Sunday 28 February 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXIV

Out for a walk

It looked like an early spring day, the temperature not too high but comfortable enough for an outing, I dressed up and stepped out to enjoy the weather. The route I had planned on taking which would have been through St. Peter’s Square was sealed off by the police, fire engines everywhere, and a cherry picker over 5-storeys high had crew looking over the roof of a hotel.

The curious crowded around to see what was going on from all the sealed off with tape areas, I did not think it safe to wait around as I retraced my steps to my standard walking exercise route. Soon I was at Trinity Way, over the bridge towards the Meadow and then into Peel Park.

We are close to enough

For the first time in quite a while, people were out for leisurely walks on bridges, towards parks and in parks. It was unusually lively; we had been on lockdown for so long we were not going to let the good weather escape the wealth of our pleasure, come what may.

Obviously, there were too few people with masks outdoors apart from apparent foreigners and those going into supermarkets. We are finding ways to manage the lack of social interaction imposed by this pandemic and I know that eventually, we would get on with our lives despite and in spite of our government. We have tolerated so much; they risk taking us for granted with dire consequences.

Saturday 27 February 2021

Seeking sanity indoors or outdoors

Caring less of the outdoors

I must be getting too comfortable sitting indoors when it appears the weather is getting better out there. It was sunny most of the day today, but I was not keen on getting out into the chill even to get the air blow in my face.

Apart from when I stepped out on Wednesday for my vaccine and took a long detour back home, I have not been that driven to make my 10,000-step daily goal for quite a while. It is something I expect to return to doing hopefully in March.

Making the best of indoors

It is not like there is no desire to get out there and get fit, it just seems that this lockdown scenario in the UK saps you of any excitement if all you are left with is walking the same route, all without the assurance of socialising, adventure, or event.

In any case, it is not all indolence at home, you find something to do, whether watching, listening, or learning. I am just finding ways to cope better with the restrictions we are under because of this pandemic without losing any sense of purpose or being. I think I will be fine; I really do.

Friday 26 February 2021

The sheer willpower of typing

What I would want

I have not necessarily set myself the goal, but there is a sense of satisfaction in getting to post at least one blog a day. It just happens that it is not an easy task, you are never always going to be inspired to write a masterpiece of extraordinary thought and psychology just on the whim, at least not in my case.

There are times when it appears there is so much to write about, yet you are stumped at how to start to make sense of what you want to relay before a jumble of words typed out becomes a means for others to question your sanity.

Then it just happens

Then, I have decided not to be too hard on myself, I will not always succeed in knocking out a daily blog just as I have not broken my old record of writing 5 blogs in one day. You get to a point where when it flows you glow and when it does not, another time will come with thoughts to sow.

I guess another thing about blogging is sheer willpower and discipline, switch on your laptop, and just start to type, in time, it all begins to take form, make sense, and before you know it, a blog is complete, and four paragraphs is a blog done indeed. Thank you for coming to my blog. 

Thursday 25 February 2021

James Anderson (1956 - 1994), The Opera Queen

A brief and enduring encounter

James Anderson was a friend of mine, we met one evening some 30 years ago at the old Brief Encounter pub on St. Martin’s Lane in London’s West End. I cannot say why he took a liking to me, but we got chatting, he got me a drink and then invited me back to his place.

Quite an intriguing guy, he lived in Bermondsey and his little apartment was crowded out with vinyl albums, 5,000, he told me, mostly to do with opera and operetta, he was a walking encyclopaedia of that genre of music and entertainment, long before I had any liking for it.

I left his place in the pouring rain to return to an apartment I shared with others only to find that I could not get in because I did not have the keys and I could not rouse anyone to open the door that late in the night. I went to find a phone box as this was before mobile phones became commonplace and called James about my predicament, still wet from the rain.

He kindly invited me back, gave me warm clothes, made me tea and we went to bed. That is how we began a friendship and I learnt that he was HIV+ with his health just about holding up. Over the next few years, I met up with James on all sorts of occasions. A humorous wit, a cheeky smile and almost always up to mischief.

Praying for the time

He also had a sense of urgency, he wanted to finish the second edition of his published book, The Complete Dictionary of Opera & Operetta and he did not know how much time he had left to get it done. He did get it all done and published.

In July 1993, we had a big 37th birthday party at his place in his honour, quite a few common friends were there, some I had also met before at the Brief Encounter. I did not realise that it was almost like a farewell party. James had been ill and developed AIDS, he seemed his jovial self but was probably putting up appearances. It was a rather jolly time.

A life cut short

Sadly, in early 1994 there was a two-page spread, a recognisable picture of a handsome and youthful man in a newspaper, I think the London Evening Standard, and there was a long tribute to the man we fondly knew as the Opera queen, James Anderson had died the night before due to complications of AIDS at the young age of 37.

I did not find out any details pertaining to his funeral, I just mourned privately, sad that such an amazing man had been taken from amongst us, like many others who I met and befriended after James. I cannot find anywhere James has been memorialised, not even on the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Remembering the times

Of recent, I have been viewing memorials that have garnered some interest after the airing of the television series, It’s A Sin which documents a decade of lives of some young gay men affected by the AIDS crisis in London in the decade from 1981 to 1991. I have from time to time also searched online for James’ book, just to see if it was still in print.

However, this morning, reading a review of the book posted by a buyer in 2013, they complained the book was dated and some information was incorrect. This was a book researched long before the days of the Internet and I was almost ready to respond, that the only reason why the book had not been republished, updated and had current events and personalities were because, the author, died some 27 years ago.

All I have now of James Anderson is pictured in my mind, flashes of moments that defined our friendship, the danger that in my naivety I was unaware of and then accepted. He was the first person I knew who had the disease, it did not make him any less a wonderful person, he just passed on at a time when there was little to help his situation, as did many in the 1990s into the early 2000s.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

This boy is on Pfizer

Preparations for the jab

I was a bit apprehensive about going for my vaccine just soon after work. I had prepared in more ways than one, gone online to find out about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, what drug interactions it might have with my medication and if there were things I needed to be concerned about as someone in the vulnerable cohort. [SPS-NHS: Interactions information for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine]

Then, I changed from a long-sleeve vest and shirt to ones with short sleeves, took leaflets of my current medication, and my passport for identification. As I was unfamiliar with the location of the vaccination centre, I called an Uber cab and was on my way. The driver knew the centre, apparently, he had received his own first vaccination there last Thursday, he had nice things to say about the staff.

Formalities in questions

On arrival, I was ushered in after answering two questions about whether I had any symptoms or had tested positive with the Coronavirus in the past 28 days. Having answered in the negative to the questions, she squirted sanitiser in my hands and gestured towards the line for registration.

At the desk, I was asked for my name and time of appointment before she confirmed my date of birth and affixed an identity label to my COVID-19 immunisation card and then told to wait to be called up for my vaccination.

Soon, I was called to a vaccination pod where I was asked a series of questions about what medication I was on, if I suffered severe allergic reactions, or if I had taken any other vaccine in the last 7 days and whether I had participated in a Covid-19 vaccine trial before.

Only Pfizer will do

Satisfied with my responses, I asked if I was getting the Prizer/BioNTech vaccine and explained why I was particularly keen on it as a frequent traveller to South Africa. Volunteering my understanding that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was said to be less than efficacious on the South African variant of the Covid-19 vaccine.

I believe they had been briefed to shutdown any misgivings about the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, even an officiously looking lady came round and said the study was poorly set up and that I should stop reading conspiratorial ideas. Now, for South Africa to abandon that vaccine with their wealth of expertise, that is not something I would ignore. [BBC News: Covid: South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine rollout over new variant] [The New York Times: AstraZeneca’s Vaccine Does Not Work Well Against Virus Variant in South Africa]

Putting aside argument

There apparently is little confidence in the same vaccine across Europe. I am not here to wave a jingoistic flag for British technology when it comes to my health, I would not have taken the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine if it were offered today as I had the choice of getting it elsewhere. I did not have to face that battle. [iNews: Europe’s reluctance to use the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine slows roll-out, and isn’t backed up by data]

That put by the side, the nurse drew a dose of the vaccine from a vial and I was given the jab on my left arm, then advised to wait in an observation area for at least 15 minutes before leaving. The overseer of the observation area took my name and recorded it on a clipboard whilst adding 15 minutes to the time as when to ask if I was feeling fine before I could leave.

On exiting the centre, I decided to walk back and did feel a bit of tingling in my fingers. I stopped by the supermarket to get analgesics just in case. even jam doughnuts that I had shied away from for about two years and returned home to rest.

I've got the Pfizer in me

A jab invitation

Early last week, I received an SMS Text Message from my General Practitioner (GP) Practice inviting me to book my first COVID-19 vaccination. The message included a URL to a third-party website working for the NHS.

I thought I will be walking up to my GP Surgery some 350 metres away for the jab as I had done just about 4 months ago for my influenza and pneumonia jabs, but that was not the case. The website was offering two locations just about a kilometre and a half away from my home. One of the locations did not have available slots, so I was left with just one option.

Appointed to a long walk

The earliest day for the jab I could find was 9 days away and just not to mess up my day at work, just in case I have an adverse reaction, I took a late slot and that happens to be today, a Wednesday. I received a confirmation message and then a reminder yesterday.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, I got a call from my hospital where my consultant runs her practice asking if I had been contacted about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Whilst responding in the affirmative, since I have a better rapport with my consultant who I see much more frequently than my GP who I have never met, I had some concerns.

Choices for protection

Being a frequent traveller to South Africa, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine would not provide the best protection against the South African variant of the COVID-19 virus, it is said to be less than efficacious that South Africa abandoned the rollout of the vaccine. [BBC News: Covid: South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine rollout over new variant] [GOV.UK: Information for UK recipients on COVID 19 Vaccine AstraZeneca]

As a member of a vulnerable group, I had to be vaccinated but also with a view of knowing I am protected against strains in locations I might visit. My best option was the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and I had to be sure that was what I was getting. The hospital offered to give me that, but I did not want to cancel my earlier appointment just in case they had it too. I obtained details of how to access the alternative before breaking off the call. [GOV.UK: Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine]

Happily, what’s needed

Calling the other clinic, they did not know last week which vaccine will be offered this week, but they suggested I call sometime this week to find out. Thankfully, they were giving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this week, which means I do not have to exercise my option just yet.

I left home with a lot of time to spare and got the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. 

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Work from home does not make you a dullard

How things have changed

In conversations with an ex-colleague, I was amused to learn of some exploitation of engagements being contemplated by certain clients employing freelance consultants.

During this pandemic, the employment market is a bit fraught, for some, they are well placed to take on interesting opportunities and certain circumstances have closed up availability that competition is keen. What this can do is weaken both the resolved and bargaining clout of the consultant as they have to weigh the options amongst the various choices.

One given change to the workplace dynamic is working from home or working remotely. People are only going into the office if there is no way that they can do their work from home. I, for one have never visited the premises of my office since I took on this role in May and it is unlikely I will for the term of my contract.

Home and away, the same

Whether working from home or in the office, the same expertise is still required to do the job. For subject matter experts, what they are hired for is knowledge, know-how, and experience, bringing much of their wealth of insight and ability to bear on situations in the environment where they are engaged.

What I have heard is some clients are considering paying a lower rate to consultants who are working remotely, maybe in the misguided view that unsupervised consultants who cannot be micromanaged with some jobs worthy manager watching over their shoulders to ensure they are mercenaries to the core mean a loss of productivity.

This forgets that consultants are by and large professional and dedicated to getting things done effectively and efficiently. My further argument is that consultants are paid for their expertise regardless of where they are working from. A consultant is not suddenly a genius at work and a dullard at home.

The skill is the deal

I have not heard that permanent staff will be subjected to this stupid idea, not that it can happen without a fight, a dirty one at that. In fact, if you do expect a consultant to come into the office during this pandemic, you should be paying danger-money. The organisation I work for had over 500 COVID-19 infections in the time from September to January with one death registered. I fall into a vulnerable group, so, I cannot attend the office at all.

One thing I know is that I have been able to do my job remotely as best I can within the strictures of the permissions and rights that have been awarded. I hope that alone makes me worthy of my remuneration and hopefully is a testament of a good workman that no one will countenance an idea so reprehensible and expectant of utter and complete repudiation.

A roadmap of potholes

Impressed, I am not

When I was asked if I was looking forward to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap on the eve of its announcement, I did not hesitate with saying I had no expectations and that meant I would neither be disappointed nor frustrated.

When the announcement eventually came, what I saw was the fact that what we are going through that might eventually ease completely by June the 21st could have been dealt with more conclusively this time last year, but for the hubris and arrogance of the UK Government who were ready to sacrifice lives for the economy and have now sacrificed both lives and the economy in the end. [BBC News: Lockdown: Boris Johnson unveils plan to end England restrictions by 21 June]

The numbers matter

At 120,757 deaths, many quite needless, this remains the biggest failure in the handling of the pandemic. One must however commend the vaccination effort as 17,723,840 (26.01%) have received their first dose, but only 624,325 (0.9165%) people are fully inoculated having received their second dose of the vaccine. The percentages based on the projected population of the UK being 68,116,498 today. [GOV.UK: Vaccinations in the UK] [Worldometer: UK Population Live] [ Covid-19 vaccine tracker]

We are nowhere near out of the woods, there is a whole long way to go before we can have the freedoms to do as we like and live as we desire away from restrictions. Boris Johnson could not help himself without finding some bombastic bluster to fulminate over us, it called his roadmap, the ‘One-way road to freedom’, all I could say was you are sure to bungle it. Without doubt, I have no trust in the competence, candour, integrity, or truthfulness of this government.

Blog - Opinion: Of our PM, cometh the hour, cometh no man

A leader with a heart

Over in America, we read a different story, with now over 500,000 COVID-19-related deaths, it called for a time of reflection just as the day before his inauguration President Joe Biden commemorated the loss of 400,000 lives. In leadership, in times like this, we need people who can carry the feelings and the sentiments in such as way as to lead us towards a future of hope.

This is what the president had to say, “As a nation, we can't accept such a cruel fate. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.” That is something I find missing at home. Compassion and empathy are attributes and virtues that are absent from the heart of persons that people the government of the UK, not to think of considering any sense of humility.

I long for a time to be with my lover at the time of my choosing with the freedom to travel at will to fulfil the pursuit of happiness and the joy of living. Hope reigns supreme, we would see this through, with or without the help of those who think they have a handle on this thing.

Sunday 21 February 2021

Hair between us

Chins in array

In our morning chat, I said it was time for me to shave my facial hair as any growth beyond 5 days becomes an irritation, partly itchy and partly sore, it is quite uncomfortable for me as he thinks it looks distinguished on me.

Now, at last count he thought there were 7 whiskers billowing on his chin, his desire for a beard and sideburns sometimes does drive me to distraction but he does not need it at all. To dissuade him I have suggested hair grafts that would not survive offering the detail of outside of our conversation, yet he persists.

Scalps on display

Whether a blessing or some accident of nature, he grows a noticeable moustache and then nothing below the line of the two ends of his upper lip. On our heads, there is a different story, he has a full carpet of hair with distinctive highlights of artistic quality, I have male pattern baldness that behoves I shave it all off to keep my dignity.

Hair is probably a veritable test of contentment, if you can’t have the hair you want, love the hair you’ve got, the hair you don’t have, buy what you need or take it all off. I think the hair he has is beautiful, but that alone is an argument strumming the strands of frustration. He is going to scream when he reads this blog.

Saturday 20 February 2021

All in a weekend

On a binge

My weekend for relaxation is spent watching television if I am not preoccupied with playing around with my computer network test lab that I have not been inspired to attempt much with, in the recent past weeks.

That I find crime investigation programmes interesting is one thing, but in these series are a deeper analysis of human nature, pathology, inclination, persuasion, motive, intentions, or just the plain goodness of humanity that brings a tear to the ear. My emotions run the whole nine yards.

Channel 5 offers my servings and courses of Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU), Columbo, and NCIS. On BBC, I will probably catch up on Death in Paradise or some documentary.

Watching and praying

Whilst many of the plots are apparently fictional depictions, I am sometimes just shocked at things that people can conceive that become crimes, usually murder. A conundrum is presented and brains that have schemed to conceal an act are pitted against brains gathered to unravel the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Watching Law & Order: SVU just now, nothing is fascinating about finding helpless children abandoned in a cage just after one episode where a teenager was sentenced for a hate crime against a transgender person – between pushing and grabbing, taunts, and a fall, she dies. They all died and for any sense of justice to be served, there must be someone, persons, or institutions to hold accountable.

My weekend continues and Whoopi Goldberg is in her element, or maybe I could be doing something else.

Friday 19 February 2021

Seyi Omooba: A princess refuses to play her role

The acting of Celie

I have been following the case of Seyi Omooba, the actress or rather the actor as I have noticed the gender-specificity appears to have been taken out of the noun for the acting profession. She was to have taken the lead role of Celie in a stage production of The Colour Purple until it was found that sometime in the past written view on Facebook that called into question her ability to take on the role.

Apparently, the role of Celie does have some same-sex attraction and it is left to the director to decide how that is interpreted and the actor to give that the best expression possible that the audience will suspend belief and be absorbed in the depiction and quality of the performance. That is what actors do, it does not make actors the roles they play in real life.

The mind of Seyi

Ms Omooba, however, wears her religion on her sleeve and that appears to come before her vocation for which she was by all terms fully qualified to do, for that is why she auditioned and was selected to play Celie. She was not minded to play the part as she had said on a Facebook post that, “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal doesn't mean its [sic] right.” [BBC News: Seyi Omooba: Actress sacked over anti-gay post loses legal fight]

Now, Ms Omooba is entitled to her views and beliefs, we live in a free country, what she believes to be right is her prerogative and that is fine by me, even if those views question the essence of my being and that of the broader LGBTI+ community, or that of any other person. Prejudices abound, what matters is the ability despite our persuasion, that difference exists and that is the way the world is. We can all live our lives happily respecting that.

The princess throws a strop

Having expressed those views way back in 2014, they had not changed when she took on the role of Celia and Ms Omooba was going to depict the role within the constraints of her worldview making no allowances for either directorial discretion or that of the author of The Colour Purple. At which point it was decided she was incompatible with the role and the theatre seeking an amicable settlement offered her unconditionally full salary to walk away, but she was not going quietly.

She took the case to tribunal seeking substantial redress and compensation, supported by a fundamentalist religious organisation founded by her father and has lost.

It has not escaped my notice that the name Ọmọọba is Yoruba for the child of a king, suggesting prince or princess, we still have gender roles in royal titles. Her father is both a religious and community leader who has been honoured with an MBE for his community work whilst being strident homophobic, but we can separate the issues, it does not make him any less worthy of honour.

The choices she made

His princess, fully imbued with the teachings of her father needed to work in a rather different environment that offers equality of opportunity and the acceptance of diversity, but chose to use her inability to adapt to a different environment to play the victim of discrimination, thankfully, she could not play the race card because it is very likely the role that once went to Whoopi Goldberg in the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg and had Quincy Jones as one of the producers would most definitely have gone to another African American.

This is what Ms Omooba had to say on the website of Christian Concern, “When I received the email that I was going to be dropped from the cast, I was heartbroken. The agency told me that I would receive financial compensation, but I am not in this for the money. For me it’s not about the money or my face – it was about telling and expressing Celie’s story, as I interpret it as a performer, because that is what I love to do.”

Yet the theatre and the agency gave me the choice of either losing my career or renouncing my faith. I could not do this, not even to save the career that I love.” [Christian Concern: Seyi Omooba]

No, sweet child, you cannot unilaterally interpret a role divergent from what the director requires the role to be. Celie’s story was written in 1982, was depicted on film in 1985 and there is a musical remake to be released in 2023, society and norms have so moved on. [Wikipedia: The Colour Purple (Film)]

The choices they made

Yet, much as this might have been a career-boosting opportunity, no one was asking you to choose between your faith or your career, you made that choice. Your career was not ending, you created the circumstances for questioning if you were suitable for the role and whether you could be represented by your management agency. As the lawyer for the agency stated at tribunal, “Her comments had so adversely affected her future employability that her contract with Global was ‘an empty vessel.’” [The Telegraph: Actress Seyi Omooba loses tribunal claim over her dismissal from The Color Purple]

It would appear rather than for the common good, you took the selfish and unchristianly stance to jeopardise the fortunes of the theatre ready to compensate you and the management agency about to lose clients because of what you chose to represent; prejudice, bigotry, entitlement, and intransigence.

The opportunity she did not embrace

Her troubles began when in 2019, after she was announced as the lead for The Colour Purple, a member of the cast of Hamilton, Aaron Lee Lambert asked on Twitter, with a caption of her Facebook post, “Do you still stand by this post? Or are you happy to remain a hypocrite? Seeing as you’ve now been announced to be playing an LGBTQ character, I think you owe your LGBTQ peers an explanation. Immediately.

Ms Omooba did not answer to the issue for months and the theatre seeing the public relations disaster brewing had to take measures to both save the production and their enterprise when it became apparent that she was not ready to temper her views. In the comments that followed the tweet, it was revealed she had recently refused to appear in a pride video along with members of the cast of another production she featured in. Besides, she had before appeared in a concert version of The Colour Purple.

She had no case, just trouble

Laid out in those terms, it was unlikely Ms Omooba had any intention of playing or depicting any of the LGBTQ aspects of the Celie character, one cannot suggest what presumably chaste component she would have brought to give the role a meaningful interpretation in consonance with the original writing.

The tribunal ruling against her demands for compensation for loss of earnings, future losses and reputational damage concluded, “If there is damage to her reputation, it was not caused by being dropped from the production but by an unconnected person's tweeting... of her Facebook post and the outcry resulting from that.” [BBC News: Seyi Omooba: Actress sacked over anti-gay post loses legal fight]

We all have to live with others

My takeaway from this case is simple, you are free to have whatever views you espouse, but the moment you publish them, they are on the record for a public and global audience that extends well beyond the community that would fully agree with our opinions that it is necessary that the expression of such views do not become a future impediment to progress.

Bigotry, prejudice, hypocrisy, lies, unkindness, hate, inhumanity no matter how reasoned our positions are do not win laurels, they eventually become burdens unintended and consequential.

Religious intransigence in a liberal and secular environment is the harbinger of notoriety and personal grief. Your beliefs exist within constructs, never in a vacuum. Ms Omooba accepted the construct that homosexuality is legal, and much as she could comment on the rightness or the wrongness of the law, she chose a moralistic dimension that set her apart from the profession and broader society that had made accommodations for living and let live, it became her undoing.

Within fundamental Christian circles, Ms Omooba might be lauded and celebrated for her courage and integrity, that is probably where she can ply her trade, in the cohort of those who believe the same way as she does. However, if she needs an audience to her art and talent beyond that setting, the change will have to happen to her, though she might well think it is the society that needs to bend to her will. That is her hill if she chooses to die on it.

Thursday 18 February 2021

Thought Picnic: Many things

Letting it go

Many things, things being many, many of those things, things of which are many, many of the manner of things, things that make you wonder of the many.

Indeed, that is the mind, a nebulous centre of thought and process churning and turbulent, even in your quiet time appears to distance you from a needed peace of mind. Then you relax, let go of the things that occupied the mind in an uncomfortable way.

Calm comes, sleep enters, peace enfolds, dreams appear, hope alights, love awakens, many issues become things resolved.

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Rather the vaccine than COVID-19

Come for a jab

I received a text message on Monday from my General Practitioner’s surgery inviting me to book my first COVID-19 vaccination with a URL link to a website. I have been invited because I am in Phase 6 of the priority groups, all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality, else, I would have had to wait for my age group in Phase 8. [GOV.UK: Vaccine priority groups]

Whilst I might have had misgivings about being vaccinated, this is one area where I do not have enough knowledge or expertise to make quality decisions about my health and safety in the middle of a pandemic. Accepting that the timeframe of virus discovery to widespread vaccination has taken less than a year, we are in different times and we must account for advances in knowledge and knowhow in virology and immunology to expect that solutions might be acquired at unusual speed.

The safety in numbers

Besides, over 173 million vaccine doses have been given in at least 93 locations globally, the reports indicating the various vaccines are safe and where they have not been that efficacious, alternatives have been sought as improvements are being made to the vaccines to account for the variants and mutations. Humanity is equipped for this, our ingenuity in seeking solutions to problems should be commended. [ Covid-19 vaccine tracker]

We are still way off the billion-person mark and only 4 locations have exceeded the 50% of their population, we have ways to go. What I know is the older people who got vaccinated from December 2020 onwards seems to be doing fine. We know those with severe allergies will have to wait, and the South African variant does not respond to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that it was abandoned there.

Rather the vaccine than COVID

To an extent, I am trusting that necessity is the mother of invention as urgency is the driver of initiative. What no one can afford if they have never had COVID-19 is never to contract it. The experience from survivor stories indicates that the end of the obvious symptoms does not spell the end of the ordeal. The vaccine, apart from trigger an immune response also prevents the onset of debilitating disease and that is a good thing.

I do not know what vaccine will be on offer when I attend the vaccination centre next Wednesday evening. The first jab is not the protection until the second which will provide inoculation. Fundamentally, I am not against vaccination, I have had jabs from childhood and do take my annual flu jab in November apart from the pneumonia one every 3 years. The only jabs I cannot take are ones with live or attenuated viruses like the Yellow fever jab.

There is a new normal ahead of us and somehow, we might have to sacrifice some individual preferences and misgivings for the common good. I hope we are all persuaded of the common good.

Monday 15 February 2021

Blogging with a voice that explains

Now with a little more

For all my blogging, I am beginning to realise I fall at the hurdle of completeness. Beyond what is written, there are times I am asked to give some background, a backstory, an exposition, or the source of inspiration for what I have written.

Unlike having a well of water where you can go to draw and fetch a pail of water when needed, I do not essentially have an inspiration well from which to set off on creative excess nor can I say I have a muse per se. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, triggered by events, observations, conversation, reading, I really cannot say.

There are times an inconsequential word has seeded a blog, then others where a multitude of events simply elicits a throwaway tweet of under 280 characters. There is no method and there is no template.

Podcasts on a trial

However, after a conversation pertaining to my last blog, I was inspired to consider a podcast, something like a director’s commentary just to give context in ways that writing will not do just. My raspy voice not suited to broadcasting should itself attract critique and criticism rather than praise, yet, I cannot deny my voice.

It makes me wonder if in time, I will have prologues, epilogues, running commentaries, read-throughs, synopses, or anything I could put my voice to without causing too much embarrassment to myself. I guess now is the best time to introduce my first podcast, The Director’s Cut.

On comments without root

A dump of verbiage

Looking through the hundreds of comments awaiting moderation on my blog, I could not help but wonder why some people bother. There are scores that are just hackneyed and trite never venturing to platitude, effusive with mock praise and uninteresting, a cat could have walked one their keyboard for a minute and produced commendable prose.

Others are completely off-topic bearing no relationship to the blog, adjacent blogs or my blog in general, whether visitors in a heightened state of psychoactive abandon are attracted to my blog, I cannot say, but by what has been written, I might just be on the money.

Spam you can’t can

However, more annoying are those who insert links to plug their businesses in my comments section, it is spam, no more no less. I have no advertisements on my blog, I make no money off it, it is a personal space that is open to readership whilst managed by me. I cannot edit the comments and I doubt I will grant permission if asked, to publish adverts on my blog.

I do write reviews and that is a different activity because it is one of personal experience with objective or subjective viewpoints and let us agree it is authentic.

Thanks for coming

Now, feedback on my blogs is welcome, I encourage it within the bounds of courtesy, respect, context, and contributions that extend the debate. As abuse and expletives are not my mode of expression such aggressive deployment of language will hardly be entertained or countenanced. One owns the prerogative to publish or delete, a rejoinder might well appear on you blog with a link to mine, if you want more control of the narrative.

I provide Comment advisory and guidelines to help towards making your contribution meaningful and worthy of publishing to my audience. Thank you for engaging and I will try my best to engage too.

Sunday 14 February 2021

What makes my Valentine's Day

For the 3rd Valentine's Day, my life is full of love and joy because of you. Your smile lights up my world, your love so complete and indescribable, fulfilling and more besides.

I have never ever known love like this before. You to me are everything a heart could ever wish for, every day, every hour, to be close to you and with you, is that dream we are working towards.

Brian, you are my funny valentine, my perfect valentine, my precious valentine, the irreplaceable valentine of my life.

I love you so dearly, today and every day from the first time I saw you to forever. This will be an everlasting love. Thank you for being the amazing wonder you are.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday 13 February 2021

A very befitting farewell

Learning new things

My thoughts have been contained in the events of the past few days surrounding the sending off and interment of a remarkably great man and my father’s best friend from childhood, Otunba Gabriel Ogunjimi Taiwo, who passed on in early November 2020.

Blog - The Vulture died of a ripe old age

The benefit of modern technology has allowed many of us who would have wanted to participate in honouring him with our presence to share in the moments with live broadcasts on Facebook. There are times we could have been swept into the situation and overcome with emotions it entails.

The traditions and the ceremony also revealed to me how somehow foreign everything seemed to me, it is like there has been a fundamental shift in these ceremonies from the solemnity I once knew that greets the preparations, the Service of Songs, the wake keeping, and the funerary rites to the outward flamboyance with performing pallbearers and much else.

Exhausted by spectacle

I could not begin to think of the energy and resolve of my friends in organising this feat whilst shouldering the broadest spectrum of feelings from sorrow through gratitude and joy of a life more than worthy of celebration, I, watching from afar, was exhausted that I feared whether I might ever have such strength.

My father gave a speech at the wake yesterday, he must feel the great loss of a friendship with the likelihood that in a quiet place, he could have let go of his emotions, it is a situation we cannot begin to fully understand apart from giving him support, consideration, and love.

For now and later

Then much as I want to be miffed about the untrammelled insatiable appetite of the clergy who steward our village church for donations, gifts, commitments, and other largesse after all that these men from their youth have contributed to the Ijesha-Ijebu community, using every opportunity to inveigle, plead, and entreat ever so unashamedly and blatantly, I will leave that to another time. Calmness and diplomacy demand that out of respect for our patriarch, we bring to a close the essential as it is needful.

Folusho, Niyi, and siblings, you have done well and done proud the legacy of your dad. May his soul rest in peace and the fond memories of his extraordinary life fill you with hope, strength, and grace into the future. Ẹkú Àẹ̀hìndè bàbá, jọ́ á jìnà síra. Gbérè!

Thursday 11 February 2021

Rise with your hopes or fall with your fears

Guard your ears, till your heart

Our fears can so limit our ability to thrive, some fears fed by a passing comment in our past that takes root and grows into a humongous impediment to progress and success. The caution we must exercise in who we lend our ears to is one of eternal vigilance, for the grounds in which seeds can grow in our lives, are more fertile than we ever realise.

Words from the mouths of our parents triggering involuntary responses that determine the course of our lives and can make a difference in a lifetime, you wonder, how do you escape the clutches of what you have taken to heart? There are damaging consequences, from people of considerable influence that you can still hear their voices decades long after you have forgotten who or what they look like.

We can be different

We should not however concentrate on the negative, there are other inputs that engender the amazingly productive, that word of kindness, of encouragement, of hope, of prayer, of beauty, of praise and the good of our humanity, lighting up a path for us to travel, rescuing us from danger, infirmity, or calamity, bringing a sense of determination that girds us and strengthens us that we have no choice but to win. Those voices are begging to be heard but we are too attuned to the contrary.

As individuals, we fight our uniquely arranged battles, but when we enter into partnerships where our fortunes are pooled, we can rise with our partners or sink with them because of the baggage that burdens our inability to either live beyond our fears or the grip of the impending defeat sowed by experiences or words we have heard before.

Imagine where you can be

The greater disaster is not to see the newness in life that gives you hope against all situations to write a better story and create a worthy narrative of your life beyond the fears and low expectations of others who stole our power to thrive with their selfish perspective of what your life might be if it turned out different and successful.

If I am saddened, it is with those who never tried to dream of the extraordinary and when given the opportunity take off from the ground, rise to have the wind beneath their wings to soar with the eagles. It is possible, only if we uproot the forests of fruitless trees that took hold clouding the warmth of the sun with the fear of a future we do not know. Fears based on broad stereotypes when they should have based on the uniqueness of the individual.

Even more, the pity is you and your partner are left down in the dumps in an unproductive life just because fear robbed you of the spirit of hope and the experience of better things that you could ever have imagined in your wildest dreams.

Wednesday 10 February 2021

We are chameleons of nature

Opening to the strange

I have sometimes wondered about the kind of comfort we find with strangers such that intimate details are shared in ways that we would never consider with those we know.

We engage and unburden freely maybe unconsciously that there will never be another encounter so that the familiar does not visit us again and with it bring some embarrassment. Just as the tongue might be loosened by drink in the midst of friends, the elixir of strange meetings gives an inebriating fillip to unbridled liberties.

The anonymous becomes a comfortable channel for things closed off, a place where there is an expression for which we do not want to be known to others. It is like our secret selves still needs a place to be not so secret, yet not public with a face or some recognition.

Natural inhibitions of nature

Maybe in the embrace of the strange, we find a new range for our passions and our fears, even hopes and desires get to travel in paths we never dared to let them get out to experience. We have a tendency to compartmentalise, manage the facets of who we are to different levels of acquaintance, we are being completely who we are and yet never the complete picture to those who think they know everything about us.

It is probably healthy to be apparently extroverted to the unfamiliar whilst being introverted to the too familiar, whether vice versa is a good thing, I am not too sure. We are chameleons taking on strange and familiar colours depending on the environment; that is in truth not quite unnatural, is it?

Tuesday 9 February 2021

A workshop of manufacturing I do not need

The making of obscure goods

I need to step out of this factory manufacturing goods of no description and without any purpose, yet the machines churn, the conveyor belts are in motion, with an end-to-end process fully engaged, the inputs nebulous and the outputs vacuous, what a quandary of automation on my hands, for I am the factory manager.

To unravel this conundrum, I cannot shut down that factory, for there are orders that could be placed for which the tooling can be recalibrated to make something not just of value, but of significance beyond what I might use to share with others.

The same plant has served markets proximate and distant, but a moment of distraction has set in place some disorder, the cost of realignment needs minimising and then time to readjust should by all means to shortened.

A malcontent of discontent

What ails us is simple, external factors that impose limitations that we can either absorb and bear to much operational disruption, ignore and face the consequences further down the line, or take into consideration, making allowances for some drift, but not letting it impact the schedule of activities for which other orders have been properly processed.

The factory is my mind and the manufacturing is the array of thought processes that course through my thoughts and thinking especially around this pandemic and the mishandling of it by my government. The lockdown affects me, but I can get on with my life in general, shopping, exercise and work continue in earnest.

There is no social activity, I cannot meet friends, and travel is prohibited if I was not in South Africa with my partner a month ago, I will not have met any of my friends for literally a year, apart from one who is in my social bubble because he lives in my city.

Briskly manufacturing no consent

I watch the frenetic activity to contain the virus, having lost the trust of the public and the ability to persuade us of a greater cause, they impose hefty fines on a whim and we roll over allowing this travesty as if they are testing how far we can be squeezed by their egregious abuse of power.

We do need to get a hold of this pandemic, but I am governed by consent, that consent is wearing thin as the rank incompetence of this government looms so large that it is impossible not to see where the problem is. Like I said before, the issue is not the South Africa strain of the virus, especially after the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was found not to be as effective against that strain.

Blog - The CoVID-19 mutations are not the problem

Testing our docility

The South African strain has been the bogeyman and rationale for the imposition of a more stringent lockdown, but the prevalent and dominant strain in the UK is homegrown from Kent. All the restrictions and quarantine measures being put into play now, if they had been imposed 3 months ago when South Africa did, or 6 months ago when rather we were enticed to Eat Out to Help Out, we would not have suffered the death toll of over 110,000 of which half happened in the last quarter of a year and we probably would have eased many of the lockdown measures and be on the path to a semblance of normalcy.

Dare I suggest we tried for this a year ago before it took any hold and we would be filling stadiums attending concerts like they are now in New Zealand, but we played with lives to save the economy and now, both lives and the economy are in peril, compounded by Brexit. It is not a matter of hindsight, time and again, the signs of what to do were there, but the government prevaricated, and procrastinated wishing bluster and bombast will save the day. It did not.

I guess my question is, what will it take for the people to say enough because it seems they will get away with anything and everything if at one point we cannot hold anyone or someone responsible and accountable for the negligence of leadership and the unprecedented trammelling of our liberties by reason of the ineptitude and infirmity of leadership. Closing the strange goods line for the day.

Sunday 7 February 2021

Zakhele Popo of V&A Waterfront

Our regular haunt

One place we always loved visiting when in Cape Town is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront which is a beehive of activity. From the Foreshore, part of it is linked by a drawbridge and swing bridge that is fun to watch in operation as boats and yachts left or returned to the marina.

Apart from the shopping mall close to the breakwater and the restaurants that line the jetties and wharves, there are luxury hotels and the famous Nobel Square where statues of the 4 South African Nobel Peace Prize laureates stand of Chief Albert Luthuli (1960), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984), President F. W. de Klerk (1993), and Nelson Mandela (1993).

Many afternoons, busker musicians gather in front of the platform of statues to play music and perform dances, there are more troupes than solo performers, though you cannot miss the gospel singer-guitarist belting out old and familiar songs, we are taken to open-air church spirituality.

Ease yourself with ease

One thing I am grateful for around this venue is the conveniences, soon after a few kilometres you cannot ignore the call of nature that you have to dash plotting the shortest route to sought for relief, it is a moment to give thanks for more than the birds and the trees.

As Brian waited for me outside the yellow shed one afternoon, he was close to a performer taking a cigarette break, returning, I was looking around for him when the performer all bronze in a general’s attire with a peaked cap and staff called out to me, ‘We are here.’

There began a conversation, we had observed him over many visits to Cape Town as a living statue, still at most times and startling the unwary at other times. From then, we usually arrive at the V&A Waterfront when he is taking a break before he takes another position garnering the attention of the footfall of patrons that out of interest or curiosity approach him and usually leave a tip in his collection box.

Zakhele, our friend

I had wanted to write about him and realised that we had never taken a picture together, searching the web for Sakhele that we knew him as, and I found out I had spelt it wrong along with discovering his surname, he is Zakhele Popo and has been a performing living statue in the V&A Waterfront area since 2005. He is also studying to be an actor, to which the V&A have been sponsors.

There was one day he approached us outside the V&A mall, he was completely unrecognisable out of costume and makeup, a very friendly and lovely chap, one of us as we learnt before. We look forward to seeing him soon again and not forget to take a picture with him.

You can see a short interview with Zakhele on the V&A Waterfront Facebook page here.