The KX Table Tennis Tribe: Self-Management at its Very Best

Some readers may recall that life for Ping England started with a wizz-bang promotional show in the beautifully renovated St Pancras Railway. The big names of English table tennis were invited, along with the bigwigs from Sport England, to witness the launch of free street table tennis. Tables were scattered across the many concourses of the station and the general public were invited to have a go. It was a roaring success and the whole Ping phenomena took off from thereon. Of course, it wasn’t a national programme way back then, but an ‘arty’ initiative simply aimed at the Capital. No-one imagined that this plucky ping pong adventure would so quickly take on national dimensions, or that eight years later, one of the very best examples of Ping England would spontaneously emerge just a few metres away at the back of the stunningly revamped Kings Cross Railway Station.

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Down’s Syndrome World Table Tennis Championships.

We all have our petty prejudices. Even me. It’s probably something to do with our tribal origins. Left unattended, our prejudices can all too easily morph into irrational hatreds and bigotry. Under extreme conditions one might even kill in the name of defending one’s dearly held prejudice. It happens all the time all over our sorry little world. It is often forgotten that, along with communists, socialists, trade unionists, homosexuals and transgenders, Roma and Jews, people with varying physical and intellectual disabilities were ruthlessly and systematically murdered by twentieth century fascist regimes.

But the good news is that under more benign conditions, many of us have learnt to rise above our irrational prejudices and have started to act more rationally, even, if you will forgive my youthful enthusiasm, more lovingly. By this I mean, not just tolerating difference but positively celebrating it. When it comes to ‘disability’, we have travelled a long way. Still a million miles to go but society generally might be said to have started a journey whereby both physical and intellectual disabilities are merely seen as part of a human continuum of ability.

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Reclaim the State

 It’s 10:09am. A third MP has been reported dead. Murdered. I shift my eyes from the screen and catch her facing the chaotic streets.

  ‘What do you want to do?’ I stammer.

Remaining still, she whispers,

  ‘What everyone else is doing - something’

  My eyes return to the screen. I feel a sense of both fear and contentment - this day was always going to come, wasn’t it? There’s only so much trauma and blood you can inflict upon a nation of individuals before they bite back. Only so many mothers and fathers and siblings and daughters and sons you can reject from entering a country and separate before a blood war starts. Only so many square-metres you can keep human beings locked up in before they say — enough.

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I am not a media critic. Nor am I an avid comedy fan. But sometimes you watch something that grips you to the core and yanks you back and all you can think is I need to write about this. I need to share this. And Hannah Gadsby's latest stand-up did that for me.

Netflix special Nanette has been making headlines for being an uncomfortable watch. But what makes Nanette difficult to watch is what makes it hugely significant: Gadsby uses her identity – the reality of her physical presence, and the discrimination of her body – to deconstruct what it means to be a comedian who has been in a toxic relationship with comedy.

It starts slow, with jokes that make you wonder wait can I laugh at this?

The first 16 minutes shows Gadsby telling the sort of self-deprecating jokes that brought her to prominence as a comedian in Australia: she pokes fun at growing up as a lesbian in rural Tasmania (where homosexuality was a crime until 1997), expresses her private distaste for the Pride flag and then, referencing to an audience member who didn't think she had enough "lesbian content" in her previous show, she upfronts the impossibility of extricating herself from comedy by responding, "I was onstage the whole time."

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The Trump Presidency: Are We Sleep-Walking Into A New Fascist Era?

Just before you rush to accuse me of infantile hyperbole, just consider that the official political opposition in Germany is the neo Nazi, Alternative for Deutschland Party. Sobering. Accompanying the AfD, we now have large swathes of Eastern and Central European governments under the influence of the neo-fascists. In fact, they are already in government. Ditto for Italy. And in France, Marine Le Pen is patiently waiting her chance.  But there is more to ponder. In the USA, the world’s most powerful military-industrial complex, we might be foolishly tempted to dismiss the Trump presidency as a passing phenomenon, a mere narcissistic, corrupt circus buffoon to be ridiculed and scorned. That would probably be a mistake. He has surreptitiously surrounded himself with white supremacists and rabid right wingers who are intent on dismantling the global post-war infrastructure and replacing it with something more pliable to their nationalist fantasies. It’s not that the old imperialist, war-mongering status quo was anything much to shout about – it certainly wasn’t. But what Donald Trump and Steve Bannon have in mind may turn out to be a whole lot worse.


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It is traditional in sports journalism to immediately zoom in on the winners of any given sporting event, be it the humble local fixture or the more exulted national and international contests. It's all about the winning and the rest is merely background noise. That is the norm and we rarely deviate from it. And in that tradition, London Academy Table Tennis Club should be heartily congratulated for their near clean sweep of trophies in the inaugural London Ping Community Ranking Tournament. Of the six bands on offer, only one band eluded them. The rest were firmly under their control. Like their all-conquering parent - The London Progress Table Tennis Club - the London Academy has become no stranger to the art and science of consistently winning table tennis trophies. Under the consummate coaching and management leadership of Bhavin Savjani, the London Academy has simply gone from strength to strength. But, without detracting in any way from London Academy's magnificent achievement last weekend, it must be stressed that the real winners of the tournament were the 130 participants that, on a boiling hot day, gave their all to make this first community tournament a roaring success.


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HEATHROW EXPANSION;Some things to remember

1)      Heathrow Airport is wholly owned by foreign corporate interests, principally, Qatari, Chinese, Canadian and Spanish. There is zero British control over Heathrow’s corporate management. The bottom line for this airport is always profit with absolutely no regard for either the environment, local development or the British economy as a whole.


The concept of a Hub Airport is a nonsense. Heathrow as a hub airport has virtually no impact on the well-being of the British economy. A few extra cups of coffee in transit and some duty-free shopping amounts to very little. The real airport hub in Britain consists of London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stanstead, London Luton, London Southend and City Airport. The trick is to link these six airports together with free and frequent public transport. In other words, the real is hub is not Heathrow Airport but London itself.

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FIFA’s Russian Roulette

Shoot the stray dogs and lock up the gays

We're playing FIFA’s Russian Roulette.

Vilify those who dare criticise

It’s the World Cup we’ll never forget.


Monkey chants ring out from the stadia

We’re enjoying FIFA’s Russian Roulette

Unleash the thugs with their fascist regalia

It’s the World Cup we can hardly forget.


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Ping Pong for Peace & Rollnets for Refugees

 Playing Table Tennis at the Za’atari Refugee Camp 4th - 6th April 2018


Tim Holtam - April 2018.


I have been following the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Development Program for some years online. Over the past twenty years they have done some amazing projects in Nepal, Guinea Bisseau, Afghanistan, El Salvador and many other places that have suffered natural disasters or been destroyed by war. In 2017, the ITTF became the first international federation of any sport to develop a national association in all 226 countries in the world. A great achievement indeed.


Since Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) became a Club of Sanctuary, welcoming refugees and asylum seekers in 2016, I have been asking Leandro Olvech, the Director of the ITTF Development Program to pay us a visit. The first few emails I sent him he forwarded to Sandra Deaton, Chair of Table Tennis England, the National Governing Body. Leandro is focused on developing countries and in England usually he would pass things to the national association.

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Aussie Ball Tampering: Symbolic of a larger malaise?

Australia, like every nation, has enmeshed itself in an intricate web of self-deceits, half-truths and outright lies. And that is no surprise given that modern ‘European’ society in Australia was founded on one gigantic lie- that the Australian landmass was empty of human settlement when the first European invaders arrived. The very contrary was in fact true. Australia was, prior to the European invasion, the home to some one hundred Aboriginal nations, each with their own language, culture and administrative systems. In fact, taken collectively, the indigenous peoples of Australia represented humanity’s longest continuous civilisation, dating back thirty thousand years or more. Furthermore, the sophistication of this civilisation in terms of cooperation and collective land management was a philosophical concept so advanced that Europeans today are still struggling to grasp its implications. So radical was their concept of collective ownership that Karl Marx was moved to describe it as ‘primitive communism’, the primitive aspect referring only too their low level of technological advancement rather than the communal philosophy itself.

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Anti-Semitism claims against Corbyn: It’s got MI5’s grubby fingerprints all over it.

Unravelling claims of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is tricky. Perhaps pockets of anti-semitism do still exist in the Labour Party in the way that they still exist in all institutions in this country. Except for a deeply ingrained misogyny, anti-semitism is probably one of the oldest irrational prejudices of European society. General European racism, based on the colour of one's skin, is a relatively recent prejudice in comparison. A construct of the modern colonial era. But history suggests that all human prejudices, whether ancient or relatively modern, when stripped of their emotive cultural narratives, are ultimately based on territory, power and economic control.

Those that define themselves as Jews, ether by race, culture or religion, have been both slave owners and enslaved. Both oppressor and oppressed. And the stories that Jews have created for themselves in the Old Testament are testament to that rather unpalatable fact. As the post-Romanic centuries rolled by, Jews, Christians and later Muslims, jostled for territory and influence. For those still subscribing to the Jewish narrative, it was a particularly rocky road. Sometimes they found themselves in favour and protected, at other times they were outcasts and demonised as the other.

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Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: Business as Usual

There is a bit of a hoo-ha going on at the moment concerning dark forces harvesting and manipulating personal data for political and commercial purposes. But it would be a much bigger story if we discovered that no such manipulations were taking place. The clever and the cunning and the outright disreputable have always sought to mould and manipulate the general populous. It started some ten thousand years ago with the start of so-called human civilisation but probably kicked in many millennia earlier - way back into our hunter-gatherer past. In fact, wherever you find religion and high priests, you will find manipulation. And wherever you find economic elites, you will uncover underhandedness and outright deception.

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Corbyn's Response

Jeremy Corbyn may well go down in history as the best Prime Minister Britain never had. I sincerely hope not, but given his propensity for honesty and courage in the face of Establishment hostility, his chances of making No 10 are always going to be slim. All nations spin their own fantasy narrative and Britain is one of the experts in this field. Jeremy Corbyn doesn't like to play that game. He never has.

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March4Women: Sunday 4th March 2018

'Joined the March4Womwn after reading an inspiring issue of the free Stylist magazine. The entire issue No 402 was devoted to celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Britain's women securing voting rights, and a very fine anniversary edition it was. If you can still get a copy, I heartily recommend you do so. It's worth it for the graphics alone. It was the first time I had ever actually read the mag, believing it to be aimed primarily at white middle-class women with plenty of disposable income at their command. In fact, at first glance The Stylist comes across as little more than an advertising medium for the fashion and beauty industry rather than an attempt at serious journalism. Perhaps I've done the magazine an injustice because their tribute to the suffragettes was definitely more than just tokenism. It had some real substance. If I had one criticism, it was that the journalists focused too much on the western world, despite one excellent piece on Bhikaji Cama's role in the suffragette movement, choosing to largely ignore the billions of women still struggling word-wide for even the most basic of human rights. And that brings me to the march itself.


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Table Tennis is good for the brain.

There is a lot going on in table tennis, says Wendy Suzuki, a tenured professor of neuroscience at New York University and author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life, a new book exploring how sport generally and table tennis specifically can affect the human brain. Attention is increasing, memory is increasing, you have a better mood. And you are building motor circuits in your brain. A bigger part of your brain is being activated. Furthermore, according to Professor Suzuki,

There are three major areas affected by this high-speed game. The fine motor control and exquisite hand-eye coordination involved with dodging and diving for the ball engages and enhances the primary motor cortex and cerebellum, areas responsible for arm and hand movement. Secondly, by anticipating an opponent's shot, a player uses the prefrontal cortex for strategic planning. Thirdly, the aerobic exercise from the physical activity of the game stimulates the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for allowing us to form and retain long-term facts and events.


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Hammersmith Ping Pong Parlour: A Joy to Behold.

I'd heard rumours of this one for some time, not only from the kids but also their mums and dads. It was time to check it out. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, along with a fellow coach, I arrived with a more or less open mind and my bat in my bag. It didn't take very long to realise that this was to be an experience close to the very essence of not only West London Ping but of Ping England itself. Three tables in a disused and unloved shop in the Hammersmith shopping mall with nobody in charge and a queue for every table. I was there the best part of four hours and the tables were never empty. On the contrary, as people left, they were immediately replaced by new faces. Hammersmith Shopping Mall may be suffering terminal neglect from being in the shadow of the Westfields mega shopping complex, but this ping pong parlour was offering something that Westfields could only dream of  authenticity and joy.

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