In February I spent an utterly blissful night – (gorgeous dogs, heavenly house) – with a trainer I hugely admire, Hughie Morrison, and his beautiful wife Mary. Hughie, who so patiently answered my questions, really loves his horses, seems to get inside their heads and bodies, and produces some amazing winners. Here again staff and horses seemed so content.

Hugh & Mary Morrison

Recently, when asked by dear John McCririck on At The Races, how I would change racing if I were queen for a day, I replied I would like to introduce an award for Trainer’s Wife of the Year. Deirdre Johnston, Mary Morrison, and Paul Dixon’s wife, Yvette, would all be in the running. All of them are capable of rising before dawn, feeding fifty horses, mucking out, delivering foals. They then disappear indoors, emerging ten minutes later, looking utterly ravishing and ready for the races, in lovely clothes, and clean shining hair, with perfect make-up.

Paul and Yvette Dixon live in a lovely turreted house near Newark, from whose yard their son Scott now trains which is also crammed with horses with loads of character. At their Open Day, I met one whose box faces down the drive, so he can constantly monitor who’s delivering milk or coming to dinner. Another called Doc of the Bay gets so bored at night, he turns on the light outside his box, whatever nasty tasting substance you paint over the switch, and panics people into thinking the lit-up yard is being burgled.

Yvette Dixon with her beloved horse, Milk it Mick

A fascinating aspect of writing Leading Sire, is how the great stallions pass on their characteristics to subsequent generations. If, as a sire you are a sprinter, a stayer, or violently ill tempered, or great-hearted, the foals in turn are likely to inherit these characteristics.

Tim Rice has been a friend of mine for years and his great talents have been inherited both by his handsome son, Donald, who directs and writes fantastic scripts and his ravishingly pretty daughter, Eva, who, as well as songs, has written lovely and touching novels as well as a blissful ‘Who’s Who in Enid Blyton.

I am enchanted therefore that they have paid me the huge compliment of turning my novel Harriet into a musical. When they first approached me, I feared the book was too lightweight, but they have worked long and hard and when Donald, Eva and Leonora Twynam their producer, came down for lunch recently, they brought three young singers, who performed several songs from the show that absolutely blew me away.

The music is both haunting and hummable, and the lyrics, by turn moving and terribly funny, are so sophisticated. Matters were helped by the marvellous singers, particularly by a stunning boy, Dougie Carter, who’s been playing Laurie Lee in a successful production of Cider with Rosie, and whose voice turns the hairs on the back of your neck vertical.

Leonora has now sent me Donald and Eva’s script which I really enjoyed. All the characters come to life, and I suggested minor changes principally to the male leads, making one more macho and the other more honourable, but I think it’s going to be terrific. There’s nothing tougher than putting on a musical, but I’m sure Eva and Donald will make it. Tim Rice must be very proud of his children.

Eva Rice (Photograph by Naomi Hood)

In Transworld I do have the loveliest of publishers. Any pain of being 76 in Februry was completely wiped out in February by the gorgeous day I spent in London with them. One of the reasons Transworld has been so successful, I’m convinced, is that they are based in Ealing and didn’t, like other publishers, spend the eighties and nineties, having four hour lunches in Soho and Mayfair.

Jilly’s birthday card from Transworld

They have always worked so hard and as a reward for this, a lovely T-Room has been opened in the basement, where the staff can relax for the odd half hour during the day. I had the great honour to perform the opening ceremony and typical Transworld, not only did they produce this wonderful card, but there was a huge clock on the wall with all my books, Riders and Rivals and Polo and Jump! etc in place of the numbers on the clock face. I had to unveil a plaque which said, ‘Opened by Jilly Cooper’, which made me say, ‘boo sucks’ in the nicest possible way to all the other Transworld authors, that I was chosen!

I was also given a copy of The New Yorker Book of Dogs, which has the best jokes in the world. Then Larry Finlay, the Managing Director, and Linda Evans, my editor, my agent Vivienne Schuster, and Gavin Hilzbrich who very nobly does the website, but didn’t reproach me at all for being so tardy, all took me out for a most wonderful lunch at a heavenly restaurant called Charlotte’s Place.

One of my great heroes is Richard Ingrams, former editor of Private Eye and now editor of the wonderful Oldie magazine. I very seldom go to London these days but the Oldie lunch at Simpsons in the Strand is one of my highlights. I was thrilled last August to be asked to Richard’s 71st birthday where I sat between him and Terry Wogan. On this occasion I was delighted to meet Richard’s new wife Sarah, who is extremely pretty, fun, reassuring and has made Richard so happy.

Richard & Sarah Ingrams

At a second lunch I sat between Terry Wogan, who is the charmer of the century and General Jackson, who’s gorgeous, brooding and would make a wonderful Mr Rochester. He told me a chilling thing that a Taliban leader had said to him.

‘You in the West, General can afford watches, we cannot afford watches but on the other hand we have time’.

I always wish the Oldie lunch would go on for 8 hours and one would have time to catch up with all the people one hasn’t seen for years and years.

Read more of Jilly's notes from: