• Sally Feldman

Hits and memories: 10

Cake, Fashion Nugget (1996, Capricorn Records)

My last post – so thanks for “going the distance, going for speeeeeed” with me…

I still love this as much as I did when it was released, the year of my 40th birthday, and still play it regularly at home and in the car.

Actually, this one’s all about cars for me – my favourite car of all time, to be precise, which transported me on my daily commutes through various stages of my career trajectory, from mannequin painting, through audio engineering, to publishing.

It was the first car I owned in Australia – a white (originally powder blue) 1961 Holden FB ute, bought in 1991 from someone who lived in the Royal National Park outside Sydney, and driven home extremely cautiously by me, with Stuart following close behind in case I broke down.

It was a beautiful beast, with a red bench seat, three-on-the-tree gear shift, a steering wheel the size of the moon, and the responsiveness of an ocean liner. Its tray was the closely guarded dominion of our two dogs: Annie (named for Annie Hall – a manic blue heeler, whom my uni friends, Nerida and Tegan, had bought me for my 32nd birthday only months before I met my husband); and Judy (a streetwise black bitser bought for Stuart from Paddy’s Market for his 30th, and named by Ali – ‘Judy’ being Scouse for ‘girl’ – only a couple of months later).

Yup – I’m a cradle snatcher.

Of course, I’d not intended to buy it; I was looking for something small, economical and easy to park. Stuart, however, has never been one for living small, and, when he spied the car in the Trading Post, was not for turning. Much like the ute.

I commuted in that glorious wallowing tugboat to my first proper job after uni – at what was then known as Royal Blind Society, in Enfield, where I spent my days with actors including Tara Morice and Jan Oxenbould recording talking books and magazines.

It transported me to Glebe and my first break into book publishing at a tiny company called Treehouse Press, where I learnt the ropes with a legendary editor called Jane Bowring. And it schlepped me to a tiny back lane off Pitt Street in the CBD to a licensed-publishing house called Trielle, where I met the mighty Mary Gillespie and incomparable Leah Wright (mother of my god-daughter, Sophia).

Trielle was my commercial baptism of fire, at a time when digital printing and layout were still in their infancy, but we were still getting proofs on great slippery sheets of four-colour film. I learnt how to use Quark (not the dairy product) under the gimlet gaze of Mary, who made me cry on more than one occasion, no doubt for good reason. In fact, my greatest publishing fail was the production of a gardening diary that was meant to have a tear-out ‘garden planner’ section in the middle – except I miscalculated the pagination and, well, it wasn’t in the middle…

So yes – she had good reason.

Trielle’s primary business (I have my suspicions about the secondary one) was republishing American comics for the Australian market – The Simpsons, The X-Files – and my favourite task (and arguably proudest achievement) was sifting through the mail and writing replies to readers for The Simpsons letters pages.

Mary and Leah were rock and roll. They went to see bands. They only wore black. They also liked food as much as I did. We’d eat hangover breakfasts of cheddar, ham and tomato toasted focaccia from the hole-in-the-wall Bambini Trust outlet on Liverpool Street (I’ve never found better). Then, around 10am, we’d start discussing lunch.

Mary was very tall and very striking – Leah called her ‘Legs’ – and Leah was, well, gobsmackingly, gorgeously sexy (neither has changed, to be honest). The three of us would take off up Pitt Street in pursuit of our lunch-prey and inevitably, some shirt-and-tied office type would walk smack-bang into a lamp-post because he was so distracted by Leah’s luxuriant raven hair and almond eyes.

Leah would often hitch a ride home to Bondi Junction with me in the ute, and we’d barrel up Oxford Street, windows rolled down, elbow hitched over the sill, shrieking along to Cake and Garbage and Morcheeba.

I think we turned a few girls’ heads in that car, too…