Had it not been for Ross Jackson, it is quite possible that I would not now be living in Pukekohe. I have said that it was on my visit to Ross in the winter of 1980 that he, Richard Flinn, and I decided to work towards the establishment of a Reformed church in Pukekohe. No such decision would have been imaginable if my and Susan's relationship to Ross and Glenys Jackson had not been as close as it was.
That closeness was not obvious from the beginning of our acquaintanceship. Ross and I are rather contrasting types of person. My interests are wide-ranging, and I have a fair ability to acquire knowledge of a number of subjects. In this, Ross and I are very much alike. What I lack, and Ross possesses, is any real talent for the practical side of life. It is, nevertheless, the case that from early on, he and Glenys became Susan's and my closest friends. During the three years we lived in Auckland before moving to Yap, we helped one another in very many ways. When either of us had need of counsel, each turned to the other. It is, perhaps, simply the case that, though I am 8 years Ross's senior, he and I were at comparable stages in our spiritual history during those three years.
In 1976, Ross and Glenys moved to Balclutha for a three-year stint as a rural schoolteacher; Sue and I moved to Yap. And during the four subsequent years, our families grew pretty nearly synchronously. They and we exchanged endless communications by the exchange of cassette tapes. We were both Calvinists in outlook. We both home-schooled.
And we were both involved in computing. When Ross went to work for Interactive Applications Ltd, he advised me to send them my curriculum vitae. And in September, 1983, by pre-arrangement, I talked to Ross on the telephone.
Telephonic communication between Yap and the rest of the world was, in 1980, not trivially easy. There were two places that could talk, via radio, to telephone links via Guam. One was the Yap Communications Stations, at the airport; the other was the United States Coast Guard station in Gagil. We went to the Coast Guard station.
IAL wanted to hire me.
The business had rather a relaxed air about it, in fact. I told Ross that I could not simply give a month's notice and leave. That was all right. IAL would take me on whenever I was available.
It must be understood that these were early days in commercial microcomputing. It may not be the case that anyone who was capable of writing, say, a noughts-and-crosses game in BASIC could call himself a programmer and get a job - but this was not far from the truth, I think. I had done a fair job of doing what programming was needed for us in Yap during the two years previous. I had, after all, had a significant amount of programming experience using mainframe computers before that. And I had Ross's recommendation behind me.
I gave Ross to understand that I would get back to him soon, with a final word. I would talk with Susan.
I did talk with Susan. It was clear that I was fairly keen on the idea. It is quite likely that Sue's own positive feelings were as much negative ones about living in Yap as positive about moving back to New Zealand. For her, life in Yap - and life with me in Yap - were very difficult.
I recall saying to her, rather as a comment in passing, that she understood, naturally, did she not, that this was almost certain to be a one-way trip - that if we moved back to New Zealand, it was very unlikely we would ever leave.
She burst into astonished tears.