Friday 29 January 2021

Dr Akinboboye: A tribute

Roped to a memory

Memories are made of ideas, events, people, places, situations and much more. The things that trigger the memories are myriad with the ability to put you in a time and place.

One of my closest friends from school to whom I handed over a number of contractual obligations called to inform me that a customer of ours had passed on.

I immediately remembered a lesson in life our veritable customer taught me. He was in the medical profession and I was introduced to him via another professional acquaintance, out of that came an agreement and retainer to provide computer support and maintenance.

Know who you are

When we were agreeing a fee, he painted a scenario of people seeking his medical opinion on the hoof and for free without committing to anything in that encounter or relationship. He made it a point never to offer professional services in a social setting fundamentally because he did not acquire his expertise without rigour and great expense in cost and time.

Then, when he brought a customer or patient into a professional environment for services that might be a check-up to treatment for whatever ailment, if he was not doing it pro bono, then the fee for his services was agreed to, probably by mutual negotiation and never through haggling, bargaining, or barter.

The fundamental basis was simple, as a professional you charge a fee for your services expecting to be respected as such. From that, I could escape from the common saying that a customer is always right, because to someone who is a professional, for every idea of what a customer might think they want or need, they may not be right, in fact, they might be completely wrong, confused, unsure, indecisive, prone to suggestion, open to persuasion, bamboozled with jargon, and working against their own best interests in opposition to better judgement and advice.

The right in the light

From that perspective, I found a retort on the rightfulness of the customer, that a customer is always right when you are selling tomatoes.

Dr Peter Ibikayode Akinboboye, 67, who I first met in 1989 was a friend, a gentleman of an easy and approachable manner who sowed seeds of knowledge, insight, and wisdom in me like a mentor would. I was enriched by our frequent encounters and exhaustive conversations that evolved from my servicing his computer. I heard he passed on from complications of CoVID-19 at 67. Saddened as I am, I pray his gentle soul rest in peace. Thank you doctor for touching my life in a very significant way.

Thursday 28 January 2021

For the food, I can forget

You switch power in time

I have not normally had much interest in the utilities I use, I acquire the service and arrange payments and leave it at that. Then I realised these utility companies will take undue advantage of loyal customers, your initial contractual period runs out, they do nothing to woo or keep you about, they just let it roll giving attractive discounts to new customers and heaping on annual increases just because your direct debit details allows them to coast along.

About two years ago, I notice my energy company was about to implement an eye-watering price hike and for the first time I thought, I am having none of it. So, I log on USwitch that does price comparisons for energy, broadband, and mobile telephony with seamless switch to other providers and found a better value service.

I saved myself about 50% then the utility company after a year was about to hike rates, which led me shopping for another deal. How annoying can it be that within a quarter of a year, this new offer is again at an unreasonable price hike that it is almost like musical chairs? USwitch is not slacking, as anything I can save more that £50, I am alerted to the opportunity much as I glibly ignore many offers. Here we go again.

App on the blink

Over a year ago, I acquired a NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 R8000 router because all other access points that I got to replace the moribund Virgin Media Super Hub 2AC wireless service were not giving me stable and reliable connections especially when working from home. When setting it up, I was offered an app to install on my Android mobile phone to manage the hub, which seemed a rather nice idea.

However, every time I logged on the router to update the firmware from my mobile phone, I was told there was no new update and I believed it. All I was able to do was restart the router on occasion and I thought nothing of it. A few days ago, I thought of installing my ExpressVPN service on my router by logging on via a web service and found my router was so far behind on firmware updates I needed to perform an intermediate update before the latest one.

A virgin I am not

This brought me to my Virgin Media broadband service that provides Internet, television and land telephony of which the last two I can do without, considering most of what I need on television comes from my Amazon Fire Stick 4K, they want to add 5% to my subscription having had my custom since August 2014. I have been paying too much already and I was not going to stand for this.

In South Africa, I was using the Amazon Fire Stick Lite and bought ExpressVPN which allowed me to watch shows I will normally get to see when in England. Murder, She Wrote, NCIS, Columbo, and Law & Order are amongst my homely comforts. There are other uses of the VPN along with giving me access not normally available in the UK.

I eventually found time to call up and 45 minutes into the call from the land telephony service I have with them, I was ready to cancel, but they made me some interesting offers that I could not decide on yet as USwitch seemed to have better deals until I realised how much of a hassle it would be to change providers.

Delivered from lagging delivery

This morning, I called again, and we went over the whole provision, something was marketed to me to retain the services I had for a 30% discount for 18 months. I think I can take that, but I am not going back on that outrageous tariff in 18 months’ time. Meanwhile, I am getting a new hub and I can install my VPN on it.

Since I am sorting out a few technical things, I thought of getting a new laptop for my test lab activities, one that has some particularly critical security features I need to take through its paces and acquire some knowledge and practice. I had my designs on a Dell laptop which I was ready to pay for when I saw the delivery date 26 days hence. That, for me, was not good enough, if they could not turn it around in just over a week, someone else will get my custom.

Anyway, no time for a rant. What’s for supper? 

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Self-Isolation - X

The walks have resumed

Today would have been the last day of the legally imposed 10-day self-isolation period for those of us who had returned from high-risk countries with mutations of the Coronavirus had I not been invited for the International Entrant Test last Thursday which yielded a thankfully negative result on Sunday. How would I have coped?

Whilst the opportunity to get out has been welcome, I have not returned to my walking exercises with much gusto or been able to rise early to the routine that gave me a good 10-kilometre workout before I resume work at 8:00 AM. Haphazard as it has been, I am getting some done and despite the lean week of an average of 2,207 steps daily, last week, not only will I exceed the 10,000 step threshold, I hope to keep it above that for the month of January.

Just a thought

Obviously, the other things remain a concern, pace, lethargy, and not to forget, weight, they will all sort themselves out eventually. It just occurred to me that when South Africa opened its international borders for first business travellers and then leisure ones, visitors from the UK were barred from coming because we were a high-risk country with considerably more deaths than South Africa.

The way the virus has swept through both countries put us all on banned travel lists of many other countries quite wary of inviting more transmissible and virulent strains into their territories. Now, the UK stands at 101,887 deaths and 5th overall with other countries as the USA, Brazil, India, Mexico that have breached the 100,000 mark. South Africa is 14th with 42,550. The sorrow and tragedy that has cast a pall upon our lands is indescribable. That by God, the souls of the dearly departed shall not have died in vain.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

On the mind of travel

A leg to start off

My thoughts wander from arrival to departure in the things we control and the things we must consider for now and after. These were ruminations of the mind as I began my travel from South Africa back to the UK. There were three legs to my journey, from Cape Town to Johannesburg on a once rescheduled, then cancelled and then rebooked flight which was a British Airways flight managed by their partner and subsidiary Comair.

Arriving 3 hours early at the Cape Town International Airport, I was not allowed to check-in for another hour. A porter helped me from the Uber cab that got me to the airport and stayed with me through check-in to when I had to go through security. He was of a friendly disposition, a human resources manager before he retired and took on porterage to keep busy. Porters get by on tips, though licenced and uniformed, they are not salaried, hence, the jostling for custom. I was even asked if I needed a wheelchair; we laughed.

Let’s get ready to fly

The first leg was uneventful, nothing was served to us on that two-hour flight and my baggage was not checked through to Manchester. I had to collect my baggage and check-in at the AirFrance desk in Johannesburg for my flight to France. I had a 4-hour stopover in Johannesburg, much time to reminisce about the last 5 weeks and the thought that Brian still had another 3 nights in South Africa before returning home.

When the time came for boarding came for my long-haul flight second leg to Paris, by the time I arrived at the gate, I was unable to take advantage of priority boarding. I was in Zone 1 and Zone 4 & 5 were already boarding. The crowd as such that there it was unnecessary to claim that right, I settled into the queue as it took almost 15 minutes to board. I took my window seat beside an ageing couple in the middle aisle seats then made to the toilet to change into my pyjamas before handing my clothes to the air steward to be hung in the cupboard.

Miles and wiles

For a while now, I have taken no entertainment on the flight and concentrated more on the flight maps. We were to fly 5,530 miles or 8,900 kilometres over 10:17 hours to arrive at 05:35 hours local time in Paris. We took off on a Boeing 777-328(ER) at the speed of 210.6 mph (339 km/h) and soon reached cruising speed of 581 mph (935 km/h) and cruising height of 32,001 ft (9,753 m). We did after the Equator breach 10 kilometres, but I could not be bothered than much.

I maintain fascination with the place names I see on the flight map unsure of if I would ever visit, talk less of the logistics of getting there surrounded by my creature comforts. I am not one to countenance backpacking, a strain of colonial expectation greets my desire to have Sherpas and campaign furniture. If I deign to suffer such an experience.

Louis Trichardt, South Africa; Selebi-Phikwe, Maun, Mopipi all in Botswana, and Kuito (Silva Porto), Angola caught my attention before I fell asleep, tossing and turning, waking up 4 times to use the toilet. I had dinner but requested I be left alone at breakfast time which was to be around the unholy hour of 04:00 hours.

And then we land

After changing into my pyjamas, I was offered another window seat with presumably more space. We wore our masks throughout the flight except for when we had drinks and meals. At one point, the man sat in front of me acknowledged me. How uncanny, he was the same man who sat beside me on the first leg.

Arriving in Paris, I had a 7-hour stopover, I did not have to pass through immigration, but traversing Charles de Gaulle airport is never much a pleasure. I was soon through security and in the lounge that became quite busy by the time I left. The last leg was easy and after baggage reclaim clothed for the chill of winter, I was in a black cab, the window open and settled into what was supposed to be an imposed 10-day self-isolation. I look forward to another return journey that I so enjoy for the process and the purpose. One day, Brian will be by my side on the way to the land of happily ever after.

Identities in birth and travel

Testing the areas

Reflecting on times we were in Cape Town; we did not get around as much apart from spending just over a week of the last part of our stay at Mouille Point not too far from the Green Point Lighthouse after four weeks in the Oranjezicht area near the Parliament precinct and Company Gardens.

On the evening of our move, we found a restaurant where we settled into steaks rather than seafood along with my first helping of Malva pudding. Whilst I usually have my steak medium rare, mine was closer to rare than medium, the fat became a bit off-putting that it became a discarded script of Murder, She Wrote unworthy of any edition to be progressed for auditioning.

We returned to the restaurant on our last night together before my departure but could not sit outside as we did before because of the wet weather. Wary of sitting inside, we found a table at the highest of cascading levels to the very back of the restaurant, not that crowded, though with a couple at a table already tucking into their meal.

Stake upon steak

As we were putting in our order, we could not help but notice the frenetic activity at the other table, the man who we soon learnt was the husband was constantly genuflecting for the waiter modifying their order and trying to engage in conversation with the staff as a regular customer who might have been slighted for not being recognised. He ordered a second steak even though for his appetite he seemed to have found a means of not allowing it show on his physique, and that is commendable.

Soon, he engaged us in conversation telling us that the restaurant had the best steaks as it transpired that they were regular visitors to Cape Town and this restaurant did take their fancy any time they were in town. A flutter of introductions ensued, he was Indian born in Nigeria with no religious pretensions to vegetarianism, his family having lived there for at least two generations, he knew the Chellarams, his wife was Scottish born in Hong Kong, Brian is Zimbabwean with distant Scottish and English ancestry and I am English born of Nigerian parentage.

Partners in blush

It made for interesting conversation even as they were UK-based but had escaped the lockdown to Cape Town via Addis Ababa only to find it uninteresting because of the restrictions and the alcohol ban that they were going to jet off to Dubai and stay there until things eased off. I did not get his line of business, but he appeared to have made a fortune selling his company in the UK having learnt he was not suited for the cutthroat business environment in Nigeria that his father prospered in.

We were soon through our two courses and were ready to leave, his sometimes-inquisitive talkativeness had a Nigerian influence that at times made me uncomfortable as he insisted on knowing what kind of partners were. Whether he missed the passing comment that we were too like his, partners in bed, I could not tell. We parted friendly and jocularly enough and surprisingly loose-tongued without the aid of alcohol. Even with strangers, encounters can be not so strange at all.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Self-Isolation - VII

Testing for science

I was invited on Thursday for an International Entrant Test for the purposes of ascertaining if on my return from South Africa I had contacted the CoVID-19 virus and if I had, it needed genetic analysis to gain some knowledge of the strain. By law, I was supposed to self-isolated for 10 full days without the option of a privately resourced Early Release Test after 5 days of self-isolation.

Much as I can, I have endured many days of being indoors without stepping out to check my mailbox. On Thursday at 6:00 PM, I was at the nearest testing centre where I was instructed on how to swab my tonsils and far up my nostril before the sample was packaged and sent off post paste to London for analysis.

A result, a reprieve

This morning at 6:50 AM, the result was posted to me by SMS text message and by email informing me that at the time of the test, I did not have the virus. This in addition to the test I have taken in South Africa the Thursday before was proof that I had not contracted the virus at any time. My concerns heightened by travelling for almost 11 hours on a busy flight, the lounge in Paris brimming at capacity and the transit bus to the flight to Manchester packing us in like sardines.

The message also indicated I only had to self-isolate if I had symptoms, I was soon going into hospital, someone I lived with tested positive, or I had been traced as having been in contact with someone who had tested positive. Knowing that none of the aforesaid applied, I was free to exit the regulatory self-isolation requirement.

Out walking again

Spending most of the morning in bed, I eventually got on my walking gear, dressed for the cold which was barely above zero and set out on the usual walking route that takes in a few stretches of the River Irwell in the City of Salford, getting in just over 11 kilometres in just over 100 minutes, with some time for a bit of shopping.

The return to form salutes a form of normalcy with a sense of regret that I am not far away in Cape Town with Brian. I do miss him very much, but we know we would soon be together again barring any of the unfortunate circumstances of 2020. On the scales, there is some work to do, I gained some and need to lose much. When it is just walking, it indeed is working.

Saturday 23 January 2021

Self-Isolation - VI

Jessica, I love

Somewhere in my mind, I had thought I would be doing something different though it does not appear I knew what I should be up to, it is a Saturday after all. At other times, I might have gone out for a walk, found some inspiration for a blog I do want to write but cannot get beyond the first sentence. Writing is hard, difficult if not impossible.

There is no doubt I have other pleasures that occupy my Saturday if I am not having a lie-in. It is a marathon binge of watching Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, literally all day until 9:00 PM. I cannot seem to get enough of it, even some that I believe I have watched over a decade ago that I can barely remember the plot anymore.

Counting down

I guess in all, I am on the home stretch of my self-isolation with 4 days to go after today. I cannot say how well I am coping though it would have been nice to get some Mr Kipling’s Manor House Cake that my neighbour said was not on the shelves. I don’t have any idea what the shops are like today, I have read of shelves shorn of fresh food and vegetables as a result of Brexit, who knows?

My test lab needs a looking at, a few upgrades, and some practice necessary for study and tests. I was sent a few piano lesson books the other day, I need to get my fingers and make something of the ebony and ivory keys. I am doing fine. Did I say I snowed this morning?

Friday 22 January 2021

Self-Isolation - V

Between Cape Town to Manchester

I have now had some time to reflect on my outing yesterday to participate in the International Entrant Test requested of me. The contrast between being in Cape Town and Manchester was glaringly obvious.

Stepping out of my home, I did not see anyone wearing a mask apart from those about to enter a supermarket or at the testing centre. In South Africa, it was an offence to appear in public without a mask covering both the mouth and nose. I had one on for the entire time of my being outdoors except when I had to swab my throat and nostril.

Arriving at the testing centre, I literally bathed my hands with sanitiser, there were no temperature checks like we had in Cape Town and if it were not necessary to register for the test, I would have been anonymous and nondescript, completely unacknowledged and invisible at a time when testing, tracking and tracing are critical to gaining control of a pandemic.

For the few that don’t

It remains my concern that had I not correctly entered my detail in the Passenger Locator Form that I filled in online a week ago, no one would have known I had flown into the UK from South Africa through Paris. Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that I was contacted on Monday and then on Thursday by the Track-n-Trace team, but I doubt I am being monitored for my movements. I am in self-isolation obeying the rules, I wonder who else is not as adherent.

Having a friend to call to help with shopping and errands is more than useful and I do appreciate the love and kindness of my friends.

Understandably some fathers will not get to acceptance

Hard truths of sons

From a personal perspective I can understand how difficult it must be for a Nigerian father to countenance the idea that their child is not heteronormative. If it were a matter of choice or lifestyles, it is likely they might have been different, but the world we live in is diverse with expressions of individuality and uniqueness that may not follow the orthodoxy.

When I father challenged the public acknowledgement of my sexuality as a gay man years ago, I was directly instructed to come out of the gay world. I had no other alternative than to tell him without mincing words some truths about my life he might have been suspicious of or never knew. Until then, I was hiding my reality from him in the misconception that I was saving him the shock of my person and my personality. [For Akin – Funmi Iyanda]

From aberration to acceptance

In the 1960s, I appreciate the cultural aversion to homosexuality in the UK even as acceptance of the fact that homosexuals exist and are neither mentally incapacitated nor deviants. In 1967, homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, though it took decades for acceptance to gain traction towards non-discrimination based in sexual orientation. [Wikipedia: Sexual Offences Act – 1967.]

When I returned to the UK in 1990, I did not shy away from who I was, considering I was being blackmailed in Nigeria. The way I dealt with the blackmailer was to say he would have to explain how he found out, why were involved for an extended period and whether he would not be just as exposed and unlikely me with an exit plan, he had to exist within a homophobic environment.

My son

When my father responded, he said, “You are my son, I cannot reject you.” Whilst I did not read that as a wholesale acceptance of who I am, it was conciliatory enough an acknowledgement that there was nothing he could do about it if we were to retain any form of relationship. We have developed that filial relationship despite occasional hiccups.

Dr Doyin Okupe, a former presidential spokesman for the President of Nigeria today from the papers finds himself in the same situation of first acknowledging against every gain in his religious and patriarchal body that his son, Bolu Okupe is gay. The most important and significant statement he could make was, “He (Bolu) is my son.” [The Nation: Doyin Okupe, son in a row over ‘gay status’]

Beyond that, any discussion by anyone else is an exertion in conjecture and vain jangling. It is no doubt a trying period for heterosexual fathers, but their homosexual sons do have their lives to live. I have a partner to whom I hope to get married. I affections have never had any inclination apart from a homonormative existence, I accepted myself long before I needed to tell anyone about who I am, even at work from the 1990s.

A deluge of ignorance

What I find utterly irksome is the crass and ignorant reportage that masquerades as journalism in Nigeria. With the abundance of knowledge, expertise, academic material and legal precedent in many countries not only acknowledging homosexuality but conferring rights and freedom with the criminalisation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, we have people who offer stupefying opinions, bias and bigotry as fact, that I read, “He resides in France where the law allows him to experiment with his sexuality.” Experiment?

You do not experiment with sexuality, it is embodied in the person, their expression and their identity, it is their life and they live it in or out of the closet, depending on the agency and autonomy they have. We need to banish the concept of lifestyle or choice from the canon of sexual orientation or we risk being refused access to societies where the debate about sexual orientation has long passed from a wedge issue of societal and cultural exclusion.

Thursday 21 January 2021

Self-Isolation - IV

The river overflows

Stuck indoors yesterday in quarantine, I did not realise it had rained so much in the wake of Storm Christoph that brought with it floods, snow and evacuations, our usually tame River Irwell flooded its banks in the city centre.

As I have always been fascinated by the ebb and swell of River Irwell, I have missed my early morning walks which would have brought me close to seeing the malevolent side of nature. The river breached the minor flooding height of 3.00 metres at 9:15 PM on Tuesday the 19th of January and reached the high-water mark of 4.30 metres at 7:00 PM on Wednesday the 20th of January before it began to recede, though it is rising again to 2.68 metres as I am writing this blog. [Flood Information Service: River Irwell]

River Irwell level, this morning

Testing my mettle

At closing time, the Track-n-Trace or the UK Government Test for Coronavirus Service called using the information I had entered in my Passenger Locator Form last Friday to ask if I will participate in an International Entrant Test (IET) programme to determine if I had contracted the Coronavirus from South Africa and ascertain what kind of strain it is.

If I were to take into consideration the inconvenience of my enforced quarantine, I would have declined the offer and stayed at home. I am under no obligation to submit myself to testing apart from for the benefit of science and maybe society at large.

The registration process was laborious, cumbersome and intrusive even as they wanted me to take the test today. Having no mode of transport, I would not have been persuaded to test if the testing centre were not within comfortable walking distance. It was just under 2 kilometres away.

Testing my patience

We scheduled the appointment for 6:00 PM and I made my way out to the walk-through testing centre where the conversation and guidance was easy in a completely hands-off manner. I took a swab of my tonsils as I still have then, then stuck it up a nostril for 10 seconds before spilling the contents of the swab kit and obtaining another in which to place the swab.

Then I had to call a freephone number to register my test, following prompts like a manic depressive making time to goose-stepping with 1s and 2s in different orders, I probably did 1221211 before I got to speak to someone who put me back on hold because they probably did not know what an IET was. Passed on to another, a few questions and back on hold to listen to the Top-40 chart of music I could neither make head nor tail of.

A few seconds from 14 minutes into the call, they had obtained as much information as possible, linked my details to the sample and I was ready to have my pizza box kit shipped to London for expedited analysis. Bathing my hands in sanitiser, I stepped into the rain slightly becalmed and got back home with just as much a Poirot shuffle in my gait to spend another six days in self-isolation.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Self-Isolation - III

Working on an earpiece

The day started early at work as we were well into conferences from not long after 8:00 AM and were dipping in and out of conversations for the rest of the day. My rather tenacious colleague who can at times drive me to distraction was making considerable progress as we began to get a grip of the issues that consumed manpower and time yesterday.

Holding back the occasional exasperation we can address the frustrating and laugh about the infuriating, it all ended up being very productive.

Times are indeed changing

I was also looking forward to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the sense that some relief and comfort has swept away the incomprehensible and destructive atrocity that occupied the White House for the last four years.

Every moment of the pomp and pageantry, ceremony and performance was like a return to old traditions and new normalcy, an intelligible speech, impactful, sincere, and emotional with properly constructed and understandable sentences, you wonder, whatever happened to America?

Running low on some supplies, I had my friend do some shopping and deliver to the door. The hermit complex is settling in, even if we are hardly halfway there. 

The Horror Apprentice is cancelled

Something to celebrate

Today heralds a new dawning in the world order and global leadership with the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America. We need to take time to let that sink in, it is significant.

The outgoing president in his bitterness and truculent will hopefully slink into obscurity only to be noticed when his many legal and financial troubles are given the burning tails to chase after him and whether he is able to escape opprobrium or justice is left to be seen.

A piece of work

Donald J. Trump was an aberration visited upon us with a temperament most unsavoury even if entertaining for many. We had completely different worldviews, he’s was entirely self-centred with the pretensions to public service he was never disposed to. Apart from ambition, there was nothing exemplary in his conduct, demeanour, attitude, or deportment.

In speech, his excessive use of comparatives and superlatives with repetition for emphasis showed a man who did not read, was ready to dish out but averse to receive, he had the bully pulpit of the presidency and wielded it with a tyrannical ferocity attacking anything that did not serve his ego or redound to his personality. Basically, he had no humanity.

Vote with knowledge

The thought that he could have been rewarded with a second term was scary until it became obvious that he would not so be granted that opportunity.

If anything, we learnt of how power in the hands of one who breaks all the rules and does not subscribe to the orthodoxy can radically affect our lives. The vote is not something to be gambled away on the whim, for it is not enough to just assume power, the responsibility that pertains to power is tested when met with a crisis. That crisis became the Coronavirus pandemic.

401,777 people have died of CoVID-19 disease to-date, there had to be consequence and repercussion for this. [Johns Hopkins: Coronavirus Resource Centre] It is therefore gratifying that he lost the election to the person he nicknamed Sleepy Joe and has to the very last day not conceded to him. The systems and institutions have stood strong against the Trump onslaught and his quest to undermine democracy in America. He came into power with his party in control of all arms of government and he departs having lost it all for them.

No new season

Personally, it was essential that Donald Trump’s tenure end in disgrace with all the accoutrements of his malevolent character in global display as lacking in grace, in deportment, without gallantry, and full of calumny. He had no acquaintance with the truth, the Washington Post says President Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading statements in his presidency. When the truth is absent from our leadership and democratic system, we are left with little to trust about how we are being governed and the policies implemented that affect our lives. [Wikipedia: Veracity of statements by Donald Trump]

This became the hallmark of this woebegone presidency, an antithesis of decency in every ramification and a black spot on civility. He cannot be gone soon enough and to many it is good riddance. One however must not forget those who hitched their wagons to this apology of wanton excess, who believed every word he uttered, bestowed on him cult followership, and sacrificed everything to his cause. Some paid the ultimate price others will pay more than they bargained for. It is a veritable and cautionary lesson and tale to be told for history and wisdom.

In closing, one can only wish President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris the very best on their tenure, my prayers follow them and we hope that the leadership we have always excepted of America will be restored for some semblance of peace and the embrace of our common, yet diverse humanity. The future beckons as The Horror Apprentice has been cancelled for a second season because the ratings were rotten and the host was indescribably atrocious.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Self-Isolation - II

Counting tartan sheep

Today has been a slow day, hours spent on a telephone conference where hysteria promoted an issue to the highest priority when reality revealed it was hardly so. The problem, nebulous as it is has acquired a workaround that is being set in motion.

Looking outside my window a man in a yellow and blue tartan jacket and pair of trousers with a flat cap of the same material provides some amusement and he might well have the occupation of a clown, though there is no circus in sight. It is only the second day.

Someone to blame

My Brian has finally returned home to Bulawayo and we would soon be back to video messages on WhatsApp, text messages and video calls before we go to bed. We need to fix this thing.

I think I will cope well with this self-isolation malarkey, I did well with it most of last year, it should get better even though it is an imposition of inconvenience. I might just start with cooking something. On that too, I stepped on the scales and the numbers showing are not that encouraging. Only one person is to blame for this, he knows himself.

Monday 18 January 2021

Self-Isolation - I

All in form or a fine

As per the mandatory CoVID-19 precautionary measures of the UK and England in particular, I am just completing the 1st of 10 full days of self-isolation (quarantine) because I was in South Africa. During the last week of my sojourn in South Africa, the UK had the requirement of a negative CoVID-19 test or the risk of a £500 fine within 72 hours of my departure effective from 4:00 AM on the 15th of January.

I took my test on Thursday and it would have just fallen within the 72-hour range, but by the time I got the result, the government website had updated the effective date moving it back 72 hours. In any case, I still needed the test because it was checked at the check-in counter for my local travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then when I was about to traverse customs and immigration in Johannesburg.

Another requirement from the UK was filling in a Passenger Locator form within 48 hours of arrival with details of where I was travelling from, where I will be transiting through, Paris, in this instance, and where I will be staying for my compulsory self-isolation which could attract fines of up to £10,000 if broken.

We are slow on the uptake

The checks were quite efficient in South Africa, masks compulsory, hands sanitised, temperature checked registration at the lounges. There was a tracking and tracing system in play with notifications from the South African authorities obtained from when I registered for the test.

Through the flight from Johannesburg to Paris, we had to keep our masks on and AirFrance offered mask to everyone whilst strictly requiring those with cloth masks to change to standard-issue surgical masks. In Paris, I was a bit concerned because the lounge did begin to fill up and the social distancing requirement was not that adhered to. The transit bus to the flight we boarded from Paris to Manchester had us packed in like sardines.

When we arrived in The UK on Sunday in the early afternoon, there were no checks whatsoever. Whilst there were hand sanitising stations, I was through the e-Passport gate in a minute and in a black taxi with windows open in the cold for ventilation after baggage reclaim in under 15 minutes.

Speaking foreign like English

Just before noon, I received a phone call, an unknown number but the lady on the other end with a foreign-sounding accent, presumably Indian was calling on behalf of the UK Government for public health purposes to inform me that my household and I need to self-isolate for 10 days. All that information I already knew. One of the questions she asked was whether I would like to continue the conversation in English, I did not ask what alternative languages were available, Welsh, Gaelic or Yoruba, Dutch, maybe Afrikaans, if she spoke slowly enough.

It was like the information I had submitted that included my passport particular had no significance. I was also back to work, my accounts needed to be reactivated as they were disabled when I was away. A long slow day, it was. There are only 9 more days to go.

Doing what we had to do, for love

The shifting sands of planning

When Brian and I kissed goodbye on the 14th of January 2020 in Johannesburg, nothing could have suggested we would not be meeting up in a couple of months. Then the pandemic came with the associated different levels of lockdowns and restrictions, we hoped but could not plan for anything.

Meanwhile, as it ravaged the UK putting us at the disadvantage of being one of the highest risk countries and so slamming the door on possible travel and leading to another month-long national lockdown, by which time we were in December.

As I had been anticipating a rendezvous from September, I had already hinted at work of my need to travel with the possibility of getting married when we next meet. I had considered taking two months off, but after looking at the options the 11th of December was the best departure date with the prospect of the whole of January.

You can weather turbulence

Between negotiations from just the Christmas break and lobbing two weeks off the end of January return, we settled on a 5-week break and I was out to meet Brian who had arrived the day before in Cape Town on the 12th of December. With hindsight, if I had not left the UK when I did, the cost of travel would have gone up almost 50% and another week, the new restrictions will have cancelled everything.

Whilst we were away, new strains of the Coronavirus were discovered and spreading more contagiously in the UK and South Africa that the world began to shut their borders to visitors from those countries. New lockdown measures were instituted with restrictions to movement, alcohol bans, curfews, with limited tourist activity and incremental measures to halt the spread of the virus just as vaccinations were being rolled out in some countries, the UK apparently taking the lead with the government thinking they had found a talisman to cover for the unmitigated and unnecessary loss of life numbering over 70,000 at that time.

Our things over other things

The swirl of events around us would have left some in a state of panic with the threat of abruptly shortening one’s holiday. I was of the mind that we would enjoy every moment we had together of 35 days and cross the bridge of when we needed to return to our respective homes when the time came. That is how we played it and had a wonderful time full of the expectation that we would soon be meeting up again.

I returned home yesterday just about 27 hours from door-to-door and Brian should be home in Bulawayo by noon tomorrow. Our story continues with an exciting chapter we have already begun to write. In our prayers, we know that dreams do come true.

At breakfast on Saturday, I wrote this short poem.

My heart is clouded in a mist,
With the heaviness of what'll be missed,
I slept beside you many times at night,
I woke up refreshed to kiss you in the light,
Now we are about to wave goodbye,
Each moment was a gushing high,
Love, It won't be long,
For this is not wrong.

Saturday 16 January 2021

The onerous protocols of CoVID

Everything for the outing

Before you leave your home, you don a mask whilst having at least one to spare, just in case the ear straps break, or you just need to replace it because of some mishap. You will be refused entry to any establishment without a mask; besides, it is now an offence to be without a mask covering both your nose and mouth when in a public space.

As you arrive at a place, you can expect the following activities which begin with sanitising your hands, the many times you do this can present a dermatological crisis. Then a scanning gun is pointed at you to take your body temperature. I have registered as low as 34.30 Celsius, but this might be due to environmental factors than being poikilothermic.

Document your existence

Forms to fill, your name and phone number, where you are staying, your passport number, whether you have had symptoms, who you might have encountered that had symptoms, if you have been at a rave and then you swear by any religious tome of choice to be truthful and only be true.

Leaving the country comes with other requirements, all the places you stayed at, then went to for whatever duration, when you arrived and when you are leaving, your destination address, your next of kin with contact details. Not forgetting, you must have taken a SARS-CoV-2 test which should be negative, or you are going nowhere. The protocols of CoVID are myriads and I look forward to 10 days of quarantine.

On my honour

On the word of a gentleman

After a 5-week stay in South Africa, I am homeward bound in a changing world of requirements, restrictions and reassurances. On the latter, I had one duty to perform to be able to check-in, I had to affirm, ‘On my honour’ that I did not have any CoVID-19 symptoms and I had not been exposed to anyone who might have had symptoms in the last 14 days.

We are being asked to rise to a gentlemanly and sportsmanlike code of integrity, truth, and honour that we are honest and true, caring and unselfish, considerate and courteous of others even to our detriment if any of the questions asked of us elicit answers that will put us at disadvantages of cost, time and much more.

The path of lies to power

I think about this and wonder about what example we have from people we have inadvertently put into leadership, people who exhibit no virtues or values, whose acquaintance with the truth and facts is as alien and distant as the east is from the west. It is in the hands of these people with the teams of similar disposition that we have laid the trust of governance and policy with the hope that they will do right.

We live in a tragedy of the times when that which is demanded of those who sit in power is lacking and depressing. Yet, as individuals, we cannot give up, relent, or allow the preponderance of the reprehensible, the irresponsible, and the unconscionable to become our guiding light.

We must stand apart

As the silent majority, we must work to bring the truth to light from under the heaped rubbish of verisimilitude, the ploys and propaganda of taking their many lies told too many times that they almost sound truth.

We can make that solemn oath that our word is our bond, shake hands and know that what is agreed will not be reneged on. Maybe we are old-fashioned, but these things matter today as much as ever. I look around me and for all the people I see, I hope they feel the same way too.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Testing for the home straight

Our world today

It could be easy to be angry and disillusioned with the world when viewing the inconveniences, the restrictions, the limitations, and the encumbrances that present with this global pandemic. Without heaping opprobrium on any, what has been unleashed on us has had unimaginable consequences and brought catastrophic losses.

All this is exacerbated by inefficiencies and incompetence in policies, systems, planning, execution and governments, leaving us the people absorbing the absolutely dire consequences.

For instance, it is not even 9:00AM and I have found myself in a 60-deep queue trying to meet a stringent requirement on the pain of a hefty fine to be able to return home. I hate officialdom, but here we are, desperately trying to maintain social distancing and keeping our peace in the face of the untenable.

Organised in a way

Lancet Laboratories is making a wad, with their byline of ‘Key to diagnostic excellence’ they probably cannot be faulted for their diagnostic abilities, their organisational acumen however leaves much to be desired.

Two hours after I arrived, I was called into a testing room, my details recorded on the swab kit before the nurse donned a pair of disposable gloves and then proceeded to tickle my brain through my nostril, twisting and turning the swab to find the extent of my tolerance and with no consideration for my discomfort. It is probable I was being tested for endurance instead.

For it said

I held my breath all the while and when she had fulfilled her sadistic pleasure, pulling out the swab, I let out a gasp. Later, I was called in to pay up and then arrange for getting my test result with a turnaround between 24 to 48 hours.

Some 5 and a half hours later, I received my result, the app giving a more chemical prognosis stating that “SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid was not detected by means of a real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.” I will be back there tomorrow to collect the stamped and signed certificate. The joys of travel have become a matter of compartmentalisation, perspective, and a sense of just being unflappable.

Wednesday 13 January 2021

A teacup of different

Getting a feel

We decided on a trip to Stellenbosch today and it was our first apart from a drive-through over a year ago. We had been to the winelands around the city and it was getting to be too historic a place to miss.

Setting out for lunch at Stellenbosch Kitchen, the short menu, two per course had provenance and historical notes. As there is no alcohol being served, we made do with what was in the meals, one of the entrees had vinegar and for dessert, it was Amarula bread and butter pudding. Yet, we are in the middle of the Cape Winelands.

Then we made for the Tourist Information office and as we passed the African Art Gallery, I could not help but notice the many giraffe sculptures quite likely numbering more than giraffes in the wild.

Rooibos tea

At the Tourist Office where we waited to start our Stellenbosch On Foot tour, I asked and decided to try rooibos (red bush) tea with a hint of sugar. Out of the teapot, I expected a redder hue than was presented in the teacup, a strong tea visage with an inviting palate.

The aroma was cool and earthy. To the taste, it felt like tea without any characteristic discovery in flavour. From a frame of reference, a stronger and darker serving of Chinese tea. I won’t put milk in rooibos tea and will likely prefer it as iced tea. Alright, now I read it is an herbal tea, how on earth can you be served that at breakfast?

Blog - South Africa: This humble customer is not a diva

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Pirates from beyond the Cape

Curfews and crews

Last night we were out on the balcony playing Scrabble well after we were under curfew around 23:00 hours and looking towards the Cape Town Stadium on the Bay Road footpath there were three people involved in a racket before they moved on. Whether they might have been members of the public involved in essential services and exempt from the restrictions.

Meanwhile, the wind was boisterous, almost blowing the Scrabble board away, the clothes horse leaning on the wall fell on my foot and we had to close the doors to limit the effects of the wind.

Then out at sea was a well-lit ship, more like a galleon by its shape or promisingly a pirate ship apparently moving at speeds you will not expect at that time of the night close to the legendary shipwreck coasts of Cape Town. I did not think twice before I suggested it had to be a ghost ship.

Floating a ghost

From the comfort and safety of my balcony, I was not ready to scream in terror, but it soon disappeared from sight, obviously behind an obscuring building to be seen by others who could be more predisposed to fright.

However, maybe we were just a bit excited, the wind gusts from the historic weather charts of yesterday suggest it was just 29 km/h which on the Beaufort Scale just passes for a Fresh Breeze, any mariner and even Long John Silver will not have had any problems with a breeze. To the uninitiated, at the best of times, we had our own story of a ghost ship, any other logical explanation is curmudgeonly and boring.

Monday 11 January 2021

Discoveries that lead off course

The lurch for brunch

We have veered off the beaten path in search for brunch around our new accommodations. The places that seem inviting are not particularly offering what we want. When we thought we could walk through Green Point Park, the gate nearest to us was locked, and by the time we got to the open gate, there was no point traversing the park, we kept to the circumlocutory path on the pavement.

After the formalities, sanitised hands, temperature checks, and registration, we made selections from the menu and I was about to hand over my phone when I realised the menus were only available through a QR Code read by my phone. The Jason of Jason Bakery is assuredly not an Argonaut, but for your sausage, thy chorizo instead.

Sausages Española

You can presume if anyone tries something in Cape Town, there will be a copycat and I cannot speak of the originator, it might well be an agreement at the meeting of Cape Town chefs. For a few blocks down, they kept the kitchen open for us at Sotano, minutes after it should have closed.

Jason offered a downloaded PDF menu whilst Sotano on the QR Code revolution sent us to a web page and this time they were upfront with what they were up to. It would appear chorizo is replacing the sausage and the option will appropriately be called Spanglish Breakfast, a portmanteau of Spanish and English. It was good.

And now that we are by the seaside, Brian can get his salt from the sea, the table salt is not nearly enough for him to salt to taste, pepper to heat, and Tabasco to burn. By the time he is done, it is most definitely another meal that he can finish in style.

Thought Picnic: A bag of life to pack

In the mind in a swirl

In visualisations and vivid imagination my daily thoughts are consumed by proposals and plans, the prospect of emigration, the destination being South Africa.

Thinking of the major to minor of what it entails, first for me and then critically and crucially for the lives I will be responsible for as they begin to thrive in their own aims, goals, and careers.

Much of if seems like the stuff of dreams, then dreams do come true, and in a sense as apprehensive as I sometimes feel, I am not afraid the possible is quite possible indeed.

I have emigrated a number of times and in some ways, I must be a bit more experienced whilst I try to recapture that sense of youthful adventure that drives you to things that give life every chance to become both testimony and story.

Sunday 10 January 2021

Time and place issues

Other places to live

After 4 weeks in an apartment in the Oranjezicht area near the District 6 Museum, we decided on spending the rest of our holiday at Green Point in the Mouille Point suburb just a few metres from the Green Point Lighthouse which we learnt was the headquarters of the South African Lighthouses.

For our first night, we decided to eat out. Our bijoux apartment is busy, packed with unnecessary furniture, yet with all the modern conveniences at literally half the size of our previous abode. We do have a balcony with a view of the sea and the Cape Town Stadium over a golf course seemingly full of the fit players on golf carts. I am judging no one.

Only for better monitoring

For our first night, we went out for a meal at The Butcher Shop & Grill with a byline, ‘The original and only’, it left me a bit confused because they are in three places, Cape Town, Johannesburg and the Middle East, they weren’t specific, so it is a case of pinning the tail to the donkey on a map of possible locations.

As there was no alcohol at the inn, Brian has been on ginger, lemon and sprite, if he digests and expels the fluids fast enough, I might still have a man than wake up beside an elf. The thought alone. The restaurants are stricter on registration even if we sit outside, sanitising the hands, temperature readings written against our taken names and phone numbers. I still think we are missing time in and time out.

Being safe and careful

As I had written before, without that essential piece of information, I might visit an establishment long after or long before another possibly infected person, but because we were there on the same day, I acquire a tenuous risk factor. Obviously, the overhead of managing lists, times and overlaps of visiting patrons might just be too onerous, maybe electronic tagging is necessary or an extension on the Track-n-Trace apps.

In all, we are keeping to the protocols, keeping safe as much as we can. It is the only thing we have against this plague until it is under better control or we are vaccinated.

In the slipstream of Uber

Uber on the pulse

Anything over a few kilometres or if we are quite tired out from walking, we have Uber cabs come to our rescue with opportunities for feeling the pulse of the city from the perspective of people who might know a lot more about what it going on from the many diverse riders they fare from one place to another.

In this modified lockdown setting, you here of whether tourism is thriving or not, it isn’t compared to before the pandemic. Bootleg alcohol is on offer at exorbitant prices, I think we can survive teetotal for a few weeks. Brian has been trying out presumable 0% alcohol at restaurants, barely fermented effluent with hops to give that distinctively bitter taste.

For all the opinions I have heard about the Coronavirus pandemic, I don’t challenge the assertions from believers or unbelievers, but we can agree on one thing, you do not want to contract CoVID-19 at all because it is just not a nice thing to have from what we have read from survivors with long-term issues referred to as long-CoVID.

Every name a winner

Another trigger for conversation is the names of the Uber drivers for which I can say something funny, we met Yen; a rich man named in a unit of Chinese currency, Enos; an alternative spelling of Enoch who in the Bible purportedly walked with God and never died a natural death, probably sent to take us to a holier place. On our way to have brunch, we got Ramadhan, we had not planned to fast on that day.

The most fascinating of these names was Mitterran from Cameroon. I immediately thought the name was spelt wrong and I was right. His birth certificate was acquired on his behalf by his headmaster who did not care to find out how the French name given to his pupil was written and probably in his rural setting might have been unaware that there was a world leader Francois Mitterrand, the President of France, thereby formalising a misspelling with the last letter D lost to posterity.

There is a likelihood no one had said anything about this to Mitterran before I did, but for my failings, a misspelling will hardly pass me by even if many of my blogs for the lack of effective proofreading might be full of spelling errors that I correct years down the line. Meanwhile, if I come across Gianfranco Zola, I will have to remember Zola sends his regards from an Uber in South Africa.

Eyeing the fish on the sign

The eyes have it

Signs with meaning and some that require a bit of research, though I could not ignore one big board as I step out of our apartment complex. It read, “Buy full set – Single lashes R400.”

For the purchaser, they probably know full well what is on sale, a lash of the whip it probably is not, something for the eyes would be a sight to see. I have seen lashes that could sweep streets, long and batting you wonder if the weight of those lashes would require eyelid training to open the eyes before they slam shut.

Single lashes might indicate the lashes for one eye which you have to pair up for the other eye, to match length, colour, quality, lift, just allow your imagination to run whatever course it chooses. Maybe there are cascading lashes, one mounted on the other in an installation of double or triple lashes. Better to be observed than to be tried out.

Fishing in Congolese cuisine

Further on at the bus terminus, a kiosk serving Africain (sic) foods beckons to patrons to come and try out from a list of foods with literally indecipherable names. I thought I will start with the first and then consider if the rest should be studied.

Mbika (na) Makayabu, the first read, which I found out was salted cod with sauteed vegetables, the name already a mouthful before you have tasted the cuisine. I know in my heart of hearts; I am not ready for this smorgasbord of street food. It is probably tastier than the name suggests, and we’ll leave it at that. It is of Congolese provenance, that’s a few thousand kilometres up north.

If you can follow Lingala or just watch the YouTube video, you can serve it up at home too.

Off colour small talk

Dissolving strangeness

Sometimes, small talk is a defence mechanism, a way to put you at ease with strangers though there is no clear determination of what topic will come up for discussion. It is at times a case of fleeting opportunity taken advantage of to stop the heart racing in countenance of the unknown.

Where it occurs might also determine how long that encounter will go on for. At a restaurant or on a journey, it might go on for hours, weaving in and out of the insignificant to the gravely important, snippets of personal information inadvertently exchanged in the trade for a sense of the personal, the individual or the unique.

Short and naughty

However, in a lift, the exchange will probably be over before it has started. It requires something catchier like when I stuck my foot in it so much that I literally could not put it out without causing a right old stink. He was already in the lift going doing as I entered on the second floor, he ensuring I had entered for the right direction of travel.

“You don’t live in South Africa, do you?” I asked, observing that he was completely devoid of the tone of tan as you might naturally expect of a Caucasian living in these climes. In my mind, I expected another answer pertaining to him being a foreigner tourist who had just arrived on holiday. Suffice it to say, I had to quit whilst barely ahead, he does live in South Africa, the other question that should have followed indiscreetly was reserved and unspoken as we part ways soon after the lift doors opened.