Monday 25 March 2024

Thought Picnic: Is blood really thicker than water?

Does blood matter?

“Blood is thicker than water.” Said a close relation of mine after I informed them of the visit of a couple, I knew from being related to them. I responded, “Communication is thicker than blood which is evidently thicker than water.”

Communication, engagement, and interest matter, it does not have to be through being able to communicate in material things, but the just checking on people, their welfare and wellbeing is of great consequence. It suggests you see more in them than the perfunctory.

Do I matter at all?

I recall one Sunday afternoon about thirty years ago when I met an old secondary school classmate on the train. As I acknowledged him, I did not get a greeting or any engagement, his first comment was, “Where do you church?” I cannot remember if I responded in any way, but I never wanted anything to do with him anymore.

Years after, he was picking up his daughter from school when I saw him outside a train station, I made my excuses about rushing off somewhere else and that kind of indifference has been such that when he was promoting an album in a later blooming of a music career, I observed the development alone and nothing else.

Do they care a hoot?

Further to this are those who make assumptions when they call you out of the blue. That was last week, nothing was asked of things they might have known before about me or my current situation. They just assumed and were expecting a confirmation of their beliefs that were much further from reality than could be imagined.

Obviously, I was remembered and contacted because they were interested in involving me in a family celebration, and if conversation and communication had been cultivated and maintained, I would have found it difficult not to attend, grace the occasion, and honour the celebrant. You cannot reap benefits or rewards from indifference.

Does anyone want to know?

Indeed, I have kept to myself because at times you do not want everyone in your business including those who believe they should be in your business or have some knowledge of what you are experiencing at any point in time. What I choose to volunteer here is probably available to a global audience, but the deeper elements of things would require someone to make the effort to communicate.

I am very grateful to those who have genuinely reached out to me to ask about my welfare, not because it is transactional, even if at one point there was means and opportunity to attend to many needs along with helping them out. In adversity, you know those who are your friends and well, the fair-weather ones too.

Do they see you?

One does not need to keep a journal of these things, the memory rarely suffers the amnesia of an absence of mind, Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Just think of the situation where they said little, did nothing, and made you feel disconsolate and rueful of your circumstances.

Know who to keep in mind, who to keep in prayers, who to keep in contact with and who to appreciate does not have a part in your life, not because you mean nothing to them, you are just not on either their short-range or long-range radar, your invisibility to them is why you think they are indifferent. It is not a bad thing to move on, if you’re out of sight, set your sight on other things.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Body talk and blessings

The things that wear well

About a week ago, I got sent a picture taken at an event I attended about 3 decades ago, I was both shocked and surprised as I did not know the picture existed.

How I have changed, in all that time and remain more or less the same. I guess one of the things striking about the picture was the jacket I was wearing then and to think that I not only still have the jacket, but it also fits well, I wore it to church just 3 Sundays ago.

That is durability for you, the good sense of spending money on good quality that lasts. Clothes, shoes, hats, umbrellas, or accessories like a pair of binoculars, and I can point to stuff that I bought in the 90s that is wearable or useful today.

The measures that remain true

The other matter is the body, how our bodies change or the way we work on ensuring the body remains fit and trim if you can put the essential work into it.

It is my weight that bothers me more than anything else and then the need to ensure my tummy does not distend and become protuberant.

Except for when I lost 25% of my weight during a bout of cancer, I have kept my weight within 5kg of 83kg, preferring to weigh on the lower side rather than the upper side for a height of 183cm or six feet. In the shops, it appears they do not expect someone with a 32” (81.3cm) waist to be tall, I need according to our UK measurements, a 34” (86.4cm) inside leg.

It is a great blessing

It is a struggle to find that fitting off-the-peg, Brian who is trimmer and taller can wear my trousers, he just needs one more hole in the belt, I think. He always looks so cute beside me.

I do wonder how people cope with the excess that they carry around, the belaboured breathing and other encumbrances that are associated with tending towards obesity.

Maybe I have just been blessed with a body that sticks close to form, even my neck has stuck to 16.5” (42cm) for as long as I can remember.

In everything, I am thankful and blessed be the name of the Lord.

Saturday 16 March 2024

Thought Picnic: The spirit of living

In spirit of spirit

Spirit, beyond the being that we essentially are is that force of life that creates the situations and pathways that become the testimonies of gratitude and thankfulness we get to tell.

Enlivening spirit is the power and vision of hope, I saw it on the day that I received news of a condition that devastated the community to which I belong over 21 years ago, for against the stark contrast of foreboding and the mountain of impossibility that loomed in the foreground, I saw the light of dawn that said the story was not ending with the news I had just heard.

The spirit of revelation

The knowledge I have gained and the way I find myself reviewing that quantum of legacy in the face of new experiences is such that I am grateful that opening my mind to new perspectives brings new learning, insight, and wisdom to engender change.

One big lesson I have learnt is not to sit in the cocoon of a revelation for too long, every revelation belongs to an instant and a time frame, and it may not outlive its usefulness, but between the immutable that governs our faith and the changing that is the witness of our lives, a new light would always need to be shone on a situation.

When light is incidental on a prism, the beauty of the light is only realised in movement, the movement of the prism and the changing of your viewpoint and perspective, the light, the source of knowledge and inspiration remaining the same.

The revelations that gave me calmness in another period of adversity did not give me peace when brought to bear in other circumstances. Meditation has to be continuous as revelation needs to be renewed refuelling us for another journey in life.

The spirit of living

Coming back to spirit, it is no pleasure going through any period of adversity, difficulty, or incapacity, you almost feel that the world is closing in on you. Then sometimes, you must close yourself to the world around you and settle in the darkness and dampness of the soil in which you have been buried as seed.

A seed in the soil, watered by revelation and warmed by hope, sets in motion the cycle of life, new life, the sprouting of growth and the promise of a harvest in due time. I wonder at the spirit of life that sustains the health of our mortal being, the hopes we have, and the revelations that let us dare to dream, and then believe that those dreams can come true.

I marvel at the spirit of joy that lifts us above everything that deigns to hold us back and feigns at domineering us when we are more usually clueless about who we are and why we exist to reign and overcome. I am a spirit, I have the Spirit in me, and my spirit is triumphant as I find my place by the grace given to me to live and hide in God who is spirit and whom I seek to worship in spirit and in truth.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Thinking of the wisdom of crowds

Lifted from the doorman’s view

It may now be the stuff of legend, but I cannot find the story I read some time ago about how lifts or elevators came to be built on the outside of buildings. Apparently, a prominent hotel planned to close for a long time to install elevators that required punching holes through existing floors, the construction debris rendering the hotel uninhabitable for the duration of the project.

The architects had their plans up and things were ready to go, which would have put the hotel staff out of work for months. One of the doormen heard of these plans and somewhat quipped about why they had to close the hotel and whether it was not possible to consider building the lift on the outside, thereby keeping most of the hotel business open for the duration of the said project.

From hearing to using

Someone who could influence things heard this suggestion and got the architects and designers to work on this idea which as the doorman suggested was a better way to keep the hotel going while the new lift was being installed. After the completion of the project, the outdoor lift became a draw for the clientele and the public alike.

The wisdom of crowds in a broader sense is not so much about the multitude of ideas that come in when a situation or problem is posed, but the ability to sift through the many viewpoints to see what is viable.

Some organisations get advantages out of this more than others in knowing how to pose the problem, managing the scope of those who can bring new perspectives and having the means to assess the viability through discovery, determination, development, design, deployment, and delightful.

The struggle toward delight

Delightful suggests that the outcome is beneficial, enjoyable, profitable, working, and could be improved upon with the knowledge and experience gained, and inspire to do other things.

Then again, the wisdom of crowds when not looked at pejoratively would mean one is open to new ideas by finding sources of new perspectives especially from those not steeped in the profession or expertise, in what might be both a new pair of eyes and ears brought into the conversation.

You have to wonder if you are afraid to see things differently and that your premises are challenged to the extent that you are persuaded to adopt a different stance or modify a concept to accommodate variance you had not heretofore considered. I think it is a healthy thing and where you find the opportunity to be involved in such a situation, engage it, embrace it, and learn from it.

Postscript: There are books and further academic and research work on The Wisdom of the Crowd, fallacies, crowdfunding, groupthink and so on, this blog is just a general viewpoint on some activity I was recently involved in.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Thought Picnic: As humans, we all do fail and fall

In life and its passing

Life is a series, a series of stories that includes the living and dying, the alive and dead, the enjoying and the suffering, all of which become the mix of humanity that sometimes we seem to forget that what we see and go through is not the only or most significant issue in the broader context of the communities with which we exist.

I had a call as the weekend closed out that a mutual acquaintance slightly older than us had passed on. It was sad news and it also brought to our memories an event that is definitive and seminal to how we all viewed each other.

We all sometimes fall

Then, in our youth, he could exercise disgust and revulsion with sententious persuasion to demand stringent adjustments under the threat of exposure and banishment. I became the villain of the situation that involved passions that were attended to rather than worked against.

We went our separate ways, the picture in my mind of him captured in celluloid of that time, any updates coming through other conversations with my friend who kept contact all through, as they were classmates and to a degree, friends of a sort.

Later in life as we got established in our professions and careers, he met with challenging integrity issues wherein he was found wanting. We heard rumours but were unaware of the details until an Internet search revealed more than we expected.

For weakness and strength

We had a secret about him just as he had a secret about us, but we were not into trading these secrets to besmirch or adjure, nor did we think of standing in judgement. What we learnt from that discovery was we are all fallible, to a lesser or greater extent, we might face a different range of consequences from just personal conviction to judicial conviction. We having endured the guilt and shame of the former.

Whether that secret died with him or was shared with someone, we cannot tell. Not that we are afraid that a revelation might lead to the loss of face even as amid our regret and sorrow at his demise, the lesser of our better nature might have felt relief at one less person with a secret.

Another Internet search gave us a bit more background to the man as we reminisced about the good, the abilities, the successes, and the life of the man. For how we have been impacted and influenced by the many we encounter, we can be grateful for having others share in our stories.

May his gentle soul rest in peace.

Sunday 10 March 2024

A Traditional Mothering Sunday

And off to church, I go

Being on the steward’s rota today, I left for church early having checked if the weather, though cold, would also be affected by rain. The prognosticators and readers of the tea leaves had surmised that the times to expect rain would coincide with when I was fully sheltered at church, however, it being Manchester, you should always be prepared.

As I walked to church, I took the opportunity to conduct a video conversation with Brian and we pleasantly bantered until I was about to step through the south door main entrance to the cathedral.

It being Mothering Sunday and I have much of an affinity to the traditional than the emerging trend of Mother’s Day, it was one or the other part, I needed to fulfil. Essentially, Mothering Sunday is the Sunday you go to worship in the church wherein you were baptised, failing which you make a beeline to attend the cathedral or mother church of the diocese.

The baptisms of note

Now, I was first baptised the Anglican way with the sprinkling of water at a baptismal font just 3 weeks short of 49 years ago at St. Luke’s (Anglican) Church in Jos. Suffice it to say, that is a long way from here and quite a distant past in my memory, I was just over 8 years old and it was an activity initiated by my parents than one I understood the significance of. Apart from the certificate of baptism preserved and intact from that long ago, I recall nothing more.

12 years later, there was a river, and I was among charismatic Christians. Then I had a better understanding of what the purpose of a baptism was apart from being fully persuaded of the significance of it. I was fully immersed in water as I pinched my nose, then pulled up out of the water in a symbolic demonstration of Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Whilst the new birth is instantaneous in terms of whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved Romans 10:13, the realisation of walking in the newness of life is a process of learning, failing, relearning, appreciating human frailty and the preponderance of grace, along with jettisoning the bondage to the law through moving from works to receiving and accepting the free gift of life-affirming grace. It has been harder for me than the words seem to state, the mercifulness and lovingkindness of God assures me, it is possible.

In the second instance of my baptism without contemning the purpose of the first, we had a gathering of believers without a building in the traditional sense of a church as we are in school. Unlike in the Anglican Communion or the Established Church, Mothering Sunday in terms of revisiting a church where one was baptised is impossible. It was contemporaneously attached to time, manner, and place, the rest is recalled from memory.

On duty and then discussion

Welcoming worshippers into the cathedral, I handed out the service pamphlets before taking my seat at the start of the processional hymn and then at the offertory hymn, I took up my assigned aisle to take the collection. Later, I ushered the congregants to receive the communion and my duties were completed after I helped an old lady who had some issues with tickets, she thought she had purchased, but could not find evidence of the transaction being completed.

The weekly Lenten talks started soon after the social gathering to have tea and coffee with biscuits. The gathering allows us to meet people we know and new attendees with all the general conversation that ensues.

We are using the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2024, titled Tarry Awhile by Dr Selina Stone which comes in book, Kindle (electronic book), and Audible (audio book) format. It is a study of black spirituality that inspires quite engaging conversation and discussion in the Lenten talks group.

I have read and listened to some challenging and insightful bits of perspective and theological discourse that I cannot adequately cover in this blog. If you can get the book, you will be mightily blessed by what you learn in the process.

The Village Church

Getting home, I did not have more than 90 minutes to spare before heading out for the bimonthly Village Church around the corner from mine that takes place on the second and fourth Sunday of the month. Even though I felt like I should get on my bed and snuggle under my duvet, this community service that attends to the spiritual needs of the LGBTQ++ cohort under the auspices of the Church of England and supported by our bishops is a wonderfully enriching experience with an intimate feel that allows me the participation in the Holy Communion, twice on Sunday.

If anything, it is better recognised by the church that has in the past persecuted and castigated minority groups that Jesus Christ died for all and the purpose of the church is to give everyone access and facility to exercise their Christianity and spirituality without condemnation or judgement, and in particular, those that had before been hurt by traditions, denominations, churches, or the modern-day equivalent of the Pharisaic class. 

Friday 8 March 2024

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LXXIII

The pandemic’s long tail

The latest figures as of yesterday in the UK, we have 3,927 active cases of COVID-19 infections, this would suggest that someone is laid low, for them, the looming spectre of the pandemic is a grim reality that many seem to have forgotten because it is apparently out of mind and out of sight. [Worldometers: United Kingdom]

It is however without dispute that the world has changed perceptively in some cases or otherwise. I barely see anyone donning a mask, but the absence of someone I regularly see at some meeting place almost always suggests they have taken ill rather than having taken a holiday.

There have been no notifications for a vaccine booster yet as those who are immunosuppressed would be informed of the prospect for them to prepare. What I started during the pandemic and led to my discovery of Manchester was walking, and walking helps with a unique observation and perspective of my beautiful city, the people, the buildings, the events, and the changes.

The dangers with bicycles

Electric bicycles remain an enduring menace of lawlessness, the riders who no longer need to exert any physical energy in peddling their bicycles are totally oblivious to road traffic rules, and they run through red lights as if they do not exist. If they are not weaving through pedestrians whose precarious existence is exacerbated by being anywhere outside their homes, they would be run through at risk of life or limb.

I was leapfrogging over a bicycle left lying on the pavement as the rider went in for a KFC, later, it was someone who forgot to activate his phone’s camera to keep an eye on the path before him as he interacted with his phone with carefree abandon and just inches of bumping into another.

Working on a hybrid high

I suspect anyone putting out a job advertisement with the strict requirement of working in the office where the work can be done remotely is on a losing streak, they would get fleeting interest. The worst you can offer is a hybrid working scenario, and whilst we cannot expect to work from home permanently, the flexibility and the ability to negotiate those terms must be available or your vacancy would remain vacant.

The buildings, we have a construction site everywhere and cranes not of the avian type towering around the city lit up with colours just to prevent cranes from flying into them at night or we, the slightly taller people from hitting our heads when stumbling out of nightclubs totally inebriated that our minds are rivalling kites for height.

Milking us for every penny

In the completed buildings the shops that were a longer walk away are now at my doorsteps, the Starbucks that disappeared almost two years ago has now halved its distance from my door. I stopped shopping at Tesco when one of their managers installed anti-homeless spikes outside one of their stores in London. I guess all is forgiven now that it is too inconvenient to ignore the closeness of the new store, the distance is not enough to attract a charge of outraging public decency, if I left home with just a towel wrapped around my head.

Imagine not having to walk 3 kilometres for a small tub of taramasalata, though I won’t be spending an extra 30p on milk that goes for less at my local Sainsbury’s. Between online shopping through Amazon for Iceland produce, Aldi competes favourably on price for most of my needs, and Marks & Spencer when slightly indulgent, then Spar for just the comfort of a sweet tooth, what I need is an automated shopping trolley with the instincts and intelligence of a dog that respects voice commands, throw in robotic arms and it might well go and do the shopping while I occupy myself missing the life and wonder of my city. Probably a bad idea, except if it would bring those lawless bicycles to heel on our somewhat dangerous streets.

Thought Picnic: Between writing and speaking

Effective and polite conversation

The art of communication and more so the one of being effective at it matters a lot. Even for those of us schooled in the old-fashioned use of language in courtesy, respect, grammar, and correct address, we must not be tempted to dispose of it for the sheer ease and modernity that attends to current trends.

Whether it be letters, emails, or text messages, I follow some basic and critical rules. The form of address along with a greeting is essential. The statement and context are written with a style that respects both the correct use of grammar and punctuation, whichever language I choose to write in. The closing is properly made too.

Chains of email angst

In a recent series of back-and-forth emails where nothing seemed to be moving, we had generated an enviable email chain that would tire out a casual observer just as some frustration began to set in. I suggested we seek a resolution by telephone conversation to understand where the apparent miscommunication or misunderstanding was because we were getting no further along.

My feeling is that this suggestion prompted my interlocutor to review their workflows and processes after which certain ameliorations were made without conceding the fact that the issue was always on their side.

Suddenly, the shunted wagon of bureaucracy lethargic woke up in a fit of uncharacteristic vigour, trundling forward towards the realisation of intended or expected outcomes.

Words to any effect

One would not want to apportion blame as much as the admission of fault should not suggest a loss of face. Though the facility to admit wrong with the finery of language is hardly taught and acquired without extensive reading, especially of the classics.

I get commended for having a way with words and that my writing conveys my views better than my speech. At my most cantankerous I am neither eloquent nor articulate, and enunciation is good enough, I hope. Yet, where you have no opportunity to write, what you say and how you say it is the only device by which any listener might give due recognition.

Show me, seen it

A dual of a duel

What kind of conversation can one be having when certain questions are asked? One can imagine the duels of gentlemen from the past, but then each had a gun to hand to settle the matter. One needs to look at the brigandage of Westerns to appreciate it better.

One cowboy shows their hip with their gun holstered as the other prepares, and he is the fastest on the draw that probably lives to tell the tale. It is a quest to the death rather than initiating an opportunity for pleasure.

Obviously, there is a situation that has arisen from Internet chat in the last few decades and more recently dating apps, in which certain rather private elements of anatomy are shared for excitement, titillation, or revulsion, depending on your preference. The negotiation, which we must not suffer the detail of, can be interesting but much more should be left to the imagination than exploiting everything that nothing is left to discover.

Keeping treasures sacred

It is the shock of noticing something that you were presented with a quandary, in many cases, I have been forward to advise fellowmen to blow their noses, a colloquialism for doing up their trouser zippers, but where someone for their natural gifts wearing shorts has a wardrobe malfunction revealing much more than is expected, that presents a difficulty.

I guess that question is something along the lines of show me yours, but then before your thinking runs away into the abyss of impolite discourse, let’s just say you bought a bracelet that I also found myself prospecting for. Indeed, my inquiry might well be, show me yours and I will show you mine. You have to believe the innocence of this engagement; it is all I ask for.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

With Such Ruthless Efficiency?

Travelling by nature’s gift

One beautiful afternoon walking up Boulevard de Strasbourg in Paris, I noticed on both sides of this broad arterial route were shops purveying a wide variety of hair products catering to the African woman. More notably, were the hair extensions that I was made to believe came from the indigenous peoples of Brazil and India.

The exploitation of this resource and the middlemen that make money from this trade would be a study of world economies and how sources of extraction rarely benefit fully from the market of the produce or products.

The other unusual insight I gained from my observation was the way these indigenous people whose world is limited in its locality have inadvertently travelled the world with their gifts of beautifying customers in Paris, London, Lagos, or any other metropolis where the augmentation of natural hair demands these accoutrements.

Blog - Paris: Boulevard de l'Unpretty (February 2016)

Blog - Paris: Boulevard de l'Unpretty - Revisited. (August 2018)

Readers around the globe

I have had a blog for over 20 years, it started in Germany, I set up the domain in the Netherlands and I reside in the UK. I have posted from many locations and have been completely unaware of the reach of my blog in terms of readership apart from ballpark numbers of readers, locations, search terms, browsers used and so on.

For instance, looking at the statistics on my blog, I cannot account for why there is any interest in my blog from Iran or Cambodia and these are in the top 10 countries with readers from Nigeria coming behind these two countries in the last week. The fact is my blog is travelling to places I could never have imagined, garnering interest that I cannot explain, yet it somewhat engenders something relatable that is not done for engagement, influence, or monetary gain.

They happened upon my blog

Such is the experience I had yesterday when a renowned personality requested access to my résumé which I granted even as I pondered why ever they would make such a request. The follow on was the receipt of an email commending my blog and the work I had put into it for over two decades. They also referred to the fact that my career path which is totally at variance with my journaling and blog deserves deep respect and honour.

Apparently, I have maintained this blog with ruthless efficiency (their words), I only wish I had, as it is the kind of praise that comes to your hearing, and you find yourself looking around expecting it to have been directed at someone else rather than yourself.

My partner and my best friend have already started pointing fingers, “I told you so” said one, “You do not listen” intoned the other. When does self-deprecation morph into self-depreciation? You question your instincts as modesty remains the better virtue to self-promotion. Indeed, I do little to promote my blog, most of the traffic is organic. I have also kept intrusive and cluttering advertisements off it because it is not a commercial venture, nor do I intend it to evolve in that direction.

If like the hair extensions, I am like an indigenous woman who profits little apart from the knowledge that my hair, of which primarily I have none, adorns the heads of sophisticated women around the world, even for the praise and acknowledgement I have received, I would be both fulfilled and grateful. My blog is made up of many stories and I hope each day brings inspiration for another story. 

Friday 1 March 2024

We March

Going forward with nature

March always seems to present the month of beginnings when the signs of spring begin to show in nature and the days for the northern hemisphere begin earlier as the winter recedes into its seasonal twilight.

Then suddenly there could be a chilly blast with Siberia huffing and puffing over Europe with the vehemence of needing to tell us that she still exists. One year, I was in Berlin, and it was in the third week of April, it snowed. Gosh! It was depressing, as I got back home to Amsterdam, I booked a holiday to the Canary Islands.

Looking toward the warmth

March indeed has a spring to it, like we are about to march into something, a battle, an adventure, an experience, or all that together. We awaken from the slumber of Yuletide, and after the perceptively longest month of January, February grants a reprieve of love closely followed by the privations of Lent, a season of penitence and reflection is in full flow.

This year, everything is happening in March, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, in two Sundays, it is Mothering Sunday that has become commercialised and confused with Mother’s Day. We are also springing forward with the clocks on the last Sunday which is the last day of the month and Easter Sunday, what a time to be alive, like everything is in alignment in a leap year. British Summer Time begins.

Marching onward in triumph

Yet, we march on, full of hope and expectation, amazed by the beauty that gets revealed, the smells that hit our olfactory organs, and the singing of the birds chirping away giving our eardrums a new sensation that lifts the spirits with warmth and appreciation.

In each of us, we find a blessing if we dare to live and thrive, the newness in every morning signalling the God of the universe has us in His embrace, our mouths filled with testimonies for which words cannot be found except by some Pentecostal utterance because we have been overwhelmed with goodness.

Knowing that God is not against us but on our side always and fighting for us means that this march is a triumphal one. Let us all the noise we can as we joyfully celebrate this gift of life, grace, and victory.