Tuesday 31 October 2023

Black History Month 2023 - A contribution


I wrote this at the beginning of the month on invitation from George House Trust, a community charity that has provided HIV support, advice, and advocacy services to improve health outcomes since 1985. For some administrative reasons yet to be determined, it was not published.

However, minutes before Black History Month 2023 runs out, I have decided to post my contribution to my blog.

Black History Month 2023

Black History Month to someone who is not involved in activism would sometimes appear in one’s consciousness as a commemorative event to which one has been invited and so presenting an opportunity to meet with the community and share experiences.

Yet it is quite easy to absent oneself from many of the attendant issues when one has had unusual privileges and enjoyed many things that are not easily afforded others.

In 2023, the theme of Black History Month is Saluting our Sisters, I think about my Greater Manchester community as I walk along Oxford Road and see a significant black face Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915–1991) who was an economist, a 1979 Nobel Prize laureate and Britain’s first black professor, at the then named Victoria University of Manchester.

In present times, Erinma Bell MBE DL has worked within our community to help reduce street and gun crime, her work is highly commended, and she gave the Manchester Annual Legal Service address at the Manchester Cathedral in 2022.

Diane Modahl MBE was an athlete in the 800m category and once a Commonwealth Games champion as well as twice a medallist. She is involved in a lot of charity work to help the youth in Greater Manchester.

What is evident is there are a lot of unsung heroes and heroines of black heritage who are contributing significantly in areas of education, sports, business, healthcare, the clergy, charity work, and other spheres of endeavour. Many of them seek no recognition but need all the support to help make their contributions to the community positive, lasting, and successful.

What Black History Month means to me is seeking out these exemplary people as role models and examples of what is possible and achievable to ensure that the resplendent tapestry of British history of which the persons who people this nation of all races and most especially of every kind of global African descent is not lost in the reading of the milestones that shaped this nation.

In Saluting our Sisters this year, and recognising the many unmentioned yet outstanding women in our local communities and beyond, the relevance of each Black History Month is again assured with a sense of belonging and pride, we know that Black history is also British history.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

It is jab and go

Come on over

For the past month, I have been pestered by messages and alerts to go for my seasonal COVID-19 vaccine as the health authorities have considered there is a strain of concern about, a spike in infections leading to hospitalisations, and the danger it poses to those in a vulnerable cohort.

When I took my last booster in June, I left it well over a month from the first notification before I relented. I suppose the other issue is since the autumn of last year, there have been no nearby locations or walk-in centres to obtain the vaccine or booster.

Outskirts for jabs

The nearest locations are at least 2 kilometres and over a mile and a half away. It could easily be walked, though in finding those locations, it might be best to use public transport and then walk back home.

Why they have decided to move all the vaccination locations out of the city centre, I cannot understand, and this activity is no more at GP surgeries or dedicated facilities, but at chemists and pharmacies where it seems spare and probably medically unqualified hands are assigned the more onerous duty of registration with the rather trivial act of jabbing you in the arm.

Following the advice

What I have also found out is less people in the vulnerable cohort are keen on the booster, I have been advised by many unqualified people to shun the booster, but I will only act on sound medical advice. I was chatting to someone about it the other day and they volunteered that the booster knocked them out for almost a week.

In my case, I have tolerated the vaccine quite well, I was pleased that the sterling work by Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman that went into creating the mRNA-type vaccine put out by Pfizer and Moderna was awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Commending the science

On the counts, I have now had 2 main vaccines and 5 boosters, all mainly Pfizer-BioNTech or Pfizer, except the fourth which was the Moderna vaccine. Just over a day and a half of pain in the area of the injection, a little discomfort but no need for an analgesic.

What has surprised me is we are no longer required to wait around for about 15 minutes to gauge the patient’s reaction to the vaccine. You are jabbed and you leave, complications inadvertently handed off to the emergency services. It did not bother me; I took the time to walk back home through strange alleyways and backstreets.

Manchester keeps giving up new secrets about places, people, and buildings. 10 years here and still there is quite a lot to see. 

Friday 13 October 2023

Food in choice from supply

A rueful and grateful contemplation

There is always someone else whose situation and circumstances are worse than ours and, in the same spirit, one should always be grateful for the goodness and blessing that surround us even if issues tend to cloud our minds as to the relativeness of where we might be.

It is important that in recognising how fortunate one is, we do not go seeking to plumb the depths of destitution and adversity to ascertain the extent to which one should be grateful for being better off. Every lack needs supply, whether great or small.

Exiting the place, we all seem not to go straight home but stand somewhere to contemplate what we have just been through, a new low in a longer story that for many would be impossible to relate. A sense of embarrassment overcome by the realisation of need, a sense of shame bludgeoned through with a daring for survival, a sense of failure reducing you to the generosity and mercy of others.

Yea, I can recount many such situations that have become the broader tapestry of the joy of living, for without life, how can anyone experience the highs, the lows, the changes and consequently the opportunity to speak or write of such in your own words?

Parsnips for yams

On arrival, there was a registration before a helper took a list off me to ascertain what I might or might not need, through stifled giggles, we navigated an alien world into which we for the circumstances need to attempt to fit in for the sake of sustenance and keeping some of that hope alive.

She immediately recognised my heritage and she volunteered that her husband is Nigerian who likes his food fresh before saying one of those many issues with Nigerian men. It got to a point where I simply asked her to filter her list through the palate needs of anyone from West Africa and she immediately said, none of what we were viewing would work. However, we adapt.

Only what you need

The things that could work for me, I chose and left out those that just had no bearing on anything I would consider even in extremis. A box of sandwiches seeking those who hunger, the choices from simple to untenable, like horseradish with beef, horseradish is more than an acquired taste, you need to have been introduced to it under extreme torture for a long period of time to find your Stockholm’s Syndrome comfort in tasting it at will.

We were there because there was not enough and there were people and organisations willing and generous to give to a community effort of helping those who have a season and hopefully a short one of famine in the land. My sister will say to me, food is one essential commodity that should never be lacking in the home. Alas! We have not fallen to the temptation of turning stones to bread.

The food bank is both a humbling and an appreciation of the humanity that still throws an arm of love, consideration, and generosity around others, regardless of who they are.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Hotstepping into a magnetic resonance experience

Walking with a cane

For 20 years in December, I have used a walking cane. This was to help with the pain that I felt in my lower back for about a decade and there were times I had my much lighter partner stand on my back just to ease the pain.

The pain was exacerbated by standing still in queues or sauntering, I needed to be moving well or sitting down not to experience the pain. At times I have spoken about the pain either in the chest on my ribcage or in my back to my GP, and they have tried to put me in the scheme of enduring it rather than treating it. The walking cane gave more than the support and comfort to reduce or avoid the pain, altogether.

Obviously, when I got my first walking cane, it was a long black rod with an ivory ball to hold onto, as from the beginning I had decided whilst the walking cane was not a fashion accessory if you were to use a walking cane, get a good and fashionable one. Eventually, after trying many kinds of canes I have settled for Derby canes that have a rounded hook that could be hung over the wrist or the arm, hands-free.

Let’s have a closer look

In a conversation with my consultant a few weeks ago, we talked about my use of the walking cane which in addition became even more pertinent when I had cancer in my right foot some 14 years ago that I could not walk using the leg for almost 6 months. She proposed we have a scan of my spine to determine why I was having the back pain and if anything could be determined from that review.

Today, I attended a radiology session for an MRI scan of my spine without contrast. The without contrast part suggested I would not have ink injected into my veins to provide contrast in observing other organs in my body. I read up on the notes and was sure no adverse effect was expected as I had no metallic enhancements or augmentations had been done to my body. At least nothing I have consented to except if one had been abducted by aliens.

Stillness and noisiness

Having filled out the consent forms, the nurse invited me to the waiting room before the radiographer called my name and ushered me towards the theatre. At first, I was assigned a locker to put in my valuables, watch, love bangle, wallet, and satchel bag. I only had to take off my jacket and leave my cane outside.

I sat on the MRI gurney and as I was about to lift my legs to lay on the bed, I was told it might take 30 minutes when I planned for 10 minutes tops, I had to remain still, and the device was a disturbingly noisy thing that you needed earplugs and headphones. I had heard much about the containment from others with claustrophobic tendencies, and I decided not to be regaled by any more of their sordid tales.

As I lay down and set myself for the experience, I decided to close my eyes as the headphones belted out Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes The Hotstepper, certainly not what you want to be hearing in a magnetic tube, but that was what was on offer rather than the calming strains of classical music that I suggested might be a better offer.

Slipped out of it and sleep

I drifted off as the three shrill sounds suggested my insides were being peered into without intrusion, the wonders of medical science for which a controversial Nobel Prize was awarded in 2003. [The Lancet: The Nobel prize for MRI: a wonderful discovery and a sad controversy]

There were times I opened an eye, but I never gave thought to the idea I was in an enclosed space. Then the gurney slid right out, and we were done with a commendation from the radiographer that I took the session really well.

I got fully dressed up, collected my things and returned home, an interesting experience and in a few weeks, I should get a review of what was seen.

Tuesday 3 October 2023

The clear and present danger of irresponsible cyclists

The bane of powered vehicles

Beyond the terror of devil dogs that I wrote about recently, it is electric-powered bicycles and scooters that have become a menace on our roads. That fact that the human-powered element of pedalling or scooting means that the concentration of thought and process in the engagement of muscle is diverted elsewhere and that, in itself, becomes a kind of distraction.

Blog - Opinion: Public safety is paramount regardless of your cuddly dog

The bicycles or scooters whiz off at speed with the riders literally oblivious of the responsibility and due concern that comes with being in charge of such a vehicle. That and their inclination to ignore traffic and road usage rules along with pedestrians being terrorised on the pavements makes them a clear and present danger to others and themselves.

An uncaring cohort for safety

What baffles me and I have written about this having lived in Amsterdam is how riders can ply busy streets or pavements at night without lights. Usually, the riders are in dark clothing, and you are usually unaware of their proximity to you until they are so close, you have to avert a collision if they are totally uncaring.

I could go on about my concerns and bugbears, but the reason for this blog is a rather close encounter for which I should curb the urge to be dramatic even as my recollection of it leaves me in a shudder as to how it could have been a lot worse and it does not bear thinking of apart from lifting up hands in gratitude for being spared an inauspicious ending.

What just happened?

I was at a bus stop leaning on the inside wall of the enclosure with a foot out speaking to my friend on the phone, when suddenly I had a knock on the outside of my left knee and sudden surge of pain over the top of my midfoot, the shock with a directed gaze to a young man crashing off his bicycle as he came to find out if he had hit me.

“Are you crazy?” I shouted out at him, a bystander who saw everything was totally nonchalant that I wonder if I had taken the full impact of that collision whether she would have bothered to help or call for any help. She was in a Tesco supermarket top, my views of that are best left off this blog.

An entrenched lawlessness

However, the lawlessness of the whole encounter and how one was ill-equipped to find any sort of redress and sanction just left me wanting to nurse my bruises than do much else as very little would have been learnt by the cyclist as I upbraided him.

He was riding a hired electric bike on a busy road against the traffic, and he decided to cut away unto the wide pavement to take another shortcut over the pavement to ride against the traffic avoiding an intersection or junction. As he tried to mount the pavement, he hit the kerb, lost control, and ran into me and crashed some 10 metres further on before coming over to find out if I was okay.

He would have done this weaving through obstacles and dangers, hardly slowly down to assess the full risk of any manoeuvre, a young exuberance overwhelming any sense of caution or responsibility to others, daring to do rather than caring at all, I could have lost it and decked him, but that was unnecessary.

But for the grace of God

As he left to pick up his bicycle and ride away, I remembered I was still on a call with my friend and continued the call. However, when I thought about it this morning, this chap is probably doing an electrically propelled 30 mph or 48.2 km/h. A full-on collision or if I had been pinned against the wall of the bus stop could have wiped me out, needing hospital care. It was a close shave.

There is no doubt that the law has to catch up with this the road usage of electrically propelled bicycles and scooters, I also wonder of a new set of rules need to be written and there is no doubt that policing with the strict enforcement of the said rules is essential for adherence and deterrence. There have been too many accidents, some resulting in fatalities and many attributable to irresponsible road usage. It needs to be addressed with alacrity.

You can be minding your own business and out of nowhere danger invades your space, it is the grace of God that keeps us. For that, we are very thankful.