Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

So much for my bad back.

I’d told Cathay Pacific about it in advance by phone, I’d told them while checking-in at Heathrow Airport, and I’d told them a third time at Hong Kong. I even showed them the doctor’s certificate. Yet they still managed to put me in the worst possible seat on the flight. You see, front-row seats are the only seats with no seat in front of them, so they have to stow the in-flight TV in a metal box underneath the seat… right in front of where I was sitting behind. The simple result of this was that my left leg had legroom, but not my right. For 11 hours. And if you know me, I’m a slightly tallish fellow.

Anyway, that didn’t turn out to be my main problem.

After we’d left Hong Kong, as I turned the pages of The Man In The Rubber Mask, I began sneezing.

More and more.

I hadn’t sneezed once before or whilst in Hong Kong, and now I seemed to be coming down with precisely the sort of thing that they give you an infrared scan for there.

Name that crossroads
It's time for another edition of... Spot The Sky Tower!
By the time we touched-down in Auckland, I was quite definitely coming-down with something of my own. Not a good state to be in when about to ask to be let into a country.

Then, while waiting for my bag by the conveyor-belt, a customs dog came bounding-up, knocking over my coffee and wanting to go through my bag with an enthusiasm that only dogs posess, but I had already eaten the offending banana on the plane.

Once outside, I spotted Flatmate Dave’s silhouette waiting for me in his car. At the same moment my phone warbled that I had a call coming in from him. A call that turned out to be from flatmate Cathy. I could only see one silhouette in the car, who didn’t appear to be on the phone, and yet I was having this phone-conversation with Cathy who my phone said was Dave. After 24 hours in the air, this was all far too confusing for me to make sense of.

24 hour flights always disorietate me. Especially when they turn the world the other way up too.

Anyway, we all 3 reunited, and drove back to the flat, where due to my further time-management 6 weeks ago, I also had a freezer-meal and a made bed waiting for me.

I opened some of my post. Christmas cards, mainly.

A few hours of sneezing (or snoozing?) later it was time for church, so I texted Rhett who duly showed-up with Sarah to give me a lift to Cession. Without them, I wouldn’t have gone. Catching the bus would have just been too complicated for my tired, jet-lagged, diseased brain.

I walked into church in something of a daze. I tried my best to look awake. I totally failed, as always. The bright broad daylight outside just made things worse. It was all wrong. I wanted to be wrapped-up cosily in bed at night, not socialising outdoors in the sunshine.

Yes, yes this definitely reminded me of previous 24-hour flights here.

Tired and exhausted, I actually fell asleep during Brett’s sermon, which he’d broken up into 3 sections just keep me believing that he’d finished when he hadn’t.

The worst, most unforgivable, moment came when Brett, making some sort of point, openly asked the entire congregation “Who here is over 35?” I think only one hand sheepishly headed upwards. Mine. Today was, by a staggeringly unkind coincidence, my 36th birthday.

And, because this was my crazy life, I had spent part of it opening Christmas cards.

The following morning, Monday, I dragged myself out of bed, hauled myself across Howick into work, and somehow croaked my way through 3 hours of Advanced English.

Of course I talked about the flight, my back, and how I appeared to be coming down with flu, but still didn’t want to admit it. Then I went home. Then I went back to the school again for the evening Pre-Intermediate class. Then I went home again, and straight back to bed. It was now Monday night, and I was choking back jet-lag, flu and a very irregular return to work.

Tuesday, thank God, was Waitangi Day – a public holiday. All day.

I slept right through, with the heater on. And the cooler. And a hot water bottle. And the windows open. And the Tuesday sun beating down through a blisteringly hot hurricane onto a deafening crowd of hissing insects just outside.

Flu is a terrible thing, yet we forget how horrible it is because it passes. I think the worst thing about flu, apart from the sneezing and the coughing, and the dryness, and the headaches, and the heat, and the cold, and the peeling lips, and the sweating, and the sheer crippling exhaustion, and the return of my bad back with a vengeance, would have to be… the madness.

Half-awake, trying to make sense of your exstrainperate dreams…

I needed to buy a chair. Unfortunately New Zealand was still using the old bartering system as the norm. Of course, I had nothing that a furniture store could want, so the normal thing to do was to take something else, swap it with a third party, swap that with another third party, swap that with another third party and so on, until I would have exactly the right item to swap for the chair. Everyone in New Zealand was so used to this system, having grown up with it, that they could all easily perform multiple swaps pretty well without even thinking about it, but the most important thing was getting the details right on what you wanted to "purchase." I couldn't figure out how anyone could use this system to specify details, and anyway, I was in the bed I was buying, there was a lot of money changing hands, and that all affected who won.

At one stage I mustered the strength to heave myself out of bed to go and refill my hot water bottle, and found the house deserted, as everyone else had gone out go-karting for the day without me. Just as well – I wouldn’t have enjoyed go-karting in my pyjamas.

Finding no food in the house, I gritted my teeth and forced myself to decide to trek out to Food Town to buy some more food. Unfortunately this meant getting dressed, which would be another big complicated operation. Instead the phone rang, and neighbour Pauline came over with some chilli she’d fried. I really didn’t think my stomach (itself having ongoing issues with antibiotics) would like it, but she was right – it was exactly what I needed. I never went out, heck I never got dressed – I crashed straight back into bed, still surrounded by the bowls of water I’d placed in my room to humidify it.

After my 32 hour spiral through exhaustion, I finally stumbled stiffly from my room on Wednesday morning because I had to somehow go into work again, and listen to my class tell me how they had all spent their great sunny summer public holiday. And then I went home for a few more precious hours before going in for the evening class again before bedtime in preparation for the next morning.

Welcome back, Goble.


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