A child star
during the second world war, Petula Clark, 69, went on to
enjoy a successful musical career both in the UK and America.
Best known for her No 1 single Downtown, she has starred in
films and in shows on Broadway and in the West End. Her latest
album, The Ultimate Collection, is out now, and her national
tour includes a show at the London Palladium next Sunday. She
is married with three grown-up children
OUR LAST holiday was to Bermuda. It was a second attempt to
get my husband, Claude, to like the place ó but it didnít
entirely succeed. Iíd been there years ago on a wonderful
sun-drenched holiday with my sister, and liked it so much I
decided to take the whole family. Unfortunately, when I did,
we arrived at the tail end of a hurricane, it rained
constantly and Claude was furious about the whole thing.
This time, the weather was with us, but Claude still found
the island a bit too manicured and twee for his tastes.
Much more successful was the holiday we had in Mykonos last
summer. We stayed in a small, family-run hotel right on the
beach ó the perfect antidote to the luxurious but utterly
impersonal places I stay in when Iím touring. Everything about
it was perfect ó the food, the crystal-clear water, and the
people, who were hospitable without being intrusive. They were
also very tolerant of their phone ringing in the middle of the
night when agents were trying to track me down.
As a child in wartime, I travelled a lot to perform for the
troops, but rarely saw a thing. Most of our journeys were at
night on troop trains, where Iíd sleep in the luggage rack
before being taken by truck to various military camps. Because
of the blackout, every place we went to was indistinguishable
from the next.
The first city I remember seeing lit up was Dublin, just
after the war. From the ferry we suddenly saw this amazing
array of lights shining across the water. To me, that was the
most enchanting thing, and Dublin was a city that felt alive
and full of excitement. I still get that feeling of
anticipation when I go back now, 50 years later.
Travelling to make movies has been a mixed experience. In
the 1940s, we shot a film called The Huggetts Abroad in a
studio in Islington, while a location crew took doubles of us
around the world for exterior shots! We were stuck in a
warehouse filled with sand, getting bitten by real sand fleas
and freezing to death.
I did, though, get to spend a few blissful weeks filming
around San Francisco for Finianís Rainbow, a musical I made
with Francis Ford Coppola. That was an extraordinary
experience. Warner Brothers sent big, monogrammed trucks with
huge lights and cameras, but Coppola was a total maverick ó he
wanted to put the camera on his shoulder and head out into the
desert. So he made a rendezvous with the crew and never turned
up. Instead, he took me and Fred Astaire in the opposite
direction and we had the most wonderful time trawling around
the countryside making the opening sequence of the film, in
which Finian and his daughter arrive in the States.
I fell completely in love with the area and remain so to
this day. The landscape is very soft and unspoilt, with
beautiful hills and acres of vineyards, a bit like Provence,
with good food to boot.
Another of my favourite places is Morocco, because itís
very French and so sensual. The music, the smells, the colours
ó itís just this feast of sensations that leaves you feeling
We first went in the 1970s, when the children were young,
and everybody fell sick. We spent a week looking for doctors
and pharmacists, so I got to know Marrakesh like the back of
my hand from zooming round these narrow streets and tiny
alleyways. I loved it, and it became a place weíve kept on
The only place Iíd never go back to is Sanía in the Yemen.
I went there to perform in the 1970s and when we stepped off
the plane I thought there had been an earthquake ó but thatís
just the way it was. They were building everywhere, and the
entire place was pitted with vast holes, piles of rubble and
Everything about the country seemed utterly different from
what Iíd experienced before, from the architecture, or lack of
it, to the way people looked and dressed. I expected a
Marrakesh-type souk, but it was a very dark, foreboding place
and felt very unwelcoming. Iím sure itís changed a lot, but my
first impressions were so bad I donít want to bother finding
These days, itís quite rare that we and the children can
all be in the same place at the same time, but we do still
manage some family holidays together. Last year, we spent a
lovely Christmas in Aix en Provence. The light at that time of
year is incredible ó we did all our Christmas shopping in the
markets and drove out to eat at restaurants and vineyards in
the surrounding countryside.
The only low points were the arguments we had about when to
unwrap the presents. The French open theirs on Christmas Eve,
but Iím very strict about waiting till the day itself. Youíd
think that now the children are grown-up weíd have left
squabbles like that behind. But Christmas wouldnít be
Christmas without someone stamping their feet and demanding to
have their presents now.
Because Iíve travelled so much throughout my life, I feel
as if Iíve never really settled anywhere. We have houses in
Switzerland, America and Britain, and for a long time we lived
in France, but Iím still looking for a place that I can really
call home. Someday soon Iíll have to settle somewhere, but
Iíve fallen in love with so many parts of the world that Iím
not sure where it will be.
The only certainty is that it will have to be hot ó given
time, I could quite easily become a beach bum and spend the
rest of my days lying in the sun doing absolutely nothing.
Petula Clark talked to Lizzie