This weekend is Cup weekend. For those not familiar with the term, it is the weekend preceding the Melbourne Cup. A horse race that is run each year on the first Tuesday in November. It is also a public holiday for those fortunate enough to live in Victoria.
The Melbourne Cup has been a constant in my life. I have fond memories of walking through a shopping centre with my mum and brother searching for something to spend my $3 winnings. I have not so fond memories of my brother doing the same on a different year. My Nan used to put each of her grandchildren in a sweep. She would then call our parents and let them know what horses we each had. I don’t remember if we watched the race when I was young. From the age of ten we organised family sweeps where we would all buy horses for 20c a horse. I think there were some tears at the end.
I started high school in Darwin after spending two years in Melbourne. It took a little adjustment as the Cup rolled around. No public holidays up north, only in Victoria. However, the Melbourne Cup is such a part of the Australian culture that the school rearranged the timetable for this one day. Lunch time started later in the day and was extended so that we could watch the race live in the library. Surprisingly, it drew quite a crowd.
My mum has continued the sweep tradition and has included my children in sweeps even while we were living on the other side of the world. Last year (and the year before), I remember searching frantically for a decent version of the race on You Tube. I then saved it and had it prepared to watch with the kids when they came home from school. The big question was always, “Should we wait for Daddy?”. We would then sit in front of the TV, th kids with their two horses clutched in their hand(Granma is generous), watching a somewhat focused group of horses racing around a course that they have never seen, listening to a commentator skillfully describe which horse was in the lead or “coming up the outside”. Agitated kiddies staring incomprehensibly at the screen asking “which one’s my horse” while there equally confused mother points randomly at the screen.
Now we live in Melbourne and it is time to explore new traditions. We won’t be going away and enjoying the four day break elsewhere. No, I picture us on our deck, listening to birds chatting, sipping a cool beverage with our feet up. We may have our own sweep, we may not. We will watch parts of the coverage as it plays in the background throughout the day. My daughter will admire the hats, the dresses, the party atmosphere. We’ll watch the race live with no one knowing the outcome beforehand. It’s sounds leisurely and exciting.
Let’s hope that my husband is reading this and doesn’t have any energetic plans for us.