Almanac Flashback – That one day in November: Pamela Sherpa

From the archives the Footy Almanac reprises  Pamela Sherpa’s 2010 story about her attempt to watch the big race.


The Melbourne Cup. Once a year I become enthralled by horse racing. Despite not having a clue about the art of picking a winner, I fascinate myself with horse, jockey, owner and trainer information. The build up captivates my imagination. It’s the one time of the year I bet.  Chance and luck. The gamble of life. Melbourne Cup day seems to sum it up.


All manner of lucky signs are examined. I look for omens, colours, favourite trainers and experienced jockeys. Exotic and quirky sounding names attract my attention. The fact that I know nothing about true form and therefore am stress free in deciding who to back adds to the fun. It’s a strange habit really, betting once a year just for the heck of it. Thankfully, there is a lady at the betting shop to help people like me. I find I’m not alone as other clueless folk come in to do the same thing on Monday afternoon.


The first Tuesday in November is the day that supposedly stops the nation. However, in some parts of this vast country life goes on. In NSW it’s a working day and that’s where I am. Hence my Melbourne Cup strategic plan has to be worked out. Will I be working and if so where? (I work as a casual relief teacher in the ACT/NSW region)  I hope that I’ll be at a school where someone has an interest in the event and also that someone actually has a TV set up in their room. The first thing I do when I’m booked for the day is check out what time school finishes.  Then pray, pray, pray that I am not on bus duty and look at the map to find out where the nearest pub or club is and which street I need to drive down to get there quickly.


The Melbourne Cup is one of those events I have to watch live. I recall one year, someone commenting that there would be a replay later. I replied that it would be like celebrating New Year’s Eve after the event.


Fortunately, I’m going to a school I’ve been to before and know that across the main road from the school oval there is an RSL Bowling club. I quickly formulate my plan.


I check the starting time of the Cup- Three o’çlock! School finishes at ‘three o’çlock. Mmmm? There’ll be no time to sprint across the oval to the bowling club. I have the foresight to take a radio to school.


When I arrive at school the car park is full. Perhaps a Cup breakfast is on?  No such luck- There’s a staff meeting in progress. When the bell rings the deputy says with conviction “Good morning boys and girls. Today is a working day.” The children know what that means and immediately bound off to class. This is a no nonsense school, which I like, but today my thoughts are wandering elsewhere.


My day is busy going to different classrooms so there isn’t time to check out TV’s. On lunch duty I watch people going to and from the bowling club. Someone belatedly organises a sweep in the staffroom at lunch time. There are less staff than horses at this school.


Conveniently I end up working with a small group of children in the back room of the library for the last lesson. I send them back to their classroom at five minutes to three to pack up, then close the door, quickly plug in the radio,  and tune into the Cup. I feel comforted by Gerard Whateley’s familiar voice. I listen to the Cup in peace. Mission accomplished.


As I pack my radio in my bag and leave, the permanent staff are coming into the library for another meeting. This is a working school alright. I ponder my luck that I’m able to head home to capture the replay on TV.


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  1. Glad you accomplished your mission, Pamela. But did you back the winner?

  2. Pamela – you should have played the race to the whole class and openly called it a vital part of any youngster’s education.

    Ditto Gigs – who did you back?

  3. Pamela,

    I like the sound of your teaching environment being a bit of a small town regional hick on the north west coast of Tasmania.

    I missed the race: forgot actually, too busy potting on asparagus seedlings.

    Couldn’t find ‘Hero’ in the field so I didn’t have a bet.

  4. #2 – Dips, I backed Americain straight out and also had 33% of the trifecta. (Picked up another tri during the day also.) My sons were using my online account and I discovered after the event that one of them had backed Americain, Maluckyday and So You Think each-way separately. He could’ve had the tri as well!

  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    Gigs, I had So you think and Maluckyday for a win and place but not the winner. Your kids were on the ball.
    Dips -that’s exactly what I would have done if I could have. The kids had to go home at 3 so I was glad they were out the door so I could actually listen to the race.

  6. That is the last time i ever choose a horsey with the name that i want to name one of my sons!
    – Linton.

    (Can’t say the same for my daughters-yet)


  7. Danni, is that name chosen just to rub the GF result into Saints supporters noses? (Linton St, Moorabbin)

  8. umm, no Gigs.
    i first came across it in Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights but i guess your input makes it better ey? :)

  9. Julian Morison says

    #8. Bloody Ellis Bell…

  10. Many years ago (very early 80s) in a land far, far away (Perth, actually) I was sitting an end of year exam at Uni on the day of the Melbourne Cup. Five minutes before the race we were told to put our pens down and were herded into a room attached to the library where the exam was held. There was a telly set up in the room. We watched the big race, spewed or smiled depending on how our horse fared and then went back and resumed the exam. Now that’s a race that stops a nation! I should add, it was an Arts degree subject so maybe it doesn’t count.


  11. Rick,
    I went to school in Adelaide so it was not a holiday. The Cup was always, without question, played over the speakers in to every classroom. Only in more senior years waould we skip off to someone’s house or the course.

  12. Pamela Sherpa says

    Crio, Rick- It’s fascinating how this race captures the imagination of the nation but not everybody gets a holiday- which is what prompted my article.
    At primary and high school in country Victoria we too had the ‘testing” of the speakers at precisiely the time the Cup was run every year.
    What I’m fascinated to know is why the Reserve bank meets on Melbourne Cup day of all days.

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