We were still reeling from Feral’s death when William, my son Felix’s and his wife Edwina’s adorable rescued dog, developed cancer which spread everywhere. He was put down in Edwina’s arms on January 8th, just a month after Feral’s death.

Felix & Edwina’s dog, William (Photograph by Judy Zatonski)

William was notorious for bonking the presenter’s chocolate Labrador on the One Show. He was also such an applause junkie that when the great Edward Whitaker came down to photograph me for Racing Post, William was so outraged to be left out of the picture, he leaned against Ed and sent him flying. He was such a character. I’m going to try and put both him and Feral in Leading Sire.

Wiliam about to push Ed Whitaker over

November 18th was also a very sad day because a party attended by all the great and good of racing was given at Cheltenham Racecourse to say goodbye to its marvellous managing director, Edward Gillespie, who seems to have been running the place for the last hundred years. The most delightful and approachable man, he will be hugely missed but like all great organisers he has left the place in such good shape that I’m sure his successor, Ian Renton, who seems charming, will ably pick up the reins. Ian is lucky to have the support of his wife Jean who made everyone so welcome at this year’s festival and of Simon Claisse, one of the country’s sweetest, most modest, yet effective clerks of the course.

I was very sad when Lady Thatcher died. I interviewed her twice and liked her hugely. On the first occasion, there were severe traffic jams in Whitehall, and I arrived half an hour late, bursting into floods of tears and apologies, whereupon Lady T gave me a cup of tea and said “My dear, I hear you want to come home.” She then gave me three wonderful hours at her house in Chelsea the following week.

On another occasion, a photographer friend turned up to take her picture at eight o’clock on a freezing morning.

“My dear boy,” cried Lady Thatcher, “You looked chilled to the marrow,” and leading him upstairs to the Number Ten flat cooked him a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages and tomatoes. And this kindness was to a photographer, not to a journalist who might have written about it.

I hated all the people who foamed at the mouth with hatred, after she died. My friend Shura Shiwarg, a wonderful Russian poet, summed it up:

“Evil Lady Thatcher.
Boadicea from Hell.
Wicked baby snatcher
And a witch as well,
Chant anarchists and hoodies
and the time-warped Trots –
for they will never understand,
she wrote our History, in her hand
and they were just the blots.”

I was also terribly sad Sir Henry Cecil died. I found him an enchanting companion when I sat next to him at dinner last year, and loved meeting both his sweet wife Jane and the famous Frankel, the following morning. Jane has been so unbelievably brave, it was lovely she had winners at Royal Ascot this year but devastatingly cruel that one of them, the glorious Thomas Chippendale, had a heart attack after passing the post.

To happier matters, one of my most fun days this year was spent at the Derby in the box of Ladbrokes my lovely bookmakers. Golly, they know how to party, and make such a glorious din when a favourite gets beaten.

My daughter Emily and I also had a heavenly time at Royal Ascot on Ladies Day as the guests of Bollinger, and ecstatically watched through a rose-coloured glow of pink champagne the Queen’s horse “Estimate” win the Gold Cup. Normally I’m daunted by Ladies Days, everyone looks so fashionably together, but this time I wore a grey hat and a lovely black spotted dress with a grey bolero, designed by my friend Mariska Kay and for the first time in my life was described by the Daily Mail as ‘elegant’!

Jilly & Emily, in blue, and John Franklin of Bollinger behind and his other guests

Emily looked ravishing in royal blue. A make-up artist, she has just launched her own business. I know I’m biased but she’s so brilliant at making people look gorgeous, particularly brides, and has recently given some very successful lessons to the ladies of her local WI. So do have a look at her website, www.emilytarrantmakeup.com
Felix and I in turn had a wonderful time at the Hello! 25th birthday, held at the Wallace Collections which is such a beautiful Museum and full of such exquisite furniture and pictures, that one didn’t know whether to gaze at those or the exquisite guests floating around.

We were welcomed by the lovely editors Ruth Sullivan and Rosie Nixon who really know how to give a party and were very excited to see John Cleese in a white suit with his amazingly slender wife Jennifer Wade. We had great chats with our neighbours, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and his wife Jackie and Esther Rantzen, who told me all about her helpline for lonely older people which seems a jolly good idea. Bruce Forsyth was also looking chipper, Joan Collins absolutely amazing.

The most glamorous guests for me, however, were Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, the younger daughter of our old friends Simon and Mindy Reading, and the man she was about to marry, Rupert Finch. An ex-boyfriend of Kate Middleton, about 6’4” and so good looking, he’s known as Mr Darcy, Rupert is also great fun, loves racing and regaled us with tales of his stag party at Lingfield where he was door-stepped by Derek Thompson.

Later in June I went to Natasha and Rupert’s lovely wedding at Cirencester parish church which was filled once again with glamorous people. Handsome Rupert could be seen swigging bottled water as he waited for his bride. Could it be vodka? We wondered. The wait was worth it, Natasha looked breath-taking with her long dark hair down and a fairly high necked dress with long sleeves showing off her lovely figure. So much more attractive than all those strapless dresses which display vast cleavages and hulking shoulders.

Everything else seemed to be blue, the vases of towering delphiniums, the cornflower blue worn by the bride’s pretty mother and the adorable bridesmaids. There was an hysterical moment when the vicar asked whether anyone knew of any due impediment why the couple shouldn’t be married and a little bridesmaid piped up “Yes I do”.

The reception was as held in Cirencester Park, a ravishing house, shielded from the town by the biggest yew hedge in England which towers like a giant Grand National fence. The beauty of the guests and the wonderful roses were enhanced by the evening sun falling on the park.

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