The last cup

My Father was in the racing “game”. So I grew up knowing a bit about horse races, betting and odds. I remember Mum dressing up in her finery and jewels to go to watch one of their horses race. I remember going to the stables some Sunday mornings so Dad could see his horses. And most Sunday evenings,  Mum and Dad entertained  his colleagues – though in those days they were probably mates.

After Dad died, Melbourne Cup day became Mum’s one day of the year. Not for maudlin remembrance, but to entertain and enjoy the company of her closest friends. She spent weeks planning the menu, buying wine, vacuuming, dusting, polishing silver, and organising the sweep. The guests changed a bit from year to year, but there was a core of five or six  regulars and four or five who came sometimes. they included her sister, and friends that she had made in the typing pool some fifty years earlier. Some died and others became too frail to travel, but for a good ten years, until her death,  this was the highlight of her year. I still remember being surprised – not to mention piqued – when one year I asked if I could come while our children were at school. She refused. I don’t remember her saying no very often in my childhood, let alone on my adult life, but this was definitely her day, and  I was not welcome.

So I tend to get a bit nostalgic on the first Tuesday in November. I don’t usually bet, and now I’m not working, I don’t even find myself in a sweep. In fact I haven’t watched the race for years. But today when the neighbours invited us in to share a bottle of bubbly and watch “the race that stops a nation”, I looked forward to it.

But I think it will be the last Melbourne Cup I watch.

Years ago, on the small screen, with cameras well back from the horses, we knew they were being whipped, but didn’t think much about it. But now, with jockey cam, digital television and large screens, the cruelty associated with this massive exercise in drinking and gambling cannot be overlooked. As more than one commentator has said, why  are people getting irate about kids and Halloween which has developed in to an event which is fun for families and communities, when several days later adults get drunk, throw money away and watch animals being whipped.

I’m not a great animal rights advocate, and often wish that some of the energy expended on saving animals could go to helping humans lead a better life, but today, especially with the as yet unexplained death of one of the horses, has been the end of an era for me.

RIP Admire Rakti.



3 thoughts on “The last cup

  1. Sally.. I really enjoyed reading this …didn’t know about your family’s connection with horses. An interesting comment too about your mother and Melbourne Cup day (and your exclusion…well I never!) . This was also a big day for Rob’s mother but she wasn’t the hostess . Her great friend Jan made an art form of it just like your mother and from my first meeting with Rob’s mother, I learned about Jan and her wonderful Cup days. Jan set the example in the latest ‘anything’ and was a charmer. Her appearance was immaculate as was her home at Northbridge and she was very generous in many ways. She was a big part of Rob’s life and we watched her and her lovely husband grow old and pass away.

    Those ladies were from an era never to be seen again.

    Your comments about the treatment of the horses echoes another I received on FB today. I don’t know much about horses but do hate cruelty to animals. I didn’t ‘do’ MC but met a friend in town and we went shopping …great because there was hardly anyone around. Passed through Darling Harbour on the way to meeting Wendy and I must say it looked great…people in their party dresses and the restaurants all decorated. However, been there, done that so just enjoyed the ambience.

    I enjoy your slant on life Sally.

    Hope to see you soon…. probably at Rob’s party.

    Love to you both


  2. Interesting slice of your life. I have only rarely been to a Cup lunch, in someone’s garden to raise funds for the primary school Mothers’ Club, then stop around a TV to watch the race at work and take part in the sweep.
    Now it seems to pass me by. Tend to agree with you about barbarity of it all.

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