Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hot Cross Buns

So Easter was over a month ago, and I started this post well over several weeks ago, but since I didn't publish it then I might as well do it now. Easter in Australia (or at least Adelaide) is a bit different from Easter in America.
In America, Easter is all about chocolate bunnies. Here, it is all about horse racing. In fact, there are two races in the Adelaide area on the Saturday before Easter. One is called Oakbank, and it's in the city proper. I'm told people are dressed to the nines-hats are obligatory for the women. The other race is the Clare race, held in the Clare valley, a wine producing region about an hour and a half north of Adelaide, also the location of Dave's family's vineyard. This race is referred to as "the country race" by Adelaidians. Dave's friends arranged for a big day out at the Clare races, followed by a night at the vineyard. Having never been to a horse race, I had no idea what to expect. Horse racing like, fox hunting and primogeniture, strikes me as being a remnant of feudalism, when landed gentry had to search for ways to entertain themselves on their vast estates. The only reference point I had is from the horse racing scene in "My Fair Lady," which reinforced my view. As such, I was interested but a little worried about the experience. After all, I didn't really have hat and gloves, much less ones that would match my dress (bought in China for about 10 dollars, très declassé). Nor was I willing to spend all day on my feet in high heels. However, Dave's Adelaidian friends reassured me that this was just a country race. No need to get so fancy. It wasn't Oakbank, and it certainly wasn't a Sydney or Melbourne horse race. I mean, who knows what the farmers would be wearing. As such, I went for jeans, sandals, and a blouse. It was the right choice. Most people (unwashed peasant masses included) were dressed in a similar fashion to me. There were a few women in cocktail dresses and heels, and and more perplexingly, a group of women who looked as though they'd gotten lost on their way to a pole dancing competition.

The race itself was held at a race course (duh) with the surrounding area cordonned (sp?) off for spectators. There were tents set up selling food and alcoholic beverages. The more prepared people had shown up with chairs, blankets, umbrellas and coolers full of food. We showed up with many cases of beer. We sat in the car park (trans: parking lot) right on the other side of the fence from the track by our car. I soon learned that horse racing was not at all about watching horses race and all about getting drunk before noon on cheap beer. A few people placed bets, but not even then did they really watch the race. Not surprising, because the races were half an hour apart and lasted for about a minute. Moreover, the course was big enough that after the horses passed by you in a under a second and were soon small dots off in the distance. Conveniently, the finish line was diametrically opposite from the spectators, so determining the winner was pretty much impossible unless you had binoculars and didn't get motion sickness. For our benefit, large TV screens played close-up images of other horse races taking place in other parts of Australia, so even if you couldn't catch the winner on the field in front of you, you could know which horse won in Sydney. I did manage to watch two races, and took some pretty pathetic pictures (which soon I will post). However, I can now say that I have been to the horse races.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The best comparison to trying to see a horse race is watching a cross country race, but no, Britta, we did not drink beer or bet on your team.