Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Carrie advises Goble of his geographic whereabouts
My life seemed a bit self-conscious to have me back.

Would I relate to my friends differently? Would they even notice that I’d been away for a year? Would I really want them to notice?

And things were different – different in a subtle, slightly awkward, almost nearly sort of way.

The morning I arrived home, I had expected my mum to look a bit older, but she looked exactly the same.

We sat in the living-room, looking out at the garden that we’d photographed each other in when I’d left a year earlier. One of the cats, Seven, was sitting out there. “Will she remember you?”

I got up and opened the French windows to find out.

There she was, sitting in the middle of the lawn, looking across at me, all contented. I approached. I'd got her attention. I got nearer. Cats smell everything first, so I decided to let her sniff my fingers. Except that I couldn’t, because she’d bolted away terrified.

I returned to the living-room. “Yep, she remembers me all right.”

The post. There was a whole box of it. All the important stuff had already been scanned and emailed to me, but I still went through it all straight away, to get rid of it.

Multiple brochures from Mastersun Holidays, rejoining offers from my gym, letters from my solicitor, mailings that had resulted from my unsuccessful job-seeking enquiries at the Christian Resources Exhibition a year ago.

A pop-up Christmas card, sent circa October, from John Brownlee. (we have an ongoing war each year to send each other’s card first – I haven’t actually seen John since I first met him in 1994)

A birthday card from Suze, not actually saying goodbye, but wishing me the best for the future, wherever I’ve disappeared to. Really must phone her and schedule that now 6-year-old coffee appointment.

My life, without my input, slowly developing anyway with whatever I had left behind for it to go on, like the disappointing contents of an abandoned fridge.

Speaking of which, in the kitchen, I couldn’t remember where anything was. I washed-up, but I couldn’t remember where anything went. I ate, but I had to complement the fork with a knife again.

My clothes were enjoying mothballs, so I thought of Pastor Brett Jones’ sermon on Mothball Mathematics. (yes Brett, I now associate you with mothballs – congratulations. :))

My bed felt very hard. I couldn’t believe that this was the mattress I had chosen 2 years earlier. Flatmate Neil’s words drifted back to me from nary a week earlier “You won’t be able settle back home now mate.”

Herschel was my best friend. He’d emailed me almost every weekday. But I hadn’t actually spoken to him since leaving. What if there were now awkward pauses in our conversation? I was exhausted after a day, followed by a 24-hour flight, followed by another day, and my eyes were closing in bed, but even with my brain clumsily trying to write sentences 3-words-at-a-time at dial-up speed, I reached over to the phone and called him anyway.

Over an hour later I put the phone down again. Nah – still the same green-haired klown.

On Sunday morning I got up and snuck quietly into St Stephen’s Church. I felt pretty cool about this – flying 10,000 miles just to casually drop-in to church one Sunday – as if I could do so every week if I felt like it. I really needn’t have worried about attracting any attention, there were only my mum’s friends there, including Raili.

“Hello Raili!” I said in an unusually clipped British accent. Well now I must be home – I was greeting Raili. And another retired lady who I’d met at a dinner over a year ago. I chatted to her for quite a while – now I had the confidence, and the genuine interest, to do so.

Nothing had any meaning in the present – but plenty in the past.

Passing the hospital, I remembered Dorry, and how I had taken her for a zimmer-framed walk down one of the hospital’s corridors, and how I would not be hearing any more of her.

In New Zealand, I used to walk through modern-looking Botany Town Centre, imagining it to be Kingston. Now I walked through modern-looking Kingston mentally placing shops in Botany Town Centre.

I looked at the corner where Nando's was in New Zealand, and fellow Brit Karen's advice floated back to me. “When you go back home, you’ve changed, but everyone else is the same.”

Hmmm, well the dog was the same - still missing. Not an actual dog you understand, but a man who, quite inexplicably, used to refer to himself as one. David Dog – my father.

The house was, as it has been for a few years now, empty without him. Without all the sound he used to make. The tinny sound of football on his radio. The urgent blare of BBC News on the TV, at 1, 6 and 9 o’clock. The industrial gurgle of the kettle boiling, cups being stirred, and then the wet teaspoon clattering onto the tea-tray. Clever activities for a dog.

Now the house sounded a bit like an empty school classroom during the summer holidays.

One of the reasons why I’d delayed my trip to NZ last year, had been to organise a very, very important film-shoot. Now, amongst my post, was the roll of film, returned from the processors in Switzerland.

I set-up the projector and viewed it – it had come out perfectly, but I still had a few more shots to get in the can, so I picked-up the phone.

I’d cleared my post, phoned Hershel, been everywhere and now I was picking-up my old film-projects again.

There was really no evidence at all that I had even been away.

It was just all so quiet without me around.


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