Thursday 30 December 2021

It is 31 years of japa

We left and never wept

When I think of it, at this time 31 years ago, I had just arrived in the UK on a flight from Lagos which was the last time I was in Nigeria. I have since then not found any inclination or urge to return either for sentimental or other reasons, it feels like o broke free from a system and a situation and that was the end of the matter.

Even as I write, too much of what I read and hear of Nigeria is not just scary, but terrifying. If not the abuse of power by the rich and powerful, it is the menace of agents beyond the control of the state terrorising the regions that the state in attempting to arrest the situation almost always descends into atrocity and criminality.

Our hopes for something

Then again, I commend the many, especially among the youth that has been able to make Nigeria work for them after a fashion, their tenacity and resilience cannot be poohpoohed, they have shown that regardless of the circumstances, there is ability and possibility even as things could be better to expand opportunity for broader ascendancy in the citizenry.

Nigeria for me is just a place to observe and assess, my involvement and engagement is necessitated by relationships in the familial and the fraternal, beyond that, my energies and prospects are being directed to other places. Over time, I have increasingly doubted any anticipation of my return, even for the particular. We are done. Yet, my dream for Nigeria remains one for peace and prosperity for the majority marshalled by those who have a good clue of what they are doing. That alone is the welfare for everyone anywhere with a Nigerian connection.

Blog - From a Nigeria 30 years ago

Japa – Urban dictionary

That boarding pass of the 30th of December, 1990.

Basil Fawlty is in Cape Town

What you see is anything you get

We had such an abundance of choices about where to spend the rest of our time in Cape Town, that the decision took days. The fact that some advertisers on do not bother to update information about their properties and most especially the pictures leave one wondering what is available and what is not.

For instance, where we are staying now, the information about the property said there was no lift in the building and that there was only a shower in the apartment. Well, there was a lift, and it was not recently installed and how do you miss a bathtub in a bathroom?

Who we saw was something to see

The new place we booked for an overlapping day for checking in and checking out said there was only Wi-Fi in the public places apart from the fact that the pictures depicted a different place from the address that I had to visit the property manager to confirm the situation. One of the pictures had an old-style cathode ray tube television when the detail suggested a flat-screen television. You do wonder what these property agents get paid for.

Taking Brian with me to collect the keys, there was no way I could have returned to tell him of my experience with the agent and he would have believed me. The agent, a rather unkempt man well into his sixties, if not seventies who should have retired probably a decade ago attended to us, and I use attended quite loosely.

What we saw was nothing we’d seen

He was as disorganised as to have that be a credit to his managerial prowess, I sat watching as he attempted to get many things done and successfully half-complete anything, even as he fielded telephone calls, gave instructions, confirmed bookings and we were to pay a breakage deposit and collect the keys to the apartment.

It so happened that he also had to show us into the apartment, moving supermarket trolleys around his jumbled office, grabbed linen and other essentials before giving us a ride in his car to the apartment. We could have been riding shotgun with a twisting roller-coaster for the road when a call came in.

How he drove was daringly crazy

He unbuckled his seatbelt to get the phone that he put in his ear with the left hand in a right-hand drive vehicle when we began to veer off the road. So, whilst holding on to the phone conversing, he took his right hand off the steering wheel to shift the manual gear across his body to the left, we prayed and it was close to our destination as we silently promised ourselves never to be a car where he was driver, ever again.

The man who has probably been in property management for decades has a good idea of what he should be doing, but there is no doubt that he needs not just help, but a professional air of competence that belies his business, for my patience was tested and my mettle experienced a dip in tolerance. If Brian were not there, I cannot tell of what I would have done.

Who he was, was someone we knew

When he told me his name a few days ago, I thought I heard the English name Basil which left me concerned about having encountered the South African version of Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers. And though his name does end up in the English version, if so addressed, we could never have met up with a better version of the hotelier as a property manager. The less said the better. It was an ordeal and a half, that I was not all shook up leaves me rather staggered.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Coronavirus streets of the underhand - LV

Doing it again

There is always a desire to do something different when we are in Cape Town, though there are things we cannot tire of doing and repeating out of the beauty of the experience and how the passage of time allows us to see things anew.

The walks to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, sitting at Nobel Square where now all the four Nobel Peace Prize laureates from South Africa whose statues stand there have passed on, the last two within months of each other.

Funny funicular fudge

Other popular places we have visited many times and today we decided to return to Cape Point and take that 45-minute walk from Cape Point to Cape of Good Hope. On arriving at Cape Point, we thought we would have enough time to visit the lighthouse before going on the trek, but with the time we queued for tickets to the funicular ride up and the waiting to board, there wasn’t enough time before returning to the rendezvous point for the trek.

One thing we noticed about the funicular situation suggests there might be some nefarious activity involved in the ticketing process that probably should be investigated, then we are not accusing anyone of anything, yet it did not escape our cursory observation. I paid for two adult return tickets, and I was given two separate proofs of payment and two return tickets with barcodes.

I gave one ticket to Brian, and we presented our tickets at the turnstile, mine was read and I walked through, but Brian’s did not let him through that the staff used a ticket from the next person to let him through. I suppose our apparent discomfiture made the staff improvise and we thought nothing of it.

A collusion in practice

At the top, we only had time to use the gents, take a few pictures and return on the funicular where this time, Brian was able to walk through the turnstile, but my ticket was refused as having already been used. The staff there did not do much to check my ticket, he simply led me to the passthrough gate by unlinking the chain.

It was then that we compared tickets and found that the reference codes and barcodes were the same when they should have been different. It would appear I was genuinely charged for 2 adults, but the ticket was duplicated for just one. For this to work if there is no proper reconciliation between tickets issued and moneys collected, the funicular staff have to collude in a fraudulent enterprise. I have my doubts that paying for two adults would have produced two identical codes rather than unique ones.

The fact that it was overlooked at the departure gate and the return gate of the funicular service would suggest something fishy, but who knows? An error of sorts in the system? I cannot say for sure; I just have an eye for interesting irregularities, and this was one of them.

Like a different tour

We arrived in time for the trek, it was exciting as it was at times also terrifying, but we did it along with seeing such breath-taking views at the edges of continental Africa. The tour had changed from a first stop at Bloubergstrand with picture-postcard views of the Table Mountain to Kalk Bay, the tour guide was a chatterbox raconteur who seemed to retell the tall tour tales we had heard before with more relish and insight, we were caught between amazement and rolling our eyes, most of the time.

As the restaurant at Cape Point had closed, we made for Seaforth not far from Simonstown where we had a late launch and as we had seen quite a few penguins in bigger colonies, Boulders Penguin Colony presented no particular interest to us. Water’s Edge Beach and Boulders Beach were teeming with crowds that we hardly noticed on our last visit.

We even got to see wild eland and ostriches at the Table Mountain National Park, we could not have said it was the same tour of April 2019. As we returned through Simonstown to Cape Town.

Sunday 26 December 2021

Coronavirus streets in Cape Town - LIV

Electric menace with stupid

There is nowhere in the world where the riding of e-scooters is not a menace. In fact, any electrically powered vehicle that shares a pedestrian walkway or a pavement and in this case the promenade has usually inconsiderate riders whizzing past oblivious of others with literally no control or direction.

I had to jump out of the way of one hurling down at speed and in 10 metres, he crashed and fell. Whilst he got up and dusted off himself that we onlookers did not have to ask if he was alright, there have been casualties and fatalities after such accidents. The only word that came to mind was stupid, and we all to an extent have a proclivity for stupidity when the circumstance presents.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu

This morning as we contemplated and vacillated about going to church, which we eventually did not do, as I had a rotten night and his own was hardly any better with insomnia, we learnt that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had passed on, at the age of 90.

So many things will be written about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I would leave that to the eulogists. To me, he was an exemplary man of God, who understood that his calling and cause was greater than self to the service of humanity, challenging the entrenched, the absurd, the hidebound, the acceptable, the untenable, the reprehensible, the unnecessary, the prejudiced, the judgemental, and the bigoted to see a greater value to our common humanity rather than our diminished individuality in the church, in our communities, and in society.

He enters the pantheon of the exceedingly illustrious, in the class of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela. Our world was by all means blessed by his ministry and empathetic wisdom in his life and living in our time, that his passing, though a loss cannot expunge his footsteps in the eternal sands of time as a record of human history.

In the seat of his priesthood, his archbishopric, and in his heart, he gave Christianity a beating heart, a human face, a loving message, a welcoming sign with embracing arms, revealing divine purpose in mortal and flawed vessels. Rest in peace, Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu and may eternal light shine upon thee.

Saturday 25 December 2021

A Merry Christmas noted

By fate we were late

We entered Christmas slightly in a demur and sober mood, crashing out the night before in the living room, I on the so-called sofa-bad hewn out of rock that each shift was a creak in body ache allegro, you would find more comfort in wincing. He on the rug that sheds its thread at peak alopecia, and I doubt it was any more comfortable, but when I woke up in the witching hour, I got both of us to the bedroom and the comfort of the bed.

The Christmas service had to be registered for as the church was only going to admit 250 worshippers due to Coronavirus precautions. It was to start at 10:00 AM and for all our early wakefulness and preparations, we arrived as they were finishing the processional hymn and found seats to the front left nave with a good view of the altar and the celebrants.

In the humanity of our frailties

The president was Reverend Michael Lapsley, whose storied life of priesthood and social justice activism included having both his hands blown off by a letter bomb sent to him by the Apartheid regime. The atmosphere was lively and solemn, the choir in full angelic voice especially for the Latin recitals.

The Sung Eucharist is quite conservative and traditional that when censer was filled, I thought of it as God’s shisha, for it smoked up like one was observing a full burnt offering, a sweet savour to the Lord as the Bible has usefully described that Old Testament sacrament. I could do without finding fault in things as the pamphlet had mean for meek in one of the carols and the Gospel was read from John when it indicated Luke, the Latin for heavens is Caeli, but it had Coeli, amongst other things.

At the end of the service, we posed for some pictures before stepping out to greet the ministers, going to breakfast, crowd watching at V&A Waterfront before returning home for Christmas dinner. It has been a wonderful and beautiful day; I hope you all had a beautiful merry Christmas.

Thursday 23 December 2021

For the simple need to be heard and understood

If only I was heard

When I asked my line manager some 28 years ago that I wanted to attend an assertiveness course, he scoffed at me saying there was no way I needed to be on that course, that I was his rottweiler in tough negotiations and I was more than articulate enough to get my point across.

On reflection, I should have been allowed to attend that course for the simple reason that I might have learnt something about being heard when I speak and being understood when I have spoken.

If only I was understood

There is something missing in my communication, no matter how hard I try to convey a point or a situation, some of my longstanding readers read me through a prism of experience and provenance, it is rarely situational in the context of the particular time and place. Dare I say, they do not capture the zeitgeist and I am left making multiple attempts to be heard and understood.

In some ways, I am heard but not listened to, the hearing or the reading creates a kind of awe of the mastery of language, which might fail in the efficacy of meaning. Invariably, the myth that I am a good communicator is just that, a myth, because everything I have intended has been lost in the superfluity of delivery without delivering the message itself.

If only it didn’t have to be in a rage

I tried in at least three blogs to shout out my helpless situation for which I had concluded that I needed therapy, it did and literally fell on deaf ears, it became a soliloquy when I thought it was broadcast communication from which those who read my runes could reach out to me to offer support and succour.

I must conclude I failed in that simple task of asking for help, getting some time, and eliciting the latitude of patience to allow me to sort my head out. In the end, it all came out in a rage, seething rage, untrammelled with raw emotion and worked up in utter exasperation and helplessness. Sadly, we sometimes just need to hurt a little to know that the pain is real, the truth is bitter and maybe we might just see let the chips fall where they might.


Blog - Thought Picnic: Stuck on the absence of desire

Blog - Thought Picnic: In the struggle to resume as I

Blog - Please, be at ease with me

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Please, be at ease with me

Fear not what you see

Do I ever rebuke,
Even as though a duke,
Or my words abrade,
And inflict like in a raid,
Seek I constant apology,
To be beheld like an effigy,
My lips spew criticism,
With all its cynicism,
Has one given no praise,
Just not to follow a craze,
Too difficult to impress,
Leaving some in distress,
Seen as quite impossible,
That I am unapproachable,
Many are my faults,
As deemed the assault,
A god I seek not to be,
Fear not what you see.

Thought Picnic: In the struggle to resume as I

A fog in the head

It is strange that only recently I wrote about being stuck on the absence of desire, I concept that might well be quite seriously misunderstood when it is seen as physical rather than a head and consequently a mental health issue.

Blog - Thought Picnic: Stuck on the absence of desire

There is no doubt in my mind today that I do need therapy, there are knotty issues that are affecting my flow, I cannot seem to get a grip on several things that I would have thought a few months ago would have happened without any need for encouragement or inspiration. I really do feel somewhat stuck that something radical needs to happen.

The therapies I require

Indeed, some physical therapy can come in useful in the form of spa treatments and a sports massage, however, fundamentally, mental therapy would reach down into the depth of what seems to ail me, a few sessions of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, a professional helping me unravel the pall of infirmity that inhibits aspects of productivity and expression.

The catharsis of writing is not enough and though having a conversation with my best friend might have helped things a bit. In myself, my confidence is shaken and the kind of focus that appears as sure-footed maturity is not particular manifest. It is like I am at my most vulnerable when I need support and most misunderstood that places the burden of patience on others.

Seeing more of me

I have no idea of how much time I need to get back either to my old self or to arrive at a manifestly improved self, I am just taking each day as it comes, hoping that in the process things either fall into place or I find that essential support I need.

It is inauspicious that this is happening at a time when I am with my partner, and we have ahead of us some consequential plans. Oh, I can be quite moody if not boring, these are realities that probably need to be experienced and appreciated along with everything else people know about me. What I do not know is if my human frailties can find enough allowances in the frame of reference of those on whom I depend as much as they depend on me.

Then there is a responsibility that I bear in all this, the need for others to see the 'for worse' of me when they are distracted by the 'for better' at commitment, and feel deceived about all the components of my evidently fragile being and nature.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

On a Tuesday, 56 years ago

Four days to Christmas

On a cold Tuesday morning, a boy-child was born, and for a manger, he had an incubator in which he lay for just over 2 months. Mary, the mother was soon back in the fields of work just after Joseph, the father had handled the hamster-sized boy and signed the papers to have the boy taken out of town. That is my nativity in a nutshell.

My heart is full of thanks and gratitude for the celebration of my 56th birthday, and what a year it has been, but we cannot dwell on the difficulties and hardships when there is much to be grateful for, for the blessings and the grace to see another year, in warmth, with love, and buoyed with hope for the future.

Do not fold to old

Much as I am excited, a little voice of distraction whispers within that I always strive to interrupt and challenge myself about the possible, the attainable and the achievable. I have to believe that at 56, there is no barrier to adventure, new horizons, long-term planning, fresh perspectives, knowledge and new ideas.

Indeed, things are harder as youth begins to creep away into the distant past, nothing is impossible. Obviously, I have to lay out plans, things to do, things to undo, places to go, lives to impact, even legacies to build amongst the myriad issues of life. My health is good, I have worked to attain some fitness, taken precautions in the midst of a pandemic, applied my energies where they can be productive and profitable.

Thanks and more thanks

My very close friends, Kola, Funmi, Steven, Patrick, and Sola, have supported me marvellously, urging me on through the days to the better and the brighter, they are all so different and yet together in their relationships with me bring a kind of completeness into the things that concern me. Thank you.

My longsuffering siblings and even niblings (nieces and nephews) who all can supplant me as firstborn, not on a pot of soup like Esau, but in my demonstrated childlike demeanour, they give me such purpose, I am fulfilled. My aged parents being who they always have been, I love you all.

Most of all, I celebrate today again with the love of my life, Brian. You are my joy, you have persevered through these uncertain times of limitations, restrictions, and distance. I have truly been blessed with the incomparable companionship of an angelic being. You are the best.

I live like that there are not many tomorrows to come and as each day comes, new dreams tell of tomorrows I could never have anticipated with the hope and assurance that much more would be seen to laud, celebrate, and cherish. I am thankful for the day, today, the blessings, the prayers, the love, the life, and the joy it has brought. Faithful, my God is daily and always.

In the dark streets of Cape Town

All power is gone

I was preparing fish for our supper when the television suddenly went silent, checking what might have happened, it soon dawned on me that we had had a power cut. At a time, I thought it was one of those load-shedding events that have dogged electrical supply over the last few years, but this was unscheduled, it came out of the blue and there was no indication as to when power would be restored. [IOL: Technical fault causes power outages in Cape Town]

The seriousness of the power cut was such that I also lost mobile phone connectivity, the cell towers were down, and I was basically off the grid, domestic roaming gave no respite, there was nothing we could do. The restaurant we chose to visit could take no new patrons as the kitchen was under pressure from the consequences of the power loss.

It is quite consequential

As everything is powered by electricity, water kettle, the stove, the oven, the food steamer, and the slow cooker were out of action, if this power cut lasts for longer, we might lose food in the fridge and then the freezer. Whilst I still prefer the domestic arrangements of staying in an apartment rather than a hotel room for long periods of time, one might be inclined towards temporary hotel accommodation soon.

It is my birthday and as I am temporarily incommunicado, I will not be able to receive any greetings until I find myself back online.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Coronavirus streets in the heat - LIII

No scrubs

As I stepped out unto Main Road this afternoon, life began imitating a song by TLC; a scrub indeed, though sitting in the back seat popping his head out of the window, hollering at a lady as they drove past, a pesty attempt at a catcall as the lady somewhat delectable tried to ignore him. [YouTube: TLC - No Scrubs]

Too much of this happens, where men just think any lady that walks by is open for some sort of assault without any recourse to anything including the law apart from keeping to herself indifferent to the raucous around her with the hope she’ll be out of earshot before some animal instinct informs the man to advance into her personal space.

Skimping the heat

On the weather, a subject that you do not have to ask an Englishman to initiate conversation, I am close to melting point as I left home with temperatures close to freezing and until a couple of days ago, we were in the early twenties that some have terms unseasonably cool, now that we are breaching the thirties, anywhere to keep cool in the shade is what I seek. There is no air-conditioning here, they have a heater instead, in Cape Town.

Anyway, this seems to change the mode of dress, I am keeping in shorts, T-shirts and sandals, trousers would apply to church and evenings, the jacket has become optional and at most times unnecessary. As we left for church this morning, I could not help but notice that a lady seemed to have more material in her hairdo than on her shorts. Go figure!

Keeping sensibly safe

Again, we cannot ignore the pandemic, we are still diligently taking precautions, wearing facemasks whenever we are outdoors, social distancing, keeping away from crowds and enclosed places. Sitting outside if that is available at restaurants or as well away from people as possible.

Life however goes on, and it would seem they have a bigger problem in the UK than we have down in South Africa, we still have our temperature taken when entering certain establishments, asked to sanitise our hands at every opportunity and even have to register with names, telephone numbers and even addresses. None of that happened much in the UK, that is it any wonder that in our liberal quest for freedoms and liberties, the infection rates have been the highest in the UK for the past 3 days? [ - Coronavirus]

Saturday 18 December 2021

It's my blog

Keep thy commentary angst to thyself

It was with amusement that I read a comment posted to my blog yesterday about Samuel Windsor closing down which we later learnt would be reopening under new ownership soon.

The curmudgeon who probably has too much time on their hands and very little to do apart from giving vent to their unremarkable lives by posting comments on forums to elicit argument, rancour, and animus went on a rant about my mentioning Brian twice on the blog and how we have shared getting shoes and clothes from Samuel Windsor.

Why that bothered them, I cannot tell, and indeed, Brian is my boyfriend as they deduced before going on about whatever they thought might be going on between us before taking issue about my not keeping the matter of Brian private.

Hello, it’s my blog, not yours

Maybe we should address a number of issues, for this blog might not be necessary, yet some things need to be said just to clear the air. I have it on good authority that is my blog, my space, my journal, and where I choose to express myself in whatever way I desire. On my blog, I write about myself, who I am, my relationships, my ideas, offer opinions and perspectives, debate issues and support causes.

That my blog is public, means I invite commentary, but that does not mean all commenters have carte blanche to write any nonsense on my blog. All comments are moderated, many highlighted and published in blogs, so they are not lost to my readers. Many other comments are spam, people looking to push their wares on my blog without permission. As my blog is not commercial, I do not promote anything herein apart from when I am reviewing stuff.

One exclusive right I have on my blog is I can choose what to publish and what not to publish, I cannot edit the comments, so, if they do not follow decent and topical rules of engagement, I delete them. As some people do not bother to include a name or a Blogger profile when they post comments, I have no way of asking them to review their comments.

The cultured are cultivated

This blog is now in its 19th year, which is quite longstanding in web history, I enjoy writing and engaging with people who can begin and maintain polite conversation. I make no apology for what I choose to do on my blog and really if you have issues with anything I have written, but cannot find the niceties of decorum in your repertoire of breeding, then my advice to you is to write a rejoinder on your own blog because your odious views would get no airing here.

It’s my blog after all and that is not negotiable, to the many who have in all decency and consideration found my blog interesting, engaging, and probably funny, Thank you for your readership.

To those unaware of what it takes to comment on my blog, I refer you to the Comment advisory and guidelines of my blog.

Thursday 16 December 2021

Thought Picnic: Stuck on the absence of desire

On a funny compass

The surfeit of blogs might deceptively suggest a liberal ability to express one’s feelings or find the form of words to capture some thought process succinctly, yet many should be careful that expression might also be concealment. A means of distracting attention from other issues that the principal is struggling with, just as it is easy to forget the humanity and vulnerability of people who appear to have mastered the art of communication.

Lately, I have found myself unable to express myself in a way that I should freely be able to, given the time, the place and the opportunity. The opportunity has been dictated by situations completely outside my control. Demands and requests are being made of me that I cannot find the will or the urge to fulfil.

Trying to get unstuck

At a point, one feels literally clogged up with no outlet to ease tension or frustration, it is not for the want of desire or passion, it seems one has been exhausted by a form of separation anxiety that has been difficult to remediate. Anyone else might think there is a simple fix, it is not working for me, and I am somewhat worried by its effect on another.

God knows I have been trying to rekindle that thing, if there was some emotional jumpstart, I might even try it. What will not do it is the sudden, the deliberate, the demanding, or the invasion. I hope I get out of my funk soon enough time. Besides that, and what is going on in my head and affecting my body in ways I cannot describe to any satisfaction, the heart is still glowing with the happiness and joy that presence brings. Bear with me even if everything cannot be understood at this time.

Cupping coffee

Quite early for a drink

I found myself asking, where are our cocktails? Surely, they are not being made in heaven and needing a prayer of faith with the miracle of changing water into wine, just at our tables. Soon, they arrived without the need for a prayer on our lips, our yearning and expectations met as the ice entombed slices of lime and lemon in the glass.

Blood orange juice, gin, Cointreau, chilled prosecco and lime came to Alcoholic named as Blood orange French and Pom fizz which was lighter on the palate with pomegranate juice and chilled prosecco was served to Anonymous.

Stirring much curiosity

He puts a teaspoon of sugar in his flat white cup of coffee, the cup having no handles that he has to cup it between his hands as a warmer to take a drink. I could not decide after he put the sugar in his coffee if he was stirring or doodling, but soon after he did have to stir in the sugar, so, my first observation about doodling was right.

Apparently, she looks like a Karen. Pray, what is a Karen look? Surely not Donna Karan. Now, the waiter or waitron as they are apparently known on the menus in Cape Town has noticed I am taking notes, he thinks I am writing reviews of the food and probably describing something, not to my liking, which I am not at this time. What have I been writing about?

No one takes AMEX

So far, I have written nothing about our meals, our choices were good and tasty. We were at Hemelhuijs or Heaven’s house, the U appears as a V on the building sign, I guess we’ll touch the subject of meals another time.

When paying, the invoice said only Mastercard or Visa accepted, it made for a good joke to the waitron when I told of our visit to Simon’s Restaurant at Groot Constantia, the bill came in an American Express folder emblazoned with the by-line, the best way to pay is with your AMEX, but the bill strictly noted, only Mastercard and Visa were acceptable. Funny and ironic at the same time. All the waitrons agreed.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Coronavirus streets on my mind - LII

On the advent of the pandemic

In a way, I want to reflect on my experience of this Coronavirus pandemic; it has been troubling, difficult, and long. If I dwelt on the incompetence of my government that has marshalled and shepherded a death rate still unrivalled amongst its peers in Europe, I would find myself a misfit amongst other things, but I have to think for myself and those in my immediate community.

When the pandemic started, I was first classed in the highly vulnerable cohort and required to shield, but the British HIV Association came out with an update advising that those of us with an undetectable viral load and a CD4 cell count above 250, should not need to shield.

That did not make me any less vulnerable as anyone with HIV is immunosuppressed to a degree, we still need to continue our medication regimes and attend our scheduled check-ups. I had returned from South Africa by mid-January 2020 and within 2 weeks I was down with a water infection that required an albeit short hospital admission and weeks of weakness that took a while to recuperate from.

The choices that chilled

If that illness had happened in April, I would have been asked to stay at home and hope for the best when intravenous antibiotics and two sessions of electrolytes would have been needed to get me back to normal. The thought that doctors had unilaterally placed Do Not Resuscitate on a whole swathe of vulnerable patients on their register to apparently save the NHS sent a chill down my spine.

Blog - Thought Picnic: From chills to thrills in health updates

I for one kept isolated as much as I could, wore a face mask everywhere, avoided crowds and enclosed places. I even took to walking exercises as I longed for the opportunity to return to South Africa to be with Brian and that was not until mid-December. If I had not left in the week that I did, I would have been caught by the lockdown in the UK that fuelled another wave of infections and deaths.

Personal precautions, all the time

In South Africa, we had a lockdown too, with a curfew and an alcohol ban, though we could not visit the beach, we could the parks and botanical gardens which we took advantage of. Everywhere we went, we had to don facemasks, had our temperature taken, sanitise our hands and leave our contact details for track and trace purposes. There was a variant on the loose, but we were not careless about our health and welfare.

The only time we ended up in anything like a crowd was when we had to take fitness to travel PCR tests, for at that time, only one laboratory offered reliable tests accepted for travel purposes. This was before there was a vaccine and when we had not yet been offered the option to take it.

On return to the UK, I had to self-isolate at home for 10 days, but I was invited on the 5th day for a test that proved negative and so earned an early release from my isolation. All the while, I was working from home and doing my best to thrive, despite the circumstances.

Every measure for safe living

Through this year, I had my first Pfizer jab in the last week of February, the Delta variant turned into a community threat from April into May, requiring another lockdown and in the first week of May, I got my second Pfizer jab. Much as we planned for another rendezvous in South Africa, it was beginning to look like we might not meet until the end of the year.

I had my hospital consultations for HIV in April and October, my annual flu jab and then took my third Pfizer jab or the booster shot in the second week of November. From October, we had decided December was the earliest we could meet again, and I put in my plans for holiday for the whole of December and the first two weeks of January. I would suppose I was granted the time compassionately with respect to my circumstances and the agency has provided a stand-in for the time that I am away.

Much as we are vaccinated, we are not throwing caution to the winds, as the same precautions we observed last year when there was no vaccine, we have observed diligently even as many we see on the streets seem to care nothing about the pandemic that has hardly gone away.

Calm in the face of turmoil

Just a week before my departure from England, South Africa and neighbouring southern African countries were placed on the red list that required any returnees to the UK to take up exorbitant hotel quarantine for 11 nights regardless of vaccination status, it could have scuppered our plans, but as my absence would be for 6 weeks and we were still learning about the Omicron variant, I felt that things would change during that period. I had to field many enquiries about my plans, but I remained calm and sanguine.

I changed nothing about my plans and flew out on the 3rd of December, I am glad to note that the red list has been completely depleted from this morning and it is my hope that no radical changes occur for the rest of my sojourn here. Despite what the governments in many countries think they should be doing regarding this pandemic; I think they should be giving us advice and full information about the state of the pandemic.

Not getting too smart about it

However, I think it is now down to personal responsibility to take the utmost and particular attention to one’s health, to get vaccinated, to take precautions, and to navigate out Coronavirus streets with moderation, common sense and every safety measure to avoid contracting this virus.

Much as I cannot understand the inclination for vaccine hesitancy from the unlearned, talk less of those in the health services, I can only wonder how they expect to fight a virus with a naïve immune system, but each to their own, I know, I need vaccines against many things and some I cannot take like the yellow fever vaccine because it has a life though attenuated virus.

We are making the best of the time we have together and that is also for our health, our wellbeing and most importantly, our mental health too.

Blog - Quarantined in my self-isolation

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Essential Snobbery 101: A few whines on wines

The first in the land

We were at Groot Constantia, the oldest wine estate in South Africa established in 1685 when it was built by Simon van der Stel, the first Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony. As we arrived after the restaurants had closed to serving breakfast even though it was well before noon, the prospect for a lunch did not appeal to me and nothing on the menu looked like brunch.

We both had a glass of Groot Constantia Method Cap Classique Brut Rosé, the Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is the equivalent of sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, but it cannot be called Champagne outside France.

Sniffing and tasting

Now, whilst I appreciate the work that goes into winemaking, one needs to be excused from the snobbery of liking wine by consensus when one does not find the wine to one’s taste and we have poured a lot more down a spittoon than drank of the wines we have tasted at many wine estates.

Of the five wines that I got to taste, there is not much of the superfluity of the oenophile in my description, it either worked for me or it did not. I suppose my nose is not as attuned to perceiving distinctive aromas as my palate might not be as sensitive as that of a Komodo lizard either.

Groot Constantia Rosé 2020

After the first sip, we found ourselves craving the proximity of a spittoon, for we were not enamoured, the Rosé was pale to a brownish hue and there was no lingering aftertaste. Forgettable was almost too effusive in praising the wine. Yes, it has won prizes, nonetheless not with us.

Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve White 2018

The bouquet was fresh, and it touched the nose delicately. The first taste was good with a hint of elderflower, though I could not say this feeling would endure. Whilst it was vaunted as a flagship wine, for me, the ship has sunk, and all hands lost.

Groot Constantia Merlot 2018

In the glass, this presented long tears, it has been crying for a long time in French oak barrels for 18 months for maturation and distinction. A slight fruitiness, I perceived with a beautiful palate, though I felt it might need decanting to give my tongue the full experience.

Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve 2018

I saw a full dark colour with a strong bouquet. Good enduring taste that was quite thick on my palate. Definitely one for meats and strong flavours. I could buy this, but not today. Best in class, they say, but who’s attending?

Groot Constantia Cape Ruby 2018

Cape Ruby is the designation for port wines in South Africa. This was sweeter and fruitier than what you get with Tawny port. I felt it did not have that strong port provenance that challenges the occasional aftertaste of a Stilton cheese. This would not do; I have to look elsewhere.

Monday 13 December 2021

Bowling toffee

Standups at dawn

In the mornings, nature compels a situation over which many would not have any control but to endure as a part of life experience that might be shared with another if the occasion presents. What it represents and it portends can be expressed in various ways not demanding much detail except where one is aiming for some kind of competitive prize.

Be it one where pleasure or excitement replaces the awakening moments of the rising of the sun, there is a lot of warmth and love to live in and embrace. Companionship accords a mystery that can defeat the best of those who can string together words in ways that astound.

To dip and usurp

Yet, at the rising of that star in the east is the rising from slumber and rising to perform as bowls to different deployments can be touched in the course of the day, from what nature frequently demands, to that which nature requires for sustenance and the many sports where bowls and bowling give us a spectacle of nature to revel in.

To the few that are given the gift to know that bowls can be touched like being called to a priesthood of the anointed and endowed, the bats you have been given for the game of life and the way you wield them in winning your games can only be cause for envy even as you can be proud of who you are. You wonder if there are repeating daily rituals that have been missed by the less observant.

Blogs - Bowling coffee

Saturday 11 December 2021

To bread, it is, just express yourself without bounds

A bread to realise

There are many liberation struggles going on around the world, but there is one I was not aware of until yesterday evening, the liberation of the loaf is the battle cry of bread and the art of baking what the United Artists for Africa mistakenly suggested was God turning stones to bread because that never happened.

Having bought takeaway Togolese beans (èwà Àgànyìn), which is mashed black-eyed beans with a red chilli sauce, the only adequate staple to go with it is Agége bread (a soft, dense loaf of bread), which I soon learnt, I could not get anywhere in Cape Town that I decided to bake my own.

All pans run free

Asking Alexa to find a recipe on YouTube was a waste of time even with my putting on a thick Nigerian accent as it offered either Gigi or Gay for Agege, it was just better to type it in. Having gotten a good idea of what to do, I acquired the ingredients and utensils and set to baking bread, my very first time.

After all I had done, one thing was missing, a lid for my loaf pan. Apparently, you can get every choice loaf pan for baking bread, in any material you might desire including silicone that takes heat up to 230, but you cannot get for the want of trying in stores, specialist outlets, or online, a loaf pan with a cover or a lid.

Perseverance in lack

Then, I improvised, I wrapped the loaf pan in heavy-duty foil, which kept the loaf in shape, but I had to have it baking in the oven for thrice the recommended time because the heat was not getting to the loaf as it would have if there were just a lid. You have to ask, what happened to loaf pan lids or why no one around here seems to desire to bake bread with the loaf liberally expressing itself beyond the mould?

Then again, what I might not get on the retail market most definitely is in the professional bakeries, because typical bread for toast is moulded in an almost square cross-section to a rectangular length. I might have an alternative, using disposable aluminium food trays with cardboard covers. It might suffice until I accidentally find a loaf pan that invited a lid companion to the party, else, it is to England where the freedom of the loaf is still a subject of debate rather than of right.