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The Melbourne Cup from a Pommy’s perspective

When Mum and I first got to Australia she had to attend a very boring two day induction course at the hospital before starting work. After the second day she came home utterly baffled.

“We were halfway through a slide and then suddenly they turned it off to watch a horse race! Everyone watched it and cheered then they turned the powerpoint back on and continued as normal. It was so weird!”

Obviously we were a little bit aware of the Melbourne Cup from TV pieces and general chat, but I don’t think we quite grasped how much “the race that stops the nation” actually, well, does. For the first Tuesday in November every year nothing else in Australia seems to matter.

In the UK we have the Grand National and everyone has a little flutter, but it just doesn’t even begin to compare to the scale of Australia’s biggest horse race. There are events everywhere; every shop seems to stock fascinators and tiny handbags. The entire days TV is taken up with coverage with segments ranging from fashion and musical performances to discussions about the actual racing bit regardless of what else might be going on in the world.

Obama could be assassinated, the cure for cancer found or a Drop Bear attack reported and no one over here would know until the next day.

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Last year I got invited to a Melbourne Cup lunch through work and once again I demonstrated how much I’d underestimated the scale this race sits on. I’d been on holiday in New Zealand for the week before and in my head ‘lunch’ meant we’d go somewhere and have a sandwich while we cheered the horses on, then get going with our afternoon.

Nope.

My invitation was dropped to me at work the day prior to the event. Seeing it gave me a slight jolt, as I saw it was being held at the Cannon Park Racecourse, not a pub, and I half joked that I didn’t have a hat to wear. The rep for Silverseries who had invited me suddenly went in to a mild panic, trying to work out where she could get some form of headwear for me in such a short space of time.

Uh oh.

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With my Cairns wardrobe consisting only of very casual clothes the next day I threw on a pair of borrowed heels, tea dress and…my backpack. The only bag I owned.

I felt like Bridget Jones turning up to a garden party dressed in her best bunny outfit, or Eliza Doolittle screaming at poor Dover…

On the plus side, my bag could be used later on to smuggle out all the wine that hadn’t been drunk at our table, so…silver linings?

This year I was determined not to turn up looking like an idiot and hit the best shops in Cairns (*cough* Kmart *cough*) for a bag, shoes and dress. I drew the line at a fascinator though, $50 for some feathers on a headband was money I’d rather spend on booze!

So I rocked up this year feeling a little more prepared (although very hot and sweaty because I was obviously late and had to run halfway across Cairns in heels) and got ready to place my bets with a table crammed full of awesome people.

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We wasted no time getting the table stocked up with the free alcohol because, of course.

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We also made sure to fill our plates with food from the buffet because lining our stomachs was something that was going to be very necessary indeed!

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Race day fashions are a huge part of the Melbourne Cup and not just at the Flemington course. Each table had to select the best dressed to enter in to a little fashion parade, and it was unanimously decided that the gorgeous Antje in her yellow and blue would represent us.

Although really she didn’t get a vote. We decided while she was at the bar and informed her of her new responsibilities when she returned!

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Unfortunately she didn’t win (a terrible decision in our eyes), but still received a hero’s welcome on her return!

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Having chosen the race winner last year I was under a certain amount of pressure to do so again. I seem to have an ability to make lucky guesses at the races. I picked the Grand national winner 4 times in a row, and all of the horses I bet on at my first ever race day came home in the top spot.

So how would this year go…?

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Pretty well! My horse came in first and Chelsea celebrated with me as she’d chosen the same. We ran right to the desk to claim our winnings only to have the lady raise her eyebrow and inform us that they wouldn’t even be paying out in Melbourne yet… Not that we know nothing about horse racing or anything. Ahem.

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From then on things descended in to further silliness…

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We decided that the chair cover thingies (technical term) would make excellent accessories…but don’t they just?

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Unfortunately the security guard didn’t think so! After letting us take a photo asked us nicely to put them back and return to our boring normal outfits…

Spoilsport! It had us giggling like naughty children being told off for mucking around at the back of the bus.

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The afternoon was so much fun, even if the horse I bet on in the local races didn’t come in. Losing my touch, clearly.

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Turns out choosing a horse because it’s acting up doesn’t mean it’s ‘got spunk’ it means it’s badly behaved. Whouda thought it though, eh?

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Still, I guess it’s a step up from just looking at which one has the prettiest jockey colours, my sister’s tactic one afternoon. It resulted in her horse falling at the first hurdle and her losing her pocket money for the week. Gambling doesn’t pay, kids.

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As the afternoon wound up we all piled in to a in a bus and took ourselves off to enjoy the merriment in town, at which point I decided I’d had enough snapping for one afternoon (my pictures were also starting to come out a bit wonky…must have been the oysters *hic*.)

I guess the whole point of the Melbourne Cup is it’s an excuse to dress up and have fun. Especially in a city like Cairns where I’ve survived for 18 months in flip flops with no one caring, sometimes you do need an event to get glitzy for. Plus day drinking usually means an early night and I felt grand the next day, although that may have been the extra $100 in my purse, thanks for winning Mr Horse!

From now on the Melbourne Cup will be something I’ll definitely embrace, and not just because it’s truly an excuse to drink champagne at midday.

Thank you Emma and Silverseries for having me! Same time next year?

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