When I turned six my birthday happened to be on Melbourne Cup Day. The Mothership was a teacher at my school, so she threw a wee party for me at lunchtime. She invited all my mates to her classroom, where we pinned the tail on the donkey and scoffed down chips and fairy bread and a cake shaped like a witch from the ubiquitous Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook. It had a purple icing frock and rode a liquorice broomstick.
I was a paranoid, insecure little twit even in kindergarten. My teacher had organised a Cup Day Race for my class, involving cardboard cutout horsies and plastic hoops. I remember peering out Mum’s classroom window with a feeling of great dread, watching the uninvited classmates galloping round on the asphalt playground. Did the people at my party really want to be there? Were they comparing and contrasting the level of entertainment in here with the action oustide? Were they cursing me behind their plastic cups of raspberry cordial? Did their Mums make them come since my Mum was a teacher? They say the Melbourne Cup is the race that stops a nation, so what right did I have to stop them stopping? Oh the trauma!
Luckily this only happens every seven years or so, so I don’t have to compete with the Cup that often. It happened the day I was born, when I emerged slightly jaundiced, gingered and six-fingered. And it happened again today, but it doesn’t matter since I’m Scotland and naebody here kens about the Melbourne Cup. Huzzah!