My visitors today

Friday 27 February 2009

Relative Values

This is another posting
for which I have
no relevant picture
in my collection

I have been working flat out this week (conductive upbringing) and I have not been able to keep up with what has been going on in Cyberspace, even with what has been happening on my own blog!

I am ready for my bed now but I would like to thank everyone who has written in and just make the following comment.

Since I first read that the Foundation was appealing for financial help I envisaged that, if the worst came to the worst, the provision of services would slowly diminish and maybe the training of students would be put on hold and that the Foundation and the Library would keep on ticking over until it was time to start rebuilding.

It would be so much easier to employ a conductor and find children than it would to re-establish a library.

It is not what the Library does and how I have used it over the years that first came to mind when this news broke, but the fact that it is there at all seems to symbolise for me the “centre of Conductive Education” in some way. It is the place where books get published and information is stored, and where Conductive Education does not just stagnate.

I have been looking at other people's blogs too to catch up and I see that I am not the only conductor to be making this point about loosing one conductor rather than loosing a library.

Please, are we right?

What do people in general think about this?

Thursday 26 February 2009

Save our Souls!

No jolly picture
on a day for

I was so tired, I had actually fallen asleep already when my telephone buzzed me awake.

What very sad news I received

What I consider as my “conductive home”, the National Institute for Conductive Education, appears to be falling apart at the seams. It appears that its recent appeal for 120,000 pounds really was its last cry for help.

The message that I received was to inform me that Gill Maguire’s job as Librarian, which she has held since 1991, has been made redundant. Gill probably knows more of what has been written about Conductive Education than anyone else in the world!
If she is made redundant then that means the end of the Library too.

My immediate reaction on receiving this news was sadness, both for Gill personally and for the world of Conductive Education. Does the world of CE actually know what a wealth of information there is in “Gill’s library”? If not, it is time it did.

After the sadness came the anger

This is what I wrote in my notebook while lying there, now wide awake in bed.

I just received a text. It made me cry. It is senseless. The library at NICE is the last thing that should go. I just can not believe it. Where is all that info going to go? Who is going to continue finding it and collecting it and sorting it and making it available to those who need it?

Surely the Foundation can save more money making a conductor redundant than by loosing Gill and the library?

They call it a “cull of support staff”. This is a cull of staff that supports the whole world. What idiots they are. It is so short sighted.

I thought the whole reason for the existence of The Foundation for Conductive Education was for the development of CE and for the gathering and imparting of knowledge. Just how is this expected to happen without its Library?

What a crazy world!

Gill and the Library are so important to Conductive Education and no one at the “top” seems to realise this. What is NICE going to do, if it gets through the crunch and back on to its feet, without its Library?

This week’s facilitation

many hands making light work

Body paint

At carnival time in Germany the shops are filled with the brightest of colours, the bakery with brightly decorated doughnuts, the butcher's and grocer's shop with balloons and streamers around the displays of food, most other shops windows incorporating in some way masks and streamers amongst the products for sale.

The shelves of the department stores and the supermarkets are always filled with the most amazing kitsch and the loveliest, glittery, gaudy objects that one could wish for to use at work, and best of all most of it costs next to nothing.

At the store I wandered through rows and rows of carnival costumes with wigs in every colour of the rainbow, there were fairy wings and magic wands, and pirate’s cutlasses and eye patches. There are always streamers and confetti, hooters and balloons to be found to refill my “tool” box, but my best find and best buy this year were body paints in a new form. They are absolutely perfect for the small, hot, tight grasping fists of the young children who I am working with these days.

The waxy, soft face-paint sticks usually available are so small and thin that they crumble and melt when the children so much as look at them! It is rarely possible for them to paint themselves or each other all by themselves. They usually need lots of help to transform the whole group into animals, clowns, pirates or whatever takes their fancy. There are also body paints available in a palette, like water colours, to use with a paint brush but this process is also a little tricky for many of the children.

I was delighted with this year’s find. Thick chunky body-paint sticks covered with a plastic holder that works a bit like a glue stick. Turning the bottom of the holder forces more colour upwards.

Many hands make light work

Over the last few days I have had wonderful creations painted on my hands by the children and they have had lots of fun painting themselves and each other. These gorgeous, brightly coloured pens were actually not that cheap but I didn’t have to think twice about buying them. I visualised what we would be using them for, how they woud be facilitating my work, before I had even paid for them. I knew we would be having lots of fun, “bits-in-between times”, with them!

They have been the best facilitation as well as motivation that I could have wished for this week. In many of our activities we have painted our hands, so sometimes birds would fly gently down with food to feed their babies,and sometimes great, mighty dinosaurs would grasp anything and everything with their mouths, and learn to hold things very, very tightly. At other times we have invited animal friends to come to help tie shoe laces, to grasp the knife to cut our food, or to hold the spoon at the correct angle in order to eat soup.

One little boy who always tells me that he doesn't enjoy painting very much couldn’t wait to get his hands on these body paints and get started on new hand and finger designs.

I am beginning to ask myself “What did I do before I had these paint pens?”. They have made work so much easier this week.

That’s what I call great facilitation!

Monday 23 February 2009

Fasching, Karnival, Mardi gras,Shrove Tuesday or Faschingsmontag

No-calorie Krapfen, by Susie Mallett 21st February 2009

Krapfen (doughnuts), king cakes or pancakes

All over the world there are so many different customs that comes down to one thing – Lent – which is about to begin, on Ash Wednesday.

How do you finish off all the fat in the house?

In England we make pancakes, and usually eat them with sugar and lemon. Some crazy people even race down the streets with them still in the pan.

In Germany, the bakeries are full with doughnuts that each year become more outrageously decorated than in the year before.

In New Orleans hundreds of thousands of the traditional King Cakes are eaten.

What do you eat, wherever you are, on Rose Monday or Shrove Tuesday?

The German way

On Rosenmontag in Nürnberg there will be the usual carnival procession, but this will be nothing to compare with the celebrations in the north of the country. In Köln, Dusseldorf and Bonn, and in many other, smaller towns, things get started each year at precisely 11.11 o’clock. This is always the official start to the fifth season of the year, when the world goes crazy for fancy dress and silly parties! The partying will stop on Shrove Tuesday and all will thenremain quiet until Lent is over.

Last year at carnival time I was up north working, just as I have been for many of the past ten years. The family I was with were delighted when at long last I succumbed and joined in the crazy procession. I allowed myself to be dressed up in green dungarees and Wellie boots with sunflowers stuck all over me, I am not sure now whether I was a gardener or the flowers! About fifty layers of thermal clothes were hidden below the costume because, as always at this time of year, it was snowing! I don’t know why I hadn’t participated before, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Tomorrow and on Tuesday I will be working with a family here in Bavaria. There may be a small carnival procession in the village where they live and perhaps a few doughnuts for breakfast, but here in Bavaria the people are not so wild about carnival and don’t go quite so crazy.

On Shrove Tuesday in my flat there will be the unmistakable smell of making pancakes. I love doing this but not because I like eating them, I don’t very much but because they always have such individual patterns, like the maps and satellite pictures on Google Earth!. These patterns can be influenced by the temperature of the pan, the amount of oil used or the thickness of the batter, by how soon you turn the pancake over (or toss it), and by adding a tiny knob of butter to the pan. No two pancakes look the same.

Whether you are having doughnuts, pancakes or king cakes, whether you are celebrating, Fasching, Karnival, carnival or Mardi Gras, I hope you all have lots of fun. I will be, by painting faces, feet and hands and by eating both Krapfen and pancakes.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Conductors' clothes

Without clothes, 2005 by Susie Mallett


As a student at the "World Famous Petö Institute", as we always used to call it in those days, I would sit in the Bufé for a few minutes each day just observing in wonder the transformation of the Hungarian conductors and students. They would descend the staircase after a five or six hour shift wearing their regulation whites, most often a baggy white shirt over leggings, though with their hair still looking beautifully groomed. They would then disappear for fifteen minutes, I never did find out where to as we Brits had a separate changing room in the depths of the cellar, but wherever they went it was a place that worked magic.


When these young women emerged, they walked through the Bufé and out of the front door as if having undergone a metamorphosis. They looked like painted butterflies. Bright coloured butterflies emerging from their white cocoons.

With flowing locks, high heels and painted faces, with a look of pure elegance, as if stepping straight down from a fashion-show catwalk.


I loved it when we were given an extra break between our lectures, as this always meant another opportunity to observe this phenomena. I really do believe that I secretly wished that I too could work just a little bit of the same magic on myself, instead of kitting myself up after work in the more practical gear needed for riding home by mountain bike.

It was obvious to me that these Hungarian conductors spent a lot of time thinking about their appearance when not at work, but it was not so obvious that their appearance while they were at work was of equal importance to them. This has interested me ever since.

Anything goes!

When I began my training at the Petö Institute in 1989, as far as working clothes were concerned it was a case of “anything goes as long as it was white”. There were still conductors who wore the old white coats, possibly provided by the institute, but gradually this “uniform” had begun to transform into stretchy leggings and long, shapeless baggy T-shirts. In the early 1990s all rules on clothing slackened, or were ignored, I am not sure which.

Things were changing all over Hungary at that time so it was hardly surprising that it happened within the Petö Institute too.

A hole in the wall, a ray of sunshine, a splash of colour

Towards the end of 1989 the Berlin Wall became just a tourist attraction, no longer something restricting people’s freedom of movement. In Budapest new houses were build, cars from western Europe appeared on the streets, many new import-export shops were opening, people started talking openly on the buses instead of keeping their noses glued to a book. Language schools opened on every corner, the people felt free to do something different. Grey Budapest suddenly brightened up, and so did the World Famous Petö Institute.

Some conductors started to introduce colour into their work attire, but unfortunately they never introduced the chic appearance they had as they came into and left the institute. They stuck to the baggy T-shirts with leggings. Goodness knows why. Maybe it was the cost factor and they miay have preferred to spend whatever money they had on clothes for wearing after work. Maybe it was a matter of practicalities and comfort. Although here I must add that, as well as looking sloppy, baggy clothes are not always the best choice. They get caught up on chairs, door handles and straying children’s hands.

Communicating through clothes

The introduction of colour at the Petö Institute meant that some conductors were recognised by being the “conductor with the pink top” or “the conductor with the black spotted trousers”. I was the student with white clothes and the bright multicoloured socks, usually with pictures of animals on them. My then very young niece and nephew sent me these sockson on a regular basis. They thought that my “poorly children“, as they always called them, would enjoy them. How right they were.

In those early days, when I spoke hardly a word of Hungarian and communication with the children in my group was difficult, those socks often saved the day. When they caught a child’s eye they would help me cross the language barrier. We could sing a song together or make funny noises like the animals depicted.

A return to the 80s

Now at the Petö Institute there is a uniform once again, one provided by the Institute. There are different-coloured polo shirts for conductors and for students, worn with white trousers. There is even a choice of T-shirt, fitted or less so, whatever suits your figure. The conductors at work look very smart, but sadly still not as chic as they still do as they walk out through the Bufé!

Wearing white

I have always worn white, ever since my training. In Germany some conductors say the colour frightens the children because doctors always wear it, but most physiotherapists and occupational therapists wear white too and we can’t all be bad!

Anyway, I do not have the same inner image of white as being the colour associated with doctors. The Doc I saw as a child, when I had earache on most Monday mornings, was always dressed in an old tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows. This was usually worn over a checked shirt with a brown tie. His stethoscope would be dangling around his neck just to prove who he was. A bit like Dr Findlay I suppose.

I have never had a negative reaction from my clients because of the colour of my clothes, so I continue to wear white, along with my funny bright socks. I wear white because I think that it suits me, because it is smart and it is always clean. If it isn’t clean it shows, so I change immediately.

I choose the type of clothes for their fit. Trousers that are not baggy, but also not tight and not stretchy. I usually buy the ones sold for assistants in dental and doctor's surgeries, which fit well, are hard wearing and good a quality and usually don’t need ironing. I wear shirts with a collar, which are a close fit, so hat I avoid getting caught up in the furniture and the waving arms. If it is cold I have a small white cardigan to put on over the top. As I said in the shoe blog a few weeks ago, I always wear lace-up shoes.

I do have an exception to my rule of wearing whites. I have a dark green bib-and-brace overall to wear for painting, that I can quickly pull on over all my clothes so that I and the children can be as messy as we like.


White is neutral, which is practical for the type of work that I do as it fits in anywhere. I work in many different places so I don’t get asked to wear the uniform of a place where I am for just a few weeks, that is if of course if it even has a uniform. In Germany most places don’t.

In England and other countries I believe that many centres have a uniform, a T-shirt or a polo shirt in the school colour or with a badge, with the staff often deciding on the trousers. Both in schools and in CE centres in Germany anything goes, for children and usually for staff too.

Although I have not heard of other schools where the teachers have to wear a school uniform too, several conductors in the UK have told me that they do have to!

In the National Institute for Conductive Education, England they distinguish between students and conductors in the same way as in Budapest, by the colour of their T-shirts.

In establishments where the clothes are provided the conductors have no choice about how fashionable they look, unless they have actually been involved in the initial decision-making.

A conductor in America has told me that the trousers that conductors are given to wear restrict movement, and are very revealing of their underwear. This is something that we are very conscious of in a centre where I often work in Nürnberg and, although there are no restrictions on the colour of our clothes, a strict eye is kept on how revealing they are. I am in total agreement with this.

The same conductor in America told me that she is happy to have to wear “uniform” clothes, despite their being restrictived or revealing, as she doesn’t have to make any decisions in the mornings on what to wear. I don’t have to decide on clothes either when I put on my “whites” and bright socks each day, but I am comfortable and covered up!

First impressions are lasting impressions

As conductors I believe it is not only important to consider what impressions we leave behind from of what we say and do, but also from what we wear. Our outward appearance helps shape people's impressions.

I have asked many of my clients about the impressions they took away with them from first meetings with conductors. I wondered whether it is maybethe voice that makes a lasting impression, or the appearance. Is it the clothes, or the hair, or the posture? Is it only the information on conductive pedagogy that they remember afterwards or are they also influenced by other factors, by the conductors themselves? Generally the opinion on appearance is that untidiness would suggest less than the best work. A degree of casualness is acceptible because of the need for “therapists” to wear clothes in which they can move around easily.

“But not,” one client said, “as casual as being dressed for the beach”.

Some clients said that the personality is more important than the clothes, but went on to say that in first sessions, when they did not really know anyone, clothes did play a role, especially influencing how at ease they felt with each other. They meant in this instance both what the conductors wear, and the other members of the group.

A mini-skirt or jeans?

In one an earlier posting I wrote about my decisions on what to wear on two occasions when I was asked to give presentations on conductive pedagogy. Mini or stretch jeans, shoes, no shoes or boots?

In the long run it didn’t really matter. I did what I wanted to do in both mini and jeans, with and without shoes, but how I felt on the day and what impression I left behind with my potential clients were important to me. I felt good in both sets of clothes and I hope that the impression that I left behind was good too.

It was however quite strange to be doing familiar movements (when I demonstrated) in unfamiliar and somewhat impractical clothes, but it all fitted to the situation that I was in.It felt OK and it worked.

And so back to the soul

Clothes are so important to me for the comfort of my Seele. I have thought a lot about my appearance at work, my hair, clothes, my shoes and even which glasses I have on. I need to feel good in what I wear,both at work and outside work. I need to feel that I have on the clothes most suited to the situation that I find myself in. I do not like to wear formless clothes and I like my clothes to be made from material that feels nice on my skin. At work this is preferably cotton.

Now you tell me

There are probably all sorts of different house rules in centres around the world. What do conductors wear elsewhere?
  • Do conductors think much about clothes worn for work?
  • How much depends on the climate, the culture, the clients, the type of programme?
  • What clothes are ideal, are they smart and functional?
  • How important are clothes for the public image?

Is it a case of being unable to be both chic and comfortable?

Most conductors are women so I imagine that clothes are as important to them,as there are to me. I assume they are also just as important to the male conductors, but I don’t know.

How about telling me what you a think about this.


Bufé – this was a very lively area at the Petö Institute where parents, children, conductors, students, just about anybody really, gathered to eat scrambled-egg rolls and turó rudi (a chocolate bar), drink strong Hungarian coffee, swap information, do last-minute swatting-up before exams, take a well-earned break, or simply watch the “glamorous” world go by.

Dr Findlay – Scottish doctor on TV during my childhood.

Seele - soul

Saturday 21 February 2009

A change in practice

Looking forward to spring by Susie Mallett

There is quite a long correspondence going on in the comments section of one of my previous blogs: .

I thought that I would continue the discussion here in a separate posting, and maybe a few more people will notice and take part in the discussion.

The correspondence is about camps and how parents learn about conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing if they are experiencing a conductive camp for the very first time (or second or even a third time come to that).

Who needs a plinth?

It is essential that parents, partners, carers and the clients all understand what conductive upbringing is all about, that it isn’t about lying on a plinth and counting 1-2-3-4-5 while a leg or an arm is being bent, that it is about something much more than this.

We need ballet, driving, singing and snow!

It is about learning to live, learning how to attend ballet class, even learning how to get there alone. Learning how to stand up and sing at choir practice and even once more becoming the conductor! It is about learning how to get in and out of a car and maybe one day driving it yourself, or about dressing yourself to go out in the snow then learning how to build a snowman.

It is about motivating oneself to be active in the life that one has at this given moment, and it is about continually striving for change.

It is about spiralling upwards and onwards, with everything that we have already learnt influencing every other thing that we have learnt, and influencing absolutely everything else that we do. It is about living with a soul that is healthy.

Relating and giving conductive tips

A child or adult client, parents and carers need to be shown how to relate the tasks given in group to real life situations. Yes, it may be easier at first to hold a solid stick in both hands and bring it behind one,s neck but wouldn’t it be a good idea actually to make clear that in doing this movement we are learning to put a scarf around our neck, or lift our arm to comb our hair, and then actually try it out with the real thing, try it out in the bathroom at home with a conductor giving tips!

I am not saying that these things don’t take place at camp. Of course the children get dressed and go outside, fetch themselves a drink from the fridge etc, but if there is something missing then it is the link between the tasks in a programme and real life.

And who do we need to provide this link?

The parents and the carers, and the conductors.

I have heard it said so many times that clients have suddenly realised why they practise specific tasks, the penny drops and they realise that a certain movement facilitates a certain activity at home. nd I sometimes hear from parents (or carers) that they didn’t know how their child/ partner had learnt to do something independently in a group.

Both tell me that there is a failure somewhere in communications, something is missing. That same link is not there to real life.

What can be done to change all this? How can this link be forged?

I have recently had the experience of working at a centre where the children attend groups regularly throughout the year but, because of the great distance travelled, the families stay at the centre, just as they do in many camps. I have seen the many hours of living done as a family outside group, hours that could be utilised. The question is how could this be done to give the whole family the best during their precious few weeks at camp, how can they gather as much information as possible to take home with them?

I suggested, in a comments on my previous post, that perhaps providing another shift of conductors who would work outside the group hours might give the answer. Conductors to work alongside the family, there to advise when out on shopping trips, when getting in and out of the car, getting on and off a bike, when playing cards or board games, preparing breakfast, dinner and tea together. The conductors there to give tips on how the child might be as active as possible in the daily life of the family.

Another suggestion, more on the theoretical side, would be to provide seminars in the afternoons or perhaps in the evenings for parents and carers. Perhaps something about Dr András Petö and his life, the development of the Petö Institute under Dr Mária Hári, the bringing of Conductive Pedagogy out of Hungary, how the many different countries then developed and changed it to suit their personal situations.

Most importantly there could be lots of practical examples to show what conductive upbringing is about and lots of question-and-answer sessions.

I have the feeling that something needs to change. These camps are so important to these families, they save up their time and money to attend. It is the responsibility of the service- providers to see to it that after a five-week camp that parents and children alike go home with a very good understanding of what it is all about.

In Germany

My work in Germany is very different. We have regular contact with parents, carers, adults and children. They live locally so we can phone and make house visits. We can be called to meet teachers and physiotherapist. We can be there when a new wheelchair is fitted out or when new moulds for shoes and splints are made.

When I have new adult clients coming to my groups I usually make a home visit before we begin working together. We can spend an hour or two talking about conductive upbringing, the groups, our aims and their personal needs. As work in the group proceeds it is essential that in every block we spend some time discussing conductive rehabilitation and how the clients use at home what they learn in the group. We discuss their everyday lives, other family members come in to join us, to observe or ask questions, and everyone gives everyone else “conductive” tips.

Children usually come into the centre for an initial assessment and this is also gives the conductor the opportunity to explain about conductive upbringing and to give printed information and answer questions. In subsequent parent’s meetings, with and without the child present, we can discuss the child’s progress and what is happening at home and at school on a regular basis. We can talk more about conductive upbringing.

We work with the children and adults five times a year in our groups, bt they live locally and we have contact them all the time. I visit other families up to three times a year in their homes and we have regular telephone contact with each other in between times.

We have a different system here to that of the “camps” We do offer a “conductive holiday camp” to our “regular” children in the summer, although these are usually just for the children, parents don’t stay on site. In our system ,with regular contact between families and conductors, we do not have convey so much information in such a short time.

There are twenty-four hours in a day

So back to the question how do parents at camp learn about conductive upbringing. They are there on site twenty-four hours a day for several weeks. Their children disappear into group for maybe six hours a day, where they are working with the conductors on the programmes developed for them. Maybe it really is time to use those hours outside the group time to help the process along.

What do you all think?

Do you already do this/experience this?

Is it already happening?

Friday 20 February 2009

It is snowing again

My lovely post box, Februaru 2009

No, this is not another blog about the weather, although it is grey and cold and another three inches of soggy snow are down there in the street. I am just trying to give an indication of how cold it was when I ventured out, still feeling poorly so wrapped up very warm, down the stairs and out in the hall to collect my mail from my gorgeous wooden post box in the wall. What I was expecting wasn’t there but the Guardian Weekly was. All the more exciting as this was the first delivery since November as I had cancelled due to so much travelling.


When I left school and went off to college every day on the train across the Norfolk marshes I was eighteen years old. This is when I made a decision to read a different paper to the one delivered each day to my parents' house. This was a very brave decision to make, for several reasons. I was the first-ever person in the family to go to college of any kind so I didn’t want to seem like I was taking a step above everyone else. The kind of college that I was attending was in those days called an art college, a place full of wierdos. Remember, my Dad was a train driver so my choice of the Guardian was often greeted with disdain.

I choose it and continued to read it for years afterwards because every Monday there was an extra supplement with jobs for the creative called “Creative and Media”. Naïve as I was I thought that one day I would find a job in there with my name on it. Little did I then know that fourteen years later it would in fact be in Tuesday’s "Educational Guardian" supplement that I would discover the job of my dreams, Conductive ,Education but that’s another story. Well not entirely another story as it was out in Budapest while training to be a conductor that I discovered the Guardian Weekly.

This was for some reason the newspaper that the Foundation for Conductive Education in Birmingham saw fit to send out each week to our office. for anyone who wished to peruse! There were actually only two of us who indulged in this pleasure, and I was always second in line. I usually got the paper in my hands just in time to enjoy it at the café at the Gellert Hotel after steaming away the grime of the week on Sundays.

At that time in the 1990s, the Guardian Weekly was still printed on that wonderful crispy, white and incredibly noisy airmail paper. Later when I lived with my partner in Germany I was forbidden to read it in bed, not because of the newsprint on the sheets but because of the noise!

The paper that it was printed on was changed several years ago, to much protest from its readers. Now printed on ordinary grey old newsprint with two huge staples in the middle, it is impossible to grab just a section of it,and fold it up so small to fit in my posh opera handbag just in case I need something to read on the tram. I still miss rustling it and secreting it somewhere in my pockets but I do still read it, as I did over a pot of coffee this afternoon This was when I got to wondering why.

Because of a few surprises?

Usually I open the paper first at “Notes and Queries”, to read answers to readers' questions, such as “Why are countries spoken of as female?” (some of them aren’t with Germany, the fatherland, being one of the exceptions). I then move down that page to read Paul Evans who writes so descriptively about my green and pleasant (mother) land, then its over to the best bit,“Wordpool”. This is the place where I discover really obscure words, ones that are rarely used. I know that the lovely tassel or brass clip on the end of a shoe lace is called an aglet and those always bent and rickety brass contraptions which go over the light bulbs on standard lamps, to prevent the shade getting burnt, are called a harp.

All absolutely useless bits of information which allow me to say as Michael Caine is reputed to have said, “Not a lot of people know that!”

Fabulous forties or nifty fifties?

Today my initial reading of the paper took a slightly different course. As I set it on the table I saw staring me in the eye, in the right hand column of the front page “…. women in their forties can be fabulous”. This immediately brought to mind Judit Szathmary’s latest posting about talented women. So, instead of learning some new peculiar words in English on page 38, off I went to page 24 to see what that was all about.

The last few sentences from Libby Brooks article on older women are perhaps worth quoting here to bring home the fact to us “older women” that life actually does begin, and doesn’t end, at forty, or perhaps even at fifty!

“As we continue to age, an increasing number of women will be living a sizable chunk of their lives post menopause, and could do with better public mirrors than Twiggy can provide. And more realistic ones. I doubt there are many 60-year-olds who want to be supermodels, but they may not balk at the idea of being appointed US Secretary of State.”

Now, I don’t have any aspirations to becoming a politician, but I am enjoying being a woman about town, I love my new found love of writing and I enjoy the routes my work now takes me down.

Time for a smile

So with my coffee half-finished it was time to get to page 38, but no, I was mistaken. Something else cropped up amongst the “UK News” pages to catch my eye. My artistic eye at that. It was a colour photograph. These appear more and more often in my ever changing weekly paper, but this one was particularly bright and cheery and somewhat “Magritte” in character. A huge white horse standing in a ploughed field between pylons, industrial estate to the left, white baguette- shaped clouds floating above, and a brand new wooden fence in the foreground.

The headline beneath the photograph read “It’s just a white horse not a white elephant.”

It appears that Britain has a new Anthony Gormley in artist Mark Wallinger who is going to produce a huge, larger-than-life white horse to join the chalk ones that already lie in the landscapes of southern England. The article reports that “….it will, if there is any justice, make a lot of people smile. Indeed, it would be a better country if every county had its very own angel.”

Any reference to an angel brings a smile to my face as I always recall Dr András Petö and his angels within us.

The image of every county in England having a huge sculpture, an angel of its own, brings back memories of my trip around Australia where I came across giant lobsters, giant rocking chairs and giant just-about-anything-else, welcoming tourists at the gateway to the next state or region hat they were entering. Yes, they did bring smiles to faces, and the horses of the south and the angels of the north could quite possibly do the same, once the voices in opposition have died down.

There was precious little else in my Guardian Weekly to bring a smile to a face, apart from this week's new peculiar words on page 38. The rest of the contents, whether reporting from London, Paris or New York, was all doom and gloom with even a report on the shrinking of the mini (skirt not car!)

Now there is something we all thought couldn’t get any smaller, or shorter.

How wrong we were.


The Guardian -

A white horse

A white elephant

The Mini - BMW Mini in Cowley, Oxford, are shedding 850 jobs and beginning a 5-day week.

Shoe laces, cipöfüzö, Schnürsenkel

Cipöfüzö 17th february 2009

Tieing tongues

After the word bagoly, cipöfüzö is my all time favourite Hungarian word. Both words just roll off the tongue, with difficulty, and appear to have no meaning or purpose other than to make one smile.

Schnürsenkel sounds quite nice too, but Zwetschgenmännle remains my favourite German word for the very same reason, that although it is difficult to say it always brings a smile to my face.

Tieing shoes

Most of the children in our group have velcro fastenings on their shoes so we have to find other ways other than "real life" to learn to tie shoe laces.

We have a game where each person gets a cardboard shoe and a dice with coloured spots is thrown to see which colour shoe gets to thread the next hole. There is an accompanying story book which is all about a little boy called Lucas who is also learning to tie his shoe laces at the same time as us.

We do have such a game, but...

Weaving tales

Teaching children to tie shoe laces is one of the things that I love best and there is no need for a game and a story book. There are so many funny stories to make up, about snakes weaving their way around trees, or rabbits jumping in and out of holes, never escaping from sight because of their long ears, tales of fairies passing magic spells on knots thatnever come undone. We get lost in a faraway land of strange folk and animals who all seem to have moved into this shoe that we are working on. It is lovely and it could, if we let it, take over the whole day!


Cipöfüzö, Schnürsenkel - shoe laces, in Hungarian and German

Bagoly - a Hungarian owl

Zwetschgenmännle - a German dried plum man

Thursday 19 February 2009

Bringing some order into my camp

My blue guard dog, by Susie Mallett 2001

I have been in contact with some parents who are at the Ability Camp in Picton, Ontario with their daughters. One of these Mums, who has a blog herself, told me in a comment to one of my postings that she is excited to view my blog.

My immediate reaction to this was "That is not going to be easy!" as there are already 165 postings there. However could a newcomer navigate through them all? I decided that it is high time that to give all my readers some kind of order to follow, and this is exactly what I have tried to do.

It wasn't easy but, as I was what my Mum would have called "ill-a-bed and wuz-up", I had lots of time to think about it.

Due to my rambling style of writing some of the postings have to go into more than one category. I hope that despite this I have made the site a bit easier to navigate for anyone who is making a first visit, and also for older readers who wish to search the archives.

I have had an interesting two days curled up, cosy and warm in bed, with flasks of Erkältungs Tee, herbal tea for colds, just what the German doctors order! I have been reading all my old postings, looking at the pictures, deciding how to classifythem, and then re-labelling them again and again. I am sure that the process isn't finished but it is a start and at least I have an idea where all my posting are.
I also helped in the healing process.


Kate's blog

Ability Camp, Picton, Ontario, Canada

I speak “funny” in two languages

Nurnberg, New Year's Day 2008, by Susie Mallett

But not in my third!


I was brought up in Norfolk, real yokel country. I won’t describe my voice. Just let your imagination run wild.
  • Pam Ayres? Not quite, she is from Wiltshire.
  • Worzel Gummidge? He wasn’t Norfolk either.

The Singing Postman, remember him? Well he’s your man. I don’t look much like him but the voice is getting warmer!

At school our German French teacher’s ears were already hurting when he heard us speaking English, so you can imagine how awful we must have sounded when we attempted French...
A room full of Norfolk Dumplings trying to parlez Français, a disaster.

At art school in Surrey, where everyone even the milkman speaks posh, I was one of three students from a group of 50 who didn’t speak the Queen’s English, but instead had “funny” accents. The others were two guys, one from Stoke in the Potteries and the other from Swansea in South Wales. For some reason we all became good friends, and all three of us painted a bit “funny” too!

I have lived away from Norfolk for thirty-three years and for twenty of these years I have been living in another language. Interestingly, my Norfolk accent remains as strong as ever! It is recognisable anywhere as unmistakably that of a Norfolk Broad, as I discovered recently at Nürnberg Airport. It was recognised by a fellow traveller, a stranger, who it turns out lives only 500 yards from me in Nürnberg and was born in the same nursing home in Norwich as I was, just months before me!

It is a small world, made smaller by regional accent recognition.


I now live in Bavaria and many people have said to me over the years that I could not have picked a worse place to learn German. Germans tell me that I would have faired better if I had lived in Hanover, where they speak “proper”, or right up north on the East Friesian coast where the people are apparently nearly more English than the English. They also have a quaint tea-drinking ritual.

But I landed in Bavaria, where I acquired my second funny accent. With its very guttural sounds I imagine that it is probably similar to learning English in Scotland.

Here in Frankonia, a region of Bavaria, it is difficult to hear the difference between what they call hard or soft Ps and Ks. Words could begin with a P or a B, no one seems to know, or end with a K or G, also indistinguishable to a foreigner’s ear. This all adds up to me talking “funny” in German too.

I learnt to say Grüß Gott in a perfect Nürnberg accent very early on. This is a way of greeting people at any time of the day, and actually means “I bring you the greetings of God”. I have two problems with saying this. One is that I don’t actually bring anyone the greetings of God, I bring my own greetings, and the other is that if I say it in northern Germany they all think I should be locked up. There you just say “Good Morning”.

It is the same with the way in which the Bavarians tell the time. If I try teaching a child up north that it is three quarters to nine o’clock they will also look at me as if I am a raving loony. As they would in England too!

Someone has actually written a book Nämberch/English Spoken, full of English words that sound exactly like Nürnberg German when spoken.

A few years ago I visited the National Institute for Conductive Education in Birmingham where I met a Hungarian conductor speaking perfect English with a Magyar/Brummie accent. She told me that I was speaking English with a German accent!

I have since met many conductors speaking a second language, with both their own foreign accent and a local regional accent.

Do I speak funny in my third language, Hungarian?

No, I don’t think I do. It is the only language of the three I speak that I have had lessons in, lots of lessons for four years. I do not feel “funny” as I speak Hungarian, as I often do when I speak German. I obviously sound a bit “foreign”, but all the Hungarians I talk to tell me I speak their language nicely.

I have no other criterion to go by so I choose to believe them, as it is nice not to sound funny while speaking such a funny language!

Posh or POSH, which ever you care to believe -

The Norfolk Broads

'A Norfolk Broad'
'Broad' is a slang term for woman, usually considered derogatory. An example of a negative use of the word may be found in the song "Honey Bun" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.
East Fresian -

Nämberch/English Spoken - by Günther Stössel, ISBN 3-87191-136-4

Brummie - A person from Birmingham, or the accent from Birmingham

Monday 16 February 2009

Solidarity through the blogosphere

Hopes for spring (its snowing again!) by Susie Mallett 2009

It's a small world

Through the blogosphere I slowly but surely make contact with the wider world of Conductive Education.

I meet providers, conductors and users, also carers and parents of users. I also meet all sorts of other interested parties, even people who just like my paintings.

Recently I came across a blog by a Mum whose child is attending for the first time the Ability Camp in Canada. This mum is recording the family's experiences of Conductive Education and everyday life at the camp in a diary form.

I am watching it keenly, both because of my interest in what happens around the world at "camps" and also because a month ago I met, also through the blogosphere, another family who were planning a trip across Canada to join this same camp.

Despite the airline!

When I looked at the said blog yesterday, low and behold there was the second family describing their problems on the flight from Yukon to Vancouver!

I wonder how many other parents have such stories to tell! From my own experiences of travelling with disabled people, probably a great many.

I wish both these families and all their "colleagues" at the camp a successful and "fun" time.

Shoes across the seas

I am watching with interest how the camp progresses especially as I see that today Cassie was learning to tie her shoe laces in Picton as were two of the children in my group here in Germany!

How about that for solidarity over the blogosphere. Cassie, I will photograph them both in action tomorrow so you can see how we are all are getting on!


Der Schellenbaum

February 14th 2009

Der Schellenbaum, the lagerphone or monkey tree under construction in my kitchen.

Joe loved it and much prefered to call it by its Aussie name of lagerphone.

I am sorry there is no photograph available of Joe as he was afraid that the other members of the heavy metal band he plays in might send him packing if he was seen with such a folksy musical instrument!


Sex and the city continued

Life drawing by Susie Mallett, January 2005

Thank you to both Gill Maguire and Andrew Sutton for bringing this article in the Sunday Times to my attention.

At sometime in the future I will be doing a follow up posting to my "Sex in the city, sex and Conductive Education" item but in the meantime maybe you will find this interesting to read and comment on.


Saturday 14 February 2009

A surprise commission

Sudden winter colour, by Susie Mallett, 2009

Something interesting happened today in relation to my blog, a comment I suppose you would call, it but this time it was a comment by phone.

One of my regular readers called to enquire about purchasing a painting that had featured in my blog quite some time ago. The said picture has actually gone out of my ownership since I painted it, which is very often the case. I usually paint with someone in mind or the picture sits around for a few days before I think “So-and-so might like that”, then I pop it in the post. I take photographs of all my works as I am sure they will one day be needed for a blog posting!

Drawings are different as they are often in a sketch book, where they remain forever.

Having painted for so many years there is a limit to how many pictures I want hanging around the flat, on or off the walls. I have rarely sold them, my family, my friends and many colleagues have received most of them as gifts, although I have kept a few of my favourites.

Some are precious

I was going to say “ I keep the precious few” but this isn’t true as my pictures have never been precious to me. Don’t miss understand me I would never tear one up or throw one away, even if I am not entirely satisfied with it. I know from experience that I will retrieve it from a folder some years later and enjoy it.

Since my childhood my paintings have never been precious objects. I see them just as marks and colours arranged on paper to represent something that I wanted to say something about. They could take minutes or days to complete but that doesn’t make one any better or worse than the other, and during the creating process none of them become, “precious”.

I can always paint more, of course never an identical one. Even so, knowing that I can do it again and again prevents even the biggest pictures from becoming too important or too precious to me.

However, I am very grateful that my paintings were always precious objects for my Mum. She collected them over the years and I now have a lovely collection of them from as early as three years old. These have therefore become precious for me too, not because I painted them but because of my mother’s actions. She decided which ones were worth keeping and having done so kept them safe for over forty years!

Would you like one?

My “phone call comment” has resulted in a surprise commission, for a second “Lady in red” and it is a lovely feeling knowing that some of my readers enjoy my pictures as much as or maybe more than my writing.

If you see a painting that takes your fancy in the space above the writing let me know, maybe even the original is still around somewhere! Remember though, size is deceptive, some of the paintings are smaller than a postcard others are a nearly a metre high.


"nearly a metre high"

That's a yard in English. I have been in Germany too long!

Friday 13 February 2009

A bits-in-between-for-conductors blog

"Sitting targets" Susie and Joe having fun, January 2009

The step by step guide to making a lagerphone !

I decided that it was time for a bits-in-between evening.

My work had been cancelled again, due to sickness this time not finances. I spent hours on the phone instead, talking to parents and potential clients, but I still unexpectedly had the surprise present of the whole evening at home.

With my present of time I decided to make my friend Joe a present for his birthday. This is tomorrow, so I have to be quick.

At the birthday party of Joe’s wife, Geli, I had collected some really nice crown tops from lemonade bottles, and Joe was really curious as to what I was going to do with them. At the time I had no idea, I just liked them, just like I like lots of discarded things that I stuff into my already overfilled pockets to create something with at a later date.

Joe and I were quite creative with the bottle tops at the time, as you can see in the photo above. If I remember correctly we were working on a new style of contact lens!

A few days ago when I first got round to thinking about Joe’s birthday and what I should create for him, I came across just the thing, as he is a musician.

What Joe needed was a lagerphone!

This presented me with the ideal opportunity to get rid of some of my collected “rubbish”.

Yesterday on the way back from work I dropped in at the hardware store to buy my raw materials, a broom handle. This evening I dug out the hammer and nails and raided the shed, that is actually half of my enormous bathroom, for anything which makes a clang, including the crown bottle tops.

The German "noise curfew"

I had to get a move on because, unless you live in the middle of nowhere in Germany, loud noises after 8 pm are simply not allowed, so I had to be quick about making holes in everything which didn’t already have one.

I have a really heavy claw hammer that I was given on my twenty-first by my Dad, It had belonged to my Granddad and my Dad inscribed my name on it. My friends at the party thought I was quite mad for being so pleased at this present.

It was just the thing now for piercing the bottle tops with a nail.

My lagerphone is now looking and sounding quite good. I have a spiral of clangy things running down the broom handle with a leather grip in the middle, but because it is now long past the noise curfew hour I will have to finish it in the morning.

Not too early, as noise before 8am is also not allowed.

A picture of the finished product will follow shortly.



A rude awakening

NICE Graduation, September 2006

Shocked into starting the day

Something more important than the weather cropped up

I didn’t have to get up in the dark this morning as my work starts a bit later, but I missed the cosy half an hour I had yesterday, listening to the snow being cleared. This morning as I came out of my slumber I switched on the lap-top and was shocked out of my sleepiness by the following news article:

Charity for disabled in cash plea as it faces cutting services

A charity which provides a lifeline to severely disabled children and adults could be forced to cut its services as the latest victim of the economic downturn.

The Foundation for Conductive Education, in Russell Road, Moseley, has launched an urgent appeal for £120,000 as it faces its “most challenging year yet”.

After 23 years of serving children and adults with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis from across the world, charity bosses have written to Birmingham business leaders appealing for cash as it reaches a crisis point.

It comes just months after children’s hospice charity Acorns revealed it would go bust if it failed to find £2 million.

Treena Jones, director of fundraising at the foundation, said: “We need to raise an additional £120,000 to ensure all our services continue.

“There is a resistance at the moment from companies and individuals to spend on charitable giving and this has had an effect.

“We do get support from bodies like Birmingham council, but this is only toward local people and guarantees things like education, but we get people coming to us from far and wide and we might have to turn people away and cut additional services if we don’t raise the money we need.

“The foundation doesn’t want that to happen but with public support, we can continue as we are now.”

I shouldn’t have been shocked, I have just been to the UK and have seen what is happening there. I have started to read the papers again, I know what is happenning all over the world, but nonetheless this article shocked me.

The Foundation for Conductive Education sent me to Hungary. It is because of the generosity and support of this Foundation that I became a conductor and am now doing something I love.

I have regularly visited the Institute in Moseley over the years while I have been in Germany. Even after so long it still feels like my “professional “ home. It will be the end of a very important era in the development of Conductive Education if this “home of CE” can no longer afford to keep its services open.

The amount of money that it needs at the moment to keep all services running seems tiny in comparison to the huge sums tossed about daily in the world of finance, and in comparison to the 20 million needed by the children’s charity Acorns, also mentioned in the article.

I expect there are absolutely thousands of charities looking for similar small amounts, and this then adds up nationwide to the huge sums mentioned.

There must be some way of getting all these charitable institutions through this financial crisis, I do so hope that they manage it.

I am a conductor, a one-man band, and I have no experience of the fundraising needed to run such establishments. Hopefully there are enough people out there who do, and have a lot of ingenuity and ideas to help get the Foundation and all the other CE centres over the crunch.