Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


The red sign was exactly where I had left it.

So was the duty-free area, the corridor where they play birdsong over the tannoy, and the free coffees.

The first time I had arrived here last year, after 26 hours in the air, I had quite literally been too tired to even string a sentence together.

This time I was a bit more used to it, but still on auto-pilot.

As I queued up, my thoughts were partly influenced by
the pigeons I’d seen perched above me back in Richmond last week. The ones that seemed to suggest that there were unpleasant forces trying to keep me away from NZ.

A year ago, upon entering New Zealand, Auckland Customs had taken me to one side, and without explanation searched my entire belongings. Eventually the guy had stood there, utterly defeated by his own misplaced determination.

“You don’t have enough clothes,” he’d given-in out loud. “I had hoped to do you for illegally emigrating here… but you don’t have enough clothes.”

I think his puzzlement was not so much at the number of clothes that I’d had, as at where he’d got the idea from that there could be so many of them in just one backpack.

Where indeed.

Was Satan trying to keep me out of New Zealand? Or was that just a very negative way of looking at things? Shouldn’t I be more positive-minded, and expect this morning to go without a glitch, like it no doubt would for the hundreds of other travellers in front of and behind me?

Put on all the armour that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks. (Ephesians 6:11 Good News)

So I prayed.

Sure enough, the girl I got at customs managed to query my official NZ-originated paperwork. So I spent a good 10 minutes taking her through the application that I’d already gone through when I’d made it 3 months ago, until she agreed that it was indeed okay.

Then, after the x-ray machine, a policewoman singled me out and quite literally asked me every question she could think of. “Do you have any other passports? Where are you staying? Why are you here? Was this trip a last-minute decision?” So I repeated the whole explanation that I’d just gone through with the customs girl all over again.

After a good 10 minutes she paused, apparently trying to think of some more questions to ask. Eventually I asked her “Have I done something wrong?” to which a huge smile suddenly rushed across her face as she quickly assured me “no, you haven’t”, explained that she had just picked me out “at random”, and then proceeded to spend several further minutes re-asking many of the same questions again, only this time in relation to my previous trip here.

Several minutes after she had admitted my innocence, it seemed she just couldn’t think of anything else to ask me, and had to let me go.

Too bad she didn’t spend all that time and effort on all the people who didn’t have official approval on paper from NZ Immigration, eh? (like, nearly everyone else there)

Again, where did she get such an illogical idea from?

For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. (Ephesians 6:12 Good News)

Having phoned flatmates David and Neil, I refused to pay the extortionate cab fare being quoted for Howick, and instead paid the extortionate one for the shuttle to the bus station on Queen Street.

(New Zealand has a low population, so the airport has no rail-link, and only one actual bus-service that I am aware of)

At the Britomart bus station, I realised that it was Saturday, and I had the best part of an hour to wait until the bus to Howick.

Not good news for a weary traveller.

My old friends at the youth hostel were, for the first time in months, a mere 10 minutes walk away, but my backpack suggested I should rather just slouch here and wait it out.

It was one of those moments when it felt as though no time at all had passed since I was last here. How many times now had I sat in this spot waiting for a bus to come? This was normal. The New Zealand sky. The complete stranger talking to me. The giant ‘X’ of the sign opposite that advertised ‘MAXX’ - Auckland’s mistifyingly renamed ‘Rideline’ helpline.

Where were John, Alistair and
Herschel now? It was like I had nodded-off and just dreamt my sojourn back to the UK.

The bus came, I caught it, I travelled through places with familiar names like Symonds Street, Newmarket, Ellerslie, Panmure, Pakuranga and all stations to Howick, where I climbed off and trudged back to my flat, where David and Neil were now out.

Tim Downstairs was just outside though, together with his cat Smokey, so I apologised to him for my anti-social lack of conversation, walked back through my waiting flat, and tried to stretch-out on my patiently-waiting mattress.

I looked around my room.

Flatmate David's treadmill
David's running-machine.

Mr Hippy's cassette-radio
Mr Hippy's cassette-radio.

The lamp above my bed that looks disturbingly like a small version of the one above Number 6’s bed in The Prisoner.

That picture on the wall! That was the one I had tried to recall back in England:

A couple with bags on a station platform eerily similar, and yet impossibly different, to my local Station back home.

Doing nothing takes everything I've got
Oh yeah, and that other picture of a cat sprawled out on its back.

Phantom catching goldfish?...and that other one that looks like our old family cat Phantom as a kitten.

And there were the two bags that I had left behind still sitting on the sammon carpet – if for some reason I hadn’t returned, one was to be shipped to me and the other thrown out.

And I was hungry too, but that meant going out again and buying something. And that meant breaking my decision not to dip into my UK money at all on this trip. I’d already bent that rule once today to exchange a traveller’s cheque for my bus fares.

What I really wanted to do though was crawl into bed and crash, but there was another problem. No sheets. I’d have to get up, search the house for some, and then make the bed. Too difficult. Maybe I could just sleep here? No, I needed some blankets to blot out the daylight.

It was a bit of an irony. In returning again I had philosophically made my own bed, but I actually couldn’t lie in it.

So instead I looked up at the window, saw the kiwi branches outside, heard the kiwi traffic and kiwi children’s voices and wondered yet again if coming back had all been a tremendous mistake.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, an old man in a hospital ward asked where I was.

(tomorrow's post here)


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