Monday 31 May 2021

Don't walk away from it

From a distance

One is hardly one to cut the sight of a knight in shining armour muscles hardly show nor to biceps present like Popeye after a can of spinach. My walk was much later than usual as I vegetated through the day indoors not bothering to take in the sun of the Bank Holiday Monday.

The lady was walking down a side road in a housing estate where one would expect her to be safe, but some male occupants of a car appeared to be harassing her. She was no shrinking Violet as she remonstrated loudly and refused to be cowed, that alone caught my attention that I stopped to see what was going on.

Check if unsure

The car then appeared to drive onto the pavement where she was that I decided to walk up towards the situation as the driver drove up to the junction as if to turn onto the main road, but then reversed as if they had not had their fill of intimidating the lady. This time, she threw something at them as I called out to see if she was alright.

Noticing me, she said I should take the registration of the car, in the heat of the moment when I should have taken a picture, I was not near enough and could only take a few alphanumerical characters before the car sped off. Obviously, not to distress her any more than she was, I from that distance, I checked that she was alright, to which she answered in the affirmative and I returned to my walk. I hope the men just go home rather than cause trouble for anyone else. 

Sunday 30 May 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXXIV

A quite to things

We can agree that I have moved into full Bank Holiday mode not so much by going away, but by allowing myself a longer lie-in, dozing off on the sofa, and rest that some others have at times misconstrued to being up to mischief. I cannot even defend myself enough from such suspicions, it is tiresome and irritation, I reckon it comes with the territory, an overexertion of the imagination or a deficit of trust.

Today being Trinity Sunday, I did expect a busy church and whilst there were many people attending, only one member of the clergy was present, in the position of the president and the preacher at the Sung Eucharist, even the choir was absent. One of the wardens read the lessons in a voice that did not define his age, an adult with a voice at the cusp of cracking.

Some learning helps too

After the service, I first went to read a panel on the history of Salford, an old train station and other developments on the wall below the Cathedral Approach. Then walking up Chapel Street which is partly closed for the many road reconstructions dotted around Manchester and Salford with inconsiderable schedules of work. I will think road users are navigating a maze if they dare visit the centres of these two cities.

Turned left towards the Lowry Hotel, crossing the Trinity Bridge ensconced in a park on the north bank the River Irwell and then right towards Spinningfields where I saw queues of people who appeared to be completely oblivious of pandemic precautions trying to gain entrance to imitation biergartens (German for beer gardens) in the sudden advent of seemingly summery weather.

They are out queuing

The restaurants are full too, though I am concerned about the ‘Check-in to a venue’ facility on the NHS Test and Trace COVID-19 app, because it registers the time of your check-in for the rest of the day and if there is no consideration for when you left a venue, you wonder about how that could affect you if patrons visited a place many hours apart, but on the same day would be distinguished as not implicated except that they are at a venue. Maybe the link would be the staff at the venue being vectors and that gets quite concerning.

Patrons might be asked to isolate whilst the staff continue as if they interacted with no one. I am not sure that setup is as foolproof as one is made to believe. In my view, I will still give public places a wide berth and take the preference of alfresco dining over sitting indoors. People are trying to regain a sense of normalcy, any new lockdowns regardless of the penalties for breaches might invite a public insurrection.

Saturday 29 May 2021

The fellowship of eyebrows

Eyebrows in the spotlight

My beau is always ready to run a clipper through his hair long before it has grown, however, anytime his scalp is shorn something else comes to prominence, his eyebrows. Quite a few names come to mind when I think of eyebrows. Alistair Darling whose coiffed highlights are boldly contrasted to his darkened eyebrows.

Then we have the megalomaniac, Robert Maxwell whose storied life is one of notoriety and ignominy that appears to have congenitally afflicted his daughter Ghislaine who languishes under the US justice system for her association with Jeffrey Epstein, the alleged sex abuser and trafficker. He boasted a distinct set of brushers.

All the face lights up

However, it is Denis Healey that takes the prize with decorative relish that would put an owl to shame. They arc upwards like horns; they cannot be unseen.

Now, Brian would not appear to be in the league of the Fellows of the Exaggerated Eyebrow Confraternity, but in the videos we exchange in the mornings, his choreographic prowess is demonstrated in his dancing eyebrows, as his fully expressive face exudes a light of happiness and the joy of smiles from the jawline including the eyes. Always a beauty to watch and for which I might again be told off to await punishment just for writing about this.

Feeding treasure not at the trove

Ancoats to the belly

Courage, it was, and not of the Dutch variety, at least not that early in the morning and I would never trade my sobriety for the daring to do anything, that I had planned to have breakfast at Trove in the old industrial estate of Ancoats, Manchester, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution is a gentrified area of old mills converted to modern residences.

That itself is interesting because in reading up about the recently deceased Max Mosley, I discovered his father’s knighthood was a baronetcy, a hereditary knighthood, the Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet Ancoats and notoriously a fascist leader in the 1930s, of father and son, there is much to be said, but I digress.

Riding on a mule

Arriving at Trove that I last visited in July last year, a waitress enthusiastically sought a table for me before a nonchalant manager interjected and said all the tables were reserved. Whilst he could have offered to take a reservation for later, his off-putting attitude left one feeling another visit to the place will not be considered again.

Staying within Ancoats, I found another place called Mule, where as I ordered I had to pay, leaving no room for tipping for a service well delivered. Strangely, I was forced to obtain cash from a till in Leicester because one of the shops we went to did not have any electronic payment systems. I have not handled cash in quite a while, even church offerings are done contactless.

Tasty with colour

Mule might well be an inspired name, the meaning in English would not suggest that, but that would be to overthink the provenance. The menu was as exotic as it was politically correct with pescatarian and vegetarian fare, I humoured myself looking for something Pastafarian or if I had hair, Rastafarian. Do not laugh.

I ordered the chorizo hash since I needed some meat, that option was not qualified, and it had everything. Chorizo, potatoes, poached egg, and spinach – it had a Mediterranean colour and flavour suited to my palate. I enjoyed it. For drinks; Earl Grey tea, at table three, outside.

Friday 28 May 2021

Sitting here in limbo

A right old mess

I guess the song that might become an earworm without even having played it back or heard it in decades is Sitting In Limbo from Jimmy Cliff’s Another Cycle album released in 1971. It catches the zeitgeist like no other situation that might evince today.

In the strangest matter of coincidence with the dead hand of bureaucracy, a contract renewal is anything but, the spirit of the environment is willing, but the letter of the situation is an interminable chain of decisions, committees, assessments, and conclusions. Each a variable of unquantifiable measurement in days or requirements that the result might well not be bet on.

Nobody knows the plot

That is how, as this engagement ends with the prospect of our return, though we cannot say for how long, when for or whether at all the farewells should be said or deferred. Sitting here in limbo of events completely outside our control because needs must in the hands of those who see process rather than people and the extended effects on their lives, livelihoods, and humanity, we have become birds without songs.

Yet, we must not despair, for even in the midst and quagmire of uncertainty, limbo is a place of transition, as the music is on repeat playback in my head, these words, “Well, they're putting up a resistance, But I know that my faith will lead me on.”

Thursday 27 May 2021

Coronavirus streets in London & Manchester - XXXIII

Ladies, of the night

We can somewhat agree that England is opening up and the lockdown eases. In London over the last weekend, on one of my long walks, at Camden was a bevy of raucous females exhibiting everything but ladylike behaviour, outside the public house, unsteady on their high heeled shoes, clothes hardly protecting their modesty, screaming at the top of their lungs. It was scary.

Yet, it was a sign of the return to a sort of normalcy you would have thought our year-long sequestration might have ameliorated. How wrong I was. On Sunday, the Starbucks café was busy, with people sat at tables sipping their coffee and working on their laptops. That one of them ignored the sign on the table meant to allow for social distancing was unnerving, but I got my café grande latte and stepped out to have my drink.

Sitting about in restaurants

When my friend arrived to meet me just outside Vauxhall Railway Station, we walked up the Albert Embankment promenade by the River Thames as far as the London Eye Ferris wheel before we had to get a cab to the restaurant we planned to go to, where we both had to register using QR Codes and were shown to a table we chose distant from others for most of the time we were there. It was busy.

Back at home, to the right across the road, a coffee shop had closed permanently. So, I was pleased to see the Central American restaurant across the road to the left with its doors open and probably patrons sitting inside having a meal. All this still comes with caveats, the Indian variant strain is gaining prominence, the final easing of the lockdown in June is looking at best tentative.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

The UK: Cummings reveals the goings on

The comings and goings

Much as one cannot place much on the credibility of Dominic Cummings, the erstwhile aide and special adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his appearance before two committees in the House of Commons, earlier today was almost compelling viewing. [BBC News: Dominic Cummings: Thousands died needlessly after Covid mistakes]

Dominic Cummings had a front-row seat and presumably the ear of the Prime Minister, it was at the behest of the Prime Minister that the Cabinet expended all their goodwill and acquiescence to the first lockdown after Mr Cummings’ unfortunate lockdown-busting trip to Durham and eye testing gallivant to Barnard Castle, last May.

They let death run free

Yet, I was unconcerned about the minutiae of that incident and rather more interested in the workings of the government as the pandemic took hold, the scandals of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), the seeding of care homes with untested geriatrics released from hospital caring the plague to the most vulnerable, the test and trace debacle, and the hold off the second lockdown, altogether leading to a totally needless, preventable, and the unimaginably high death toll in the UK that still exceeds any other in Europe.

Time and again, Dominic Cummings revealed incompetence, ineptitude, lassitude, inertia, indecision, indifference, apathy, bloody-mindedness, and carelessness in the corridors of power as death, sorrow, loss, grief, tragedy, and unmitigated suffering swept through the land. A full public inquiry cannot come soon enough to question what happened, who was responsible and who should be held accountable.

We are ready for inquiry

Like I have said before, the success of the vaccination rollout cannot compensate for the failings of the past. We need to know what went wrong, what lessons can be learnt, and most pertinently, how never to let this ever happen again.

The analyses of the Dominic Cummings outing are many, I think there would be some really good questions demanding answers rather than rhetoric, obfuscation, and evasion, even so, from the mouth of Boris Johnson who should not be given the latitude to wriggle, bluff, and bluster his way through intense questioning. Let the bells toll, for they have begun to toll for those who history will not judge kindly.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

It's walking and it's working - XI

Measuring up to averages

To an extent, I have walked myself ragged, for, in the last 4 days, I have walked 85,603 steps, but that is not the landmark, I can still feel it in my body. I only really got back to walking properly on the 8th of April, before that, I had only walked to reach or exceed the 10,000 steps daily for 31 days out of a total of 97 days in the year to that time.

Average for the year was low, and though I thought I might make it for the 5 months of walking last year, I fell short by over half a million steps to bring my average to 9,328 steps for the year. It was already the end of April before I caught up to the average for last year, though, if I had walked every day, I might have breached the 10,000-step average for the year.

It was yesterday on Day 144 of the year that I finally got there, with an average of 10,007 steps for the year 2021, but once we got to Day 145, I was short again. My intention is to keep the daily average for the year above 10,000 steps and have something in reserve. My walk today has given me a day in hand, as my total for the year is now at 1,460,470 steps.

Marketing defines the step rule

In truth, a Harvard Medical School research suggested women only have to make 4,400 steps a day t significantly lower the risk of death. There does not seem to be any significant benefit on the risk of death after 7,500 steps a day. So, you ask, where did the 10,000-step threshold come from? It came from the tradename of a pedometer sold by Yamasa Clock of Japan in 1965 called the Manpo-kei translating to '10,000 steps meter'. [The Conversation: Do we really need to walk 10,000 steps a day?]

There was no solid evidence for this recommendation, but it took hold and that became the de facto standard for walking fitness that subsequent and modern pedometers adopted. There is no doubt that exercise is good for fitness and health. I have seen evidence of it in feeling strong and able, losing weight, and the opportunity to explore nature clearing my mind of all the clutter of the day.

Whilst I do need to walk harder and work harder to reaching what one might consider the ideal weight when my electronic scale appears to suggest I am first overweight because of the BMI (Body Mass Index) measurement. For a system developed in the 1830s, the case is being made for discarding the measurement as an indicator of health and fitness. It is a crude and blunt measurement that it is suggested there is more benefit in measuring your waist. [Business Insider: BMI is bogus]

Monday 24 May 2021

Thought Picnic: Understanding my greater good

Fencing around the greater good

In a conversation on the train on Saturday, my friend related a story to me about a man relating his commitment to the greater good, to which is wife retorted, “I am your greater good.” In context, one needs to reflect on what occupies the mind and the activities that direct from such.

I have my concerns about family, obligations are many, demands are consequent, responsibilities are mount that you wonder about how much more of that burden you can carry before the strain begins to tell. I find I am trying to banish the thoughts, but I worry at times, even though I know that worry would nothing to address the issues.

Seeing yourself in the plan

My friend noticed that in setting out a number of things I had hoped to do, I wanted to have that conversation because there were things I could not immediately see a resolution of, she opined that in everything I had said, none pertained to me, my wellbeing, my comfort, or my happiness, it was about other people who might or might not be appreciative of whatever I am doing.

It does bother me that I used an analogy yesterday of the fact that when a car cannot start, you give it a push to kickstart it, you do not push it all the way. There is an extent to which pushing might help the car start after which you have to call in the mechanic and if that does not resolve the issue, the cost of comprehensive repairs to the possible replacement of the vehicle begins to loom.

Understanding my greater good

The same applies to people, you want to help them, give them that support to get them going. Encouragement, advice, teaching, mentoring, and guidance. The need not to have to order about or instruct too forcefully, that half a word that seeds sentences and prose when heard and heed to. You should not have to think for them and eventually, they should move on from being both your responsibility and your problem to standing comfortably on their own two feet and running their own race with excellence.

It is not happening in some of the engagements, and I am at a point of disengagement because I need to gather up and begin to do things for myself, my life, and my sense of wellbeing. I need to understand my greater good. That greater good is Brian, that is the priority, the future, and the project. All other investments not appearing to take are on the path to divestment, you can only push a car to start for so long.

Unlocking the rails of travel

Travel in this day

The weekend past presented the first time I had travelled out of Manchester by train since December 2019, considering a friend had once said the places I visited the most in Manchester were the train station and the airport. I was always on my way out, though the year of lockdowns meant one was forced to explore and discover Manchester itself.

We donned our masks, socially distanced and we boarded the train and took up our outrageously priced reserved seats. The announcement throughout the journey to London suggested we were going to arrive late because of a fault on the line. We did arrive over an hour later and that meant we were entitled to a full refund for that leg of the journey.

In the look of things

Though as I have said before when I pay for a service, I would rather have the service than be compensated for the loss of it. The advent of Great British Railways in the grandiloquence of its name which is redolent of the symbolism that the government attaches itself to without effectiveness would leave much to be desired. We might even get it interesting if Michael Portillo who hosts an eponymous programme on the BBC was asked to head the new company.

The hotel I last visited sometime in 2018 had a welcoming concierge and reception, my room had been upgraded ere my arrival. The view from the 9th floor was a spectacle of the ancient and the modern of the means of transportation with the River Thames to my right and the railway tracks to the left, whilst across me were luxurious apartments probably bought with foreign money that has upended the London property market.

The River Thames to the right.

The railway lines to the left.
To Leicester we went

My plan to meet friends and the first opportunity to hug someone was as therapeutic as it was rewarding. Out to Leicester on Saturday morning, we found that the Fortnum & Mason café at St. Pancras International Station was not open even though I had called their customer services line to determine if it was. A family bereavement meant we could not meet with who we were expected to see in Leicester.

In trying to occupy ourselves, we made for the Leicester Richard III Visitor Centre which was closed that we were left with visiting the Leicester Cathedral which had a Gaia exhibition on that we were supposed to have registered and paid for, but the ushers made allowances for us to contemplate in a chapel before we looked around the exhibition and the cathedral and returned to the station for our journey back to London.

On returning to London, we shopped for teas at Fortnum & Mason before I walked back to my hotel on the Albert Embankment, probably in the wrong shoes and it took the best part of 2 hours.

Lest we forget

For Sunday, I had planned to meet my best friend of 37 years. We met up at Vauxhall station and walked up the Albert Embankment and just before the National Festival Hall, it began to rain. The wall of the St. Thomas’ Hospital facing the River Thames was a poignant memorial for the COVID-19 victims, red hearts painted for as far as the eye could see with names and inscriptions. This is what we must never forget.

The National COVID Memorial Wall

The National COVID Memorial Wall

The National COVID Memorial Wall

We took a cab to Vapiano on the Bankside had a meal before walking up the promenade from Tate Modern to pick up my luggage from my hotel and then began my journey back home which was not as peaceful as it could be as a lady literally spent the whole time on the phone. I got home just before 11:00 PM and that was the weekend done. Another friend had visited my apartment and cleaned it up in my absence, gladness and bliss. Life is good.  

Friday 21 May 2021

You can't just walk away

Their lives matter too

I might have come across as uncompromising and harsh in my last blog regarding the man who finally accepted the truth of his sexuality conflict, however, to the detriment of other lives, the lives of his wife and two daughters sacrificed to his perfidy.

Blog: On men I cannot respect

I am implacable on the matter; you cannot just walk away as if you have extracted valuables from detritus and so keep the spoils like a rogue miner who panned a nugget of gold and left the mine to completely forget the life before the find.

Looking for an outlet

By coincidence, I came upon a story on the response of an agony aunt to a man similarly married for 25 years who had been cheating on his wife and had previously formed 2 gay relationship unbeknownst to her. He ruefully admits he might have messed up his wife, then attempts an exculpatory angle of suggesting he had always provided for her and they had 2 children together. Bunkum! [Oregon Live: Dear Abby: Gay man’s first step out of the closet should be to tell his wife of 25+ years] [The Advocate: Dear Abby's Vicious Reply to Closeted Man Cheating on Wife of 25 Years]

Reading it, I was left wondering if it was not the one and the same man, between the story I wrote about and the pretensions to residing the United States, writing to the agony aunt. Who knows? The similarities are uncanny, the publication in the magazine probably lagging the reality of events but let us not dwell on speculations.

Face up to the consequences

To the agony aunt, he wondered if it was worth coming out at this time of his life, the corollary being he wanted to continue living a double life and cheating on his wife. A convenient situation for him where he did not have to face the truth. It is a depth of cowardice that it breath-taking in its audacity though writing to the agony aunt might suggest there was a pang of conscience somewhere in his being.

In my view, Abby’s response was not vicious at all, it was straight talking truth, she saw through his chicanery; he was looking for a new gay relationship and once he had it, he would move on unperturbed. Not so fast, she interjected. Tell your wife and once she knows, her life would have to take on a trajectory after you that can be quite consequential in the realisation of the betrayal to which she had lost 25 years of her life. The gravity of that alone might well require professional help.

And again, I cannot excuse the fact that a person knowing their sexuality would then take marital vows of deception to cover for their internal conflict, hoping that satisfying the demands of society might just be curative of an innate state of being. Much I am supposed to have some affinity with the man, my humanity is endeared to those lie to, betrayed, left behind, and hurt.

It is quite consequential

Whether the marriage continues or ends amicably or in acrimony, nothing can fully compensate for the fact that when the spouse to the vows that included, ‘Till death do us part’, and indeed, not all marriages work out, to think what would put it asunder is the heretofore unrevealed sexuality of the person they married might be a shock very few hearts can endure without lasting damage. In the last story, the wife and daughters were nasty to ex-husband and father, I do not blame them.

Without equivocation, I say again, if you have sexuality conflict, regardless of societal pressures and whatever else might inspire you to live a lie, by deceptively involving someone else to cover for your apparent inability to face up to your personal truth. Just don’t do it.

I have written a few blogs on these issues before and they are referenced below:

Blog: To perceptive and accepting parents

Blog: Kenny Badmus: Thank you for coming out wonderfully

Blog: Opinion: Now, a thought for Kenny Badmus' wife

Blog: Opinion: Regardless of our sexuality, our past and future is our whole story

Blog: Thought Picnic: On the price of a marriage contracted to make you straight

Wednesday 19 May 2021

On men I cannot respect

He came out

He had a story, in the words that read, “I got divorced last week, after a 25-year marriage to a woman and came out. Huge cloud lifted.” To which I would always have more than a consideration for other parties involved. There is quite a chunk of life in 25 years, I could only hope that the finality of that union was understanding and amicable.

Sadly, in his response, it was not, his ex-wife and two adult daughters had been nasty to him. Who can blame them? Now, I have some sympathy for people who struggle with their sexuality in constructs of community and society where they might suffer rejection, ostracism, persecution, embarrassment, or shame.

He conned her

On the issues where external factors can make one’s life unbearable, there might be some concern for the life and wellbeing of that person. However, when you know your situation is complicated you do not use the life of another to make adjustments without acquainting them fully with the dilemma you are in. In my view, consent is material, understanding must be there, and agreement must be secured for a mutually beneficial arrangement, especially when marriage is involved.

To secret your sexuality and rob your spouse of the truth of your identity, then along with your offspring deign to live a lie is at best reprehensible. And, eventually, you might come to live in the truth of who you are with a huge cloud of self-denial lifted off your life, but you will have betrayed and damaged other lives in the process.

He did wrong

Now, everyone has to live their own lives and maybe the passage of event and time will allow other parties to gain the benefit of a huge cloud lifted off their own lives, but to except acquiescence and acceptance just because you now feel good even after they have been left in palpable shock is naïve, selfish and nigh on unforgivable. Whether any healing will come to them, one cannot say.

My thoughts cannot be too respectful of the man where the woman and the children have been poorly regarded and the man is out there living his wildest dreams. If you have sexuality conflict in your life, do not under any circumstances without consent and full agreement contract a marriage of deception to ameliorate or hopefully convert your sexual attraction because, it will not go away, the burden will continue to stress you until you break and break many lives too. Just don’t do it!

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXXII

Doors flung open

Manchester is apparently open for business in a way, walking past restaurants that had closed since last year they had chairs and tables out for alfresco dining, but few of them were occupied as people chose to sit inside the restaurants instead.

By observation, probably those who need to smoke were sitting outside even though one could begin to feel the chill of the evening. The sun was out and out in the parks were children at play and adults in exercise groups with others jogging, there was a jolly feel to things.

Guests in town

The hotels also seemed to have come to life, like people could not wait to arrive in Manchester, the car parks were full, I would think hotels are up to brisk business, but they would need more custom to begin to recoup their losses due to the pandemic.

As for the larger supermarkets, I checked in on one at almost 9:00 PM as it now closes at 10:00 PM when during the stricter lockdown it had shorter opening hours. I do sense a bit of reticence still, the streets and shopping precincts are not that crowded, we are trying to be responsible by keeping safe still and that is a good thing.

Monday 17 May 2021

Thought Picnic: The unlocking has begun

The way things are

All indicators suggest the untightening of the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions has set people free to begin a sort of return to normalcy, whatever that normalcy might turn out to be.

Personally, I have not been too excited about the development because there is nowhere for me to go yet and I am still trying to understand how I keep safe whilst being able to do the usual things whenever I step out of my building.

I did go out to do some shopping and in the short walk to the supermarket, I did not notice anything different from last week or even the last year, we still wore masks, maintained social distancing, avoided crowding around each other, and overused hand sanitiser at every opportunity provided.

Then for things to be

My plan is to visit London by the weekend and get to see friends I have not seen for almost 18 months, it has been a long time. Hugs, a peck on the cheek, a Belgian kiss of two kisses on the cheek, a Dutch kiss of three on the cheek alternately, or a French kiss – reserved for lovers, making the shaking of hands or still the elbow nudge, we just need to be sensible in whatever we do.

Whether I have been persuaded to visit a restaurant, I do not think I am close to that level of daring-do, how to travel on the trains is something that has been on my mind, then hotel stays; the one I used to visit was not available. Then, so of us have already been on the first flight out to Portugal, which is in the green list of countries.

For obvious reasons, I want to be in Cape Town and I am on the lookout for opportunities that would allow me to work remotely out of Cape Town, it is where my heart is, and hopefully where my new life can begin.

#IDAHOBIT 2021: Together we heal

Reflecting on the day

Quietly, I celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT / IDAHOBIT) which falls on the 17th of May annually. The theme for this year is, “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!” [Wikipedia]

Many of us freedoms and voices, the freedom to be who we are, and the voice to speak out first on who we are and what we represent, then to speak against oppression, injustice, bullying, aggression and all kinds of phobia expressed against sexuality.

Fleshing out the theme

Resisting, as we agitate against the conservative and illiberal forces rolling back our freedoms by feigning the loss of theirs in malevolence and the desire to homogenise communities when our humanity is too diverse to be pigeonholed.

Supporting, ourselves, and with our allies in the fight for human rights, the institutions and establishments that seek to regulate life and livelihood in extreme fundamentalist ways of control, submission, and abuse. We need to be there to ensure we can rise together to be our best selves and be valued and respected members of our respective communities.

Healing, what abuse we have suffered from the denial of our identity, conversion therapy, physical abuse, intemperate and inhuman laws, a biased justice system, and much else. We need to heal, to recuperate, recover, rehabilitate, reconstruct, and rejuvenate ourselves to come into the fulness of life, the joy of living, and even dare the pursuit of happiness for love, comfort, and fulfilment.

Knowing the deal

I wore a purple shirt, the colour of IDAHOBIT, when I sent a video message to Brian, during our conversation after work, he noticed and realised, it is a day to celebrate what we are all about, the freedom to be ourselves.

Blog - #IDAHOBIT 2020: Breaking the silence

Blog - #IDAHOT 2018: Of allies and acceptance

Blog - #IDAHOT2017: The beliefs that harm us

It's walking and I'm balking - X

Lawless on scooters

I guess there are two things that are my bugbears when I go out on my walks, the first that has become both a menace and a nuisance on our streets and especially on our pavements are the electric scooters or e-scooters, that are left strewn about the place abandoned by riders very much in the ilk of car drivers who discard their banana skins out of the windows are part of the problem.

Sadly, the traffic laws have not kept up with the invasion of these vehicles has allowed impunity to reign in their usage. They whizz by at speed completely oblivious of pedestrians who are almost always startled by the event, the riders do not even care to have a view of what they have done, you would think the things have no brakes.

Bad behaviour about

The other day, one just came out of nowhere and passed in front of me, there was hardy a foot distance between us, I felt the air turbulence on my face. Had I been slightly faster, I would have been knocked down by someone travelling at over 40 kilometres an hour on a pavement, when there is a clearly delineated cycle lane on the same road. It makes going out for a walk a dangerous exercise because careless and carefree people have become the kings of the pavement.

Then it is dogs, dogs out of the control of their owners that scurry or run into your path sometimes snarling and not reacting to the calls of their owners who after that encounter cannot apologise for the behaviour of their canine companions. It should not be lost on anyone that canine behaviour reflects the handler.

Just a second of terror

I sometimes wish when the dog approaches, I momentarily shapeshift and transmogrify into blood thirsty lion just for a split second that it cannot be captured, but effective enough to put the fear of all creation in the dog and the handler, just the change from snarling to whimpering would be a great pleasure and moderator. I need those powers.

On other paths, it is owners that do not have the civic responsibility of cleaning up after their dogs, there are fines for this, but they need to be caught. Maybe one last thing is cars that park on pedestrian crossings, the right of way is for pedestrians first and then it is an inconvenience for wheelchair user because there is a ramp from the pavement onto the road that is blocked off. Such people should receive heftier parking fines. I see this too many times that I wonder, does the council really care about this?

Saturday 15 May 2021

The weather defies the forecast

The route in the sun

When the English meet with strangers, the easiest conversation started is the weather on how sunny, how cold or how inclement it is. Before I stepped out for my walk this evening, I checked the weather forecast that suggested I should expect no rain for the rest of the day. That informed my just wearing a top and no need for the all-weather jacket with a hood.

Out of the door, I considered and turned back to pick up a mask before setting out on an unusual route that took me on Old Ashton Road, to Alan Turing Way, past the Etihad Campus and the Manchester City on towards Cheetham Hill, it was sunny and fresh. Veering left towards Strangeways Prison and then the towpath on River Irwell to Peel Park when I heard a thunderclap and the rumbling of thunder.

Here comes the driving rain

It would have been another 3.5 kilometres home after doing 11 kilometres, it was unlikely I would get home before the heavens opened. Crossing the path to the student accommodations of the Salford University, I hailed a Uber cab, I had hardly closed the door when I got in and the rain was literally torrential short of hailstones. Visibility through the windscreen severely reduced, you would never want to be caught out in that even if you were dressed for it.

Now looking at my weather app, there is a prospect of rain in the next two hours which was not the case some hours ago. It is unlikely the app is linked to the supercomputers at the Meteorological Office churning models and data, but one would expect to trust the app for a longer timeframe. I only got wet in the walk between the cab and my front door. However, it is Manchester, the weather is its own changing story.

Friday 14 May 2021

The UK: On easing the lockdown, we're being taken for fools again

Defined by incompetence

The unforgivable inability to anticipate and act dogs the government of Boris Johnson that its rank incompetence cannot fail to show itself. In the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic there is one statistic that cannot be ignored, the fact that the UK, despite its success in the rollout of the vaccine still remains ahead of all European countries in the death toll, mostly acquired into early this year. Then fifth behind the United States, Brazil, India, and Mexico in that order. [WorldMeters: Coronavirus]

In my view, someone needs to be held responsible and accountable for that failure, the successful vaccination campaign cannot subsume the critical analysis of what went wrong and for some justice regarding the unfortunate martyrdom of the innocent, especially frontline workers, an independent inquiry with far-reaching scope to interrogate, indict, and publish cannot begin soon enough.

We could have avoided it

Having set out a roadmap for the unlocking of the England and broadly the UK, with an end date of the June the 21st to all restrictions, Boris Johnson appeared to inform us that the Indian variant of the Coronavirus might stymie those plans. We hope it is just a scare, but they have form.

That situation was completely avoidable, it was obvious that in places where leadership was populist and caught napping variants would emerge, yet, our borders were left porous for people bearing the virus to arrive with minimal checks and so introduce community spreading that would definitely begin to alarm any public health official. [BBC News: Covid: Indian variant could disrupt 21 June easing, PM says]

It was a gamble, not a plan

As I have said before, the successful vaccination campaign was a gamble that paid off, for we were the first to grant emergency usage of a CoVID-19 vaccine and administer it to the broader public, and against manufacturer notice extended the timeframe between vaccine doses to capture a broader cohort of those taking the first dose. If this vaccination programme had not been under the management of the NHS, it would have gone the way of the exorbitant and corrupt PPE procurement scheme and the ineffective but outrageously costly testing, tracking, and tracing programme.

The gamble paid off, but the incompetence of the government cannot seem to find total concealment behind that success for the failure to act promptly, check border entry, institute stringent protocols against variants long before they became of concern, makes it the third time of lethargy and inertia that is about to put the UK nations at risk of another avoidable Coronavirus wave. The utter carelessness of which has been unbelievably rewarded at the polls.

Green list to nowhere

Then when you look at the 12 Green List countries, never has a confidence trick been performed so brilliantly on the public as this group of shysters have thus attempted. New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore are not receiving visitors from the UK, Portugal, Israel and Gibraltar have local restrictions as to who can visit from abroad, The Faroe Islands you can visit, but no airline comforts like food and beverages, the in-flight magazine, then blankets and pillows must be removed from the flights. [Faroe Islands] [BBC News: Green list countries: New rules for England revealed]

The vaccinated or recovered can visit Iceland, and at least if, from a high-risk country, you can have a hotel quarantine at no extra charge. [Iceland]

Brunei; how to get there or Falkland Islands; maybe idyllic, then South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are apparently remote and literally inhospitable in the South Atlantic, also in that region, a volcanic outpost that spots the place of exile and the death of Napoleon Bonaparte is St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, and Ascension Island, places that might well be exotic but you probably cannot reach without traversing one of the amber or red list countries, or get to directly at great cost. Gosh! We really have been taken for fools.

Thursday 13 May 2021

Thought Picnic: Will you show it to me?

The captivity of life

I never really got to see Free Willy, a film about a killer whale caught in the wild, taken into captivity and the quest to free it before the presumed owners could kill it. Yet, there is a dimension of Free Willy in our lives, we are help captive by many things we need to and must break free from. Even as humans with our apparent overarching domination of the world and its creatures, our limitations sometimes surprise us or even defy us.

My mind does get laid out in my blogs that even the urgency to write is tempered by the immediacy to reflect as to how the words will be written and how they will be read and understood. Much as I make out to be comprehended, I do regularly succeed in leaving some confused and that is not for the want of trying.

Carry me like a brother

Self-doubt is a Free Willy situation I content with, the limiting scope with its crushing effect in the confines of the captivity of the lack of imagination. At once, the capacity is dream is imprisoned in the nightmare of inability and concern, the wonder whether or if you are facing defeat blinded from other prospects. Almost like a daytime dark cloud keeping the light and the warmth of the sun at bay, you forgetting the sun will always light the day and the clouds are transient, always transient.

At that point you have to wake up from your funk, find that determination with all the help you can get to be free from all your captivities. We do have limitations, but that does not mean we are limited, in most cases, it is knowing that someone is there beyond your captive situation to lead you to the freedom to be yourself better than you can ever know. Strangely, we know that person, amazingly, the person rarely knows they are.

“Everyone's taking control of me,
Seems that the world's got a role for me,
I'm so confused will you show it to me,
You'll be there for me,
And care enough to bear me.”

Michael Joe Jackson – Will You Be There (1993)
Theme from Free Willy.

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XXXI

More of the same

Besides the alfresco dining, I cannot say I have noticed much difference in the way people are going about their business. Obviously, since the first level of opening up last month, I visited the opticians and got pairs of glasses even though I might have to visit them every year rather than probably once in 3 to 4 years.

At church, we now have a fuller choir singing in the quire rather than just one cantor, more people are coming to church, the socialising is left to waving at each other during the service when sharing the peace or the short but distanced conversations we have on the grounds after the service is over.

Readying for the change

Yet, there is a sense of anticipation, the yearning to travel abroad calls to those of us with itchy feet, but nothing looks promising, many of the green-listed locations we may not be able to get to without traversing an amber or red-listed country, so, it becomes as good as the worst affected place we have been through in the last 10 days, despite being vaccinated.

The Bentley is parked outside one of the exclusive hotels that I think indicates the owner of the boutique hotel is about. In the midrange hotels, I am seeing pillows and duvets on chairs and settees, as if the housekeeping staff have returned to set things up for the next level of opening on Monday. Even then, I might find the opportunity and occasion to get on a train and visit friends in London. The unlocking is beginning.

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Dreamscape: Flying out to places

Fishing for dreams

Dreams can be an outlet valve of unresolved conflicts and bothersome conundrums. It is one of those things that filters through the gills of my mind as I sleep from which I get some oxygen of inspiration or the carbon monoxide of distress.

Strangely, I choose a piscine analogy in a watery existence considering I cannot swim. This is something others approach with ease that I am yet to develop any skill for. On the matter of ease, it is dreams where the easy becomes insurmountable or impossible, frustrated by thinking, people, events, or situations, sometimes working in concert.

Beyond your self

Such one strives to forget lest the concept takes any root and begins to impact the order of things. Yet, dreams can change you, in some settings your agility is legendary and superhuman, you can fly as long as you are far from those who think you might be a witch rather than challenge their lack of imagination.

Elsewhere, you are galumphing and hesitant, tardy and infirm, lacking in strength and resolve, contrary to what you know you can do. I want to believe the hard is resolved therein and in waking up, you are beyond it, that phase ending for something new to happen. You just lost 2 hours of sleep after that.

Monday 10 May 2021

The auction of grey matter is open

Matters concerning

Let me see, we have a situation where a contractual engagement is up for renewal and that is a good thing for the prospect was incumbency put the principals ahead of the game, or that is the sweet talk that had presaged the circumstance.

On review, an extension was granted to allow for the formalities of the renewal be engaged from first principles as the whole assignment is now out to tender. The bland assurances that went before has now pitted the incumbents against 4 other rivals who might be bidding at different rates with a redefinition of the roles involved.

Markets in churn

Invariably, the agency now has to calibrate their bid competitively with a sweetener to keep the incumbents interested having dealt them a rather bad hand. The encumbrance is unnecessary, and the terms are hardly as favourable as obtains at present. Having only 3 weeks to go with this new development, the marketplace might be a better option than to continue in drudgery.

Marketing literature updated, profiles refined, and old contacts visited for possibilities. There is a pretence that the incumbents are being done a favour. Nothing could be further from the stark reality, that suitors are plenty and options abound, it is a chooser’s bazaar, bring your bids and get to use our brains. Miffed does not begin to convey displeasure, just push against an open door.

Taking a stand against religious abuse

Of parental example

Both my parents are religious, along with other belief systems they have that has informed my miseducation and re-education hoping to jettison the holds of superstition and irrational thought whilst adhering to a pragmatic perspective of things.

Of that exposure, my apparent proficiency in Yoruba that is my parents’ mother tongue comes from being coerced into reading the Psalms in Yoruba into drinking and ablution waters almost as a ritualistic practice advocated by my mother, in case of my father, it is my affinity to the established church, the Church of England; I find my expressive spirituality in Anglicanism.

My service is over

He once told me a story of attending a church service that appeared to be extending into an interminably long activity of discomfort and endurance that after 90 minutes, he got up to leave. The president probably attempting to embarrass my father called out to ask where he was going. He responded, “My service is over.” And left.

The need for us to stand up to religious abuse and so-called religious leaders taking liberties without being answerable or accountable to anyone but deities cannot be overemphasised, it engenders cults and and creates cults of personality that then distract from core religious principles.

I am gone, gone, gone

Prince Philip, who passed on just over a month ago is said to have commented on long sermons, “The mind cannot absorb what the backside cannot endure.” I guess after a while of sitting in a pew listening to exhortations, admonitions, expositions, repudiations, condemnations, and whatnot, it does get tiresome, and you want to go home, because there is nothing else to gain or learn when you are uncomfortable.

From these two men I have learnt something, my devotion is regulated by what I willingly subject myself to, when I am done, I am gone. Thank you for keeping me engaged for as long as I could endure it, nothing is by compulsion, especially when it comes to religion. If only religious leaders can check themselves. God is not a cruel prison warder.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Don't call me comrade

Ideologies and realities

The spectre of the Communist Party of Britain in front of the Central Library at St Peter’s Square this afternoon after church was one for amusement. Do not get me wrong, there is room for diverse political thought and ideas, though the system might not work here, there is a possibility that good ideas might gain the attention towards being considered for policy.

Anyway, it was the coincidence of events that made for a wry observation of ironic consideration. They were gathered with their many flags applauding someone giving an address, not that I cared to listen. I had a cup of Starbucks latter with a piece of cake, and Starbucks does not come any more multinational bastion of global capitalism than that.

Life is a different story

Whizzing past on their bicycles were Deliveroo couriers, workers with needs that demand the exertion of the physical, facing dangers to earn a crust, most not covered by any employee protections, collectivism, or unionised representation. It is them against a system, yet, to increase productivity some have electric bicycles which means they probably would not tire as early as those who need to muscle it out for each errand.

As a settled down to drink my coffee, watching them and chatting to Brian, a group of people probably Chinese from their appearance, took an interest and stopped to take pictures. We were not that far from Manchester’s Chinatown, but they could have been thinking whether this gathering was an offshoot of their party in government back in China. I could not read their thoughts.

Back and forth they go

Then they marched off towards the war memorial where they stopped for some minutes before marching back past the Central Library towards the Manchester Convention Centre, stopping in the square opposite Barbirolli Square, by which time, I thought they were acting in the spirit of the Grand Old Duke of York, it was just left to them to march back and forth until they stopped somewhere neither here nor there.

For all that amusement, you never know, they might great ideas and democracy is the act of persuasion. Whatever the case, never call me comrade, I am not of that persuasion, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Saturday 8 May 2021

Some things we see and remember

Stories and recollections

Reading a piece about Nicky Clarke, a stylist of the stars and handler of the tresses for occasions significant and there was one that made for some rue moment of recall. Only this afternoon, I happened upon a video of Lionel Richie starting off the singing of We Are The World at a concert in 1999.

It was Pavarotti & Friends for Guatemala and Kosovo, Luciano Pavarotti had hosted a War Child benefit concert that he had invited some fellow artistes and performers to. Well, it so happens that Nicky Clarke was doing the tresses of Sarah, Duchess of York’s hair, when she asked him to do the hair of her mate also. That mate was Diana, Princess of Wales who was to attend a Pavarotti in the Park concert at Hyde Park in 1991.

One word is everything

I remember that occasion well because that night, it rained everything the heavens could offer, and one of all the headlines, it was ‘Pavawetti’ that stood out as unforgettable. Nicky Clarke gives us something to reminisce about, he says, “There was a torrential downpour, and her hair was drowned. She still looked fabulous.” [BBC – On This Day: 1991: Pavarotti sings in the British rain]

The casual nature of going from doing the hair of a duchess to that of a princess and more so the relationship between sisters-in-law, the uncanny situation that links Pavarotti from a passing Internet surf to a magazine story, for all the many concerts at which Pavarotti performed, the English weather made this stand out. Many different stories creating a new narrative.

Some thoughts on the vaccines

I am feeling good

Two days after taking my second Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, the only discomfort I have had is a pain in my arm where I took the shot. Whilst I did take a painkiller yesterday, I do not think there is any need for one today, the pain will subside, and things should be fine.

Then, I have heard from friends who took the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, all their reports suggest that for at least a couple of days, they almost feel like death, terrible headaches, feverishness, and sweats.

Fears and cheers

It is a bit concerning that some people are not returning for their second shots and that is news from the United States of America where it is the Pfizer / BioNTech and the Moderna vaccine are the more widely dispensed and the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to approved there. [National Geographic: Why we shouldn't panic about the millions who missed their second vaccine dose—yet]

With such first experiences and side effects, some who took the Oxford AstraZeneca might be reticent about returning for the second and reliving their ordeal. The reading is whilst the side effects are serious for the first dose, on the second dose, there have rarely been serious side effects afterwards. [British Heart Foundation: Getting your second Covid-19 vaccine]

It takes two shots

It still remains if we decide to take the vaccine, we should follow the full dosage to be fully vaccinated. Despite the reports of debilitating side effects which are statistical rarities and I know I have written about statistical versus personal realities of experiencing side effects, the preponderance of evidence makes taking vaccinations a safer bet over no protection or contracting COVID-19.

Blog - Opinion: Between statistical and personal side effects

Blog - Rather the vaccine than COVID-19

Obviously, the AstraZeneca product has not had the best of the press, who can receive it is being reviewed constantly as we learn more of how people are affected by it, but on balance it is part of the arsenal against this Coronavirus.

Getting to go on

I did not take it and was ready to exercise the option not to if offered because I am a frequent traveller to South Africa where the vaccine apparently offers minimal protection against the prevalent variant there. [British Heart Foundation: Covid variants: latest on the Indian, Brazilian, UK and South African variants]

Even the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine still being studied for efficacy, is apparently 100% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 disease. All the vaccines worked on for boosters to tackle the other variants. My beau has had his two Sinopharm vaccine shots in Zimbabwe, after a bit of hesitancy. [Xinhua: Feature: Chinese vaccines rollout gains steam in Zimbabwe]

We need to unlock the world and get going, the vaccines are part of the newer world order. Let’s go.