I have just entered my first Melbourne Cup sweepstakes at work. Ten dollars on lucky number 7 and unlucky 13. Heartbreak City – rather appropriate in my case – and Who Shot the Barman. Also appropriate as I rarely drink. I think the barman might have shot himself in despair. Will I win? I’m told I’ll find out at noon.
This is not my first Melbourne Cup though. I am very aware of the fashions of the day, although you find me at work minus my fascinator. Then again, my computer screen would be hardly impressed if I turned up with a feathery concoction on my head. Like the one worn by my son’s carer at the day-care centre. He wasn’t impressed by the bird impression either.
That said, I must say that the Melbourne Cup headgear can be quite, well, fascinating. A co-worker walks past in a homemade giant panda-like newspaper hat. Her nod to the spirit of the morning. A colleague pops in, feather-headed, although she is really quite a sensible person (really, I’m sure she is), looking for a sweepstakes contribution. I’m still waiting for my shorts-clad male co-workers to don their top hats. Come on, guys.
As for the Cup itself? Seven years on, I still haven’t found the time to watch the races. I imagine its something out of My Fair Lady and Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle cheering madly. I expect there will be bubbly flowing and much feting of the jockeys and trainers. A garland for the creature that does all the hard work and a good rub down later. As for me? I’ll still be here. Plotting the next post in my blog while plugging away at piles of marking.
Bridge on the River Yarra: A canoe streaks past across the Melbourne cityscape.
I have been away – away from this blog and away in Melbourne. I haven’t been in Melbourne for six months though – just under six days. It was cold. It was wet. It was windy. It was inspiring – enough to get me writing again.
Scooter art: Can you spot Bart Simpson on this wall?
Melbourne’s cold has a smell – it’s a wet smell of winter rain at the entrance to Flinders Street station. It’s the mild reek of garbage as you pass brick alleys lit up with street art. A pong of horse manure dropped as a buggy passes by. Very reminiscent of Mumbai. The smell of a city.
For me, Melbourne represents the Other Side – the rest of Australia. The bit I’ve not yet encountered. She is far more fashionable than Perth – the passers-by are smartly dressed and pressed. My Target coat feels like a dowdy sack when one sales assistant looks dubious at my announcement that I am a Medium or perhaps even a size 10, thank you. “Why you’re tiny!” she exclaims when I strip off my precious warm layers. I’m still not sure what to think about that. I bought a new coat.
I’d like to reel off, guidebook style, just what you can see and do. I’d never finish. The city has a lot to offer and I’ve only scratched the surface. I have walked and walked – into Gothic-spired cathedrals, across leafless parks, through an exhibition of Renaissance art from Spain, into an aquarium with king penguins, onto a tram that went to Richmond instead of Toorak village – yes, I was lost in Melbourne – and finally from an enthralling performance of The King and I to our gracefully aging hotel.
From a distance: The magnificent dome of the Royal Exhibition Building
I can now recognise Melbourne’s skyline in the morning news. A snapshot of a frame with “City Centre” is now distinguishable as a tram sign. Nameless glittering spires turn into headquarters of leading banks. Melbourne has meaning now. I hope to return one day and renew the relationship – all of it – her stores and stories, spires, alleys, museums and galleries. Perhaps when it’s warmer, although I have a new coat now. I highly recommend the experience – and a good pair of walking shoes.
This week Tiger Woods is playing golf in Melbourne. This is a matter of great importance, especially for Australian fashion. One news reader announced, in that tone of amazed awe that only news readers can have, that his entire wardrobe is planned a year in advance. Very annoying of her, because now I keep checking to see his latest outfit – I couldn’t care less about the golf. It must be horribly tedious to know what you’re going to wear all next year. What happens to your dress schedule if you have a wardrobe malfunction?
Apparently Melbourne sets the fashion for the rest of Australia. A few weeks ago ladies dressed up in feathered hats, and hats that were just feathers in honour of the Melbourne Cup, the nation’s most prestigious horse race. There were kiss-deterring wide brims, nifty nets and plumed affairs that looked like a mid-air collision between two birds. Of course, the ladies of Perth also dressed up in similar fashion to follow the race on the big screen. Champagne breakfasts and chocolate fondue were the order of the day. Wonder what will happen when tennis season comes along.
Of course, not all Australian fashion is fine feathers. I’d say if you own a few t-shirts, thongs (I’m talking footwear, not…well, you know what), and an indecently short pair of shorts you’re on your way to being one of the best-dressed persons this summer. Of course, a strappy maxi-dress is a must for the evenings – preferably one that is a mass of colour. I still can’t figure out why summer dresses often look like they’ve survived a paint shop explosion, when winter clothes are only black, grey or black.
Naturally, beauty is skin deep. In Oz, this means you’re truly trendy if you sport a tattoo. My neighbour has a magnificent eagle on his right arm – probably the logo of a local footy team. This isn’t just jock fashion though…girls can have tattoos as well. The doctor who did my medical test before I arrived was rather disbelieving when I told him I didn’t have one. No doubt I’ve committed a fashion faux pas, but I think tattoos have become the brand of this generation, and I refuse to be branded.
I’ll leave the feathers and frills for other girls. No sunshine on this girl’s shoulders – I’m slapping on the sun block and sticking my sunnies on my nose. After all, in Oz these are fashion accessories too, and you never leave home without them. I may not be Aussie, but you can’t say I’m not fashionable!