My visitors today

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Reading, at last!

The most perfect place to work, the garden, by K. L. Mallett

Part II

In one of the piles of papers lying around my flat, given to me over the past few years to peruse at my leisure, I found one called "Breakthrough in Budapest". It fell into my hands just before I closed the lid of my suitcase so resisting an immediate read I let it fall out of my hand into the suitcase, and shut the lid!

It was the title that had caught my eye and made me throw it in before I sat on the case to close it. I had no idea what I would be reading when I at last found the time!

Today I was glad to discover "Breakthrough in Budapest" in my bag.

The digging is done for a day or two and I am enjoying the sun. I am sitting on the bench that overlooks the work that I am so proud of. I have no idea how big the patch of garden I have dug is, but it is probably bigger than most people’s lawns. It is perhaps one fifth of my father’s vegetable patch, there is a lot more yet to be tackled!

But not today.

It is only ten o’clock and the temperature has already reached over twenty degrees for the fifth day in a row. My plan for today is one month of tax and half an hour of writing. I ought to be very strict with myself to return to the tax, but an hour has already passed and the tax is forgotten!

Breakthrough in Budapest
An interview with Professor James House

I know the name and had heard about his visit to the Petö Institute way back in 1968 (when I was about to start grammar school).

I have no idea when and why and how I know the name but I do know that I was told about him because of this article and his unusual reactions to what he saw, unusual both then and now
I suspect that it was in one of our intimate English-language lectures with Dr Hári so many years ago that I heard about this American Professor of communications at the Wisconsin State University. I think that how he describes what he saw would have delighted her. I imagine that she would have read it with a glint in her sparkly eyes, and asked herself whether here perhaps was someone who understood.

Even as early as 1968, there had been other visitors to Petö's Institute but I think that they had mostly seen what they looked at through the eyes of a physiotherapist, I suspect that those eyes had already decided what they would be seeing before there saw it.

Here in James House was someone seeing something else.

I think that it is fair to say he saw the conductive soul.

Not everything that he says in this interview is as I would describe what I experienced, but as I was at the Petö Institute for four whole years I could reach deeper into the conductive soul. James House made only a short visit, probably just for a few days or possibly a week or two but he did quite a good job of seeing what he was looking at all the same.

Conductive pedagogy is about relationships

Professor House took away with him an impression very different from that described by the other professional visitors. I wonder whether this was because of his background as director of a speech and hearing clinic, which influenced his approach and conclusions.

I am not sure why I wonder this, except that Andrew Sutton regularly refers in his blog postings to the difference between the treatment of children with hearing disorders and those with physical disabilities.

Andrew Sutton was referring to how it has long been common place in the education and upbringing of the deaf that the whole of the child’s developing personality is affected by the underlying disability. This refers to everything.

Andrew was also emphasising how development is not something that happens within the child but arise out of the child’s relationships with other people. This is what he means when he writes that developmental disorders are systemic.

Andrew has often made the point that when it comes to the deaf everybody seems to know this, nobody seems to think of it when dealing with motor disorders.

James House, the deaf and hearing specialist, was almost definitely thinking about it when he was observing at the Petö Institute and being interviewed for Ideas of Today magazine in 1968. He was seeing that the relationships within the groups provided the pedagogic core of what was happening before his eyes. This was so contrary to those going home all full of excitement about the wooden plinths that they had seen, and the counting and singing that they had heard.

If he discussed with Dr Mária Hári what he believed he was looking at, then I can imagine that she would have considered Prof. James House one of the Institute's special visitors This could be why Dr Hári told us about him.

James House hardly mentions the furniture or the singing, although oddly enoughhe does mention chanting.

Professor House was there looking at the work of the children from a different perspective. From this interview in front of me I get the impression that Professor House was feeling more than seeing what was going on, in the same way that I was in my early days at the Petö Institute.

Joy, and sadness

In the interview in front of me James House said that "the children are alert and happy, they are like children at a birthday party, when it is everyone’s birthday". It added that, although the importance of love as a potent healing factor has not been acknowledged in orthodox medicine, at the Institute in Budapest it is clear to see the importance that love plays in the success of the work there.

Generally I agree with him, but that it was like a huge birthday party is not really true. Just as with all children living together and working together there were ups and down, the general atmosphere was of fun and happiness. It is the conductor's job to create such an atmosphere, we are trained to do this, but in a group of twenty children there were still some sad and unhappy souls. Just as there would be anywhere.

What is love?

James House described the love that he saw and felt as an intelligent love, shown by the conductors to the children, with much affection. That is a common trait, he said, of the loving Hungarian race, I see this love as something different.

James House described the Hungarian people as "affectionate to each other rather than cordial", as "glowing with love", and as "naturally warm, outgoing and friendly". Many of them are like this, and some are not.

House thought that this affectionate Hungarian trait is what he was seeing between the conductors and the children. It is this explanation of why he believed that the work done at the Petö Institute is successful that makes me think he was learning about the "conductive soul".

He said that he thought the explanation "lies in the quality and spirit of the love that is given to the children, calling forth in them in their turn a wonderful spirit".

He was right that the children are motivated in the atmosphere created in the group to achieve high goals. I disagree however when he suggested that this love is a result of a loving affectionate Hungarian nature, intelligently directed on the children to create the birthday-party atmosphere that he experienced.

Love to teach, love to learn

The work of a conductor does have something to do with love but not love in the sense of offering affection to another person, towards a child.

Conductive pedagogy as I understand it is about teaching the love of learning to the group and the individual. The best way to do this is through the love of teaching. I believe that the joy that radiated from the work that James House and that I observed and still observe in groups, stems from the love that a conductor has in learning and in teaching a child to learn.

Our work is about teaching children to love and to nurture themselves and their environment, which does of course include other people. At the Institute children learnt to look closely at the plants that they tended, to be gentle with them and to take note of the results of their caring for them.

They learnt to get enjoyment from cleaning their boots. To enjoy them shining like horse chestnuts, so that on the eve of St Nicholas they could hope with joyous anticipation that in the night they would be noticed and be filled with chocolate. They learnt to care for the little ones and to care for themselves.

James House did indeed see love at work. He did indeed see the children being treated as a whole. He saw the relationships developing with in the groups. But what he saw was more than the loving personality of a Hungarian conductor directed to a child. What he saw and what can still be seen in a conductive group with a conductive soul is a love for learning.

PS. A Susie anecdote

I recently met a physiotherapist at a fest in the town. I was taking photographs of the bands and the crowd and she asked to take a look at them in my camera. Scrolling through she came across some photos from some work I had done recently and recognised a child. She looked in disbelief at a tall seven-year-old, who has just started normal school. Her words I will never forget:

"I never believed that this child would walk".

She had "done therapy" with him until when he was two year old his mum discovered Conductive Education, which she describes as the only way forward for her, her child and her family. We conductors have worked with this child for five years.

What did we conductors believe?

Not necessarily that he would learn to walk, but we did believe we could teach this child a love for learning, help him discover the joy in leaning which has in time motivated him to get up and go!

Perhaps love goes hand in hand with many other things, including belief, patience, time and fun.
It all adds up to a happy conductive soul.


Susie Mallett -

Did Peto live here?

Sir Samuel Morton Peto in Norwich

Dr András Petö in Budapest

In my family house?

This is the question that my father and I are asking ourselves, after a hard day's work in the garden.

I am actually sitting beside my Dad trying to type a different posting while he reads an article to me from the local newspaper.

That’s how it always is around the kitchen table, I never actually get down to doing what I plan to do when tea is over and we drink a glass of wine or whisky together. We always seem to start doing something else. Sometimes it is painting, sometimes playing crib, or looking at old photos, sometimes chatting about old times, about my childhood and about my dear Mum.

Today we have been distracted by the evening newspaper.

Dad's Peto, not my Petö

Our attention has been caught by a double-page spread about Sir Samuel Morton Peto, whose bust peers down on to the travellers passing through the concourse at Norwich Railway Station.

But it is not the photographs of some more of his creations, both locally and in London, including the Houses of Parliament, Nelson’s Column and the Lyceum Ballroom, that we find so riveting. It is that the newspaper article reports that, while the Eastern Counties Railway was being built in the 1880s, Sir Samuel Morton Peto lived on the street in which our family home for the past fifty-two years is situated.

As my family home is in some parts three-hundred years old and was in its early days The Swan Hotel, it is very easy for us to start imagining that Mr Peto actually lived here! He could have even sat in this very room were we are sipping our red wine, drinking his pint of beer!

My Dad said that he often wondered as he walked under the bust of Mr Peto each day at work if this Mr Peto had anything to do with my Mr Petö, but maybe the only connection is our house!

Norwich Railway station is almost an extension of our family home. It is a fifteen-minute walk away and, with my Dad being a retired train-driver and with all my travelling, we have spent a lot of time on the station’s platforms, on the engines and in the mess room, with Mr Peto looking down on us.

Samuel Peto was a bit of a social reformer. Together with his business partner, Thomas Grissell, he did a lot to improve the lot of the railway-workers and their families, offering sickness-benefit clubs and reading and writing lessons. He brought them fresh fruit and vegetables and encouraged them not to drink too much. So great was his popularity with the workers, who were some of the best paid around, that they played a large role in his becoming voted Liberal MP for the city.

Sir Samuel built railways and stations wherever they were needed and by 1860 he was the largest employer in the world, building in Britain, Denmark, Russia, Canada and America. Then in 1866 a financial crash, a bit like the present credit crisis perhaps, caused Peto to declare himself bankrupt, but he was very popular and remained a highly respected businessman till the end of his days.

William Gladstone described Sir Samuel as "a man who attained high position in this country by the exercise of rare talents, and who has adorned that position by his great virtues."

Two Petos in my life!

One with "accents" over the last letter, one without. Both well liked and perhaps both with a social streak to their personalities.

And one quite possibly slept in my family home!

The busts of both Petö and Peto have watched over me at different times in my life.


Norwich Evening News, 23rd September 2009 -

Saturday 26 September 2009

My gardening companions

That's me above taking a creative break,
and that's Dad below, busy as always!

It is just my second day of "work" and I have already dug a plot as big as most people’s whole garden, ibut this is but a drop in the ocean here at home with my Dad.

But every little helps and as the Indian summer continues the drop in the ocean will get bigger.

Dad, who turned eighty=three last week, is in his old railway overalls somewhere else in the garden. I haven’t been able to find him for a while now, I think he is up one of my childhood apple-tree hideaways.

He isn’t actually hiding, he is picking apples with the help of the net on a stick that I brought him from Germany. There is a bumper crop this year with eaters big enough to eat and bramleys that are huge and taste delicious stuffed with sultanas and popped in the microwave for a few minutes.

Yes, as you may have guessed my wish came true. I got my Indian Summer and my holiday, I think. I have been working quite hard since I arrived but I am loving it.

It makes a nice change to go to bed with a tiredness caused through hours of digging and weeding and working in the garden alongside my Dad, rather than a tiredness caused by thinking and talking and shifting cumbersome wooden furniture. And what I find even better is to be so dirty at the end of the day that all the clothes go in the washing machine while I wallow in the bath.

Apart from my Dad my garden companions are lots and lots of the ladybirds that are out in large numbers basking in the sunshine. A butterfly sometimes flutters by, a one-legged grasshopper tried his hardest to hop along the way, and there is occasionally a buzz of a huge bumble bee inspecting my work, but it is the ladybirds, really out in force, and dozing off between the weeds, that keep catching my attention and distracting me from the digging!

Reading, at last!

Art Deco in Budapest, 2006

Part One

I studied in Budapest. It was a wonderful experience.

I learnt lots, I forgot lots and didn’t understand lots. I use lots of what I learnt in my work every day, and I use lots of my experiences before PAI in my work every day too.

The Budapest Days were probably the best four years of my life although the four at art school in the 1970s were a close runner up. Four years of just painting pictures, what luxury, I still dream of doing that once again!

In Budapest there was something missing

What I missed from home, apart from Branston Pickles and soft toilet paper, was the chance to go in a bookshop or a library and look for books, just browse until I found exactly the thing that I wanted to read.

It was not only a library that I missed, but also a librarian who I could have talked to about the books on the shelves. A librarian who could perhaps have found me exactly the thing to read which would have allowed me to understand just a little bit faster what Mária Hári was talking to us about in her lectures!

MH was renowned for telling us things that we would have understood if only we already knew what she was talking about. Often we didn’t!

It was access to reading

Yes, of course there was a library at the Petö Institute, but in those days it was nothing like the modern friendly place it is today. It was a dark and dingy, and somewhat scary place, manned by a mysterious force of nének (aunties) wearing white coats.

I was never quite sure if these often almost ferocious nének were the same ladies who manned the lift or who worked in the kitchen. Were they conductors without a group or were they in fact the genuine article, "librarians"!

My experiences of going into this dark cavern were very similar to when I went to buy swathes of material in the city. My favourite material shop was in a gorgeous art-deco building, somewhere between Váci Utca and Déak Tér. This building was gorgeous inside and out, with its wooden shelving and counter all piled high with fabric.

For me it was an Aladdin’s cave of treasures. I just loved to walked in there and see all the colours and the textures, but on most visits I had to struggle with myself to remain inside and do business, just as I did in the library at the Petö Institute.

At the fabric shop and in the library it was necessary for me to know exactly what I wanted before I went in. In both places "customers", who were not allowed browse or to touch the goods on display on the shelves that reached the ceiling, had to remain behind a wooden counter. The items that were pointed at or actually named, would be brought forward for inspection. There was no chance in either place of catching a glimpse in the dimly lit rooms for anything that might "do".

In the Library just as in the fabric shop it was more than my life was worth to ask to have a closer look at something.

I will never forget the look of dismay when I asked the elderly lady who was showing me a roll of material whether we could take it over to the door to the daylight so I could actually see what colour it was!

I sewed a lot and because of my love of colours and textures I was quite good even in a foreign language at describing what kind of fabric I was imagining for my clothes. So I managed, despite the difficulties in the fabric shop, but at the library I had no idea what to ask for. I had absolutely no idea what could be hidden on those high, ever-so-tempting shelves behind the closely-guarded counter.

You can't ask if you don't know

In my final year, when I was more fluent in the Hungarian language and the conductive language, I got a bit braver but not much, I entered the dark cavern of the Library a bit more often but it was still scary! I never really conquered my fear of that library until I went to the new one last year!

For someone who has rows and rows of books at home, on every subject that interests me, on spinning tops, green men, art therapy, kite-making, yoga, meditation, growing things in gardens, trains, bikes, boats and planes, even a few on education, it was so odd not to have easy access to new reading material in those learning days in Budapest.

At that time Gill Maguire and Andrew Sutton had already set up the Library at the Institute in Birmingham, and she sent us anything that she or others thought would be useful to us "over-seas" students.

As I had no idea really of what I could or should be reading, and no idea what was on the shelves in Birmingham, I didn’t really know what I could be asking her for in those days.

I lived in Budapest. I only visited England once a year, sometimes twice if there was a wedding, birthday or a funeral that I had to attend. I only visited the Birmingham Institute as a conductor, once I had finished my training. As a student my world was Hungary, Budapest and the Petö Institute with its dark, mysterious and scary Library!

Reading galore

Nowadays as I sit in my study, books and papers spreading over every available flat surface, I am thankful that I have now got to know some of the NICE conductors who have told me about their training, have told me about the lectures they had, and most importantly have recommended papers that I could request from the Foundation’s Library. Sometimes even pass on copies of their old lecture notes to me.

At long last I have the papers and references that I didn’t have all those years ago in my Budapest Days!

I have a pile of them on the kitchen table where I eat my breakfast, and a few protected from the rain out on the balcony. There is an even bigger pile in my bed, kept tidy on its reading side, unless I fall asleep reading! There are always one or two in my bag in case I find myself on a bus, a tram or a train with a few minutes to spare. There are none whatsoever in the painting corner of the flat, that’s where I paint and do nothing else, but a few have crept into the bathroom.

I am a student again!

I am reading all that I didn’t know about in the early 90s, all those things that the mysterious PAI Library didn’t or couldn’t reveal to me, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I suspect that I am actually enjoying it more now that I would than done then. With six hours a day working in a group, ten hours a week in lectures and observation sessions, three evenings a week at Hungarian lessons, I probably had little space in my head to absorb much else other than things Hungarian.

Now there is still only little spare space in my head, but the papers are I think easier now for me to read because I understand what I am reading about.

My experiences as a conductor, my own upbringing and my own way of life, the development of my own style of conducting make the reading of the likes of Makarenko, Sukhomlinsky, and even Mária Hári feel like a coming home. I often say to myself as I read "Oh yes, I already knew about this." This is sort of true but I hadn’t realised that I knew it until I read it.I hadn't known consciously.

As I read some of the my valuable papers and digest some of these pedagogic ideas, I begin to realise how I have in a way come full circle, or perhaps I have come to a point on an upwards spiral when much of what I have learnt and experienced meet together and open up new paths to my life. Paths along which I can travel and carry on meeting people on my way, people who open my eyes, give me things to read, present ideas to think about, make me smile and help me keep my soul healthy.

Indián nyár

I am dreaming of that Indian Summer, just a few days off.

I visualise a stack of these papers beside me on the balcony plus a pot of coffee and a slice of cake and the last or the sun’s warmth reaching me through the drying leaves of the prunus and acacia trees.

The leaves of these trees give me much-welcomed shade in the hot summer days but, as the days cool the leaves are slowly falling to the ground, giving light and warmth in the autumn and winter months.

In my longed-for Indian summer I shall soak up the sunshine, the coffee and also the words on the pages.

Many thanks to all of my "suppliers" for my Indian Summer holiday-reading materials.


Kovács Kati, Indián nyár -

Tuesday 22 September 2009

"The Spontaneous Vernissage"

"The cuckoo", by KK

When I was at the wedding on Saturday I chatted with someone who is social pedagogue, artist and musician. He had been playing the relaxing music while we ate. Although we have known of each other for years we never really knew each other until today when we talked about art, music and life in general.

Suddenly, a while after our initial chat, he came rushing back and said "Susie I have an idea! You are an artist!"

I wondered what I was going to be asked to do next! The last time it was my "sort-of-step-son" who had said something like this, and I ended up painting a blood-stained dress for him!

This time it turned out to be something quite painless, needing no artistic input from me. It was something that has taken only a couple of phone calls and a meeting to organise.

The first exhibition!

Yes an exhibition. I have organised the first exhibition for one of my art-therapy clients, a young man who is autist. It is an idea that I have had in the back of my head but with the plan for sometime next summer when we had a few more pictures to choose from and at a time when we had got to know each other better.

But given such an offer it was hard to refuse.

Always happy to be spontaneous

The social pedagogue at the wedding told me that he has a six-week empty slot in the exhibition area at the centre where he works that he needs to fill very quickly. The private view had already been planned for Saturday, yes this Saturday 26th September, and he had no artist!

Now he has!

The artist, me, his carer and his family are all over the moon. As many people as possible have been asked to pull together to help us as it is such a last-minuite job.

We are pulling out all the stops

I am informing as many people as possible. I was up well into the night making name tags and price tags for the eighteen paintings and sculptures that are to be displayed, searching for a few more frames and trying to organise my other work for the week.

I shall unfortunately have to miss the private view on Saturday but will be having a look at the exhibition with my client when next we meet. Dad has promised to take lots of photographs.

My client will be there with his parents and his carer and I hope lots of arty supporters with a few pennies in their pockets!

I am sure that my client will have, then as now, a big, happy, smiling soul.

It has been such an achievement for him to now be able to spend two whole hours each week painting with me, concentrating and full of wonderful ideas. It is even more of an achievement that he sat with us all as we had a meeting yesterday at the exhibition site, talking, over lemonade and coffee, about all we needed to plan.

For my client this is a first big step into a new arty world. It is also myfirst step to working together with:

Der BUNI - Kultur- und Freizeittreff -

Sunday 20 September 2009

A wedding made in Märchenland!

Images from a food for the soul day, September 19th 2009

The fairytale wedding of the year!

I have lived in Germany for sixteen years and yesterday I went to my first-ever Germany wedding. I very much doubt that this was a traditional German wedding, but I have nothing else German to compare it with so I really don’t know.

I think that it was probably something very original!

Despite the marquees and the country setting, at the Brautpaar’s riding school-farm, it had nothing like the pomp and circumstances of an English Home Counties wedding either.

The official signing of papers that has to be done in a registry office took place on 09.09.09. with just a few family members present. Yesterday was the day of the big party, the celebration with one-hundred-and-fifty friends and family.

It was like something out of a romantic comic book for teenage girls. It had all that such readers would wish for, with ponies, flowers, Greensleeves strummed on a guitar and a princess-bride on a black stallion.

An open-air chapel had been build in the middle of a field. Two of my old kitchen chairs (this couple got all the furniture that wouldn’t fit into my flat when I moved last year) had been covered with dusky-pink velvet tied in place with garlands of flowers and hearts.

The priest with his make-shift alter, with homemade wedding candle, stood beneath a bower of yellow marigolds.

A single line of marigold petals was strewn for 200 metres on the ground to mark the way from “parking-place” field to “chapel” field, with several marigold petal hearts “painted” by the bride’s father on the wayside.

As we left the cars behind us and began to follow the “yellow-brick-road”, there before us was the bride, hitching up her gorgeous white dress, being helped by her groom on to the back of Lucifer her big black stallion.

The bride is a riding-teacher for disabled and non-disabled clients, so she didn’t really need the help of her groom to get up on her favourite horse, but it looked very chivalrous in front of us, all with our cameras at the ready!

The white bride on the black horse was led by the groom into the open-air marigold-bower chapel. The one hundred-and-fifty-strong congregation sat in a horseshoe, perched on the lowest of the practice jumps that they could find and on typical German bier-fest benches.

A family occasion

Each and every member of the immediate family took part in the ceremony, with the wonderful Polish, catholic priest cleverly pulling together all the strings of the bow.

The music ensemble from the church, that included the bride’s sister on flute, had one extra member for the day, the groom’s Dad playing bass guitar. Groom, Dad and co. were also on the menu for later in the evening, with their rock band “Corporal Defect”.

Mums, sisters, friends and Dads all had their roles to play and bits to say or play during the hour- long ceremony that took place in glorious sunshine.

It was, however, the men who stole the show!

First it was the groom with his unrehearsed words as he handed over his ring to the bride, but then came the fathers who, with tears streaming down their cheeks, reduced us all to a weeping mass! Through their tears they managed to produce some wonderful, spontaneous and heartfelt words for their children, which of course produced even more tears.

With the rings exchanged, blessings said and the tears dried, it was time, so the priest told us, to party.

Time to party

First came the champagne toast in the aisles of the marigold-horseshoe chapel, closely followed by coffee and wedding cake served in one of the marquees higher up on the riding place, with its fresh, gleaming, white woodchip ground and beautiful view over the still green fields.

Despite the warning in the invitation about the dangers of wearing high-heels on a farm there were still a few brave and obviously well-practised souls doing extremely well in theirs.

Like many of the other guests I had polished up my black winter “riding” boots for the occasion, and I even saw a pair of Doc. Martin’s on show!

The only that thing I missed were the hats, not one of them in sight. So different to an English wedding, where everyone has to be so careful with their choice as to not outshine the mother of the bride. There were actually a scarcity of ties too, a half a dozen perhaps but no more. Some Germans actually confess to not knowing how to tie a tie! Having tied one for many years every morning before school I am always more than willing to give them lessons, I know a variety of knots too!

After coffee and wedding cake, champagne, chatting and strolling round the farm stroking horses it was time for the main feast of the day. We were all seated at the long rows of tables decorated with pink flowers and tall candles, giving the feeling that we were at a medieval banquet.

First came the Hochzeitsuppe, the wedding soup, a clear soup with dumplings, then lots of the usual German meaty fare and the most amazing array of salads and vegetarian dishes imaginable.

During the feasting the same band played as had performed a few years ago at my birthday party, providing then as now a gentle music while we ate and quietly chatted.

Later on in the evening came the rock music, with lots of intervals for performances, readings, karaoke and more, from family members and old school friends. Then at midnight came the final midnight feast! What would a German wedding be without its sausage and Schnitzel?

The bits-in-between

Yes, there were bits-in-between here too. Not only the performances during the music intervals in the late evening but also other open-air activities going on before it got dark and before the dancing began.

Behind the marquee we had set up the photo studio. I had provided an antique frame that we used to frame the faces of all the guests for the wedding photo-album.

Then there were the pony rides for the children organised by the bride’s riding-school pupils. Unfortunately they really were ponies, very small ones. This meant that any wannabe adult riders just stood by dreaming of maybe one day riding one of the two black stallions that were spooked by the music and galloping round the neighbouring paddock.

In another corner of the marquee, just behind the stage, I set up the easel for the painting corner which proved to be very popular, especially with the children. The “event” went on so long that we had to rig up some make-do lighting as the darkness drew in. The bride had requested that the guests would be asked to paint them a picture.

So paint they did!

They decorated the hearts that had been pre-drawn on a couple of canvases. It was my job to set it up and supervise a bit, but all I really had to do was help the three-year olds, the adults managing well enough alone!

Everyone was in full agreement that it had been the best wedding ever!

The bride commented in the affirmative with “Yes it really was a most romantic day”.

This was an understatement. The day had been pure romance from the moment that we stepped foot in the farm gate until the moment that we followed the row of Christmas lights now marking the "yellow brick road" back to the car park at midnight. The day had had a really happy soul and it brought so much joy to everyone who taken part.

PS Food for the soul

I did something else for my soul too. Apart from the dressing up, which was fun, I did something that I have never done in my life before.

I went to see the hairdresser very early in the morning!

Of course I have been to the hairdresser before, and early in the morning, but that was to get my hair cut. Never before have I been just to get the hairdresser to make my hair look festive! She did a grand job and I came out with a head of curls, something thatI have always wanted.

I loved my curls so much that I may do it again one day, just for fun, just for me and my soul, without having a wedding to go to!

Friday 18 September 2009

A peck of Petö

"Dancer in red" 2004 by Susie Mallett

I have just been invited by my local chemist to come to a talk at the Meistersingerhalle, Nürnberg

Ihre MEDICON Apotheken haben ihn zu einem Vortrag mit dem Thema "Die Salze des Lebens, gesund werden und gesund bleiben mit den Mineralsalzen nach Dr. Schüßler" engagiert.

Der berühmte Naturarzt Dr. Schüßler war der Ansicht, dass viele Erkrankungen auf einen gestörten Mineralstoffhaushalt zurückzuführen sind. Mit homöopathischen Zubereitungen bestimmter Mineralstoffe regen Sie auf natürliche Weise die Selbstheilungskräfte Ihres Organismus an.

Herr Heepen stellt die wirksame und sanfte Heilmethode mit den Mineralsalzen nach Dr. Schüßler vor und informiert über ihre Anwendung bei alltäglichen Beschwerden.

In other words:

The salts of life. Get healthy and stay healthy with Dr Schüßler’s mineral salts.

The famous natural medicine doctor, Dr Schüßler, was of the opinion that many illnesses can be traced back to a disturbance in the mineral, or cell salt content in our bodies. With the homeopathic preparation of certain minerals the natural healing abilities of the body can be boosted.

Herr Heepen will introduce the gentle and effective healing qualities of the mineral cell salts described by Dr Schüßler and will inform on their use in every day health problems.

Unfortunately I cannot attend although I would have liked to be there. Schüßler salts are used by many people in Germany as an alternative or addition to everyday medicine. I have some bottles of them standing in my medicine cupboard right now.

András Petö

Dr András Petö described just such salts in his book, Unfug der Krankheit - Triumph der Heilkunst (published under the pseudonym of Karl Otto Bärnklau). The use of Schüßler “cell salts” is in fact just one of the many methods of healing that Petö described.

Petö related the different salts to astrological signs of the zodiac and the astrological qualities attributed to people born under these signs.

I have googled Dr Schüßler but have yet to find an article on him or the cell salts that makes the same connection. Perhaps this is an original “Petö Thought”

Petö’s sources?

This is one of the big problems that I have with this “Petö” book. There are no sources of reference stated so it is extremely difficult to establish what could have been an original Petö Thought and what parts are describing the ideas and work of others.

Petö often stated who he was quoting at the beginning of a chapter, but as well he often mentioned people in the middle of paragraphs, and at other times he wrote whole chapters before mentioning anyone. And some chapters are so full of names that it is difficult to follow the gist of the matter!

I have tried to write a list and index of all the people mentioned. I pick out a few of them now and then to google. I like to try to get some idea of some of the influences on original “Petö Thought”!

A few of those with a mention are:

Dr Rudolf Vischow -

(13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) He was a German doctor, anthrolpologist, public health activist, pathologist, biologist, and politician. Referred to as the Father of Pathology” and founded the field of social medicine.

Clara Schlaffhorst and Hedwig Andersen –

Both born in the 1860s. In 1897, they translated Leo Kofler's book The Art of Breathing, and developed a holistic approach from it :

Verbal and also non-verbal communication are governed by posture, mobility, wakefulness etc. These terms describe not only the external but also the internal characteristics of a person. Thus every enhancement of external physical features also influences the state of mind and therefore the development of the personality.

Dr H Kunkel –

Quoted by Petö as saying that the health of the soul and of the body have more connections with each other than society in general would like to believe!

Sebastian Kneipp, a priest –

He was mentioned in the chapter with the title “Man must be treated in his entirity”. Kneipp is still a very popular “cure” in Germany. All sorts of preparations are available and many clinics and spa towns offer “Kneipp rehabilitation”.

There in this one chapter Petö mentions at least a dozen other names on one page, including:

Dr Ignasz Péczeli

He was the Hungarian inventor of Iridology.

In Wikipedia I found the following description of Dr Péczeli, the likes of which I have many times read, and indeed quoted myself in descriptions of Dr András Petö!

…Ha ma élne, valószín űleg mind a pletykalapok, mind a tudományos folyóiratok kapnának rajta – sokan hősként csodálnák, sokan elítélnék, de az bizonyos, hogy senki nem lenne vele szemben közömbös.

The Wikipedia translation of this is so funny that I have printed it here as it appears:

...Some of his contemporaries instinctive genius, he saw a genius, others charlatan, impostor stamped. If alive today, probably all pletykalapok (gossip columns) and scientific journals would have it - many people admired hero, many of them convicted, but it is certain that no one would be indifferent towards him.

As I read some of the chapters of Dr Petö’s book I like to think that I can recognise where some of his conductive practice could perhaps stem from but as the references that Petö makes in this book were never referred to in my training it is only a matter of guesswork and maybe even fantasising on my part.

Dr Francis Robicsek -

My favourite find of all is Dr Robicsek. He is mentioned in relation to breathing and fighting sleeplessness. Petö actually described exercises that Robicsek suggested to encourage sleep.

He is one of my favourites because of what Google came up with:

Dr. Francis Robicsek was born in Miskolc, Hungary, in 1925. After his medical education he was in charge of the Department of Heart Surgery at the University of Budapest until 1956. Since that year he has practiced medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, and is currently chairman of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center, and Medical Director of the Carolinas Heart Institute.

Dr. Robicsek is a man of many talents. As a result of his research in hemodynamics he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Bioengineering at the University of North Carolina. He is also renowned for his expertise in the history of Mesoamerican cultures, especially the Maya.

Google also found me an abstract of a paper presented by Dr Robicsek called Das Herz: Organ des Körpers - Sitz der Seele ( The heart: organ of the body, home of the soul).

This paper is about the Mayan ritual of extracting the heart of animals and humans in acts of worship.

When I have another unexpected afternoon off I may post a few more Petö Snippets!


Dr Schüßler -

Unfug der Krankheit-Triumph der Heilkunst by Karl Otto Bärnklau – Verlag Karl Schustek, Hanau -Maine 1965

Sebastian Kneipp

Sunday 13 September 2009

Is there really no language barrier?

"Der Club" , Nürnberg, 12th September 2009

Football, music, conductive pedagogy, are these really all languages that are understood all over the world, regardless of the tongue one speaks?

This is a question that I asked myself when I was out on a "jolly" treat yesterday afternoon.

Sometimes I think Yes. At other times I begin to wonder.
Today a football match got me thinking about the differences that there are, despite playing the same game, and the English-speaking visitor to my group last week made me ask questions about the conductive language too.


I was at a football match yesterday with one of my clients from my evening group for adults with cerebral palsy. He had first invited me to accompany him a long, long time ago, years ago in fact. We eventually arranged a date to suit us both and our driver, his Dad.

Der Club

Erste FC Nürnberg is a team with a yoyo action, like Norwich City. It has just gone up once again into the first division so, with the fans really excited about this, it was the ideal time to watch a game.

It has been a long time since my first and only previous visit to the Franken Stadium which has been named the Easycredit Stadium since World Cup 2006 but retains its old name amongst true Frankonian fans.

I had been taken there in 1993 by my German family, when Nürnberg played like a British-fourth division team and when the stadium was designed with the fans sitting even further away from the play than they do now so it was like watching football on television.

World cup 2006 changed German football

Throughout Germany stadiums that were to be used during the world cup tournament were re-designed or, in the case of Bayern Munchen, a new one was built. The Germans wanted to create somethng of the atmosphere that they enjoyed at British clubs. An important factor in achieving this, they thought, was to bring the fans closer to the pitch. Most German stadiums double up as athletic stadiums and have several metres of land for track and field events between the football pitch and the supporters. This really does make for less contact between the fans and the players.

I am used to watching Norwich City play. As a child and teenager I would stand in the family enclosure and move down to the front whenever I wished, to see my favourite players run past just a few feet away. Or more recently I sit beside my nephew in his season-ticket seats in the home-fan’s stand, the Barclay, only three rows back behind the goal. You can see the grey hairs, the runny noses and the smiles and hear every word spoken from that distance. It is a very different experience from that, even at today's renovated Franken Stadium, as it still retains its running track.

So I am not a stranger to football games. I have twice been to see Norwich play at the old Wembley Stadium, and I have been to many matches at Norwich and at Aston Villa, as I used to live just five minutes' walk from both the Canaries ground in Norwich and Villa ground in Birmingham.

In Nürnberg it was different

It is difficult to say how it was different. Most importantly for me was the huge amount of space outside. The stadium is built on the Zepplinfeld a huge area where millions of people would descend on Nürnberg in the 1930s to hear Hitler speak.

Yesterday there were no crowds pushing to move through city streets when the match was over as there always are in England, no queues of cars trying for what seems like hours to leave their parking places in the terraced streets that often surround a British ground.

In Nürnberg there was space, metres between me and the next person, space for my client not to be shoved about in his wheelchair, even with the capacity crowd of 46,780 that the game attracted yesterday.

This space made me feel different. I am not afraid at a match in UK but the closeness as people leave and enter the ground does have a slightly tenser feel about than I felt in Nürnberg.

Inside the stadium

The language really isn’t the same as in England. Neither the language of the fans nor that of the football.

I am not an expert on football but as far as I could see the ball stayed on the ground a lot more in the football that I saw yesterday than it does when I see British clubs play. Yesterday I got to see quite a lot of fancy footwork reminiscent of the days of Bobby Charlton, and my all-time favourite player, Georgie Best.

The atmosphere in the stadium, the language of the fans, was also so “un-English”. It was tremendously loud, with an amazing sound of drums, a constant beating and clapping of hands, lots of chanting, fewer songs than at English clubs, and a wonderful feeling of warmth and security.

I wonder what all that chanting actually does to the rhythm of our bodies. Perhaps a research project for someone who is looking into ways to curb football hooliganism, or maybe this has already been looked into. It certainly made be feel nice although I was not standing on top of it, that may be a different story.

Something was missing

The atmosphere was absolutely amazing, like nothing that I have experienced before. The game was exciting in parts, slow and not at all entertaining in others, just like football can be, but I loved every minute. I soaked it all up, the flags, the colours, the chanting and the play.

But something really was missing.

Der Club won with the only goal of the match, scored after 5.59 minutes. I cheered and clapped with the rest of the home team but I felt as if I could just as well have clapped for the other team.

Deep inside it wasn’t “we” that won, it was der Club. My team is still Norwich City, or Manchester United or England, depending who is playing. For me “we” will never be the der Club however well it plays and however much I enjoy the relaxed but exciting atmosphere.

Its that soul again

I realised that the colours were the wrong ones. Instead of red and black I wanted to see the bright canary-yellow and green of my home-team running about on the pitch.

I kept expecting the “Barclay” stand fans to erupt with “Have a little scrimmage” and end with “On the ball, City”. My soul wasn’t out there with der Club as it would have been with the Canaries. If der Club missed a chance or played bad passes that feeling of despair was not there as it would be, and often is, at Carrow Road, Norwich.

And of course Delia Smith wasn’t sitting in the stands beside me, as she very often has been.

There are no language barriers in sport, but a different "language" is spoken than that spoken at an English ground, when going to a football match in Germany, in and outside the stadium, on the pitch and in the stands.

And in Conductive Education?

What languages do we have there?

I am not really thinking here about the many different tongues spoken in all the countries that have imported Conductive Pedagogy from Hungary over the past few decades.

I am talking about the languages similar to those that I heard, and saw, and felt at the football match yesterday. These are the languages that are most important to me in my work. The languages that are often spoken without words between employers and conductors, management and staff, parents and conductors, conductors and conductors, conductors and clients.

I am talking about the “language" of Conductive Education, Petö therapy, or is it conductive upbringing or even conductive therapy?

I mean the language that I feel when negotiating, when watching or when working. The things that I felt most intensely when I was a student in Hungary, when I learnt without a word of Hungarian.

I was witness to this communication again this week in several situations.

Complementary and harmonic conductors

I feel that there are several types of conductors and, in my personal experience, many good conductors. Also in my experience these different types of good conductors complement each other well when working in a team. Sometimes like red and green, blue and orange or yellow and purple, sometimes in harmonies like red, orange and yellow.

I only have to speak to a conductor on the phone to know what kind of conductor I have here and to know within a little what it would be like to work together.

I can speak to most conductors in two or three languages, with a choice of Hungarian, English or German, but the language of conduction has nothing to do with these. When speaking the same or a complementary language with a colleague while at work, it is to do with the soul, to do with the feelings that I had when at the football match yesterday. It is at work without our ever having to speak. It is like magic when this happens.

I fitted in at the stadium just as I do in all conductive settings. I felt comfortable at the football game but there was a different language in play and not always a complementary one, just like it can sometimes be in a conductive setting.

When I speak to people in Conductive Education, no matter what role they play, I know immediately what language they are speaking. I know immediately what place Conductive Education holds in their soul and I usually know immediately whether I am understood or not.

I have had separate telephone conversations this weekend with two German conductors. In both cases the spoken language changed, sometimes mid-sentence, from English to German and back again without our noticing. This went unnoticed because we were really speaking a third different harmonic language in our souls.

I have spoken to other conductors this week and we have spoken sometimes three languages plus another complementary conductive language. Luckily I haven't found a language that I don't understand.

No language barriers there either!

In the group the souls knows no barriers

As I said in an earlier posting this week I have had a visitor form Canada. A young conductor who speaks neither German nor Hungarian.

She helped me in my stroke group. I did say a few things to her in English if I saw her looking confused but that was seldom, she worked along side me, not in virtual silence because I explained many things to her, but quietly. For two hours and it worked.

The following day one of my clients with aphasia tried very hard to explain this experience to me. I think that I understood. I think that my client was telling me about the language that the young conductor was using without any words. My client said that, despite their not speaking a common tongue, she had received the help that she had needed, maybe because of and not despite, not speaking.

Could this be the huge advantage that I was given in my introduction to the world of Conductive Education, when I began my learning in Hungary, without words but with my soul and with my feelings.

With employers

I have always got to be out there making new contacts, so that I can find new work. It is always a difficult task at first to establish what parents and/or centre managers know about and expect from Conductive Education. then to decide whether I can offer them anything.
It is interesting to wonder where some parents and/or managers of conductive centres have got their “understanding” of all things conductive from, and then to decide whether I have the energy or the inclination to change any of this.

When the soul is speaking

Sometimes there are no language barriers, sometimes the soul is speaking the same language, just as it was in conversations with my two German conductor friends this weekend, and in the case of the lady in the stroke group last week with her Canadian communicator.

I am sorry to say that at the football match my soul was not with der Club, something really was missing, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and can’t wait to go again!


Der Club, 1. FC Nürnberg -

Franken Stadium -

Bayern Munchen -

Norwich City Football Club -

Delia Smith -
Cookery-writer and TV personality, majority shareholder at Norwich City FC, often sits with the fans in the Barclay stand.

Zepplinfeld -

Saturday 12 September 2009

More bits-in-between for conductors

"Painting", September 12th 2009

Family times two

I have lived in Germany almost as long as I lived in the house that I grew up in.

All my family live over the water in England but over the years I have gathered another family around me here in Nürnberg.

I meet with my German family every now and then, we phone regularly and sometimes even have parties together.

I have a sort of brother- and sister-in-law, pretend parents, nieces, nephews, and the friends of all of them. I even have a sort-of-step-son, who says I am his second Mum. As he gets older I think that he is becoming more a friend and computer emergency service!

Some of my "sort-of" family go to the theatre together, some of us find a café for an ice cream in town, some meet in a huge group to go for an annual walk in the autumn countryside, and others have pottery-making days together. I do all of these with different sort-of-family members and it is lovely for me to have them all.

As we get older there are special "big" birthdays that we get together to celebrate and more recently also weddings. Just as with my real family in England, the German family is always there when I need them, and I try to be there when they need me.

Just such an occasion arose this weekend

It made a change that I was the one who was needed.

My sort-of-step-son is coming up to his final exams at University. He is studying media design, I think that it is correct to say he is a film-maker.

We started making films together with my then new video camera in 1994, just a few months after we had first met. He was just nine years old.

He would spend hours during the week writing the most detailed film scripts imaginable, and would spent the weekends with me and his Dad filming them.

We were everything in three

We had continually to swap roles as and when necessary. Cameraman, actor, make-up artist, set-designer and costume-maker.

The last two of these roles usually fell to me and it is the role of costume-designer that I have been called upon to fill this week. I have been called in to paint the dress for the star of his final film at Uni! THis degree film.

What an honour and responsibility.

A last minute job!

Filming starts tomorrow!

The white dress was delivered to me last weekend. It has been hanging in the bathroom all week and the idea for the art-work has been hanging around in my head, waiting for the time and inspiration for it to fly out of my fingertips.

This idea actually appeared immediately that I was given the “job”. An the moment when I was told the background story of the film, a psycho-horror-thriller-murder-mystery I knew just how I would do it. Actually it is more accurate to say that I knew just how I wanted it to look but I had yet to work out the steps to achieve this.

I started to paint my ideas on to the dress at six a.m. yesterday, as I was suddenly inspired to start painting before I set off for work. Time was also an influencing factor, the dress was needed.

Last night I decided to leave the “canvas” hanging over the bath with its red blotches resembling blood stains, part of the scenario from the forthcoming film!

I waited until today to turn the “blood stains” into a design of beautiful red flowers trailing across the dress.

I had got to bed early last night and I was up bright and early today to complete the job in double-quick time, by the light of the early-morning sunshine flooding into the bathroom.

My bathroom is huge and doubles up as garden shed and artist's studio, as well of course as being used for the usual things a bathroom is used for.

It is not yet midday and the mission is accomplished

The dress is ready and waiting, hanging at the front door to be collected by the scriptwriter- director-producer-cameraman-lighting-engineer-sort-of-step-son sometime today, whenever he gets time. He is busy at the moment, collecting a fridge freezer (needed to keep a corpse fresh), gathering all the camera equipment together, buying nourishment for the crew and doing all the other stuff that goes into film-making on a student’s budget.

I will be out at the next “bits-in-between for conductors” when he calls so I will wait eagerly for a text message to hear whether my latest "work of art" meets with his approval.

The cameras start rolling for the degree film tomorrow and the Ohmrolle film presentations and degree awards take place some time next April. I am hoping that the tickets for this occasion will be less scarce than in other years. The students give them out to the people who could maybe enhance their careers. Family-members, especially from the sort-of-family, get what is left over.

But I have been promised a copy of the film.

Good luck with the filming, sort-of-step-son! I hope that it all goes to plan, I know from past experience that there won't be one detail that you will have forgotten.

I hope the dress is up to your high standards, I am sure your latest film will be just as successful as our 1994 “Bandit and Ketchup Man” series! Those were really lovely days full of so much fun and leaving such lovely memories, thank you for them.


Georg Ohm University -

Ohmrolle -


Text-message arrived, dress design met with the approval of the whole crew. Phew, what a relief!

Thursday 10 September 2009

Petö, Hári and a few bits in between!

Nürnberg, 8th September 2009

I do not think that September is going to be one of those blog-a-day months. We are already at the ninth day and despite a really intensive conductive beginning to the month there is hardly a blog posting to show for it!

If I manage to get in an Indian Summer holiday then more than likely October will be just as lean!

Please don’t desert me, I may be too busy to write but I am storing up the stories.

Stories such as those about six-year-olds playing trains while wearing my dad’s old fireman’s hat, at the same time as learning how to walk around on their knees, or about learning to sew with old fashioned wooden sewing hoops and real silk threads that belonged to my Mum when she was a child.

There are also more stories from the stroke group, who are continuing their campaign to teach our new client to talk and to walk. To add to “pink flower” and “green leaves” from last week, on Tuesday we had “Yes” and “No” instead of "Na, na, na, na", and a wonderful description of a Monet painting that any art critic would be proud of. With the help again of the rest of the group, the Monet picture was described as having “ blue sky, green umbrella, hat and lady”.

We also had the same new client walking out of the group at the end of the session, without his stick and with lots of smiles.

So yes, there will lots of stories to tell when I can find the time. Perhaps I will find Old Father Time during the Indian Summer holiday!

My Indian summer visitor

There has been a good reason for the lack of time for writing, as well as lots of work: this week’s visitor.

One of the “dots” on my map flew in to Nürnberg for a couple of days for an intensive conductive fix at the end of a long summer break, with the aim of returning to her work with renewed energy. As she got ready to board her plane, she told me that it had worked.

The “dot” was, a young conductor who works for a charity in Canada.

We have just been having a very intensive, post-graduate, two-day, unofficial “training course”! It was like my "work” always is, lots of fun and full of bits-in-between.

We have “done” stroke, multiple sclerosis, aduts with cerebral palsy and the school group. We have sewn, sung, played trains and memory, and covered András Petö, Mária Hári, the Petö Institute and NICE, all sprinkled with as many bits-in-between that we could manage. We did this all in the space of just forty-eight hours!

The NICE-trained conductor from Canada is probably already asleep on the plane winging its way to England. And at this very same moment, I am preventing myself from falling asleep on the tram on my way home from the airport, by writing this blog posting.

One of the reasons for this visit was really the same old problem, rearing its head up again: too many very young conductors work alone or in pairs without an older experienced conductor to turn to and the managers of their centres failing to acknowledge the conductors' need for tutoring or supervision. The same old story all over the world! Maybe if this changed there would be a slower turn-over of conductors. With a more permanent work force establishing itself centres could develop in all sorts of interesting directions.

In the early stages of the conductive centre here in Nürnberg we had supervisors for several years. With a good support system in place conductors stayed put for a long time. Two of the very first ones are still here thirteen years after the first conductive groups were established, with another in her eighth year.

This stability means that many projects have developed in many interesting areas. Continuing personal contact with schools and kindergartens, physiotherapists and other people with whom the conductors work is essential. Having long-term conductors has been a contributing factor to the survival and of the development of Conductive Education in our city. Anything that can be done to foster such a thing can be only to the good.