Friday 29 April 2022

Make Someone Happy

Bliss beyond expression

I had this amazing feeling when I revealed a surprise to make someone happy, it made me so happy that the whole idea of the pursuit of happiness is not just about you finding happiness, but in bringing the joy of happiness to another, you multiply it as you both glow.

There is the smile that speaks of fun and endearment, almost to the point that we begin to wipe the tears in our eyes, moments filled with glee and laughter, telling you that the world we seek cannot falter.

Love indeed is the answer and that someone makes the warmth shine on my planet, we will build a universe together and traverse galaxies of adventure to mystery and exhilaration. I made that someone happy and he makes me happy too.

Child Sexual Abuse: Felicia Ogbuja is justly going to jail

They abused their ward

I was first outraged when I read a tweet that appeared to conflate two separate though intrinsically related issues regarding child sexual abuse, safeguarding, duty of care, the obstruction of an investigation that could have led to justice and in the middle of it all the resulting death of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Miss Ochanya Ogbanje. [Premium Times: Ochanya: State court acquits husband of raping minor, federal court convicts wife of negligence]

Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja was the aunt(-in-law) of the deceased, and her alleged child-abusing husband, Andrew Ogbuja; a lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, her alleged child-abusing son, Victor Ogbuja; who is currently a fugitive from justice, are maternal relations of the deceased, meaning the former was her uncle and the latter was her first cousin, mentioned also is Winifred Ogbuja, another first cousin of the deceased. Ochanya Ogbanje had left the village to live with relations of her mother to be cared for and supported in her education by this family.

They terrorised their ward

Whilst the chronology of events is not clearly established, it would appear that Winifred had informed her mother Felicia of the ongoing sexual abuse of Ochanya by both Andrew and Victor which Felicia failed to stop and had apparently threatened to eject the schoolgirl from her house if she told anyone of the sexual abuse.

The terrified schoolgirl left with no protection from assault by her supposedly responsible guardians endured further abuse from the pair of males in the house until the time that she was seriously harmed presenting urinary and faecal incontinence with a diagnosis of Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) attributed to serial sexual rape allegedly perpetrated by both men, for which Ochanya was hospitalised for two months until her untimely death.

They let him go

It leaves one baffled given the medical history of Ochanya that the Medical Centre in Makurdi would ineptly conclude that Ochanya died of natural causes and the Police Forensic Laboratory reached another conclusion that she died of diseases that were related to sexual abuse.

It is unfortunate that Justice Augustine Ityonyiman of the Benue State High Court decided to err on the side of caution, questioning the preponderance of evidence, including video evidence of the deceased narrating her ordeal, even as the prosecution bungled the criminal case that he acquitted Andrew Ogbuja of raping and causing the death of Ochanya Ogbanje.

They got her here

At the Federal High Court in Makurdi, Felicia Ogbuja, the aunt faced another charge of negligence leading to the rape and the death of Miss Ochanya Ogbanje, brought by The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) before Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon.

The case was made that Felicia had knowledge of the fact that Ochanya was being sexually abused by her husband and her son, after first being informed by her daughter Winifred and then went on to threaten Ochanya with eviction if the girl mentioned her ordeal to anyone, after which she impeded and obstructed NAPTIP from gathering information from her daughter after the cause of Ochanya’s ailment was determined when admitted in the hospital.

Her omission to perform

As a consequence, Felicia neither challenged nor controverted the presented evidence, she was left culpable and if not an accessory to child sexual rape that consequently resulted in the death of a ward under the care of her family. Hence, she was found guilty as charged contrary to Section 314 of the Criminal Code Act in Nigeria.

When the cause of death is an omission to observe or perform a duty, the period is reckoned inclusive of the day on which the omission ceased.

When the cause of death is in part an unlawful act, and in part an omission to observe or perform a duty, the period is reckoned inclusive of the day on which the last unlawful act was done or the day on which the omission ceased, whichever is the later.

The subsections shown above, indicate the death of Miss Ochanya Ogbanje was caused in part by the unlawful act of sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by both her uncle and her cousin, for which no one has yet been held duly accountable. Her death was also caused in part by the omission to observe when informed by her daughter that her ward was being abused by both her husband and her son and her decision not to perform a duty of care and protection on her ward once Felicia came into the knowledge of the child sexual abuse.

Negligence is a crime

Knowing she had another girl in the home, her own daughter, one would have expected her to offer a modicum of motherly protection to the girl living in her family home, to whom she might not have been a blood relation, but had a pertinent relationship with the responsibility and authority to do something, but she exacerbated the harm, for which there had to be consequence and NAPTIP should be commended for pursuing the case to a conclusion, viewing the victim as trafficked for sexual purposes, since the responsible adults did not intervene.

Child sexual abuse is too much a taboo subject in Nigeria, too many of us bear scars of child sexual abuse not pursued to fully prosecute perpetrators and obtain justice for the victims. Sadly, responsible adults in the environment where it occurs, rather than address the matter would opt for a cover-up giving license to predators to continue their abuse of minors.

Whilst this case of Ochanya Ogbanje might seem a miscarriage of justice as the alleged perpetrators have not been held accountable for sexual abuse and her consequent death, the other adult who turned a blind eye to the abuse and allowed it to continue with the victim so totally terrified of the threat of eviction means we cannot be bystanders in the knowledge of child sexual abuse, regardless of who is involved, and in this case, it was her husband and her son that she tried to protect from being held accountable of their criminality, and in doing so, she committed a crime of negligence to her duty of care leading to the death of a child in her care.

What good conduct?

I am so annoyed that people came to testify to the good conduct of Felicia Ogbuja, for what good conduct is there when you know a child is being sexually abused under your roof and you threaten the child rather than challenge your husband and your son? What leniency should be afforded to someone who prevented investigators from ascertaining the truth of the ordeal of Ochanya as first indicated to her by her own daughter before she moved to silence Ochanya?

That the witnesses would testify that Felicia Ogbuja had no record of previous convictions is beyond the pale, for child endangerment should never be mitigated on no previous offences, it is the ultimate duty of responsibility in which she totally failed, resulting in death, under her care. Does she have to be given another opportunity to let a child be abused by her husband and her son?

We need to dispense with the fallacy of Christianity as a mitigating factor of good conduct, much less, the membership of church societies says nothing about integrity, honour, responsibility, or character. Felicia Ogbuja was by all terms just as manifestly evil to Ochanya Ogbanje as her husband and her son, the judge saw through that and determined a custodial sentence was the least she could do.

Some justice for Ochanya

The judge did right in sentencing her to five months imprisonment without the option of a fine, if it is appealed, I would hope any other court would give more consideration to the victim, for her negligence resulted in the death of an innocent child. I do not care for the ornate marble grave that adorns the place of her internment. Ochanya Ogbanje as a child should have reasonably expected the care and the protection of the Ogbujas, but they preyed on her and wasted her with the violation of her person, her personhood, her body, her dignity, her childhood, and her life; for that, there can be no mitigation, it is unforgivable.

If Andrew Ogbuja cannot be retried, he should never be allowed to work with minors as a precautionary safeguarding measure, because he is a sexual predator as witnessed by his daughter.

Whenever Victor Ogbuja is apprehended, I hope he faces the full wrath of the law with no leniency. To Winifred Ogbuja who might just be the only redeeming feature of this family, I hope you find a bigger voice to prevent injustice when witnessed, regardless of who is involved.

There is no doubt that your father, your mother, and your brother set the worst examples anyone could view in a family unit. May good fortune find you, for you did what you could to save Ochanya Ogbanje, even if it was not enough.

Thursday 28 April 2022

As an older gay man

Resisting the platitudinal

Rarely do I comment on matters of deep emotional situations, especially when it comes to relationships and I would be reticent to give relationship advice as there is no template to coupling and desire, we are as individuals seriously complex beings who in the course of life find and choose people who impact our lives like no other.

With some we form such deeply inexplicable and emotional bonds we might never find the words to express, we just know that the person who has come into our lives is extraordinarily special, incomparable to any other and paramount in the purview of any matter of concern and import, they are where our hearts and lives are. In the middle of which, we take each day like it would last forever.

Alas, the forever we hope for is only to the extent of the moment we are in, for nobody knows even as the hearts of two merge into one, how things might turn out, what things might be changing in either them or us and how we can be blinded by circumstance to suddenly happen upon a catastrophic breakup. It happens and there is no easy way to deal with it.

A commentary lost

It is on this that I posted a comment on Instagram a few days ago to commiserate, sympathise, probably empathise on the breakup of young black queer couple who had been together for a few years. Some of the emotional fallout had been playing out on social media that I read with just a signal of acknowledgement until I saw a radical move of relocating to another city. That triggered the urge to engage with viewpoint of life, experience, grief, hope, and stories.

Unfortunately, the somewhat substantial comment I posted to that particular situation was lost when the original poster deleted that status, my attempts to recreate what wrote in the context of that posting here would at best be ambitious, but I felt strongly about it enough to dedicate a blog to the matter.

Blog: Opinion: Who owns the public conversation?

Sharing experiences of life

As an older black gay man, I probably have a few tales to tell, no so much as an activist, but just as someone who has decidedly just accepted that in my own difference, I belong in the common embrace of diversity in the pursuit of happiness that I have rarely shirked from.

I was intimated with and reminded recently that I am some sort of role model, and I can say none of this is by intention or purpose, however, in the telling of my story either by myself or others, some have recognised an affinity and a belonging that they can freely be who they are, not as the proselytised, but in knowing they are not alone.

It happened to me

I also had a relationship that lasted almost 7 years, I thought we would be together forever, but one day, I was told what we had going was no more and when I enquired deeper about what might have changed, I realised there was another person from whom my partner had to seek counsel to determine whether we still had something going. It was then that I knew it was over.

At that point, I thought my world was over, I cried for days, got compassionate leave from work, went to stay with an elderly gay couple who were like family whilst I tried to sort myself out. What helped me through that breakup was the support of friends and even more significantly, the offer of continued friendship and love from my newly ex-partner’s parents, it somehow made me see beyond the present without any pretence that there was any hope of reconciliation.

For me, I decided I was going to work on the transition from being a lover to becoming a friend with the passage of time, it was left to my ex-partner if he would want to be a friend, but I was of the view that 7 years was too consequential a period in one’s life to just dispense of a relationship that lasted that long.

That my ex is one of my best friends, we chat every few weeks and sometime last week marked 30 years since we first met at London Euston Station and felt an unexplained attraction towards each other that developed into loving relationship.

Making difficult transitions

Though I eventually handled that breakup well, I had had one before him that just lasted a few weeks, from around Christmas of 1991 into mid-February 1992, much as I loved him, there were signs it would not last, his friends never liked me and wondered why he was going out with a black guy.

When we broke off, we also had nothing to build a friendship on, it affected me so much that my boss at work said to me, the way I looked so different from my normal disposition suggested I was going through a relationship breakup, it was much later that I confided in him.

The result of breakup of the longer relationship was just over a year after it, I emigrated to the Netherlands where I lived for almost 13 years and where my ex came to visit a number of times, furthermore, I was chaperone to his grandmother who as a war widow, yearly visited the Commonwealth War Graves of Arnhem Oosterbeek where his grandfather is buried until her death.

And life happened

In the Netherlands, I had a few relationships, some fractious, others enduring, and whilst they did not last, with those that we could find friendships out of the ruins of a relationship, we remain friends, and at the very least I call them on their birthdays.

I also suffered bereavements, one said partner died just a few days after I left hospital in 2009, we were a bit estranged but had not broken up. That death I grieved alone for years, and it probably hindered me from contemplating new relationships too.

Other short relationships, hopeful and hopeless followed with some yielding new friendships that I reckoned I was not cut out for this thing called love, my life was filled with ex-boyfriends who had become friends, they securing significant others along the way. I have always been happy for them.

I found new love

Then I decided after a challenging year of 2018 to spend Christmas in South Africa and there, someone I would never have approached as I reckoned, he was out of my league, came round to say hello at a club I attended, he stole my heart away.

I found love in a somewhat hopeless place in a person that would be stuff of dreams, this same person is known to all my ex-partners who have embraced him and welcomed him into their friendship too. We are planning on setting up home together and getting married too. I could not have scripted that for myself in my wildest dreams.

Living for a better story

On the matter of relationships, we can only work with what we have got in the moment and time we have to cherish each other, we can build on our dreams towards forever, but there is no guarantee that it would all turn out right, such is life. Yet, we cannot for the fear of failure never live in the expectation of wonder, adventure, love, and happiness. Life has its mysteries out of which we craft stories.

To my friend, I said on his Instagram post, “we are meant to live, to survive, to thrive, and to glow, I know you will do well. You will get to write a better story cherishing the past and looking forward to the future.”

There are parts of our life story when living through it, there is no fun, no joy, much sadness and sometimes the loss of hope, but as long as we are living, we cannot give up, for breakups, we need the time to grieve and begin to repair, hopefully with the likelihood of keeping a semblance of friendship going, we are possibility personified, the stories do get better, and breakups are part of the fabric and tapestry of life preparing us for new relationships to take us on journeys that were once impossible.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

The biannual went well

Under the weather a bit

It started with a strange feeling in my throat, like the onset of a sore throat, that I knew I was coming down with something and I thought I could ward off the effects with gargling TCP in the weekend. Now, TCP that has been on the market in various forms since 1918 would not receive a ranking in taste department as both the taste and smell is vile, but it works.

However, I did not succeed, for by Monday, I had a running nose and cough along with the concern that I might have acquired Omicron XE as all the classic symptoms of a common cold presented, the running nose, the sneezing, the apparent fatigue, and occasional aches and pains. As a fully vaccinated person with a booster and prospect of another booster next month, the symptoms were supposed to be mild, in any case.

Thankfully not COVID

Even though I went out for my walk on Monday, I was not that disposed on Tuesday and today was supposed to be my biannual check-up at the hospital, so, quite early this morning I conducted a COVID-19 Lateral Flow Test to be certain whether I could attend my appointment or not. I came out negative, and that was quite gratifying.

Having taken the day off for this, I set out this morning for my appointment calling an Uber cab to transport me over, yesterday, I was not particularly agile and this morning, I was less inclined to affect any agility, I felt tired, and a bit worn out, but quite lucid too, my voice a bit croaky but the coughing had subsided.

All systems are good

Soon, I was at the waiting area, some 15 minutes early for my appointment when I was called to have my height, weight, and blood pressure measured, before I was invited into the consulting room by the main consultant who I had not seen in probably 2 years. There were two observers in room with her, a student and a junior medical doctor with whom I exchanged greetings before we started our discussion.

All indicators looked right as I learnt more about the tests that were conducted, the indication that protein in my urine would signify issues with my kidneys, the side effects of my medication that could impact on bone density, and I was informed by the junior doctor who happens to be part of a kidney study programme I elected to join some years ago that we would contacted over the next few months.

Get to living well

Besides all that, I did not have many questions, I was happy with my medication for which I had a renewed prescription for 7 months and after other conversations about lifestyle, Vitamin D deficiency, weight control and some predispositions we need to aware of, we agreed for another appointment in October. One assurance I had was if there were any particular indicators of concern in the results of my blood tests, they would be immediately acted on.

After which, I gave a urine sample and like draw blood out of stone, one of the veins in my right arm allowed the filling of 7 vials and then a 15-minute wait at the pharmacy before I left the hospital. I would typically have walked to the ethnic shops after my appointment, but I felt a bit fragile and it was a bit chilly, so, I took a cab to the shops and then one home, had a meal, called Brian and then went to bed.

It would seem that has served me well, I feel much stronger and well, and much as I am tempted to go for a walk, I might just step out for some fresh air rather than for strenuous exercise. The slight swelling and bruising when I had blood taken from is now better, the phlebotomist was more careful that when I had more holes than a colander poked into me for blood, the last time. I am grateful for good health, life, and a sense of wellbeing. 

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Opinion: Who owns the public conversation?

My view is gone

One thing I dread about social media spaces I do not control is the loss of views, opinions, replies, or comments I have posted to status initiated by others. You cannot control how others moderate their spaces whether they decide to edit, delete, or hide what you at one time publicly contributed to.

Obviously, one does not want to make a habit of journaling every comment posted, but the danger is there that if you contribute something substantial, you first have no control over the situation and might well lose it when you return to check if others have contributed, validated, or repudiated your comment, only to find that the whole post with the original thread has gone.

Who owns the public conversation?

I first became aware of this risk some years ago after a contribution to a post on Facebook that was soon deleted, there have been several instances of lost responses on Twitter, only yesterday, I was somewhat bereft when a show of support towards a broken relationship by relating my own personal experience was gone, the whole thing with the almost 200 comments attached.

It is very well the prerogative of any person to decide on what to post, entertain commentary, moderate participation, and consequently remove that post if they are so inclined. However, the question becomes when you have made a view public and people have contributed, in comments, views and responses, are you now the sole proprietor of that public commons to do as you wish without recourse to others who have engaged?

Again, this is not to remove autonomy or agency from the individual owners of social media spaces, if I have attended a party at someone’s place, the person can politely ask me to leave, however, what is indisputable is I attended regardless of what evolved at the party. Unfortunately, that imitation of life in social media is not readily present.

At the mercy of

The original poster might remove a posting and put a placeholder in its place indicating why the posts and comments were removed, but that would be an extended view of courtesy rather than a strict requirement. Then, thinking about this, there is the possibility that conversation landscape is reduced out of the fear of the possible loss of one’s voice in an engagement that we choose not to contribute substantially apart from post easy platitudes.

Alternatively, we keep a record of everything we have posted or offer a broader commentary in our owned spaces with a link in the comments where we would have posted to people to read our views. Obviously, if the original post is deleted, we still have our opinions intact, even if the apparent context and setting for that comment is lost. My reticence is triggered, I might well be less forward in contributing to other spaces.

Monday 25 April 2022

Thought Picnic: No fighting with my parents

My parents are stars

There is one amazing gift of life that I probably do not appreciate as much as I should, the fact that I do still have my parents well into my golden jubilee years, they are both active and contributing to their communities, probably less agile by reason of age, but so totally with their faculties to participate in many things and dispense wisdom at no urging, besides the stories they can tell about life.

Even so, I am enamoured by their sense of adventure and willingness to try new things, like for instance, my mother went on a pilgrimage to the holy lands late last year, the trip sponsored by a class from the school where she was the pioneer principal.

Over Easter, my father launched a book he authored about the history of our hometown, Ijesha-Ijebu in Ogun State, not to be confused with Ijebu-Ijesha in Osun State. The well-attended event offered the opportunity for us to showcase the achievements of our patriarch.

Duly turning up

There is a likelihood that all of us would have attended if we were in the country because the occasion is more about him than us, it is one of those settings where we get to celebrate him amongst peers, in the community, and to the whole world.

I was left a bit disappointed by the fact that a certain one did not avail themselves of the opportunity to grace the occasion out of umbrage which would most definitely presage outrage. Their absence was noted and journaled, consequences would ensue but that is not for me to indicate.

However, I do remember that 40 years ago, on the birth of my baby sister, now of blessed memory, I absented myself from her naming ceremony having caused grievance to my parents the week before. It felt convenient for me, but my absence did not go unnoticed, everyone who could remember me from that precocious kid asked after me and my parents did not have the easiest excuse to render for someone who was also in the same city, hardly an hour away.

Wrath comes swiftly

I had stored up wrath for myself that when I next visited home, I faced severe and retributive justice from not just embarrassing my parents, but from not appreciating that there are things I am dutybound to perform as part of the family even if roles are not clearly defined, you step up and engage, you make yourself present and contribute, especially if you are at that time not of independent means.

There are expectations whether you choose to fulfil them or not, but what you cannot afford is to have your absence reckoned as a slight and disrespect to the family to which you belong. Strangely, for all the liberal views we might have, we are quite conservative on the matters of the composition of our family and show up mostly by being compelled even if the courtesy of politely asking in the remit of the patriarch. The many times, I have tried to make the point that he cannot order people around like he used to.

I suppose what stunned me in my father’s reaction to my not attending my sister’s naming ceremony was he headbutted me, I stumbled and fell backwards, literally dazed. Of all the means of discipline at his disposal, that was the strangest one and totally unforgettable.

Example for learning

Now, I do not expect an 82-year-old to go around headbutting his younger sons, much as I sometimes envy the musculature of his age and bearing, I fear for what might ensue for which I have not yet found the construct of admonition and advice to address the matter to the concerned. The attitude is not out of character, rather, it has been overlooked and essentially not imputed even as narratives and experiences would have dictated, because we are of better breeding than the pettiness things like this would entail.

Our parents provide examples, but an example is not a call to imitation, rather the study of example should allow us to follow the good and discard the bad, learn lessons, determine not to repeat their mistakes and end the vicious cycle of confrontation, conflict, and irritation.

We need to find accommodations of acceptance, agreement, and engagement for there is little we can demand of them than guidance and prayers, as essential responsibilities begin to devolve to those of us in our prime. We now have to take up the mantel, make the appearances for the family, find the means to attend to needs, wants, and provision, keep the family arrangements in good order and we do this with a sense of duty and humanity that it requires.

Play for the good

When I speak to either my father or my mother, I am regaled with prayers and blessings, their happy voices warming my heart and for all the trouble I was through my teenage years into early adulthood, I may not have made all the amends, but I am grateful that they appreciate me, just as they appreciate my other siblings.

At this juncture in their lives, it is just totally unnecessary to find oneself at the wrong end of their tongues. Indeed, we do disagree and respectfully so, but not to the extent of disagreeableness, they are in the twilight of their years and whatever would bring them comfort and joy stays paramount on our minds. We unite to fight against, not divide to fight amongst, a distinction that might be lost on the psyche of those poorly schooled on non-nuclear family constructs.

Choose good example

For all the conflict that has existed between my parents in their marriage and there is much to review, I have resolved never to take sides, be influenced, or persuaded by either party, to each I have a working and productive relationship and it has served me better than to allow either conscribe me into their battles.

They have their faults and that is for them to resolve not for me to accentuate and project for either, it is a principle of relationships some fail to learn and suffer much not understanding and differentiating between learning from example and repeating bad example.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Thought Picnic: Letting blogs flourish in mystery and meaning

Like organic farming

In most cases, my blogs are raw and unpolished, apart from basic spellchecking and some attention to the basic rules of grammar to aid comprehension, I do little else. In fact, I am probably too lazy to even read the blog back to myself to ensure it reads and sounds right, I would think that is to be expected of personal blogs, unadulterated and without synthetic fertilisers.

Then, for those who read my blogs, there is a style and expression that is uniquely mine, you will find obscure and archaic usages and much as you will find unfamiliar words. I could be tempted into sesquipedalianism, but I more frequently resist the urge, though, it could be said the blogs do not cater to the lowest common denominator for readership.

Some air of mystery

I am of the view that the English language is very rich in expression and modality, and I have not mastered the simplicity of writing so fluently to address the broadest crowd that might happen upon my blog. It might be a failing on my part and it is one I am ready to accept as a weakness.

Generally, I hope my blog can retain a kind of mystery to the reader, by that I mean, you read what you see with all the possible interpretations that might arise in your thinking without enquiry as to first my mental state and then my presumed intentions. My blog is more of a journal with a public face, to review my blogs again for a target audience would defeat the journaling and diary aspects of blogging. Should there be a need for unravelling what is written, it might well be written into the blog itself.

Let the wild tree grow

Much as I would hate to be misunderstood, I am not striving to be totally predictable either, the questions anyone might have in their minds and many do not have any other means of contacting me apart from adding comments, certain clarifications can be requested but a full expository would be sating curiosity beyond the mystique of mystery and pondering. Let the blog flourish without the tendency to second-guess the writer.

Even when I do go over old blogs, the only corrections and modifications made are to spelling, grammar and context, rarely and I do not think I have had to rewrite a blog. I have taken down two blogs because they would have created difficulties for the subjects of my writing, beyond that, I follow the advice rather than the threat of the Duke of Wellington, "Publish and be damned."

I guess the question on anyone’s mind would be whether the blog was written for them or written for the writer by the writer themselves. One would think the latter is more plausible, then again, the roots of trees do grow in unpredictable ways and so an audience might think something applies to them, which one would suggest, is quite purely coincidental.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LXVI

Breaking my stride

The fear of abandonment was palpable during a chance encounter with a lady I met on one of my walks late at night. Our conversation began on the note of her acknowledging that I was working hard at my fitness, if only it showed that well, I’ll be a happier man.

As I responded to the compliment, she intimated that she was a victim of some sort of domestic violence which I then learnt was an orchestrated gang rape in a sheltered setting for which the main protagonist had been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

She obviously needed help and I slowed down so she could walk with me, it felt she needed someone to talk to and I was quite disposed to listen and see what I could do to help. I could not give her money as most transactions are cashless, but I offered that we might be able to find a place that takes contactless payments to get her a few essentials.

And we talked

The back-and-forth conversation included my revealing I am gay, I have a partner and our domestic situation when we are together. She made saucy and cheeky comments about what might make me attractive to my partner and much else, she was funny and quite lucid, very aware of the dangers on the street.

She apologised for slowing me down as she was still recovering from the 87 stitches that she received for her injuries. I learnt she was a grandmother, she had had some nasty relationships and been with some rather notorious and violent partners, some of whom had negatively coloured her view of life and survival.

Along the way, she called out to a couple of men who were huddled in a doorway, she volunteered that they were on spice, a synthetic cannabinoid with debilitating side effects sometimes leading to fatalities, and this is on the streets around us to which many of us are totally oblivious.

Trust is scarce

We were planning on going to a night shop, but as I realised we were only about half a kilometre from my home, I would rush home to pick up a few things for her and get my bank card to withdraw some money for her. I have never tried to second-guess what people might do with the money I give them, nor do I want to police what they do with it. It is for them to decide what their immediate need is and to either wisely or unwisely attend to that.

When I told her, I can run home to get a few things, she began to cry thinking I was about to abandon her. I could understand, yet I would only give her assurances that I would return apart from the fact that I did not really want to reveal where I lived. Besides, some people are so desperately in need of help and support beyond the immediacy of what we can do for them in that moment.

Completely worn down

On one occasion, in attending to someone in desperate need, I made the mistake of giving him my phone number, first, he said, he had lost the money I had given him to get shelter for the night, and when I still engaged and secured the shelter, through the night, I was bombarded with calls and pleas, more than 40 of them and it continued to the next day.

I happened to see him a few days after and by then I had been so worn down that there was not a scimitar of empathy left in me as I shouted at him and told him how he made me regret ever meeting him at all. He was never ever to contact me ever again and if he approached me, I would tackle him as a mugger. It was the kind of thing that could sear your conscience against having the milk of human kindness, then again, every person’s circumstance is different.

In the readiness to help, the helped, despite their situation, circumstances, and history should be careful and that is difficult, to not frustrate their helpers with untrammelled demands, we all have limited capacity to address issues that are essentially endemic and in need of more professionally coordinated approaches for long term benefit to those that require it.

Willing to angel

I ran home and got a coat, a scarf, pairs of socks, and the thermal underwear that I bought for my sister when she was in Iceland, but I never got to post, and a few snacks packed into a bag, not forgetting my bank card, and rushed out again.

She was still waiting for me, as I took to one side and showed her everything I had brought before giving her some money. She asked if I was sure I wanted to give her what I had already given her, I guess this thought comes with the concept that the generosity from strangers could be in short supply for those in desperate need. I do wonder if giving them a lot of money can do a perverse thing of changing the concept of value, in terms of what they need.

That is probably something for social scientists, psychologists, or anthropologists to study, I can only do my bit in within the means that I have. What could I do when she started crying at what I had been given the opportunity to do? I embraced her and told her, to think of it as if her had just met an angel. Even on the streets of Manchester, there is goodness, kindness, and mercy for all, those who have and many more who do not have much at all.

Down to the heart of desire

Knowing myself as me

I think about nature and nurture, the knowledge of desire and the things that make us who we are even if we are different and we are different in many ways, but we get along, all the same.

Speaking of desire, I have never thought differently about who I am even if I have questioned why I am who I am. I remember being asked when reviewing the issue of my sexuality with my religious leaders and sometimes with my managers at work whether I have ever been attracted to females, the truth is I have never had that desire, not in the slightest.

Misunderstanding the impossible

I cannot answer the whys or wherefores, but I know that the desire to rid myself of a desire I always had for one I never had was just a recipe for a totally miserable life. That is the complexity of sexuality and the absurdity of conversion therapy.

The idea that you can get someone to totally displace themselves from a desire they have for one they have never had is quite bonkers if not madness. Yet, many attempt to turn people from one thing to another, just because they think they can.

Acceptance is a journey

I guess the bigger struggle is the one of acceptance, first the one of accepting oneself, then the one about others accepting who you are, if they have the wherewithal to. At the end of the day, you are who you are and whether accepted by others or not.

Then at the same time, I observe the conflicts, the confusion, or the conflation of desire, even the fear or shame of the same desire that keeps people from being true to themselves first and then to others. The consequence being a double-life with the opportunities for exploitation and blackmail that makes for a secretive, paranoid, and unhappy existence. Many of us know about this.

Caught between desires

Along the way, there is the cohort that cannot extricate themselves from ambivalence, straddling different aspects of satisfaction of their desires that it becomes fetishized. Maybe I was a bit terse when someone asked if I like stockings and suspenders to which I responded without skipping a beat that I only do it with men.

In fact, I have been asked to dress up and nothing annoys me as much as anyone who expects me to pretend to be someone else for them to get their kicks. At the same time, I have to recognise that it is each to their own and move on. What I cannot completely put out of my mind and memory are times when I have been invited to meet someone casually only to see that in the absence of their spouse and kids, these men are playing the field with ‘taboo’ activities unbeknownst to their wives or girlfriends.

Here I was in a matrimonial home, in their bed, a cot with kid’s toys strewn around the house and well, there is life as you know it and desire as we seek to find it and satisfy it. It is a funny world and the journey to acceptance and being openly happy with it is still a tough one for many to begin, talk less of complete. C’est la vie!

Wednesday 20 April 2022

The benefit of naught

Seeing beyond the plain offer

What looks like an offer may not necessarily have a benefit, as there can be many variables at play to determine if, in the immediate term, the situation might have some credible participation. In the same terms, a bargain, attractive as it may seem, is also perverse; in that, it presents an opportunity to acquire either what you do not need or more than you need.

The utility of that acquisition is elastic, as it might give you the benefit of longer use or better facility, much as acquiring excess beyond what you need can lead to waste. The balance between the durable and the perishable is somewhat lost as consumption might be sped up or storage presages the loss of quality and usability.

Not all offers should be grabbed and taken advantage of, just as a bargain might not be of any benefit to you as it is to those offering the bargain to shift stuff or get more footfall. To paraphrase an old sales dictum, if you are not paying the going and full price of an offer or a bargain on a product, you have become part of the product.

Monday 18 April 2022

Thought Picnic: How our filters stymie our options

Nothing is for certain

Some things get me thinking about how we have great expectations for encounters in chance situations, setting up stringent requirements to be met, passed on as preferences that invariably lead to disappointment when the options we are presented with give us no choices to select from.

Much as we delude ourselves with the idea that we are open-minded and liberal, in practical terms, we are usually more conservative than would admit to ourselves about what we call preferences. The self-aggrandised level of myopia we select and live with eventually deprives us of the broader landscape of beauty that is laid before us.

Not everyone wins

Too many times, we behave like prospectors at a gold rush, highly optimistic that there is a fortune to be found, ready to till and turn the dirt for that elusive gem and coming up empty-handed after a long day of toil. Yet, we are undeterred hoping that the next day, or the next, or the one after would present in the eventuality that goal for which we might end all toil and witness a different outcome.

Over time, reality sets in that not all of us would be lucky, some might find a gem or two but the rest would steadily be approached by disillusionment as the steady erosion of optimism gives way to a truth we have batted away from the onset. That we arrived with bluster, we may not leave in a cluster, but at a point in stealth, we carry our story back to whence we came either to keep a new found grasp of reality or wait for another dreamy adventure to naught.

Experience teaches hard lessons

I see this is too many places in the quest for the many things that we seek to give life a sense of meaning and being, in career searches, in the need for companionship, or just the momentary fulfilment of lust, and there are many gold rush mines we can visit for which our desires and curiosity would never be sated.

One of life’s greatest lessons is one of contentment, an appreciation of what you have as opposed to what you desire or want, knowing from immemorial that you have a bird in hand rather than the two in the bush, or to paraphrase another saying, if you cannot have what you want; love what you already have.

Appreciate what you have got

Indeed, I need to constantly reassess my priorities and appreciate the many blessings that surround me daily, in the love of my life and our ultimate desire to set up home together. Whilst I would love things to be easier, that easier option may not materialise and we would have to make the best of what we have got for we are not in an impossible situation, we are just somewhere between the dream and the reality that would set things in motion for the next stage of our lives.

Sometimes, I have slapped myself on the cheek to clear my vision, a kind of reset that is usually not as necessary as it seems, if you have given yourself to some reflection and introspection. I have a clear idea of where I want to be, I just need to work at getting there sooner rather than later. Take down the filters and see things as they are, then in the clarity of that vision and perspective do not let the perfect get in the way of the good that you end up with nothing at all.

Be circumspect and realistic with your expectations such that you can manage your disappointments beyond disillusionment, you yourself the instruments of hope that can see beyond the mountain ranges that appear to make your journey an impossible quest to new accomplishments.

Coronavirus streets on Easter Sunday - LXV

Easter Sunday for church

I had all the determination for attending church on Easter Sunday even if I did nothing else, in my mind I had decided on what to wear along with how it would be accessorised to be noticeably different and striking, as one is wont to do because there is rarely the occasion to dress up anymore.

I also remembered that Easter Sunday is one of those Sundays when the major shops and shopping precincts are not open, so, I expected a rather uneventful walk to church even as the weather appeared to present the glory of a fine day to come.

Like the Easter Sunday last year, the church was brimming with activity with most of the seating taken up down the middle and to the sides. I took a seat to the east side facing the altar with a view of that and the pulpit, just as the organist began the fanfare before the processional hymn.

Are we there yet?

One could see that with the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, not many had adhered to the requirement that we all don face masks or coverings as much as possible. The cathedral announced through the dean that we were for the first time in over two years going to have the full Communion with the serving of the bread and the wine, but no dipping of the bread in the wine.

For giving each other the sign of peace, a majority still refrained from shaking hands, preferring to clasp hands and bow, or just wave to fellow congregants. During the offertory hymn, we also had the collection basket passed around. A return to some sort of normalcy had begun even with the reticence of many.

Everything with wisdom and caution

I passed on having the wine for Communion as did others that I observed, I guess we are not yet at the stage of cocking a snook at COVID-19. It is still out there, and my neighbour had just recovered from it. The canon who preached was delivering his last homily before retirement at the end of this month.

As to the atmosphere, it was electric, the singing heavenly, and the crowd warm, if not exuberant. Then, everywhere in the cathedral was open for the first time after the pandemic lockdowns began. We pray for God’s protection and safety as the times change. Viewing from Bulawayo too was Brian, it is a comfort to know he was there in spirit. Happy Easter break.

Saturday 16 April 2022

The unquantified cost of replacement

Price versus value

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

There is a tendency to view the quote above in terms of materialism alone, but I have been thinking for over a year of a perspective of value that some might consider, the cost of replacement.

Whilst this scenario could be extreme in its application, it best represents the discourse I am put on this blog. I bought some wines from South Africa a few years ago, most particularly South African port wine referred to as Cape Ruby. My intention was to present these as gifts to certain important people in my healthcare history, when I next saw them, with the view that the rarity and exclusivity would redound to my greater sense of appreciation and thanks.

Downed and out completely

However, that wine collection was decimated and quaffed down without my permission, the person thought if they left one of each on the wine rack, that would be fine. But, herein is my dilemma, the wine is not available in our shops and not on order. I had to visit the wine estate in South Africa to replace the wine and that was put off by 11 months because of the pandemic. This is considering I was in South Africa four times in 2019.

When I finally got to South Africa in December 2020, the country went into lockdown with an alcohol ban, so that was a missed opportunity. Another 11 months of pandemic restrictions ensued before I jetted off to our rendezvous in Cape Town, we immediately booked a wine tour and on arrival at the muster point, we learnt that our favourite wine estate had been acquired and its inventory was being moved to another location.

Invariably, there is no indication if I would ever again get my hands on the now more exclusive, if not elusive Backsberg Cape Ruby [PDF], which I have now determined has been discontinued. Basically, the replacement cost is now astronomically high, if not impossible to meet due to scarcity and circumstances beyond my control.

An escalating cost

I now appreciate the fuller value of what I have lost, not just based on the nominal cost, but in the passage of two years, the pandemic, and the discontinuation of the wine that the person who drank my wine cannot begin to understand. It breeds resentment and much regret at the kind of access I have granted them.

Even if they paid a premium for the Backsberg Cape Ruby, I cannot replace it, and that is the enduring annoyance in this matter. We may never recognise the full value of acquisition if we do not know the possibly considerable cost of replacement. It is a thieves’ mentality, the penchant for wanting for themselves without any consideration for others to the extent that armed robbers would maim and kill to steal material things as they place no value on life or property for their own ends.

Blog: In Nigeria, we've lost to all of them

To mitigate this, the lesson I took was to make provision for locally available wines whilst prohibiting drinking any of the South African wines though I might have considered putting them in some storage at additional costs to myself.

The cost is that of replacement

In the scheme of things, there are other privations for things I acquired for my personal use that have been squandered and lost to this lack of consideration. As one cannot predict availability, people should think before they use or abuse things, they either do not own or have not received the express permission to take.

The price of everything is easy to know and pay for, the value of that thing can however change due to various situations and circumstances, some not predictable and usually not accessible until the need to replace that thing, and it is not available. Indeed, I feel quite resentful about it.

In the solitude of the solitary

It is just me

It is the silence, the quiet stillness in a place of solitude in the company of just oneself that you find a spectrum of just wanting to be alone and the dread of loneliness. Your thoughts oscillating without any uniformity between a desirous need and an acceptance of lack, it could be disconcerting.

This long weekend presents that very scenario where at one time there was the prospect of receiving guests that was postponed to the next month, at the one time you feel you should jump on a train just to feel the energy of a crowd from afar, the sight of strangers with some purpose giving you a signal that you still exist even if you are not noticed.

It is just so

Then, there is lethargy, an overwhelming sense of inertia, where normalcy is not entirely so, as at least you are somewhat engaged even if you are working from home, but presently you are not. The curtains remain as they always were, undrawn that the outside is a mystery when asked about the weather.

For one Miss Havisham and I can be soulmates on the same voyage, though mine is not out of misery or disappointment and the clocks have not been stopped. It may not be out of commission, quite likely one of omission, as I just allow things to be as they are and trundle on.

I could do some cooking, but it is a table set for one, I could watch television, but the discussion goes on in my mind, I might read something, and the recognition is mine alone, or listen to something on the radio to be taken to a place of nostalgia and new meaning.

It is just there

What I have been blessed with, though I am given the joy of communication, but I cannot use fully for the distance between us. I have to trust myself that I am fine, though I found out at one time that it could mess with my head and set my emotions in flux, I hope I get my funk sorted long before that which warms my heart presents.

For now, I sail, a lonely mariner on a boat in storms, keenly aware of where I am going, but unsure of when I would arrive. An albatross perches on the mast to indicate, I might have a long way to go, but the winds are in my favour, and I should soon reach a safe harbour and that is where I am heading.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Thought Picnic: On these sententious Nigerian streets

Skeletons on the streets

I have watched aghast, disappointed but probably not too surprised a series of exposés about rotten corporate leadership, workplace abuse, untrammelled impunity, corporate malfeasance, domestic violence, and generally reprehensible conduct that leaves one gasping in astonishment.

Whilst I do not intend to revisit any of the issues, I have noticed that the concept of a moral compass is totally missing from the biases that emerge from the sides and neutrality of those who are either invested in the situation or cannot hold their counsel for the need of notoriety or to exacerbate the situation for their continued entertainment.

Private misdeeds revealed

What is more galling is the vaunted public morality and uprightness of the persons involved as juxtaposed with the private atrocities and mendaciousness of the same people. A total lack of integrity and character with the feeling that they are inviolable, infallible, and untouchable by reason of the means they have and the influence they can peddle.

However, social media democratises even if not for the best, the information space, but with the way things are, someone somewhere needs to keep us honest even if the methods and means are not to our liking. If those with means, power, or status cannot find in themselves the necessary controls to demonstrate good virtues whether under observation or not, then, some external feature needs to engage their minds to redress the situation.

It might well be that such people need to step back from the public coalface for a time of reflection towards possible redemption, if possible and that after contrition and genuine apology, along with restitution to set things right.

Messing more with the mess

Besides, the sententiousness of the commentariat leaves much to be desired, in the excusing of the inexcusable or the defending the indefensible, the absence of a frame of reference that gives regard to humanity and virtue is an astounding thing to behold, with unrelated issues, joined to distract and a penchant for the disingenuous revealing a default for dishonesty, dissembling, and a mockery of anything wholesome or good.

As we are so schooled to respond, deploying the device of argumentum ad populum becomes the refuge of the scoundrel, they appeal to our patriotism or beliefs by trotting out religious texts to find some cover from scrutiny by calling the divine to witness. That you have taken an oath is no guarantee that you would not perjure or suborn. They seek to deflect rather than address and we have seen this many times before.

Fix up or shut up

No one is interested in what you believe, however, if you are the object of scrutiny, it is only right to address in particularity the issues, allegations, or accusations made with simplicity rather than with sophistry and solipsism. We have seen it all before, who are you when no one is watching and as we are not gifted with omniscience to see as the divine sees, you are left to speak for yourself in the language we understand or admit you have been found out and face the consequences of your decisions with a sense of responsibility.

There is a lot more to be said and exposed, they who think they stand should beware lest they fall by reason of the things that come to light that are questionable and below the standard of equity and probity. If your hands are dirty, they will only get washed at a prominent public faucet in an overcrowded Coliseum of the baying mob asking for your head. Selah!

Tuesday 12 April 2022

You send me, yes, you do

You send me

I get caught in my thoughts about things I wish and hope for, the dreamy world of thrills and happiness envelops my thinking looking forward to something special and the stuff of wonder, miracles, fortune, and goodness that is love.

I have been consumed by this feeling like no other, even the memory of many loves past all put together does not attain my exhilaration at this, for they all add up to my understanding of what I know and believe I want and need.

The love and companionship that has lit up my world is amazing, and for all my skill with words, I am lost for the ability to express myself as well as I would want to. I know I am in love, and I am loved beyond measure, unconditionally, and so completely. I find myself wondering if I am deserving of all this, then I just go with the flow and feel the glow.

Thank you, Brian, for making all matter, making it make sense, and stealing my heart away to the place where it is nurtured, refreshed, rejuvenated and strengthened. You send me, darling you do, to places where dreams are dreams of realities too few would ever get to live. I’m in clover.

Essential Snobbery 101: Sensible shoes for suffering soles

The shoo of the shoes

In one of those chance conversations, you have with friends, I was informed anecdotally that South Africans look at 3 things in an appearance to rate who you are in class, means, and facility. Your shoes, your watch, and your belt. I would suppose this applies primarily to men and probably women are assessed on different criteria.

In that same conversation, I learnt that someone had gone to attend an interview and on the basis of the shoes and belt worn by the interviewer, the interviewee decided their interviewer was not of the means or mettle to employ them, and so declined the job offer.

Forced into acculturation

Obviously, one might suggest or opine those appearances can be deceptive, that to judge ability or character by apparel or appearance is not only superficial but silly. Then again, we are products of influences, cultures, communities, and societies in which we live and by that might be unconsciously biased by irrational value systems that define status, when they should never be in consideration.

However, by reason of this somewhat unwritten rule, people adapt and try to play the part not so much to deceive, but to elevate the assessment from apparel or appearance to something more nuanced and probably indicative of the person and personality being engaged.

Then there are times when the application of this rule might be deleterious to the objective of being acceptable, where apparent ostentation and gaudiness might exude means but not class, for the quality of being presentable and yet understated is one that demands a finer educational process that comes with being quite comfortable in your own skin.

Good presentation is rarely exorbitant

By terms, you can wear sensible shoes that are clean and polished without them calling out like neon lights and if you are not on a catwalk, your shoes are probably not the first thing you want to be noticed about you. Likewise, the watch, for what is the point of wearing an expensive timepiece if you cannot keep the time. Whilst I am not suggesting one should plumb for the cheap, there is nothing wrong with adorning yourself with the affordable.

Then on the topic of sensible shoes and I probably know a bit about that because my feet grew 6 sizes from the age of 7 to 15 and getting the right size of shoes after that was one of a bother, for size 12 (UK)/46 (EU) is not in the typically available or fashionable percentile.

There were times my poor feet were shoehorned in too tight footwear, I learnt to wince in silence until I could throw off the shoes and walk barefoot. I have better options now, and I avail myself of them in good formal shoes and well-cushioned trainers that allow me to walk long distances without the aid of my walking cane.

Looking good for worse

One sight I cannot put out of my mind was one I saw last weekend, this lady stepped out of the hotel with her husband and a crutch in her right arm, a crutch, not a cane and she was in high-heeled shoes. I could not fathom the spectacle of someone who needed a crutch and then was traipsing our uneven pavement in that kind of shoes. I had a cartoon playback in my mind of someone falling so badly that the crutch would be replaced with either a wheelchair or a Zimmer frame.

She might have looked presentable at first sight, and yet it was meretricious; we for the sake of fashion sacrifice health and wellbeing, on the spectrum of opinion the rating was indelibly low, you live and let live. The case for suffering soles in sensible shoes is made, but not many would heed the sensible part.