Thursday, 26 November 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXI

Angst or anger

During the waking hours of this morning, I wondered what would happen to my city and the wider region of Greater Manchester after the national lockdown ends on the 2nd of December. I had hoped that we would have the opportunity of moving into Tier 2 with a slight relaxation of restrictions.

Looking at the numbers and the expectations, I realised that we were probably going to be Tier 3, the very high alert tier with the restrictions we have been under since July will remain with further limitations to our way of life. [GOV.UK: Local restriction tiers: what you need to know]

It is not that much has changed for me apart from not being able to attend church, my walking exercises continue in earnest. The people I see daily are as pleasant and communicative as you go about our activities.

Guided by the blind

The shops for essentials remain open and though I do not see that many people around, the roads into town still have considerable traffic like life continues to some extent. More importantly, I needed to know whether after the national lockdown I will be able to embark on international travel. Thankfully, there is no impediment to travel both for business and leisure.

Wondering why we still have high rates of infection in Greater Manchester even though the numbers are falling week on week, you could blame the unconcerned, inconsiderate and selfish people who have paid no heed to government guidance and warnings, if any of them were coherent, understandable, and effective.

I lay the responsibility of the mishandling of this pandemic squarely at the feet of the UK government, especially that part which oversees England. We have lost too many lives, the guidance has been patchy and the prospect of offering a window for Christmas will have dire consequences for those who fall for the gimmick and symbolism.

Other Christmases to come

Whilst, I do realise my going away will include Christmas and the New Year with my partner, in terms of meeting up with vulnerable people in England, the judgement calls should be simple, there can be many Christmases to come, there is no point making this the last Christmas for our loved ones if soon we might be safer with vaccines and a better understanding of the Coronavirus to see beyond the next Easter and years to come.

The conscious act on the part of everyone is the vigilance of 3-Cs, eschewing Crowds, avoiding Closed spaces and limiting close Contact, wearing masks indoors, and washing or sanitising hands. We would come through this, but individual responsibility with neighbourly consideration is what will help us get there. This pandemic is teaching us to be each other’s brother’s or sister’s keeper, with it comes the hope for a new kind of normal, probably much better than before.

And they see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Donald Trump

It just beggars belief

That I find myself writing this just after the blog I posted yesterday just points to how scary the situation is. A conversation I had yesterday revealed to me the how the Pentecostal and Evangelical strains of the Christian denominations have bought into what is essential the cult of Donald Trump.

Blog - How God laughs at the thought of being a voter

As apparently God’s chosen one and I have heard that from many religious people I hold in quite high regard, he can do no wrong, he protects the church, espouses deeply conservative values packing the US Supreme Court with conservative judges, responds to a radical Zionist agenda especially with the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

A man apart wronged by all

Donald Trump is the wronged man assailed from all ends and denied legitimacy through the term of his presidency, the whole idea of Joe Biden traipsing the corridors of power as the President-elect is not only anathema, Donald Trump not conceding even though none of what he has suggested was electoral fraud has been proven where it matters, in court.

It was conspiracy theory upon conspiracy theory reinforcing a pack of improbable suppositions that they have become an article of faith, a standard to which they have nailed their flags and which they will not be persuaded.

Every example for a saint

To add insult to injury, someone suggested we have been blind not to notice the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Donald Trump. You have got to be kidding me. Yes, he is apparently the embodiment and personification of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, in expression, in character, and in example, a good Christian man. [Wikipedia: The Fruit of the Holy Spirit]

I need to put a call to my spiritual, mental, physical, and paranormal optician for a new eye test, for whoever is seeing this is indeed seeing things. Yet, I must curb my scepticism, because Donald Trump might well be a different man, why he does not show it, escapes me.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

How God laughs at the thought of being a voter

God is not a democrat

You cannot help but feel for the religious and conservatives who on the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America thought he was God’s messenger for the times. Too many issues have been conflated with the interplay of religious dogma, ideology, politics and eschatology that you would think, instead of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, God was granted extraordinary privilege to impress on the hearts of voters to choose him.

Then, from a tactical perspective, you might be given to believe that God concentrated on the Electoral College and left Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote. A scrappy job, one would think, but it did suffice for the evangelical bloc and this whirlwind of a presidency was unleashed on not just America, but the whole world.

Yet, God is not a democrat, his kingdom from all descriptions and operations of it do not suggest universal suffrage where every purpose, principle, pattern, prophecy is put to a plebiscite. If there is a comparison with human government, it would be something like a theocratic absolute monarchy and that is not what the United States of America is.

The error of our ways

Besides, I worry when people aver that someone elected to public office is chosen by God because it suggests that any opposition to the person in what is essentially a democracy is opposition to God. That is not how democracies work, if you are elected you should be accountable and answerable to the electorate, that electorate is comprised of human beings alive and eligible on earth and nowhere else.

When I became a committed Christian in the mid-1980s, a whole cohort of student Christians were taken by the Word of Faith movement and our entertainment separate from secular engagements came from viewing The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network, hosted by Pat Robertson and we lapped up everything as he took us on an adventure of thought and perspective, probably erroneous, but we did not know any better.

Mr. Pat Robertson who is 90 with all his faculties does say the darndest things, you are sometimes left with your jaw dropping to the floor or laughing so hard that you might well choke on your tongue. Given much to histrionics and hyperbole, he has suggested that calling Joe Biden the President-elect is Nazi propaganda. [Crooks and Liars: Pat Robertson: Calling Joe Biden The President-Elect Is Nazi Propaganda]

A narrative asking for derision

One should dismiss this as silliness, but he has a following and he is quite influential in the conservative and evangelical circles that like we did a generation ago, people will just believe any nonsense he says. Presidents-elect have mostly been called by the networks long before the certification of the results except where the election is disputed.

In this case, there has been lots of conspiracy theories but no evidence presented in the courts that could stand the test of examination and scrutiny, Joe Biden has won the popular vote and by the certification of critical swing states, won the Electoral College and as God is not the final arbiter in a democracy, there is no fathomable prospect of Donald Trump being able to overturn the preponderance of the counted tally of votes and the consequence it has shown to end his presidency on the 20th of January 2021.

God is a mocker of man

The evangelical movement that has put all its eggs of faith, politics, and the manipulation of a democracy by God in the basket of Donald Trump has been found on the losing side of this election and they are stunned. The so-called prophecies of Donald Trump’s victories has to be some familiar spirit whispering in their ears with them believing that they were hearing from God. It is easy to fall in the way of error, especially when you prostitute the anointing to political causes and wedge issues.

Like the ass that had to speak to Balaam the prophet when he refused good counsel, it appears God is informing the evangelicals by way of mocking their belief and making a joking spectacle of their being carried along with the Trumpian charade that he is not a democrat, human government is what it is human, not divine. The outcomes are decided by what human beings do as if God was casting a vote, you would ask where does he reside and how did he acquire that right, it would and should only one vote too.

Reading what Pat Robertson said I was immediately inspired to look up Psalm 2 and reword two verses below:

1 Why do the heathen against democracy rage, And these evangelicals imagine a vain thing?

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision.

Even I laugh and just to buttress the point, Pat Robertson has form, as the blogs below indicate.

Blog - A fatwa in everything but name

Blog - Fatwa evangelist blurts out again

Blog - Thought Picnic: How Do They Launder Demons?

Come as you are leaving nothing out

Dealing with difference

Whilst I might have been a bit reticent elsewhere, I have been more open at work about who I am, what I am about, what interests me and who is in my life. When it was not even fashionable and the workplace was still trying to implement equal opportunity legislation, my colleagues and bosses found themselves in close proximity to what might be unfamiliar to them.

From the 1990s, they first had a liking for me and then began a process of discovery. I was interested in them beyond the workplace and they reciprocated with a sense of humanity. In those times, I was in relationships and when one broke down, my boss read me like a book, he opined, the only reason I could look and feel the way I did was because of a relationship that had fallen through. So, I confided in him.

Enforcing harmonious environments

In another role, it was my colleagues in a whispering campaign about it, my boss was having none of it. He ordered them to come to my desk to apologise. Much as I tried not to let it affect me, I was grateful for the support I had. Many simply said, they had no issues with who I was, they were happy to have that diversity in their teams and worked to ensure I did not feel uncomfortable or threatened.

With time, I decided there was no point prevaricating, to a direct question I gave a truthful answer. I corrected assumptions before they took root. The subtlety of pronouns and ensuring the right one was used and known to be so. Never she, it is he, it is him, his company and companionship define my life outside work.

Living my own truth

I note that I have thrived in whatever I do when I have been open about these matters. In planning for my holiday this year after almost 11 months apart. I first proposed a holiday from the middle of December to include the whole of January. A negotiation began, stripped down and bargained about until we agreed on 5 weeks including the Christmas break.

I wanted to be with my partner, he and I are planning to get married and that is our normal, we are looking forward to it and planning for it, though the details will be sorted out when we meet in Cape Town. Everyone in my team and my bosses are aware, they know him by name and ask after him by name. To have a very productive Akin includes recognising Brian is his better half. I am grateful for the understanding, the acceptance, and the goodwill I have had through my work life with regards to my relationships.

One boss even told me to take as much time as I wanted off to deal with a breakup in 1999 after a 7-year relationship. I guess we appreciate that beneath it all we are all human, with hearts, souls, and minds. Our partners being integral to our sense of purpose and wellbeing. It matters a lot more than we deign to recognise and make all the allowances for.

Keeping up to excel at it

It is the challenge you rise to

Let me ask is it hard for you to be up to date?” That was a question from an ex-colleague with whom I have maintained contact on a professional and social level for the last couple of years. Our conversations weave in and out of life and work issues. I never tire of addressing any of the things that come up for discussion.

My professional Information Technology career started in October 1988, but things have changed so radically over the last 32 years. My niche area of expertise that I was first co-opted into began in 1996 and there have been so many iterations of the product that though the fundamentals are the same, the scope of its influence is humongous.

The answer is simple and it is likely anyone else will answer in the same vein. “It is not easier, it requires more discipline, practice, and reading. Experience helps, but new things are new things, you have to learn them properly.” I spend a lot of my free time learning to be better at what I do, because change is constant, not keeping up leads to irrelevance.

If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki

Being a present ear to listen

They come out of the blue

Sometimes, a stranger approaches you with a conversation about personal things that pertain to life and death. You never know what attracted you to them, but they lose all inhibitions and somehow find trust in the confidence of strangers.

The conversation starts easily as they attempt to gauge what kind of person you are. I have always tried to be courteous, respectful, and listening, with no idea if I can be helpful or not. The initial exchanges set the tone and they soon begin to unburden themselves.

Create new perspectives

One such encounter yesterday had a promising young man ready to take his own life because the relationship with his husband had broken down. It was a difficult issue, and rather than call the Samaritans he chose a random stranger he presumed looked mature and could be understanding of his dilemma.

You can be tempted to tell someone on the verge of suicide not to do it or assert the wrongness of that choice, but I have rarely been persuaded of that tack. Rather, I try to set new perspectives, drawing on my life stories of adversity and loss which at the time looked like there was no way out, the passage of time has made them into stories, told freely with many lessons of life learnt.

We live for a better story

In one last appeal to him, I said, we need to be around and living to get the opportunity to tell a better story beyond the betrayals, the tragedies, the pain, the adversity, the loss and much else. We must ask ourselves, how do we want our stories to end, if told by someone else? It was my hope that something out of our conversation might have gotten through to him to set him on a different course of action.

As it appears, I may never know what he ended up doing, I did not know his name, he was a young black gay man who was married for three years and the promiscuity of his husband had broken him to the extent that he wanted to end it all. When I checked this morning, our conversation had disappeared and with it, every trace of what might have been done in the heat of the moment or the cool of the night. In my heart of hearts, I hope he did not do anything harmful or terminal, I just wonder. May peace rule in his heart, his mind, and his life.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Walking is not just a good pair of shoes

Equip yourself for the walk

When I stepped out for my walk this morning, I first checked the weather forecast, it was not going to rain, but it was 2 Celsius, I knew by the time I got back home, the tips of my fingers would feel like I had been rearranging and poking red hot coals in a fireplace.

Then I put into consideration the range of paraphernalia that goes into the simple act of walking as a form of exercise and it reads like an interesting acquisition of trinkets and baubles, but we must not be deluded into thinking they are not both essential and necessary.

First, my trainers, a trusty pair of wonderfully cushioned running shoes for someone who cannot run, but needs the support that takes the strain off shin splints whilst making allowances for the softening effects on the feet, the ankles, the knees, the thighs and the hips. For someone who has over time suffered back pain and uses a cane, they are a miraculous workmanship in footwear – Brooks Ghost 10, now completing their 3rd year of wear and tear.

I did get the Brooks Ghost 11, 2 years ago, they are the ones I wear out in South Africa, I ventured the possibility of the latest version a few months ago, they just did not have my colour.

In the rain and the dark

As the weather began to change with rain, I first got a waterproof poncho with high visibility bands, but after 3 uses, it was not as comfortable as it seemed that I had to shell out for a Patagonia all-weather jacket with hood and zippered side vents.

The driving rain blowing into my face and obscuring my sight through my eyeglasses meant the hood did not suffice that I donned a baseball cap to shield my glasses until the rising heat from my scalp made that uncomfortable. So, I found I could get a run visor.

The shorter days as we moved into autumn along with scheduling my walks for early mornings before dawn broke left me a vulnerable target a few times. A cyclist almost ran into me and swore he did not see 6-foot of I. I was taking no risks, so I got LED armbands, a high visibility vest with useful pockets, and high visibility clips to wear round the wrist or ankles. I might well be lit up like a Christmas tree than be run down by unaware cyclists or inconsiderate electric scooter users and they are a growing menace on our roads.

From the cold of ice

With experience comes the need for possible remediation. I do have a good pair of leather gloves, but they are no match for the biting cold that I have now ordered a pair of Yobenki thermal gloves able to handle the freezing cold, with cuffs to go under the arms of my jacket so the rain and wet does not get to my hands, with the added luxury of an index finger for the touch screen of my phone.

I could not help but notice an accident this morning, a car had run into a tree, most likely because it had slipped on black ice, with the drop in temperature and no gritting of the roads, the pavements or pathways yet, I have on occasion felt that absence of grip between my shoes and the surface I am walking on. It is a scary prospect that calls for a solution, anti-slip spikes or what I found to be Yaktrax Walk, come snow, I will be all prepared and ready for any eventuality. One very important point read the instructions too.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Thought Picnic: We lose when we have none to question us

Who can speak to you?

I think of this a lot, the danger of primacy, the curse of being at the pinnacle of power and authority with a court, courtiers, or acolytes who pledge fealty and extraordinarily little truthfulness and honestly.

More and more, I realise than a man needs to be answerable to another man, it behoves us to surround ourselves with people who can challenge us, question our motives, withstand our opinions and persuade us of alternatives in direction and decision. At the very least, if we are not to be dissuaded, we should be able to defend our positions with conviction, courage, and truth.

No place is lonelier than to be where you are out of the reach of checks and balances. Where reality is bent to your will and none that see you can say what needs to be said to bring a sense of reflection and ground one in the incontrovertible essences of existence, that power is transient, life is not immortal, and deeds with their consequences are rarely forgotten.

Honest counsel is more than gold

Through history into the present day, you wonder what better decisions to change the course of history might have been visited if kings and queens long gone were better advised, generals and leaders did not rule with terror and an iron fist that even the truth was trammelled and out of reach in their counsel and counselling, if my own father was subject to the scrutiny of some of decisions and actions.

Yes, these thoughts occupy my mind when it comes to myself, the things I have done that with better insight and advice with counsel, direction and mentoring might have saved me from the foolishness and stupidity of my ways. Yes, much as it can be bruising, I desire friends and partners that will be honest and unrelenting in their engagement to make a better person. I will deploy my wiles and caprices, but they can and do put a mirror up before me that I can see myself clearly.

Seek to listen to glisten

We would normally say, we are our own greatest critic, that is good, but have people around you who can critique rather than criticise, who can appreciate with all its caveats, yet not excoriate. We need iron to sharpen iron, the forge to heat the iron, the anvil to shape the iron, none of which in its processing is easy work, but the result is a fine tool or instrument for the task in hand.

I know I have such friends; I ensure that my ears are not clogged with earwax so I can hear and listen, understand and comprehend, working towards a better representation of myself. I hope also that I am equipped, courageous, able and persuaded to offer the same to help my friends be the best they can ever be, either in giving them the assurance they need or the persuasion that is required. 

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Walking to see more results

Still driven but eased

Having met the goal of doing at least 10,000 steps a day for 100 days in a stretch, there is no major achievement in sight until I make it to 10,000,000 steps in probably over a year. However, that would require keeping at the pace I was of about 600,000 steps a month, and that really is not currently happening.

I am still getting out for my walks, usually getting in just over 10 kilometres before I start work which could vary between 13,000 steps and 15,000 steps depending on my stride, but I am not as worked up about my workouts.

One thing I have noticed though is no matter how high my heart rate gets, my breathing remains constant, I neither gasp for air nor pant, it is like I am quite used to the activity or somewhat conditioned to the level of exercise.

Still working it off

The weight is not budging as much as I would like it to, I have not had a reading below 80 kilogrammes since the 17th of October, though it is steady around that mark.

Getting out this morning into a downpour, I varied my route from the river towpath to the pavement on the road that runs beside it. It was a better walk this time as the fallen autumnal leaves had been swept away, though I was still left with wet trainers and dampened track bottom leggings. On the home straight, the weather had improved. I will not be deterred by inclement weather, once I am out, the workout will be done.

Fat, that is always on my mind, much visceral fat I have lost, the subcutaneous fat still lingers, though I am informed, keeping at the exercise will eventually yield results. I hope so, whilst I enjoy walking and feeling fitter for doing so.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Opinion: The humiliation of Donald Trump is a lesson well taught

Expected no less

When Donald Trump stated 4 years ago that he would only accept the results of the election if he won, we should have taken his word for it and believed that if a situation warranted his loss he would be curmudgeonly, nasty, unsportsmanlike, and completely intolerable.

Here we are, two weeks after the elections, having been trounced in both the popular vote and the electoral college, he is nowhere near accepting the fact that he lost to the man he nicknamed Sleepy Joe. There is no telling what it would take for him to accept defeat, but such is the character of a man of no virtue worthy of emulation that became the 45th President of the United States of America.

A nasty piece of work

He has railed with disgusting vituperation, maligning the people and institutions that have volunteered to determine the express will of the people that have regardless of the numbers he has now, rejected him by giving the majority of their support to Joe Biden. That he cannot accept the fact that he has ended up second best in a country where he incessantly stoked division rather than unity just beggars belief.

When Chris Krebs, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency contradicted the president by categorically stating that the elections were the most secure ever in history, he was terminated with immediate effect. Donald Trump is flailing and fuming, poisoning the waters, and undermining the sacrosanct traditions of the country for his own personal ends, whilst complete oblivious of how good the country has been to him and recognising the honour of being asked to serve.

He did not rise to lead

Some even suggest that were it not for the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, he would have won the election. I beg to differ, being president is not an easy throne, and though some have taken office without as much as an event in their tenure that they have been unremarkable, the test of leadership is the ability and capacity to rise to the challenge and the occasion. Donald Trump neither acknowledged the severity of the pandemic nor rose to the challenge of managing and containing it.

With a death toll exceeding 248,000 on his watch, justice would not have been done if he were rewarded with another term after that debacle of indifference, incompetence, apathy and quite possibly sociopathy. He governed like a reality television celebrity, campaigning and holding rallies with his incoherent spiel from the time of his inauguration to the day before the election, speak mainly to his base rather than to the broader American people.

Good riddance to rubbish

I cannot wait to see him gone, he was a bad omen to the world even though the religious right and right-wing groups appeared to embrace him. He represented the basest of our instincts, the least palatable expression, a manifestation of megalomania and ego, mirroring the worst of values, conduct, etiquette, and manners. If you did not want to try to be good, considerate, courteous, respectful, understanding, and accepting of others, Donald Trump gave you how to channel the vicissitudes of inhumanity without scruples.

His complete humiliation cannot be soon enough whenever he concedes or he is bundled out of the White House. For an example should be made that kind of person for a lesson that we should always strive to be good-natured, kind, empathetic, engaging and nice. To his sort, a chapter must be closed in the history of the United States of America and Good Riddance will not have fully given vent to the glee of his defeat.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Always and Forever

Just the warmth in my heart

My heart bubbles with expectation and the warmth of love indescribable that I feel from the most special person in my life. The many times I have fallen in and out of love, cannot compare to what has come to represent what we have and want for each other.

The separation of distance and time with its difficulties and strains have only made it too obvious to us that this thing called love that we have expressed towards each other is real, is true, is pure and is to be made even more perfect in a union of hearts, minds, and lives.

We can begin to plan ahead; the horizons are visible, and dates are coming into view with something to look forward to and the quality time we have promised to spend with each other to make the best of every single moment we spend together. As I yearn for your warm embrace and long for the warmth of your touch, know that I will forever love you, always and forever, my Brian With An I.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Annoyed and disappointment doesn't capture it

One is certainly not amused

It probably did not come as a great shock because he is wont to acting with impunity and a sense of superciliousness that has rarely been challenged to the point that it is indeed impunity.

It is his prerogative whatever he decides to do, the affairs he decides to have, and the ones he decides to commit to matrimony, unholy as it is, in every sense and every way. Here we are still mourning the passing of one and put into a situation supplanted by a complete lack of consideration, I am quite incensed.

The name we all share is not in the exclusive preserve of one, not even the patriarch can use the name without an eye on posterity. We have to carry this name forward in deed and in seed. When I was asked on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the extreme how disappointed I was with him, without hesitation, I said 10. There is much to write and it will be written.

Blog - The parable of Henry VIII

Friday, 13 November 2020

The Cummings and goings of the transience of status

History is a mocker of man

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Karl Marz

Dominic Cummings took a first in history at the University of Oxford, had he taken a spare module that took him back a few centuries, he might have seen today coming. It is Friday the Thirteenth, have you no sense of paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Like Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell before him in the court of Henry VIII became powerful and prominent figures of the court that they even had histories written of them, their meteoric rise to power presaged a catastrophic fall from grace.

Purposefully absentminded

As Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, it was only yesterday as internal battles raged between advisers in Downing Street that we were informed that he will be gone by Christmas. Whilst to date 51,304 have lost their lives to the Coronavirus pandemic, the court of Boris the Jape was busy playing musical chairs. [BBC News: Dominic Cummings: PM's top adviser leaves No 10 to 'clear the air']

However, I take many lessons from this departure of Dominic Cummings, he was not a particularly likeable character, what he had in the ability to win political campaigns was matched to his lack of charisma.

That the government was willing to expend all political capital and goodwill on this man at the expense of keeping faith with the people during the pandemic lockdown in May, showed how little they care, the consequence has been an unnecessarily inordinately large loss of lives.

Power is transient, O man

The speed at which he was defenestrated simply shows that you should never think the knives when properly drawn are not sharp enough to be plunged into your back with great efficacy and efficiency. In the scheme of things, your back is butter to the knives when faith has been lost in your counsel.

It is the curse of Ahithophel, the counselor whose advice King David in the bible ignored. I guess the proverbial setting his house in order was his walking out of Downing Street having cleared his desk in a public show of ignominy. [BibleHub: II Samuel 17:23]

It would be easy to mock his downfall, but the most important lesson of all is, in power and in politics, if you do not occupy the office by right, you are soon expendable. I wonder, who could have thought the fall of Cummings would rival the fall of Lucifer, just 48 hours ago? Power is transient, use it wisely, with great consideration, a sense of responsibility, and most of all humility.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The Vulture died of a ripe old age

Boys being boys

Gúnugún kìí kú léwe, in Yorubaland, there are sayings put to song and then played out with the talking drum. The tonal percussion of the talking drum with its musicality immediately registers with us and we engage by singing out the lyrics being played.

Then some boys probably took one of those sayings in songs and made a catcall out of it, whistling to the tune of the song. It became their call sign through adulthood into old age. Whenever one arrived at the other’s house, you heard the visitor whistle and the host responded. We soon learnt what it meant to great amusement.

Every kind of old

The first part, as written above translates to, ‘The vulture never dies in youth.’ The full saying itself speak to growing old and growing old well.

Gúnugún kìí kú léwe, kí ẹ dàgbà kì ẹ dogbó, kí ẹ fi gbogbo ara hewú bíi ti ́́ Ẹfun. The vulture never dies in youth, may you grow old and wizened, growing grey hairs all over your body like the beaded crown of the Alaafin of Oyo.

The monarch of the Oyo kingdom in Yorubaland is known as the Aláàfin, meaning the owner of the palace. He wears the rare ́́ Ẹfun crown which according to tradition is first worn at least 10 years after coronation. It was made centuries ago. The colourfully decorated white crown has a veil of white strings looking like braids of hair, hence, the simile of grey hairs and the ́́ Ẹfun. Click on the link for the pronunciation of ́́ Ẹfun.

The ́́ Ẹfun crown courtesy of NairaLand.

The whole saying reads like a prayerful incantation for long life and between these boys and lifelong friends, it seems to have been fulfilled.

Back to their story

Their lives more or less ran in parallel similarities, both went into the same profession of accountancy, whilst debatable, they were lotharios and Casanovas at one, they took second wives and started second families, built homestead houses literally opposite each other in our village. The comings and goings of one were always known by the other. The children are good and tight friends even if we live in far-flung places.

He was a jovial, affable, humorous man who anytime he saw me called me by the nickname Akinse, Akinse, and the last time we chatted on the phone he wondered why I hadn’t visited after all this while. That is another story. I do recall that my stepmother also pressed me about visiting Nigeria for years, it was left an unfulfilled promise that the vicissitudes of the times has put out of reach. She passed on just over two weeks ago.

He was my father’s best friend from childhood, and I know he will be sorely missed by many, including his children. Adieu! Otunba Ogunjimi Taiwo, may your gentle soul rest in peace. The vulture did die at a great number of years in his 80s. A life to be remembered, celebrated and honoured.

In gratitude, I acknowledge the help of @KolaTubosun & @Bishopade who on Twitter helped me find the meaning and use of ́́ Ẹfun.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Thought Picnic: Nothing consumes agency like jealousy

Standing up for me

In was in Sunday School that a characteristic of my personality changed, on New Year’s Day 1980, whilst attending a church service I witnessed too many events of the superintendents and teachers physically abusing attendees. We were in church, the children separated from the adults and under the charge of people who abused the honour and responsibility of helping bring up the child in the ways of the Lord, it grieved me. I resolved; I will not condone such abuse on my person.

However, from those Sunday School stories, we risk viewing what we learnt then as a single story. The Garden of Eden as the fall of man, the judgement on Cain for being a murderer, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as the condemnation of homosexuality, the list goes on, a reductive assessment of deeper human experiences that can never have just one perspective and if we dare, there will always be new perspectives.

Other perspectives to the common

I am not a strict creationist, I believe there is much that is figurative, metaphoric or allegorical in the Bible before it is literal. Setting, context, import, intent, moral, tradition, culture, language are many variables that influence the understanding and the interpretation of these stories, they should be brought to bear and I can assure you, I am no expert in hermeneutics.

I could return to the Garden of Eden and view the situation not so much about Adam and Eve, but contest for attention between God and Lucifer. As Lucifer was kicked out of heaven when he wanted to claim the place of God as pride consumed him with a passion. The relationship that the new creations of Adam and Eve had with God was so sublime, the kind of personality Lucifer was would indeed interfere. They were warned but got suborned and the result in antiquity is the fall of man.

In the practice or in the mind

Moving on, when apparently God was happy with Abel’s sacrifices but displeased with Cain’s, there is a whole unknown backstory as to how anyone knew to sacrifice and or to do it right. Either way, Cain could have humbly asked Abel what he was doing right and learnt to make the adjustments to his own sacrifices either in the activity or the mindfulness at doing it.

But no, he took umbrage and though he was warned it might get the better of him, it eventually did and so, Cain smote and killed his brother Abel because Abel was a better man than him.

In the case of Lucifer and Cain, one thing comes to mind, it is a demonstration of jealousy and jealousy is not a single thing, but a multifaceted negative virtue of our humanity that lends itself to bringing out the worst in us.

Jealousy is a dangerous thing

Jealousy generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety. Jealousy can consist of one or more emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness or disgust. [Wikipedia: Jealousy]

Wikipedia has extensive texts on the topic because it relates quite closely to human relationships, how they are forged and how they break down. How feelings and emotions in one might regulate, indicate, obfuscate or even excoriate views of another and entirely at no fault of the other. For instance, Abel did nothing wrong, but because Cain could not stand what he was doing right, he lost his life.

The Wikipedia article goes on to contrast jealousy with envy whilst agreeing that modern usage tends to conflate the two as synonyms.

The common experience of jealousy for many people may involve:

  • Fear of loss
  • Suspicion of or anger about a perceived betrayal
  • Low self-esteem and sadness over perceived loss
  • Uncertainty and loneliness
  • Fear of losing an important person to another
  • Distrust

The experience of envy involves:

  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Longing
  • Resentment of circumstances
  • Ill will towards envied person often accompanied by guilt about these feelings
  • Motivation to improve
  • Desire to possess the attractive rival's qualities
  • Disapproval of feelings
  • Sadness towards other's accomplishments

When we act on it

I guess what scares me most about jealousy is when people act on it and there is no telling what the confluence of events and triggers might be with drastic consequences. Irrational fear, unwarranted suspicion, projected distrust, the list of negative feelings is endless.

In 1967, Joe Orton was bludgeoned to death by his partner Keith Halliwell, Joe was a successful playwright, author and diarist, Keith was not particularly so. He could, on the one hand, have celebrated, appreciated and supported Joe, they had been in a turbulent relationship since 1951. However, when Joe was considering breaking up with Keith, what resulted was a murder-suicide.

Yesterday, and the seed inspiration for this blog, a brother shared memorable images of his sister who had been murdered in 2015 with a meat cleaver by her jealous husband. It was so gruesome that the lady was unrecognisable after the deed. Jealousy can give vent to unparalleled wickedness and dangerously so. [The World News: Brother shares heart-breaking image of his sister]

Arresting the feeling

This is not to suggest one is perfect, there are times these emotions come to the fore, but what matters more is how much leeway you give these emotions to fester. I would soon believe the best of people than distrust them and if I cannot trust them, I hope not to hold it against them but make allowances for the human condition both on my part and theirs.

There is a likelihood I could have been more successful, but it does not matter, I have been blessed in ways that make me thankful and grateful for what I have and what I have achieved. To those who have done much better than I from the same starting point or ahead of me, good for them and I will congratulate them and urge them on. It redounds to the prosperity of all.

I have learnt to appreciate, acknowledge, and praise, take into consideration, be respectful, be courteous, and treat people with dignity. Seeing the good in others far and above their faults closes the avenues to jealousy. I suppose having a good sense of worth, some self-esteem, self-respect, confidence, and the wiliness to improve oneself regardless of who or where you are learning from helps a lot.

I hope I can handle any situation that appeals to my basest instinct but reveals the higher moral purpose in me, that I exhibit from the heart exemplary virtues towards being a better person to everyone. We always can do better and by that get to tell better stories.

Humbled by one's failings

Quick to the bad draw

You cannot be in the 33rd year of a career without having stories to tell, not so much of your genius but more of your stupidity. I guess my first booboo was when I was a computer technician with an outfit called IT Systems. We had a few computer maintenance contracts with some big firms like International Merchant Bank, Arthur Andersen when it still existed and Elf Nigeria, the oil company amongst others.

It was early in 1989, I was out on a maintenance run at Elf Nigeria when I used a disk that was supposed to do a disk drive head clean, the disk was given to me by a friend working in a desktop publishing outfit and we lived together, it just looked like an efficient tool for the job besides getting the dust off the innards of the computer case.

These foolish things we do

That disk introduced the Ping-Pong virus into Elf Nigeria and with it, all their computers became unusable with a green dot bouncing off the sides of the computer screen, it was not long before the fingers were pointed in my direction and a crack team spent the weekend reformatting and restoring data, I did not get sacked.

That was when we acquired our first antivirus solution and became the go-to company to fix such issues around Lagos. However, I guess there was no retribution for my foolishness at first we didn’t know anything about computer viruses, it was an honest mistake and like everyone else, someone had done something foolish before and recognised that this kind of thing happens.

Humbled by knowing me

Maybe also, they just liked me and that helps, having an affable, friendly, and approachable personality with a good working relationship with your colleagues means you do not get thrown under the bus at the first sign of problems. I can attest to many other mistakes I have made at work that would make me cringe at the thought of what was wrought by my hands.

So, I could understand when a colleague thought I had shopped him for having done something in error, tried to amend it, but the damage had been done. The evidence was there if you knew how to find it, and I did. As it was a puzzle put to the team the source of the problem had to be revealed to the team. I forewarned him of the situation before making the public revelation.

In the interest of kindred spirits, I spoke of some of the things I would rather forget that I did at work. I have known understanding, consideration, and dare I say, mercy from managers who could just terminate my contract there and then. Recognising that keeps us humble and helps us remember we are only human, striving for perfection and sometimes falling short. We live to learn and hopefully do better next time.

Monday, 9 November 2020

It’s walking and it’s walking - V

Breaking to press on

As I informed of yesterday, I did not go out for my walk on Sunday and that became a break, in the streak of walking at least 10,000 steps daily from the 30th of July. I guess I was demotivated by not getting an acknowledgement of my 100-day day streak which should have arrived on the 6th or at worst the 7th.

This morning, I was out of the door at 6:05 AM and I slightly varied my route because the daylight had not arrived over 4 kilometres into my walk. I was a bit concerned that for my slow pace that 9’24” per kilometre, my heart rate was in the extreme region where the maximum heart rate for my age should be 166 beats per minute (bpm).

A heart in a race

Of the 1:49:55 hours I took to complete 11.69 kilometres, 82 minutes were above 149 bpm and peaking at 184 bpm with the final 27 minutes falling to the anaerobic and aerobic heart rate stages. I put it down to my apparent lack of sleep overnight where I barely go 3 hours in.

I then began to gather the evidence to make a complaint to Huawei about the discrepancies in the walking records of the last week of November, that aggregated the tally but was only showing in one day as the average for the week, rather than discretely tabulating the steps for each day.

Proof, I did it

As I clicked on the chat button, there was a popup on my phone, the achievement medal I was waiting for, was delivered, and it indicated I had completed my feat today when it should have been on Friday. I guess that they have confused the date of attaining the achievement with the date of the granting the award because my streak was broken yesterday.

However, I am not complaining that much, the medal has arrived and the next goal that will take a while is the medal for completing 10 million steps. I wonder if I will have any legs left by then. Getting an achievement boosts encouragement and helps one unto higher goals. I hope to be back with more evidence of, It’s walking and it’s walking.

Blog- It's walking and it's working

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

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

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

 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XX

No meeting at church on Sunday

When we went into what is now termed Lockdown 2 nationally on Thursday, I regretted that the main social gathering of attending church that we began under limited and COVID-19 aware circumstances on the 5th of July will be stopped.

Apart from that, not much will change from my routine, the daily walks, the shopping for household essentials and the living at work would still follow the same order of things. The ban on travel is a moot point as South Africa that I want to visit still has the UK on the high-risk country list. It is my hope that by December, the opportunity will come to travel and meet up with Brian for Christmas.

The people we meet each day

As I stepped out on Thursday morning, I noticed that the local gym that opens at 6:00 AM was closed with closure notices posted on the door. It felt weird, though further down on my route, two lovers were sat on a bench in amorous embrace, that early. You can’t put a schedule on love, I thought.

Getting to the first park, I met up with the lady who takes her dog on a walk in a perambulator, she chunters to the dog which I think is old and infirm shaking a rattle at it. In the other park, the old lady with her usually one and sometimes two companions exchange pleasant greetings as she feeds the birds. The lady in a hijab I have not seen in weeks and the young man who sprints like a gazelle never acknowledges anyone.

Some open some closed

On the home straight, I was surprised to see that the two Starbuck’s cafés open whilst the Nero coffee shops were closed. I guess what surprised me more was the outdoor gym by the River Irwell was taped over whilst the children’s play area in Peel Park was available with children on the swings.

The roads do not look deserted, just as many cars seem to be plying the roads, indicating people are still going about their business. Many of the restaurant with outdoor seating have kept their seating arrangement stacked indoors as they have transitioned to mainly takeaway and delivery services.

Whilst I am not entirely convinced that Lockdown 2 will yield the benefit of getting the Coronavirus under control in England, it is my hope that enough time would have given policymakers ideas on how to rejig their restrictions to travel and commerce to allow some modified return to normalcy. Meanwhile, we cope and thrive in this lockdown with much consideration to our mental health and wellbeing whilst looking towards possibilities borne of imaginative solutions and human ingenuity.

 

It's walking and it's working - IV

An app in a tizzy

I am a bit crestfallen but not discouraged. On Friday, the 6th of November, I should have completed a 100-day streak of at least 10,000 steps daily which started on the 30th of July. My Huawei Health app should have unveiled the medal of achievement for that feat, it did not.

On further scrutiny of the situation, it seems there were was a glitch in the app that messed up the statistics for the week commencing the 25th of October, the weekly report is not tabulating the daily counts from the 26th for that week, though the daily view evidently shows I completed each threshold comfortably.

When looking at the monthly report, it is the 26th of October that is missing, and it might require working with the Huawei support teams to fix this. So far, I can report that at the end of the 6th of November, I had walked 1,922,073 steps.

It still works beautifully

I probably will not go out for a walk today, I have been trying to catch up on some lost sleep, the last week was fraught. My average night’s sleep for the week was 4 hours and 29 minutes, just not nearly enough.

On the walking front, there is progress, I have not been able to shift my weight much below 80 kilogrammes, it would probably be stuck around that number. My waist size is reduced that I can fit in shorts that I had forsaken months ago and generally, I feel fit, but for the niggling insomnia that commands some interest, concern, and attention.

On the whole, I can still attest to the fact that it is walking and it is working, I do not have to lift weights, run, jog, or perform any other exercises. It is likely I might have to do some abdominal exercises to firm up my stomach, but the distinctive paunch from earlier in the year is gone. Much as I see many jogging on my early morning walks, I have found the routine and regime that works for me and I will continue with it.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Thought Picnic: Patience is a place of calm

Process is patient

We learn the work of patience as a continuous experience in life. There are things that need to begin, grow, and mature, they require a timeframe that in our knowledge will allow us to reap the best harvest of a situation.

You want fruits to grow to a size and ripen, you’ll be suspicious of fruit that instantly grows like air being blown into a balloon and ripens like flicking the switch of a lightbulb. Yes, there are people with a snake-oil remedy disposition that would love to pass off fruit like that in the market for a quick buck. They will do so and disappear.

Destination travels patient

Those who intend to return to the market time and again, will let patience do its work because it builds reputation, shows character, reveals integrity and espouses humanity, because they do unto others what they expect others to do unto them. They are in their souls, the good neighbour, the Good Samaritan, the people of whom we learn by example, who we can trust with the reins of power to do right.

We must be patient, because no matter how fast you are going, you will not be going beyond your destination and those caught in the slow lane will eventually get there. We should just be wary of those who have no destination, wandering in the wilderness with a path or direction who might soon wander into the path of predators to be consumed.

Preparation grows patience

Patience is a virtue we can so easily run out of, yet, it gives a different sense of calm when you know that what is coming will come because things are in motion by reason of activities in place to make it happen. It is borne in quiet contemplation away from the noise of the madding crowds and the maddening situations.

Give patience its place and anxiety will have no hold. It is taking so long to reach the decision, what we no more fear is regardless of how long drawn out it becomes, the general idea of what is expected will take its incontrovertible and tangible form that no realities from alternate universes can dispute.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

He shall preserve my soul, even forevermore

A sleepy escape from evil

A few days ago, I woke up from a nightmare, like I was nudged out of slumber into wakefulness to spare me. So vivid was the dream that as I collected my thoughts about what had transpired in my subconscious, I was shedding tears, like everything in my being had come to help me manage the stress of my ordeal.

Brian in his wisdom arrested my irrationality before I did something stupid with the thoughts crowding my sense of sanity and proportion. He said, ‘Last week, you went through some challenging days causing some stress and hopefully, the brain is just filing away all that.’ There could not have been a better assessment of the situation along with the other things that bothered me.

He obviously has witnessed nights of my disturbed sleep from my talking in my sleep, to acting out and apparently kicking him in bed too. I’m mortified. Anyway, it was a lot to process and I tried to tackle it from all perspectives I could muster, as it all played out like a deliverance from adversity.

He keeps me safe

As I was writing down the parts of the dream I could remember, recurrent thought like some inspiration interrupted my flow. It was in Yoruba that I translated to English and searched for on the Internet.

It happened to be Psalm 121:4 “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” However, reading the whole Psalm put it into context. My help comes from the Lord in all situations and circumstances. [Bible Gateway – Psalm 121 (KJV)]

I cannot remember when last I read this Psalm if I ever had to recite over water to drink or bathe with, a well-practised ritual of my childhood by reason of the African-Initiated Christian denominations my mother has an affinity to.

He preserves my soul

For the last two nights, I had decided to sign myself off the news cycle because of the US elections, I first thought of playing back my classical music collection but ended up playing Amy Grant on Amazon Music before clicking on a playlist of gospel music.

One track was unmistakably Psalm 121, Jacquelyn Gouche-Farris had taken inspiration from the Psalm to write My Help which has been performed by many notable artistes backed by choirs. I am taking the time to learn the words of the song to hum and sing on my walks. For the times, this is one to give you a sense of peace, comfort, and assurance. [Genius Lyrics: My Help][Amazon Music: My Help]

The Psalmist says, “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”

The singer gets to the point without beating about the bush, “He shall preserve thy soul, even forevermore.” Then take all the pronouns and personalise them in the first person. What better prayer is there when you can confidently say? “He shall preserve my soul, even forevermore.”

[YouTube: My Help (Better sound quality)]