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Allyson Gofton and Jude Dobson’s big ‘Thelma and Louise’ adventure

The friends will go to great lengths to prove it’s never too late for the trip of a lifetime.

If you arrived home from work during the ‘90s and switched on the telly, chances are one of these two women’s faces was smiling back at you.

After years of bringing a bit of glamour to Sale of the Century, the always cheery Jude Dobson anchored a team of lifestyle presenters each weeknight on 5.30 with Jude. And before she handed over to Richard Long and Judy Bailey on the 6pm news desk, it was a radiant Allyson Gofton who appeared, providing quick-smart recipes for the whole family in her famed Food in a Minute spot.

It was seamless, with most viewers thinking they were all quite possibly in the same studio together – and most definitely were all good friends who knew each other well.

But although Jude and Allyson are the closest of friends today – they finish each other’s sentences and give each other a ribbing only the truest of pals can get away with – they reveal they’d barely met back then.

“People just assumed we were right there next to each other,” says Jude (49). “In fact, most people thought Allyson was part of the show. I remember I used to get some of your mail! I’d spend half a day each week replying to letters, and a few of them would say, ‘Nice to see you on the show and I liked this bit, and, by the way, can you give me the recipe that was on at the end of the programme?’

“That bloody potato pompom thing you made, that was ridiculous – all the mail we got over that,” laughs Jude.

“Yes!” roars Allyson (55). “When we put pompoms on top of my cottage pie, did you know the sales increased by 5000 per cent? I’m serious!”

“Yes, well, that’s probably all those people I told to write to you, Allyson!” shrieks Jude.

The pair’s firm friendship was a long time coming but it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when Jude’s show had finished up, that their paths crossed properly. Deciding to move behind the camera, Jude started a production company and began with her parenting series Homegrown.

“I found 10 different celebrity parents and talked to them about the issues they faced. So I approached Allyson for it, who talked about antenatal and postnatal depression. You were very candid about your challenges,” recalls Jude, turning to Allyson.

When the pair got talking, something just clicked.

“We both came from this sort of ‘straightjackets of TV’ era where we had a set format, so once we talked to each other, we went, ‘Whoa! You’re actually a bit like me – you’ve got a sense of humour and it’s a bit irreverent!’” says Jude.

“Exactly!” beams Allyson. “Jude and I were on TV at a time where everything was really set – these were the words you had to say and the way you had to appear. We had these very public roles. We’ve both got quite big personalities, but I think people didn’t realise that we even had them outside of that television!”

It was about 18 months ago, though, that they really became the closest of friends, after Allyson caught up with Jude to talk about her future plans.

“I said to her, ‘I think I’d like to do something more with France, and something more to do with food,’” she tells, before Jude jumps in. “So I said, ‘My goodness, yes.’ I love food and I always want to go to France. I’m a Francophile. I want in on this!”

So over numerous coffees, they started forming a plan. Allyson, who spent 18 months in France from 2012 to 2014, was keen to return for another go at it, and soon.

“I loved it last time – there were definitely tribulations, but also huge triumphs and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Only this time with my best mate!” she shares.

The plan, as it stands, is that Allyson will go over in the coming months, while Jude – with her husband and youngest daughter Rosie (13) – will join her in France next year for a time.

“We figured, I’ve interviewed a million people, Allyson’s cooked a million things, so the current plan is for her to do a cookbook and I’ll do some other sort of book where I talk to all the famous Kiwis living over there,” says Jude, who is also mum to Ella (21) and Jack (17).

And besides working on their respective books, you’ll still be able to hear them on the radio – they both recently signed up as Coast FM ambassadors. At the moment, they’re both on air, although separately, and say they feel they’re a perfect fit for the radio station.

“It’s our vintage, really,” says Allyson. “All the marketing companies will tell you that the new 60 is 50, and the new 50 is 40 and the new 40 is 25 and whatever, so that’s us! We turned 50, so we’re in!”

“Ah, excuse me, I haven’t turned 50 yet!” exclaims Jude.

“Look, you’re closer to 50 than you are 45. Get over it,” ribs Allyson, before continuing. “It’s cool to still enjoy the music that you loved when you were younger – that’s totally fine because you can still hear the words. And there are words! And they’re not pornographic!”

Jude nods, agreeing that it’s the songs from her youth that are still her favourites.

“I think that happens to everyone – those songs from your teens or your twenties, they become your default settings.”

For Jude, that means a playlist that always includes Michael Jackson, Prince, then most likely Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and the Bee Gees.

“It was all happening in the ’80s!”

For Allyson – who is mum to Jean-Luc (14) and Olive-Rose (9) – she finds it hard to go past The Rolling Stones, who always trigger a memory of her very first concert.

“I grew up in Tasmania, so the first concert I went to was abroad, obviously. It would have been like trying to get the biggest pop band to Eketahuna then! I packed up for London as soon as I could and, in 1982, I went to my first concert – the Rolling Stones in Rotterdam.

“I took the Magic Bus. I don’t know if that still exists, but you squish in, sit on the floor – there’s no concern for health and safety – and then you’re there! To see the Rolling Stones there with 80,000 people, it was incredible. I know I’ll never forget it.”

The nostalgia that looking through their old records brings up is part of the appeal of their new roles, as is being able to show more of the personalities they’ve kept quite hidden over the years and be themselves more. And, as Allyson says, it’s come at the perfect time in her life.

“It’s really nice for women our age that you’re comfortable in who you are,” she shares. “And there is a real joy in having gotten through all the years of your thirties and forties.”

“Still in my forties, Allyson!” pipes up Jude again.

“You’re in your 50th year, get over it!” shrieks Allyson.

“There’s this confidence you get,” she continues, “an ability to pass on information and look forward to the next things you can achieve in your life.”

For Allyson and Jude, that means going on an adventure. And they’re up for showing other like-minded women what’s out there to be enjoyed.

“I get it,” says Allyson. “When you’re raising children, your budgets are always set, it’s hard to move out of that range. We’ve all been there, Jude and myself have been there.”

“Still there, Allyson!” chimes in Jude.

“And I haven’t even clocked into those teenage years with my kids!” says Allyson. “But what happens once those funds open up a bit is there can be the opportunity to do a once in a lifetime trip. I know there are a lot of women out there aged 50-plus who would just love to have that little confidence boost to go, ‘Yes, I can do this. I can travel to a country where I don’t know the language, but I can do this and see this and have the time of my life – and I can do it with another girlfriend!’”

“It’ll be a bit like Thelma and Louise, without those bad bits and the ending,” laughs Jude.

There are hopes their adventure will include a few great road trips together, and they’re already brainstorming the playlist of course.

“Ooh, we’ve got to have It’s Raining Men,” laughs Allyson “And Aretha Franklin! Respect,” adds Jude.

And with that, they’re lost in a discussion – and many giggles – leaving us all wishing that we could all be in that back seat, riding along as they speed down the French coast, no doubt having the time of their lives.

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