Now I know how Nelson Mandela felt.
We both fought for freedoms and both paid the price.
A warder's first words when Mandela arrived at Robben Island were, "This is the Island. This is where you will die."
A Corrections office representative's first words when I arrived at Mt Eden were, "This is the remand centre. Would you like a cup of tea?"
But no tea could unthaw the chill I felt in my bones when the bars of the prison cell slammed shut.
It is a sound I will remember for the rest of my days.
It was the sound of totalitarianism and the dark forces of the deep state.
I knew who was responsible. It wasn't really the Corrections office representative, who introduced himself as Duncan, and gave me the Wi-Fi password. He was just following orders when he closed the prison doors. Those orders came from Jacinda Ardern.
Or as she is known to many, Jacinda Bin Lardern.
But if she thinks that locking me up and taking away my freedoms will break my spirit, I have news for her.
I will not bend.
Mandela wrote of the political prisoners at Robben Island, "We drew strength and sustenance from the knowledge that we were part of a greater humanity than our jailers could claim."
It's very dark in this cell.
"Duncan," I cried out, "let me out! For all that's good and holy, unlock these doors! I just need to see daylight and feel the touch of another human being! Please, I beg you! This is inhuman. I've lost track of time. How long have I been in this hell of incarceration? A day? Two days? A week? A year?"
"About 10 minutes," he said.
He brought in a cup of tea, Cameo Creme biscuits, and the Sky remote.
"I don't like Cameo Cremes," I said.
I asked why I was in isolation. He said it was because I was unvaccinated. I said what did that have to do with anything. He said he was vaccinated. I said that was his choice. He said that all people working inside prisons are required to be fully vaccinated as part of the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021, because people in prison are some of the most vulnerable to the virus, and due to the ease of transmission, extending the Vaccination Order supports the safety and wellbeing of staff and people in prison. I said in that case he didn't actually have a choice.
I broke out in sores and lost my sight at the prospect of the eternity of my incarceration that lay ahead but Duncan said I was only in remand for 10 days, and then I'd be able to return to my wife and family.
"And my motorbikes," I said.
"And your church."
"Oh yeah, that too," I said.
But then he said he had to go. I heard his footsteps recede, and then – silence. A silence like the grave.
"I'm not a criminal!" I called out.
"Neither am I," said a voice.
"Me, neither," said someone else.
We introduced ourselves.
"I'm Bishop Brian," I said.
"Machine Gun Trevor."
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I said, "Are you political prisoners, too? I'm inside for speaking the truth. And that truth is about how our freedoms and rights have been eroded. I'm doing this for those New Zealanders that wanted to stand up but were too afraid to. This isn't a democracy. This is a – "
"Shut it, mate," said Big Manny.
"Yeah, give it a rest," said Machine Gun Trevor.
"Sorry, gentlemen, but lights out," said Duncan.
I lay down on my bunk bed in the dark. There was a small window and I could see the full moon. It cast long, frightening shadows of the prison bars.
Mandela said, "To go to prison because of your convictions and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile."
I took courage from his words. I felt at peace. I drew 10 strokes on the cell wall to mark the 10 days of my imprisonment, and crossed out the first stroke. I wrote next to it, "Bishop Brian was here."
I made myself comfortable. I thought of Hannah, and cast out thoughts of Jacinda Bin Lardern. I looked at the moon. I looked at the long, frightening shadows. And then, with a heavy sigh, I ate all the Cameo Cremes. They were actually quite nice.