How we met: Richard Whiteley & Barbara Taylor Bradford

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The Independent Culture
Richard Whiteley, 55, was born in Bradford. In 1968, after a stint as a reporter for ITN, he started working for Yorkshire Television, and later became the anchorman for 'Calendar', a regional news magazine. As presenter of 'Countdown', he was the first person to appear on Channel 4 when it launched in 1982. Richard is single, and lives in Ilkley, Yorkshire

Barbara Taylor Bradford was raised in Leeds, and at the age of 16 she began to work for the Yorkshire Evening Post. In 1964 she married the film producer Robert Bradford and moved to America. Her first novel, 'A Woman of Substance', was published in 1979. Since then she has sold more than 60 million books in 39 languages. She and her husband live in Manhattan

RICHARD WHITELEY: I first met Barbara in the autumn of 1979 when I interviewed her on Calendar, a show I presented for Yorkshire Television. Barbara was recommended to me as a Leeds-born authoress who'd just published her first book in America to rave reviews. I'd not heard of her or of the book, A Woman of Substance, at that time, but when I heard what she'd achieved in America I immediately invited her on the show. I remember thinking she was obviously a very accomplished and smart lady, very well- presented and unfazed by her American success. She was very humorous, with a contagious laugh, and was pleasant and young-looking. What I found most refreshing was that she hadn't adopted a transatlantic accent despite having lived in the States for most of her adult life. She has retained a very crisp and rich English speaking voice.

Every time Barbara was in England she'd come to Leeds for personal and social reasons, and I would be included in whatever was happening. She'd throw parties at the smartest restaurant in town for her family and friends and her former colleagues from the Yorkshire Evening Post. She's unaffected, and remembers people. Barbara once met my mother, and from that day to this she has made sure my mother has a personally signed copy of every book she writes. I always remember Barbara with great affection for that.

Our relationship is such that six months can go by without us seeing each other. It's a friendship of renewal. I'm very diffident about ringing her up because I know how busy she is: a certifiable workaholic, she's at her desk at 7am. On the occasions that I've visited New York she's always been enthusiastic - she'll organise a good restaurant or an exciting dinner party. It's wonderful to visit her flat. She's endearingly proud of her taste in furniture and French Impressionist paintings. I like her bedroom, with its huge bed piled high with cushions. How Bob gets into it I do not know.

We are both proud of Yorkshire. She waves the flag from 3,000 miles away, I do it from here. Her success is worldwide, mine is ephemeral. She's more disciplined than I am; I'm always tempted to go out to lunch and fool around. She's very romantic about Yorkshire, it figures a lot in her books. I would like to see her spend six months in Harrogate and write a book about the real Yorkshire.

Barbara hasn't really changed since I've known her. She's 20 years into this fantastic saga of her own. She hasn't got pompous or big-headed - when reminded of her success she'll say, "Not bad for a lass from Armley." She's always in a hurry - I'd like to calm her down. She never sits back to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Barbara is special, a little apart from everybody else, and I compare her in many ways to Mrs Thatcher. They have a lot in common, both are self-made, driven and dynamic. She's like an auntie, a very approachable, ordinary person - chatty and on the level.

Mine's a much more disreputable lifestyle than hers. Assuming the good lord spares us and we live another 20 years, we'll always be accessible to each other. I have every reason to believe the next two decades will be as happy and jolly as the last two.

BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD: A friend and ex-colleague called Barbara Sanbrook from my Yorkshire Evening Post days, with whom I lost touch when I married and moved to the States, contacted me out of the blue. She was visiting the States and had bought a copy of A Woman of Substance as essential holiday reading. We had a reunion dinner in New York and I promised to visit on my next trip to England. It was at this second meeting that she said I ought to meet Richard Whiteley and be on his show. I knew of Richard from seeing the programme Calendar whenever I was in Yorkshire, staying with my parents. Before I could stop her she'd called him. He must have done his homework, because he did eventually invite me on his show. His appearance was rather conservative: he wore a dark-blue sports blazer and a plain tie, as opposed to the wild jackets and quirky ties he favours these days. I remember thinking how genial he was and what a good interviewer; he immediately made me feel at home.

The friendship developed in a very natural way. Every time I returned to Yorkshire to promote subsequent books, we let him know. We seemed to mix in the same circles, attended lots of cocktail parties, and it picked up from there. The friendship grew steadily and included my husband, Bob. It transpired Richard was a bit of a film buff, and when I received an award at the American film festival in Deauville, Bob suggested Richard attend on a press junket. Most of the time we are like ships passing in the night. We go out of our way to snatch time together, even for half an hour sometimes. We take up where we left off, even if it's been a year.

Richard likes to entertain. I entertain in my own way, through popular fiction, and I think we both have a bit of the ham in us in different ways. He is a wonderful raconteur at dinner parties, tells these marvellous stories that have me in stitches. People look at us as though to say, what's the matter with these two? He's very admiring of me, which is gratifying. And he's cosy - there's a lovely feeling of intimacy when you sit down and talk to Richard. He's approving, but never fawning.

Richard has been close to getting married several times; I tease him about it and he just smiles enigmatically. I've never tried to matchmake for him, he has his own taste in women. I'd like to dress him differently, but he loves all his crazy plaid and stripey jackets and ties, so why would I deprive him of this adventurousness with his clothing?

I can't imagine life without Richard - it would be a great loss to me and Bob. We like and admire each other, and that's why we'll stay friends till we keel over.

'A Sudden Change of Heart', by Barbara Taylor Bradford, is published in paperback by HarperCollins, price pounds 6.99

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