A recruitment consultancy company in Auckland had fortunately started to take an interest in me. In fact, after I had applied for a couple of jobs through them, it was time for them to start telephoning me. I believe that when the recruitment companies are calling you, the battle is practically won. Once they had arranged a definite interview for me in New Zealand in a particular week, it then seemed likely that they would be able to offer me other interviews during the same week. It looked as if I might not get to them at all, however, because of the lack of available seats on the flights.
On the date I wished to travel, there was not a single economy class seat to be had. I don't much like travelling economy class, but paying for my own business class seats is always a struggle, but see 1987 for historical thoughts on this.
Anyway, if I was to travel for interview at all, the supplement had to be paid, so flights were booked and paid for, accommodation at the Auckland City Travelodge was arranged as usual and everything seemed good.
The flight to Auckland leaves very early in the morning, but following our experiences with it recently, things ran fairly smoothly. The later check-in time afforded by business class is something of an advantage too. However, knowing that the flight was very full meant that I was not keen to be too late checking in, in case the unspeakable happened and I was downgraded or even bumped off the flight, though this seemed unlikely.
We woke early enough for the flight, having followed the now time honoured plan of doing everything to prepare on the previous night. After checking in, I set off for customs and immigration, waving goodbye to my wife and to my children as I set off for my first international flight without them.
I didn't need to queue for very long, even though the x- ray machines were not working. This did mean that bags were being checked by hand. A lady just ahead of me gave us an interesting time as the security officer rummaging through her bag produced a very large, vicious knife, which was removed from her until her arrival at the destination. Her claim that she needed it for peeling fruit was largely ignored.
A walk through the departure lounge and onto the waiting aeroplane, Air Vanuatu's pride and joy, stopping and waving a few times at my family standing on the roof of the terminal building, which still needs repairing following cyclone damage earlier in the year.
On board, it was obvious that this flight was extremely full. Drinks were served to us, and very quickly I found that the passenger next to me had grown up less than five miles from me, even though he was now a lawyer in Hong Kong. He had just spent a couple of weeks in Vanuatu before going on to the Cook Islands for the rest of his holiday. The flight progressed and we talked about places we both knew at home and abroad, and the time seemed to fly.
At one point during the flight, we had been advised that Auckland airport was closed because of fog, but soon after this we found that we would not be diverted to Wellington after all.
Wellington, capital city of New Zealand, suffers from a severe problem in that it has a bad reputation for being a windy city, although Wellingtonians are quick to point out that they think Auckland is windier. I don't know enough about either city to comment, except to say that Auckland can be pretty cold and miserable at times. When a city is windy, there is less risk of fog and vice versa.
Soon after this, immigration at Auckland, which ran smoothly. This is the first time my main purpose of visit has been anything other than tourism, and the officer asked me which company I would be working with. I can't believe he had ever heard of the establishment I mentioned, but possibly the name of any company, spoken with confidence, would satisfy him.
Customs was not a problem either, as for once I was an inconspicuous traveller with just one suitcase. Soon afterwards, it was the familiar trip downtown on the bus, and into the Auckland City Travelodge, who by now have probably had more of my repeat business than anywhere else is likely to enjoy for a long time.
The only problem I had to face was what to do in a cold, windy city for a weekend. Certainly it was good to be in a place with civilisation after another term in Vanuatu, but there was more to it than that. As it turned, out, I found that time would pass quickly. On the first evening, I went to the cinema to see Aladdin, which was playing to full houses at the time. I have long been fond of Walt Disney cartoons, which for some reason are often believed to appeal to children only. Most of them, if given a chance, are fine entertainment for all the family, whether together or apart. Walt Disney themselves are pressing this point through their current marketing. Aladdin is a fine film, and I encourage you to see it. At this date, however, it had not yet been released in the United Kingdom.
The following day was Sunday, and I chose carefully which church I would attend. The New Zealand Herald is probably the best newspaper in the country, containing job vacancy advertisements alongside lists of churches. In most newspapers, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish the real churches from the sects who advertise. There were so many different adverts that I had to employ the black pencil approach to remove unsuitable ones, and I eventually found myself walking up Queen Street to Auckland Baptist Tabernacle. The service there was all I could have hoped for, and as an added bonus there was a church lunch afterwards, followed by a short church business meeting. A surprise was the discovery that some of our friends in Vanuatu were originally from that church, even though I had chosen it at random. I was made further welcome by a family from the church who took me to their home for the afternoon, followed by the evening service and a return to my hotel. It was a lovely day, but very cold. My worries as to what to do over the weekend were unfounded.
Monday morning saw me walk up Queen Street again, this time to the offices of the recruitment agency, which turned out to be a company of two partners working out of one of the furnished office complexes which advertise from time to time of their low costs and quick availability, while presenting a professional corporate image. This was the case. I shall not give their name for fear of shattering the image.
Monday afternoon would see two interviews, both in Auckland, both with companies who realised as soon as I did that we were not good fits. Their needs and my experience were close fits, but not close enough. This meant that some of the interviews later in the week would need to come up with the goods. I went back to the hotel for an early night, dining in their restaurant and selecting a New Zealand wine, though not one from Hawkes Bay because there was nothing suitable from the region on their wine list.
The venison was extremely fine, and my only objection was a waiter who seemed to think that "absolutely" was a more elegant way of saying "yes".