First Tuesday in November

melbournecupTuesday is Melbourne Cup day.

A horse race.

It’s a public holiday here in Melbourne.*  In all of the state, now, I think, although it used to be only the metropolitan area.  I remember as a child having an extra-long afternoon recess at school, so the teachers could listen to the cup.  They even broadcast the race over the loudspeakers.  As a child I never really ‘got’ it, but now that I’ve lived in Melbourne (more years than I lived in the country), it’s an institution.

In fact, Melbourne spring used to start with the AFL grand final and Melbourne fashion week, and segue into the Spring Racing Carnival. After that it was Christmas.

Nowadays, Christmas preparations start way earlier. There’s also Halloween, which we’d heard of when we were younger, but it wasn’t a thing Australians did.  In the last few years has suddenly become huge. (If someone knocks on my door trick or treating, I have no idea what to do.)

You have to experience cup week at least once in your life. It’s a crazy time of parties, girls with hats and beautiful dresses, and impossible shoes (and flat heels in their bag if they’re truly wise), and guys in classy suits.

The weather is usually crazy. Mostly it either pours rain or it’s so hot everyone gets sunburned. There’s hardly ever just a nice day.  One year you watch the racegoers coming home sodden, the next year they’re bright red from sunburn.

Confession, I have never been to the actual race. Or to Oaks (Ladies) day, which is on the Thursday. It’s too crowded for me.  The closest I have been is at the station as the train disgorges hundreds and hundreds of post-race goers. So many that even when they get off the train they’re jammed so tightly onto the platform some of them can’t move.

But I do watch the race of course. And partake in a cup sweep or two.

So come Tuesday at three pm, I’ll be like most of the rest of Australia.  Watching a horse race on television somewhere.


* We also had a public holiday this year for the football grand final. We Victorians have our priorities down well. 🙂

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