Today, the "race that stops the nation" is being held. The Melbourne Cup.
Admittedly, I'm not a horse racing fan. I most certainly have never been to Melbourne to watch the Melbourne Cup race in person, nor have I been to any horse racing event. Oh, except for the trots. I went there one New Year's Eve in Perth. But that was more about how much champagne I could drink, and watching the (albeit average) fireworks afterwards.
But I appreciate this is a big one. Held since 1861, it's Australia's major thoroughbred horse race and is held every first Tuesday in November. It's been described as the "richest and most prestigious handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races in the world." Um, ok. Whatever.
Of course, there are plenty of other people who, like me, hold little or no interest in the actual horse race. In fact, many of those people do attend various Melbourne Cup related events and are there for a very different reason: the fascinators, the fashion and the frivolity.
Every year hundreds of women, and men, get themselves all frocked up for a day on the field, or at least, at a local restaurant or the like, to celebrate this very race. Some of them will place their bets, some won't. Many of them won't even know when the race is on and will miss it all together. But most will probably drink a lot of champagne, beer or both. The Melbourne Cup is like a "get out of jail free" card almost. A chance to let your hair down, perhaps put something as ugly as a strange bird or the like on your head and refer to it as a hat (and get away with it). (In fact, thinking about it now, wouldn't Sarah Jessica Parker be in her element?)
And I was one of those people once.
Back when I lived in Perth, being 3 hours behind the eastern states of Australia, the race was run at 12 noon. Lunch time. Perfect. Offices all over Perth would literally shut down during this time to order in Chinese food, bring in bottles of champagne and chow down. It was great. Great, because it meant that the rest of the afternoon was pretty much a write-off. We'd all sit around, feeling decidedly dusty by 3pm after many glasses of bubbly and bloated from all the msg. And so, no one really worked. We just watched the clock and waited for quittin' time. Ah, yes. Those were the days.
Going back even further, I remember when Mum would run a little neighbourhood sweep. I'd help her cut out all the horses' names from the paper and we'd put them in a bowl. She was like a regular little bookie. All the neighbours would come, laying down their money and taking their pick. Mum would even call through to the aunts and uncles, asking them to place their bets, and then we'd all huddle around the tv, waiting to find out who'd won.
And so, I guess, even though I'm not in to watching a bunch of horses run around a track, the fashions on the field or much at all to do with the race itself, I guess I can appreciate it. It's actually given me a few nice memories and it's a chance for people to get together and let their hair down.
This afternoon, around 3pm when the race starts, I might just join my kids as they watch it at school. Why not? For them the memories are just beginning, and I wanna be a part of that.
Until next time...