Three things with Janice Petersen: ‘A few minutes of this bringing the biff to sore bits and you’re good to go’

In Guardian Australia’s weekly interview about objects, the SBS World News host shares the story of a gimmicky gadget that stole her heart

As the face of SBS World News, Janice Petersen spends her evenings bringing Australians updates from around the globe. But this month she’ll also be on screen telling a more personal story.

An upcoming episode of Dateline, airing 23 August, will see Petersen explore the challenges mixed-race couples still face today in South Africa. Petersen’s parents are South African, but left the country before she was born to escape the difficulties of apartheid. Her visit with Dateline was a chance for the TV presenter to explore both her family history and what life might have looked like had her mum and dad never emigrated to Sydney.

Petersen holds her family close. When her grandmother died over a decade ago in Cape Town, she kept a lock of her “striking, platinum” hair to remember her by – a memento she would rush to save in a fire. Here, she tells us about that precious keepsake, as well as the story of two other important personal belongings.

What I’d save from my house in a fire

My much-loved grandmother Violet died about 12 years ago. She was 96 and lived a full life, having had nine children in South Africa. She was kind and gentle with a crown of striking, platinum hair.

A lock of Janice Peterson’s much-loved grandmother Violet’s hair.
‘It’s rather venerable-looking, vintage and very precious.’ Photograph: Janice Petersen

On the day of her funeral, I did something I hadn’t planned or ever thought about: keeping a lock of her hair. My dear Aunty Ruth made it happen, bless her. That silvery snippet is a heartwarming and tactile reminder of Violet. It is a keepsake to admire and adore. Her hair is tied with some apple-green ribbon and lives in a velvet, burgundy jewellery box. It’s rather venerable-looking, vintage and very precious. Just like Grandma.

My most useful object

I have a pretty impressive-looking percussive massage gun. I was happily going about my life with little need for gimmicky gadgets (clothes and shoes are another thing altogether, thanks) but this thing has stolen my heart.

I use it on unwitting members of my family, friends and sometimes people I’ve just met. At first, they usually politely refuse but I pretty much insist on punching them with this thing. They all respond in the same way: they go all floppy, sigh and say something like, “Holy expletive, that thing actually works!” Then they pester me about where to buy one.

I take it on holidays and frankly anywhere where I’ll be in heels and have aching muscles. You just need a few minutes of this thing bringing the biff to sore bits and you’re good to go. It punches above its weight and then some.

The item I most regret losing

My partner Julian recently bought me a gorgeous gold necklace and pendant to mark a milestone anniversary.

Janice Peterson at Cable Beach the day before she lost her gold necklace.
Janice Peterson at Cable beach the day before she lost her gold necklace. Photograph: Janice Peterson

I love everything about bright yellow, pure gold. It looks ancient, regal and kissed by the sun. I was lucky enough to wear the necklace in the ocean for the first time on a recent trip to Broome. Since I was diving and swimming, I figured gravity would keep it on me. But sadly, it was lost to a wave at Cable beach.

Now at home, I’m still sore about the missing necklace but I take comfort in knowing there’s a piece of gold treasure being tossed around the Indian Ocean, on permanent vacation.

Contributor

As told to Katie Cunningham

The GuardianTramp

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