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 29 February 2016

Eighteen minutes in Ireland

'Ah...,' they all said, with a knowing smirk. 'If it's your first time in Ireland, it's all about the craic. And the pubs. And the Guinness.'

But here I was, diving into my first ever Irish hostelry, with little expectation of enjoying any of that stuff. There had been no research: this doorway was any old escape from the cloudburst in Howth harbour; an overture to Storm Imogen; shrieking, mocking seagulls the rebellious, discordant string section, drowning out the gentle squelching of our rain-soaked shoes. We were freezing.

Even worse, we had to be in Dublin by midday to meet a man about a ticket, and the train from Howth was leaving in 18 minutes. There was barely time to neck a shot; never mind savouring my first pint of the black stuff and an hour or two of laid back blarney. Anyway. We needed a hot drink.

We blinked at the candlelight. Absorbed the silence. Craned our necks; strained our ears for the crackling fire...or just the craic. Nothing.

Then....a shout from the darkness. 'No--it's OK. Yous can come in if you like. It's just--well--be careful like, because it's twelve minutes past eleven and well, like--we're only insured from eleven thirty.'

Risking razing the place to the ground with no payout, we gently wriggled butts onto barstools in the murky light, without rocking the candle and bottle combo on the table too much and ordered, shamefully, coffees.

'Ah--but will those be straight Americanos?' asked the barman, hopefully--clearly assessing the additional, pre-11.30 risk that a damn good frothing could involve.

Recklessly, we ordered cappuccinos, and discovered that the barista and his equally devil-may-care, cappuccino quaffing friend at the bar, were called Frank, and, possibly for comedic effect, Frank.

They, in turn, heard that we were there not just for the craic, or the Guinness...maybe later....but for the rugby. A speedy, Frank-Frank debate followed about the forthcoming Ireland-Wales match, peppered with questions about our mini-break and indeed...our lives thus far. We were warming up.

As we drank our coffees, their talk turned a new member of staff. 'Ach...see here...and she doesn't make up a fire like Betsy, that's for sure...' said Frank, pulling Frank off his barstool, through to the now smoky snug. Poring over a pall of peatsmoke, they fixed the fire, stepped away, and sighed, partly because the air was clearer now, and partly because it was almost 11.30 and any ensuing smoke damage would, at least, be covered by the insurance.

With the Dublin train about to rumble on to the platform above, we downed the dregs of the wrong kind of froth, said our thankyous and goodbyes, and prepared to leave. At the door, we realised we hadn't paid, and rushed back to the bar. Maybe that's what the craic's all about. Showing up as customers; and; 18 minutes later...feeling, frankly.... like friends.

Like this? Check out my other posts on here: travel, life, health scares, Alzheimer`s, running (badly), loving chocolate and anything else I want to rant about. 

And NOW AVAILABLE..... Preparing for a huge great travel adventure with @nigelridpathx31 and blogging as we go.  Please have a look at:  

Thursday 25 February 2016

Learner driver: PLEASE pass!

I`m a nosy parker at the best of times. But being two floors up, I have access to a busy view of town.... my eyes often out on stalks; my mind racing about the scenes playing out below.

Most of the drama surrounds a nearby driving test centre. I see learners parking, looking under the bonnet with their instructor for final checks, and going off to meet their maker. Well...examiner.

Sometimes, I see them returning--and if I do, I have to wait until I know whether they've passed or failed. It can take a while. There's stuff to sign. So all I have to go on, is body language. Wringing of hands...or relaxing of shoulders?

It happened just now. A lad came back with the examiner, and I could see quite an animated conversation going on, before the official handed him some paperwork, got out, and walked back to base. The lad sat there, motionless. Five minutes later, he got out of the car and someone, his Dad, probably, approached him from the other side of the street. They hugged. Still wasn't sure. Then the lad peeled the L plates off the car..they both got in...lad at the wheel...and drove off; smiling.

It's two years since youngest daughter Alice passed her test, just five months after her 17th birthday.I remember the mix of pride and relief. No more frozen tweets from dark winter car parks outside rehearsals, or parking tactfully round the corner from late night parties. Sure, you feel anxious for a while. But only months after that, I found myself in the passenger seat with 'baby driver' (by then working as an au pair...) as she negotiated icy hairpin bends through the mountains to take me to lunch and a spa treatment at a Swiss ski resort. And later drove us both, in her own car, to Normandy; motorways, car ferry--no worries.

I`m sure my parents never relaxed.They probably thought they'd be driving me home from parties into their my first and second driving tests came and went. Then the third. (Nobody could think of anything reassuring to say to me by this stage. They all looked a bit embarrassed. I think they'd all given up). Then the fourth. (It's OK, I passed fourth time.) I hugged the examiner, then burst into tears. I still had panda, mascara smeared eyes when I got home--and no mobile to call mum in those days--so she took one look at me and put the kettle on ; convinced I'd failed, and was heading for driving test number five.

Yeh, the M25 is still a bitch, and punctures usually only happen in horizontal rain, but there are lots of little things that can make driving pleasurable. First exits on massive roundabouts, for example. Always a joy.

Driving gives you real freedom to go anywhere, any time. Like Aberdovey on a sunny Sunday. Or on a wet Wednesday, really.You can head out on late night chocolate mercy dashes. And sing whatever you choose, at the top of your voice, with nobody complaining. So--well done to anyone in the street below, passing their test today. But if you're the one with the slumped shoulders and the wrong kind of paperwork from the examiner, don't worry. It'll be your turn to peel the plates off soon.