Australians are famous for many things; riding kangaroos down Pitt Street in Sydney, volunteering to go and kill whoever Winston Churchill didn’t like, and betting on horse races. The best example of the last thing named is the Melbourne Cup, held on the first Tuesday in November. It is a national festival of getting drunk while wearing funny hats. Sort of like Fasching but with fewer nazi overtones.
Every pub, old soldier’s club, and country women’s association runs some sort of luncheon. Sometimes there is food. They are generally organised on premises that are close to betting agencies and people are encouraged to go and give money to the mobsters who run them. Sometimes the lure of sportsmanship is used, sometimes the lure of gain – in some instances they ring in nationalism to empty the purses. In most cases there is at least some return for the cash – people get vilely drunk.
The most interesting detail of this horrorfest is the hat question. Women at the racecourse where it is held are encouraged to wear hats – it is felt to promote the illusion that this is an up-market activity. This vision is generally not supported by the appearance of the hats… There is a form of display known as the ” Fascinator ” that is much affected. It is an abbreviated piece of headgear, sitting on the side of the head and seeming ready to fall off. Men stare in fascination at them for about 1.2 seconds and then go back to drinking.
The whole affair has been touted as the race that brings the nation to a halt. We’re not allowed to mention other races that are trying their best to do that as well, for fear of lawsuits.