Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Above is the view from Lionel's ward at Auckland Hospital. It's a view he doesn't see very much, because he's usually in bed or sitting in his chair next to his bed.

In fact, after next Tuesday, it's a view he won't be seeing very much of at all, as he's being repatriated back to Britain.

Today however the plan was to radically alter Lionel's view a few days early - I was taking him back to the youth hostel where we'd both met and stayed for so long, to visit his old friends again, and to say goodbye.

Social Services had been a bit apprehensive. The idea of a wheelchair being used to - horrors - wheel someone about outside the hospital seemed to scare them a bit. Fortunately this actually worked in our favour - as they coughed-up for a mobility cab.

And so it was that this lunchtime, Lionel put on his best flat cap, dug out his camera, and finally headed out into the fresh, well, carbon monoxidey Auckland air for a day-trip back to real life again.

Except that the cab hadn't waited for us, and was nowhere to be found.

Much toing, froing, and telephoning later, the nurses convinced the cab company to send another one. By this time Lionel and I were back up in the ward, so while we were heading back downstairs a second time, yes, the second cab decided not to wait for us either.

We had to try another cab company. Lionel kept thinking of more things he wanted to take with him. It kept getting later.

There's a point when you have to speak the words that you really don't want to think.

"This isn't going to happen today."

Darn it, Lionel actually was all dressed-up with nowhere to go.

I was sorely tempted to head off down the road with him, and in so doing break all the promises that I'd made to Social Services not to. But if I'd done that, what chance would the next person making that promise have?

So I wheeled him down to the shopping-centre on the ground floor. He bought a few nick-nacks, including a phone-card, and we sat down to enjoy a coffee and bun together.

After an hour, we went outside and explored as much of the outside of the hospital as we could. It was sunny. I was pleased to get that sunshine on his face again.

Back up at Rangitoto Ward, I made it absolutely clear that we were going to do this again properly tomorrow. We got another cab booked, made sure they would wait for us this time, and I looked out of the window at the City that had proved so elusive.

Somewhere in that view out there, I think hidden in front of the Phillips-Fox building on the right, I thought I could just make out our old backpackers...


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