Friday, October 31, 2008

Kitty View : Cat in Motion

Cat in Motion, originally uploaded by jciv.

Recession? Not in this gilded cage

Baby grand pianos, crystal chandeliers, golden statues of Johann Strauss — this is the absolutely fabulous approach to belt-tightening in tough times at Flemington's Birdcage.

Despite some token cost-cutting, the Austrian-themed big top of Emirates will come alive with the sound of clinking and clicking when the first influx of imported and home-grown celebrities gather for Derby Day on Saturday.

Take a guided tour around Flemington's famous Birdcage as builders put the finishing touches to this year's exclusive marquees.

L'Oreal and Moet & Chandon baled out of the Birdcage this year, leaving their celebrity refugees scurrying for an invite at one of the neighbouring tents on "Millionaire's Row".

But yesterday at Flemington there was no evidence of the reduced line-up caused by 10 corporate drop-outs, with marquees expanding to fill the gaps.

James Packer's Ellerston Capital may have flown the coop, but Macquarie Bank's enclosure was getting all dolled up yesterday with a curious wall sprouting thick grass. The grass is always greener on the other side, perhaps?

Emirates trimmed its budget from $1.25 million to $900,000, but it was hard to spot any signs of subdued extravagance with the baby grand piano, imported $20,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier and replica golden statue of Johann Strauss taking their places yesterday.

Perhaps as a concession to stressful times, masseurs in an Emirates "spa room" will rub the feet, hands and shoulders of those tired of, well, rubbing shoulders.

The Lexus two-level emporium has flicked its floral chandelier of years gone by and gone for subtle glamour this time, with a metallic facade, copper pendant chandelier and mint-green seating.

Myer is banking on what comes around going around — and has increased its presence with a 20-metre trackside frontage decked out as an opulent carousel, complete with horses under a canopy of lights.

Saab has moved to a trackside position and yesterday trotted out imported Swedish songstress September to pose in front of its three-level marquee, which features an (unheated) sauna-themed karaoke bar where guests will be encouraged to lose their singing inhibitions but not their clothes.

Andrew McManus, a vocal opponent of the doom-and-gloomers, promises excess aplenty in his nightclub-style marquee, which this year features a roll call of imported music stars from all genres and generations.

With truckloads of Moet and a small army of celebrity chefs serving up miniature morsels in what remains Australia's most lavish corporate knees-up, despite the economic uncertainty, it may be a case of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet.


- - Lorna Edwards

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Alexandra Hotel calls last drinks for Peggy the horse

You can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes.  But, given the option, this one preferred a pint of bitter - until recently.

For Peggy the beer-swilling horse has been barred from her local.  Landlady Jackie Gray called time on the 12-year-old Dales pony after the Alexandra Hotel in Jarrow, South Tyneside, was refurbished.

"Although she is probably cleaner than some of my customers, I had to put my foot down and show her the door," said the landlady, 46.

Peggy's owner, Peter Dolan, 62, said he used to leave her tethered to a post outside when he went in for a drink.  But, because her rope was so long, one day she walked in and stood at the bar. Peggy became a local celebrity overnight.

"No one even took any notice of her in the pub," said Mr Dolan, a retired rigger from Jarrow Slake. "Everyone just saw her as one of the locals."

But after two years drinking and munching her favourite beef-flavoured crisps, she's been shown the door for fear she'll leave hoof prints on the new carpet. She now stands outside looking in at her erstwhile drinking buddies.

Mr Dolan said: "She's such a beautiful horse, so well behaved. Everyone here thinks the world of her.

"She's a proper lady. Sometimes she's better than some of the ladies we get in here.

"She still gets her favourite John Smith's bitter now and again and loves her beef crisps, but she'll not be back in the pub."

- - daily mail