January 2011

A marvellous interview with Tim Richards in Thoroughbred Owner and Breeder with more glorious pictures by George Selwyn, also spread the word to the horsey fraternity and led to some amazing contacts for my next book which is going to be about flat racing.

More recently I have been lucky enough to be interviewed by Horse and Hound and the new ravishingly produced Racing Magazine. William got in the photographs there as well!

Early on I was incredibly fortunate that the Sunday Times Colour Magazine published an extract from JUMP! in which a goat is rescued from a research laboratory and named Chisolm (of which more later), becomes the inseparable companion of Mrs Wilkinson, my horse heroine.

Another extract, describing Mrs Wilkinson’s début at Cheltenham was taken by our lovely local paper, the Gloucester Echo, accompanied by a great interview by Lucy Parford and a gorgeous photograph of me and (hurrah!) my Greyhound Feather on the sofa.

The Lady, edited by the sublime Rachel Johnson and getting more exciting and readable each week, also took a racy extract chosen by me, which featured an ancient gardener, aided by Chisolm the goat, getting off with a prim elderly secretary. Despite the words ‘pubic hair’ being changed to ‘lady garden’ and an erection steepling the gardener’s trousers being subbed out, the extract upset Mrs Budworth, who seems to rule The Lady, causing grief for poor Rachel. Fortunately this was not before a lovely interview by Laura James appeared in the magazine with a gorgeous cover photograph by Francesco Giuliani.

Meanwhile my indefatigable publicity manager, Nicky Henderson had been trawling London to find a suitable place for a launch party. Knightsbridge Barracks where my book Polo had been launched with huge style in 1991, was a hard act to follow.

I was excited by the idea of the Turf Club. But despite recommendations from Edward Gillespie, who runs Cheltenham racecourse, Andrew Parker-Bowles and the other Nicky Henderson, the Queen’s trainer, who is as male and handsome as my Nicky Henderson is beautiful and female, the Turf Club, after a meeting, decided it wasn’t their sort of thing.

Thank goodness, because my Nicky Henderson continued her search and discovered the Household Cavalry Museum which is situated on the edge of Horse Guards, behind those two sentry boxes in Whitehall where two glorious big black horses and their glittering-clad troopers mount guard. Here, in a lovely building, the black horses of the Household Cavalry are stabled alongside a marvellous museum where you can see a replica of the leg Lord Uxbridge lost at Waterloo, and learn about Sefton and other great horses and battles. There is also a shop where you can buy wonderful presents.

An added bonus is the gorgeous troopers and officers who ride out on the horses, in their glamorous red and dark blue uniform and who combine exquisite manners with a twinkle in the eye, rather like the militia who so intoxicated Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. As a result they contributed a great deal of glamour to the party, which included a terrific mix of guests from Paul O’Grady and Andrew Parker Bowles, to stars of the racing world; Nicky Henderson, Brough Scott, Matt Chapman, Martin and Carol Pipe, Richard Phillips and Tom George.

For once I didn’t have to panic over what to wear, because darling Elizabeth Hurley, unable at the last moment to make a party we gave at home in June, sent me one of her fabulous dresses. A see-through leopard-skin kaftan, encrusted with jewels round the neck, it falls in fabulous folds. The only dilemma was how little I could get away with wearing underneath.

The party was heavenly and crowned for me by Transworld’s charismatic managing director, Larry Finlay breaking the news that JUMP! had leapt to number one after only three days. I would have been heartbroken to have been dragged away from such a jolly bash, if my sweet publishers hadn’t taken me out to a stunning dinner afterwards at Galvin restaurant on top of the Hilton, where far down below the great green sea of the park flows into nightlife London.

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