I had lasted 11 hours in my silly shoes, but there was no way I could wear them for the twenty-minute hike back to the car. As my sandals dangled from my hands, the cool tarmac had taken a velvety texture beneath my bleeding feet.
The brisk air itched my sunburnt shoulders and ached every muscle as my hangover kicked in. However, I was healthier than many of the other punters we passed along the way. Some were in vomiting convulsions in garden beds and car parks. In the swamp adjacent to the racecourse, a feathered head bounced around; and I know it didn’t belong to a bird, as certainly any wildlife would have been scared off. We were the survivors of Melbourne Cup Day at Ascot Racecourse in Perth.
After spending hours preparing for the day aligned with elegance and class, my friends and I had been reduced to sharing a field with horse manure and flies. The race competed for first place against the overwhelming display of flesh; bare backs, open-sided garments, plunging necklines, and creeping hems. The absence of bras set breasts free from the constraints of social etiquette. Toned, and the not-so toned bodies, paraded their tortured torsos in stilettos beneath the glaring sun and the icy breeze. I’m sure most drank to numb the pain – I know I did.
After the “big” race, many of the sculptured figures swanned off to exclusive parties leaving the rest of us to the local tavern. The crowd heaved, surpassing the excesses of the day. Clothing seemed to shrink (as had my shoes) and scantily clad bodies aroused deplorable attempts of seduction. For those in the race, the competition was fierce between the pocket-sized jockeys with bulging crotches – from their winnings naturally.
Eventually, bottles of water and hot chips replaced shooters. Finally, we were ready to go home to the sober faces of our loved ones. As we accompanied our designated driver back to the car, I realised that within the suburb of Ascot, a wild underworld had only just begun to celebrate. In the distance, I could hear revellers, but I didn’t care. I wanted to click my heels and return home. Well, I would have if the mere thought of anything to do with my feet didn’t cause me to wince.
At last, our chariot came into view and we collapsed into its embrace. On the way home, I wondered whether I‘d make it to Melbourne Cup next year? Perhaps, but this time, I’ll be in comfortable shoes. And by the way…I have no idea who won the race.
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