Review of Caravans and Wedding Bands: Memories of a Romany Life
PUBLISHED: 16:01 14 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:44 20 February 2013
Brighton clairvoyant Eva Petulengro read the palms of many stars of the Sixties and Seventies, but fame didn't impress her – as she amply demonstrated when Royalty came to call. Vanora Leigh reviews her latest memoirs
Princess Margaret was always considered one of the more demanding members of the Royal Family. But even she met her match in the feisty form of Brightons famous Romany clairvoyant, Eva Petulengro, whose clients included Paul McCartney, Barbara Windsor and Bob Monkhouse.
In her latest memoirs, chronicling her career in Sixties and Seventies Brighton, Eva recalls how the manager of Wheelers, the towns upmarket fish restaurant, arrived at her door in Ship Street Gardens one evening with an unexpected request.
A party of diners wanted her to give them readings, he said, before sheepishly acknowledging they were a bit merry. Unimpressed, Eva flatly refused to turn out, suggesting they book her services on the morrow. And dismayed at the prospect of disappointing his royal guest, the manager was forced to admit that the party actually comprised Princess Margaret and her friends.
Well, that makes it even worse, said Eva crossly. Im in my dressing gown, relaxing, and have no intention of getting dressed at nearly 11 oclock at night. Give her my apologies and tell her Im otherwise engaged. And with that, she returned to her television. Royalty or not, Im not missing a good film, she informed her husband, Johnnie.
Like her earlier best-selling memoir, The Girl in the Painted Caravan, which charted her peripatetic Romany childhood in the Forties and Fifties, Evas latest book is packed with anecdotes about names famous or otherwise, and is written in an engaging and informal style.
At its heart though, its a story of a happy marriage between Eva and boat builder Johnnie Tullett. Like her mother, Eva married a gorger, a non-Romany, but, unlike her, enjoyed a happy, supportive relationship.
Born into a large family (her grandmother once confided that Charlie Chaplin was a Romany relative), she quickly adapted to life in a small Brighton flat with her new husband. But her skill
as a clairvoyant soon led to grander
things larger homes, mink coats and generous amounts of Champagne, her favourite tipple.
Nevertheless, Eva worked hard for that success. Despite a growing family (she has four children, including the well-known astrologer Claire Petulengro), she wrote regularly for such newspapers as Brightons Evening Argus, published her own astrology magazine and travelled extensively, giving private readings.
But life had its dark moments, too. Almost overnight, she developed Bells Palsy, a form of facial paralysis, shortly before the birth of her third son, and alleges that so-called friends such as Sixties singer Kathy Kirby and the Duchess of Argyll, a notorious socialite, tried to take advantage of her.
In spite of these difficulties, however, she still views the period as the happiest of her life. She had her mother, four children and Johnnie my best friend, lover and confidant.