Thursday 30 June 2022

Rewards of privilege for loyalty

Comfort or no travel

For some, travel can be quite stressful, and I can understand how that can happen. When I decide to leave my home on a journey, the needs for comfort and ease are paramount in my mind. The journey is as important as the destination and the purpose of the journey, there is no point in leaving home if part of that experience presents distress, discomfort, or suffering.

Having been a keen traveller for decades, I have stuck with certain brands and built a kind of loyalty account with them that has benefits. Things like priority check-in, for instance, mean I do not have to languish in long queues, fast-tracking through security or passport control, or cooling off in the lounge, which suggests one is relaxed long before boarding the flight.

In praise of loyalty schemes

There are indeed more affordable options for booking flights or hotels, but you do not get to build a customer profile that earns loyalty bonuses in the long term. I have booked accommodation with for almost 10 years. For every 10 nights booked, you get a reward stamp equivalent to the average cost of those nights to offset the cost of a future booking. I have redeemed over 50 nights and have over 10 in hand.

This has saved me over £1,500 in accommodation costs. Sometimes, a very expensive room in the high season is halved in cost using a reward night.

Obviously, loyalty schemes are not for everyone, but if you do something often enough, it might well make sense to enter their loyalty scheme if they have one. I have flown KLM + AirFrance for about 20 years, and the frequency of my travel has earned me a platinum card that opens doors of privilege that I use well.

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Running the gauntlet of lazy recruitment agents

Anything but able

I want to believe that my LinkedIn profile is good enough and I would be the first to say any profile can be improved upon, but there is no perfect profile, we are just trying to project our best selves.

However, I get barraged with lots of emails from recruitment and talent acquisition specialists, though I am left wondering what the specialism is, as it is becoming obvious to me that they neither read nor assess my profile before proposing totally unsuitable roles that do not fit my experience, expertise, location, or remuneration requirements.

It would seem their professional acumen is vying for a world record in some sort of whack-a-mole exercise of flooding prospects in the hope that one or a few might be hit hard enough to be responsive.

Interest me, engage me

Too many times, I am asked to forward my CV on scant job information, they, thinking I would be interested when they have neither interested nor engaged me.

If you are contacting me, I would hope you have first read my profile and the embedded CV, your specialism coming to the fore by treating me as a professional, through reviewing my experience, roles, responsibilities, and broader profile, rather than as a mercenary for hire.

Then, interest me with a useful job profile along with the associated remuneration range - cut to the chase with the view that we do not want to waste each other's time.

If I am interested, you will get a response and we can have a discussion about the role and the prospects. Recruiters need to get better, the slap-dash approach is becoming an annoyance, hence this post.

Thursday 23 June 2022

Uncle Cash!

A giant has fallen

“I agree with them.” That was the last message I got from him to which I responded, “I see.”. WhatsApp was our regular mode of communication typing out messages to each other about our health, our wellbeing, and other developments.

Uncle Cash of all men was the most significant and most consequential person in the making of who I have become, I can say without equivocation that without him and his intervention in my life at the particular time that he did, I would probably not be writing any story and definitely not the one I have woken up to write this morning.

Only last night, I was thinking about sending him a message to inform him that I will soon be travelling to South Africa, I vacillated and thought, I would do that by the weekend. Alas! That time has gone.

There is a small question of an unpaid debt that has been a canon in our shared stories, and that is where I will begin. When we returned from the UK in late 1970, two impressions were made on my uncle, the first of a precocious boy who spoke only English darting about the place, for which I earned the moniker Ọmọ ìlú òyìnbó (The boy born abroad) to this day, then secondly, he was having difficulties passing his West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations that my father promised him £10, if he excels.

He went on to live a more than excellent and fulfilled life, that family debt for success, yet unpaid. When he visited us, I would get tickled to exhaustion, he was humorous, playful, funny, and approachable.

In early 1986, he became my guardian, I had run away from home and was in a totally estranged situation from my father and his near relations. Uncle Cash allowed me the courage of my convictions, he could be brutal with others, but he was always, always kind, and empathetic with me, treating me with such dignity and respect, usually against tradition or convention, that I had leeway and confidence to talk to him about literally everything that concerned me. I never had that kind of openness with my parents or anyone else, he ushered me into responsible adulthood.

Uncle Cash was a giant and a pillar, I knew I could have a candid conversation with him. At times, he would say to me, “Akin, you are dangerous with the way you write, let’s talk instead.” I am a product of the example of daring and self-assuredness that he instilled in me for the 4 years that he provided support and guidance on how to live with honour and integrity, not compromising on your principles and your vision.

Uncle Cash built a career in insurance to become a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Insurers, an industry stalwart and examiner, and circumstances in Nigeria led him to emigrate to the UK where like he was wont to do, he reinvented himself still generously impacting lives when he informed me that he was going back to university to do a bachelor’s degree, in his 60s.

In the classes he attended, the faculty and the university would probably say they did not have a student attending, but a polymath in the experience of life amongst them and for that, at graduation, they arranged to get him from the hospital to be honoured with a commendation and standing ovation.

This tribute hardly captures the stature of the man, Uncle Cash was, much of it would be in the fond memories, the reminiscences, the sudden floods of insight, his voice conveying wisdom and guidance. He was religious, affable, larger than life, a partier, he loved to party. I remember when he and I spent a long weekend in Paris during a visit to mine in Amsterdam, we just had fun.

That is how I want to remember Uncle Cash, a man, a mentor, a counsellor, a confidante, a benefactor, uncle, father, grandfather, friend, Uncle Omo Uncle, sùn re o.

Monday 20 June 2022

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A time for healing

Part I: Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A town of pain

An appreciation of Baba Cole

Joel Adebambo Idowu popularly known as Baba Cole, that was his nickname and I never met him, he died 4 years before I was born, he was my maternal grandfather. I have only recently begun to hear much about him. There are many ways we are supposed alike, he was an anglophile and an archivist, some sort of encyclopaedia of knowledge.

From what I have learnt and there is much more I need to flesh out, he was a literal man, of considerable influence, a prince of the town and a member of the ruling council of the town. He had three daughters, my mother being the middle one, there is a rumour that there might have been a brother, but no one has confirmed that to me.

Standing true for justice

Much as he respected traditions and conventions, he was not ready to sacrifice people for those causes and for that, he paid the ultimate price. As it transpired, an emissary was sent to our town from the neighbouring town just at the time when certain fetish practices required a stranger to be sacrificed to the town’s deities.

My grandfather made the case that an emissary from the neighbouring town who was to deliver a message and return with a response could not just disappear somewhere between the towns separated by 5 miles of forest and lands, it would be incomprehensible and incredulous. He won the argument, and the stranger was spared to return home.

Sacrificed for integrity

However, some traditionalists took umbrage at his intervention and through a combination of mystical and malevolent acts, my grandfather took on a sudden fit of involuntary body reactions and died. I inferred the rational and the irrational becoming a narrative and that has become the story of my grandfather, he was sacrificed to the malevolent forces in Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú when he stood in defence of an innocent person against the system.

That is how at around the age of 19, my mother lost her father and strangely at 19 I also had this break from the concept of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú that grew to epitomise my reticence to visiting Nigeria. If I were to create a narrative, I embody the spirit of my maternal grandfather who is owed more than an apology for the wickedness meted out to him when he rationalised against the irrationality of traditions that should have gone into abeyance.

Beyond redress to healing

I cannot say if one needs to ask for an apology from Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú for what happened to my grandfather, much as I am not asking for an apology for what I have experienced with my father. Some things we cannot change, but there is much we can work towards reconciling that we might have the courage to do the greater thing, the boldness to write better stories, and an acknowledgement that we can find some healing after all the real and perceive hurt.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú has been a spectre, a haunting, a looming danger, sometimes a fearsome place that suggests a mountain of the strangest beings seething with malevolence and evil, or we have just allowed our imaginations to get the better of us and our rationality. It is a process calling for progress. I think my journey has begun.

Narratives matter and they have consequential significance even if they might seem trivial to others. I have had experiences dismissed when what I heard and saw changed me into a completely different person. Much as there are perspectives to have, the more important thing is to seek the good rather than foster the bad. Beyond my introspection and the times, I have had people counsel me, I hope I am amenable to guidance and instruction. One should never be in a position where the only resort is for God to send an ass to talk to you. [Bible Gateway: Balaam, the Donkey and the Angel]

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A town of pain

A cause for appreciation

Waking up this morning from a dream that left me thinking I could do better with courses and causes, and I meant the kinds of courses of choice to travel and the causes that should be supported, the focus came back to myself.

When I spoke to Brian yesterday, I found every excuse I could, not to call my father on Father’s Day, I even checked as we were speaking if it was really Father’s Day in Nigeria, and then I got two Father’s Day messages from my brothers. Meanwhile, everyone online was celebrating Father’s Day and more poignant were those who shared memories of their fathers who had passed on, either recently or a long time ago.

In my wakefulness, I realised there was a lack of appreciation for the fact that I still have both my parents and they are thankfully doing well apart from the vagaries of old age. However, there are issues that I need to address about relationships that I only began to review as I stepped out for my walking exercise.

The town of my parents

I have a consequently very useful and good relationship with my mother, I cannot say that much about my father, and I think I know where that stems from, it goes way back to one event that seems to have defined so many things. It is the confluence of the irrational and the rational in what we call our experience that becomes the narrative whether it is plausible or not, makes no difference to the existential relevance of that perspective to the person involved.

My father, our little town of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú with its big history, my maternal grandfather, some aspects of numerology which could just be coincidental, but one cannot ignore patterns of a sort.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú or Òdo Àyányẹlú in Ogun State is not to be confused with Ìjẹ̀bú-Ìjẹ̀shà in Osun State exists with a history that could hair-raising as much as it is intriguing, that it leaves people from there either quite passionate about the place or seriously averse to being there. We all have been touched by an enduring aspect of that town that even my mother would pass through the town on her way to a consultation without stopping to see anyone.

It is the retirement home of my father and many of his peers, yet you can mistake the place for a stairway to heaven, but like my paternal grandmother who lived to over a hundred years old, longevity has blessed many even as tragedy has befallen some.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú became a project and a dream, its children, many of whom from my parents’ generation travelled abroad for studies returned with aspirations to build their village, give the upcoming generations better opportunities, and infest their children with the same enthusiasm. We all seemed to play along, as it was where we met with cousins, developed new friendships, and had amazing conversations with lively elderly people. We looked forward to visiting, but the novelty began to wear off.

The schism and falling away

In my case, it was sometime in the middle of 1985, we had gone to Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú for some event and then some of my friends invited me to party in another town. I went to ask my dad and he might have had his reasons, but he did not grant the permission for me to go, and I shamefacedly passed my regrets to my friends who from what I learnt had a very good time.

Much as I was a difficult teenager, I was not given to vices or the kind of criminality that would involve the law, I can say in many ways, I was quite restrained and more so with my religious inclinations, but between my father and I, there has always been this simmering conflict that by the end of that year, I left home and did not see my father for probably another 18 months after.

For that refusal of permission to go to that party, I swore to myself that if I ever were to return to Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú, it would be in a box. I have not returned for 37 years and in that time, I missed many significant events that would have required my presence there or thereabouts.

On reflection and possibility

Then maybe as I thought about this morning, there is an undercurrent of fear that if I do venture, that might be the case, I do not know, and I have not attempted to test out the premise. It has become a kind of handicap, and this is the first time I am sharing this information, for what it has done in terms of our relationship is my seeking to define myself so differently from my father as much as possible without totally succeeding in being that different.

However, with that recessed in my memory commanding my inclinations, great import has been that distance has helped avoidance along with other explanations that could be summoned to protect the situation I have created for myself.

After a morning of introspection, I did give my father a call, I might even see a path to visiting Nigeria after 31 years, I don’t know if I will see Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú again, but I can understand how a complete breakdown in communication and relationships can instigate lifelong consequences. Gosh, I have nieces and nephews I have only met online, I am known of, but who knows me?

Postscript: My father launched a book about the history of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú in April this year, there is much to learn about who we are, where we are from and what defines us. I saw the draft and my copy is wending its way to me, he is a formidable and quite accomplished gentleman.

Part II: Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A time for healing

Sunday 19 June 2022

A clear view of the sky in life

A house burnt down

You know what happens when your house burns down? You get a clear view of the sky.” Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Swimming with the sharks (Season 21, Episode 15) [IMDB: Quotes].

I was about to go to bed when the twist in this episode of Law & Order: SVU was so compelling, that I had to see it to the end, and this was after I had put everything I needed in the bedroom and made to turn off the lights in the living room.

The quote above came in the closing stage of the episode after the issues had been resolved and the conspirators agreed to a deal. The protagonist on whom the storyline was based said, “I could've been a better friend. I've been thinking about it. When you arrested me. I thought it was karma. I burned a lot of bridges in my time. Hell, I burned my whole house down.

I could be better

There is so much to unpack in that statement, and I could relate to everything she said, for it got me thinking about how I could be a better person, a better lover, a better friend, a better son, a better brother, a better parent, a better colleague, a better anything that is good, wholesome and redounds to the goodness of our humanity.

Moving on, I think about the things I probably should have done or paid more attention to, from the personal to the communal and where commission or omission has found me wanting. There is time for a lot of introspection, for there is not lost in continuous improvement, it would be nowhere near perfect, but getting better is always worthwhile. Knowing you can put the effort into it to do better is always a consideration to entertain and act on.

On bridges, even when I am tempted, I have tried as much as I can, not to burn my bridges. I learnt almost 5 years ago that bridges are not only for your use but for the use of others too. They may need that same bridge you have crossed and long-abandoned to cross the ravine over to you, that is their prerogative, but never burn those bridges, make allowances even if those allowances are taxing on your exploited magnanimity.

Life burnt down

“Hell, I burned my whole house down.” I have probably done that too many times, but what have I done with the ashes? More significantly, when I allowed HIV to ravage my body, it became full-blown AIDS presenting with life-threatening Kaposi’s sarcoma skin cancer that if the therapies did not work I was given a prognosis of 5 weeks, the long tail of cancer that wagged me to exhaustion was I lost everything.

Indeed, I lost my house among many things, and things I had acquired over decades, but rather than look around the ruins that tried to define my existence, I got a clear view of the sky, it was blue, sunny, and beautiful. My view of the sky in the context of my life was hope, I had a resolution that reverberated through my whole being, this too shall pass, and we would get to write a better story; that was the spring of possibility and life that was welling up from within me.

Prospect and possibility

In Yoruba, there is a similar saying that asks us not to despair but to be encouraged with hope and new possibilities, “Ilé ọba t'ójó ẹ̀wà ló bù si.” Using a translation of contextual equivalence rather than an exact interpretation, “You have the prospect of building something more beautiful after the royal palace burnt down.”

I guess you need to acquire the disposition not to dwell on the misfortune, no matter how catastrophic, and we have seen many that would make some hearts fail and extinguish any semblance of hope. For me, that I was alive and living meant I was ready for things ahead, a future, a world of possibilities, the need to walk through this valley of the shadow of death to new still waters and green pastures.

The comfort of knowing that trials are part of the human story, they are milestones we can do without, but if they come, we must pass them and continue on that journey that makes a better story of our experiences. Always seek and find a clear view of the sky, regardless of where you are, let the spirit of hope and encouragement take you to the place where looking back you marvel at the fact that you did not know your own strength.

Saturday 18 June 2022

A spoon of snigger

Roe your bread

I just sniggered earlier at myself without mouthing the words that spoke out loudly in my head, “Silly me.” There is a quick snack I like to make, getting wholemeal pitta bread and cutting it into strips with a pair of scissors before warming the strips in the microwave oven for a minute and depending on how much is left in the container and whether I need to keep it for another serving, I dip the strips or use a table knife to put taramasalata on the strips and eat.

I first had this as an entrée (starter) in a Greek restaurant probably 15 or so years ago, and it is good easy comfort food with the contrasts of hot and cold, along with tangy and bland. I cannot speak to its nutritious value, but it is Mediterranean and so, we can assume that is good.

A laughing dog

Whilst the strips were being warmed in the microwave oven, I had taken the container out of the fridge and laid it on my coffee table, I then returned to the kitchen to get a table knife and I was already in the living room when I realised, I had a spoon instead of a knife, that is why I sniggered.

In the many times I do laugh at myself, the thought of the dish that ran away with the spoon occurred to me from the Hey Diddle Diddle nursery rhyme, I can only wonder whoever wrote it must have sniggered at the absurdity of it all, a cat a fiddle, a cow jumping over the moon and the dish running away with the spoon. To the audience of one, the dog that saw it all and laughed at the sport.

Knife and spoon

All that silliness inspired this as first, I had one pitta that spooned taramasalata onto with a knife, as to have knifed it onto the pitta would have given the impression of a stabbing, I guess in this case, you spoon with a knife. Then the second pitta in strips was dipped in the container as this was my third helping from the container and there wasn’t much left to spoon.

I am surprised I picked up a spoon from my cutlery tray in the kitchen drawer as the spoons are in the middle, the knives to the right, the forks to the left and the teaspoons at the bottom. It was neither a case of absentmindedness nor forgetfulness, more of a momentary absence of awareness which triggered a feeling of mirth and without a cat, a cow, or a dog to enter my circus of levity, I eventually walked away with a knife and not a spoon.

Note: I could not find a rendition of the nursery rhyme in the way I was taught, and I remember it, none of the versions I heard on YouTube are remotely close to what I remember. I guess I need to get on with my piano lessons and play this out myself.

Sunday 12 June 2022

Innocent at sea

In the bait of innocence

I am innocent,
          He protests vehemently,
To those listening,
          He persuades so intently,

This is the innocence,
          You might well observe on a fishing boat,
Here with a fishing rod,
          Cast into the water with a visible float,

Then on the defensive,
          He avers to make the crucial insignificant,
By which time you are ensnared,
          And to run or flee you obviously can’t,

You are a victim and a slave,
          To the lure of words that have you in a grip,
Before you can come to,
          You have been taken on the longest trip,

For to be totally blameless,
          Is that rather longing wish,
And when absolved of guilt,
          Of what the bait said to the fish,

The piscine catch,
          Glistening beautifully in the sun,
Is taken to a new world,
          Way away from its sense of fun,

Prepared sumptuously,
          For a hungry and waiting palate,
Of what became a dish,
          Innocent is not what you’ll call the bait.

Saturday 11 June 2022

We lose more than virtue without feedback

Encouragement and peace

When the woman with the issue of blood as was related in 3 gospels of the Bible determined to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she believed she would be made whole. Whole, as in healed and fully restored to good health, but Jesus also gave her more than she was looking for, he said, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” [Bible Gateway: Luke 8:43-48(NKJV)]

Those were very comforting words; first of great encouragement and then of full absolution that she did not have to worry that she had surreptitiously acquired her healing without asking or getting permission from the healer. There can be a lesson here about our interaction with God, but this is not what the blog is about.

The drawing of virtue

In another rendition of the same story, Jesus said, “Who touched me?”, He was in the press of a crowd, thronged and jostled, everyone and anyone could have been touching him, at least, that is why Peter was baffled, that he inquired, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” To which Jesus answered, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Another translation used virtue rather than power.

Everyone was touching Jesus, but this woman had a different touch of determination that drew healing power from the touch of his garment to cure at an instant a woman who had suffered a debilitating condition for 12 years.

I have none of that virtue or power, but sometimes, someone would approach from something they might have observed about me for something they need, like help, advice, comfort, encouragement, for something to quell their uneasy sense of angst, concern, or fear.

Feedback helps all

Generally, I would volunteer what I have to share in the experiences I have learnt, the choice of words I have been given to speak or write, or any other means by which I could be helpful. I guess everyone including Jesus needs some feedback and a backstory that gives context to the demand so that a full narrative of the human experience is not like a chance of fate or some hit-and-run encounter.

It is draining and exhausting when you readily and openly give that good cheer and peace into the turmoil of existence and you get nothing back in regards to whether they have been helped or not at all. Then, one does not want to become parsimonious with the blessings we have enjoyed that could be employed for the good of others, however, feedback helps encourage all participants. We are encouraged to be more helpful as much as we hope that our encouragement is of great help.

My experience giving hope

In one situation, I was approached by a young man who in his 30s was experiencing his first encounters with sex and an idea of his sexuality, he was bothered he might have contracted HIV and he was ready to do himself in if the test he was going for came back positive. Providence brought him to me to encourage him on many fronts, the necessity for the test even as he was asking if the symptoms, he was experiencing meant he had contracted HIV.

I categorically told him, that only a test could confirm his status and to go by his symptoms which could be indicative of something else would just create unnecessary anxiety. That medical result was a critical indicator of what should happen next. Then, regardless of what the test result is, it was not the end of life, rather it would mark a transition of knowledge into what to do beyond that realisation. There were examples of people who went on to do remarkable things after an HIV diagnosis.

There was extensive medical help and expertise to manage HIV so he could expect the best outcomes for both his health and his life prospects. Apart from the fact that he should not go down the avenue of blaming himself and falling into depression, but he should be prepared to face up to the interesting life ahead, that sex is there for enjoyment and not as a taboo that gives life a guilt-ridden existence.

What happened after?

I had the feeling that I had both encouraged him and given him a sense of peace, he was ready to take the HIV test and whatever the result he would make the best of it. On the day of his test, I sent him some words of encouragement, wishing him all the very best. Then I heard nothing, no communication or indication, a week passed, and it was going into the middle of the second week when I decided to send him a message.

Well, our young man was off to Malta for a holiday, and I was left none the wiser as to whether this was to celebrate or commiserate on his HIV test result or life was just going on as normal. Much as I was curious, I did not want to dampen the moment with apathy borne of my sense of losing virtue in giving encouragement but not being intimated of the consequence. I kept ruminating about it and the many other times when you give out of your deepest experiences to lift people out of despair and then just move on.

Go in peace

Now, I doubt if the woman with the issue of blood would have lost her healing if she had slunk back into the crowds and not revealed herself to Jesus and the thronging crowd. She might have had a pang of conscience, but she would have been fine. It was her prerogative to reveal or conceal herself. However, if she had concealed herself, her story would never have been told, even as Jesus knew that virtue had left him.

None of the gospel writers even bothered to ask about the woman, her name, where she was from if she had family or any other history. Her story is narrated in a few verses, she had a condition she had suffered for 12 years, she determined Jesus could help, she touched him, and she was healed. Indeed, if there is any healing we can offer humanity around us, we should continue to give liberally and generously, a lot more is contributed to that activity if we know the help offered has been helpful in any way.

As for our young friend, I do hope whatever the result, he has decided to live and live well, beyond which he can be a great blessing to others.

Looking at the azure skies of success

Passing the test

I have just returned from a Pearson Vue Computer-based testing centre which is just about a 25-minute walk from my home, and I am happy to say I passed the test I took.

Last month, I attended two 2-hour sessions of a Microsoft Azure Training Day: Azure Fundamentals, training day, it was the first time, I had the opportunity to follow the sessions fully. I had been thinking of getting certifications for the Microsoft Azure track for quite a while but could not get myself motivated enough to engage.

This time, after attending the training day which came with a free voucher for the AZ-900: Azure Fundamentals examination which I decided to use. The voucher was to expire at the end of June, I had the feeling I knew just about enough to pass the test, yet I could not afford to be over-confident.

Materials and practice

There is a lot of study material at my disposal, and this was one I did not think required instructor-led guidance like I required for my PRINCE2 and TOGAF certifications, in late 2019. The Microsoft Learn site is quite useful though it is mostly text-based interspersed with video snippets. I got to Level 7 and completed about 60% of the modules, but it was drudgery all through.

A better resource was John Savill’s AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals Certification Course of a library of YouTube videos of just over 9 hours of material. Thankfully, John has not entirely lost his English accent even if he has acquired some American mannerisms apart from the possibility of being distracted by his bulging biceps, the instructions, demonstrations, and whiteboard depictions are easy to follow to grasp the detail of the course.

I committed time to that, playing back elements that weren’t all that clear to me at first viewing and over 4 days, I had gone through the course enough to have some confidence that I will pass the test. After which I attempted two separate free mock tests and set out for the examination this morning.

Keeping up and current

Thinking about it, I did my first vendor certification just over 28 years ago, then, I acquired the Certified Netware Engineer certification after some weeks of self-study, having paid £140 for two volumes of study material. That was a lot of money for my 1994 salary, but that set my career off on an exciting, fulfilling and rewarding experience.

It is funny that I am still doing vendor certifications in my mid-50s, not that is matters that much, but the sense of self-affirmation and the confirmation of knowledge and understanding is a good fillip to proving you can still keep up with technologies and new developments. I love what I do, and I will continue to challenge myself as much as I intend to improve myself and remain relevant in my industry and career, for as long as I can.

As I left the test centre, I called Brian who constantly informs me that I am more than capable to meet any situation; I can’t distinguish between truth and bias, but I am always encouraged and motivated by him, then on getting home, I called my mum because we had discussed this and there was my concern that I might be tripped by the nuances of reading the context of US English with a British mindset. I got by and that is all that matters.

Sunday 5 June 2022

Pentecost made real

Pentecost live and talking

Today is the Christian Feast of Pentecost which commemorates the event in the book of the Act of Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples like tongues of fire and they began to speak in the native languages of the diverse tribes that were present in Jerusalem at that time. [Bible Gateway: The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost]

I encountered glossolalia; the speaking in tongues by accident, as in early 1984 I was invited to the Christian Union building by some acquaintances in the art department who did not look like the typically austere and ascetic religious bible thumper types or those who seem to mistake the social ostracism as a result of their beliefs and conduct for spirituality and humility.

When we got to the building, they began to sing and then they were soon praying, everyone stopped speaking in English and started uttering an incomprehensible language that I thought was of a Middle Eastern origin. In the African-initiated Churches, they did have names and codes that sounded almost otherworldly, but this seemed different.

Then I spoke clearly

After the meeting, I asked questions and I was told about the speaking of tongues and a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was around this time that I found a new kind of commitment called giving your life to Christ and by that you become born again. Sometime after, I was prayed for to receive the gift of speaking in tongues, but I was not at the point where I could demonstrate this gift.

Then, there was a crusade on campus that a recently converted pop musician ministered at, he was Jide Obi. During the call for people to give their lives to Christ, we were in congregational prayer and from deep inside me, I had this welling up from within myself and began to speak in tongues.

Though, I have made the rounds of many churches and denominations, where the practice might be encouraged or discouraged, speaking in tongues is a personal prayer language that according to Apostle Paul gives you the ability to pray according to God's will. There are many situations where I have not found the form of words to pray for what I need and tongues with or without interpretation have given me the confidence that I am on the right track. [Bible Study Tools: Bible Verses About Speaking in Tongues]

A gift that works for me

There was even one occasion when our maid who spoke a language, I had no knowledge of was misbehaving and I cannot account for the situation, but I spoke to her in tongues and there was the shock on her face that I was telling her off for misbehaving in her own native tongue.

Even now that I attend the Anglican Church, I am grateful that this gift of God is present and available for me to use at any point I choose to.

I could be in a quiet place and or disturbed situation, I speak in the tongues I have been given to find peace, resolution, and breakthroughs. That is my own personal spiritual experience and the wonder that Pentecost has been to me. Receive ye the Holy Ghost, that is what Jesus Christ said to his disciples after his resurrection and before he ascended into heaven.

Land of nope at the platinum jubilee

A buffet to party

I had deliberately avoided the Platinum Jubilee celebrations along with the patriotic fervour that seemed to describe an event that could barely be attended by the celebrant who had achieved the extraordinary feat of being on the throne for 70 years, apart from snatches of it on television.

However, I found myself invited to participate with a community that I have somewhat made my own, as my local church is the Manchester Cathedral, and we were enjoined to attend a platinum jubilee party after the Sung Eucharist where the Queen was to be toasted by the Bishop of Manchester.

The party was professionally catered, and we lined up for the buffet as we picked up cutlery, queuing around the table to choose whatever took our fancy to eat. After which, I found a place to sit before the Dean presented me with a song sheet that had Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen.

Empire on the roam

My obvious lack of curiosity is probably the reason why I have not really reckoned on the words of Land of Hope and Glory; nothing could have prepared me for the utterly unapologetic imperialist import of the words of the song, and much as it is trotted out for nostalgic jingoism at any opportunity, is so totally anachronistic that any self-aware person would find themselves quite reticent to have those words leave their lips even if in state of inebriation.

Land of hope and glory, mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee,
Wider still and wider, shall thy bounds be set,
God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier,
God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

That is the chorus, the words by Arthur C. Benson (1902), music by Edward Elgar (1901) and it became one of the signature songs of the armed forces sweetheart Vera Lynn during WWII.

Let’s do it again

After we sang it the first time, the old ladies already distributing Union Jacks urged us to wave them with enthusiasm and then asked for the organist to go for an encore, so, we sang it again as those caught in the delirium of this nationalistic cannabis mist, almost began to dance like whirling dervishes, we could be as possessed as we are willing to allow ourselves.

But this song belongs nowhere in the 21st Century and definitely not in the UK of today, for very few have that hope for any glory in a life that meets the threshold of basic or comfortable. To those of us somewhat well-off, the cost-of-living crisis is just a blip, alright the pot of yoghurt I used to buy at the supermarket at 80p is now 90p, one banana costs 2p extra, I can see the cost of milk, eggs, pasta, cheese, beef cutlets and many more things go up, but they are all still affordable.

Wider is the berth

My rent is going up just as my energy bills are, and I am paying more tax, but I am part of the fortunate few that would weather this storm. Many more can't make ends meet, they are using food banks that might not be well-stocked, and they are even turning off their fridges and freezers to save on electricity, the consequence of which is food poisoning recorded in some children.

As the Victorian era came to an end ushering in the Edwardian era of Edward VII, the British Empire was at its height, the sun did not set on the realms of our monarchy and probably there was this idea that the bounds of the empire should grow wider and that the empire be mightier, but today, there is little to widen or magnify, we have shrunk into an outpost on the west of Mainland Europe, hanging on to the glory of the Commonwealth of Nations that is an association over which we have little or no influence.

Diminished through and through

Britannia did once rule the waves, but we can hardly put together a navy that rivals many of our peer nations. Unfortunately, we are failing to lay a grip on our current reality for a fictional Utopia of might and influence that none living today ever experienced. Yet, it is enough a distraction from the failings of Brexit, the lack of vision or purpose of Her Majesty's Government and once these 4 days of fun are over, we would be back to where we were 5 days ago, hungry, poor, destitute, and hopefully, not too hopeless.

I did participate, but I was not as enthused, our society is too unequal for the occasional patriotic activity to solve the deep problems that afflict our nation. At the time of the empire, we could rape the colonies for the benefit of the motherland, however, none of that is available anymore.

Our sovereign lady, the Queen though well-loved is in the twilight of her reign and life, the monarchy is on the wane and no passionate flag-waving is going to lift the flaggingly desperate situation that bedevils the Britannia that once ruled the waves.

In preparation

Looking ahead

The mind is in a state of preparation and anticipation of several things, events, and expectations, that you begin to set your sights upon aims, goals, and milestones as the passage of time brings things closer to the activity and the fulfilment.

On the professional front, there is something scheduled and the other undefined that might determine the action to take which has been in consideration for a while. For the scheduled, study and exercise are required that one has not been able to focus on until now, whilst the other needs to run the gauntlet of extensive bureaucracies before a decision is made.

Scripting life

Personally, the things of the heart are ringing in a countdown that brings a smile, warmth, and that sense of companionship that is limited by circumstances we hope to assail in due course. Then broadly, we are involved in the preparations that others have for their futures as we hope to secure and assure the fortunes of others.

I guess this is what the story of life is all about, the situation, the preparation, the execution or participation, the fulfilment that opens the vista to the new, the possible, the achievable and the attainable. It is a blessing and a thing of gratitude that one can plan without being caught up in the immediacy of the present as both a distraction and impediment. We are as it happens; a story being written.

Friday 3 June 2022

The Platinum Jubilee in perspective

A platinum jubilee to all

The Queen, Elizabeth II represents an epoch-making example of duty, service, responsibility, and fortitude as we celebrate with her the platinum jubilee of her assession to the throne. Usually, we celebrate 70 years of age, maybe even 70 years of marriage to some, but 70 years in office is a uniquely different thing that it might never be experienced in many lifetimes and generations to come.

When His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s consort passed on at 99 last April, one could only celebrate his public service and more particularly, his steadfast support of his wife for 73 years. They were only in their fourth year of marriage when she took on the role of monarch, at which point their devotion to each other was supplanted to their devotion to duty.

Blog: In the life of HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh

Longevity in our humanity

At 96, The Queen exudes the frailties of our humanity that comes with old age, much as she has promised to serve, she has had to hand over many tasks and duties to members of the royal family to represent her. This morning, she could not attend the national service in commemoration of her reign at St. Paul’s Cathedral, she was represented instead by the heir apparent, Charles, Prince of Wales accompanied by his spouse, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

I appreciate monarchism especially in the United Kingdom as it gives us a kind of leadership that is essentially above the political fray, she has appointed 14 Prime Ministers during her reign, and whilst there could have been cases for republicanism that gives the leadership of a nation to popularly elected person, the kind of person that gets elected might not imbue the standards and qualities of leadership necessary for the role.

The less said of the current Prime Minister on principles, integrity, service, or responsibility, the better for all, and probably that alone represents why we need a monarchy. My only concern is that the monarchy is appearing to be political neutral might well be politically negligent, for I still suggest that when the Her Majesty’s Government was found to have acted unlawfully and by inference had lied to the Queen on the matter of the prorogation of the Parliament in 2019, the government that could not be trusted to act with candour and honesty should have been asked to resign.

The Second Elizabethan Age

That might well be the only blemish on this amazingly distinguished and extraordinary reign of Elizabeth II. I have no arrangements to join in any revelry, there would probably be a service at the cathedral to celebrate and pray for the Queen. Even as we sing ‘long to reign over us’ as part of our national anthem, we know we are coming to the end of an era.

History would characterise this as the Second Elizabethan age that represented the second half of the twentieth century and probably the first quarter of the twenty-first century. That we are so different from the royal houses of mainland Europe is instructive as abdications are typically the norm there as has happened in, The Netherlands and Belgium in 2013, and Spain in 2014. The year of three kings of 1936 (this was the fourth occurrence of 3 kings in a year, the last being in 1553 [Wikipedia]) remains a recently sad and forgettable history for our monarchy, the pall of which hangs over this monarch as a childhood witness of that change.

I can only wish the Queen more strength, good health and the soundness of mind that allows her to continue in her role for as long as she can. My hearty congratulations to her and God save the Queen.