Petula Gordeno, whose real name was Brenda Furlong (played by Julie Walters), was the elderly and sick mother of Brenda Furlong (her daughter). She was constantly up to something and was always referring to celebrity friends.
Before living outside the CanteenEdit
At some point between 1956 and 1957, Petula conceived Brenda Furlong with a man who she claims was either called Kevin or Keith. She lost contact with him and on the 24th December 1957, she gave birth to Bren. It is unknown at which point she started to use the alias Petula Gordeno because Bren, her daughter, was not aware of her real name until after her death.
Immediately, her daughter was taken into care after she stated that the child was "cramping her style". Later on, she and her daughter met again and kept in regular contact, although she only normally met up with Bren when she required a favour to be done. On a few occasions, she forgot that Bren was her daughter. When Bren started work in the canteen, she decided to live in a caravan, parked in the car park outside.
Whilst living outside the CanteenEdit
After moving into the car park of HWD Components, she fell in love with a 16 year old called Clint, to the disgust of his mother, but that did not end well. She regularly popped in to see Bren during her work hours, regardless of the health and safety rules, for favours, money and/or Kit Kats.
Petula often referred to elaborate relationships and friendships with celebrities from around the world. Although these tales are most likely to be untrue, we are still left unsure as to whether they happen. Some people have speculated as to whether she was in fact mad and had created this bizarre world inside of her head.
On the 29th February 2000, Petula was taken into hospital and was told that she had three weeks to live. She seemed to take it quite well but on her way to the finale of a quiz show, Bren stopped by to see her but missed her passing away.
Shocked and speechless, Bren returned to the canteen, clutching a bag of smelly clothes and a video tape. Dolly threw the bag into the skip, thinking it to be just dirty laundry and they watched Petula's last speech. Petula talked about many things before revealing her true name to be Brenda Furlong, meaning that she had named her daughter after herself. She also said that she had wrapped up a considerable amount of money in a blanket and had placed it inside her belongings.
After rushing to collect the belongings, seconds before the rubbish truck had arrived, Bren found thousands of pounds and distributed it among her colleagues, allowing them to fulfil their dreams.
Her celebrity friends or her madnessEdit
Petula is often heard referring to elaborate events or relationships with famous people, to which the characters' reactions are rarely seen. The viewers are left baffled by these comments and it is never explained as to whether these events happened or not. Many viewers have asked whether she has, in fact, gone mad due to her loneliness and has therefore created this bizarre and unbelievable world inside of her head to keep her occupied and to give her a sense of self-worth. This debate has never been solved by Victoria Wood and fans are, to this day, keen to find out the answer.
Something worth mentioning in favour of her celebrity stories being true is her tale of Sophia Loren giving her nighties covered in tomato pips, Dolly mentioned previously in the episode that she'd read in the daily mail - film trivia that Sophia Loren ate a lot of tomatoes. This could either mean that she was once close friends with the Italian actress, or she happened to have the same taste in papers as Dolly. Both are rather interesting theories.