Wednesday 31 March 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXVI

People are outside

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

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

Signs of change

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

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

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

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Lil Nas X - MONTERO - The Pied Piper is here

Setting it up

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

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

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

The piper in his element

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

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

Your responsibility, not mine

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

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

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

Love your rats or pay up

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

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

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

An appeal to our better selves

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

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

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


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

Old Town Road (Remix) – Lyrics from Genius

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

Monday 29 March 2021

The toys have been delayed

Bitter to sweet

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

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

Escape your inhibitions with toys

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

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

The unlocking of England begins

The story is a prism

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

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

A failure by comparison

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

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

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

A future for reckoning

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

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

Sunday 28 March 2021

Palm Sunday: Clean hands are of the conscience

Common service in the church

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

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

The gospel in song

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

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

A window on religious wickedness

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

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

Culpable in every way

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

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

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

Saturday 27 March 2021

It's walking and I'm balking - VIII

I gotta walk

Stepping on the scales the other day, I found a few more kilograms had been added to a number of achievement and triumph, I last observed in November. It meant I needed to get back to the walking exercises and step up the frequency.

This year, I have been slow on the uptake, I realised I could not return to the daily walks yet as there was not enough time to recover from the stress on my musculature overnight that I have for now set my regime to every other day.

Things to ponder

Whilst I am not a dieting fan, my struggle with getting sugar out of my diet continues with little success. It still ends up in my tea and coffee except when I have a frothy milk coffee like a latte or a cappuccino. I guess there is enough milk in the drink to compensate for the absence of sugar.

I try to get more vegetables and fruits into my meals, my sweet tooth is a weakness I need to overcome by determination and purpose. I have not dared throw a tape measure around my waistline, I am scared at what I might see, the more reason I should just get on with walking.

Friday 26 March 2021

Sleep and grow

Cherish the sleep

Night sleep is not what I usually get enough of, it is a precious commodity and so I am quite judicious with it. I get as much sleep as I can despite the night-time insomnia and do the best with the naps I get during the day or after work. It is all good rest.

It all adds up to useful sleep hours for the day, disjointed perhaps, too dreamy with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, quite a lot of light sleep and on my sleep chart the moments of deep sleep together is reasonable but like a series of saw-tooth chopping marks, essentially, I am not a natural deep sleeper.

Managing your portions

That seems to be something I grew up with and there might be drug interactions that limit the stretch, but what I have decided is not to use drug-induced medication. Though I have noticed that herbal teas that include ginger, lemon, peppermint, honey, or camomile can help in my relaxation, I have no scientific proof of that.

When I get the sleep I have been given, I prefer not to be woken up or disturbed because I am not one to just roll over and go back to sleep. Once I am up, I get busy until I tire out to fall asleep again, which could be hours later. Maybe having lights on that the radio playing in the background does not help but switch off the lights and I lightly wake up in minutes. We are all freaks of nature to some extent and that is not entirely a bad thing.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Fathers for the laws of human gravity

Gravity rules again

I was standing in the bathtub having a hot wash being supervised by my father when he approached me and felt that undercarriage in what I soon learnt was to determine if my balls had descended. I believe I was around 7 years old and that might have been the only time I think my dad took interest in my sexual health and probably allayed of the fears that the boy who barely fit in the palm of his hands at birth, might well, grow up to be a man.

In the news, there is some alarm, as a doctor has found that phthalates are causing human babies to be born with deformed genitals. That would suggest it is not enough to check that the balls have descended, but to ascertain that there is an appendage, it has some function of endowment and the absence of deformity, after which we need to address the matter of low sperm counts. [Sky News: Human penises are shrinking because of pollution, warns scientist]

It is a serious problem

The question is what we are going to do about this existential crisis, whether we are going to allow this to become an evolutionary process of the decline of reproductive health leading to a possible extinction of the human race in the worst-case scenario, or begin to act decisively to tackle all forms of global pollution, global warming and a refocusing of reproductive health from the regulation and abuse of female genitalia, their sexual expression, and the decision matrix around birth rate and abortion.

Meanwhile for the babies who have presented the issues observed in Dr Shanna Shaw’s report, there opens a possible new branch of genitourinary medicine with an essential component of plastic surgery as pioneered by André van der Merwe, otherwise known as Dr Dick, from South Africa where the aesthetic and reparative will include the corrective and interventionist to ensure that the demonstration of certain prowess is maintained and probably enhanced for these unfortunate people afflicted innocently by the world they have been born into.

Blog: Hello Dr Dick, my friends need a ...

Get interested and involved

The medical profession having highlighted an issue that should engage us all, engendering activism, informing policy, should fully persuade politicians locally and globally to act in the interests of humanity.

Fathers and the male folk whilst on the one hand feeling for irregularities that presage prostate or testicular cancer might as well be ready to be involved enough to be fully interested in the development of their scions to observe the forces of gravity and the thriving of the organs of reproductivity.

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Let there be teeth

I cannot smile

I carry with me a deformity that I have accommodated for long, but it is quite concerning still. My upper front teeth that I lost to a childhood prank and for every dental activity performed has left me with some regret at ever considering some remediation, though, something needs to be done.

Blog: Childhood: Defanged by Misadventure

Now, Ian Paisley, later Baron Bannside was a Northern Ireland politician and more notably a firebrand preacher, of the fire and brimstone kind, fundamentalist to the core and extremist was as comfortable for any congregant who felt they needed to be shaken to core about the expectations of the afterlife.

The matter of teeth

In one instance, the preacher railed from the pulpit with fiery vehemence, “Ye are all bound for damnation.” He said, and continued with, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We all probably can find all sorts of opportunities to cry and weep, it is a composite of our nature.

However, we cannot all keep our teeth, some are lost to decay and caries, others lost to misadventure or even worse. There are some that have no teeth at all and lo, even in the sphere of faith healing, the lame walk, the blind sees, the mute speak, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, but I cannot recall any instance of a miracle of dental restoration. Surely, that is just as important to wholesome living.

A miracle for hell

There, in a pew sat an old woman who asked what might happen to those who have no teeth, for, and I agree, the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” experience will be incomplete without the teeth, leading some to question the irrefutability of Scripture. To which the Reverend Ian Paisley responded, “Teeth will be provided.” And there we have it, in damnation, we can expect one last miracle, 32 white gnashers horsing around on the red hills of healthy gums, ready to clatter in the wailing abandonment of perdition.

I guess this suggests that even in hell, the human experience will be full, whole, and complete. What a prospect, what a scary prospect, indeed.

A case of peloton dysfunction

Lance, my hero

What got me fascinated and interested in cycling was the story of one man, Lance Armstrong, he recovered from testicular cancer and went on to win 7 consecutive Tour de France titles. That was the story, there is life after cancer.

When I then had life-threatening cancer in 2009, after months of denial, at the point of acceptance, I began to believe there is a life for me beyond my ordeal. That Lance Armstrong was then found out to be a drug cheat and stripped of his titles is unfortunate, but that is not the story that resonated with us, cancer survivors.

Indeed, one can die with great integrity and be eulogised quite ordinarily, or die having achieved notoriety, ignominy, and even disgrace, but with a life to live there is some opportunity for redemption if it comes. If it does not, you are still there for the ones you love and still love you and that for me is an extraordinary story. Lance Armstrong as a person remains a hero.

Medicine for the race

As the world unravelled around him, the mantel fell to the UK to retrieve the reputation of cycling from the dust. In track and road cycling, at the Olympics and peloton Grand Tours, cyclists from the UK took golds and titles, we were cheering from the rafters and men rose from their knee to become knights of the realm.

Great men like those of old, men of chivalry rescuing damsels from distress. Erm, well, there was a Dr Richard Freeman, the team doctor meant to see to the medical needs of the cycling teams and in his position would have been able to acquire medicaments to treat all sorts of conditions. Saddle soreness, for example, and anything in that region that might need attention.

Challenges of manhood

He however highlighted one condition about a male head coach that drew recriminations and rebuttals. You can challenge a man about many things, but not his manhood and its efficacy at performance and surely not in a public forum. Yet, Dr Freeman will have us believe that he ordered 30 sachets of testosterone to help Shane Sutton with his erectile dysfunction. I am a tyro, but I thought you got Viagra or Kamagra for that, but what do I know?

Anyway, with that order comes the possible taint of the achievements of the British cyclist, though, meanwhile, Dr Freeman, free with words, free with the truth has been freed from medical practice. Sadly, he might have set the peloton in dysfunction.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

A year of pandemic lockdown

A year of pandemic lockdown

It’s been a really long year,
And we are thankfully still here,
We’ll however be going nowhere,
For we had a government that didn’t care.

You ask if I’ve had the vaccine,
O yes indeed, I have been,
It was the Pfizer in my skin,
Don’t know when the second will be seen.

I surely must clearly profess,
The vaccination is a success,
But can you get Boris to confess?
Everything else they did was a mess.

Trying hard daily not to mope,
In the lockdowns, we learnt to cope,
Holding on to every little hope,
That to Cape Town I can soon elope.

Monday 22 March 2021

Then walking barefoot meant nothing at all

Let me tell a story

Contentment, they say is a state of happiness and satisfaction, we normally see in the context of being happy with what you have or rather what you have got. Maybe, it is more than that, sometimes, I cannot tell. For what you have got may not mean that much and what you have you might not have placed value on to begin to treasure it as a great possession, it is all contained in the mystery of contentment.

To some and to myself I have so admonished to a sense of gratitude that if I cannot have what I want, I should love and cherish what I have got. It is not about setting one’s sights low and or the lack of ambition. Some pursuits lead to exhaustion and unfulfilled dreams, big as the dreams may be.

The wisdom of the ancients

For we all have the woes and adversity that becomes the defining things of our storied existence, then set against the tale of another, our suffering in all the ways that it affected us, is small in comparison.

Whilst, watching the military investigation television series NCIS, there was an episode I had watched some years ago that I appeared on that occasion to have missed hearing an aphorism that led me down the search for its provenance until it brought me to the wisdom of the ancients, having passed through many attributions including that of Helen Keller took me to 13th Century Persia and a moment of deep reflection inspiring this blog.

The little is great indeed

I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of the turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of Kufah with a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited:

A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man
Less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table
And to him who has no means nor power
A burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.

Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa'di Shirazi [Gulistan of Sa'di: Chapter III Story 19]

A paraphrase of the above quote in all its context is attributed to Helen Keller as “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.

Touched by amazing lives

I was in primary school when I learnt about Helen Keller, she had only been gone 6 years, another story that had such a profound effect on my impressionable mind was that of John Brown, the abolitionist, and who can forget the Harpers Ferry raid and the marching song with the refrain, His soul is marching on? But I digress.

For years, I mourned the loss of love; for he had died, and then I realised, I was alive to love again. In the same vein, for the pain, I have felt and the many sorrows indeed, the greatest thing about being alive is the spirit of hope and possibility, for in whatever situation we might be in, opportunity abounds for gratitude and thankfulness, when we count our blessings, naming them one by one, and that is what contentment is all about. The wisdom of the ancients is indeed timeless.

Opinion: Between statistical and personal side effects

Logs out of my eyes

A good deal of my job involves the gathering, analysis, and interpretation of activity and error logs. As I am not on site to observe with my own eyes the environment, situation, or circumstances that create issues, I am left with deducing from the jumble of logs, the what’s, the how’s, and the why’s of things.

Sifting through and parsing data in the language and the numbers to determine patterns to follow; the logic or sequence of events almost becomes second nature. You can scarily come to some conclusions with such certainty, you might begin to doubt if you have read the situation right, even if you are usually right.

Then, how do you account for bias or possible error when assessing data presented from other environments outside your professional purview? Clarity is essential and, in the presentation,, you need to see what is clearly known, what is definitely unknown, what is still in dispute, open to debate and inconclusive, and the direction of travel towards tying up the loose ends.

Making sense of what’s out there

Nowhere is this more pertinent than in studying the recent developments around the COVID - SARS-Cov-2 vaccine, in particular the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. That it has courted so much controversy started with the bungling of the test profile first with the dosing and then leaving the over 65s out of the cohort.

Since then, there have been reports of blood clot incidents post-vaccine which have not yet been proven just as it has not been conclusively disproven that the vaccine is the cause that might have resulted in 9 fatalities. [EMA - COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca: benefits still outweigh the risks despite possible link to rare blood clots with low blood platelets]

A personal experience of side effects

Whilst a cost-benefit analysis would lead experts to suggest the benefits outweigh the risks, that is a statistical thing that works for the majority but not for the individual that presents the cases of serious concern. I remember being put on Triumeq a few years ago, it was to replace my Atripla regimen.

I was to detach a card from the Triumeq package, one of the side effects was instant death, that was scary enough. However, I did not tolerate it that well, the side effects diminished my quality of life, I recorded in a diary 42 days of insomnia, nerve-tingling, unexplained sudden joint pain, nausea, diarrhoea, it was hellish that I asked to be put back on Atripla without considering any other options.

Now, whilst I have been on Atripla since May 2010, I had a few neurological and cognitive issues, vivid dreams, simulated psycho-activity as if I was on psychedelic drugs and insomnia, but over time, I had developed coping mechanisms for toleration and satisfaction with it. Other people have psychological and psychiatric issues evoking suicidal thoughts, depression and worse.

Report side effects always

Statistically, both drugs are amazingly effective at controlling the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), the side effects are generally tolerable, however, to the individual that is more than just a statistic to accommodate the percentile for drug approval, the issues cannot be ignored. That is why we are invited to participate in the Yellow Card Scheme for reporting adverse drug reactions, medical device adverse incidents, defective medicines, and counterfeit or fake medicines.

On the vaccine, I took the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine just under 4 weeks ago, I am glad it was available, and it offers me some protection including taking consideration for my frequent visits to South Africa. I had to check the side effects and possible drug interactions with my current medication with the view to raise concerns if necessary.

Praise and accountability matter

The success of getting the vaccine to most adults in the UK is commendable and it puts us well ahead of Europe. It was a gamble that paid off, being first movers that presented UK patients as Guinea pigs with a recalibration to allow for a higher proportion of first jabs to full inoculation. That being said, there must be accountability for the rotten debacle of the loss of lives at over 126,000 people and the exorbitant Test and Trace regime that did little to contain or control the virus when it really mattered.

We can in the dearth of good news run away with the slither of good fortune at the expense of other things or adopt a more pragmatic approach, being able to see the bigger picture, giving praise where it is due and excoriation where it is deserved. No one issue is mutually exclusive of the other, they are all part of the narrative where you see the rose, the thorns, or the whole bush.


[EMA - COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca: benefits still outweigh the risks despite possible link to rare blood clots with low blood platelets]

[The New York Times: AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Is Found to Be 79% Effective in U.S. Study]

[BBC News: Covid vaccine: US trial of AstraZeneca jab confirms safety]

[MHRA: Yellow Card scheme]

Sunday 21 March 2021

My second census

Counted as one of us

Two weekends ago, I filled in the census forms online even though today, the 21st of March 2021 is Census Day in England. I did not expect my circumstances or living arrangements to change between then and now.

The UK census is taken every 10 years from 1801 with the year ending in a 1, there was one census in April 1966, I am not too sure if we participated in it. The next census, where I was indeed counted, was in Jos, Nigeria, in 1973, the enumerator arrived at our house and was in a meeting with my parents for about an hour before we all had a finger inked to indicate we had been counted.

In April 1991, my living arrangements were quite fluid that I eventually did not get counted at all. The 2001 & 2011 censuses had me out in The Netherlands where for privacy reasons direct censuses are not conducted at except for from data gleaned from other sources, so, the first census in which I have been counted in the majority would be this one, and I am 55.

Who and what we are

The range of questions I had to answer covered status, occupation, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Whilst I would normally fall under the grouping of Black British, I do prefer to identify as Black English. I found that there was a determination to peg me down to my particular ethnic ancestry and so, I have to volunteer that my parents are Nigerian.

For the first time, we were asked what our sexual orientation was and evidently, I am Gay and for now single in the UK until I get married to Brian soon. My gender identity is male, though the need for that question indicates the change times and norms as to how we identify.

More and more, many of our civic responsibilities are performed online and we are open to sanction or fines if we do not participate in the census with a possible £1,000 fine, much as well if we do not register to vote. What appears to be voluntary is not necessarily so and because of a 100-year rule, the public will not have access to the results of this census until the year 2122.

Saturday 20 March 2021

The truth in another story

The way we see things

The pieces that make up the story are fragments of personal experiences, some individual and strange and others are interactions with people known, barely known, or unknown. The circumstances and contexts of encounters are ones of perspective, reflective of the owner of the narrative.

Some of that narrative might be kind or unkind, pertinent or irrelevant, the dispute arises where what is honest and true becomes inconvenient to others, either because they would rather than was not known or it paints them in some rather poor light.

Between the truth and what is told

The question then becomes what is the purpose of the truth and in whose hands should it conveyed without kneading or moulding? For the truth of one might well be the nightmare of another. Then to differentiate between the truth as a matter of perception from the facts as a matter of record from recall if there is no congruence between them.

How will one welcome a peremptory requirement to redact, to obfuscate, to rewrite, or to withdraw from publication the story as it is written? It is funny that in an episode of Murder, She Wrote, one of the protagonists that became a victim of a murder,  said to his stepdaughter, “Your play was amazingly written, but to have trashed your mother like that is unforgiveable.” By that, he disowned her. She wrote an inconvenient story and I know many of us have stories that touch raw nerves too. Would we dare tell them?

Friday 19 March 2021

On the palate of a Zoom call

An experience to relish

Zooming into a meeting this evening after work, I got to participate in a virtual wine-tasting activity that was more fun than one could have anticipated. It so happens that with the pandemic, people have to think of more innovative ways to socialise and even meet strangers with common interests.

Capreo, a wine distributor for over 50 wine estates in South Africa had contacted me a month ago to invite me to the event on behalf of the Backsberg Wine Estate. We have visited Backsberg thrice and have always enjoyed the hospitality and professionalism of the people there, beyond which the wines are just well suited for our palates.

A participation we enjoyed

On the call, we had up to 13 participants, the moderator from Capreo, from Backsberg, the export manager and winemaker with his oenophile girlfriend and people joining from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Belgium, the UK, and New Zealand. We were to receive by mail 6 bottles of the wines to be tasted, those did not arrive for some of us due to postal and Brexit-related issues.

Wine tasting notes from Backsberg except where indicated. 

Backsberg Chenin Blanc 2020

Backsberg John Martin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Backsberg Pinotage Rosé 2019

Backsberg Pumphouse Shiraz 2018

Backsberg Klein Babylons Toren 2017 (Capreo notes)

Backsberg Family Reserve Red 2016

An order I had placed a month ago included Backsberg Pinotage Rosé 2019 which allowed me to participate in the discussion apart from other contributions to the general discussion about wine pairings, the wine estate, and the atmosphere at the estate.

Maybe soon in person

The session ran for almost two hours though because of load shedding issues in South Africa, Backsberg dropped off, just after all the wines had been talked about. Whilst for all of us, we would have preferred to be at the wine estate in the backdrop of the Simonsberg in Paarl, this as a second-best alternative was more than worthwhile.

I probably should have taken notes about the wines, which I did not, we would all be expected to put in an order for wines within the next week. With pleasure and the hope for a more involved experience very soon. Backsberg Cape Ruby 2017 the South African variety of port-like wine is one I would like much of, a visit is in view and the replenishment of my stock.

Thought Picnic: The scary past Facebook evokes

A past too fast

There is something I learnt a few days ago that some reflex in me immediately controlled, a brush with the past that brought back a flood of memories, but I narrowly avoided re-situating myself in that context. Obviously, I am responsible for the things that I have done especially in my childhood, even if bad, naïve, nasty, or worse, it is important I do not use that to excuse old behaviours.

As I have written before, Facebook is a psychosocial complex that unites us unwittingly with the past in so many unintended ways that could as well be destructive if we are not careful. Social media sates curiosity in ways that we would not even invite and pay a private eye to investigate on our behalf.

Schooled from the beyond

When I joined Facebook at the end of December 2009, and I had avoided doing it for years, I immediately sought out groups from my primary schools and secondary school. One invitation from Chris, my partner in the years around that time, I did not respond to until well into 2010, he passed on in November 2009.

Soon, I realised I needed to compartmentalise things, I was not going to befriend every old friend that I had not seen for over 30 years, the intervening time a complete blank to me and the person I reconnect with different in character, personality, or outlook from me. The temptation to resume friendships as if they had never broken off fait accompli is a weakness in our psyche and dangerous if one is suddenly too trusting.

Of times than person

Even before Facebook, there were friends made in different schools that I actively avoided because they represented a time in my own life and story I did not want to relive. They were an emotional burden that depicted vulnerability and failings not of themselves, even if they were not successful, but critically of myself, because I knew things about me that I could not face, I want to think that the past has been buried, out of sight and out of the mind, far from recall.

Then an old school teacher’s picture appeared on one of those pages; when we parted ways in 1975, I must have thought, that was it. There she was at 93 and I back in Primary 5. The times when I did not submit any homework which I hated and she put me in front of the class to be shamed; a version of being put in stocks and pelted with rotten eggs and vegetables in a public place. They did not ask questions about why a child's attitude took a turn then.

False claims so lame

I hated writing then, and I was to write letters to a number of teachers then, which I eventually never did. Meanings of words if did not know that I used painting pictures of family life at home that was hardly reflective of the truth. I was like the class Matilda, smart, different, inquisitive, resourceful, awkward, and sadly suffocating too. I found a book in one of the school cupboards and started teaching myself, French.

There was one incident at home that I probably would never have told my parents if my mother nursing my baby brother in the next room had not heard me. I was recovering from illness and asleep in my bed when a lady came into my room and sat on me. I recognised her because I said, ‘I will tell your husband.’ My mother called out from her room, asking who it was, but my memory went blank, there began a life of African-Initiated Church rituals that lasted through adolescence until I left home.

Child psychology misadventure

My childhood troubles did not begin then, years before, I had lost my sexual innocence to the trusted, my father’s strict disciplinarian ways with his youngest female sibling and female cousin made him distant and unapproachable, the psychological effect was to find expression elsewhere in the reckless and the imaginative. The apparent idyllic home life was anything but, the past harbours things that still make me shiver and I have not found the form of words to express.

Indeed, in a picture is a connection to a past that might not make you smile, that is a well of negative nostalgia, no longing and much loathing. Not so much of the person seen, but of the time it captured for which memories long forgotten take to life again like old dead seeds put in soil and watered. And yes, I do now remember who the lady was, crazy as the mind works.

Thursday 18 March 2021

Hark! The bleeding obvious

What you already know

Unsurprisingly, I seem to be good at stating the bleeding obvious, usually by example or analogy, maybe crude raconteuring, though, not a skill I would even pretend I possess. As many who read my blog would already know, I am a believer in voices, everyone has a voice, and except if you are an impressionist, you will generally speak in your own voice, except if you are performing.

The ease with which we breath when not belaboured by stress or infirmity is done by our need for the oxygen that is taken from the air breathed in and the need to expel carbon dioxide as we breath out. The pace and rhythm are done and regulated by voluntary and involuntary functions mainly in ourselves except if ventilated.

Where you are already going

For those who journey, they plan a course to a destination, choose their mode of transport and might resourcefully adapt to all sorts of conditions, those they choose or are scheduled, rarely changing course except for distraction, deviation, disturbance or distress, which could within certain situations be ameliorated.

What is within our control we do with much diligence than we acquit ourselves for and when met with obstacles we sometimes find ourselves better prepared for eventualities than we ever thought ourselves equipped for. Invariably, much as we cruelly measure ourselves against unnecessary standards and outmoded goals, we may not be perfect, but we are usually good, quite good enough, yet let the perfect get in the way of the good, and produce nothing. That’s a shame.

For everyone can blog, they have amazing stories to tell, in their own voices, through their own breath, on their own journeys and within the controls they exercise that no one can upend. Need I say more?

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Kitchen brain over kitchen brawn

Life in the kitchen

The kitchen is a domain of the variety of life where preparations and expectations work to the satisfaction of choice and hunger to sustain now and keep for later. Be it the order of recipes that I fail to adhere to or the knowledge of experiment or experience, the ultimate result is one to enjoy and better to share.

Aroma and taste with the filling that portends the ingestion of food is without trying to be too profound, the stuff of life within which you can find happiness, laughter, and repartee at meals.

Then after all is done, there is the cleaning up to follow, avoiding unnecessary wastefulness and keeping whatever is leftover to reheating or reuse, I have a dishwasher for most of that, though not everything is suited for a machine and handwashing is required.

Pots for a gleam

A non-stick pot came out of the dishwasher with black crusts of burnt food that did not shift in the wash cycle and it probably won’t have over multiple wash cycles. Scrubbing or scouring the pot would destroy the non-stick protection. Then I remembered something I read online months ago.

I poured some white wine vinegar into the pot to cover the bottom of the pot and then sprinkled in a generous amount of bicarbonate of soda watching it fizz as I set the pot on a hot plate and left it to boil for a few minutes. Taking the pot off the heat I was able to wipe the heretofore burnt crusts off with ease and after a simple rinse, the pot was clean. A good result.

Tuesday 16 March 2021

A WEIRD prism is just one perspective

Influences of significance

When my dad said over a decade ago, “You have always thought like a Westerner.” I feigned ignorance of what he implied, but it got me thinking about things that baffle me daily. How it is that my worldview on many issues and situations are so radically different from many with whom I am supposed to share a heritage.

Then again, I realise that I have also fallen into a trap and a misconception about culture and values needing to converge to a Judeo-Christian Western construct with the view that those who appear to deviate from such might not represent the best of our humanity.

How marriage changed us

Indeed, many of our international laws of trade, of industry, of life, or of diplomacy follow a broadly western model that has become a synonym for modern and civilised, we miss out on understanding other constructs, cultures, civilisations, and customs that makes other members of our diverse humanity uniquely different, interesting, and rich.

This was brought into stark relief when I listened to a podcast The West and the Rest by Matthew Syed on BBC Radio 4 on his Sideways series, which started with the observation of different psychological responses to what was studied and expected in the West to how intriguingly the advent of Christianity changed marital norms like forbidding marriage to cousins, opening clans to strangers and birthed the kind of innovation and mindset that typifies the West today. [BBC Radio 4 Sideways Podcast: 3. The West and the Rest]

Weird as we come

It begs the question about who the weird ones are, we in the west or the non-western cultures. Whilst there is no way I will pass for a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), I am most definitely one of the WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialised Rich and Democratic), a psychological term that was defined in the 2000 book, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich.

Having an audible copy of this book, it would probably give me an appreciation of why I think differently and why I should make ample accommodation for how other cultures will not converge to my worldview. This would mean we need to negotiate and agree on certain principles, attitudes, and rules for the good of humanity even if implementations will differ.

I come away with the insight that cultural divides will only be bridged with an openness of the mind and the putting away of the western hubris that has led us on spectacularly failed escapades of sowing seeds of our kind of civilisation around the world.

Read or listen

The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous [Amazon]


Monday 15 March 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXV

Taking a trek

After work today, I considered getting out for some exercise, the walking variety that I did much of over the second half of last year but have done little of this year. Getting into my garb and realising that it was not too chilly, I set out on the route I usually take.

The town centre was bustling, and I reached the outskirts, I walked by the towpath beside a church that has a Thursday soup kitchen. There on the ground crunched by footsteps that had passed along before me were many white plastic forks and spoons, though it was a bit disconcerting it was better to see that go to waste than food. If it were food, that would be scary, for I have seen rats the size of cats scurry about that path.

Scenes by the river

A girl and her mother had stopped by the river to feed the ducks as another two girls took to screaming so loud, it was almost upsetting. I said to them, I could scream too. Then a couple with their dog made so much way for me, I took the hint telling them, I guess I have a bit more work to do with my size.

As usual, everyone else was running though I could not understand how my pace had slowed to add 2 minutes to the time it took to complete a kilometre at the 4th and the 5th. The bane of going for long walks in the cold is a full bladder and that meant looking for a private place to ease myself. After which a man with two bulldogs taking him for a walk did the irresponsible thing of not cleaning up after one of them and he knew it because he looked back when got to the foul mess.

Care to be careful

On the home straight, I did pass by a soup kitchen and they do a lot for the hungry and the homeless, I just was no sure that the crowd with masks or any social distancing was safe or considerate. Minding my own business, I gave them a wide berth and hobbled home, under the strain of much exercise and over 17,000 steps in the kitty.


Sunday 14 March 2021

Thought Picnic: Of the heart and on the head

Of head in heart

Simple is not the matter of the affairs of the heart, for we carry in ourselves the wealth, the burdens and, the baggage of a lifetime, through which we stick to learned ways much as we attempt to unlearn some things and relearn the vicissitudes of altering our lives to accommodate others.

There is no manual to finding how to relate to others to whom a commitment of the heart has been made. I have before recognised a kind of emotional schizophrenia that bound me extensively to someone of whom the love was unrequited that I reminisced in a quiet moment how my heart was stolen when my head battled against the unreasonable impulses driven by that pump in my chest cavity.

Getting by letting

Relationships are a complex art of give and take, the process of negotiation is never as defined as in a contract even if a contract of marriage eventually seals the context of the relationship in the eyes of the law, extending the familial covenant to the partner with whom intimacy begins to metastasise from sight, through lust, to love, and the promise of a life together.

Each brings a lot into the relationship some companionship, some stability, some security, the emotional symbiosis on which each depends as the bond between them strengthens into a union of minds, purpose, and futures. Sometimes, we do ourselves the disservice of not appreciating the invisible yet tangible forces that bring us together.

Individuality, uniqueness and personality traded for a more significant expression of love that words will never fully express even as it is observed by others. I guess it remains a mystery usually never properly unravelled, but it is both fragile and solid, it is why hearts break if the matter is handled with levity. Those whose hearts are in the bosom of others better beware.

Saturday 13 March 2021

The UK: Our democracy is crumbling

This kakistocracy is debilitating

We are coming to a point where the contract of trust between the people and their government is presenting hairline fractures and it will most certainly break. Many of us law-abiding citizens having chosen our representatives in the hope that they will pursue our best interests are learning differently from that prospect.

There are too many things I disagree with the UK government about, but I take it on trust and faith that our democracy is supposed to have safeguards, checks, and balances. Yet, I watch how the House of Commons has become a supine accessory and conspirator against our freedoms, liberties, wellbeing and progress.

An unquestioned authority

For instance, we in England have been in some sort of lockdown since January, the easing of the restrictions with a roadmap announced in February appears to suggest many of these restrictions will remain in place until June. The House of Commons literally gave unchallenged fiat to the executive to act with very little accountability for their actions, all on the premise that we are dealing with the pandemic and it is for our safety.

Then last week, a lady returning home from visiting friends was abducted and murdered, only to find that an elite member of the police was implicated in this dastardly crime. It begs the question if we are endangered by the police force that is supposed to protect us, we are by terms endangered and our trust in institutions will be sorely diminished.

A crumbling democracy

On this matter, the inalienable right to protest at this situation is a fundamental part of our democratic system. Yet, with the pandemic restrictions on gathering in public places, the people who have felt so strongly about the matter have in an act of civil disobedience go out to protest and have clashed with the police, so being arrested and fined.

Whilst indeed the police must enforce COVID restriction laws, to have that in conflict with and superseding the right to protest is inexcusable. That the protesters could have find an accommodation with the police where they could safely protest and have police protection is not only unfortunate, we might as well be the Democratic People’s Republic of England.

I fear, there is going to be a breakdown in law and order, the government can only push our backs onto the wall before the people decide, enough is enough and the tinder of insurrection is lit to inflame the country into an ungovernable mess. If there any wise heads in government or thereabouts, I hope their voices are heard and acted on. There may be trouble ahead.