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Rites of Passage

By Skip Bandele [email protected]

Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 10 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.

Time flies. It seems only yesterday that I was somewhat apprehensively looking forward to a busy summer – now autumn is loudly knocking on the door with the promise of winter to come.

It must be an age thing. When I was younger (oh, so much younger than today!) Sundays alone took an eternity to pass, summer holidays forever.

Hours were spent learning lyrics such as “like walking in the rain and the snow” off by heart even before gaining possession of my first 49cc moped and I became hooked on the nuances contained in “if I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

Don’t laugh. But I digress. Time is sprouting wings and threatening to leave me behind.

I occasionally forget that we have hit the 21st century – at a sprint. Probably because the so called progress associated with our enlightened age epitomised by the election of a first black US president has slowed down to a crawl and has started a distinct retrograde motion.

Just as Mr Obama is now widely regarded as a ‘mistake’ in America, political correctness has come full circle and now gives off whiffs reminiscent of the puritanical middle ages, witch hunts and the Spanish inquisition.

Time. Anno Domini, Before Christ. To be abolished for fear of offending non-Christians. Now to be generally referred to as Common Era and Before Common Era.

For Mohamed’s sake, how much more ridiculous can we become? Anyway, might the abbreviation C.E. not cause further affront in its similarity to Church of England?

Next up it will no longer be deemed suitable to speak English, for God’s…errrr, Allah’s sake.

I’ve had it up to here. What would Raquel Welch have to say about all this?! Common sense it certainly is not.

I am a self-confessed agnostic and racial discrimination, as well as any other form of ill-founded prejudice, is abhorrent to me.

I was born in Nigeria, lived in Ghana, grew up in London and now reside in Portugal. Regarding a fellow human as being inferior because of the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs and practices makes me feel physically sick.

Yet what I regard as having been raised in a healthy and balanced manner and environment by my parents does not preclude me from ‘calling a spade a spade’ even though even that particular expression is now being frowned upon.

As such, I find it dumb and paranoid that new editions of Mark Twain’s classic novels about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer have had all usage of the word “nigger” removed – all 223 of them.

As deplorable as that term is, Twain, a passionate critic of American racism, is for good reason included in the list of ‘must read’ books for a very good reason – that we, and future generations, might learn from him.

First published in 1884 (C.E.), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of America’s greatest novels – but is also the fourth most banned book in U.S schools. How hypocritical. The black slave Jim is portrayed as one of the few characters in the work with any kind of integrity and forming an integral part of my early reading influenced me greatly, in a positive way.

If we should no longer be allowed to learn from the unadulterated past, the future looks bleak indeed.

I’ll close with a couple of other, to my mind, related news items which produced a rare and involuntary ‘out aloud’ giggle.

The first involves escaped parrots. It appears, if you are out for a walk and a bird in a tree says “hello there”, you are not going mad.

Naturalists have reported a growing phenomenon of escaped pet parrots joining wild flocks of birds passing on phrases and techniques once impressed upon them by former owners.

Sydney police have received numerous calls from people who were baffled to hear voices calling to them from trees in their gardens.

“These birds are very smart and sociable,” Martyn Robinson of the Australian Museum commented. “These flocks are showing us that they are not quite as bird-brained as many people think.”

Whereas the odd ‘hello darling’, ‘what’s happening’ or even ‘who’s a pretty boy, then’ coming out of a sparrow or magpie’s beak may startle if not offend, Robinson is worried about an escalation of the freak events.

“I just hope a pet bird that’s been taught dirty words doesn’t join a flock because we don’t want to hear that kind of thing going around the back gardens”.

Mr Robinson, don’t worry- I am sure there are already plenty of choice words being uttered by humans, even around Sydney’s leafier districts.

A few ‘politically incorrect’ birds will not make any difference.

Last but not least consider the various implications contained within the following.

The Ukrainian immigrant who recently tackled an armed suspect after a stabbing at the Notting Hill Carnival said he was worried about being identified.

Have-a-go hero Valentine Simatchenko feared he might lose his disability benefits.

You couldn’t make it up.

With that I have run out of space. Happy Christmas – don’t worry it will be here before you know it!