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Folk singer Shirley Collins and Bexhill's extraordinarily accurate palm-reading Gypsy Anita Lee

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Shirley Collins
Shirley Collins

Shirley will be in concert at the De La Warr Pavilion on Sunday, November 6, with her Lodestar Band comprising music director Ian Kearey (ex-Blue Airplanes and Oysterband), Pete Cooper and Dave Arthur (Rattle on the Stovepipe) and Pip Barnes more her dancer Glen Redman.

It’s a gig which will certainly stir memories of the day, decades ago, when she saw a kiosk just near the De La Warr Pavilion bearing the words “Gypsy Anita Lee – Your fortunes told, your problems solved.” Shirley was lured in, a story she will doubtless tell when she returns for her concert.

“This was post my dreadful marriage break-up. My husband was full of love for first one and then two actresses and would come home at night and say he was consumed with love for them. It was awful. It was really hard. I had two children and the awful thing was that we were working at the National and one of the actresses would come and stand in front of me while I was singing at the National and she would be wearing his clothes! That just did for me and some nights I just could not get a note out. I finally had to get out and I moved out of our lovely cottage and that’s when I bought a house in Bexhill with the two children. I decided it made sense because they were already going to school there

“And it was lovely because we were just two minutes from the sea and I used to jog up and down the front, and by the De La Warr Pavilion I would see these little kiosks and one of them belonged to Gypsy Anita Lee. I saw the sign and I thought I’d go in.

“I pulled back the bead curtains and there she was. I noticed her red chipped fingernails and her turban and I sat down and she said ‘What do you want?’ I said ‘What do you do?’ and she said that she did crystal ball and palm reading and also tarot. are the sign of cancer’ which I was and she said ‘You are early July’ which I was and she said ‘July 5’ which I was and she said ‘You have two children’ which I had and she lifted one of my fingers and said ‘Your husband is a philanderer’ which he was. And the fact is that a couple of days before that my husband had actually sent me a postcard which he had signed the philanderer!

“She said ‘Now, you ride a bicycle’ and I said yes I do and she said ‘You are not riding at the moment, are you?’ and I said no and she said ‘Don’t ride that bicycle again.’ And I didn’t. It just rusted away. It is all very funny now when you think back at it and I suppose it was quite funny at the time but the philanderer bit was extraordinary and the accuracy of absolutely everything else she said really showed that she was a clairvoyant. I just don’t know how she did it. Everything she said was spot on.”

And the account encounter really did make a difference to Shirley: “In a way funny enough it hardened my heart. I thought ‘If you can call my husband a philanderer, then that’s what he is.’ It pointed me in a certain way. It gave me something to move away from so it was a positive meeting and very amusing!”