How We Met: Philippa & Grayson Perry

'We'd sit in the pub and smoke and bitch about everybody. We don't smoke any more'


Philippa Perry, 52, is a practising psychotherapist. She has just published her first book, 'Couch Fiction', an introduction to psychotherapy in graphic-novel form. She lives in north London with husband Grayson and their daughter

I was at a creative-writing class and, although I was genuinely interested in writing, I was looking for a baby father – not consciously, but I was definitely on the hunt. Before online dating, if you wanted to meet someone you had to go out and learn Italian or something. I scanned the room and saw a handsome blond guy in a red-leather jacket. I thought, "OK, he's a possibility... but I'm liking the Irish poet more at the minute."

We went round introducing ourselves and Grayson – he had a really strong Essex accent – said, "Well I did pot-ry classes and done a gal-ry show and I made quite a lot of money, so I thought I'd 'ave a go at this writing game." And being a middle-class snob, I thought, "Oh no, that won't do!"

So I went out for a drink with the Irish poet and various other people and none of them were right so I thought, "OK, I'll have to go out with the show-off." Grayson and I started going for drinks after the class at a tatty old pub called The George, where we'd sit and smoke and bitch about everybody. We don't smoke anymore.

I think what attracted me to him then is what still does – he has different way of looking at the world, a very original mind.

I knew he liked cross-dressing from the off. I think our first non-date – it wasn't a "date" until about six months later – was a choice between a private view and a tranny club. I'd recently spent a week in New York and gone to dubious bars with transvestites dancing on tables, but this was more like a WI meeting – lots of men dressed as frumpy women hanging around talking about motorbikes. Very odd, but fun. Grayson's look as a woman has got more glamorous. He's found his own style, I think. I don't suggest much, he might occasionally say, "The blue or the pink?"

If we have free time, we go to a little cottage on the South Downs to cook, watch documentaries and read. He is such a do-er, but I just quite like the "being", so a couple of days' isolation from the world in a little cottage is my idea of bliss.

I do most of the work around the house until I get fed up of it and then Grayson does it. Then I decide that I want my vegetables chopped more finely and I'll start doing it myself again. I don't want to be unfair though – since we've been married I've only put the bins out twice and Grayson does that wonderful, restful thing of washing up all the dishes between the main course and dessert. He doesn't do it if he has a dress on, though. That's the only annoying thing about living with a transvestite – he thinks it's feminine to just hang around in a chair.

Grayson Perry, 50, is an artist, best known for his work in ceramics. In 2003 he was the first potter to be awarded the Turner Prize. He accepted the award as his female alter ego Claire, who often features in his work

First time I met Philippa was the autumn of 1987, at creative-writing evening classes. I was a struggling artist working as a sandwich-maker in a hairdresser's. I didn't notice Phil at first, but we were asked to do a diary of our week as homework and I thought hers was really funny and sharp.

We got chatting afterwards and went to the pub, then did that every week for two or three months. It was a very slow-burn number. Up to that point I was terrible, I very rarely had one girlfriend at a time. Phil had to put her foot down.

The fact that I cross-dress has never really been an issue for us – it's secrets that cause problems. We never kept it from our daughter, she just kind of grew up with it before she even knew what it was. Then, as she got older we'd just say, "Daddy's going to a party" and she got used to seeing me dressed up.

Philippa is very emotionally vigorous – you can't get away with any bullshit with her. Even before she became a therapist she was like that. It can be a bit painful but it's a good thing – like polishing up the lens that you look at the world through.

We get invited to a lot of nice dos now because of what I do and Phil is always great at them. As a partner in life I don't have to worry about her getting bored or not being able to talk to people. I always get people coming up to me after dinners saying ,"God, your wife, she's lovely!" It's nice to have someone who you can share the funniness of those situations with.

Now Phil's written her book, it's interesting to be around someone who is putting their own head above the parapet. It's given me a bit of an insight into what it is like to be Phil. For the partner of anyone who has had a bit of success, the plus-one syndrome can be pretty cheesy. I think she's occasionally struggled with that.

If you ask her what the most romantic evening we've had was she'll say, "Oh! The day you first took me on the motorbike." It was late at night after one of those classes and I suppose I was showing off and we went roaring up the M11 and the bike blew a valve so we ended up pushing it up the hard shoulder for two hours in the rain. I've still got the broken valve on the shelf now as a souvenir of that moment.

'Couch Fiction' by Philippa Perry is out now (Palgrave, £12.99)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried