JUDE’S LIFE LESSONS
‘You need to get back up again’
WISDOM BECOMES HER! JUDE BEGINS A NEW GIG AT THE WEEKLY
It’s been a long time since Jude Dobson last shared words of wisdom in the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly via her column Ask Jude. So long, in fact, that when she’s asked how many years she did it, there’s a rather lengthy pause.
“Um, I know I started in the early ’90s, when I was a young woman living in Ohakea and my husband was in the air force, and I actually had a computer at home, which was pretty cool,” she says, racking her brain for dates. “Was it 1991? I know I was in my 20s. I can remember some of the letters, but I can’t remember how long I did it for. Hmm.”
Jude’s memory may have failed her on that point, but her ability to help readers deal with some of the dilemmas life throws at them is still as spot-on as ever, as we’ll get to see now that she has returned to the Weekly with a new advice column, Hey Jude.
The former TV host turned producer and documentary maker has been looking forward to coming back to the magazine, which first featured her in an article in 1989 when she landed the job on game show Sale of the Century.
By our reckoning, she was our advice columnist from
1994 to 1997, tackling questions on everything from falling out with friends to meddling mothers-in-law. After that, her
Weekly column changed from advice to handy tips and recipes to tie in with her TV show,
5.30 with Jude.
Although she’d had training as a Lifeline counsellor when she took on the column, she was somewhat lacking when it came to life experience.
“But I think my answers were pretty good and from a couple that I’ve looked at, I think I’d say the same thing today.”
She’s since had the benefit of considerable life experience, especially when it comes to parenting and being a member of the “sandwich generation” – looking out for both children and ageing parents – and has also picked up valuable insights along the way from research she’s done, particularly for Raising Children, an online video resource she puts together.
“And I think life experience doesn’t just have to mean what you’ve been through personally, but it’s from being around friends and family, and seeing how they have dealt with things. I’ve certainly been through plenty of that.”
Adding an empathetic nature and a no-nonsense attitude to those life lessons she’s learned along the way will help her to make useful suggestions – she doesn’t like the term “dispense advice” – to people who write into the Weekly with issues they need assistance with.
“Whatever you do, don’t describe me as the font of all knowledge,” she implores.
“That I am most definitely not. I’m more of a friendly ear, someone who’s just had a bit of experience.
“I’m not a really earnest person and if you want really serious advice, then you should go to a counsellor for it. But I’m also not that flippant person either, the one who says, ‘Oh mate, what are you worried about?’ I think I sit somewhere in the middle.
“I’ve found that a problem shared can be a problem halved and sometimes even just writing down how you’re feeling about a situation can get your thoughts in perspective.
“And when other people read these letters, they can relate to them and think, ‘Oh, that’s me.’ They might not have been able to write that letter themselves, but it can help them knowing they are not the only one going through something.”
Like anyone else, Jude has had her fair share of ups and downs in life. She has lost both her parents in the last couple of years – her mum Naomi died in 2016 and dad Bill passed away in July last year, and she misses them dreadfully.
She’s also missed her two oldest children while they’ve been living overseas – daughter Ella (23) has been working as an animator in New York, while son Jack (21) went to the University of Washington in Seattle on an exchange programme. The youngest, Rosie (15), is still at home with Jude and her husband Graeme.
Although she’s had great success with Raising Children and a documentary series she made about Kiwi involvement in World War I, last year she was turned down for funding for another project. “That was so disappointing, but I’ll just have to find other ways to fund it.”
And there were certainly plenty of highs and lows throughout her TV career, which she nearly gave up after three months, thanks to a barrage of unpleasant comments about “having too much personality” after she started on Sale of the Century.
“I don’t think anyone can say they haven’t