Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

My latest visitor from down under, following in the footsteps of his own cousin six months ago, has this month been...


One of the things that distinguishes Nigel from most of the 100-odd other New Zealanders on my Facebook friendlist is that he's one of the few who I knew before I ever set foot in that country. Ah yes, Brighton, Wellington, Meet The Robinsons in 3D, The Settlers Of Catan, Waiheke Island, flatting with him at the seminary, Puhoi, plus other good times of course...

And now, he's just completed walking 800 km across the top of Spain! Basically, if I had any belief that catching up with this adventurer would be a chance to put my own feet up and take it easy, then I had another thing coming...

We caught up a fortnight ago at a coffee morning for the local branch of The Society For The Protection Of Unborn Children (SPUC), being run in part by my mum. After that we stopped across the road from the local abortion clinic to encourage some people from another organisation who were praying there. They've only been there a few weeks, and they've had eight people change their minds about going in. Eight lives. Wow.

After dropping in home, we headed out across Twickenham to have a traditional English fish and chip lunch, before running an errand for our friend Fionnuala and then checking out Twickenham Rugby Stadium!

Here we would have enjoyed going around the World Rugby Museum, although in the event neither one of us knew it was there. Not that this spoilt our day at all...

After a coffee, we polished off the day by taking in a performance of Julius Caesar. Despite Nigel's assurances that he was content just knocking around his old stomping ground with me, I really felt that his presence in the country once again was an opportunity that I didn't want him to miss. So I challenged him, arguing that surely there was someplace in London where he had always intended to go last time, but had never quite got around to?

Indeed there was! So the next day it was off to South Kensington for the Natural History Museum...
I came to this place once or twice when I was at school, and I saw it on TV then too. I remember a huge empty white room with arches and lots of information around it. I also seem to recall an enormous skeleton of a dinosaur on the way in...

What the...? Were we even in the right building here? This entrance hardly sums up most people's ideas about 'natural history'...

But maybe that's kinda the point. No-one knows anything about natural history from before we started writing it down because no theory about it can ever be checked, and even a lot of the earliest writings are subject to doubt for exactly the same reason.

Yet at the bottom of the escalator, before we had even gone in:

While a minute away at the top of the escalator we found:

Err, guys, you do know that the second statement disqualifies any process by which we can arrive at the first one, don't you? Well I'm encouraged that they were smart enough to present it all within that context.

Anyway, before I start sounding like I didn't enjoy this exhibition - which hadn't been put together by scientists but by exhibition organisers anyway - allow me to state how much we both enjoyed our time here. For the next couple of hours there was plenty to see, do, and of course photograph...

So with the Natural History Museum nailed, still with some of the afternoon left, we then headed straight across the road and into the Victoria & Albert Museum...

With time now definitely against us, we ironically exited the V&A's 'Tomorrow' exhibition to dash back across the road and into the Science Museum for the last hour.

Ultimately the afternoon gave way to an evening that never was. After a terrific meal at the Green Man, we traipsed around London for quite a while trying to track down a group of Nigel's friends who he hadn't seen for about a decade, unsuccessfully.

Eventually we returned to the Odeon Leicester Square where we had been hoping to catch Thor 2 on its opening night, but in the event we arrived just one minute after it had begun. I refused to miss the start of the film, and so that was that.

At this point Nigel's busy schedule required him to scoot off on a coach to Ireland via Wales, so the next time we had a chance to watch the same film wasn't until his return last night. Alas, in the event we met in Bayswater and checked him into his latest backpackers, before realising that we had once again left it just too darn late in the evening to see the movie.

Oh well, the opportunity to sit in Burger King and just chat before going our separate ways on a slightly more permanent basis was a valuable option too. With Nigel's phone broken, he's been borrowing mine for the past week. I told him to keep it with him until he gets a new one in the Philippines. Yes, the same Philippines which Typhoon Haiyan has just so tragically devastated. Avoid the zone? Nigel's planning to go live there forever. Did I mention he's also deep in training to become a catholic priest?

Before we returned to our separate hemispheres, I stood outside the London W2 backpackers and prayed for my friend. I found myself thanking God for a buddy, and asking that he be looked after on his travels, particularly as we both know that travelling often doesn't go according to plan. Then we said adios, and that really was it.

The following day Nigel disembarked from his coach in the Netherlands to find that his backpack had not arrived with him.



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