The singer Petula Clark: My family values

06.09.2013 17:37

My earliest childhood memory is
of the sea. It was in Bognor Regis
and I was probably five. I was on
top of a bus with my dad, Leslie. I
remember flags along the front
and I thought the sea was
extraordinary. I grew up in West
Ewell, Surrey, but as a child spent a
fair bit of time between Chichester
and South Wales where my mother,
Doris, was from.
My grandparents in South Wales
were poor but it never felt like
that. They lived in a little house
that my sister and I thought was
amazing. It was one of those stone
houses with no electricity, no
running water and a loo at the
bottom of the garden. We loved it.
Our grandparents spoke little
English and I learned to speak
Welsh. My grandfather was a coal
miner and Nana was rather plump
and bossy. We were allowed to
roam as we wanted. There was a
great sense of freedom.
My father was a frustrated
performer. He was a nurse, like
my mother, but I think he lived a
lot of his showbiz aspirations
through me. When I became
famous at nine, singing for the
troops during the war, my father
became my manager even though
he didn't know anything about
showbusiness. It did become
difficult between us because we'd
go home and I wasn't sure if I was
talking to my dad or my manager.
But our working relationship lasted
a long time and ended when I was
about 23. That was very difficult
for me and absolutely for him. My
husband was later my manager
too, but we were aware of the
dangers of that by then.
Barbara, my sister, is four years
younger than me. I named my
first child after her. We are close
but very different. I've been living
in Geneva for a long time and she's
in the UK. We love each other very
much. Barbara never wanted to be
a performer. I suppose it must have
been difficult for her growing up in
my shadow but I have never felt
anything difficult between us
because of that.
Going through adolescence in
front of millions of people was
difficult. I was under contract to
make movies and much more
valuable to the studio as a child so
they wanted to keep me looking
like one. They put a band around
my bust to flatten it. The only
adolescent friend I had was my
movie stand-in.
I thought my husband, Claude,
was gorgeous the first time I met
him. I was 25. We married in
1961. We're not in a romantic
relationship any more but we're
not divorced. That's an area I have
kept very private deliberately.
I ended up having a huge French
career. I had two children when
Downtown became No 1 in
America in 1965. You don't say no
when America is screaming for
you to come over, but that really
did complicate our lives. While the
children were very young, it wasn't
too difficult because they came
everywhere with us.Then we had to
think seriously about their
education so we lived in Geneva
but I was still working all over the
I am close to my three children,
Barbara, Kate and Patrick, who are
grown up now, but I don't feel I
was a very good mother. I was
away a lot. There were many times
when we were separated and,
obviously, if I couldn't be with
them I couldn't be a good mother.
When we were together, it was
more quality time than quantity. I
hope I have put things right since.
I love being a grandmother. I
have two grandchildren who are
New Yorkers but speak perfect
French. Sebastian is 17, Annabelle
is 11. They are extraordinary and
spending time with them is a joy.
At 80, I have no plans to slow
down. I love performing. I don't
care about people's age. The whole
obsession with age is something I
don't understand. Doing your job
well is what matters.