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Trips beyond the pale

As the only child of a Forces family, actress Emma Fielding enjoyed adventurous holidays - from the glamour of Salzburg to walking in the Nigerian bush. And if there was a mountain, her family would walk up it.

My paternal grandparents lived in Munich, southern Germany - they'd moved there from Scotland - and they had a flat outside Salzburg in Austria. When I was three, I left Malaysia with my parents and went straight to Austria. It was freezing cold. I remember the snow. It was the first time I had to wear an anorak and mittens.

I went back to Austria on and off most years after that, sometimes at Easter, but mainly in the summer. That first time it was Easter and we were there for Fasching, a carnival that takes place at the beginning of Lent. Everyone dresses up. I borrowed my mum's earrings and had eye-shadow put on and danced with another girl dressed as a clown.

Sometimes we were there when the Salzburg Festival was on. We only once went to a music concert - the prices were prohibitive for most people - but if you parked your car in the multi-storey car park, one of the exits went past the dressing rooms and you could hear rehearsals, which was wonderful.

The Untersberg mountain was near by, right on the border - one side is German, the other Austrian. We used to climb the mountain every year. I was lured by the promise of hot chocolate!

There was a hazelnut tree outside the house in Munich where my grandparents lived; green hazelnuts play havoc with your digestion. I also developed a taste for veal, which is very un-PC now, but I loved Wiener schnitzel.

Mine was a Forces family, and we moved around every year or so. From the age of eight I was at boarding school, and I would have fantastic holidays - wherever my parents were living at the time. They were great explorers wherever they lived. When I was aged 13 to 15, they were in Nigeria and we used to go for long walks in the bush. It's quite safe as long as you have enough water and a map. It was hot, but not tropically humid; more like savannah. It was very beautiful with red earth, green vegetation and sugar loaf mountains rising up out of the bush.

Once we went to Niger during the holidays, just at the beginning of the desert. We saw a man with a large cat on a lead near the NigerNigeria border. By large, I mean jaguar size. He was obviously out hunting.

When I was 13 we went to a game park. The most dangerous animals there were the baboons - they could be quite vicious and they would be in and out of the huts, stealing peanuts. Once we had to lock ourselves in the bedroom. I told my mother that there was a baboon in the sitting room and she didn't believe me. "Don't be rude about your father," she said.

In retrospect, I realise how wonderful it all was, but at the time I took it for granted. I often craved a beach holiday. We did have one once - in Donegal, Ireland - but Dad doesn't like sand in his sandwiches.

And just before I went to boarding school - I was an only child - I stayed with my maternal grandparents in a caravan in Rhyl, north Wales. We ate chips out of newspaper, walking along the street. It was such a treat. You got filthy, with grease and vin-egar running down your chin.

Three or four times I went to Scotland. At one time - I was about eight or nine - my father used to work in a hotel in Inversnaid. We climbed Ben Lomond. If ever there was a mountain, we would walk up it.

Emma Fielding has played leading roles at the National Theatre and the RSC and was recently seen on BBC in 'A Respectable Trade', a drama serial about slavery in Bristol. She can be seen in a murdermystery film, 'Mrs Bradley Mysteries', with Diana Rigg and John Alderton on BBC televisionin the autumn. Emma Fielding was talking to Heather Neill

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