I couldn't go because I got Covid, and it may have been for the best.
The event was a memorial service for a man I used to play rugby with. Apparently he died a couple of years ago. Why they were holding the service now, I don't know.
He was a good man, and gutsy on the rugby field - if not particularly skilled. He was also a mechanic with a workshop up Blenheim Rd and I used to take him my enormous Holden Belmont to service. But if I am honest, and there is no reason not to be, I did not know him especially well.
We played a couple of seasons together and then he emigrated to Australia, I think. I haven't seen him, or indeed thought of him, for 30 years. So it wasn't for the dead man that I wanted to attend. It was for the living men.
When I came to this country in 1987 I had played rugby in Spain, France, Canada and England and I was keen to add New Zealand to the list. A colleague told me he knew just the team for me so I turned up at pre-season training. 'I'm Joe, I said. The skipper looked me up and down - though mainly down - and said, 'No, you're not. You're Pom.'
'That's fine by me,' I said, and so I was Pom.
This wasn't altogether advantageous. Rugby then was still the game it used to be, "the game for all New Zealand" as a big book called it, an amateur game which more or less policed itself, a game with quite a bit of biffo and an awful lot of rucking, with rucking being defined as dancing on a trapped opponent's flesh with metal sprigs. Being addressed as Pom made me a target of both biffo and rucking. My teammates found it more amusing than I thought they should.
But still, aside from the attentions I received for Pomminess, I loved it. This was second-grade rugby. It suited me. I was fit and strong and respectably skilful but I was never much of a rugby player because, as Frankie Howerd once put it, there was something wrong with my back. It had a big yellow streak down it.
I would will myself to be brave but it made no difference. I admired brave players. I would follow brave players. I just never was one. It didn't matter much.
I played 10 years for that team. We won no trophies. I can remember no results. I have no photographs. But I remember the people.
There were youngsters on the way up and oldies on the way down. But most were just hacks like me, club players.
There was Adam the Aussie, who had beautiful girlfriends and terrible hangovers. His speciality was the long-range intercept try, the glory marred only by his habit of kneeling after scoring and throwing up.
There was Big Mike the prop who lived to ruck and scrummage but who couldn't bear to have the ball. If it fell into his hands, even in open spaces, he would stop, turn round, bend over and form a one-man maul. There was the Frenchman of a thousand shirts who talked an infinitely better game than he played but who knew some wonderful bar tricks.
There was John the lisping policeman, and Coaster Frank who would stand in the shower after the game with a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other.
These were not great men. They were flawed and ordinary men, and all the better for it. I loved them all in a low-temperature sort of way, and I've seen none of them for 25 years and presumably some of them would be at the memorial service. I was keen to attend
for two reasons. The first was curiosity, to see what time had done to my former friends, to see who it had beaten up and how. The second was the standard cause of all reunions, nostalgia, a subconscious attempt to walk back up time's tunnel and rediscover yesterday. And that never works, for obvious reasons.
When Covid intervened I felt thwarted. But then I reflected that if I'd wanted to stay in touch with these men I could have done so.
So I suspect it was actually all for the best. The men can stay in memory. They live well there, and time can't get them.