My visitors today

Monday 29 June 2009

My Unimog ride

In the slow lane as usual, 2006

This afternoon I promised to send these photos to a two-year-old friend of mine. He is into Unimogs too.

We were chatting on the phone an hour or two ago when he told me that he had been outside in the paddling pool with his orange Unimog. He was thrilled to hear that I had ridden in one. I think this was even more exciting for him than the fact that Daddy came to visit me on the ICE train recently.

I decided to send the pictures to my little friend via my blog, so that eveyone else who is interested in Unimogs can have a look.

Hope you enjoy them, Jonah!

Sunday 28 June 2009

Taking life easy

"Buses in retirement"

Tuesday 23rd June: I have had a very lovely day at work, calm and relaxing with lots of discussions with my clients.

A long talk

Only one man came to the stroke group this morning. He wallowed in the attention, as it was the first time that he has had an (unplanned) individual session. He talked about his daughter who is twenty and interested in art, and about his son who is six and has just started school. We talked about how, because he has had a stroke, he can experience so much more of his son's childhood than he did his daughter's. For the first time, I believe, he saw this as something positive.

He told me about what for him is an unusual relationship with his mate in the workshop, because his mate is twenty years' younger than he is. We discussed what aspects of their relationship each one of them enjoys. I suggested that the younger man looks to him for support that perhaps his father cannot offer him. Again a light lit up in my client's eyes. I believe that he was beginning to see some of the more positive aspects of his present life.

He then went on to talk about the changed relationship with his wife, the swapping of roles since he had a stroke. He told me how it is still difficult for him to be the cleaner and the washer-upper and the baby sitter while he sees his wife carrying heavy crates of water into the cellar. He tells me how he tries as much as he can to offer her a third hand to make light of the work.

He asked whether, if his wife would like to talk to me, could she come to the group? I told him that the other clients often bring their partners or grown-up children, and they are all welcome at any time. It is important for them to know and understand what we are doing in our conductive groups. It is important for them too to ask me questions about how life can progress at home.
He loved having all my attention, for three whole hours. I loved giving it to him. He loved talking about the situation at home and most importantly, he loved having some of the positive aspects pointed out to him.

I talked to him about conductive upbringing and he asked me to tell him everything that I know, so he can learn quickly and get better for his wife! He wants to be able to mend the vacuum cleaner as fast as he can and help hang the curtains. To play football with his son and discuss important matters with his daughter.

If I was his wife I would be happy with a broken vacuum cleaner. It would mean a break from cleaning! But I understand what my client means. It isn’t about whether the vacuum cleaner works, it is about feeling a valuable member of his small community, his family.

Living in the slow lane

Sometimes it almost breaks my heart to talk to these people, I know from my own personal experience what it is like. But I also know the benefits of having a life in the slow lane.

I told my client how glad I am that I do the job that I do, because it means that all day long I live at a slower pace than do most people in the rest of the world. I am able to live life slowly and really appreciate everything because the people who I work with just cannot live in the fast lane. I love how the work now laps over into my life and I am able not to rush and panic but at the same time get lots of things done.

My client's eyes opened wide when I said all of this. Maybe for the first time he realised how lucky he has been in many ways to have been at home for most of his young son’s life, enjoying every minute of his early development. This is something that many Dads miss, especially those Dads who live in the really fast lane.

Receiving presents gracefully

Later in the day I was an art therapist.What a lovely part of my work these hours are.

I have spend the past six weeks building up a relationship with a young man who comes to me to paint for two hours each week. We are getting on marvellously and he is enjoying the time as much as I am.

He is an outdoor person spending many long hours in the forest collecting wood for the wood-burning stoves that his family use. He is autistic. This is his “work”.

Today I gracefully received four presents from him. They were not presents that had been previously packed up for me, or given any thought in advance. They were spontaneous gifts of something that he had in his pocket or in the car. Just as in my own pockets there are conkers, stones with holes, elastic bands discarded by the postman and washers, screws and assorted metal objects found in the street, so too there are in my client's pockets.

When my young client felt so happy with our work together that he felt the need to give me something, he dug a hand into one of his pockets and produced first a stone, then a small branch from a cherry tree. Later as we walked to the car he picked up a stone from the pavement to give me, and from somewhere or other he produced a plaster gnome that I am to look after until next week.

At the end of our session I spontaneously gave my client the four-leaf clover that I just had found outside my room while I waited for him to arrive. His eyes gleamed as he held it tight, apparently all the journey home.

Ways to end the working day

The title of this posting is “Taking life easy” but I am not quite sure about that! By the time that my next group arrived I had already been at work for nine hours. I hadhad a thirty-minute lunch break at some time or other, I think.

Tuesday is my favourite day, however, despite or maybe because of the long hours.

Next came the “workers group”. These are the clients who come to me after their work. We are all tired, we all try to relax and we all enjoy each other's company. It is always a very enjoyable evening, not like work at all.

We all come together for two hours each week to do a bit of conductive living. We often cook, we learn new board games, we have quiz nights, we play skittles and we also manage to fit in a bit of the traditional 1-2-3-4-5.

Usually after this long day I jump on my bike, cycle the ten kilometres home, leap into a hot bath and get straight into bed with the Guardian Weekly. Probably not with the amount of energy suggested in this description but I am usually very happy with the day’s work.

Some Tuesdays, though, it is different. Occasionally one of my clients invites me to tea. We then sit “taking life easy” together with her Mum.

Also a nice ending to a lovely day.

Saturday 27 June 2009



"The people's plane"

"Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane"
All for my Mum

Time took the words right out of my mouth

I could not believe it when I collected my mail from the post box and saw there on the front cover of Time magazine the very title that I had chosen for a posting that I am writing and will publish in September.


The year 1989 was the time when for me too the world changed.

In smaller print, just below the headline in Time, it says “A look at what happened then, how it shapes our lives today”.

Exactly. I could not have put it any better than that.

I think I will steal that sub-heading for my own special posting when I finally publish it, on 2nd September 2009, twenty years eaxctly after my own world began to change. It says exactly what I want to describe. I will examine what happened to me and my life in that year, that went on to form the shape of my life today.

What I find very interesting is that most of the items reported from 1989 in this issue of Time magazine, I remember vividly. Those which stand out most in my memory are Tiananmen Square, the Satanic Verses, the Nobel prize for the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Boris Becker and Steffi Graf winning at Wimbledon and most especially the Hillsborough tragedy.


There but for the grace of God go I.

On that very same afternoon, in April 1989, I was at the other FA Cup semi-final game, at Villa Park Stadium in Birmingham, just a few metres down the road from where I had once lived. I was watching my home side, Norwich City, play Everton Wanderers. We lost, but that end result was unimportant, I believe, to every one person at that game.

I think that at the moment during the game when the news flash came up about the tragedy at Hillsborough, I and many others realised how precious life is and that it is there to be lived.

In 1989 my life changed. The story began on 2nd September, or perhaps even a few months earlier on that memorable day in April.

As I said, I shall report more later.


Time – June 29-July 6th, 2009

A surprise day off!

The balcony
" Make-over number one..."

"...then came the rain..."

"...rain out the front..."

"...models outside the model shop."

Make-over number two
"The train standing at platform one...."

"Make-over number three?"

I was going to post an article about work today...

Well, I did actually write it but I haven't posted it yet I have been much too busy doing conductors bits-in-between.

I have two new, very nice places to sit. I have actually got five nice places to sit in my tiny flat, one where I eat breakfast, one where I curl up with a cup of tea and a book, one where I do work (sort of work) and one where I paint. Then there is the balcony, a place for doing anything and everything.

The laptop likes to use them all. At the moment the painting corner is the seat of my choice.

Two of these sitting areas had been on the agenda for a make-over today, which incidently had been handed to me on a plate as a surprise day-off.

Make-over number one

The balcony now has more than just a chair and a table on it. I bought a few plants to climb up the trellis, two different ivys and a passion flower. I was given a sunflower and a dark-leaved busy-lizzy as presents for my birthday. Which are now looking pretty in the window-boxes.

After all this was planted I went down into the lovely dark and damp cellar, where I dug out all the garden ornaments still stored there after my move last year.

My new balcony room for the summer doesn't quite look like it has had a professional make-over, as the water-feature is missing, but it does look really lived-in now.

I am just waiting for the warm weather so that I can enjoy it without being out there wrapped up in a blanket.

Make-over number two

There was actually a thunderstorm just as I finished planting on the balcony, exactly at the moment when I wanted to get on with the other cosy-sitting-place project by taking a trip on my bike to the local model shop. Instead I made a cup of coffee and sat outside with it, watching the raindrops dripping from the prunus and acacia trees that surround my balcony.

This next make-over that I had planned was the coffee-table/sofa corner. This was also going to get prettied up by one of my birthday presents but, before I could start, I needed to get down to that model shop.

The rain stopped just in time for me to get to the shop, still with forty-five minutes to browse and get the bogeys on my new model train sorted before it closed. I suspect that the shop-owner doesn't actually close at the time stated on the door but waits until the last person has left, whatever time it is! It is that kind of place.

The shop was not only full of gorgeous, very expensive "Made in Germany" trains, there were also a lot of middle-aged German men there who were quite surprised to encounter a middle-aged English lady with an "N" Gauge high-speed train in her handbag. They were very kind and treated me like royalty.

I got the bogeys fixed and I found just what I was looking for, a station, a really long one so that it runs the whole length of the train. I splashed out and bought two sets of figures too, travellers and railways workers, Deutsche Bahn off course.

It took rather longer than planned to get the sofa area finished, as the station I chose was in kit-form. I spent the following three hours with glue, scissors and lots of patience assembling my purchase.

My rather special coffee table, which is full of all my treasures, now carries the "Birthday High Speed Express" and the St Johannis railway station. This seemed most appropriate as my birthday falls on St Johannis day and Johannis is also the name of the part of the city where I live.

The things I do instead of working! I had a lovely day, just as lovely as being at work with my clients!

PS Twitter

Today I didn't get the "work" blog posted that I had planned but I did get a few spare moments between the "make-overs" to get signed up on Twitter.

"SusieMallett" will find me there, at

Registering on Twitter was nowhere near as exciting as playing trains but that could change as I work out how I can use it.

PPS Make-over number three?

It is now Saturday and I didn’t get anything posted at all last night, neither this one or the other that I had planned!

“Why was that?” you may ask.

It had nothing to do with the computer breaking down or the internet connection failing, or going out for a late-night drink around the corner.


The kitchen cupboard fell off the wall!

Now I have seem to have “make-over number three” on my hands.

While I was waiting for the photographs to download from my camera for this posting I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and to prepare my muesli for breakfast. On opening the cupboard the whole thing fell off the wall and just stopped short of the floor, balancing between the table and the corner seat.

I was "lucky". Nothing got broken except most of my Hungarian green earthenware pots which were in the cupboard and three of the hand-made glass birds hanging beneath. I am in one piece and so is the laptop. As I said above, I was using the laptop in the arty corner and not as I usually do at weekends on the kitchen table. If it had been there I would not be finishing this blog today either.

So what will the new kitchen cosy-corner look like? No more cupboards hanging on the crumbling walls, that I know for sure.

Trompe d’oiel

I shall paint a mural.

First I thought of painting a window with a view across the North Sea or building an extension, by painting a conservatory looking out onto a cosy well tended garden, with the sea in the background. Then a friend suggested painting a cupboard. Then, if the magic worked well enough, I could quite possibly use it with no fears of it falling on top of me!
I am now planning away in my head, I am sure that I can combine the two, as there is enough space for both a window and a cupboard or a conservatory, with shelves for plants.

Watch this spot I will post the results but, before I start anything, I have to finish this blog then fill up all the holes in the wall.


My station is from Vollmer, No. 7504.

The figures are from Preiser

"Familie Krause vereist" (family Krause going on a journey) No. 79025, and "Bahn Personal, DB." No.79060

Thursday 25 June 2009

The sky's the limit

Susie Mallett, June 2009

I have just been reading about James Rose on Andrew Sutton’s blog.

It was marvellous to see his name there and then take a peek at his website to read about what he is up to these days.

I used to baby-sit for James and his sisters when we all lived in Budapest. in the early nineties. These were always fun evenings, as James had such a wonderful sense of humour. I will always remember one fun thing that he used to say to his Mum if he thought that she was annoying him, but I certainly won’t mention it here!

I often wondered what had happened to James, and to many of the other children I knew then.

James, if you read this, good luck with the jump. Once I get my head round how to sponsor you I will do so.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

In memoriam

24th June 2008
I miss my Mum but I also enjoy her more and more.

I hope I never forget all her sayings and her ways of doing things. This is unlikely to happen because many of her words and movements are also mine. I even garden like my mum did. Rarely getting to the job in hand because the weeds on the path leading there are a distraction.

Keeping pathways and stone steps clear of weeds has been a passion for us both for as long as I remember. As a teenager and even earlier I would crouch beside her and we would work for hours on our favourite steps in our lovely terraced garden.

I realise now that I know every inch of that huge garden because of working in it in this way with my Mum.

I hope I never forget the images that I have of her, always in the garden never in the house, except for one image that I have of her in the times of the power cuts in the 70s, just after my Grandma had died. I went in search of her one evening after I had finished my homework by the yellow light of the hissing Tilly lamp. I found her eventually, she was in the dark on the sitting- room floor reading the newspaper with a torch and drinking a glass of something or other. This is an image as clear as a photograph. My mum on her knees with the paper under her elbows exactly how I often read the newspaper myself.

I remember Mum’s form working in different places in the garden. Her body a little bit bent when she was raking the moss from the lawn and then stooping to feed grubs by hand to the robins. Standing upright and stretching to the sky to pick the runner beans. Emerging from the rows covered in bits of foliage. I can imagine her bending over her potted plants as she prepared them for market, and amongst the vegetables with a hoe ,scritch-scratching like Mr Macgregor.

Peter Rabbit, now that was the book that we loved to read, and it always made us both cry! My Mum collected the whole set of Beatrix Potter books for me and presented them to me on my 21st birthday, in a special, tiny bookshelf.

Thank you Mum for all these happy memories.


Wednesday June 24th, was the first anniversary of the funeral of my Mum, it was also my 52nd birthday. I thank the seven lovely friends who joined me for the evening just around the corner at my local the Caffe Fatal and who have just said goodbye on the doorstep. It was the best birthday I could have imaged possible in such circumstances.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

A Sommerfest to remember

Underneath the lamplight!

For several weeks now I have been wearing yet another new hat, in between being a conductor and art therapist.

Maybe it wasn’t such a new hat after all, perhaps I became an art teacher again for the first time in twenty years. Or perhaps it was a new hat and I became a budding fashion designer, the next Stella McCartney.

I have been working with small groups of children with and without disabilities from the integrated Montessori/Conductive Education Kindergarten. We were preparing for the summer festival that took place on Sunday.

All the departments of the large charity that I work for are involved, all offering something special. Games, face-painting and treasure-hunts for the children, pedal-car racing, motorbike and sidecar trips, delicious fruit cocktails at the cocktail bar, chocolate-covered fruit in the beach café, a huge raffle with prizes donated by local firms such as Adidas and Playmobile, and much, much more.

Of course the much, much more included German beer, and grilled sausages and potato salad!

What were we from the Conductive and Montessori departments going to offer our guests?

We had the usual song to greet everyone to start us off, and a robot-programming action song to end on. We needed something special, though, to fill the space in between. We decided on a very unusual fashion show.

Yves san Laurent, Gucci and Coco Chanel, eat your hearts out!

For over a month now we have been very arty-crafty. These littlies who attend the Kindergarten have had a whale of a time creating costumes from the rubbish that usually gets thrown into the yellow, things-to-be-recycled, sack. Items such as Tetra-pac, aluminium foil, yoghurt pots, plastic bags, egg cartons and beer-bottle tops by the score (don’t forget that this is Bavaria) were dumped in my room to be sorted ready for use.

The results were absolutely amazing. Not just the end-product but the surprise ideas and the creativity of the children. I was really thrilled by the children’s hard work and enthusiasm.

I discovered that these four-, five- and six-year-olds were brilliant company and great fun to work with.

They were like fountains, flowing with inspiration. All that they really needed was the know-how from me so they could fit their bits and pieces together. Ideas for their outfits they had by the bucket-full.

They needed little encouragement to get rummaging through the boxes full of “rubbish” that they brought in to me every day. Parents told me that their enthusiasm continued at home as they excitedly went about collecting and washing tiny bright coloured dessert pots, and the crown=caps from Dad’s beer.

By the time they got on the catwalk on Sunday afternoon the tension was at fever pitch.

We had had a dress rehearsal on Friday with our compare, the boss of whole charity. She had spent lots of time preparing a small poem about each child and costume, and in exchange we created a bio-milk-carton costume for her.

My costume you can see in the two top photos above. My plastic back top looks quite loose in the photo but I can tell you that after wearing it for two hours in the heat it got quite clammy inside, taking an extra two pairs of hands to prise me out of it.

The jacket is made from plastic shopping bags cut into strips and knitted, the skirt is made from the local free rag!

Unfortunately I am not allowed to show the pictures of the children's faces but photos of bits of their costumes also adorn this posting.

As I was behind the scenes doing the dressing I didn’t see any of the posing on the cat walk but from reports coming in this week from parents I hear it that was a great success.

I have no idea how we are going to beat this for originality next year although I am already planning an art exhibition of all my client’s work, children and adults,


Monday 22 June 2009

Have you noticed?

"Home sweet home" June 6th 2009

I have a new addresss on the Internet.

My new URL is

Conductor is no longer just a blog, it's a real site. An eponymous one at that!

But, stealing a bit of something I loved and learnt at school:

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

Nothing has changed it is still my site with snippets out of my life as a conductor and from my life when wearing all in my other hats as well.


Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii, 42-44



The pewter vase in the photo above is the vase my Mum let me use to exhibit an arrangement of daffodils and catkins in a competition at school when I was about nine years old. I won first prize.
It is the only prize I have ever won.

Mum and I remembered the occasion often, especially when we gathered flowers together from her gorgeous garden, creating huge bouquets with them to sell at market.

For over thirty years on arriving home for a visit my first stop would always be the garden, where I would pick a flower to place in our special vase, just as I did on 6th June this year.

Sunday 21 June 2009

I'm back

"Home" in Norwich

"Home" in Johannis

I took a holiday

It was the fifteeth time in as many months that I had packed my suitcase!

This was my sixth visit to England since last June. In the past twelve months I have attended one wedding and five funerals there.

This time I planned an English holiday, although I must admit that the black trousers where stashed in the bottom of my suitcase, just in case. Fortunately that is where they remained.

I have had a lovely, lovely holiday, the best time that I have had for years, lots of rest and nice people.

For most of the timeI helped my Dad in the garden. As you can see from the first photograph he is doing a marvelous job of keeping it spick and span, although he is missing dreadfully the presence there of my Mother who died in June last year. She had spent just about every waking moment over the last forty years pulling up weeds and potting up plants. The weeds went onto one of her four huge compost heaps and the plants she sold at the market.

Never to late to learn

In between gardening I ate the meals that my Dad cooked for me. I enjoy pulling up weeds much more than he does (just as Mum did) and much more than cooking (also just like Mum!). Dad is a far better cook than I am anyway. He has learnt a lot in twelve months of living alone.

As I always say to my clients, "It is never too late to learn". My Dad is nearly eighty-three and is living alone for the first time in his life. He is learning amazingly fast. I admire him very much.

A real holiday

I had decided that I would have a real holiday with no computer. I wanted to be one-hundred-percent away from work, one-hundred-percent at home. I did it with absolutely no side effects what-so-ever, except for having not many dots on my map!

Ten whole days with no link to cyberspace, and with only one quick peep at my emails just in case there was anything important.

I stopped thinking about work.

I can't say that I stopped being a conductor, I never do, but I forgot work, Conductive Education and blogging.

I don't even have the notebook full of notes that I usually acquire when away from a computer for a long stretch. There is not one scrap of paper with half-written blogs stuffed in my handbag.

But now my pristine, bought-for-the-holiday notebook is beginning to burn a hole in my pocket, indicating that it is time to get blogging again!

Zurück in Deutschland

I have been back in Germany since Tuesday. It was back to work immediately, wearing all of my hats every day.

It is now Saturday and I have at last unpacked for the fifteenth time and done all the returning-from-holiday domestic things. I feel like I am "home" at last. As I write I am at the Kirchweih in Johannis, sitting on a bench in my favourite gardens a step away from the crowds and the live music. I am watching the crowds, listening to the music, smelling the smoked fish, hearing the sizzling sausages, watching crepes being tossed and avoiding the as always long queue at the Langos stall.

Yes, Hungarian langos has been a hit for the last twenty years at least here in Bavaria. There is a stall at just about every beer festival, selling crispy langos with garlic and sourcream sauces.

The Kirchweih is on for the next three days so, despite having to work this Sunday (more about that in a later blog), I will still get another chance to hear live music, this time at the vegetarian restaurant, on Monday evening.

This is my first experience of the Johannis Kirchweih, although I had heard on the grapevine that it is something quite special. Johannis, the area of the city where I live, is in itself somethng quite special, a village within a city, just ten minutes' walk from its centre.

I am very lucky to be living here. The Kirchweih is all I have heard about and more, the atmosphere swirls around the people as it mixes with the smoke from the various grilled and smoked foods.

It has taken me all week to realise how lucky I am to live here. I have been missing Norfolk and my Dad. it has been hard getting used to being alone again although it is a joy to be back at work.

Now I am enjoying Johannis too.

It is going to be a week of Johannis cafes I fear! I have three appointments already to meet in three different cafes and somehow, in between all of that, I have to find time to go to work.

Yes I am back, and busy!


Langos -
"Hungarian fast food" , a flat dough circle which is deep fried and served with different sauces, garlic, or sour cream, or of course both!

Johannis -

Friday 5 June 2009

The next German conductive gathering is to be in Nürnberg

"Just doodling", by Susie Mallett, 1st June 2009

2008, looking in

The most recent gathering of the German speaking conductive world, was in October 2008, at a Conductive Congress in Munich. The theme was "Conductive Education Builds Bridges".

I published several postings on my blog about this congress at the time.

I have read and heard said that it was considered a great success and brought very positive responses from the conductive world.

It was on the whole a conductors' conference, the main body of people who attended and presented being in some way or other already involved in Conductive Education.

Participants were conductors, centre managers, professors presenting research papers, service-users and their parents and/or carers, orthopaedic surgeons, teachers, physiotherapists, aid manufacturers, furniture suppliers, and of course the PTKs (pedagogic therapeutic conductors).

The conference may well have build some bridges, but more than likely between people already in the know than with newcomers to Conductive Education.

2009, looking out

Yesterday my member’s newsletter from the Verein für Menschen mit Körperbehinderungen e.V., nitifying me that the next conductive congress will also be held in Bavaria. Actually it will be held right here in Nürnberg, initiated and organised by this Verein, the very charity I often work for.

It was the chairwoman/manager of this Verein who some thirteen years ago brought Conductive Education to Nürnberg. She did it for no ofter reason than that she had heard about it, seen some TV coverage and come to the conclusion that this is the one and only way forward for the physically disabled people for whom it is her job to provide services.

We are still here and still providing a service to many clients.

We, the conductors, and I expect all our clients too, are forever grateful for this woman’s continued enthusiasm, without which we would have long since disappeared and fallen off the edge of the conductive map.

It is her wish that this year’s congress should make Conductive Education more widely known in Nürnberg and the surrounding area, and to awaken awareness of this method in doctors, physiotherapists, teachers and potential service-users and their carers.

On Saturday 14th November 2009, there will be specialist lectures, presentations of personal experiences, and a round-table discussion.

I have been asked to present my work with adults and I have also offered to present the paper on Petö and the conductive soul that I had prepared for the conference in Finland.

More I don’t know at the moment but I will write more as soon as I receive the final programme.

The last such congress to be held here in Nürnberg was in 2001. This too was designed to bring greater awareness of Conductive Educationin to the region. It certainly worked. We made contact with many therapists, schools and doctors with whom we have continued to work in various ways over the years.

In 2008 in Munich I felt that, although there were many interesting themes being discussed, it was a bit like preaching to the already converted, taking coals to Newcastle. The hope is that the congress in Nürnberg this year will also reach the not already-converted!

The congress in November will also give the German-speaking part of the world-wide conductor family the chance to gather together and offer each other support and share experiences.


Today I received an email telling me that that there are still places available on the fourth PTK training course at Pfenningparade in Munich. Further information can be found on the German conductor association’s website :

In the same email I was told that there also several advertisements on the website from conductors looking for work, seeking either permanent positions or temperory work at summer camps.


Munich congress October 2008


“Pedagogic therapeutic conductors”: therapists, teachers etc. who have spent 20 weekends studying Conductive Education at Pfennigparade in Munich

Wednesday 3 June 2009

It is a family feeling

A rainbow at Lake Balaton, Hungary, Summer 2007

I often think: “What is it about being a conductor?”

This week I have been wondering about it more and more.

I have communicated with a few conductors since we heard the sad news that our colleague Rita Szarvas and her family were on the Air France flight from Rio that disappeared on Monday somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

No one quite knows what to say, how to express themselves, although I think Szögeczki László did it very well for us in his posting late on Monday night.

It is no different with me, I don’t know what to write either but I feel that I want write something.

All of us are thinking about Rita and her family and we all send our deepest sympathy.

It is difficult to express the other thoughts that we have.

I didn’t know Rita personally but I knew of her and that she had been working in England. She was part of the “conductor family” and I think that what many of us are feeling this week is the loss of a family member.

My desire to write something stems from this feeling of loss and the wish to describe what it is like to be a member of this huge “conductor family”, and to say what it feels like to be at work all day on Tuesday and not be able to stop thinking about a colleague whom I didn’t even know.

When my Mum died my Dad described to me what it is like for him to have been an engine driver. He wasn’t describing the work that he had done for forty eight years. He was telling me about the community feeling that he still shares with his “mates” almost twenty years after his retirement. He was describing the sense of belonging to a special family. He says that it is almost like a brotherhood.

It is almost exactly one year since my Dad told me this about his special railwaymen “mates” and this week, while communicating with other conductors, I have realised that I too belong to a special family community, that of conductors. I feel very privileged. It is a nice feeling, a feeling of belonging.

This feeling of a network, the rallying round and having an ear to listen, are of course much more apparent when there is great sadness. I have experienced it on other occasions when conductors I have known have died, or have become very sick, or when their family members have died.

I am glad to say that I have experienced it on happier occasions too.

Once it happened on top of a mountain top in Canada when a conductor recognised me from my time as a student at the Petö Institute. I didn’t recognise her but we immediately recognised each other as part of the same “family”. We began to talk to each other immediately but not as “total strangers”. Somehow we were not strangers at all!

I have arrived at work on at least two occasions at different conductive centres in Germany to be met by conductors with whom I had had contact some years previously. We met again like long- lost family members and then we worked together for a short time as well oiled teams.

I also feel this sense of family community when, as sometimes happens, I get a message out of the blue from a conductor. Someone I know, or quite possibly someone I don't. A conductor who is living somewhere out there in the big wide world who wishes to meet me as they pass through Nürnberg on route to Budapest or while on a tour through Europe.

This feeling of family community is tangible, I can see it on peoples' faces, I can feel it in their voices. I saw it on my colleague's face when I told her the sad news about Rita.
I think that this week’s sad news affects us all because we feel that we have lost a member of our huge extended family.

My thoughts go out to all those who knew Rita personally, her family, friends and colleagues.


Other sites remembering Rita Szarvas -

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Questions of Conductive upbringing

All this "luck" found between 15.45 and 15.50, June 2nd 2009

Part Three

By the time that I had left the Petö Institute in 1993, my qualification as a conductor safe in my pocket, I had several different experiences of conductive pedagogy and upbringing.
I had worked with adults in 2-3 hour twice-weekly sessions for over a year and I had experienced the conductive input in the premature unit of a Budapest hospital. In between these two extremes I had experienced the whole range of groups at the Petö Institute for Conductive Upbringing

I worked with the mother-and-child group, in which parents worked for three hours each day with their young children, with one or two conductors working with them. The children attended until discharged or moved on to full-time kindergarten group.

Residential conductive upbringing

It was while working in one of these kindergarten groups that I experienced for a whole year the 24/7 conductive upbringing of Hungarian children, by conductors. The children boarded until they were independent enough to join a state school and moved home, or they moved on to a school group within the Petö Institute.

I worked in one of these school group too, with seven-to-eleven-year-olds, and experienced yet another type of upbringing which included the curriculum of the national school system.

Until these residential children left the Petö Institute I saw NO input from parents. When children left the Petö Institute they returned regularly, every three, six or twelve months, to the outpatients’ department. It was at this time that the parents became involved once more in the conductive upbringing of their child.

At these out-patient meetings a conductor would discuss with the family the child’s life and all the progress made since the last visit. Advice would be given and any problems would be discussed, whether physical, psychological or social, relating to school or to home.

Tasks for future development would be given for the child to carry out, alone or with a family member.

I found it very interesting to observe how the situation of the child had changed so dramatically from being brought up almost 100% by conductors to moving into the hands of teachers and parents. These children were incredibly independent, they were so aware of their own abilities and needs. They would speak up for themselves, they would describe clearly their recent progress and express any points of concern.

Although the conductive upbringing by conductors 24/7 was not a perfect solution, the children in the outpatients’ department were exceptionally independent and very self-assured. There were nearly all very good at interacting in their new social environments. Usually they fitted in quickly and well.

The whole life of these children during the time that they had spent at the Petö Institute was 100% “conductive“, and they left the Institute only when they had become sufficiently independent in movement and problem-solving to attend a state school.

The International Kindergarten Group

As mentioned in “Conductive upbringing part two”, during my years of training I experienced yet another variation on the theme when I worked in the International Kindergarten group. Here it 8/5 conductive upbringing for three to six weeks at a time.

These children arrived at 8.30 a.m. and were collected again by their parents sometime in the afternoon. The parents saw little of “the action” in the group and what they managed to learn about Conductive Education came from elsewhere, not from within their child’s group.

It was often the parents of these children in the International Groups who became the “pioneers”. They were the parents who decided that they wanted to have Conductive Education at home. They started importing it to all over the world and Conductive Education began to take on as many different forms as there were centres and pioneers. Rarely do you find a centre offering what I described from my experiences in the Petö Institute. Perhaps in England where training also takes place. Israel maybe comes close to it too. But nowhere provides “100% conductive residential” like I experienced in Budapest.

Taking it out of Hungary

Every one of these pioneering parents had to consider how the method could be transferred from Hungary to their own situation and society. There would be many aspects that influenced its establishment and its development once they got it there.

One major influence was the understanding that these pioneers had of Conductive Education. This differed enormously from person to person.

Much depended also on their reasons behind importing the method in the first place.

  • Were they just wanting to import the group that their child was working in, to be nearer to home?
  • Or were they looking at a longer and wider project, wanting to import the whole system, providing services for babies and parents, toddlers, children, teenagers, adults, carers and follow-up, and of course the most important, training for conductors?


Most of the centres that I experienced in Germany in my early years there, in the 1990s, were providing Conductive Education for the age-group of the pioneers’ own child or children. Gradually some of these centres introduced other groups and a few looked further ahead and developed a wider concept, the biggest of these possibly being in Starnberg, Bavaria, but still no conductor-training.

Over the past twenty years Germany has seen a wide range of services develop, providing for a wide range of users, but in the main groups and centres remain small and are mainly for young children.

Many of these German centres have grown as a specific need arises, when children grow into adults or when two or three new clients turn up, which may be enough to form a new group or employ another conductor.

Developing my own conductive upbringing

When I was newly qualified as a conductor I moved to Germany to live. There, with the beginnings of a “new” Conductive Education happening all around me, especially in Bavaria where I lived, I considered how I could best provide a service.

Within weeks of arriving my phone began to ring with enquiries and I began to get an idea of what people wanted. Mainly I began to understand that families had no wish to travel any more in search of Conductive Education and did not want to be separated for long periods of time. Even with the rapid development in their own country, services were often four hours’ travel away. They wanted Conductive Education but they wanted it on their doorstep.

What did I want?

I did not want to be a 24/7 conductor, with no role in the family. This was not my idea of a conductive upbringing.

  • I wanted to offer something long-term, something which would influence all aspects of my clients’ lives.
  • I wanted to offer more than a three-week summer camp, which was originally all that many centres throughout the world could offer.
  • I wanted to offer more than three hours’ Conductive Education a day to children who were not receiving a conductive upbringing at home.
  • I wanted to work within families, to act as a catalyst for a conductive upbringing.
  • I wanted to work not only with the child and not only with the mother and the child. My wish was to involve the whole family which includes Mum and Dad, brothers and sisters, and also Granddad and Grandma, aunties, uncles and cousins. And even beyond this to therapists, teachers and friends.

This is what I set out to do:

  • To influence all aspects of life.
  • To meet teachers and visit schools, to work alongside the physiotherapist and also to invite them to watch us at work.
  • To play with my clients in the garden, with siblings and cousins, to walk in the woods, go on picnics, watch the local football team, attend concerts, learn to swim and ski and ride mini-tractors, go karts and scooters. My aim was to do all of this within the family environment and not in a “therapy” centre where a child gets sent for three hours once a week.
  • In a familiar environment I wanted to be involved in the learning of all that was done by the whole family, each and every day.
  • This includes washing and dressing, eating and drinking, cooking and cleaning, gardening, shopping. Simply getting on with life.
  • I wanted to work in such a way that as many people as possible who came in contact with the disabled child would have the opportunity to learn through me to influence this life conductively.

My conductive upbringing

To a large extent I have achieved what I intended. I have worked like this in some families for many years, some of the time directly in the home, sometimes by way of letters and on the telephone.

Most of the children from these families have also attended Conductive Education groups in block form. Often they have attended conductive groups before I met them, as a starting point for getting to know Conductive Education, and it had been from this that had stemmed the wish for something else. Sometimes they have attended blocks on my advice so that they can have contact with other children.

I have had long-term involvement not just in the conductive upbringing of children, I have worked for over ten years in the same way with some adult clients, working with them both in their own homes with their families present and in my adult groups.

I can offer them four or five three-week blocks a year, with individual sessions in between either in the conductive centre or in their own homes.

With both adult and child clients, I attend appointments with them if necessary with specialists, I become involved in the decisions when changing schools, learning to drive, returning to work. I have often attended school prize-givings and parents’ evenings, and assisted in choosing new equipment or shoes. I have attended weddings and christenings and even a family funeral.

I do believe that I have achieved my aim of providing conductive upbringing for whole families. It is a provision that is on-going and ever-changing. Many of these families I am sure will come back to me again and I will take on whatever role is needed at the time.

Of course I still work in conductive groups, I always have done. Over the years we have had a huge variety of conductive provision in Nürnberg where I live.

  • There has been for several years now a conductive after-school-care-group, where the children eat lunch, do homework, play and do “sport”, all with conductors.
  • We have parent-and-child groups, teenagers’ groups and after-work adults’ groups.
  • We have an integrated kindergarten.
  • We have groups for adults during the day and individual sessions.
  • Always the group work is accompanied by home visits and the offer of individual session between blocks. Parents and carers are invited to be as involved as they wish to be, either by attending sessions or by being present on home visits.

Upbringing through flexibility

These examples of my work, including conductive upbringing within the family, are as diverse as the services on offer at the Petö Institute at the time that I did my conductor training but there is a very important difference.

It is very important to be able to offer what clients want and need at a particular time. I try to be as flexible as I can in my work. I am able to adapt to new situations and to work spontaneously if need be. Conductive upbringing at home with input from a conductor is not always the answer but I believe that it is a very good basis, from which other conductive
pedagogic options can be considered and put into action.

Case study 1
Long-term conductive upbringing

We met at a clinic in southern Germany, that at that time offered Conductive Education as small part of a residential therapy package for parents and their children. I had been called at the very last minute by the clinic to step in when all the children had arrived for the course but the conductors to run it were absent.

When we met he was just seven years old, he had just learnt to walk independently and understandably he didn’t want to stay in one place for long! He found it very difficult to be in this group of children who were more severely disabled than he was. His mother was therefore looking for something more, something different, something which suited their family of six better than did the present situation.

They had experienced Conductive Education in Budapest and in another centre nearer home but still with a journey too long for daily attendance to be possible. They were trying it out at the therapy clinic for a third time but were still not satisfied with what they were getting.

This little boy was adamant that he did not want to leave his three siblings and extended family at home anymore to travel to different kinds of “therapy”. He did not want to be away from his loved ones for weeks on end. It was mainly from his initiative that his mother asked whether I would visit them at home in northern Germany, with the possibility of working there three times a year for three weeks at a time.

He was even more adamant after my very first visit, that all he ever wanted in future was to work with me and to do it at home.

So that was it .This arrangement continued for many years, becoming reduced to three times a year for only two weeks as time went on and needs changed. Eleven years on we still meet three times a year for “Petö” and often on other occasions for concerts, birthdays, end of school celebrations and the like.

What began at seven years of age as a very conventional five hours of conductive pedagogy plus conductive input in the early morning and evenings while dressing and washing and at all meal times, gradually changed. Soon it also included visits from physiotherapists and teachers, trips to town, walks in the village and lots of painting. We cooked lunches and afternoon teas. I went to parties with him to show him how he could eat and drink in a “foreign” environment.

Gradually our two main passions emerged painting for exhibitions and marching kilometre after kilometre in the countryside. Both of these activities evolved as a means to get through those terrible teenage years. The years of anger about being disabled and not be able to join in all activities with his brother and sisters.

He earned extra pocket money, not by delivering newspapers as his siblings did but through selling the paintings that he put on show. He became fitter and fitter by taking long walks with me, in my work time and in my spare time, so that he could march with the shooting club when he came of age.

Our programme has changed and is still changing to fit his needs and those of his family. The home is also the family business which has meant, Mum and Dad, Grandma, Granddad and siblings are ever present and have always been ready to learn and discover how they can help with the development of all aspects of his life

Case study two
Short-term conductive upbringing

When we met this child was six years old, he was just about to start school, the same school that his older brother attended. He could not walk independently, he had always walked holding someone’s hand or had been pushed for longer distances in a buggy. He could not stand up alone from the floor. In most other aspects of his daily life he was as independent as all six-year-olds are.

His family had just discovered Conductive Education and where experiencing their first three-week block. They were, as is often the case, many miles away from home when we met. They were enthusiastic and wanted to continue exploring using the conductive approach to encourage their child’s development but they wanted it nearer home.

I was invited to work with the child within the family environment.

One of the immediate questions that the family had was what to do at school. It had been suggested that this child should need a wheelchair but there was concern that if he got one then he would never learn to walk independently. I was concerned about this too, but I was also convinced that it need not come to that as he still had time to learn to walk.

It took 3 days!

In the safety of his own family home, with Mum and Dad and brother, dog, cat and even rabbit all around him as motivation, with Grandma and aunties on the end of the phone sending encouraging words, we were in a world apart from that strange environment of the conductive group where we first met.

It seemed like I had a different child beside me as we worked.

Nearly all that we did for the first two days was to walk around the house, up and downstairs in and out of the front door and always finding the appropriate hand-holds to retain balance and an upright posture. The house was small there were no big open spaces, he could always find a spot to place his hand.

After 3 days he just let go.

He did not just take four steps he walked four metres. He did not do this just indoors, he did it out in the street and on the lawn. He had found his feet. He had discovered that he could walk. No, it was not a miracle, as Grandma claimed it to be. He just had not known what he was capable of. No one in the family had known. He had not had the confidence or the belief in himself to give it a go. He and the family had not known how.

By the end of my three-week stay he was not only walking independently he was out on the back lawn showing off to the extended family, playing basket ball with Dad. The world was his oyster and the wheelchair for school long forgotten.

I worked with this family on three occasions over the space of a year. After this time conductive input from a conductor stopped but the family had learnt enough to continue on their road to independence without it.

Case study three
Adult conductive lifestyle

Three years after suffering a stroke this client, then in her late forties, contacted me through her local district nurse.

In Germany it is often the case for stroke-sufferers that services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, are reduced two or three years after the stroke has occurred. The health insurance companies refuse to pay for them any longer, maintaining that a peak of learning has been reached. They believe that rehabilitation can progress no further!

Often at this stage people begin to search for an alternative, a few find Conductive Education, as did this lady who has now been my client for twelve years.

When we met she could stand and walk but only when concentrating 100% on these tasks and on nothing else. She could speak a few words but could not hold a conversation. She could find words more easily in English than in her mother tongue, which is German. She was a singer and had studied music, she could find the words better if we sang.

For the first four years we met in her own home once a week until I began groups for adults at a conductive centre nearby.

She slowly but surely learnt to speak by practising long forgotten English folksongs.

After twelve years not only do we now discuss every topic under the sun, but my client can also carry out long telephone conversations, not only with friends and relatives but also with strangers to book appointments and make official enquiries.

She has her conductive pedagogic input organised and understands it inside out. She has attended four three-week groups each year for the past eight years and in between times I visit her at home for two hours once every two weeks. She lives “conductively” every minute of every day of her life. She sets herself aims that we work on together or alternatively she develops them alone.

She learnt to sing again while standing so that she could return to the local choir. She has progressed so far that she has now taken over the choir’s musical direction. As an added bonus she has also taught me to sing, not an easy task..

In the conductive group she first learnt how to make a cup of tea or coffee, then to bake biscuits. At home we then progressed to cooking Christmas dinner. Eventually she could do all of this while standing up.

She learnt to recognise colours again and to extend her periods of concentration, which has led to a return to hobbies such as embroidery, painting and jigsaw puzzles.

After she had learnt to sing while standing we progressed to talking while walking. She can now converse with her husband as they take a stroll together.

She has progressed from being the quietest member of the group to being the one to offer new and interesting themes of discussion from Greek mythology to the newest medical developments.

Through my contact with her family at home her husband has always been involved in the conductive way of life. He offers tremendous support by encouraging his wife at home where he has insisted that they played scrabble every single day since the stroke occurred and where, amongst many other things, he has taught her how to choose colour schemes when she dresses.

It is not only at home that he so supportive but also in our group, where he and other partners and carers often join us for the final session to participate in our discussions or the in singing “programmes”.

I am not sure if this should be called “conductive upbringing” in the same way as with children, but it is certainly a “conductive lifestyle”. Each day is filled with problem- solving and striving towards a fulfilling life, all carried out with a healthy soul.


Questions of Conductive upbringing part one -

Questions of Conductive upbringing part two -