Later in the year, in lieu of both our birthdays, my husband Ross and I are going to Prague and Budapest on a Danube cruise, which will be rather lovely. On my actual birthday there will be a gathering of my kids, my grandees and a few close mates for dinner – Christchurch is full of gorgeous new restaurants and we will try one of those.
I don’t think so at all; I am always so terribly easy to please! I’m there to enjoy, so I don’t get the clipboard out – and when you have gorgeous friends and family around you, it doesn’t matter if you are having bread and water.
Isn’t that a trick! I got the letter the day of my mother Fay’s funeral and I thought, ‘Oh, isn’t that lovely – the Governor General is writing to offer condolences!’ It came out of the blue and so it was a great surprise. It was a splendid funeral and a day of celebrating Mum’s wonderful life, and I had that private moment knowing she would have been very proud of me.
It is nice to be at an age where I don’t care what people think. I say what I mean, and there is a nice sense of knowing myself. I am quite excited about the next few years, I am fit and well, and the important job of getting my kids on their way is done. I can now re-evaluate my goals for this new phase.
Professionally, this time will be about doing fewer things better. I’ve run Seagar’s lovely cooking school, café, shop and bed and breakfast for 10 years now and it has been wonderful, but that was my 50s and it is time for someone else to take over now. I’m certainly not retiring though; I imagine that happens at 80. I’m planning on doing a lot more food writing, I’ll also continue teaching – I think at 60 you are quite a wise old person and there are lovely things to hand on. I’d like to run etiquette classes – I don’t mean learning how to use a dinky little cake fork, I mean ‘may I refresh your drink’, rather than ‘do you want a top-up?’ – which is what you do with a diesel vehicle!
I think rural northern Japan would be a wonderful area to explore and I would like to do a lot more travelling in the States. I quite fancy the idea of Christmas in one of those big lodges, wearing a sweater with reindeer on it. But although some people reach 60 and go on the big OE they always dreamed of, Ross and I are lucky to have done some splendid travelling before our kids were born.
Yes, people say 60 is the new 40 and I feel like it is in a way. I am very fond of the author Nora Ephron, who said there are two words that make our experience of ageing different than our mother’s and grandmother’s – hair dye – and she was quite right. It used to be when your hair turned grey you were an ‘old person’ and you had to pop on your pearls, tweed suit and have your hair done in a blue rinse.
I think this is a nice age to grow into yourself [naturally]. I am not against surgery, but I am a confident person and I have always accepted myself as unique and different, and I have always believed that your smile is your best make-up.
Gratification – it’s now trendy to have a gratification diary, but I was always taught to count blessings and to find and comment on the good things in life.
To see both sides of a situation – I know now you are not born a winner or a loser, but a chooser. I feel that quite strongly. And now I am quite proud that I can entertain another point of view without accepting it. You can agree to differ – that wisdom comes with age.
That my kids have left the nest and gone well-armed into the world – they know how to earn a dollar and are nice people.
Total acceptance that it is actually perfectly okay to be yourself; I have never tried to be someone I’m not. I think I appeal as someone with arms wide open rather than someone way up there – I’m just a normal New Zealand girl and I like the fact that I am everyone’s cousin, aunt and godmother.
I don’t think I have changed a lot. No one has ever seen a false me – I am just really happy to be Jo Seagar. I love my husband, kids, grandkids and I have wonderful friends. I’m a little bit more ‘what will be, will be’ now... but that’s probably just a lack of oestrogen.
Photographs by: Jae Frew, Todd Eyre and courtesy Jo Seagar