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Hello.

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 www.thetimeofourlives.net - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Dear Flytipper. An open letter--just for you.






Dear Flytipper,

I agree--they`re not the most beautiful sofas I`ve ever seen. They`re pretty grubby, for a start.

But if you went to the trouble to load them into your van, or a trailer, and get them this far--then why not go the whole hog and take them to the tip?


Instead you left them near the bridge in Preston Montford Lane. Perfectly positioned to watch the kids rummage through the eclectic mix of toys nearby. Did you dump those, too?

There`s a (naked) Action Man style fella there. And some kind of pirate boat. And I think I spotted an Xbox type control thing.

Not far away, and not pictured, because I was getting angry, was an empty Starbucks coffee cup. Maybe you put your feet up and necked a latte while the kids used the `play area`.

I`ve seen stuff dumped here before. And it kind of....spoils the area? Maybe the sofas were spoiling your lounge. Or your driveway. But this isn`t really a solution is it?

So just in case you`re ever tempted to go flytipping again.....here are a few ideas for getting rid of your possessions, without messing up a lovely Shropshire country lane.

1) Ask around if anyone wants to buy your stuff. No? Try an advertisement in your local paper or a card at the newsagent`s round the corner?

2) See if a charity can use it. Check if it`s got a fire safety label on it. Because clean, useable furniture that can be resold, is often snapped up by charities such as the British Heart Foundation in Shrewsbury. And they  can often come to your home and collect, then clean it up and sell it. They raise money. Someone gets an affordable sofa.

3) How about Reviive on the Battlefield estate in Shrewsbury? Again, they have a brilliant team of people, including some trainees learning vital skills, who work on donated furniture and resell it.

4) Clean it up yourself, and join Freegle. Be honest about what you have, and describe it accurately...even post a picture of it on the site. Once again....it`s taken off your hands, without the need to dump it. And someone who can`t afford new stuff, feels the benefit.

5) Here`s another idea. You clearly have transport. So....take it to the tip. But check first where they are, and when they`re open--and what they take. Here`s the link to Shropshire Council`s website:

 http://www.shropshire.gov.uk

Getting the idea now? Good.

Don`t do it again please.

Love,

Jane xx

Oh......PS: It`s not that I`m obsessive about rubbish or flytipping or anything--but here are a couple of blog posts I prepared earlier...now recycled ...to show you how easy recycling can be.


Here we go. You might want to put on some Barry White for this February story. And get yourself comfy on the sofa. Oops no.....sorry.......it`s up my lane.

OK, let`s do it standing up.

Wanna talk dirty?

I mean........really dirty?

....wanna hear a little shiver...? Some deep breathing....a little panting....feel a body glowing warmer.... touch those little glistening droplets of sweat ....as the body pushes harder......?

Yeah well you`re not going to get it. Because I didn`t get my run today.

So we`re going to talk really, really dirty instead.

Oh...you wanna *see*...as well?

Cop a load of this, then:





Eight fag packets, four soft drinks holders, and half a dozen cans. Just a small sample of what I saw along a pretty, half mile stretch of road somewhere in Shropshire this morning. Half a mile`s not far ! And there was other stuff...including a neatly knotted (hmmmm...) carrier bag full of more cans, and a bottle or two. Just too gruesome and jaggy to include in my haul.

So......just what made the 20 or so litter louts who deposited this stuff, think it was ok? How tough would it have been to do something radical...like take it home?

Don`t worry.I`ve done it for you. And I hope I don`t have to do it again. Because I was supposed to be running...panting....breathing hard up the hill....(yeh, that was me, you know.....running...and....)

Oh forget it, I`ve got a headache now anyway.

Enjoying the recycling message? Good. Because I`m not done yet. Here are the tyres someone dumped in the same little layby last summer.






And yes, I did report it. You can fill in a form online, which goes to the Environment Agency.


And finally. I just checked back through my pictures. Some lovely ones of me on the beach and stuff....but then I saw this. Two more sofas. A few months back....in a bus shelter by the Shelton lights just outside Shrewsbury. Quite scarily similar to the pair dumped today at Preston Montford.



Maybe they`re stalking me. Or travelling round and round on the number 70, like people do on the London night bus....?

Nuff rubbish. Just going to log the latest load on the Environment Agency`s website. Then go and sit on my er....sofa.




Friday, 22 March 2013

For the love of hugging....



Have you noticed, on Twitter...the number of virtual `hugs` that get sent around if someone`s having a bad day? I`ve sent a few. (I`m going to send one to Kelly in a minute.) And I`ve had a few back. Mad? No--it`s touching. Without touching. Someone out there, often someone you`ve never met, feels for you and cares about your problems. I like that about Twitter.

I like hugs in `real life`, too. Because they can convey so much.

A couple of days ago, I witnessed two grown men: one English, one French, wrapped round each other in a HUGE bear hug. Neither spoke the other`s language terribly well, and they hadn`t seen each other for months. A handshake didn`t seem enough. So they just went for it. With a bit of pally backslapping and throat clearing to round it off. And then the Frenchman came in for a blokey shot of Scotch.

I know a bit of French--but sometimes, not the words I need. Down the same little lane in France, a dear friend had just lost her mum. I needed to say something, and it had to be right. I texted a brilliant linguist mate of mine back in Blighty, and she penned a couple of lines for the card. I wrote them, sealed it up, bought some flowers, and tiptoed down her drive. Why did I tiptoe? You just do, don`t you, in those circumstances.

Annick opened the door, and without words, we hugged. I thought I ought to say something too....and started with the usual `ca va...?`...but found myself biting my lip, and lurching into phrases like `tres triste....` and then stumbling into how I`d `pense` about her in the `jours difficile` that lay ahead. Then, both of us close to tears...I hugged her again. Which hopefully said it all.

The next day...same lane ; more hugs--but happy ones...this time from another French neighbour I hadn`t seen for months. This was a little `yelp with delight` hug. She speaks no English, and she`s heard my entire French vocabulary over and over, several times. (Yes, the roses in her garden really are beautiful. Yes her kitchen is very sunny. I just don`t need to tell her every time.....) But the hug made it clear to both of us that we love each other`s company, get along just fine with or without words, and can`t wait to see each other again.Probably in her sunny kitchen, overlooking her beautiful roses.

And how about a hug from a complete stranger? Ever had one? I survived a nasty crash on a snowy M6 once. The car skidded and landed on its roof, in a ditch. Dangling from my seatbelt, I realised that nothing hurt. But wondered whether the car might just catch fire. Minutes later, I`d kicked the door open , scrambled up the bank ...and fell into the arms of some bloke who`d stopped to help. I just wept with relief at being alive and unhurt, and all the while, he hugged me tight, like a long lost friend. Thanks, mate.

See? Hugs are so useful when you don`t know the words. Or when you do know the words, but because you`re so choked up, you can`t say them. Some hugs you just never, ever forget. That car crash hug is one of those. Another was when we left our eldest daughter as she started university. September goodbyes on a London pavement. So much I wanted to say, still, but nothing came out. Just a gasp and a sob. Those trembling, loving, `can`t let you go` hugs stay with you forever.

Anyway, it`s freezing out. Warm up a bit. Have a coffee . And a hug from me x






Tuesday, 12 March 2013

On being in prison...and working with Huhne: Simon`s story



It`s on bright, sunny days like these when I have the time to walk for miles, that I value my freedom the most. Not just being free from the the daily grind of work...but just...free to make my own choices.

I don`t know about you but after health and home, my liberty is pretty high on the list of things that are precious to me. So regardless of my politics or my personal views on the Huhne-Pryce case, that television footage of prison vans taking the `convicts`to jail after sentence, sent a shiver down my spine.

As a working journalist I visited Shrewsbury prison, which has recently closed, and Pentonville in London. The place fascinated me, and scared me. I rattled off the interviews I`d set up, and couldn`t wait to leave.

Simon Davey, a 31 year old Shropshire man, found Pentonville pretty intimidating too. Especially arriving there after being sentenced to eight months for fraud in 2010. I`ve been speaking to him today about how it feels to be a new prisoner; and how his former boss Chris Huhne might be coping with his first full day in jail.

"I was terrified, to be blunt," he told me today. "I was in a prison van taking me from Wood Green to Pentonville, with all sorts of fears. I didn`t know what to expect, who I`d meet, or what it would be like. It was an alien world."

Simon said he expected Chris Huhne--who employed him as a young graduate caseworker when Huhne was an MEP--would be feeling much the same today at Wandsworth.

"Prison is terrifying. Everything`s so loud, so alien... and you have the whole regime to get used to."

Simon remembers that even in that chilling new environment, there was support offered to him in Pentonville in those early days--through a kind of buddy scheme.

"The guy they paired me up with was what I`d call a stereotypical `con`," remembers Simon. "This tall, lanky guy who`d been in and out of custody since the age of 13 for helping his dad deal in crack cocaine."

"He was called Billy. I thought at first `this is never going to work.` There was me, who`d had opportunities in life, parental support, a good education. With Billy. Who quite honestly looked like something from a storyline in Eastenders. This was really going to smash my naivety out of the water."

But it worked. Billy knew about prison life. He helped Simon. And before long Simon had a `job` to do in the jail--something that Chris Huhne, says Simon might also be able to secure.

"For me, " said Simon, a committed Christian, "it was working within the chaplaincy. I found myself in a trusted position within the jail.This was a multi faith chaplaincy, and I did things like helping with services, preparing for meetings, tidying and so on. I thrive on routine, and this offered me some."

Simon, who was later transferred to Ford prison, found that even keeping busy in jail,there was plenty of time to dwell on the crime that led him to be locked up.

He`d been working in a responsible office job. But in his private life, he was taking on what he now regards to be `irresponsible levels of credit`.

"I had spiralling debts, faced the bailiffs, the lot. I ended up transferring money from my employer to my own account--about £17,000."

Simon admitted that contemplating his crime from within the walls of Pentonville led him to some of his darkest moments.

"I`m fairly resilient. But I couldn`t stop thinking about what I`d put my mum through. I let her down. She lost friends. Neighbours spat at her. I still think about the distress I caused her."

Simon said his former employer Chris Huhne, from his post graduate days ten years ago, would also find himself with plenty of time to think about the devastating effect his actions, and those of his ex wife, have had on their wider family.

"I think some of those family issues have been made a bit too public," he said."He was foolish, and he did wrong. But he should be left to serve his sentence and not have his personality torn apart."

And in spite of everything, Simon still remembers Chris Huhne as `a sincere guy`, who would need help to rebuild his life.

Simon now devotes his life to helping prisoners do just that. He founded the national group, The Yellow Ribbon Resettlement Project. It offers two years support to ex convicts--right from the prison gate.

"Before prisoners are released, they have a mentor to prepare them for life outside. We offer help with work placements. And there`s actually someone at the prison gate to meet them the moment they`re released."

That help continues, from writing CVs, to finding somewhere to live. And that`s often in a completely new area.

"One thing I learned from Billy," said Simon, "was that he kept being released from jail, on licence. He`d go home, back to the same environment where there was a drug problem, and he`d re-offend."

The Yellow Ribbon scheme works all over the country to offer a really fresh start to former inmates in a new area, if that`s better for them.

It`s worked for Billy. He`s free, still only in his mid twenties, but is now a father--and a friend still, to Simon.


Simon`s also still in touch with the chaplaincy at Pentonville, the department which offered him work, hope, and self esteem.  And he agrees that his freedom, now, `means everything`.

"Even in my lower moments, I keep reminding myself of that. I`ve paid the price for my crime. Now,  I have my liberty and my freedom . I don`t want to lose that ever again."



Comments: 
 Fascinating interview! Just goes to show how a single mistake or misjudgement can change your life forever.











  • 2 mins
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    A Shropshire ex prisoner who also once worked with Chris Huhne talks about life, liberty,and letting people down. 
  • 59 mins
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  • 3 hrs
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    Thankyou,  for sharing your story with me today 
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    Thankyou,  for sharing your story with me today 
  • 3 hrs
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    A Shropshire ex prisoner who once worked for Chris Huhne talks ab


     no need to thank.. It's only a retweet after all. ! Interesting subject !


















  • Wednesday, 6 March 2013

    Big decisions: my blog; your six, great stories.



    So there we were: mother and daughter; standing in a field; having skidded halfway across it. Should we carry on, through more mud, (which, frankly, had looked like grass from a distance ) and trash our trainers, but get home faster? Or turn back and retrace our squelchy steps?

    We stood there for a couple of minutes, rooted to the spot, both sinking ever so slightly deeper into the mud, feeling cold, crotchety, and rather stupid, before deciding to head home along the route we`d already walked....down the dry, smooth, Tarmac covered lanes.

     Hardly one of life`s biggest choices. But it got us talking on the way home about decision making, especially when you have major issues to consider--on really life changing issues. I threw the question out on Twitter this week and heard some amazing, inspirational stories. Thank you for all of them.

                                              *****************************************

    Hana works in the media, in London. She had to decide whether to tell colleagues about her depression when she started her current job. She`d lived with it for most of her life, and was proud of what she`d achieved so, as Hana put it, `why hide it ?`

    "I was signed off last year due to a bad bout," she told me."While I'd say it was handled pretty sketchily by work, and I'd never have been treated the way I was if it had been physical, I know I'd have been in a worse position if it were not on the record as a disability, as mercifully there are laws about such things."

    Hana said it took her `a good while` to get back on her feet.


    "Bouts like that may only mean 3 months or so out of action but in reality, wipe out the best part of a year," she said. So-- was her decision to be open about her depression, the right one?


    "I had great support from some colleagues," said Hana. "However, the pressure I felt under to be OK on my return, and being told what had gone wrong (precious little, particularly in the circumstances) on a couple of projects, as proof of my not being on top of work and my being responsible for getting ill... well, I will be very cautious about being so open again."


    And Hana had this to add about attitudes to depression: "
    While people say they have sympathy and understand it's an illness, when they have to actively deal with someone who has severe depression - a very alienating and frightening illness - it all too often causes them to blur the personal and medical. Understandable, perhaps, but very stigmatising."

                                         *********************************************




    Andrew`s in Shropshire. His big decision came after getting a wake up call about his weight. He was 23, six foot tall, and weighed 20 stone. 

    "I`d just got too big through stress," he told me. "The doctor said I had the blood pressure of an 80 year old, that my heart was already showing signs of strain.

     "He said I would have a heart attack if I carried on like that, " remembers Andrew. "  And at 23, that`s not what you want at all."

    Andrew decided to start exercising, rather than dieting. First, by walking for an hour a night, four times a week. He lost two stone.....then four more. And the walks turned to running. Five years on from his doctor`s warning, he clocks up 20-25 miles a week in his four regular runs.

    "I feel brilliant now,", he said, "and am almost at full fitness.". What`s more, he`s encouraging others to get fit. He started the Lawley Running Group last October--an intermediate group that welcomes beginners.

                                        **********************************************

    The `big decision` facing Gill and her family in west Wales was also, potentially, a matter of life and death. 


    Gill`s daughter was 22 and had battled with uncontrolled type one diabetes and other problems since she was 12.


     Gill told me: "We have been through self harming, blood clots on lungs and DKA-- a diabetic condition where the organs start to fail. She hates hospitals with a passion. "


    "On this particular occasion it was in the evening and we took her into A&E. It was just before one shift went off duty and they had offered her a bed for the night as they were still waiting for test results. She did not want to stay at all and the doctor just lost his patience and told us that if we didn't make her stay she would suffer a heart attack and would not survive."


    "You have to understand  that this was a stressful situation for everyone, " said Gill, whose family had discussed possible outcomes many times. " Our daughter had been in a coma on a previous occasion, and was not frightened of dying."

    Above all, Gill`s daughter was 22, and wanted to be at home. So, in spite of being told that taking their daughter out of hospital that night could, ultimately, lead to her death, home they went. And she survived.

     Gill said: "We still have bad times but we have some jolly good ones as well. 
    She now has an insulin pump instead of five injections a day. Diabetes is not a
    condition to be taken lightly--there are so many hidden agendas-- but hopefully she
    will improve as technology gets better."

                                      ********************************************************************


    Brigid and Scott are hale and hearty. But they both decided on life-changing decisions which would impact heavily on their friends and families.


    Scott, who`s in Shropshire, joined the Navy a week after leaving school. His 27 year career took him all over the world--there was the Gulf, Karachi, Mombasa, Belize, the former Yugoslavia...and some shouty square bashing back in Blighty, too--all part of preparing the next generation of Naval officers for action.

    And then: office work. Important, significant, sometimes secret office work...but Scott wanted out. Especially at the end of weekend leave.

     "On Mondays," he said, "I had a nice routine and would catch the 0655 out of Shrewsbury, to arrive back in Plymouth shortly before lunch. It sounds OK, but as the train made its way south west, I usually felt sick to the pit of my stomach."

    Sadly for Scott, redundancy wasn`t an option--but he`d discussed it fully with his wife and family and decided to `jump ship` anyway.

     "I think it was fifteen clicks to freedom," he told me, " and it was done. I sent my wife a text, put it on Facebook, and told the office. I sat back in my chair and felt I`d done the right thing for all concerned. In the office there was blatant shock. But for me, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders."

    And now? Well Scott`s had to adjust to life without his uniform, that pacestick (!) and his well rewarded, well earned, respected military status. He knew he didn`t want to work for anyone else, or face anything `complicated or stressful`. So Scott`s Snackshack (at Wickes in Shrewsbury if you`re passing...!) keeps him ticking over. And being home, and closer to his wife and family is, he says `the best place of all to be`.

                                         **********************************************

    Brigid, from North Wales, is part of the sandwich generation with grown up sons and an elderly father. After a successful career in sales; she faced redundancy, and decided it was time for action.

    It wasn`t just work, but seeing several loved ones die `too early`. Within weeks of making her decision, she was flying to Spain.

    And smiling? Not quite.

    "The airport experience was surreal," she told me. "As the plane took off, I looked at green fields. England has the greenest fields, even in winter. I had a window seat, and broke my heart. You know, proper, shoulder-shaking sobs. When you`re in the air, you are truly "in limbo"--and that`s exactly how I felt--neither here, nor there."

    Spain`s not a world away, but leaving her dad and her "remarkable, sensitive, supportive" sons and their partners was still tough, even though her boys had urged her to `go for it`. 

    Accommodation was sorted-- Brigid owns a property in the Murcia region. But as for work--well--she`s considering the options that have been `brewing` in her head--for both business and pleasure.

    "The internet makes the world a small place in terms of communication, so jobwise, I could do anything," she said."I`m also learning Spanish, and exercising more, enjoying blue skies and sea breezes...." 

     "There`s no point being stuck in a rut," Brigid said. "When I look back on my life, I want my grandchildren to think I`m the grandma who has stories to tell........the one who had adventures." 
                             
                                ***************************************************

    And finally, back to Helen`s story. You might have read about Helen, aka "Lucy" in my blog last year. She was facing one of the biggest, most sensitive and emotional decisions any woman can face. Removing both breasts to eliminate the risk of breast cancer--a significant risk in Helen`s family. Here`s a reminder of what Helen--a nurse from Kent-- had to weigh up at that time. And an update on how she`s doing now.

    Helen said :"Having my annual check ups was always an interrupted night's sleep and that absolute breath holding moment until the doctor said everything was clear. I knew this was my breast cancer prevention. Then a month before my annual check I dreamt that I had a breast lump, I even dreamt the location. It was one of those dreams that when you wake up for a split second you think it may be real life. I was so disturbed by my dream that I checked myself...and there it was. It wasn't an easy find, and the consultant couldn't believe I'd found it as it was right against my rib cage." 

    "So all in that one afternoon I had mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsy and a diagnosis of a grade 3 invasive tumour. It absolutely blew my mind. I like to feel I am Mrs Together but I could never have imagined how that diagnosis would have reacted with me. I instantly felt like my breast was filled with a growing dog poo or some filthy alien that had to be removed at all costs.When my biopsy results came back that it wasn't cancer, I actually felt little relief. The diagnosis was still affecting me greatly. After my lumpectomy and subsequent all clear I knew that I never ever wanted to go through that experience again, and  I knew I didn't want to have to tell my husband, my children, my sister, my mum that I had breast cancer ever again. 

    "It was then a year of research, finding my dream team of surgeons, choosing my surgery type, the best support network and counselling, that I had my preventative bilateral mastectomies."


    "I was emotionally and physically ready. I had every piece of information to hand, I had logistics sorted. It wasn't until I was recovering from my surgery that it really hit me how BIG it was. Nothing can prepare you for that. Immediately after the surgery you live for the minute, the absolute helplessness of the days after major surgery are overpowering but you have to just get on with it as the deed is done and you don't have an option but to do anything else. It was tough, really tough. I went through times of feeling like a freak show, being a medical display mannequin! 

    "Now, 9 months on and all surgery (bar one mini tweak in April as I have a perfectionist reconstructive surgeon) I am back to life as normal. The relief of no more scans, no more 'back of your mind' fears is more than I could have hoped for. Knowing my risk is now about 1% is a fantastic feeling." 

                                ***************************************************

    Thanks again to Hana, Gill, Andrew, Scott, Brigid and Helen for sharing their stories. If you`ve got a `big decision` story of your own to add--please get in touch! Either click on `comment` or email: janemcintyre1@btinternet.com 
    The timing of this topic is pretty significant for me, by the way--it`s coming up to a year since I left a job I loved. It was my choice to `ask for the money and run`. A big decision for me. But an easy one, in the end...for a couple of reasons. More next week.....