I like my horses. I like a good day at the races. I like a bet or three. And I love the excitement that comes with a race meet, especially one as big as Punchestown, a five-day race meeting worth about €15 million to the local economy. But this year, it wasn’t the horses I was looking at …
People come from all over the country, and not just for the racing. They come for the craic. The pubs in Naas and surrounding towns are heaving with racegoers and party-seekers alike. Taxis from as far away as Limerick come to cash in. B&Bs and hotels are booked up weeks in advance. And on Ladies Day, the Friday, all gloves are off as the style icons take over from the four-legged fillies.
I’d planned to go on Wednesday, but we had rain and hailstones and much and all as I love my racing, I’m not into discomfort. So we went on Friday and it was bitterly cold. Ten degrees. With a biting wind blowing in across the open plains of Kildare. I was frozen. And I was well wrapped up.
As far as the racing went, it was a waste of time. I couldn’t concentrate on the horses. I was far too taken up with watching the young wans and their style. Mind you, I was in the cheap seats, not even in the reserved enclosure, so I was mixing with the teeny-boppers, those who from hours of eavesdropping I determined had pulled together on average about €60 to come to the races. What wasn’t going on bets was going on booze and fair enough – everyone was well mannered and no one seemed to be overdoing it. What teetering that was happening wasn’t drink-induced – it was more to do with the ridiculously high heels they were wearing. I was getting dizzy just looking at them.
They all seemed to be walking at a tilt- upper body leaning forward to keep the balance and battle the breeze. I was fascinated. The shoes in the photos are not the highest I saw – these were the average. One girl – a slip of a thing who might have weighed 30 kg soaking wet – was anchored to the ground by shoes with a 12-inch heel. I kid you not. It was painful to watch her attempt to sashay across Bookie Row and even more painful to see how she desperately needed the young lad with her to keep her upright as she climbed the steps into the stands.
There was lots of glamour out around the parade ring, where women one or two age-brackets up were stylishly dressed and not obviously shivering with the cold. Accessorised to within a french-polished nail of their lives, they made for great people watching. And what amused me most was how they always seemed to be poised and waiting for the photo. There were some amazing hats – and watching the line-up of finalists for the huge prize of a
€20 000 safari to South Africa plus – wait for it – €1000 in hair extensions (!) I was suitably impressed by the glamour. I loved the outfit that won (second from right) – I’d have picked the same had I been asked to judge. And while these might have been a tad cold, they can’t have been nearly as cold as the teens. I tell you, it was 10 degrees – maybe 12 in the sunshine. It was bloody freezing.
I was very impressed with the men though – wow. Gobsmacked even. From the youngest to the oldest they were impeccably dressed. Coordinated. Shined. Bow-tied. Handkerchiefed. Gorgeous. When did the Irish Male become so fashion conscious? When were suits and shirts and ties the only thing to wear to the races? Bloody amazing if you ask me. And I’d happily wager that most of them spent more time getting ready than I did.
This week was a good one – I caught up with good friends, spent time with my folks, got to see the wonderful Ruby Walsh in action up close and personal, and even managed to catch up on my sleep.
I am grateful though, ever so grateful, that I’ve never felt the need to sacrifice comfort for style, that fashion is not something I’m a slave to, and that after buying and giving away countless pairs of expensive high heels I’ve finally realised that an inch is as tall as I can go. It’s been years since I’ve had to resort to bare feet and the line ‘these shoes are killing me’ is not one I ever want to utter again.
Elegance doesn’t have to be bare-backed in 12 degrees; there’s nothing attractive about goosepimples; witty conversation can’t be heard through chattering teeth. This has to be the first time that I was actually grateful that I am the age I am and not the age I’d sometimes like to be. My teens have been officially boxed and filed. I’ve acknowledged to myself that comfort will always win out with me. What lies ahead are years of experimentation to find my weather-appropriate style. Just how much fun can a gal have with twinsets and flats? Let’s see.