Wednesday 19 June 2024

Thought Picnic: How normalcy helps the healing process

We need something holding up

Imagine being on a boat in a storm, the boat getting battered by waves and buffeted by the winds, as long as the boat is not disintegrating, you will probably stay on the boat with the hope that you can weather the storm.

It is the same with many other situations in life, during times of fragility and vulnerability you want to know that something is constant and sturdy. You appreciate the little joys and pleasures being thankful for the snatches of happiness that come your way.

With regards to others, the desire is that they are not also falling apart just as your world seems to be falling apart, they would sometimes create the normalcy you need in support, succour, encouragement, understanding, and comfort.

Little sacrifices go a long way

Every tendency to be impulsive is put aside so as not to cause upset, offence, or rupture. Knowing that in the earthquakes of living some things are immovable given the relationships you have gives you a sense that the turmoil is limited in its range and when put in perspective, things are not as bad as they seem.

Obviously, it is a bit much to ask that others abandon their individuality and engagements for you, though some would commit to more than that to help take your mind off things, they avoid where the many minor issues when looked at together seem like a pile on of the upsetting and the consequential.

Upset and offence is easy without care

You want to ask for a small thing and hope you have been heard. Yet, human nature, in its various inclinations of satisfying lust, want, or need can come across as uncaring, wilful, obdurate, and selfish.

That minor shift becomes a major upset, and you begin to lose essential concentration on the particular because the peripheral that you hoped was unshifting has become part of the storm indistinguishable from the rest and impactful in its effect.

Probably people do not realise how significant their role is in helping maintain some normalcy for others undergoing issues, even sometimes to their own detriment, for in keeping things as they are they become part of the healing process others need.

Men's things - X

Registers of choice and fate

Registers are interesting repositories of information indicating where you might belong, in a class, with a group, by choice or automatically. Your curiosity about registers is to determine what is stored about you and could correct incorrect or changed information.

It starts with birth registrations that include your full name, the names and occupations of your parents, when and where you were born, and the day the entry was placed in the register.

With life, you will probably have to register a birth, a marriage, and a death, the first and last is usually done by someone else. In school, you might end up on a register with a roll call to determine who is present or absent. As an adult where any semblance of a democracy exists, we might say a voters’ register.

Another register that matters to me is predicated on religious faith; being in the Lamb’s Book of Life having accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and Saviour. “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (NLT) [BibleHub: Revelation 21:27]

Not this register at any time

In my meeting last week, it was said in passing and I heard the nurse right; it was one register to which I would never have wanted my name appended, and my utmost desire is to be taken off that register with the testimony of an all-clear having had a prior proof of a diagnosis.

Yes, there is a National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service and with a cancer diagnosis, the person is automatically registered, to track how cancer is managed nationally. You can seek with apparent difficulty to have your information removed by opting out. [CRUK: What is cancer registration?]

While I would rather not answer present if my name is called out of this register, I appreciate that when it comes to cancer treatment, the book of knowledge that is brought to bear on any new diagnosis comes from the long trail of studies, treatments, observations, and the lives of those who succumbed to the disease and the many who survived too.

Registered for better outcomes

That is why when in a consulting room, I welcome students to participate in the conversation. I engage them fully and try to paint a picture of how some of the wonders of progressive developments in medicine, have helped deal with disease that once was a life sentence but is manageable for some, curable for others, or controllable for many.

Sometimes, the prospects and options for dealing with men’s things when biopsies return positive results can be daunting. My decision is not to dwell on this but to encourage myself with messages about healing, living, wellness, and strength.

What I do with the knowledge of a cancer diagnosis is everything, and what I intend to have, is a better story than what any prognosis suggests. The first step to this is checking on your men’s things, going for the requisite tests, attending all appointments to discuss any issues and giving yourself the early fighting chance of knowing you have the choice of a possible cure.

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Blog - Men's things - III

Blog - Men's things - IV

Blog - Men's things - V

Blog - Men's things - VI

Blog - Men's things - VII

Blog - Men's things - VIII

Blog - Men's things - IX

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LXXV

Shopping around for pricks

At lunchtime today I had been phoning around to find a pharmacy, chemist, apothecary, or even a shamanist grotto offering the NHS Seasonal Vaccination for COVID-19, normally termed the booster shot.

I found a chemist location that did not have a pharmaceutical reference in their name suggesting they could give the shot today when I called yesterday afternoon. As I did not want another wasted journey, I called again this morning and was told, that if I arrived before 5:00PM, I could get the jab.

It would have been a 35-minute walk, but I got on a bus and the area looked familiar enough even as it is miles away from where I live. When I got there, I was asked to sit in a waiting area where I was the only one for the vaccine booster.

Those were big bulging lips

Soon, a young lady, trim and straining to be polite came out and asked for my name and other particulars, I noticed that all my data was presented on the computer she was working from. Her makeup was light, but it appeared she had gone for the prominent lip-boosted look, highly exaggerated and heavy with lip gloss, you could say the lips belonged on a Barbie doll, but what do I know about ladies’ lips?

The section where I was to be given the jab was in the front of the store by the window with a one-way screen, you could see out but those on the street could not see in. Sometimes, you need to be convinced that is really the case. People may not see the way you see things, and that includes lips too.

This would be the 8th COVID-19-related prophylactic jab, 6 of the Pfizer type and 2 of the Moderna type mRNA injections.

She did not introduce the hypodermic needle with the customary, “Just a scratch,” that you hear nurses say when you are about to take the prick of a needle. It is a thinner needle, and the deed is done before you know it.

It went into my upper left arm, and in the little banter we had after being injected she said people had been coming from far away to get the vaccine. There is an inventory management issue as not all listed chemists have stocks to serve their communities.

A busman living for trouble

Back at the bus stop for my return journey, there was a bus in a minute, and it did arrive as I tried to wave it down to stop. The driver looked in my direction and shrugged, not even slowing down at all. I overlooked the slight as there was another bus scheduled to arrive, but someone standing at the bus stop with me and another walking up to the bus stop who put out his arm to wave it to a stop both said the bus had enough time to stop for me.

Much as I said I was not bothered, they read more into the event, apart from calling the driver unprintable names, they both indicated the driver was racist, these were two white men who had witnessed something probably unfair, cruel, or unjust, and they were quite riled up. The other man who attempted to wave down the bus said he would report the issue.

At which point, I posted a tweet to the Bee Network that runs the bus services in Greater Manchester just as the next and now, double-decker bus arrived and stopped for me to board. The jab seemed to exacerbate a sense of tiredness affecting my concentration, and as that wore off, it is just the slight pain in the area that suggests I had my dermis punctured earlier today.

Monday 17 June 2024

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - LXXIV

Out of sight, but still about

You rarely hear of it anymore, that is the Coronavirus or COVID-19, but to think it has disappeared totally is to be deluded beyond reason. Even if you do not follow the statistics, there are signs, notifications, or indications that we still need some precautions.

I cannot say for what reason, but I have noticed seemingly healthy young people donning facemasks and those are not passing for balaclavas envisaging criminal behaviour nor is this observed on the typically Far-East Asian cohort who have no qualms about masking and this before it became an accessory for infectious disease control here.

Beckoning for a reckoning

Then obviously the notices pushed to our mobile phones for those over a certain age or are immunosuppressed. This tranche of vaccine boosters is to run until the 30th of June, but you cannot get a pharmacy to walk in for a shot.

Apart from the fact that there is none in the city centre where outlets like Boots or Superdrug could have been engaged, I guess there is no incentive for other chemists to participate. Last week, I made my way to one chemist that had unusually long opening hours and they had no supplies and were not expecting any for up to two weeks hence.

The lesson learnt was to call first before embarking on my journey and it seems the shortage is widespread, they are not inviting anyone to attend today and the possibility of being able to deliver tomorrow is speculative, at best.

Is anyone giving the jab?

The apparent lack of coordination between the drive to get us boosted and the absence of stocks to meet the demand is, in a way, redolent of the legacy of the NHS that the Tories have superintended in 14 years. However, few would take notice of that reality.

If I do get a booster anytime soon, it would be the first 2 vaccines and the 5th booster and I would rather have it following the advice than listen to the unqualified with their conspiracy theories about COVID-19, the vaccines, and much else. The greater culprits in this atrocity and disservice to public health seem to be religious leaders.

It still behoves all to keep safe and I do have a stash of facemasks in my rucksack for times when it just seems smart and prudent to wear one.

Friday 14 June 2024

Thought Picnic: Choose your travel companions carefully

Sharing with the caring

Choose your travel companions carefully, they are usually rarely blood-related but the bonding that grows between you gives a daring sense of adventure that you won’t wish for another to share the experience.

The journeys you venture on in life come with perils and triumphs, you must think about who would support and succour you first in the wilderness and long before you get to the city comforts that mask the true nature of your company.

Know the wolf cries

Fairweather friends are many, feigning interest, love, and engagement, sometimes our discernment and the ability to be a judge of character deserts us and in the process, we face unexpected betrayal and hurt. To know the signs early is to be blessed beyond measure.

When you are following someone, do not follow them too close so that you cannot cut yourself loose when they are determined to end up in a ditch. You do not have to be collateral out of blind loyalty. Fall because of your misstep rather than out of using another’s eyes.

Know the person indeed

If your friends are your relations, you are probably lucky, in every case. judge a person on their own character and integrity and avoid allowing the corporate trust in an environment of allegiances like a place of worship, business, or a club to vouch for your association. Many have had their fingers burnt in being taken advantage of by malevolent people covered by community settings.

Be wary of sycophancy or bias, take the compliments and test the sincerity of anything that attempts to puff you up, between friends, honesty, frankness, openness, and bluntness does crucially matter. You need to know who would pull you out of the fire. They will always stand with you yet will not let you get away with bad behaviour. We all need accountability partners, cherish them with love, honour and respect.

Choose your travel companions wisely, that can be the difference between getting to your destination or perishing along the way.

Having a spirit of gratitude

Guy Penrod - Count Your Blessings (Live) Gaither Music TV.

With tears of joy

I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.Helen Keller

There are variations of the quote above attributed to others in sermons, books, or articles, however, Helen Keller was profound in the fact that she was both blind and deaf from the age of 19 months old.

What is significant about this saying is having a great sense of gratitude regardless of your circumstances, because there is almost definitely someone quite worse off than you are.

Sometimes, I just watch one of those talent shows to see surprising performances from amazing and extraordinary people who have overcome serious adversity to showcase their talent before what eventually is a global audience. The times I have cried for joy on their behalf are innumerable as you reflect on the goodness of life you enjoy.

Join with the blessed

Learning not to be pitiful, but exceedingly thankful is a state of mind; maybe even the grace of being able to put things in perspective. Giving not too much weight to what is going wrong when you can lift your spirits with what is going right.

Knowing how to count your blessings, great and small, naming them one by one like the old hymn says, can make all the difference to how your day is going. 

I take much encouragement from the beauty and support that surrounds me, Brian, who is ever loving and unstintingly filling my ears with loveliness, friends who have my back through thick and thin, God, my rock, my shield, my shelter, my comfort, and my strength. [Hymnary.org Count Your Blessings]

When the going gets tough, and the outlook seems rough, you feel you have had enough. “Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.”

Thursday 13 June 2024

Thought Picnic: My strength in faith over adversity

And so I learnt

It was information I was already privy to due to indiscretions and the mismanagement of information from departments first and then blamed on computer systems. I suppose, unlike my first encounter with this experience, I was not going to approach it with denial and allow it to take hold to the point of a life-threatening emergency.

At the same time, I contacted the hospital to remonstrate the unfortunate abuse of process, someone should have been proofreading and assessing any communication before the send button was pressed.

I got an apologetic call from the doctor with the offer to have the said indication redacted. Well, how helpful is erasing information you have already read when you are not living in the reality of a “Men In Black” movie?

I know the truth

In any case, I took the information with the view that the battles ahead have been won for me, and my trust in Him will make a way. I will call those things that are not as though they were, rather than call the things that are as if they were not. [BibleHub: Romans 4:17]

This is usually the confusion of faith we need to unlearn, relearn, understand and reaffirm. In matters of life and death, you want to know who and what you believe and be sure that you are believing right.

On the cross of Calvary, He bore our sin and sins. Still, before He was nailed to the cross of agonising death at the hands of the Roman state, He took stripes, a relentless whipping that tore strips of flesh off his body that according to Scripture and observation, he was impossible to behold for the wounds on him. Those wounds represent every manner of disease and illness that visits humankind in its mildness and extremity. [Bible Gateway: Isaiah 53:1-5 (NLT)]

I know I’m healed

Jesus Christ was spoken of by the prophets, and when He came to the world, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Matthew 8:16. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” (NLT) [BibleHub: Matthew 8:17] Healing is present and available as it was then and it will be until He returns, I live in the truth of what Jesus did for me.

That is why I am not afraid but emboldened to face the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, and the years ahead. I will constantly be encouraged by the Word of God, and by the anointed preaching of the Word on faith, healing, living, and prospering in my soul and body.

I will frame my own world by the Word of God [Hebrew 11:3]. This is His will for me, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (KJV) [BibleHub: 3 John 2]

Men's things - IX

It is serious stuff

My decision to share my experience of what men face with prostate cancer is one I do not treat with any levity. You will read humour and maybe laugh at my expression; it does not take away from the seriousness of what a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the prostate might present.

Cancer is part of the human experience, it does not have to define your outlook as the end of the road of your existence, the greatest battle you will have is in your mind rather than in the prospects, the treatment, your recovery, and much else. If you believe at the receipt of such news that you will die, you quite likely would, if you choose that you will live, you have everything to live for.

Take the fine part

I speak as someone who 15 years ago received a cancer diagnosis with the prospect in the words of my consultant who had the weight of medical expertise on his side of his prognosis. He said, “We can treat this, but it depends on how your body can take the treatment, if you can tolerate it, you’ll be fine, otherwise, you probably have 5 weeks.”

I took the fine part and left the weeks part in the dust of history, and that has become my testimony of living and living well.

All with a friend

For my appointment to get the results of the transperineal prostate biopsy that was taken a month ago, I already had a good idea of the situation, the rest was to understand what they had observed towards the conclusions they would draw which would give me a handle on what I need to address.

We boarded the Uber taxicab, my friend had come as support because I was invited to bring someone to accompany me, when he called me to confirm, I was almost with the mind to tell him not to be too bothered, but he came over and I am glad for his support.

The driver asked where we were going and I said the Peter Mount Building, and it is ironic that a building where men are checked for men’s things, where manliness, masculinity, and patriarchy meet the humbling of disease has mount in the name. Surely, someone is having a joke at our expense.

Balls, nuts, very salty

He knew where the building was at as I told him, I had been there before because someone had a staplegun to my goolies, a month before. I guess I used goolies as a collective for everything pertaining to men’s things in that area. He asked if I still had them, I do, as my friend opined about how the man rumoured to only have one brought the world to ruin in World War II.

The driver half took the hint that he needed to check his men’s things and we all agreed that we do not talk freely enough about men’s things to have the prospect of early diagnoses if anything is awry. He said he was going to spend the rest of the day thinking of Akin’s nuts, I suggested he should try them salty. We all laughed until our sides ached. I was dressed as if I was going to a party.

Cut to the chase

Arriving quite early, the waiting room was busy, I took a seat and occupied myself with studying a map of the west of Manchester, I even found an error on the map. Soon, I was called into a consulting room where I showed the consultant that I was already aware, for over a week, of the information he was about to share, and that he should cut to the chase.

Blog - The note that crept in

Without dwelling on the point, we discussed what the future might be, from a medical perspective, and I thought of a different future blessed by what my belief grants me. Even as I positively attended to the information, I felt a little tremor in my hands, partly out of shock that you will naturally expect and at the same time, you must overwhelm the circumstances with a greater sense of personal and Godly hope.

Leaflets, pamphlets, and booklets later, we departed for a hearty brunch. Please, have a brief look and feel at your men’s things, the earlier you know, the better your prospects. I will continue to write about this. It is well with my soul and yours.

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Blog - Men's things - III

Blog - Men's things - IV

Blog - Men's things - V

Blog - Men's things - VI

Blog - Men's things - VII

Blog - Men's things - VIII

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Faith is making the impossible normal

Take off the limits

To dare to dream the impossible when the dreams are inspired by God who declares through Jesus Christ that with God nothing shall be impossible to him that believes is one key aspect of faith that becomes very personal to those who have experiences in life when looking back cannot explain but fully appreciate with gratitude that they have lived impossible dreams.

I am constantly challenging the frame of reference within which I exist about its limitations, the creeping claws of doubt, disbelief, and despair seek to clamp you down into the perfunctory, the crimps offer what is run-of-mill, as you limp along in life with nothing exceptional for a story or an existence.

Latch unto the extraordinary

Then from within you rises a storm of protest, defying every known physical, mental, or structural boundary, telling you that the lived experience of people who did wonders and told of miracles is not the stuff of fantasy left in the unimaginative construct of the cessationist who has determined and declared that modern day has no need of miraculous living.

Be it the ideas that blow the mind and move the footsteps of mankind in strides too grand to fathom, the thoughts that defy every natural force, the belief that you can write a better story that even fiction would struggle to express, or the knowledge that with God on your side, everything is rigged in your favour, just because it is God’s will and it exists because God so loved the world and for that, He gave us Jesus Christ.

Think the impossible

I feed my thoughts with inspiration and revelation, mountains are to be moved, and problems will pass into the memory of insignificance with the triumph wrought on the cross and lived by faith in God. The insurmountable is reduced to a plain and a man given just 5 weeks to live at prognosis is writing blogs of a miraculous existence some 15 years later. It is no achievement of mine, just the lovingkindness of God, great mercy, amazing favour, and a love that no words can satisfactorily describe.

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. [BibleHub: I Corinthians 2:9] What God has prepared for my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my mind to imagine is predicated on my willingness to believe that God can do everything I can find examples and references about God in the Bible that has been done and duly recorded, with the promise that even greater things than those documented things are possible.

Live a different testimony

It is a world ready to be lived in, not many have found the spaceship of faith piloted by Jesus Christ and facilitated by the Holy Spirit to enjoy the stupendous splendour of that world. Until my last breath, I seek to walk and bask the in reality of that world, for that is why I exist.

Monday 10 June 2024

Dancing with their babies

Read with Parental Guidance

Repartee is an art of conversation that is quick, witty, and usually humorous, to establish it effectively is to leave such nuggets of memory that cannot be forgotten even as in your retelling of it, you might lose the effect it had at the point of your original hearing.

It is not essentially truth or fact, it could be an intelligent or mocking play on words, the knowledge of geography or any other thing is not particular when it is ideas set alight in directions that cannot predetermined. As for innuendo, there might be plenty of it, you take your rib-cracking laughs and your jaw-aching cackles to confession at a much later time.

In a conversation that might have been overheard, who can say who was involved? Selby and Niko have these exchanges all the time with one accusing the other of leading the other astray, the saint is further away from the sinner even as the former presents innocence better.

And so…

Selby: I trust he had a great experience in Kenya, I’m sure he has very interesting stories to tell you all about.

Niko: I don’t want to hear his stories. The thought is shocking enough. He won’t be able to complete confession in the allotted time.

Selby: [Much later, recalling the tail end of that conversation] I laughed when I read your response.

Niko: He was most likely at the receiving end of some Masai Mara.

Selby: They are probably still jumping in him. [If this needs explaining, you do not need to know.]

[Niko is in shock and laughter at the same time, every corruptly shocking interpretation of whatever he meant paints the situation in too vivid detail for polite conversation. Our friend has a reputation that would make pages on which it is written red with embarrassment and the ends curl almost in revulsion and indescribable glee.]

[At which time, Selby is half-weeping and Niko is proverbially rolling on the floor, and Selby is not done yet, he rues his big mouth, but you'll love his free expression, almost naïve and truly deadpan, like Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls.]

Selby: Did he have the whole dancing troupe?

[At which point, Niko had a picture of a line of men of enviable renown, starved of it and ready to find the totally ecstatic excitement of lascivious relief at the sight of a starfish with the unmistakable groans of the earth moving violently. No fault was left untouched; the rift cracked open to its fullest extent. It is East Africa, after all.]

Niko: You’ll have to ask him. [The stories Niko didn’t want to hear had already been told by Selby either like a witness of the event, or because Selby has had some experiences in the African bush that he has hinted at but never really told. Farm boys hosing down fires like the fire brigade.]

Is that, you wonder, a ticket to Seren-get-him?

Sunday 9 June 2024

A Sunday of shifting devotional gears

An early start

What a long Sunday it was, a full engagement in religious activities that were a great blessing. I had set the alarm for 8:00 AM to get up for my first service which I had intended would be for the 9:00 AM service at !Audacious Church.

It has become an occasional activity to give my Christian experience on a Sunday the widest latitude. Over time, I have acculturated to the kind of vibe in that atmosphere than I found able to adapt to about a decade ago. Its evangelical and Pentecostal slant is quite an energetic early start to a Sunday morning. The praise and worship music and ministration of the word, are scripted into just under 75 minutes.

Blog - !Audacious Church, Manchester (March 2014)

From contemporary to traditional

With just half a mile (0.8 kilometres) between !Audacious Church and Manchester Cathedral, on days I am not on the rota to be a church steward at the cathedral, I can have a brisk walk in about 10 minutes to the cathedral for the Sung Eucharist at 10:30 AM.

The gears are totally changed between church customs, my familiarity with both and the way I feel quite blessed with participation in one and the involved community of the other is something I cannot explain that well. The former is quite a youthful contemporary church with some songs sounding like what you would hear on an Oasis album, at least I felt that way this morning.

The solemnity of a choir accompanied by the Stoller Organ singing traditional tuneful hymns with a structured service format and the Holy Communion registers a different yet impactful devotion. The congregation has no pretensions, the doors are open, and the setting is welcoming.

After the Sung Eucharist, I participated in the bible study which for this month is about women in the bible, the topic was on the character, leadership, and activities of Deborah and Jael. In the book of Judges, chapters 4 and 5. It was a robust and lively conversation of thoughts and views that ran for over an hour. [Renew.org: Deborah and Jael: Unexpected Leaders]

The bishop in the Village

Returning home, I did not have much time to prepare for the Village Church, an initiative supported by the Anglican Church to support the spirituality of the LGBTQ+ community in the centre of the Manchester Gay Village. The LGBT Foundation lends its premises to this ministry for free on Sunday afternoons every second and fourth Sunday of the month. [Anglican Diocese of Manchester: Village Church launches in Manchester]

This has been happening for almost a year and is just around the corner from my home. We had the pleasure of the Bishop of Manchester as the president and preacher for this Sung Eucharist. It exemplifies the sense that our local Christian community does not just pay lip service to inclusivity but involves itself fully in allowing spiritual expression and fellowship, regardless of persuasion.

Blog - Stewarding at the Pride Eucharist (August 2023)

Jesus died for all, and the diocesan leadership have determined to encourage, embrace, and serve everyone genuinely yearning for Christian fellowship. As we finished and cleared up at the venue, it was almost 6:00 PM. I might have retired soon after, at home, if I had not entertained some congregants.

I felt a sense of wanting to be involved, engaged, contributing, giving and participating, the broad lesson at the beginning of All Together which touched on Tithes (resources), Talent (skills & abilities), Time (capacity), resonated with me, it is this kind of mindfulness that prepares you for a great blessing. It was a wonderful day that the Lord hath made.

Saturday 8 June 2024

Dispute Resolution 101: Make it a reasonable and respectful appeal to their good nature

The sweet fragrance of language

Just a few hours after someone suggested that the way I write is ornate, I had to dig into the reserves of that sometimes flowery and elegant use of the English language to dispute a penalty fine and write an appeal.

As I was about to pay for a service yesterday, I found that my bank card had been blocked, a penalty fine had been applied to my account that my bank in their probably aggressive fraud checks decided was questionable, so they held up the transaction and blocked my card.

Looking up what had happened, our local transport service provider had applied a penalty charge on my card for my journey back home from the hospital, I got a bit emotional.

Banking on prudent checks

My bank sent a text message early in the morning to ask if I recognised the transaction, I knew the vendor, but I did not recognise the one-handed cash grab, something inadvertent had happened, and this was grounds for appeal.

I disputed the charge, called the bank and at the third time of asking the obsequious and unintelligent bot, it handed me over to a human being. It eventually realised, “Can I speak to a human being?” meant just that.

The bank with their layers of security and protocols lifted the pending charge but said I must contact the vendor and be ready to prove that I had done that as part of the dispute resolution process. My card was unblocked, and then I logged on to the vendor site to address the matter of penalty fares.

Circumstances are part of the story

My visit to the hospital left me a bit troubled but I also wanted to stop along the way back home to do some shopping. Using my phone, I tapped the contactless reader at the beginning of my journey and disembarked at the next stop. 

That was where I had forgotten to tap out for that journey. 30 minutes later, after doing my shopping, I was back at the same stop where I tapped in again and remembering my earlier mistake, I tried to tap again, but the system indicated I was tapping in twice.

I boarded the tram and at the following stop ticket inspectors got on and checked passengers for evidence of valid travel tickets for their journeys, my phone bleeped their device and I thought that was the situation resolved. I then tapped out at my destination and walked home. The penalty charge of £60 came 2 days later.

The scaffolding of an appeal

Thankfully, my phone records the exact times of tapping the contactless reader, with all the series of taps documented. After filling in the mandatory fields on the vendor website, these were the characteristics of my appeal and dispute.

  • I shared the circumstances and my state of mind after my hospital visit.
  • I logged every instance of using the contactless reader and agreed that I might have forgotten to tap out at the first stop out of the distraction indicative of my hospital visit.
  • I then detailed all the other encounters before appealing that these were extenuating circumstances to rescind both the penalty fine and any further proceedings related to the journeys of the said day.
  • I closed my appeal by thanking them for their understanding.

Appeal by appealing to their good nature

Now, I have seen appeals and disputes written by some rather more erudite and learned people than me, everything suggested their appeal would not be successful for many reasons. They were angry, ranting and raving about the system, projecting their superiority and emotions into their arguments, and making demands and threats.

The whole reason for an appeal is to appeal to the good nature of whoever might read your disputation. You do this respectfully knowing they have a job to do, you invite them to walk in your shoes, so they are persuaded to see things from your perspective and engage others if there is an escalation, to agree with your viewpoint.

You appreciate what they do and ask for their consideration of what you desire, a refund without dragging out the dispute, then close the appeal with thanks.

Do what works not what rankles

The art of effective communication is in the use of language and the appreciation and respect of the reader. It has worked for me in many places, at work, in business, and in my general writing, especially for formal communication. Deploy the skill deftly.

When I need to be fierce, ranting, debunking, condemning, and excoriating, that only applies to other issues where I am not seeking a dispute resolution in an appeal process.

Yes, my appeal was successful, I will be refunded the penalty charge, that is what I wanted to achieve and nothing more. The lesson is that the tap-in tap-out system works best when there are barrier gates at the entry and exit points, else, if you forget, the system is not as forgiving as you might expect.

The person who reviewed my appeal did say, “As it appears you intended to touch in for this journey, we have upheld your appeal on this occasion. We will shortly be refunding £60 to your account and recalculate your charges for the day to what you would have paid had the correct touches been made.” They came onside and were amenable to my wishes. That is what matters.

Friday 7 June 2024

Gosh! I'm giving writing advice

Maybe I can write

I inadvertently found myself giving some advice on writing the other day on my way to the hospital. I get commended more for my ability to write even if I rarely appreciate the talent I am supposed to have in expressing myself in words.

Then, after over 20 years of blogging, I might have earned a basic status from the act of practice, called experience that may help others along the way. I know there is no formula to it, but we tend to stress ourselves so much that we are left incapable of doing what we hope to do.

How I tend to write

Putting my views into basic tips, it can all boil down to the following:

  • Writer's block happens to everyone, you're overthinking the piece like counting your chicks before they are hatched, and that’s why it seems quite hard to start.
  • Discipline yourself to just start writing and the rest would flow. You can review it later to make the adjustments, clarifications, and editing later. And much later after it has been published.
  • I have rarely written a blog the way I originally imagined it would turn out. In most cases, I have just a word or a phrase, I develop it like a seed and water it with words that follow.
  • Trust the process, trust your skill, start the journey and follow the route wherever it takes you to any amazing destination you get to.
  • You can abandon something for a while until the framework or ideas reform into something you can use. Do not beat yourself up for that.
  • Only what you publish gets read, what is left in draft form is like opening a restaurant but serving no customers.

This may only work for some; you eventually emerge with your own way and style of writing that you begin to type, and your new tapestry of ideas begins to unfold. However, what you must never do is stymie or kill the urge to write. Your story matters, you never know who will benefit from your experience.

Thursday 6 June 2024

Thought Picnic: Everybody who hurts can find healing too

R.E.M. - Everybody Hurts (Official HD Music Video)

In strength and weakness

I may have a listening ear, and to some, who are close to me, I have had outbursts. Much as I attempt every means of self-control and restraint, the dam can hold no more water and it bursts. I have to remember sometimes that I do not have the answers, the understanding, the knowledge, or the wisdom for certain situations.

Even where I appear to be wise, it is usually a gift of inspiration that I cherish a lot, how to put things in perspective, cutting out the unnecessary, the sentimental, the subjective, or just the emotional. Clinical is not always what people want to hear, but the truth is a salve better than the succour of false comfort that barely addresses the issue.

We all need somebody

Then, I wonder, what am I doing for myself? How am I healing and getting the rest I need to have the peace and comfort I desire? The quest for happiness caught in snatches of time, impeded sometimes by the insufficiency of means, yet powered by an irrepressible force of faith and hope, watered with love that thrives in all circumstances. In that alone, I feel blessed.

We bear many burdens, to many we have unlimited resources of strength in mind and character, our figurative and proverbial shoulders stretch like a mountain range, grounded in the core of the earth and found in the lofty reaches of the clouds, covered in snow to cool the heat of things upset and upturn lives in unimaginable ways. Life is not a simple story; we just make every moment count.

Everybody cries, everybody hurts, and everybody feels, all in different ways with myriad ways to express themselves in the things that affect them. The silence might be screaming so loud inside. The smiling might be weeping thunderstorms of distress and turmoil that the face hides in a veil of the indecipherable. What I hide under the finery of my appearance and apparel is a world of my own humanity and vulnerability that probably finds words of expression here.

Seeking to live the dreams

Then I want to find my own foxhole to burrow deep into to hide from the world for a while, to slip into a kind of hibernation of absence where the dreams that play are of the beauty of heaven, the joy of living well, of strength, facility, and immeasurable ability with the daring that blows the mind.

That also does not have to be just a dream, for the dream maker seeks to make those dreams come true beyond anything we have ever thought, wanted, sought, desired, seen, heard, or imagined possible.

I have always thought there is a better way, many times I scramble to find the door and fall on the way, but I will never relent in seeking to walk the path that the mighty have walked to tell better stories than those ever told before.

The note that crept in

As systems are wont to do

Not that he needed to eavesdrop,
Nor stand at a door kept open with a prop,
It was written between the lines,
The new realities it seeks and clearly defines,
As they whisper in hushed tones,
The citadels shiver with the moans and groans,
A moment of indiscretion,
Brings forth the stark facts of a revelation,
Obviously, an explanation was sought,
Then came an apology to stem a rage to report,
Maybe it is still in process,
Before we make it something we confess,
And some time of just waiting,
Your breath belaboured and then abating,
What the future holds is heaving,
Trust the Lord to keep in the land of the living.

Telling new tales again in blood

Just for the blood

I winced in nearly excruciating pain as the phlebotomist tried to extract 10 vials of blood from my veins and was most assuredly doing it from a muscle or tissue in my arm. The flow had stopped early and the wriggle room she found was a bruising stab with push and ease to fill the vials with blood.

This was the most ever that had been extracted for tests since I attended a follow-up consultation for my biannual checkups. In my discussion with the consultant registrar who saw me on Wednesday morning, I presented all my concerns with the results I had been getting for the past 8 months to determine any trends to address issues early.

Before giving blood, I was asked for a urine sample, the colour was richly white wine yellow and not too bad a bouquet, as I explained to the nurse to account for the fact that I had a prostate biopsy a few weeks ago, and this might affect the quality of the urine sample. It was however the most painful blood clinic I ever attended.

Even when they could not find blood and I had been punctured to the effect that I could pass for Swiss cheese, pain was never a component of that experience as this was, the comforting just-a-scratch statement before you are stabbed with a hypodermic needle was replaced with the phrase, ‘almost done’ and there were still 5 vials to go. It was her poor technique and nothing to do with me having latent or actual belonephobia, which could easily induce the fear of medical procedures if I remember the staple gun sound of the biopsy procedure.

Turning up and turning out

However, the day started slowing with what was a night of not enough sleep and as I planned my journey to the hospital, I decided on an easier ride that took me through backroads I have walked many times but never plied in a vehicle. The driver was the first of many who complimented me. The desire to present a sunny disposition regardless of the circumstances remains one I enjoy.

As I stepped out of the vehicle when we got to the hospital, a nurse stopped me in my tracks too and with her compliments said words to the effect, “It is nice to see a gentleman take the time to dress up nicely.” It might be a hospital where we all come to a humbling of our humanity, but that should not mean the absence of humour, goodness, brightness, and something to put a smile on people’s faces. I think my mere appearance did as much for some.

More than miscellaneous

Having printed out my notes from that last visit that needed updating and corrections, we dealt with my health, my welfare, my social situation, the many questions I had, the opportunities for a new line of therapies I was not ready to assume until I had read up on the study. Strangely, medical decisions had been made to include this in our regimen even as Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, along with China and Japan did not have any participants in the cohort study. I had my misgivings.

As I asked for another serum folate check which determines whether I have a folic acid deficiency, another one could not be booked as there had to be a 90-day lapse from the last check in the hospital systems. I then realised that my general practice and the hospital shared the same blood laboratory. The hospital had visibility of all the results, whereas my general practice could only see the results of the tests they had ordered.

The integration and agglomeration of systems cannot come sooner, they need to be reading from the same set of data, not repeating tests to confirm situations. I sought and got an alignment of my pill regimes which had gone askew since 2018 but had me putting in a new prescription for one of them last month because my usual April – October consultations had drifted to November – May, and now is on a June – December biannual cycle.

It was a nice outing to the hospital, not much bruising in my arm and I caught up on much-needed sleep.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Men's things - VIII

Interpreting bloods and dreams

In preparation for my biannual consultation today, I printed out sheaves of information for which in the analysis I would hope to have satisfactory, convincing, and comforting medical assessments of the situation. Like the kings of old, their dreams then and our blood results today, need interpretation. They hold some keys to the future.

The bloods have been telling wild stories of rage and range that has led me into many lairs of the medical establishment for observation, through inspections, radiography, biopsies, and another set of appointments and scheduled tests. It is tough if a king cannot remember what they dreamt, just as it is difficult if you cannot review your blood and other results to ask pertinent questions.

Silence is never an option

Having a long-term health condition you have effectively managed for about 15 years gives you some experience handling how doctors relay or disseminate information. You have to read the obvious and then read between the lines. In the UK, they are not as direct and forthcoming as our Dutch neighbours, they are reserved though a certain cohort is abrupt with a patrimonial bedside manner.

The Dutch are interventionists, they do not wait and see how things develop, they go after the issue with alacrity and immediacy. I recall my Dutch doctor saying, “This looks serious, I have to refer you.” She was already on the phone making appointments and speaking with urgency, I could be in no doubt about the seriousness of the situation. When I saw the professor, a few days later, he said, “We have a bed for you upstairs.” That was the beginning of an 18-night stay in the hospital in September 2009.

That compared to how three different health institutions vacillated for almost 3 years on a co-morbidity that could be treated and then I was put on new therapeutic drugs, but this was after I had a conversation along the lines of, “I am well aware of my mortality, what are you going to do about this co-morbidity?

We have to talk about it

Regardless of who you are seeing, it is evident you must have a good understanding and grasp of your situation and give full voice to your concerns unrelentingly until you get satisfactory answers leading to hopefully, your desired outcomes.

Next week, I will be attending a follow-up consultation to discuss the results of the transperineal prostate biopsy I had just over 3 weeks ago. What has been scheduled has left me almost falling off my seat. There is a multidisciplinary team (MDT) with the qualifications of pelvic and urology along with the elephant in the room, who have set something up for the day after with no detail and this has an expiry of a year hence. As it comes under the topic of upcoming tests and procedures, I am left wondering, is this adopting a wait-and-see approach, or there is really nothing to see, and we are just in close monitoring?

You can bet I have many questions for all my follow-up consultations, I am not a tough customer, just one who knows what everyone should know for themselves. “It is my body first before it is your Guinea pig.” Selah!

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Blog - Men's things - III

Blog - Men's things - IV

Blog - Men's things - V

Blog - Men's things - VI

Blog - Men's things - VII

NB: I use bloods to mean blood tests.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Thought Picnic: Taking a sniff at the stalk

A stalker strikes again

There is a saying that could be haunting as it could be disturbing, but rather than consider the saying it is the thought of being stalked or watched without knowing that you have featured as a target in a sniper scope.

Without being confronted, you are affronted by an invasion seeking to upset and discombobulate, someone aims to remotely control your every move inducing a sense of paranoia and caution leaving you wondering whether you are safe from harm.

I have navigated many such stalking episodes over the years that go back decades and have had experiences of attempted blackmail, threat of exposure, or possible embarrassment. I have addressed many such occasions with the resolve that I will not allow myself to be compromised and become a pawn at the behest of some cowardly agent seeking to cause distress.

Scuppered by recalcitrance

Where I could have had an ally and supporter in these issues, there has been a blank refusal to share pertinent information to help terminate the ability of such nefarious persons to sow discord and distrust. It is their prerogative to decide what they think is best even after persuasive arguments have been made to suggest a united front against an unseen enemy against using such material to insinuate betrayal.

One thing I will not abide with is chicanery by those who should know better. I can be impulsive as much as I can be decisive. What seems a done deal can quite easily be cancelled, I will not stand for threat, innuendo, or inference. I am deeply invested, and I can also cut my losses.

The less said, the better

I suppose I will not be treated as an adult, as I am being confronted with the undertones of an allegation. In that case, I will not cower in the fear of dread of being found wanting because of some failings that could both be expressed in the propensity for a liaison without essentially acting on it. An alter ego can be an outlet for certain frustrations, it separates the real from the imagined.

Many emotions are difficult to express in the kind of directness and detail demanded, however, I will not address this elsewhere. To say I am annoyed is an understatement, when I choose to be silent over expressing my thoughts, I have decided to be foolish, dumb, defenceless, and incapable – it is sometimes the smartest thing to do. You never know, when the time is right, what was left unsaid will have more than any impact imaginable.