I bet not a day passes without
someone asking you if you're
Oh, sure. In fact, when I moved into
my new house in London a few years
ago, I was just going off to sleep,
exhausted, at lam when I was
serenaded by a gang of local lads.
They came and sang Downtown under
my window. I think they'd bad
a few too many to drink but it was
You've been famous forever,
so presumably you don't get
nostalgia for anonymity.
No. I've never experienced it. I
never had to make that decision, as
a teenager, about what I was going to
be and how I might do it.
You're renowned as a very
down-to-earth diva, catching
buses and walking places instead
of climbing into a limousine.
I like to live my life.
The nice, nice thing
to be able to have it
to have the luxuries
be able to do all the
other stuff as well.
Are you good at
spending time on
Yes. Very. I've been a
loner ever since I was
a kid, I used to live in
my own imagination. I
wandered the backstreets, singing and
telling myself stories. I'm part Welsh,
so I used to walk across the mountains
singing on my own.
This is beginning to remind me
of The Sound Of Music...
Well, not quite as kitsch as that. And I
certainly couldn't have coped with the
entire von Trapp family. It's not just
that I can go for days on my own, I
actually think I need it. I have a very
good interior life: I read, I listen to
other people's music, I write.
Do you keep a diary?
Oh, no, but I spend a lot
of time writing music lyrics. and poetry, that kind of thing.
What do you like to read?
I love anything to do with history.
It was really the only subject I was
any good at when I was at school.
I love archaeology too.
In the past three years, you've
toured three continents. You
must wake up not knowing
where you are.
Funnily enough, that usually happens
when I stop touring and go home.
Sometimes I can work out that I'm at
home but I'm not quite sure which
home I am in because I have several.
Switzerland is my main residence.
Then we've a chalet in the French
Alps, not far from Geneva, a tiny
apartment in London and a place
So you wake up with a frock in
Geneva and the matching shoes are
There are times I look in my wardrobe
and think I'm sure I had that dress -
and then I give up because, in any
case, it's not there.
How badly are you affected
Well, I build a very secure cage
around myself: I work very hard
at making sure I've got the right
musicians, that the lights are right,
that the feel of the song is right.
Then I go on stage and just have fun.
I have felt physically sick before a
performance but I've never actually
thrown up. Sometimes
I get quite a nasty
nervous rash across my
shoulders. I always
forget about it and then
it comes up suddenly.
What's the weirdest
thing you've been
given by a fan?
I get an awful lot of fan
mail from all over the
world; from places my
records have been but I
haven't. I get given a lot
of jars of pickled onions. I think once,
a long time ago, I must have said I
liked them and I keep getting them.
I've got quite a collection but there's a
limit to how many I can eat.
You look so young. I know you
say you don't have plastic surgery
so what is your beauty secret?
I've no idea. I don't even keep out
of the sun. I love the sun and I'm
excellent at tying on a beach doing
nothing. I think I'm just lucky. I think
perhaps women are inclined to do too
much stuff: wear too much make-up
and try too many products in a
desperate attempt to do whatever.
I just don't. Perhaps that's my secret.
Will you ever retire?
I have moments when I think I will
but, no, I enjoy singing. I've been
doing it since I was a child and I think
it would leave an enormous gap in my
life to stop, though, I suppose, one
day I will. And if my voice starts
going ... but at the moment it seems to
be fine. Better than ever, in fact.
For details of Petula's UK tour
call 020 7221 7799.