Daily Express

‘Bob wore the trousers, he ruled the roost, he gave me space to write’

- By Matt Nixson

WHEN Barbara Taylor Bradford arrived at The Dorchester, her London home for more than 30 years, her famous fortitude nearly deserted her. Looking around the familiar hotel suite she had shared so often with her beloved husband Bob Taylor, the bestsellin­g author was nearly overcome with emotion at his absence.

Having lost him to a stroke aged 92 in July, it took all her tremendous strength of character to keep her tears under control.

“I pulled back because there were other people there. I went into the bedroom, blew my nose and said, ‘OK, Barbara, you’re going to unpack now’,” she recalls.

“We’ve lived here for 30 years so it was like coming home. Everyone knew Bob. I was unsettled for that moment but I got over that surge of emotion because I knew where everything was.

“It was home again and by the time I got all my clothes out and put them away I was fine. It’s just a little strange to be on my own all the time.”

Theirs was a marriage as powerful and traditiona­l as any in her hugely popular novels.

Having met the German-born, US-based movie producer in 1961 on a blind date, the couple were together for 57 years and married for 55.

As someone who successful­ly negotiated a transatlan­tic marriage, she has some advice for Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle: “Don’t marry into that family unless you’re going to play by the rules.

“She has to remember two things: she’s a member of 1,000-yearold monarchy and, also, there is only one star and the name of that star is the Monarch!”

Inseparabl­e until the end, when Bob suffered a stroke, Barbara moved into hospital in New York on a camp bed so she could remain by his side.

Four months later, it is her first visit to London in more than half a century without the most important person in her life. The couple never had children.

Immaculate over tea at The Dorchester in a black Chanel jacket, her blonde hair shining, and looking far younger than her 86 years, she admits: “Perception is what counts. How people perceive you.

“I look alright but I might go upstairs later and cry because I’ve lost that man.”

She has a titanium right hip after a replacemen­t operation in August – “The doctor can’t believe I can walk without a stick already” – and is modestly surprised to find herself in such rude health.

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink much, I eat carefully. I don’t do much exercise but I’ve been doing it since the op. I call the physical therapist my torturer,” she laughs.

But how does she young-looking?

“My father had great skin and I look like my father. He was in the Royal Navy and women threw themselves at him, much to my mother’s dismay!

“Some women go to bed in their make-up because they don’t want the man to see them without it. I’ve always washed and cleaned my face, I cleanse it a lot and I stay out of the sun.”

Barbara is in the UK this week to celebrate the 40th anniversar­y of her blockbuste­r debut novel, A Woman Of Substance – featuring the formidable Emma Harte – and the publicatio­n of her latest book, In The Lion’s Den.

She describes James Falconer, the hero of the latter, as a male Emma Harte.

“He’s a barrow boy who wants to grow up to be a merchant prince and own a shop like Fortnum & Mason,” she explains. “But he doesn’t have an easy ride, nor with the woman he loves.”

Being a Barbara Taylor Bradford character, one wouldn’t bet against his ultimate success. But not before a series of gripping trials and tribulatio­ns.

Tremain so

HE NEW book aside, the novelist describes the majority of her books as “matriarcha­l dynastic family sagas” and believes she invented the genre. With sales of 88 million and counting, it’s been a rich vein.

Born in Leeds to working-class parents, Barbara’s own story is equally inspiring. An older brother, Vivian, died of meningitis before she was born, an especially cruel blow as her mother, Freda Taylor, was a nurse and spotted his symptoms.

From the age of 10, her ambition was to get to Fleet Street. Having joined the typing pool of the Yorkshire Evening Post aged 15, she was a trail-blazing reporter by 16 – mentored by Keith Waterhouse, who would go on to write Billy Liar, and pursued by a “spotty” young Peter O’Toole – before moving to London at 20 and eventually becoming one of Fleet Street’s first female reporters.

Friends wonder aloud why, despite her OBE, she hasn’t been honoured with a damehood for services to literature and charity.

She is planning an autobiogra­phy, much to her publisher’s delight, and has been thinking a lot about her early life and career.

“My mother said to me when I went from the typists’ pool to the newsroom, ‘You’re not to flirt, you’re not encourage them. You’ve not gone there to meet a man, you’ve gone

 ??  ?? FRESH FACED: as a 19-yearold reporter
FRESH FACED: as a 19-yearold reporter

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