Friends, frocking up, free champagne and Flemington
Flemington’s impending celebration might stop a nation, but it also gets certain sectors moving. As trainers and thoroughbreds all over town intensify their pre-race fitness campaigns, it seemed only appropriate that this punter hit the track too.
Accordingly, the weekend saw me set off on 3 km of what looked like jogging, only slower. As I turned for home, I was really digging deep, deep into that space where a person’s mathematical ability is supposed to be. Taking into account the time and distance, would I have burned off 5 barbecue shapes or pushed it out to 6?
Distracted by these calculations, I inhaled a little seasonal joy, in the form of some kind of airborne plant matter. This particular piece of plant matter was actually big enough for a person to duck, but unfortunately it went straight in, resulting in a full-blown, public gagging episode.
Yet, even as I entered vomiting like spasms, I felt buoyant. Why so upbeat I asked myself? Well, because it’s spring. And spring has always been about the F word - friends, frocking up, free champagne and Flemington.
Recently, I saw a presentation on the prescription for longevity. It highlighted the importance of maintaining good friends – which advice may come as a salutary reminder for those of us with reclusive tendencies. We always knew that kind of behaviour wasn’t very friendly, but who knew it could be lethal?
A week earlier, a mature gentleman advised me that when we stop making new friends we start dying. This sounded like another wake up call. I grabbed a stamp and flipped it over to record new friends made over the course of the preceding year. If this amiable old codger was right I was looking at a life threatening deficiency.
The net effect of these experiences was to add a whole new dimension to the Spring Carnival - those marathon days of high intensity social interaction with existing friends, the very real prospect of meeting new friends. Attendance was basically imperative for anyone taking their health seriously.
An established practice of drinking in moderation has a number of advantages. Principal amongst these is that it gives you something solid from which to depart. After all, what can the concept of bending mean to someone who doesn’t know what it is to be straight.
Should the Spring Carnival find you departing from an established practice of moderate drinking, it will be useful to bear in mind the late words of John Maynard Keynes, who famously observed on his deathbed that his only regret in life was that he did not drink more champagne. While this comment demonstrates a remarkable level of critical self-awareness, it is also a call to action to each of us, to ensure we do not pass on with the same tragic regret.
You can’t buy brains or beauty. Personality is a different matter. It comes in a curvaceous, green glass bottle. Admittedly, personality from a bottle doesn’t last that long. But, as with fake tan, a premium product, skillfully applied, can produce a rather convincing effect. Unlike fake tan though, champagne can’t create something out of nothing.
This is because it works more like Silvo - revealing what is already there underneath – the truth, as it were.
Graham Greene understood this well when he observed that, “Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully.”
So the trick must be to find the line just after expansive, and just before reckless - to consume, in the words of the imperturbable Mr Carp, “so much and no more”. While always bearing in mind that truth, like the alcohol that induces it, can be toxic in its purest form - the real potential of both substances only being revealed through skilful dilution.
Once you’re through those turnstiles there is no such thing as a sure thing. Although anyone that’s put a hat on their head, or a flower in their buttonhole, and opened a bottle with an old friend, or their heart to a new friend, has already backed their first winner.
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