Right, dear wordsmiths, I trust those most affected by it are now recovering from last Tuesday's big event. I refer, of course, to the Melbourne Cup. As we say here, ‘the race that stops a nation’.
(Oh yes, there was that election too, but I might leave that one alone.)
I never gamble myself, having once been married – very briefly – to a compulsive gambler, which put me off for life. So I don’t bet on the Cup (or anything else). I do, however, like to watch the race on TV. I enjoy seeing the beautiful horses parade their way to the starting blocks, and admiring the jockeys’ colourful silks. I like to see if I can guess beforehand which will win. It’s the only horse race I ever watch, and that would probably apply to many other Aussies too. It’s one of those things: you just gotta. In the State of Victoria it's a public holiday – even in this year of the pandemic.
It wasn’t a very dramatic spectacle. For one thing there were no crowds of spectators drinking bubbly, showing off costumes elegant in the extreme, colourfully outrageous, or designed to raise a laugh. No Fashions on the Field competition this year, obviously. The pandemic meant no crowds allowed. The rose gardens at Flemington Racecourse were as profuse and beautifully kept as ever, but that seemed a bit pointless without people walking among them to enjoy them up close. The big metal gates to the course were locked.
The race itself also seemed less dramatic than usual. The winner was the front-runner all the way. It was the jockey's first Melbourne Cup ride. A nice young man, he also became a father for the first time this year. His 2020 was better than most!
Michelle Payne was one of the few people there — not as a jockey this year but a special guest commentator, looking happy and pretty. She made history a few years ago as the first (and so far only) woman to ride the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Now that was an exciting race! Perhaps you saw the movie they made about it, Ride Like a Girl. It was pretty exciting too.
We heard on the news later that evening that there was some excitement this year after all, but not the kind anyone wants. One of the favourites broke a fetlock in the home straight and had to be euthanised. On the TV news they showed the bit we didn’t see from our living rooms while the race was being run — the horse, behind most of the field, suddenly leaping and twisting. I remembered what’s too easy to forget: horse racing is not always very kind to horses. Then someone quoted statistics.
On average, one racehorse dies every 3 days in Australia, often from catastrophic limb injuries, cardiac arrest or internal bleeding. In the 2019 – 2020 racing year, 116 horses died on the track.
If you can bear to know more, Google will find you the details of many more injuries which don’t immediately lead to death but still make horrific reading.
Things are not always what they seem. Or perhaps they are what they seem, and they are other things as well. I can’t believe for a minute that those two nice young jockeys are cruel to horses. I think they love horses. Can they not know? Do they think it’s unavoidable? Where does the buck stop?
With me, for one. 81-year-old me with less time left than I once had to speak, to write, to sign petitions. I can’t unsee those statistics now. I don’t have time to bury my head in the sand, and neither do all those horses have time for me to do that. But I can't help all by myself.
It also stops with all the decent people who want the world to be kind and honest – which is most of us. We might have disagreements on how to get there, but we want the same outcomes by and large.
We might be limited in some respects. E.g. my old legs and lungs are past marching in protests now. I do what I can. It isn't all that much, by myself; but, as my Dad always taught me, if everyone tries as well as they can to do the right thing, it will add up.
And sometimes, too, it’s OK to turn away for a little moment – to look at a flower or a sunset, to read a child a fairy story. To 'light a candle rather than curse the darkness'. To find ways to restore our own souls and nourish our own joy, rather than be overwhelmed with rage or despair.
What would you like to share with us today? We welcome it all: poetry or prose, new or old, light or dark, in any style, on any subject. One piece each, please; and if it’s prose, make it 369 words max (apart from title). Post your link below, pause to leave a comment if you have a minute, and enjoy the varied fare in this, our latest Pantry. Together, we create a feast!
Advance notice: On Wednesday, Magaly will ask
us to write new poetry or prose inspired by one (or all) of the three paintings shared on this link: ‘Beautiful, YOU are’ by Magic Love Crow, ‘Delightful Donkey’ by Gina Morley, and/or ‘Carnival Dreams’ by Shelle Kennedy. For this prompt, your
imagination is the limit. Do let us know which painting(s) inspired your
Racehorse image is from Unsplash, with thanks to Daniel Bonilla.