Elizabeth. M. Thompson (in Australia)
The football finals are finished, thank goodness.
Our team won the premiership but of course that won’t stop the Melbourne press from referring to our town as Sleepy Hollow which is wearing a little thin with many of us.
Now of course we are into spring and all the beautiful people emerge from their winter chrysalises for the racing carnival.
Outfits with idiotic confections of lace and feathers sit on heads which have been stewed in new expensive marinades of face creams and hair colourings. Lips and facial lines are plumped with Botox or else have been under wrapping for a few weeks following rearrangements by plastic surgeons. This has sometimes caused trouble in households where the children begin to look older than the parents and daughters in their mid thirties refuse to be seen with mothers who appear to be a younger friend… the family resemblance having been erased years before.
Even the shoes with heels high enough to stake the standard roses which grow around the race track will have cost as much as it would to finance the feeding of a village in a third world country for a decade.
Many of the people, both male and female, would do just as well with a sign saying ‘Look at me”. It would probably be just as attractive as the outrageous costumes and far cheaper.
The rest of the population look on with a peculiar mix of disdain, amusement and envy.
The whole carnival culminates on the first Tuesday of November with the running of the Melbourne Cup which is quite rightly called ‘the race that stops a nation’.
There is an old saying that Australians will bet on two flies walking up a wall even if one of them is dead.
For this one race of the year we all become instant racing experts and almost every person in the country, with exception of the few who are in a coma, will have a bet or be in a sweep. Probably some of the relatives of those who are too ill or infirm will put a bet on for them.
All offices, schools, nursing homes, factories or groups of friends will organise sweepstakes.
At the time of the race most work stops and the road traffic becomes grindingly slow, as people listening to car radios can be seen thumping their steering wheels while momentarily forgetting what they are supposed to be doing. Pedestrian pathways are deserted as everyone dives into the nearest electrical goods store to watch their chosen nag on television.
Special trains and transport to take the thousands to the race are arranged. The police and governments love it because of the extra tax raised and also because of the revenue raised by the speed cameras as the people rush to get a park and are later caught again by breathalysers. The state government coffers get a tremendous boost from our collective addiction to gambling.
Melbourne has unusual weather patterns and is able to produce four seasons in a day. The locals arrive with extra jackets and umbrellas. Some years everyone swelters, in others they are drenched. Often the sea breeze strengthens to a cold gale and inflicts the unprepared with a severe case of goosebumps and skin which looks like a plucked chicken.
The television news will show the same glamorous people returning home at the end of the day.
By the early evening the well groomed, sleek and dapper will be dishevelled, windblown, walking unsteadily or unable to stay upright and will be lying asleep on the picnic rugs or grass, minus their shoes and much of the money which had been in their wallets.
Around them the immaculately groomed grass and grounds will be covered with rubbish which will take a small army to clean and clear away in time for the Oaks Day crowd who are, from what I’ve heard, a very much better behaved and refined group. One may even spot a few top hats amongst the men - which I feel is rather a tedious affectation but I suppose no worse than women wearing the ridiculous hats this year’s fashion dictates. They all seem to be falling off one side of the wearer’s head and my fingers itch to straighten them before they land and get trodden on.
Those able to still rearrange their mouths sufficiently to speak will assure anyone who asks that they had a wonderful time and will do it all again next year.
Bart Cummings, one of our leading trainers, was asked this year if at the age of eighty-two he thought he may be getting a little old to train another winner this year. He looked at the brave reporter briefly and said ‘Why? I haven’t told the horse how old I am, so he isn’t worried about it. Why should I?’
Good on you Bart, I’ll be backing your horse again this year, I like the colours he wears and his number is lucky for me, what was his name again? You see, I know my horses just as well as anyone Del.
I hope your horse comes in Del.
from your old filly friend,