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Monday, December 23, 2002

On Wednesday 19th December, I stayed overnight in Mudgee, a small town north west of Sydney. It is an interesting centre for wine tasting and I did my bit there. It is a pleasant place, obviously mostly new, and it claims to be the second oldest settlement in the area. I went for a walk during the evening, while it was getting dark. The weather was warm and I walked through a park. What I found there surprised me, initially. I found a dozen, municipal, floodlit tennis courts.

Mudgee has a population of about 8200. But a dozen, floodlit tennis courts... Surely there must be some sort of mistake.

Not likely: all the courts were full. What is more, most of the players were playing doubles. Even more remarkably, the standard of play was sufficiently high for me to want to stop and watch. Can you imagine this happening in the UK? How many courts would one have to have to achieve the same level of availability in London? About three, I guess.

Australia has the enormous advantage of excellent weather so it is natural to turn to outdoor activities. But facilities make an important contribution, too. It is no wonder that Australians excel at sport. These tennis courts are part of the reason that Australia produces comparatively many excellent sportsmen for its size of population.

The UK could just about, perhaps, compete with the provision of facilities. The weather would always defeat us, though, unless we could somehow arrange for us to have a Mediterranean climate. Global warming may do the trick but, personally speaking, I’d rather we remained a nation of tennis dunces.

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