Miriam Margoyles is considered one of the world’s most cherished character actors with a slew of stage, TV and film credits to her name, including the much-loved Professor Pomona Sprout from the Harry Potter film series. She talks to Happy Ali about her happy place and what it means to her.
I first came to Australia in 1980 when I was 39. I am now 78 so that was a long time ago. The first time I saw Bondi Beach I thought it was a dream come true. Compared to the grey skies of the United Kingdom and the grey pebbles and even greyer sand of its miserable beaches, Australia was a paradise populated by huge, handsome, beautiful people.
As a result, I wanted to buy a house near the beach. And in 1984 I discovered a lovely little two-bedroom brick home in Bondi just a few streets from the sand. It had a series of steps that led down from the front door to a lovely little front yard and it was delightful. It cost me $98,000 and everyone who knew me thought I was crackers. But I thought I was extremely clever.
The truth is that I have always felt very connected to Australia even though I was born in the United Kingdom. In fact, I was conceived during an air raid at the height of the Battle of Britain in World War Two. But as a grew into a young woman, I discovered myself drawn again and again to Australians as they entered my life.
One of my oldest and dearest friends is Katrina Clark, the daughter of Australia’s famous historian Manning Clark. I first met her in the schoolyard of Oxford High School. Her father was on a sabbatical at Oxford University and she was a new girl. I walk up to her as she was looking lonely and said, ‘I would like to be your friend’. She said OK, and to this day she is my closest friend in the world.
Katrina is also the person responsible for introducing me to my life partner. After we left high school, I decided that I decided that I was a lesbian. I wrote to Katrina, who was studying in London and I told her. She wrote back saying, ‘That’s funny, I know one of those.’
She introduced me to an Australian, an academic, and we hit it off from the first moment. We have been together ever since. She is the reason I became an Australian citizen, which I did in a ceremony in Canberra in 2013. I wanted to make being here with her easy for both of us.
Today, we live in another home, far from Bondi Beach. We in a house that we designed and built several years ago in Robertson, a lovely rural town south of Sydney.
It is, I have to say, my favourite place in the entire world. I stand on our balcony in the mornings and I look out on a beautiful vista with gumtrees and bush as far as the eye can see in all directions. Australian birds fly from one side of the balcony to the other, flitting and singing and squawking or whatever it is they do. We see kookaburras, galahs, all colours and shapes and sorts of birds. I have no idea what they are called, but it’s breathtaking.
This is where I am happiest and, while I travel quite a lot between Australia and Europe, this is the place to which I always return. This is where I am happiest.
Miriam Margoyles appears in the three-part documentary series Almost Australian for ABC-TV, available on DVD from the ABC website or in Australia on IVIEW.