Ever since I first read Polo, reading it from cover to cover on an eight-hour plane journey, I’ve been obsessed with Rupert Campbell Black, fictional showjumping and the county of Rutshire (ha ha, like rutting).
I have read and re-read every book in the Rutshire (again, never stops being funny) several times, and can discuss all the main characters and plots at the drop of a hat – honest, ask me anything. I’ve dissected the men in the books with my friends on many a long plane, coach or car journey, decided which blokes we’d definitely shag, and which ones would only get a look in were they to shower us with furs and diamonds (yes, real furs, but a lot of the books are set in the fictional 1980s, so it was ok then).
I was going to bore you with a sycophantic, slightly embarrassing monologue, but instead, here are just a few of the life lessons I’ve taken from a decade of Jilly love.
1. It’s acceptable for a man to have a tan, as long as it was earned after hours spent ‘working the horses’ topless.
The resulting tan is either ‘mahogony’ or ‘chestnut brown.’ Basically, Mark Wright wouldn’t get a look in.
2. Politics is clear cut
Members of the Labour party (old) are sandal wearing, politically correct idiots with bad breath and beards (both men and women). Members of the Labour party (new) are form-filling, shiny suit wearing opportunists who are obsessed with beauraucracy. They still have the bad breath but have ditched the beard. Members of the of the Tory party tend to be clear headed, sensible pragmatists in well-cut suits. Thatcher gets one of the most sympathetic write-ups outside of the Daily Mail in Rivals.
3. A woman can be a career-minded ball breaker, but only if her husband is a total dweeb.
She’ll probably cheat on him with a man with his own helicopter and fat hands.
4. Women occasionally tip the nine stone mark, get stress spots before dates, and frequently crash diet before big events.
5. Women who turn out to make really good wives are selfless, timid and always excellent cooks.
They love and are loved by animals. No good ever came from a woman who frightens whippets.
6. A good host always whips up a cooked breakfasts for unexpected guests who arrive before midday.
After that, a ‘quick meal’ of cold cuts, pies and homemade bread will be produced. Anyone who has a bare fridge is a bad host and a total miser.
7. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink champagne as early as 9AM, as long as it’s good stuff.
8. Drink driving aint great, but sometimes these things can’t be helped, what with all the champagne drinking, and those pesky Rutshire roads.
9. It’s perfectly acceptable to be nouveau riche as long as you remain one of those salt-of-the-earth, rough diamond types.
Elocution lessons are a clear sign that you’ve become the most frightful snob.
10. Animals are always kind, loyal and wise.
Although Jilly has never featured a swan in her books, with good reason. Swans are evil.