January 2011

Transworld had also put me up in the fantastic Horse Guards Hotel, so afterwards, far too excited to sleep, I gazed up on lit-up boats chugging up the gleaming river, below the glittering London Eye, while far above blazed the planet Jupiter in my star sign Pisces, which must have been a good omen.

Next morning, feeling frail, I was interviewed by an old friend and great columnist, Phillipa Kennedy for The National, Dubai’s leading newspaper, and vowed to visit her when I research my flat racing book.
Back in Gloucestershire, we had a local launch for JUMP! which was also colossal fun. Guests included trainers Kim Bailey and his wife Cookie, Bob and Nell Buckler, Charlie Mann, Tracey Bailey, Edward Gillespie and Simon Claisse, who together run Cheltenham so brilliantly and my lovely new friend Lisa Maxwell, late of The Bill, now a star of Loose Women, and her husband Paul, who makes wonderful toys and presented me with an adorable bear dressed as a jockey. All the local press and radio, who’ve been such a fantastic support, were present. William’s Kitchen, local caterers, and nothing to do with William the dog, although he’d like them to be, provided wonderful food.

It’s always the same when you have a party. You spend days bulling up the drawing rooms and doing the flowers, then no one goes in them because they’re all huddled together in my husband Leo’s study, or the hall or the garden even when the stars come out.

Next day, as my heroine Etta Bancroft in JUMP! is a passionate gardener, Caroline Donald, a very good writer, came down from the Sunday Times to interview me about our garden. Very embarrassingly, there was nothing in flower except a few straggling Japanese anemones. William then loyally positioned himself beside me when Adrian Sherratt took the photographs, so you could fantasise his portly body was concealing a vast luxurious herbaceous border.

Next I went on two lovely wireless programmes. Recording Inheritance Tracks, for Radio Four Saturday Live, I chose the cuckoo appearing in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the first piece of classical music to which my father introduced me and Something Good, which always makes me cry because it is so touching from The Sound of Music.

The second interview was the Drivetime programme with Simon Mayo, who was very attractive, but slightly taken aback when I told him so. I must remember I am nearly 74 and must stop making advances to handsome younger men. It was gratifying though how many people seemed to have heard and enjoyed both programmes.

Later at Broadcasting House I did about twenty down the line interviews with local radio stations and had the huge thrill of bumping into my heroine Sandie Shaw, who was promoting her book and looking absolutely marvellous.

Meanwhile, Nicky had arranged some lovely television. I was petrified of going on Loose Women, despite my new friend Lisa Maxwell, being on the panel, but I had a ball, because the Loose Women themselves were such fun and so attractive: I was reminded of Ezra Pound’s poem about loving “being among beautiful women”, because he was charmed by “the purring of invisible antennae.” Adding to the glamour, one of the other guests was Carol Vorderman. We discovered we lived quite close in the country and made plans to meet.

Talking of beautiful women, Holly Willoughby is another stunner and so nice too. She and Phillip Scofield are a brilliant combination on This Morning, and gave me another lovely interview and the impression that they’d read the book. I was enchanted as well to get love from darling Fern Britton, who formerly presented the programme so beautifully. This was sent by her husband Phil, who is the wonderful super chef on the show.
Events were beginning to run into one another, but I managed to squeeze in a Foyle’s literary supper at St Pancras Grand, which was again the greatest fun, because the audience were so enthusiastic, the food delicious and I was interviewed by a charmer, free lance journalist Alex Heminsley.

On my way home to Gloucestershire, I managed to spend a heavenly hour at Transworld’s marvellous sixtieth birthday party. Larry Finlay made another great speech and I was thrilled to catch up with my elegant friend Joanna Trollope who puts me so shame producing a really good novel every year. Among the star authors, were Bill Bryson, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan, and I was delighted to meet Lee Child, who writes terrific thrillers.

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