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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.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Stopping a stranger: why it's sometimes a great idea...

They'd travelled the six thousand miles from China to Ludlow without a hitch. But now, beside the train station in this English medieval market town...they appeared to be faltering. A mother and teenage girl, a mound of luggage almost bigger than both of them...a steep hill ahead....and no taxi rank.

As they pored over a map on a phone, I asked if I could help. It turned out that Gloria was 16, and due to start in the sixth form at a local boarding school. The plan was to stay at a local pub, take a cab to the school the next day, and for Gloria's mum to have a quick turn-around before starting her long journey home. I walked them to their accommodation and we exchanged names and numbers. Gloria's mum and I had coffee before she headed back to China. With two daughters of my own, I had a sense of how she might be feeling.

It was that meeting that led to Gloria staying at my place over half term. She had a huge pile of schoolwork and a couple of Skype tutorials with her chemistry teacher back in China, but somehow we found time to go out for walks, to go shopping (best bit: watching Gloria sign her name in intricate Chinese at the till....) to lunch and dinner, and to cook each other some of our favourite
dishes. Incredibly, it turned out that this teenager tackling five tough A' levels in a foreign language (she can play a mean violin, too, by the way, and run an easy 10k...) was also a brilliant cook; insisting on buying incredients, then rustling up fabulous pork, chicken, vegetable and noodle dishes with aplomb..... several nights running.

I'm writing this (with Gloria's permission...) just to say this. If you ever get the chance to welcome guests from a different country or culture into your home...take it.

I learnt about life at a boarding school in rural England through the eyes of a Chinese girl...and about three generational living back home. I got an insight into the now relaxed 'one child only' policy in China...and how to survive (very easily, it seems...) restrictions on social media. I heard how Gloria hopes to try for Oxford or Cambridge....and, personally, how to stop faffing about and use chopsticks confidently. I also learnt how charming and generous a young guest can be.....and why, if you ever see a visitor looking a bit lost in a place you's a great idea to say 'hello...'.

PS: Thankyou for reading! I also write for , a travel website tracking preparations for a big trip this autumn....and looking for help from you if you know the places on our itinerary! Please take a look and click on the site's *follow* button (this will automatically enter you into our next prize draw, by the way!)