Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The race that stops a nation!

Well today is Melbourne Cup Day. And I sit in a quiet house here in Clayfield and think about the ghosts of Melbourne Cups past! Although right now all I hear now is the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen, I suddenly am carried back to this house in a different time.

The year is 1962 and my mother hosts her first Melbourne Cup party here for her beloved Clayfield branch of the CWA. For the next 30 odd years it was a tradition. For a week beforehand she would clean the place and polish the house and her collection of brass Chinese Dragons. On the day up to a 100 ladies in their best race wear (really!) would arrive, pay a small amount for entry and away the day would go. I would sneak home from school (on the next block) for lunch to grab a good feed. My mother's staple were apricot chicken and her version of curry. And of course sausage rolls and horses doovers too! (Her words, not mine!)

After lunch the cream sponges, apple pies and jam tarts would come out along with my mother's competitions to fill in time until the horses jumped. Her favourite was getting the ladies to tear a sheet of newspaper into a map of Australia. And guessing the weight of a large cast iron pot with a fitted lid. As she used this one every year, she would add small stones to vary the weight in case anyone had a good memory.

In 1962 & 1965 I won the sweep. Even Stevens I think and Light Fingers?  Bought a siren for my bike with my 25 shillings on the second one!

1994 was her last party.. the slowly advancing effects of then undiagnosed  dementia were starting to show. I came by from the office and found her in a hell of a  mess in the kitchen. Off with the suit coat, on with an apron and start cooking and serving.

The final trick of her Melbourne Cup day was this: She liked to collect souvenir tea spoons from all over the world and use them on the day. When the event was over.. nobody got out the door until she had washed and done a stock take of those bloody tea spoons. Today most of them are in a wall rack gathering dust.. and tarnished.

Ah.. those were the days!