2011 – 2012

On the 24th again as the guests of Paul Khan the racing director, Felix and I visited Weatherbys in Northamptonshire, which was rivetting as we were able to see where every aspect in racing is registered. We were amazed by the archives, the huge books of statistics and figures and the stunning art on the wall. Racing is very lucky to have such a wonderful institution to look after them. (see photo – left)

On the 21st Cactus Television came down and made a little film in which I was able to praise Jackie Collins, the terrific writer, who has given pleasure to so many millions of people. Jackie was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Book Awards. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and I was so pleased to be able to say how much I enjoyed her work and admired both her glamour and her ability as a storyteller.

Amanda Ross who runs Cactus, had invited me to the Awards as her guest, but sadly, I had to refuse as I had an implant operation the next day on one of my front teeth, which took two hours with sedation, and was blissfully painless, even afterwards, because I was so stuffed full of painkillers.

The only problem was that the resultant bruising was so extreme that I looked exactly like D’Artagnan with a blue/black moustache and beard which spread all down my neck, so I couldn’t go out for two weeks. During the fortnight I did, however, talk on Woman’s Hour to Jenni Murray, not a very happy occasion.

Finally, my face back to pink normality, I had an absolutely gorgeous day on the 26th November, when Felix and I were lucky enough to be invited to spend the day in the Royal Box at Newbury for the Hennessy Gold Cup. This was a lovely déja vu for me because four chapters in my last novel JUMP! are devoted to racing at Newbury and because my heroine horse, Mrs Wilkinson, wins her first race there, and owners of the winning horse as well as its trainer and jockey are invited up to the Royal Box afterwards to watch the race and enjoy a lovely glass of champagne, it was lovely to see this happening to the lucky winner in reality.

I was absolutely thrilled to meet up with actor Hugh Bonneville, and his wife Lulu. I first met Hugh when he played Ferdie the friend of the hero Lysander in the film version of my novel The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. He was adorable then. Today he is completely unspoilt by his massive success, particularly now when as the Earl of Downton, he is everybody’s pin up. (see photo – right)

It was also lovely to meet the Princess Royal, whom Felix asked what it was like having a pop concert at Gatcombe. H.R.H. replied that it was fine but the crowds left a lot of litter, but when Katherine Jenkins gave a concert her audience had been not only charming but had left the place spotless afterwards.
Also at lunch was another dear mate, Brough Scott, who is wrestling with a biography of Sir Henry Cecil, (which I know will be brilliant), and old friends Andrew Neale, Ruby Wax and Kathy Lette, all in cracking form.

Lunch was spectacular and adding greatly to our merriment was a permanent flow of delicious Hennessy brandy laced cocktails, which were so delicious I didn’t refuse a single one, whoops, tra, la. Best of all, to crown a lovely day, the actual Hennessy Gold Cup itself, was won by a horse called Carruthers who is owned, bred and trained by John Oaksey.

I don’t think anybody expected Carruthers to win. His name makes him seem old, although he is only eight, but he ran a blinder and his heart out and the crowd who love John Oaksey, this side of idolatry, went berserk.

Sadly John couldn’t be there because he isn’t very well, but his lovely wife Chicky was among the Carruthers owners who swarmed upstairs to drink champagne and watch the race again. They were all in floods and so were we. It was one of those happy occasions which makes jump racing so incredibly special.

Finally, on the 1st December I went to the Racehorse Owners Association ceremonies at the Hilton which were again utterly gorgeous . A colossal amount of money was raised for the charity Starlight which transforms the brief remaining lives of terminally ill children by granting them a wish – perhaps to meet David Beckham or to go to Disneyland.

Again, the food was delicious and on the big screen one saw the incredible achievements of great horses and their jockeys. Although many wonderful horses who have given pleasure throughout the year were honoured, Frankel of course scooped the board.

Sir Henry Cecil brought the house down by sauntering onto the platform to accept the award and saying that Frankel was very sorry he couldn’t make it, but we’d all see him on the racecourse next year. This is particularly wonderful news because so many horses, if they do well as three year olds, are immediately whisked off to stud and are lost to the public. This is in case they injure themselves, or race less well, and become less valuable as stallion prospects.

Frankel, happily, is going to carry on trailing clouds of glory next year.

December 2011 was pretty busy with interviews with two very good writers, Judith Woods of the Daily Telegraph and Rosanna Greenstreet of You Magazine, who was accompanied by a ravishing photographer Ingrid Rasmussen, who sent me this wonderful photograph of Bluebell (left).
Later in December I dined with great pleasure at the wonderful Barnsley House Hotel after giving one of the readings at a carol concert in aid of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

My website came to a grinding halt on December 23rd 2011 when my darling Leo collapsed in the middle of the night and was raced to hospital where he remained for nine weeks. Although Gloucester Royal and Stroud Hospital, to which he later moved, were absolutely wonderful, it was a very frightening time and things have not been easy since he returned home, as the house is filled with hoists and huge pieces of medical equipment like an army of elephants. We are lucky to have marvellous full time carers and nurses coming in to help them three times a day. Once again I cannot thank the National Health enough.

As a result of this, I have found it difficult to write or leave home much and have found it even more difficult to keep up my website.

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