After 11 years working as a political reporter, Jessica Mutch dropped a bombshell on her friends and family. She announced she was moving 19,000km from Wellington to start a new life in London, as TVNZ’s European correspondent.
But with her 30th birthday looming, and a desire to explore, it’s a move the TV One reporter said was “the right one”.
“It wasn’t a sudden thing; it’s been on the cards for quite a while, because I’ve always dreamed of an opportunity like this,” says Jessica, sipping on some tea and looking out from her office window over the Houses of Parliament.
“So, once I applied for the job, I didn’t agonise over moving to London. I told myself: ‘If I get this, I’m going to go for it.’ I guess it felt fated, because I’m a believer in things happening for a reason.”
However, she says that when she flew out of Auckland airport, the enormity of what she was doing suddenly hit her.
“I’m not really good at goodbyes, so I usually try to keep it simple and do it very quickly. But this time, saying goodbye to my friends and family was hard. There were definitely a few tears,” she admits.
“But although I was sad, I was also very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Despite her enthusiasm, Jessica says that the move to the other side of the world has been a huge adjustment.
“It’s quite a change going from the safe, familiar bubble that I lived in as a political reporter in Wellington for the last 11 years, and bursting that bubble and coming into a role that’s quite different and really broadening out again.”
She’s also found it hard getting used to a northern climate, when she should have been enjoying summer here.
“I’m definitely crazy leaving New Zealand just before summer and coming to London in winter, especially as I’m a baby when it comes to the cold. The first week I was here I really struggled, even though I’d stocked up on thermals and layered myself up with gloves, a hat, scarf and a big jacket. It’s a cold you can never experience, unless you’re this side of the world. What’s worse is, people keep telling me that it’s still mild and that it’s going to get a lot colder yet!”
However, there is a positive side to her first-ever festive period away from home.
“It’s going to be my first white Christmas, fingers crossed, so I’m really looking forward to it,” says Jessica, smiling. “I can’t wait. Everything feels more Christmassy when it’s cold and things make a bit more sense, like the hot Christmaspudding, that you don’t really think about much in New Zealand.”
In addition, Jessica and a friend from Wellington have planned a winter wonderland escape to Salzburg, in Austria – the birthplace of Mozart and setting for The Sound of Music.
“I decided that if I couldn’t do the traditional New Zealand Christmas Day with family down the beach, then I wanted to make it as different as I could. So we’ve booked an eight-hour sleigh ride, pulled by reindeer, where we stop off at a chalet for a big, traditional Austrian feast!
“They do the big celebration on Christmas Eve, which will be different for us, but we’ll also celebrate on Christmas Day in the traditional way. We’ll wear the ridiculous jumpers, see the lights and sing carols in the square,” she adds. “I’ll have a few glasses of Glühwein, the traditional Austrian mulled wine, but I’ve heard it’s very potent, so I’ll have to drink it slowly!”
Although she’s looking forward to her Alpine adventure, Jessica admits there will be a few pangs of homesickness come Christmas Day.
“I have quite a big, extended family, and it is always a big deal for us, so it will be sad being away from them. I just wish I could teleport them all over to this side of the world for 12 hours,” she says, wishfully. “But my parents are coming over in January for a little trip, so we’ll have a mini-Christmas celebration then!”
In the meantime, though, Jessica is concentrating on the new year and the opportunities it will bring – and is particularly keen to explore her new home.
“I’m just near Notting Hill Gate tube station, close to Kensington Park, because I wanted to be somewhere that’s green and leafy, where you don’t feel hemmed in and you can open your windows and get some fresh air. It’s a small reminder of New Zealand, I guess!”
She’s also feeling a growing sense of New Zealand pride in her new role. Her first assignment was as European correspondent, covering the Kiwis’ march to the final of the Rugby League World Cup.
“The semifinal against England was so exciting! I was sitting in the media box next to a reporter from Maori Television, and in the last minute, when Shaun Johnson went over the line, we just jumped up out of our seats and gave a cheer. Then we quickly sat down and tried to act all professional. But it was hard, because I felt so proud and patriotic just then,” she recounts.
“It’s times like that when you do feel like a New Zealander miles away from home and get a little homesick. But I knew that taking this job would mean a lot of changes and a lot of adjustment, but also that it would mean many new experiences, visiting different places and doing different things, so it’s worth it,” insists Jessica, resolutely. “Also, it’s not forever. It’s just for a couple of years and then I’ll be back home, to New Zealand.”
Photos: Tristan Fewings/camera press