Friday 19 July 2024

Hello in There Over There

Hello in There · Bette Midler - John Prine
Looking out into the day

Life in the city presents a window of observation both literally and figuratively. If I cranked my neck looking out to the right, I would see the main road, full of traffic, the missing Venetian blinds pulled down by those who are not gentle of touch might offer a spectacle in flagrante delicto of things better kept out of view.

On occasions, where I have been asked about the weather, a predilection to Miss Havisham’s shunning of the public might suggest that one is unaware of where the sun or the clouds might have come to an agreement about what day they want to show.

Left to my own devices, I will know nothing of what happens in my city until after the event. A hermit untouched and unknown, yet conversant and connected in isolation from sensual interaction.

A part of apartment life

Then, so much information filters in like sunrays on a brilliantly sunny day. From the fourth floor of the apartment block opposite and across the street, I know they are in because they open the window that reflects a blast of light into my living room. Should I wave to them?

For the past two days, the first-floor apartment across from mine had the blinds drawn. They are on holiday one must presume for nothing in the weather of the past couple of days supports the need to shelter from enjoying the elements. They appear to be a partying lot, not that I might haphazardly identify them on the street. They are a function of the apartment in which they live, as I might have been an operatic revue of the unspeakable that excites chortles and giggles.

Old people maybe not lonesome

To the left on the second floor, at the breaking of the dawn, an old man sits at the window looking at a world that his youth once participated in with verve and vigour. The lady who sometimes sits with him might be the wife of decades of marital bliss, a companion of life and experience, with whom living out the rest of their days might stretch to a time beyond record.

The stories in those faces, the memories that fetch fresh waters from wells of existence we could not begin to fathom. They could be parents, likely grandparents, never doubt them being great grandparents, but no little girl’s face has replaced the visage that has met my gaze.

Maybe they see me when I see them, if they ever noticed; for I have watched that window from my desk for years, I could wave at them to say, “Hello! In there”.

Thought Picnic: The little foxes of pique

The inexplicable imponderable

A mobile phone holder on my office desk disappears and there is no other explanation for the disappearance beyond the likelihood that the other person who has full access to the apartment has moved it, used it, and lost it.

Yet, we are left to consider the unexplained in terms of the improbable when it is so patently not the case, for to level an accusation might sour the relationship whilst your sense of discomfiture is hardly assuaged by the realisation that you are losing control of your entire to trusted forces out of your control.

Take another example: a wallet that was vacated of essential things with some unimportant items left therein was placed from clear recollection on that office desk the night before a journey. A week later, I got a call that it had been found in the garden that I had not passed through for close to a week before my journey.

Then, it had rained for most of that week, but the wallet was dry having been picked up that morning by a jogger who happened to spot it on her way out for morning exercises. I find myself caught in another debate of the ridiculous. I guess the wallet just thought it was stuffy in the apartment and decided to step out for a walk, then could not find its way back home.

The obsession proposition

Much as one attempts to be unbothered by the minutiae of the hows and whys of what people do out of commission, omission, absentmindedness, carefulness, or carelessness, all of that never really matters if it is not noticed. My inordinate attention to detail that has found the trenchant criticism of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is simply a need to maintain some order amid many other chaotic things totally out of one’s control.

You wonder, why people change things that have always worked for something that they have not had the opportunity to assess the efficacy of. The seemingly immediate advantage is lost to the long-term inconvenience that could exacerbate the annoyance of others.

Patterns are distorted as your record of how things were is displaced and influenced by thinking, events, or people working from a different perspective and have an inclination to tend to an alternate frame of reference. We all suffer from the inability to be inclusive of all the parameters that could make for a perfect setting.

Leave things where they were, be inquisitive but resist interference, consider the quirks of others which are quite different from their faults, and know when to accommodate rather than repudiate. The subtle traversal of advice to correction lies in the deft art of communication. For all times, know the clock should never be wrong.

These are the little foxes that ruin the vineyard in bloom. [BibleHub: Song of Solomon 2:15]

Wednesday 17 July 2024

May I suggest blogging is easy?

Words always flow

A thought springs to mind, you reach for your laptop and flip open the lid with the confidence and purpose to write something. In the process you get distracted, a YouTube notification on your mobile phone and you are watching a performance that brings tears to your eyes.

You were thinking of writing a blog that you never even had any concept of how it would turn out and now, the trick you used to play of just typing and hoping the words come as you type is not working.

Bludgeon the block

Something suggests you have Writer’s Block, but chance would be a fine thing, because a block is more topical than incidental. I aver that it is when you have an intention that you suddenly cannot act on, that is a block.

In other cases, practise with thought processes allows you to write something, the quality of which might be questionable, and yet its beauty of expression is interesting as craftsmanship speaks for itself to the admirer and the critic alike.

Then if one were to close a blog as one were having a conversation following the basics of what a personal blog entails of how you feel, what you see, and how you are affected, you already have enough paragraphs for another blog. Then conclude with a full stop.

Monday 15 July 2024

Essential Snobbery 101: Time is about you and how you respect others

Time for peace of mind

Last Thursday, I had a hospital appointment for 9:45 AM, in my planning the day before, I had determined that it was best to get the bus and at least 3 buses plied the route to the destination for a journey that would have taken 30 minutes.

Then accounting for reaching the intended department in the hospital complex, I gave about 15 minutes, especially if I could not get good directions or got lost along the way.

This meant I had to leave home at the very latest time of 9:00 AM with a 2-minute walk to the bus stop. I had a friend offer to accompany me to the hospital understanding the kind of discussion I was about to have, but their sense of timing was impaired by a personal emergency, he was not going to make it for my proposed departure time.

Time to ease the pressure

There are reasons why I keep time and many times my patience is tested by those whose concept of time suffers deficiencies of exactitude and timeliness, it is a fluid construct of happenstance dictated by quality of discipline and the aggrandizement of lassitude. Yet, for many reasons, these transgressions can be forgiven.

When it comes to hospital appointments, getting there with enough time to settle down before being called for initial observation before consultation is paramount. In circumstances where I have cut it too fine, my blood pressure has risen in consonance with the stress of not giving myself enough breathing space.

As I did not know what checks would be done, waiting for my companion was out of the question even as that presence would have been a source of support. When attending to medical matters, it is essential that you do not feel alone in that setting.

Time is respect and consideration

My attention to time is not just in this area, it pertains to appointments, schedules, travel, social events and much else. Time gives you a datum of measurement to allow disparate situations and people to align, when it is handled with levity, not only is it unfortunately a sign of disrespect, it gives little consideration to how others use their time.

To some, being fashionably late is a sign of status, I usually have 15 minutes to spare to allow for hinderances to being informed of why another is late, after which, I might well go and do something else. Heck! I have walked away from interviews because the interviewer has been badly behaved on keeping time.

My thinking, if you would waste the time of a stranger interested in working for you, what more would you do when they are contracted or employed? End the whiff of disrespect before it takes root. There might be an apology and an adjustment after, but that is not what I live for.

Time is first about you and then others, it is a paraphrase of loving your neighbour as yourself. Sometimes, I prefer others to choose the time, I’ll be there, I wonder what explanation you’ll have for not making it at the time you chose to meet.

Between haughty Hillsong and bounty biltong

Giving thanks but no thanks

It was with great anticipation that we decided to choose Hillsong Church as the place to attend to give thanks and praise for triumphing over situations and circumstances that had befallen us for the last couple of years.

From a natural perspective, many things seemed insurmountable but providence and good fortune even with limited resources gave such an opportunity for celebration and we were excited about it.

We arrived at the church in Century City, just outside Cape Town and followed the crowd into the building. An usher was closing access to the first entrance to the hall we got to until I said we were first-time visitors. We were allowed into the darkish hall with bright lights on the stage as the praise and worship session was about to begin.

We found seats, squeezed between people who appeared to want to be elsewhere as we joined in congregational worship, and we just went with the flow. Once everything was done, we left as we came, unnoticed, unengaged, and quite unwelcome too. We were blessed but did not have the feeling that we would return.

Surely welcoming is standard church practice

Cape Town is an international tourist destination; we usually attend St George’s Cathedral when in Cape Town and we have always felt welcome. One would expect as with church traditions we have witnessed in many places that there is an acknowledgement of visitors to the fellowship with an opportunity provided to meet up with new faces, presenting the church as a welcoming and open community.

We found it quite strange that at no time during the 11:00 AM service we attended at Hillsong that visitors were welcomed or acknowledged. The church was just busy, too busy being church and probably feeling too full to notice anyone attending for the first time. My partner felt that the worship leading had become a self-absorbed performance to entertain us, it was lots of activity accomplishing little.

Maybe it was an oversight as it did bother me, I volunteer as a steward in my local church in Manchester, we welcome people as they come in, the clergy acknowledges visitors during the service, and everyone is invited for refreshments at the end of the service. We are a community regardless of when you come or where you come from.

Writing to the blind and deaf

I decided to write to the church about our visit and the atmosphere we encountered, apart from a boilerplate response, no one acknowledged or replied from the church. Seeing that the pastors of that church had gone on to lead the global fellowship. A few days later, I forwarded my original email to the main church in Australia, another boilerplate response without acknowledgement or reply.

Even for a business, basic standards of professionalism would suggest a basic response for emails sent on the 25th of June and then on the 3rd of July, the substantive elements of our experience and observations might be dealt with later.

It is not a scandal, we eventually concluded Hillsong had decided we did not matter, and we could not have been so uniquely affected, we were random worshippers who thought there was a prospect of adding a Pentecostal flair to our Anglican devotion in fellowshipping with the Hillsong community. We can however conclude there are more issues in that family than meets the eye.

Biltong engagement was much better

In comparison to the biltong shop that used to be in the Time Out Market that moved into a vending van at the other side of the Watershed at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, even after almost 2 years of last patronising them.

The different vendors that manned the van on the separate days that we bought biltong were enterprising, engaging, welcoming, friendly, and inspiring of the desire to return. It is quite bizarre that I am comparing Hillsong to biltong, much was desired of the former, but we found a better relationship with the latter.

Everything is about establishing connections for human relationships, if a church cannot effectively do that, it has by all terms lost its purpose. In my email, I did suggest that we were not trying to change any Hillsong traditions, just highlighting something that could be useful.

My experience with Hillsong London was different, but that was 11 years ago before the scandals happened. I have written a bit about those issues before, my feeling is things have not changed, a window dressing does not a shop make.

Blog - Thought Picnic: Where Everybody Shares Your Pain (August 2013)

Blog - Hillsnog: How the scandals at Hillsong took root (September 2021)

Blog - The Hillsong controversy and resignation (April 2022)

Sunday 14 July 2024

Need not bother about a hat

Travelling lighter than usual

When I stepped out of my home with 3 suitcases and many other things just a day over 3 weeks ago, I had the feeling I had forgotten something, but had no time to think of what it might be.

There was an Uber cab waiting to convey me to the airport and for the strain of trying to travel light, which I rarely do even as I worked hard at accomplishing that goal with much sleeplessly tired effort, I had for my early flight not slept overnight.

Wherever I laid that hat

On getting to the airport, I retrieved a trolley with difficulty, had my suitcases loaded on and made for the terminal when I realised what I had forgotten my hat, my straw grass hat which works well for the summer days, though it might have been useless for the winter days of Cape Town.

What I could not decide on was whether I had left my hat on the rack at home or in the Uber cab. I had the good feeling it was at home, that in my apparent rush to leave at the witching hour of just after 3:00 AM, I had left home quite unusually without a head covering.

It could have bothered me if I did forget the hat in the cab, but it was one of those instances where I felt either way, I’ll deal with it when I get back. On occasion, I had the feeling to order a replacement because I got the hat about 7 years ago and it was ordered on Amazon from Germany. A voice whispered in me, not to jump to that conclusion.

It really did not matter

Having the choice of asking my house sitter to check and confirm whether my hat was on hat rack did occur to me, but I left it at that. I had another 7 or 8 hats in my baggage for my destination, the world was not going to end because of a straw hat.

When I returned last Tuesday, it was not the first thing I checked as that was not on my mind, one of my other hats was already adorning my bald head. As I took it off to hang on the hat rack, I noticed the straw hat. It was at home, all along.

It is funny how the foregoing might have served as an introduction to a piece about how we bother ourselves about little things and overcompensate to remediate for certain failings or inadequacies. In fact, I did see a few straw hats in Cape Town, I just ignored the draw to try any of them on. I was having a good time and that is all that mattered.

Thursday 11 July 2024

Men's things - XII

Gathering my thoughts

There is much to write about, the last couple of weeks, the continuation of my experience with Men’s things, the change of government in the UK, and the glorious two weeks I got to spend with Brian in the city we both love, Cape Town.

This blog however will be dedicated to the issue of Men’s things as my appreciation of the situation has both been given a sense of triumphalism borne of faith as much as putting into a hermetically sealed containment the foreboding and fear that greets cancer invading your body.

What I was not meant to see

Poring over and through the NHS app, there was a cache of documents that contained what I would think were exchanges about discovery and diagnosis between medical personnel that the uncurious would probably never have accessed.

I open each of the recently uploaded documents. While the indiscretion of the medical establishment meant I learnt of a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the prostate before I was officially informed, when I eventually met the urology consultant who also conducted the biopsy of my prostate gland, I was left with the impression that things need to be done. Still, I had time to consider the options and probabilities.

Blog - The note that crept in

Yet, appointments and engagements were coming in thick and fast despite my having intimated I was going away on holiday for just over two weeks. Within two days I had a phone call to set up an appointment at The Christie Hospital and by the time I got home in the evening, there was a letter confirming the appointment in my mailbox.

The word they never spoke

There was an inordinate urgency to the activities that concerned me. The cache of documents contained one word no one spoke to me, and I think out of some bedside manner of reducing the sense of alarm at relating their discovery to me. I was left reeling halfway through my holiday when I saw the word malignant, and there is nothing benign about it.

Today, I attended my first appointment at The Christie Hospital to discuss one of the treatment options with a consultant who would perform a Robot-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy (RALP), if I should choose that pathway after a further meeting about the radiotherapy option which I currently have quite limited information about.

The consultant was in no doubt about malignancy in the intermediate range with good outcomes even as the possible complications after a robotic procedure do not present a pleasant consideration in the immediate to near term.

The core consideration with trenchant immunosuppression is this needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. A lifesaving matter for which one might be persuaded to pay less attention to masculinity, manliness, or virility for the sake of living.

Phew! That was daunting

His patter was confident, experienced, and competent with every indication that he plans to save the vicissitudes of the plumbing and mechanisms of that environment, but only after he has had the opportunity to look in there. It was daunting as much as it was interesting. He answered my questions in detail and addressed my concerns frankly.

Obviously, I still need to review everything I was told to understand what it entails; whether I am prepared for this ordeal and what it portends. Whilst understanding the seriousness of the condition I also believe that there is every possibility I do not have to go under the knife but have a medically confirmed miracle of healing.

What is critical is for all I have learnt about prostate cancer, I do not choose anything out of fear, anxiety, or the pressure to act. I need to keep my faith and belief strong; focused on the process and outcomes desired. It is the only mindset that guarantees that whatever happens, I will look back on this with a great testimony and a better story. By His stripes, I am healed. [BibleHub: Matthew 8:17, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24]

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

Blog - Men's things - X

Blog - Men's things - XI

Wednesday 3 July 2024

The UK: Show the Tories the door

An utter disservice to democracy

Before I went away, I had applied for a postal ballot knowing I would not be in the country when the UK General Election takes place. Sadly, our council in its lethargy and lack of alacrity must have thought all applications for a postal ballot were from those who out of some sort of incapacity could not make it to the polling station.

Despite the fact that my application went in the day after the election was announced and I posted the additional information they asked for a few days later, the postal ballots were not posted until the third week of June, by which time it was too late.

What I even found more annoying was, I was already on the voters’ register for 10 years at the same address. I unfailingly renew my registration every year, and I received a voter’s registration card which I used for the local elections in early May. Another card was mailed to me for this election if I were to choose to vote in person, but my postal ballot was nowhere to be found.

I can only wonder about the many Greater Manchester voters that have been so poorly served by the electoral services unit with regards to postal ballots.

On balance, 14 years of failure

If there is anything to consider about the last 14 years of the Conservatives in power, I reckon we are at a net negative if a balance sheet were set out about the benefits and the demerits of having that party preside over our dear country of many nations.

When I returned to the UK in late 2012, I was a European citizen who had spent over 12 years in the Netherlands with untrammelled rights of a European freely able to visit, live, and work in one of 28 countries, if I chose to. If I was gifted with any sense of prognostication, I could have naturalised as a Dutch citizen any time from 2005, but I never thought the UK would risk leaving the EU, we were too invested in the project.

I was wrong, as in the 5 Prime Ministers that the Tories have given us since 2010, each in their own way has gambled with livelihoods for personal and partisan expediency to the detriment of the fortunes of our country. There is no need to rehash the points, we are much worse off, where a parliament that is self-servingly incapable of the kind of collegiate thought to progress anything.

Having lost a sense of responsibility

The entrenchment of the entitlement to power has become so ingrained that the facts of the situation mean nothing if we can be scared into believing the populist simple solutions for practically difficult problems.

The Tories need some time in opposition to regain a sense of what the responsibility of governing and impacting positively on people’s lives beyond culture wars and pandering to the basest of our human instincts. The idea that a limited company masquerading as a party with the face of an indolent representative who has the gift of the gab and nothing else to offer, being our future is a fantasy begging for the unfortunate.

The best option for government today is the Labour Party, if only for the fact that they would appreciate the opportunity to govern and do much more to attend to the atrocities passing for policy that the Tories have enmeshed themselves in without the quality of scrutiny necessary among them and beyond to jettison the bizarre and refine the barely acceptable.

A possible future in our votes

The Labour Party offers a new direction that will address many of the issues of today, it is change-focused, future-looking, ready to grow and invest in our economy, seeking to divest power from central government, helping people back to work, addressing the immigration issue that has been lost by the Tories, and introducing the modern industrial strategy. Their manifesto reads like something to have expectations for rather than one that offers trepidation and fear.

The polls will suggest Sir Keir Starmer will be kissing the hand of the king on the 5th of July 2024. I enjoyed some years of Labour-driven prosperity from 1997 to 2000 before I emigrated to the Netherlands, and this prosperous spell continued until the financial crash.

It is evident that after so long in power the Tories are bereft of new or useful ideas, they cannot even look on their record of the past 14 years which have given us some of the worst Prime Ministers to ever preside over His or Her Majesty’s Government.

I appreciate some are too tribal to vote for another party, but the future of our country is at stake, we cannot sacrifice this to sentiment when competence is required. I would rather have a boring competent and disciplined government than an entertaining relatable but totally incompetent politician run the show. It is not pot luck, lives are impacted beyond your door.