Sunday 31 October 2021

All Hallows Thieves

Never caught on

It is Halloween weekend this October with the last day of the month being today, a Sunday. This is one tradition I have never really adopted or related to, and it is not out of any particular interest or belief, I am just not engaged.

Pumpkins, costumes, fancy dress, and the commercial trends that greet this festival I do my best to absent myself from. Decades ago, I was invited to a toga dress party by my friend, John Coll, who passed on in December 2013. I could not be persuaded to go, my partner then did attend and regaled me to stories that left me somewhat nonplussed. Now I think about it, that was where he met the person that became the centre of our breakup just about a year after.

Blow it up

Whilst I would not predicate that situation to my disinterest in Halloween, it does not explain my engagement with Guy Fawkes Day, which is November the fifth, maybe because I liked his audacity in what he was trying to do and whilst he failed, we commemorate him with a bonfire that would have made a bonfire of the English parliament.

Halloween apparently started as a Christian holiday dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the departed, but as it is celebrated today, there is no semblance of Christianity or dare I say Churchianity, rather, it is a time of revelling like ghouls, ghosts, the dead and anything scary, evil, or macabre.

That’s a ghost?

Watching Ghostbusters and the reboot Ghostbusters, yesterday and overnight, Western civilisations or maybe it is just the Americans have this strange idea of the supernatural, the paranormal, demonic or spiritual activity. Ghosts apparently leave an ectoplasmic residue of slimy green substance, when they enter our realm, they can be captured with nuclear-powered proton pack weapons.

In one scene as a ghost metamorphosed into a Godzilla creature of extreme mammoth proportions, a symphony played out as it wreaked destruction on the city, having a surfeit of imagination is one thing but along with the power of seriously doubtful fictional creations with a propensity for the absurd if not laughable is just beyond the paled. We might begin to believe if first, we believed in ghosts that Ghostbusters was art imitating life.

Chilling the bones

Then with painted faces and all those costumes, it is the ladies that have me a tad worried. October is not a summer month by any stretch of the imaginable, and though we are not at sub-zero, the temperature is not in double digits, yet they step out in the skimpiest of clothes braving the cold in the pursuit of fashion over function. It makes no sense to me as it does to them, especially when it was raining on Friday night.

I might be an alarmist suggesting that this is asking for a bout of pneumonia in the worst case, but they either have a rather thick blubber skin or their blood system is cryogenically predisposed to a poikilothermic adaptation that we naturally homoeothermic beings cannot endure. I find myself scratching my head and then trying not to overthink it, a little shivering and the clattering of teeth might well be the Halloween movie to watch again and again.

Then I learn there is another Ghostbusters film out, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the original was really good, but all these rehashes leave much to be desired. Rather than give this a nod, I might just celebrate Halloween as Noddy.

Thought Picnic: Being humanly human in my humanness

Many little things

Even as stoic as one might appear to be, appearances can quite easily be deceptive; mental capacity can so soon be depleted by the confluence of situations and events that are outside one’s control, yet impactful because of one’s attachment or affinity to those things.

It is a situation one cannot put into words to explain to any coherence, the what, the who, the when or the how, it’s like a faucet dripping, nothing of note as it drips, but significant it is collects and makes a sound for each drip. If dripping into a container, it soon fills up and you can be driven to distraction just hearing that interminable dripping.

Let it drain away

It is a kind of fluster that sleep will not cure and that is if you can find that kind of restful sleep that can make you relax and awake with a sense and feeling of strength and readiness for the day. From experience, you just give it time to dissipate, treat it like a form of intoxication that eventually wears off for the return of your sobriety. Then I am too much of a control freak that intoxication is not a lived experience.

A type of frustration seems to loom making you quite irritable and showing up in a lot that you do, decisions that come to the fore that with hindsight will have you nodding to yourself that you have allowed yourself through circumstance to be a fool. You just cannot deceive yourself even if you choose to ignore the obvious.

Every bit human

Vulnerability and naivety are dangerous condiments in a time of apparent mental weakness. You know you are in it and hope it is over before it becomes a harbinger of rue. Obviously, this is where companionship matters, we are far apart and planning on a rendezvous soon as we have not been together since mid-January.

I appreciate his helplessness because he wants to do so much that cannot be bridged by our separation, his soothing and wise words are a great comfort, a tower of strength he is and so quickly notices when I am not particularly there and now, he understands to give me the space to sort my head out. If we were together, the human touch, the hug, that feeling of time collapsed, love expressed, and tenderness experienced would have made all the difference.

It would get better, I can do this much as I acknowledge, I am only being human, my strength will return, and the wonder of hope will refresh me for what is ahead. All towards the healing of being with and the comfort of seeing Brian, keeps me going.

Thursday 28 October 2021

October is full of life stories

A month of aspects

For decades, October was a month of many celebrations in my family, one of many births and the blessings that have been bestowed on us. We counted the days from the first week to the last of the month the most commemorative days ensconced in the 20s.

The patriarch, sisters, a brother, an aunt, a brother-in law, a niece, a nephew, a marriage, many friends makes October a rather crowded month of best wishes and congratulations that is until 5 years ago when plunked in the middle of the third week our baby sister passed on, then 10 days after the fourth anniversary of her passing, my stepmother passed on suddenly just 4 days after her 55th birthday.

Life is the story of everything

The shock of these events sometimes makes October seem a stranger than comfortable month, yet births and deaths can happen at any time of the year. That October gave dates to these aspects of sorrow is just part of the story of life and it has lent dates to births and the beginnings of new life.

Rather than make October a month of sorrow, we reflect sombrely on our experiences cherishing with fondness the memory of those we loved who have become of the dearly departed, living to ensure that the lives they lived will not be forgotten. Finding perspective in it all is to know that they were consequential and impactful, without them we would be less fulfilled than we are.

God rest them well and we receive the grace to always do them proud for their absence does not make them any less significant and maybe we be able to build on the legacies they bequeathed us by their giving us some of their humanity when they tarried.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Waiting for veins so shy

Appearances always matter

Do not show it, even when I was at my most ill, my appearance was always sophisticated. The first impression my doctor will have of me will suggest this person is not ill. Appearances matter, always. And that was how I was kitted out for my biannual check-up at the hospital this morning.

I had hoped to see my long-term consultant, but I was seen by a registrar and not one of the many I have seen since I started attending this department. We had an easy conversation about my situation, the results of my last tests, a refill prescription, my general plans for the future and the arrangements for my next appointment as to whether I would prefer a telephone consultation or a face-to-face meeting.

A bloody blockage

He mooted extending my blood tests to an annual activity, but I was reticent, the highlight of the discussions do centre around the bloods apart from questions or other concerns I might have that would usually relate to tests and prospects in terms of treatments. He arranged for me to meet the departmental nurses to have blood taken, we nudged elbows and that was my consultation done until next April.

Two needle puncture wounds, one on each arm, later and there was no blood drawn. I might well take a dose of blood thinners, though Brian in his wisdom would suggest it’s because I do not drink enough water. The nurse, a burly man, six-foot and many more inches tall with hands that are hardly dainty but likely to be seen on a construction site was the same person who failed to draw blood that last time I was here.

Veins in hiding

It might have been an involuntary response on recognising him that sent my veins diving inward from the surface of my skin, they were indeed hiding and could not be sought, no matter how hard he tried. He put it down to dehydration and suggested I get a drink, though alcohol is prohibited. I submitted my drug prescription to the pharmacy and literally gulped down 500 millilitres of water with the hope that in 20 or so minutes, someone might be able to extract the elixir of life for the vampires.

On returning, he called another nurse to try and draw blood, this time on my right arm and a third puncture as if I was to become a colander. She teased and kneaded my arms to no avail; this was a case of waiting on veins that were too shy to show up. I don’t blame them.

They are good

So, I was sent to the blood lab, a room of expert phlebotomists I was told knew how to get blood out of stone if need be. I was to knock on their door even though there was a plain sign on the door advising not to knock on the door and ask for someone by name. They were expecting me, in a horror film wit would have been vampires licking their lips at the sight of another blood feast.

I sat down, he put on a tourniquet, inserted the hypodermic needle in my arm and there was blood filling the vial-syringes, all 4, one after the other and we were done. I guess there is ability that the departmental nurse did have to draw blood, but the phlebotomists had expertise. They are good. I picked up my prescription for another 6 months and I was on my way home.

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Now, give the cat some milk

A backroom Rottweiler

Nothing can be as irksome as interlopers encroaching on the areas of expertise of others to usurp a situation. A 33-year career in Information Technology leaves you too aware of many things that you find yourself restraining yourself from stating the bleeding obvious short of lacing your apparent vitriol with expletives.

In my profession, whilst I am engaged as subject matter expert, I prefer to stay in the background and feed my line management with the information and arguments they need to make to the business or entities for what we want to do. Where I do attend meetings, I am conscious of the fact that where the comfortable are being comforted the more and the afflicted suffer even more grievous affliction, I come to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

Don’t project your failure

That is why a project manager who thinks they can bend everyone to their will would hate an encounter with me because I do not mince words, I say things others might never find the phraseology to express.

Like when one said we have to work weekends if need be and I retorted, we all have lives outside of the work, that weekends could not be seized on without due consideration. I might have gone on to say it was a failure of core project management not to have properly assessed the time, resources, and cost to complete a project because no one talked to the people who mattered.

They really work you up

Teams are engaged to solve problems or create solutions as a daily activity, yet someone somewhere in the organisation rather than come round to discuss the scenario they need a solution for, they craft elaborate and pointless solutions not properly understanding the problem in the first place and put our backs up creating unnecessary angst.

If I had any hairs to pull out, I would be pulling clumps out daily. You wonder why they fancy themselves in our roles just to have the satisfaction of activity without achievement. If I were to direct my ire at them, I go on an exploration of the English putdown that acts like slow poison. Do I recall when someone was giving me grief and my one-line response was, “This situation has moved on from personalities to providing a solution.” Now, give the cat some milk. 

Appointments to celebration and chemotherapy

Looking back at things

I do not remember much about my second session of chemotherapy twelve years ago. It was however, my third visit to the hospital after I was discharged 17 days before. The first was to take gifts to the nurses who tended me over my 18-night stay. The second was the Friday before what became my every 3-week chemotherapy session, it was for blood tests to determine how I was tolerating chemotherapy.

Blog - A second course of chemotherapy

That day had so much going on, just as it was my father’s 70th birthday, to which I could contribute nothing, I was basically fighting for my life not to talk of my livelihood that was not close to my consideration at the time.

Blog - 70 - A man of integrity planted like a tree of life

The stories we are gifted

Weeks before I had already said the celebrations should go ahead in Nigeria rather than have my situation in faraway Netherlands sour the occasion. I have been blessed and quite fortunate to be able to do a lot more for my father’s 80th birthday that was celebrated in the way he wanted things to be.

These memories signify a sense of gratitude that old times of great infirmity and adversity have become stories of life on which to reflect on how grace and favour carries you through things which at the onset you never think you have either the wherewithal or capacity for. You look back in wonder at what stories you have been given to tell, uniquely yours alone. I am thankful.

Blogs - The Cancer Tales (2009)

Thought Picnic: Our patriarch at 82

Trying to be good

Today brought a rush of emotions that caught me between a sense of duty and one of common humanity with decency. More promising for me was that I am persuadable even as some would consider me rather obstinate to the point of being quite obstreperous.

It is not my nature, I just seek a place where I am not under mental stress or strain, avoidable situations are just that, avoidable except for extenuating circumstances demanding some different action.

An occasion to speak

Today, the Patriarch of the Akintayo family, my father clocked 82 and that comes with some challenges presented by age and circumstance, that I find myself thinking the blessing of old age comes with its share of misery as you watch people you once knew become persons of the past in their passing.

Then there something else that appears to engage too strongly, that which time does not seem to heal, relationships founded on conflict and friction, issues unresolved but allowed to fester. You are asked to let bygones be bygones unaddressed, if only it were that simple.

The prayers of expiation?

Yet, someone can whisper in your ear and advise gently that you review a situation. Whether it is serendipity or propinquity, you are soon in conversation with the stress easing away for some gladness if for a moment from both sides, the satisfaction that maybe there is a higher cause that can give all a new lease, for time is not on our sides as it once was.

To my dad, a very happy birthday, the renewal of strength, the comfort of knowing that he is loved daily even through the difficult issues and the best times of long life without sorrow. Sometimes, I think the prayers of old parents are at one time deep and moving and then maybe in expiation of the things they did long ago that their children find hard to forgive and forget. God bless you, dad.

Monday 25 October 2021

Coronavirus streets to lively markets - XLVIII

Local markets alive

It is interesting to be distracted by observation to notice things that are quite serendipitous especially after review. My trip to London was mainly to see friends who reside in boroughs as far apart as you could imagine for someone from out of town, for I was in Richmond on Saturday and then Haringey on Sunday.

On my return from Twickenham, I met a lady with lots of leftover bread at the station who manned the Celtic Bakers store at the Twickenham Farmers' Market and then on Sunday, after being taken for a circulatory ride by a black cab, we were out to the City & Country Farmers’ Market at the Alexandra Palace Campsbourne School.

Just smile for a while

The wide array of foods and goods locally sourced and fresh without the dead hand of over-processing by the food industrial complex makes one think it might be prudent to seek out a farmers’ market in my locality.

The store holders had different temperaments, one could not be bothered to notice us, another was an effervescent conversationalist, please to see us, willing to oblige and present to advice and tips. You can imagine how much time we spent with him before having to visit another stall just because he had run out of something we wanted.

Noticed fame and noted infamy

There, just above the stall was a blue plaque honouring Emma Clarke, reputed to be the first black female footballer who played in the first public national match for women on Nightingale Lane in 1895. Then to think that for most of the first part of the 20th Century the Football Association took a conservative stance against women’s football.

Blue plaque to Emma Clarke - pioneering black British female footballer.

Round to the other side of the market venue on the school premises, we stocked up on vegetables and me, a bottle of ginger and banana kombucha made by a man who seemed to have more than a passing interest in me, I guess we just notice each other by some invisible radar.

Not that Yoruba

Moving on, there was a stall with language books, I picked the one for Yoruba off the shelf which was interesting in that they there teaching Yoruba pronunciations by using English phonics which I thought strange because the sounds would at best be approximations and when spoken would sound quite foreign too.

However, one critical element was missing, the diacritical marks necessary to show that Yoruba is a tonal language such that words that look like homonyms without the diacritical marks are not homophones because of the intonations and are essentially heteronyms.

Oiled his wallet nicely

We withstood a whole exegesis on walnut and cobnut (hazelnut) cold-pressed oils, if we could remember anything of what we were supposed to learn, the pitch was persuasive enough and he made a really good sale. The walnut oil will suit my steam cooking as it best used on food that does not take direct heat.

I was last at this market probably 3 years ago, and it was a wonderfully pleasant sunny day for fourth week of October.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Bet Lehem in Tuican hom

From the ancient to the authentic

I was in Tuican hom in modern-day Twickenham, the place between two rivers, the Thames and the Crane, or so it was written of a place first recorded in 704 AD and that was a long time ago, just as I was with a friend I had known from way back when my innocence was losing its virtue.

From the many things we did and the memories we shared and then brunch at an authentic Italian restaurant, for many of the patrons, Italian did speak, we made for the station of carriages drawn not by horses and my last bit of hand tissues was left in the hands of a man who by trying to avoid the crowds, slipped and fell into the road, drawing blood from his nose bridge. We worried, but he was fine.

Loafing towards a seat

Passing through the ticket gates and down to the platform where my electric-powered carriage was to arrive in just under 10 minutes, I could almost gambol towards a vacant seat, but there was none as strewn across three seats were what I thought were bags of shopping, but the lady on seeing me made to remove the bags for me to take a seat.

Strangely, the bags were full of loaves of bread, different kinds and shapes, but before I landed a quip to feed my curiosity, she said she had all this bread leftover from tending a Celtic Bakers store at the Twickenham Farmers' Market, all variants of sourdough bread that she could not throw away and she offered us some, for free.

Breaking the bread of blessing

For a moment, we were in a moment of spiritual transfiguration to Bet Leem (“House of Bread”) in Hebrew, or Bethlehem as we now know it, the lady a priest with knowledge, wisdom, and revelation of breads like a sommelier, showing us the scriptures of bread afresh and winning us over to a new experience of bread so different and unique.

Even I was caught in the spirit of bread so divine, I was given a loaf and offered more, but there may be others just in need of this sustenance. Another party, a lady too got involved in the conversation between the three of us, she also took a loaf before she asked about a Jewish sweet loaf, and there was one on offer, too big for one to take and so we broke the bread and shared the blessing of life.

Her carriage arrived to take her swiftly off to Windsor where she might even find herself the welcome audience in the court of Elizabeth II, before our own carriage arrived, wherein I bid the priestess farewell not to be taken to taken to my Waterloo, but to emerge at the pleasure gardens of vokzal (Russian) or Vauxhall railway station, today. [BBC: Waterloo and Vauxhall]

We shared bread and broke bread.

Coronavirus streets from Manchester to London - XLVII

It is still wild out there

I have tried to ignore the COVID-19 situation in the UK almost to no avail. It probably would not have concerned me that much until I had to travel to London. I booked my audaciously exorbitantly priced travel ticket with a seat reservation and arrived on time at the train station to board my train, whereupon the train on boarding platform was a train delayed, the train scheduled to leave before mine.

As we waited on the concourse with the main indicators showing my train as expected to depart on the same platform, the platform indicator suddenly switched from 18:55 Delayed to 19:15 On Time.

Sardines to the train

Just like that, Avanti West Coast, the train franchise company was going to load two sets of passengers meant for different trains on to one train without announcing the heretofore delayed train had been cancelled and the newly designated scheduled train meant to leave on time, soon was delayed too.

Seat reservations had become a mess as the reserved seats for our train had already been occupied by passengers of the earlier train, who had boarded earlier quite completely unaware of what was going on and no explanation was given.

When I found a seat beside my reserved seat, the train was already overcrowded and fully declassified. There is no point paying the full whack for first class seats on Avanti West Coast because it would be devalued to standard class before the train has departed the station.

No pandemic situation here

There were stickers inside my carriage to ‘Respect Social Distancing’, that was impossible and as a representative of company wrote to me on Twitter, they were following government guidance. From my vantage point in an aisle seat set in the middle of a 63-seat carriage, only two of us were wearing face masks in what was essentially a closed carriage.

Everything that should not be happening during a pandemic found expression here, a complete lack of concern for that fact that times were quite serious, we were in a seated yet crowded space, confined with poor ventilation, that the air-conditioning could not keep the carriage cool, and literally everyone without face masks.

9 carriages hurtling down to London from Manchester for just over 2 hours, full of whoever, strangers all, none checked for vaccination or COVID-19 status, if there was a place for a super-spreader situation, this was it. God forbid the worst.

We are ignoring a problem

It compounds several levels of irresponsibility from a lethargic government unable to proactively act to arrest the growing infection rate in the UK that has for weeks topped or rivalled the stakes globally, to companies like Avanti West Coast operating under the cover and license of government guidelines that if anyone catches anything, there would be no means of tracking and tracing for proximity and contact to get anyone who might have been inadvertently exposed to quarantine.

You then wonder if without any equivalent premises control measures for trains to gain a grip on this Coronavirus pandemic, these modes of transport are not part of the problem with the UK facing the possibility of another long lockdown at home if the lock outs from countries abroad don’t begin to gather pace already. For Morocco has already barred flights from the UK. [BBC News: Morocco bans UK flights due to Covid cases rising]

Our Coronavirus streets are not going away, anytime soon.

Friday 22 October 2021

In the quest for meaningful expression

Know what I mean

Clarity, that is something that I find matters more than ever in communication, persuasion, and in winning the argument. Whilst one does not always win the argument or even engage with the point of winning, it is important that whatever views are shared are clearly understood, eliciting questions where necessary and documented for the record.

Even though I have never been a humanities major, I have more of an engineering bent, the activities and projects I embark on can be quite consequential, the fear of change is ever-present and anyone could quickly challenge either what they do not agree with and usually what they do not understand.

Use the treasures of language

I find that there is a richness in expression that I can bring to bear to convey complex issues in simple terms with analogies and allegories, almost like parables. Taking people along with concepts they understand and applying in situations they can begin to grasp.

There will always be a form of words that encompasses what I need to say, that I have to reiterate until it is impactful is part of the scheme. I do not play with communication and the way I choose to use it, if I have to be overly formal or introduce a putdown, the intention is to express displeasure or disdain without the need for an expletive.

Sometimes, you have to read it more than once and whatever wells up in you to respond would have dissipated when it sinks in. It is all in there, it just needs to be eked out.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

We suffer as grass in fighting cancer

In the scheme of things, cancer

An African proverb says, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The meaning from The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs suggests, ‘The weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful.’ [TODOP]

This was the thought that came up in discussion with my boyfriend on the shocking and sudden death of his uncle from cancer. I reflected once again on how battling cancer rarely involves the person as there is hardly any natural means of defeating it.

Rather, we are the battleground on which the cancer is tackled by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, therapeutics, and/or surgery. For we are the hosts for the onslaught that is raised against cancer, with the caveat that we might or not have the physiological capacity to tolerate the treatment.

Tolerance in intolerance

When I had 7 sessions of chemotherapy, each session progressively attacked cancer and left me weaker with a totally compromised immune system that was already immunodeficient because of HIV and full-blown AIDS that my consultant was beginning to worry about doing something for the cytotoxicity of the treatment.

Meanwhile, one the day of my 7th session, early that morning I had attended the funeral service of a friend who passed on after 2 sessions of chemotherapy. It had exhausted him totally that friends who attended his PhD viva voce just 13 days before he passed on said, they can hear the strength drain out of him in his voice, he was barely there.

Our mortal frame

I do not subscribe to the idea of battling cancer as something you can overcome by the force of the will or any kind of determination, you can only aim to trust in the medical expertise brought to bear and hope that you can tolerate whatever is thrown at your body and that there is just sufficient in your system to carry you through to the other end where you have just been fortunate to have survived.

For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
[Bible Gateway Psalm 103:14-16 (NKJV)]

Monday 18 October 2021

Feyike: 5 years on and the memories

My kidulthood was over

You were the reason mummy called me into her bedroom one late evening to have our first adult conversation, she was probably in her second trimester with you when I, totally oblivious and that is strange having been schooled in noticing when girls get pregnant with the whitening of their eyes and their constant spitting, along with the morning sickness. Maybe it was the familiarity, for apart from my immediate sister, I had never really noticed when my mother was expecting, the babies just arrived after a few days away.

Anyway, the conversation went along the lines of, I am an older woman now, as she was just shy of 40 and I 17, exactly a month after her landmark year, well, our birthdays have always been a month apart in and out of leap years. Yes, an older woman having a baby, and this was unexpected, but we now have to pull together and recognise that some responsibilities would fall on us over time.

My deception was complete

Much as she felt that this information should be shared with me, I was not having the best adolescence, my first year at Lagos State College of Science and Technology was going to be an unmitigated disaster doing Chemical Engineering, my performance was woeful, it was not even good enough to be asked to repeat the class.

Meanwhile, I had pulled a switch to Yaba College of Technology (YabaTech for short) for Electrical Engineering where the faculty had to be given proof that I was still 16 when we had the admissions interview, the underlying issue that many would call unseriousness and was patently clinical depression, carried along into that stint, I just rarely understood why I was in a class, the new beginnings for mother and child too divergent for concern or consideration.

My situation was dire

What would a nursing mother do with a child who is supposed to be smart but cannot understand anything going on in his lectures? I had never used drugs, that was not the problem, I just had a fog in my head that I could not clear, that religion became the steadying rail for my mental health until things began to clear up was the background in which Feyike arrived.

That week in which Feyike was born was when I moved into the YabaTech hostels, I was a parents’ nightmare, for when my mother was in hospital I had stolen money out of the kitty in her wardrobe and then had to face an inquiry against the conviction that she put aside some money and it had somehow disappeared, indeed, I was a nightmare, everything I could do wrong, I did.

My behaviour was atrocious

For the hostel, I snagged that by writing to the accommodations department that I could not stay with my uncle, even my parents found a copy of that letter when I did not arrive home on time having been on the new students’ jaunt to Badagry and Cotonou. I guess I was excused serious punishment that my father was always ready to mete out when I explained the situation.

I did not attend Feyike’s naming ceremony and for that, I faced the full wrath of my father, this weedy kid against the brute force of an angry and menacing bully, I asked for it and I got a lot, I never escaped being a child. Some encounters with my father in those times have so defined the quality of our relationship since then.

My religion was unhelpful

As I was rarely home, I did not know much about the illness that put my baby sister in hospital many times, and sometimes for weeks. I returned home once to lift her and there must have a dislocation in her arm, we soothed her with lullabies and lulled her to sleep. Many times, I prayed fervent prayers for her healing, hoping for a miracle and much else, but there was a radical change in our family unit.

Medicine only seemed to provide temporary outcomes, my mother’s inclination was she was in deep spiritual warfare for the soul of her first son and the life of her last daughter, she found a prophet that had some answers to whatever ailed all of us and got stuck in. My father with all pretensions of rationality hated religion even if he did the basic church attendance and community group activities, he could be persuaded to do the full fetish rituals, which had the accoutrements of the macabre. I saw a lot and said very little.

My knowledge was deficient

Invariably, I never knew how ill our Feyike became over the years for most of the time I visited home, she was in remission from another hospital visit or bout of illness, everything I know I have learnt mostly after the fact.

When I was told that she had fallen very ill some years before her passing, I made enquiries through some doctor friends of mine on Twitter, they found the medical notes and history that for her apparently chronic illness she had not been adherent to her medical regimes.

Probably, a trait in our family, we hate medical regimes, it took a medical emergency for me to face up to the reality of my own situation, and now, I have been on at least 3 pills a day for over 12 years. It is just part of my life.

My mourning was early

She had end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis thrice-weekly dialysis and consequently needed a kidney transplant for hers had stopped functioning. I saw a medical abyss ahead, and began to mourn, long before we knew much more, the system in Nigeria, I did not think could sustain her dire medical needs and my sisters put everything they had into trying to keep her alive.

We were somewhat in a losing battle, and towards the end, Feyike herself was donating money raised for her own treatment to others. On the morning of the 18th of October 2016, my middle sister called, Feyike had left us.

My sister was my daughter

The way our story was intertwined seems to be much more around what I was going through than what her own experiences were because I had left home in the second year of her childhood and everything else I know of her is through conversation than observation. Yet, she to me felt more like a daughter than a sister, she would have been the sole beneficiary of my estate, it was her name on the life insurance policy I took out when I bought my apartment in the Netherlands in 2001.

Maybe, I was something like an absent father, one she knew was somewhere out there in the periphery, not intruding but interested, I cannot tell. I know I miss the snatches of conversation we used to have, the hopes and dreams that seeped into the ever-present sense of hopelessness that something might just change for the better.

She lived her life and when she died, it was a great release from lifelong suffering and disease, a baby, a girl, a lady, a woman, a person who touched our lives in immeasurable ways, some difficult to put in words, but time becomes a store of the fondest memories that can never be forgotten, recalled for sombre occasions like this.

 

Oluwafeyikewa, 4th November 1982 – 18th October 2016.

Sunday 17 October 2021

My friend, the genius

Your boundaries are sacrosanct

I would hardly be the one to initiate an intervention because I respect boundaries to the extent that I might not have been as helpful a friend as I could be. Also, I am rarely confrontational, it is not my personality type, though, if I have to confront a situation, I will, usually as a last resort.

However, if I am specifically engaged on an issue, I will apply all my faculties as objectively as possible, but herein is my dilemma. I believe I am watching a friend go off the rails and I do not know how to address the matter. I provide nominal support, but this is hardly sufficient to the situation, and it thoroughly disturbs me.

Call me anytime

My inclination is always to have an open door against the buffeting a person may face from others, but what if I am the only one left as the voice of reason: the last bastion of hope. The thought I might lose my friend terrifies me.

Professional support offered does not seem to meet the underlying need that moralises addiction and its detriments when a person believes they gain benefits from substance abuse and usage, or so they aver.

What he could be

This is someone whose abilities, aptitude, and intellect, if harnessed can operate consistently at a genius level with prolific output, whereas now, we contend with torrents of sometimes incoherent but amazing ideas that might only be realised with some sobriety. I have a friend who is a lot more than he sees in himself and considerably a lot more than I know he is capable of.

Whether rehabilitation can begin to extricate him from this situation towards better outcomes and fulfilment, I cannot tell, but in my view, he is doing himself gradual and progressive harm without realising or acknowledging it, comfortable in the feeling that exacerbates his most creative self. It bothers me and I am somewhat crying for help and inspiration for what is possible and within the scope of arrest. My friend is a genius unrealised.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Do not mistake me for a Nigerian

I am not your Nigerian

Sometimes, I am left frustrated by assumptions others have of me, the way elements of my expressed heritage seem to suggest I am wholly one thing to the exclusion of other aspects of my mixed identity.

In July last year, I ordered some food that was to be delivered at a certain time from a Nigerian food caterer, we conversed in Yoruba most of the time and it must have given her the impression that I had the stereotypical predilection for poor timekeeping. Nothing could be further from that presumption.

Timekeeping is a virtue

In one of our exchanges, I had to tell her, our familiar repartee should not be mistaken for me being a core Nigeria, I am nothing of the sort, I am an Englishman who just happens to be able to code-switch into Nigerian parlance with ease, but I am completely unreconstructed for the Nigerian way of doing things. On that issue of time alone, much as her food was exceedingly good, we would not be doing business ever again. Please, do not waste my time.

Then again, I find myself quite irked by another situation. This is a person not particularly enamoured of familial ties to be blackmailed into doing anything. I do what I need to do according to my own convenience and abilities dictated by my own worldview. Some might consider that harsh, but I am not here to please or pleasure anyone about the things I do, I just work to make the best of my expression of humanity.

Warming to growers

I have an acquaintance who I met when I was a superstar-technical-guru parachuted in to create a solution and move on. That stint for just over 4 weeks worked because the technical bud I was working with was knowledgeable enough to pick up what I was doing and run with it.

Obviously, it was nice to see a Nigerian trying to find his feet in the technical team, and so we kept in touch. This young man has now landed a role he is totally incapable of handling, he is out of his depth and apparently winging it with keeping things going but without the wherewithal to do anything new to implement or improve the service that is desperately in need of both the expertise and audacity to introduce change.

Disappointing engagements sour interest

Months ago, I was invited to have a look at the environment and in the process, it became and has become more evident that not only does he not know what to do, he cannot even follow detailed instructions to achieve what he needs done.

How am I supposed to be able to help this situation without going back to the fundamentals even as the prospect shows no agility, ability, aptitude, or capability of the growth necessary to give him control of his brief?

I do not work weekends, not if I can help it, in all my contracting life of over 25 years, I doubt I have done 20 weekend days of any work, and this is considering the rates are double or triple my usual rates. You need to set aside your weekend from work except where no other time can be found to do what needs doing. I have a life. Please, you have no hold on my time.

It’s my time, not yours, man

Altogether, I have probably spent 14 hours of my weekends doing stuff with this chap, the last time, I planned on just 90 minutes but on recognising what we had to do, we were still at it 6 hours on, until he had to break off to attend to some volunteer activity, priorities, I thought.

Since then, he has sought my time first to continue from where we left off and then suggesting he has progressed, which is fine, but I have had other plans and it has not been convenient for me to engage. I guess what is more annoying is the premise that he can choose the time I am to be available to help him, it is a kind of unwitting sense of unconscious entitlement that demands without consideration for the other. Please, do not abuse my time.

Things that move me

Now, I like to help, but I want to recognise that I am helpful in that the person being helped is growing and developing in the area where the help is being sought. I appreciate I have a wealth of knowledge that I also like to share with people that show the aptitude to learn, I guess that is the first part of my discomfiture.

Then, if you are asking for help, you have to tailor your request around how convenient it is for the ones you need help from, do not assume you have a call on their time as if they are waiting on your beck and call. We all have things to do and have to eke out our time for these things, even if I decide to spend the whole weekend sleeping, that is my prerogative fully dictated by me.

It is still my time

In this case, he does not ask when I can do stuff, he immediately thinks my Sunday is available, I have just decided to ignore him, and I am close to getting pissed off enough send him to Block-land. How do you teach that my apparent affinity to things Nigerian does not mean I acquiesce to the varied forms of passive-aggressive entitlement that allows the sense of kindred to expect anyone to just give in. Please, you cannot usurp my time.

I am hamstrung by my Englishness, for even finding a polite way to suggest I am unimpressed almost seems rude whichever way I might want to deliver it. He is best sent to Coventry, maybe some moderating effect can play out in the end.

Friday 15 October 2021

Looking up and out

Beyond the clouds

I could write a long rant about so many things but that is just energy-sapping and depressing, I need to focus on other more wholesome things that dwell on the future and great expectations.

Indeed, this pandemic has messed up so many things, but you begin to work towards how things are easing up. For instance, South Africa was removed from the red list on Monday morning meaning we, the fully vaccinated do not have to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine on returning to the UK.

Towards these things

Obviously, this means we can begin to plan for another rendezvous in Cape Town, though not until I have fulfilled a few things. My biannual check-up is at the end of the month and the 6-month duration after which I qualify for the booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine is in the first week of the next.

Altogether, I guess we are looking at a December meeting and that means a lot to Brian and I. We can eventually get married and catch up with all that time of being apart since the middle of January. My mind is out there, my heart is there too and my life, I hope to set up out there.

A future beckons

It informs any prospect for my expertise that I am looking for a fully remote working opportunity that would allow me to work out of Cape Town. If I have learnt anything from my father, it is not to embark on sudden changes but to manage transition gradually as one deemphasises UK residence to creating a hybrid existence between the UK and South Africa.

There is a lot to plan for, but we have to take it a step at a time. Yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of Chris’ passing, I am so glad that Brian has taken me beyond the grief and sorrow of a love lost to the expectation and future love anew and a love like I have never experienced before. Miracles happen, though rarely in ways we expect.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Thought Picnic: And so to rise

Dump the funk

There have been days where I have been unsure of what portends, I feel a bit listless and uncertain, thinking about what I am trying to do but not getting done if I had any idea of what or how.

It is like one is caught up in a funk and by that, there is a disinterest apart from allowing for routine to just tick along and hoping there will be a breakout to something useful. In our video conferences, Brian would nearly always notice something and then begin to incessantly probe, even though I cannot put words to the situation that it seems to exacerbate my discomfiture. It is like a low energy situation that cannot be salvaged with a tonic.

Eventually, I do find my way of the clouds because I am such a person who begins to realise, I am not in the most comfortable place to thrive. I find things to be thankful for, what I should be planning for, stories to be grateful for, the light that sweeps the darkness away, I rise, rise above it to do the things I enjoy. I do get on and get on well. It is well.

Sunday 10 October 2021

Let's treat the cancer and laugh

Notes to the times

I recall that when I was in the hospital, I was writing blogs about my situation, it gave the impression to some readers, especially my brother that I was not that so near death if I was lucid enough to be tapping away on a keyboard. He had no idea.

Even though I was in my sixth year of blogging, the records of those contemporaneous are the best journal of my life at that time and it becomes the kind of advice I would anyone who starts blogging. Always journal the before, the during, the after, the reflection, the analysis, the memories, the rehash, if you must and any other thing that celebrates your story.

Considering the pain, discomfort, and situation I was in, I find myself reading the blogs 12 years on and extracting some of the apparently humorous lines that made light of a grave situation. I say, no matter what you are going through, acquire a sense of humour if you do not have one and use it as much as you can, a little mirth can be extraordinarily good medicine, it saves your dignity and enhances your gracefulness too.

Excerpts to amuse

When I was in pain and it appeared, nothing was being done about it. “I was literally begging, give me morphine, I beg of you – I am in a hospital for crying out loud, I am not here to find out how much I can endure pain and seek my pain threshold as a thing of achievement – I am not that mad.” {In hospital to kill the pain]

Could there be a better way to talk of urination? “And so I have been manufacturing bottles of Premier Cru Urea 2009 by the gallon, the colour is golden, there doesn’t appear to be impurities, I would not hazard the ideas of bouquet, palate, odour and what not.” [Golden red and painless]

It was pain, pain and more pain. “No, I did not die and go to heaven; I lived through the pain to tell another story of an event in my hospital life.” [The looming abyss of a deep biopsy]

There can be no praise of hospital food, none at all. “Don't worry, I am sick-bag trained, no mess.” [Seeing hospital meals again]

If I had a book of Psalms to write, this might be one of them. “For weeks I had sacrificed my peace at the altar of pain, bringing offerings of agony and lamentations of the unbearable as I worshipped as a subject of things going wrong and circumstances becoming dire.” [Getting off the pain train]

When you move from manual to automatic, there probably is no instruction for that transition. “One observation, the hospital bed controls do not lend themselves to geriatric finesse, I have observed both fumble in frustration with the buttons, the more senior expelling expletives as if he was out at sea. Strewth!” [Crutches on the drip]

In utter exasperation, I wrote. “Can you believe it? I can hear him from here. Save our ears. Save our sanity or as restraint overcomes whoever decides the cat of throttling him – save that man from himself.” [A relocation from the cacophony]

Something called chemotherapy is neither a barber nor a dentist. “The chemotherapy is supposed to be very tolerable though, what I am told and what I read are in two different spheres. I am not to expect hair loss, as if I had much anyway and my nails will not be growing off my teeth.” [Scuttling cancer with chemo]

Content is everything, especially when vomiting, yet, sometimes, you just have to go through the motions. “So, four times overnight I regurgitated the exclusive hospital gourmet till my body was conditioned into realising you could only throw up content, the channelling remains in the body. It was horrible.” Then on the gentler matter of the thing that might have brought misery after much pleasure. “The pain that ran to my feet when I stepped off the bed for a shower was excruciating, I threw away all inhibitions and let the nurse bath me, she was gentle on my crown jewels.” [Nausea abates by suppository]

I probably lost some of my humour in the next few blogs, not that I had given up, I was in good spirits, the food and seeing it all again but not from the plate in which it was served was getting to me. One last stab at this cuisine. “I will NOT abide this food any longer, no not any longer.” [I'm alive after my autopsy]

One last act on the catwalk before I leave tomorrow. “I have also changed to using the designer hospital tunics which seem to have no front or back, I suppose you wear the buttons to the back for ladies and to the front for gentlemen.” [One more night]

Saturday 9 October 2021

Essential Snobbery 101: A class of crass

Class is a state of mind

“You have no respect for 1st Class, that’s why you have your feet on the seats.” That was the part of the conversation that begun a bit earlier when 6 or 7 girls took up seats in the carriage completely unaware of other occupants.

The train conductor then asked if they had 1st Class tickets, which they didn’t and as he tried to move them on, they remonstrated that they did not know they were in first-class seats, which was a blatant lie because when they got on the train, that was the first conversation between them before they decided to stay rather than find other seats matching their tickets.

Class treats you as you are

One of the girls made an unnecessarily rude comment to which the train conductor retorted; she should get her eyes tested. Then came a torrent of abuse and invective along with the comment that he, the conductor was not respectful of customers and that if he was unhappy with his job, he should resign. All for asking them to move to the seats for which they had tickets.

The train conductor could have asked them to get off the train or called the British Transport Police on them for their abuse, but he let them move to the next carriage. Unfortunately, that was not the matter, for when he did go through the train checking tickets, the truculent and unruly girls continued their atrocious behaviour, which he ignored.

They all got off at the next station and rather than walk away, they came up the platform to swear at and make rude gestures at the train conductor, I felt quite sorry for him, yet it was all in a day’s work.

Class is being attentive

If you do not want to be talked down to by officials, read the signs and where you are unsure, ask questions. Behave yourself that you do not attract sanction or opprobrium and do not take the patience or docility of staff for stupidity, they have rights and powers that can frustrate your about to become inconsequential existence.

I could only wonder what the girls were at home, at that time of the day, they probably had no homes they belonged to with any structure, discipline, or social comportment and that is why they were flipping out even though they were totally in the wrong and could not accept they were wrong or being told that they were. If I view the future through my observation of those girls, I would have been filled with trepidation, there must be better ahead than that.

I make no apology

Angry about contractors?

Attending a broader departmental meeting yesterday morning, someone anonymously posted a message in the Q&A section of the presentation with the following premise. That the agency had hired contractors at highly inflated salaries who worked less and had no responsibilities thereby leaving the agency hamstrung on recruiting actual staff.

Many were in agreement with the comment, but it was one viewpoint that could not be left to slide. I have been contracting since 1995, in fact, I was persuaded to go contracting my then CIO who felt that there would never be full utilisation of my wealth of knowledge, and I would easily be frustrated in a permanent role.

For the season, for a reason

In all the years of my being a contractor, I have felt no less equal to the task along with feeling an integral member of the teams I worked in. To address the comment, I wrote, “Contractors are actual staff, albeit temporary, they have been engaged by the agency to help fulfil the goals being discussed the in the conference and that it was quite unhelpful to create an us-and-them situation where we should be banding together.” Soon, I had more agreeing with me than those who did with the original posting.

Contractors get a bad rap, usually through no fault of their own apart from the few rouge ones. We are paid competitively negotiated market rates which might seem high, but we fundamentally cost less in administration, overheads, and management, whilst bringing in skill, expertise, and other perspectives.

We do not have the employment benefits of permanent staff along with burdening the employers with fiduciary requirements by law and other statutes. The arrangements are neat, allowing for clean breaks by mutual and individual arrangement. The establishment so easily terminates the contract as they can renew or recall after a break of working there.

No apologies, none at all

As per my own experience, I am there to contribute and regardless of the tendency to differentiate staff status, many industries need all kinds of staff and everything is down to need, skill, experience, demand, negotiation, and the ability to get involved with the people you work with.

Now, if anyone thinks contractors are paid too much, in a free enterprise world they can also decide to become contractors rather than chafe at the choices of others on the one hand and the market requirements that create the need for such personnel on the other hand. What I will not brook is the denigration of contractors, nor would I apologise for being a contractor. So there!