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 11 September 2017

How to 'Escape to the Country'-- when you don't know a soul.

Ever tried moving to a completely new area......where you don't know a single person?

I've recently left a county where I spent half my life working, raising a family and forging close and long-lasting friendships.

But sometimes, your life turns a right angle, for all kinds of reasons. And so suddenly, I'm a hundred miles from a place I once thought I'd never leave. New house. New partner. New life. And neither of us has any connection whatsoever, to where we are.

Some people seem to make a habit of moving. It comes with the job if you're in the forces--I know people who've packed and unpacked their worldly goods and started afresh, dozens of times. Often, though, there's a forces 'family' around them to offer support and friendship and an understanding of their challenges and changes.

Then there are the compulsive house improvers--always looking for a new project, and happy enough to start it in a new area, maybe with a business attached. Or those whose careers require them to move up the ladder in different regions of the country every few years. Meeting new colleagues.

But in our case, we can both work pretty successfully from home. Loads of advantages to that. But no new work buddies to meet, in the canteen queue. Oh, and on top of that, it's a tiny village with a smaller than usual potential pool of friends to get to know. So this really is a case of starting over.

But in spite of the fact that there are just around 820 people in the place we now live, happily, six weeks in, it's all going OK.

Sure, it helps that we're pretty sociable, and curious about the people, and the world around us. But this little village has given us the best kind of welcome. The day after moving in, a lady called Susan popped round with a lemon drizzle cake and a card. 'This is from the village,' she said, 'to welcome you'. Another lady round the corner dropped a card through the letterbox to say hello, and to let us know that she'd call in soon.

The local cafe has turned out to be a real hub. Staff there have lived here a long time, and seem to know everyone, and where to find a builder, or a locksmith, or a taxi firm. The same cafe has pizza and one meal-supper nights. We signed up for those, and within days, found ourselves seated at a table full of people with stories to share. One invited us round for a cuppa and a chat. Working outside our new cottage, people have stopped to introduce themselves, and ask how the unpacking's going. (Slowly, actually...I'm still missing all my fabulous winter boots and a couple of cosy coats...)

So why here? We're lucky that the village is so friendly and has its fair share of social events going on--but we did our research.

We lived 200 miles apart from each other, and so we started looking somewhere in the middle, because our number one priority was to be within reach of our daughters--we have four between us. Each of them is now carving out a life of their own, making us empty nesters, but we were determined that they could all get to us, and vice versa, by car or train, and that we had a good link to London for regular, but not daily work trips and social outings, too. We travel abroad a fair bit for our travel website--we whizzed round the world in just 57 days last year--so airports needed to be within range for us.

Once we'd decided to try and immerse ourselves in a village that had a social life...AND was close to that link to London in just over an hour, the bottom line for whichever house we chose, is that it had to pass the 'pint of milk and a paper' test. Both of those items, in some kind of village general store, had to be within easy walking distance. And of course, a pub was essential--as another means of getting to know people. And the local beer, obviously...!

So welcome to the Cotswolds. To a village that has a great pub, a school, a church, sports clubs, a brilliant cafe with great coffee and those social evenings, and, as a fabulous bonus, a separate, community owned shop selling fresh produce, an incredible array of cheeses, home baked bread, cakes, pies and freshly and locally created 'ready' meals. And although we have a car, there's a regular bus service into a bustling Cotswolds market town just four miles down the road, with its own thriving theatre, and great pubs, shops and restaurants.

Luckily--after enthusiastic, daily sampling of all of that lovely local fare, there are also stunning walks at every turn--with a network of footpaths to try. Also, glorious, historic houses, and more honey-stoned Cotswolds towns and villages to get to know, too.

But above all, there's a great mix: people in marketing, IT, education, publishing, small businesses, and complementary medicine; and people who've retired. People whose families have lived here for generations, and people who, like us, moved in only months ago.

Nigel has a desk and his PC, and soon a new study, for his business calls. I have a newly fitted voiceover studio in the old boot room: state of the art recording gear drilled into 200 year old Cotswold stone walls. Away from our individual workspaces, ideas for , our travel website, get thrashed out over coffee at the kitchen table. The site's growing well, with our next trip, to Sri Lanka, being planned.

We'll definitely feel the winter chill on our return, so need to order logs for the woodburner. Someone at the shop's bound to have a name. And I need to find those piles of winter woollies. They'll be in a box. Somewhere.....

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Yes: Cry for Matthew. Just don`t forget him.

Heard about the CRY charity? It works hard to spot potentially fatal heart problems in young people. Today, five years after his untimely death, I'm republishing my blog about Matthew-because he, like other young people who have died suddenly--needs to be remembered. Matthew's mum Sue Dewhirst is a leading light in the charity, and I was proud to meet her and moved forever by her story. Please read it, and think about whether someone special to you, should be screened. It could save their life.

Sorting out unwanted clothes for a charity sale was the easy bit.

Here's where it gets tougher: telling the story behind the event.

I'd read about Matthew Dewhirst; a 17 year old Shropshire student; highly accomplished at sport and music, and a loving, only son to Sue and Chris. He was also, I discovered, occasionally, 'class clown' to his mates.

With his talent for rugby and his passion for weightlifting, he might have hit the sporting headlines in years to come.

Instead, his name became known for being an apparently superfit teenager who collapsed and died during a pre-season rugby training course.

Handing over some clothes and sharing a coffee with Sue at the family home in St Martin's, she told me Matthew had shown occasional signs of health problems for years, such as fainting on the pitch and feeling chest pains. He'd been screened, tested and told he was dehydrated, stressed, or suffering from migraine.

Even when he felt unwell the night before he died, Sue found herself repeating the same old medical advice to him: 'You know what the problem is, Matthew,' she`d told him.'You HAVE to drink more'.

The next day: in July 2012, news came which would change their lives forever: Matthew had collapsed and died suddenly--one of 12 young people who do so every week in the UK because of undetected heart problems. Like the cases of presenter Gabby Logan's young brother Daniel, who died during a kickabout with his footballing dad at 15, and the nearly fatal,78 minute collapse of football player Fabrice Muamba, no heart condition had previously been spotted.

It's hard, whether you're a parent or not, even to imagine the pain of losing a child. It's arguably even more devastating to consider that kind of grief when, as Sue and Chris did, you've gone through nine IVF attempts to conceive that precious child in the first place.

'I remember, just before getting pregnant, being at the IVF clinic and the consultant saying he was hopeful this latest attempt would work,' Sue said. 'He told me things had been going well with his patients. He was "on a roll".'

Sure enough, Matthew followed; and was soon mastering, then excelling at most things he attempted: from sport, to maths, and music. I suggested he sounded really special: a golden boy.

'He could be a little sod at times,'Sue laughed, eyes sparkling, regaling stories of Matthew's seemingly endless energy, his need to be active, his stubborn streak. Always, though, happy, loving and loved.

 I'd covered every kind of story as a journalist, but had still arrived here with a precautionary tissue up my sleeve. With a 17 year old of my own at the time, I had absolutely no plans to ask Sue 'how it feels' to lose one. I didn't have to. She told me that days after Matthew died, a doctor insisted that 'no one could have done anything'. They got, she assured me, 'both barrels'.

Sue and Chris run their own architectural design company, but Sue had always found time to be a charity supporter and organiser too. Since Matthew died, she's thrown her skills, positivity and any gaps she has between business trips, into CRY--Cardiac Risk in the Young. She's delivered talks and helped arrange sales, sporting and social events, netting more than £40,000 in the process.

This small charity battles hard to raise awareness of undetected heart problems; and to offer screening sessions around the country, supported by cardiac specialists who give their time to carry out the tests. If problems are spotted, help can be given; lives, potentially, saved--the charity claims that its tests find many more potential problems than conventional screening can.

Each test costs £35, or a donation on the day. To keep them running, CRY needs funding; cake sales, evening events, walks, runs, clothes raised is saving lives.

As our chat ended, a glance round the couple's immaculate home shows every superficial sign of 'business as usual'.Two lively, happy dogs, waggily post-walk; grinning at me through glass doors. Talk of a possible round of golf that afternoon. A heavy bag of delicious garden-grown veg that I'm handed to take home.

Sue's hoping as many people as possible will support CRY fundraisers. But she has another wish too: for people to remember Matthew's story--and to push for heart screening if they're worried about symptoms-- especially if they're playing sport regularly.

Maybe that's something you could help with? Tell people about CRY. Find out about screenings this November, and again in May and August next year. Retweet this blog if you can. And always remember Matthew.




Thank you for keeping the memory of Matt alive.

 and 7 others retweeted you

Important stuff. Young lad on my friend’s corridor in Halls of Residence died in the night with similar complaint. Only 19.

well that made me sit up, listen and take note. With best wishes to Sue x

Met friends of friends at a wedding last week who've gone through the same with their 12yr old last year... Horrendous. X

Absolutely! Here in Belgium they've recently set up a programme for kids to be tested. Great idea. X
  1. thanks for the blog RT, James. Much appreciated.
  2. Not at all. It's something important and more awareness is needed.
  1. you're welcome. One of my little brother's friends died of an unexpected heart condition a couple of years ago during PE.
  2. that's the third such case I've heard today just among Twitter friends since publishing my blog. Shocking.
 and 5 others retweeted you
12 young people are dying every week from undetected heart problems. Please read about Matthew+help spread the word.
  1. thanks again, Karen. Lots of people have read Matthew's story today, thanks to RTs from you & others .
  2. beautifully written piece and an incredibly worthwhile cause being bravely brought into sight and mind.

made me sit up and read it. Thoughts are with Sue and her family x

 and 11 others retweeted you
12 young people are dying every week from undetected heart problems. Please read about Matthew+help spread the word.

  1. My mum had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hocom. Had to have a difib fitted. Gave her an extra 10 more years :-)

    Tweet text
  2. how scary. But great that help was there. Thankyou.
  3. She used to pass out. I'd hope she'd still be there when I came home from school. Hurrah for medical science! :-) x

+Find about more about Cardiac Risk in the Young here:

+And try and get along to support CRY events if you can: