Thursday 30 September 2021

A sanction for barbs

Getting you for it

A comment made excites the instigation of a symphony of charges resonating with the court of the unimpressed, the culprit is denial, pleading not guilty, yet, their demeanour belies a sense of engaging criminality, that which they have a propensity for that is borders on the lascivious.

As an officer of the law, one cannot be imagining the involvement of our quarry in nefarious activities as the perpetrator is wont to making observations and commenting thereafter on things they should quite immediately ignore.

With no realisation of how grave their infraction is or the dire consequences that will result from their actions, the bench intervenes to acquaint and educate that ignorance is no excuse and being honest is no cover for injuring the pride and ego of another, the other being sorely unimpressed indeed.

Punishment fitting

As proceedings draw to an end, a case for mitigation is being made, but upon close scrutiny there is neither contriteness nor remorse. This person is prone to recidivism, they will as they have done before, do it again and so a sentence that serves as deterrent is all the more necessary.

The respondent is hereby guilty and sentenced to 6 weeks of custodial habitation with their co-conspirator who strains to avow the charges. The sentence will be served in an arranged Cape Town facility with hard labour – of love.

12 Years on ARVs

A plan coming together

I had been on admission in hospital for 8 nights already, by which time, they have tried different approaches in medication and analysis, the knowledge the medical personnel had acquired from biopsies and leeching blood from my system was now coming together into a strategy and the professor was going to deliver a message about my diagnosis and the prognosis.

Until then, the medication I was on brought down the fevers, eased the pain, reduced the emesis, stop blood clots from forming, and halted the infection rate. The elephant in the room was the Kaposi sarcoma lesions that were prodded 5 days before, the dermatologist asked for a deep biopsy and after 9 injections of Lidocaine in my foot, I could still feel the pain, the results of their tests were taking time.

Preparing me for the future

The mammoth in town because it would have been too big for the room was what HIV was doing to my body and how it presented as AIDS, the screaming, “I’m here” through the megaphone of the lesions, that was the focus of the medical brains that attended my bed that morning 12 years ago.

I was given a sheaf of papers, basically the full medical notes for the new medication they were putting me on, they were going to address the root cause of my physical malady, the treatment of HIV with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), the kind of medication I had shied away from taking for years just because of too many reasons to mention. This was going to be the beginning of a lifesaving odyssey and the medics had no doubts in their minds that they were on the right track.

The drugs do work

I was put on the combination therapies of two tablets of Kaletra and one of Truvada daily, and there began a hope of life beyond my situation at that time, the beginning of living with HIV rather than dying of it through complications brought on by the virus. I was on this ARV drug regimen until the last week of May 2000 when I was switched to Atripla, because I was always having bouts of diarrhoea.

However, in a matter of weeks from 30/09/2009, my HIV viral load that was sky-high at hospital admission had reduced to undetectable, the drugs do work.

Blogs - The Cancer Tales (2009)

Tuesday 28 September 2021

My cistern runneth over

A test of endurance

We had a technique for flushing the toilet and you could not have two consecutive flushes in the space of 10 minutes of each flush, one had become accustomed to that. When going away, I completely shut off the water mains because the cistern did overflow even after it was obvious that no water was being fed into the cistern. All it took was about 3 days for the floor to flood.

Whatever adjustments I tried to make to the ballcock valve mechanism only seemed a temporary fix and it never got better. This weekend, it came to a head, as the cistern was leaking within an hour of the last flush. Then when at home, you don’t want to close off the water mains as it is needed for the kitchen, the dishwasher and the washing machine, amongst other things, it had become inconvenient.

Calling the toilet doctor

We have a website to log issues with the letting agent that arranges for a workman to visit and fix things. My call went out just after midnight in the transition from Sunday to Monday and by 10:00 AM I had a response that I will be contacted by a service engineer. The report was detailed with photographs along with the suggestion to have the ballcock valve mechanism changed and a stopcock or isolating valve on the pipe feeding the cistern.

When the engineer/plumber arrived, he had made assumptions, a jiggle here and there, he concluded everything was fine and I was not convinced. Within 30 minutes of his departure, the floor was wet and the bathroom rug was soaking wet. He was not available on the phone so I updated my incident report with new photographs of the high-water mark in the cistern extended by about 15 millimetres.

Back on a goose chase

At least, one thing I learnt when he was here was that there was already an isolating valve on the pipe feeding the cistern that could be operated with a flat screwdriver. I flushed the toilet; had it fill up and activated the isolating valve in anticipation of his next visit. That did not happen until I called the letting agent this morning the plumber offered to arrive in 30 minutes with a new fitting.

The fitting after about 45 minutes did not fit, so, he put the old contraption back together and indicated he needed to get another suitable part. He was away for about an hour before returning with a new part and I left him to his devices to do what needed doing. Some 30 minutes later, he called out to say he was done whilst I was on a conference call.

Just try to listen first

Like I suggested at the onset the ballcock valve mechanism was fully replaced and I now know of the isolating valve. Whilst I am no plumber, he could have had a look at what I reported and be prepared for all eventualities rather than end up visiting thrice for over 2 hours of work.

To think the ballcock mechanism was replaced just 4 years ago, you do wonder about the durability of the water cistern system or the quality of the workmanship that fix it that last time. The fixtures seemed to be on worn or misaligned screw threads. I withhold comment on the quality and just look forward to the peace of an easy toilet flush without any expert holds whilst being barred from doing the simple things.

The second photograph with symptoms - the isolating valve is just above the indicator for a stopcock.

After the first visit, the high water mark in the cistern was exceeded by 15 mm.

Monday 27 September 2021

Catching a deadline

Lend amend apprehend

The day is running to an end,
As they scrape for what to rend,
As talks and deeds define and wend,
The purpose for which history will tend.

If in the time it has taken to offend,
You have the wherewithal to forfend,
There is no reason to need or bend,
For what you never get to spend.

There not another hour to extend,
Neither a longer write up to defend,
Just a poem of rhymes that prepend,
And there’s a blog you can comprehend.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Please, understand me

My limitations are real

I sometimes pray I should not fancy myself beyond my human abilities, that I should know my limitations and my weaknesses, be able to accept my faults and mistakes, taking from the experiences, lessons to do better where I can.

In anything, I want a grip, a firm grip on reality, I do not like to boast or vaunt, I would rather I have done the preparatory work to project my abilities, I am definitely not cut out for the ‘Fake it till you make it’ premise, it is a dangerous proposition and where lives and livelihoods depend on it, the last thing you want to do is to take anyone on a ride.

I am not invincible, immortal, unassailable, unchallengeable, immutable, or possessive of any divine attribute as omniscience or omnipotent, I am human, flesh and blood, just trying to be a better man, to me, to my love, my family, my community, and my world.

I understand me

Whilst, I can be ambitious, it is not all-consuming to the exclusion of everything else, I like to chart a course towards a goal and diligently apply myself to that purpose, in life, in my career, or in a venture of any kind.

I can have a lot of initial enthusiasm which might wane over time, what I sometimes need to get to, is that point where I can sustain whatever I am doing and do that with a modicum of consistency. My blog is a case in point as are aspects of my career development and progression.

I know myself; I cannot delude myself and I have the courage of my own convictions. Most importantly, I understand me, myself, and I, which determines how I set achievable goals rather than impossible ones.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Thought Picnic: In aid of posterity

The absence of skill for success

I spent 6 hours attempting to remediate something I had planned to do for not more than 90 minutes and this was fielding a request for assistance in which I was asked to cast an eye on some activity for its correctness and suitability for the purpose intended and it failed woefully at both.

If my patience was tested, my calmness did little to betray it. Something in my nature demanded the kind of endurance with keeping my counsel in the hope that our engagement which had not fully delivered the outcomes might just bring into focus the functional inadequacies in my quarry and the desire to do better.

Almost hopeless at method

I needed to review the meanings of two words, ineptitude: the lack of ability or skill, and incompetence: the inability to do something successfully. We do have the tendency to conflate the meanings and consider them synonyms, but they are very far apart in terms of context.

My interlocutor had planned to do some things or imagined things had been done and even with following a clear set of instructions failed at implementing what he intended. I could say ineptitude contributed to the inability to use the instruction set and the result was incompetence because whatever he set out to do was not accomplished and he could not understand how and why it was not.

A call upon absent ability

Just to imagine that someone has been bestowed to such responsibility having convinced the unlearned that they are capable and there is no challenging assessment or scrutiny of their abilities apart from the pressing demand to fulfil requirements that within that setting they know can be done but have no wherewithal to achieve.

It is a different thing if, in some way, there was a prospect that growth was possible, but my doubts outweigh my hopes. I am lumbered with a sense of kindness, maybe also of duty to ensure that whoever might replace my friend will not be assessed by the propensity to the maladroit of their predecessor by reason of any form of similarities that might prejudice the process.

The significance of posterity

At one time, I thought I was doing it for him and it might well save his job and lengthen whatever employment contracts he has if he can learn from this, but posterity is of pertinent consequence, the ground we lay determines how we are succeeded and the legacy should be praise at your departure rather than relief that what you have done has not laid the situation to ruin if the opportunity presented itself.

Yet, we have not all been so perfect, we have made errors sometimes too shameful to recall but quite defining of our careers and the determination to better and strive for excellence. It is not a hopeless situation, just one where the prerequisites for hope are not very present.

Blog - Showing courtesy to others' time

Friday 24 September 2021

Cleaning the patient off

Unplugging for disaster

In a moment of technical mirth, a colleague suggested a problem on his personal computer on-site had been resolved by the cleaners probably shifting something, cables or dirt came to mind, but it reminded me of the danger of office cleaners and what cost might come with it.

In the late 90’s our data centre housed a number of critical computers but we could not determine why the service had to be restarted in the morning. The server had apparent switched off itself. It was later that we realised cleaners who had gone in to clean the centre after hours needing a socket to plug in their vacuum cleaners yanked a plug out for their device unaware that they had unplugged the server and then plugged it back in after they had finished.

Then, we set aside a socket for the cleaners and put protective tags and notices on the critical power plugs strictly forbidding them to be touched except by authorised personnel.

Cleaning to the heavens

In a short film starring Omar Sharif as a taxi driver taking a young man for a cosmetic procedure, he related a story about a hospital closed for its incidents of unexplained deaths. It then transpired that at night the cleaner went into the Intensive Care Unit and unplugged the life support system for their vacuum cleaner, thereby killing off the patient. However, too many of those incidents had occurred before they found out and it was too late to save the hospital.

Blog - Turn your lights down low, I need to see your liver (Last section – ‘A short story.’

Now, we have all heard it said that cleanliness is next to godliness, what you do not expect is the cleaner dispatching the patient off to God.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Thought Picnic: The whip that stole a father's confidence

Differentiating the import

Until the time I realised that my father’s word was not an order, a command, an instruction, or even advice that I was duty-bound to follow to the letter with all submissive obedience along with fear and loathing, our relationship was defined by what I saw him do to others and how he treated them.

Today, I consider his views an opinion limited by his perspective of things to which I have the full volition to entertain or discard, albeit respectfully and with a clear understanding that the decisions I make are my own responsibility and no one else’s.

Big brother and little sister

No relationship with another was more impactful to how I saw my father than the one he had with his youngest sister who came to live with us in Jos in the early 1970s. Obviously, my father was the king of his entire, his word was law, and there were standards of behaviour and conduct expected of his wards, the breach of which attracted the severest sanctions.

My aunt had an independent, if not adventurously wayward streak, and one day she tattooed her thigh using the alkaline sap of a fresh cashew nut. When my father saw this indelible adornment, he unleashed his fury on her with such a fiery vehemence in his room. Having her lie forward at an angle, feet on the dresser and hands on the floor, he horsewhipped her mercilessly. I hope I have been a better big brother and I have had some regrettable failings.

A matter of consequence

Her cries and howling could not be assuaged as he locked his door that no one could entreat him to have any leniency. Whilst I did not see her bruised body after that ordeal, there was no imagining what happened in that room and that crystallised my view as a 7-year-old that my father could be implacably cruel at the meting out punishment. In essence, he was unapproachable, and I could not have him in confidence about anything, even the things that mattered. I rarely faced that wrath, but what we had as father and son, into my twenties, was full of the foreboding of wrath.

Invariably, anything I could do to escape his ambit of influence, I probably did, until I left Nigeria. Now, we do not have that fearful relationship, but that lasting effect of that event is I engage on my own terms and at my own convenience. I probably will be quite sorry and regretful if he predeceases me, I guess we unwittingly laid the ground for the fraught because we lacked the anticipation of consequence.

Do well to all

Then by extension, much as I love to be treated with courtesy, respect, and dignity, I also watch how those who make allowances for me deal with others because it is not a singular thing but a broader expression of character and integrity that regardless of status, position, means, ability, standing, or representation, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully, fairly and justly.

I do observe how people interact with others and if they deal badly with others, there is the possibility that a confluence of events might create the opportunity to do the same to you. If you cannot call them out for correction, you want to give them a wide berth before their odium becomes the perfume you are forced to sniff.

We should be anything be character schizophrenics, having many faces to different people, allowing a sense of superciliousness or superiority to get the better of us, because there might just be someone thereabouts ready to give you your just deserts when you need them most. If you can’t be nice, be good, or just hold your peace in neutrality that your offence is not reckoned in the book of Karma.

Blog - Childhood: My aunts saw red

The sheer humanity of Cecil and Wilhelm

Destiny to an end

I found myself thinking about the men I wrote about in my blog yesterday and how men of destiny can be undone by the uncertainties and the inadequacies of our humanity. Something to reflect on, if only to put things in perspective about how to live life and relate to others.

There were just 6 years between the birth of Cecil John Rhodes and that of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the former, the 5th son of a country clergyman and the latter, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the grandson of the first emperor of the German Empire and Queen Victoria, destined for the throne and the power that it portended.

Privilege and fortuitousness

Cecil John Rhodes was a sickly child sent to South Africa in the hope that it might help his health, he became a man of the right time in the right place when gold and diamonds were being discovered in large quantities in South Africa and by deft business acumen, political power and economic heft became one of the richest men in the world.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was a spoilt brat, the eldest of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren, but hardly well-liked for his demeanour, arrogance, megalomania, and self-belief that he was more capable than his ministers and diplomats. In time, his quest to expand his empire with the advent of WWI led to his forced abdication in 1918 and the end of the German Empire.

Our limitations as humans

Cecil John Rhodes could have been anything, he was ambitious if not power-drunk, and Mark Twain wrote of him saying, “he is the only unroyal outsider whose arrival in London can compete for attention with an eclipse.” [Mark Twain: Cecil Rhodes]

Yet, it is his health that failed him, for, at 48, he died with these words recorded from his lips, “So little done, so much to do.” Kaiser Wilhelm II was emperor for just over 30 years when he went into exile at Huis Doorn in The Netherlands where he lived another 23 years probably ruing the decisions that lost him the empire. A man who could only reminisce of the life and glory he once had when he died of a ripe old age of 82.

The dead stay dead

Kaiser Wilhelm II leaves a legacy of being the centre of WWI and presiding over the falling of the major monarchies of mainland Europe, he lies in repose in a mausoleum built by his exiled residence at Huis Doorn.

Cecil John Rhodes, the imperialist and every other epithet he both deserves or not is the benefactor of the Rhodes Scholarship and many memorials to the whitewash and sterilised part of his biography. He lies under a slab of stone at Matopos Hills in Zimbabwe at a place he called World’s View.

Just a thought

You can have so much power and lose it, just as you can have so much money and not live to use it. Who would have thought a sickly child from the English countryside would rise to become one of the most powerful and richest men in the world?

Conversely, maybe Kaiser Wilhelm II might have sustained the German Empire and ruled for 53 years and taking the House of Hohenzollern into its 4th Century of power, but he squandered what was bequeathed to him.

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” [Bible Gateway: Psalms 103:15-16 (NIVUK)]

Blog - Huis Doorn (1999), Rhodes Cottage (2019)

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Huis Doorn (1999), Rhodes Cottage (2019)

Men who touched the world

This morning, I read a story of how Cecil John Rhodes inspired WWI through a first fraught then interesting friendship between him and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The fascinating link between them is exemplified in a paperweight presented to the Kaiser in 1905 which included rocks from Cecil John Rhodes’ grave at the World’s View in the Matopos Hills, which is to be displayed at Huis Doorn. [The Guardian: The kaiser and the paperweight: how Cecil Rhodes helped inspire the first world war]

Now, I will not go into the lives of these two extraordinary yet flawed men who have left an indelible mark in world history, that is covered by more qualified archivists and historians, but I find myself filling in another blank in my experiences of travel interests spurred on by curiosity.

My own personal journey

It was August 1999, in January of that year, I had just come out of an almost 7-year relationship, but we remained friends and best of friends to date, we had gone on holiday to Brussels for a week, then he returned to London whilst I made my way up to the Netherlands by train to holiday with a friend I first met on a trip to Amsterdam and developed a friendship with over more than a year.

He picked me up from Utrecht Central Station and we drove to his house in Doorn. Just a few hundred metres from his house was this uniquely imposing building, Huis Doorn where I was told the Kaiser spent his final decades in exile after his abdication at the end of WWI. Audrey Hepburn’s mother had before his residency spend her childhood at Huis Doorn too.

My friend had a story, three times in the preceding decade with his mother by his bedside, they thought he was not going to make the morning, like a cat with nine lives he rose from the grip of AIDS to survive and thrive. His mother lived a few streets away, a native of Doorn. It was whilst in Doorn that I observed the solar eclipse of 1999 on the 11th of August. [Wikipedia: Solar eclipse of August 11, 1999]

Huis Doorn – a personal tour

His mother, a dear lady in her early 70s was such fun to be with, we just bantered at length and as a child, her father was a groundsman at Huis Doorn, with their house neighbouring the grand house. She talked of times of having tea with the Kaiser who had many children and embraced into the Doorn community found time to entertain the children of the village and play games with them.

She told me of times when they, the children played hide-and-seek in the house which had secret rooms, doors, chutes, tunnels and much else. She offered to take me on a tour of the house on a bright afternoon, which we eventually did. A guided tour by someone who knew the Kaiser, the house, the stories, the gossip, the rumours and witnessed his demise was something not to be missed and we were the only ones there, after the public museum itself had closed.

Rhodes Cottage Museum – a personal tour

Just over 30 years later, I was in Cape Town with Brian and we decided to visit Rhodes Cottage Museum in Muizenberg, the cottage by the sea was where Cecil Rhodes spent his last days and died. Upon arrival there, the cottage was closed, it did not look like a typical museum, it is run by volunteers.

However, we went next door to ask for some information about the museum and as luck will have it, they had keys to the museum and the cottage was opened for Brian and I to tour at our leisure and return the keys when we were done. [Facebook: Rhodes Cottage Museum]

To view the bed in which Cecil Rhodes died and other elements of his personal history within the cottage rather than his public profile in monuments, endowments, and bequeathments was awesome. You got the essence of the man in his greatness and limitations of our humanity in our mortality. The Kaiser and Cecil Rhodes, after all they did, were now footsteps in the sands of time.

Houses with personal effects show a different picture of a person’s humanity with all the accoutrements of public life and achievement stripped away, I visit houses because I get to know the person is just human rather than superhuman or divine.

One Tuesday morning in September

And I remember

It is the memories that stick so close to you in the stories you are given to tell and the gratitude you have for life. The 22nd of September 2009 was a Tuesday, I had called a cab and my on-off partner, Marc was riding with me to the hospital. I took a change of underwear and nothing else, as I was unaware of what to expect.

My doctor had expedited an appointment at the hospital upon observing the fungating tumours quite prominent on the left foot sole up the big toe and the one next to it. My right foot was painful, but nothing had appeared yet. She dressed the wounds with generous amounts of Betadine solution and gave me strong painkillers that killed none of the pain.

A bed for you upstairs

This was my second hospital visit as the first that she scheduled for the Thursday before instigated a referral to the Internal Medicine department. On arrival at the hospital, Marc fetched a wheelchair and wheeled me in to see the consultants. The first two simply summoned the Internist, a professor of medicine and upon seeing me, he said, “You can’t go back home, we have a bed for you upstairs.”

I was dying of AIDS and the fungating tumours were lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, an aggressive skin cancer that could so easily be fatal and between the pain and cancer, they could have been on a race to do me in. Soon, I was in a bed and then taken to blood pressure tests at all my extremities to ensure my condition was not related to diabetes.

My first night to recovery

After that, I was taken to another room where high-resolution pictures were taken of my feet and the lesions before being returned to my ward and given some pain medication. The day was uneventful, some intravenous lines were fitted for antibiotics and saline solutions, lots of blood was drawn for analysis, I got some sleep, but the day was blur.

At night, I took some pills, had a morphine patch applied to my chest and an injection into my thigh to prevent blood clots and other issues with spending a lot of time in bed. I prayed a prayer completely unsure of my future, but that was the beginning of my new life and much else that followed.

Blog - In hospital to kill the pain

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Cobbling Gucci for angels

Abandon the orthodoxy

The way conversations develop spanning anything from the serious to the trivial whilst being downright absurd with searing truth is quite fascinating to participate in and watch.

The constant protests one does field about people saying they are not divas and they do protest much. Then, as if to take advantage of our warped perceptions, one might even say they are an angel, as if that is associated with gentility, coolness, and immediate acceptance.

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth, the sudden appearance of an other being, gleaming with light in your crowded space, startling you as you are gripped with fear. The angelic being, unperturbed then says, ‘Peace be unto you, be not afraid’ as one has read from many a biblical passage.

Diva is all you see

An entrance that grand that you are startled by star or stardom with the immediate calming demeanour to put you at ease is everything you should expect of a diva. I conclude that angels are divas and that is end of the argument.

If you cared to look at the feet, if the devil wears Prada, do angels wear Gucci? Just asking for a friend, such information might come in useful when looking for hellish or heavenly footwear.

Monday 20 September 2021

Hillsnog: How the scandals at Hillsong took root

Songs to snog heaven

Hillsong gave us many inspired songs of praise and worship over the decades that we felt we sang our way into the throne room of a gracious and merciful God that had heaven full of blessings to shower on his children with majesty and no expense spared.

However, lately, some scandals have hit the church first founded in Australia and in almost 30 countries that cannot be ignored, for the genesis is in something quite sad, unfortunate, and allegedly criminal from over 50 years ago. There has been some snogging of the illicit and criminally liable type that was swept under the carpet, and it has returned to claim the seat of its leader temporarily or permanently.

Caught in a father’s sexual snog

Brian Houston, 67, the charismatic founder of the Hillsong Church was the National President of the Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God, from 1997 to 2009 and in 1999, sexual abuse allegations were made against his father, Frank Houston, also a minister in the church establishment about sexually abusing a boy of 7 some 30 years before.

Mr Houston confronted his father about it, who confessed his proclivities to pederasty and the church handled the matter by having Frank Houston immediately retire from the ministry whilst the boy abused, then in his 30s was paid off for his silence with $10,000. Matter sorted, not exactly.

In a Royal Commission into clerical child abuse in Australia, the boy, now man testified to the face-saving activities of the church and how Brian Houston appeared to look the other way to protect his father, probably the broader church and having assumed the fat cheque was enough recompense for the child’s loss of sexual innocence at the instigation of his father in an unholy snog with a child and quite possibly many more. [Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse]

The snog required the law

Now, Brian Houston is essentially guilty of nothing as at yet, but he was complicit in thinking a payment was judicious and just amelioration for the acts of a paedophile that was quite, unfortunately, his own father. Whether he would have given any other person to the law one cannot say, as much as one cannot say if other clergy had been given the quiet exit into obscurity rather than face criminal justice for child sexual abuse.

As much as he pleads his innocence and transparency, no violation of a child is excusable regardless of if you address it with the child or when the child becomes an adult and has immediate needs palmed off with a cheque.

Hillsnog sprung from license

In the past year, there has been a litany of snogs, a high-profile pastor was doing it with another woman who was not his wife, another was sending pictures of his member not entirely snug in his underwear in the quest for probably an illicit snog, to the extent that Hillsong is becoming some scandal-hit Hillsnog.

There might not be any more scandals, but Brian Houston is being charged with concealing the sexual offences of his father, the father who died in 2004 at 82 and all this because there was a cover-up rather than the necessary report to the authorities of criminality. Then again, until recently, the church closed ranks on clerical child abuse than open themselves to the scrutiny of the law, a stance that is now totally unacceptable.

Child sexual abuse in a religious establishment is criminal and must be notified to the authorities for action, never swept under the carpet in the hope that it completely disappears into eternal memory lapse and forgetfulness, sparing the perpetrator whilst mollifying victims with money and materials as if their childhood innocence will therein be restored to undamaged, virgin, and a well-rounded personality.

Justice will come for the snog

I attended the Hillsong Church in London for a few months in 2013 and had many a spiritual uplifting in fellowship with others, but as one who has also survived child sexual abuse at the hands of those trusted by my parents to care for us, I take a completely dim view of people, establishments, institutions, traditions, cultures, and systems that shield paedophiles for reputational or other purposes and it is in this mind that I excoriate Brian Houston.

The chickens came home to roost in the other snogging scandals that enveloped the Hillsong Church in the last year, what was excused in 1999 gave the scope for the new embarrassing scandals to take root and fester.

If Frank Houston had been given up to the authorities to face embarrassment, disgrace, and criminal indictment, it is unlikely Carl Lentz and Darnell Barnett of recent snogs would have contemplated straying from the path of righteousness. I do not condemn them, but where there is allowance and apparent permissiveness, there is proclivity and every possibility of avoidable scandal.

As a consequence, it would take a while to restore Hillsnog to Hillsong, you cover your sin, and it will find you out.

From a death sentence to the joy of living and loving

A life changed totally

It is a story I have told many times before about how a check-up in September 2002 brought life-changing news that just a decade before would have been a life-ending situation.

The many people whose lives were cut short by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that appeared to hold sway from the mid-1980s and through the 1990s until medical science found the means to manage the disease with treatment and therapies.

I cannot tell for how long I was HIV+ before I got the diagnosis, but when I did, I was ready for whatever the result might be for until then, I took tests but I expressly required not to be told of the outcome out of fear and caution. The fear of the stigma of HIV where you were shunned and caution where you could not access certain financial services on account of apparent life expectancy.,

No more a life sentence

By the turn of the century, the outlook was better though the thought of pill-popping daily made me reticent about taking on medical services out of folly and an apparent sense of invincibility until 7 years later that there was literally nothing left to fight infection and aggressive cancer; Kaposi’s sarcoma was eating away at my feet.

Testament to the advances of medicine in 2009 was what gave my consultant to confidence to say my condition could be treated and I could have a good outcome if I responded well to the treatment and my physiology could handle the onslaught of chemotherapy at a point where I had already lost 25% of my body weight.

Welcome to the joy of living

The story I have to tell today is one of gratitude and thankfulness, of doctors and nurses with competence, empathy, and care, of friends far and near who have supported me through the hardest times, of acceptance that this has become part of my story, of meaning that there is a greater purpose to which one is called and of love that has blossomed in my life in the person of Brian.

I am blessed beyond measure, 19 years on, I celebrate the joy of living, the faith in extraordinary humanity, the hope for a great future, and the love of one who has given me happiness beyond words. We live to tell better stories, I did not defeat HIV or AIDS, we just found the means to live lives of significance and consequence without the threat of it stealing us away suddenly.

Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. [Bible Hub: II Corinthians 1:9 (NKJV)] Even in great adversity and infirmity so close to death, I was raised to life again.

Sunday 19 September 2021

Forgiving my own faults

Thoughts to do

Sometimes, I don’t do the things I meant to do,
Not that I could not the things I thought I could,
In the times I wonder of doing the ones I would,
It just seems the will and strength not just there,
And it is not that I really do not even care,
When the longing comes to fulfil what I could just do,
I could beat myself into regret and damning rue,
Then as each day comes, I feel better with me.

Showing courtesy to others' time

My time is not yours to usurp

It is a strange lack of awareness to see people who need something yet expect you to work around their agenda to fit their schedule, the demand on your own free time given no consideration and it is not about compensation, but just respect and courtesy.

In most of my computing career, I have been self-taught, I can understand that I could sometimes think aptitude, capacity, and curiosity are so widely distributed for anyone with sufficient discipline, determination, and drive to acquire the skill they need. Then again, I have my inadequacies and roadblocks, I work to overcome them even as the difficulties mount.

Then I am always available to help people especially on technical matters and to those I would hope a seed grows into a tree bearing more fruit. What I find difficult to help is the absence of growth over a period of time, and it is as noticeable as day is apart from night.

Hollow barrels of technology

I recall taking a taxi ride and the driver had a Mastering Windows NT 4.0 in a Month book as he suggested he will be joining us in the IT field very soon. Now, I had no idea of his abilities or ambition, but the prospect of earning £25 an hour in the late nineties had some appeal to many, they swotted the exams and snagged opportunities through agencies placing tyros without depth in companies that needed critical skills.

They never got their contracts renewed if they lasted the 3 months before destroying or breaking something. That is not to say I am faultless; I have done some seriously stupid things at work that should have walked me out of the door but for people who managed me to excuse them knowing they have had their own moments too and there was potential in me.

The number of times I fielded calls from people in panic clueless of what to do and when being guided never improved on what they have learnt. Sadly, they still exist and many of us slightly more knowledgeable as burdened with their inadequacies to help keep them in their jobs. The fact that the Internet is awash with solutions that anyone can find is they knew what they wanted to do and had the inkling to pursue it is beside the point, they never try nor understand.

My weekends are mine alone

I do not work weekends, I devote that time to my own development and life, I have constantly refused the urge for others to usurp my weekend time. In my 26 years of contracting, I have probably not worked more than 10 weekends even where the rate is double or triple the daily rate.

This situation was a mess from the start, he had bluffed his way into a role that was way beyond his capacity and so far, I can see no development or growth in the 5 or so hours of my weekend that were taken to address some issues months before. I also doubt the references for learning and development I gave were exhausted. I was annoyed and frustrated, but bit my tongue.

Earlier this week, he called to ask for some of my time and expertise in the weekend. I offered Saturday was doubtful about Sunday and asked questions about what we were to achieve. My responses when answered asked for the Sunday that was not available along with excuse that a hospital appointment, I was unaware of for the Saturday took longer than expected. At which point as demand for Monday was made to which I will not answer.

I am not here to help people who will not help themselves and take no consideration of others because they think their requirements and needs mean the world revolves around them. I will choose the time I am available just as I considerately work around the time others can offer me. A patsy, I am not.

Saturday 18 September 2021

Britannia riles the diplomatic waves

A junior player we are

This need not be a long blog, yet an interesting point to note. The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom entered an alliance and pact that left a submarine contract arrangement between Australia and France dead in the water. [BBC News: Aukus: France recalls envoys amid security pact row]

France recalled their ambassadors to the United States and France but did not consider it necessary to recall their ambassador to the Court of St James’s. The reason given with obvious disdain as good as a typical English putdown, “France considers the UK a junior player in the new pact, seeking a new world role post-Brexit, and riding along on Uncle Sam's coat-tails.

Making waves no longer

It is normally attributed to Napoléon Bonaparte that he considered England a nation of shopkeepers, that same nation that once was an empire on which the sun never set, Great Britain has been on a steady decline for over a century and is now after Brexit being dismissed as a junior player by our neighbours across the channel, that respectful consideration is a waste of diplomatic nous, the contempt has been delivered with inaction.

The Britannia that once did rule the waves no more makes any waves to bother anyone on the international stage. How indeed are the mighty failed and fallen by those who led that Brexit march, we are treading the path of reduction with gusto, bluster, bombast, and insignificance. Alas!

We're jabbing in the name of flu

We’re jabbing

On Wednesday afternoon I received a text message on my phone from the NHS on behalf of my GP’s surgery or maybe the other way round, it does not matter, I was being invited to the flu clinic on Saturday with a link attached to a registration website.

To those of us without Internet access, we were advised to key back a response of NOWEB, though I could not find any instruction for those without a phone. They might have received a letter instead.

In any case, I had 4 different online options to book my appointment, the NHS app, the Patient Access website, Evergreen Life (I have no idea who they are, but if they are selling the elixir of youth, that is worth an investigation), and myGP app. You could text a message or call a phone number after noon on a weekday.

What a surprise

I chose the NHS app and successfully booked an appointment for 9:03 AM, I had never seen so many appointment slots by the minute like I did on the calendar of appointments, the top, half, and quarters to and past the hour had been taken that the nearest I had to any of the cardinal clock points was 3 minutes past.

For a Saturday morning that requires a lie-in at the best of times, that was a tad early, but not by what I observed when I got to the surgery, a queue, a long queue about 10 deep and getting longer by the minute. Now, that is a first in my years of being a patient on this General Practitioner’s register.

Registration was prompt and conveyor belt-like, and soon a doctor, a doctor, yes, a doctor, for I have never met a doctor at my local surgery, nurses, many, receptionists indeed, but doctors were rarer than gold dust. My medical agenda is managed by hospital consultants for long-term care who instruct or inform my doctors of what other NHS services should be engaged.

The doctor was administering the flu jab when he asked if I wanted it in my left or right arm, I showed him my leg to which he quipped, interesting and rather unorthodox. I took the jab in my left arm and after a dab with cotton wool, I put my jacket on and made to leave.

I doggone got jabbed

Before stepping out of the surgery, I was given a leaflet, much like being given the menu after your meal. The flu jab is Flucelvax tetra, the tetra providing protection from 4 strains of influenza that the medical establishment thinks might be of concern in this flu season. Wisconsin, Washington, Cambodia, Tasmania, Darwin, Phuket, and Singapore are the well-travelled influenza viruses on the prowl for the vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the only side effect is the slight pain at the injection site, I returned home to rest, so the tiredness might have been catered for. The vaccine was prepared in cell cultures. Madin-Darby Canine Kidney cells to be exact and a cocker spaniel to boot. If we end up barking mad and I have not read the detail, I might just be another man’s best friend. I have been immunised.

Thursday 16 September 2021

Humans with finite mental energy

We lose virtue in helping

The woman with the issue of blood decided that her healing lay in touching the garments of Jesus Christ. However, Jesus Christ with all the miracles he had performed in that situation revealed that in human form we are limited and resources or energy to do anything is not inexhaustible. For as the woman touched him as he was thronged upon, her touch drew virtue out of him and healed her, he felt that drain and so asked who touched me? [BibleGateway: Luke 8:43-48]

Human capacity is quite limited much as is mental energy. We are affected just as much as the other person by the vicissitudes of life, our frailty and vulnerabilities too easily exposed by circumstances that appear to be beyond our control.

Ceding what can’t be controlled

We probably can account for how we react to situations, how others react towards us is not something under our control. You find that those who portend to have some sort of mental toughness have just been able to know what they can control and concentrated their resources on those things without agonising about the things beyond one's ability to conduct, sway, or persuade.

In an unkind word, a needy subject, a crude comment, a bad decision, an unfulfilled desire, a crisis of confidence, a moment of self-doubt, or the absence of consideration from others, you are left bereft of capacity. In finding ways to deal with these things you find some balance, but it can be long in reaching it. Some might read it as irritation when it is just exhaustion.

Someone to lean on

We all need some sort of refuelling, positive people who lift your spirits, exciting news of developments, encouragement from near and far, maybe some intimacy and human touch. We live in tough times that those who have company are usually unaware of their advantages where those along have to contend with lack of awareness.

Basically, the truth is, we probably all need therapy, some is reparative, some is restorative, and it does not need mental illness to require it, it is just that you don’t want to be running on empty when there is some supply about. We all need someone to lean on, yet that someone may not be available when needed.

Thing that can restore strength

I believe Jesus had much of his virtue restored when the woman came forward narrated her ordeal along with the miracle wrought in her body. A form of affirmation and validation, an apology or a sense of gratitude, some consideration and giving space, the list itself is not exhaustive.

Had she not stepped forward but disappeared into the crowd with the gift of healing she had acquired, Jesus might have agonised about who touched him, wondering what the virtue drained had done and have taken a much longer time to come to terms with the turmoil of not knowing whilst knowing something had happened.

His disciples would have thought he had become touchy and pernickety, but meaningfulness came to bear on the situation, a miracle was recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Luke because of that.

Monday 13 September 2021

Mascara on my lips

A bag of brushes

A brush with a cultural setting in celebration of a golden jubilee became the clean sweep of observed notions defined from one’s perspective in need of a broader discussion we rarely get to have much as it is necessary for defining identities cosmetic as they might seem on the surface.

The party gifts got inadvertently split and now there is a mirror before which to make up a story, for I cannot dare an anthropological or sociological study as one is not so qualified.

Cosmetic brushes

(1) Powder brush

Prominent as it is in the cosmetic bag that it could not be ignored for its usefulness, the converse could not be discounted to the purpose of useful advice when it was obvious that circumstance, situation, or necessity agglomerated a coterie of generously plus size ladies outnumbering the others.

The long-term consequences are dire if remedial action is not taken to shed the impactful interactions for gravity. And whilst this presents a cultural attractiveness or what some find as a form of beauty, for reasons one may not fully understand, the avoidable is best prevented than to face afflictions and infirmity resulting from such appearances. Fine adjustments for entrenched attitudes can do a lot.

(2) Blending brush

In the collision of colours, the contrasts need to be invisible to the eye and this is where the blending brush diminishes the checkerboard illusion of disharmony and apparent absence of deftness. As we so easily congregate for similarity and affinity, our communities begin to isolate from predominate host nations, people, customs, and culture.

It baffles that one can meet with people abroad having resided herein for decades who rarely have local friends or acquaintances at their functions except in work and formal settings. Speaking for oneself, it is likely that exposure to broad diversity from childhood has made the idea of separateness alien and probably anathema. To blend is to deign to escape our comfort zones to explore different things and discover new things. Whether it is a thing of courage or daring, one cannot tell.

(3) Lip gloss applicator brush

The deep knowledge of Brian is understanding the use of this brush is only too welcome. It can be messy and so this brush brings a sense of refinement, though not a brush, but more like a mitre-shaped sponge.

Tasty the cake was, compacted without a spongy feel that one opined about Nigerians baking cakes and one could appreciate the beauty of the structures whilst being left without the enthusiasm to invite the baker for one’s function. The icing on the cake was neither of icing sugar nor marzipan. It was a macadamised thick layer of milk chocolate. A first for me and a tradition for them, I suppose.

(4) Pencil brush

This would suggest an artistic touch to the broader application of make-up depending on where the makeup is being applied. Around the eyes, on the eyelids, delicate helps finesse apart from knowing what brush pertains to which function.

Alfresco style as stated on the invitation would have suggested consideration for the weather for which canopies were provided as we were outside, a garden party for us and a bouncy castle for the kids. Yet, the unfortunate faux pas of the shoes worn made mishap after mishap seek comedy timing for which we desperately exercised restraint.

Stiletto heels, no matter how good your shoes are just not it for a garden party, those are meant for firm floors or red carpets, but some came to till and plough the ground for a late planting season. Wedges, platforms or flats, nothing pointed, but that requires a better sense of awareness. In this case, the shoes should match the venue long before they match the event or the dress. You have to see what I saw.

(5) Lash and eyebrow brush

This the battle-axe of eye adornment and presentation and I doubt I saw more than was naturally grown. Surprisingly, no one lashed it one to bring too much to the flicker or the focus of the eye.

To one, apart from the company of who attended with and brief chatter with the celebrant, I could well have been invisible, and cliques and claques conversed loudly in imponderables expressing expertise in areas where they obviously had none.

The absence of engagement helped one observe, review, and appreciate why we owe more to helping our offspring find a better footing of self-assurance, self-esteem, and integration is societies that would look more different from the ones we grew up in.

The basics of imbuing them with confidence would not come alone from achievement but by engagement with a broader stratum of society whilst at the same time attempting to venture beyond the cocoons and bubbles that gave us belonging and comfort for so long.