It’s the time of year again when everyone is more than happy to get caught in traffic in Clarenbridge, completely understanding about hiked up hotel room rates and only too delighted to pay an extortion price for a hot little number and a pair a control knickers that may be just the ticket to win best dressed lady at the Galway Races.
For the past hundred years I have been attending the Galway Races not for the racing element but for the sheer glamour, craic and excitement of the enjoying the style on ladies day. Ever grateful to have an excuse to buy a new outfit, ladies day always provides the perfect opportunity to dress to the nines and meet up with old friends and see how everyone is doing.
The Galway Races, I am aware acts as a marker for several people around the country, particularly in Galway itself where many business and services etc close for days during race week and many of the locals themselves look at the races as the end of summer. “After races it’s straight in to winter” is the phrase often bandied around putting an even bigger emphasis on the significance of the races when punctuating the year. Coming from the Abu Dhabi where live as an expat has no punctuation , no big nationals day during the year that actually shape the year to give it a kind of rhythm, being home for the summer and experiencing the Galway Races is lovely familiar feeling.
Living in Abu Dhabi, one has the onus of trying to create atmosphere around these days, a plastic Paddy’s Day, a manufactured Christmas and a homemade Easter and Halloween all fade into the insignificance when you’re walking down Shop Street in Galway and the atmosphere is palpable and the buzz surrounding the trip to Ballybrit is thick in the air with no personal effort, what more could you ask?.
I decided to make my launch into the Races on Thursday, meeting other friends there, we would all dress up and sip Moet for the day as if it were Dom Perignon. The week started with the usual frantic race around town to find the perfect number, “Sophisticated, stinking of cash with overtones of class” was the look I was going for and lo and behold I found the very thing in a niche boutique on Oliver Plunkett Street. Shoes from Brown Thomas set my races fund back a little, but I split the spend between races and long term investment so neither balance sheet looked heavy. I had a bag; this could be my claim to thriftiness if talks of belt tightening came up. Next was a hotel room in Galway, last minute I know, but I turned to my printed list and started to ring each number, surely one of them would have a room, something, anything, if they even knew a B&B I would stay in that, I wouldn’t mind. Bingo, first number called for availability, what are the chances, absolutely delighted, I called out my visa number, like it was my middle name, and just as she was about to ask I bluntly interrupted with my three digit code, what relief!
The morning of the big meet was hectic, drive from Cork, get hair done in Galway, book in to hotel and arrive at the races in time for the first race. Twenty minutes early thank to the new streamlined traffic system entering Galway, I sat patiently in the hairdressers waiting to for my wash and blow dry, I noticed I was the only one that didn’t have a voucher, everyone else seemed to have a groupon voucher and no cash passed the counter in the 50 minute wait before I was called to the sink.
Preened and heeled I walked into the tent to be greeted by my old buds. Everyone looked amazing, bright colours, tanned skin, (slightly orange at the heels) shiny hair and loads of glitzy bits. The conversation quickly turned to style, I admired everyone’s dresses, and received a stock reply, “Penney’s, 19 Euro”, “Penney’s, 11 Euro” and then the tin hat, “Penney’s, last year”, mortified at the thought of the amount mine cost and certainly not one to be outdone, I felt I had to lie, “this is my mothers, she’s had it for years” I spouted. Surprise rippled across their faces, possibly at the thought of my mother wearing the nude coloured tight number with black laced-together back and killer patent platforms. Barefaced I stood and vowed to myself that never again would I be caught on the back foot, from here on, Penney’s, here I come.