Correspondence – February 2014

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

Correspondence – February 2014

Greetings from – Hamilton NZ
Ian Gray’s Christmas newsletter to friends
Christmas cards are beginning to appear in the post so I am nudged into tackling my newsletter giving not only an outline of the past twelve months, but also a warm, sincere greeting to you, who have travelled some of Life’s journey with Lesley and me. I hope now, and the coming year, will bring you blessings – friends, family, good health.
Life in the retirement village, as I wrote in my last newsletter, presents adjustment challenges. A married couple moving in together would probably find it easier as they can discuss points of pressure or concern but when single some of those points can niggle and get out of proportion. Having said that, I feel very fortunate to be here. The residents and staff I find very understanding, and I have several close friends amongst them.
Rose and Joy, my two working sheepdogs are the centre of my attention and strongly influence the daily programme. They must have frequent contact with sheep to keep them in tune for trialling competition and in that regard I am exceedingly fortunate for I have two very experienced dog trialists giving me encouragement. Maurie Hone just 8 minutes away has a 10 acre block and keeps sheep to train his dogs and welcomes my using the sheep too.  35 minutes away are a marvellous couple, Michael and Margaret Oliver who own a large hilly property and there I can get flock mustering, distance run-outs and hard exercise for the dogs to keep them fit. Despite their sedentary life in the village, when the dogs are out on the hills they give their all to the task in hand. So impressive!
The extended family is in good heart and has increased globally, by three great grandsons during the year. Ollie led the way, born in Vancouver, Canada, to Damon and Annie Gray on the 27th May. Sophie Tayler and Mark Vincett soon followed with Barnaby on the 30th May, here in Hamilton, and finally, for the year, Ruben in Melbourne, Australia on the 19th September, to Michael Tayler and Ruth Friedlander.  I have been sent delightful photos of them and at about a week’s age they all look remarkably alike – strong family likeness? The important thing is they all appear to be thriving.
During the past couple of years, at times I have felt like Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress story. He carried this burden on his back, but somewhere on the journey he was helped to shrug it off. I refer to the writing of my memoirs my siblings and my immediate family have been agitating for, for some years. A neighbour here in the village, Ruth, who is stone deaf has a strong English Language understanding and reading is her main occupation. She leapt at the opportunity I offered her to proofread the text and this she did with exceptional accuracy and grammatical knowledge.  She is determined to have a printed copy. Another person who has helped me shrug off my burden is daughter Jeanette. Now retired from teaching and here in Hamilton she has considerable skill in manipulating photographs and those of course are a necessary inclusion in a story in this age. Daughter Alison, too, has guided me in the use of my computer.
Finally, 2013 is the 60th anniversary of when Lesley and I started creating Onesua High School, now College, out of the bush, on Efate Is in the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu. Four members of the family accompanied me, and we made a short six-day visit to Port Vila, met friends, now so few, from 1953 and visited the College. The current President of Vanuatu is Iolu Abbil, one of our students, 1959/61. I wanted to meet him again and he kindly gave us a morning. I was very surprised when there were several VIPs there including the NZ High Commissioner and was told the President would be presenting me with a medal. It was for Most Distinguished Service, their third highest award. I felt, and still feel, very humbled and wish Lesley was there beside me, as she had been during the years when, apparently, we earned the award.
To recipients of this email, I do feel it is a rather impersonal contact with good friends. Some of us may meet face-to-face during the year. To each of you, my thanks for your friendship in the past and may Peace and Good Health be with you in days ahead.  Ian Gray.
(Ian and Lesley Gray attended St Aidans from 1970 to 1997. Ian was an Elder.  Lesley conducted the choir for 25 years.  Contact details for Ian are available from the Editor)