Follow me on Twitter: @janemcintyre12



I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Friday 2 July 2021

Congratulations, Emma Raducanu! Same school; different century (and why I failed at tennis...)

As I write, the incredible Emma Raducanu has just made it through to the fourth round of Wimbledon. Now I can boast that I went to the same school as Emma...AND Dina Asher-Smith. 

DECADES before.

Newstead Wood was an incredible school, and I consider myself so lucky to have studied there for seven years. Teachers there sparked my passion for English language and literature studies, and put me on the path to a long and happy career in print and broadcast journalism.

But me and tennis? We really didn't hit it off.

I mean....these were very different times. It was a green grammar school. Green skirt. Green jumper. Green felt hat. Yeh, ok green gym knickers.

Surrounded by glorious green woodland, with tip top tennis courts. And while the stars at Wimbledon can really make the game sparkle; after five summers; I realised I never would.

I wasn't alone. So I joined a small band of rebels whose sole intent was to skip as much tennis as possible, without landing a detention.We'd turn up with racquet, tennis skirt and a smirk.

The aim, however risky, was to slope off for a smoke, fully aware that if we were caught, it would mean immediate, non negotiable expulsion.

Today, I think smoking's a filthy habit. But at fifteen, it seemed glamorous. And exciting. You couldn't do it at home. It was tricky on the bus, in case your mum's friends saw you.You could sometimes get away with it down the Wimpy if you cupped your hand round your fag the right way, kept it low and then blew the smoke back over your shoulder towards the kitchens. But it wasn't ideal.

This was our secret solution.

To the confusion of our games mistress, the tennis lesson escape committee began to focus determinedly on improving forehand strength. Not for the good of the game, of course, but to ensure that we had the power to doublehandedly whack the balls out of court, over the high fence, and into the adjoining woods. And once enough tennis balls had been `whacked into the woods`, someone had to go and retrieve them. I mean--Slazengers didn't come cheap. But woods, of course, could be dark and dangerous places for young girls. Nobody, apart from us, knew what might be lurking there, so our timid and trusting teacher usually allowed us to take a friend or two.

Once through the creaky school gate and down a soft, mossy path, we quickened our pace, turning into undercover jungle commandos, using our racquets to batter down the tickly, thigh-high ferns; scything through any brambles that had pinged back since our last foray. In the densest part of the wood, we'd glance over our shoulders, fall to our knees ...and lo. Game, set and matches. Just there; wrapped in a Woolworth's carrier bag, and stuffed into the end of a large, rotting log, deep in the undergrowth, and surely worthy of any nettle sting or bloody bramble scratch : one glorious, (green) packet of More Menthol. And a box of only *slightly* damp Swan Vestas.

Their presence meant that at least four of us, in the course of double tennis, once we'd got the damn things lit, got to have a smoke--whether we liked it or not. We chose the menthol variety to hide the nicotine smell, of course, but I'm sure Miss P knew what we were up to. Especially as it was rare to see us return with any tennis balls whatsoever. If she'd reported us, we'd have been marched off the premises for good. I assumed for many years that she kept quiet because she probably smoked like a trooper herself .

But I've realised since then, that it's far more likely that she let us go because we were so completely, utterly crap at tennis.

Anyway. No detentions. No expulsions. And no chance of ever making SW19 either. But Emma has, and she's me one more reason to be a proud Newstead Wood girl.

Friday 11 December 2020

Love, pride and a dad with dementia

He was only about three; a bright eyed little boy, clearly bursting with news.

Alongside him, his mum, in comfy tracky bottoms, walking gingerly. And his dad, holding a baby car- seat containing a tiny bundle which was wrapped in a pale lemon blanket.

As he got closer to the bench where I was sitting, the boy wrenched his hand away from his dad's, and ran up to me.

"See that?" he said, jabbing a little finger back towards the car seat." my new baby sister. I'm a big brother now. And I LIKE it!"

It turned out that little Emma was just one day old, and that the menfolk were there to collect her, and mum, from the maternity unit.

I waved at him as they drove away, his eyes still gleaming with excitement and pride, then finished my sandwich, soaked up the sun for a few more minutes, and headed back inside. I skipped the lift and climbed the four flights of stairs back to Dad's ward, well aware that it was one way of extending my "lunch break" on this long day in a week of long days ; knowing a tricky six or seven hours still lay ahead.

You couldn't get a bigger contrast between baby Emma's ward and this one, I mused, as I walked back to his room. One nurtures new life, forms families, full of future hopes and dreams. A lifetime and four corridors away, and you're in "Geriatrics". The care's just as tender; the 'customers' just as needy in their way, but time's ticking by. Life's ebbing away. Your heart can feel heavy here.

Some patients here today, like Dad, have dementia. The disease is like a giant eraser, rubbing out their lifeskills, one at a time. Independence? Deleted. Speech? Silenced. Mundane tasks? A muddle. Cutlery's confusing; even families seem unfamiliar . This is no place for planning; surely. No place for pride?

And then, as I sit beside him, he looks again at the framed picture of his grand-daughters. And we talk about what they're doing, and how much they love him.

I know he hasn't held a pen for weeks; won't touch the watercolours or sketching pencils I brought in for him, even though he once drew deftly with them. But I suggest it again, anyway. A note, maybe, for Alice. I could deliver it tomorrow, I tell him.

I busy myself in my magazine, aware that his left hand is moving towards the pen and pad. Moments later, he turns to me, that smile back in his eyes, the same bright, proud, almost child-like smile I'd seen on the face of the little boy downstairs. "There", he says, gesturing towards the book.

Stunned, I see that it's a note to Alice. Personal, and loving. In shaky, spidery writing. Just one sentence long; with words she`ll cherish for a lifetime.

Later, when the nurses come in, I tell them about it. They're surprised, and thrilled. And I guess my eyes are gleaming a bit too. With tears that something so simple is even newsworthy. And pride--for this is a day for pride-- that he managed it.

Dad died in May 2014, peacefully at his home. Alice still has the note from her grandad.  


fabulous blog Jane - cherish the moments - they're so few as that cruel disease progresses - but so very precious xx

only really afterwards do u truly appreciate how special each "moment" was + the effort it took the person to achieve it xx

thanks for sending that to us, it is a really moving post.

Jane its great to see such positivity. That will be a treasured note:)

Love it :)

 and 5 others retweeted you

thank you Jane for sharing this with us. A fab blog which has truly moved me. You are a very special lady keep smilingXx

Very moving, beautifully written, thank you I think wld appreciate too

  1. thanks for retweeting my blog.Much appreciated.
  2. pleasure. Work with people with dementia.

    hold on to that moment. So special. Lost my dad 10 months ago today after 10 years of Alzheimer's.

    pleasure - i had a lump in my throat reading it x

     and 6 others retweeted you

    such a lovely post thankyou, treasure the good times, such a difficult disease x

    1. hi jane just read your blog & next thing im blubbering away like I dont know what, but know only too well what it feels like
    2. hi Allan. Aww sorry to make you cry but thankyou for reading it and tweeting me. Tough road ahead.
    3. its a very tough road indeed but seeing the good things hopefully far outweigh the bad,

      1. just read with much interest, my mom had dementia, it was hard to see memories fade, but sometimes funny too. I miss her :)
      2. thankyou for reading it. I'm sorry you lost your mum, and in such a sad way x
      3. Thank you it's a long old road but one some must take, I'm glad I was able to go with her,as hard as it was. I wish you well

        Got a friend with a father in similar situation. It's those little moments that she cherishes!

        1. Noting memories sufferers tell you about, for them to read, also helps to evoke further memories from them.

        2. Good idea. Last week we covered WW1, being sent down mines at 14, + being a royal bodyguard.Oh and Turner art

          ..I`ll write some notes and we`ll try those again on Wednesday. Thankyou.

          Thank you - and so true. The juxtaposition with new life very powerful