When I came to Yamba and the Australian seaside, it was my intention to do nothing. Just sit in the sun and write, spoil myself with food and drink, and be a thorough Lotus Eater. Well, I have indeed done a lot of that, and I can recommend it most enthusiastically as an existence, but I have just occasionally broken my self-imposed idyllicness.
First, I went to visit Rod and Veronica in Grafton on the occasion of the Grafton Cup. I used to be a hugely enthusiastic race-goer, but after twenty odd years in harness racing with its horrid night meetings and ridiculous rulebook, the joy has slipped away. But the Grafton Cup … it isn’t really a horse-race, it’s an Occasion. Like Royal Ascot. And they gallop. In the daytime. So off I set, in my only pair of slacks, my BOMAC veston and my favourite shirt… and definitely with my stick. Crowds (and the crowd was huge) and my wobbly-man status do NOT mix …
We waved to Rod on his camera tower, and then Renée and Joe installed me safely in a nice corner of the grandstand, supplied me with a glass of wine, and there I spent the afternoon watching the horses and the world go by. The horses were splendid, although I do think 35 minutes between races in excessive (they don’t even have to be geared up!), and the grass was green, while the racing was tight if a tiny bit predictable: nothing came from behind in the straight, inside was the place to be. The Cup itself was a treat. I was chatting to a young lady whose 23 year-old school-friend was the trainer of a 33-1 outsider. I now have a perforated eardrum. When Rednav squeezed down the inside to snatch victory, she went off like the five o’clock whistle!
During my 6x35 minutes, I amused myself with perusing the ladies and their clothes. These ‘fashion in the field’ competitions are a source of great hilarity to me, so I played my own. Rule one: the lady must look comfortable in her outfit. She must be able to walk freely about without exposing bits we really don’t want to see, and without displaying great fabric stretch marks across the abdomen and back. What looks nice in a shop is no use if it doesn’t fit correctly. Two: the outfit must be suitable. This is the races. You are on grass and in the open air. Which brings me to Three: Shoes. I don’t think I have often seen such ugly, impractical shoes. Shoes are meant for walking. Not for teetering, tottering, getting stuck in the grass, nor for going walking on the moon. Some of the ladies were forced by their footwear to walk with bent knees and looked exactly as if they needed a lavatory. Some clodhoppers looked completely unbalanced sartorially: all shoes. And that goes for the other end too: Hats. If you can’t wear a hat … don’t. I you can, then wear a HAT. Not a bath scrubber. Or wear just a hair ornament. And don’t wear the eiffel tower if you’re 5ft1 … I could go on and on. But suffice it that ‘clothes maketh the woman’, though it certainly helps if the lady inside the clothes has a notion of how to move in unison with her dress.
Anyway, I found four finalists amongst those who passed by my perch. A glorious full-length split away number in white dashed with brown and black, sported by a slim, 40ish Asian lady; a sweet knee-length light maroon patterned handkerchief dress which looked as if the wearer had been born in it, and this little pair of damsels who caught my eye instantly as they strode and gambolled across the lawn. An object lesson in pretty and practical dressing.
And after a couple of glasses of champagne they still strode and gambolled, while a lady near me abandoned her monkey-feet for a comfy pair of pretty flatties. Why didn’t you wear those from the start? I questioned gently. She grimaced and nodded.
I ventured $10 on a horse named ‘Hello Schumann’ (he finished 4th), had another glass of wine … Renée and Joe backed nice winners … and a really grand time was had by all. I think I’ll be back next year.
Oh, that night of the telly they featured the winner of the Best Dressed Lady. Her main selling-point apparently was that she wore a home-made ‘hat’ fabricated from scarlet place mats. Well, she seemed like a nice lady.
PS Would someone care to the define the word ‘hat’?