Today is Melbourne Cup Day on which the ‘Race That Stops a Nation’ is run. This horse race is always held on the first Tuesday in November and is a public holiday. Many people here take the Monday off work as well to make a four day weekend.
Our weekend actually began last Friday when we drove down to Mt Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula to stay overnight and attend my cousin, Ian’s, 80th birthday party. Ian celebrated his birthday with his son, Michael, who turns fifty within a few days. It was a grand night at the Mt Eliza Country Club with around 150 people attending. They consisted of Ian and Mick’s families, friends, workmates and members of both the Country Club and Ian’s Lions Club.
Ian is five years older than me. I am sure that I was the person at his party who had known him for the longest time. Some seventy years ago, my mother trusted him enough for us to walk about a kilometre together to Primary School. We were both pupils at Lloyd Streett Central School in East Malvern. We both went on to Melbourne High School but after that we parted ways (professionally) when Ian trained as an accountant.
The motel in which we stayed on the Nepean Highway at Mt Eliza, was old and tired. it would have barely made two stars. The room was small and the garden was untidy. It really didn’t have anythig going for it other than its previous reputation as a wedding venue.
On Staurday morning, we began the day by visiting the Mornington Regional Gallery to see this year’s finalists and winner of the National Archibald Portrait Completion. The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, painted ‘preferably of some person distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’. This open competition is judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. It is named after John Archibald who died in 1919 and left an estate to the gallery valued at 89,061 pounds. The first Archibald prize was awarded in 1921.
This year’s first prize was awarded to Julia Gutman for her painting of singer-songwriter Montaigne.
It was an interesting painting using oil, textiles and embroidery on canvas. It is what I might call a collage. The judges always seem to choose a winning painting that I think is a bit weird. Perhaps I know nothing at all about art.
Another annual prize is the ‘Packing Room Prize. This is determined by the workers who pack the paintings for travel to regional galleries. To my mind, they do a better job than the real judges and have a sense of art like mine. I always respect their choice. This year’s packing room prize was won by Andrea Huelin with her painting ‘Clown Jewels’. It is a portrait of Cal Wilson, a New Zealand–born stand-up comedian, who died suddenly just a few weeks ago in October 2023.
If I had my way, I would have chosen this painting of actor Noni Hazelhurst by Jaq Grantford. It shows her protected from the rain behind a window and has incredible detail with a wonderful composition. I must know something about art after all, as this entrey won the ‘People’s Choice Prize’.
I am always interested to see any work by Abdul Abdullah. He is the son of Ibrahim, a good friend of mine. Abdul has been a consistent finalist for many years. This year, his painting is a self portrait of him looking into the screen of an iPhone.
Later on Saturday, we met up with our good friends Gill and Rob. We first met them on a riverboat cruise down the Rhine and Danube Rivers some years ago. We discovered that we had many things in common and we have stayed in touch ever since. Our usual lunch place is the Merricks General Wine Store that has good wine and delightful food. Gill and Rob are heading to New York soon to have Christmas with their son who lives there.
I set Sunday aside to do some work around the house, so the grass was mowed and the garden tidied.
We have traditionally gone out for a picnic on Cup Day but the weather forecast, this year, was for rain and thunderstorms. Instead, we set off for a picnic on Monday (after I had a small prcedure at the Doctor’s) and enjoyed lunch under the shade of a large tree in Westerfolds Park in Templestowe. We had debated where to go, thinking that with people taking an extra day off, all the picnic spots near us would be crowded. Instead, we found that there were very few people in the Park and we had a lovely relaxed lunch with no one else anywhere near us.
Perhaps because of my Methodist upbringing, I am not a gambler, so I have very little interest in the Melbourne Cup Horse Race. I might watch it on TV for its spectacle but I only have a passing interest in the race. The Melbourne Cup was introduced in 1861 by the Victorian Turf Club to compete with the success of their rival, the Victorian Jockey Club. They held races such as the Two Thousand Guineas. As a handicap race, the Melbourne Cup introduced a level of speculation that the club hoped would attract more entries, and therefore higher prize money. Today’s race offered a pool of $8 million in prize money for the first eight horses. The race has been run every year since 1861. In periods of conflict and economic hardship, it has been something that has given people hope and a temporary break from their troubles.
Archer won the inaugural race and went on to win it again the following year. Since then, the race has been won by many champions including Phar Lap who won the race in 1930, along with Makybe Diva who became the first horse to win it three times. Horses like Rain Lover, Think Big, Saintly and Might and Power also went onto win the race. Bart Cummings, the trainer of 12 Melbourne Cup winners, is called the “Cup’s King”.
I used today to presure wash the tiles on our patio and back deck.