Obituary: Philippa Pullar

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The Independent Online
I knew Philippa Pullar best during the riotous stage of her life referred to in Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson's moving obituary [10 September], writes Andrew Barrow. She was enormous fun to be with, a reckless, life- enhancing force with a keen sense of her own and other people's hilarity.

Sinclair-Stevenson tells only half the story about how she ended up in bed with the conductor of the last bus home. She wouldn't have been on the bus at all if her car hadn't been off the road at the time, a fact which prompted her famous bon mot: "Really, my dear, it's easier these days to get oneself serviced than one's car."

Philippa approached life with a playful bossiness and crusading spirit and indeed had the look about her of a medieval queen: Joan of Arc or perhaps Eleanor of Castile, though her own exhilaratingly alliterative name suited her gloriously. Her imperious manner, small mock-dignified figure and flamboyant attire made her disorderly behaviour - at Lord Montagu of Beaulieu's she fell into the fire - even funnier.

Yet for all her party-going abandonment, those were also years of solid achievement and there was nothing sloppy or disorganised about her prose- style. Consuming Passions is written with extraordinary verve and her biography of Frank Harris shows a remarkable ability to handle complex and deeply researched material with the lightest of light touches.

Nor did her domestic life lack warmth or coherence. Her large house, off an unsurfaced road in Barnes, was a haven of wood fires, flowers, books, pictures - a marvellous reclining nude of Philippa graced the bathroom - and of course wonderful cookery, washed down with either home-made wine or the best champagne. The house was also a comfortable home for various cats, rabbits and fish, to whom Philippa made constant asides, and its huge wild garden stretching down to a rattling, clattering railway line, was populated by hens and a fearsome crowing cock, who was sometimes fed slices of brie through the dining-room window.

When this proud bird got killed by a fox, its carcass quickly found its way into the larder and then, I daresay, into one of those delicious and pioneering dishes which Philippa would serve to a wide and exciting circle of friends which included such luminaries as Michael Holroyd, Simon Raven, Jilly Cooper, Jennifer Paterson, Anthony Blond and the accident-prone oil heiress Olga Deterding.

The fact that she eventually grew out of these frivolities and embraced as passionately a more spiritual but less literary life is probably all to her credit, but those who knew her during those boisterous years will never forget her bright lights and lively heart.

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