This last weekend has been both a big one and a long one in Australia, as it’s been the Melbourne Cup weekend. The Cup is the richest and most prestigious horse race in Australia and in recognition of its social and cultural status it is granted the honour of being a national holiday (only in Australia, could a horse race be deserving of a national holiday!). As the race is on a Tuesday, most people take the Monday off and have a long weekend (generally, in the bookies, around the barbie and on the lash). Hotel rooms are booked up months in advance as everyone from Hello Magazine’s finest, to backpackers and day-trippers descends on the city. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is interested in the Melbourne Cup.
To give you an idea of how prestigious the cup is, a local horse named Phar Lap, who managed to win the trophy more than once, got stuffed and is now on display at Melbourne’s Natural History Museum! Interestingly, the reason for his premature death had been shrouded in mystery until forensic scientists recently proved he was poisoned. He was bumped off by the Mafia on a trip to the states (you really couldn’t make it up!). The Mafia thought his winning record would lose them too much money, so they slipped some arsenic into his feed.
In the weeks leading up to the race the cup is paraded round the city and is even taken to local primary schools (where the teacher presumably tells the kids, “look children, this is the trophy one of you smaller kids may win one day. However, most of you will lose your shirts, marriages and jobs because of it. But hey kids, you’re never to young to be introduced to gambling”).
The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s equivalent of the Tour De France, or America’s Superbowl and as the city gets busier it really is a sight to behold. The streets bustle and the bars and cafe’s overflow with race goer’s and revellers. Girls wearing their finest frocks and most elaborate hats are escorted by men in shiny two piece suits, regulation sunnies on top of their heads, Sunday best stubby coolers firmly in their hands! The whole city looks like an elaborate out of control Australian wedding reception.
This may at first glance appear to be an event ideally suited to a couple whose reputation for partying is, shall we say, considerable . After all, this huge social gathering is essentially a sports event with an all day bar. The problem is, I can’t bring myself to go to a racetrack. I have no aversion to horses, Shit, I loved Black Beauty, Silver and Ed the talking horse! I even rode one once! It’s the gambling that I can’t stand. I just can’t be around gamblers. You see, although I have never lost more than a couple of quid and as a rule I don’t gamble, I carry deep emotional betting related scars!
A few years ago, I had the misfortune to work in a turf accountants. I was at college, I needed the money and any shit job would have done. I however, true to form, managed to get the shittiest of shit jobs! I worked in the roughest bookies in the roughest area of East London and the experience has left me with deep dark prejudices. If you want to read more about this happy tale of happy gambling folk click this link or go to the Pages side bar and click on Gambling on a future
So with this in mind, we decided to get out of town and avoid the carnage (after all, carnage is only fun when it’s you that’s causing it). We opted to leave Melbourne behind, set off cross country and head for a town called Port Fairy. We figured something funny had to be going on in a town called Port Fairy!