In troubled times, it’s always good to focus on what brings people together rather than the bad things which drive them apart.
Top of my list would be sport and travel – and even better when the two are combined.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of hosting a Tasmanian friend, John, and his partner, Sandra during their visit to Europe. ,
I’d first met John during my own long range trip to Australia in January when we enjoyed the England against Australia cricket match at the Bellerive Ground in Hobart.
We had a smaller crowd when we caught some Durham sunshine to see the home side in action against Hampshire.
Having lunch overlooking the beautiful ground and up the hillside emphasised how much a sporting location can promote a region’s image.
Before I became involved at Durham CCC in the early nineties, wise minds had chosen the site for the new ground and realised what a difference the outlook can make for spectators – for real and on television.
The view from the main stands is up the hillside of Chester le Street Golf Club to the magnificent Lumley Castle, now a flourishing hotel, of course.
It makes a big change from the not totally comical perception of some people outside our region that the most common sight in the North-East is of local chaps abusing their whippets on a derelict pit heap!
In case you think I’m exaggerating the importance of that good image, just consider what will happen at the end of next week when England play India in a One Day International at Durham’s ground on Saturday, September 3rd.
As well as a sell-out crowd on the day, about one billion people will see the action on worldwide TV.
And that is one of the reasons why an advertising board on the ground that day will cost you a bit more than a postcard in your newsagent’s window!
In advance of the game, I was chatting on the phone to former England captain Graham Gooch, now the batting coach for the national side.
An England side which is now number one in the world – just wanted to get that in for Australian readers.
One memory of our patch which he always cherishes is playing at our cricket ground at Park Drive.
Before we built the new ground at Chester le Street, Durham played on a series of grounds including that of Hartlepool Cricket Club.
Graham remembers playing for Essex against Durham at Hartlepool and, in his words, “a beautiful tree-lined ground where the sun always shone, the crowd were great, and the company afterwards was brilliant”.
Not a bad testimonial from a man who has played at the best grounds all over the world.
The Durham ground had similar praise from Tassie visitors John and Sandra – and we organised a nice surprise for them.
One of Durham’s opening batsman is Michael di Venuto, who hails from Tasmania, and he was kind enough to pop up to see his fellow Tassies during the tea interval (see picture).
When his playing days are over, I’m sure that Michael will join an army of people who have a very warm view of the North-East because of sport.