The Girl in the Painted Caravan
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A fascinating glimpse into the world of the Romany in the 1940s and 50s, just as that world was changing forever. Born into a Romany gypsy family in 1939, Eva Petulengro’s childhood seemed to her to be idyllic in every way. She would travel the country with her family in their painted caravan and spend evenings by the fire as they sang and told stories of their past. She didn’t go to school or visit a doctor when she was unwell. Instead her family would gather wild herbs to make traditional remedies, hunt game and rabbits, and while the men tended horses to make a living, the young girls would join the women in reading palms. But Eva’s perfect world would be turned upside down as the countryside became increasingly hostile to all travellers. Eva describes the wonderful characters in her family, from her grandfather "Naughty" Petulengro to her four beautiful aunts who entranced everyone they met, as well as the fascinating people they came across on the road. Moving, evocative, romantic, and funny, The Girl in the Painted Caravan vividly captures a way of life that has now, sadly, all but disappeared.
other, as we didn’t have anyone else to play with. One day Mummy came out of the vardo beaming. ‘I’ve made you a telephone,’ she announced. This comprised of two tin cans tied together with a piece of string. It was about eight foot long and if I talked into the can, Nathan could hear me by putting his can to his ear. We spent many an hour talking to each other on this fine contraption. I’m not sure how long we stayed outside the camp. Mummy must have hated it after a while, with no friends or
with guilt on seeing that the receipt had been there all along and I hadn’t looked for it myself, just trusted that my father would have found it if it had been there. She placed it in my father’s hand, but the only words she said were: ‘Tomorrow you take me and my children to my family in Whaplode.’ She snatched the receipt out of his hand and walked back to the taxi, shouting to me, ‘Av akai with mandi’ (‘Come with me’). ‘Look after the twins,’ she barked at my father. We drove straight to
over and I attacked them with my crystal ball. I hit one square in the chest and he fell to the ground, wheezing. My client was by now screaming and the mod was screeching obscenities. He started for the door, but by now I was really seeing red. I had worked hard all day for my money and here he was thinking he could just waltz in and take it. I wrapped the velvet that my crystal ball was kept in around the ball and started swinging it at him. It was hilarious to see the look of terror on his
would have to take the day off, as would I. On 22 November 1963, some friends decided to drive to London and come back around 10 p.m., so I organised my alibi with Nathan and six of us crammed ourselves into the car and away we went. We went to the Colony Club, run by the American actor and gangster George Raft. It was packed with smart Americans in cocktail dresses. I wore a black pencil skirt, five-inch heels, and a blue roll-neck sweater that came down to my hips. That was the fashion in
date of our marriage. With a licence, it took five days and the cost was seven and sixpence. After that, he took me to his flat and, after inspecting it and doing some measuring and debating over décor (fortunately we had very similar tastes), we hit the shops, as I didn’t want to move into a bachelor pad. We chose a new three-piece suite, curtains, rugs and bedding, and we spent the next four days turning the flat into our home. I woke up on the morning of the wedding and decided to tell Mummy