By Bridget Gourlay
I always thought of Cup Day and shuddered. I assumed it was about smelly horses running around a ring, and Merivale ladies one up-ing each over on the expensiveness and outrageousness of their hats.
“No way”, the Canterbury Today photographer assured me. It was about drinking champagne, sitting in the sun and meeting well dressed men. “You don’t even have to look at the horses”, she said. Well, that sounds more like me, I thought, so off I went.
Cup Day apparently always starts with a champagne brunch. When croissants are involved, I became very old-fashioned. This was a tradition I had to uphold. I met a group of girls at a friend’s house so we could get ready together but it immediately became clear that ‘getting ready’ is something one begins a long time before the actual day.
Fake tans, fake eyelashes, fake nails were done over the weekend. The hair-do and the make-up was done early in the morning. The champagne brunch version of ‘getting ready’ was just putting the icing on the cake — last minute touch-ups and eating some food to line our stomachs. I don’t wish to comment on how much champagne was drunk but I’m sure the taxi driver could make an educated guess.
When we arrived, there was a huge crowd of people dressed to the nines, many of whom had clearly also put the emphasis on the champagne part of the champagne brunch.
Dress code on the day
As I looked around at my fellow Cantabrians, it became immediately clear to me there are three different ways to dress for Cup Day.
Some women go the whole hog. The designer dress, the expensive hair-do, the stilettos heels, the spray tan. Not to mention the fascinators; from feathers to droopy hats to flowers, no head was unadorned. Around this crowd, I felt like I’d stumbled into an Oscar Wilde garden party. I’m more lazy than vain, so I took the middle way. The not-brand-new dress jazzed up with borrowed heels and a fascinator, with half an hour spent on make-up and hair.
But there was a third category of dress that astonished my (Cup Day) virgin eyes. Some girls clearly thought they were going to a daytime version of Shooters, in their revealing dresses and orange tans. Fake nails, foot-long fake eyelashes and skin-tight clothing — it wasn’t to my taste, but that didn’t stop them from getting a substantial amount of attention from the opposite sex.
As I initially suspected, there were Merivale ladies with ostentatious hats. This rivalry wasn’t done through passive aggressive name-dropping but in a much more organised event known as the Fashion Show. Young and old strutted their stuff, to the enthusiastic cheering of friends and family.
But no matter how well dressed people were, day-drunk is a difficult beast to predict. You might be able to handle a bottle of wine over dinner but drinking it at 11am is a whole new kettle of fish. There’s something fascinating about watching a girl in a $500 dollar dress puking her guts out into the bushes. I hadn’t seen such well dressed drunken antics since university balls.
All in all, the event had the ingredients of a perfect day. The warm sun poked through the clouds, bathing us in sunshine for most of the afternoon. There were no sizeable aftershocks. The champagne flowed, the fashion parade was gorgeous and at the end of it, everyone poured themselves in taxis without fanfare.
It was one of those rare moments in hard year that you realise Christchurch has still got it. When there’s blossom and sunshine, when there’s cheering and laughing, you forget for an instance about our ruined city and ‘that day’ nearly eight months ago. The turn-out of 20,000 plus showed many of us needed an opportunity to let our hair down and relax.
My Cup Day first time was thoroughly enjoyable and I’d be happy to do it again in 2012. In fact, I might even watch the horse racing next time around. Who knows…