Tuesday, 30 November 2021

End of work year 2021

Listen attentively first

It has been a wonderful work year with much to celebrate even if the challenges and the frustrations that seemed to greet one at many turns. The job of being a subject matter expert in a big team of long-staying members who are steeped in the traditions and culture of an organisation whilst being hardened by their experiences along with the histories that have defined their presence or absence of amenity to change can be interesting.

Someone like me is supposed to visit first with a good pair of listening ears and a fresh pair of eyes long before I have a compelling speech to review the long-held perspectives, persuading colleagues, partners and hierarchies of alternative methods and best practice. It is more a battle of wits than anything else, the encounters can be bruising, yet necessary.

Make your footing sure

My view is, I am engaged to challenge the orthodoxy, expose the dogmatic and align towards the pragmatic, shepherding change, not as a hard choice but a progressive march which is rarely at speed but at snail’s pace with the purpose of incremental and beneficial improvements that the managers can highlight as big successes.

Sometimes, I cannot get in edgeways, all arguments deployed, most debates exhausted, glaring evidence presented that it is literally incontrovertible, but the political climate will not budge a nanometre.

It is usually political

You begin to learn to choose your battles carefully, find where you can build agreement, move that towards a consensus, manage the compromises well, so the main thrust of your ideas are not lost, then bring forth the benefits and the gains whilst assertively debunking woolly thinking, needless experimentation and pointless solutions crafted from the poor use or knowledge of the tools available to fulfil the requirements.

This, I aver is the bane of being in a technical role at a high level, it is usually more political than technical, and it is where you have to master the art of communication. How to point out bad practice that it becomes a learning opportunity rather than it being taken negatively as criticism. Accord praise liberally and acknowledge fully ideas proposed and activities beautifully performed by others even if you wish you had that idea first.

Be dependable more than indispensable

Win confidence and trust, not so much to make yourself indispensable but valuable and dependable, this is what 33 years in the field of computer information technology has taught me, 26 of those years, I have mainly been a freelance consultant. I don’t get moved along like I am part of a glacier, I have to earn my place and prove my worth constantly through continuous learning and practice, education, excitement, enthusiasm, curiosity, and grit.

My work year 2021 is now over for me to go and deal with the essential matters of the heart. A stand-in has been invited to provide support to my standard of expertise and know-how, whilst I am away. I did not achieve everything I hoped I will in the organisation in the year past, but I think there is enough understanding that I can be helpful in matters of architecture, policy, implementation, and administration.

To the coalface of the work front, I wish you all a wonderful yuletide season and a more rewardingly, prosperous and fulfilling New Year, maybe, just maybe, we would also see the back of this global pandemic and launch into a new life of cherished experiences and exciting adventure. 

Of dreams and battles in other tongues

I dream active dreams

Vivid dreams find a landscape in my sleep, and I cannot account for when they occur apart from when there is too much fat in my food close to when I take my pills, that the interaction between the chemicals allows for that side effect.

At other times, it is a busy day that leaves me so utterly exhausted, once I fall asleep, there is a kind of incapacitation that helps my relaxation, but I get any sleep I can whenever I can, for there is a tendency to insomnia that I try to arrest before it takes hold.

One apparent sleep disorder I have endured is parasomnia, where undesirable and physical events occur in my sleep that I am punching out or kicking out, at other times, I am talking in my sleep and rarely in typical conversation but in serious confrontation with people or situations that occasion possible or imminent harm.

Winning in all fights

From deep within my psyche, I find myself engaged in some sort of spiritual warfare, speaking out against assailants to the scheme of the Acts of Apostles. Fundamentally, I am a man of intense spiritual persuasion and belief that some realms in which I dwell are multidimensional and needing of presence in attention, observation, assertion, understanding, engagement, and conflict where you should triumph.

One other peculiarity is whilst English is my mother tongue and Yoruba is a learned language, my dream language is usually strongly Yoruba than English, I seem to be more assertive and sure of myself and what I determine to do in that language with a lot more clarity and forcefulness. I marvel at the power of dreams and what many victories I have been conferred with when met with an attack.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Thought Picnic: In writing to get it right

Writing to a sort

Sometimes I wonder if I would successfully fill a month with its daily quota of blogs as both the exercise of discipline and the demonstration of consistency that I occasionally fail to achieve. It is not for the want of determination or the absence of material to write about, the unintended along with the unexplained just seems to invade the appearance of order leaving one thinking things are spiralling out of control.

Then you assess the point of necessity, for none of this is done under any duress, it is just the willingness to act and the preparedness the perform that dictates the frequency or the lack of it. I enjoy this activity and it is not done for the purpose of monetisation as I was asked of recently. I guess when that comes to mind, you acquire both duty and responsibility with the pressure that could portend avoidable anxiety.

Remember to relax and learn

If the themes of some recent blogs are anything to go by, the circumstances I create for myself are ones in which I seek to thrive rather than suffer. Even when I consider the idea of resting on laurels of blogging for almost 18 years, I am no less enthusiastic about blogging which ranges over a broad spectrum of the serious to the unserious, opinions that I once spelt opinono in a primary school spelling test, perspectives, experiences, and reports.

What surprises me as I write is the things I remember, it is like an active archiving and searching operation is going on in my brain and there to type out at this moment are times when I did not know how to pronounce bronchitis, yacht, quay, beau, or Islington, and then I knew. The blog presents opportunities for learning and learning afresh. Now, what did I start this blog for?

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Let's do basic Greek indeed

All Greek in our romance

In the quandary of names or naming, the unintended occurs with the need to avoid unnecessary conflict that some are wont to stir up for it is in confusion and confrontation that they find every sense of satisfaction, you almost voice a silent prayer that peace would never find a home with their kind of hospitality. [UK Today News: Donald Trump Jr, Ted Cruz troll WHO for skipping ‘Xi’ in naming omicron variant]

Much as we have adopted the Greek alphabet as the nomenclature for the variants of the Coronavirus we could as well have used Roman numerals. However, if you thought you could learn the Greek alphabet as the pandemic reveals new ways to remain part of our globally contemporary news stories, you will be on to a bad education.

Know beyond the popular

Having done engineering subjects, many of the units of measurement or formulas for equations have Greek nomenclature, many of which I cannot care to remember at this time. The new Coronavirus Variant of Concern (VoC) has been given omicron, after we have seen through alpha, beta, gamma, and delta variants, some Variants of Interest (VoI) were given lambda and mu. It would appear some designated variants just never reached the popularity stakes and so did not become global news. [WHO: Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants]

To help understand the situation, I have shared the Greek alphabet; alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, xi, omicron, pi, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, chi, psi, omega.

Names to make trouble with

The WHO skipped the 13th Greek letter, nu just not to give the Coronavirus the moniker of new, the decision to skip the 14th Greek letter xi can be termed political and diplomatic as it would have sent us looking east to China where the first indications the Coronavirus emerged from and it just happens to be the surname of the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping. The surname is first when referring to Chinese names.

I guess we would have been met with the same dilemma if Roman numerals were used, for at the time we had lambda in the Greek alphabet, it would have been XI. The WHO depends on global consensus and cooperation, which can entertain the risk of favouritism and/or bias in trying to serve all interests without offending any principal participant.

Get a piece of the pie

It might have hamstrung the WHO in tackling the Coronavirus with alacrity and most especially in determining the true source of this global pandemic, yet everyone needs to be kept on board.

One can only hope that with the emergence of the omicron variant, world leaders can come together to address the appallingly disgraceful state of global vaccine inequity and along with relaxing patent restrictions to allow the Global South to produce their own vaccines to local distribution too. In a sense, we might with that agreement finally have got a piece of the pie, to get this Coronavirus out of circulation that we would no need to get to a Coronavirus variant called pi.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Moments of senior and tiresome abandon

The irksome numbers of time

It has been a rather hectic week, by which I mean, I did not notice the difference between 9:15 PM and 19:15 when I booked a restaurant table a few days ago, all the while thinking I had an early time slot until, in conversation with a friend, I noticed my error. I called the restaurant and was able to reschedule for 17:00. I must have been having a senior moment, for time is rarely something I get wrong.

It was a date in honour of a friend, one of my many exes I still have a good friendship with, though I have friends with literally all of those I have had affairs with if they have not withdrawn their friendship. By the time I was through the main course, I was drifting away, shutting down and dozing off.

I was both aware and tired that keeping up with the conversation was not getting any easier and he is hardly a slow talker, even under the influence.

A week of small crazies

It is the little things that have laden the week with apparent lethargy, the weather has taken a turn for mercury descending to zero and visiting a bone-chilling cold to anyone who ventures out, this along with the wind that lowers the temperature even more. My ordeal with the laundry service which started last week Thursday ended on Monday evening.

Calling the matriarch to celebrate her birthday started off nicely before it became distressing for both of us, an issue that needed my intervention beyond the activities once undertaken by an interlocutor, the delegation of responsibility had created an uncomfortably inadvertent and unexpected power dynamic that was difficult for my sensibilities.

At work, there was flux and in the things that demanded an interjection of wonder and surprise, it was not that which was in a particularly positive light. That with developments in South Africa that had me fielding calls and concerns along with the danger of scuppering plans. You do feel you want to lie down.

To listen beyond the hastened

An opportunity came to vent my spleen, I was being listened to for my perspective and view of things without the cloud of familiarity that excused a deeper understanding of things people assume are of no concern because they deem me unflappable. I could be my own greatest enemy, if I am read as people presume, without them asking to be certain of their conclusions.

When I got home, I was ready to crash, and I did take a picture to show I was not alert for serious engagement; it did not suffice, the phone rang, the sound awakened me, their satisfaction in seeing me was another half hour of working myself back to the stupor and sleepiness I thought I had a grasp of when I got home.

Not acting on what is remembered of them

We see only the good

Through affinity and familiarity, we acquire the kind of subjectivity that blinds us to certain characteristics of personality and integrity. The people we seem to know by whom we have determined they can do no wrong, we hoist them on plinths of adoration, unimpeachable and perfect despite their flaws being evident to others.

The searing truth of the character of our somewhat familiars escapes scrutiny and challenge, we are left totally unpersuaded of the truth and maybe that is necessary for the kind of relationships we need to maintain for the respect or the mystique the person presents to our opinions and adulation of them.

Speak the truth always

Yet, I am of the rare disposition of not speaking ill of the dead whilst not supporting false encomiums and epitaphs that suggest a life lived differently from the knowledge we have of such persons. The needful must be done, to bury the dead. However, to praise them beyond their lived human expression is to at once attend to falsehood and do them an injustice.

The evil men do remains the evil they have done, just as the good they have done is the good for which they should be lauded and appreciated.

Do well with all

In the many stories I have heard of people who have heretofore seemed worthy of praise because their deeds are concealed in the secrecy of acts that others remember them for, I have been astounded.

All I can say is that for all that they might have done wrong, we should find it in our better selves not to act as they have done to us and so become like them, but to rise to a standard for which we might be found good, faultless, and exemplary.

The sands of time will always archive the record and in the way we have been made to feel, by those who have contemned us, if we cannot forget, we can attempt to forgive.

The sin against urinals

Nature is a persistent caller

The fundamentals of nature and quite possibly the accumulation of years registered as age imposes on the person the need to answer the call of nature at inopportune moments far from the comfort of a home commode.

You get to a public urinal that is describing itself with odours most foul but have to abide it and as you release yourself with the effortless ease of bladder affirming aplomb and notice the debris of discarded chewing gum in the urinal receptacle.

Dissolution of gum

Now, there might be a lot of applications of urine that I would not care to list here for the sake of polite discourse, but I have not found any study that suggests urine can dissolve and decompose chewing gum.

Which leads me to ask the question why anyone with a remotely functioning cranial capacity would think the urinal is the best place to spit out their chewing gum? We all know that chewing gum is probably one of the most annoyingly difficult substances to dispose of.

Nascent gum archaeology

It is spat out to the ground, on pavements where they can stick on the soles of your shoes, on the under seats of benches or the public armrests where you can only wonder after that mangling with the saliva of strangers, it becomes a vector for the unimaginably unspeakable and disgusting germs.

Yet, it happens so much that I wonder if DNA markers should not be harvested from chewing gum discarded in public places other than bins for analysis towards seeking out the antisocial culprits for prosecution.

Just a thought, and I think it might be a good one too.  

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Thought Picnic: The futility in trying to rearrange me

Keep it in perspective

Let me consider the anticipation and excitement greeting some situation that has been considered the whole year but been hamstrung by the heavy pall of the pandemic along with the nationalistic restrictions imposed taking little cognisance of the fact that we need a globally concerted and integrated effort to arrest the hold of the Coronavirus.

Along the way, nerves are getting frazzled even as the default posture is to avoid any agitation as much as possible, from near and afar, as you channel issues that should best be resolved in the propinquity of the participants and principals rather than then seeking external counsel and intervention to no better end than to blindside you into taking sides.

Minimalist to my strength

It is a constant refrain, if not a battle to not get involved if possible and to be as minimally light-touch as possible. To have an effect rather than directly affect calls on insight and wisdom, maybe it is just self-preservation, it is all part of keeping one’s sanity in the midst of much turmoil.

Blog - Thought Picnic: I am best at my own speed

To some, I can be so easily upset when it is not so much the singular events but the compounding of different things, dissatisfaction, angst, anxiety, cravings, temptations, desires, the unfulfilled, the unexpected, little mistakes, annoyances, obstinacy and stubbornness against predicted outcomes, the irksome things are myriad and caught in the web of one’s existence that it might if allowed snuff out any pleasure.

Just as I am, is fine

It takes a different kind of awareness to not be drawn into the little and inconsequential that might result in inadvertent consequences begetting ruefulness and regret. What I choose to ignore sometimes is just for my safety and not out of slight, I cherish my peace of mind, my own company, and quite importantly, my own space. That I have to explain this can be frustrating and infuriating.

Anyway, I do what I have to do and along with hoping that the prayer of serenity is fulfilled in every circumstance, I am faced with, to know what I can change, what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

Then, for as long as I can remember, too many have wanted to change me into what they think I should be rather than accepting that my uniqueness and individuality has their own expression that could be allowed to flourish for them to see me as the best I could ever be, along with my humanity, my flaws, my weaknesses and my somewhat incomprehensible tics.

Monday, 22 November 2021

Laundered to distress by Laundryheap

Bewitched by convenience

Their unique selling proposition was more than just attractive but extremely convenient considering the circumstances, for the nearest dry cleaner to me was almost a kilometre away, somewhat expensive, sometimes delivering poor quality service and most of all, I had to take my laundry to them and had to given them at least three days for me to pick up my stuff.

Laundryheap was convenience wrapped up in an online portal with a 24-hour turnaround allowing for their couriers to do a door-laundry-door pick-up and delivery, as long as I had a credit card they could charge once the job was done. They had been my drycleaners since July 2016.

I was sold on the 24 hours spiel, it was irresistibly perfect for my situation.
Those bags were big and I filled two of them.

I probably used them 3 or 4 times a year with my laundry bill averaging £200 to £250 per service. Suits, jackets, shirts, ties, cravats, overcoats, trousers and then shorts were what I got them to do. However, the pandemic has meant I have not used formal wear that much, that I have only utilised the service the last two Decembers and this November.

That’s a light delivery

This last time was an ordeal that totally deviated from the kind of service I was accustomed to, it felt like they were deliberately trying to lose my custom, and whatever might have informed that performance, has not been properly explained to me.

On Wednesday, I put in a request for a collection and gathered my clothes in two piles of inventories according to the item and separated them into bags labelled ‘Dryclean’ and ‘Wash & Iron’, the courier arrived towards the later part of the pick-up window and all I had to do was wait until the next day.

The delivery window came just within the 24 hours of the collection, I received a bag and some hangers, the volume and lightness meant something was missing. I had seen from the billing that some things were drycleaned and some were washed & ironed, meaning they did process the two bags of clothes, the bigger shock was I had 20 items of clothing returned out of 58 items collected the previous day.

Good thing I did an itemisation of clothing to be collected, would have to take pictures of labels too?

Make pictures of words

Missing from the delivery was 3 jackets, 5 2-piece suits, all 9 cravats, the overcoat that did not belong to me, and all my shirts, 20 of them. So, I contacted the chat line which consisted of named but faceless bots hosted in Bangalore, when my clothes were dry cleaned on location in Longsight, just 3 kilometres away.

As they had no phone number to call, I was left to type out details of my complaint and missing items that they were to relay to another team and that might eventually reach the facilities or logistics team at Longsight. Each interaction towards finding my clothes was initiated by me, there was no initiative on their part to keep me updated on the progress of finding my clothes, I was fobbed off stock responses, ‘Rest assured, we are working hard to ensure you things are found by our team.’ And anything else to that effect.

Then I was even offered a £10.70 compensation voucher for my inconvenience as they asked for particular details about my missing items to help them locate where they might be. I found myself exercising powers of recall you never have to use when using a laundry service with the hope that one particular description might stand out enough to lead whoever was looking to a pile of clothes belonging to one person, inadvertently missed in the logistics processing.

Item Type:
Brand/label:
Colour/pattern/design:
Size (if relevant):
Any other distinguishing features:

Size and colour, I could generally remember, brands for my suits I could except for the bespoke ones, the jackets I mostly got from a catalogue apart from one, I never really checked to see what label it had apart from knowing one was 4 sizes smaller belonging to a friend, another 2 sizes smaller, belonging to Brian, the shirts? God help me.

Now, the hours were days

Soon, I got a message my clothes had been found, but the updated billing did not reflect the reality of what I was expecting, I had to question the inventory as they scheduled the delivery for Friday night between 19:00 and 22:00, only to inform me that due to some unforeseen circumstances, the delivery had been postponed to Saturday for the same window. By then, I had been billed fully.

My distress was just compounded by the fact that they were not proactive or prompt with telling of the changes in planned arrangements. It would have assuaged my angst if someone just called me, that never happened. A few minutes to the Saturday window of delivery, it was postponed to Monday. I had given up on chasing them and was looking at the legal options for corporate theft and compensation.

Thank you very much

This evening, I received a message that I was at the end of a 20 deep queue of delivery stops, then it changed to someone expecting to get to my door in 19 minutes. Just 121 hours after what was supposed to be a service touted as “Laundry & Dry Cleaning to your home in 24 hours” my clothes arrived. I simply counted them and put them away. If any are damaged through handling, I cannot care less or even more.

Whilst the likelihood of using Laundryheap again is remote to totally unlikely, if they have no competition, it might come into consideration. However, a £10.70 compensation for an order that I paid over £310 for and was not delivered on time, is an insult more than derisory. I could fully afford my laundry bill; I did not choose them for charitable or humanitarian reasons to my account. The service is what I paid for; the compensation is like throwing pennies at me.

We are done, for now

What is a 3% compensation for the angst and distress of possibly losing your clothes? Conceptually, Laundryheap might be a useful service, I have my doubts about the heart and soul of the owners being nearer the customer than their profits.

For that, I would be seeking out all sites that provide review services for Laundryheap to award 1-star for customer service and support, even if the other part of the equation can easily get a 4-star rating. They were let down by the service and when it comes to personal items like clothing, it is those little things that become the end of custom and the loss of recommendations. In Laundryheap, which did so well for a while, I am quite sorely unimpressed and totally disappointed.

With the Sudanese, I stand

An overturned coup

There are some things you observe from afar without much engagement. At times, the issue gets a passing glance until something significant happens. I was on a BBC news site earlier and I read that the military coup in Sudan last month has now been overturned. [BBC News: Sudan's military reinstates ousted civilian PM Hamdok]

The previous ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok who was missing at one time and then under some sort of house arrest at the whim of the military junta has now been reinstated as part of a power-sharing arrangement.

I stand with the Sudanese

This is quite an unusual development, that a military coup returns to civilian leadership with the same personnel outside of a bloody counter-coup. We have to watch the developments as to the viability of this new agreement and whether it would be accepted.

What we cannot ignore is the public protests and demonstrations of the Sudanese public who have been against the coup from the onset against the brutal onslaught and repression of the military. This coupled with mounting international pressure must have led the military to capitulate. After 30 years of Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese had lost no inhibitions in seeking self-determination and civilian leadership, I commend them.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

An injection for my pills

My will for the pills

When I think about it, I have what I might call a health-year, the biannual visits to see the consultant in charge of my HIV management which has been under control with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for just over 12 years with two changes of medication that I handle very well.

Until I fell seriously ill in 2009, one of my concerns about what to do was around the pill burden, too many experiences and stories had given me the idea that ARVs were difficult to store, you took many pills several times a day and the side effects could be unbearable.

I guess by the time I left the hospital with a medication trailer of pills to be taken 8-times, 6-times, 4-times, thrice, twice, and once daily, along with the chemotherapy every three weeks, I knew my life was totally changed and would change radically if I were to keep alive by adhering to that pill regime.

Adapting fine to routine

With time, I was left with ARVs of just 3-pills to be taken once a day, and an antiviral prophylactic drug to be taken twice daily. On later chemotherapy sessions, I needed an anti-emetic to help keep the food in. One large pill taken an hour before the session and the two smaller pills for one each of the next two days.

The ARVs affected the bowel movements that I was put on a single-pill medication that I have been on since May 2010 apart from the change in late 2018 that lasted 6 weeks that did not work for me, I returned to the medication I was having rather than try something new. My pills are a nightly elevenses, they work for me, I have had an undetectable viral load for over 12 years and my CD4 count has been increasing appreciably. Those are the markers for the state of my health.

Good, but not ready

Last week, it was announced that the taking of daily ARVs can be replaced with injections taken every two months, or 6-times a year. Two injections, apparently to help many who have problems with the daily pill taking and the disruption to their lives. I do appreciate the usefulness and need for this, though I seem to have adapted when to the daily pills, I do not think I am mentally predisposed to this possible change to bi-monthly injections. [BBC News: First long-acting injection for HIV approved]

I get my prescription every 6 months for a 6-month run, and my day is planned around ensuring I take my pills as required, my weekly pill box laid out every Sunday and kept track of as diligently as possible, I might just be averse to change after having perfected this routine. Altogether, I doubt I have missed my medication up to a dozen times since the 30th of September 2009.

Now, I might well consider an HIV vaccine if that becomes available as a yearly jab taken like a flu jab that would have the efficacy of keeping the viral load undetectable and the virus completely at bay. Until then, whilst I do not have the numbers, I am happy with my pills.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Customer service is cheap at Laundryheap

Laundering a Laundry’s faults

For many times, I have used Laundryheap,
But now I think I would almost weep,
For 2 days ago to them, I gave two bags to keep,
To return to me my clothes given a clean sweep,
Alas, the returns being light I gave it a peep.

And 38 items out of 58, not one could seek,
How this could be you do wonder with pique,
As you file a complaint in search of anyone to speak,
Quite a silly situation to leave you quite weak,
In this situational distress, I find myself rather meek.

For my clothes went for a launder in Longsight,
Only 3 kilometres away from here, if you might,
But for the help, I needed to ease my searing plight,
Was a faceless bot in Bangalore that only could write,
So the day was long gone, and I was still in a fight.

Needing to be told where on earth my clothes have been,
Rest assured the bot did say to me then, we are so keen,
Five suits, Nine cravats, Five jackets, for now unseen,
Twenty shirts even, and my wardrobe is bare and quite lean,
This is all, I think, for the love of the automatic machine.

Now the bot comes back after a stern remonstration,
Somehow the facility team like detectives at a station,
My things have they found left behind at that location,
In less than four hours they should return to my possession,
For my troubles a paltry and flimsy tenner in compensation.

If I ever find myself using the services again of Laundryheap,
I would have returned to the slaughter very much like sheep,
For the critical customer service element is done on the cheap,
There is no satisfaction when it all slows to a damning creep,
At which point you seek another service to which you can leap.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Thought Picnic: I am best at my own speed

We really do not know

Making assumptions about people, especially those you think or believe you know intimately comes with flaws and a wide scope for misunderstanding and erroneous actions. Each person regardless of their symbiotic dependence or interdependence on others comes with their individuality and uniqueness, whether they recognise that attribute or not.

For myself, I am unceasingly working to understand myself better as much as I seek to be a better person, fully aware of myself whilst being considerate of others. I don’t want to overreach and surmise that I can feel, appreciate, or understand fully what the other person is going through, much as when I am sought to listen, I would not want to insert myself into circumstances being played out in someone else’s situation.

Make generous allowances

In being aware that I should not insert myself, I also do not want to be either commanding or demanding. I believe in latitude and initiative, conferring autonomy with trust to the extent that people can act with control of the decisions they make and by so doing assume full responsibility for their actions regardless of the consequence. Ultimately, it means people would be far from deceiving themselves.

The furthest I would go in pursuit of getting a response I view would be beneficial to anyone is to persuade, the points would be made, and the scenarios would be laid out, however, it would be unfair and unreasonable to have conferred autonomy and then seek to surreptitiously resume ownership because of any level of involvement. In extremis, it would be to avoid pending disaster, but we are rarely at that point of intervention.

A result totally unforced

It is a strange case of reckoning that I was intimated of when a friend who I was quite concerned about told me, they felt that there was a purpose in their lives for which certain apparently self-destructive or low-esteem activities would be aborted to focus on the things that give them a sense of personal value and achievement with the possibility of impacting positively on their immediate community. I felt a sense of pride in hearing that without showing much of a reaction to it.

I feel my contribution to the situation was just peripheral, providing a welcoming and enabling environment, not being judgemental or accusative, being supportive in the insignificant and consequential things, and just being a friend as a friend should be.

Please, don’t push me

Reflecting on my situation, whilst I could be impulsive on some things, it is rarely with people. Even where I find myself considering actions quite drastic, I would err on the side of caution, restraint and avoid confrontation if I can help it. This state of mind is what lowers stress, eliminates sources of anxiety, and informs why if there is no need to be exerted on something, then there is no need to be exercised about it. I cherish my peace of mind as I love my life.

Indeed, this could be annoying to some who expect me to be assertive and forward, usually mostly to fulfil what they want me to do rather than what I have been persuaded and convinced to do. The fact is, whilst it might take time, I seem to get results without having to steer or arrest. It might just be that there is more to the power of example than the example of power.

Things get sorted out because the situation begins to favour the requirement, let things go their natural course and you will be rewarded by nature’s breeze of peace and wellness. I do not like being pushed, if I am going in a particular direction, I am happy with my own progress, for it is in that setting that I have control, order, and safety.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Embrace the mistakes and learn

 Breaking out of perfect

Attending an interview that became the impetus for an almost 13-year sojourn in The Netherlands, I was asked a question about a scenario I had never encountered in all the environments I had ever worked in before. I had no answer to what the interviewer must have thought would be the dealbreaker of suitability to fill in the role.

Having answered all other questions, I was asked if I had any comments, and I took the opportunity to seek an answer to the question that stomped me before returning home to research what it was all about. I concluded to myself that the reason I had never encountered that issue was that the environments in which I had worked were almost too perfect and where no problems arose, there was no challenge to normalcy or quest for any resolution.

Problems and practice are necessary

In my professional life, there is a lot of documentation about how to design, setup, and implement features and products, but what do you do when things do not work as required or expected? That is where knowledge and experience are created, the art of troubleshooting is honed in the hard craft of practice and research, seeking out where things might have deviated from the norm and reviewing experiences of others in the field to augment, enhance, and improve your knowledge and expertise towards becoming a subject matter expert.

That aspect of practice and discovery is all too necessary along with the inevitable mistakes that dot a life of determination, adventure, application, daring, and accomplishment. We all know we are not perfect, but we are always getting better, the more time and effort we put into understanding how things work and consequently why they fail to work as intended.

Face the fear of failure

Yet, this does not just apply to the narrow area of the use of technology but any useful endeavour. As a conversation with Brian, the other way gave birth to some conceptual thinking about the fear of making mistakes. The strains of what I said turned into what might be a saying, a note to myself and to anyone else with whom it might resonate.

If you don't make mistakes, you can't correct them, you don't learn from them and you have no practice necessary to perfect your craft. The fear of making mistakes ultimately robs you however close or remote, of the possibility of genius. Mistakes help you become the best.” Now, go and do that thing you were afraid to do because of your fear of failure or embarrassment.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Talking of natural attraction

Just a natural attraction

Sometimes, you find that you are conditioned by a heteronormative world, and that forms the perspective from which you see things especially in the areas of interest and attraction. Yet, you are informed by difference, a situation that suggests you are predisposed to something different.

Stepping out this morning, I thought about my affinity for a type of male form that is irresistibly attractive and alluring. This is something I have felt from as far back as when I was 7 years old. I remember that feeling washed through me as I watched a slightly older neighbourhood friend of ours come to play with his siblings at my home.

Growing to accept myself

Nothing happened between us, but I can say about myself that this was not some sort of aberration or deviancy, it was a naturally unexplained tendency that I have processed since then and eventually come to terms with. That it has a name, or a label is beside the point. We are who we are seeking to first accept ourselves and hopefully be accepted for who we are and not be judged for being that.

Then, there are places where this is not accepted even though humanity has always been represented in commonality as much as difference and diversity if we are to allow for that simplicity without the issues of influence by belief systems, prejudices, conservatism, or anything that seeks to set others apart for no other reason than they are to any degree different.

To marriage we go

We all desire some sort of companionship, in the general sense and in the particular. The former would comprise people we meet as acquaintances, friends, colleagues, or even strangers, maybe just being in a crowd. In the latter, we might start with family, to relations, extending to community and then one person with whom we desire to be intimate and with whom we share much more than with others.

The heteronormative is a construct that appears to be underpinned by statute that is changing in many dominions to accommodate a broader view of people we choose to partner with and make known that they have become our significant other, in deed first, and then by law. It is going to happen more with people, marriage, regardless of pairing. I have found someone with whom that matters more than anything. It is Brian.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XLIX

Booked to rights

The first sign of recovery, I was already thinking of where to have brunch and I booked a table with Trove at Ancoats. Their booking principle reminds me of the principle that governs the computer networking facility to prevent Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

You are free to book a table, but you have to submit your credit card details from which a fee is deducted for a no-show. There is also a time limit on your use of the table for an hour. That way, anyone who decides to book all tables may deprive the restaurant of custom, but not of revenue.

The Denial-of-Service attack principle takes up all resources to contact a website but is not committed, a commitment is demanded in mitigation which if not fulfilled is denied, freeing up the website from being overwhelmed.

A pandemic forgotten

I arrived masked up, not that I noticed any of the customers masking up at, the ones that came to buy bread or the some sat at tables. Though it was a bit disconcerting to see someone who until who opened her mouth ajar in a big yawn without bothering to shield or cover the cavernous depths of that cavity departing the epithet of lady to suddenly and shockingly too. The cough that came after was not disguised, expelling to the air everything and anything.

We seem to have forgotten there is still a pandemic out here and out there, even more importantly is the need for the consideration of others if one should expect some manners of a sort. I comforted myself with appreciating the distance between us and settled into my breakfast of eggs benedict with cavolo nero, better known as Italian kale.

From mobile to paper

Walking back through Arndale Shopping Centre, expectations were low for any pandemic precautions, I did what I needed to do and was on my way home. Then I passed two elderly men appearing lost and trying to find their bearings to some place.

We have long been using Google Maps they had a book I probably last used twenty-something years ago, an A-to-Z Street Atlas for Manchester. I did not know they were still in print, the latest version on Amazon was printed in 1999. Current, it won’t be, by a long stretch, except in old Manchester city and its environs.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Running off the runs

What a messy thing

I woke up a little later than usual this morning having had a rather torrid night of it. Like on Tuesday night, I was out of bed every few minutes to assuage the diarrhoeal urges that I have battled since then.

Most of Thursday, I was fine, I hardly needed to heed the call of nature until after work and during my nap, I had to rush out of the bedroom to the toilet. Then having laid towels on the bed, I had 4 changes of towels with the need to run a late-night washing machine cycle before things quietened down.

A run on stemming runs

By then, I had run out of Imodium Instants, I hoped for the best that things would just settle, and I could get some rest and comfort. At noon, I went to the Boots Chemist to get an over-the-counter pack of Loperamide hydrochloride, the main ingredient in Imodium and it would appear a few more people have had the runs that there has been a run on Imodium, they were out of stock.

It took going to the local supermarket home remedies shelf to get the last two packets available. It might well be there is a bug going around. This was the issue the pharmacist raised at the vaccination centre if they needed to separate the side effects of the booster vaccine from the continuing problem of diarrhoea and I cannot say if the booster might have exacerbated it.

Brian would probably be nodding his head at my apparent obstinacy, but my view is we have to deal with the situation as it is rather than what could have been or should have been done before.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

The ripping yarn of a shirt

A paper chase cornered

There are times that the ability to glean a fascinating piece of detail from an innocuous narrative is itself interesting and well fascinating. We go about our daily lives trying to do one thing or the other and as we try to complete something we are called to attend to something unplanned.

You determine that you need to arrest the lethargy of a bureaucracy and by your presence on the premises interacting with the heretofore faceless apparatchiks totally oblivious of who you are having mishandled you by the interminable shuffling of papers that travel from the In to the Indifferent, to the Ignored trays and never reaching the Out tray where some action will terminate in the realisation of your request.

More often it is wasted in a bin somewhere, never to be retrieved until filthy lucre oils the wheels of distress rather than progress. Parsimony being a strategy adopted with the impression that you can do what you can pay others to do. The observer disarmed by forthrightness restrains themselves from suggesting futility.

Wheeling an identity

Then the whole melee against officialdom is interrupted by a request for your presence at another place as the chariot of conveyance had inadvertently acquired a depressed wheel, for which the helpless is quite helplessly unable to help themselves that you become the saviour of the day. The one in the moment of need that becomes the next of kin.

On arrival, you approach the ground to survey the state of the chariot and a means to replace the wheel and as your back arcs in whatever dimension it is extended, your shirt splits down the middle on your back and what we have is a long-held secret revealed at an importune moment. You, the observer will marvel at the realisation that who you once knew might well not be the fictional Incredible Hulk, but a real living Hulk ready to change your tyres.

No one finds out until me and my big mouth unawares blurts out something we had better keep to ourselves, but how can we help ourselves when we are totally unaware of how the information we share would be bother understood and comprehended? In any case, the knowledge is valuable, and it always comes in useful.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

More fuel to the Pfizer

Pricks and nicks

Two things have been on my mind for the past month or so, both related to my health for which I needed to plan for and have done before the prospect of a rendezvous with my partner in December. My typically biannual check-up which usually occurs in mid-April and mid-October had landed this time in the last week of October and so the next appointment six months after.

Then, having taken my second COVID jab on May the 6th, I had been looking to book my booster shot anytime around the 6th of November. In fact, I had been looking for a slot since the middle of October, though the initial indications suggested at least 6 months and a week after the second jab. Then on Saturday, I found out that from Monday you could find a slot online to get the booster shot.

Running with runs

I was of the mind that I had told everyone, yet it just happened that in the fog of apparently letting everyone know, I had inadvertently not told Brian. You can trust I was going to get an earful for that. On Monday, I did get a slot for after work on Wednesday, today, none of the locations anywhere nearby that I decided to go to the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre by the Manchester City Football Club Etihad campus – that was going to be an Uber ride.

Meanwhile, yesterday, I had a bout of diarrhoea that left me visiting the toilet 10 times around bedtime over some 2 hours. Whilst it appeared to subside in the morning but persist through the day, I had hoped Imodium instants would help as I contemplated postponing my booster shot appointment.

In the end, I took precautions for the inadvertent flows and made for the vaccination venue where I was ushered in to first sanitise my hands and don a new face mask provided by the venue and I proceeded to the registration desk where my booking was retrieved, and a few COVID-related questions were asked.

Just some assurance

Then on to a second registration desk where more questions were asked about allergies, conditions, current medication, participation in recent trials and how I was feeling. On being told I had the runs since yesterday, the nurse sought advice from the location pharmacist who could not be located for probably 10 minutes, at which point they got me a chair to sit down.

The pharmacist came and said as long I was not feeling unwell or running a temperature, the diarrhoea should have no particular consequence. However, with that knowledge, it was left to me to decide if I wanted to go ahead with the booster shot. I felt it would be fine and then I was ushered into the queue for the Pfizer BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine.

Boost your immunity

Much banter ensued between us, the nurse who asked my name and I offered to give a list of 24, the need to take off my long-sleeved shirt that they brought over a screen lest my nudity and corset be exposed to the public and we were done before I was to sit in a waiting area for 15 minutes ere my journey home. Brian called and it was then I realised he had not been informed and my ear was pulled for longer than I could endure.

He felt I should have allowed recovery from the diarrhoea before going for the shot and whilst it is sensible, the medical opinion made allowances and having taken the jab, what mattered was keeping hydrated, taking some rest and probably an analgesic as my body got back together again. I did not want to add fuel to the fire on the whys and wherefore, I had just taken on fuel to my Pfizer. I’ll be fine.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Letters from over there

The terror of radio

BBC Radio 4 has been my radio channel of choice for decades, one of those discoveries I made by osmosis, an interest of a partner that I acquired as they expanded my horizons. Each of them through the years has brought something special into my life and worldview, I am grateful to all of them.

One night I was listening to the book of the week and what was playing as my senses got attuned to what was going on, was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, just before going to bed? No thank you, I had to switch off the radio, my dreams are vivid enough without the need for inspiration or encouragement in the horror genre.

Stomach the discomfort

The day was a bit rough, a bit of abdominal pain, stomach upset and visiting the Detritus Throne more times than necessary with it in flow rather than consistency. Then I was choking on a drink of a fruit smoothie, I was seeing all again arrive at speed in the toilet bowl, I was just ready for a lie down and that was if I could keep in bed long enough before I was summoned to the court of nature again.

Usually, for my evening naps, I would go for BBC Radio 3 and classical music wafts through the air as I settle into probably 2 hours of sleep, but this time, I decided to touch BBC Radio 4 Extra and what a surprise that presented to my hearing.

Extra on the radio

First, it was something with the legendary and amazing Kenneth Williams, that distinctively unmissable voice with English enunciation that is always comical and funny. The dramatic effect makes for good radio, you cannot tire of listening to anything he was in.

However, what caught my attention and I do miss for long while was the British-American Alistair Cooke’s, A Letter From America by Alistair Cooke, he gave such an interesting insight into America by an Englishman resident there, the similarities and differences, especially in language where the homophones, homographs and homonyms are a veritable study in how we might speak the same English and yet be saying totally different things.

An insight on America

Alistair Cooke was present in the same place when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and he was a witness to many 20th Century events that he relayed weekly on BBC Radio for 58 years and now 1472 episodes are available to listen to on BBC Radio 4. However, a programme that includes an interview and excerpts from many broadcasts over the years was relayed on BBC Radio 4 Extra titled Alistair Cooke’s Century, you should start with this and then explore other episodes.

Sadly, of the many Englishmen that have gone to live in America, none have come close in ability or stature to give us a window on America as this great man. I guess the memory of that unique insight is one that would have me playing back many Letters from America. This would make for an enjoyable time.

Note: The BBC Radio X links are to live programmes when you click on them.

Monday, 8 November 2021

In a bossy fragrance

Craving a shave

Creature of habit, I might well be and more, but I cannot really say. Yet, I find that I have done things for as long as I can remember out of nostalgia and just familiarity. In my youth, I would watch my father shave having mixed a powdered depilatory with water into a paste and applied it to his face, he was not a razor kind of man to my memory. Magic Shaving Powder it was.

After shaving, he would slap on Old Spice aftershave, I did not particularly acquire that tradition for my time. Now, I did not begin to grow a beard until I was in my 30s, a kind of late development not particularly congruent with my birth or my reaching puberty. I almost thought I would never have that rite of passage defining manhood or otherwise. Magic came to my aid for a while.

A whiff of masculinity

At my neighbour’s, an agemate who I visited often and that’s how I grew to be a fan of Ray Parker Jr, though, for deodorant, he used Brut by FabergĂ© original deodorant, now owned by Unilever. It had that easy yet light scent to it, that when I saw it about 2 decades ago, I did not hesitate to get it and I have used it since then.

It is now 26 years ago since I first visited Berlin where I met up with an old friend who was living at Karlshorst in the east and a rather daring place to be at night. He was going out with someone who worked in a perfumery, and he had a bag of bottles of cologne, eau de toilette, scents, fragrances, and perfumes, some that stank worse than a skunk.

I found the boss

Asked me to go through the bag and choose whatever I fancied and this was just when celebrity piss water was gaining some sort of prominence, but I was not into any of that. Of the lot, I chose Hugo Boss Number One eau de toilette and that has stood the test of time. Though for years, it has been made in England but unavailable in the stores.

I took to getting a bottle at the duty-free shops in Charles de Gaulle (CDG) International Airport, Paris where I have seen the price go up from around €35 to just under €75. I began to worry when I was running out, though I seemed to have a bottle to spare just because of the scarcity. Then on Saturday, I caught a glimpse of the packaging in my local Superdrug store, though that was on my way out, the price at £56, strewth!

Here I was considering returning some other time to buy it when I ventured on Amazon and it was going for £33.98 to be delivered the next day. It was a bargain and much as I like to shop in the high street, there are times, shopping online is just prudent and so I have a good stock of my eau de toilette for the foreseeable future. Habit and creature meet in one situation.

Magic shaving powder.
Old Spice Original After Shave.
Brut by FabergĂ©
Hugo Boss Number One



Sunday, 7 November 2021

For church and normalcy

On an easel in the cathedral.
Back to church indeed

Church, a place for Sunday or maybe a Sunday place to meet, whichever way you look at it, this Sunday was not one where I had decided I would be out of bed and ready for joining a congregation some 20 minutes’ walk from home for the Sung Eucharist, but against expectations I did.

One of the shifts about not needing to plan for this was we have moved to a post-pandemic stage of not having to register on the Eventbrite app to attend. The church had returned or assumed a new normalcy and having not attended service for a while because of other engagements as extended rest or being out of town, I was in for a surprise.

The changes I noticed

At the processional hymn, the procession had the clergy as usual and the full choir, not just a cantor and supporters, before then, the Dean came for a general chat to the congregation pointing us to events and programmes in the church week and a particular insert in the service pamphlet before announcing the banns of marriage for two couples. I have not heard the banns for years; surely young congregants are getting married somewhere.

During the service, the laity took the readings of the Word from the pulpit apart from the Gospel that includes ceremony and address attended to by the clergy. Even if I got more involved in church activities, I doubt I would readily take the offer to do a reading from the Bible. I dread the amplification of my voice; it sounds alien to me that I have shied from microphones. If I cannot project my voice naturally to a listening audience in a smallish place, I won’t be straining it in a hall. A public speaker, I am not.

Of things not imagined

For Communion, rather than the warden doing the ushering as has been the case for most of the last two years, we have two ladies from the congregation helping for order and at the end of the service, we gathered for teas and coffee, indoors where we socially interacted with other congregants. The only vestige of the pandemic left was a majority wore face masks during the service.

Whilst I have attended church a few times since July, this year marked the 600th Anniversary Celebration of the Collegiate Church and Queen Elizabeth II came to visit the church on the 8th of July on one of her first major outings since Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed on. I was not present as I learnt of the event after the fact, but the plaque she unveiled as on display and now the whole church was open to visit including all the chapels within the main cathedral and so there was much to display and see. [Manchester Cathedral: Her Majesty’s visit to Manchester Cathedral]

Lest I forget, the processional hymn did not end in a crescendo but in the almost quiet of the context of the words we sang, for in these troubled pandemic times, nothing could be more comforting than this:

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm!
[The New English Hymnal NEH 353 Dear Lord and Father of mankind]