Thursday 26 January 2023

(Un)Defining Queer @ The Whitworth

A cultural outing

This evening, I was invited to the preview of the (Un)Defining Queer exhibition at The Whitworth, an art gallery that is part of the University of Manchester, featuring exhibits by various artists.

Prior to arriving at the gallery, I met one of the more prominent artists with two exhibits on display, Ajamu X. I have heard of him and known about his work, but I had yet to have the opportunity to make his acquaintance. It was quite propitious.

We had a quick view of the exhibits before it was opened to viewing and then attended an opening function of introductions, acknowledgements, and a speech before we were entertained by a drag act and some dance performances.

A rather well-attended event, it was, whilst I am not that deposed to networking amongst crowds, Rev Jide Macaulay and Ajamu X were in their element. I found a place to sit down and engage in conversation with a German lady, met a rather active 93-year-old lady who preferred to stand than sit down and took in the atmosphere with the occasional engagement to familiar faces.

It has been years since I last visited the gallery, this exhibition would require a proper visit, and since it is running until December, I should consider a return before long. Sir Joseph Whitworth, for whom the gallery is named was renowned for the standardisation of machine equipment and screw threads and also has major streets and a park in his honour around Manchester.

(Un)Defining Queer at The Whitworth, Manchester from the 27th of January to the 3rd of December 2023.

Image: Ajamu X, Bud Kim, 2018 © the artist, Ajamu Studio

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Home homing homely and homily

An offering to see

The home front presents a quiet but obvious din from the traffic on the street, a feeling of being present without any participation in the tumult that suggests living in a city centre. It is the quality of being a hermit that one enjoys as the world comes to visit on different screens, large and small.

First, my peace is interrupted by my intercom system, a postman, well, a lady at door seeking ingress to the apartment block to deliver letters and I receive an unexpected parcel, an incendiary device, I thought aloud; it was a peace gift with apologies that leaves me a bit flummoxed.

Meanwhile, almost six months after returning to my home which was hardly recognisable because of how it had been rearranged by my house-sitter, I soon find things that have been out of place; the top of a screwdriver set, the lost hand of a pair of winter gloves, and somehow, I am beginning to feel I am back in my own home, knowing where things I have looked for by turning the house upside-down now are.

Boris to feline skies

Back to my study programme of keeping up to date with technology, a long slug of concentration given breaks of expert-level Sudoku, re-certifications I have to consider by July, something of a reprieve but to put on the back burner for now. As other studies for certifications continues apace.

Then around 9 years every time I step out of the back door to go to the railway station for work, there was a stray black cat that peeked at me, but never came close even if I talked and cooed to it. The cat soon was named Boris and he became the neighbour’s pet. Always, reticent, shy, and swift, he would dart away through the door to avoid me. We had a distant acquaintance and there were times I would have had to feed him when my neighbours were away.

A knock on my door this afternoon brought some unexpected and sad news, Boris had to be put to sleep yesterday. When he was taken to the veterinarian, his vital signals were at a point where he was quite poorly and not much could be done for him. It is one of those moments when you wished your pet could have told you long before, that they were unwell. Boris has gone to feline heaven; he will be sorely missed. Alas! No homily for the puss.

Back to the thoughts that occupy the mind after a teriyaki beef stir fry and that peckish feeling for a bowl of cereal, a siesta, or an early nap. You give the day its due and I am thankful for how in my quietude there is event and eventuality.

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Purposefully walking away

Walking through and away

If I have ever had a grace that has blessed the many times, I have faced any kind of trauma in my life and there are many that have signalled themselves better in a narrative than in how I choose to be defined, it is the force that drives the determination to walk away.

As I reflect on what the fourth verse of Psalm 23 says to me, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” [Bible Hub: Psalm 23:4 (KJV)]

Even on reading that verse again, I am getting new insight just from observing the punctuation, and indeed, in life, yes, we do walk, and not stop but walk-through issues, situations, trauma, circumstances, adversity, infirmity, and much else that identifies with human existence in its sorriest state, but we press on, refusing to be defined by the experience.

This has been a default response in my subconscious many times before I consciously realised I am on a journey rather than at a destination.

Walking towards and into

I am confident that every adverse event presents new opportunities to earn laurels than acquire scars. The scars are for stories and the laurels are for a life of testimony. Yes, the force of hope and possibility propels me in ways that defy logic or understanding, I do not wait around to try to explain how or why, as what is ahead presents attraction beyond immediate distractions.

Digging through archives of blogs I have written before; I am reminded that there is much to walk away from and the beauty of love and wonder to walk into. Even when I am processing things, it is a process of compartmentalisation, a way of ensuring that the darkest moments do not become the milestones of my storied existence.

“One cannot deny that these things happened, but one can decide with all the help one can get, spiritual, psychological or with friends and family to ensure that these events do not become milestones, goalposts or walls.” [I walked away (January 2007)]

It is that thinking that gives me the strength to walk away, not because I do not want to deal with an issue, but because I can better utilise my time and resources on other wholesome things, I choose not to be a victim when I can be a victor.


Blog - Walking away (February 2017)

Blog - I walked away (January 2007)

Blog - Walk away! (December 2013) – A poem.

Monday 23 January 2023

Gratitude as a salve of calm

Choosing gratitude over all

You find that you must purge yourself of things as situations and circumstances are taken out of your hands and superseded by the actions and activities of others. It is where you need to be given the allowance to process things at your own pace.

Everything points to the urge for annoyance, grievance, upset, or anger, but you catch yourself thinking that your reaction to any situation makes the difference regardless of what happened to you.

It is with that in mind that I will count my blessings, be thankful for the wonderful friendships and relationships that allow me to review, reflect, reassess, or even reject things that do not help me feel the way I hope to be. It is not just a matter of need, but one of purpose, to be grateful and full of gratitude that the times of now are hardly defining of all times, phases create the experience for insight and knowledge for living.

In my clam for calm

If anything, I hate drama in my life, there are reasons why I am protective of myself, my mind, the influences that aim to intrude, the voices that seek access to my hearing, the scenes that present for my viewing and observation, they are all for finding my place of calm that some think is me clamming up.

Then maybe, I do need to clam up, some things are just that way as we use the mechanisms newly learnt or from times past to command state and status to stand firm whatever wind blows one’s way. I cherish the deep friendships that help to think things through, even as that shell is a place of temporary safety for that need of some security for self and welfare.

Sunday 22 January 2023

Thought Picnic: In the omerta of abuse

No perfect narrative exists

There are taboo topics that society, community, or situation makes too difficult to talk about for many reasons from not having a frame of reference in which to conceptualise and understand to the need to avoid engagement so that the horror of that reality does not inflict on our comfort.

In the matters of child sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, or bullying, some of which I have addressed in my almost 20 years of blogging, finding the form of words to discuss with the hope that it does not upset is one for which there is neither art, skill, nor perfection to convey silent suffering and the associated issues.

Why they suffer in silence

I would guess that is the reason that obvious and apparent victims do not share their experiences and mostly never report anything because of shame or embarrassment, worse still the default audience sits in judgement with the view that there is much more that could have been done to prevent things happening to oneself.

Yet, reporting any abuse is not as easy as making a customer complaint or reporting a theft, the violation of the person is visceral, it starts with the body, as the mind considers what has happened, and the spirit is grieved in the realisation of that truth. Maybe, the bruised body can be healed, and the conflicted mind can with time find peace, to reach into the spirit to enliven it is a whole different matter. A person must find their way just as they have to work with the dreams and imaginations that play in their heads.

Wrestling back some agency

That these taboos need to see the light of day through expression, sharing, and talking about it so that perpetrators realise that they do not hold any power over the people they violate or are emboldened to act with impunity is necessary. However, navigating the present to gain the support, sympathy and empathy needed to grow would never be an easy task.

The child abused who on mentioning it is shut down because the adults who should protect them cannot deal with it, the person who has suffered domestic abuse takes the blame for instigation rather than the abuser getting excoriated, sexual assault is seen as opportunistic and victimless that partners of victims are more hurt than the one molested, being on the receiving end of bullying considered an act and state of weakness when one is expected to fight back and put a stop to it.

Help, don’t worsen it

The long hard mile that others would never walk in the shoes of the wearer is deemed the easiest feat of endeavour. People in pain from living through it are doubly hurt by others taking on the same pain for what they never lived. It is a strange world, you begin to believe that the cruellest thing to allow to happen to yourself is to suffer pain, to be a victim, to be caught in circumstances you should have controlled but you failed to.

Whilst silence cannot be the answer, we have to find it somewhere in our human nature to consider, to appreciate, to understand, to commiserate, to empathise, to feel, and to know, that others will have experiences beyond our comprehension, if we cannot help them, we should not make it worse. Sadly, this all is part of the story of our humanity, much as we would love better stories. I do not have the answers, we should be careful of taking offence in the hurt of another.

Once again, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.” [Romans 14:22b] The journey of self-healing is lonely, scary, unsure, and not guaranteed. You take each day as vulnerable and human with the hope that there is better ahead.

Monday 16 January 2023

To the liberation of the lamb

Another uncommon narrative

Her black eyes are concealed behind the makeup that provides the window dressing for the terror that is the shop she calls home, a place that was supposedly built on the union of love that went awry for all sorts of reasons. That story told daily is one to which we are almost inured, the regularity and commonality obfuscate other realities that never find a voice to express.

Like a man, all too vulnerable met in the circumstance where intentions differ between a welcoming host and a predatory guest. Who would have thought of the consequence of that encounter? What you open your door to in altruism is sometimes not what visits to aspire, but to conspire. It is churned in the mind as a silent review of shame and embarrassment, for which you find quiet consolation in the tears that refuse to come.

Indecent assault allowed

It is a battle of conflicts and knowledge ignored, even if needs are there, a sacred trust was betrayed in the exploitation of opportunity. Such is the incomprehensibility of the scenario to the onlooker until caught in the web of the spider, the many older vulnerable men who are victims of the machinations of youth are not what makes the discussion at most times, it is one of those taboo subjects found in the secrecy and confessional of a therapy you fear to sit in.

Young is attractive, but as long as temptation is kept from ingress, it has no power to overwhelm. In naivety, all resistance is worn down with unrelenting persistence, an advantage is acquired and there emerges a submission to a violation of the person in the helplessness of the situation. Like sheep to the slaughter, it is a willing suspension of inhibition for the moment to just pass unheralded.

Gaslighted into culpability

Liberties, the liberties seized in the freedom to act with imposition and intrusion whilst afterwards defanging possible accusations with feigning innocence by gaslighting and asking if they have done wrong or they were bad, knowing the response would never be negative as the personal hurt is absorbed in victimhood that dare not lay a charge. The sacrificial lamb was on the altar lain, though interminable was the watch to when it was to be slain.

The lamb momentarily unbound rises to flee as the worshipper intones with incandescent incantation, “I’m not done yet.” The lamb bounds with hinds like a mountain goat, a hardy escape from the blade of slaughter, it is well asunder. The end of that is the end indeed.

Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. [Romans 14:22b] Maybe happy is not the feeling one has, but the rest is where some consolation from the ordeal does come.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Thought Picnic: Defined by impediment of speech

Deference for acquisition

There are encounters of amusement and vulnerability that come with life’s experiences, ones that make you wonder about ability, capacity, and identity. There are inflections on fluency that could inadvertently surprise and allude to deficiency, a conclusion that is borne of ignorance, for want of a better word.

To be courteous is a demonstration I should rarely be found wanting in, even as I sometimes compensate for my lack of curiosity in inquisitive by the keenness of observation, eliciting fact from happenstance and codifying that for future reference, for assurance purposes I would ask how a name is pronounced before it is mangled in incomprehensibility.

Reference in identification

That desire for knowledge is sometimes misconstrued for inadequacy and so it is tested with the supposition that flaws are indicative of the unschooled. In self-deprecation, I do sometimes suggest my proficiency in the Yoruba language is poor, as it is not my mother tongue; it is hardly to be accepted as fact, I am pretty fluent in expression and rich in prose.

Yet, I am sometimes caught in a flux of identity and identification as to where I have affinity regardless of heritage and where I belong in terms of roots. With time, my understanding of the cultural underpinnings of my forebears and relations with respect to mine would indicate variance and difference that dictates my worldview and outlook. I realise I am many things from many places to many people, a complex of simple humanity trying to make something of life.

Saturday 7 January 2023

Spare: Prince Harry's storytelling prerogative

The epilogue first

That Prince Harry has decided to tell his own story is his own prerogative, just because he is royal does not take away both his agency and his individuality. Prince Charles and Princess Diana gave primetime interviews and ghost-authored books too. In the same vein, no one is under any obligation to read his book, it is not being forced on anyone.

Then this and much more…

As a monarchist, I vow

Maybe I should start with a statement that I believe the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland serves a purpose. For broader reasons, I would say I am both a monarchist and a democrat.

However, as a matter of necessity, all institutions need to adapt and undergo changes, some radical to remain relevant or they risk extinction. There is a difference between the institution and the people who for whatever period of time get to helm those institutions, be that the monarchy or government in the office of the Prime Minister.

The weaknesses of our democracy

Sadly, I cannot report that the crop of politicians we have today exhibit the qualities and abilities of leadership that can persuade me that ridding ourselves of the monarchy is wise at this time. The political parties especially the Conservative Party which once was a broad church of diverse representative views have evolved into one where there is only one persuasion and any deviation from that leads to expulsion.

That is what the Brexit situation wrought on the Tory Party at the 2019 election, they got rid of the reasonable and acquired the reactionary. Looking back over 12 years of predominantly conservative government, I think we can agree that the nations are not better off now than when they took power in May 2010, but I have already digressed from the purpose of this blog.

Changing is banging at the door

The state of our monarchy after 70 years of Elizabeth II calls for a review of how they exist and operate, their ability to adapt would require Solomonic wisdom with Churchillian persuasion. We have a clear line of succession, the King, his heir, the Prince of Wales, and the grandson, Prince George but they do not have the obscurity that conferred the mystique on the aristocracy that Queen Elizabeth started with, and there was much radical change in how the monarchy conducted itself over those 70 years.

To many, Queen Elizabeth was a symbol of stoicism, rarely did you see displays of emotion or expressions of character that might look interesting. King Charles pen wars at his assession that continued during his visit to Northern Ireland or the much-rumoured fiery temper of Prince William, the Prince of Wales, we know a bit more about Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and we would soon learn more still.

The press of the press

I doubt I have the spare change to buy Spare, the memoir by Prince Harry to be released on the 10th of January 2023, but some revelations that have been shared would suggest there is a firestorm coming for the monarchy and I am not sure there is any dexterity to hand to manage the blowout.

What I know is that Harry and Meghan have had the most unfavourable British press that is followed closely by the Australian version, we have been swamped with stories and regaled with tales, there had to be a time when the people affected could talk back and clear the air.

It began with their exodus to America and the Oprah interview, however, people have taken sides and formed whatever impressions about the couple that the entrenched are totally unpersuadable about a different narrative. That the sides could be along racial lines is something I have observed too.

The whoredom of the press and the royal family

If we go back to when Princess Diana was alive and had issues with the press, it is sometimes believed it was the pursuit of the paparazzi that contributed to the automobile accident where she lost her life in Paris, one can say the press is unrelenting in its quest for celebrity tittle-tattle, you need to be in a totally different domain to escape it.

When reading up about Franz Welser-Mรถst who conducted the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert, he alluded to the relationship between the press and the Royal Family and his time as the conductor of the London Philharmonic “Look at the press about the royal family,” he noted. “There’s no other country where the press is just so weird as it is here.” That was in 1995, you can draw whatever conclusions you want from that. [Los Angeles Times: Conductor Battles Burden of Success]

Angry black woman loading…

One widely reported excerpt from Harry’s leaked book was one related to a confrontation between Prince William and him, captioned below:

Describing a confrontation at his London home in 2019, Harry says William called Meghan “difficult”, “rude” and “abrasive”, which Harry calls a “parrot[ing of] the press narrative” about his American wife.
[The Guardian: Prince Harry details physical attack by brother William in new book]

I do not know Meghan Markle, but as a once successful and independent woman who married into the royal family, she had her work cut out. That beast called love would put you in unintended situations for which you have to battle for your survival.

Yet, as is indicative of a monarchy at risk of being found moribund, the Queen asked her most trusted aide from a certain age and time to help Meghan adjust to entering the royal family, this without considering the same lady failed to help Lady Diana Spencer integrate well too. Yes, that Lady Susan Hussey, has met a shockwave of opprobrium and is on a crash-course on engaging with diversity in these times. Having a stiff upper lip is not enough for getting on with life, regardless of status, means, or privilege. We have long left the war years, and nostalgia is keeping us back.

However, back to William’s view of Meghan, he said, she was difficult. Well, ask any black woman who has had trouble in any settle because they have dared to have an opinion, initiative, a voice, or exuded a sense of independence. The first loaded word to castigate them is difficult and the straight journey to an impossible angry black woman has already begun. Meghan never had a chance, the moment she gained the epithet of difficult and the long tail of descriptions that followed.

Tell your own story

The difference between Prince Harry and Prince William is Prince Harry was ready to stand for his relationship, and stand up for his partner and wife. That cannot be said of how Prince William first broke up with Kate Middleton before he saw the sense to rekindle their relationship and marry her.

Blog - A welcome but unprincely separation (April 2007)

That Prince Harry has decided to tell his own story is his own prerogative, just because he is royal does not take away both his agency and his individuality. Prince Charles and Princess Diana gave primetime interviews and ghost-authored books too. In the same vein, no one is under any obligation to read his book, it is not being forced on anyone.

However, if anyone has readily consumed whatever the media has said about Harry and Meghan without disregarding the apparently cosy relationship between the press and the royal family that offers access and patronage to portray the principals in the best light whilst reducing others to inconsequence, then it would only be fair to see what Harry has to say.

Finally, until we have met those persons and made their acquaintance to the point of knowing who they are, what we have is a media persona, a depiction crafted by benevolent and malevolent agencies over which the persons concerned gain or loss benefits and have a portrayal they have little control over. Harry and Meghan have chosen to make their lives in America, and they need to earn a living with the skills, opportunities, and even the privilege of birth. I bid them Godspeed.

Pope Benedict XVI - A man in a modern-day pyramid

As man is storied

Pope Benedict XVI was a man that represented the frailty of our humanity, for all flesh shall perish. That is nature as it has been from long before we recorded history I note that Roman Catholic Church is the longest continuously running political and religious organisation, what she documents in her archives, some unsearchable of the mysteries of our human race would intrigue those who eventually have liberal access to those libraries.

When Pope Benedict XVI took the papacy at the end of the long reign of Pope John Paul II, much as he was highly influential as the Dean of the College of Cardinal and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was also an old man of 78 and for almost 8 years he bore the burden of his ministry with the strength he could muster and the weaknesses that plagued him in the many domains where he wielded influence from within himself to the broader church and global political organisation he led.

As man is frail

When he decided he could no do more, he resigned from the papacy and took on the title of Pope Emeritus sequestering himself at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens as Pope Francis succeeded him at the age of 76 and he presided over the solemn funeral mass of his predecessor, also now a frail man of 86 years of age.

Of men of advanced years, there was every possibility that the current pope could predecease the man he succeeded, my cultural heritage of the Yoruba celebrates the lives of people who live to a great old age at death, even as congratulations are offered to those who survived them. Our mortality is ever present in the course of our existence.

The concerns that a pope in retirement would inadvertently interfere with the organisation of his successor were not borne out. Pope Benedict XVI devoted himself to writing, studying, and prayer with the occasional snippets of news about him, what he was up to and his health condition.

As man is mortal

In his death, at the age of 95 on New Year’s Eve into 2023, there became how to celebrate a cardinal and a pope, as he was not the Sovereign of the Vatican City, apart from officials attending from Italy where the Vatican is situated and Germany, where he was from, any other country representatives would have attended in a personal capacity.

For the wealth and influence of the man and his standing, along with the offices he held, “As per tradition, the Pope Emeritus' pallium, coins and medals minted during his pontificate, as well as a "Rogito" or Deed summarizing the highlights of his papacy, were also placed inside the casket. He was buried in a triple coffin of caskets of cypress wood, zinc, and oak. [Vatican News: Deed of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI placed in casket]

As man is mummified

The zinc casket is welded shut with seals and a plaque, but for the man who ruled over men, they see no corruption for they neither return to dust nor are given to ashes, they become mummies of posterity, an eternal reliquary of bones with hair and leathered skin.

It makes one wonder if the crypts of royalty or the papacy very much like the pyramids of the Pharaohs might be discovered millennia from the present time will reveal to that civilisation once again the treasures of antiquity exemplified in the lives of significant persons of our times only for them to be plundered in the name of archaeology for the new museums that as human beings we visit to gawp at artefacts with intrigue.

As I watch a replay of the funeral Mass, the solemnity with the obscurity of Latin clouds the ceremony with mystery and awe. Pope Francis was wheeled in on the chair, and we all at another funeral find that moment to reflect that the times of man are just for a season. The celebration of our lives is informed by how we lived and for all that we might have done, our stories are buried in a summary and our graves have the briefest of inscriptions; our names, the year of our coming and the year of our passing.

Blog - Academic theologians creating Islamic disquiet

As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. Psalm 103:15-16 (NKJV)

Monday 2 January 2023

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LXX

Falling temperatures and rising prices

It is 3C outside as I looked at my smartwatch, so I prepared to go shopping wearing thermals underneath, a jumper and a coat with a hat to keep me warm. As I stepped out, I realised I needed a mask too, the balaclava one that I could wear around my neck and pull up to cover my mouth and nose when going into the shop.

The usuals have gone up by 10 to 15 per cent, somehow, I still have an idea of what the prices were maybe a year ago or even two, a mental note that just reveals itself as a significant difference. Sometimes, I shirk at the thought, and a voice of consternation goes off in my head, “I am not paying that much for this.”

Boosting from a hosting

My visit to the hospital just over a week ago also informs me that you do not want to put yourself at any risk as we enter the 4th year of the pandemic, and the truth is it has not gone. People coming in from China would need to present a negative COVID-19 test to travel to many locations, in the US, a homegrown variant with the ability to evade the protections we have relied on, threatens.

For instance, I took my 3rd booster shot just over 3 weeks ago and that is 5 vaccine injections altogether, 3 of Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty, the fourth of Moderna Spikevax and the last of Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty bivalent jab. Yet, hardly anyone wears a mask even as I have been doing for the past month in the church too. I guess those from the Far East as China, South Korea, and Japan who have had Coronavirus and SARs incidents are the ones to be seen donning face masks.

No one wants to sit for 9 hours to see a doctor and those who needed beds were on gurneys for hours, the NHS has been hit with a capacity and resource issue and this along with the industrial dispute has no prospect of a resolution in the near future.

You just never know

I overheard one conversation in the shop, a colleague was asking another if she had children and she answered three. The follow-up question was about how old they were; I thought she might just have a teenager and two younger ones. Well, the youngest was 26 and the older two were already in their thirties. I had to say, you can’t have a youngest of 26 when you do not even look 28.

Appearances are always deceptive in the many guises we encounter in looks or even in knowing who might have contracted the Coronavirus and is out there amongst people, careless and carefree of the danger they pose to others. Whatever you see on the streets, the authorities intend that we live with this virus and are withdrawing the data that might keep us informed of trends and concerns.

It is everyone for themselves and in that, one should take the best advice and protect oneself by avoiding enclosed spaces and crowds, wearing masks and still having hand sanitiser handy. Eternal vigilance remains the price of our liberty to be free of all infirmity related to the Coronavirus.