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.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Mary Portas : stirring up those Saturday Girl memories

I`m glued to the new Mary Portas `Secret Shopper` series on Channel 4. She descends on shops which, frankly, `could do better`...and sorts them all out. Last series it was the turn of the Godfrey`s department store in Lowestoft . Toe-curlingly tricky to watch at the start-- but till-ringingly good after Mary`s makeover. The show got Twitter buzzing, too, with some of us recalling our teen days as Saturday girls--Michelle at Marks; resplendant in her crimplene uniform, and me and my friend Carol at Bourne and Hollingsworth in London. This series hasn`t disappointed, either...from the wedding shop where customers said :"I don`t....think so..." to the hardware store with chaotic stock and an offensive turn of phrase at every turn.

We'd started our lives in `retail` at the local florist's shop. Carol was OK, but I kept crashing into the big fat, crysanths. The pay was paltry anyway; even with the odd bunch of blooms to take home to our mums-- so we decided to jump ship and head up to Oxford Street.

 Bourne and Hollingsworth isn't there any more. But as Saturday jobs went, it was quite a coup for Carol and me-- a couple of sixteen year olds from Orpington. We'd meet at the station on a Saturday morning, jump on a fast train to Charing Cross and then leg it through Soho just in time to clock in. With a card machine thing.

We'd clinched the jobs together. I was appointed as a 'Mobile'. Moving to a different department every week suited my restless, curious and persuasive nature. I spent a good ten minutes guiding one Russian customer round our vast seletion of curling tongs and Carmens in `Electrical Beauty` one week, before realising he was after 'egg coddlers', not 'hair curlers'.

Being sent to 'wedding gowns' was quite a prestigious posting. You had to be a bit diplomatic, because this was the place where mothers and daughters could arrive as a team, and leave in tears. You had the challenge of finding 'just the right thing' for two bridesmaids, six dress sizes apart. And the biggest eye opener for a young teen from the Home Counties, the tall, rather muscular `bride` who turned out to have a few surprises  once he'd stripped down to his bra and pants. Never have changing room curtains been swished back into position so swiftly. Never has a Saturday girl blushed more deeply.

No sale that time, but when you clinched one, the possibilities for fun were endless.There were huge cash registers. And when they were full to bursting, you filled out a form and stuffed a wodge of notes in a brass tube, which then got shoved up a pipe; round the building a few times, powered by some mysterious suction device, to the cash office. Sometimes, the empty tube would return with a cheeky note from Barry in accounts, asking me for a night out in somewhere exotic, like Enfield. I never went, because Carol and me usually had other plans. A dark and sweaty disco floor in darkest Chislehurst, usually. Which was why it was always so useful having Carol as a permanent Saturday fixture in `Perfumery`.

This was the pick of all placements .She'd spend eight hours of every Saturday demonstrating the most expensive scents the store had to offer to her potential client base, many of them on the move and not in the least bit interested. They all got a good dousing, regardless, along with most of the staff and stock in the neighbouring `Wallets and Leather Goods`.

Carol had it down to a fine art.As the clock approached 5.30, her spraying aim would become far less random; and more targeted, hitting herself, remarkably, behind the ear; on the back of her wrist, and if brave enough, right down into her delicate teenage decolletage-- with military precision. Mine, too if I rushed past her at exactly the right time with an important message for her department head, and a knowing wink.

Then, reeking of undertones of ylang ylang and heady top notes of freesia, we'd belt back down through the now packed London streets to Charing Cross, ever hopeful that with the most careful of baths, the perfume would sustain us through hours on the Saturday night dance floor. It never did, and so we'd have to top it up with a wildly clashing overlay of Charlie, or Obsession. Not surprisingly, we had plenty of dance floor space at all times. And at least seven quid Saturday girl cash  in our purses for the odd (under age) Martini or two.

On Twitter: 

 Me and my best buddy Clare used to cycle to the local nursery and dis-bud carnations.Those flowers saw a lot of tears 

Monday 25 January 2016

Twitter: Take the limit -- then leave it.

So we`re getting to hear about the death of some of our favourite rock and movie stars on Twitter now. The Eagles` Glenn Frey...hard on the heels of Bowie, Lemmy, and Alan Rickman.

Death shocks; softly sandwiched between celebrity recipe shots; whimpering pleas for lost pets in Preston; and raging rants from rail commuters, live; trackside. Every night you get that heady mix of the totally unexpected...and the old favourites, interspersed by the cyclical, triumphal glugging of Grigio -in- glass as yet another 20 parents from Inverness to Exeter make it downstairs after storytime.

It`s a glorious muddle, this Twitter thing: a non stop stream of fast, furious, catastrophically uncurated ramblings from anyone who has something to say or, quite frankly, doesn`t. Because,sometimes, even a little mild derision from a total stranger across the globe about your new shoes can be better than a night in alone with the cat. Although you know, if things ever get really bad, a selfie of you and the Mog will at least keep you in the Twitter mix.

But, for the most part, it`s frenetic.Witty. Pithy. Pacy. Mercilessly brief. 140 characters and you`re out of here. You get the breaking news. The very worst horrors, as they start to unfold; which you can choose to pursue on Twitter, or elsewhere, or ignore. And sometimes the very best news. The latest from our fabulous Tim Peake, way above us, watching us, watching him. And even in short bursts, you get mates; supporting you after a really crap day; high five-ing you for when things go well. You get poetry, from amazing guys like @JimCMackintosh, and you even get to find out if @Gary_Bainbridge has made the last bus home.

But 10,000 characters? Don`t do it, please. Yeh, maybe Wordsworth clocked that many daffodils at a glance, and maybe they were lovely. But I`d hate long messages clogging up our neat little timelines. A limit of 140 forces you to at least ATTEMPT to be succinct.  I mean...does anyone want to see those tottering, teetering, faltering, FaceBookstylee ...`I was just having a think the other day about the kind of books I used to ...`. You`ve lost me.

Listen to Glenn and the guys. Take it to the limit. Keep that limit 140. And leave it there.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Love letters--in my hand.

Did you see those reply letters David Bowie sent to his fans in the early days? Gracious; grateful responses. Lines to cherish then...and even more now.

The news of his passing coincided with a big sort-out day for me: clothes, books, paperwork...and plenty of letters of my own, all to a teenage Jane.

 Letters in Biro. In ink. In batches. In boxes...from Geoff , on his uni gap-year in Germany....from medical student Ian; reflecting on a party weekend on the south coast. And wafer-thin fold n` seal airmail ones from wafer-thin Lars from Sweden (yep...the one who, under a Magaluf palm tree an hour after meeting me, uttered the immortal line: "I love you, Yane." )

There were secrets from my teenage female friends too, going feral in fresher`s week; wild out west, Stateside; swapping suburbia for Spanish sun; then spilling the beans about the boys -- on postcards snatched from Mum as she scooped up the morning mail.

And I still have them.

I love letters bearing good news, too. There`s the one from a newspaper, offering me my first job at 19--one of three reporter posts I got offered that fortnight. (Yep...different times..) Letters from my mum after I left home, long separated from the inevitable fivers she`d mischievously stuff in the envelope `for a cornet`.

And there`s the one-liner, on an A4, lined pad, that my late Dad wrote to our youngest, Alice, while he was in hospital in the final stages of Alzheimer`s a couple of years ago. He`d pretty much forgotten how to read or write by then. But I`d chatted about Alice. And he amazed me, and the nurses, by jotting her a precious, scrawly, loving line. On a page she can keep.

This makes me sound as if I conduct all my correspondence with a quill pen. On parchment. Not true.

I`m a huge fan of social media, 2016 style. I get impatient if  two minutes pass before my Tweets are acknowledged....and climb the walls at the slow-mo pace of Facebook. But unless you screenshot and print out your favourite  texts, Whats App messages, DMs and PMs...they`re lost forever.

Which is why I love a letter, and why I`m going to try and write a few more this year. Careful if you reply, though. I might still have your words stashed away....20 years from now.

Thanks for your comments!

great blog as ever!

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You should borrow the book you bought me for Christmas some time! X

have you heard about Silver Letters from the you're a pen friend to a lonley person

* waits until two minutes have passed* Funnily enough, since twitter, I have returned to the craft of letter writing.

Yes, the choice of pen and paper. Rather ridiculously, we make our own letter paper.

You can make paper from onion skins-but we buy pulp. It's as messy as jam making...

 and  Retweeted you

yeyyy shes back :) x

 Retweeted you

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Morning! I wrote Love Letters In My Hand and the lovely told me all about you
 Retweeted you

See Bowie`s fanmail? My top letters: And love travelling? Me too.

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See Bowie`s fanmail? My top letters: And love travelling? Me too.

And more lovely comments from James and Lisa, below. Thanks so much! xx