I am find myself preoccupied these days with something that Professor Schaffhauser, Rector of the Petö Institute, said to me in our recent meeting. He described me as an "orthodox conductor". In this preoccupied state I try not to let any elbows slip (ref. to my last posting) as I consider what is "orthodox" about me and my work. Is it the method of training that I received? Is it my method of working? Is it my way of thinking? Is it all of these or none? Or was it, as he said, learning with the sound of Hungarian songs ringing in my ears?
As I work with my client this week I ask whether this is the orthodox conductor at work? Not a plinth or a ladder-back chair anywhere to be seen! Am I right in thinking orthodox conductors don’t always need plinths and ladder back chairs? Of course they are helpful sometimes, but we can manage without them too.
Someone who understands Conductive Education only as a series of tasks on a plinth, at a wall bar or sitting on a slatted stool, would have looked at our session this afternoon and wondered where is the orthodox conduction there?
We were in fact being highly successful in all our conductive tasks. We were cooking. We achieved quite a lot of firsts today… stirring with the difficult-to-control right hand, chopping a banana while standing, and washing the dirty baking trays alone. The best was that for the first time my client worked alone, while I took the photos, with nothing ending up on the floor.
It was a two-hour standing programme, hand programme and science lesson, to mention just three elements out of hundreds.
What better motivation than having the whole family, including Dad, hanging around at the oven door and then clearing the plate of all two dozen muffins at tea time!
Dancing the Night Away!
Last night we were doing our “CE” at a birthday party: opening the lemonade bottle and pouring a drink (managing this alone for the first time ever), standing, not sitting, at the table and eating with the men, talking clearly above the noise and being understood, and making the other guests laugh.
What better motivation can there be than not wanting to stand out at a party.
The importance of Mária Hári’s “spontaneity”
Of course we do the "traditional" stuff, we have been doing it for ten years, that’s why we can do all the fun things too. There has always been room for something a bit crazy, for spontaneity, for something different and for something a bit off the track, because that is just what life is like. It is unpredictable, full of surprises, things ever changing and with the need for adaptation ever present.
This is what makes life interesting and the oddball situations which we create to work in are what makes Conductive Education interesting for us both. If it snows then we must go outside and make snow angels. If we feel like eating cakes then we must go and bake some.
This interest is what makes my client say things like this …. “Oh am so I glad I carried on doing this Petö 'therapy' with you” ( he was referring to the bad times over the past few teenage years, when he wanted to give up). Or “ Why don’t you buy the neighbour’s house so we can do this every day?”
"Orthodox conductor"? I still don’t know what it is but I am glad I am one never the less, because what ever it is it certainly works!
Now for something (not so) completely different, another story which shouldn’t become a faded memory.
How much easier can it get than turning up for work with a 16-year old young lad and being told by him exactly what it is that he wishes to learn.
He explained that he had a few weeks in which to get “fit” enough to march in his first Schutzenfest weekend parade.
In this particular village the Schutzenfest takes place on the second weekend in July. In Sauerland you find Schutzenfest celebrations somewhere on each weekend from the beginning of May until the middle of August. All young lads who are members of the shooting/hunting club, and are 16, are allowed to begin marching with their fathers and uncles. The Shooting Club members don’t actually go hunting anymore, they carry wooden replica shotguns on their shoulders.
The fest begins with the “Shooting King” of the past year and his “Queen” marching through the village followed by the club, all in their uniforms, birch branch stuck in end of wooden gun and accompanied by a brass band.
A big knees-up takes place in the evening, with visitors from villages in the area. On the following day the bird is shot down, the highlight of the weekend, which attracts 30 or 40 young, and not- so- young, men. They swap the wooden gun for a real one and try their luck shooting at a specially constructed wooden bird till it topples from its high perch. The one who succeeds in doing this becomes the Schutzen King for the following year.
Some men shoot only because it is macho to shoot, but they deliberately shoot wide as they believe it isn’t quite so macho to become the King, or because they don’t have anyone to be their queen.
On my client's list of aspirations, alongside learning to drive, is to have a turn at shooting the bird from its perch above the village, and then of course he would get to choose his “girl”.
The original tradition of the Schutzen King probably was to honour whoever brought home the biggest bag from a day out hunting.
When the King has chosen his Queen she has to rush off to buy a beautiful ball gown to wear for the march through the village on that same evening. Then follows yet another knees-up, and another celebratory march the next day.
After carnival, the Schutzenfest is the highlight of the village calendar and my client just loves it. He was not going to miss out on the chance to be right in the middle of it all, in the limelight, marching alongside his twin brother and Dad for the first time, especially when he had me there to help him out in his hour of need!
He had made the decision to ask me to teach him to march and assist in getting him fit for the big weekend. We had twelve days to do it and what a whale of a time we had getting prepared.
The biggest part of the challenge was that this particular village is built on the side of a hill . The Schutzenstraße, where the march begins, is high above the village and the Schutzenhalle, the marchers' destination for their knees up, is far below. There would be lots of going up hills and down dales. Particularly difficult would be the “down dales”. The walking speeded up down hill, which would mean a lot of trodden-on heels if we didn’t get that sorted!
When we began our work we were blessed with the most perfect weather, but on most days by 11am. it was 35 degrees and, as only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in this sort of heat, we did our “marching” between 8am and 10am each morning.
This 16 year old boy has walked independently since he was three years old, but as is the case with many children with physical disabilities, he doesn’t often walk long distances. He goes to school in the school bus, he goes to physiotherapy and to riding in the car, the only walking he does is up and down the stairs and in the home or in school.
We soon discovered that we needed to build up his stamina, the staying power and his muscles!
We began by making circuits of the backyard with the Radetsky March blaring out of his CD- player and soon progressed to once around the house, still with the CD player to accompany us.
As he got stronger and fitter we went further afield. As I refused to carry the music centre with us I had to sing to keep the tempo going. Luckily most of the time we only had cows for an audience and there were no complaints from the farmers that milk production was reduced at this time!
We usually marched to the sound of Tina Turner’s Simply the Best. We are both too old for the Grand Old Duke of York and both great fans of Tina T.
We clocked up the kilometres and when exhausted would phone for a ride home, but only if the mobile phone network was working. As we were often out of range we would collapse at the roadside, eat our provisions, wash them down with “lashings of ginger beer” then trek homewards (actually it was tap water we drank but our adventures were as exciting as any that Enid Blyton wrote). We would admire the landscape and collect ideas for paintings. We would discuss life in general and collect four-leaf clovers. We would tell each other stories when we couldn’t sing any more.
Most importantly we got fit and healthy, managing 10 km, sometimes more.
Now with enough stamina for a two-hour hike it was surely enough for three 30-minute marches over two days.
We decided that we had done enough, we were prepared, though my client was worried that it wasn’t quite enough and arranged for people to go out walking with him on the days between my departure and the big day!
On the “Big Day” there were a few of the older villagers watching the procession who on seeing my client were shocked and suggested that he sat out the next round, he must have a rest. They asked why does the poor boy have to walk so far, he doesn’t need to do it. It is just as well that he is so determined, he kept going and refused to allow them to spoil his glory.
Thankfully people like this were in the minority.
During our training days so many people had observed us and knew about the determination and the hard work. These people were lining the streets passing on words of encouragement as the procession passed by, my client there with head held high. I suspect there was many a moist eye at the road side. My client was furious at the old biddies, but delighted to have so much support from people who really understood why he was doing it, how much work he had put in to it and how proud that he, his twin brother, his dad and his uncle all were to be marching side by side.
This summer will be their third Schutzenfest together. We will be walking hills and dales again in the weeks beforehand, getting fit to march and once more he will be there, head held even higher.
Who knows, now we have the marching sorted it may be time next year to begin the target- practice so that maybe one day he can get to pick his “girl”, having shot down the wooden bird.
If and when this time comes my client is sure to let me know and enlist my help for the training sessions. I can’t wait to be summoned!
“Conductive shooting”, now that could that be a first.
For some the Schutzenfest is just an excuse for partying and beer-drinking, but for someone with a disability, who has to work so hard to be able to join in the fun, it is yet another opportunity to show that he can do anything that he sets his mind to if he gets the right guidance (and along the way of course manages to get in a few "orthodox" conductive lying programmes!)
Orthodox - (a) : conforming to established doctrine, especially in religion (b) : conventional
Snow angels - Snow angels are made by lying on your back in the snow and moving your arms and legs simultaneously up and down at the sides of the body.Try it, there is still some snow about in most parts of Europe this April. It is a wonderful conductive game, my client taught me how to do it!
Tina Turner - Simply the Best
Johann Straus - Radetsky March www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zlE5ipwna8
Traditional - Grand Old Duke of York
Enid Blyton - adventures and picnics with lashings of ginger beer.
Schutzenfest - a celebration organised by the shooting club of a village
Schutzenhalle, the village hall. Schutzenstraße, the Schutzen street.