Today , BBC4 Saturday Live asked listeners to share their stories of leaps  in the dark. It started with Ian Rankin describing how he and his wife gave up well paid jobs to renovate  an old house in rural France with no money and not speaking French but that was how he began to write for a living.  Most of the stories were changes of choice.

I did one of those. I left teaching to set up a business with a friend despite having only £100 each capital.  That may sound reckless but we built up a successful and popular business in  what was Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade Factory . We renamed it the ‘Jam Factory’ and  were an  umbrella’ for 30 dealers, a bookshop , the Marmalade Cat café and services like ‘The Repair Shop’.  In 1998 , when our 10 year lease came to an end the head lessor decided -at the  last minute – not to renew our lease. No one in that part of Oxford was allowed to be under the Landlord and Tenants Act so that was it – 15 years’ work and all our investment  down the drain – despite  a public petition with over 3000 signatures.

If something like that happens in your life don’t despair. My business partner Gill Hedge  started a new career as a potter.  In August 1998 I  began writing  for magazines on the subjects of art antiques and history & that  led me to becoming a novelist . Being of working class origin from Luton it was a dream I could not allow myself despite having been an avid reader and writer all my adult life.  If that sad loss of the Jam Factory  with all its  joys and sorrows hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have achieved my dream.

At the Jam factory we often tried to transport people to another time. We had Edwardian and Victorian weekends-Swinging Twenties and Fantastic Fifties …

The Oxford Mail  recently published  a feature about it with  the majority of the story supplied by me .—antiques-memories-jam-factory/?


This pic was taken of me  at the Edwardian weekend. You’ll see from the pics below we were like a family especially when it came to parties!