NINE TO FIVE

Peter Cross
Sunday 25 July 1999 00:02
Comments

How did you become a fortune-teller?

I'm a gypsy and it's a gift we have that comes from God. I've got second sight. My mother and sisters are all fortune-tellers, as are my husband's mother and sisters. I was brought up in a caravan but when I got married we decided to settle down in Blackpool. I've been reading palms and looking into a crystal ball here for 40 years.

I suppose you wear a dark shawl when you work then?

You're thinking of the Spanish gypsies, dear. I wear gold earrings and a necklace and expensive tailored clothes. I love Paisley in red, green and yellow with lots of black.

Where do you work and who comes to see you?

I work in a booth in Coral Island on the Golden Mile in Blackpool, which is the biggest arcade in Europe. In the season there are lots of day trippers but I also get my regulars. Some of them come to see me every month.

What sort of things do they want to know?

How many children they are going to have, if they're going to be successful in business, luck at gambling or what their health is going to be. They tell me their problems and come to me for help and advice on their love affairs. A woman came to see me this morning who had deep depression. She had not long lost her husband and son in a fire and she was the one who had to call the fire brigade. I found this really stressful. I was able to tell her they were happy where they were.

Didn't you suggest that she went to her doctor?

She was having treatment, but I can help her to get over the depression. I'm someone they can talk to and can help them to get their confidence back.

So what do you need to tell someone's fortune?

They have to be there. I need to be able to read their palm and also know their date of birth so I can read their stars. It takes about 10 minutes and I charge pounds 5.

Any celebrities?

I've done Bill Haley, Tom Jones, Cannon and Ball, Little and Large, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett but I can't tell you what I told them.

Can you tell your own family's fortune, or read your own?

No, there's a block. No Romany can tell another's future.

Do you feel you are paid enough?

I'm reasonably happy. Of course, we are much better off than we were years ago but the children have grown up.

Obviously you would have foreseen this?

Yes! Now it's just me and my husband Sonny Boy, living in a large detached house. We have a collection of Crown Derby plates and lovely pink velvet curtains with swags and tails in all the rooms. Sonny Boy does the choosing: he's got lovely taste. Our three daughters and son have all grown up and moved out but live all around. We wouldn't stop them if they married a gorgio (non-gypsy) but they haven't. We have a stick fire, eat roast elk stew and the grandchildren will entertain us with singing and accordion playing. We're like the Royal Family; they all intermarry as well.

And like all true gypsies you keep your children away from school...

If they want to stay at school we let them, but they can't teach you the things that are important to us. We prefer them to be taught our way. They can't teach you how to shoe a horse or tell a fortune. My girls all left school at 12 or 13 but they could have stayed if they wanted. I have a brother whose son trained to be a doctor but he gave it up for the Romany way of life.

Where do you usually go for your holidays?

We take the caravan and meet up with friends and family at Appleby Fair in Cumbria. There are fires, singsongs and we tell ghost stories. Sometimes horses are bought and sold. We have a modern caravan. We mainly holiday with our own people.

Is the freedom your biggest perk then?

Well, what's your biggest perk?

Meeting and talking to interesting people like yourself.

It's the same for me. And I can tell you just from the sound of your voice that you are going to go right to the top of your profession.

Name

Gypsy Leah Petulengro, 60

Occupation

Fortune-teller

Salary

pounds 10,000-12,000 per year

Address

Blackpool

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