Thursday, 29 April 2021

Almost a stranger seeing some danger

A man in a park

How the familiar can easily rob you of the peculiar is sometimes the spectacle of living in Manchester and watching the interplay of people, property, and services. My local Sainsbury had closed when I got up from my nap and I needed to get some essentials leaving the shop at the Manchester Piccadilly Station the closest that is open until midnight.

Donning my walking gear as I was just a two-score steps short of my daily 10,000 step threshold, having aborted my walk, earlier because it had begun to rain and I was not wearing suitable apparel. Out by the Vimto monument in Vimto Park, a police car was parked on the kerb and I spotted two policemen apparently chatting to a man sitting on the bench.

A man on a limb

Maybe to eliminate the strange and wary, one of the policemen called out a greeting to be me as I passed, and he waved as I acknowledged him. Minding my own business I trotted down the rather quietly deserted road that has a few student hostel blocks until I got to the main road and crossed it into the station.

Up the escalator and via the one-way system in a station that was for years familiar and now remote as to be changed into the unknown. I have not boarded a train there since the first week of December 2019, I got to Sainsbury’s and picked up a shopping basket. A couple of bananas and then an altercation between a member of staff and a customer, whether it was a power trip or something else, the customer was being thrown out and the guards were ready to manhandle him. Some things he said were borderline unprintable.

A man to be cuffed

I continued with my shopping, some milk, tea, and sparkling water, using the self-service till I walked out seeing a man grab about 10 shopping bags that go for 10 pence each, that would be stealing or shoplifting, to put it mildly. I must have missed where he went because as I reached the bottom of the first escalator, I could have sworn those bags were a pile of litter caught in the teeth of the moving steps of the escalator.

On to the main road and back on the route I plied on my way out not expecting to see the policemen I saw earlier, there was a police van parked in front of the police car and 4 men in uniform apparently trying to get a hold of someone lying on that same bench, like he did not want to be taken away. 

I doubt the person had a medical issue, else the van should have been an ambulance. As to why the policemen were there in the first place, considering the road is private with a lifting bar gate, one can only surmise someone alerted them to the presence of a strange man in Vimto Park.

Lighting up the next Pfizer

For the second Pfizer

9 weeks and a day ago, I got my first jab of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and the expected timeframe for my second shot was to be within 12 weeks. In the last few weeks, I have clicked on the old link that suggested I wait for notification from my GP and another booking website I was given by a friend indicated I could not use the service.

Yesterday evening, I received an SMS Text Message from my GP asking that I register for my second shot. There were 7 vaccination centres listed but only one of them with available slots. My GP surgery not there for the taking. I will be returning to the centre when I got my first vaccine, one of the two listed then, but the only one with a slot to book.

The promise of great times

The earliest I could get was next Thursday with three time slots and I chose the one after working hours. The hope is once I get my second jab, I will be fully vaccinated, though there is a possibility I might need a booster shot in the autumn.

We have Katalin Karik├│, the Hungarian-born biochemist to thank for her 4 decades-long research on RNA mediated mechanisms on which the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are based. The activity has been long-running and the application at this time is the culmination of amazing skill and expertise. I would hope she will be the consideration for a Nobel Prize in one of the sciences.

Reference

COVID-19 Vaccines

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

The vials of good news

Far along after the bloods

Long before we were caught in the throes of this pandemic and at a time when there was more freedom than we had stuff to do with it, at least a fortnight before each of my biannual medical check-ups, I would visit the phlebotomist to have blood taken in anticipation of discussing the results when I meet up with my consultant.

However, I cannot remember when I last did that, and the last three consultations have been by telephone conference with the inconvenient situation of reviewing the results of 6 months before. When I had a call over 2 weeks ago, I asked the nurse if she could provide me with an update once the results were ready and she kindly acquiesced to the request, even noting it in the update she sent to my General Practitioner (GP) and I.

Knowing it soon after the bloods

I find it strange that I have never met my GP who probably knows just about enough about me from the letters she gets if she reads them, or she just files them for reference when needed. My consultant however allows for a full flowing conversation about everything health, life, and much else.

The mail arrived in my post-box at the weekend, my CD4 count was at the highest it had ever been, I do not think I had that number at diagnosis almost 19 years ago. The other matters in the blood looked good too, and the cholesterol levels were improving, though I need to give it more attention. In general, I was given a rather clean bill of health and the likelihood that my next appointment in October would be face-to-face with my consultant. The times, they change.

Alas! The Patron Saint of Perfidious Albion

The saint of faraway

Friday, the 23rd of April was Saint George’s Day, St George is the patron saint of Bulgaria, England, Georgia, Portugal, C├íceres, Alcoy, Aragon and Catalonia. Now, St George never visited England, he was born in what is modern-day Turkey and died modern-day Israel. However, his fame and legend spread wide along with the myths and mythologies of slaying dragons. [English Heritage: Saint George]

At church on Sunday, it being the 4th Sunday of Easter we also celebrated the feast of St George and it was quite a very English-themed service in the Church of England, one I cannot recall ever experiencing before. It did not dawn on me when the first hymn included the line, ‘O help us, Helper of Saint George’ that we were at a feast. [Hymnal 162: Lord God of Hosts, within whose hand]

The setting for circumstance

The sermon did make some references to St George, but I also noticed that we did not have the sole cantor at the front of the congregation, but the choir was in the quire and the organist was playing the main pipe organ rather than the grand piano set to the right of the altar facing us.

However, after the Communion, we were full jingoistic and nationalistic when the choir went full throttle with Jerusalem, not that we were at the Last Night of the Proms, and until I saw the words in the pamphlet, I really had no idea what it was all about, yet this is the unofficial anthem of England. And where Jerusalem is mentioned in what was originally a poem by William Blake before it was put to song is in the third line of the 2 and 4 verse, though as a hymn we are presented with 2 long verses. [Wikipedia: And did those feet in ancient time]

Jerusalem, we await thee

And how I would have loved to sing the lines, ‘And was Jerusalem builded here, among these dark satanic mills?’ Which in the time of William Blake (1757 – 1827) lived and wrote the poem in 1804 would have been a picture of Industrial Revolution England and the flourishing hope of the final lines, ‘till we have built Jerusalem, in England's green and pleasant land.’ Which today still remains a prayer yet unfulfilled even with the promise of the sunlit uplands of Brexit. [Hymnal 488: And did those feet in ancient time]

And so, the Sung Eucharist ended with some British pride as we rose to the National Anthem, again, only sung by the choir and probably one republican who remained seated in probably a demonstration of defiance to the Queen who clocked 95 2 days before. The only thing I probably did not notice at all was the flag of Saint George. I might have forgotten to write this, then it occurred to me, it was an important and symbolic celebration. I sure have been more aware of its significance.

Notes:

"Perfidious Albion" is a pejorative phrase used within the context of international relations diplomacy to refer to acts of diplomatic sleights, duplicity, treachery and hence infidelity (with respect to perceived promises made to or alliances formed with other nation states) by monarchs or governments of the United Kingdom (or England prior to 1707) in their pursuit of self-interest. [Wikipedia] I can assure you, it remains true today if you consider the leaders we have.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXX

Closer with the jab

My Manchester is as much a strange place as it is familiar, I still take my walks through the usual routes and at times veer off down a side road to discover something I did not know about my city. Buildings of rare or unusual architecture that one would never have thought was down a particular lane, a canal ending like a cul-de-sac the wall perched high up your imagination wonder what a mishap might portend, but we feel safe.

Down by the Sikh gurdwara, there was an assemblage of people and some donning high-visibility vest but strangely not of the typically Sikh ethnicity. For the Saturday, it had been turned into a vaccination centre, the need to get the apparently vaccination-averse ethnic minorities into the Covid-19 vaccine programme is moving into their community spaces. I hope the uptake is welcomed and the sceptical are being won over.

New friends in the park

Then I finally got to have a proper conversation with the lady and her companion who feed the birds in the park every morning when I am out for my walk. As usual, the greetings and the weather starts the proceedings before we put in our complaints about people who care little for the park leaving their litter all about the place.

We then move to the nicer things of life, nature; the new ducklings so recently hatched, the rare kingfishers that have not been seen for a while, the wild around the park that allowed otters to thrive and deer to graze into urban spaces, then the occasional terror that becomes of the usually idle and placid River Irwell.

Many personalities of River Irwell

Whilst I am fascinated by the ebb and swell of the river watching the levels on a website, where they live, they are threatened by floods, to my fascination, they have concern and sometimes dread. Her companion who I assumed was her husband is a family friend, her husband is busier now with the church nearby as they learnt that I am already 5 kilometres into my walk when we meet in the park. [Flood Information Service: River Irwell]

My ears attuned to her broad Lancastrian accent that I got used to when I holidayed with a family in Lancaster, we introduced ourselves by name and bid each other a good rest of the weekend. Indeed, I do miss the joy of conversation with strangers.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Computers are not infallible, that is a fact

The choices I have made

I sometimes hope that in my professional capacity, I have done my best to help users and customers experience the best service and utility of information technology services and products I design or manage, there is a sense of professional pride in what I do.

Then, there are choices I would make about who to work for, where I want to work, and when it appears, I am contributing nothing useful to the situation, I do not wait around too long before I move on. I seek to improve systems where possible, where unappreciated, it is unnecessary to suffer ignominy, when opportunities abound elsewhere.

I could not see myself working for Shell, the oil company in the 1990s as it was embroiled in activities inimical to Nigeria despite being offered lucrative contracts, instead, I found myself pioneering activities at British Petroleum instead. I can think of many other things and companies where I worked too.

In the system that concerned

Recently, I was working for a professional services company which had me posted to help manage Post Office infrastructure. I was aware of a long-running issue with computer errors that left postmasters and sub-postmasters being accused, prosecuted, and sent to jail for fraud. However, I was unaware of how serious the issue was until I listened to BBC podcast The Great Post Office Trial.

Little did I know what a travesty and injustice the whole situation was, I was sickened by it all. To now learn that all the people charged have had their names cleared is gratifying, but it cannot compensate for how they were treated and the suffering they endured. [BBC News: Convicted Post Office workers have names cleared]

Leadership in the hock

Reverend Paula Vennells was the CEO of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, when they pursued their staff so aggressively using the weight of the establishment over hapless postmasters and sub-postmasters to persecute, prosecute, and destroy literally blameless people who were told their individual instances of fraud and false accounting were unique and that nothing was wrong with the Post Office computer system known as Horizon. [The Guardian: Post Office’s aggressive pursuit of staff casts shadow over ex-boss’s tenure]

Even as the Post Office became aware of issues with Horizon, the establishment stood their ground about the infallibility of the computer system and used the preponderance of the premise to take people down. The CEO unflinching and unquestioning of the situation with the view to protect the image and the brand of the Post Office admitting no liability or fault.

It took the concerted efforts of postmasters and sub-postmasters banding together, a journalist who kept on and the case, and finding support from members of Parliament and then the courts before the Post Office side of things began to unravel. The Post Office only beginning to settle more broadly with them when the Reverend had moved on to another bigger role in government and the NHS along with bagging a CBE for services to the Post Office and charity.

Accountability must matter

The scathing and excoriating opinions of the courts and the MPs involved made her positions having moved on from the Post Office untenable that she has had to give up some of the high-profile positions. I do not think this would be the end of the story as justice has not been duly served and compensation for loss of too much has not been adequate. The need for a more thorough accountability is more than essential.

Then I think about the months I worked within a team to improve the Post Office services on the Horizon counters, times I visited locations to chat to postmasters about their experiences, the usability, and the testing of improved and enhanced products, by which time many of the issues had apparently been dealt with and I hope I did not give cover to error-prone situations that criminalised people who should have received more support than they were accorded. I even worked on improving the bar scanning system.

Some lessons to learn

In our little positions we tried to make things better, but if there is any lesson to learnt from this, it is that organisations should act truthfully and with integrity, that leaders should be more questioning and interested in the systems within their organisations where lives can be upturned, that they should not just listen to their reports afraid of admitting mistakes in their implementations, that computers are not infallible, that maintaining a brand at the expense of people will eventually destroy everyone involved and that this whole debacle was a disgusting disgrace.

I cannot have done this matter any justice; I am just distressed that I was remotely within a setup that impacted lives without any humanity. My sense of British fair play has been shaken to the core. Your listening to the BBC podcast The Great Post Office Trial will give a good idea of what went down. Prepare to be shocked.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Blogging something out of nothing

The process of nothing

Then a day comes, it is almost over and of all the events that happened in the day you wonder how there cannot be something to write about. Maybe there is something to write about and since I just woke up to take my pills, I am a bit slow on the uptake and tired in the head, as if that has ever stopped me, Brian will have you believe differently.

Yet, with everything coursing through my mind like neurons in riotous tumult, a few things looked plausible for a late blog and then it all seemed like hard work which for this time of the day can best be done without. Now, you might call it writer’s block, it could fall in the spectrum of that nebulous term, but it is closer to fatigue than the absence of material.

This is probably something I am beginning to perfect, the art of having nothing at all to write about and in writing about the dearth of things to share, I have just enough paragraphs to pass for another blog, and the deed is done. We can conclude that a blog is just as difficult to write as it is easy, even the process alone is blogging, and so, there we have it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXIX

It is cool outside

Even as the temperature is failing to rise in the last few days of spring as we move into summer, Mancunians are making the best of the eased lockdown. I have avoided the crowds, but they cannot be escaped, all outside, alfresco dining in the evening with heating or blankets to keep the patrons warm.

The coolness means not many are sitting on the grass though the litter they leave behind is evident everywhere you go. The annoying thing is the selfish and antisocial dog owners who do not clean up after their pets after the footpaths or pavements have been fouled.

No trampling by tram

On my home straight this evening just after I passed the Victoria Station to my right, I noticed one of the public trams leaving Exchange Square for the station was not moving at the speed one would expect. A man who appeared to be walking on the other side was in fact in front of the tram, holding it up.

Normally, the tram driver would sound a warning to pedestrians in their path, but this was a different kind of trouble who first sauntered in front of the tram, then lay on the tram tracks before doing sit-ups and taunting the driver to call the police to take him away.

We all have crazy

Fascinating as it seemed that I stopped to take some pictures, one could not say if this was a death wish, a mental health scenario, or a desperate cry for help. It was not long before I saw a police van travelling on the tram tracks to the location and you can only wonder what became of the man. It might well make the news.

Man lying down on the tram tracks

Man doing sit-ups in front of a tram on its tracks

Maybe, sometimes we just need that license to be crazy and constitute both a nuisance and inconvenience to others as a test of what we might be capable of. Then the other part of the story we may never know of is what the consequence of that moment of madness has wrought. Then, in the scheme of things, Manchester is coming back to life with all its idiosyncrasies. Our streets, our treats.   

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

The selfless and vicarious LGBT activism of Uche Maduagwu

Act 1 Seen Enough

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

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

Instagram post of Uche Maduagwu
This is our lives

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

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

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

Monday, 19 April 2021

The eyes have it all

Life returns to Manchester

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

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

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

Fast-tracked on choice

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

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

Seeing everything anew

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

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

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Unfinished musings of incomplete thoughts

Missive arrive

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

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Essential Snobbery 101: Mistakenly conferring pedigree on strays

Social media hit-and-runs

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

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

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

Friday, 16 April 2021

Thought Picnic: Not to be taken for granted

Good custom brings returns

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

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

A sweet story told

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

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

Thursday, 15 April 2021

The malign state of cultural programming

The random in Uber rides

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

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

Patriarchy is the default

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

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

Moving on to other things

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

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

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

Coming up for air

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

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

It seems good from the results

Discussions and arrangements

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

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

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

All that blood

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

It's walking and I'm fine - IX

Putting my back in it

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

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

Unnecessary stress, it seems

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXVIII

Life in the city

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

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

Lights, chairs and tables

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

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

Gems make affordable

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

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

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

Monday, 12 April 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXVII

They are out already

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

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

Trim out of the gym

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

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

Keeping it sensible

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

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

Sunday, 11 April 2021

We are experts in our prejudices

Weeds in the garden of the mind

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

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

Arrogance is disabling

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

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

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

We are prejudice experts

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

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

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

The open mind like parachutes

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

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

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

Open all windows to light and air

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

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

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

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Dreamscape: A test I have to pass

Playing truant for reason

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

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

In life and in dreams

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

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

Found wanting for testing

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

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

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

Between reality and dreams

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

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

Friday, 9 April 2021

In the life of HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh

An amazingly long life

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

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

Of support and companionship

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

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

No mourning but celebration

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

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

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Back to some discipline

Out to walk at dawn

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

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

Pace to the familiar

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

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

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

City living in the deception of the genteel

Things I should have noticed

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

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

Respectable is good cover

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

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

Curiosity is necessary

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

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

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Dreamscape: Parasomnia to the rescue

A low form of sleep

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

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

Into dreamhood

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

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

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

Acting out the dream

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

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

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

Figures in the numbers

Numbers in my eyes

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

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

Puzzled by numbers

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

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