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Wednesday 31 December 2008

Einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!

" New Year-New Moon and its evening star, Venus" by Susie Mallett 18.o1, 31st December 2008

Up in smoke!

A Guten! That’s what most people will say to each other here in Nürnberg as the fireworks fly above the castle at the end of my street. Then at thirty minutes after midnight the smog will descend over the city as hundreds of thousands of Euros worth of Chinese fireworks go up in smoke.

The fireworks first went on sale here in Germany two days ago and from the armfuls that I have seen leaving the supermarkets. This makes me wonder whether China, with all its products still swamping our market, is feeling the crunch! The Germans obviously still have enough money to burn! As I sit here I can see and hear the first rockets whizzing over the roof tops, the first Euros disappearing up above my head into thin air, or maybe I should say into thick smoky air.

Ringing the changes

Being old-fashioned and very British, I much prefer the sound of the church bells and the horns of the ships in port to the fireworks. I like to hear them ringing out the old year and ringing in the new.

Yes, I can remember from my childhood in Norwich standing on the front doorstep with my Mum and Dad listening to the bells and the ships' sirens. That was when there were still ships coming up the river, delivering coal to Norwich. I just spoke to my Dad on the phone and he said that if he is still awake he will go out on the doorstep. In the same breath we both said “But only to hear the bells”. No more ships in Norwich these days, the industry has gone and the river is silted up.

The big slide

In Germany we wish each other “Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr”, which literally translated means "Have a good slide into the new year".

More accurately it means have a good start to the new year, the word Rutsch deriving from the Yiddish language. The word Rosch means "beginning", guter Rutsch: good beginning.

German Wikipedia offers lots of alternative explanations as to how this greeting came into general use. Another version is that the word Rutsch was used earlier to describe a short journey. The popular custom that began in the late 1800s and early 1900s, of sending greetings cards at New Year, encouraged the use of the shorter version “Guter Rutsch” which was printed on the picture postcards and is still used today.

Preparing for austerity

We will shortly all be sliding into 2009, many of us out on the streets tonight with neighbours and strangers. But how many will be thinking as I am about the meaning of the slide this year. Are we sliding into austerity? Will we still be burning so many fireworks next year? Are the Germans with their arms full of fireworks (money) to burn really not thinking about the financial slide just yet? Are they as worried as the rest of the world?

In social work the problems are already being faced, provision for disabled people is being cut in every possible area. I am so grateful for a donation that I received word of two days ago, which will allow just a few people to attend my groups for half price! The January sales, offering cut price sessions, have begun!

Personally, I have known austerity on and off for years, I could say that I have been practising, I have already been there and hopefully because of past experience I will find it easier to manage than many will. Over the past year many weeks of my work have been cancelled, so I also know that other people are feeling the crunch too.

2009, The Year of the Seele!

In 2009 I may not be looking forward to becoming a Euro millionaire but I am looking forward to other riches. I am looking forward to maintaining all the contacts that I have made in the conductive world and to forging even more. I hope to be able to offer support to young conductors, and to parents and users all over the world. Conductors starting out on their own in out-of-the-way places or in huge cities, and parents, carers and users wo are starting out on lives that incorporate conductive upbringing.
All of us at some time will face questions needing answers, maybe we can try solving them together.

I look forward to being active in the further establishment of Conductive Education throughout the world, taking steps forward with my fellow conductive souls.

I won’t be sliding into 2009 but will be making strides and spiralling upwards. I hope tat you all will be joining me.


A big thank you” to you all for 2008, it certainly wasn’t easy, but it spiralled steadily upwards,

and to Lill, Marthe,Ingvild and Becky (and any one else out there) please keep picking my brains!

Einen guten Rutsch!

Saturday 27 December 2008

Accidents will happen

Fragile, December 14th 2008

In all the time that I have been teaching in special schools or working as a conductor there have been only three accidents till last week, and all of them involved something that happened to me.
Once I was bitten on the shoulder, and blood was drawn. Another time, while teaching the use of scissors, a lump disappeared from my finger as well as from the paper we were cutting. On another occasion, I fell while walking through the parallel bars with a tall, thin teenager. In slow motion she fell on top of me, neither of us were injured, and luckily her landing was somewhat cushioned!

The day before Christmas

On the day before the Christmas break it was different, I wasn't directly involved at all, although I was standing just inches away. I was leading the “workers group”, the four young people aged between 24 and 38 who all have cerebral palsy. One of my clients rolled off the plinth in his attempt to sit up, a movement that he has done for many years totally independently.

He slightly injured his mouth as he landed on the floor, his eye tooth cutting into his upper lip, and as a precaution he was taken off to the Doc to check whether any stitches were needed (they were not), everybody concerned working fast, calmly and efficiently.

No serious damage done, but a shock for everyone, not least for the other clients in the group.

I arrived home later that same evening to find a mention on my answer phone telling me all was well, he had wanted make sure I wasn’t worrying and to prevent me having a sleepless night!

Why did it happen?

The members of this group are very independent, they bring themselves into the room, take coats and shoes off, get settled on their plinths and then we start the first programme. At the end of the session they do the same in reverse, I am rarely needed for these self-help skills. It was during this time when the group members move around independently that the incident happened which made it much more of a shock for all concerned. Once the injured client had been looked after I realised that I was not going to be able to carry on with a standing programme with the rest of the group as I had planned, as everyone was shaking! So we were spontaneous and creative and as it was Christmas a hand programme and some drawing of Christmas cards seemed appropriate. It was apparent, though, that at the same time we needed to talk about the incident, the rest of the group were suddenly aware that they too are vulnerable to having such a fall, however independent they are.

The drawing and the talking did the trick and we finished the session calmed and relaxed. We discussed how important it was to know what is happening in our bodies at all times, especially when we are exercising. We need to feel the tensions, and the aches and pains, and to adjust the movements accordingly, and above all to learn to ask for assistance when necessary.

This particular client on this particular evening had been very tense, he had complained earlier of having had a stressful day, perhaps he and I should have realised that maybe his usual method of sitting up wasn't going to work this time. As we saw, it didn't.

Listen to your bodies

I once personally experienced something very similar, not listening to my body. I had cancelled an appointment in the city because I was tired, but instead of curling up with a book I took myself out in the snow for some fresh air and immediately fell and broke my arm.

I hadn't listened to my body. I didn't change my behaviour or my movements accordingly, the result was that I fell.

I question of course whether I had used my conductive observation skills well enough on this occasion in my group. Incidents like this happen so quickly that there isn't always anything that one can do in an instant to prevent them. All the same, one always asks questions in order to prevent it happening again. I have learnt that on those days when clients complain that they feel different, whether because of a change in the weather or a lot of new experiences in their life, I have to say to them "Be aware, you may have to do things differently today". I have to be there to show them how things can be done differently but still independently. This recent incident might possibly have been prevented by his reaching a hand over on to the neighbouring plinth.

As simple as that.



Be Insured

I am personally insured against any accidents that happen to me or to my clients during our work together. On this occasion I was doubly insured as I was also insured through the institution where I was working. It is really important to have this cover, as I just discovered anything can happen, unexpectedly and very fast.

Are all conductors everywhere adequately covered by insurance?

Thursday 25 December 2008

Joyous Noel

A real Christmas stocking present, by Susie Mallett, 25th December 2008

I wish you all joy at Christmas



Wednesday 24 December 2008

German efficiency

Taking in walk near home, December 2008

Sorry, late post!

The queue was out of the door at the post office just two days before Christmas but I knew that I would not be standing there too long and that there was no need to get out my note book and start drawing or writing.

German efficiency came up trumps again as I knew it would, and quick as a flash I was at the counter bewildering the post office worker with my order of 100 stamps for Europe and various other countries.

I apologise now to anyone who is awaiting Christmas post from me, these hundred stamps are still unused, the cards still under construction on the table beside the Christmas tree and the Christmas letter is still in my head ready to be typed. At least I got the Christmas tree decorated on time!

I have nothing and no one to blame except perhaps enjoying Norway too much.

A village in the city

This week I feel like I am on holiday, at least for thirty minutes! I walked to the Post Office from my flat and on the way, in the village-like setting in the middle of a big city, I discovered the Nürnberg office of Fleishmann, the model train manufacturer, I found an Asian "open all hours" shop with plentiful supplies of PG Tips, the tea for monkeys and ex-pat Brits. A bit further along the road was a tailor's shop with a Christmas window display of Fleischmann products, just the thing to drool over and wish for sticking out of the top of the Christmas stocking. Then I found a sushi bar, a Greek restaurant, an expensive clothes shop and beside the church the Post Office. I am at last getting to know the area around my home. I even found the dry cleaners!

After the short queuing time I walked to the square around the local church to photograph the Christmas-tree sellers. I can not imagine a better place for selling Christmas trees. At this point it started to pour with fine drizzle and although only a short walk from home I decided to take refuge in my favourite café in the area, the Café Dampfnudelbäck. I had discovered this wonderful place about this time last year with my old friend who died in the summer. We spent many hours there sitting over a glass of wine as he schooled me in public speaking! He used all his experience on the stage to prepare me for making presentations on Conductive Education. I think that he did a good job.

I spent many more hours in the spring, in the same café, warming myself up as I escaped the cold and rain between flat viewing appointments. Today the rain is just an excuse, I am here to get the feeling of having a day off, being on holiday, enjoying some more bits-in-between, my note book to hand, newspapers in the racks to read, Christmasy music piped through the speakers and cosy armchairs to relax in. Of course the sketch book is also here with me - a drawing is definately called for.

Inspired again

I seem to have being doing quite well with the bits-in-between recently and my plan for one art work a day may possibly happen in 2009. Since being inspired in Norway I have been quite productive, sometimes up to six pictures a day. The sketch above took all of thirty minutes. Surely I will have that much time to spare every day to fiddle with a paintbrush or a pencil.

Looking out of the window at the dreary, rainy darkness I am not inspired as I was by the amazing light and colours in Norway, but looking inwards, into the café full of cosiness and good feeling, there is enough to inspire a drawing or two.

There seem to have been many bits-in-between in my life recently, I have been succeeding, just as many of my clients do, to utilise all that I learn through conductive pedagogy in my daily life. I learn to create interesting bits-in-between to feed my soul.


Open all hours

PG Tips -

Café Dampfnudelbäck -

Fleishmann -,

Monday 22 December 2008

After thirteen hours sleep

December 2008, Hamar sky

18th December 2008-train to Oslo

Sleep, a bit-in-between that conductors sometimes need too!

I have just returned from three weeks in Hamar, Norway, which in some ways feels like three months or even years! I went straight to work on Friday, on the Christmas Market in Nürnberg and then I slept for thirteen hours, 'absolute soundo', as my Mum would say about our dog after a day on the beach.

Reluctantly on to that plane with Stinky Stig!

In Hamar it was some of the best work that I have ever done. I always love my work, as anyone who reads my blog regularly will know, and it is usually lively, full of fun and energy, and a success for all concerned. This time in Hamar, though, it was all of this and something more, and the funny thing is that on the 29th November as I was preparing to leave Germany a part of me didn’t really want to go, even though Stinky Stig the dinosaur was already in my suitcase!

The reason for my reluctance to leave was not because of going off into the unknown, I was really rather interested to find out what was being developed in Norway as far as Conductive Education was concerned. I was however very reluctant to live out of a suitcase again and longed to have some free time in my lovely flat.

I have taken at least eleven trips away from home this year, both within Germany and abroad, one of these for seven weeks, and in between moves in Germany I was also living out of boxes! Now, though, I am thoroughly enjoying being in my cosy warm flat for a few days sitting under the half decorated Christmas tree.

On 29th November luckily I had no choice, all the contracts had been signed and I had to get packing and on to that plane the next day. There were six little boys with their dinosaurs waiting at the other end for me and Stinky Stig: more than this I didn’t know, except that I was planning on having fun with them despite not speaking a word of their language. For me this was a problem as I would have loved to have had silly and serious chats with these boys, and when they asked when I was going to speak Norwegian to them it made me very sad.

The language question

On my very last day there, when I was singing the good-morning song without getting the words from the wall to follow, one boy just stared at me and said to Lill "She is speaking Norwegian". He was so thrilled, his face lit up. During the three weeks he had chattered to me non-stop and he too looked sad when I didn’t answer him.

I plan to change this for next time. Intensive Norwegian lessons are on the cards for 2009.

When I was still in Nürnberg I could not imagine for the life of me how it could possibly work out, me a leading conductor with no Norwegian language, not one word! It made me quite nervous I can tell you. I had experienced something like this once before and it was very difficult. The first time was in Hungary when I was a student, and not leading a group. As a first-year student at the Petö Institute, I was not expected to write programmes for the whole group, as I would be in Norway, to lead them, to write reports and hold meetings with parents.

I was to discover, however, that being English I could do this in Norway much better than could most of the other visiting conductors, as English is the language that is used for everything except the work in the group (and this Lill and I got sorted on the first day, resulting in excellent team work).

Conductive Education in Hamar

What did I know about Hamar before I got there? I knew that there were two Norwegian conductors who had trained at NICE, the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham-both of them hard working, flexible and spontaneous, and lots of fun!

The 'block' system the world over - can it work?

I already knew that the centre in Hamar functions much in the same way as the centre where I work in Nürnberg. It also uses the block system, but whereas we have permanent groups who are given the dates of the three or four blocks that they can attend during one year, in Hamar the parents say when they wish to come and the groups are then formed accordingly.

I prefer the system in Nürnberg: it works more efficiently, both for the conductors and the children. The Hamar system may be better for the parents but makes it difficult for the conductors to follow work through during the whole year, and the children may need to get used to new peers and conductors each time they visit. Hamar has the added problem that, apart from the two permanent Norwegian conductors, the other conductors change every three weeks.
In Nürnberg we are each responsible for our own groups and whichever conductors are available will work with us, usually the same ones in specific groups. This gives a little more stability to the block system that has developed in Germany for much the same reason as in Norway, to fit in with the school system.

It is all swings and roundabouts and each country must find the best way to fit conductive upbringing into their culture and into the structure of their health and education systems, but first and foremost we are all here (all of us being the conductors, parents and management) for the children and we must always aim to do what is best for them.

Trudging and sliding to work

So, back to arriving in Hamar in the dark. It took me most of two weeks to get my bearings. There was rarely any sun to be seen and when it was it there it was setting so early that I couldn’t work out where the points of the compass were. It was dark when I walked to work each morning, first tentatively treading on sheets of ice them bravely trudging through deep snow, until the last day when it was back to the ice and out with the spikes for my shoes.

My work-place was in a wooden cabin not too far from the lake. I actually saw this cabin in daylight four times in fifteen days! Once while we were out sledging, once when we went to the barbeque lunch, and twice on the two Sundays when after lunch I set off to the centre to do overtime, to finish the paperwork, to write programmes and progress reports and, if I had any time left, to write a posting for my blog.

Types of groups

The two work-rooms at the Hamar centre are quite small, which limits the size of the groups and means that groups have to be more homogeneous than would be the case in larger groups, having more conductors and students working with them. I have often been asked over the years why can groups not be heterogeneous, as seen at the Petö Institute, and the answer is always they can be, but only if the groups are big and there are enough conductors . When you have a group of twenty children and divide this up into sub-groups for individual walking programmes, you can have four groups of five children each with a conductor and one or two students working together. In a group of six with two conductors, when you need four individual programmes you do not have anyone to work with all the sub-groups.

Over the years in Nürnberg we have been lucky, as we have always had enough conductors to call upon and have had some heterogeneous small groups, but now as elsewhere we, conductors, are being reduced in numbers and the groups are homogeneous again.

Selection box of learning

With our six very active boys in Hamar Lill and I had to be creative with the space. We managed to learn all sorts of things, like walking on Dinosaur footprints, walking over wobbly desert landscapes, and hopping on one foot, as well as eating with a knife and fork and putting on foot splints when dressed in snow gear (this is a huge achievement, try it and see). The children learnt how to paint dinosaurs while standing up, how to make Christmas sweets, how to wrap Christmas presents and some got almost as far as tying their own shoe laces. Some learnt to ride on a sledge and others how to grill sausages on a stick. They learnt that dinosaurs hatched out of eggs and even had a go at modelling some and putting them in old egg shells. They learnt that some ate plants and some ate each other.

Proof enough that that education, upbringing, learning, joy and having fun can all come in the same package.

More on language

How glad I am that I got on that plane and made it to Oslo and found myself in a foreign land unable to understand a word. I had no idea then that all Norwegians from as early as six years old, learn to speak English as correctly if not more so than I can. I was soon to realise that with my English and German I would do fine and I could stop worrying.

Those Norwegians working at the centre certainly use English a lot more than I do in my life in Germany. Believe it or not, this was only my second experience of Conductive Education in English, but it was English with several other languages going around in my head or coming out of other people's mouths. I was speaking Hungarian at the house where I was living and English at work, and both socially. I was in my element! My Hungarian improved dramatically over the three weeks, thanks to my Hungarian colleague Erzsibet, and I think that my English improved too! I was learning lots of English terms used in Conductive Education and I became more fluent in every-day English!

It was interesting being out together with my Hungarian colleague, Erzsibet, as she speaks Norwegian probably like I speak Hungarian, although I can not judge this very well. She speaks a little English and with my German and English and Hungarian we were communicating and understanding everything going on around us.

At the centre the Norwegians are really good at swapping into English as soon as a non- Norwegian appears. When this non-Norwegian happened to be only me I asked them not to change to English, especially when it was in their very short lunch hour, as I loved to hear them “singing” to each other.


Lill Angel (Norwegian conductor Lill Hege who was one of my two angels for three weeks) invented this word, and we all love it. I use it to describe the times when the 'fun fun' stopped and the 'serious fun' began. It describes the times when Lill Angel, Angel Marthe and I would sit down after work. Lill and I would be planning the next day, discussing the progress and changes needed, when Marthe would arrive to say goodbye. Often she too would sit with us and here we three would stay, sometimes for hours. These two conductors certainly know how to ask questions, and I learnt how to answer them. I have had a German NICE conductor working with me in Nürnberg, both when she was a student, at the end of her first and second years, and later as a conductor. She was just the same. They are all very capable of working independently and have a never-ending flow of questions. I love it. I enjoy this teaching, especially as in Norway it was so spontaneous and practical. I love finding out what I actually know!

We inspired each other in Hamar for three whole weeks and we will all miss each other in January, when I will be busy with my painter friend in northern Germany and in Hamar the little ones will be enjoying life with Postman Pat and his black and white cat. Hopefully they will have snow for sledging and winter barbeques.


How do words like 'seriosity' get invented?
They are inevitable in a conductive world where conductors, children and parents are speaking a multitude of different languages. Even a NICE-trained British student will be passively (when not actively) learning Hungarian from her Magyar colleagues. Magyars trained and working in Budapest will need English, Russian, Spanish and German and other languages to communicate with clients and students.

Lill and I were using four languages both actively and passively. This is extremely tiring and this is when the brain starts refusing to switch from one to other as quickly as is necessary and these funny words start to appear. I wish that I had collected them over the years and made a book, it would make far more interesting reading than the English- Norwegian- Magyar task series dictionary that I came across in Hamar. Although that made me smile in places!

Maybe I should start collecting the funny words and phrases now, I already have the first two – “seriosity” and “ I open my knees”. For executing the later I visualise either using an old fashioned tin opener to expose my knee cap, or having a zip running around it (probably the easier version!).

Swapping similar words with different meanings is also common in our work, as I remember doing in Hungarian with cipö (shoes) and csipö (hips). I used the wrong word for a whole lying programme in the spina bifida group, where hips are mentioned in nearly every breath. It happened to be my exam and no one said a word except the very senior conductor, in her assessment afterwards, in very broken English!

I say no more, except perhaps it doesn't really matter and it makes everyone laugh.

Returning to Hamar

Norwegians are returning from their training in Britain and gradually they will take over leading all the groups, and they will at last be able to work together. This means they will be dealing with only one language and this their own mother tongue and that of the children. What bliss for them all! I long to be able to do just this but, unless I return to England or go to another English-speaking country it will not be possible. At least here in Germany I only have English in my head and German in my mouth, although I do speak Magyar occasionally with my colleagues, firstly because it sounds nicer to my ear, secondly at least because one of us will be talking in our mother tongue which makes the situation more relaxing and, thirdly, I like to practise.

I would love to be a fly on the wall as Lill and Marthe get together for the first time in a group, as a team. What fun they will have playing with their own language. I do hope they will forget about translating tasks from English or Hungarian and can be spontaneous and discover their own language, with a few made-up words to cover the gaps, as for example “I pinch my thumb and finger together” which they were still debating over when I left!

As for my return to Hamar, I hope that this will be very soon. Maybe to experience Norway and its greenness and light so that I can compare it to Norway in its darkness, its blues, pinks and whites and every shade in between.

And of course I would also like to return to enjoy more of the same conductive work with my new colleagues.


NICE - National Institute for Conductive Education, Birmingham, UK

Selection Box

Saturday 20 December 2008

A Zwetschgenmännle for Lill Angel

Look what I found, Lill!

A Zwetschgen man dressed as a postie. It will be in the post to you soon, hopefully delivered by a five fingered postman! (Click on the picture to enlarge it then you will be able to see the postie).


Zwetschgenmännle -

"a five fingered postman!"- refers to Postman Pat who has only four fingers. If anyone knows the reason for this I, and many childen, would love to know why. Whenever I use Postman Pat as a theme with children they always ask me why he is a four-fingered postman. Unfortunately, all I can answer is that I don't know, perhaps it is just artistic lisence!

The Nürnberg Christmas Market

The best star on the stand this year!

19th December, Nürnberg, 2008

My favourite day in the run-up to Christmas.

Six Sternstunden

It was lovely to have the Christmas market to look forward to on my return to Germany, and by selling handmade stars for charity I rediscovered my soul that I feared I had left behind in Norway.

I actually realised I had my soul back while I was walking the ten-minute walk from the market place to my flat, at midnight when the others had to get on to trams and into cars to drive home.
I think that it had actually been returning all evening with all the special experiences of meeting generous people and being with my colleagues for six hours. There had been children emptying their purses to the last Cent and adults to the last Euro. Teenagers giving all except the bus-fare home and one especially memorable young man who blessed us all and walked away as pleased with the experience and his star as we were.

I have mentioned the market and this stand in a previous posting, in November, the day that I work there being one of my favourite days in Advent. The stars are all made by children in kindergartens and schools, and are sold in Nürnberg. Throughout the Advent time the local TV station shows where the money is used, and advertise other Sternstunde fund-raising events.
Last year the charity that I do a lot of work with opened an integrated crèche and was given 2000 Euros from Sternstunde for equipment.

The star stand is actually one of very few stands on this Christmas market selling hand-crafted objects. Many of the others are offering glittery Christmas decorations, traditional wooden decorations (the more expensive ones are probably handmade), many food stalls with traditional fare such as fruit cake and painted gingerbread biscuits and hearts, boiled sweet corn and of course the usual sausages in rolls, and Gluhwein.


There is an abundance of stands selling handmade Zwetschgenmännle. These colourful figures are made from dried fruits and nuts and are dressed in a range of uniforms or Trachten. These are completely edible but because they are so beautiful I doubt whether anyone ever eats them. I watched two very young boys discussing with their grandmother which one they would buy and which had the nicest face. Checking out the faces is the most important thing to consider when buying, as each hand-painted face has a very different expression, which is mainly in the eyes.

Transported back to Hamar

While wandering around the huge Nürnberg market I was transported back to Hamar, to its first Christmas market, that I visited for the opening. I was once more reminded of the very traditional Christmas that they were preparing for, and I was glad to be warmed by the alpaca shawl that I had bought there as a present to myself.

Nourishing the Seele with bits-in-between

Now I have to get dressed up in my bike gear go shopping and find a Christmas tree to carry back in the trailer.

Afterwards I need to make my Christmas cards and compose a Christmas letter. It is time for lots of bits-in-between to feed the conductive Seele and to regain some energy before the 26th December when I begin with conductive upbringing once more.


Six Sternstunden – I mean “six star filled hours”

Sternstunde - a charity in Bavaria selling stars for donations on the Nürnberg christams market:

Gluhwein – mulled wine

Zwetschgenmännle – small figures created from dried fruit and nuts, dressed in uniforms such as nurses and postmen, as footballers musicians, gnomes, and elderly couples on a bench.

Trachten – traditional German costume.

Seele - soul

Friday 19 December 2008

Hamar to Oslo by train

Hamar, December 2008

I have decided to answer a comment thatI received to my last posting as a new post rather than as a further comment, because it tells the story of my last few hours in Norway.

I had a lie-in this morning and actually woke just as it was getting light. The colours in the sky were amazing, there was even a touch of ceruleum blue, maybe just about enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers,and there was a hint of sunshine, but for a few minutes.

A few hours of daylight at last for painting

I cleaned up and packed and then had a whole hour at the kitchen table, painting the view over the lake to the distant hills, with the branches of the silver birches in the foreground now black, and dark purplely/blue patches showing through the melting snow on the hills.

I actually painted the view six times so that I could give each of the "team" at the Centre a very small thank-you for their tremendous support over the past few weeks. I feel like I have been there for months, so I knew it was going to be a difficult "Aufwiedersehen".

Until we meet again

I went up to the centre to join the team for Christmas lunch and lots of laughs before Angel Lill took me to the train. While she was holding my arm, escorting me over the black ice I had to think of my mum who in the last few weeks of her life always hooked her hand into my brother-in-law's arm. I am not quite as old as my mum, but I found walking on the ice very difficult. I think that if you don't grow up with ice and snow you do not really get used to walking on it. My whole body tenses up, which is a real danger and an invitation for broken bones.

So this brings the story to the point when I said my goodbyes at the Centre and, as the comment on the last posting indicates, it wasn't easy. In fact, it would have been easier for me to turn right around and walk back in and actually miss the flight!

This made it even more special to find that comment on my blog as I got back into my cold flat! Thank you "Wenche the waffle-maker"!

Yes, it was very difficult to leave, luckily I had the most amazing train journey to Oslo to fill me with even more wonder and inspire more painting. The lake looked gorgeous, the sky was amazing, the birch and the spruce trees dark and imposing and the train was like something out of the Hamar train museum. It had old green checked-cloth seats and real wooden coat hangers to hang the long winter coats on. The journey was such a last-minute treat that it helped to stem the tears, with Angel Lill driving alongside over the bridge for the first few minutes, I don't think she could see me still standing waving like mad at the window!

Sir Alf and a dictionary

It is very nice, Wenche, that you noticed that I had not had time on Wednesday morning to search the Internet to fill in the notes section on the carolling posting. I doubt whether I would have found such a comprehensive biography of Sir Alf. I hadn't realised that it was he who wrote Mrs Pepperpot.

I had actually been searching for something about him at the airport bookshop but had no luck. I did however find a copy of the very good English-Norwegian dictionary that you have in your office. I bought it. Whatever could that mean?

I expect that it probably means that the next time I sit around a table with you all I would like to understand all the jokes and not just think I understand them. I want to be able to talk to the children about dinosaurs and not only teach them how to draw them, I would like to go to a Norwegian carolling concert and not just the English one, and I would like more than anythng to go to a Norwegian theatre!

Christmas Wishes

I wish you (the waffle-making mum) and the saxophinist, the boat-builder, the two NICE angels, Girl Friday, the voice of Stinky Stig and the rest of the team, a wonderful, relaxing holiday and a successful new year. I wish all of us another fun time around the lunchtime table, very, very soon!


Aufwiedersehen - until we next meet

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Carolling in Hamar

"Two Norfolkmen meet", 16th December 2008

So much has been happening these past few days that I have had no time to write about it all.

Not just more bits in between, and lots of fun and joy in the group, but also the more serious stuff like writing reports, consultations with parents and lovely “mentoring” chats with Nice Angels Lill and Marthe. There have also been more “bits in between for conductors”, lots of invitations to meet people and get a taste of Norwegian life.

I have fallen more and more in love with the place each day I am here, the wonderful darkness that turns to wonderful colours, and a few hours of daylight each day. Rime frost and deep snow. I am very reluctant to leave, especially the more interesting my life here becomes.

Yesterday I was treated to a saxophone concert by 11-year-old boy and witnessed a paper-boat-making marathon by his younger brother, all this while eating waffles with the most peculiar-looking goats cheese and bringebaer syltetöy (raspberry jam). The goats cheese looks like Caramac chocolate and does actually taste a little bit like it. I have no idea how it is made but it is certainly an acquired taste that I seem to have acquired.

Here we go a-carolling

This evening was the absolute highlight of my short stay in Norway. I rushed off after work for a meal with another new Norwegian acquaintance and then collected from the restaurant by the waffle-making mum of yesterday's saxophonist and the boat-builder.. We set off to meet more acquaintances at the Storhamar kirke (church), to attend an English Carol concert. This concert is quite famous in Hamar and today was the 29th occasion that English teacher Ian Watering has organised pre-Christmas carolling in Hamar. What was especially surprising was that this English teacher actually comes from Norwich, my home town.

I was introduced to him by two of his students of 30 and 15 years ago and we immediately lapsed into Norfolk dialect, which was like a foreign language to the Norwegians! With this immediate rapport this very tall English gentleman asked me if I would take part in his carol service and read some verses of the Christmas story from the Bible. Of course I did it. It was such an honour for me and a great pleasure to stand in front of this friendly crowd of people and take part in traditional English Christmas celebrations for the first time in many years.

I spent a few minutes thinking about my mum who would have loved to have been standing there with me, singing at the top of her voice, and of my sister with whom, as a school girl, I had learnt all the words to the carols: no carol sheet for me!

Sneak advert!

Below I have reproduced part of an article in the local paper a few days before the concert. Words written by Ian Watering the English caroller to a melody written by Alf Pröysen.

“Yea, sure you’ve washed the floorboards and carried in the logs,
You’re feeling kinda cool, man, dressed in yer casual togs.
You’ve done the kitchen stuff, like
Bought in the Christmas hog,
It’s time to put your feet up ‘nd ‘ave a glas of glog.

But there’s still a naggin’ feelin’ that
Somefink’s not quite right.
There’s still a place you shoulda been on this cold Advent night.
You ponder an’ you wonder , yer mind begins to search,
“Eureka, now I’ve got it it’s carols in the church.

For those who been there earlier,
You know what it’s about,
You’ve sung with heart and soul
And might, of that there is no doubt,
But if you’ve never been before, just
Join the mighty queue,
You’re welcome to the motley gang,
The Christmas carol crew!

Alas the local papers won't admit
this ad for free,
They won’t give time or place or date
Without the usual fee.
So’s usual we’ll have to do it veree secret-lee,
And hope that all our carollers will dee-cipher the key.

The place, as always, is the great Big Hammer Church.
And if you know not where that is
Just ask or pray or search.
The hour again as always is the opposite of “hell”,
And if you don’t know what that is,
gGive Ian Watering a bell.

You’ve got the time, you’ve got the
place, but still don’t know the day.
It’s always on a Tuesday, and this
Year too, oh yea!
It’s twixt fifteen and seventeen my
Teacher used to say,
If you can find a rhyme for sixteen,
Please let me know, I pray.

Apologies to Sir Alf.”


Alf Pröysen -
Hamar Arbeiderblad, 12 December 2008.

Caramac chocolate -

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Pink sky at night

15th December 2008, 01.30 am.

I woke in the night and just had to paint!

Only two days left in this land of darkness and there are many things that I shall miss, one of them being the amazing effects of the light and the snow and the cold, cold air as they play together.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Smiley bits in between the bits in between.

I saw these two scenes while walking home from town last night, both made me smile.

Minis and minus

Don't forget, the temperature is between minus 5 and minus 18 this week but, as in every town on a Saturday night two weeks before Christmas, dressing up comes first!

Snowed in

I cycle everywhere in Germany and last year I didn't miss one day because of the weather. I would love to have my mountain bike here and try it out on the snow just as I used to in my early years in Germany when we often had 30 centimetres or more.

Perhaps it would be safer for me to try the wonderful scooter sledges that I have seen in town where you scoot along with a child or your shopping on the seat in front.

“Bits in between” for conductors

Add Image

Some of the bits in between, 13th December 2008

Conductors need their “bits in between” too, especially after working for two weeks, ten hours each day, including Sunday!

I think I can quite honestly say that I have never in my life so wished for Friday to come, so that I could have a break from work. As a self-employed conductor I often work at the weekends too and I feel very lucky that I can go to work each day wanting to walk through the door and get on with it,

But this weekend I was glad of a day off, as I really needed some “bits in between” for myself. I needed to get out in the fresh air, get to know my surroundings in the daylight, get my bearings, see what Hamar looks like, learn a little bit about Norwegian life and for a few hours forget about en, tu, tre, fire, fem!

Le Louvre in Hamar

On Friday evening, when I was walking in the cold wind beside the lake with the mum of one of the Nice angels, I saw the old ruins that are covered with a glass pyramid. I have seen photographs taken of these ruins before the beautiful glass structure was erected over them, when they looked like any ruins anywhere in the world. Now, looking very much like the central construction in the Louvre, they have been turned into a work of art!

In the evening darkness, with candles burning along the snow-covered pathways, the light was amazing, reflecting off the glass, off the snow and off the water that could be heard lapping against the shore. There was a bitterly cold wind blowing, which dropped the actual temperature by several degrees. The flag on the green beside the house where I am living has been flying in the wind for several days now, and this makes a less pleasant type of coldness. No good for English skin, turning it into sand paper if I forget the moisturiser! It is reminiscent of the lazy east wind at home on the Norfolk coast, which instead of going round you blows straight through you.

A peaceful Norwegian advent

I spent the rest of the evening walking through the fairy-tale streets of Hamar, enjoying the company of my new-found friend and learning a bit of Norwegian.

With the streets full of snow and dimly lit, my imagination was running wild. I expected to see Santa’s little helpers on their scooter-likesledges, hurrying about their business, rushing in and out of the narrow streets.

I think that this must be Christmas at its least commercial. In comparison to England and Germany, with all the hustle and bustle and crowded streets, Hamar was radiating the peace that Christmas is all about. Quiet streets, no bumping shoulders, lots of smiles and time for chatting on the corner.

Trains, train, trains

On Saturday came the “bits in between” that I have been looking forward too since my arrival, actually since I was told about it in Hungary at the beginning of November.

Hamar has a wonderful railway museum, the Jernbanemuseum, and this was my destination on Saturday morning. I was kindly collected from “home” by a colleague and dropped off at the door of the musuem. Being winter and snowy and cold, the outdoor exhibits are not open but there was enough to keep me busy for a couple of hours before the return of the same lady and her most charming boys, who had invited me to lunch.


The exhibits are lovingly put together and I was transported back to bygone times and away from work, exactly what the doctor ordered. All the aches and pains and tiredness disappeared as I looked longingly at the suitcases embroidered with locos, saw the station clocks and luxurious railway carriages. This all reminded me that one day I will make that journey on the Orient Express.

I am also determined to return to Hamar to work one day, if only to take the boys from work to the railway museum in the summer when we can walk around outside and picnic by the lake.

My Dad

While I waited for my lunch date, the other charming boys, to return from their Christmas shopping I had time to write a postcard to my Dad who is actually responsible for my fascination with trains. He was my childhood hero, as much for being a engine-driver as for being my dad. He drove steam, diesels and electrics, travelling for most of 49 years between Norwich and London.

I used to lovedbeing taken “down the loco”, to breath in the smells of trains, see the turntable and enjoy the general blackness and smokiness of the place. Dad’s old fireman’s uniform (cleaned of course) complete with flat cap with plastic cape at the back, was in our dressing up box. It was always a difficult choice for me, I could never decide between this and the 1920s velvet dresses that had belonged to my grandma and her sisters.

My sis usually went for Mum’s cream crepe wedding dress and I was more often than not to be seen as a British Rail fireman, with the dog dressed as a postman because he loved to wear the hat!

I could be describing our activities in the conductive group on Thursday, dressed up and singing carols!

My Christmas present

Back to today’s “bits in between”. After relaxing with the trains and learning about traditional Norwegian Christmas over lunch, I ventured alone to the Christmas market, following the St. Lucia procession along the high street. The market is not at all like the German ones that I am used to. It is sell nothing but homemade articles, both food and craft-work. I had decided that I would buy my Christmas present here if I found anything thatI liked and needed. I found a lovely cerise and black alpaca shawl which is the warmest article of clothing I now own, apart from perhaps my New Zealand possum socks.

For many years I have made all the Christmas presents that I give to other people and thenbuy something for myself. This year I have given myself something to remind me of this happy time in Hamar.

The angel in each of us

December the 13th is St. Lucia day. I have known the song about her for most of my life but I am ashamed to say that I had no idea who St. Lucia was, until this week when I learnt about it from Ellen the “lady Friday” at the centre. She told me about the light procession, the St. Lucia bread and the concert to be given at the opening of the market. The children braved the cold and sang beautifully looking just like the angels Petö is said to have believed each of us have inside us. I would like to believe it too.


En, tu, tre, fire, fem – one, two, three, four, five.

NICE angels – my nick-name for the conductors I am working with who were trained at the National Institute for Conductive Education, Birmingham, UK.

Church ruins under glass - Domkirkeodden

Railway museum, Hamar - Jernbanemuseum
TLC - tender loving care

Saturday 13 December 2008

Tusen takk!

"No knives and forks, angel Lill and snow angel " Hamar, 2008

Only minus eight today!

A big thank you to the Hamar parents for a wonderful, conductive upbringing, lunchtime grill out in the snow!

As promised, on Thursday lunchtime we got treated to lunch outside with both the starters and the dessert being lots of sledging and rolling around in the snow.

The snowsuit programme as part of the "daily routine"!

At eleven fifteen after a wonderful lying programme, a dinosaur lesson and drinks, we got mountains of thermal tights, snowsuits, socks, gloves, scarves and hats into the room and started on a massive dressing up programme.

It is really difficult to put boots on when you have already put on so many layers that you are starting to move like a penguin. When a child has spasticity in his arms or legs imagine the effort needed to get those last layers of clothes on when it is getting virtually impossible to bend any part of the body!

We had a couple of children who got their clothes on for the first time alone, much to the surprise of their parents who were around to take the insulated children outside while Lill and I could start our mammoth dressing routine. It takes ages, but well worth it to get out in the chill, clear air and the daylight, still no sunshine though.

Doing the penguin waddle

When Lill and I were finally ready and all bundled up it was onto the sledges or out with the walking sticks with spikes and down to the lakeside grill, those who were on foot waddling rather than walking!

I have never seen a child with snow spikes on his sticks before, a few of my stroke clients in Germany have them but the children there usually hop into a wheel chair and get someone to push them when it is very icy! The child who had the snow spikes on his sticks today also does cross country sking which he learns at school. Most children in Norway are born with skis on their feet and it seems that even those with a physical disability get the opportunity to learn!

We didn't have far to go for our lunch and rounding the bend there was a delightful cosy opening in the woods with two gapehytte (lean-tos) and a bål (bonfire), surrounded by slopes for sledging which were just steep enough to encourage screams, to overturn the sledges and get faces full of snow. Slippery enough to make scrambling up again very difficult especially for me with a child in tow.

Each and every one of us took a tumble, but there was not a tear in sight, just smiling, snowy faces and rosy cheeks, and huge appetites.

Pigs in blankets

The dads in charge got the fire glowing just right for grilling and gave the call to come to eat. All the children took a seat on the wooden benches and were given a sharpened stick to put their sausage on. All of them grilled their own sausages over the fire and I being vegetarian grilled my banana, we then wrapped them in traditional flat Pinnebrød (pancake-like bread) to eat them.

The scene reminded me of szalonnasütés in the summer in Hungary.

The children took themselves off into the lean-to to play while the adults ate their fill then it was off onto the slopes again. More sledging and walking through the forest until the light began to fade and a few of us (me included) began to freeze.

Snow Angels

I hope we are giving the boys lots of exciting experiences, encouraging parents to get them bundled up and outside. I am experiencing all sorts new things all made possible by the children's enthusiasm and my angel Lill. Lill got me on the front of her sledge and took me down to the bonfire for lunch, I screamed as loud as I could and didn't fall off. Later two of the boys, who had no wish to return indoors, helped Lill show me how to make snow angels (see photo).

Back inside for a sitting-come-standing programme, we creatively built a bonfire, stuck plasticine sausages onto a baton and proceeded to show Stinky Stig what he had missed. He had been sleeping in the warmth of the centre and had missed all the fun. Lill and I got the blame for forgetting to wake him , he had therefore not been with us in the snow.

Thank you mums and dads for making the fun possible, hopefully we will get one more chance next week to enjoy the clear, crisp outside before we all make our separate ways home for Christmas.


No knives and forks
We are teaching the children to eat with a knife and fork. n Tuesday they turned up with a demonstration placard with a drawing of a plate and a knife and fork with a big cross through the middle. No chance boys, unless we are having grilled sausages out in the snow!

tusan takk (Norwegian) - thank you very much/ a thousand thanks

szalonnasutesnasütés (Hungarian) - grilling pig fat over a fire with garlic and eating it with bread.

snow angels

Stinky Stig

Thursday 11 December 2008

Angels in the snow

Hamar, 9th December 2008

Minus 18 - conductive upbringing with 14 rosy cheeks.

Shall we, shan't we?

Yesterday Angel Lill and I promised our six lovely boys an afternoon in the snow. Overnight the trees had turned fairytale-white, turning the world into a Christmas card (I was out with freezing fingers photographing them at 11.30 pm), and the temperature dropped to minus 18.

This morning Lill and I arrived at work prepared with all the gear, and at nine o’clock the parents came in looking very concerned, asking whether we were still planning to brave the elements. I had had a little experience of twenty degrees below zero in my first years in Germany but I have no idea how these temperatures affect these children. I told the parents that it was their decision and we could go out on another afternoon if necessary - after all, we are conductors, and therefore flexible!

We left it at that and after lunch all the children had decided for themselves, the temperature had risen to minus 9, which was warm enough for these hardened Vikings. All arrived warmed from their hot lunches, looking like teddy bears, wrapped up in so many layers that they were twice their normal size. Lill and I did the same, I donned in all her spare scarves and ear- warmers and it was out in the white wilderness.

Working together, out in the snow...

I have been sledging before, but only once in my life, at the age of 32 in Szentes, Hungary. I had been pulled along by the father of a fellow conductor and shown how to sledge downhill by my colleague János. I remember to this day the thrill of speeding downhill, screaming my head off and landing in the soft snow, so it was a delight for me to offer the same experience to “my” six Norwegian boys.

Of course snow is a everyday sight for these children but there was one who had never been on a sledge before. He did just fine and found it as exciting as I had done in Szentes those many years ago. As I sit and write this I can feel the ache in my back but it had been well worth pulling two sledges at once just to see the smiles, hear the screams, see faces covered in snow, and see the rosy cheeks. I wonder whether they too could feel their nostrils freeezing!

A few of the mums and dads joined us. One has offered to build a fire in a willow shelter beside the lake and grill sausages for the children’s lunch tomorrow. I can’t wait. I am more excited than the children. This is apparently a very traditional Norwegian custom in the winter and much more exciting than a summer-time barbeque.

...then back indoors

Today the group really started to work together, which made it possible to do all sorts of lovely bits of in-between stuff (as you may have seen from reading my blog, the favourite parts of my work are the 'bits in between', the enjoying-life bits).

I actually got Angel Lill on to the spare plinth today, working alongside the children, and I ran around facilitating them all. Tomorrow I have told them all thwill bemy turn to get on to the plinth, but Angel Lill says Noit is not as we have a visitor! Maybe on Friday!

After today’s plinth programme we did our standing tasks at the plinth, where we then we had a go at forming dinosaurs from bread dough made for us by the lovely Ellen. The dinosaurs had raisons for eyes and armour plate. It had been only the promise this afternoon of eating the freshly baked bread which tempted the boys in from their icy playground.

They didn’t want to come in doors at all, but the smell of bread wafting out to them was just too tempting and just as the sun was setting, at 2.30 pm, we were back indoors tasting our produce. Today was a day made up entirely of bits in-between, lots of smiles, good food and really healthy faces.

I'm so loving it

As have said so often, I love my work and I think that this time I may be near to tears when I have to leave these children and my NICE angels in just seven days' time.

Until then we are going to make the most of it, tomorrow its grilled sausages by an open fire at the lakeside, on Monday the other group is joining us to make marcipan dinosaurs with a chocolate coating, and we still have our “dinosaur’s love underpants” play to rehearse and perform.

Lill and I are exhausted (I actually fell asleep in the office over the computer both the last two evenings) but my six boys are banging on the door to come in in the mornings which makes it all worthwhile. I can recover back home under the Christmas tree for a week before the next conductive upbringing continues in northern Germany, on 26th December, with preparations for the next art exhibition!

PS I was actually quite impressed with myself this afternoon, as I was pulling two sledges at once and actually running on snow and ice without falling over. This is quite a feat for one of the older conductors amongst us, one who was brought up on the east coast of England where hardly a snow flake is ever seen in winter!

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Conductive upbringing at its best

Sunset, 2.30 pm, Hamar, 9th December 2008

"Driving along in a big red car what did you see today?"

I have just received a mail from a family in Germany who, I can honestly say, are one of my few examples of conductive upbringing at its best.

I mentioned the child, now a young adult in a blog that I posted in April this year called "On the road to orthofunction", She had just passed her theory driving test. Well, yesterday I received news via Mum that the four-year-old I once knew is now the proud owner of a full driving license and is driving her own automatic car.

This family havs done everything that they can to keep their expectations, as high for this daughter as for their other three children (now two doctors and a financial wizard). The whole family has followed a conductive upbringing since before I met them in 1994.

I worked within the family home, at first once every month for a week, slowly decreasing this as school commitments increased, to what happens these days, emails and phone calls between myself and Mum.

As you can imagine, the whole family is delighted with this new "Michael Schaumacher": what better Christmas present could they wish for? Knowing how much work has gone into getting this driving license, not only during the past seven months but also over the past 18 years, gives me a far nicer feeling in my soul than achieving five hundred blogs ever could!

Congratulations, I wish I was with you, as I have been at Advent time for many years, to join the celebrations.

All the way from Norway I wish you a peaceful Advent time and remember with pleasure the hours that many years ago we spent preparing Christmassy pictures for the windows, that I imagine are still hung up each year.


"Driving along in a big red bus"
Children's song

On the road to orthofunction

All I want for Christmas…

Northern light , December 2008 by Susie Mallett

I just published my only wish for Christmas, my hundredth posting on my blog.

The "Oscar" acceptance speech

Thank you for the present,

Thank you purple-spotters for reading,

Thank you to all my conductive teachers, colleagues and mentors for supporting,

Thank you to all my clients for inspiring.

Thank you too to Nick, my art teacher, 1975, for showing me how to draw and therefore how to keep my soul healthy.


All I want for Christmas is a hundred blogs!

The present