Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Culture was happening, and I missed it. But I did get some popsicles.

This afternoon, Grace and I went out into the scorching afternoon heat to run to the grocery store. It is 38 degrees Celsius outside as I type this, which for my Fahrenheit buddies, is about 100 degrees. I wish that I was kidding you. I forgot about how much heat little babies produce. As I carried her through the parking lot, it was like cuddling a hot water bottle to my chest. Which sounds comforting, except when you stop to consider that my dress was already sticking to the backs of my legs. Man, if we could figure out a way to harness that kind of power, our global energy crisis would be solved. Wait--did I just advocate infant labor? Like, little babies strapped to treadmills or something? Oops. Not really what I set out to do today. But have I established that it is hot? Okay, then. I'll move on.

It was almost deserted in our normally busy shopping centre. I looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. The shops in the afternoon are normally the hub of our community. But no one was around. Then, I remembered. Today is Melbourne Cup Day.

I should've been clued in much sooner. The buildup to Melbourne Cup Day begins at least back in early September. It's a famous horse race, known here as "the race that stops a nation". It's the culmination of what they call the Spring Racing Carnival, and pretty much everyone stops to watch it. Every cafe, restaurant, or pub in most of the major cities in Australia are full of people dressed to the nines and watching the race. Except clueless people like me who go buy popsicles at the grocery store instead.

I'm not sure that it's because everyone here loves horses or horse racing. It seems to me that people mostly love dressing up and taking 2 or 3 hour lunches in the middle of a work day to watch and bet on the race. And if clothes and food are involved, then that is a sporting event that I can believe in. And dress up they do! Women all wear lovely spring dresses with big hats or "fascinators" in their hair. Men are in suits. Aussies in general are very casual dressing people, but not on Melbourne Cup Day!

Leaving the grocery store, we went to Ava's school to pick her up. Ava's teacher, the lovely Miss Blank, was wearing a floaty dress and gold stiletto heels with a purple fascinator in her hair. I'm assuming she was off to a party after school. I salute her for spending 6 hours with 5 year olds while wearing spike heels. She is a stronger woman than I.

I've been cruising the web to check out how it all went, since I missed it on TV. Turns out, a horse named Shocking won the race. Apparently, he wasn't one of the favorites. There: that was the extent of my race commentary. But listen to some of the horses' names: Crime Scene, Alcopop, Shamoline Warrior, Whobegotyou. What happened to Larry, or Mitch?

And here's what most interesting to me: the fashion. For those who actually attend the race day in Melbourne, it is definitely a see-and-be-seen kind of thing. Here, courtesy of this site, are a few samples from today:

This is someone famous. I think her name is Sonia. Again, only expert commentary from me. You're welcome.

You go, girls! This one made me smile.

That's Leona Edmiston, a fashion designer, I believe. Girlfriend is rocking the colored tulle.

A little brekky in the carpark before the day begins. Love it!

I would totally forget that I had something that ginormous on my head and probably hit people with it or something. What if small woodland creatures come to live there? They look pretty fab, though. It's a shame you can't wear that kind of stuff for school drop-off in the morning.

Now, that alone is worth reading this blog for, isn't it? I love her hat, and her chutzpah!

She's real purty.

So, Melbourne Cup Day. There's a slice of Aussie culture for you! Have a great day, and when in doubt, wear a feather in your hair. Or a birdcage.


  1. Fun pictures! Never once did I wear stilettos when I was teaching. I saved them for parent/teacher conferences.

  2. Terrific post, Amy. Loved the pictures.

  3. Wow--fancy schmancy. Looking at all of those pictures gives me some motivation to run off some baby weight. Ugh.

  4. Where I live? This uppity 'hood? Women DO wear those outfits to school dropoff.

    Not this woman, of course. She'd be the one rockin' the yoga pants. On a dressy day. Otherwise, gardening clogs.

    Fun post!! I'm loving November already!

  5. ...Or copious amounts of tool.

    Cute post. Love little windows into the Aussie culture (and fashion!).

  6. Ahhh yes. I remember seeing the same thing for whatever the big race day is in the UK. I never could get over the stuff they wore in/on their hair.

    By the way..your 5th picture down, with the three women standing together? That's Olivia Newton John in the black, on the left.

    What kind of popsicles did ya get? And was it worth the venture out into the scorching heat?

  7. Wow! So kind of like Derby Day, only it sounds like the whole country gets into it.

    I need an occasion like that in my life.

    I can't believe it's that hot already!

  8. And I need to add it's a public holiday in Melbourne on cup day!
    So, the shops may not have even been open at all down there:)
    Yea that girl with the black dress facing the other way made me smile too:)

  9. Mad Woman, you're right! I was too busy looking at the headgear. :)

    I got Icy Poles. Y'all have those in NZ? Simple but yummy.

  10. And just to be pedantic, the one next to Olivia is Jennifer Hawkins, former Miss Universe:)

  11. Do you suppose anyone was actually watching the race ? It reminds me of the scene in "My Fair Lady" when everyone in their extreme finery is at Ascot looking terribly glamorous but watching each other.Did Grace get a bite of Icy Pole?