our ways are seeking and worshipping God.

As Judaism celebrates Rosh Hashanah which is the Jewish new year from this evening that would culminate in the feast of Yom Kippur, between them in the space of 10 days is Yamim Noraim; the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance, the preacher recommended we visit a website, Judaism 101 to learn more about this root Abrahamic religion.

Through a shop window of Judaism

One could consider it an occasion of propinquity that as I switched on my television and was scanning for something to watch off my Amazon Fire Stick 4K, there was a television programme on Amazon Prime called Jewish Law which happened to be a documentary about Orthodox Jews in Manchester, filmed in 2004. They then numbered about 30,000 living in the Prestwich area of Manchester.

In three episodes which covered families, major feasts, religious practices, the management and regulation of kosher, and mitzvahs or commandments, there was a lot to learn, though this would require second and consequently more viewing to get a better grasp of things, the attention of particularities and details made everything seems so onerous except for within the community itself.

And I never knew

Seeing how meat products should not touch dairy that in some households they had separate cooking sections to handle each, like having two separate cooking hobs, ovens and fridges was an interesting revelation. The ceremony of circumcision, without the whole detail was just as moving.

The commandment that Jews should not eat blood meant that eggs were first cracked into a clear glass and viewed from underneath before use. A boy’s hair was not cut until they were 3 years old, when a ceremony that included prominent people in the community cutting a snip of hair whilst contributing to a piggy bank. The act of mourning a close relation does include renting one’s clothes.

Of intrigue and interest

If you thought Judaism was dull, you need to see the revelling during the feast of Purim that was initiated when Esther in the bible mediated on behalf of her people preventing their total annihilation by the Machiavellian hand of Haman. The mitzvah includes getting drunk.

None of this begins to demonstrate the intricate observances of Judaism, but it should pique one’s interest enough to explore this religion in that is probably close to its fourth Millennium. The building of the Manchester Jewish Museum which is Grade II listed is currently under renovation, but the museum artefacts and documents are in temporary residence at the Manchester Central Library.

To all my Jewish friends, Happy Rosh Hashanah! Shalom!


Thursday 17 September 2020

Cape Town, a place of love

Then nature set a table for a mount,
And gathered 12 apostles to sit around,
From where we stood and looked,
We saw the shimmering sea and more,
From Lion’s Head to Signal Hill,
Where cannons boom at noon,
The waterfront presents great views,
Of billowing clouds of awe.

It’s a place where love becomes a fount,
In which we land and kisses abound,
The love nest we sought and booked,
To write a story better than folklore,
For nuptial bliss we stake our will,
Even plan the time to honeymoon,
Our union blessed kneeling at pews,
This Cape Town is such a draw.


Wednesday 16 September 2020

Things that make you think of tomorrows

In the scheme of things

As we anticipated and waited with great expectation, we found laid before us possibilities with prospects of dreams coming true. Yet, we must be aware of considerations, the plans coming together in ways quite unpredictable as the picture begins to take form and show a masterpiece of the work of providence.

Excitement drenches us like a summer rain in which we have willingly run out to play like children without a care in the world. Hearts racing towards a day when they would be so close that they will beat together in syncopation. Even as the world has changed, the changes it has wrought in us means there is a future before us that is beckoning for the joy of living.


Tuesday 15 September 2020

In a place of serenity

Above the fray

Much thought can be given to situations and circumstances around us for which we have little influence or control. Existing within these settings the only thing we have is how we react and handle the things presented our way, so our equilibrium is not upset to the point of throwing us off our perch.

The perch is an interesting illustration of stability, for out of the corner of my eye I saw what looked like a man perched on a branch just as an owl or an eagle might settle on the branch of a tree. Comfortable in their chosen space, surveying their surroundings with such awareness of safety, danger, advantage or invasion, looking like the hunted but well into the hunt.

Knowing the difference

The variance is in understanding how that perch serves you, you are visible and much as you are invisible. In the former, for those with intent and an obsession, a vulnerability exists for which a cloak of invisibility is but a wish that you have to have assured yourself of some invincibility through being unperturbed about dangers you cannot manage.

In the latter, the advantage you have is useful to the end that if you are after something, it is caught in your gaze and you can be as evasive enough not to be noticed by your quarry. That why from my lips, the Serenity Prayer proceeds, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr


Monday 14 September 2020

What I learnt about sleep

The beauty of sleep

After about 5 weeks of observing the sleep analysis data produced by my Honor Band 5 tracker, I am gaining some understanding as to how my body works. Yet, the use of the tracker is only indicative, it does not replace proper medical supervision and analysis that would require attending a sleep clinic.

Taking a day at a time, looking at the sleep data can be disconcerting for there are nights when I literally got no sleep, maybe just under 3 hours and I could not attribute it to anything, in particular. The Huawei Health app is full of suggestions, if I wake up more than twice in the night, I might have drunk too much water close to my bedtime.

Just about enough

Depending on the quality of sleep, there are dietary and fitness factors introduced, it almost becomes prescriptive, yoghurt is good, do more exercise or exert yourself less. You get to a point where you decide none of this really matters in the bigger scheme of things, but some adjustments can be made.

I know on average, I am getting just over 7 hours of night sleep, the stages of sleep are within the tolerable limits of normal, that is; REM sleep, Light sleep, and Deep sleep. Deep sleep continuity is low, but that is one switch I am not sure of how to tune, the charts are show me transitioning between the stages, spending more time in the Light sleep stage.

Worrying about nothing

My bedtime habits need considering, like when I go to bed and the whole idea of being a nocturnal animal needs putting aside. My tracker and app scream with curtains if I am not getting enough hours of sleep. I am good at waking up, I guess because most times, it is by alarm clock.

As I collect more sleep data, I think I will get a better idea of what minor habits like having an early pill time, not taking food after a certain hour, and probably varying the light and sound environment in the bedroom need to be altered ever so slightly. There isn’t a problem, just a situation to study, understand and keep under constant review, as for worry, that is completely unnecessary. Sleep tight!

Sleep data for August 2020
Sleep data for August 2020

Sunday 13 September 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XVII

All change with no change

When I stepped out for my long walk late yesterday afternoon, I had planned to walk all the way to Sale Water Park which by the route I trek is 7.4 kilometres, Stretford Road to Chorlton Road onto Withington Road left onto Mauldeth Road West and Hardy Lane, through Hardy Farm and the bridge over the River Mersey that gets you to Jackson’s Boat Pub.

In the last 7 weeks we have been through various levels of local restrictions with the reality that the Coronavirus is not going away soon. There have been surges in infections all around Greater Manchester and I cannot honestly say by the way I view things that we are in any considered awareness of either the restrictions or limitations, everyone seems to be going about their business as usual.

Returnees in stranger times

I have once ventured a Thursday morning brunch in a restaurant in New Islington where the seating arrangement was socially distanced and one time when I did sit in a Starbucks café two Sundays ago, having left all my personal details on a strip of paper with the staff. My only social interaction would be when I go shopping for essentials and attend the Unsung Eucharist at church.

What I noticed was a busy university precinct, car boots, hatchbacks, and van doors flung open with suitcases, furniture, utensils, books, and other personal effects being moved into accommodations. I sensed university students are back. Life is returning to some normalcy even with pandemic hovering around us, hoovering up souls that have lost their battle to it.

It is still very much here

It would appear we have decided to get on with life, despite infection rates being at dangerously high levels, social distancing is now the norm with students threatened with exclusion if they don’t respect the requirement, have your masks covering your faces or face stiff penalties, keep washing your hands, thankfully, there is no one inspecting your hands in your home. From Monday, gatherings must not exceed 6 in a group, except at places where they are allowed. [MEN: Latest coronavirus figures show infection rate has doubled in a week in parts of Greater Manchester]

During the week, in faraway Wales where my office is and I have not attended since I started, two of the staff contracted Coronavirus, that anyone of my team who attends the office must if they leave their desks don a mask, wear gloves and document every floor visited. Things have changed too radically, the desire of the government to put us back into workplaces and offices is not one that would entertain mass consideration for a while still.

Elsewhere, I read, after the clamour to get the kids back in schools, 15 schools in our Manchester area have had to close with the pupils in self-isolation for 14 days. [MEN: More than a thousand pupils isolating after 15 Greater Manchester schools see positive Covid tests]

We can’t live in fear,
But we must remain aware,
However, we may fare,
The pandemic is out there,
Social distancing is here,
Mask your face, not as a dare,
Wash your hands, the pair,
For each and all we care.


Saturday 12 September 2020

In a shocking pair of shorts

It is a work in progress
There are things I am probably not yet ready to acknowledge about the way my walking as exercise might have changed aspects of my fitness, my girth and my weight. Brian, for instance would protest until the cows come home that I have lost weight and I am looking trim, I would retort with a vehemence that he is only being biased.
I cannot say he has been that much help in an objective manner because only days ago, he acknowledged that my concerns about my weight that he regularly dismissed as inconsequential before I embarked on my walking regime was quite valid. I was looking like I needed to do something, but he was not going to leave me feeling that I must do something until I started to do something about it on my own, for which I have received enthusiastic partner encouragement.
He is perfect beauty
Now, Brian would most likely ask that I slow down, tone it down a little, get some rest, or something along those lines. Obviously, I do not want to harm myself with excessive workouts that I have considered I might need some deep tissue massage.
Conversely, and definitely, not inversely, I do find Brian quite attractive as he also expresses concerns about filling out places that I think are amazingly perfect as if crafted by a sculptor of incomparable talent. There is no excess, he is man-perfect or all-man, as I would tell him, trim and better than Michelangelo’s David, if I added sexy to the description, I have not even begun to give credit to the form and beauty of art that he is.
Maybe there is some bias in my appreciation, I am attracted to trim and slender men, yet, it appears, we both are caught in degrees of body dysmorphia about how we would like to change some things. In all honesty, the work has mostly been on my part to rise from a sedentary lifestyle to one of moderate to intense activity acquiring a level of fitness, especially for my age. Brian is nature’s perfect form, the model for musculature that you will teach your biology and anatomy on.
There are signs, I admit
Getting up this morning, after a long lie-in, I needed to grab something to wear and as I reached out, it was a pair of shorts that I would have strained to get round my waist just over a month ago. They would be called hot pants as to be illicit or even termed indecent dressing in conservative places. They slipped on and fitted with effortless ease, I think we are getting somewhere.
It reminds me of that nursery rhyme as we prepare for the opportunity to meet up soon within our domesticated set up in Cape Town. I, the personification of Jack and he like the wife or vice versa, which is no reference to roles we play for we are both men in a same-sex relationship without any of that heteronormative stereotyping.
Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
But, together both,
They licked the platter clean.
That is the story, he is trying to put it on, I am working hard to put it off, however, we have to agree, we love good food. Then despite the occasional subjective view of how I look, I am grateful that Brian is the greatest and best supporter of my quest to fitness.
I am beginning to look quite good for my age from my perspective even if others have arrived at that conclusion long before me. There is still more working out and walking about to do, to get to the body I am happy to stand in front of the mirror and smile at.