Since moving into their third floor apartment at Murray Halberg in March 2021, Gavin Ellis and Jenny Lynch have loved everything about life in the retirement village – apart from one thing.
“The one regret I have moving in here is the word retirement,” says Gavin.
“We get that there are age restrictions, but I don’t think either of us regard ourselves as retired. It’s not a word that’s in our vocabulary!”
Indeed, former NZ Herald editor-in-chief Gavin is as industrious than ever in the wordsmithing business, lecturing, consulting, writing and researching with a recent assignment examining the role the media played during the Christchurch mosque attacks.
Says Gavin, aka Dr Ellis, thanks to his PhD in political studies: “Both of us continue to practise the craft. I think it’s quite important for me to have that professional dimension to my life, and we can do that here.”
Similarly, Jenny has authored a list of books, most recently her own memoir Under the Covers: Secrets of a Magazine Editor where she tells the stories behind the stories from her time working in various newsrooms and editorial offices, most notably her seven years at the helm of New Zealand’s favourite magazine NZ Woman’s Weekly.
“I enjoy public speaking, and it’s most unfortunate that lockdowns and traffic light systems have stopped the face to face,” says Jenny, now looking forward to resuming this activity in a future with fewer COVID-related restrictions in place.
The couple first met ‘over a hot typewriter’ while working together on the ill-fated Sunday Herald publication, not to be confused with the Herald on Sunday.
Gavin moved to Lynfield in 1976 to join Jenny who had been based there for 10 years already, and both have been smitten with the suburb since then.
One of the things they love most about their apartment is its views of Manukau Harbour, which was a feature they loved about their old home too.
“The Manukau is a remarkable body of water, constantly changing, it’s gorgeous.
“I’m so pleased we were able to keep that connection with the harbour and also the bush,” says Gavin.
Both have appreciated all the measures Ryman has had in place to keep COVID-19 out, but were attracted to the lifestyle even before the pandemic thanks to annoyances such as the upkeep of their property, the steep driveway at the end of a steep street - especially since Jenny doesn’t drive - and the prospect of contending with stairs after having a knee replacement.
“We were thinking about the future, and age doesn’t go backwards, which is a great shame!” says Jenny.
Jenny Lynch and Gavin Ellis, with Jenny's book behind them on display in the village library.
Despite all those pluses, there was a potential deal breaker, which involved their beloved Rufus the cat.
“If we hadn’t been able to bring Rufus with us we wouldn’t have come, but there was never any question,” says Jenny.
“And that’s another nice thing about the village is there are so many pets here and it’s lovely to see. It gives you a family feeling, and it’s a comfort to see people with their pets.”
With Rufus’ wild background as a stray and years of living rough in the bush, the couple weren’t sure how he’d adjust to third floor apartment living.
“He has adapted remarkably and he loves the place,” says Gavin, who admits to playing a significant role in that transition.
“I take him for a walk in the corridor and he’s got two litter trays, one on the balcony and one inside - one for each function – and it’s my job to maintain those.
“Jenny calls me the ‘groom of the stool’!” he laughs.
With all three feeling happy and cared for even life in the lockdown seemed a breeze.
“Having been through the first lockdown in our house we just knew how much better off we are in a secure environment where there are plans in place for various contingencies,” says Gavin.
Adds Jenny, who has made many friends since moving in: “That’s another good reason for being here if you don’t have immediate family around, we have got this other family in the village.”