Monday 31 July 2023

A passage to the Great Beyond

In passing of passage

I woke up this morning to the news that an old friend of ours from the distant past of our school days in the 1980s had passed on earlier this morning. For someone who is generally not absent of words or expression to address any occasion, I found myself speechless and lacking in any inspiration of how to convey my sympathies.

Obviously, I am very saddened by this news, he as an artist and creative belonged to the set of friends I made in school that I have maintained some sort of connection with, usually bolstered by relations with whom I have shared the same school experience.

The ties that bound

Academically, it was probably one of the most accomplished of his peers just as many significant relationships in his life had been greeted with adversity and tragedy. It was out of the blue that I got a call from him, a few years ago, it was a good conversation of reminiscing with this soft-spoken demeanour. We always called him by his surname, if ever, we could remember his first name, at all.

I am aware through my relations that when they communicated with him, he always asked after me. In many ways, I have been blessed by people and many I have lost contact with that keep me in mind, in consideration, and in prayer, I am grateful for the encounters that brought us together.

A circle in shrinkage

As I do not make friends that easily and have by circumstance found myself with a finite circle of friends and acquaintances, the loss of anyone is great and impactful. It also brings to the fore our fleeting existence, the shortness of time in life we have to be consequential to ourselves and others, the ways in which we might be remembered and what legacy we leave behind.

I recognise that I have not been close enough to him to pick up the phone to condole his survivors, I hope to find that expression through others who maintained communication through the times until the end. In my heart and in my soul, I bless his memory, may his gentle soul rest in peace, and may God give strength, fortitude, and consolation to his survivors through this difficult time. God have mercy on us all. Amen!

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Leaving there for retrieving here

Unpuzzling the puzzle

Daily, I attempt two puzzles as early as possible, first, I do the Wordle which I now have a maximum and current winning streak of over 300 and then the Sudoku app on my phone at the Expert level of difficulty.

This mental exercise is useful and interesting, especially the Sudoku I strive to solve without error. Yet, there are times I make a mistake or two, which can happen, but what annoys me is when I make an obvious mistake, being blind to a number already in a row or column more than in a 3-by-3 box, at other times, it is the fat-finger; clicking on a number other than the one I intended.

Seeking the seeing aid

It is the presence of mind or the absence of thought and the battle to retain some sort of control of things and usually a lot appears to be totally out of control.

For instance, I was looking for my second pair of eyeglasses, a quest I embarked upon over a month ago without success. I had looked in every box, every bag, my travel suitcases and anywhere else you will not expect to find eyeglasses.

Now, I have so many eyeglasses cases around my apartment, it is a litany of experimentation and history apart from the letter that arrived last week reminding me of the need for a new eye test. While I had not given up and Brian was encouragingly suggesting I would eventually find them; I was getting perplexed.

Preordered for the future

In the gathering of the kit for a role, I formally exited at the end of last month, I looked on a shelf and there were 4 eyeglass cases I did not realise I had put there some time ago. I opened each case, and they had the last two pairs of eyeglasses I had before my current prescription, the third had the pair I was looking for.

My surprise, and again a sense of order that had those cases put apart on the shelf at a time I could not recall, but has now served the purpose intended, easy access if one can just remember where things were put.

Now, I have always prided myself and this is not a knack I had well into adolescence of knowing where I have put something I have handled myself. There is knowledge beyond the sixth sense I need to review to find some things. A calmness of mind, a steading of thought, and a dispelling of anxiety or worry are all necessary to gain that new insight, but I sadly do not use it enough to my advantage.

Saturday 22 July 2023

Childhood: The pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos - III

The bubble of childhood

It is strange that I find myself writing about the pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos again, a good 48 years since I left the school. This was prompted by two things, the need to publish a comment that had been left on one of my social media pages in 2010, that was discovered just a few months ago and an excerpt from a schoolmate’s father’s diary that gave an interesting context to the times in which we lived there.

We lived in Rayfield, a bucolic setting of tranquillity that was sometimes upset by graving cows beyond the fence of our homestead that could have been a ranch and a nest of wild bees that twice greeted me with a sting.

Our home had all the provenance of colonial privilege, a bungalow with 5 bedrooms, I think, painted white with green windows. A few outhouses called boy’s quarters and stretches of grounds and encirclement of fruit trees gave the appearance of an orchard, mangoes, cashews, oranges, figs, lemons, then pineapples and other things my dad planted.

No story of the bodies

What I read from the diary excerpt posted on Facebook also immediately dispelled my notion of Jos being so peaceful until the 1990s. In what must have been the late 1960s, there were disturbances for which her father was called upon to cater for the massacred, he counted 108 bodies that he superintended their interment in a mass grave. His colleague at the Bukuru Railway Station registered 398 bodies.

We as children were completely oblivious of these events either historically or contemporaneously as not even rumour reached us on the febrile environment in which we lived. The idyll of Rayfield presented distance and isolation even as our parents mollycoddled us with comforts and experience that dignifies our childhoods with privilege that could easily be the background of an Enid Blyton children’s story.

The Dent-Youngs in Nigeria

Be that as it may, I decided to do some digging around some elements of my childhood ensconced in the broader narrative of home and school. Our headmistress at Corona Primary School was Mrs Dent-Young, her husband was the head of the Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria (ATMN), my father’s boss, where he was the Deputy Chief Accountant.

On searching for the surname Dent-Young, I found that the elder Dent-Young, Lieutenant Colonel John Dent-Young, a scion of an engineering family and a mining engineer from Bath, first arrived in Nigeria in 1912 as a surveyor with Northern Nigeria (Bauchi) Tin Mines, Ltd before joining the West Africa Frontier Force during WWI, after which he managed Gurum River Tin Mines, Ltd, then Ribon Valley Tinfields, Ltd before serving as the joint managing director of Nigerian Alluvials, Ltd.

His miners found the first examples of Nok culture. [Geni: John Dent-Young]

He retired in 1950 returning from Nigeria to England and died at the age of 65 in 1955. [NMRS: John Dent-Young]

His son, David Michael Dent-Young, a mining engineer also, was the managing director of ATMN, my father’s boss and he was made CBE in 1977 for services to British commercial interests and the British community in Nigeria. He died at the age of 82 in 2010. [Geni: David Michael Dent-Young] [The London Gazette: Honours 1997 – PDF]

Wherefore Corona

Speaking of the British community in Nigeria brings us to a broader history of the Colonial Service along with the many changes of names and departments in the last century. First, the Corona Club was created in 1899 for the support of overseas civil service officers with its own tie and cravat and it offered benevolence to dependants of members who died in service as ‘tropical diseases were less well-controlled until the middle of the last century’.

The Colonial Office set up the Women’s Corona Club in 1937 to support the wives of officers being sent to work in the Commonwealth, it was renamed Women’s Corona Society in 1950 and then Corona Worldwide in 1970, it retains the wider remit of supporting women going overseas for all sorts of reasons. [Corona Worldwide]

The Corona schools

With wives abroad, there arose concerns about children’s education overseas, and in most cases, there was no adequate provision that children were sent back to England for school, usually boarding school. In 1953, the Children’s Escort Service was created to chaperone children between the abroad and England and back to their parents when on holidays.

The Corona Women’s Society opened its first school for British children in Nigeria in 1955, rapidly expanding to include all children. Comments posted to my earlier blogs would suggest the Corona School I attended at Shamrock House, was first opened at Miango Junction according to Joe Miner whose story links up with another, quite likely in the late 1950s, William Gardner comments about attending Shamrock School, which I believe would be Corona Primary School at Shamrock House at the age of 5 in 1962. [Corona Worldwide: Corona Anniversary Magazine – PDF

Note: I just visited the Corona Primary School, Bukuru, Alumni group page on Facebook and the celebratory anniversary cake along with shirts worn would suggest the school was established in 1963.

Until a few days ago, I never thought to explore the history of the Corona name and its significance in colonial times. I cannot however determine if Corona is an acronym, a contraction of words, or its etymology. My research continues, but having more context to the people and the times of our childhoods makes for interesting reading that I did not know until now.

Related Blogs

Blog - Childhood: The pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos

Blog - Childhood: The pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos - II

Blog - Childhood: Standing up to the powerful

Another comment to present

My annotations for context or clarification are in parentheses []. Having also visited the old pupils/alumni page, I have updated elements within the blog and the comments.

9. Murphy Erebor – 22nd May 2010 (From one of my social media pages, it might have been Facebook.)

Hi Akin,

You seem to be about my age and attended Corona [Primary School]. I was in Corona in 1971 and was in Mrs Feliciano’s class and Mrs Sanda’s class at a certain time. Do you remember Mrs Uku our principal? [I do remember Mrs Uku as the school disciplinarian (she passed on in July 2021 at the age of 87), as well as Mrs Obole, but not as our headmistress who at that time was Mrs Dent-Young. Mrs Agbelusi was my teacher in Primary 3, the class I started at.]

Well, I live in Abuja and am an architect by training. Nice to know you have good memories of Corona [Primary School]. I wish I had more pictures of my stay in Corona [Primary School] though.

Just read your blog, quite interesting, Corona [Primary School] was a very beautiful place. I wish I knew where one of my teachers was, Mrs Onyemenam was a very good teacher. [She was my teacher in Primary 5, I recently saw a picture of her on Facebook with a caption that she was 93, that was in January 2021. I had a tough and unsavoury time in her class. I had issues and she chose to embarrass me before the class.

Funny enough, Mrs Feliciano if you remember her the Filipino lady is still alive. [My memory fails me on that score.]. She is in her eighties and lives in the US with her daughter. Mrs Feliciano’s mother is also still alive and over one hundred years old. Her son Joel is on Facebook. You might also remember him. [Unfortunately, I can’t seem to remember them, but I love the stories that come together in these comments.]

Sarah Sanda who wrote on your blog works with the Nigerian Television Authority. I see her on TV almost every day because she is a newscaster.

Take care, my brother.


Emokpae Erebor

Tuesday 18 July 2023


The ease of unease

Much as I usually speak of the simplicity of writing blogs, I even gave a presentation on that topic a few weeks ago, something I put together in less than 15 minutes. It gave me the impression that I probably have a good idea of the freeform blog, the professional or technical blog still requires a bit more form, function, and finesse.

Yet, this apparent ease of blogging does not lend itself to prolific blogging, then for my kind of output as someone who blogs for pleasure rather than revenue, the length of time of blogging and the frequency of blogging could pass for quite prolific. I should retain a sense of modesty.

Doing without showing

Then I think of the many blogs I could have written in the past week to mark events, observations, and opinions, yet none appeared. The thoughts formed in my head and then ones I tried to start and never completed. Brian does better, not so much as a publisher, he is an excellent writer if only he could be more confident at it. He blogs at Brian’s Point of View.

The majority of his blogs that he writes, he never publishes, he writes like an author who types out half a page of whatever narrative, pulls it out of the typewriter, scrunches the paper into a ball to throw into a basket that I bet he misses more times than he gets it in at the first attempt.

Getting beyond Blog-In-Draft

He is the master of the Blog-In-Draft, sketches, doodles, scribbles, and scratches of thought with a prospect that does not see the light of day. He is not a fantasist or a daydreamer, I have to prod him relentlessly to get him to publish and because he hardly does, when he does, I might see the blog days or even weeks after he has published.

I might even speak out of turn and get caught out, I am asking for a blog to be published and I am the one who has not been current. I still believe everyone has ideas, insights, and inspiration to write interesting blogs, if they can take the Blog-In-Draft out of their heads, type out what they have to say, they can publish and later even refine it.

There, we have a blog on the Blog-In-Draft. That is probably the more interesting thing about freeform blogging. You can write about anything and begin the conversation on something. We all have a blog in us, we just need to write it and publish it.

Saturday 15 July 2023

Making sense of from whence we came

Who are they who bore us?

I have always been fascinated by the BBC TV series, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ which in its 20th series still intrigues me with plot twists and revelations in genealogy, history, identity, identification, and context of the lives of the participants.

In fact, it was interesting to learn that not every apparently famous person today qualifies for insightful research of their pasts, whilst others might be able to dig back almost a millennium to their auspicious or notorious roots.

It has left me wondering what entertaining piece of knowledge I would acquire if I decided to research my own genealogy, though my father has quite studiously researched much going back up to 6 or so generations, I have not been able to review his work to any detail.

In the grand scheme of things

In terms of encounter, I had a paternal great-grandmother on his maternal side into my twenties with whom I had many a conversation and repartee, my paternal grandparents were literally not that engaging, beyond greetings, not much else transpired. My maternal grandmother was a stalwart, a widow from an early age, my maternal grandfather had passed on over 4 years before my birth.

In meeting and greeting her, she would laud each one of us with our individual Oríkì, affirmative poetic praise of our progeny and destiny with the kind of fluency that it stuck in memory, at least the first two lines do, the rest, I need to determine. Spoken in a dialect that even with my knowledge of Yoruba I am yet to unravel meaning or import, but its rousing cadence suggests a meaningfulness that gave me a relationship I did not have with my other grandparents.

Of knowledge and memory

Yet, I write this to reflect on attachment and detachment that exhibits between my current familial ties, for which the forming of identity and how I identify remains a work in progress. For some things, there is a simple explanation, and for others, I might just be clutching at straws to make sense of how I belong.

If not for Facebook and the advancements in technology, many of the people with whom I share consanguinity, I would never have known or met. Quite a good few of those I have met, I can barely remember by face or by name. They belong in the deep recesses of memory sometimes irretrievable when brought to my notice that I either feign acknowledgement or admit a failure in recollection.

Having written all this, the purpose for which I commenced this blog has not been fulfilled, it would seem the right form of words to address attachment and detachment are yet to be realised. I have had this on my mind for a while, it might yet find expression in the next blog. Who knows?

Thursday 13 July 2023

Seeing the madness that intrigues

Looking up to see

Foregoing the discomfort that accompanies welcoming people to the cathedral, the experience is quite enlivening, even if it is in the snatches of conversation and the sharing of the very basic snippets of interest as the angels with string instruments on the right side of the ceiling of the nave as you look towards the altar and the angels with wind instruments on the left side.

As one visitor opined, every time she has visited a church, the most interesting things are found looking up, to which I intoned, if you are looking up to the heavens, the church is an excellent place to be doing that. Then again, you do not have to crank your neck to look up, there is a magnifying mirror like a table from which you can observe the ceiling.

In the path of forebears

Then another who was visiting from Canada, though from these parts had not been back in the UK for over 30 years. Her visit to the cathedral was in commemoration of over 5 generations of family that had been christened, baptised, and married in the church, I would suppose the funerals of many of them would have been conducted by clergy in the diocese too. It was amazing to watch the emotion as she took pictures of the baptismal font where her forebears would have been baptised.

As much as there were visitors from as far away as Chile, there were many from France and Italy too, Hong Kong and China featured as well as an African American family from Switzerland. Though, what surprised me was the number of people from Manchester who had never been to the cathedral before. The gems of interest we miss from proximity are many, even I realised there are still many places in the centre of Manchester that still need to have my footfall.

A homily of madness

As welcomers to the cathedral, we are also exposed to interesting people, of one, I was asked to be very careful because she was assessed as very clingy once engaged. However, it was one on his way out of the cathedral that left me feeling weird and almost out of sorts. He started, “You know society is living on lies?” I could not imagine what he was talking about.

He continued, “The world will convert to Islam by 2050 and this place will change. Do you know why? Because it is 100 years after WWII, we signed up for this.” I should have had the men in white coats on speed dial. He finished with, “England would be the first Islamic country because English is spoken around the world.” I stared at him blank-faced as he made for the exit.

Then unusually I looked out in his direction to be sure he was moving on rather than just waiting around. Though not a terrorist in the typical sense, he was a terrorist to reason given to one of the strangest conspiracy theories I have heard in a long time. Maybe it was time to sit down and give no heed to anything he said, though I find myself remembering more than I would have cared to recollect. We are in a world of madness; it is stranger when you meet one that does it better than us.

Monday 10 July 2023

Sadly Sad Sadness

Uninterested in cooking

I put a brave face on a lot of things even as I wonder at the weaknesses and vulnerability that assails me, seeking to leave me in despair. The kind of despair I strive with every sinew not to succumb to.

Recently, I have been asked about my cooking; in forms that I have had to fill out and in other conversations that come up with people dear to me. I enjoy making meals, however, much of the motivation to contemplate, to decide, to prepare, to cook, and then eat, I have lost.

The result is I probably do not eat sufficiently, and my weighing scale is showing numbers I have not seen in decades. A thing of relief that bodily exercise usually fails to achieve and of concern as bodily functions need adequate sustenance. It is just not cooking that I have lost interest in, but that is the more obvious thing.

The shrouds of therapy

I find that I want to talk about certain things in therapy that for many reasons is challenging because on assessment, I rarely present the classic indicators that put me in the critical eligibility criteria, yet my circumstances would suggest I am a prime candidate for help.

Making my case for therapy when I had cancer, I was not depressed or suicidal, yet for the kind of catastrophe of Job, I was facing when the loss of health, home, status, and much else, I had to make the hard journey back to the UK to start over again, how could I not need therapy?

It was a singularly difficult journey that from the outside looked rather stoic, but I was crushed and deconstructed, almost defeated and ruined, yet, in the midst of all that, I rose, leaving all that represented the past behind and forging ahead to write different and better stories.

The pall of sadness

We of African heritage do not suffer depression, that is the first bad lesson of understanding mental health, a denial constructed in traditional, cultural and religious tenacity that presents struggle as spunk. The shibboleth is we cannot be depressed, but could a lack of motivation to do some essential things to one's well-being, health, and happiness be signs of depression?

Brian was kinder in finding a less challenging word, he said I am sad. I can fully relate to that. There is a lot of sadness about so many things that I am demotivated and disengaged.

Indeed, and sadly, there is sadness and much of it, sad that things are the way they are, sad that things I used to do quite easily seem beyond capability, sad that there are watches instead of stashes, sad that we all seem to have similar stories, sad that it is not even too obvious what one is sad about.

Sad that I am not inclined, and I don't want to do the things that make me happy or address the things that make me unhappy. I am looking for a cave like Elijah did, that offers no shelter.

Sunday 9 July 2023

The identity complex of community collateral

At cultural crossroads

Much as I try to convince myself that I fully integrated with the norms and mores of the major cultural influences in my upbringing, I am ever so rudely brought to the realisation that I am very much distant and sometimes barely belong and understand certain situations.

What is becoming quite evident is the Western influences are both dominant and defining, the Nigerian and Yoruba influences whilst giving me the benefit of experience and appreciation, my worldview only inculcates snippets rather than full concepts.

Decades ago, when my father said, “You have always thought like a Westerner.” Whilst not taking offence, I felt my quest to adapt and integrate with the culture and norms of my parents’ roots was being discounted. My years of being toughened in secondary boarding school in southwestern Nigeria were more a reinforcement of my difference than sameness.

Accented differences accentuated

Some afterwards, my brother would say, in jest and yet with more than a scintilla of truth that, “You are not one of us.” I guess even where I have challenged that presumption, I might well be in denial. My mongrel accent of various influences leaves me speaking in Nigeria as if I have an English accent and, in the UK, I have West Midlands and Estuary pretensions and pronunciation with enunciation deliberate but not received. I don’t desire a posh accent.

It is my accent that immediately set me apart in the 19 years I lived in Nigeria, and from the time we landed in Nigeria, there were people who saw me as a foreigner of sorts to the day I left. There may be instances where I try to so hard and relent when I understand that I am indeed different and I should embrace that fact.

An individual at divides

Today, I was given another perspective to contextualise my reaction to a conversation where I thought the discussion had deviated from the issue to the collateral. To a person steeped in Western individuality, the issue revolves around the individual and that is where the focus should be. At least, that is where I would naturally gravitate.

My sister however suggested another perspective, in the communitarian construct of African identity, the individual exists in a community and the issue affecting the individual has impactful collateral that the community is burdened with for which the community sees incumbent to ingratiate, intrude, and intervene to address and ameliorate for themselves, the individual and the instigating issue.

The enlightenment is I probably have been too individualistic in the things that pertain to me, my engagement in the broader community has been on my own terms alone with little consideration of who is in that community or how what happens to me affects that community. To that community, I can be radical, a maverick and a possible outcast. Unfortunately, for the said community, just by my Western outlook I have sworn no allegiance even if it is implicitly demanded of me.

A renewed acceptance

It is unlikely that my perspective will change, but I need to give the periphery some thought. Already, I find myself reviewing some of my viewpoints before publication because of these allegiances, weak as they might seem. In the quest for a better understanding of my sense of identity, rather than battle with the differences and drown in the confluence of the conflicting influences, I will just accept I am an Englishman in the main, with an inept understanding of traditions and culture of my forebears.

I am a study of the Third Culture Kid that will be found in disagreement with an ancestral community and in agreement with that in which I was born, for the good and for life. There are many like me who still face these issues, I am just surprised that at close to 60, the question of identity is still a work in progress.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Celebrating 75 Years of the NHS

A steward at the table

I was being wooed and propositioned in an unrelenting recruitment drive to become a church steward for over a year. It was last weekend that I had a baptism of fire as it were. It was a weekend of ordinations of priests and deacons known as the Petertide in the Anglican Church calendar.

With a church brimming with high clergy, the ordinands, well-wishers, and visitors, I was to collect the offertory from a section of the seating in the church and then direct congregants to a communion station away from the altar. It was managed even if a bit chaotic.

Though these assignments were out of rota, I had volunteered as more hands were needed than what was required for regular church services. Today, I presented myself to steward the service of Thanksgiving for 75 Years of the NHS.

The programme pamphlet for the service celebrating 75 Years of the NHS.

Attending to attendees

As there was no offertory or communion, this was a civic service, and it became apparent that we needed fewer stewards. There were a few things to do, including putting inserts in the programme pamphlet that required attendees to write a reflection about the role of the NHS.

After that, I stood with fellow stewards at the door to hand out the pamphlet to arrivals for the service informing them of the insert for their reflections. It was not a crowded gathering, and it did seem we had a fair share of NHS chaplains attending, we all might have felt out of place and of sorts without a dog collar.

The service began

Just before the start of the service, Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester arrived, I handed him the programme and informed him of the insert, he was smiling, engaging, and appreciative before the Canon Pastor led him to his seat and the service began.

There was one other act to steward, the collection of the inserts after people had scribbled down their reflections, I stood at the end of one row waiting as one congregant wrote on both sides of the card, as if a whole thesis of thoughts needed an urgent revealing.

My reflections

I had written my own reflection early because of the duty I was assigned to the effect: “I was born on a Tuesday morning unexpectedly at 26.5 weeks, the NHS facilitated my transfer for incubation in a major city. I was the size of a hamster in the hand of my father.

At 57, I stand taller, much taller than my parents. I owe my existence then and daily now to the amazing NHS, the people whose humanity makes a difference to many lives.

My reflections on the NHS.

Andy Burnham who was the last Labour government Secretary of Health gave an address before representatives of faiths rose to give a talk, there was a homily, a hymn and then the sending out by the Canon Pastor.

As the event was quite passive, I began to wilt, when I got home, I was ready for bed and there ensued a long afternoon nap.