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  • jdettmann

The Race That Stops a Nation

It’s Melbourne Cup Day, a day when all Australian office workers spend four hours hours cutting out tiny rectangles of newspaper for the sweep, an hour eating miniature pies and drinking warm Yellow champagne out of plastic cups, two minutes watching the race and the rest of the afternoon counting up the two-dollar coins and trying to make the payouts of the sweeps work while three-quarters pissed.

For those of us who don’t go out of the house to work, office sweeps are more of a challenge. Two years ago I was freelance editing from home, so Gusto and I each picked twenty-one names out of a hat. She won.

Last year May Blossom was about ten days old when the Melbourne Cup was run. We went to a party at my parents’ friends’ house where I inexpertly breastfed her, spraying milk all over their living room. I don’t even remember watching the race and I think I may have cried in the bathroom.

This year I have higher hopes. May Blossom and I are joining forces with my parents and my brother, none of whom have what is conventionally known as a job. We will watch the race on Mum and Dad’s massive tv using the exciting new technology of an aerial, which they have recently had installed. There will be some champagne and I am bringing the little red sausages I bought and forgot to cook for May Blossom’s party on the weekend. We’ll all end up with about five horses each in the sweep, which makes for pretty good odds of winning something.

I probably won’t bother with a hat. Nothing can really compare to the splendid fascinator I once made when I worked at a publishing house. It was constructed from orange peel and the orange net bag that oranges come in, stuck to a hair clip with a hot glue gun. It was very natty and all agreed that I was robbed when I didn’t take out first place in the hat competition. I consoled myself with champagne and afterwards accompanied my boss to the TAB to collect her winnings. She bought me a gin and tonic at the pub, then we went to the chemist and I had my ears pierced for the first time, as you do with your boss on Melbourne Cup afternoon when you are meant to be working.

I don’t know much about horse racing, although when I was a child my mum bought a retired racehorse for us to ride. He was only a few years old and had raced but one season. He was a grade A idiot. When he came to live with us his name was Champ. It was promptly changed to Basil (after Mr Fawlty, obviously), which suited his looks and temperament perfectly.

I haven’t ever been to the races. My only interaction with racing folk was when I, along with several colleagues, was sexually harrassed by a gang of jockeys on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. They made lewd comments to all the women as we walked down the aisle of the plane looking for our seats. On first boarding I had thought the flight was only half full, until I heard the high-pitched pick-up lines emanating from the apparently empty seats. It was only once I actually passed the rows that I could see the tiny emaciated little pricks who were responsible.

Now it’s time for me to go look at the newspaper and form some half-baked but strongly held opinions about which brown horse is going to run faster than which other brown horse.

I think I will put my money on Rooting King and Dufflecoat Supreme.

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