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.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Hug-free. If it's that or nothing--we'll take it!

June 21st. It was the longest day: and it started at 02.48.

I'd woken with a jolt; worry-dreaming about how to take socially distanced selfies at that day's planned family reunion.

I'm not, by nature, a worrier, but this lockdown had been taking its toll; most acutely --the inability to see my daughters. One's 100 miles away; one, 160, so it's not as if we can pop round for coffee on a whim. Even so, it was knowing that a meet up was all nigh impossible, that hurt the most. That, and the missing.

Word spread, and unbeknown to me, a plan was agreed. We'd meet at a National Trust property more or less equidistant from the six of us, have a picnic, and stroll around the grounds. Inevitably; there were questions. This was all outdoors. What if it rained again? How well would Jake cope in the back seat for ninety minutes with two, travel-queasy dachshunds? And, above would it all be without the hugging?

Only days before, a small group of family members had been allowed to attend the funeral of a dearly loved uncle. That in itself was strange: we're a huge crowd, and we fill funerals, and weddings and parties to the rafters, normally. And we hug.
I'd watched the funeral service online, gulping each time a precious cousin came into view; sobbing at the beautiful readings and the song choices; and mourning the cruelty of Covid. If ever there was a need for cousinly hugs; this was it, and I could only imagine how tough it was for them.

But now it was Sunday, and here was our corner of the family, six of us, plus Chester and Chip, at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire--a circle of camping chairs, picnic rugs, and portable feasts, grey clouds scudding above us; hug free, but together. This was the first time my daughters had seen each other in six months; the first time their partners had met.We had lunch, laughs, face to face conversation, and a wonderful meander round the grounds.

Yes, it was the first time in nearly 30 years I've been with a child of mine without physical contact. It was so odd: a feeling, almost, of senses unsated. But the sight of them? The 'being together' ? The chance to eat, and stroll, and laugh at the antics of Chester, 'playing dead' when it was time to leave? It all made my heart soar.

June 21st: the longest day. When time flew so fast; it felt like the shortest. But forever, one of the sweetest.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Lockdown tears? Make 'em noisy, wet, long and loud.

'It's OK not to be OK' is always a key message in Mental Health Awareness Week. Never more so, when the week falls slap-bang in the middle of a global pandemic. But it's a message for other people, surely. Not 'glass-half-full' people, like me?

The thing was...I'd just cancelled a regular Zoom catch-up session with two of my closest buddies, because I felt 'too weepy' to attend. Tears had--pretty unusually, for me--just spilled over, and for the fourth time that day, too.

There'd been other times during the past nine weeks when I'd found myself thinking about my family and crying with....well...acute 'missing-ness'.

Was I 'down'? Or just 'lockdown' down? And, I wondered on Twitter; was I crying alone?

Apparently not. So how often are we all welling up?

Benji tweeted back that throughout lockdown, he's cried 'most days, about something'. Helen's cried 'many' times; (so too, her mum, Ruth, who tweeted separately, about missing her family )Emma and Stephanie-- both doctors--reckon they've been shedding a tear three or four times a week. Kev; slightly less than that. Charity worker Sarah, who suffers from anxiety, says she veers between days 'brimming with positivity' to other 'very dark days which are spent in tears'.

A couple of dozen more reported crying weekly, for a whole mix of reasons: fatigue; anxiety about the future; their children's education; their jobs. Alistair who'd first just tweeted 'it varies...' returned a day later to report he'd got a bit teary the night before, Zoom-quizzing with friends. Jules said she'd cried quite a few times; 'for the loss of feeling safe and all the uncertainty and loss of freedom.'

For this ITU nurse though; it was specific. 'My eyes have leaked once only, '
said Andi, 'holding someone's hand whilst they passed away, as family couldn't be there. Very tough to smile for a few days after.'

Inevitably, it was the sad stuff, mostly, that had been triggering tears. GP Stephanie had cried when 'feeling very tired or ill; through intensely missing people; looking after lonely and scared patients; and utter frustration at the never endingness of it all.' As well as due to concern for her children who were 'desperately missing their friends'.

Laura's a GP, too. But in her words, 'not a big crier any more.' Even so, she'd cried that day after reading a sad post from a friend, marking the anniversary of a loved one's death. That was enough to get Laura thinking about her own late mum, and how much she misses her.

The sadness of missing grandchildren was mentioned by many, including Carla and Ian,
and Michelle, who's cried several times. 'Sometimes over nothing at all, ' she said, 'or at bedtime story time with a grand-daughter, and she cries because she wants a hug. I defy anyone,' said Michelle, 'not to cry, then'.

Luckily, mid-pandemic, good things are happening, aswell. Although,with widespread, heightened emotions, they're often making people blub, too.

Sarah was crying while writing, she said, having just heard about plans for an online memorial book for loved ones lost to the Corona virus. Carla was finding that 'people being kind..... or even bluetits fledging,'  were likely to 'set her off'. And decorator David admitted to having 'had a moment' when a customer offered him a 50% payment advance for the next project; something David said he found 'very humbling'.

So, given that Covid's going to be around for a while, how are we going to deal with it?

Your tweets contained some great advice; for criers, and non-criers alike. GP Stephanie reckoned it's best not to aim too high. 'Getting through the day is as good as it gets, sometimes,' she said. 'And that's OK.'

Marie; who's feeling down about 'no life, no hugs and no job' is seeking solace in 'Netflix ...and running. If I make myself go for a run before breakfast, I find it helps me all day,' she said. Martin agreed that exercise was helping him, too. For Benji, Sarah and Peter, it's all about limiting the number of news bulletins they tune into. Glynis used to keep a diary, and is finding now, that jotting things down in a journal is helping her, and means she can 'rant, without worrying others'! 'Mr B', meanwhile, says he's been running chat and resilience sessions for colleagues and staff, which have proved useful.

And if all else fails....the message that came back loud and clear was 'carry on crying'. Kev said he'd 'always rather show emotions, than bottle it all up with a British, stiff upper lip'.

Marie 2 said crying was acting as a release of pressure...'like bleeding a radiator'. Carla agreed. 'When tears roll, tension pours out,' she said. Clare said talking to a friend online, had allowed 'tears to come naturally'. Carole; a relational psychotherapist, described what we're going through, and what's to come, as 'a major mental health issue. She predicts more tears ahead; and lots of them. 'Tears and weeping', she said, 'are essential and, ideally, noisy, wet, long and loud '.

So back to that Zoom call with my mates, that I cancelled, after thinking my mood might spoil the jolly catch up we'd all planned. The truth is, the three of us have already shared so many tough times and tears together --from tears of sadness, to tears of uncontrollable mirth, laughing so hard our mascara melted. It's friends like these who would've been uniquely qualified to cheer me up yesterday. Or to just understand that I felt a bit glum.

Probably time to reschedule.

(PS: There was a brilliant response to my Twitter post about crying --thankyou so much, whether you're mentioned here, or not, for getting in touch. And special thanks to Julie--another fantastic friend who's always 'been there' for me. Spotting on Twitter that I was planning to write about crying....she 'casually' fixed a check-in call with me. As if she was just passing. What a great buddy she is...)

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Good grief...?

(...with apologies to bereavement guide books everywhere. And Peanuts....)

OK. So losing someone's never going to be easy. And there are a million different deaths to deal with. Different circumstances, ages, whether you get a warning and time to say goodbye, or just one of those 'world-stops-turning' calls. But can you ever soften the blow? Can you feel, well, not a 'good' grief, but one with lighter moments that will comfort you in the days and months ahead? The pain of friends' grief, recently, and the sixth anniversary today of Dad's passing, has led me to revisit this post, and reflect on how the weight of grief, slowly, eases. So, apologies for the repeat. But I hope it might just help.

May 2014: Rewind to last Friday night; just nine days after Dad died from 'end stage' dementia, at the pretty respectable age of 85. This was limbo land; between a heart wrenching week of last rites, minor rallies, major tenacity, really, really last rites, and the final goodbye. The funeral was still two weeks ahead. And I decided I needed to be in Scotland; his birthplace. Immediately.

It didn't help, really, that it was nearly 10 at night.But the yearning to be there was so strong, that within 20 minutes, I'd sorted a train ticket, a 5 a.m taxi to the station and a half decent hotel in the centre of Edinburgh. I had a mental wish-list of the places I 'needed' to revisit. Places I'd been taken to as a child. Locations he loved.

I'd cried in the days before his death. Cried in the years before it too, as the Dad we knew and loved slipped further away from us as each shared memory was erased from his mind. But funeral arrangements keep you focused, don't they? Head down; get it sorted. Everyone's so kind. But nearly everyone you speak to at this time is 'in the business'. They know who and what they're dealing with.They speak softly. Pour coffee quietly. Guide you gently through the 'options'.

What I wasn't prepared for, was facing the world outside; away from the 'professionals' and our own circle of fabulous friends and family. I headed for Edinburgh regardless, thinking I could probably tough it out. I steeled myself for the first hurdle: the inevitable sound of a Scottish piper. (We've booked one for Dad's funeral. My mate Ian found him for us. He's called Donald. No Troosers.) And here was one almost greeting me; just steps away from Waverley.

 I watched a while, gave him a brave, beaming smile, lost it, welled up, baled out, threw some change in his music case and legged it to the hotel.

Why was I there? Holiday or business? There was no box to tick for *this* trip at reception; nor at the coffee shop round the corner ('you here for the shopping, then?'); or during my chat with the lady on the bus to Leith. Yes, I have family here. No, I won't be seeing them this trip. And no, I can't tell you that it's because my Uncle Jim is so like my Dad, that one glimpse of his twinkly eyes would finish me off, today, so I'm waiting until I see him at the funeral. Thankfully, she rang the bell to get off, just before a few big, ploppy tears fell. Not the tiny, trickly ones, but the ones resembling the heavy raindrops that splatter down suddenly, before a major storm. That kind.

Waterproof mascara and my 'I`m OK--Just Hear My Confident Clunky Shoes' ruse paid off on the Royal Yacht Britannia tour. Dad had sailed on this beauty as a personal bodyguard; regaled us with tales of the on-board Roller; the sumptuous quarters; the quoits. I was getting the hang of this grief thing: you're OK if you don't speak; don't get too close. Being near certain places was connecting me with Dad. I took strength from it, even posed for a selfie in the Captain`s cap.

Back in town, I was reminded that grief can pop back up and grab you with no warning whatsoever. I skipped the Cathedral--couldn't face lighting two parental candles for the first time; and dodged the postcard browsing-- the Father's Day cards were way too close. Inexplicably, while heading through 'Ground Floor Perfumery' towards Haberdashery in Jenner's (I need some McIntyre tartan in my hair for the funeral...) I agreed to a make-up makeover with Andrew. First time ever. Sky high risk. This would involve a stranger not only speaking to me, but touching my face. Quite a lot. And, inexplicably, it worked. He glossed my lips; I glossed over the real reason I was in Edinburgh. Result? I felt a million dollars; he felt my fifty quid.

The next day I felt like a local; legs now used to the endless steps linking city streets. I walked miles; smiled at every piper, bought gifts to take home, and abandoned the search for a possible F-day black dress in a Grassmarket vintage store, buying a fairly hideous Blondie T-shirt to wear at Glastonbury instead. I was smiling. So, was this 'good' grief? No such thing. But probably, I mused on the train hurtling home that night, they were the words Dad would've uttered if he`d ever caught me wearing a pink and black Blondie T-shirt. Or , for that matter, the Captain`s hat .

 and 6 others retweeted you

that's lovely :)

Bloody marvellous

Love your Blog Jane. Always inspiring. :-)

Lovely piece that. Best wishes.

Just tweeted your latest blog-'good grief' Lived in E'burgh for 6 yrs>Stockbridge nr InverleithPark. Look after yourself:-)

: Good grief .” Jane you're a truly wonderful person

read earlier, sent you a happy thought. What a privilege to have lovely dad memories to cut thro the recent yrs of sadness

Great piece as ever. Peace & love. x

Just lovely ....

Very moving Jane

brilliant blog Jane..just about says it all about grief. Thank you for sharing. You dad sounded an amazing chap. Much love x

: Once a journalist.: Good grief..? >McIntyre nails it again."

happy and sad. Lovely xxx

wonderful piece Jane, thinking of you. Xx

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Volunteering at #parkrun: my view from 'the other side' .

Parkrun couldn't run....without volunteers.

Even so, as a new runner with just three events under my belt, I'd planned on getting my speed up a bit before joining the hi-viz heroes

But a minor knee problem meant no running for me last Saturday and, instead, gave me the chance to bring my first volunteering shift forward. Would I shiver on the sidelines and feel frustrated that I wasn't on the course? No. And here's why.

It was a bit damp and chilly, but I was wrapped up in a duvet-thick coat (and that hi-viz), and swapped my trainers for heavier hiking shoes. I was one of the marshalling team, planted on a corner to make sure people headed the right way.

One thing I've learned from my first three parkruns here is this: encouragement is contagious. I've been bowled over by the smiles, support, warm words and cheers from marshals along the route every time, and was damn sure that, standing on 'the other side', I was going to give some of it back.

It wasn't long before the speedy set hurtled past on the first circuit of our repeated course. 'Well DONE.....' I heard myself yelp...slamming my gloved hands together in a muted thud of applause, with, a rather gobsmacked: 'Blimey, you're so....FAST...! '

'Thank you, Marshal,' said one, without missing a beat, making me feel quite important. And then, as I ripped my gloves off to clap, and shouted a bit louder about a slippy bit, more thank yous came back. Some loud and clear, some breathless, whispered, grateful gasps: parkrunners are so polite!

There were the club runners. The hobby runners. The couples, the families, the female friends. The young, long haired girl with the beaming smile, which got wider every time she went past (fast!), the dad, thundering along with his toddler in a buggy; the buddies, the joggers, the walkers, the stroll- along-and-talkers. The anguished cry of  'it's so FAR'...from a lady in pink. The promise back from me that if I could do it, anyone could. (And she did).

I watched some of the fastest participants complete the course, then head back down towards the woods again to find friends and family; to repeat their own steps and run their friends to the finish. Saw a bloke struggling a bit near the end, but who still managed to wish me a great weekend. And I even felt a bit teary as the tail-walkers came into view; they were there, as ever, to make sure no-one ever finishes last.That's the brilliant thing about a parkrun: great running, for sure. But a great community spirit, too.

This was heightened even more by a pre-run tin collection for the local foodbank, and the presence of a local cricket team, fundraising by brewing hot tea and coffee for donations.

Apart from marshalling duties, volunteers are needed to set up, pack up, mark the course, scan barcodes, take photographs, write reports and more. Even though I hope to run again next week, I'll definitely join the hi-viz heroes again soon. For a newbie, it's not just an awesome masterclass in running: it's a pretty fine masterclass in teamwork, too.

Photographer: Ben Coates