Saturday 23 December 2023

John Coll: Calling on Herbert Dzinotyiweyi to fulfil his wishes

How we learnt of it

9 years ago, a very dear friend, John Alexander Coll passed on, unfortunately, many of us who knew him did not learn of his passing until almost a month after he had gone. The executor John chose to manage his estate and contacted me late on the 21st of January 2015 and expected a response from me by the 23rd of January 2015 for the funeral planned for the 30th of January 2015.

This presented a difficulty for many who would have liked to attend John’s funeral, we found a circle of friends and eventually were able to have someone in London represent those of us who would have had to travel from afar to honour this amazing man.

The executor of John’s estate

Sadly, 9 years on, John’s estate and issues have not been resolved as he had intended, his executor Herbert Dzinotyiweyi who used to handle the accounts for the company Connection Software that John founded through the years gave everyone the impression that the estate was a very complex and tax intensive issue, it probably was.

Herbert Dzinotyiweyi who for a while lived in the UK also has Zimbabwe roots and seems to have ensconced himself beyond the reach of scrutiny of his fiduciary obligations to the beneficiaries of John’s estate.

It was in early 2019 that I acquired details of John’s will and the probate that had 10 beneficiaries once the core of the estate had been liquidated, yielding almost £800,000 which if it were judiciously divided amongst those to whom John bequeathed a largesse would have been consequential and life-changing for each of them, most located in Zimbabwe where he once had interests and in South Africa.

Our engagement with Herbert Dzinotyiweyi

I was able to gather all the beneficiaries in conference a few times in 2019 into 2020, some of whom at the time that I contacted them were unaware that John Coll had made a generous bequest to their names.

We did Herbert Dzinotyiweyi to attend some of those conferences from the safety of Zimbabwe, at which no determination was gained or made until he removed himself from the conference groups as if he had no further obligations as executor. Suspicions arose that a professional forensic analysis of the moneys accrued from the estate after probate determined that money had gone, it had not gone to any of John Coll’s intended beneficiaries.

Just account for the estate

Whilst I do not intend to impugn Herbert Dzinotyiweyi’s name, some questions need answering; an explanation as to why John’s estate that made probate in June 2015 has still not been afforded the wishes of the testator, and there is a possible dereliction of responsibility as executor that might border on criminal enterprise, but this is not to accuse anyone.

A dead man cannot fight for his good intentions and wishes, which is why they trust someone or people to administer their estate when they are gone. The fact that John’s registered will was made and witnessed just 5 days before he passed on might have limited the scope of persons to elect as executors of his will. He cannot have thought that the person he selected would not expeditiously manage his estate and adhere fully to his generous desires, 9 years on.

Pattern or sheer coincidence?

I know this is not what John intended and I can only hope that action and justice for what John Coll desired is finalised by the time of the 10th anniversary of his passing and Herbert Dzinotyiweyi willingly accounts for his superintending of John Alexander Coll’s estate as executor.

The friends of John Coll who remember him fondly as an extraordinary person of consequence in innumerable ways will continue to agitate for the full realisation of his wishes. The matter is not closed by any stretch of the imagination. May John Coll continue to rest in peace.

NB: I am not a beneficiary of John’s will, I am a friend of John’s, we met in mid-1994. Obviously, I will review and edit this blog once all of John’s wishes are fulfilled as he intended.

Meanwhile, a quick search for Herbert Dzinotyiweyi would suggest he has run into some trouble. One cannot speculate on pattern or behaviour, but it is an interesting development to discover today. [ZimNow: Harare man in court over residential stand scam]

Blog - John Coll: Friend, Mentor, Gentleman (January 2015)

Thursday 21 December 2023

58 revolutions around the sun

It’s a miracle baby

As times come and go, I realise I am a living miracle from the moment I took my first breath, with all the goodness and favour that has greeted me every waking day that has become the story of my life.

I am of all men greatly blessed, highly favoured, and extremely fortunate. Unexpectedly born at 26 and a half weeks at a time when it could have been decided I could not survive, even as the hospital in which I was born did not have the means to sustain me. I was taken to a hospital in another city about 25 miles away where I received the best care medicine could offer at the time.

An outlier to the convention

As a man of faith, every day whether acknowledged or not has had the hand of God sheltering and keeping me, through literally impossible situations, I can hardly count the innumerable blessings.

At another time, I was not meant to see my 44th birthday, the prognosis gave me 5 weeks when the medical team in charge of my care made a diagnosis giving me the facts of the options before me. The good news depended on me tolerating the gruelling and debilitating chemotherapy for which I would be rewarded with more time.

Even medicine would prove me an outlier and the condition I had from studies at that time suggested the people did not last a decade. There were times I felt like a clock was ticking, it probably is the reason I hate the sound of ticking clocks. What was I learning from Captain James Hook in Peter Pan?

Living to live and thrive

Then, how have I measured myself against others thinking I will be limited by the experience of others when I was to live the life I am given to live and prosper. It is easy to live as if one were dying, yet there is a better story to live as one living and thriving regardless of situation or circumstance.

And here we are today, 58 revolutions around the sun, nothing I could have predicted or expected, it is all the grace of God, the prayers of many, the unstinting support of some, and the amazing love of Brian who plants a smile and grin that never wanes on my face.

I am full of gratitude to see this day and I believe there are many more amazing celebrations to come. In the stories I will write I cannot even begin to imagine the form or frame of words to narrate the miracles that astound as each day passes into milestones for which the praises to God will fill the mouths of many who love goodness, happiness, success, and joy.

This is my happy birthday.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

In gratitude

Much appreciation

It has been an interesting year for me, and whilst I did not find myself doing much of what I would have wanted to do, I have done other things I would have rarely found myself doing and been enriched by it all.

By participating in activities and volunteering, I have in many ways inadvertently met influential people and been involved in consequential decision-making forums that I would never have attended, but I found a voice and an expression that would normally not be heard.

Above all, it is how I have been sustained through some of the toughest times, the support of my partner, my best friend, my sister, old partners, my neighbours, my parents, support groups, my community, and many others who have fervently kept me in their prayers and supplications, with encouragement, entreaty, and even unwelcome and probably justifiable rebuke that has caused offense.

For service

We entertain much in how we exist, but we need to be careful about what we allow to define us. Faith and hope have set a course for the realisation of many desires, they are the complementary force of what will result in better and more uplifting stories. In many disappointments in the resolution and resolve goodness, mercies, and blessings cannot miss us.

It was only on Monday that I thought I should arrive at Manchester Cathedral early, just in case there was any help needed since I am a church steward. They had everything in hand, and I took my seat before additional rows were added to the reserved seats. I was not asked to move to another seat.

Interesting encounters

Just before the event started, a gentleman with a lady arrived, the usual small talk about the weather after pleasantries followed and a few quips on things English and so on. They had travelled in from Sale, and he needed some help getting up for the carol songs.

After the interval, he said there were so many people to meet, he had to chat to the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester and a few Deputy Lieutenants as he was one too. I suppose, if I had been more observant, a man in a pin-striped suit, his wallet so thick it needed rubber bands to hold together, a few acknowledgements from here and there, this was a community stalwart, known for his contributions and charitable activities.

At 85, I would pass for a son, his companion just 75 years old, both of whom in the inclement weather of the northwest in December needn’t have bothered but still with enthusiasm and a sense of fun made an appearance that should be appreciated. As the carol concert ended, we shook hands, and he gave his name. A very accomplished man indeed.

In all, I am very grateful, it is the last day of 57 and it is unimaginable how I could have thrived without the amazing support of Brian. You bring light and love, with joy and laughter. Thank you.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

Pasty Paradise - The Joie of Findin' T'Last Un!

Hasty on the pasty

It is kudos to the last pasty that caused this scene. © Devon Live
My attempt at a Devonshire accent in the title, most likely falls flat, even my Brummie birth accent cultivated in Walsall, barely gets a try.

This is one of those stories that should have ended up as a quip on Twitter or Threads, but it makes for interesting reading just because it is impossible to decide whether to laugh or cry.

It could well feature in the Odd World section of any village rag, but Bideford in North Devon, England with a population of about 15,000 or so, finds notoriety in the actions of one truculent freewheeling pensioner.

The said pensioner had rolled up to a bakery on his mobility scooter only to find that someone had paid for and made off with the last pasty. Devon, which borders Cornwall to the east, is part of the Cornish peninsula and why, I do love a rich and meaty Cornish pasty, and for that love much can happen if you are beaten to the last pasty. [Devon Live: Watch as Devon pensioner runs down man for 'buying last pasty']

A nasty for the pasty

So, waving cane and revving his mobility scooter, as if mounted on horseback and lance in hand like the cavalry of old, the pensioner ran down the man with the last pasty. The clatter and crash left pasty-man on the ground behind a shop sign ‘Kudos’.

I am undecided as to whom should receive the kudos; however, the bigger question is where did the last pasty end up? Other formalities regarding the fracas and the law notwithstanding, the morale of the tale is you are an endangered species if you are aiming for the last pasty.

It is like crossing a busy road, look right, look left, look behind you, and look all around you and far enough to be sure that with prognostication, premonition, and gut instinct and no regard for your hunger, that an old-age pensioner is not nearby ready to break your legs with a mobility scooter. That last pasty might be the last thing you do.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Thought Picnic: What really is the purpose of the interview?

Between the means and the end

Interviews as one would expect are a means of engagement to ascertain if a candidate for a role is first able to do what is contained in the job specification and beyond and to determine if the said person is a good fit for the team, department, and organisation into which they are being assessed and invited.

In general, I would think a curriculum vitae should speak for itself in terms of what was done, achieved and how that activity benefitted that setting. In my case, because the general rule especially in the UK is to have a 3-page or shorter CV, a wealth of experience and expertise running decades is difficult to encapsulate in such a short space. For that reason, I have a link to a much longer resume in the narrative, quite detailed for anyone interested.

Against the odds of poor preparation

Expertise is knowhow and would by inference be recent and attending to the role applied for, experience brings in a long more over time, by observation, involvement, practice, understanding, and even the ability to explain in some appreciable detail the hows and whys of things.

The question then is, how to set up an interview in such a way that the engagement allows the interviewer to tighten their enquiry to gain the best indication of ability, agility, and compatibility meeting their requirements. I am now concluding that no preparation on the part of the interviewee can prepare them for a poorly planned interview.

I have received commendations after attending interviews where the feedback has been, that I am likeable and knowledgeable, but I did not address the interview questions to the detail required. Also, the additional feedback has suggested that the roles have been readvertised because none of the tranches of interviewees were selected for the role. We probably can agree that this is a problem with the interview than the interviewees.

Ask concise and relevant questions

The quality of the answers you get from an interviewee have to be related to the standard of questions asked. It goes without saying that the quality of search results for a standard search request is dependent on how well and unambiguous the search terms are phrased. In these times of generative AI, the same principle follows, a well-crafted prompt will elicit good responses close to what the inquirer requires.

How this fundamental principle does not filter into interviews does baffle me. Again, I have probably interviewed better when I have had to give a presentation from a range of selected topics or dealt with scenarios proffered that would assess my quality of thinking, problem-resolution ability, and general perspective on issues. Sadly, very few interviewers adopt this line of enquiry.

In a lake of mysterious misery

For instance, you would probably get an interview question that is worded along the lines of, ‘Cross the lake.’ You are then left wondering where is the lake? Are there crossing points along the lake shore and from what crossing point to the other? Does the lake have bridges, pontoons, and boats, or do you have to consider swimming, if you cannot swim? How long do you have to cross the lake? Is the lake infested with crocodiles or other dangerous animals?

Let me paint the scenario in this analogy, a lake where the supposed interviewer is a fisherman, with apparently extensive knowledge of the lake, the best times to fish and what types of fish thrive therein, where the water source is, the weather and seasons to expect at what times, maybe even has done night rescues of people in distress and the question he asks a visiting fisherman interviewee reads like he doesn’t know anything about bodies of water.

So many scenarios can be built around crossing the lake with additional information to help the interviewee address the issues or thinking that would help the best lake crossing, if just for themselves or in consideration of others where probably a bridge would suffice rather than a boat as someone would have to row the boat back to the crossing point.

Poor questions won’t yield good prospects

Indeed, I am aghast with the quality of the technical questions I face, they are general, rudimentary, elementary, fundamental, and broad. When asked by the supposedly highly technical person, you are left wondering why they are not asking questions built around scenarios and issues they have encountered with the guardrails to refine the responses with follow-up questions?

It is incumbent on interviewers to prepare for interviews just as much as interviewees prepare with some kind of interview preparation. What seems to be happening is the interviewer seems to be winging it, in the end, they never really determine suitability because they have been lazy and the waste of time on both sides is not compensated for, with disappointment on the side of the interviewee and self-created disappointment on the side of the interviewer.

What really is the purpose of the interview? I am left unsure of whether that very basic idea is known.

It's a focus group treadmill

Lend us your views

Within the last month, I have been invited to and attended a few focus groups and research study forums seeking to understand my usage and experience of healthcare and mental health services in the diverse community areas in which I find some belonging.

I guess recently, I have been both forward and willing to offer a perspective because whilst I am affected and impacted by many issues, I am not in a sponsored or activist role, I probably speak for an underrepresented demographic of people who usually keep to themselves and seeking no recognition.

Stuff your vouchers

Now, there is the perverse view of the organisers that we attend because we have been enticed or induced by some sort of incentive. It helps, but if every engagement was for the acquisition of vouchers, that would be unfortunate.

Yesterday, I agreed to attend one such focus group, I arrived on time, only to find that the session had started and there was apparently a restriction to the numbers that could attend. To add insult to injury, I was being offered an alternative engagement for the bounty prize of a voucher.

If the look disdain would could capture for posterity, I think the people in that room could not have been less convinced. You think I came for your voucher that I probably cannot find a place spend before its validity expired. Well, the first part was duly expressed as the latter part was absorbed in my thinking. I came for a focus group I was invited to attend, at the time stipulated, even though the convenor arrived much earlier and decided to start before the scheduled time.

Please, do not waste my time

Anyway, I was not going to waste my time if my time was not being valued and my person respected, as an apology came from many directions until the person coordinating the invitees decided to ask if others could join the focus group. Eventually, I was invited to join the activity that had barely got beyond the introductions and ground rules.

Whilst I commend many who work in the non-profit and community engagement sectors, the availability of people to help and volunteer themselves in activities and other research endeavours should not be taken for granted. I can only wonder if I would again be persuaded to engage with that agency after our first encounter.

It was unfortunate, but where I would not be treated with courtesy and respect is not a place or an environment I want to be. From a cynical perspective, I do wonder how any of these things I have participated in would improve the services we use. I guess it is a wait-and-see thing and then calling them to account further down the line. You can only attend so many focus groups before you begin to wonder whether it is merely for funding acquisition rather than service improvement.

Friday 8 December 2023

Thought Picnic: Enemies present to see me blessed

In the grip of superstition

Sometimes, I find myself at that point of conflict between traditions and beliefs, the things we find ourselves doing because of fear, premonition, superstition, or customs we think the good and good fortune that comes our way is under constant threat from bad forces or persons.

We live with a tendency to believe that ill will exists at every turn, both in its proximity and in its distance, we inadvertently limit agency and facility because we give over the wealth of grace made available to us to the control of possible malevolence than trusting in unassailable benevolence.

Whilst one understands that there is no glory or praise in adversity, any adversity is essentially part of the construct of life, the more consequential matter is how one deals with adversity. For instance, when I was asked how I could avoid conflict from arising in some setting, I posited that avoiding conflict is rarely a function under our control, but addressing the issue in order the resolve it is one we need to have the skill to do.

Enemies present to see me blessed

It is against this backdrop, from the deepest recesses of my beliefs and faith, that I found that some advice I was receiving did not sit well with me. I can attest to many circumstances where I have found assurance, comfort, and solace from a verse of scripture that overwhelms and brings to naught the effect of something that in other situations would be damaging and impossible to overcome.

(Psa 23:5 NLT) You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honour me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.

My understanding of this verse is that God blesses you for the observation of your adversaries and detractors. They are to see and know that you are blessed and blessed abundantly. The blessing of God is not something to be hidden. To enjoy the blessing of God is not a thing of personal pride, but one of glorifying God as it pleases God to bless His people.

The irreversible blessings of God

(Num 23:20 NLT) Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!

In this Bible story where the prophet Balaam was spoken to by the ass he was riding, Balaam was being engaged by a king with the promise of a great reward to curse the people of Israel. What is fundamental here is that what God has done in His goodness cannot be repudiated. To the frustrated king procuring Balaam’s services, the clear message was, that what God has blessed cannot be reversed.

(Psa 118:6 NLT) The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?

(Psa 118:7 NLT) Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.

As I was writing this blog, the verses above came to me, even as others that I will further meditate on have percolated into my consciousness. This challenges many premises, but until you know your station and status, it might well be meaningless. The fundamental here is that the LORD is for me and with that confidence, I should not fear what people can or think they have the power to do to me.

This is reinforced in the next verse, confirming that the LORD is indeed for me, not just idling, but helping me so that I get to look in triumph at those who do not wish me well for whatever reasons they might have.

Goodness and mercy fully attached

The focus really should be on God rather than them, regardless of what they might be up to. I lay hold of this assurance receiving the honour bestowed on me by the one whose blessings no one can reverse. As always, the issue is getting to appreciate the powerfulness of your standing against the powerlessness of any assailant.

That is what gives the last verse of Psalm 23 its grounding in faith and reality. I remain convinced that famines pass for times of abundance beyond every means or measure of understanding. We only have to trust in the unfailing love of God to know that we always win.

(Psa 23:6 NLT) Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

20 Years - A Blog

A wry Berlin

When I sat in a hotel room in Berlin watching television and decided to start a blog, I was not looking 20 years down the line after over 4,000 blogs thinking how I would write a celebratory blog.

December 2003 was a different world and at the same time an interesting one too. Blogging was trending, like everyone had a story to tell and if they were not doing that, there were interests, opinions, gossip, or reviews to share. I had no particular plans for my blog, I was not going to be a written version of a shock jock, but there were things I saw differently by influence and perspective that I thought I could lay out in my own space.

How things change

Social media as we know it now was not part of the canon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or Threads were probably not even in incubation with their inventors at that time, we had other outlets that people found to showcase their lives and experience, many now consigned to history.

I cannot explain why I kept blogging when most got tired of it and eventually left it altogether, it cannot be for a lack of stories to tell. Obviously with audiovisual stimulation and the sensational, you can easily grab the headlines and gain popularity, I think my blog became like a community corner shop full of the traditional and the nostalgic, existing almost like a store of knowledge, with shelves of the old and new.

I am grateful

Looking back, I also probably did not see 20 years ahead, it was distant and unplanned, with threats and opportunities, but the spirit that powered through despite everything, it was one of hope and of thankfulness. That I am still here to write my stories is one of good fortune and the great providence and grace of God.

I count my blessings and much as I would have liked to make a greater celebration of this milestone in blogging like I did when it reached a decade, I might just do this quietly and begin to write new chapters of great adventures of life, love, and loving.

This blog would not exist without its readership and support from so many through the years, some readers I know and have become friends with, many are acquaintances, but most are totally unknown, yet they leave footprints and for their custom, I am grateful. Life is a journey, and the experience is what makes our stories, the snippets sometimes become blogs, as in my case.

Here’s to the next great celebration, whatever and whenever. Shalom! Shalom!  

Decade Blogs - Roundup V - All the 35 Blogs and Thanks (January 2014)

Saturday 2 December 2023

Thought Picnic: Knowing love as love indeed

Loving love

One of the joys of living is to know that you are loved, and there are many loves to think about, some you experience from the beginning from people who have brought you into the world, their joy and their responsibility become the care you get as you begin to understand the world around you.

In the process, you find out about love, love from above that begins to give direction and purpose, learning and appreciating that love is a process of education and re-evaluation, if only we could trust in that love enough to know that everything would be fine, regardless.

The love we find

Then, the love we find, some that seem to be good wanes with time or transforms itself into a new kind of relationship, nice and friendly, built on the knowledge we have acquired of each other that lasts decades and more. Best friends of a rare kind, confidantes of a special type, of whom your flaws are a matter of discretion, your failings are never highlighted, and before whom you can do no wrong.

Your heart might have passed through many hands, massaged at times, squeezed by experience, even hurt, and dropped in the quagmire of questioning and possibly despair, which obviously becomes the stuff of other stories.

A beautiful love

Then that heart gets caressed by the most tender hands, your ears tickled by the kindest singing of words that lift you into ecstasy, in the embrace that you have committed yourself to is something that no clear explanation can be found for. In that love, you find a new meaning, the sense of adventure that becomes the realisation of dreams so sweet and beautiful.

I think about it every time as it traverses distance and realms, I know that I have a love that makes me smile, that makes me laugh, that keeps me going knowing that our fears will melt away into hopes that materialise beyond anything we ever imagined. I live for the days of love unbridled, untrammelled, uninhibited, and unashamed.

Yes, I am in love and I am blessed with an amazing lover.

Friday 1 December 2023

World AIDS Day - 2023

So many friends I lost

I have lost many friends to HIV/AIDS, the first person I met who had HIV and was released from prison in France on compassionate grounds was trying to write his story with no idea of what time he had left. I had gone to help him out, on his computer; he passed on in late 1991.

Another was an opera buff, full of life, an exciting conversationalist with a predilection to a certain type. A very good friend that I had known for just over 3 years. When we gathered for his 37th birthday, it was both a joyful party celebrating his survival and a sombre meeting that suggested we might not have another. A few months later, he had a two-page spread of a tribute-cum-obituary in the Guardian in 1994.

I guess from the late 1990s, people were not as scared of HIV, and medications were coming on-stream to deal with the worst vestiges of HIV or the progression into AIDS if the issues were attended to promptly.

Change and change together

In 2000, I emigrated to the Netherlands, and I also met many people who were living with HIV all around Europe. They seem to keep a low profile when they fell ill, and then they returned to the scene usually to tell of their ordeal and their escape from tragedy.

Also, especially with young men, some on receiving a diagnosis literally gave up and were ready to end their lives. I found myself in the role of someone who gave a new perspective to things that it was an opportunity to consider a new lease of life that makes a difference for themselves and others. Many of them are thriving and are thankfully still with us today.

When in September 2002, I received an HIV+ result, I vacillated between a fatalistic view of things and a progressively positive perspective. I had determined it would not be the cause of my demise much as I did not attend to the issues that might arise.

I sought a miraculous touch

I probably wanted something miraculous than consequential medical intervention. I attribute that sense to the kind of religious beliefs I had mostly been exposed to.

To that end, as my health began to deteriorate with the advent of AIDS in the time from mid-2008 onwards, I felt I was still doing fine until what presented as athlete’s foot was determined to be an aggressive skin cancer, kaposi’s sarcoma. Now, that was life-threatening, and in September 2009 I came upon the full diagnosis that was treatable if I responded to the treatment or in the words of my consultant, I probably had only 5 weeks to live.

My response to the treatment from medical observation was by its rapidity from arresting AIDS, clearing up the skin lesions and fungating tumours, and bringing my viral load to undetectable levels, miraculous. My body was saved, but everything else lost, that I had to start all over again.

What works, works well

In that time, I lost other good friends who had HIV to other attendant ailments that might or may not have been related to HIV.

I am fortunate and grateful, and the antiretroviral medication works for me, I have been on the same regimen for over 13 years with no need or inclination to change it for anything else. My biannual checkups keep a view on all the internal and organ functions allowing my medical team to address issues with alacrity.

Obviously, there is the issue of stigma usually borne of fear and ignorance, you still need to be careful who you reveal your status to, especially where you are not aware of their understanding of developments and messages that now attend to the living with HIV.

My thoughts on World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day for me is a day of recognition and remembrance; the many amazing lives lost in their prime, the stories that did not get told, and the suffering that happened in the private and public compounded by prejudice and discrimination. The triumph of humanity over adversity and the celebration of life beyond infirmity and tragedy.

Most of all, it is one of possibilities; HIV is not a death sentence, it is the beginning of the answer to the question about living a fulfilling, glorious, and impactful life. For that, I want to tell stories, even better stories, and the best stories that Brian and I can write and tell together.

World AIDS Day – To life and living well.