The Easter weekend is a crucial time for most clubs but for our local non-League teams it presents them with some of the biggest matches of the season.Last Saturday, relegation threatened Hayes & Yeading United pulled off one of the shock results of the weekend when they grabbed a last-minute goal to win 2-1 at high-flying Southport.Nas Bashir’s struggling side have now won three of their last six games and look like being the only team currently in the Blue Square Bet Premier bottom four who could escape.However, with only five games to bridge a four-point gap the task is still a tough one.The challenge begins with a home game on Saturday against Cambridge United. The U’s are currently 11th and realistically have little to play for at this stage of the season.On Monday United face a far harder opponent in Luton Town, who are still scrapping for points to ensure a place in the play-offs. They currently lie three points outside the top five but have two games in hand so will want the win just as much as the visitors.Hampton & Richmond Borough continue their fight to avoid relegation from the Blue Square Bet South against Farnborough on Saturday.The Beavers’ recent resurgence has lifted them out of the bottom three but they suffered their first defeat in seven on Monday night at Boreham Wood as they used up one of their two games in hand.Given their overall improved form, manager Mark Harper will be disappointed if his side do not pick up three points as Farnborough are on a poor run which has seen them lose four of their last five games.Arguably the match of the weekend for our local sides will take place at Uxbridge’s Honeycroft ground on Monday night when Hampton then take on Wealdstone in the Middlesex Senior Cup final.This game provides both clubs with the chance of winning a decent bit of silverware and it is quite hard to call who will win.Although the Stones play a division below in the Ryman League, they have had a generally far more positive season than their opponents and with 42-goal striker Richard Jolly (pictured above) in their team should provide decent opposition.It is not just about the cup though for Gordon Bartlett’s team, who also have a very real chance of stealing into the play-offs right at the death.Despite a lengthy fixture backlog, brought on by their cup commitments, they are still winning and are now just five points off fifth place with seven games to go.A win on Saturday at home to Kingstonian, a side who by their own manager’s admission have only just relinquished their promotion ambitions, would really lift them.However, for many Stones fans the match of the week is on Wednesday night when they travel the short distance to Earlsmead for the derby against Harrow Borough.The rivalry between these two is probably as intense as it gets between any non-League clubs in the West London Sport area. The last time they met, on Boxing Day, Boro were crushed 4-0 in front of a crowd of nearly 900 – almost double the Stones’ average attendance.With it being midweek and QPR also playing at home it’s unlikely to reach that level this time, but with Harrow also chasing every point to avoid the drop, the crowd should be substantial.An away win would appear to be the likely outcome but Dave Anderson’s Boro side are really unpredictable at the moment.Back-to-back defeats against Aveley and Canvey Island plunged them back into the relegation zone but on Tuesday they picked up a resounding 3-0 win at East Thurrock, which saw them jump three places back up the table.A victory at fifth-placed Cray Wanderers, who recently lost at home to struggling Leatherhead, on Saturday could see them end the day six points above the relegation places with just four matches to play.One side who would really profit from a Harrow win would be Hendon, who are still just one point behind Cray.The Greens, who play in Wembley, have a very agreeable looking Easter fixture list with matches against mid-table Margate and north London rivals Wingate & Finchley.Although both these sides could mathematically still be promoted or relegated it is very unlikely either will happen, meaning they will have little other than pride to play for.Given how close the battle for fifth place in the Ryman Premier currently is, two wins appear almost essential if Hendon are to keep up.All Premier and Football League season-ticket holders get half-price admission to all our local non-league sides’ home league matches. Check their websites for details.Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebook
12 December 2006It’s 6.30 on a misty morning at the Buddhist Retreat Centre near the town of Ixopo in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. Thirty people are stretching through a session of “mindful yoga” in a hall with cool parquet floors and tall windows that frame the greenery outside.Hours later, when the mist clears, they can walk through a forest up a gentle slope to the stupa, or shrine, and look across the valley to the clusters of homesteads that make up Chibini village. The centre is among the most beautiful spots on the planet, with paths winding through a paradise of indigenous trees, rare orchids and tree ferns. Duiker and vervet monkeys live in the forest; otters have been spotted in the dam below the centre; there are horses there, and rescued cats and their progeny patrol the grounds.When Durban-based Dutch architect Louis van Loon bought 140 hectares of derelict farmland in 1970, it was what he describes as a “wild wattle wilderness”.Over the next decade he dug up pine seedlings on the roadside and replanted them on the farm to get a fast-growing forest going. Then he added indigenous trees. There are thousands of them now, attracting 160 species of birds, including the endangered blue swallow. For both accomplishments, the centre has been awarded National Heritage status.It is just as well that the surroundings are inspirational, because the accommodation is spartan. Most visitors stay in a rambling residence – one narrow bed, shelves for clothes behind a muslin curtain, and a shared bathroom across the hall, as in an old-fashioned hotel.Unsurprisingly, cellphones only work – and then sporadically – at the foot of a 5m-high Buddha statue sculpted by Van Loon and set in a small park.But you don’t go to the BRC for mod cons and luxury. You don’t even go there for the fabulous vegetarian food. You go there to chill, or to learn how to live in the moment – a skill most of us lost when childhood ended.Relearning mindfulnessIt is called mindfulness, and can be learnt in a variety of ways. At the BRC, there are structured weekends called “the radiant awareness of being” or “the application of mindfulness” (this for health professionals working in HIV/Aids). But there are also weekends devoted to making and flying a kite; or learning to sketch; or drumming. There’s a very popular birding weekend.The author of the best-selling Quiet Food cookery book runs an annual retreat titled “an introduction to mindful cooking”. Anthony Shapiro, the centre’s artist-in-residence (see sidebar), leads pottery retreats.It’s an unusual programme for an institution devoted to unlocking the spiritual dimension in the individual. And when the centre opened some 25 years ago, the retreats and workshops were not without controversy.How does “mindful birdwatching” qualify as a Buddhist retreat?“Buddhists make it their business simply to sit down on a cushion and notice that that is all that’s happening: that they’re sitting, not standing. And that they’re breathing,” says Van Loon.“This is being mindful – being present in the here and now, however simple and uneventful. It is the perfect antidote to our frenetic, compulsive-obsessive lifestyle.“So why not extend this clarity of experiencing where you are and what is happening from moment to moment to everything else in your life, including watching a bird fly past? Or brushing your teeth?“We can find profound philosophy and meaning in life in the moments when we are truly in touch with things. Sketching, for example, is a powerful way of getting out of our self-centredness, by closely observing something other than our own dramas.”‘ubuntu Buddhism’Van Loon describes what is practised at the BRC as “ubuntu Buddhism”, influenced both by the spirit of Africa, the concept of ubuntu, and the culture of the West. “I think Western science and psychology, African philosophy and art have an incredible richness and depth which can contribute to an exciting new Buddhism,” he says.Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? He doesn’t actually answer the question. Some people call it a religion, he says, and some a philosophy. But “Buddhism doesn’t have the usual concepts and doctrines, dogmas, the articles of faith and belief built into its philosophy that most religions find absolutely fundamental, like a firm belief in a creator God, for example. For most people, that disqualifies it as a religion.“It’s not that Buddhism denies or accepts the existence of God, but that it does not find theological concepts like original sin, judgement, heaven and hell, etcetera very useful or meaningful in living our day-to-day existence.”The centre is remarkably laid back, and teachers – who, by the way, donate their services, in Buddhist tradition – also seem to follow Van Loon’s tolerant lead. If you skip a meditation session or a lecture, it’s no big deal. You can go deeply into Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice. Or you can put that aside for another day, another visit, so long as you adhere, at least while you’re there, to the most important stricture: do not cause harm.You can attend every session in the hope that at some point you may be blissed out, if only for a moment or two. Or you can simply drink in the gentleness and joy that seems to pervade the BRC.What’s remarkable is that it works, either way. For weeks afterwards, you’re not concerned about taxi drivers cutting in front of you, and stopping. You just shrug it off. It’s their karma. And it’s not that important.In this worldWhat is, then? “We can’t sit on our meditation cushions and work on our spiritual well-being without incorporating the welfare of those around us,” says Van Loon. The Buddhist principle of living a noble life in the midst of everyday chaos has been applied towards improving the lives of the people in the valley.Thus: Woza Moya (Come Spirit), a non-profit organisation linked to Chibini. The BRC has raised funds to build and maintain both a primary and secondary school. There’s an active HIV/Aids programme, with home-based care workers from the community trained at the clinic in Ixopo and involved in everything from counselling to orphan intervention.Which makes it okay for retreatants to search for their spirituality without feeling hypocritical about contemplating their navel while surrounded by incredible poverty.Nobody stops you from supplementing the pittance you pay for lodging with a donation to Woza Moya – but nobody will harass you for it either. It is, after all, your karma.This article was first published in The Weekender. Republished here with kind permission of Barbara Ludman and The Weekender.
Heavy rains and release of water from Gangapur dam into the Godavari river caused a flood-like situation in some areas of Maharashtra’s Nashik district on August 4. More than 20,000 cusecs (cubic foot per second) of water was released from the Gangapur dam on August 4 morning, which led to the Godavari river flowing above the danger mark, an official at the district collectorate said. This also caused water-logging around some temples located on the banks of the river, he said, adding that the water reached up to the neck of the Dutondya Maruti, a statue of Lord Hanuman on the river bed, and was just a few feet below the Ram Setu bridge. Heavy rains continued to lash the city and tribal- dominated tehsils of Igatpuri, Trimbakeshwar, Peint, Surgana, Nashik and Dindori on August 4, he said. In the 24 hours that ended at 8 am on August 4, the Trimbakeshwar tehsil received 315 mm rain, followed by Igatpuri-220 mm, Peint-200 mm, Surgana-180 mm, Nashik-84 mm, Dindori-68 mm, Niphad-25.3 mm and Kalwan-27 mm, as per data provided by the collector’s office. At 8 am, around 26,150 cusecs of water was also released from Darna dam into the river following the heavy showers, according to the data. Around 60 people from Saykheda village were shifted to a safer place, as the river Godavari was in spate in the area, a district administration official said.
Eleven-year-old Thomas was mortally afraid of water. Not unusual for children of his age. Then one fine morning at the Bangalore City Corporation pool, he fought his fear-and won. As he splashed about, it was obvious that this was a big accomplishment. Bigger still because Thomas has cerebral palsy. And,Eleven-year-old Thomas was mortally afraid of water. Not unusual for children of his age. Then one fine morning at the Bangalore City Corporation pool, he fought his fear-and won. As he splashed about, it was obvious that this was a big accomplishment. Bigger still because Thomas has cerebral palsy. And because he was accompanied by 44 children, who like him, are physically or mentally disadvantaged.Some suffer from cerebral palsy, a condition marked by weakness and impaired coordination of the limbs caused by damage to the brain before or during birth. Others have Down’s Syndrome, a congenital disorder due to a chromosome defect and characterised by diminished intelligence and physical abnormalities.But watching them in the pool, you wouldn’t know that. With every successful stroke, their sense of integration with the mainstream seems more complete, the smiles on their drenched faces fuller.In their midst is coach Raju Pujari, a product of the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. He looks at the splashing youngsters with pride, recalling how he first saw them a year ago at Sri Sajjan Rao Vidya Samsthe (SSRVS), a school for children with special needs. The sight tugged at his heart and he imagined taking them under his wing. That’s what he actually did, training them with the support of the neighbouring Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre (BAC), where he works.HOPE FLOATS: Pujari helps the children to improve their motor coordinationDevising a course suited for these 45 children was not easy. “In the beginning, we were not sure how to go about training these children,” says Pujari. “We had to slowly work on them and fight their fear of water.” But painstaking efforts by Pujari, other coaches and a host of volunteers eventually paid off.”Children who had no clue about hand and eye coordination began to show a marked improvement after being put into water,” says K. Shashikala, a teacher at SSRVS who has been trained to impart special education. A good example is that of 14-year-old Swathi Srinath who has Down’s Syndrome. Attending the intensive two-month programme at the centre seems to have done her wonders. Her father believes Swathi looks much more confident now.She’s not the only one. Rekha could not walk properly, but in the pool she splashes about happily. Pawan, who has cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair, but he undergoes a transformation in the water, as does Raju, who swims with the inflatable tube that keeps him afloat. Says Pawan’s mother: “We wish we had done this earlier. His stiff limbs have loosened.”That’s not an exaggeration. Studies have proved the benefits of swimming for the mentally and physically challenged. Water is believed to relax the muscles while lending firm support to the body weight. There are neurological advantages as well, because sensation is more pronounced in water.The coaches follow exercises that are designed to enhance the range of motion and coordination, besides lung capacity, breath control and overall strength. As a result, children with cerebral palsy or other problems have greater freedom of movement in water than anywhere else.Prabhavati Chandra, whose 12-year old daughter with Down’s Syndrome has made considerable progress at the pool, is even striving for perfection. Though her daughter swims very well, her left arm does not have the same extension, amplitude, speed or power as her right arm, she feels. As a result, her strokes are a bit uneven, but she’s convinced that practice will correct this.Pujari is equally confident. “There is no handicap at all as far as I can see,” he says. “What these kids lacked was opportunity.” While showing them the way, the BAC has been especially sensitive to their special needs-that children with cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome are slow learners. Since flippers have proved beneficial abroad, BAC hopes to acquire some to help the children improve their speed and posture. That would allow them to focus better on their strokes.While self-enhancement and integration are the final goals, the coaches at the centre believe that they can be achieved only through patience and perseverance. That’s instilled in the minds of the students and their parents right at the outset. As Pujari points out, it’s one step at a time. Or perhaps a stroke in the right direction.advertisement
Cricket humour is the new flavour on the sets of Comedy Nights With Kapil. Standup comedian Kapil Sharma has been shooting with a string of cricketers in the upcoming episodes.Virat Kohli, vice-captain of the Indian cricket team, is the latest celebrity hailing from the sport to make an appearance on the show and amuse the audience with his funny bone.Forthcoming episodes will also feature the Pathan brothers – Irfaan and Yusuf – pulling each other’s leg.Kapil made Virat blush by cracking tongue-in-cheek jokes on his alleged affair with actress Anushka Sharma.Veteran cricketer Sunil Gavaskar set the ball rolling, which led several other cricketers to appear on the show. Sunny made an appearance with Virendra Sehwag, reportedly on the insistence of commentator-turned- politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, and floored the audience with his humour.The episode was a revelation for cricket lovers as they got a glimpse of the rare, funny side of Gavaskar. “The ratings have been consistently strong, however the episodes featuring Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev created a frenzy on social networking sites as the audience for the first time saw the relaxed and comical side of their cricketing heroes,” said a source from the channel.Kapil Dev made an appearance with wife Romi and unabashedly cracked jokes on her raw cooking skills. Sehwag confirmed his shy nature, while Harbhajan Singh made fun of his lack of proficiency in English.Irfaan and Yusuf Pathan were also seen pulling each other’s leg on the show.The production unit of the show has been articulately chalking out theme for episodes featuring cricketers.”The attempt is to make the cricketers reveal funny anecdotes and create greenroom humour,” said a member of the unit.advertisementIn an upcoming episode, Kapil made Virat blush by making tongue-in-cheek jokes on the alleged affair with actress Anushka Sharma.”Did you go to Spain to watch the football World cup?” joked Kapil, hinting at Virat’s much-talked about reported romantic rendezvous with Anushka in Spain.