Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Youth groups never last, because, sooner or later, everyone stops being young, and finds a new group.

That’s called life, yet every once in a while it’s nice to get back together again and catch up.

One 18-23 church youth group that I used to be a member of – called Lighthouse - broke up in 1989, shortly after I’d joined.

14 years later, in 2003, fellow Lighthouser Perry told me that a reunion had been planned.

So it was that on a cold December evening that year, I had apprehensively pushed open the door of The Rising Sun pub, and glanced around to recognise my long lost aging peers.

I was ready for the whole thing – the enthusiastic greetings, the “How are you?"s, the explanations for my unemployment and failed dreams, the embarrassed silence when we suddenly realise that we no longer have anything in common, the huge successes of those who had wronged me, my unusually well-catalogued memory dwarfing their recollections and leading to a perceived judgement of my living in the past and not getting on with my life, and above all the sheer inadequacy of how, unlike theirs, my life had not changed one jot.

It wasn’t much to show up for, but in practice what happened was I pushed open the door, and realised that there was in fact only one person there who I recognised.

Elvis Presley.

(I guess I should have read the sign out front, like you did)

Sure, he’d aged a bit, and he hadn’t moved on with his life much either, but I had to admire his decision to relaunch his old career anyway, even if the only venue willing to book him at first was The Rising Sun.

I couldn’t recall him ever actually coming along to any Lighthouse meetings though.

I hung around for a couple of numbers, during which time I photographed him, (above) which he acknowledged by coolly pointing a finger at me. After that I exited to begin a freezing hour-long trudge around all the different pubs in the area, in search of my long-lost old friends.

They were nowhere. When I bumped into Perry a month later at St. Margaret’s train station, he explained that the whole reunion had in fact been cancelled. It did happen the following summer, shortly before I left for NZ, but that’s another story.

18 months after that empty night, in other words today, I found myself back in The Rising Sun for another Lighthouse reunion.

It was much smaller than the main event – there were only 4 of us – but for me it served not so much as a memory of things past, but of our ongoing friendship with each other.

Perry, Hastings and Goodwin.

There was a shared sense of fun, together with the confidence that comes from having known each other for 15 years. It was these things that, when I got out my 10 films of my year in New Zealand, enabled Perry to boldly assert “Okay Steve – you hold up the pictures, and I’ll tell everyone what they’re of.”


Perry: “Okay, this is me at home before I began my trip to New Zealand.”

Perry: “And this is the view from my window on the plane.”

Perry: “This is Auckland.”

Steve: “Actually I think that’s Los Angeles. It's another photo from the plane.”

Perry: “This is the place where I stayed.”

It was official - Perry was a better me than I was. If anything, he was proving that no-one had missed me.

However, Perry’s brilliant running commentary then hit an unexpected snag. Something unanticipated that no-one could have foreseen. A deadly bolt from the blue that left us all mentally howling “Why, God, WHY?

Yep, Elvis began his act.

I couldn’t believe it. The single most successful singer in the whole history of the world had staged his comeback here a whole 18 months ago now… and he was still here???

As he proceeded to belt out That’s Alright Mama I had to reflect on just what a tragic comedown this was. Sure, he was a bit slower on his rooted-to-the-spot feet now, but he still commanded the attention of the whole room. Even Perry, recognising that no-one can outclass Elvis, gave up narrating my photos to take his own pictures of the human sideburn.

But alas, although we loved him like a dead icon, Elvis Aaron Presley just was not what we had all got together for, so we reluctantly finished our glasses and left the King for The Crown.

Sitting around in our second pub of the evening, I got out my photos again…

… and, as I recall, another band started up. Honestly, this lot were just Elvis wannabees.

This time I raised my voice anyway and went through the remaining films, before we all went our separate ways, probably vowing to get together and do this again sometime.

That's alright mama, that's alright for you,
That's alright mama, anyway you do.
Well that's alright, that's alright,
That's alright now mama, anyway you dooo...

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