This lovely part of the NSW coast was a regular destination for my family when I was young. My Dad pretended to be the great fisherman but my mother was actually the one who loved going out in the boat and catching the damn things. Flathead, whiting, bream, I can still see them being hauled on board with Dad having to do the dirty work of cleaning them and Mum doing the cook-up at the end of the day. It was also a place of freedom, where I learned to ride a bike and friends and I would head off into the countryside on crazy adventures. Those were halcyon days.
I lived in Vienna for two years, a city that had once been the centre of a great empire. Those days of the Habsburgs were long over but the city retained a poignant empty splendour. I was free, I could be anyone I wanted to be, I immersed myself in the music that is so much a part of the tradition of this great city. I didn't have much money but you could stand through an opera for as little as $1.40. It was an exhilarating time, being exposed to art, music, literature, my intellectual life exploded. I would not have had the career I've had without those years in Vienna.
I took my two young sons to Kashmir. My mother thought I was mad. We based ourselves on a houseboat on Lake Nagin. Cricket, that international language, became the connecting point with the Kashmiri children and while they didn't share an oral language they shared a sporting one. We also had an amazing adventure when we went on a pony trek into the Himalayas for a week. We climbed as high as 3500 metres, way above the tree line where pristine mountain streams delivered the most delicious trout I've even eaten. I got over my fear of heights – temporarily – and the children remember that time to this day.
From 1990 this city became a regular destination each year when I began attending the Venice Film Festival. Apart from the beauty of the city itself, it became the centre of great international friendships. I became close friends with other critics from around the world, America, Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark, Italy. We shared two intense experiences a year, in Venice and at the Cannes Film Festival. Those friendships and the shared love of film will always remind me of that great city.
It was a crazy idea, buying land on Fraser Island with friends. But we loved the experience of driving up the beach to the birds, the wild ponies, the dingoes. We adjusted our rhythm to the tides, the tracks in the sand, the prevailing winds in what was perhaps the purest experience of my life. There is something about a very natural environment that is good for the soul. The memories of those times linger on. Great times with friends. That's really what it's all about, isn't it?
Co-hosts of The Movie Show on SBS and At The Movies on the ABC, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton will reunite for the Film Festival at Sea – a Mediterranean cruise aboard Celebrity Reflection – screening and commenting on some of their favourite movies, July 6-July25 this year. Phone 1800 630 343. See travelrite.com.au