My paternal grandfather came from a tiny village called Verni, via Viareggio.
He migrated to Scotland as a young man and sent his eldest son, Hector (my father), back to Italy in his teens. In turn, in 1974, my father took me on my first overseas trip to this enchanted little village. Coming from cosmopolitan Melbourne, here in Italy I was turned on to what we would now call the "organic" way of life. Stomping the corn in the village square to make the polenta was such an eye opener and made me truly appreciate the diversity in my background.
Post high school I begged my father to let me attend university in Los Angeles but was sent to London where it was "safer" and there was family … presumably to watch my every move. I was billeted in Fulham with a stern spinster. I could have been on the moon for all I knew. I sat on the terraced house stoop and pondered a dull and lacklustre future in this grey city. As years went on I returned to Fulham, a married woman with a young daughter and a career in the music business. How different it looked to me then.
I was initially turned on to Egypt and its culture while living in Melbourne's Richmond with Molly Meldrum. His house is named Luxor and everything in it makes you feel like you are indeed travelling along the Nile. While working at Mushroom Records, after a particularly heavy work schedule on tour with Jimmy Barnes, I floated away to this enchanted land and fell in love with its antiquity and its people. In 2011 we went as a family. From our base at Mena House, my son, Austin, and husband Brian only just made it up to the pyramids on January 25, 2011, before the whole of Cairo shut down and we were air-evacuated out to Jordan three days later.
In the early 1990s I managed a pop band called Indecent Obsession. Four innocent teenage boys were quickly thrust into fame and many years of touring across Asia. The happiest memory of Japan is the manic thrill of the female fans for these boys, much more demonstrative than European fans. Shrill screams on train station platforms as young girls threw beautiful hand drawings of the guys towards them day after day. I still have some of them.
My mother was Melbourne's haute couture designer Elvie Hill and holidays were parade timeline dependent. Each June from the age of six, I would be taken out of school for my parents and I to lie about in the Queensland sunshine while Melbourne froze. The first hotel we stayed in was The Sands, a brand new "high rise" at six storeys. I fell in love with the pool boy and drank 60¢ chocolate milkshakes right in the pool – heaven.
Amanda Pelman is the creative director of George Michael – Praying for Time, a Tribute, in association with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. At the Sydney Opera House, July 6, 7 and 8. See sydneysymphony.com