Tthroughout the 1980s and 90s Wendy Matthews was one of Australia’s most successful recording artists. She climbed the charts with tracks like Let’s Kiss (Like Angels Do), Friday’s Child and Token Angels, but her biggest hit of all was The Day You Went Away. That 1992 release was the highest-selling Australian single of the year and earned Matthews a pair of Aria awards.
Matthews will take the stage for two shows on 24 and 25 June as part of the Adelaide Cabaret festival. Alongside the likes of Tina Arena, Lior and Thando, she will appear in an evening of music and storytelling called Songs My Mother Taught Me.
As part of her setlist, Matthews will perform The Day You Went Away in French – a nod to her childhood in Montreal. Matthews was born in Canada but left home as a teenager to join her first band, eventually landing in Australia in the early 80s. She has called Australia home ever since and now lives on a ten-acre property on the north coast of New South Wales.
One item – a Bunnings trolley – is vital for the upkeep of that large block of land. Here, Matthews tells us about this gamechanging purchase, as well as the story of a few other important personal belongings.
What I’d save from my house in a fire
I would save my Pendleton Navajo blanket collection – because if you lose everything in a fire, you’ll need a comfortable bed somewhere. And these are irreplaceable. They’re things of beauty.
I’ve now got about six, which I bought slowly over the years. I picked up a few at places in Sydney, but mostly I got them in New Mexico in my travels throughout the US years ago. I got a blanket per trip – that’s what I allowed myself. I use one on my bed and rotate them, alternating every time I make my bed.
To me, there’s something special about things that have had a long life before I met them. They have a past. I find the blankets to be incredible quality as well. They’re beautiful wool or cotton-wool mixes and the patterns are amazing. And I think it’s important, for me anyway, when I sleep, to sleep on a beautiful bed. It’s inspiring.
My most useful object
I live on 10 acres with my dog and there’s a lot of work for just one person. And I know that many, many things have been told they’re a girl’s best friend. But I think a girl’s best friend is a trolley.
It’s just a Bunnings trolley, but it’s got a great little flatbed that you can put most things on. I move all my pot plants with it, I lift things with it, I cart things around with it and I really could not live without my trolley. It’s a purely functional choice on my part.
I move furniture with it sometimes, or things that I work with like whipper snippers and ride-on mowers. When there’s no other human around to help you grab the other side of a sofa, a trolley just makes life so much easier.
The item I most regret losing
Once upon a time, I had a small storage space in Los Angeles. I was the keeper of the traditional women’s things in my family – a box of my grandmother’s jewellery, some of her silverware and other items that were really important to me at the time. Then one day I went on a trip to Australia and never returned. And the storage space company basically sent me a letter saying, look, we’ve auctioned off all your stuff and we’ve made some money from it. So thank you very much, goodbye.
I still think about things that were in those trunks. Sometimes I’ll remember an item that was in there and go, “oh god, no, I wish I didn’t remember that!” Because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. I can replace bits of jewelery and things but they’re never going to be my grandmother’s and they didn’t live with my mother through her life either. Really, it’s not so much the stuff itself as the fact that tradition is very important to me. These things were handed down to me and I was the one that messed up and lost them all. So I regret that big time.