Judy Cook: 'I felt as though I could never leave him...'

... but eventually she had to. Judy Cook on the pain of walking away from the irreplaceable Peter Cook

Wednesday 24 September 2008 00:00 BST

Peter Cook to whom I was married for 15 years was an extraordinary man: he was very good-looking and always so sharp and quick off the mark. He was someone I wanted to make love with. But he was also an alcoholic, and it broke my heart to see him turn into the monster that he became when he was drinking heavily.

When he wasn't drinking, Peter was wonderful. He was easy and loving, a very gentle person to live with, very poetic. His humour was life-enhancing: he made me laugh at myself. There was a powerful, positive life force running alongside that very dark strain. Once, when I was very ill, he nursed me and was fantastic he knew just what to do. That was a special experience between us, because he was seeing me at the point where I nearly reached death, and was able to coax me back. He was an incredibly intelligent man who took in the deeper side of life if you needed help, in a split-second glance he knew. He was extremely empathic.

As a lover, that's very special. We could talk without talking, we could walk into a room together and both knew what was what.I felt as though I could never leave him; we had a deep bond and I felt that if we split, the fall-out would be catastrophic.

But there were other times I felt our relationship was beyond resurrection. You can't indulge in so many addictions unless you're going into a very dark place, which Peter was. It was sad he rang me up one day and said he was watching porn and didn't want to, but felt addicted and desperate. But when he sobered up, Peter was always so vulnerable, and looked so good and was so gentle that I just went back to square one I wanted to love him. It is very hard to walk away. I was always optimistic, because, without hope, as human beings we are nothing.

I was a child of alcoholics, so I accepted things I otherwise might not have. But it was a rollercoaster. I used to tell Peter what he'd done when he was drunk and he'd apologise. He was not only drinking a lot of vodka with beer chasers and topping up during the day, he was also taking speed, which masks the effect of alcohol.

I would go through the A to Z of emotions in a single day. I was living on my nerves. When he was drinking he would be up all night. He'd demand food and attention and lose his temper, going round kicking and punching doors, getting angry and complaining he wasn't getting sex. I'd be jumping out of my skin, waiting for the next explosion. He had terrible, pent-up anger, and couldn't express it when he was sober.

At the end, during our divorce, part of me was very angry. He was becoming someone I didn't know. I didn't want to go to court, but he wouldn't sort it out any other way, and when I started to stand up to him, he thought I'd changed, because I'd never done that before. I should have sorted that out when I was younger, but I wasn't brought up like that. I think that, although we had both been married before, we were late developers emotionally. We learnt a lot in our relationship. At the beginning of our break-up, when he didn't want to get divorced, the letters he wrote to me were so beautiful. He said I made him feel grounded, made him feel like he belonged. I had no idea I had such a deep effect on him. That devastated me; I didn't realise he had that insecurity. I'm quite confident, and when I was on tour with him, I always made our nest wherever we went. He was part of that. I was happy to close our door and read with him with the radio on simple but fulfilling things. He loved nattering to me and I loved to listen: both of us were great observers, noticing the idiosyncratic things that people did. I found him very funny, and I think he found me funny too.

Our relationship and our divorce have left me with a lesson that will take the rest of my life to come to terms with. I feel that I'm over it now, but it left an indelible mark. You don't walk away from something like that lightly: it has shaped the person I am. It is as though I've opened the curtains and can never shut them again. You cannot go lightheartedly any more you can't go to parties and just laugh your head off, because you've experienced something that's taken you to another level. It's growing up and coming to terms with pain. It is sad when you realise you've lost the innocence of youth and the innocence of falling in love again. But it is also a great relief to grow up and know you can handle it.

Love for me now is in a different space: whether it's loving animals or children or admiring the funny, ridiculous or interesting things about people. I have all sorts of love for all sorts of things. I don't have that passionate love that a young woman is looking for with a man; it's a more embracing love now.

Judy Cook's book, 'Loving Peter: My Life with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore', is published by Piatkus, 17.99

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