Tuesday, 20 April 2021

The selfless and vicarious LGBT activism of Uche Maduagwu

Act 1 Seen Enough

It was not a few months ago that Uche Maduagwu who I do not know from Adam came out as ‘proudly gay’. He is apparently a Nigerian actor and so probably well known in Nigeria. Now, I am completely unconcerned about Uche Maduagwu’s sexuality, but when viewed in the context of Nigeria, the fact that an ordinary but albeit influential person, who is just ordinary first and whatever else and then happens to be gay, can be interesting, yet should be insignificant. [Gay Times: Nigerian actor Uche Maduagwu comes out as “proudly gay”]

In a recent Instagram post, Mr. Maduagwu now claims he is not gay, he was just fighting for LGBT rights that appear to have cost him movie roles, endorsements, and his relationship with his girlfriend. I sympathise. Now, Mr. Maduagwu may choose to be gay or not at any time of his convenience like he is assuming a movie role; many LGBT+ Nigerians do not have that luxury, it is not a fad, it is their lives.

Instagram post of Uche Maduagwu
This is our lives

LGBT+ Nigerians are also not fair-weather activists of causes that look expedient until they are at risk of losing jobs, status, relationships, or even their lives. We all have to live with our reality, the dangers and experiences, too numerous to relate, and for all the treasures in the world, we do not deny ourselves but live our truth.

Mr. Maduagwu, God bless him, can be a chameleon or an impostor, by providence or talent, he is an actor and maybe we should thank him for his selfless activism and as if we do not have enough occupying our minds for our safety and survival in Nigeria and elsewhere, his plight is an unnecessary distraction.

We wish him well, but whether he will be forgiven for earning notoriety at our expense, time will tell. Sometime in the future, he might have an epiphany that he is a proud person, and not soon after denying his personhood to be something yet undefined but even more interesting that we cannot ignore his method, his acting and the genius we will never believe he was.

Monday, 19 April 2021

The eyes have it all

Life returns to Manchester

Yesterday, marked the first full week of the easing of lockdown measures with the opening of non-essential goods shops. Returning from church, the town centre was busy, tables and chairs outside for alfresco dining, crowds milling around as if the memories of a pandemic had long been forgotten.

Our penchant for queuing had opened up to a new order, with specific entrance and exit door, walking routes laid out in the shopping centre to help with social distancing, even though some just ignored the signs.

I first visited the public conveniences before going to the opticians. I last had an eye test 3 years ago and the right arm of my lens frame was beginning to disintegrate. The composite 3 layers were coming apart and when I tried to glue the bits together, I had more bonding of my fingertips than the object of repairs.

Fast-tracked on choice

They offered a 4:00 PM appointment which did not sound convenient if I had to return to the city centre to attend, so, I chose an early morning slot for Saturday. Then, I decided to look at the frames display, in the hope that something might catch my eye. Now, literally, all eyeglass frames are made by manufacturers in Italy, we are mostly paying exorbitant rates for brand names, the design aesthetic hardly having much diversity.

I found an O’Neill frame and asked a member of staff about setting it aside for my Saturday appointment, but before I knew it, I was fast-tracked into a consulting room where a whole battery of tests began, reading charts, blurred and clear dots, air blasted at my eyeballs, lights shone into the recesses of my eyes with pictures of blood vessels vivid to be scary, peripheral and field vision, my eyes were so tired after then workout short of popping the eye out and giving it a cold rinse before tossing it in a frying pan of hot oil and sticking it back in the socket.

Seeing everything anew

By the time we were done a good 90 minutes later, I had ordered two pairs of glasses with lenses exhibiting every quality of sight improvement except X-ray vision. The second cheaper pair offered at half-price and to be delivered to my home in about a fortnight. The eye test came free because there is a history of glaucoma somewhere in the family, which requires I return for eye tests annually rather than leave it until when my glasses or frames are falling apart.

I hope I made the right choice, in more convenient settings, I would have sought the advice of Brian before my selection. In the end, he might like them after taunting me about needed two pairs of glasses because there was a time, I forgot I had a pair on and donned another pair, I have never lived that down. Obviously, my comeback is just as embarrassing for him.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Unfinished musings of incomplete thoughts

Missive arrive

On good authority, you will live,
If the wire you touched is not live,
You can be a driver,
Far away from the river,
If you had a fiver,
Please, spend it in Iver,
The surname of Gulliver,
Is definitely not McGiver,
For in English we always do strive,
With sounds and words that don’t forgive.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Essential Snobbery 101: Mistakenly conferring pedigree on strays

Social media hit-and-runs

It is always fascinating what a presence on social media opens you to, random encounters of significance and insignificance, then ones that leave you checking on your temperament as to whether you should engage them at all to the point that you are dispensing a piece of your mind that you will rather you never had.

On Twitter or elsewhere, someone reads your profile or a status and forms a presumably comprehensive idea of who you are, what you are, your personality traits, and much else. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that is how they deal with you and that brief encounter could be both bruising and unedifying.

Without getting into any detail about some of those recent engagements with such people; the busybodies that cannot seem to mind their own business, you offer a response if you are that inclined and park their sorry arses into oblivion where they belonged all along, but for the chance that brought stray dogs to crumbs that fell under the table, for a moment pedigree fell on them like pearls cast before swine.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Thought Picnic: Not to be taken for granted

Good custom brings returns

After work, I stepped out in my exercise garb to visit my favourite sports shop where I have bought a few trainers that make my walking a comfortable experience. From the first day I visited, Up & Running Manchester, I have always met friendly, professional, attentive, and helpful staff, from the manager and all his colleagues.

I had gone shopping for a back support brace and probably another pair of trainers when I found myself telling a beautiful story. As I was looking through the Brooks brand of trainers, I told the lady helping me out that I bought a pair for my boyfriend and he, Brian said they were the most comfortable pair of trainers he has ever worn.

A sweet story told

Checking out the other pairs, she went into the storeroom to get my size and it all came flowing out, how I met Brian, where we met, how love blossomed, places we visited, the interesting things we’ve shared and learnt together, our plans to get married and much more in between. I believe the other staff in the store were listening too as there was no other customer to serve until when I was leaving.

Whilst I did not shed a tear and I probably would have out of joy, the freedom with which one could share a story of love, the liberal and accepting attitude of celebrating with you and urging you on, the positive feeling of happiness I felt in myself and the goodwill towards us was first gratifying even as it can be taken for granted, knowing the difficulties in some African countries; it informs our desire to make South Africa our shared new home. Just the stuff of dreams come true.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

The malign state of cultural programming

The random in Uber rides

I was not going to walk back home with my shopping after visiting the hospital yesterday, so, I called Uber cab to take me home. The name of the driver appeared to be a Christian forename and a Muslim surname; it would have been an interesting conversation point.

When he arrived, the phonetical sounds I heard as he was conversing with someone on his mobile phone was unmistakably Yoruba, so, I engaged him with greetings and a sense of familiarity almost to my regret. The first I have had of a Yoruba person, probably the last I would want if this situation is repeated.

Patriarchy is the default

We seem to have this cultural programming to be first intrusive and probably judgemental. His first inquiry was whether my wife was too busy to do the shopping. There is no accounting for how long our people have lived in the west, some patriarchal views die hard. Even if I were married, nothing regardless of my status stops me from shopping.

So, I answered, I was just returning from the hospital nearby and that presented an opportunity to do some shopping. However, he would not let go, he wanted to know about my wife and my kids. An apparently essential demonstration of my whatever it might be. Wisely, this was not the time to introduce a radically implausible issue as sexuality, but some matters needed addressing all the same.

Moving on to other things

No, I do not have my own children, I cannot have children by reason of many issues including the consequences of chemotherapy. Then indeed I do have children in my nieces and nephews. Knowing I cannot have children I am pragmatic enough not to involve a woman in my complicated situation leaving her attached and yet bereft of issue.

Then, the matter of issue is one of contentment in terms of whether you do require them or not and whether you have made peace with your circumstances. Whether with issue or not, someone would take up that responsibility for interment when you are gone, the more important thing is to have impacted lives enough to be relevant in life and the hereafter.

That being said, we got to the matter of how frequently I visit home. Home to him is different from home to me, but I humoured him, I have not been to Nigeria in over 30 years. There began another inquisition. I volunteered I am English, though it did not tweak that my grasp of the Yoruba language and completed sentences without interspersing with English was probably commendable. I had committed infractions I should be answerable for.

Coming up for air

Obviously, whereupon that kind of situation within the Yoruba construct might well be considered unfortunate, on wife, on children, and on visits, the fact is to be consumed by circumstances over which you have little control or are not persuaded of will distract you from fulfilling other aspects of life and purpose. I reckon my message was clear from our interaction, I neither castigated nor excoriated him, I just provided another perspective to things.

That he was taking me into the centre of town elicited another comment about me being quite wealthy, to which I responded in Yoruba, the blessing is there to be shared to all. Yet, that cultural programming impervious to review does grate. I bet he has never done any domestic shopping before, but that is none of my business, I just want to get home.

It seems good from the results

Discussions and arrangements

I was scheduled to have my biannual consultation yesterday, but the call came in on Monday where we reviewed my blood test results from October and arranged to refill my drug prescription, well, why don’t we add a visit to the phlebotomist too?

So, we agreed on Wednesday for the visit to the hospital and the pharmacy beside it, not knowing what how much time it would all entail, I took the day off. The day started with my morning walk at the usual time before I prepared for my 11:30 AM appointment, leaving home with enough time to spare, I first checked that my prescription was ready because the last time, it was not filed and my blood work was not ready.

Thankfully, all that was in place, I got my prescription for 6 months and then went up to the outpatients to have blood drawn for tests.

All that blood

Whilst I arrived quite early, the phlebotomist was available and I was ushered into a consulting room where I saw my initials and hospital number on the list and pointed it out that I was from Alcoholics Anonymous.

We had an easy banter full of laughs and guffaws, as she found a vein and began a vampire’s convention that took 8 vials and then a urine sample of the 1965 vintage with a compliment that I am a good bleeder, just as I was about to pass out from seeing my apparently voluntary exsanguination.

I should have returned home after that, but I called at the ethnic shops before making it home to get some well-needed rest. From the results discussed on Monday, the only issue was my cholesterol, it had improved from last April to October and there is the hope it would be better this time. All other indicators were good and I guess that is all to be thankful for.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

It's walking and I'm fine - IX

Putting my back in it

“Four kilometres in the time of 35 minutes and 20 seconds, pace for the last kilometre 8 minutes 42 seconds, heart rate 137 beats per minute.” For my walking exercises, I have had my mobile phone aggregate information hooked to my smartwatch to give me a notification of how I was doing for each kilometre.

I switched it off this morning, having stopped listening to music to take in the sounds of nature that takes me by riverbanks and into verdant parks filled with animal life and beauty, this was becoming both a guilt trip and a distraction. The guilt fed by trying to understand why somehow my pace between kilometres could vary by almost 3 minutes and the distraction from the quiet and the thinking as I walk.

Unnecessary stress, it seems

Two days ago, I was going at such a pace appeared I could get 7 kilometres done in 60 minutes, having heard the readings at the completion of the 6th kilometre, that 7th kilometre could be done in 8 minutes 30 seconds, so, I pressed in and my walk became a trot, and I was almost running but it was to no avail, 61 minutes and 10 seconds my mobile phone announced. I was crestfallen.

On reflection I wondered why I was competing against myself; the route is the same at a bit over 11 kilometres, my stride is about 73 centimetres, I have a good mental note of each kilometre point, usually before the 8th kilometre I will have done 10,000 steps with a buzz from my smartwatch and the pounds or kilogrammes are beginning to shift. The circuit is done in under 110 minutes.

On the matter of pace, after 163 recorded exercises between encouragement and achievement the novelty has worn off. I got home, paused and stopped the workout and read the results, it did not seem that different from my typical walks, though with 21 seconds on average added to the kilometre but not something to beat myself up about. I feel fine.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXVIII

Life in the city

The city is still in slumber or just being aroused for the day when I go out for my walks in the morning. Apart from delivery lorries parked in loading bays to stock the shops I pass by, there isn’t much activity to see. That suits me as the absence of people and crowds means I do not have to don a face mask for the most part of my walk.

Brian recognises that soon after work, I do need a nap before I decide what else to do in the late evening. He has somehow urged me to go out probably for another long evening walk, which might be helpful to tire me out of the throes of insomnia, but there was much else to see especially after the easing of the lockdown measures in England.

Lights, chairs and tables

Out of my door and up the street, there was Canal Street, the gay village, all lit up and busy, chairs and tables on the pedestrianised street, I cannot account for whether there was adequate social distancing, the city was indeed abuzz. The back streets for which new licenses were granted were no more thoroughfare to vehicular traffic but now bustling aisles and pavements of alfresco dining.

Further on, some premises and businesses had died Covid-19 deaths, they were not open, the doors shuttered in the finality of regret that they could not endure the economic strains of the pandemic, a club that caters for patrons absent of class, style, or manner had followed that tale of woe for which with difficulty I mustered a bit of sympathy.

Gems make affordable

Then Primark, much as I do shop at Fortnum & Mason that is in the same Wittington Investments Limited conglomerate was having a late closing time. I will not buy a shirt or a suit there, but there are gems in the store at affordable prices.

A good woollen jumper and sexy track bottoms along with a few handy accessories, it was busy enough with people who wore their masks on their chins probably due to the protuberances on their faces being too big to be concealed by the healthy requirement of a mask. Did I hear they are called noses too?

Thinking of Brian, we can share trousers, his waist slightly thinner than mine, but we have the same leg length, or just about. He is taller than I am. Jackets, however, we can’t as my chest is bigger, we have to give or take 3 to 4 inches, he risks looking like a scarecrow in my jacket, though what a laugh that would excite. I hope the life that has returned to Manchester is not the precursor for another lengthy shutdown.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXVII

They are out already

Stepping out at 6:10 AM for my walking exercise, I noticed that there was a queue at the entrance to the Arndale Shopping Centre and it wasn’t even 6:30 AM. Whilst I did get a close enough look, I have my doubts these were employees, rather customers who were ready to swoop down on bargains.

I have this notion because with the easing of the pandemic lockdown in England beginning today, I heard on the radio that people braved the freezing cold just after midnight for a drink at their local public house, outside.

Trim out of the gym

Out there, there was a frost on the grass with the temperature barely above zero Celsius, it was left to my brisk walk to generate enough energy not to feel the chill. Much as I could be forgiven for not noticing any difference in human activity until I was on my home straight after walking 8 kilometres, the traffic on Chapel Street was enough to suggest things were changing.

Up into town, the gyms had opened and whilst I appear to have no need for gyms as all I want to do is keep trim, jettison visceral fat and keep my weight in check, I know that I do not have much upper body strength, I cannot hold up my body weight dangling from a bar with my hands and arms. It is something I will have to address.

Keeping it sensible

My only concern is with the eased lockdown people would still recognise the pandemic is still very much around, the vaccinations are helpful, but we should not let down our guard for our safety and to prevent another interminable lockdown.

I might just have a wander after work to see how things have changed. The shops and crowds can wait, I am seeking the social buzz, but for now, let’s pace ourselves.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

We are experts in our prejudices

Weeds in the garden of the mind

In times of reflection and introspection, I allow myself some searching scrutiny of my views, my opinions, my beliefs, my principles, and most importantly my prejudices. The blind spots that limit the range of vision in areas where ideally, I should normally be able to see, but I do not.

Like a gardener, it is a process of planting, trimming, weeding, pruning, grafting, uprooting, cleaning and much else that allows the garden to appear first well looked after and hopefully beautiful as a projection of what is aesthetically pleasing to myself and then to others. This is necessary for the mind too, things we have learnt that we need to relearn, unlearn, or have mislearnt through ignorant, incomplete, or bad education that needs jettisoning before it becomes the foundation for bad choices and decisions.

Arrogance is disabling

It brings to mind something Peter Drucker, the management guru said some decades ago, “discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it.” Discovery is always a process of searching and curiosity, that one has acquired some set views left without reassessing and questioning to ascertain their validity and application for the context, the time, the situation, or the circumstance will leave one prone to error.

The Merriam-Webster defines arrogance as an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. When reading Peter Drucker’s quote, I tend to drop the ‘intellectual’ qualifier of arrogance.

Arrogance is bad and sometimes it is difficult to notice it in ourselves, the sense of superiority, that makes us think we are better than others, the overbearing manner that prevents us from being accommodating of alternative and different situations, the presumptuousness that denies us the benefit of knowing the limits of our understanding, expertise, abilities, competence, and even open-mindedness.

We are prejudice experts

It is strange is it not that arrogance does cause disabling ignorance, the lack of knowledge, information, insight, context, premise, understanding, the list in synonyms and similar inferences can be limitless. However, the point is arrogance disables you and when you are disabled, you are unable to perform like those who are able can. This construct can be applied to anything, what we do to compensate, mitigate, or eliminate that disability can make all the difference.

Nowhere is the issue of arrogance more evident than in our prejudices, the quickness with which we rush to the judgement of others, castigating, excoriating, and condemning them, based on our limited worldview contextualised within the constraints of knowledge and the mistake of assuming we are all-seeing when we have many blind spots.

We are experts in our prejudices, qualified and lettered to the point of being unchallengeable and unassailable, it is dangerous for ourselves first and then others. It is easy to be unaware of it because we are comfortable and secure in what we know.

The open mind like parachutes

This brings me to another quote, part of which is popular, but the provenance and the context in which it is used differs, depending on who it attributed to, the one attributed to Lord Dewar, Thomas Robert goes, “I have an open mind. Minds are like parachutes—they function only when they are open. I believe in collecting information on every important topic and verifying it. That is why I am here tonight—in the spirit of enquiry.” [StackExchange: A mind is like a parachute]

There is no better way to learn, to unlearn, to relearn and create scope for new knowledge that changes perspectives, perceptions, or prejudices, than to have an open mind, it is for our development and our safety, it allows us to acknowledge our blind spots and adjust our line of vision, it enables us to see better, it addresses deep-seated arrogance and brings us to the realisation of new possibilities.

You wonder why I have written a treatise on open-mindedness, simple, someone published a picture of themselves in interesting attire, adornments and makeup, the commentary that followed whilst a few celebrated and commended the bold difference in embracing the alternative and sometimes misunderstood, too many from the Nigerian opinion pool could not see the aesthetic blinded by their prejudices and leading to outright condemnation.

Open all windows to light and air

You have to be openminded you cannot be selective of where you are open-minded, streams of knowledge and enlightenment come from unexpected places when we are ready to explore the unfamiliar and sometimes threatening. We cannot access new knowledge pools when we have closed our minds to the avenue or route to that new experience. Like in the daytime, any window closed is closed to letting light and fresh air into the room.

To that, I wrote two tweets, “I would suggest that a little open-mindedness to the alternative, the different, the unusual, the atypical, the unconventional, or the chimeral can open up areas of creativity and genius closed to sight just because we can't countenance the radical. Nigerians should let go.” [Twitter]

“I just saw an interesting fashion statement of difference, the commentary that followed showed how people are limited in vision, bound by the myopia of conformity, that despite their talents and academic achievements, they never reach their potential by judging others.” [Twitter]

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Dreamscape: A test I have to pass

Playing truant for reason

One school report in secondary school labelled me a truant, to my parents, that word seemed to jump out of the paper and take on a life of its own in their displeasure and disappointment. I was supposed to be in the class, and I was not, I was in the library doing other things that interested me, but that was no excuse, I had to suffer the regimen of class attendance whether I was engaged and enthused or not.

Then when I was at Yaba College of Technology studying Electrical Engineering, there were classes I did not attend as there were times, I was completely clueless as to why I was there. I now put those circumstances to when I suffered clinical depression for which there was no respite or recourse, it was strange I found distractions that helped me through.

In life and in dreams

There was one class I just could not attend after being there twice, the lecturer and I cannot understand how he rose to that position, possibly through nepotism or blackmail, I can not tell. He definitely had a practical understanding of the electrical British Standards, if he had to communicate in any vernacular other than English, he probably would have been excellent, but the medium of impartation was English, and he just did not speak it. He had no proficiency, none at all, maybe if he tried Pidgin English, it grated in my ears; it was intolerable.

Yet, I had to fulfil attendance credits to take the examinations, we had to reach some sort of arrangement in which the truth of why I hated his class could not be part of my cause of mitigation. Something of that episode seems to haunt my dreams and this for years.

Found wanting for testing

Any scenario where I am to sit an examination, there is always one subject where I did not have the notes and completely unprepared that I was a sure bet to fail, it filled me with trepidation.

It generally was a subject that I could not read up on, I needed someone’s notes to get a view of the topics covered so that my revision was aligned. What I am thankful for is I have not had to sit any of these examinations in my dreams to find that I had a pen full of ink but no words to write.

Then in real life, in my finals at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, I realised on the Friday before my mathematics examination on Monday, I had no confidence I would pass the test. There were just too many things that were not in place. By the time I was in that school, I would usually have completed all my revision weeks before the examination week and simply allowed myself more relaxation or rest, maybe a bit of tutoring, but no stress.

Between reality and dreams

This mathematical conundrum bothered me, so I found a primary school and spent Friday evening and Saturday working through problems and finding ways to understand how the theorems and proofs worked, my insight opened up to new methods and better ways to do things, it was like I was blessed with revelation. By Sunday, I was giving tips and even reduced a brainbox proof from a two-page verbosity to the concision of half a page. I scored an A in that paper.

That said, I cannot understand why still in my dreams, I play truant for all sorts of reasons, I am unaware of what test I am about to take, I am aware of a subject in which I am too unprepared that I might just absent myself from the examination, I have to find a friend ready to share their notes and I am caused an unnecessary amount of distress. Just before I wrote this blog, it was mathematics, again.

Friday, 9 April 2021

In the life of HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh

An amazingly long life

His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh who died today we mostly know from his public service and also as the Queen’s consort of 73 years. That much about his public service would be duly covered by many tributes, recollections, and obituaries that would fill every medium of the dissemination of news, information, and trivia. [Wikipedia:Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh]

A man who died just 2 months short of his 100th birthday leaves one sad at his not reaching that landmark, but 99 is an extraordinary innings, it is not a competition to attain but many things including blessing, provenance, and luck leaves us celebrating an extraordinary life.

Of support and companionship

To the Queen who has lost a husband, partner, companion, and mainstay of 73 years, there will be a great void created by the absence of someone with whom she first had letters from the age of 13, some 81 years ago, to her must be accorded the deepest and heartfelt sympathies. What an exemplary marriage, an example of companionship demonstrated in love, in accommodation, in endurance, in patience, and in tolerance.

Through the good times and the bad times, they supported each other their private arrangements giving life and light to their public engagements, their working together like a symphony, in rhythm, in movement, and enthralling music. It must be the kind of relationship anyone would long for; when partners first meet when they take their vows and each day make a fairy tale of their imperfections given the allowance to reach the best kind of perfect, they could muster for each other.

No mourning but celebration

To the children, the part of my Yoruba identity lauds them, even in their sorrow, to have been predeceased by a parent that lived for a ripe old age brings congratulations for surviving that parent. For such there is no mourning but joy, there is no black apparel or attire, just blue, we revere a long life in a world where much is quite uncertain, it cannot be ignored.

As Prince Philip is given the kind of no-fuss send-off that he desired, much as we the people would want to thank him, I find the most profound Christian message of the resurrection in the notice posted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, “May His Royal Highness rest in peace and rise in glory.” Amen. [Archbishop of Canterbury: On the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh]

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Back to some discipline

Out to walk at dawn

I was a bit of an early riser this morning, being awake just before 6:00 AM, I thought I might just put in the walk and I last got up at that time to perform my walking exercise in the first week of December and holding off for the days before my travel to South Africa, shielding myself to forestall an adverse test result that could scupper my travel plans.

Getting into my kit, with a high-visibility vest and LED armbands, I was out on the road but had to have my hood up because there was a light drizzle, at 4 Celsius, it was best to wear my winter gloves and off I went. I usually can’t understand how I feel I am maintaining the same pace and steps cadence yet could have up to a difference of over 2 minutes per kilometre.

Pace to the familiar

My average is around a 9-minutes kilometre, though I did get in a 7-minute 2-second kilometre on the home straight, that was quite unusual, I had not done anything close to that in months. The fact that for the 11.56 kilometres I walked, I never stopped apart from when I had a short conversation with the lady and her male companion who is out each morning feeding the birds. We had not seen each other for 4 months.

Another regular morning walker is the friendly man and his two dogs, one always on the leash and the other named Tilly excitedly running into my path whenever she sees me. However, today, they had crossed the main road and we acknowledged each other with a wave. I might well return to the early morning walks, there is enough light at that time to do a good circuit. By 15,559 steps, there was a good sweat, a bit of panting, but seeing the effects will take a little longer.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

City living in the deception of the genteel

Things I should have noticed

A few weeks ago, I missed a Zoom conference that was convened by the local police to chat to occupants of my village complex, I did not at that time consider the importance of it. Then, I could not help but notice the big red notices about Modern Slavery, one in English and the other in Chinese, I just thought it was a general notice.

Then on our village Facebook page, there was a picture of police vans as if they were there to conduct a raid, but there was no update to what it might be. I and maybe a lot of residents of my village complex might have been lured into a sense of genteel out of exclusivity of this neighbourhood to think it is devoid of the vagaries of reprehensible conduct.

Respectable is good cover

Then I am reminded of the fact that just beside our village, something I learnt a few days ago was where the Manchester bomber of May 2017 lived and built his bomb, a few hundred yards away was the home of the serial homosexual sex abuser that could have abused 200 victims, within my village complex in another apartment block was a sex and human trafficking ring exploiting early teenaged girls, one of whom had escaped, and which led to the police raid.

It all begins to make sense, how we need to be observant and sometimes suspicious, quick to notice the strange and make further inquiries of the unusual. Everyone minding their own business to the point of snootiness and snobbery might well leave the innocent open to incomprehensible exploitation.

Curiosity is necessary

You wonder how neighbouring apartments to the sex-ring apartment could not have noticed the comings and goings, the strange faces, and much else. How is it that as we move into the city, we lose that sense of neighbourliness and the neighbourhood, the knowing and conversing with neighbours, not so much to intrude but to create community and some safety in looking out for each other?

It has made us aware that exclusivity and quite sometimes provides a veneer for respectability under which nefarious, notorious, or criminal activity might thrive with everyone none the wiser that like me, we were quite surprised that anything like that could be happening here. The fact is a lot is happening and because we are not curious or just indifferent, heinous crimes take root and thrive. If anything, always strive to know your neighbours and keep an eye out for each other.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Dreamscape: Parasomnia to the rescue

A low form of sleep

Brian is probably the most aware of episodes of parasomnia demonstrated in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep Behaviour Disorder that I have exhibited over time when I have vocalised, acted out or even kicked him violently in bed. My dreams can be quite vivid and the fact that during REM Sleep my muscles are not relaxed and temporarily paralysed could probably be related to my medication, but I have for a lifetime suffered a spectrum of parasomnia short of somnambulism. [Sleep Foundation: REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder]

After work, I took a nap and had classical music playing in the background, my phone rang waking me up, but I just turned over not to excite myself too much out of the slumber that had seemed to set in. Soon I was enraptured in the throes of dreamland.

Into dreamhood

There is a characteristic of my dreams that appears to link into episodes eked out of long-held memories probably from other dreams that makes certain encounters seem like a continuing story. I was walking up an exposed corridor with an overhanging roof when I noticed a lady I knew in some sort of distress, two men on either side of her appearing to threaten her, but since they were outside, I felt if anything happened, I could call up a crowd and the police on them.

One of the men happened to be Boris Johnson, and that might have been inspired by news of when he with a friend arranged to have a journalist beaten up. The stuff of dreams draws from inexhaustible material. [The Guardian: A couple of black eyes]

Soon, another man I did not recognise walked up and they now took the lady into a room. As they did that, I called out to her, by name and asked if everything was Okay, whilst she said she was, that is not what I heard in her voice, they were going to rough her up and I was reaching for my phone to call the police.

Acting out the dream

I could hear a bit of thumping in the room, and I suspect from what I overheard in the snatches of conversation in that room, they wanted to know how much I knew about them. I guess they were about to include me in their nefarious activity when that man I did not know came out and walked towards me, because I was not leaving until I was sure she was fine.

As he approached me, I could hear myself say in a loud voice, “Do you want to know who I am?” as I woke up out of the dream. Sometimes, this happens as a safety reflect preventing an escalation or a deterioration leading to harm for myself and stress on my mental and nervous system. I probably need to visit a sleep clinic to study the phenomenon better.

However, it was another bout of parasomnia and my sleep was over with me thinking if the dream had continued, as there were many people around, I was about to shout out to them. “Call the police on these thugs.” It is likely, that dream might continue in another episode of Dreamscape, the vivid dreams of I and the parasomnia that defines them.

Figures in the numbers

Numbers in my eyes

I like the numbers game, the order of numbers, the mystery of numbers, the codes in numbers, the recall of numbers and puzzles based on numbers. One of the first things I learnt about numbers was how to determine a number was divisible by 3, as long as the numbers each when added up was a multiple of 3, it was divisible by 3, from that I could determine those divisible by 6 or 9.

Then every time I see a number I am doing a mental exercise in the realm of 3s and other multiples of the same besides trying to find numerical mnemonics that would help me remember long numbers, telephone numbers, dates, and other associations.

Puzzled by numbers

However, the numbers puzzle that most interests me is Sudoku, and whilst I don’t play it that often, I have had a few apps on my mobile phone to engage me in idle times to engage my mind to find the arrangement and order to complete the puzzle, sometimes to best my times, but mostly never to place a number in error through the process.

The easy puzzles are boring, I find no pleasure in them, sometimes the easier ones exhaust too much mental energy, whereas the fiendish and complex ones where sometimes you are taxed and almost frustrated as the minutes tick away until there is a breakthrough, what you have been staring at for long suddenly comes into the focus leading to the solution and satisfaction of personal triumph.

Monday, 5 April 2021

In my heart and in my mind

My heart is warm

The feeling you get when you are thinking of someone who just makes things look so different, the sense that the world is a place of indescribable beauty that you want to explore with a person that makes each moment so special and to be cherished.

When you recognise that this person makes you glow and fills you with light because they radiate such extraordinary flair and personality that consumes you with yearning. I can strive toward a sense of completeness and fulfilment with them by my side.

Love is something I am understanding better each day in the person who allows me to extend beyond myself in ambition, in hope, in prospect, in life, and in heart. I found in Brian a person that makes it all matter.

Thank you for giving me every reason to smile whenever I see your smile and hear your voice in anticipation of being with you soon. It makes me holler to the world; I love you.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Easter ushering in the new

As we began

During the processional hymn, the clergy filed into the church, in resplendent vestments, rich in colour, the Bishop of Manchester, The Right Reverend Dr. David Walker, with mitre and shepherd’s crook and always to my fascination, sandal-shod, bringing up the rear.

He was the president of the Easter Sunday Sung Eucharist as a surveyed the church in which I stood, barely a seat vacant, the fullest it has been since before the pandemic. The worship conventions suffused in the mystique and mystery of Latin hymns sung by the lay clerks, but for the English translations, we would be in another heaven of tongues roaring like thunder to our hearing.

Onto the new

The sermon was predicated on newness excerpted from part of the Collect, “Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him.” We were encouraged to begin to see the new in a new from that which we once knew. The new normal will never be back to normal, but it has to be a better normal in every aspect of life.

After the dismissal, we were in for a surprise treat, the Bishop said we could follow the clergy out in the recession where we would all congregate outside on the grounds of the church, socially distanced with essential safety measures to then sing the recessional hymn together. For the first time, we sang as a congregation in well over a year, it was uplifting and rousing. The first line introducing us to the amazing story of Easter. ‘Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son.’ [Wikipedia: Thine be the glory]

After a short chat to the Bishop, leaving church, I thought I will get a few things from the shops, it never dawned on me as I have rarely been in the UK at Easter to realise that like Christmas Day, the main shops and shopping precincts are closed for Easter Sunday. I guess you always find that you learn something new.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

A note to stupid self

A note to stupid self

For the day, I have lazed,
Quite completely unfazed,
From my bed, I did not raise,
Silly plans set ablaze.

In the hour that I did wander,
For the while, I had to ponder,
My instincts do still warn,
But ignored for me to mourn.

Into adventure, a risk to take,
My resolve I easily break,
A quota of steps to reach,
A lesson to me I teach.

The things that so appear,
In which we should be aware,
Sometimes are too concealed,
You’re lost when it’s revealed.

Chance can let one’s guard down,
Hindsight then makes you frown,
Once again you are a fool,
For breaking your own rule.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Good Friday traditions upheld

Remembering the times

At church earlier today, it dawned on me that I probably have never attended a Good Friday service. In the Netherlands, Good Friday is usually not a holiday, though the Monday after Easter is. Thinking of Nigeria, the only observance I can recall was we did not eat meats at home on Good Friday, only fish. The only day of the Passion weekend we celebrated was Easter Sunday.

As I sat in church, at one point the dean of the cathedral born a large cross that he walked down the aisle to the altar where the cross was set up and a mallet was used to knock it into place. The sound of the hitting was quite impactful almost like hearing the nails being hammered into the palms and the feet of the Lord as narrated in the gospels.

Traditions holding firm

Again, there was no sermon as the readings were long enough to pass for a sermon itself. There were a few familiar hymns sung by the lay clerics along with Latin recitations which had accompanying English translations. During Communion, an African American spiritual was sung which had none of the inflections or stirrings of African American spirituals, yet, a very good rendition, all the same.

At the end of the service, the clergy walked to the back of the hall just under the tower and as the last hymn was concluded, the doors were slammed shut, signifying the closing of the tomb. All the symbolism and back at home, I had a slow-cooked fish curry bubbling away. I think, in terms of celebration, I have upheld to an extent the traditions of old.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Of the plans and the times

Signposts of the Passion

Two Easter weekends ago, I had arrived in South Africa, met up with Brian in Johannesburg, and we both travelled to Cape Town where we spent 12 days, the blossoming of a new relationship and probably one of the most exciting times in my life. It was an opportunity to get to know each other better, after the sudden opportunity to meet in Johannesburg in late February 2019.

The Easter meeting had been planned from mid-January, I just knew I wanted to see him again and find out if there was a prospect of something between us. After that April meeting, the plans to meet over the summer were thwarted that it was not until September and then December that we met again.

By then, I was sure I was ready for a lifelong relationship with all the formalities that would establish us as a couple and married. My projection was for last year’s Easter, but the pandemic had taken hold, I was out of work and we were in lockdown. Every prospect of meeting up just looked ever so distant, opportunities quickly fizzling out as our host country was not accepting guests and England ended up in a second lockdown.

The plan waits for its time

Surely, when we next meet, I thought again, we could get it done, tie the knot and finalise the formalities. That is what I thought we would do when we met up in December after 11 months apart, but things did not go our way. Bureaucracy, officialdom, and an absence of waivers even in the midst of a pandemic meant we had to schedule it for another time. However, we now knew what to do.

I cannot say we would have been able to consider it this Easter weekend, much as I would have loved to get or steal away. There is an international travel ban from England and our countries are in various forms of lockdown that militates against our plans. We are hopeful and looking forward, and even if our apparently well-laid plans have been tossed by circumstances beyond our control, I have the feeling that by the next Easter weekend, we would be telling a different and amazing story. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXVI

People are outside

Out on my walk this evening, as I approached a bus stop, a lady with her mask on was frantically waving down the double-decker bus to stop, I am sure the driver saw her, but he did not stop, the driver had forgotten to change a sign on the destination indicator on the front of the bus, ‘Bus Full’, or something to that effect, it should have said.

Down at the park as dusk turned to dark that without lights or a reflection, you will not notice anything a few metres ahead of you, the sounds of revelling from all directions met my ears. People in groups of sometimes more than six, sitting on the grass chatting or chuntering away, oblivious of others and the pandemic that kept us sequestered for months.

Signs of change

The rubbish bins stacked and overflowing, empty bottles of all kinds of drinks standing on and around the bin. Bags of rubbish that did not fit in the bins strew around for others to clean up after the many who cannot keep their litter until they get home. I guess that is what our council tax goes towards.

The theatre down the road that has been closed since early March last year has become a beehive of activity, not that there are patrons or theatregoers about. The signs for The Phantom of the Opera that was to be playing this time last year have remained up, you wonder if things would take off from where they left off. Two long caboose trailers without their cabs are parked outside, I think they are preparing for an opening.

Some hotels that have been closed for months now have their lights on, someone or people should be there, for in these observations, you can feel that things are coming back to life, we might not return to normal, but we are setting ourselves up for a new normal and hopefully a better normal.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Lil Nas X - MONTERO - The Pied Piper is here

Setting it up

There is something about Montero Lamar Hill, also known as Lil Nas X that is enthralling, engaging, and arresting. Now, I am not a fan of rap music or any music where the apparent absence of enunciation leaves you having to attune your ear to patterns, rhythms, cadences, and much else to understand what is being said. I guess I will always need subtitles.

A story in antiquity tells of the town of Hamelin in Germany where an infestation of rats might well have introduced a plaque. Then came a stranger who promised to rid the town of the rats for a payment, he did do so playing his pipe and attracting the rats out of the town into the River Weser where the rats drowned.

On returning to the town to collect payment, he was refused. The Pied Piper then returned one day, playing a magical tune, had all the children follow him out of town into oblivion as certain legends have it, never to be seen again. The evil of not keeping promises and treating a person with courtesy, respect, and dignity was visited back on the town of Hamelin by the loss of their children. [Wikipedia: Pied Piper of Hamelin]

The piper in his element

I just watched the video of Lil Nas X’s new release, Montero (Call Me by Your Name), it is filled with a lot of mystical symbolism, and the lyrics have much hedonistic context for suggestion, eroticism, homosexual sex, drugs, and drink. Whilst a lot of this is Computer-generated Imagery (CGI), he descends the longest pole into the belly of the earth where he apparently lap dances the devil before strangling him and wearing his crown, thereby sprouting wings like the angelic being that Lucifer once was.

You can imagine the outrage, hot flushes, disgust, recriminations, and agitation from people who think they are good parents, the conservatives and the religious at all this with their confected rage about protecting children and all that. Let’s hear what Lil Nas X has to say.

Your responsibility, not mine

To the parents: “I am an adult. I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. that is your job.” [Tweet] In another tweet, he writes, “I literally sing about lean & adultery in Old Town Road. U decided to let your child listen. Blame yourself.

About the depictions in the video with a mind on the ultra-religious that have preached about homosexuals going to hell, he says, “I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because I was gay. So, I hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.” [Tweet]

So, there you have it, you tell someone that he is going to hell because of who he is, he uses his creative talent to give you a vision of your words and you are angry about him, about it, fearful for your kids and much else?

Love your rats or pay up

Therein is the advent of a modern-day Pied Piper, the parents who loved the music but failed to listen to the lyrics and gave their children full rein to enjoy the song and the video that won even a Grammy are like the people of Hamelin who were happy to see the rats piped out of town.

Now, as Lil Nas X has continued to showcase his talent with a full expression of his sexuality and giving life to the stereotypes thrown at many of us who just happen to be gay, everyone is pulling their children away, but they are hooked and joyfully following the Pied Piper.

The morale in every case is, pay up, pay your dues, pay what you agreed, be nice, reckon that difference does not make others less human, if you cannot show love, it is unnecessary to express vitriol and hate.

An appeal to our better selves

Be careful what you wish for, whatever nasty thing you say to another might well become a picture of your worst reality, at which point, you have nothing left to fight with, the battle for hearts, minds, and souls, was lost when you dehumanised a fellow human being because of their sexuality amongst other things.

Like always, from time immemorial, just because you pick a fight with someone does not mean they will fight you back if there is someone or something else that pertains to you where they can get an advantage. Love heals all things, hate destroys many things, including our faith in humanity.

Lil Nas X, thank you for being your true self, for that alone, you might well be in front of the queue to heaven leaving your earthly detractors in the other place.

References

Montero (Call me by your name) – Lyrics from Genius

Old Town Road (Remix) – Lyrics from Genius

The video; not for the faint-hearted, watch with caution and prepare to be shocked. (Parent & Grandparent advisory.)

Monday, 29 March 2021

The toys have been delayed

Bitter to sweet

In other news, Evergreen’s Ever Given, the super container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for 6 days was dislodged and re-floated this afternoon. It heads for the Great Bitter Lake for inspection before it is sent on its way to Rotterdam, all things being equal. [BBC News: Suez Canal reopens after giant stranded ship is freed]

There is cause for great sweet celebration for moving the ship out of the way would soon address a pressing need that the pandemic and lockdowns placed on us. As without partners and companionship for intimacy, some people have sought alternative avenues to fulfil human expression, even pleasure for self or with some company.

Escape your inhibitions with toys

Wending its way to The Netherlands, a shipment of 20 containers contain toys of a titillating and excitable variety which on usage, application, and play can or could bring orgasmic heights or spasmodic climaxes, or some feverish expression of body, soul, and escape that is currently absent from my vocabulary. [iNews: The Suez Canal crisis is now blocking a huge shipment of erotic toys from reaching the Netherlands]

Where people absent themselves from a Puritanical view of sensual pleasure, they might find a fuller experience of the essence of their being human and humanity, for which the Dutch, the Belgians, and the Germans might be considered quite ahead of those of whom it is known, No sex please, We’re British. Any wonder that consignment is not bound for Liverpool.

The unlocking of England begins

The story is a prism

The fields, parks, streets were alive with the crowds of people who had been unlocked from the throes of a pandemic that by inference conferred unprecedented powers on our government to restrict freedoms and liberties in the quest for saving lives by preventing the National Health Service from being overwhelmed by admissions of people infected with the Coronavirus.

The focus was never on the people, it was on the protection of institutions and organisations, the people becoming pawns in the macabre dance of misused power and rank incompetence leading to the unmitigated loss of lives numbering 126,615 people with the UK being the 5th globally yet by population less than half the number of people in the lowest populated country of the 4 with more deaths than The UK. That is the measure of the carnage in our country which by global population is the 21st. [WorldMeters: Coronavirus]

A failure by comparison

The success in the vaccination programme which must be commended cannot however obviate the other realities of the failings in the management of this pandemic and we must be able to hold all those thoughts together. A basic analogy is in a certificated course of study that consists of 5 subjects, getting an A-grade in one does not constitute a pass if the other 4 subjects are failed. You acknowledge the grading in each subject and reach a conclusion that a certificate of completion and meeting the requirements for the meeting the award of a certificate have not been fulfilled.

That is what pertains to the UK in terms of acting purposefully and with alacrity in initiating an early lockdown, the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the instituting of an effective testing programme and the essential need for a contact tracing system to contain the spread of the Coronavirus on which £37 billion has been expended.

When reviewed in that context, we have been grossly failed even as we have tried under the pain of sanction and prohibitive fines rather than persuasion of my better selves and common good to follow the diktat of a government speedily becoming redolent of an autocratic junta with little scope for accountability or assuming responsibility.

A future for reckoning

Yet, there is something to celebrate, with the easing of the lockdown, and the weather providing a warm spring, we all came out, met friends, played music and in my little neighbourly bubble, we met in our village garden for some Backsberg Pinotage Rosé 2019, Belgian curls and Nigerian chin-chin, catching up on things we had left unshared since the first weekend of December.

There is an air of defiance and hope that we are all on the up, I just hope that in our enjoyment of the moment we are not forgetful of the few successes and the many tragedies for which we must find the forum to review the issues and properly learn the lessons to ensure we are never again caught in the unconscionable grip of a kakistocracy as we endure today. Cheers to the unlocking.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Palm Sunday: Clean hands are of the conscience

Common service in the church

Probably something I have not taken due notice of before, on Sunday mornings, I will usually wake up to a live church service on BBC Radio 4, the ones from the Church of England, I am more attuned to. The time did Spring Forward to British Summer Time, though it was more like British Raining Time, this morning.

However, today, Palm Sunday, I recall that when the readings came up in church, it was like a déjà vu moment, I very remembered I had heard it before, recently too. At church, with the new normal of no congregational singing, a cantor doing most of the musical stuff in front of the congregation or in the choir, much of what we do is sitting down apart during the greeting and certain congregational recitations.

The gospel in song

The children without a Sunday School with preoccupied and distracted by toys, puzzles, or their colouring books. The gospel was first read to announce the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on the ass of a colt the second gospel was of the Passion, the first 54 verses of 66, of the 27th chapter in the Gospel according to St Matthew, sung by the cantor and a laudable feat at the best of times. [Bible Gateway: Matthew 27:1-54 (NRSVA)]

As I have been listening to books on Audible rather than reading them on Kindle, there was a sense of how the words we heard seems to take on life as you read the words being sung to our hearing. I could not help but see the level of human wickedness that greeted the desire for the chief priests of that day to get rid of Jesus Christ.

A window on religious wickedness

When Judas Iscariot realised what his betrayal of Jesus Christ would lead to, he went to return the 30 pieces of silver the chief priests and elders gave him for his dastardly deed and they indifferently said, “What is that to us?”, on picking up the money he threw down in the temple, they deliberated amongst themselves agreeing it was “the price of blood”, bought a piece of land with it, not for anything but the burial of strangers to whom they will have no duty, obligation, or responsibility and called it the field of blood.

They agitated the crowd to prefer a murderer and thief over Jesus Christ and even Pontius Pilate when he made to wash his hands off the matter, recognised that they were against Jesus out of envy. Just the thought that someone bringing succour, healing and peace to their people making them somewhat irrelevant as they could never rise to minister to those needs was their all-consuming passion to destroy Jesus, he had to be killed.

Culpable in every way

I could not entirely absolve Pontius Pilate, his wife warned him not to have anything to do with Jesus, he had the power and authority to set Jesus free, much as whatever the decision he took would determine the fate of Jesus Christ in that place.

Out of fear for his position and hoping to avoid an insurrection, all acts of self-preservation of status and person, he delivered Jesus to them and the ritual of crucifixion started with scourging and mockery, the act of capital punishment will also be carried out by those under his command, just as he decided to place a notice at the head of the cross declaring Jesus, the kind of the Jews.

It all made for sombre reflection; the Holy Week has begun. In these pandemic times, as we sanitise our hands to prevent disease and contamination, Pontius Pilate would never have been able to wash his hands clean of the matter that underpins the force of Christianity, the cross and the consequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. Clean hands are first of the conscience and the decisions we make long before symbolically washing them in a bowl of water would mean anything.