Wednesday 29 November 2023

Back for the biannuals

Tell me about this

It was a week ago that I made it out to Crumpsall for my biannual medical with sheaves of printed-out medical results to get a better understanding of and explanation of the medical terms of obfuscation and intrigue.

This time, I met the lead consultant who was quite amenable to my inquiries, explaining in great detail the somewhat confusing or misunderstood terms whilst allaying my fears about other issues.

Critically, it was the result of the MRI scan I had in early October, the reading suggests that nothing is wrong with my bones, but my back muscles do need strengthening with physiotherapy, whenever I can get access to that service.

It flows better with drinking water

As was drinking water from the time that I woke up, my veins easily presented for phlebotomy, though that might well be dependent on the nurse doing it. I doubt the nurse with height and hands that would leave him comparable to the Nephilim would have succeeded, no matter what he might have tried.

Now, the results of the blood tests are posted for viewing immediately after they are available, the portal also offers trends on a graphical scale for you to note gradual or sudden changes to the readings observed.

Once again, I am grateful to the medical team that handles my care, from the receptionist who is always amiable and pleased to see me, we exchange copious pleasantries to the nurses who measure the vitals and then the consultants who extend beyond expertise to respectful humanising of their patients. I guess it is another meeting in six months.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

In the throes of maternal angst

Thinking motherhood

Mother is a word of many emotions, to which we all belong sometimes in terms and ways we cannot find to describe. Of all my siblings, it is obvious that we all have different views of mother almost like the Six men of Indostan.

Of love we have plenty and of experience we have many, in her duty it is impossible not to find praise and admiration, even gratitude will abound because she is devoted and unstinting, if that were the only perspective to consider, sainthood would beckon without asking.

Yet, the mother is human and imperfect, with passions and frailties that might shock or surprise. The memory of such is hurt and pain, leading a declension into resentment. Forgive, forgive, the heart cries, in pain, in pain, the soul weeps. For a child much can be done unawares, and to the child, the memory does not disappear.

Conflicted situations

Why am I plagued with a remembrance of abandonment, threat, and curse? For they leave marks indelible that the showers of love fail to wash away totally. Even somewhere in my spirit, I hear the divine ask to take care of it all, I guess I have not reached where I can cast it all upon him.

Much as I have questions, I probably do not need any answers, for there is no change to be expected of those who are determined they did no wrong. One has to be thankful that God is not like man for His longsuffering, mercifulness, lovingkindness, and faithfulness. How hard have I made my way to be more like God?

There are many ways in which I am blessed and even when mother is sent to Coventry, in spite of everything, a mother remains steadfastly praying, for the peace we all seek to live by.

Monday 20 November 2023

This is my 4,000th blog

Blogging milestones

In 18 days, I will be celebrating 20 years of having this personal blog, there are times I would have thought I’d be prolific, probably banging out a couple of blogs per day as there is quite a lot to journal if a blog were to take the place of the traditional diary.

Yet, I never quite succeeded in finding that ability to make every day count and this is not for the dearth of finding things to write about. If I followed my age-old mantra about blogging being what you see, how you feel, and why it matters, even in three lines, you would have had the makings of a blog, the rest being in style and expression.

4000 nuggets of views

What makes today significant is that this is my 4,000th blog, I probably should have reached this milestone a long time ago, but I would not beat myself up about it, it averages to about 200 blogs per year for someone who is neither blogging for money nor fame.

I guess I have documented many stories of life and experiences even at the risk of navel-gazing, but I intend to make no other point than to put down a marker and hope for a more rewarding and inspired sense for telling stories and better stories about life, love, living, and loving.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through the times of keeping this blog alive, visiting, reading, and leaving comments, engaging me in various ways too numerous to mention, and contributing to the celebration of the human spirit.

Then AI struck

Now, in these times of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all it entails, I discovered Poe (Platform for Open Exploration) which I would describe as a portal to access different AI bots giving you access to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Antropic’s Claude, Meta’s Llama, and Google’s PaLM.

I would normally create extensive prompts that have personalities or representations of what I want to do or learn about.

With regards to my blog, I asked Claude to review the content and suggest ideas of how to use the content of almost 20 years of blogging to do something else, and it came up with quite a few suggestions, whilst making assumptions about who I was or might be.

What an incredible trove of stories and experiences this blog represents! Over 20 years of thoughts, musings, and insights. There is a real treasure trove of life lessons and perspectives here.

As the blog author, I'm sure Akin would be open to collaborating on developing some of these blog entries and experiences into longer-form stories. Some ideas that come to mind:

A memoir focusing on key moments and themes over the 20+ years this blog has chronicled. Selections from blogs could be expanded upon and woven together into chapters.

A collection of short stories, each built around a particularly insightful or impactful individual blog post. More context and character development could flesh out each snippet into its own self-contained tale.

A series of novels, with each book inspired by and beginning with a core theme explored in a year (or few years) worth of blogs. Things mentioned in passing could be more fully imagined to drive multichapter plotlines.

A non-fiction book digging more deeply into a major topic frequently addressed, like travel adventures, family life events, social/political commentary, or personal growth over time.

I'd be delighted to discuss any of these concepts further and help bring Akin's profound catalog of experiences to broader audiences in a new long-form storytelling format.

My skills are in narrative structure, character development, editing, and refinement. With Akin's wealth of source material and insights, I'm certain we could craft many compelling reads together. Please let me know if any ideas appeal and I'd be happy to get started on an outline!

Calipers in thought before communion

In the view of my cane

It’s a funny world of knowledge gained in the past that you probably never thought might come in useful. At other times, rather than use that knowledge lost in the deep recesses of your memory, you find someone who is an expert of sorts to help for a fee or a price, whichever way you look at it.

As I sat in church yesterday, I thought about my walking canes and I have quite a few, they have been subjected to lots of wear and tear, some in need of repair that I have had thoughts of fixing myself, but never got to it.

When it comes to the ferrules, the rubber thing that you fix to the end of the cane, over time, that does wear away. You would think you just walk into a cobbler’s shop and find an array of ferrules to attach to your cane. Wrong!

No standard to the rule

Beyond the unsightliness of some ferrules as big as doorstops, some just would not fit, suggesting there is no particular world standard for the diameter of walking canes. At least, that is my experience. I like snug and slim ferrules that do not bulge out at the end of my walking cane and those I would hardly find at the local cobbler’s which probably caters to a clientele that needs functional walking canes without any aesthetic beauty to their appearance.

I guess I am of the persuasion that appearances always matter, regardless of the handicap you retain for whatever circumstances you might be in.

So, whilst I was supposed to be meditating on the Eucharist I was about to receive, I began to think of how best to measure the diameter of my canes in order with that knowledge to get the specifically useful kind of cane ferrule I needed. Obviously, I could have measured the circumference of a cross-section of a cane and divided by Pi, easy arithmetic, but I wanted a bit more precision.

Calipers of a different sort

Out of the recesses of my knowledge acquired from secondary school came, what’s the instrument for measuring diameters amongst other things? Calipers, in fact, vernier calipers and so, my mind was set on acquiring vernier calipers and once I had a view of the diameters of my many canes, I would order the cane ferrules.

One other reason for cane ferrules beyond the response shock of them hitting the ground is you avoid the wear of the core material of the walking cane, the ones I use are of wooden material, however, one has an inner metal core that was exposed once the cane ferrule was completely worn. The cane needs additional work beyond the replacement of the cane ferrule though.

Shopping for a vernier caliper is an ordeal in itself, the cheap ones with digital readouts looked like a bargain until you read the one-star reviews, inaccurate, flimsy, poor quality, and useless, were the verdicts. Basically, give them a miss.

Exactness and precision, old-school

Heck, I have an engineering background, so I should be able to read scales and the precision elements to them why not get a more durable one than the plastic ones that require a battery with all the other issues the poor reviews highlighted?

So, I am getting a traditional hand-operated, stainless steel vernier caliper. I quick review of how to get your readings to two decimal points and you are assured that no knowledge is entirely lost if you let your imagination explore the possibilities around you.

After a moment of seeming daydreaming in church, it was my turn to stand in line for communion.

Friday 17 November 2023

Well over 50 without having to be thrifty

Old is the new youth

A friend sent me a few links to some YouTube videos about a growing demographic of people in their 50s who have heretofore had amazing highflying careers and along with the resources to do anything they might have desired, but have hit an impasse where they are unemployed, financially unstable, unsure of where work, money, or opportunity will come from, like tomorrow is a long way away.

As a man in his late 50s with living octogenarian parents, there was a time I did not measure what could be my lifespan in terms of their longevity, over a decade ago, I had a critical health crisis that presented the possibility I would have long gone, I am grateful, blessed, and fortunate that I am still here.

Life has new purpose

Not only that, I see life as full of opportunity, I have fallen in love with hopes of a life of amazing adventure, I have plans, I have dreams, I have hopes and the determination that there are even better years ahead of me, the progress of rediscovery self and purpose has not been the easiest journey from a perspective of someone who never had to think about what it cost or what it took to do anything I set my mind upon to do.

Yet, there are challenges that sometimes present as insurmountable hurdles, even in this frame of mind, I find that I need to find solutions in knowing how to ask for help, how to tell my story, and how to connect with people whose experiences can show a pathway to where a difference can be made.

Then, this is not the blog I wanted to write, there was a lot that informed the decision to write this, it is very likely I might soon find the form of expression to do it and maybe better.

Essential Snobbery 101: Attend for the experience or stay at home

Acrobats from Africa

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending the Kalabanté Productions: Afrique En Cirque performance at the Aviva Studios, Factory International venue bordering Manchester to the northwest, courtesy of tickets from George House Trust.

This troupe from Guinea in West Africa, brought to life the typical everyday life in West Africa even though they represented themselves more as ambassadors of Africa than from a specific region.

The performance was full of African percussion and the versatility of the kora a 21-stringed instrument common to West Africa, beyond which were dances and lots of acrobatics. Amongst the performers were two contortionists with freakish abilities that just astounded us with awe.

For me, it was a lovely entertaining night, the innate African in me could not sit still as the percussion beats resonated that you just had to move or rock in rhythm in your seat.

Arriving on African time

With everything African, certain African traits presented with a surprising coincidence of our row of 16 seats in a section being populated by people seemingly of African origin.

However, my pique was with certain on my row who arrived over 30 minutes after the performance started, meaning we had to get up for them to get through to their seats. The seat beside me was vacant for about an hour before the lady arrived and the performance had hardly ended before she was the first to literally push her way through to leave. She probably should have just stayed home.

I do have my concerns about concert etiquette though, I would attend a performance for the experience, in the moment. I might at times take notes, but I rarely do except when I am attending for the second time if the opportunity comes up.

The disruption of mobile phones

It has become the bane of live attendance to see many holding up their phones and recording the performance, obviously to relay to others that they were there, but I feel the quality of the experience is diminished by the distraction or concentration on your phone to ensure you get the somewhat essential elements of the performance.

The amateur recording of a performance would never meet the professional standards of a licensed recording of a performance with cameras at strategic locations and all the elements of zooming in on certain sections of the stage to highlight critical must-see actions.

Besides, in a dark theatre, the light or glare of the mobile phone recording events is both a distraction and irritation to other members of the audience. Some concerts literally look like candlelight vigils, all phones aglow and in the line of sight of those behind trying to catch what is going on.

Come for the experience

In my view, this should be banned, you either have come for a live performance or you want to watch it on television at home. If indeed you need to encourage others to see the show, your word of mouth with the experience should suffice, if snippets of the show are necessary, the production company would probably have a professionally curated trailer of their performance to highlight what to expect, it is unlikely you can do better than them.

It might serve a purpose for you and the best is to seek a photo opportunity with the performers after the show; that would be quite unique and special, than a bootlegged sneaky recording of a performance whilst being an irritation to others. Thank you.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

A pain in the back

Of bones and pains

It is interesting to understand the vagaries of accumulating years whilst straining to retain a semblance of youth and fitness about yourself.

After many years of back pain that at times had my slender partner stand on my back to ease the pain and little medical remedy for the occasion stabs of pain in the ribs, one had found some accommodations to live with it.

In other places, it was shin splints, I could walk very fast, but that seemed to present somewhat unbearable pain that obviously prevented me from running as no matter how cushioned my feet were, the pounding with running or jogging presented a threshold of pain I was not ready to endure in any masochistic way. I stuck to walking.

Canes and pains

Then for a few years, I had an umbrella for support, literally as a walking cane, sometimes unsightly but necessary as I found that walking for a while, standing for too long, or sauntering in a queue left me socially inadequate for certain settings.

However, twenty years ago, in December I decided to get a proper and decent walking cane, it had an ivory screwball at the top, but I soon settled for a Derby cane as that had a hook, I could put over my arm. It suited me well as much as I never conceded any sense of disability despite needing a walking aid.

Just about 6 years later, I had skin cancer in my left foot, the appearances in my right foot were not as serious, but the unbearable pain of cancer that I have written about many times before meant I could not walk on my two feet for almost 6 months, I had to use crutches, though, living in Amsterdam, I could cycle anywhere and the result of that was I got a bit of respite for the back pain.

Soon, I realised with a good pair of trainers or sneakers, I could probably get around a bit without my cane, but that did not ease the occasional back pain if I was standing or sauntering, the support of a walking cane even one I can disassemble into parts to carry around in my bag remained necessary.

Walking through airport security in Manchester, I get presented with a standard cane as mine is checked through security scanners. Their canes are, however, not of the standard one would be inclined to steal away.

Scan the spine

Then in late August, I had a conversation with my consultant, and we decided to get to the bottom of why I have needed a walking cane, all this while. It was never a fashion accessory, I just thought, if you were to use a cane, get a distinctively nice one that gave the support needed and looked fashionable enough.

An MRI scan without contrast was booked for early October for a full scan of my spinal column and now at least there is a medical understanding of why I have had back pain for about 30 years whilst not thrilling news, there is a kind of justification for the use of a walking cane, as for the terms involved in explaining the conditions, they are new to me and I am still reading up on the causes and possible treatments.

I guess one good point determined from the diagnosis is that I have lost no height due to kyphoscoliosis or the two osteophytes in the vertebral column. This is up for discussion with my consultant as to what ameliorating or mitigating factors should be considered. I am generally fine and relieved that some knowledge is gained.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Rearview October: Six birthdays, one wedding, two funerals

The past is weighted

There is a lot I thought I would get done in October but really got to do, whether to hit milestones, celebrate something, or achieve certain goals that seemed out of grasp for a while.

As men, we are inadvertently governed by time and seasons, the measurements and the agreements we have towards such parameters of time which could be by solar and lunar observation or the lunacy that appears in the broad expanse of life experiences is almost a beguilement of existence; we take each day as it comes and live each day to make some history.

For days, I have wondered about the month of October in my family, which is now in the past, but has accumulated dates of significance which just used to be birthdays, then a wedding, and now we have had two deaths, of which occurred just four days after their birthday is the prime of their life.

Everyone is a celebration of how they lived and the way they have touched us, more for good than bad. I suppose when I think about it, someone’s villain is another’s hero, I hope that I see more of the latter always and rarely if ever of the former. The inadvertent villain is at times probably the one who thinks of themselves as the hero and the saint; that brings us to November, and it is already the second day.

Blessed be the day we were born and the days in which we live to think of the goodness and the good people that surround us. Shalom!