Fast car-driv­ing model Jodie Kidd has a new job — as land­lady of her vil­lage pub. She tells why she’s putting the brakes on

Katie Law

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERVIEW -

Pulling pints in the pub is the last thing you’d ex­pect for­mer model Jodie Kidd to be do­ing, but it turns out the petrol­head, TV star and Nineties waif is a nat­u­ral at it. As the new co-pro­pri­etor of The Half Moon pub in Kird­ford, a pic­turesque vil­lage in West Sus­sex, Kidd (38) seems to have found her call­ing. On the day we meet she’s busy straight­en­ing the cut­lery on ta­bles and hand­ing out menus to cus­tomers, brisk and busi­nesslike in black jeans, rolled-up sleeves and worka­day flat pumps.

“The pub closed down last year and was for sale. There were ru­mours that a de­vel­oper was go­ing to turn it into houses,” she says. “I live a few miles down the road and I’ve been com­ing here most of my life. One day I drove past with two friends and said, ‘Let’s just buy it’. The next thing I knew, it was ours.”

To­gether with part­ners Chris Lee and Dan El­son, and help from her mother Wendy, who is pootling about out­side when I visit, she threw her­self into re­design­ing the in­te­ri­ors and gar­dens, no ex­pense spared. “Ev­ery­thing here’s got lit­tle bits of me,” Kidd ex­plains, fondling some tan leather seats. “Like this, it’s my rid­ing ob­ses­sion — seats made from sad­dle leather, and brass D-rings hold­ing up the hes­sian cush­ions, which are like sacks for horse feed.”

Choos­ing the right white for one wall proved an un­ex­pected chal­lenge. “I didn’t re­alise how many dif­fer­ent whites there are,” she says. One was too cold, one was too warm, one looked like nico­tine stains. I said, ‘Oh my God, I just want a white wall’.”

From the hunt­ing-print wall­pa­per and bright, petrol-blue bar, to the blackand-white framed rac­ing-car photographs on the walls, the am­bi­ence is pure Jilly Cooper: clubby, horsey and gen­tri­fied. Just the ticket for lo­cals, whose fa­mil­iar stomp­ing grounds are nearby Good­wood, Cow­dray and Pet­worth. In fact, the ladies lunch­ing at the next ta­ble look a bit like Jilly Cooper.

“We got it on a lease, so it was very af­ford­able and meant we had more money to spend on it.” She doesn’t know how much, though, she says, with a sweet, clown­ish grin. “When it comes to fi­nance, I’m bad. I sprin­kle my fairy dust here, and they (Lee and El­son) were like, ‘Right Jodes, we love you, we think you’re ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic, but if we’re go­ing to do this, you have to have a good team be­cause you’re ei­ther go­ing to drink all the prof­its or give them all away’. So ev­ery sin­gle bit of lime is mea­sured, ev­ery glass of wine to the tini­est in­gre­di­ent is costed. A lot of work goes on in the back of­fice, which I’m ter­ri­ble at. I’m out front: I entertain peo­ple.”

And she does. Cus­tomers are vis­i­bly de­lighted to be greeted by the celebrity land­lady — and the restau­rant, with its am­bi­tious menu de­signed by ex­ec­u­tive chef Paul Wel­burn, is booked solidly for weeks. In keep­ing with one of her other pet projects, the char­ity Ocean Res­cue, Kidd has for­bid­den any plas­tic in the pub. “I’ve al­ways done it at home. I re­use bags, I don’t use plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles and I com­post. Grow­ing up in Bar­ba­dos I used to go beach­comb­ing for shells and there was ab­so­lutely noth­ing,” says Kidd, whose fam­ily still owns a plan­ta­tion es­tate there. “Now it’s just dis­grace­ful. There are eight mil­lion tons of plas­tic end­ing up in our oceans ev­ery year.” She’s bought “great loo rolls” for the pub, made from bam­boo and called Who Gives a Crap, and plans to in­stall ports out­side to recharge elec­tric cars. These days she drives a BMW i8, and some­thing else she calls “my lit­tle thing”, which turns out to be a rather large BMW X5M. “So the elec­tric is what I do all my big jour­neys into London — it’s an hour to Put­ney — and then my coun­try 4x4, which is quite naughty and fruity.” Since be­com­ing a mother — her son, In­dio is nearly six — Kidd agrees that she has calmed down, although later ad­mits she still has a “crazy petrol­head child” side to her. “Af­ter Indie was born I got rid of my Lam­borgh­ini, my Fer­rari and my Maserati.” She also gave up com­pet­i­tive rac­ing. “I don’t push like I used to and, be­ing a sin­gle mum, I’m hope­fully go­ing to be there to watch Indie have chil­dren.”

She’s given up high heels (“ridicu­lous, em­bar­rass­ing, good God, I’m 6ft 2in), play­ing polo (“a crazy sport, too ex­pen­sive”) and rid­ing, although she still keeps a horse, to­gether with a menagerie of dogs and chick­ens. In fact, Mavis the chicken has a bit of a fol­low­ing on In­sta­gram and Kidd re­gards her as part of the fam­ily. “She thinks she’s hu­man. She walked into the house and started lay­ing an egg on my sofa last month,” Kidd gig­gles in mock out­rage.

She’s cur­rently off air, though Kidd has two new TV shows in the pipe­line — one about the mod­el­ling in­dus­try, the other about cars and food, be­cause “I’m a mas­sive foodie” and any­thing in­volv­ing cars is “my happy place”.

Next week she’s off again, row­ing 120 miles down the Gironde to recre­ate a Sec­ond World War com­mando raid, Op­er­a­tion Frank­ton, in spe­cial kayaks called klep­pers. “God, five days row­ing…” she sighs. Does she train? She cer­tainly looks hale and hearty, no trace of the anorexic gi­raffe about her these days. “No, I just wing it, but I’m pretty fit be­cause I keep do­ing these things.”

In­deed, in the past cou­ple of years she has climbed Kil­i­man­jaro, cy­cled around Burma and more than 600 miles from Ypres down the West­ern Front to Ver­dun. Next year she’ll row 900 miles down the Zambesi — all to raise money for (mostly mil­i­tary) char­i­ties. “I’m not like a gym-ob­sessed bunny but I do try to get on a row­ing ma­chine when I’m watch­ing Game of Thrones — and then I col­lapse with a glass of wine and go to bed.”

It’s a big change for Kidd, who first strut­ted down the cat­walk at 15 and went on to TA­BLES TURNED: make a for­tune, then lose a string of lu­cra­tive con­tracts a decade later af­ter get­ting caught up in a News of the World co­caine sting. “It was such a roller coaster — a crazy, bonkers ride. I’m just very grate­ful I made it out the other side but it put me in a po­si­tion where I can help pro­mote good things now.”

Then there was her volatile ro­man­tic life: two mar­riages — one to in­ter­net en­tre­pre­neur Ai­dan But­ler last­ing 18 months, the sec­ond to sol­dier David Blake­ley for just four months, and a re­la­tion­ship in be­tween with Ar­gen­tinian polo player An­drea Vian­ini, which re­sulted in In­dio. “I re­ally am here in the pub 24/7, and any other time I’m with the lit­tle mon­key,” she says, mut­ter­ing to her­self that she must re­mem­ber to or­der the bouncy cas­tle for his birth­day party.

In spite of their much-pub­li­cised split, Kidd’s par­ents are dot­ing grand­par­ents. Her fa­ther, Johnny Kidd, is a grand­son of Lord Beaver­brook and a for­mer cham­pion show-jumper who ran off a decade ago with a much younger Hol­ly­wood stunt girl af­ter 33 years of mar­riage. “Even though mum and dad aren’t to­gether, they’re prob­a­bly here at the mo­ment. Dad will be strim­ming and mum will be in the garden.” She de­scribes her fam­ily, in­clud­ing older brother Jack — who has just had his sixth child, and sis­ter Jemma, now Mar­chioness of Douro — as all “su­per-close”, plan­ning to spend Christ­mas to­gether in Bar­ba­dos.

Is there a significant man in her life now? “Er no,” she says, go­ing coy. “No, noth­ing too ex­cit­ing. I haven’t got time, I’m too bloody busy. Indie’s my man.” She pauses. “Maybe Prince Charm­ing will walk into the pub. Maybe he’s here now...”

Jodie Kidd in The Half Moon pub and (be­low) dur­ing her mod­el­ling days

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