Mar 172013

In less than two weeks from their parting as lovers, Ning brought a lovely Chinese woman home to meet Jazz. Ching Lan, whose name translated as “beautiful orchid,” was a slim, dark haired woman who looked quite butch.  Her grandparents had immigrated to Britain after World War II.  Ning beamed at Ching Lan with such affection. They looked so happy together.

Ching Lan was so interested in the progress of “If a Man Can Productions.”  Ning and Jazz were happy to relate their success story.  Ning started by informing her new lover that after renovating homes and stashing cash in the bank, they were ready to form a company.  They already had a name, “If a Man Can Productions”

Jazz broke into the conversation to say that when a local television company was filming her carpentry night class, a woman who described herself as a housewife told the crew, “Jazz taught us that if a man can do it, then we can too!”  Ching Lan gave a hearty laugh, “My kind of women!”

The rest of the story was told.  Ning and Jazz approached government agencies with a proposition.  They would like to train women who were released from jail to work on women’s shelters and youth centres.  They reasoned that women parolled had probably have either lived in both places or would be interested inrenovating such centres.


The old Holloway Prison for Women,
London, England



The government agency was interested and so were the staff of women’s prisons.  Recently, there had been a large protest and many American women had released startling facts to the media.  The newspapers printed facts: two-thirds of women in United Kingdom prisons are in for non-violent offences: shoplifting, non-payment of fines, sex work, offences linked to drug addiction and so-called benefit fraud.  The protesters carried placard accusing rich bankers of “stealing from the public” in various schemes, and how women are imprisoned for stealing food.  One statement drew public support when it was published that every year some 17,000 children are deprived of their mothers’ care by being imprisoned.  Jazz and Ning seized the opportunity to write several newspaper articles offering to train these women.  “Let them serve out their sentences learning trades and giving back to society.  At the end of the day, let them go home to their kids.” Jazz and Ning added that since Holloway, the largest London prison for women, already had woodworking classes, many of the women would be able to use their skills on the job.

The top government brass must have given orders, because within a few weeks, the women were contacted.  They were to receive a substantial grant and “If a Man Can Productions” was asked to allow media coverage.  This was naturally in the women’s interest.

The first group of women had been parolled and were eager to work and learn new skills.  A couple of the women asked for flexible hours to enable them to handle a job and home situations.  These were single women with kids.  Jazz and Ning were delighted to accommodate these women, arranging their own hours.

Television crew filmed on a regular basis, and newspapers recorded the progress of the ex-prisoners.  It became a success story, something to be copied in other UK cities.  It still was a surprise when a producer asked the women if they could put together at least ten programs as a trial run.  The producer said that he thought there would be a market for easy carpentry for people living in dingy apartments.

After the third television show, one of the directors asked for an additional ten shows.  He liked the way Jazz made movable storage units, shelves and headboards.  Ning made coach covers, simple bedspreads, curtains and cushions to cover Jazz’s units.  This made for extra seating when guests visited the small flats.

The television studio received praise for the show, but many viewers suggested that  it would be simpler for them if “A Man Can Productions,” sold precut wood if precut wood and cut out fabric were sold in different sizes.  The idea was adopted and extra staff hired for the workshop that was expanding on a monthly basis. “If a Man Can” was now filming its own show and reaching the end of its second year of broadcasting. Each woman used her new income for different purposes.  Jazz bought her new sports car and Ning and Ching Lan adopted a baby girl from China.


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