Monday 28 February 2022

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LXI

Revelations of possible distaste

Recently, I returned to my usual walking route, and it was interesting to observe the things that have changed around my city. Hoardings, fencing, and boards erected around erstwhile building sites that usually took over pavements and sometimes the whole lane of a street have come down to reveal architectural carbuncles of barely occupied apartment blocks with signs offering the ground floors for commercial activity.

Two supermarkets have opened, even a college needing the tape to be cut by some dignitary seeks some social activity in the not-too-distant future. Elsewhere, roads have been cordoned off or blocked for reconstruction or repairs, too many to the detriment of pedestrians as me and worst still for those with mobility requirements. As temporary traffic lights have been installed for vehicular traffic with no option or consideration for pedestrians as our crossing are now out of use requiring detours to somewhere without rerouting.

Rats in the city

Walking up a slightly secluded road, in just 10 footsteps I saw 3 rats, which is scary. They can only be thriving because there is a food source nearby, this is a harbinger of a rat infestation if it is not already a menace in that area.

From last Thursday, when all pandemic restrictions were lifted in England, people have relaxed as if the pandemic is over. Whilst I am glad, we still wear face masks in church as I do in all places for my own safety, it is amusing that a prime minister who has no capacity for exercising personal responsibility now requires us to act with civic and personal responsibility if we ever contract COVID-19. The rat’s arse of man.

More striking in all my observations is the fate of a corner shop that had served a Salford community for 34 years in an old building on Chapel Street. It has been demolished and I am unsure of what would take its place. The appearance behind the hoardings suggests a park, it might well be another unremarkable and exorbitant edifice seeking forlorn occupancy, who knows? Another case of rats gnawing on our heritage. We live in interesting times.

Thought Picnic: Beyond conscientious objection to fighting needless wars

The summary of my views

I was asked what my position was about the Russia and Ukraine crisis by a mentor of mine, and it allowed me to find the opportunity to transcribe from the notes I took down in anger on Friday night but was unsure of how to convey in a blog.

My answer was “We need to get to a point in human civilisation when young men can refuse to battle for recalcitrant old men who cannot settle their scores with some maturity. I hope Ukraine survives the onslaught.

Before my viewpoint was taken as uncommitted to apparent indifference, I went on to say, “In fact, my stand is it is an unnecessary war for which Vladimir Putin who has a warped idea of national sovereignty and areas of influence should be taught an unforgettable lesson.” Obviously, it goes without saying that, If Ukraine has no self-determination on what alliances it can have, is it a sovereign state or a satellite of Russia?

Between sacrifice and slaughter

Having spent 4 years in secondary boarding school, the prospect of a regimented life has never since appealed to me. There is indeed a high calling to serve and the discipline that it entails along with the purpose that defines it, but where do you draw the line between being ready to take the sacrifice and being sent to the slaughter?

In January 1983, in a conversation with my father, he said these words, “There was a time Nigeria was worth dying for, that time has passed.” It so happens my parents were in the UK during the Nigerian Civil War and once it was over, they could not wait to get back to Nigeria to contribute to rebuilding the nation.

To my mind, all war is at its heart totally unreasonable, the inability of leaders and / or older and apparently mature men to have a meeting of minds that they are ready to send the sons of others to battlefields whilst they play war games in genteel surroundings totally oblivious of the depth of suffering on the populace is an atrocity at best.

Keeping our men from bad men

The result of this is we are called upon to honour the war dead as some greater cause of humanity has been achieved and unstoppable progress has been bequeathed to civilisation never to go to war again. It is a lie, for lives are needlessly wasted as cannon fodder with war ending at exhaustion of will, men, or ammunition. We are in terms the most uncivilised in war, like animals you have only found more sophisticated ways to kill each other to a standstill.

I would hope we would reach a point where the men who disagree should sort it amongst themselves and the young men whose blood, they are ready to exsanguinate in the remote battlefields, should say no. This is not conscientious objection but a call to common sense or order, exhaust diplomacy and continue to talk to any agreement that you can reach without having to shed blood.

Beyond conscientious objection

For I desire a time when they, the valiant and strong would say, no, we are not going to fight your dirty, senseless, needless, and unnecessary wars. Our lives matter more than to become sacrificial lambs on the altars of your maniacal devilish egos.

Keep your medals, we do not need the glory, stuff your patriotic rhetoric, your folded national flags, and grand memorials to soldiers unknown. With no men going to war, what would men do given no other option than to talk and resolve things?

Too many men have with the power to send others to their deaths not exhausted the possibilities that the maturation of human civilisation and discourse can offer. Maybe something of the idealist and pacifist in me has taken a long trek from realism, it is however not to be wished away as impossible.

It's walking and slow in showing - XIII

Scales do me wrong

The thing that bothers me most about my body is my weight. Now, whilst I cannot say I have essentially been overweight, that is not the reckoning by the Body Mass Index (BMI) as the reading suggests for my height, I need to lose a few kilogrammes.

The BMI is imperfect, but I will not get into the whys and wherefores of it, as far as Brian is concerned, my weight serves as a reliable anchor in the boisterous winds of Cape Town that I am not permitted to take it below a certain level that I last obtained in November 2020. Since then, I have struggled to shed weight. [Medical News Today: Why BMI is inaccurate and misleading]

Walking outdoors is it

When it comes to exercise, I have found that walking suits me better than any other exertion. All the weightlifting, press-up, or planking activity is more a source of pain than any other satisfaction, I just need to burn fat and watch some of my consumption without radically changing much.

I seem to prefer walking outside to using a treadmill in the gym. A few times I did go to the gym to get my exercise and steps done. I cranked it up to 7.2 km/h on a steady fat-burning pace for 50 minutes out of the allocated 60-minute workout and what I inadvertently did was sprain a thigh muscle that required intervention.

Visiting a sports injury clinic after 4 days of radiating pain, it was worked on for almost an hour, with deep tissue massage, hot stones, and acupuncture, short of using a meat tenderiser on it. The sprain was dealt with, but the effect of the work has lasted another week, though the relief was helped on the advice of Brian by keeping the muscles warm with a hot water bottle.

What it would take

Generally, when I go for my walks that is a circuit of just over 11 kilometres, I look to getting 10,000 steps done in 75 minutes, it means I need to get a steps cadence of around 140 steps a minute. Outside, this can modulate between 110 steps per minute to 150 steps per minute, I did reach 163 steps per minute during my walk this morning, which was in the pouring rain throughout, and I did clinch 10,000 steps in 67 minutes.

On the weight, it is coming down, though, not as fast as one would like it. It is a long haul activity and I have the mind of keeping my steps above the 10,000 step average for the year.

Dreamscape: Where learning requires example

As you dream of it

It was eerily like real life, but then what are dreams but multidimensional realities played out in the vast mines of the mind where treasures are found and fortunes are created in ways that the imagination is tested of its limits if there are any?

I found myself attending a function at a girls’ school, probably a Founder’s Day and some girls were lined up in two columns as if to give a sword arch parade to their honoured guest, their worldly famous and most successful alumna.

The field was down below and access to it seemed almost impassable at first sight, just as you have in dreams, the easy becomes immediately impossible and the impossible suddenly possible, like you have waved a magic wand.

I was there unawares

I eventually found myself at a vantage point to view the proceedings as a guest of sorts and too prominent to be overlooked after chatting to some of the girls. I had a feeling of déjà vu like I had been at rehearsals for this event somewhere and nothing happened after I was first called to participate and so nothing was learnt about what to do.

I was apprehensive and the more I asked about what was expected, the less I was informed of protocol or practice, it was like everyone assumed I knew and thought my inquiries were unserious and silly. I did not even know what the guest of honour was going to do, I thought I would observe and maybe learn something.

I did not know

To the strains of music, the guest arrived and passed through the parade to the end singing an apparent folk song that was a traditional game at the school on that day. She had done this many times before and part of it was a call-and-response activity between her as the lead and the guests or girls she selected to ask to attend a function and what food they would prefer.

You were not to take the enquiry literally but provide an excuse for not attending and a back-and-forth of teasing and questioning in order to persuade you ensued until someone made the mistake of mentioning food. Guess what happened, I was the first she called out to and I mentioned food.

Hear the derisive laughter and astonishment that I should have known not to have answered as such and it was when she moved to the next guest and her answer was the typical excuse that I realised my faux pas, but I was never in that situation apart from the other time when no one offered to explain the rules of the game.

The assumptions that ridicule us

It transpired as I made conversation and enquiry that this was a core Yoruba tradition that I could have learnt and enjoyed in childhood. Though, when they learnt I was not born in Yorubaland, they somewhat accepted why I made the error. It left me thinking of the gaps in my learning of Yoruba cultural activities, my knowledge of the language was not enough, there was more to culture than that.

On reflection too, we agreed that phrasing an appropriate enquiry to get the kind of information to prepare me for that situation would have been nigh on impossible. If only the guest of honour had selected someone else first, as matters acculturation are best bequeathed through example. Just because my apparent oddness makes me prominent enough to be selected first does not imply, I would be ready or in the know of what is expected.

Do not assume if you have expectations, at least discreetly try to elicit enough information to be sure the game is not ruined by those called to participate who are totally unaware of the rules.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Opinion: Ukraine is a test of leadership in short supply

Putin is possessed

One is not known for commentary on international politics, nor am I informed enough to postulate on the historical relevance that leads to contemporary events being let loose on Ukraine. However, from what I have seen so far, something has rumbled the graves of Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin, awakening their malevolent spirits to possess by legion Vladimir Putin.

The optics are there, the inordinately large tables, the command of his court by distance rather than a collegiate cabinet is the metaphor for a humongous throne with an absolute arch-emperor before whom a mirror would fail to reflect reality but profuse flattery that apparent trickery and genius would no doubt lead to a catastrophic fall through missteps that humans who have suspected themselves of inviolable omnipotence have come to the harsh truth of both mortality and transience of power.

It is just wrong

There is no doubt that we all have to hold our nerve on this matter that we cannot in the 21st Century have a potentate marauding the northern hemisphere acquiring lands and nations in a quest for apparent security in buffer countries that immediately brings them to the borders of the threat they rail against. It might seem smart now, but our collective resolve needs to be demonstrated not in the sophistry of words but in the deftness of effective action.

Meanwhile, the traffic of 24-hour of rolling news has its toll on those of us who can only depend on our politicians to act for the sake of the preservation of humanity from untrammelled barbarity, wanton vandalism, atrocious impunity, and incurable madness. I switched my radio from BBC Radio 4 which is full of commentary, much of which is talk shop and vain jangling to BBC Radio 3 where I find the calming strains of classical music and absent myself for longer moments from the psychosis that is engulfing our world.

Indeed, there were other issues the world has been at fault for not addressing and we need to come back to look at them with a commitment for better peace and resolution in those troubled lands, but whataboutery is an expensive hobby. What is upon us is Ukraine, and it needs to be arrested with everything we have the power to do now.

Leadership is required now

My heart is with Ukraine, much as I have the luxury of being far away from the midst of conflict that touches me through energy prices and the cost of living that I am fortunate to have some means to weather. If we fail to contain and push back the menace of Putin, we would have unleashed what would have been the prospect of Hitler winning his war. It does not bear thinking of. It calls for leadership, statesmanship, political nous, and nerve. I hope the world leaders are up to the task.

If anything, like we have seen with the pandemic, we might choose comical and entertaining leaders in times of peace, but when they are tested in times of adversity and taxing circumstances, how many innocent lives would have been lost to the wrong choice of leaders we have made? If anything, competence is needed when it matters, and it matters more today.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

In the consolation of tears

Brimming with realisation

Almost a decade ago, I was walking towards the Weerwater in Almere, The Netherlands and I started to shed tears. In one moment, it dawned on me that I had survived cancer, been out of work for 18 months, lost my home of 10 and a half years, and was staying with a young Indian family, the only possession I had being my bed.

The tears were not one of pity or despair, just that I had all through my ordeal never thought of what I had been through, what I had suffered, and the toll on my mental and physical state, I had just kept going, taking each day as it came. Yet, I was in the mire of stagnation, I needed to shift something to get moving again.

Facing up to reality

My over 12-year sojourn in Holland had come to its natural end, and it was time to return home to the UK. This was against every advice or counsel of people around me, but I was convinced that phase of my life was over. It was necessary for me to find that time of release because I took hold of my vulnerability and humanity to begin to seek opportunity.

Then, I wrote to six friends, who in my mind’s eye I would have chosen to be my pallbearers as I was also too aware of my mortality considering what I had survived to tell them of my plans and what my wishes were if anything were to happen to me. I was being pragmatic and practical even if some thought I was giving up hope. What I had experienced was nothing like Job in the Bible but considering the catastrophic loss I had borne starting with my illness, I had my own story.

Things best left unsaid

There wasn’t much I could say to those who thought I was not putting up a fight or one who even said I needed a boot up my backside. I took what they had to say with grace, and not once did I suggest to them if only you knew from whence, I came to this adversity, you will fear misfortune and it happens to good people too, and I barely scraped the standard of good. I know good people who died from cancer that ravaged their bodies, robbed them of dignity, left them destitute and literally without hope in this world, I was spared, I had the good fortune, I was lucky, I was blessed, I am grateful.

And so, in the tenth year of my returning to the UK, I think about my departure from the Netherlands, the way things changed radically for me that within 6 days of my return, I was offered a job to go travelling Europe in my field of expertise. I have not returned to the community in which I found support, sometimes grudging, sometimes burdening. It was at a time of seismic change in that community too, I could not be that demanding. I am thankful for the ways in which they held me up from falling totally to the ground.

To thank them all

I constantly think about a long visit to the Netherlands, to see the consultant who took on the responsibility for my care, the friends who have kept in contact all this time, and just to see the places that gave me a sense of belonging and thriving in the Netherlands.

This all was set in motion from that afternoon when I found solace and consolation in my tears. At once, I was man and human, strong and weak, vulnerable and determined, never hopeless, just beginning to see where things can change for the better.

Monday 21 February 2022

Thought Picnic: A clam seeking calm

A fish climbing trees

I find that I could be quite internally irritable, seeking the convenience and comfort of my recluse than engage with anything or anyone. Probably a matter of the temperament and the inclination to withdraw into my own shell like a clam. And like a clam, I naturally do not want to be prised open, for the clam shells open to filter feed and close for protection and security.

Obviously, one is not channelling one’s apparently piscine attributes, it is not like I have taken to water like any of the inhabitants therein. Yet, it is an aspect of my personality that is mostly misunderstood and whilst I could be tempted to make excuses for the how and the why I choose not to communicate, I appreciate that people need to communicate and interact even reluctantly.

Just being human

I wonder if in my phlegmatic state if mind, I have become sclerotic or I am just putting too much thought into this when I should just make allowances within the tolerances of the elements of endurance, I have the capacity for. I sigh in the quest for all the mental energy to contain my circumstances, of commission, of omission, of admission, or immersion in the things I control and those I cannot.

Then, I am not a complex or complicated being, more misunderstood and unknown, to whom aspects of predictability have been ascribed by reason of expectations that are not essentially true. It is not a case of enigmatic, it is one of being human, with all the accoutrements of vulnerability, unreasonableness, irascibility, and occasional sensibleness. This is a work in process with too many imperfections finding a means of expression.

Saturday 19 February 2022

Thought Picnic: Deep down where love lives

The ins of deep

In my dream playing things of a time when what is desired is constantly renewed with feeling and engagement that warms you from the inside. The proximity and closeness that changes lives in assuredly noticeable ways even if the means of such transformation is not all clear to observers.

In my mind is the beauty of a city, a place that harbours memories so cherished by the sea and the things we do with the people we meet. I walk through on bridges, crossing roads to towpaths by marinas festooned with grand boats moored idling for ages. Yet, it is about being with rather than being at.

In my heart, I am in thrall of one who has touched me and brought joy into my being. Daily we see each other, more from afar than near and I wonder just what life we could make it. In the eyes, in the smiles, in the sound of laughter in reaction to many things said, each like a symphony played on instruments of unique personality, we relate so completely.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

Thought Picnic: Letting vulnerability lead to love

No path is straight

I have shied away from reading manuals about issues that require a lot more tailoring to situations and circumstances than prescription as a panacea to an issue. Now, for instance, I take my medical prescriptions religiously, the only tailoring involved is the time of day when I take my medicine, it has to suit my life, my lifestyle, and my work, not impeding function, purpose, or energy to perform.

Then I look at things like my career, life-changing decisions, and love, none of which have followed a trajectory or even example, every path has been uniquely individual and maybe different, or where similarities can be seen, there are many other factors that challenge the premise of imitation. In many cases, other people’s lives do not follow a template of lists or processes, individuality is an often frowned upon characteristic in some cultures, deviating from a norm can lead to ostracism and hence it modulates the tendency to conform.

Mistakes as lesson notes

On the matter of love, sadly, I find no immediate example of close or distant relations of the generation before mine who have laid out a promise of anything near perfect, however, a study of their situations has informed the need and desire not to fall into the same mistakes they made.

If it is not the power dynamics of dominance and submission, controlling the means of provision, conformity to traditions, expectations and requirements of culture, transitional states of contrived convenience, imposition by reason of responsibilities especially after procreation, or infidelities condoned even in the face of humiliation and embarrassment of the other, love has had a stranger than believable meaning to the participants. In the longer term, they have separated, regretted, fought, alienated, castigated, abused, or neglected each other.

It is case of uneasy détente as their offspring negotiate the minefields of animosity if they can deftly avoid becoming the grass on which the elephants get to fight to complete exhaustion and rise again to continue where they left off.

Learning what we can do

This is where much learning has to begin, in understanding what love really is and how it is manifest to us. To many, love is a strange esoteric thing, made aspirational in fairy tales that suggest living happily ever after, the fiction of an ideal rarely close to real life. We are imperfect beings seeking a more perfect relationship with those we are attracted to whilst making allowances for the fact that nothing is ever completely done, there is a process of growth and nurturing that needs committing to, for enduring fulfilment.

We probably know how to show and give love, from a place of understanding or out of making amends for bad experiences that appeared to suggest love when it never was that. The past can have damaged people irreparably that they seek succour in anything, accepting everything believing there is some sort of security even as they endure the totally untenable when they should walk, if not flee from their abuser who either knows no better or sees that flawed dynamic as the best expression of themselves.

Love is a process

In another song we are told, ‘Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.’ That is easier said than done, for knowing love, loving oneself and then getting the love you truly deserve could take a lifetime of failures and processes of elimination, the unlearning of things, the relearning of other things, along with a schooling of life with all its vicissitudes of good and bad fortune.

With our built-in survivor’s instinct, we look for ways to thrive in all areas of endeavour, a sense of independence, responsibility, self-awareness, and self-control sometimes denies you some elements of your humanity as vulnerability, weakness, infirmity, weakness, or incapacity, which are all part of the human experience. The superhuman may have many admirers but no friends or confidantes as we put ourselves outside the reach of those who can genuinely appreciate us fully and help us when our strength is not full.

Letting your vulnerability help you love

That is the more difficult part of the expression of love, knowing how to use it, knowing when to let go, appreciating when to give way or let be, and most of all being able to let yourself be loved like you should, purely, wholly, fully, unconditionally, and magnificently. You have to accept your vulnerability to be there and resist the temptation to instruct or construct barriers masquerading as understanding the depth from which love is shown to you and how it is expressed in word and in deed.

Like with nature, we need to become good fertile and watered ground in which the seeds of love can be sown to reap a bountiful harvest of the heart in full glow of a fairy tale that can only exist in the imagination of others. I can only wonder if we have the ability to rewrite our love stories when given the opportunity to work at it.

Sunday 13 February 2022

Essential Snobbery 101: Sir Hans Sloane disturbed

What we truly endured

Bluebird took me down memory lane, for what I remember is it was the model of one of the official cars granted my father in his accountancy prime of the 1980s in the Nissan range, though now, I realise it was a broader model dating from 1995, the one in our fleet of vehicles being the U11 series. This was the thought on my mind as we sought the entrance to the King’s Road restaurant in Chelsea, for brunch.

The pictures of food we saw on Google Maps after we realised the Chelsea Farmer’s Market had been gentrified to the standard of unrecognisable and inaccessible, this became our fallback. The young lady, nails all done in a shade of pink that would appear as just pink to men looked like she had taken on a part-time role as a waiter, untrained, nervy and unsure, like she was just earning a crust she did not need to be able to go out to party with her girlfriends.

All the appearances of sophistication and shabby chic were soon dispelled, the service was unsupervised and unprofessional, the food pitiable in presentation, I had to scrape the dollops of hollandaise sauce off the eggs royale and still had enough to paint the walls, if I was so inclined. We sat through it with regret and left in haste, that one should resist posting a review on TripAdvisor, for a couple of stars would be overly generous to the lasting impression. Like a Jehovah’s Witness proselytiser, I did half shake the dust off my feet as I left.

Everything off in this place

Then, for the first time ever, I set foot in Harrods and nothing, absolutely nothing endeared me to the place, and it informs why I had never been there before when Fortnum & Mason had proved its standing.

Stopping over at a Harvey Nicholls café for a cream tea, two ladies refused to be tabled beside us. I won’t want them for company either as they looked like Madeline Ashton and Helen Sharp, the two protagonists of Death Becomes Her, so artificially enhanced to occlude any semblance of natural beauty that once blessed their visages. Perchance there were a child in that restaurant, it would have squealed in terror at sighting them.

In a fashion for the history

Another patron was so grandly attired in exorbitant designer label apparel that altogether failed the basics of coordination and it did nothing to enhance her, she was more a clothes ass than a clothes horse. All that money and no fashion sense. Yet, I am informed that having the same designer label in 3 textures and 4 layers of clothes is termed Ghetto Fabulous; what do I know about fashion?

This area of Chelsea and Knightsbridge with its pomposity of class, old and new money, and antiquated aristocracy long past aspiration or adulation, that radiates from Sloane Square was named for Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish physicist from the 18th Century, who was buried at the Chelsea Old Church and out of whose bequest formed the foundations of the British Museum, the British Library, and the Natural History Museum in London. The unsavoury aspects of his provenance and activities are not accounted for in this piece.

Saturday 12 February 2022

Training for London

Holly was a doggie

Boarding the train, the train manager announced with an all too familiar accent, quite probably Nigerian, especially with the way he said shop, with a b sound at the end. Meanwhile, I feared we would have to endure the frequent coughing of the man sat almost opposite me, especially in these pandemic times when everyone appears to have dispensed with their face masks.

Thankfully, he alighted at Stoke on Trent, just around the time he was becoming a nuisance, as not only had he forgotten a rather essential facemask, but he should also have brought his headphones too. My reserved seat was occupied when I made it on the carriage, I gestured to the lady as I looked for a place to put my luggage, little did I know that she was occupying two seats because of her dog.

The dog, and I know nothing about dogs was Pomsky, a crossbreed between a Pomeranian and a Siberian Husky, quite presentably nice looking and friendly, her name was Holly, and I am pleased she did not see me as prickly as ivy.

A rather senior moment

On arriving at London Euston Station, I did some shopping and made to check for the address of the hotel where I was staying. My shock at the realisation that I had been caught by the February-March paradox of non-leap-years, as my booking glared at me with the notice, ‘In 28 days’. I had booked for March and what to do?

I could not beat myself up in the things I had allowed apart from having booked a deal I could not cancel, I simply logged on my app ignoring the predictive screen that appears to present the next rather than the current month, in the assumption you do not make urgent bookings and scanned through the list of outrageously expensive to generally affordable deals to book another stay, for the two nights I was in London.

Holly is my host

The black cab driver was unusually helpful and consequently engaging, he came round to help me with my luggage, and we talked at length about how London had changed from about 30 years ago. Quite good banter it was places that had changed hands or been lost to history or his brushes with the challenges to his Knowledge of London, it is amazing how the obscure can be revealing.

On getting to my apartment hotel, the ladies at the reception were helpful and friendly, and at this hotel, they are known as hosts, I had even had my accommodations upgraded, what do I know? She helped me to the lift and gave me the room card, her name, Holly. Fancy that!

Friday 11 February 2022

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LX

Out in the cold of the city

Then I eventually stepped out to do some shopping for dinner, something simple for something nice and fast, I thought as I looked at my smartwatch to see how cool it was before braving the wintry conditions of England’s northwest.

It was just six above zero, I did not need to dress for Tundra, I was already in my walking gear, grabbed a shopping bag and out for a brisk walk to the end of the road and it was impeded on the pavement by family groups walking four abreast holding hands that I had to mutter, Excuse me!

My funny walking gait is like a tiptoeing catwalk speeded up, imagine a less clumsy Charlie Chaplin in a silent film. Then I could be quite observant of how people walk or run, the expectation is putting one foot almost directly in front of the other as best as possible, a dawdle is as upsetting as to seem out of place, and so was it as a lady appearing to jog towards me sent dread to my thoughts.

What we ignore is here

Meanwhile, I pressed on, dodging the crowds that massed around Palace Theatre and the little voices in a long line across the road chatting to each other was as long as I would only have expected at a school. The dark belied the sense that theatre was open a bit early as the children waited for the lights to cross the road chaperoned by a stand-in lollipop man, probably a teacher.

Not a mask in sight, I in my sock balaclava face mask wondering if I had time-travelled to no memory of an ever-present pandemic, even Prince Charles has tested positive and on the phone to one of my dearest, she suffered quietly as I prayed for a full recovery to strength and verve.

To the warren they burrow

The security man at our local supermarket recognises me and greets me as I enter, I would sometimes ask how he was doing, he is unassuming though never dare to determine what store security would do when called to a situation. Soon, they are in a swarm and the person is overwhelmed, it is uncomfortable to watch what I witnessed at the train station local store a few days ago.

After my shopping, the queue in the front of the theatre was as long as it was raucous, the excited kids on probably their first cultural event out in years. Falling down the rabbit hole of my curiosity, I see that Alice in Wonderland in pantomime has come to town on the community programme of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the accounting house. Breathe, you’ll soon be home and far from the milling crowd to make another stir fry whilst Brian watches on the phone.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Thought Picnic: Separated from many roots and cores

Things that made things

One cannot suggest it is a matter of estrangement for it is not, there is a useful and productive relationship with one’s forebears even as it appears nothing necessitates proximity or visitation with the passage of over three decades.

Deep in the recesses of unfathomed reaches of memories probably long forgotten yet consequential, attitudes and demeanours might well have been conditioned to the contemporary.

It is a matter of medical certainty that a truncated gestational sojourn required being situated away from maternal succour for over two months. Then in periods of farming or fostering, addressed in the link following, the guardians for reasons best known to them starved their ward. [ITV: Why thousands of West African children were privately fostered by white families]

Groomed in the briars

The conditioning of lack presented a fear of need and in view of that, every opportunity that presented sustenance was exploited even though it was wrong. Trust reposed in many was abused as victims were made of the innocent.

By terms, initial bonding was deprecated, the consequent associations seemed contrived even if for responsibility, love, and parentage, a relationship developed with all the strains of conflict and troubled adolescence. One belongs without feeling a sense of belonging apart from what is defined by affinity, obligation, or duty.

One is neither bound nor compelled, the celebration of them is one that keeps the conscience from being seared, in the much that is owed and the little that is spared, the accounting for what is done, whilst frequently misunderstood, cannot occur between any other. For all the apparent excuses that are available, the truth is in a life experienced than in the situation desired.

God save the Queen and I

Beyond the turmoil

The Sung Eucharist for the Fourth Sunday before Lent had much of an accession theme as it was quite ministering to my state of mind. As much as I had the intention of attending to celebrate the platinum jubilee of the reign of our Sovereign Lady, Elizabeth our Queen, along the way was the funfair for the Chinese New Year at Chinatown that I did much to miss on my return.

The Processional Hymn climaxed at the quietude of these lines that I received with a sense of gratitude.

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm!

New English Hymnal (NEH 353)

During the singing of the Gloria in Excelsis, sung only by the choir, you follow what is being said so far until between the orchestration of music and singing, you are lost in the mystery of Latin imitating the esoteric of the spiritual, like the transponder of an aircraft switched off and untraceable in flight until, near the end of the journey, you grasp what is going on, just before the final Amen.

At the call to serve

At the Gradual Hymn before the reading of the Gospel, I found some encouragement in my apparent vulnerability from the ending of the first and last verses.

Will you let my life be grown,
In you and you in me?

Thus I’ll move and live and grow,
In you and you in me.

Common Praise (CP 662)

I was tapping my left foot to the Scottish Traditional melody of this hymn as I was signing and meditating on the words of it. It is known as the Summons, the call to service and ministry.

Though, keeping with the spirit of monarchic significance, during Communion, the choir was in full voice signing Zadok the Priest, composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of George II in 1727. The lyrics of which derived from Scripture are in their simplicity not as orchestrated as the singing, and the gender is not changed for the sex of the reigning monarch that we would do for the anthem God Save the Queen; written in 1745 also during the reign of George II; that we sang in two verses without the controversial middle one, at the end of the service.

Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king,
And all the people rejoiced and said:
God save the King! Long live the King! God save the King!
May the King live for ever. Amen. Hallelujah.

Monday 7 February 2022

Cape Town reflections: The sexy things we failed to do

The sun

Leaving the chill of Manchester to the warmth of Cape Town via Paris was one trip I was so looking forward to for almost a year. It was almost scuppered with the advent of the Omicron variant when the Southern states of Africa were put on the red list. Were it not for the fact that I was spending 6 weeks away and travelling through France, I would have had to cancel my trip.

I love the sun and make the most of taking in the sun, as you would regularly see me in shorts, with a half-unbuttoned short sleeve shirt, a seagrass or straw hat, lots of water to drink, walking more than taking a ride to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront or going to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Obviously, there are times when I need the shade, some shelter from the direct heat or to cool off from the warmth. It is strange that of the things we used to do so often in Cape Town and in Johannesburg, we never visited Häagen-Dazs for ice cream, but Christmas in the sun can never be beaten.

The sand

Probably everywhere we could do was green, with grass or other exotic plant life, the sand could probably be found in the dunes that we once tried to visit but the trip was cancelled. The tourist activity now boasts electric bicycles or buggies, it is not what I would feel that confident to do.

Another good view of the sand can be seen from paragliding and there are many who go tandem paragliding from Signal Hill to the fields of Sea Point between the main road and the promenade. Much as Brian would threaten for us to paragliding, I know it would near happen with his vertigo and fear of heights, to get him on the balcony takes much Dutch courage, I was surprised when he offered that we go on the waterfront Ferris wheel after my birthday dinner.

Sometimes, we go to Camps Bay and walk on the beach, though when we went to the Victoria Bay Beach near George, it was windy with ferocious white horses, anything but beach weather. Then we missed out on a place we do love to visit using the City Sightseeing tour bus, Hout Bay where we could walk in the sand, though we have not.

The sea

I suppose we now gravitate towards staying near the sea with easy access to the V & A Waterfront, we are surrounded by water with much to see. The marina there is occupied with idle yachts, probably a few get to wield their sails if ever, more they move under motor power.

The fascination is rarely with the boats but the seals basking in the sun or popping out of the water, beyond that it is the draw bridge or the swing bridge that lets the boats out and cuts off passage to the jutting out landscape of the waterfront and the quays.

For one, we took an apartment with no obstructive views of the sea where ghost ships might have cruised at unbelievable knots of speed, but the more glorious view was when MSC Orchestra came into Cape Town and could not be moored because of the wind, so it loitered in the bay. What it also heralded was the idea that the pandemic was being put behind us and what a crowd of passengers we saw trying to board when you saw her close by, at the passenger’s terminal.

I did not get my feet wet, not once. How could I have had the pleasure of sun, sand, sea, and sex, in Cape Town but missed out on ample opportunity to take advantage and commit to memory the amazing things to cherish. We love Cape Town.

Sunday 6 February 2022

Beyond the fallacy of solitude

At one in two

Sometimes, I just want to be left alone, left to my own thoughts to be by myself. I know this desire is a difficult one especially when in a close relationship. It is a process of reconditioning and adaptation that is not easy but necessary when thinking and acting for two.

Your thoughts and moods are not as personal or private as they once were. Any apparent change in attitude, demeanour, or responsiveness is immediately noticed as you run a barrage of enquiries and questions as to how you feel or what might be wrong with you, with them, or between you both when there really is nothing the matter at all.

Unfortunately, there is never a satisfactory answer to the many questions to which there is an implicit demand for a suitable, adequate, and proper explanation, or it presents a vector of possible conflict. How do you explain when you just feel unperturbed and meh?

Solitude and expression

Then, I guess the concept of solitude is an often-misunderstood subject about individuality, the idea of space and the cultural dimensions that might pertain to it. My blog is both a public journal and a conservatory of thinking that frequently has too much read into what is written. Whereas its fundamental purpose is a forum to document and develop thoughts for possible discussion.

I fear that when my blog is read in this way, it would begin to arrest expression leading to self-censorship and the loss of an outlet for my own catharsis, that is something I would hate to happen on my blog. Its free format for expression and introspection is valuable and useful, retaining this space for it matters much.

Person and personable

Indeed, I am a social being, I love company, companionship, and my relationship, but not to the extent of feeling like one part of conjoined twins fused together at some part of our bodies. By nature, I am also introverted, I do not function well in crowds. Heck! I went to bed early leaving guests to my birthday celebration partying.

This is same person who appears to easily strike up conversations with strangers. There are many facets to personality and individuality, I can be a hermit easily forgoing any human intervention cooped up in my apartment for up to a week without it bothering me, it suits my temperament.

However, the joy, security, and stability of having someone to love, and lean on, is priceless. I cherish it, I honour it, I will continue to nurture it and build it into an enduring treasure of life, may it prosper and grow, I love you, Brian.

Stuck on unpacked

Stood still at stop

Three weeks after returning from Cape Town, I cannot say I have settled down or acclimatised in any way. The four suitcases that I brought back from my travels remain unpacked in my living room as my mind is already contemplating the next time I can be out there again to be with my fiancé.

The weather here at home, though mild has taken a turn for the dreadfully depressing worse, as it is getting colder and taking on the characteristically disreputable signature of rainy Manchester. Good for farmers and no one else.

As I look for sorts of distraction that I have not quite found in enthusiasm at work, I have been baking bread modifying the recipes to get better outcomes, though I should extend my baking repertoire to attempting other exciting baked goods.

Urge for a surge

My truth-telling weighing scales displays numbers that has me looking for consistently sure ways of shedding the pounds and keeping that bulk off without having to radically change my diet. Beyond that trouble is the need for a kickstart of engagement, something that reignites the quest, the curiosity, and the joy of learning that I cannot seem to begin to interest myself with any aplomb. It requires discipline and consistency as much as I need to be enthused.

Brian is my constant source of encouragement and light as Kola is the most unstinting confidante, I know it would all come good. I just need to weather the storm.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Thought Picnic: To the little things we do

A lonely lane of travel

There are days when there is no agenda even if there is a purpose, the desire to impact that might not be as impactful, the consideration of others generally unnoticed by them, the urge to be an example without being exemplary, just having the time, the place, and the opportunity to be the best one can be.

Amongst people lauded for great achievements, too often it is easy to feel quite a minnow, and then you realise your world, whether large or small is the community in which you might have some influence or modicum of significance, the risk of belittling self is too frequently borne of ignorance of what little you seem to be doing is significant and important to others.

Knowing the little you can do

To be aware to the point of not beating yourself up for what you have unfortunately not done where there are things done and other things you have the capacity, ability, and opportunity to is the beginning of knowledge and the elimination of unnecessary stress.

In my life, I always hope to have the means to meet every challenge in any sphere of encounter and demand. I extend myself as much I can do, there is little reward for these things, and gratitude comes in ways unexpected and appreciated. If through one thing I have been given the blessing to do, I have changed one life for the better, we would celebrate that against the many odds we have faced.

Tuesday 1 February 2022

The spirit of Viagra moved upon the waters

Executive direction (ED) of purpose

For particularly medical reasons, I have never considered the use of Viagra, and this is because of the apparent side effects that greeted its advent on the scene almost a quarter of a century ago.

Besides, on the wide spectrum of erectile dysfunction, there would be no need for it except for recreational purposes and I have had encounters with certain who have required medical attention for painful priapism, and I doubt they have summoned up the courage to tell of their ordeal in jest even after a decade of their somewhat embarrassing experience.

The rise of watery things

However, my eyes fell on this tale at the weekend, and it deserves some commentary, for the story suggests that the drinking water at a church in Kenya was laced with Viagra which led to the arousal of all male members in the church and some attempting to exploit their situation fully in harassing female members of the congregation. [The World News: Kenyan Police Hunting For 19-Year-Old Girl Suspected Of Adding Viagra In A Church Water Tank]

I am quite amused that all 17 male members in the church drank the water in sufficient quantities before the service to all be aroused literally at the same time, it almost feels like the water was fed to a trough and snouts sunk in to take their fill, maybe an affliction of thirst befell them all at once, or someone received the revelation that the water now had the properties of the biblical Pool of Bethesda where the first who got in was healed and for this church in Taita Taveta County all male members rose to an occasion they had not been invited to.

Men seeking a Jezebel

Taita Taveta County is far enough from the major Kenyan cities of Mombasa or Nairobi, that one might think that kind of excitement in the congregation is rapturous and calling for orgasmic ululation, but we would be quite ahead of ourselves because it is not clear from the story that the water was tested to determine if it was indeed laced with Viagra or some other Sildenafil compound.

Meanwhile, the police are after a suspect, Tracey Fadhili, 19, who apparently lives near the church and was seen at the church compound the previous evening, but this does not suggest she was the culprit. I would not want to cast aspersions on the investigative competence of the rural police force, I, however, have my doubts that she was responsible for this situation. It begs the question of why she would lace the water storage with Viagra and to what end? As there is no other backstory on her, one can only wonder. They found a Jezebel to castigate.

Send them home for it

Adding to my amusement is the idea that this free blessing of manhood excitation is considered shocking. Involuntary as the response might have been, it can hardly be considered shocking for it might well be a miraculous manifestation for those who had given up on believing Lazarus could rise again. What I would not accept is the idea that the use of Viagra makes you lecherous that there is literally no self-control and the aroused seeks to mate with the next available female they cast their lascivious eyes on. Does the church even believe in miracles anymore?

Furthermore, a male organ erection is not a weird feeling, that it happened during a church service, unfortunate as it might seem, is not against nature or the expression of self, weirder things have happened to men and this, I can assure you is not one of them.

If the pastor were at any time inspired and directed, he would have come to one useful realisation, closed the service, blessed the congregation, and encouraged the men to go home to their wives and girlfriends with the word that of hope, faith and love that endure, love is the greatest of all, and when boosted by the ramifications of Viagra, you make for a happier church. What more can we ask for? Leave Tracey Fadhili alone, she did no wrong.

Face masks should not be political

From a brother to all

After the Sung Eucharist on Sunday, the Dean of the cathedral before dismissing the congregation advised that we should all attend church wearing face masks, despite the relaxation of requirements and guidelines by the government. He said it would be a preference for our safety to wear face masks, and though he would not throw anyone out of the cathedral for not wearing one, we are in a community where we are each other’s brother’s keeper.

Much as there is much science, disputing, disagreement and clamour about the safety or protection a face mask confers, it is not perfect, but the consensus is that sort of face-covering provides some protection.

Mzansi doing better

I have been in South Africa at the height of the pandemic when there was a highly transmissible variant at a time when there was no vaccine and recently in the advent of another variant where there is a vaccine available.

South Africans appear to adhere to a higher standard of consideration and safety than I have ever witnessed in England. Many wear face masks when outdoors, before we access any public premises especially in the hospitality or commercial sector, there is a hand sanitising device at the entrance, probably someone would take your temperature and some places would take your telephone number for test and trace purposes.

All precautions matter

It is sad that the matter of face masks has been politicised, in the quest for individuality and liberty at the expense of community and consideration for others that we do each other more unnecessary harm. In addition, I avoid crowds and enclosed places, social distancing matters and as I am in the cohort of the vulnerable, I do not need to attend office premises, I can continue to work from home.

That I am fully vaccinated with a booster gives me a good fighting chance if I do contract the Coronavirus, but I am not because of those precautions going to throw caution to the wind and face the virus head-on in some fortuitous daring-do, the face mask is a temporary inconvenience as much as it is a practical, though imperfect screen from directly inhaling contaminated particles from the asymptomatic.

They carelessly endanger others

One can only wonder how dreadful it must be that yesterday evening Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, was in the House of Commons amongst her colleagues on the front bench without a face mask, only to announce a few hours later that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and she has to self-isolate at home when she was scheduled to be off on a diplomatic mission to Ukraine.

Whilst I am not alluding to anything about the benefit or otherwise of face masks in that particular scenario, the exhalation of viral droplets in her asymptomatic seating could quite well have endangered and subjected some of those sitting nearest to her to contracting the virus. Even if they are fine, they probably need to test themselves just to remove the anxiety of taking ill. The fact that many symptoms are mild does not preclude the life-threatening nature of COVID-19.

Let’s keep safe

It is important that we return to viewing the face mask as a public health issue, a community matter and with the consideration of being our brothers’ keeper, it needs to be depoliticised and removed from the canon of dogmatic libertarian ideals of individualism to the detriment of common purpose and society.

People have needlessly died taking unreasonable positions during this pandemic, there might be no statistics for those who never contracted the Coronavirus at all, nothing wrong in not being counted if with all precautions you have been spared the fate of an unpredictable encounter with the Coronavirus.

Please, stay safe and do everything to help put this pandemic behind us. Thank you.

Coronavirus streets in the year of the tiger - LIX

Decorations for the moon

Soon after work, I was out on my usual, yet irregular walking route and up a certain street into a particular neighbourhood were red lantern decorations strewn from lamppost to lamppost over the road but blown about and out of arrangement by the wind that they bunched up into groups of 5 not in the way the decorators might have intended.

Only two years before, as I walked up the street, I had a kind of foreboding that the plague that started somewhere might be brought to our doorstep, and this was well over a month before we did anything serious about it in this country. Maybe, I was letting my fears and prejudices get the better of me.

Explosive roars of the tiger

Then from just after 9:00 PM, there were a series of bangs, and this continued until well after midnight and for a while I could not determine why and I did not venture out to find out. Then I am just half a kilometre away from Manchester’s Chinatown and amongst the many things they are good at fireworks can be a beauty to watch as I was able to from my neighbour’s apartment in Amsterdam at the typical new year.

Gong hay fat choy is the Cantonese greeting I have decided to share today, translating to Happiness and Prosperity for the year of the tiger. I find it strange that this is the first time in my 8 lunar new years in Manchester that my slumber was partly distressed by the cacophony of celebratory fireworks. Then, this also heralds some sort of normalcy, not that the pandemic is over, but we are coping better with it.

Happy Chinese & Lunar New Year!