Race Day Memories

“The Races” have always been a part of kiwi culture – but for me growing up they simply weren’t. I used to wonder what all the fuss was about and never quite ‘got it’. My mother’s family were quite religious and I think it was something about the perceived ‘ungodliness’ of gambling that somehow meant the races were scratched too.

My husband however was one of those kiwi kids who grew up with a family who embraced the fun and frivolity that the races can offer. He reminisces fondly about the Riverton Races and the Motukarara Races and the times his family would spend having picnics in the sun, wearing hats and picking up all the dropped betting slips hoping for a winning ticket that some adult had foolishly cast aside.

Having not actually been at any of these events I’ve probably imagined them with a fairly artistic eye – you know, the tea dresses, amazingly retro headgear, perfect ham sandwiches (crustless of course!), and perfectly chilled bottles of lemonade and champagne.

As a mother myself I imagine they were probably actually filled with agonising car trips where the kids kept asking “are we there yet?”, having to buy hotdogs because the kids wouldn’t eat the picnic lunch that took hours to prepare (after having got up at 5am to get a head start on them!), and lukewarm budget fizz and cheap cask wine out of a paper cup.

For me, my introduction to “the races” was when I was at University. In my second year, my flatmates and I booked a carpark in the middle of the track so we could ‘have a day at the races’.

We had no money to speak of, so we swapped dresses amongst ourselves so we all had something ‘new’ to wear and managed to find some hats and heels to finish off the look. It wasn’t much – but it sure beat tatty jeans and skate shoes (my university uniform of choice) – and we thought we looked fabulous.

One of ‘the boys’ had an old school army jeep, with the bench seats in the back. It was a less than comfortable ride to the track – but the real excitement came when we got to the gates and they checked the car and our picnic (some cold pies and chips if I recall) for any glass or alcohol (both banned from the event). They didn’t discover the pre-mixed (in any vessel we could find) brandy and dry that we had taped to the engine and any other part of the underside of the car that we could get to that didn’t affect the drivability of the vehicle.

That day I learnt that gambling was a sure losers game – but given I only had about $10 to my name, it wasn’t at a great cost. I learnt some of the lingo so I didn’t feel like a total novice and I learnt that too much brandy and dry does not help you stay classy, nor assist with memory recovery the following day.

But it was the beginning of an appreciation for a sport that’s part of kiwi culture. I still don’t make any money (my technique for picking winners based solely on what the jock is wearing, or whether the horse is ‘pretty’), I suspect I’ve learnt to stay a bit classier after a few trackside beverages (however, my husband would probably beg to differ) and I have begun to think about the sort of memories I could start making for my children.

I think I’ll try to wear a glamorous hat, pack food they really like [note to self – do not get up early and attempt anything flash – they will not appreciate it], and always ensure there’s a chilly bin full of ice to keep the drinks cool and to ensure there’s something for the kids to stand on when the track starts thundering and the winners go racing by.

About Esther Perriam

Esther Perriam is a Director of Eldernet. She’s worked in the business for over 15 years and has been lucky to visit many of the older person’s services around the country. She’s never short of an opinion on…pretty much anything. Esther really loves reading and you’ll see plenty of book reviews authored by her. As a mother of two children there’s not much free time but if there is she also enjoys cooking (for grown-ups, not the kids!) and anything beach related in her spare time. Esther has presented at conferences around New Zealand and is happy to be contacted in regards to speaking or presenting at your event.

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