Games people play on Valentine's Day

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The Independent Online
Dame Barbara Cartland, 96, writer

I've always played a lot of tennis, of course, and a little golf. And I rode a lot at one time. Not any more; not at my age!

These days, I write a book every fortnight. My secretary types it out, and then she reads the chapter back before we start the next one. You must tell people that, because I've told one or two men about it, and they've all said, "What a good idea, I've never thought of that."

I started writing when we came to live in London. A friend of mine said: "Look, I've just started working for Lord Beaverbrook. You are out dancing every night, and if you give me a paragraph for the newspaper, I will give you five shillings."

Eventually, Lord Beaverbrook sent for me. Of course, along with other men I had met, he fell in love with me straight away. Every day I had to go to the Hyde Park Hotel, where he had his office, and show him what I'd written. And he showed me how to write for a newspaper.

Before we arrived in London, my mother had said: "As you've got two younger brothers still at school, we must spend the holidays in the country. We went back to Worcestershire, where we had lived before, and rented a small house near Bredon. One day the elder of my brothers said: "You must be very quiet, because I have to write an essay for school." So I said, "I will write a book."

The whole family said, "Ha, ha, you will never finish it." But I did. It went into masses of editions, and was such a success that I thought I'd go on writing books. This was quite unusual, because in those days, a lassy didn't soil her lily-white hands with work.

`St Valentine' and `The Scent of Romance Original' are Dame Barbara's signature scents, containing a high proportion of natural flower essences. They are available by mail order from The Perfumers' Guild, price pounds 16 each. Details: 01923-260502. Either will complement a reading of `In Love in Lucca' (pounds 3.99 from Mandarin)