August 2011

Felix and I got back from Dubai just in time for an even more thrilling event: the birth of his daughter Sienna Daisy on March 28th at 10.30 p.m.

As his wife Edwina very bravely suffers from back trouble she had been booked in for a Caesarean, but because she’d eaten a hot cross bun at five o’clock, Gloucester Hospital refused to operate, so the poor darling had to endure a harrowing forceps birth, with Felix having his hand gripped to pieces throughout.

Edwina remembers the midwife excitedly crying: “You have a lovely little daughter, Mr and Mrs Cooper, and you can now cut the umbilical cord Mr Cooper,” followed by a huge thud, then her crying: “Mr Cooper, Mr Cooper just sit down and put your head between your knees.” Poor Felix.
Happily Sienna Daisy is adorable and her elder sister Scarlett is being commendably un-jealous, unlike my housekeeper Ann’s grand-daughter Elsa, who after her new brother was born, suggested he would be ‘better in a museum’. Then, when Ann was packing to return home, Elsa suggested: There was plenty of room in her suitcase for the baby”

Another hugely exciting family event was celebrated on June 14th at a lovely party at Reading University, who have make a home for Leo’s archives built up over his thirty years as a military publisher. These years have already been riotously recorded in Leo’s memoirs, All My Friends Will Buy It. Among his great and important books were a series of regimental histories, with the glorious General Sir Brian Horrocks as overall editor. Leo and the General became such friends, that when the latter was immortalised in A Bridge Too Far, Leo was able to advise Edward Fox the actor who played him, enabling him to capture Sir Brian’s voice and mannerisms to perfection.

One of Leo’s masterpieces included a biography of Slim, by Ronald Lewin which won the W.H. Smith prize and the towering eight volume history of the British Cavalry by the Marquis of Anglesey, which is so beautifully written and brims with glamorous soldiers and charismatic horses.

Leo ran a wonderfully convivial, slightly eccentric office in Shaftesbury Avenue, and I know a lot of fun as well as wisdom, will have crept into the archives, which will be a must for anyone wanting insight into publishing or military history.
The party was lovely, with many book jackets, photographs and letters on display, and as though the past was returning, many former employers, authors, and family rolled up from different parts of the country.

Leo made a wonderful speech. It is often difficult to express oneself if one has Parkinson’s, and some of his pauses were positively Pinteresque, but all the funnier when the punch line came. “Publishing,” he announced, “is full of highs and lows, I published mostly lows, but the lows are best at spilling the beans”. We were all terribly proud of him.

Back to racing: Felix and I spent a marvellous first visit to Sandown, (what a beautiful course,) at the official end of the jump season, when I presented a Best Trainer Award to Paul Nicholls.

I also had to judge the turnout (best turned horse), in one race and gave the prize to a gorgeous black colt with very white socks called Dick Turpin, who later won his race.When I very pretentiously asked his handsome trainer Richard Hannon, if Dick Turpin could gallop all the way to York, like Black Bess, he snorted: “Course not, ridiculous! Turpin’s a middle-distance horse.”

On May 21st, Felix and I went to Newbury to cheer our filly Love Grows Wild on in her first race. She was much admired in the paddock: “Walks on well,” is evidently a good phrase to overhear. She was ridden by the enchanting Hayley Turner who is as pretty and delicately built as she is electrifyingly competitive.

Although we could see from Love Grows Wild’s sweet roan face that she was really trying, she blew up after four furlongs, and trailed in at the back of the field, panting louder than William. But she’s only two and I’m sure she will improve.

On June 4th I had a blissful time at the Derby as the guest of Investec, who certainly know how to give parties, and filled the room with purple orchids. I luckily sat between Steven Wallis, who ran Epsom, and now runs Newmarket and Paul Fisher of the Jockey Club, who both filled me in on flat racing politics.

Among the guests was our friend, Jeremy Kyle, off the drink because of antibiotics, because of a glamorous new set of teeth. These are to help him take America by storm when his outrageously funny Jeremy Kyle Show airs later in the year.

Wondering if he’ll find such ghastly embattled, guests to interview in the U.S., I told him that to appeal to an American audience he must cry a lot to emphasize his feminine side and not be too rude to the guests. I don’t think he’ll take any notice. He is a dear man and refreshingly un-uphimself.

A day of great racing, gorgeous food and lovely people, was only marred by the Queen’s horse Carlton House, not winning the Derby. One could feel the mass longing of the crowd willing him to win, and the mass deflation and disappointment afterwards. The Queen is so adored in racing circles and beyond that a win for her would have lifted the nation as Victoire Pisa’s victory in Dubai raised the spirits of the Japanese.

I understood how the Queen felt when dear Love Grows Wild came in at the back of the field at Newbury on June 21st.

Up to London for the 80th surprise party for my old boyfriend and Felix’s godfather George Humphreys, who used to be a member of the Four Aces and starred in several Noel Coward musicals before he turned with huge success to property.

Back from Thailand, staying at the Garrick, imagining on his birthday he was being taken to some dull City dive to lunch with only his stunningly pretty wife Dang and his son Kim, (one of the best, most genuine candidates ever not adopted by the stupid Tory party) George got sulkier and sulkier, particularly when he had to climb masses of stairs.

Here, however, in a lovely restaurant called The Eight Club, he was greeted by scores of old friends and family including some adorable grandchildren. We then tucked into a wonderful lunch, and it was gratifying that George looked just as handsome as when I first saw him in 1958 scorching down Chiswick High Street in a dark green XK120.

The highlight of a marvellous Royal Ascot was Prohibit, my old pink-nosed, Chinese carrot-chomping friend from Dubai, landing the massive £100,000 King’s Stand Stakes. It was easily the biggest race trainer Robert Cowell has ever won, and it was enchanting to see him and his wife Ghislaine hugging each other so ecstatically that both their hats flew off.

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