Saturday 31 October 2020

Cherishing love and the person who gives it

Love is the reason

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

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

Love is the purpose

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

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

Friday 30 October 2020

Ease up, rest, relax, revive

Cold and sore

It probably should be the least of my worries, the irritating but least atrocious human herpes virus flare-up, the cold sore which folklore suggests comes from a feeling of emotional stress and a wearing down in the body. With no mind of looking for the science of this thing, it’s been a strange few weeks of pandemic loneliness culminating with the tragedy of the sudden passing away of my stepmother on Wednesday. [Humanherpes virus]

Looking through the human herpes viruses presents a checklist of events that should hardly be a topic of conversation except at the point of diagnosis in the readiness for treatment. Yet, cold sore many checks, chickenpox check, shingles check, kaposi’s sarcoma check and we are still here.

Tired of the cancer

Kaposi’s sarcoma was the worst experience, presenting as a fungating tumour and cancerous withering of flesh on the soles of my feet, more prominently on the left foot. It took 5 months of chemotherapy to blow that completely away.

Shingles was a strange experience, I had a complete rundown of strength in the week that I had guests in the Netherlands and the day before, I progressive felt strength drain out of me when we visited the Kinderdijk windmills, that by the evening I was barely standing and I was able to make dinner for us.

Those blistering poxes

When they left the next morning, I went to bed, and by noon, from the left arm over my shoulder blade and crossing over my back and unusually over my vertebral column to the right shoulder blade, the blisters appeared. Then travelled to Berlin for 4 nights and returned needing an airport escort in Berlin and personnel to ship me into a cab in Amsterdam. Bathed in camomile lotion, it was all gone in two weeks and thankfully without post-herpetic neuralgia.

Chickenpox was an affliction of childhood, I hardly remember, I know I was covered in spots and I was soon fine. We live with this thing sitting somewhere completely out of view until triggered by some event, condition, or even state of mind. I guess in the main, this is one of those things that we as humans have evolved to contain as much as possible. Keeping healthy in spirit, soul, and body is probably the best guard against it manifesting in one of its ghoulish costumes.

Writing for a possibility

Getting to a number

The last time I wrote this many blogs (298) in a year was in 2011, and only once have I written more blogs and that was way back in 2007, so, this is some sort of notification of an achievement.

It was in March that I found myself writing at least one blog a day until I broke my stride in August when I was dealing with an upsetting stalking activity. It is my hope that it is now behind me, as the stalker did decide to call themselves off their obsession, just at the time that I lodged a report and obtained a case number from the police.

Maybe it can be done

Since then, I have tried to write a number of blogs to match the number of days in the month, even if I do not write every day. It is not an easy task, you try to have completely formed ideas or good inspiration to put something down and I know I am not always successful.

This blog for instance is just a self-congratulatory blog that is not even a record. If I were to do that, I will have to write another 103 blogs in the next 62 days. It is possible, and it would probably take Brian feeding me the lines to make a muddle and a jumble of incoherence that might pass for a blog.

Thursday 29 October 2020

The parable of Henry VIII

The wives and knives

Catherine of Aragon feared for many things of her husband Henry VIII, a man of considerable charm and influence dogged by one particular issue of having an heir to continue his dynasty that he destroyed tradition, principle and religion to attempt to get his way.

It is an irony of history that the heir that succeeded him for just over 6 years, Edward VI, was born of his third wife, Jane Seymour who died soon after childbirth, Bloody Mary, Mary I, daughter of Catherine of Aragon who tried to restore the Catholic hegemony her father destroyed lasted less than 6 years before Anne Boleyn’s daughter who never married reigned for over 44 years as Elizabeth I. [Wikipedia: List of English monarchs]

Our vision is limited

From the perspective of history, it is almost unimaginable that Henry VIII changed the history of the United Kingdom for an heir that was gone in 6 years to then have his female offspring reign for over 50 years.

Futility in the machinations of man and the scandal it portends. You can only wonder how things might have been different if Henry VIII could have seen how the future would turn out. It can be said for bravery, intelligence, ability and regal nous, Elizabeth I was more a daughter of Anne Boleyn than of the insecurities of Henry VIII who after 6 wives and the murder of two, never really achieved the lasting aim of an heir with any longevity.

Mockery is history retold

An allegory lurks in that Catherine of Aragon might often time have feared that she might be killed by her husband who in many ways castigated, excoriated and dehumanised her, yet could not rid himself of her for the forces that secured her place as Queen and consort were more enduring than Henry VIII could find the normal channels to upend.

He had to arrogate to himself powers and dominions in establishing the Church of England, to secure himself the divorce or annulment he required to marry Anne Boleyn whose rapid rise was succeeded by a more precipitous fall at the axe of an executioner. She was hardly dead or mourned when Henry VIII married Jane Seymour. The prospects of a third wife can be quite limited in its historical value or context. History serves to mock the vulnerabilities of powerful men.

Thought Picnic: Sophistication above the fray

We feel what you said and did

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

The quote above is often attributed to Maya Angelou and I will take it as that. In many of my blogs, I have written about storytelling, the telling of our own stories and some stories that were once taboo of generations before us and never given voice to then have somewhat become acceptable narratives in our own recollections.

When it comes to the stories regarding our parents and the relationships, we had that became the broad template of our lives and lifestyles, we could be a little shy of going into much detail. Out of respect, out of the need to heal, out of the necessity not to air one’s dirty linen, or out of honouring them.

Sophistication out of humanity

Yet, some of these factors allow our parents to get away with the reprehensible because they are not made to face up to what they said that hurt, or what they did that harmed, but especially how they made us feel out of their actions or inactions that now defines the kind of relationships we have with them today.

None of this is to castigate our parents, far be it from us, we have through strife, adversity, pain, and privation learnt sophistication. The sophistication that allows us to act out our humanity and kindness regardless of the personalities whose words and deeds have left indelible marks in our lives. We can be formed by these experiences and yet not be defined by the negative things they were at the time meant to portend.

Forgiving after dealing

We can be quite forgiving, but that must not be used as the instrument to forget without addressing the matters boldly, directly and without dissimulation. My father will say, let bygones be bygones, that is convenient for him. However, that bygone is a significant source of the present, a forming instrument of life and experience, an influence of such magnitude as to be a principal actor in my own story, even if it is not in theirs.

What he dismissed then was what was significantly altering the course of my life in ways I could never have thought would happen, when it looked like tomorrow was too far to have a feel of any reality. Those tomorrows became years and decades, and each of those events of how I was made to feel are my story.

Protecting our interests

We are not softies for overlooking much of what a lesser person would seek to avenge or punish, I hope we raise ourselves to a higher plain and have the grace to recognise that providence has given us the capability to teach a better way.

Many things are temporal, including life, that we need to be careful that when we are no more around to sort things out, we will be remembered for the good we said and did, such that people will protect our interests, memories, kith and kin with just as much passion as if we were around to address them ourselves.

When the stories are told, they are about us, the ideas, the events and the people that contributed to the experience and everyone whether they like that narrative or not has inadvertently contributed to it, we are the people who will never forget how you made us feel.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

A chapter closed suddenly

An alarm at dawn

What a day it was in which it has been difficult to collect my thoughts and reflect on life as a transient. I woke up to the alarm that is both a sound from my mobile phone and the vibrating wristband tracker, it cannot be ignored and that is at 6:05 AM.

I wake up that early with the hope that I can get in 10 to 12 kilometres of brisk walking before I start work, it fulfils my 10,000 steps and a bit more. That is what I had done, and I was on the home straight with just about a kilometre to get home, when my phone started ringing.

As my wristband was not vibrating, it had to be a WhatsApp call, that early, what could be the matter? I saw it was my brother, my middle half-brother and thought we were to continue a conversation we started some days before. I had planned to get a mobile phone for my stepmother and he was going to do some research and get back to me.

Catching up to history

Meanwhile, my stepmother, a young 56 celebrated her birthday on Saturday, we did not get to chat about her birthday until Sunday evening, but I had sent a message to her to congratulate her. Her voice was a bit hoarse and I advised just as I had a few weeks before that she takes some honey to soothe her throat, it was a jocular conversation, we laughed and bantered, wishing each other well.

The conversation I had with my brother the day after related to the mobile phone acquisition, he wanted to touch and feel the phone rather than order it online. He was going to tackle some legal matters the next day at a place that brought some history into view. It was then I learnt that my stepmother and my father met in that town when she was a student at a technical college. Pieces of a backstory were being cobbled together over the last few days, I was listening, learning, and understanding.

Opinions in broad daylight

The union bore some handsome sons, literal carbon copies of my father in his much younger days. It was fraught with issues and problems, everyone with their viewpoints. A marriage encumbered by strife cannot necessarily be the fault of just one. Without bias, I will suggest my father can be the most reasonable person and at another time utterly and implacably unreasonable. I appreciate that my opinion will not be a shared perspective, but at this time, I will not point fingers.

I never met my stepmother, I heard a lot about her, we were introduced on the phone over a decade ago by my father, almost 20 years into their marriage. I maintained a respectful and pragmatic conversation with her and extended my conversation then to my half-siblings without meaningful engagement.

We talked and laughed

Over the years, we built a rapport, and I did find a more fruitful engagement with my second half-sibling. He became the conduit for conversation and communication. My resolution is my half-siblings are very much part of my family regardless of the historical issues and the estrangement between my father and my stepmother.

There is a core responsibility to maintain cordial, friendly and brotherly relations in spite of and despite our parents, I am wedded to that principle, God give me strength.

Now, she’s gone

None of this could have prepared me for what I heard from the other end of the phone, a neighbourly misunderstanding, some agitation, apparently a fainting spell, possibly a collapse, an attempt at resuscitation, but no, all to no avail, my stepmother was no more. The shocking suddenness of it all was like a body blow. I was near St. Peter Square as I sank unto a bench and keeled over, this could not be happening, but it had already happened, a life full of hope and promise had been handed over to the dreams and aspirations of her children.

I could not begin to imagine the palpable sense of grief and sadness that had enveloped my brothers as I began to inform people who knew her and understand what needs to be done. She was interred according to Muslim rites and what we now have to do is embrace our brothers, celebrate her life and look to the future with the hope that dreams and aspirations come true. May the gentle soul of Dasola Akintayo rest in peace.

The mystery of life

We are the travellers on unequal routes

When the morning broke,
Reticent one was to do the things of routine,
Yet one rose slow and going for no records,
The home straight picked up speed,
As the phone in my pocket rang aloud,
At this time you wondered what for,
In answering, I heard many questions of why,
As it sank in, I sank into a park bench,
And wept bowed in anguish and confusion,
To me, she was also indeed a mother,
My construct of love, respect, and pragmatism,
She had passed into the annals of time.

Everything is ephemeral,
Life the hooks on the coat rail of eternity,
From a past long gone to a future unknown,
We are the people who make the stories,
That gives time its sense of existence,
In the quiet of the places of interment,
Stones like shoots of plant life stand,
Starting with everything so beloved,
A name is scrolled, maybe with its ties,
Years of the entrance and departure,
And that is the history of man or woman,
So short on a weathered memorial stone.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

We are destined for great things

Let it rain with life

There are days and quite a few when I have walked into the rainfall, pelted by heavy showers and buffeted by the wind. You wrap up warm and face the elements to fulfil your walking quota for the day. Sometimes, you wonder why you do it, then you realise determination is the stuff getting done what needs doing regardless of the prevailing circumstances.

For the ease of many things that I dream of and quite desire, I wish for a windfall, more substantial that the rain that falls upon my barely weathered brow by which I can touch many and bring ease to burdens that weigh down and aspirations that remain the stuff of thoughts limited by ability or resource. You believe that the heavens will open and bring forth blessings like the floods of Noah, but what is a world where only you and yours exist in an ark?

Then we reign with plenty

Beyond those near heavens that brings forth the rain and gives life to the trees that presage the windfall of bountiful fruit. The universe offers a greater spectacle of awe and wonder, a meteor shower. The glow and glitter, the experience like once in a lifetime markedly giving you a memory never to be forgotten.

This is the stuff of stories, what we view of the world and beyond, the reach which is given provenance as the seeds of stories that blow your mind. It is more than rain, it helped by the wind, and when all that is gone, we behold a universe so distant brought near by the light it possesses. Neither the moon, the sun nor the stars can rival the coming of the meteor.

It becomes the sign of the times, a marker in the eternal spectrum of time, that is the blessing that fills our lives and makes a wonder of our very own stories. Let the writing begin, for we are here to tell better stories.

Thought Picnic: I see the light in his eyes

All mixed up inside

How do you feel? It is a question to which I probably have no complete answer. I feel strange, sometimes tired, struggling to be happy, grasping at ideas, events and people to celebrate, looking for distractions that can take my mind off other things that bother me, the truth is, I feel lonely.

Quite lonely and far away from the feel and touch of one I love, time intervening with length that stresses and strains, if we had no spirit in us, we would have lost and abandoned hope. Now, that is something I cannot afford to do. I must look forward, look up, look in expectation and look with anticipation. This must and will change.

Breaking into great dreams

This is what I must do to change how I feel, because the thin wall of separation from the doldrums and depression are so easily breached, it is not a place I should allow to come into my path. It is the power of love that sustains me, the care and concern of many friends who call to check that this fragile being with sometimes stoic bearing, whose vulnerabilities are crenellated in the dismissal of fuss is as well human.

Maybe I am a control freak, I hate to be a victim of circumstances, especially those outside my control, limiting my scope for manoeuvre. I know I am in a passage, I am in motion, as time moves some certainty comes into view. Let us begin to live the stuff of dreams coming true better than we ever imagined.

It gets better always

It is the traversal of the valley of the shadow of death, there is nothing to fear and everything is like a dare, for ahead are the green pastures and still waters, I am safe in the knowledge that I am being led there in the care and protection of the shepherd. Any harm can only come to that which seeks to harm me.

In my writing, I find a great wealth of catharsis, and by the time I am done, I feel much better than when I started. Expression is strangely a form of elation. Let’s get back to Eden before things went south.

Monday 26 October 2020

It cannot be unlooked

A predator without shame

It cannot be a term of praise as the review of someone who for all his achievements is in particular everything a philanderer is. Contemptuously in denial and feigning unconvincing innocence in the face of incontrovertible evidence, the pleadings wear thin to the point of irritation and annoyance.

The roving eye with its propensity to quarry some prey for activities quite reprobate and adulterous is never without its focus. Caught at all times that the force of personality is used to enervate those who might expose the truth.

Sing praise chorus insult

He cast his net when away many times and once netted a pupil for whom a time of matrimony was never one to be termed of any bliss. Animosity finds excitement in first and the second, that any prospects of the third should have a man checking himself for his flaws and faults. Therein, is the problem for which a eulogy will not by any stretch of the imagination be hagiographic.

A church he helped build, but a saint, he never was. Honoured he is, but it cannot honestly be for the remotely honourable for which conduct may be viewed as exemplary. If there is praise to be sung, there are stanzas and choruses of opprobrium to chant. In a human being is the good and the bad, let the story be told of all that makes a man what he has lived.

That extra hour

Night of the morning

Getting up at the break of dawn, I prepared to go for my walk, first checking the weather seeing that it was cold but no expectation of rain. How wrong I was, because, the rain eventually came pouring down and without my run visor, I had to walk with my hood up and my head down, to shield my glasses from the splatter of rain.

On Sunday morning at 2:00AM, the clocks went back an hour, which meant an extra hour in bed. However, in 30 years of adjusting between Greenwich Mean Time; for the sake of knowing the Shibboleth, it is pronounced Grennich, and British Summer Time, the benefit of that hour shift only really became that apparent this morning.

Light of the morning

Usually, in the last couple of weeks, getting out at around 6:00 AM was quite dark and things did not begin to light up properly until after 7:00 AM. It informed my need to get high visibility accoutrements as a vest, armbands and lights.

The reversion to Standard Time meant that there was some light when I left home and halfway into my walk, it was already light enough to vary my walk route a bit without having a sense of danger. I guess the concept of Daylight Savings that allows darkness to fall later in the day according to the clock is going out of fashion.

The issue with Standard Time in the winter is that I have to remember that my babe is now two instead of one hour ahead. What fun it would be to work out of Cape Town in the winter.

Saturday 24 October 2020

Start a bonfire to change the cake

The ache of a cake

It feels strange, the kind of humour that comes to mind in these times. Greater Manchester of which Mancunium is the centre was moved into Boris Johnson’s Tier 3 level of coronavirus restrictions. It does not change much of what I do, my walks, my apparent self-isolation, my shopping, my churchgoing are all intact.

Thinking of tiers, it might just be a cake of tiers but what will the third tier of cake taste like? I would have no idea, a phantom cake has no context of form or taste, it is a figment of my imagination or a coping mechanism for forces somewhat beyond one’s control.

The national cake is being cut into regional conflicts between the central government and the local leaders, most of the regions not getting enough of cake to keep them fed. But we have Prime Minister whose hands on the till is a wasteful squandering the cake, because he thinks he can both have and eat his cake. A profligate, prodigal, reprobate, he is.

[Quote Brexit: Boris: “Our policy is having our cake and eating it.”]

No change in our pockets

The other night, a man and his dog was accosting anyone who will listen and I was eventually engaged, he had a pocket full of coins that he wanted to exchange for paper money or plastic money as some of our denominations are now. It appears, no one carries money around anymore which is a radical change to our society.

We have inadvertently become a cashless society, I have not taken money out of an automatic teller machine for months, everything is done by contactless payments by mobile phone or bank card. It means you do not have change for anything, especially those in receipt of alms. It got to a point the man walked off into a side alley on the way out of town cursing and raging, having not changed his money and somewhat thinking the world was against him.

A bonfire of useless parliamentarians

We are all up against a lot and it is easy not to see how things have affected others in the midst of things that impact us directly. A number of cultural and traditional events would suffer for this. Halloween coming up at the end of the month will entertain no trick or treat, it would be unsafe to take sweets or treats from strangers.

The 5th of November is Guy Fawkes Night, though you wonder if with the crop of representatives with have in our current parliament, we would not be best served with a bonfire of their vanities. Imagine voting against free school meals and defending the position as if the Tories are the victims rather than the children, some of whom will go to bed hungry. [BBC News: School meals: Marcus Rashford 'proud' of community response]

Locally, it will be no penny for the Guy, an effigy of Guy Fawkes created by kids for which they can ask for donations. For all that we do to maintain a sense of stability, the subtle changes going on around us cannot be ignored. We keep at what we can and hope for the best.

Friday 23 October 2020

A sentence in gaseous expression

Limited Uber

On Monday, I called an Uber cab to take me to the hospital for a phlebotomy session and to pick up my prescription. The trip was less than 20 minutes and what I was accustomed to had changed. I used to sit in the front seat with the driver and attempt to engage in conversation.

This time, I was in the back seat, wearing a mask, and though there was some driver-rider conversation, I cannot say it was free-flowing as would normally be the case with anyone interested. Breathe, I barely could, but not to suffocation, I even got to blow my nose and I was eventually delivered to my destination.

Flatulent Uber

Before all this pandemic situation however, one considers the case of James Mallett and what a hammer or a hitter he might have been when he let rip the expulsion of gases in flatulence that the Uber driver had no other option but to ask Mr Mallett to exit his vehicle.

Chasers Night Club to which Mr Mallett was going already inebriated seems to have a reputation of patrons resorting to unladylike and ungentlemanly conduct, but one should not be too prejudiced about certain unseemly forms of expression.

Breathless Uber

The driver, Aleksander Bonchev, who has since returned to Bulgaria must have had a hell of a night already before Mr. Mallett compounded it with sharing uninvited bodily functions with the unwitting driver. A fracas resulted in Mr. Mallett beating up Mr Bonchev and in self-defence Mr. Mallett was knocked down.

On the blurt of a fart and everything else that happened afterwards, it became a criminal matter, it has gone to court with Mr. Mallett getting a six-month jail term suspended for 18 months. One can only wonder what he has been bound over for, the obvious being not losing his temper regardless of his state of sobriety, whether he has to plug it in and withhold with great restrain his effluvium, dare he even breathe, that is if Uber has not already banned him from riding their cabs.

What a difference a fart makes and quite radically to people’s lives.

[The Week: Man who farted in Uber ends up in court]

[Bristol Live: Man who farted in Uber ends up in court]

Thursday 22 October 2020

Thought Picnic: Perspective governs prospect

Full steam ahead

You want to have a sense that the trials and tribulations of these times are not so much a rite of passage even though life is littered with many that test resolve and resolution. In all, you consider that all these things will pass and the dreams you have will also come to pass.

Yet, it has a toll on your mental health and wellbeing, each day, an uphill struggle to maintain calm and latch on to the hope of a future both near and far. It is even more difficult for us who’s partners and loved ones are far away, the restrictions on movement and limitations on travel placing hurdles in our way.

We cannot despair, we need to continue to encourage each other, take each day as it comes, and keep safe for the joy of the not too distant reunions. We cannot think of the time as plans you might put in place now might be upended in a week.

No silly gimmicks

It is like the high-risk country list produced by South Africa at the beginning of the month that required spending at least 10 days in a low-risk country before visiting South Africa for leisure activities. Germany was a low-risk country then and she has appeared on the list of high-risk countries released on Monday.

What we hope would eventually happen is rather than label all as suspicious from one country or a region, it has to come down to the individual. We are not all infected even if there is a high incidence of infections and there is a surge in numbers admitted to hospitals.

We’ll do good

Many of us have been doing the reasonable things, the safe social distancing, avoiding most of the social gatherings, not entertaining guests or strangers, keeping the hygienic codes, working from home, and living primarily in isolation. We have been in personal lockdown mode long before our governments knew the necessity for such. It is such a shame that we all seem to be punished for the unfortunate situations of others.

I think in the end, it will be common sense that prevails in combating this pandemic rather than rules, laws, impositions, fines, enforcements, inducements, or any other means of public coercion. In the UK, it is a given that the government of Boris Johnson is completely clueless, they are just acting for the sake of performance, there is neither aim nor goal that suggests they will ever gain control over the situation.

In my mind, I know it will come good, between Brian and I, we will sustain and support each other, being strong for one another until we can meet up. It’s been a while since January.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Lekki! The #EndSARS innocent will be avenged

Cursed are the vagabonds in power

The voice of their blood cries from the ground,
It will not be stilled by the fear of the gun,
They took the lights for the cover of the darkness,
Then shot into the crowd that peacefully protested.

What they hoped will not be witnessed,
Was lit by the moon and stars above,
For nature in the night or day is never blind,
And justice shall come like a raging storm.

The day will not be lost to our remembrance,
Upon the Cains that ordered this carnage,
Shall fall the gnashing of teeth and sorrow,
For which no pity will come to give succour.

We can see their hands in their gilded palaces,
Wet and dripping with the blood of the innocent,
Speaking from both sides of their mouths,
Their fakes smiles and platitudes are rooted in evil.

Maggots shall begin consuming them ere their demise,
Generations after shall carry the lament of gore,
For the innocent shall be fully avenged,
The martyred of Lekki have not gone in vain.

Monday 19 October 2020

Blessed is the day with all its troubles

The day started slowly

Going from my telephone consultation last Wednesday, it had been arranged that I visit the hospital today to see a phlebotomist and pick up my prescription. It was an afternoon appointment and I had decided I would take the day off.

Waking up a little later than usual, I went for my morning walk and returned home for another nap. At noon, I made what you could term breakfast and soon after called an Uber cab to take me to the hospital. Much as I had considered walking the 6 or so kilometres to the hospital, a headache was not giving me the pleasure of the feat.

Not here nor there

In what was a test of temperament and attitude also quite unusual for my consultant, when I checked in at the pharmacy, my prescription had not been submitted for preparation and it was even suggested I return on another day to collect it. Much as I was having none of it, the pharmacist took the initiative to put things in motion.

At the outpatient’s reception, I was directed to the waiting area for the blood room. We do have a good natter when I visit and she immediately chased up my prescription, altogether, I was assured I can pick it up after the bloods. At least, I was sure the prescription will be correct.

When I was invited to give blood, the phlebotomist could find no recent requests on the computer. There was a pending request from 2018, I think that was when the computer system could not be accessed, and the requirements were written down. No one went back to synchronise the record of activities.

Fixed through communication

The last fulfilled request was in October 2019, which left me wondering about what happened to the vampire conference donations of April 2020. As my consultant had the results for our conversation last week, I guess what is required is a bit more housekeeping to match the blood work requests with the fulfilment of the orders.

Returning to the receptionist, she phoned up the nurses and got the blood requirements straightened out, entered in the computer system and I returned to the waiting room, waiting to be called in again. This time the order was in for just 3 vials of blood, when I usually give 5 or 7 vials. I was not complaining, I could not even see a vein and it required a bit of jiggery-pokery with the needle to get the blood flowing out.

With humour and honour

Before that, I was asked to give a urine sample, on my way in I had only seen the female toilet and telling the nurse, she said, any of the toilets will do. Not that other patients in the waiting room would allow that to happen, as a chorus of voices pointed out the male toilets. The much older man quipped about my having a sex change and I cupped my breast, shock, mirth, and laughter arrived as contortions on the faces of the others. I guess we could all do with a bit of humour.

All done, I picked up my prescription, walked to the Manchester Super Store on Cheetham Hill to get some fresh fruit before boarding the tram back to Manchester Piccadilly and settling for some fresh air in the village garden. Looking at my watch, it was already 5:00 PM, the day had gone but not as eventful as Brian had his, tough and resilient, smiling through it all. I hope he has a good night’s rest. My poor dear, for his good heart, is on for a wonderful blessing. Love him to the stars and beyond.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XIX

See me in the morning

Stepping out of my home before the break of dawn for my walks, I was into my 5th kilometre and 4th crossing of the River Irwell and I as I turned left onto the path, a cyclist was about to crash into me. He apologised saying he never saw me, it was dark, I am dark and at 6 foot tall, I was hardly imposing, maybe I need to get high visibility armbands, because a mishap cannot be afforded.

Then at another brighter time, two men in high visibility gear had entered a park bordered by the oxbow outline of the meandering River Irwell. When I got to them, they were inspecting an abandoned motorcycle leaning on a bench. You wonder, how did it get there?

Trolleys on the roam

That left me a bit flummoxed about the journeys of supermarket trolleys to the banks of the River Irwell, all seem to have travelled and run out of steam somewhere. Marooned on the pavement and tipped over, left in the middle of the path in the park and not with any shopping. Though the ones that have fallen down the sloppy banks of the River Irwell read to try out their amphibian tendencies are the two I have had my eyes one.

Lest I forget, it is getting cold, I usually have to pull up the hand covering sleeves that allows me to hook up the sleeve between my thumb and first finger. So, I am baffled that at temperatures barely in the double figures, ice cream vans have been let loose on some communities, the chimes upsetting the peace and some seeking the joys of a summer, long gone. Three at my last count, I need to understand what is going on.

Until human are considered first

As to whether we would be locked down or not, it has become a battle of wits or rather one of self-preservation. The government has lost its message, conviction, or persuasiveness. Much as they are beginning to forget that they govern by consent, the mantra of saving the NHS has worn thin. What we need is to put people first, their lives and livelihoods, some compassion without bluster and a bit of humility with contriteness about how they got many things wrong.

Most importantly, completely decentralise the testing, the tracing, and the reporting. Let the local experts and talent have more control as they have more visibility and the local knowledge essential for contact tracing and fixing on where the virus is spreading.

There will always be a cost to shutdowns and at this time the government needs to bear it. We need to believe in human ingenuity to revive things that humans do, that applies to the economy and jobs, what we have not yet mastered to bring ourselves back to life once dead.

Richard Quest does not need your permission to be happy

A marriage is a marriage

I did not read of this development until I saw the Facebook posting on a “Friend’s” page that castigated and excoriated it, the comments that followed maintained the same theme. Yes, Richard Quest of CNN had tied the knot in a same-sex marriage ceremony with his long-time partner.

Apart from the Instagram message Richard posted, I do not think it made the news anywhere else except in a sensationalist stance on African newswires in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. What is surprising is how little people know about Richard Quest, not that it matters, but he is a gay man, he has spoken about his sexuality a few times, and he has made no secret of his, as it were, proclivities. [Instagram: Questinny]

That is a wrong choice of word, proclivities, but it is a sop to the ne’er-do-wells who cannot countenance the idea of difference in the lives of others. For whilst many may not understand sexualities different from heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality has always been in humanity since long before history was recordable.

It never hindered him

However, this is not the space to argue that, despite and in spite of his sexuality Richard Quest has a high global profile as a news anchor and presenter, his quirks and expression is uniquely individual, entertaining and enlightening, what is not to like about Richard Quest as a professional?

In the aid of full disclosure, I am also a gay man, I have always been a gay man, I did not change from one thing to another and never have I had any interest in the opposite sex, that is just my nature and I make no apology for it. I am engaged to be married to my partner Brian, and once the cloud of this pandemic is lifted, that will be done.

As if you matter

Back to the issue itself, Richard Quest does not need the permission of anyone to be happy, he finds his happiness and fulfilment in the companion he has chosen to spend his life with, who just happens to be male, as much as the person could have been female. It is neither here nor there.

Richard Quest has lived a rich eventful and highly achieving life that he would be proud of and many would aspire to and I celebrate him for having found the kind of exemplary balance in life as in his profession and gone ahead with living his full life.

His gain, your loss

If out of this, some now decide they will no more entertain the views of Richard Quest as he enters our homes on CNN screens globally, that would be your loss because there is no one else that does what he does in such an engaging and interesting way that has brought his global following. What we must agree to disagree on is this, his sexuality is more your problem than it is his.

I wish Richard Quest and Chris Pepesterny a very happy married life, may they grow old together and be beacons of light and hope to many who find it still too difficult to live their best lives. It reminds me of William Haines who forsook a burgeoning acting career in Hollywood in the 1920s for his gay relationship that Joan Crawford was reputed to say, they were “the happiest married couple in Hollywood.”

Now, if you cannot be happy for a happy event in another life because of your prejudices, that, my friend, is entirely your problem, your burden, your whatever it is, but definitely, it is not good.

Blog - Opinion: When William Haines decided against a sham marriage

Friday 16 October 2020

In motion by lotion

The roll and stall

In it we move by bearings and bushes,
Maybe I thought I heard brushes,
Then we have to spare our blushes,
For in the way we go not by buses,
Even as some think it be what flushes.

So handled tenderly lest it crushes,
And by shifting motion we find it gushes,
Either fungal or avian both be thrushes,
For a cure many have become lushes,
Yet neither of the first will work for mushes.

It's walking and it's working - III

Competing for myself

Making a modification to the timings of my walking exercises, I now get up at the break of dawn and depending on when I step out from 6:00 AM to 6:30 AM, I can do between 10 to 12 kilometres, getting back home just before 8:00 AM to start work.

In the evenings, I add a few more steps to my already fulfilled quota from the morning. I even entered a competition for a medal that required I complete 5,000 steps every day for 4 days in a row. There were no additional medals for the 36,000+ steps I did on the first day and the over 90,000 steps I had done by the fourth day.

My Manchester anew

In a few days, I should reach 5,000,000 steps having done the bulk of that from an average of 60,000 steps a month in the last 2 and a half months. It is notable that I completed 3,000,000 steps on the 31st of December, I have probably not felt any fitter for 25 years.

Sometimes, my pace in slow, I try not to compete against the clock, I have set enough personal records that the sense of euphoria is becoming juvenile with every achievement. The morning walk is routine, and the evening walks lead me on new discoveries around my city. I am surprised that I am still seeing new places within miles of my abode in the 7th year of my residency. You need curiosity and interest to discover and experience.

My burden lightened

One thing that almost frustrated me and left me wondering if there was much else, I could do was getting my weight down, the last kilogramme has been the hardest to lose. It would probably not remain as low but seeing 79.8 kilogrammes this morning was both a shock and a surprise.

I had languished above 81 kilogrammes for weeks. Brian however assured me that I will eventually lose more because my exercise was continuing in earnest.

What Brian will not countenance is allowing it to fall to 75 kilogrammes, which was my original target. What we can agree on is, it’s walking and it’s working. I’m happy with that.

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

Blog - It's walking and it's working

Wednesday 14 October 2020

That human touch is always necessary

Meetings for the body

When it comes to my health and wellbeing, I look forward to my biannual medical consultation not with any anxiety but in anticipation of presenting myself to my consultants who have overseen my health over the last decade.

For instance, when I get the opportunity, I would like to return to Amsterdam and see the professor who first took on my care and gave a glowing reference reflective more of my personality than my medical condition, it prepared consultants in the UK for an interesting patient coming under their care.

My longer-term consultants have been in Manchester, in Wrexham and in London, I only had a few months of interaction before I was referred on to others. The reference from London brought me in contact with my first consultant who has retired to embark on humanitarian activities in Asia.

Meetings for the soul

When he left, my new consultant sent a letter of introduction from which I researched her background and career activities, I was better read up on her than she was on my medical notes, from it a relationship has developed that we are quite pleased to see each other when I go for my appointments.

The medical matters are quite quickly dispensed with and we get onto matters of life, of the heart, of happiness and much else. A patient is more than the notes and the medication, doctors who explore beyond the medical into the person and personality hopefully have a more rewarding doctor-patient experience and it helps them know that what they are doing contributes to demonstrably improving the quality of life of their patients.

Meetings for the mind

Another thing I enjoy visiting the hospital and consulting room is we sometimes have medical students sit in on my consultations, something I welcome. I engage with the students, find out their intended specialisms and encourage them that what they are doing makes the miracle of medicine possible in the lives of people like me.

However, with this pandemic, that last time I saw my consultant was last year. I had a telephone consultation in April and a rescheduled one from next week to today this morning. It is very likely my next appointment in April next year will also be a telephone conversation.

Meetings for the touch

We were able to pass considerable information between ourselves from the medical to the personal, but it was over in about 20 minutes as she had a full book of calls to make. That interpersonal connection was lost even though we deployed the art of conversation to the best we could. A 15-minute window was scheduled for phlebotomy on Monday when I could also pick up my prescription for another 6 months.

All other indicators were good apart from a concern with how one of the components of my combination formulary interacts with cholesterol. That will be monitored and reviewed for our next session. Much can be done with technology, but you do without essential human contact and interaction, especially in medical settings. I would suppose my next human touch will be at the prick of a needle, something I am used to and I am happy all is well.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

He holds me up

Then I found freedom

It was one Wednesday night in early April, 36 years ago that I discovered something on campus, a livelier form of religion and devotion that put me at odds with everyone apart from the community that embraced me.

There was some turmoil I did not understand going on in my life, one in which I was at school and attended lectures without any inkling of what was going on therein. Sadly, there was no one I could explain my predicament to, but I found the distraction of student union representation and religion to keep my head as things swirled around me.

My sanity mattered more

That I was a failed student probably did not surprise me, though the reasons were quite different from what my parents and some friends thought. I was fighting a battle for my sanity whilst everything else fell apart around. Maybe, I would have liked for everything to all come together, but what is a life without the trials and tribulations that make for the quality of experience?

Indeed, I can say that now, when in the midst of it, I was both helpless and hapless, yet taking each day as it comes writing the story I can tell today. Seminal in those experiences were events quite a few and one of which was the music of the time.

It’s a new sound

I had heard some Christian music that did not suggest the singers were ready to explore the talents they had, pedestrian, uninspiring, perfunctory with words that just needed mouthing and hands clapping without a sense of rhythm like God was a boring sad and an unfunny deity of the sort that mother’s religious proclivities embraced.

Then I heard Andraé Crouch, the whole concept of praise and worship changed, the uplifting music that you will learn, sway and dance to that you were moving too well to even consider clapping. You were dancing before the Lord and even if you become naked in the process like King David once did, it did not matter. [BibleGateway 2 Samuel 6:14-23 (NIV)]

He holds me up

Too many songs that became the way by which God held me through the difficult and seemingly impossible times, for I did not see any light at the end of any tunnel, I groped in the darkness and the Lord led me through the valley of the shadow of death to new green pastures and still waters, but it was a long journey through that wilderness where I strayed at times and predators were on the prowl to devour me. I was spared, saved, and protected, to tell a better a story.

Today, from my Amazon Music subscription I decided to ask Alexa to playback Andraé Crouch and that has been on for hours, reminding of how in times of trouble, I need not be troubled, I am held by the righteous right hand of God and my unsteady gait on the rocky path is kept firm in the knowledge that I will not fall, nor will I come to any harm. We have a destination and it is good to the end. [Andraé Crouch on Amazon Music]

The timely message on Our Daily Bread – God Holds Us just reinforces the sense, feeling and assurance that it is well with my soul. I want to get my maracas out for this.


Something with someone who's somebody

Something, Someone, Somebody

To know what it is like, to love somebody,
When your heart is knit with not just anybody,
That someone that makes you so precious,
Calling you baby and not at all precocious,
You find great safety in their arms.

To have that feeling, just with someone,
With whom it is so perfect apart from anyone,
They care for you that much to make a fuss,
The one who is there and close to discuss,
You get to whisper in their ears.

To give the needed support, in something,
They are there holding you firm in everything,
Being a friend and lover more than ever,
Giving you all need to soar and recover,
They have you deep in their hearts.

Monday 12 October 2020

Reaching beyond to the unlimited

Not beaten at last

Visualising a scene where a heap of rubble has been poured from a height like an avalanche on the person of the Incredible Hulk we watch as the silence descends on the moment as if it were the end of his story, destroyed by an event over which he had no control or foreknowledge might come to be his lot.

Then, a stirring begins from beneath it all, he clambers out with a defiant roar and whoever thought that was the end of the Incredible Hulk by their hand will find retribution beyond what they have started.

Out of the overwhelming

It is the feeling that has crowded my last week, almost a sense of helplessness against so many things. The pandemic compounds the feeling of loneliness and separateness from the ones with whom you have communion in heart and mind. An activity from far away, if it were better handled rather than unilaterally done, would have been less of a strain of one’s mental health.

Exhaustion and weakness creep upon you to deplete your resolve, you begin to doubt yourself, your strength, your fortitude, and your faith, then your health wants to follow into a decline of despair and distress. This is not what you can allow.

As dawn broke, I do not know what the day would bring, many uncertainties needing some direction so that plans can come into view. Where do you go when there does not seem to be anywhere to go?

His giving has only begun

Then I remembered a song by Danniebelle Hall, she has been gone almost 20 years and this song goes back to 1974, it was a hymn, though it is difficult to find the author, as the attributions look suspect. He giveth more grace is the titled to what I played back in my mind on my walk and then back at home. [AZLyrics: He Giveth More Grace – Don Moen]

Let us revisit the last paragraph, He Giveth More Grace started as a poem written by Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) who was orphaned and had a life of crippling arthritis, yet had unwavering faith in the grace of God. [Amazon: He Giveth More Grace: One hundred poems.] [He Giveth More Grace]

The words soothe me and assure me that when I have exhausted my hoarded resources, my God out of His infinite riches, riches in Christ Jesus, continues to give strength, hope, grace, power, ability and supply, there is no rubble of life that can stop me in the way, in my tracks or in the superhuman leaps and bounds to places of amazing wonder, the green pasture and still waters where my soul is completely and fully restored.


Friday 9 October 2020

I will be a son but can’t be my dad

A drama in my head

There is an American situation comedy series titled, How I Met Your Mother, I have never watched it nor do I know much about what it is about apart from what the title suggests.

On my walk this morning, a whole series of conversations played out in my mind, possible conversations with my dad that I expected might end badly that I resolved to put it to one side, but what transpired between the dramatis personae in my head was vigorous and vituperative, I was angry, probably too angry.

A question seeking answers

The other conversation was between my mum and me; we have developed a friendlier and communicative rapport, I enjoy it. I was going to introduce a topic with humour and move it on to the fact that I was feeling unnecessarily stressed out by my dad. He is becoming as impossible as he is inconsiderate and obdurate; I don’t use those words lightly and they explain to a larger extent why we have much conflict.

Then a sense of exasperation overcame me, I felt like asking my mum, how did you meet my dad? What was the significant moment that brought you both together as husband and wife? Materially, without the union of these particularly significant people, I would not have existed, someone else would have been born in circumstances and situations quite different from the one I have inhabited.

A son a bit different

It is almost like the bane of life, a fate over which there is no autonomy or agency, we happen upon a state and wish upon a star, each second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year becomes a story writing itself as each moment passes. You then find that of the things you can neither change nor alter, you make peace, make do and make the best of it towards telling a better story.

Where I might have found my dad to be a reasonable listening person, I find I have not been persuaded of the reality of that thought. It saddens me, but I will not agonise, I find that it is our attitude and our forbearance that gives us the means to deal with many things, especially the difficult. I will be a son but can’t be my dad.

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Experiencing the mental health detriments of a pandemic

One feels alright

Are you alright? I hear people ask, and I answer, I am fine, thanks. I think I am fine; I feel I am fine, generally, things are fine and well. Yet, they are not so.

Some of the consequences of the pandemic are not as studied or appreciated to any extent, the mental health consequences. In terms of relationships, I am engaged, but we are on different continents almost 9,000 kilometres apart, we were last together in January and communicate daily keeping faith, hope and love alive until the circumstances allow us to meet up in South Africa soon.

To feel human

However, at the crux of this issue is the fact that I am a lone occupant of my apartment in a big city of impersonal glances or stolen greetings. My social interactions are only on Sunday, first at church in our socially distanced seating with masks on, no singing, no touching and pleasantries at a distance. I have not shaken a hand or felt the tight grip of a handshake in probably 9 or 10 months.

Sunday evenings, I meet with my close neighbours for wine and snacks, much banter, smiles and laughter, they have companions and family, I return alone to my abode comforted by the video conferencing with my fiancé or telephone conversations with friends I have no seen in ages.

Touch feels good

The last time I hugged someone was when we hugged at O. R. Tambo International Airport in mid-January. My social humanity is under stress and seriously strained. I was probably last touched when the nurse donned gloves to take blood in April, it remains the last significant human touch I have felt.

I am at work with colleagues I have never physically met, we have been working together since May, but I have been working from home or living at work as the case might be. They have families, some even visit the campus of the workplace, so human interaction takes place to an extent, which for many like me, we live in an electronic age of sight and sound, smell is local or just home as the restaurant culture is literally gone, touch is anathema as it is to be avoided and taste is what you cook or put together to eat.

Senses feel lost

You wonder what this pandemic has wrought upon the earth, it takes away your sense of smell and taste, then robs you of the enjoyment of the sensation of touch, whilst the use of sight and hearing is constrained to a world bolstered mostly by electronics. As social animals, we have lost the social and the animal begins to disintegrate without the grooming that comes with the socially enhancing qualities of human interfaces, much of it physical.

I am fine, I have found coping mechanisms, I am working with the expectation that things will ease up and soon a semblance of living like a real human being with all senses in deployment will come. That sensation of skin on skin, the warmth of touch, the whispering that triggers and excites the ear from breath to sound, the expression of love when lips meet and tongues tussle, you melt into each other with a longing that no words can yet express.

That is what keeps me sane, for I reckon, all this shall pass, the night always ends in the breaking of dawn, no matter how long it seems to our consciousness. There is stress, there is strain, but we prevail.