Published on November 5th, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
Melbourne Cup Day
So, it’s Melbourne Cup time of year. Just like Christmas it comes around quickly, doesn’t it?
I have always had an uneasy relationship with this big day of racing – and I was brought up in Melbourne.
We did celebrate it, but only because it meant a public holiday. Plans were always made to do something pleasant on this racing day, none of them involving Flemington or a horse.
“Cup days in the office while people all over town thought I’d been butterflying to every party in the state. Not a one did I attend in all those years.”
Then one year when we were quite grown up (about age 40), someone said we simply had to attend Flemington, it was shameful we never had in all the years we had lived in that city.
There was never a suggestion we might do the Melbourne Cup in any way fancy, such as going over-the-top with our outfits or spending money to sit inside the club, and as for getting into one of the marquees with the beautiful people, that would have been like contemplating a day trip to the moon.
It was to be the carpark, where the ordinary people sat beside the open boots of their cars on BYO chairs and enjoyed their home-made picnics. The most I recall about that one day at Flemington is that the car park was very dusty, our food was limp and we had no booze as our BYO bubbles (Porphyry Pearl) had been taken off us by security at the front gate. I do remember it was hot and after a short while in the dusty car park we gave up pretending we were having fun and returned home to the backyard pool where we fell upon our stockpile of Porphyry Pearl. We had not sighted a single race.
Fast forward to our move to Queensland and we were pleasantly surprised to find the Melbourne Cup celebrated with as much enthusiasm as it is in Melbourne. There was no public holiday but restaurants, clubs and pubs were packed to the gills with men in their best shirts and women in froufrou hats and feathered fascinators. It looked more fun than Flemington. Yet still I was denied the fun of this big day.
My job at the newspaper involved me organising a photographer to go out and photograph people at as many venues as possible for our social pages the next day. But I was never invited to actually attend any of the events. Just photograph them. So, it was I spent two Queensland decades of Melbourne
Cup days in the office while people all over town thought I’d been butterflying to every party in the state. Not a one did I attend in all those years.
Actually, I lie, there was one…. oh dear.
A few years ago, someone had the clever idea to revive the once-popular (in the 80s) Melbourne Cup camel races in a local paddock. Much organising took place, marquees were hired, caterers organised, camels herded. We promoted the event through the newspaper and crowds flocked. But it had poured the night before, was still raining through the morning. The paddock quickly turned to quagmire, fascinators wilted, stilettos sunk, and the camels were reluctant to get up let alone race.
By midday, the rain had not relented and had formed a pond underneath our plastic table which sat in the middle of a shallow indent beneath a flimsy marquee. We took off shoes and sat with our feet in the pond eating sandwiches from cardboard boxes and drinking Omni bubbles from plastic glasses with stems that kept separating from the glass.
But we soldiered on waiting for the big race in the afternoon, and when it was finally called over a makeshift microphone in the paddock, I happened to be in one of the unisex portaloos mopping up before I could use it, because, well…men, beer, portaloos.
So, enjoy your Melbourne Cup day. I’ll be home with a cup of tea.