If you’re a Jilly Cooper fan, it’s vital to know the difference between being ‘ravishing’ and ‘adorable’ in the desirability stakes. Here is the ultimate guide for surviving a long weekend in Rutshire
Adorable – If you’re not ravishing, or a bitch (or a ravishing bitch), then it’s likely you’re adorable. Which means that you’re quiet, crippled by self-doubt, a bit fat, but very kind. You can generally judge how adorable a woman is by how often she falls off her diet. Ironically, they usually lose that crucial stone when they fall in love with a man who doesn’t care that they’re fat anyway, and delights in the fact that they’ve got massive bosoms and a proper bottom.
Another measure of adorability is how kind one is to particularly small animals that no one else cares about. Taggie, who bucks the trend by being 100% kind, but enviably tall and slim, screams abuse at Rupert Campbell-Black (see also Cads/Rakes/Bastards) the first time they meet, because he is burning stubble in his fields and consequently killing birds, mice and voles.
Adorable women are either lucky enough to find, Bridget-style, a man who loves them as they are, or they are unfortunate enough to marry a total brute who prefers his dogs and is rampantly unfaithful, making them even more miserable and likely to hit the biscuits. However, in general, there’s eventually a divorce, a Kind Man appears on the scene and blissful happiness ensues. Don’t be blue, adorable girls, you WILL get your man.
Booze – Rutshire’s finest are prodigious boozers. On his initial date with first wife Helen, Rupert orders two bottles of Dom Pérignon, ‘a bottle of No. 6’ and downs some brandy. He then follows it up by driving off to see a horse. It may have been the 70s, but still, that’s quite a lot for two people at lunch (not to mention the drink-driving).
Both parties and hangovers are invariably epic, and it surely must facilitate everyone’s frantic bed-hopping. Frankly, it’s a wonder anyone has a functioning liver in the entire county. Ironically, Taggie’s family, the O’Haras, live in The Priory. Not that one, though.
Broken nose – A broken nose, if you’re a man, is no bar to being impossibly handsome. (See Billy Lloyd-Foxe and Declan O’Hara). Roman noses are also wildly attractive on a chap.
Cads/Rakes/Bastards – you remember the vogue for ‘new men’ a while back? No, neither does anyone from Rutshire. Men generally only express an emotion when a horse has done something ‘terribly brave’. Most of the time, they’re being either cads or rakes, or just going full-on bastard.
Rupert Campbell-Black is, of course, the best example, having been both a champion rake and a cad in his youth. Somehow managing over 20 years’ worth of fidelity to the saintly Taggie, however, has resulted in him having to land the title as The World’s Biggest Bastard in every other area of his life to make up for it (and one couldn’t say he’s any great shakes as a husband either).
Key to Being a Bastard are a predisposition to erupt in a volcanic rage, mad jealousy, vicious, intergenerational rivalries, being staggeringly rude and having massive, childish strops over nothing (ahem *the surprise party which your wife has nearly killed herself arranging*). Seemingly, every woman in the world still would, though, regardless of age. As would all the gay men.
‘Don’t be fatuous’ – i.e., don’t be ridiculous/stupid. The posh person’s put-down of choice. And remember, one must always snap at the other person when telling them off for being fatuous – e.g., ‘“Don’t be fatuous”, snapped Rupert.’
Emotion – it is vitally important, when expressing emotion, to make sure everyone knows exactly how emotional you’re feeling. There is no room for grey areas. If you are angry, you are ‘roaring’ or ‘exploding’. Devastated? No, you are ‘utterly devastated’. You could try a variety of trembling – with passion, rage again, or despair. Taggie gives particularly good tremble. But then she has lots of reasons to tremble, after 20-odd years of marriage to Rupert, whose default setting is ‘utterly bloody’.
Female journalists – as a rule, the Fleet Street females are hard-nosed, rapacious, utterly without scruples, but, of course, ravishing (that’s largely how they get their scoops). Prime examples are Janey Lloyd-Foxe and Beattie Johnson in Rivals.
The gene pool – Rutshire’s gene pool is getting shallower by the generation. To keep things simple, every few years, you switch partners, and marry someone you already know. It saves on learning new names, and you probably only have to move a few miles down the road. Sure, it’s a tad awkward at dinner parties and hunt balls, but it is excellent for creating rivalries.
Hotpants – regardless of fashion, you’ll always find a filly sporting hotpants. Also regardless of the season or appropriateness, vis-a-vis the dress code. They are, after all, the most efficient way of showing off ‘long, tanned legs’ – much prized in JC World.
Poetry – rare is the man or woman in Rutshire, regardless of a) intellectual capacity and b) how long ago they went to school, who can’t bust out a few lines of poetry in moments of either great passion or great despair. Exactly the right lines always seem to come to one at exactly the right moment. Not just Declan O’Hara, whom one would expect to be well-versed – his biography of Yeats seems to have taken him a full 30 years to complete, which is a flexible publishing deadline in anyone’s book. No, it’s open to all comers to have a bash with a bit of Robert Frost, or Browning – maybe Byron if you’re feeling really sexy. How do they remember all this stuff? Everyone else forgot it the moment after they sat their exams.
On a side note, RCB has a new-found love of Shakespeare, so most of the new animals in Mount! delight in Shakespearean names, if they’re not labouring under weighty puns. (E.g. New Year’s Dave).
Polos – Polos are a staple part of all Rutshire horses’ diets. If you’re in any way horsey, your pockets will perpetually be bulging with Polos, to offer as treats, encouragement, commiseration, or, well, just because. The charming horses will be constantly nudging your pockets begging for a minty treat. The less charming ones, such as Mount!’s Titus Andronicus, are too busy literally trying to kill everything in sight to be distracted by some crunchy sweets.
Primrose yellow – the default interior decorating colour, primrose yellow makes everything look sunny and jolly. If you’re staying somewhere particularly posh, then primrose yellow silk will feature. The only real challenge to primrose yellow’s colour supremacy is duck-egg blue. The fashionable gloom of Farrow and Ball’s Downpipe isn’t welcome in Rutshire.
Puns – puns are such a staple of the diet in Rutshire that it’s a wonder everyone’s not foie-gras fat on them. If punning were an Olympic sport, then JC would have won more golds consistently than Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Bradley Wiggins put together. People have obscure, punning nicknames (Monica of the Glen, Hereward-the-Awake). Chisolm, Mrs Wilkinson’s goat chum, becomes a viral sensation, to facilitate the pun that he is a ‘Skypegoat’.
In Mount!, there’s a whole new subgenre to delight ardent fans: booze puns! We have ‘P*nis Grigio’ and a bitchy character called Sauvignon, who (spoiler) gets pregnant. Cue a character saying that ‘well, we know he wasn’t firing blancs [sic] at her.’ When she finally gets her comeuppance, one of her rivals reflects, ‘this Sauvignon’s corked’. It’s a shame this wasn’t a thing in Polo, when one of the Argentine characters could perhaps have been called Malbec.
Ravishing – the ultimate JC seal of approval. Countryside, sunsets, bunches of flowers, gardens, houses, dresses, everything can be ravishing. But most ravishing of all, of course, are women. The plethora of ravishing women available makes it understandable that practically no-one can stay faithful or married for very long. Basically if you’re not either busy being ravishing, or being ravished, then you are either a bit too chunky to be currently fanciable (but on a diet, to try to become ravishing), asleep, or dead. The male equivalent of ravishing, by the way, is being ‘impossibly handsome’.
(See also, ‘adorable’)
Rivalries – these are such a motivating factor amongst RCB and the gang that one of the novels is even called Rivals. As an example of both the difficulty of creating a family tree (when really one needs more of a family forest) and rivalry, take this explanation of why RCB, Isa Lovell and Cosmo Ranaldini loathe each other:
‘Rupert and Cosmo were inextricably linked: with Cosmo’s father marrying Rupert’s first wife, who had already eloped with Isa’s father Jake during the LA Olympics, and Isa briefly marrying Rupert’s daughter Tabitha, who was now married to Cosmo’s elder brother, Wolfie.’
Facebook’s ‘it’s complicated’ relationship status was surely invented to cover this.
Rivalries enable much drama when nicking horses, jockeys, wives, mistresses and girlfriends off each other.
Rutshire – surely the most aptly-named county in Britain? Home of the key players.
Shagging – no matter what your actual job is, it all comes second to shagging. If wired up correctly, the denizens of Rutshire could power half of the national grid. If you’re not in the middle of a shag, then you’re talking about who you’d like to shag, who else might be shagging someone and who you absolutely, definitely, shouldn’t be shagging. But you still probably would, if they propositioned you in an enclosed space and you’d had enough champers.
Sprawling – posh people, especially dissolute posh men with long legs, love a good sprawl. Mainly to be found sprawling on sofas, probably with a faithful Labrador acting as a blanket, one can also sprawl, if necessary, on a plane. But only in First Class, to be fair (not enough leg room in Economy). And why WOULD you be flying Economy anyway?
Whickering – Jilly’s horses don’t really go in for neighing or whinnying – the default forms of horse communication. Instead they do a lot of whickering – at each other, at their animal pals, and at their humans. They will often be doing it whilst nudging your pockets for Polos. (See also ‘yelling their heads off’.)
Yelling their heads off – mainly done by horses who are either cross, or demanding something, this loud attempt to attract attention can, in fact, be done by almost any animal. Even birds, if singing loudly enough, can be ‘yelling their heads off’.
Written by Alex Collingwood