Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Well, thanks to the combined help of Singapore Airlines and the New Zealand Immigration Service, and one of my flatmates keenly opening my post (thanks for your enthusiasm buddy :)) here I am finally holding the paperwork that I need to both pop home to the UK for six weeks, and to subsequently return here to teach English afterwards. Originally my 12-month ticket had only been valid until last Thursday, however in a rare move the airline agreed to extend its validity by three more days, meaning that this will actually now be my first trip home for over a year!

It’s all just as well – last Thursday I had really been too ill to fly anyway.

The picture above was taken last Saturday, on the day of my new visa’s arrival. Appropriately enough, the assorted bunch of friends behind me are my motley flatmates – Tim downstairs, flatmate Cathy and flatmate Dave. (Smokey refused to join us)

Flatmate Dave is also a time-traveller, as immediately after this picture was taken, he popped out for a couple of hours claiming that he was just popping into work. When he returned however, although only two hours had passed for us, clearly about 50 years had passed for him…

Who knows what adventures he had been off on in that time?

And here’s Nicola refusing to believe his explanation:

After he’d gone again (to fight the Daleks or something) I began the long weary process of packing my bags to go all the way around the planet home again, pausing only to down a quick drink in The Barrell with Tim and Nicola.

The following morning Tim had kindly agreed to skip church in order to give me a lift to Auckland Airport, where he also took an ‘after’ photo of me, to go with the ‘earlier’ one I had taken last time I went home in July 2005.

Before: (8th July 2005)
After: (24th September 2006)

We said our goodbyes, and he returned to his car as I turned away from my last Kiwi friend and towards the airport’s sliding entrance. Then I stopped and turned back as he was still opening his car door. I shouted:

“You were the first person I saw, and the last person!”

He grinned, enjoying one last time an amusing memory that was exactly one year old today, before I turned around again, and we really did go our separate ways.

My bag contained a thoroughly-wrapped bottle of wine as a gift for someone, so just for once I had my bag checked in as FRAGILE. Also, the check-in assistant was kind enough to put me in emergency exit seats all the way to London! Yay Singapore Airlines!

The guy sitting next to me was going to visit his son in Singapore. It’s funny how you develop a certain “team-ness” with whoever you sit next to on a flight.

I only watched 2 TV shows on the flight – the episode of The Simpsons containing Mr Burns’ See My Vest number was well-known to me, but I was absolutely elated to also find an episode of Futurama that I’ve been looking forward to for AGES! It’s the one when Fry goes back in time to avert the events of the very first episode. It’s not the show’s finest hour, but I think Futurama in general is even better than The Simpsons.

That was all I watched though. I’m slowly getting used to these 26-hour journeys, and really no longer need the TV. This time I’d come prepared with all my photos from the past year to label. It was good to use all that down-time to get some work done.

This also had the benefit that, when we landed at Singapore Airport, I was able to retake near-identical shots to the ones I’d taken here just over a year ago when travelling in the opposite direction.

Before: (23rd September 2005)

After: (24th September 2006)

Before: (23rd September 2005)

After: (24th September 2006)

I also got to take some original ones:

But best of all – yes, you guessed it – I got to ride once again on The Singapore Monorail!

(Ahhh, it’s my lifelong dream to be a conductor on one of those things)

After buying a Singapore Monopoly set for Herschel and some souvenirs for my mum (who served in the army in Singapore many years ago), I boarded my second flight.

Again in an emergency exit seat, this time I sat next to a guy who was going on a business trip. Wow – what it must be like to get paid to go to sleep on a 12-hour flight.

Then this morning, at 5:05am, we finally touched-down at Heathrow Airport.

As we were trudging through the terminal towards baggage reclaim, the guy who’d been sitting next to me for the last 12 hours had a follow-on flight to catch, so we bade each other farewell and he turned-off to head through a different door to me.

Then I realised that the last thing I had said to him was “Have a nice time visiting your son.” As he vanished from my life, I remembered that it had been the guy on my first flight who had been visiting his son – this guy was here on a business trip. I sincerely hope that my strange parting words provided him with something to occupy his mind on his following journey.

After waiting the traditional age for my FRAGILE bag, I found it had been bashed around so much that several items inside (not the wine bottle fortunately) had been smashed to pieces, and it had been broken into as well. Nothing seems to be missing however.

Then the emotionless staff behind the desk at the bus station avoided eye-contact with me, and flatly denied the existence of the bus I was asking about.

Then, at Hatton Cross Station, the bus driver refused to change my £20 note, insisting that I get off and go buy something to get some change, and then wait for another bus. Oh yes, I’d landed back in miserable old England all right. It was up to a Chinese girl on the bus to help and change money with me.

I reached my front door at 7:30am. My plan had been to surprise my mum by waking her up with a cup of tea. As I quietly turned the key and pushed open the door, I knew that I was too late. I could see the door to the living room was open, and the light inside was shining out into the corridor. That meant that she was up and having breakfast.

I walked up the corridor, turned into the living room doorway and saw my mum for the first time in just over a year.

I said “Hello.”

She looked up, registered that a complete stranger was apparently standing in her living room, gasped in surprise and clasped at her chest.

Oh dear, I seem to have this effect on people.


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