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.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Or am I losing my mind...? I was having lunch with a friend. We`d both seen our dads the day before. Both have dementia so, inevitably, we spent a fair amount of time comparing notes.

My visit involved quite a complicated journey: two stretches by car, a train journey to London and a  couple of tube trips...pretty much five hours each way. I`m quite a fan of travelling, and an even bigger fan of my dad, so that was OK.

When I got there, we had a plate of sandwiches and some coffee and a disjointed conversation about what he`d been up to (quite a lot, actually, but he`d forgotten most of it...). Then he dozed off.

It gave me and his partner the chance for one of those tricky conversations you have to have when your loved one`s brain is wrapped in the thick fog of dementia..and isn`t likely to clear any time soon. We chatted about he`s sleeping more and talking less, and how his dulled mind is so slow to react during the day, even with people he`s known a lifetime. But then it leaps into terrifying technicolour later with a double bill of nocturnal nightmares so vivid, that he wakes, and bizarrely, can relate their every detail with the utmost clarity. Just when they both need a kip.

We touched on a few of the `what ifs`. The` money side` of things. And the thorniest of prickly issues, the topic of `personal care`, and his growing dependence. Conclusions? None reached. We have no crystal ball, no private fortune, and very few answers, but we resolved to both make calls and talk again in a few days.

Soon after that, Dad woke up--just as I needed to leave for my London bound train on the first leg of my journey home. There`s usually one ray of sunshine amidst the murk and gloom of a day watching your rapidly declining Dad. Last time it had been his sudden and accurate recital of a passage of Masefield, after I`d mentioned my trip to the beach. This time, I`d tried to stir his love of sport with talk of the Olympics: the build up; who we`d be watching.


So I dug a bit deeper, to how he`d loved watching my sister and I running at school. I asked if he remembered what he used to call out to us.

"Run like hell, Jane, " he shouted out, his eyes alive,and sparkling, " and don`t wait for anyone!".

Not much, but word perfect, and enough to send me home with a smile. So the next day, during that lunch with my friend, we joked, then worried about those moments you`re told `everyone` has, during a busy life of juggling. You know..walking into a room and realising you have no idea why you`re there. Losing your keys and finding them some time the fridge.

What if there was a quick test we could take, we pondered, to see if we were likely to develop dementia, just like our dads? Would we take it? It would help us `plan ahead`, for sure, but would it also blight our lives?

Conclusion? Again--none reached, but the company was close and comforting and a distraction from a topic that we`d rather leave right there: in the back of our minds.

How about you? Given the chance of a definitive genetic test for dementia--would you take it? Would you relish the chance to make plans, and take the pressure off your family? Or would you prefer to keep your head in the sand? I`d love to know what you think. 

Monday 29 July 2013

Rome alone--and a scare in the air.

Just over a week ago, I was waving our 16 year old daughter off at Manchester airport on her first flight alone. It seemed simple enough. Plane to Chicago, plane to Minneapolis, for a couple of weeks volunteering at Camp America, where her big sister`s working her third summer.

She was excited, and anxious to check in, so I left her, and, feeling just a bit misty eyed, sought solace in a fat almond croissant and a big mug of coffee in terminal 3 before heading home.

At lunchtime; a text .One of those that starts with the words: `Hi Mum. Don`t worry, but....`

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen what happened. A fire alarm had gone off on her plane, high above the Atlantic. They were still close enough to the Irish coast to head back for an emergency landing--no chutes but fire engines and sirens.She`d been terrified. Hours later, they were still holed up at Shannon Airport, hoping to get airborne again, but eventually bussed to a hotel for the night instead. And then another hotel as the first one was full. That meant rebooking connections and a complete rethink of complicated pick up plans.

The passengers set off again the next morning, 24 hours late. Finally, they landed in Chicago.Without the high kicks. Or their luggage. That was still in Shannon.

And Alice, like many of those on board still had to continue their journeys, not quite knowing when their luggage would follow.

Miraculously, she stayed cool, and her bag was delivered to camp the next day, by courier. She`s now having a whale of a time, but it was no way to start a trip she`d spent months planning; and a scary first solo flight.

Just days later, I was back at Terminal 3, also flying solo, and travelling light by choice. Nothing to lose, see? Luckily (even if you have to endure the Ryanair punctuality fanfare) both my flights were spot on and drama-free .Travelling by myself has never bothered me--even as a young reporter, jumping on planes and trains to cover stories for my paper. I`m fine driving to and from France; and confident shopping solo in New York. But this was Rome, alone, and Robert de Niro wouldn`t be waiting. Or talking Italian. And neither would I, if I didn`t knuckle down and learn some phrases on my flight.

Following friends`advice,(cheers, Debs and James) I`d armed myself with a Lonely Planet Guide, and a pocket full of change. Landing at Ciampino, I found the right bus, then a metro to the city centre, and legged it to my B and B, stopping for a two euro slice of pizza and an icy coke on the corner. Round one.Sorted. Cheap and easy.

Next: the schedule. As much as I loathe coach trips and organised, escorted tours of any description...I booked some. They`re not that cheap (between 30 and 70 euros for the ones I chose). But there`s so much to see, and I only had three days. No point queuing endlessly in the hot sun or trying to muddle through and miss stuff, I reasoned. And there`d be company if I needed it.

So,within hours of arriving, I was on a night time tour of the city, round all the main, floodlit sights. There was time to jump off and take pictures, with tour buddies happy to snap pics while I posed. (Ok, and the odd sneaky selfie). I realised I wasn`t going to drown in a sea of loved up couples on romantic mini-breaks. I chucked a few euros in the Trevi fountain and scoffed my first gelato. To round off the night: they`d fixed a five course meal for the group. So far, so good. And, thank the Lord, no pensioners with pacamacs. I sat with a  family from Australia, a couple from New Zealand, and a beautiful Brazilian girl `doing Europe`. Great night. But a late one, so I scribbled down my address, and handed it to the driver of my midnight taxi home.

He might just have been the maddest cabbie in town. Or maybe they`re all that Italian-job bonkers. Singing along, badly, to early Beatles ...(.....Hi`ll write Ome...hevery dayeeeee....`)he sped me through the city, zigzagging across lanes as if the steering was shot; leaning, Vespa-like round bends; emergency stopping for dramatic effect with whiplash-ferocity, until, thanking God above, I recognised ,on the final roundabout, my street.

Sadly, he didn`t. So, in the middle of four lanes of traffic, with a cartoon like screech of tyres and a touch of `darlin`, hi`ll be truuuuee`... he slammed  into reverse ....AND DROVE BACKWARDS TO THE CORRECT ROUNDABOUT EXIT. There were no words. Even if I`d known any. And no tip.

I stuck to the tube after that. It was just one euro fifty to get to into the centre and find my tour groups.One involved strolling round Rome sampling tiramasu, espresso and gelato. Delicious.Louis and Beatrice from Sao Paulo were on that one. His family produce coffee, for goodness` sake, but he came anyway. Along with Chantal and her friend from Texas. And Jess and Mark from Kansas. Tiny tastes of fabulous food at the best coffee shops. More people to meet; more stories to share. I was loving it.

And then the history bit. Three hours being marched up and down the Palatine Hill, marvelling at monuments...culminating in a tour of the Colosseum. Just mindblowing. And an airconditioned chariot to
speed us home. Sedately.

Somewhere in the mix--I stole an hour or two on the Spanish Steps to watch the world go by, and ambled around the side streets for some gentle souvenir shopping. I also got invited on a little private tour with a fabulous Italian called Daniela, starting on foot and finishing in her little Fiat 500--just because she had a couple of hours to spare and a city she wanted to shout about. But that`s another story.

 So. Lonely? Not once. Fascinated? All the time. Going back soon? You bet.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Help-and plenty of it-in Penny Lane.

`On the corner, there`s a banker with a motorcar. ....`
If you`re strolling down Penny Lane; you`re singing the lyrics. You can`t help it. Especially if you`ve parked up and said hello to Jim. You can`t miss him, because even on a scorching Monday morning, `there...beneath the blue suburban skies....` this school crossing patrol man is resplendent and glowingly warm in orange high-vis.

Jim`s a bit of a character; and, as I later discovered; quite famous in his own right. Even had a mention in the Chicago Tribune once. Nothing was too much trouble. From advising us where to park, and which buildings and street names the Beatles wove into their lyrics; he pretty much made our day.

The trip to Liverpool was Peter`s idea really. He`s Swedish; works for Volvo--and loves the Beatles. Always has. He`s married to Nina, (also Swedish...); a lifelong friend of mine.

So because they were visiting us in Shropshire, Peter wondered if it might be a good chance to whiz to Merseyside, have a tour round the Beatles` Story in Albert Dock, and maybe find some of the places mentioned in the Fab Four`s songs.

We loved the exhibition.Lots of artefacts, and music and audio clips tracing the Beatles` rise to fame from humble beginnings--really well laid out, and a great souvenir shop at the end.

And afterwards, although there are Beatles themed taxi tours round the city, we decided to go it alone.Well, alone with a phone. And on foot. It meant a pretty long hike from Penny Lane up Beech Lane, towards the rather sad looking gateway to Strawberry Fields, and on to Eleanor Rigby`s churchyard. But the people we picked on at random to check on directions were all so helpful. And, seemingly, so proud to be Liverpudlian.

Two people--one a young professional woman, possibly on her way to work; another a guy out shopping, didn`t think twice about saying `come on...I`m going that way, walk with me`. And they walked. And talked. Is this what being Liverpudlian`s all about? Loving where you live? If so, could we all learn a lesson from them?

Those people, along with the barmaid at the Gardener`s Arms where we gulped ice cold coke, to the guy in the coffee shop round the corner in the village of Woolton (sorted our lunch and then found us a taxi to save another five mile hike back to the car ), left our Swedish guests with a fantastic impression of the city, and its people.

Meanwhile back....... hours later.....Jim was still there,asking us how our walk had gone; checking what we`d seen. We had another great chat with him, and thanked him for all his help. And just as Peter`s gleaming black Volvo prepared to purr out of Penny Lane...there was a tap on the window. Jim again.

`I was just going to say....` he mouthed, silently, peaked cap bobbing into the driver`s side as the window slid down so we could hear him...`that if you`ve got the time and you`ve done the Beatles....` (could we ever be done with the Beatles...?).....`there`s a bloody great big ship just come in...`


And a brilliant day out. Thanks, Jim. Thanks Liverpool.

. New phone, touchy keyboard, strange blog comment-oops. Loved my proxy trip round Lpool. Thank you.

I had such an amazing time when I visited Liverpool. So friendly, so much fun.

 and  retweeted you

as an exiled scouser in shropshire, can I say thanks back! Nice to get a good review for a change!

Great blog again by the way & glad you had a good day!

RT“: Liverpudlian? Thankyou. ” *beams with reflected pride*

So happy you enjoyed my lovely home city! Next time stay the night and do a pub crawl!
 and  and   retweeted you

I didn't comment but I enjoyed it too

Monday 8 July 2013

Lanyard Ahoy !

It was around 8.15 am today and I was on my four mile morning trek. I`d like to think I could run it..(maybe next week)...but this morning was warm and bright, and I had all the time in the I walked it.

My route takes me just over a mile through a busy, residential feeder road into town (the wrong way), then out into the country for a couple more miles, through a village with a pub and two schools, then out past fields again; up and down a hill on a narrow pathway with scratchy overgrown gorsebushes....and I`m home. Rain, shine or`s bloody lovely.

And because I`m walking, not running most of the time, I get to say hello to other walkers, runners and cyclists on my route, and peep inside cars in the traffic queues. You see the builders on their way to their day`s work, two or three to a front bench seat; sometimes, steelcapped boots on the dashboard...another idly flicking through the morning paper while the traffic stalls a while.

You clock the solo drivers in shiny, Sunday-washed cars; crisply ironed shirtsleeves resting on windows opened wide enough for you to catch snatches of their illegal mobile chats; and women with smooth, just-straightened hair and neat office gear; sometimes smiling, sometimes snapping at back-seat, school-run squabblers.

Nearly all of their work clothes. And lanyards. You know, the ribbony things round their necks to hold their company ID badges. It`s part of their 9-5 uniform. Their corporate identity. Badges with a little chip which automatic doors and security staff will recognise when the car`s parked and the working day begins.

When you love your job, an ID badge can make you feel so proud; part of the team. I remember that feeling. And I guess when you`re searching for work, you might long to feel you belong be able to slip one of those corporate ribbons round your neck; get some hours clocked up; some cash in the bank.

But today, a year after making the choice to take the money and run, (or sometimes walk, because I can) it was sunny out there. Everyone seemed post-Murray smiley, and smiley`s how I like to be. Looking back, lanyards can start feeling heavy sometimes, and if they`s time to move on before they become millstones round your neck.

Like team briefings; impudently early alarm clocks, terribly important courses; `difficult conversations` behind closed doors, workplace primadonnas... and that aching...that longing for it to be Friday....lanyards....for me....are well and truly in the past.

That realisation made me flash the broadest smile at a bearded bloke (no visible lanyard...) cycling into town today. God knows what he thought.

I`ll see if he smiles back at me tomorrow :)

Happy Monday.

Monday 1 July 2013

Loyalty: at what price?

How loyal are you to a business--local, national or global--that`s been good to you?

And if you run a company--how much do you reward your customers for sticking with you?

I needed a Sunday morning hair appointment yesterday. And because I`d left it late, the hairdresser`s I`ve supported and raved about for twenty years, couldn`t do it. So I rang around and landed a slot with one on the other side of town. And as I waited outside  for them to open, I realised I was standing in full view of my regular hair stylist`s flat. And do you know--I felt so guilty, I ducked into a shop doorway. Yes, really.

As I left the salon, they asked if I`d like to book again, and presented me with a loyalty card .They were great, but they`re not Brown`s, and that`s where I`ll be returning; because we know each other, and it feels like such a treat to be there.

I realised I have loyalty cards for four independent coffee shops in Shrewsbury, and the one on the A49 near Church Stretton. I`ve got some unused points with American Airlines, and I think I had a Tesco card once. I tell the cashiers at Boot`s that I`ll take my receipts home for my daughters` cards, then I lose them. Oh and I`ve just found one for Waterstone`s.

So. Am I missing out? Does it `pay` to be loyal? And who uses what?

Here`s what a quick straw poll on Twitter yielded this morning:

Sarah and Nita make the most of Boots points--In Nita`s case, `enough for Chanel`.Sarah, also gets 25 per cent off every fifth treatment at her beauty therapist/spa--which she views as a `nice little perk`. Sarah`s the kind of customer Dave Courteen tries to attract at Imagine Spa-they`re now about to launch an app to reward loyalty points via phones.

Dave Wright says he has frequent flyer and hotel chain loyalty cards--`some good, others less so`. But he still uses them for upgrades and weekends away.

Phil says he values,and uses regularly, cards for Tesco and Odeon , but has decided to dump the `faded, creased `ones he`s collected from coffee shops.`And,` he says, `have you done the maths on a Costa card to calculate how much you spend to get a free coffee? I did. It was ludicrous.`

It`s not deterring Shona or Helen, though--both mentioned their Costa cards--though Helen admitted that while they make you feel good, `they don`t equate to much in real terms.`

And then there`s reverse psychology--sort of. Dave Rhodes is in Leeds. He`s seen independent coffee shops there and in London offering a `disloyalty` card--you collect a stamp from each location for a free brew--and ignore the chains.

Love or hate Tesco, my friend Jo swears by their points scheme, and has boasted about the airmiles she`s managed to accrue. Great--but I don`t want to be tied to that, or any other supermarket, really.

And as far as independent coffee shops in Shrewsbury go--we`re completely spoilt for choice. But I`ll always return--free coffee or not-- if I`ve felt welcomed and valued as a customer, if the coffee`s good (and there`s a decent variety of cakes..!)...and if I feel just as comfortable on my own, or meeting friends. And whatever kind of business it is--if it`s new, and it`s trying really hard in a crowded market, I`ll be back, and I`ll spread the word.

PS: the way..the other reason I was thinking about `loyalty` was that the number of page views on my blog went past 20,000 today...that`s since I started just over a year ago. I`m really if you`re one of the readers who`s been loyal...or even dropped in more than once....thankyou....Please feel free to leave a comment, or just say hello. I`d love to know where in the world you are, and how you got here! In the meantime....let me stamp your card :)