I am truly, truly sorry I have failed once again to keep up my website. The problem is that every time I gird my loins to tackle it, I feel I shouldn’t be abandoning LEADING SIRE, the novel I’m writing about racing in mid-chapter, and put off the website for another few weeks.

Researching the novel, I’ve seen some wonderful racing on Champions Day at Ascot, Legends Day at Doncaster and the Hennessy Gold Cup last month. I am currently writing the chapter on the Melbourne Cup and am finding it very difficult conjuring up an Australian heatwave in the middle of an arctic English winter.

When I catch up with my website early next year, I will tell you about some of the heavenly horses I have met – particularly Brujo – a glorious grey stallion from Andalusia who drinks red wine at barbecues.

This year I also had great fun as one of the sitters in Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year competition, and, in addition, was enchanted to see an early workshop version of the marvellous musical Eva and Donald Rice are basing on my novel HARRIET.

AND at a gorgeous Gloucestershire party this Saturday I met the Prime Minister, who does not photograph well! In the flesh I found him amazingly attractive – tall, dark and definitely handsome.

Meanwhile this year has galloped by so fast, I can hardly believe it is over a year since my darling husband Leo died.

The anniversary of his death was commemorated by the setting up of the most beautiful gravestone, carved and fitted by a local family firm, Cottles Memorials. Pale grey, almost luminous, the stone itself is topped by the pen and sword emblem of the military publishing firm Leo started in 1968. Engraved beneath are the words, “In Loving Memory of Leo Cooper – 1934-2013 – a great publisher who gave the soldiers a voice”.

We had a family celebration in the graveyard, garlanding Leo’s grave with flowers and drinking his health in delicious Sauvignon, although like Brujo the stallion, I think he would have preferred a more robust red!

Photo by Judy Zatonski

A further great sadness on September 26th was that Feather, my beautiful black Greyhound, died from heart failure at the age of twelve. He was the sweetest, kindest, most quietly loving dog I’ve ever known, and I’m sure his noble heart only failed because he gave so much of it away. At the risk of mawkishness, I like to think of him and Leo up there looking after each other. Our Feather which art in Heaven.

Bluebell, our junior dog, like Feather another black rescued ex-racing Greyhound is a great comfort. She missed Feather terribly at first, but is now cheering up and enjoying adorning this year’s Christmas card which was again designed by my friend Judy Zatonski.

Finally I would just like to wish everyone an incredibly happy Christmas and a terrific New Year, and thank so many of you for the wonderful cards and letters you’ve sent and are still sending me, particularly about both Leo and Feather. I never cease to be comforted and astonished by the kindness of friends and of strangers.

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How to Stay Married
When Jilly Cooper, then a young Sunday Times journalist, was asked to write a book on marriage, she had been married to LeoCooper for a mere seven years. Now they are celebrating their Golden Wedding...

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