40 things I’ve learned about life | Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE
 by Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE



ON THE eve of my wedding 50 years ago, my mother gave me advice that proved invaluable over the years to come. ‘It’s a woman who makes a marriage work’ and she was right. 

Accept sex does change over time, and we don’t have that urgent, excited rush of passion you experience in your 20s and 30s.   Sexual desire and romantic love slowly become this wonderful caring about each other.  

Another piece of advice from my mother — given just after I married — was: ‘You don’t catch flies with vinegar; you catch flies with honey.’ Again, I quickly learned that she was right.

Be careful when you argue.  I deal with words as a writer so I am very conscious words can hurt.  I always edited myself before the words left my lips.  Accept that arguments are inescapable in a long-lasting marriage.  Avoid having them in public and belittling the person you love in front of others. 

It’s silly to quibble over who picks up a shirt or a pair of underpants – whoever does just needs to grow up.  If you love someone, just do it. 

My husband Bob’s last words that he said to me were “I love you”: and I’m so glad I told him, “I love you too, darling.”  Do remember to tell your partner that you love them.



There are times when even the best partner in the world isn’t quite what a girl needs.  My husband Bob was my rock and my close girlfriends are my cornerstones.  I cannot imagine what life would be like without them. 

A best girl friend is so important, someone who’s as happy talking about a new dress or a change of lipstick as they are discussing the big stuff – relationships, careers, and families.

I don’t believe in this vast thing called the sisterhood, but I do believe you can have really good female friends. 



I was the only woman in a newsroom in my first job when I was just 16.  My mother told me: “Keep your head down and don’t flirt at work.  Your attitude towards men will dictate their attitude towards you.” The best advice I ever had. 

Don’t cry at the first hint of criticism.  If I had worn my heart on my sleeve, I would not have achieved what I have today. 

Women are good at saying sorry, it shuts people up, closes arguments and forestalls tears.  Men rarely apologise. 

I live by the Noel Coward quote: “I find work more fun than fun.”  My other adage is Churchill’s – KBO.  Keep buggering on!



Don’t invest in and think you know how to do it because you probably don’t.  It’s better to pay someone the commission and know that you’re getting expert advice. 

Always carry cash – even in today’s contactless environment.  You just never know when you might need it. 



My mother taught me some of the most important lessons when it came to shopping for clothes at Marshall & Snelgrove’s in Leeds: always buy shoes in the afternoon (by then your feet have swollen a little, so you can make sure they fit) and, if you’re buying clothes, always take someone with you who can tell you honestly what an outfit looks like from behind.

Buy well but buy less.  I worked as a woman’s editor and used to attend all the Paris shows that helped me appreciate good design and quality.   I have pieces in my wardrobe that are 50 years old and are as good as new as I look after them. 

A good handbag makes a statement.   I have several Hermes bags that I love and are timeless in style.  I would never go on a waiting list for one though.

A black handbag works for every occasion and a silver bag can add glamour to the plainest of outfits.



When travelling I keep most of my valuable jewellery at home.  It is less stressful.  I also like to mix valuable pieces with costume jewellery.  Only those in the know can tell which is which!

Always keep the boxes your jewellery comes in.  If you chose to sell, having the original box can help date a piece of jewellery and can add value.  If you have a jewellery collection, regularly catalogue it.  It gives you peace of mind and ensures you keep track on all your pieces. 


Health & beauty

I’ve never missed a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment as the saying is true, your health is your wealth. 

Sunglasses are always a good idea.  They can hide a multitude of sins!

Some women go to bed in their make-up because they don’t want their partner to see them without it.  I have always washed and cleansed my face without fail.  My friend, the late Evelyn Lauder, gave me the tip not to use one cream all the time, as your skin gets used to it. I’ve taken that advice ever since and my dermatologist recently remarked that I had fabulous skin, which made my day.

Stay out of the sun.  I have done all my life and have hardly any wrinkles as a result.

I go twice a week to the hairdressers.  The actress Joan Crawford said: “I think that the most important thing a woman can have — next to talent, of course — is her hairdresser.”   And I completely agree.

I avoid wearing too much foundation because it gets in the cracks and ages you.  Keep application light.    

I’ll always have a lipstick in my bag wherever I go.  I never leave my apartment without putting it on.  It makes me feel instantly presentable. 

I have a weekly manicure and always opt for a pale colour as if you chip it is not as noticeable. 


Food & travel

On my travels around the world, I’ve packed and unpacked suitcases multiple times.  My top tip is to pack shoes first, putting them around the sides of the bottom of the case, in cloth bags, leaving the centre empty for clothes.  I’ve found it the most efficient way of packing.    

Fish and chips are always a good idea – just remember the malt vinegar on the side! 

A smile always helps in new places. 



Grief never goes away.  It stays with you, but you learn to live with it.

Work helps. My writing got me through it.  I found solace in familiar characters. 

Nobody wants a weeping widow on their shoulder, they want nice conversation and a few laughs.  There is always room for kindness and compassion in life.



Never start a book until you know how it’s going to end.

Character is what drives everything forward.  Character is plot.

There is a lot of snobbery in publishing.  Ignore it.  Critics can say whatever they want.  I just look at my book sales. 

Always have a pen and notepad in your bag – for me, book ideas come to me all the time and I always write them down. 

Writing is discipline. You can’t write a book without putting in the hours at your desk. For many years I got up and started writing at 6am so I could hit my deadline each year.


Copyright: Bradford Enterprises

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