GET­TING TO GRIPS WITH JILLY COOPER

We ask a celebrity a set of dev­il­ishly prob­ing ques­tions – and only ac­cept THE de­fin­i­tive an­swer. This week it’s the turn of nov­el­ist Jilly Cooper

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

The prized pos­ses­sion you value above all oth­ers...

Blue­bell, my black res­cued Ir­ish grey­hound. She’s the great­est com­fort when she curls up with her head on my shoul­der in bed at night.

The big­gest re­gret you wish you could amend...

Putting two bossy ladies I knew in my book The Com­mon Years. They al­ways ticked me off for my dogs be­hav­ing badly on Put­ney Com­mon in the ’70s, so I got my own back by writ­ing about them. I changed their names, but I still feel guilty be­cause it was mean.

The temp­ta­tion you wish you could re­sist...

Al­co­hol, par­tic­u­larly when I in­ter­view some­one over lunch for book re­search. It de­te­ri­o­rates into a party and next day I can’t re­mem­ber a thing and my note­book is empty.

The book that holds an ev­er­last­ing res­o­nance...

The In­cred­i­ble Jour­ney by Sheila Burn­ford, a sweet chil­dren’s story about two dogs and a cat trav­el­ling across Canada.

The pri­or­ity ac­tiv­ity if you were the In­vis­i­ble Woman for a day...

My next novel, called Tackle!, is set in the foot­ball world, so I’d go in the Chelsea dress­ing room to lis­ten to the team talk and half-time rol­lock­ing.

The pet hate that makes your hack­les rise...

Cru­elty to an­i­mals.

The film you can watch time and time again...

Pride and Prej­u­dice with Lau­rence Olivier from 1940. He’s faint-mak­ingly divine as Mr Darcy.

The per­son who has in­flu­enced you most...

My dar­ling hus­band Leo, who died in 2013 af­ter suf­fer­ing from Parkin­son’s. He wasn’t fright­ened to tell me if some­thing I’d writ­ten was rub­bish, and he was in­cred­i­bly funny.

The fig­ure from his­tory for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...

Lord By­ron. He was so witty and glamorous.

The piece of wis­dom you would pass on to a child...

Al­ways write thankyou let­ters, par­tic­u­larly when some­one gives you a present be­cause they will be so touched you’ll get one next year.

The un­likely in­ter­est that en­gages your cu­rios­ity...

I’m mad about fish in ponds. I have three divine carp, which were given to me for my 80th birth­day this year. I love watch­ing them whizz around.

The trea­sured item you lost and wish you could have again...

The abil­ity to go for long walks in the coun­try­side. Since I had a hip re­placed two years ago I can only man­age 20-minute walks.

The end­less quest that drives you on...

To keep writ­ing. Think­ing about char­ac­ters stops me be­ing bored or lonely.

The poem that touches your soul...

For An Adopted Child by Fleur Con­kling Heyliger. Both my chil­dren [Emily, 46, and Felix, 48] are adopted be­cause I couldn’t have chil­dren. It sums up the won­der of adopt­ing.

The mis­ap­pre­hen­sion about your­self you wish you could erase...

That I’m al­ways nice. I can never re­sist gos­sip­ing and bitch­ing be­hind peo­ple’s backs. It’s so much fun.

The event that al­tered the course of your life and char­ac­ter...

Meet­ing God­frey Smith, The Sun­day Times Mag­a­zine ed­i­tor, in 1968. I made him laugh and he com­mis­sioned an ar­ti­cle, which led to a col­umn. It was mirac­u­lous for a fat Ful­ham house­wife to get such a job.

The crime you would com­mit know­ing you could get away with it...

I’d al­ter the law to make it eas­ier for or­phans to find lov­ing fam­i­lies.

The song that means most to you...

Streets of Lon­don by Ralph McTell. It re­minds me of my old grey­hound Feather. I used to sing it to him.

The way you would spend your fan­tasy 24 hours, with no travel re­stric­tions...

I’d have a liein at home in Glouces­ter­shire read­ing the Daily Mail, then go to York race­course and ride the fa­mous horse Gor­don Lord By­ron to a win. I’d have a seafood cock­tail for lunch at the Butch­ers Arms near home be­fore watch­ing my lo­cal foot­ball team For­est Green Rovers win 10-0. I’d see Gangsta Granny with my five grand­chil­dren in the West End, then catch Verdi’s Don Car­los at the Royal Opera House. Din­ner would be at The Ivy with Lady Annabel Gold­smith and Paul O’Grady, who are as bats as me about dogs. I’d also in­vite Prince Charles be­cause I think he’s hav­ing a bad time over this Diana stuff. I’d have scal­lops and cham­pagne. I’d end the day drink­ing on the ter­race at home with friends and watch­ing the Pe­ga­sus con­stel­la­tion gal­lop across the sky.

The hap­pi­est mo­ment you will cher­ish for­ever...

When my fa­ther Bill called my mother Elaine to say he was back safely from Dunkirk. I was only three, but I re­mem­ber her be­ing in ec­stasy.

The sad­dest time that shook your world...

Felix hav­ing menin­gi­tis and nearly dy­ing when he was five.

The un­ful­filled am­bi­tion that con­tin­ues to haunt you...

To keep all our lo­cal news­pa­pers in print.

The phi­los­o­phy that un­der­pins your life...

Do good things now, be­cause you may not pass this way again.

The or­der of ser­vice at your funeral...

It will be at All Saints Church near home with Men­delssohn’s Eli­jah and How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings by Brahms. I’d go out to Eye Level, the theme mu­sic to TV show Van der Valk.

The way you want to be re­mem­bered...

She cheered peo­ple up.

The Plug...

Mount!

‘Peo­ple think I’m nice but I can’t re­sist gos­sip­ing and bitch­ing be­hind peo­ple’s backs. It’s so much fun!’

Lau­rence Olivier with Greer Gar­son in Pride and Prej­u­dice from 1940. Above right: or­na­men­tal pond carp. Far right: Jilly’s home in Glouces­ter­shire

Piers is away this week

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