Tearing up the calendar for 2010 and throwing it in the dustbin was a liberating moment for Sally Ridge.
That was the year when she split with ex-Black Cap Adam Parore, sold her dream home and closed her fashion business James & August, and it all happened in 12 troubled months.
No wonder there’s utter relief in the 39-year-old’s voice when she says she’s glad to say goodbye to “what has to be the worst year of my life”.
“There’s not one part of it that I enjoyed and I’m glad to see the back of it,” she says. “Thankfully, I truly believe 2011 is going to be much better for me in so many ways.”
This year has already kicked off with a fresh start for Sally, with her downsizing into a three-bedroom house from the six-bedroom beautifully designed home she and Adam built in an inner-city Auckland suburb.
“It’s cute, it used to be a little old bungalow and was all done up when I got it,” she smiles, as she shows the Weekly through her new home. The renovated cottage is a warm mixture of traditional Kiwi and funky modern, infused with Sally’s distinctive personal style, thanks to the furniture and many beautiful pieces she brought from the previous home.
“I don’t miss the other house at all,” she says. “That place was absolutely huge and everyone had so much space, we were rarely in one room together as a family. It’s so nice not having to yell for the kids. Now they’re more close by and we share our space so it’s much more social. I definitely won’t be doing anything to this little house – it doesn’t need it, it’s fine as it is and perfect for us.”
Sally has managed to fit in most of the furnishings, art and belongings from her share of the 50-50 split with Adam. otis, the full-size model of a cow by Kiwi artist otis Frizzell, used to stand in the hallway, but is temporarily homed in the garden while Sally juggles the furniture around to find the perfect place for him.
“Don’t worry, he won’t be out there for long,” she laughs, posing for a photograph by the huge picture windows, with otis in the background. “I’ll bring him inside soon. Home isn’t home without otis.”
With summer well underway, Sally made sure the new property had a pool, as this is where her water-loving children – Astin (7), oclane (4), and older kids Jaime (17) and Boston (13) – spend most of their spare time in the holidays.
“They live in the pool during summer and are really happy this house has one too,” she says. The place has a peaceful atmosphere, which Sally says is a perfect reflection of where she’s at now.
It’s almost exactly a year since she and Adam broke up. For months the gossip columns were full of speculation about the reasons behind the split of this seemingly perfect celebrity couple.
Even now, Sally finds it difficult to open a newspaper, worried that she might have to read more inaccuracies about her personal life. She says it felt like a vendetta at times from certain gossip columnists.
“I could have retaliated many times, but what was the point? I just have to be the better person and let it go. My philosophy on life has always been: ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right.'”
The sudden split with Adam was then followed by the unexpected closure of James & August, her clothing line.
While all of this has been going on, Sally has done her best to stay positive. As she always has, the devoted mum kept her attention on the kids while she went through the trials of house hunting, business closure and negotiating the final details of the separation.
Sally says the changes have affirmed just how important her children and family are. “I love being a mum, and with four kids that’s what I’ve always focused on,” she says. “They keep me busy, and no matter what else is going on in my life, I make sure I have plenty of time with them.”
With Adam sharing equal custody of the younger kids and the older children being more independent, Sally has emerged from the disasters of last year with some more time to herself.
And she’s in no hurry to share it with a new partner. “I was with Matthew from the age of 20 and I hadn’t been apart from him for long when I got into a relationship with Adam, which isn’t always the best thing to do.
Having said that, I have absolutely no regrets – I’ve got my gorgeous children and Adam’s a fantastic dad.”
Unlike other new singles, Sally didn’t go out much after the break-up and still prefers time at home to a night on the town.
“I feel about 100 years old if I do go out,” she jokes. Despite the whispers, she hasn’t had a serious relationship since the break-up, but she has dated. “It hasn’t been one of my priorities. I can honestly say that I have no new partner and it doesn’t worry me at all. Last year, I wasn’t anywhere near the point of getting into anything new, but who knows what this year will bring.”
With a former All Black and a former Black Cap as exes, Sally knows what kind of man she definitely doesn’t want to be paired with. “Would I date another sportsman? God, no!” she laughs.
Sally’s also started going to the gym, finding it the perfect way to ease stress and maintain her health.
“I’ve got a new routine, with dropping the kids at school, then heading to the gym for my work-out,” she says. “It’s important to stay fit as you get older and I’m very conscious of that.”
Work-wise, she has some new interior design contracts underway, and is continuing with her latest personal art project – decorating shop mannequins.
“I just keep adding to and subtracting from them. It’s my ongoing passion and so far I’ve done four. As long as I’m being creative, I’m happy,” says Sally, pointing out the stunning black-and-white themed mannequin she’s just finished.
Even though her beloved company James & August is no more, Sally says she’s also keen to pick up fashion design again at some point in the future.
Her children are also taking important new steps in their lives this year – with Jaime hoping to go to university to study business and law, Boston working hard at school to fulfill his dream of becoming a surgeon, and little oclane, known as Chicky, soon to join her big brother Astin at primary school.
“She’s very ready to go and can’t wait,” says Sally. “It’s going to be funny having them all at school and no children at home for the first time in goodness knows how long. My life is very open at the moment, and you know what, that’s exciting. I have a strong feeling it’s going to be a good year for me.”