My visitors today

Sunday 27 July 2008

A walk in the woods with the Wunderschöne Engländerin

1." Planning breakfast"
2. "Photography lesson"
3 ."Inventing new games"
4. "One step at a time"
5." Smile please"
6."Taking a break"

CE in the woods with tea and toast

Is this Counductive Education?

Of course it is, as it is life.

My client this week is a young boy of eleven who calls me his Wunderschöne Engländerin, du bist eine tolle Frau! (my lovely English woman, you are a great lady!). Such lovely complements every day, with the accompanying hugs, bring tears to my eyes, how nice it to do such interesting work every day with such lovely people.

Above are photographs we took of each other whilst at work, when we were walking in the woods, sitting on a bench, doing a hand programme with fir cones, acorns and a camera, we even did a lying programme on the narrow bench and when it rained we got around to working indoors on a plinth!

I have been taking this opportunity to use spontaneity and adaptability to the full, using the good weather and the fact that I have a group of one to create new, interesting situations for the child to work in.

The child I am working with likes to stick to his routine and it is good to use the security he feels in the Conductive Education setting to bring a bit more flexibility into his life, so he can learn to use the new situation in a positive way. He can enjoy the fact that there are no other playmates at the moment by being giving the chance to do something different.

Sometimes when working with a group we will take the mats outside and work in the shade of the trees, sometimes the sitting programme takes place with our feet in the paddling pool, sometimes we walk in the shady woods.

Individual Conduction Education sessions, I love them. I know that Conductive Education is group work, but this isn’t always possible and I just love it when through unforeseen circumstances I have a group of one! We, the child and I, can be even more spontaneous and creative than usual and the child always comes up with brilliant ideas.

This time it is the walk in the woods with the “English breakfast”.

We are planning the breakfast for next week if the weather holds out. My young client listed all the things that he had learnt at school which contribute to an English breakfast: tea and coffee, butter and toast, and jam all on the menu. Fortunately he didn’t mention eggs and bacon as we wouldn’t have managed that in the woods where BBQ’s are not allowed!

The breakfast words are the new English vocabulary from school and we are going to put the school vocab. test into action. I am sure these are words he will never forget.

Watch this spot for the photographs.

Pure Petö

Susie Mallett and Szogeczki Laci in Nürnberg, July 26th 2008


It is great to be living in the middle of the city. At the drop of a hat or the beep of text message I can be on the other side of the city in just 30 minutes to meet someone for a coffee, or in this case a beer.

I just met up with fellow blogger and conductor Szogeczki Laci.

A Hungarian conductor en route to Budapest from his home in England meets an English conductor whose home is in Nürnberg. "Spontaneity" at the sending of a text. As the title says that's "Pure Petö".

(Mária Hári talked often of spontaneity in our lectures and in the many papers she wrote, see notes).

When I think about the subjects that Laci and I managed to cover in the two hours we were together my chosen title becomes even more appropriate. The list reads like the index from one of Dr András Petö's books and a list of his interests combined.

We talked about art and literature and poetry, we touched on logotherapy and theatre and the personalities of different nationalities and cultures, and of course at some point we mentioned Conductive Education. We mentioned group dynamics, the Seele and Buddhism. We exchanged thoughts and ideas and when we parted I had the feeling that maybe the world of Conductive Education is not such a bad place to be working in after all!

It was refreshing for us to meet, especially in such a spontaneous and conductive way. We both decided one of the best things about Conductive Education is that you can meet another conductor almost anywhere in the world.

I once met a conductor quite unexpectedly at the top of a mountain in Canada


Laci's new blog :

Spontaniety: Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy, Chapter 8, Bowing Out, 2000

"The goal is to learn a way of life, a way of thinking and planning, a way of problem-solving and the ability to convert intention into action. These are to be found by the learner who is conducted by the conductor, who establishes activity and provides spontaniety which is the precondition of problem-solving in the learner's whole life".

Dr András Petö: Unfug der Krankheit -Triumph der Heilkunst -

Bon Voyage!

"On the road again " by Susie Mallett 2002 (inspired by Jack and Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp)

Yesterday evening I went to drink a glass of wine with friends and family of a very special lady, to cheer her on her way to Iceland to study for her doctorate in Disability Studies.

This young lady has been my client for a long time, since she was 16 years old when she sought out Conductive Education on the advice of one of her doctors, a manual therapist, after having had a hip operation.

We had very specific aims as my client wanted to be fit enough to attend school in Canada for the year before her A-level courses started, and we had just 18 months to achieve our goals.

We managed to get both of us to Canada in the end, I to work and my client to school, but it was a bit of a struggle. We didn’t struggle with the physical or the cognitive or the psychological aspects, although we had to work hard at them, but we struggled with the practicalities. We couldn’t find one of the special companies that organises these study trips willing to take on a disabled student. We resorted to seeking help in the Internet, more specifically the site which used to be the Conductive Education's Discussion Forum, and after a few months a parent with two disabled children came to our rescue, he helped organise a school and provided a home. My client was off, on the first of many long and interesting journeys.

After a very successful year both at school and in her quest for independence she returned to Germany to complete her A-levels at gymnasium, which she got through with flying colours. I had the privilege of walking the long catwalk with her as she walked up to receive her certificates. I am not sure whether she needed my hand to give her physical or moral support. Whichever it was it didn’t matter I was very happy for her as we walked together and very happy to be stepping beside her.

We have been walking together on and off ever since, not only physically, although we do try to get a CE session in now and then when her travelling and studies allow. Our relationship changes as she gets older, sometimes I am the conductor, sometimes we are godmother and godchild, sometimes just good mates. We are also painting partners, we had an exhibition together several years ago and we are always talking about the next!

After completing her schooling, this amazing young lady studied Nordic Languages and Culture at university, receiving her bachelors and masters degrees in record-breaking time.
She is only 26 and has achieved more in this short time than most people could dream of achieving ina whole lifetime.

As a teenager she had to fight a bit more than others did in order to succeed. Her mother set a good example by fighting to keep her in continuous mainstream education. and she continued attending her high school even during the time when she needed to use a wheelchair after the hip operation.

She goes from strength to strength, she has travelled all over with her studies and has friends in many parts of the world. My client is an example to us all and I take my hat off to her and wish her well. I know even if we do not meet often in the following years we will continue to talk to each other about everything under the sun, from her aches and pains, to planning more exhibitions, to planning Conductive Education sessions in Iceland and discussing the value of running Conductive Education programmes for children and adults with autism and cerebral palsy.
This is one if our favourite subjects at the moment as my client currently undergoes counselling for mild autistic traits and through that, she tells me, she found the courage to meet the love of her life.

We always have many plans, I just hope I can keep up with this jet-setting young lady. I wish her a wonderful start to her independent life.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Inspired as usual by my work

1958 "group work"

Inspired by success

As I say often in my blog I am begeistert (inspired) by my work. I love it, I love the way things are learnt, the tiny things which make my clients smile and motivate them through having the feeling of success.

Today was a day full of such instances.

I have worked all day with an eleven year old boy with athetoid cerebral palsy and this evening for two hours with a group of adults. They all never cease to amaze me in the motivation, energy and capacity for learning they have.

My young client learnt to put on his very stiff new shoes and by doing so discovered how to use a shoe horn, he learnt how to spin a top with his less skilled left hand (just by being told to lift his elbow and press the spinning top on the table), he learnt how to lift his hips to make a bridge and at the same time lift one of his legs (also only by my telling him to stretch the leg and not bend it), and all of this on the second day of his first CE block for several months.

He has matured a lot since I last saw him, he is much more receptive to verbal instructions and he doesn’t need to be physically shown how to do things as much he did a few months ago. Of course he was thrilled he could do all these things and would have lots to tell grandma on the long journey home.

But something more important happened today.

A rebellion on my hands

I am not sure why, maybe just "boys being boys", but just after coffee break this young boy became stubborn and a bit rebellious, seeming not to listen and intent on following his own programme. I had to use the firm hand, which is usually kept hidden away in a dusty drawer, and to his and my surprise he walked towards the ladder on the ground and eventually walked through it, taking some steps totally unaided, but still not talking much!

I was not surprised that he could do this as we have been practising it for a long time. It was something else which surprised us both, and that was his immediate change of mood after achieving it, it was like a light being switched on, I have never seen this happen so dramatically in all my years practising Conductive Education.

He became chatty and smiley immediately, motivated and full of energy. We spoke about this and his eyes shone because he had been motivated by something else, not only by putting on his shoes alone, but because he had overcome this psychological hurdle, almost a barrier, the rebelliousness which had stopped him from fully participating.

Today he went home smiling with a bag of firsts to tell his mum about. I went home smiling too having been begeistert yet again.

Return to Petö

This evening in the adults' group I surprised myself when I spontaneously took on another client, even though I am already stretched to the limit with working the group on my own, but it was the best decision I could make.

We had a wonderful time. The new client, now 22 years old, fitted in perfectly, highly motivated and she knew the ropes for she had been one of my first Petö children in Germany when I worked in the school for disabled. She had decided she would like to start Conductive Education again after a break for most of her teenage years. She told the group that she had been able to walk with no assistance pre-puberty but since falling badly at the age of 13 she has always used a walking frame or a wheelchair. I found an old photograph which showed her walking unaided as 12 years old.

This evening she walked away from the group unaided, to meet her boyfriend, for the first time in all those years. Their faces where a picture, full of joy and pride.

Another young girl in the group said: “This Petö is really hard work but we all learn something from it”, mostly they learn to believe in themselves and their own capabilities. This new client had actually been able to walk unaided all these years, but needed this highly motivated group to help her realise this.

What had started as individual therapy sessions about 12 years ago is now developing into a nice little “workers” group. The four of them have become so much more independent as the group increases in size, which was very apparent this evening. There was I thinking I would be rushing around in circles as I worked alone but it was a really relaxed atmosphere and fun for all, especially when the one and only male client takes himself off to the bathroom and we females get the chance for a womanly chat.


begeistert: thrilled, inspired, enthused
1958 "group work" : that's me on the right, with big sis and my favourite dolls.

Monday 21 July 2008

Hitting brick walls in Conductive Education.

"Walking the wall" by Susie Mallett, 2004

I remember a story I was told by a parent while I was studying in Budapest at the Petö Institute.

Her child was attending the International Kindergarten group where I was working for the second or even third time and she was progressing extremely well. This mother had been told that if she brought her child to Budapest and continued with Conductive Education, as opposed to using the physiotherapy on offer at the school that she attended back home in England, there would no longer be a place for her at that school (which is somewhere in the south of England). The parent opted for Conductive Education, deciding to worry about a school place for her child later.

Times change. I believe that this same school now has conductors working there.

It appears that where Conductive Education has been introduced into educational establishments it often thrives. whereas when it is introduced into medical or therapy establishments, as is mostly the case here in Germany, interests and energy fade and many people give up the fight. People who have spent their energy to introduce Petö Pur (real CE) are still in there, those who have gone for a watered-down version, eventually lose the battle.

Sunday 20 July 2008

"The diary of a stroke"

" Isolation" by Susie Mallett, 1979

Stroke group, 2004

Learning to care.

I always maintain that books written by stroke sufferers give me more information that I can put to good use in my work than does any text book on the subject. Yet again I have been proved right since I discovered this wonderful book - The Diary of a Stroke by Martin Stephen - on Andrew Sutton’s blog. I have read several books written by stroke ”victims” ( as they are usually described) , and I think this one must rate as the best one to date.

I often have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing which books are a must for me to buy and I discovered as early as page thirteen one of the attractions of this one. Martin Stephen describes his reluctance to go with the paramedics to a hospital in the minutes after the stroke. He willed himself to remain conscious in order not to give his consent, which is actually not a good idea and the paramedics should have told him this. He says:

“Ambulance crews pick up the sins of the world, I think. Like social workers teachers and policemen, they are paid to be there. Yet no one can pay someone to care. That bit has to be given from the heart. It comes from the human within us all, not from the bank manager.”

This paragraph jumped out at me because just before I read it I had fixed up my computer in the new flat (in the bathroom as it was the only place to sit down), especially to read my favourite blogs again. I discovered a new posting on Norman Perrin’s blog about care. I immediately posted a comment to Norman’s piece, relating it to a posting of mine about the care, the bit which comes from the heart or from the soul, in the police force.

My comment to Norman Perrin:

“I have been away caring for my Mum. I cared for her as well as I did because I am a conductor and know about love, hope and the Seele.This was one special occasion in my personal life when I was thankful that I understand these aspects of Conductive Education, my Mum was really grateful for this too. I wrote the following earlier, as part of my response to Andrew Sutton's posting about the young man with Down's syndrome and his encounter with the British police force:

"I discovered that I was absorbing Conductive Education not only through my brain, but also through my body, something like osmosis, and it seeped deep into my inner self, into my Seele.
Not all teachers, therapists and other “people professionals” find the path leading to a full conductor-training in Budapest. Do they then ever find the means to do the job they are appointed for? Do they discover their Seele?"

I hope there is a way, through my work as a conductor, not only to work with children and adults with disabilties, but also with some of the people who are "appointed" to care for them.”

Now here I was reading Martin Stephen’s book and he tells us that once again this most essential ingredient, that which comes from the heart, was missing in the care he was receiving. I am not of course saying that the carers should become conductors but rather that all professional training should include this essential ‘seelische’ aspect.

In this book, and also in some of the others I have read, I am made aware of how many stroke- victims are, in their inner selves, struggling in the first hours to fight what is happening to them. Yet despite the knowledge that this early fight and early intervention are so important, many paramedics seem still unable to recognise the symptoms of a stroke. Therefore they do not react quickly enough in bringing the patient to the appropriate stroke clinic where treatment can be begun immediately in reducing the amount of damage done.

Martin Stephen describes how after the stroke his inner voice was telling him he wanted to be left alone and refused to go to hospital. He was carted up the stairs to his hotel room then eventually carted down again to the ambulance that then took him not to the nearby specialist unit but to the geriatric ward of another hospital where he remained for several weeks.


Anyone who has experienced a stroke or who works in this field knows the importance of early intervention, being taken to the hospital which offers the best “care” is the first step in the right direction.

Mr. Stephens writes “ The fact of what’s happening to me could have been established very quickly. My medical history screams at it.”

He lists 17 physical symptoms of a stroke and in hindsight ticked 13 of them, but tells us that in the crucial first hours at the hospital he was ignored. No one asked him anything about his medical history, how he was feeling or what symptoms he had. He says that he had an overwhelming sense of loneliness, due mainly to not being given any information and not having the feeling he was being “cared for”.

Questioning would have established what kind of stroke he had had and which treatment was therefore relevant. He says that he remembers a complete lack of urgency in the first days, the result of his being brought initially to the wrong hospital. It was weeks before he was given an MSI scan. The professionals know enough about what goes on in a stroke victim’s brain in these first few hours and there are a great many specialist stroke units throughout the UK. Why is it that patients still get delivered to the wrong place and once there, due to lack of specialist knowledge do not get transferred to the appropriate place?

Martin Stephen was one of the lucky ones, because he seemed to have a built-in conductor to motivate him in his isolation ( more about that later), but what happens to the many others who are not as physically and mentally motivated to “care" for themselves?

I am contemplating what direction my work in conductive education should be going in. Is this really an area where conductors are needed, in hospitals working alongside the other therapists. I was always of the opinion that the immediate care for stroke patients in hospitals was good and that the work of a conductor is needed later when, due to a reduction in physiotherapy and speech therapy, the patients are looking for something else to give them renewed hope and motivation in their daily lives. Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps there is a need for conductors to work with the people who offer early care to the victims of strokes or to the young adults as mentioned in Norman Perrin’s blog.

More from Martin Stephen’s book and his built-in conductor to follow in the next posting.


Andrew Sutton:

The diary of a Stroke by Martin Stephen, Psychology News Press, ISBN 978-0-907633-10-5

Norman Perrin:
” 21 today! On being the parent of an adult with care needs.”

Susie Mallett "And back to the Seele" Sunday, 20 April 2008

Wednesday 16 July 2008

The Second Funeral

The Wedding 31.05.2008

The funeral 24.06.1008

My lovely Mum.

Another return to the green and pleasant land. This time not with the excitement of a wedding to look forward to, this time in anticipation of probably a longer stay in England than I had planned.

My mother’s health was deteriorating very fast. We were all still hoping that it was the side-effects of the radiotherapy and the steroid treatment that she had been given were making her so weak and that she would soon be on the road to recovery. My lovely Mum had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in June 2006, she had lived symptom- and pain-fee for almost two years, working away for hours on end in her garden as usual and taking her wares to the car-boot sales every week.

Last spring the doctors decided they must take some action to make the one and only tumour on her neck smaller, to prevent her having problems with swallowing and breathing. Mum didn’t really want this treatment, she guessed what might happen and we had discussed it over the phone. She and I believed that the therapy would be too much for her as she had never taken any medicine in her whole life, apart from an Aspirin now and then. We also knew of the possibilities of a rapid movement of the illness to all parts of her body if this one tumour were dispersed.

It became apparent just about the time that I arrived in the UK, on May 27th, that our fears could be founded. After I had returned home after the first funeral, a scan scheduled for Tuesday 10th June actually confirmed these fears and Mum’s doctors could not believe their eyes when they saw how quickly Mum’s condition had deteriorated.

The whole family were together and we quickly had to come to terms with the fact that Mum would not be returning home with us and it would be days and not weeks or months before she died. We coped with the problem in different ways. My sister cared for us all by taking over the cooking of our meals, her husband gave us hugs and drove the car, I made phone calls to friends and relations and sat beside my Mum for as many hours as I could, my Dad kept us all calm, and the grown-up grandchildren made grandma shriek with laughter as always.

While at the hospital I mentioned to one of the nursing staff how perfectly they do their jobs. We were in the specialist unit for cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. It has a wonderful caring environment where they care not only for the patient but for the whole family. Tea, hugs and good advice were always on the menu. Like in Conductive Education they were always considering the whole. Not only the whole personality of the patient but the whole life of the patient, including the family unit. Every sentence uttered included words such as love, dignity, care, respect, comfort, and every movement echoed peace, calm and harmony. We felt like they had wrapped us in a cocoon, preparing us for the unavoidable letting-go of our loved one.

Mum loved the doctors and nurses there. She had been telling me about them on the phone for a long time, describing their kindness and caring manner, which I witnessed first-hand just five days before she died. Her young doctor took Mum’s hand in both of his and told her what was happening in her body full with cancer. He did it perfectly, she remained calm and asked her questions, to which she received long explanatory answers, just as I did later. This was her first experience of a hospital since she was a child and much had changed, especially here in this amazing clinic.

As I sat beside my mum we shared many hours of closeness the likes of which we had missed over the past five years. We talked, we laughed, we struggled to consume food and drink. We talked about the change of roles, how now it I was trying to persuade her to eat and drink the smallest amounts. I think my mum’s struggle with me in the past, encouraging me to do the same, had been a much harder one. It appears that I have learnt a lot over the years about helping people to eat their food, most of which I learnt from a colleague in the mid-eighties, a speech therapist who sat with me for hours as I organised the eating programmes with my very severely disabled class. She advised me as she observed me with each of the children and here was my Mum now, benefiting from these wonderful lunchtimes at school when my room would be crowded with volunteers who loved to be a part of the calm, happy and caring atmosphere.

Mum had at sometime managed to tell her caring nurses about my work, they told me how proud she was of me, something she could never have told me herself.

I stayed with mum all night on 14th June so I was with her when she died very early on the 15th. I got cared for by the male nurse, Tommy, with as much love and understanding as he had given my Mum. He answered all my questions, he told me what was happening to Mum’s body as functions began closing down, he brought cups of tea when he saw I was awake and he tip-toed about when he saw me sleeping at last. He explained why her hands had swollen so much that I had to remove her wedding ring. He told me why at a certain time it was no longer possible for me to warm my cold hands on hers.

He left me alone when Mum died, waiting until I called him.

Throughout the days leading up to Mum’s death, and the following ones spent organising the funeral and then preparing to return to Germany, I reflected on how I was dealing with certain situations through the eyes of a conductor, how I was facilitating, observing and reacting. I was all the time aware that I was dealing with this personal experience as well as I was only because I had had to deal with similar situations with the clients in my groups.

Mum, brave Mum, had sent me away to attend my lovely friend’s funeral in Germany. Just days before, I had written and read a tribute for him. Now my family and I made the decision that having done that for Boss I would now read the tribute that we wrote for my number one fan, my Mum. The funeral was held on the shared birthday of my sister and myself. What better day could we have chosen?

My sister and I sat writing together and we came up with the eulogy below for the Mum who was the inspiration and guide for my wonderful life, she encouraged me, exerted no pressure and was never disappointed in me.

Eulogy for Ann Mallett 24th June 2008

Mum was born on July 3rd 1925 and lived at 21 Southwell Rd., Norwich with her parents Earll and Kathleen Perry.

In 1931 Mum moved with her family to the Pineapple Hotel, Trowse and at 6 years of age she began her schooling at the Notre Dame. She had many friends and spent the long hot summers cycling, sailing and messing about on the river.

In 1941, when Mum was 16, she left school and went to work at Kidners Farm in Poringland. Mum couldn’t wait until she was old enough to join up and at exactly 17 ¾ this is what she did. She chose the WAAF and after receiving advice from the barrage-balloon boys stationed on the fields beside the Pineapple, she enlisted as a flight mechanic, working on Spitfires which she learnt to love. We would all have to rush outside, even in the middle of Sunday dinner, if she heard a Spitfire flying over our house. Mum talked a lot about her days in the WAAF and we are all very proud of her.

In 1947, after being demobbed and returning to work at the Pineapple, Mum met Ken. They married at Trowse church in 1952. Perhaps some of you remember how they hurried out of the church to avoid the confetti.

Mum and Ken set up home in Hellesdon and both Jenny and I had arrived before we all moved, in 1958.

Jen and I were both born on the 24th June, in 1956 and 1957. We both agree that today, the day of our births, is the most appropriate day to be celebrating our Mum’s life.

Mum stayed at home caring for her family, taking us to the seaside or for picnics at the drop of a hat! When we were older she found herself a part-time job, first at Boots the Chemist and later at a Post Office. She just loved having contact with people.

Mum was always so busy, not only looking after us, but also her parents and her elderly aunt. She still found time for others including running the Brownies for a while.

In 1969 came the big move. This is when we moved next door and Mum started her gardening career in earnest - with half an acre to get lost in - she loved it.

Despite keeping an immaculate garden, with a bit of help from husband Ken of course, she still had time to plan wonderful camping holidays for us. These always included our three-legged dog Tim, who would sit in anticipation on his special seat in our dormobile. Tim watched Mum’s every move as she filled every nook and cranny with our gear.

In the early 1980s, hoping to dispose of some of the household items accumulated from Grandma’s and Auntie Winnie’s homes, Mum started selling at car-boot sales. She was in her element. Many of you will know Mum as the Jigsaw Lady, the Moss Lady, the Bean Lady, the Western Lady or the Flower Lady. She enjoyed her car-boots and all her friends there.

In 1983 Adam and Helen were born. Grandma loved them and was often present at feeding times to lend a hand, often taking her neighbour, Auntie Annie, with her, giving Jenny a chance to rest.

Today we are wearing Mum’s flowers on our clothes. We have pegged them on because Mum had a million and one uses for pegs and if you stood still too long she would peg you too.

Since Mum died on June 15th we have all been talking to each other and to some of the friends she has made throughout her lifetime.

In this tribute to Ann, Annio, Mum, Grandma, we would like to share with you some of the lovely things that have been said. Helen and Stuart thank Grandma for making them smile, I expect Grandma would thank them for doing the same. This is especially true in the last few days of her life when they, with Adam and Lisa, created wild parties around the hospital bed. Adam and Lisa will remember Grandma in her “Harrods” hat at their wedding just threeweeks ago: Grandma and Grandad, looking like Lord and Lady Mallett, made their special day complete. Adam and Helen have wonderful memories of playing in the garden with Grandma, especially in their antique shop, captured on film behind the greenhouse, selling the many treasures they had unearthed.

Ken told me a lovely story as we sat together reminiscing about his glamorous wife. They were just married and had planned a day out at the Royal Norfolk Show. They were to meet in the city to catch a bus and Ken spotted Mum in her lovely organza hat and gorgeous dress as she walked down King Street past Watneys. All at once Ken heard all the wolf whistles which must have made him incredibly proud.

Jenny and Pete remember one of their early holidays. Mum and Ken delivered them to the Cattle Market to board their holiday coach. Mum being Mum she asked the driver if there were any spare seats. Much to her surprise he answered “Yes” then phoned to check if there was also a spare bed at the other end. Ken was commandeered to drive Mum back home where she fortunately had a packed suitcase, having just returned from a holiday with Ken. By the time Jen and Pete’s coach was loaded and under way Mum was waiting outside home where she hitched a ride and the three of them enjoyed a lovely holiday in Rhineland, leaving Ken waving on the pavement! Mum apparently got the best room in the hotel in Boppard, overlooking the Rhine, while Jen and Pete had a dingy back room. One day after an Asbach Brandy tasting trip and an evening at a winery they all collapsed into bed. Mum awoke the next morning with a migraine, which many of you know she did suffer from. Pete is to this day not convinced that on this particular occasion it really was a migraine and I bet she still managed to eat an ice cream, a chocolate one at that, later in the day. This story describes the spontaneity which was so characteristic of Mum and is something we have all enjoyed.

In September 1976 I left home for art school. Since that day whenever I visited, Mum and I had such lovely chats. I would perch on her stool in the kitchen while she washed up or I would bob down beside her in the garden as she weeded, and we would natter. We did this for 32 years, right up until the day she died. In hospital, while helping Mum with her food, she gave me advice on how to teach my pupils to eat and she was still encouraging me with my future plans.

Mum and I loved trying on hats and regret to this day not having bought one that we loved so much in Garlands. Friends from Barnet would probably tell a story of losing Mum in a department store because she had disguised herself in a long ginger wig. As you see she was always having fun.

Jenny and I read through the many cards our family have received this week. Many similar sentiments appear and I am sure everyone here will recognise the lady they knew – wife, Mum, Grandma, Auntie, cousin, sister-in-law and friend to all. We have been told that Mum had the ability to make friends feel part of the family and so welcome at all family get togethers. Mum will always be remembered as a happy, calm, smiling, and cheerful person, who was always on the go and ready for a chat. Mum was selling her wares at the car-boot for the very last time as recently as the 14th May, busy as usual and meeting all her friends. any have said it was such a privilege to have known Mum. Childhood friends of ours loved to visit our house and they remember happy times because Mum, and of course Ken, were always so kind. We all have such happy and funny memories of Ann, Mum, Auntie Ann, Mrs Mallett, a very special lady.

Another very special lady is Mum’s friend from WAAF days who she met very early on in her training. This is our Auntie Joan, my godmother and she is just as much fun as Mum. I bet they got up to no good together. I will read from the letter she sent us this week…

Dear Ken and family,
I shall miss Ann so much. She has been a good friend throughout the years.

I shall miss our long chats on the phone calling each other “Fatso” and remember all the things that happened in the WAAF.

And the laughs we had when she was my bridesmaid and had to borrow my hat!

I shall never forget her.

Love from Joan

We can imagine Mum and Auntie Joan cycling to the hangers to work on the Spitfires and bombers, singing at the top of their voices. Mum’s favourite song, a hit of the times, was “Don’t Fence Me In”.

Let us now sing-a-long with Bing Crosby just as loud and with as much gusto as Mum would have done with all of her friends in the 1940’s.


Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies
On my Cayuse
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge
Where the west commences
And gaze at the moon
Till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels
And I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in

(Repeat these verses)

No Poppa, don't you fence me in

This song was followed by the poem below which was read by my Mum’s cousin.

God looked around his garden
And found an empty place
He then looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face.

He put his arms around you
And lifted you to rest
Gods garden must be beautiful
He always takes the best.

He knew that you were suffering
He knew you were in pain
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.

He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb
So he closed your weary eyelids
And whispered 'Peace be Thine'.

It broke our hearts to lose you
But you didn't go alone
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.

It was our wish to make the funeral a friendly, happy time just as Mum would have enjoyed. On the day before I had picked many flowers from our garden and taken them to the florist who made the most amazing display for the coffin from them. We took single flowers for family and friends to peg onto their clothes. Mum had chosen most of the music for her funeral many years ago, my sister had remembered it and my dad chose the music which played as we walked out of the chapel… "Peg O My Heart", a song he often sang to Mum, now sung by Bing Crosby.

Peg o' my heart, I love you
Don't let us part, I love you
I always knew it would be you
Since I heard your lilting laughter
It's your Irish heart I'm after

Peg o' my heart, your glances
Make my heart say 'How's chances?'
Come be my own
Come make your home in my heart

Peg o' my heart, I love you
Peg o' my heart, I love you
Dear little girl, sweet little girl
Sweeter than the rose of Erin
Are your winning smiles endearing

Peg o' my heart, your glances
With Irish heart entrances
Come be my own
Come make your home in my heart

Peg o' my heart

Come be my own
Come make your home in my heart

Peg o' my heart

I hope that by writing in my blog about the events in the past few weeks of my life I can learn and grow and maybe something will come out of it all, which will make me stronger, maybe wiser and will also show up in my work as a conductor. I do feel different, I feel very vulnerable sometimes. I feel that life is for grabbing and getting on with, whatever the hurdles set before us. I feel very grateful for all of those who have actually or virtually supported me and motivated, facilitated and with a hand on my shoulder guided me back to Germany, into my new flat and back to work.
The third birthday? That was Mum's, on July 3rd, the day before I returned to Germany, which was on American Independence Day. The second move is almost complete and I am sitting in my new flat as I write this.


The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Colney Centre:

"Don't fence me in"

"Peg o my Heart"
American Independence Day

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Back to work!

It is wonderful being back at work.

My stroke group is doing me the world of good.

Their humour and companionship, their caring attitude towards each other and the wonderful atmosphere they create, are working their magic on me in the same way as all these things, which I as a conductor try to create for them work for the group.

I thank them all, and also my colleagues. They have all made my return to Germany so much easier than it would have been without them. They bring back a smile into my soul.

Monday 14 July 2008

A move, a wedding, two deaths, two funerals, three birthdays, one burial of ashes, another move and hope of returning to "normality".

Boss, his 85th birthday, January 2007 and my 50th June 2007

The move
The first stage was completed in May before I went off to the green and pleasant land. All my belongings at last stored in my 86-year-old friend’s garage.

The wedding
Aready posted, on July 1st. My nephew, my godson, and his childhood sweetheart, at last Mr and Mrs. I met my much-loved and favourite cousin for the first time in 20 years at this wedding and we had time to talk to each other for the first time since our childhood. We were thrilled to have found each other again. We were inseparable as children we were also inseparable at the wedding as we had a lot of catching-up to do. After the wedding I thought I would have all the time in the world to meet friends, write my blogs, take walks on the beach and through the green pastures of North Norfolk, to have the holiday I so much needed.

How wrong I was.

A funeral
My lovely “old bloke” - Boss. On Monday June 2nd just two days after the wedding, I received the phone call I had been hoping would never come, my dearest friend, in whose house I had been staying since the stressful move, had died, aged 86.

My sister had planned a day trip to Edinburgh on Tuesday June 3rd as a sort of rounding-off after all the wedding preparations. I went along as planned but my soul wasn’t singing. I got help with ticket-booking from my sister, and on Wednesday June 4th I found myself on yet another plane, the fourth in six days, jetting back to Germany. I had only just arrived in my homeland and here I was leaving it again so soon.

I found it very difficult to leave England as my mother was so very ill, but it was she who had insisted I make the journey telling me I would regret it for a very long time if I didn’t. As usual she was right and as usual she was selfless. My German family were delighted to have me there and sent their appreciation to my very poorly mum. Never the less I boarded the plane with dread that I would not get back in time to speak to my mother again.

I think that was the most difficult journey I have ever made, leaving one loved one in England, critically ill, going to say farewell to another in Germany, both of whom I describe as my number one fans. The journey was made a little bit easier by the need to write an eulogy while flying through the clouds, as near to heaven and to Boss as I could get. There was also the knowledge that my German family would be at the airport to meet me.

András Petö, of course knew that not only life but also death is a part of the life and work of a conductor. Conductors not only need to know how to motivate clients towards developing a healthy soul to improve life, they also need to know how to help the soul be strong enough to deal with death. I have had to deal with the death of loved clients, both children and adults, many times during my career, more often in fact than in my personal life. When a member of one of my groups has died I have not only had my own grief to deal with, I have also felt a huge responsibility for the rest of the group members. If a death is related to the condition or the illness they are all suffering from it is especially difficult for the other clients.

I know some clients think that a stroke is a one-off hic-cough in their life, their health is back to normal afterwards and the path ahead is one of learning to live an active life, progressing in an upward spiral. These people then develop many fears which affect their own health when a group member dies after suffering a second stroke. It is often clear to them for the first time that they too are vulnerable, they realise that their health could also be in danger. It is very important at times like this that a conductor observes closely the well-being of the group and acts accordingly, offering the help and the counselling necessary, to the group as a whole and individually.

I have had to deal with such situations often in my working life and now I had to face a death in my personal life. My favourite person with whom I had spent hours putting the world to rights and enjoying a glass of wine had died and I had not been there with him. Now here I was thousands of feet above Europe in the clouds, thinking about my dear friend and writing a tribute to him, keeping busy and taking notice of how I felt, trying to take an upward spiral by learning from this new experience, trying to bring to use everything I had learnt as a conductor to help me in this hour of need. This was the first time such a close personal friend of mine had died, the first time I had felt such sadness.

Who was this lovely man?
At one time he was my “father-in-law”. After I separated from his son, to whom I was never married, "Boss" became my best friend, my mentor and my theatre companion, my teacher and my support. He was also to be my advanced German teacher in the weeks I was to spend with him in his house while I was between flats, but this was never to be. I called him Boss and described him affectionately to one of my friends as “my old bloke”. As I write this I am sitting in his house, still between flats, living here without him and I miss him dreadfully.

The Ashes
Today we put his ashes beside those of his wife, Anna, in the local churchyard. I placed my red rose beside them and said my goodbyes. This was the third such ceremony I have attended in as many weeks the fourth will be in August, which will make it the wedding and four funerals as opposed to “Four weddings and a funeral”, the film starring Hugh Grant. If we add on the two moves, two birthdays and a return to reality then we could have a blockbuster on our hands! Each one of the different aspects was described as experienced by a conductor!

Below is what I wrote in the clouds and read at my “old bloke’s” funeral on Friday 6th June 2008. A young friend of mine who speaks excellent English helped me with the correct German version. I read both versions at the funeral, the English mainly for myself and Boss but also for anyone else who would appreciate my English humour (which was difficult to express in German).

Eulogy for Boss, 06.05.2008
The last time I stood in this spot I was describing Anna as my “Queen Mum”. I was explaining how she always thought of me as her English Princess Diana.

I have been asking myself how Anna would have described her husband Boss apart from using this name which she gave him many years ago. I like to imagine that he was her “Prince Charming”, as charming he certainly was and he knew how to make one feel like a queen.

We all mean many things to many different people and Boss played many roles in all of our lives.

There are those amongst us who knew him as Opa, some knew him as Gerhard and many called him Boss. He was also Father, but I don’t think I have ever heard either Wolfgang or Reinhard call him anything else but Boss. He was grandfather, father and colleague, but to all of us he was a valued friend.

For me he was Boss but with many roles. In the first year after Anna’s death when we lived in the same house he was definitely my Knight in Shining Armour. We helped each other through difficult times, we helped to make each other’s souls healthy again. Not only through talking the nights away over a glass of wine, but also through small gestures of kindness. I would clear the snow and in return he would draw me a funny thank you picture and would leave homemade cakes on the stairs, to nourish me. Boss was a provider of nourishment of all kinds.

Sometimes Boss would return home very late after the theatre, he would see that I was burning the midnight oil and he would call to me. We would talk a little and drink a glass of wine together. Wolfgang suggested Boss invested in a better quality of wine, I suspect Sissi would have called us “partners in crime”. I believe we were each other's tonic, we shared a glass of the elixior of life.

Who needed the internet and Wikipedia when Boss was around? He was a walking encyclopedia! He was the most marvelous, entertaining source of information one could wish for. He not only imparted information, but one could also enjoy his opinions and debates. With him and a cup of English tea we would set the world to rights.

A few days before Boss was recently taken to the hospital we had dinner together, and afterwards we talked. I was writing an article for my work and I wanted to refer to Faust, but I was having difficulties getting to grips with it. We spent several hours scanning Faust Part II, considering why Mephisto suggested that Faust should visit “the Mothers”. We concluded that Faust was searching for a way to bring a balance into his life, a harmony between the masculine and the feminine human qualities.
I believe that Boss had long discovered this balance and harmony in his life and this is why he could reach out to so many people. This and his wide range of interests made him such pleasurable company.

Was there anything which Boss could not do? I am sure I don’t know everything he could do, but he could build houses, sail a yacht, iron shirts, cook lamb cutlets, maybe he could even sew. He could speak Czech and a little English. He could dance, he could sing, he could play the piano and of course, as we all know, he could act. He could listen, he could talk, he was kind, attentive and generous.

Boss had a lust for life, he had a twinkle in his eye. This I recognized on our first-ever meeting at Nürnberg Airport, in 1992, when I was enveloped in his rib-crushing hug which I grew to love and look forward to over the following years.

Not once did I feel like a foreigner or a stranger in his company. He had the ability to make everyone he came into contact with feel special and at ease. Through this he received so much respect and made so many wonderful friends.

He was not only a friend and father but also a grandfather. In the weeks before he died, while visiting him in the hospital, I witnessed him interacting with all three of his grandsons.
He was thrilled by the opportunities the world had to offer them and he was willing them to grab them all. I witnessed the joy these three young men gave him, how animated he became in their company. I know they all had shared with him many new experiences from their own lives, they all made each others lives richer.

In fact, Boss made all our lives richer.

I, as all of you, will miss him very much. He meant the world to me. He was the perfect gentleman, my knight in shining armour, a wonderful friend and motivator in all I did.
I am sure, you are all sitting here considering what Boss meant to you. Boss played many many roles in many lives and we all have numerous scripts full of happy memories which we can always put on action-replay and smile. Smile is what Boss would want us to do. And while smiling he would want us to make the best out of all the opportunities life throws at us, just as he did.

I find it appropriate to give the last word to William Shakespeare:

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
As you like it (2/7)

Trauerrede für Boss 06.05.2008
Das letzte Mal, als ich an dieser Stelle stand, beschrieb ich Anna als meine „Queen Mum“. Ich erzählte, wie sie in mir immer ihre englische Prinzessin Diana gesehen hatte.

Ich habe mich gefragt, wie Anna Boss beschrieben hätte, außer mit dem Namen „Boss“, den sie ihm vor vielen Jahren gegeben hatte. Ich stelle mir gerne vor, dass er ihr „Prinz Charming“ war. Denn charmant war er auf alle Fälle und in seiner Gegenwart fühlte man sich wie eine Königin.

Wir alle bedeuten Vieles für viele verschiedene Menschen und Boss spielte für uns alle viele verschiedene Rollen in unserem Leben. Unter uns gibt es jene, die ihn als Opa kannten. Für manche war er Gerhard und viele nannten ihn Boss. Er war auch Vater, aber ich kann mich nicht erinnern, dass Wolfgang oder Reinhard ihn jemals anders genannt hätten, als Boss.

Er war Opa, Vater und Kollege, aber vor allen Dingen war er für uns ein geschätzter Freund.
Für mich war er Boss, aber mit vielen unterschiedlichen Rollen.

Im ersten Jahr nach Annas Tod, als wir im selben Haus lebten, war er definitiv mein Ritter in strahlender Rüstung. Wir halfen einander durch schwere Zeiten und heilten gegenseitig unsere Seelen. Nicht nur indem wir über einem Glas Wein Abende lang redeten, sondern auch mit kleinen Aufmerksamkeiten. Wenn ich Schnee schaufelte, malte er im Gegenzug ein lustiges Dankeschön-Bild und legte selbstgebackenen Kuchen ins Treppenhaus, damit ich mich stärken konnte.

Manchmal kam Boss sehr spät vom Theater zurück und sah an meinem Licht, dass ich als Nachteule immer noch wach war. Dann klingelte er und wir tranken ein Glas Wein zusammen und unterhielten uns. Wolfgang legte Boss Nahe, in besseren Wein zu investieren. Sissi hätte vermutlich gesagt, dass wir in Bezug auf den Wein unter einer Decke stecken. Aber in Wirklichkeit teilten wir miteinander ein kleines Glas Lebenselixier.

Wer brauchte das Internet und Wikipedia, wenn Boss in der Nähe war? Er war ein wandelndes Lexikon! Er war die wundervollste und unterhaltsamste Informationsquelle, die man sich wünschen konnte. Er teilte nicht nur Informationen mit, sondern erfreute einen auch mit seiner Meinung und lebhaften Debatten. Mit ihm und einer Tasse englischen Tee konnten wir die Welt gerade rücken.

Ein paar Tage bevor Boss erneut ins Krankenhaus kam, aßen wir zusammen zu Abend und hinterher diskutierten wir. Ich schrieb einen Artikel für meine Arbeit und ich wollte mich auf Faust beziehen – ich hatte jedoch Schwierigkeiten, das Wesentliche zu erfassen. Wir verbrachten mehrere Stunden damit, Faust Teil II zu durchforsten und überlegten, warum Mephisto Faust riet „die Mütter“ zu besuchen. Wir schlossen letztendlich darauf, dass Faust nach einem Weg suchte, ein Gleichgewicht in seinem Leben herzustellen – eine Harmonie zwischen den maskulinen und den femininen menschlichen Qualitäten. Ich bin überzeugt, dass Boss dieses Gleichgewicht und diese Harmonie für sich selbst schon lange entdeckt hat und dass dies der Grund ist, warum er so viele Menschen anrühren konnte.
Darum und weil er so viele Interessen hatte, war es so eine Freude in seiner Gesellschaft zu sein.

Gab es irgendetwas, das Boss nicht tun konnte? Ich bin sicher, ich kenne nicht alle seine Fertigkeiten, aber er konnte Häuser bauen, eine Yacht segeln, Hemden bügeln, Lammkoteletts braten, vielleicht konnte er sogar nähen. Er konnte Tschechisch und ein bisschen Englisch sprechen. Er konnte tanzen, er konnte singen und Klavier spielen. Und natürlich – wie wir alle wissen – konnte er schauspielern. Er konnte zuhören, er konnte reden. Er war gütig, aufmerksam und großzügig.

Ich konnte Boss seine Lebenslust an den Augen ansehen. Ich bemerkte es bereits bei unserem allerersten Treffen am Nürnberger Flughafen 1992, als er mich mit seiner Umarmung – die ich schnell lieben und auf die ich mich in den folgenden Jahren immer wieder freuen würde – fast zerdrückte.

Nicht ein einziges Mal fühlte ich mich in seiner Gegenwart wie ein Ausländer oder eine Fremde. Es war seine herausragende Fähigkeit, dass sich die Leute, die mit ihm zusammen waren, wohl und besonders wertgeschätzt fühlten. Deswegen wurde ihm so viel Respekt entgegen gebracht und deshalb hatte er auch so viele wundervolle Freunde.

Er war allerdings nicht nur ein Freund und Vater, sondern auch Großvater. Als ich ihn in den Wochen bevor er starb im Krankenhaus besuchte, konnte ich beobachten, wie er mit seinen drei Enkelsöhnen umging. Er war begeistert von den Möglichkeiten, welche die Welt ihnen zu bieten hatte und er wünschte sich, dass sie sie alle ergreifen würden. Ich sah die Freude, die ihm diese drei jungen Männer bereiteten und wie ihn ihre Gesellschaft belebte. Und ich weiß, dass sie mit ihm viele neue Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen aus ihrem Leben teilten. Sie bereicherten gegenseitig ihr Leben.

In der Tat bereicherte Boss unser aller Leben.

Ich werde ihn – wie Ihr alle hier – sehr vermissen. Er hat mir Alles bedeutet. Er war der perfekte Gentleman, mein Ritter in glänzender Rüstung, ein wundervoller Freund und er unterstützte und motivierte mich in allem, was ich tat.

Ich bin mir sicher, Ihr alle hier überlegt gerade und fragt Euch, was er für Euch war. Boss spielte viele Rollen in vielen Leben und wir alle besitzen unzählige Drehbücher voller glücklicher Erinnerungen, die wir immer vor unserem inneren Auge abspielen und dabei lächeln können. Denn Lächlen ist, was Boss von uns gewollt hätte. Und während wir lächeln, würde er uns wünschen, dass wir das Beste aus all den Möglichkeiten machen, die uns das Leben bietet, genauso wie er es tat.

Ich finde es angemessen, dass letzte Wort William Shakespeare zu überlassen:

„Die ganze Welt ist Bühne.
Und alle Fraun und Männer bloße Spieler.
Sie treten auf und geben wieder ab.
Sein Leben lang spielt einer manche Rollen.“
Wie es euch gefällt (2/7)

My Seele on show
I tried to observe how I was feeling as I stood in front my “audience”, it was as if I was standing on the stage which Boss so enjoyed performing on and which normally would frighten the life out of me. I had given a copy of the script to my “stepson” just in case I couldn’t finish, but I knew deep inside that this was a show that would go on and this would be my very best performance to date. I had been out to dinner with Boss the weekend before I was due to give talk to a Parkinson’s disease self-help group and he had given me wonderful advise on how to speak and present myself. He was an actor and I knew I could learn lots from him and I did, the Parkinson talk was a great success.

Why me ?
Why had I written the eulogy? Why was I the one standing here? I had volunteered, I needed to do it, the family wanted me to do it and it seemed just the right thing to do as I had done the same for Anna, his wife, six years ago.

I don’t remember walking to the lectern I remember only that I was shaking when I reached it and I was so glad I didn’t have to hold my papers in my hands. I tried to look around, there were quite a lot of strange faces, I picked out one or two familiar and loved ones to focus on and I gave Boss the best performance I could in the circumstances. I am sure he would have forgiven a few faltering words especially as when I faltered, with a few tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I concentrated on him and how he would react on stage if ever he forgot his lines.

Boss had asked me a few years ago, when I was helping him learn his lines for a new play, what I would write for his funeral, not if I would write, but what I would write. I didn’t just brush the comment aside as one could so easily do, I said I would only know that once he was dead, but I would make sure that is was very good and I would dress as if I was going to the theatre with him, which I did.

I got to the end of the tribute, standing tall in my elegant shoes, encouraged by sad smiles from the front row and, surprisingly for a funeral, I and Boss received a round of applause, his last curtain call and my first.

How had I felt?
Apart from very sad, I felt I had completely opened up my soul for the world to see. I had been prepared to show my sadness in front of many people, some of them strangers, in order to acknowledge how much I cared for this man. I had felt very privileged to have been allowed to write and present this tribute.


“Four Weddings and a Funeral”:

Die Seele – the soul

Thursday 10 July 2008

England’s green and pleasant land

Buxton Mill, Norfolk, June 9th 2008

England looks different from the air, recognisable from any other country I have visited by its field patterns, its hedgerows, its oak trees, the shape of its towns and villages and of course by its greenness. The feeling of homecoming gets stronger the nearer this view gets and it always surprises me by its presence. This particular homecoming was different and as I passed over the coastline a thick covering of cloud prevented me from seeing any of the land that for weeks I had been longing to visit.

The map above my head showed the plane’s position so I knew was flying over England, not a single cow, pasture, cricket pitch or football ground to be seen but I knew where I was and I would soon be home for the first time since October last year.

When I did at last see the English landscape on my journey to Norfolk it was exactly as I imagined, very different to the green left behind in Germany, that was still fresh, light and spring-like. My English green is difficult to describe, it is simply different because it is impregnated with feelings. The nearest I can get to it is with “racing green” because this is a colour which describes something more than just a colour: it is also impregnated with emotions, tradition and “Britishness”, just like me!

I arrived smiling in Norwich, hat in hand, ready to get involved in family life and enjoy the wedding that I described in an earlier blog.


I always refer to England as the green and pleasant land, ever since I left its shores in 1989 to live “abroad”, as the British call any land across the sea. The poem from which these words come has accompanied me throughout my life, from grammar school days when it was our school hymn to the many funerals and weddings where it was sung over the years, not forgetting of course the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms which is broadcast live in Germany for all us patriotic Brits to enjoy with great pomp and circumstance.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy lamb of God,
On England's pastures seen!
And did his countenance divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among the dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease the mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant land

William Blake

I have never actually known what this song is all about. As a child I always asked myself what has Jerusalem got to do with England’s greenness, I knew it as a hot place and thought surely it is more yellow and dry there and has nothing to do with “home”.

William Blake was inspired to write this poem by a story about Jesus visiting Glastonbury in England and establishing there a second Jerusalem. Maybe William Blake believed in this legend maybe not, it is a poem full of questions left unanswered. Did Blake hope that people would see the beauty of their land and the human race and that they could fight the mental fight against the invincible and incomprehensible scheme of human conduct that he describes later in the main poem?
Did he hope, as we conductors also hope, that people could learn to live “independent, dignified and fulfilled lives” despite the difficulties set before them? In the main poem he describes the Satanic Mills beneath earth and water. The hidden human qualities, the evil which needs to be fought with bows and arrows and chariots of fire in order to build a Heaven on Earth, the green and pleasant land of England.

I think I have carried this picture of a heaven on earth with me over the years. It is certainly a heavenly feeling when I return. It is a lightening of the heart and a lifting of my soul that I feel in the moments when I cross the channel, when the plane lands and I start homeward-bound through the countryside of Norfolk. Sadly, I made this soul-lifting journey too often over the past few weeks, maybe this wasn’t a bad thing as my soul needed a lot of lifting. I am a much-changed person for having had to do it.

The notes for this blog were written a week after my arrival in UK with the wedding of the year over. With my sister and her husband, I was sitting on a plane to Edinburgh, in the sun above the clouds and about to start a day trip that my sister had planned as a relaxing closure to the months of wedding fever. It was the day before I adain left my green and pleasant England on an unscheduled trip back to Germany, bang in the middle of my planned holiday.


Racing green:
“In keeping with these Irish/Napier roots, many of the earliest greens used on British racing cars were of a lighter olive, moss or emerald green. Later, darker shades became more common.”

“ independent, dignified and fulfilled lives.”
A.Sutton, “More independent, dignified and fulfilled lives in Leicestershire”, Thursday, 3 July 2008,

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Writing with Mother (Listen with Mother)

" Mother 1943"

1958 "Sisters listening with mother"

A little note about the title. I wrote the title "Writing with Mother" because it was this blog that I wrote sitting with my lap-top at the end of my Mum's hospital bed on Monday 9th June. I think she was really impressed that I was writing for my blog and she helped me with spelling and grammar just like when I was writing English essays. We had a chat in between times. It was in this 60 minutes that we spoke for the first and last time in my life about eating... because I was feeding her and and I laughed about the tables being turned. She simply asked "Do you eat now?" I replied "Yes" and she was happy, nothing more to say. I fed her for five days and she would let no one else do. It meant the world to me.

That was probably the nicest 60 minutes I have spent with my Mum for a long, long time. There were several more of these moments over the next few days but this was special and I have this piece of writing to remind me of it.

Two separate articles fell into my hands on the same day, about stroke and rehabilitation.

Jill Bolte Taylor

One of these articles was about Jill Bolte Taylor and her book published in 2006 A Stroke of Insight. Jill Bolte Taylor is an American neuro-anatomist who suffered from a stroke ten years ago and, luckily for her readers, she recovered and was able to describe in superb detail exactly what happened to her. I have not yet read her book but will be back on the subject when I have. Then, a few days after I recorded this in my note book, a posting appeared on Andrew Sutton’s Conductive Education World, with a link to website showing Jill Bolte Taylor speaking about her experiences. Go to Andrew’s site and take a look at the film it is well worth the 20 minutes or so it takes to view.

I first came across this amazing woman in Time Magazine’s Top 100 people. It was one of the coincidences that happen surprisingly often in my life these days. The magazine fell into the letter box while I was in the middle of packing to move flats and at the same time packing an extra suitcase to travel to UK. I knew that I would have no time to read the magazine completely so while walking from the post box into the house I randomly opened it to get a glimpse of what was going on in the world. It fell open on the page with a picture of Dr Bolte Taylor with a brain cradled in her hands. My attention was caught immediately and I gave myself a 15-minute tea-break to read the short article. Dick Clark’s concluding words could come from the mouths of any of the people in my stroke group as they learn about their new- found situation through Conductive Education:

"…there is a comfort in better grasping what has gone wrong, and enlightenment for all of those around you when they grasp it too. None of us needs sympathy: what we do need is a helping hand and understanding. Someone like Talyor provides that, helping a terrible blow become far less so."

"Therapied out"

The second article is from "Der Spiegel", a weekly German Magazine similar to Time Magazine and is called Selbstheilung in Denkorgan "Spontaneous healing of the organ of thought") and begins:

"Spontaneous healing in the brain. The brain is more flexible than we thought. Even ten years after a stroke it is possible for nerve cells to learn and create new structures. Paralysis disappears and speech returns".

The article continues by describing the life of a 33-year-old woman who suffered a stroke shortly before giving birth. She received physiotherapy in a clinic and was told after only four months that she was austherapiert ("therapied out", meaning that she was at the end of the therapeutic possibilities for her).

This is generally what happens sooner or later to most people who are recovering from a stroke. Eventually after a few months or perhaps a year, the therapy on offer is reduced to a minimum. Hospitals have all the-up-to-date facilities to deal with a stroke immediately it has occurred, machines of the very best can be seen in most clinics. The rehabilitation for the first months is also of high quality and often includes revolutionary techniques. And what happens after this period? Clients are usually sent home and gradually the amount of physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy on offer is reduced from three or four times a week to once a week. Speech therapy is generally stopped completely, deemed no longer necessary, often long before a client can talk on a telephone again or speak while walking. Where do these people look to for help? In the majority of cases it is after being pushed out of the therapy system in these ways that the clients in my group have looked to Conductive Education.

Taubsche Training

The article in Der Spiegel goes on to describe how 20 years after the stroke this woman received a form of "therapy" which I know has been used in hospitals in Germany for sometime now. The method used is called Taubsche Training, developed by the psychologist Edward Taub at the University of Alabama. It is a method which I have known about for many years but read little about.

This woman was spending three hours in therapy with her non-affected hand in a mitten and was being forced to use only the hand affected by the stroke. She kept the mitten on for most of the day, not only for the three-hour therapy session.

The therapy claims that it only takes a few days for the brain to reorganise and for the person to start to use the affected arm and hand more spontaneously and for movement to increase rapidly. Brain scans showing that there is an visible increase in brain cells.

Edward Taub says his aim is to change the brain/thought process of the patient. I had known about this form of therapy because there is a project researching Taubsche Training at the University of Jena, Germany, also led by a psychologist, Wolfgang Miltner who is mentioned in the article, telling us that the brain, or as I being a conductor would prefer to think of it, the personality or thought process, is easier to change than has previously been believed possible.

The Spiegel article had caught my eye because what it is describing could almost be something out of Dr András Petös Big Book (see footnote)

In both America and Germany the projects described are led by psychologists, maybe this is something that the world of Conductive Education world could learn from here in Germany, maybe instead of finding teachers or medical doctors interested in supporting CE we too should be looking to psychologists. We will see. I intend to visit Jena as soon as possible and discover more about this project.

Der Spiegel tells us that Taub’s ‘training’ shows results after just a few hours, and what I find important is that it also states that it doesn’t matter how old someone is or how long it is since the stroke. This is something that one rarely hears in the field of stroke rehabilitation, apart of course in Conductive Education. Most stroke rehabilitation therapists set limits stating: "no improvements expected after x number of years".

Both the projects, in Germany and America, present similar results, a Canadian nerve specialist, Dr. Norman Doidge commenting:

Die Natur hat uns eine Gehirnstruktur mitgegeben die in einer sich verändernden Umwelt Überlebt, weil sie sich selbst verändert. (Nature has given us a brain structure which survives in an ever-changing world because the brain itself changes too.)

Dr. Doidge’s book on this subject, Neustart im Kopf ("A new Beginning for the Head") has just been published in German, stating that a person survives changes in the environment because people himself are able to change.

Taub’s Training looks towards gaining function through change, just like in Conductive Education. A positive change in thinking is that there is no such thing as austherapiert , it makes no difference if it is two months, two years or twenty years after a stroke when someone begins Conductive Education (or Taub’s Training), or if someone born with cerebral palsy begins to learn at fifty years of age… it is never too late to change. Taub says that people who have had a stroke and are not offered alternatives after rehabilitation, are not using the full self-healing (spontaneous) process of the brain to its full potential.

In Der Spiegel Prof.Miltner states that therapy isn’t as intensive as it should be. Many therapists tell their patients that they have reached a plateau (they are austherapiert) just a few months after a stroke, which results in doctors stopping therapy too soon and implying that looking for alternative methods of healing makes no sense. And Prof. Selzer from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says :

"…not only is therapy too short, the aims are wrong. Rehabilitation traditionally uses techniques which compensate lost function instead of changing deficit."

Here I see yet another connection to Conductive Education: changing. Conductive Education is all about change.

An old message for the modern world

There were many passages in this article which reminded me of reading András Petö’s books, though Petö talks about the mind, the body and the soul, while the doctors, psychologists and neurologists in the Spiegel article talk about the brain. For me though, this is all part of the same, especially when all are talking about changes, learning and trying to make the dysfunctional functional.

The neurologist Micheal Selzer insists that change in the rehabilitation techniques is long overdue especially with all Iraq war veterans returning with injuries to the central nervous system. The aim must be to use the wealth of possibilities that the brain (or for me personality) has for change and to heal itself. The brain is not an unchangeable data bank, it is an organ open to all changes.


Writing with Mother -I gave the posting this title because I sat beside my Mum's bed writing it. She was really pleased to see me working and she was proud. She was happy to advice me just as she had done in 1968 when I started grammar school when she first began to help me with my English essays. The hour we sat together while I wrote this blog was one of the best times I have spent with her for many years, very similar to those moments when listen with Mother came on the radio and all housework and games would stop and we learnt to listen.

Mum and I reached an understanding while I worked and we chatted on 9th June 2008 and I will never forget it, this blog is hers and there she is right at the top blowing her bugle in the WAAF.

András Petö’s Big Book on Conductive Education does not actually exist. It is an invention of mine along with another conductor. Years ago we had a big group of teenagers who were very interested in the origins of Conductive Education and the theory behind it and we would refer to this imaginary book when explaining anything to them, always beginning a sentence with "As András Petö would have written in his Big Book of Conductive Education……..".

Maybe my blog is a start to making this imaginary book a reality!

Fellow conductors get writing!

Andrew Sutton – How it feels to have a stroke, Conductive Education World, 28 May 2008

Jorg Blech, Selbstheilung im Denkorgan, Der Spiegel, 10/2008

Norman Doidge, Neustart im Kopf, Frankfurt am Main Campus Verlag.

Austherapiert: no longer needing therapy, therapy no longer effective