Wednesday, January 21, 2015

That Australian life - the sporting Australia

January is always a sports mad period in Australia. However, this year is unusually busy, with the Australian Open tennis and its growing satellite tournaments, the Tour Down Under in cycling, international cricket including the current tri-nation (England, Australia, India) one day series and, of course, the Asian Cup in soccer. That's a lot of sport even for a sports mad nation.

In honour of the tennis, this is shot from our family album is a country tennis party from the 1930s. Tennis had the supreme advantage that social tennis involved both sexes.It was a way for girls and boys to meet.

 Growing up, I played cricket (not very well), tennis, rugby union and league. I ran, walked and swam.

This photo was taken at the Armidale swimming pool. From left to right me, Michael Halpin, Aunt Kay, Richard Halpin, brother David. The Halpin twins were an important part of our life at the time. They lived just down the road and we did many things together.

Richard died young. On the day before the funeral, Michael and I went to the pub to talk about him. Neither of us could understand the why. It just was.

The Australian love of sport began in the very early period of European settlement. There was space and opportunity. Unlike the home countries, Australians just had more time. They also had a climate that encouraged out door activity.

I spend a lot of time studying Australian history. Thinking about it, one of the big shifts over time in my thinking was the realisation of just how fortunate those early Australians were. Not the Australian Aborigines, of course,  but the new European Australians. I should write something at some point about the success of Australia as a penal experiment. There are some lessons there for current Australian governments.

In modern Australia we have gyms that provide facilities that as a child I could not have imagined. Still, there is something to be said for a life in which activity and sport is embedded from morning to night, not something that you have to do to stay fit. Ah well, time to move on.

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