Topic: Australia Day, 1983 by Garrick Batten

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A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.

Australia Day, 1983


There were starting rituals for preparation for Melbourne Cup Day and the initiation of an invited New Zealander to an Australian cultural event. Getting the gear together meant filling a large esky with alternate layers of ice, beer and champagne for the car park party. Then we saddled up with lesser essentials like chairs, cups, glasses, plates and food, and mounted our especially-clothed bodies into the car for a stop-start cavalcade to the members’ car-park at Flemington.

We parked in our host’s traditional spot. This year, next to us were the Milduras, father and son, farmers on their annual spring holiday. They had just finished planting 36 000 acres of wheat – each. The previous year they hadn’t harvested a grain because of the drought. No wonder they also came to the races for a gamble. On the other side was young Signor Gucci. He was busy chatting up young Melbourne women exposing large areas of tanned skin under their sun-shading hat constructions. They danced around his Italian name like colourful tropical birds in a cage.

Early races justified exploration in a thronged wander along the bookies, recalculations of arithmetic odds, and speculative wagers in a different currency. Singlets, stubbies and thongs, top hats and suits, flimsy frocks in startling styles on very high heels, stretched track pants and blouses, all paying homage to horse hypotheses. A cross-section of Australian society at worship, but just a preliminary to the big event of the year.

The sun glared, perspiration dripped and beer flowed. Palpable excitement built. Individuals drifted from the car-park to make carefully considered bets on their Cup favourite in this annual ritual. Then we all moved to seats in the increasing crescendo of noise that built and built until the stand drummed. My tickets on Noble Comment seemed appropriate for a visitor to a cultural shrine.

“And here comes Kiwi  - out of the blue – flying down the outside!”

How could a horse named after a flightless, nocturnal bird ever fly, and in the daytime? And win a race? Us New Zealanders knew better.

Noble Comment came second.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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Australia Day, 1983 by Garrick Batten

Note:About the author: A lifetime involvement in agricultural activities in New Zealand and overseas is the foundation for Garrick Batten's writing. He has moved from technical information including numerous pamphlets and two specific goat books to nostalgic fiction, recently published, and hybrid reference book, "What Happened to Haystacks and Horses?", covering changes in the last half of last century. He is now trying to encapsulate rural life in short stories and a monthly newspaper opinion column.