Author, entrepreneur and paint specialist Jocasta Innes, in her late fifties, has written more than 20 books and is chief executive of Paint Magic, a `one-stop' decorating and design service. She has been married twice and has four children. Her partner, architect Richard MacCormac, 58, has one son from his first marriage. Among his notable projects are the Garden Quadrangle, St John's College, Oxford, and the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and senior partner of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard, he lives with Jocasta in Spitalfields. Their restored Regency house is one of the most photographed in London

JOCASTA INNES: I met Richard in 1981 when I was working on my house in Spitalfields. I went to the pub covered in plaster and looking like a ghost. At some point I met up with this bunch of architects drinking after work. Richard said something like, "You must be the woman who moved in next door." The reports of a woman climbing up ladders in a stripy cat-suit struck everyone very forcibly.

We approached each other rather wearily - at that point I wasn't an advocate of architecture. It took a bit of time for the attraction to start - it wasn't a coup de foudre. In fact, there was a bit of animosity going on to start with. We weren't entirely in agreement about the bit of shared land between our properties. At one point, he quite seriously proposed buying it back which would have meant erecting a wall through my kitchen.

Also, when we first met I was involved with someone else. I think we really hit it off after that relationship cracked up. I remember I went to the pub, this time I was not covered in dust, sat there with this bunch of architects then suddenly burst into tears. They were all terribly embarrassed and weren't used to it at all - Superwoman weeps. But Richard, very sensitively and kindly, took me out for an Indian meal because he thought I couldn't be left in the pub blubbing. After that we got on very well. He used to come in at the end of a day for a drink or we'd meet in the pub. Our paths were crossing all the time. I suppose we got on because he thought I was unusual, funny and attractive and I thought the same about him.

I also thought Richard was imaginative, clever and, at that time, totally interested in everything I said. Now, I'm afraid, it's rather gone round the other way. I knew that Richard liked my bohemianism as well. It slightly scandalised him but I think he enjoyed it. I used to think it was incredible that he had to get up at 7am and go to meetings. I used to say, "Why don't you cancel them?" and "Why do you let your business run your life? Why can't we just go off for the afternoon and have fun?" There was a lot of naughty sabotaging like that.

It's interesting for us to discuss our professional lives - if he's got a problem, almost invariably I've got the same one. It means we have a lot more insight into each other's situation. He's been very supportive and has always given good advice. In that way, Richard has it sussed.

What I enjoy most is talking to Richard at the end of each day. I look forward to hearing the door bang and his feet bouncing through the house. Then we'll laugh and joke about the people we've seen. We also chat endlessly about work but I'm not allowed to talk about my business too much. He has a simple answer - to fall asleep. Richard is also a born teacher. At the drop of a hat he'll immediately launch into a full-size lecture. He's a considerable raconteur. I'm always saying I can't get a word in edgeways

We do have arguments - flaming rows actually. And I enjoy them more than he does. He tends to go to another part of the house and put on very loud music. I suppose I'm more confrontational. If I'm challenged I immediately go on the defensive. I do quite like losing my temper. It's all part of an optimism that I can do something about the situation.

I don't think we're moved by the same things, or not to the same degree. Richard is moved by practically everything. All pretty girls are beauties and every new piece of music is knockout. Almost every artist that he goes to is "passionately" interesting. I raise my eyebrows a bit when I'm shown some of the things that have moved him. I think Richard consciously, probably like all architects, feels he has to be at the cutting edge of all the visual arts whereas I'm probably a bit more Ludd-ite. In other ways we're similar; we're both creative, full of ideas, decisive and we have good judgment.

Richard is very sweet and loves giving surprises and treats. I seem to remember one holiday where I didn't know where I was going until I got on the plane. Because Richard is a Celt, he's very sensitive and he's got quite a poetic streak. I'd say he's a person of highly developed sensibilities. If he sees a building that knocks him out, tears come to his eyes. When he came back from the new British Library and started telling me about it, tears were pouring down his cheeks. I thought it was amazingly touching.

Part of the reason we get on so well is that Richard has never resented me which has happened quite a lot in relationships. I suppose I am a bit of a dominating type. I think previous men have felt rather challenged by various aspects of me; I'm sort of horribly energetic and always doing things. Couples can also resent each other for stealing the limelight. With Richard, there's never been any suggestion of that, partly because I do something very different from him but also because he's a nice guy. I'd say we've got a pretty good marriage of minds.

RICHARD MACCORMAC: I first met Jocasta in about 1981. My company was moving from Covent Garden to Spitalfields and one of my assistants was in charge of converting our office. He came back one day and said he'd seen this extraordinary woman up a ladder - next to our office - in a cat-suit with a blowtorch, ordering men around. Soon after, I was coming to inspect the site and bumped into her in the nearby pub. We had a conversation and I said, "What do you do?" She told me she was a writer and said, "I'm writing a book called 1001 Ways to do Without an Architect." We started living with each other about a year and a half later.

Our meeting coincided with a very difficult period in my life - the break- up of my marriage. Jocasta became important throughout that time - I realised how strong she was. I was attracted to her immediately. Someone once said Jocasta is, "beautiful, clever and good", which sounds a bit like an epitaph but I think it's a nice combination. She is very beautiful and highly intelligent.

For me, attraction is a very strong sense of somebody else's liveliness and vitality - unpredictable vitality in Jocasta's case. When I first met Jocasta she was rather "hippy" which I found attractive; she seemed like a free spirit. Now she's become rather terrifyingly organised at running a business - I have a horrible feeling I may have something to do with that. You have to appear to be very organised as an architect.

In a curious way we've found that our business lives run in parallel, across the range from aesthetic issues to relationships with people in work. She's an un-rivalled colourist and one of her digs is that my profession never seems to be comfortable with colour. She has this sense of colour that I really do respect and with the Ruskin project I used her as a sounding board for all my decisions about that side of things. One thing that's really important in our relationship is that I actually enjoy her successes and she's spontaneous about mine. We instinctively support each other - we don't feel browbeaten by the other at all.

We've both had our ups and downs - Jocasta went through a very difficult period trying to get her business going and architecture has been drastically affected by the recession until a year or two ago. I do get quite affected by what's going on at work. I'm probably moodier than Jocasta. She seems to fizz most of the time. She's also very forthright. It's impossible to be miserably self-indulgent with Jocasta. Quite rightly, that's not on her agenda at all. She's got that lively sense of waking up in the morning and looking forward to it. I don't always have that - I tend to be slightly gloomy and particularly on Mondays.

She's an irrepressible person, always against the odds. I was amazed at the reck-lessness of her decision to buy a house, the one we now live in, that was a complete ruin. I'm much more cautious than she is. Although I followed suit by buying a complete wreck next door to it for my business - so she did convince me on that.

I've probably got less self-esteem than Jocasta or a certain creative discontent that all artists - as far as architecture is art - feel. I think you have to be driven by a sense of dissatisfaction until you've got pretty near to doing something really good. I don't think Jocasta works in that way though. My discontent is palpable whereas she doesn't have to feel like that to pursue her ideas of excellence. There's not much angst about her but I get terribly worked up designing buildings.

Jocasta and I do share a similar sense of humour. I think that if you're living a fairly high-octane life that the antidote is to have a great sense of the absurd. So many situations are absurd and sometimes we both see something at the same time and find it ridiculously funny.

We have lots to say to each other and appreciate many of the same things. We talk quite a lot about books and both like Nabokov, although Jocasta's much more widely read than I am. We also enjoy the visual arts - she's more sceptical about the avant-garde than I am but we like Matisse very much and Japanese prints.

What I love most is going into the kitchen after a frantic day and there she is; looking happy almost always. Then she'll say something that's invariably amusing, interesting or both. She's always got some scheme or coming up with an idea. I suppose what I really admire about Jocasta is her eternal optimism. She won't be put down for more than a few seconds by any situation.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


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