My haven: Jilly Cooper…The novelist, 75, relaxes in the drawing room at her Gloucestershire home
21:44 GMT, 31 August 2012
Author Jilly Cooper relaxes in her Gloucestershire home
Monks lived in this house during the 14th century, so when my husband Leo and I moved here in 1982 we decided to have some stained glass. These were designed for us by the artist Nicholas Bechgaard and they’re just beautiful. We chose a ravishing country scene to represent the village we live in, and two of my favourite dogs ever – Hero, who was a lovely lurcher, and Barbara, a naughty mongrel – are in the scene too.
This is the most beautiful photo ever of Leo and me. Leo’s not very well now but he looks so handsome here in the early 80s and it’s lovely to be reminded of his former glory. I first met him at a children’s party – I was about nine and he must have been 12. I remember him throwing a strawberry jelly at some girl who was rabbiting on. We met again in our 20s, and celebrated our golden wedding anniversary last year.
My daughter Emily, who’s a make-up artist, never stops smiling and once she played the Cheshire Cat in a school play. She was eight and had to dance and grin at the same time, which I’ve always thought must be difficult. Afterwards, she made this clay cat in class as a present for me. It must be 30 years old now, and I’m afraid it’s showing signs of age. Every time it’s dusted the hat falls off. But it’s ever so sweet.
Edward Baines, my great-great-grandfather, was the Liberal MP for Leeds and founded the Leeds Mercury newspaper. This 2ft bronze of Mercury, the Roman messenger god, which dates from the 19th century, used to stand proudly in the paper’s boardroom. It’s been passed down the family for generations. He looks a bit silly now though because he’s running in his winged hat but he’s lost a hand – I’ve no idea how.
ME AND MY BIRDS
John Bratby, the famous ‘kitchen sink realism’ painter asked if he could paint my portrait in the 70s, and this is the stunning result. I’m surrounded by birds, descending on me from all directions. Back then John had a girlfriend called Diana and in the catalogue for one exhibition he said there’d be a painting of ‘Jilly Cooper and Diana in the nude’. Everyone thought I’d be naked, but it was a painting of me, fully clothed, next to a nude Diana.
My mother was wonderful at sewing. Back during the war I had a birthday party, and as there were no presents to buy she made ten little woollen horses, stuffed with cotton wool and each with a different coloured mane, to give to the children who came – they were thrilled. I’ve still got the mother horse and a tiny pony with a green mane – they’re 70 years old now and the stuffing is starting to fall out.