Change is in the air for Jim Mora and Mary Lambie, on both the work and family fronts. Fortunately they are firm believers that change is a good thing rather than something to be dreaded.
As listeners to Radio New Zealand National will know, after around eight years of presenting Afternoons, Jim has moved on. His new challenge will begin on July 7 when he’ll pair up with Mary Wilson on the drive-time news show Checkpoint.
In some ways it’s been a wrench. “I’m leaving behind a family of listeners who were used to tuning in and hearing me at the same time each day,” Jim explains. “I’ve had lovely texts and emails I’ve been busy replying to. Not everyone can listen later on.”
Nevertheless, Jim didn’t think twice before agreeing to the new role. “I’ve always said when the bus with ‘change’ on the front stops, you don’t wait for the next one, you hop on. That was the first thing I thought of when this new job was mentioned.”
Jim will still be presenting the 4pm current affairs slot The Panel, then Mary Wilson will join him at 5pm. She’s famously scary as an interviewer but he doesn’t seem daunted. “I’ve met her twice and in person she’s very friendly. Apparently, she makes the strongest coffee in Wellington, although I’m yet to have one.”
And there’s an added benefit of the “change” bus rolling through town. In the hiatus between jobs, Jim has had time to embark on a project he’s long been dreaming of tackling.
“I’m writing a novel,” he says. “It’s a comedy that explains how the world works – so a slightly grand project. However, I can tell you that once July 7 comes along, it will be written very slowly, in a few minutes here and there. With the election coming up, things are going to be very busy on Checkpoint.”
Mary’s life is altering too. She’s celebrated a milestone birthday this year, turning 50. There wasn’t a big party, just lots of cake and a special dinner out, but neither has there been any great age crisis.
“I’m 50 and I’ve got some extra rolls of fat round my girth that refuse to shift and I’m surrendering to them. I have neither the time nor the inclination to worry about it because keeping up with work and the children’s lives is all consuming.”
The couple’s eldest daughter Grace has just turned 12 and is at intermediate school. Twins Elizabeth and Jack turn 10 in August and will soon be following suit – which might be a bigger adjustment for their parents than it is for them.
Mary and Jim have loved having their kids at the local primary school, just round the corner from their home, scootering to and from it, getting involved in extra-curricular activities and forming great friendships within the school community.
“Our world has revolved round that school,” says Mary.
Still, change is something Mary learned to accept when her TV career came to an end. When she was pregnant with the twins, it was announced her show Good Morning was moving to Wellington. Not wanting to relocate and with the prospect of three children under the age of two-and-a-half, Mary knew it was time to resign.
Ironically, TVNZ is now partly based in the central Auckland building where Mary has her Subway business. She’s often working on the till (“I’m not fast enough to make sandwiches”) and sees old colleagues. Mary says running a Subway franchise has been the most family-friendly career she could have imagined, with flexibility that’s allowed her to get involved in everything from school camps to committees.
For Jim and Mary, this is always a time of counting blessings. It’s a reminder of the same period six years ago when Grace was sick with a rare virus and hospitalised at Starship.
“When there’s a chill in the air and the shadows are getting longer, it brings back what a truly bleak time that was,“ says Mary. “You don't ever want to have your child have a long stay in a hospital.”
Grace is healthy now and doing well at school. The twins are old enough for the family to head off on new adventures, recently cycling the Hauraki and Otago rail trails.
Mary is working towards opening a second Subway and Jim is looking forward to getting his teeth into his new job.
“You have to embrace change,” he says, “because it’s going to arrive eventually whether you want it to or not.
“So the right attitude is, ‘yes, good, let’s go with it’.”