Starting over

Five others who have found a new beginning
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The joker

Mandy Farrell, 38, turned her back on a well-paid job as area manager and trouble-shooter for a wholesale bakery in Bristol to become a magician. She lives in Bath with her second husband and three children. Her stage name is Magical Mandy.

Eighteen months ago, Mandy Farrell re-emerged as Magical Mandy, a magician specialising in Saw-in-Half-o-Grams and a regular on the children's party circuit. It was the culmination of an obsession which had begun by chance five years earlier, when she took her father to a one-day magic workshop as a birthday present.

"The magician started to do card tricks - very simple stuff, really - but I found myself entirely mesmerised," she recalls. "I couldn't believe how I could be fooled by sleight-of-hand at such close quarters. When he explained how the tricks were done, I was even more intrigued."

Her husband bought her a book, Mark Wilson's Complete Book of Magic. She soon mastered the tricks, and exhausted supplies at local joke shops. She drove her family mad practising.

But when she passed an audition to join the Bristol Magic Society, her hobby began seriously to encroach on her job. "The only way to describe it is like an addiction or a disease," she says. "I was working very hard, I had a family, and I found myself becoming increasingly tired - something had to go. Most people would have sacrificed the hobby; I knew I couldn't."

When another company tried to poach her, she decided not only that she didn't want the job, she didn't want her existing one, either.

"I was pretty scared. I had this horrible image of myself sat at home with my magic wand, waiting for the telephone to ring. Now I know I made the right choice, even if I'm not making as much money.

"The other day, I was hiding in a car park in full evening dress to surprise a birthday victim, to saw him in half. I wanted to laugh out loud at the fact people are willing to pay me to have such a good time." Lesley Gerard