My visitors today

Saturday 31 October 2009

Status Quo

" The Wanderer", off to Australia in November 1987, with niece and Dad at Norwich railway station

They are playing in Bamberg tonight!

My all-time-favourite British rock band, Status Quo, playing just up the road without me!

I had an invitation to join friends at the arena but my own status quo is, as my Mum would say, “ill-a-bed-and-wos-up?”

The children’s coughs and sniffles got me just in time for the weekend and I hope that, having stayed in bed for most of the day, I have beaten the bug!

I am determined to get on with my backlog of blogging now, with Rocking all over the World, Whatever you want and the Wanderer, as “gentle” background music.

Click below to enjoy it too.


Wanderer -

Rocking all over the World -

Whatever you want -

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Made my day

Norwich Cathedral, 2005, by Susie Mallett

I am so thrilled, smiling as I clean my teeth this morning, because after one-and-a-half years of blogging now I have at long last a regular reader who appears on my map from my home town, Norwich!

I have no idea who that is but it gives me a different kind of thrill from when new dots appear from more exotic corners of the world. For example, today there are also new dots from Watford in England and Mexico, Tallin in Estonia (not quite so new but interesting, as I was there not too long ago) and Walla Walla in the USA (what a wonderful place name!).

The "Old Regulars", dots from Birmingham, Bristol, Bellefontaine OH, Florianopolis and many more, give me a warm homely kind of feeling.

Of course I have no idea who they all are, though sometimes I try to guess. The only time thatI am right is when it is my own dot and even that can come from anywhere within a thirty kilometre radius of my home here in Grmany!


Keep popping in readers, I will get a few more posting up this week I promise.

Now must fly off on my bike to work. It is " lovely Tuesday" again, my favourite work-day of the week, despite being twelve hours long.

No blogging again tonight I fear.

All you dots, in all those exotic worldly places, will have to wait a while longer for the next six postings that are piling up, bending the seams of my notebook!

I wish us all a happy, smiley successful day.

Saturday 24 October 2009

My Conductive Education

"A little bit of home", by Susie Mallett, 2008

It is my Conductive Education

My own Conductive Education is where it is today because I have fought incredibly hard to remain self-employed, and have therefore been able to decide for myself how I work, and I have worked for a chariity that allows conductors to run the show.
I hibernated hibernated like this for years, just getting on with it, avoiding the influences of the rest of the big wide world, with its endless round of discussion, congresses, money-wasting, getting nowhere fast. I have quietly refused to be a training ground for PTKs and my boss has respected this.
Mainly, my Conductive Education is where it is today because I decide for myself what I do and have rarely been influenced in my choices by anyone other than other conductors (which does not always mean positviely).

What has helped to shape its ends?


...and my clients and a few special people, some of them conductors, one of them my Mum.

What it has become today?

It is a development of all my skills and experiences, and it is good, and it works.

Where is it going now?

Hopefully into day centres for retired folk, and a farm for those who don't what to be confined in small places.
And into working in schools, without a word said about 'inclusion'.
Filling still more days with happy souls and fun.

My CE, where should it go in the future?

Perhaps I should keep on blogging, perhaps with enabling me reach more people and encourage more conductors in doing what their hearts tell them is right, not what some unknowing manager tells them is right.


These thoughts were written down very spontaneously in response to some questions that Andrew Sutton wrote on his blog yesterday -

They were at first just scribbled notes, for my eyes only, but I this morning I have decided to share them.

Looking back at my answers, they do rather look like a sort of testament.

Thursday 22 October 2009

What to do with an unexpected afternoon off

A Brit in Deutschland

"The Pram Parade", 1959 - thats me, as always on the right!

The Best Of British

I travelled home by tram today, emptied the letterbox, opened the front door, took off my coat and boots and, even before making a cup of PG Tips, I sat down on the rug with the post. Since then I have been reading my favourite magazine The Best of British.

To be specific, I have been reading the October issue of my favourite magazine, The Best of British. Fresh off the press!

It is a nostalgia magazine.

Readers of my blog will not be surprised to learn that I particularly enjoyed pages 30 and 31, which have an article called “Junk or Jewels?"

This article concerns all the items that one sees in antique or junk shops which evoke the comment "I had one like that, once upon a time". More often or not I say "I have one just like it, thanks to my hoarding Mum!",

On page 30 there is a photograph, top right, of annuals and jigsaws, all of which I still have (I hope!) at my family home in Norwich.

Top left is a picture of something very similar to my dolls pram, though this one is brown while mine is beige and had no basket on the front. Below this is a Lloyd Loom chair the likes of which sits in my bedroom at "home".

Then right at the bottom of the page are old Victorian postcards, of which I have many, and the tools that I still see in everyday use when staying with my Dad.

On the opposite page there is a photograph of the hairdryer that is still in use at home, a Morphy Richards model from the 1960s. Ours still lives in its original box.

Like most things mentioned in the article, and elsewhere in the magazine, it has the “Made in Britan” stamp on it, not “Made in China”!

I am beginning to realise that I am a little old-fashioned and not all together of today’s world. I have no objection to this and readers of my blog will also know that I have considerable respect for the fashions and music of yesteryear (see the column on the right).

If you are reading this in the UK, I can thoroughly recommend The Best of British if you would like to see the England that I live in inside my head, here in Germany.


Of course, nostalgia for the old days or not, I couldn’t be without my blog!

The Zahnfee

"Jack Frost", 19th October 2009

Children at work are still dropping like flies with sniffles and coughs and, I am pleased to say, they are staying at home until it is over with.

This means that I, and the remaining few children have stayed healthy, and also that my getting-bigger littlies group is actually getting smaller.

In fact this week it has been a group of one, two if you include me which I suppose we should do seeing that I am a member of the group.

So it has been me and a little boy of seven years old, a delightful child who until a year ago shed a few tears at the start of each and every day that he came to us, and who now never ever cries and never stops talking.

It is that nice sort of talking, the sort that makes you smile. Sometimes incredibly funny and always really interesting. I love littlies who talk like that.

He uses sophisticated language to tell me all sorts of sometimes useless and sometimes useful information.

Today was no different, today I think it was quite useful.

I have given much thought to today’s subject over the years that I have lived in Germany working with littlies and not-so-littlies, and today at long last it has been sorted.

Today I heard the story of the Tooth Fairy, about the German Tooth Fairy that is, the Zahnfee, not the English one who in my day brought us shiny, silvery sixpences to replace our milk-teeth.

The Zahnfee

As my little client was pouring out his apple juice, which he says is extra appley as his mum knows that’s how he likes it, he told me that it was the well-known hare, Felix, who was walking around on the outside of his drink bottle and that it is this Felix who tells stories on the CD’s that the Tooth Fairy leaves under his pillow to replace the milk-teeth she finds there, unless of course he has an extra special wish such as an aeroplane then this will appear under his pillow instead of a Felix CD.

Yes I know that was a very long and breathless sentence, but that is just how he talks! Gushingly!

I do sometimes get a chance to get a word in edgeways but I have to grab it at the moment that he pauses for a breath. I grabbed it here and asked:

“What does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth?” All the teeth from all the children in all the countries that the tooth fairy visits. (I believe Hungary isn’t one of these countries, is that right?). “Where does the fairy put them all? What happens to the milk teeth?” I continued asking while I still had a chance.

There was a little smile and a sort of a scoff from my little client, as if to say “Fancy not knowing that”, and then promptly came this answer:

“Tooth fairy puts all the teeth, as she collects them, into a small sack and then, when all the milk-teeth have fallen out she brings them back again. Places them under the pillow, in the little "milk-tooth box.”

A mystery solved

I had always wondered how the “milk-tooth box” of my older little friends could be full of teeth if the fairy had removed them one by one from underneath the pillow.

In England once we had our shiny silver sixpence safe in our money-box we never saw the tooth again.

Little boy’s story continued, no pause for breath this time. No time for questions.

“Once my Mum washed one of my teeth down the plughole when she was washing it so she wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining what had happened and saying how sorry she was and that she would put the letter under my pillow hoping the fairy would read it which she did, as the next morning there was a Felix CD there to replace the letter.”

Phew, a pause for breath at last before the story about the big wish for electric racing cars which was too big a wish for the Fairies so would have to wait for Christmas and the "Christkind wish-list". Time enough for me to ask a last question.

“What", I asked, "do the children do with all those teeth when they come back?

With a little contemplation and a cheeky grin came the reply: ”Well, I suppose they could make a necklace!”

Well, I suppose they could!

A sort of talisman. A “remember to stay young at heart” necklace, or perhaps a “remember to believe in the fairies necklace”, or a reminder of these lovely-moments-stories and where a year ago there were tears.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Do you know the Muffin Man?

"Would you like to make muffins today?"

"Oh, I am not sure I can do that."
Low and Muffin Man!

An afternoon treat!

Now that's what I call progress.

"Having fun yesterday"

From Yogi to Schogi, and from green to grün

All that progress in the space of a few days. Wahnsinn! Incredible!

First thing this morning my colleague commented on something that I had first noticed yesterday when I delivered one of our littlies back to the Kindergarten for lunch:

I am no longer Yogi.

I now get a Sch... at the beginning of my name. I find this just a little bit sad really, as the other children have got used to me being "Yogi" and so have I, but that's progress for you!

We are always having to adapt to change and that means me too. Now I have to start recognising my new name when I am called.
This will be as difficult as responding to Frau Mallett, a name that even after all these years I still do not respond to so that I wonder who the lady being called can be.

This morning, a couple of hours later, came the next development.

It was the same little boy and he appeared to have been answering me in English this week when I was asking him about colours. He pronounced grün as 'green', more with a Scottish accent than a Norfolk one.

Today he suddenly looked me straight in the eyes pushed his lips forward as if to give me a kiss and said grün! We all cheered and clapped. That of course delighted him so much that he said it again, and again, and again, and........ we clapped and cheered, and clapped and cheered!

Now I suppose thatI will have to find someone else to speak English with.

It is snippets like this that make me love my work. We had so much fun today, in our five different languages.


I was just wondering whether it possible to use ICF to measure the ability to have fun.

Monday 19 October 2009


"Three Norfolk mills", by Susie Mallett, 8th October 2009

There are still a couple more stories to tell about my recent stay in Norwich.

Here is one of them. One that has taken fifteen years for it to become a story.

Schools for parents

I have known about, had the number for and known personally the conductor/advisor for the Norfolk School for Parents since it opened in 1994.

I also know thanks to Gill that there is an article about the Norfolk School for Parents, in Early Years Educator, volume 5, No 9 January 2004.

I have also always known that I should one day visit the Norfolk School for Parents, when I am at home with my family who live less than a mile away from the centre.

I always forget it and all things conductive as soon as I hit home-base.

The time was ripe!

I almost did the same this time but I was jerked into action by a text message. Good old mobile phones, what did we do without them?

I received a text from a conductor who had just met the lady in charge of the School for Parents at NANSA (Norfolk and Norwich Scope Association). This conductor had immediately connected Norwich with Susie, asked for the number and sent it to me. Thank you, fellow-conductor, for that quick thinking!

I made the phone call, left my number and waited patiently for the return call while working in the garden, digging to my heart’s content. When the call finally came through, I was greeted enthusiastically and spent a good fifteen minutes swapping information with the head of the unit, Lorraine Roberts.

I was invited to visit them and given the opportunity to sit in on one of their sessions. I was delighted to be made so welcome. Perhaps it was my accent, I was on home ground. An appointment was made for the following week allowing time for the new term to get under way and the new parents and children to find their feet.

Scope conductors

At the same time that I was at the Petö Institute, 1989-1993, there were also British students sponsored by the charity Scope (then the Spastics Society) training to be conductors. Most of these conductors returned to the UK, to work in various Scope-run schools and in other centres.

In 1994 Scope encouraged the setting-up of a number of "Schools for Parents" around the country. Conductors did not work full-time in the centre in Norwich but they were involved in training and advising other professionals on how to run the groups. The two professionals who run the groups in Norwich have both been to Hungary to take a look at what was being done at the Petö Institute.

They then went on to run the parents groups themselves and have been doing so for nearly sixteen years.

Children attend its groups with a parent or carer once a week, in one of six weekly sessions in Norwich and in four that take place in the county.

The people in Norwich told me that many of these groups still run today across the country, perhaps like the one in Norwich with now very little input from Scope. Some of the groups have been absorbed into other educational or therapeutic centres and yet others do not exist at all any more.


NANSA was founded in the 1950s. It affiliated with the Spastics Society but was as determined, then as now, to remain an independent body. It has grown in size and developed to provide services for many people with special needs, their carers and other people involved in their lives, within Norfolk. The School for Parents is jusy one small part of what NANSA has to offer.

My Visit

One afternoon during my hols I went to watch one parents' group session in Norwich and I was warmly welcomed by everyone I met.

I was given a tour of the very well equipped building with its newly furbished parents' room, two group rooms, kitchen, bathrooms, seminar room and office on the ground floor and fund-raising and other offices upstairs.

English? German? Hungarian?

A very strange thing happened about thirty minutes into the session.

I suddenly realised that I was watching a group of children and parents and their teacher working in English. Before that point it could have been any of the three languages that I have worked in that I was listening too. What I was watching was all so familiar that I had at first not taken much notice of the language.

When the penny dropped however it really dominated my thoughts for a while.

There has been quite a lot of blogging and commenting about use of language in Conductive Education and I suddenly thought that this demonstrated quite well the importance of not making the words spoken too important, it is the activity generated that is important and it was this that I had been attending to.

An excellent practice

I enjoyed what I saw, the children and parents seemed to be enjoying it too. The two group leaders, both educators, not therapists, where really well organised and I went away with a good impression.

I am not sure how to describe what I observed on that afternoon. Perhaps the best description is that is was a very good example of education for children with special needs with the emphasis on teaching the parents how to teach the children.

The two women that I met who lead the groups were so enthusiastic about their work, full of motivating energy and very open to discussion.

I was very interested to see something happening that I have only ever experienced in adults' groups in Conductive Education. After the two-hour session was over the group leader, parents and children spent another thirty minutes all together in the family room. This was all part and parcel of the “programme”. The children could play, sleep or eat and the parents could discuss the session, home, other therapies and playgroups, themselves, siblings, their disabled child. They could talk about absolutely anything relating to their family situation with the group-leader present.

This is a relatively new addition to their programme, as the space for doing this has only recently become available to them. It is a great success. Just as it is in my adult groups.

A big thank you for my hearty welcome. I know it won’t be long before I make a second visit.


Sunday 18 October 2009

Mozart, Lalo and Beethoven

"The Meistersingers of Norwich", 1959

A sniffly go-slow start

I have had a muddled week. On getting back to work I discovered there were lots of children and staff missing through illness, or on a go-slow of "One, two, cough, sneeze, sniffle".

There have been lots of half-filled groups and days but next week, if I fight off the coughs and sniffles myself, then we should be in full swing again.

What is so enjoyable about my return is not only that, despite the coughs and colds, there is new and interesting work on the go again, but also that the "bits-in-between for conductors" are reappearing.

Actually the first bit-in-between was on the evening after I got back from my hols. A new colleague quite spontaneously invited me, and I quite spontaneously went, to a birthday party.

Despite knowing that I would not know a soul I went, as much for the adventure of an hour's bus ride through the autumn countryside to the back of beyond, as for the party itself. As it was a few days before the frost and the snow was making nature look grey and a bit miserable, but the splendour of the autumn colours in the late evening sunshine made the trip worthwhile.

And now a jolly treat

On Tuesday (that was the "somewhere over the rainbow” evening) two of the members of our lovely evening group were, surprisingly for us all collected, by their mothers.

Apart from the fact that they all like to meet each now and again the real reason that they had come was to offer me a ticket for this month's Wiener Klassik concert.

One of them was unable to go and knowing how much I would enjoy it they wanted me to have the spare ticket. It was the same family offering me this treat as had takenk me too see Nürnberg FC play football.

I was thrilled, and so glad that I was free on Thursday evening.

Always when I receive these treats another extra treat always accompanies it. And this time was no different, asI was collected from the doorstep by car. This meant I could wear wha ever I liked and did not have the need to put on all the layers that I would have normally done to trudge through the snow to the tram stop.

A wonderful evening

So I dressed myself up to the nines, just like when I used to go with my eighty-six-year-old friend to the Opera. It was lovely to be going out dressed like that again

It is the Weiner Klassik concert season once more. These eight onc- monthly concert are held at Nürnberg’s Meistersingerhalle.

I have been to several of these concerts and I knew that I would probably be one of the youngest present, and I knew too that the audience are always very critical and tend not to like anything unknown or a bit modern! They also look lso very conservation. in their black-and-sparkles style of dressing, which I had done my best to compete with with my art-studenty style of dress.

The nicest music that I have ever heard

The concert was gorgeous.

My treat began with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, a well-known and muc-loved piece.

The programme then continued with the “feared” modern piece, which turned out to be the biggest treat of the evening, with the soloist and conductor having to return to the stage to take their enormous applause six times. This was the Spanish Symphony in D minor by a man called Lalo, with the violinist Tianwa Yang playing the solo exquisitely.

Most of the well-versed audience confessed to never having heard of him. I hadn’t either but now I am a big fan. During Lalo’s symphony I fell into a world of my own. I can image that my neighbours thought I was asleep. I wasn’t, I was in my fantasy world of dancers, woodland scenes, snowflakes and falling leaves. Each new note making the images more vivid. I was only brought back to the present when the clapping stopped and the lights went up

The interval was spent promenading with the crowds. It was just like being on the prom at Great Yarmouth, or in a Central European square on a summer evening.

To end the programme there was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. It was good but I think I was not the only one in the Meistersingerhalle who still had Lalo’s music ringing in the ears.

The encore

What else could it be than a piece from Wagner’s The Meistersingers. from Nürnberg? This of course brought another huge applause at the end of a relaxing evening.


Treats-in-between such as this one are-extra special. I love to go out to classic and rock concerts with my clients, to share their enthusiasm for the music of their choice and to be a part of the over-all "family upbringing".


"somewhere over the rainbow” refers to this posting of mine -

Symphonie espagnole, E Lalo

Tianwa Yang

Klassische Philhamonie Bonn

The Meistersingers from Nürnberg, Wagner -

Tears for fears

" Nurse Big Sis and my forever crying knee", 1959


Crying is sometimes explained away by the bio-chemists as a way to getting the hormones in the body back in balance again, ridding the body of “stress” hormones, whatever they may be. Others, more psychologically, may describe crying as a means of communicating the need for help, the presence of pain, or of sadness. It has even been proposed that, because crying blurs the vision, it plays a role in lowering aggression or actions of defence, which I suppose might be useful on the battle field, though I cannot see how!

Whatever crying is we all know that we feel better after a good dose of it.

Crying cropped up this week in two conductive blog postings. It was mentioned in mine because of its absence, and in Andrew Sutton’s because of a lot of it.

In Andrew’s posting crying was mentioned in a quote from a parent’s blog.

Children cry

Children very often cry when they are in new situations, all children, not just children with disabilities. Some children don’t cry at all and some children stop crying as they get used to a situation, but others don’t.

Over twenty years ago my niece and nephew attended nursery group for a year, at the same school they attended later. My nephew cried every day for the whole year, starting each day as his mum left him at the door. His twin sister didn’t cry at all, she took her brother by the hand and played with him until he had stopped and could join in the fun. He always stopped, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but he always stopped. All children stop eventually.

I cried every morning for six months as a four-year-old when my sister went off to school and left me alone at home. I stopped crying when I joined her at school, having been sent a term early particularly in an attempt to stop the crying. It worked, I didn’t cry about going to school, I loved it for fourteen years because Big Sis was there. When she left a year before I did, I didn’t cry, but I didn’t love school any more.

Children cry for different reasons it is a natural phenomena there is no need for parents to worry about their children crying in a group.

Crying in Conductive Education

What is it with Conductive Education and crying, why does it get so much airtime?

Parents discuss crying a lot. Crying makes it hard for them to leave the children, and there needs to be a good understanding between the parent and the person they give their child to.

Perhaps it is because children attending conductive groups have never yet been left anywhere before, perhaps because of their disabilities or perhaps because of their parents’ fears. Maybe these parents have never experienced the phenomenon that, whereas some children cry when left somewhere, others don’t.

It was nice to have no tears in the first day of my new group, but it isn’t the end of the world if we do have them. They are so quickly forgotten.

For conductors crying is normal, an everyday hazard that we see as part and parcel of the job we do, especially if one has worked in the International Group at the Petö Institute, as I did! There, with new children almost every Monday morning we rarely had a quiet start to the day. Quiet starts only develop when a group grows together and children get used to the environment and each other.

Even with tears we still have lots of fun, we still learn a lot and, most important of all, we still decide that it would be nice to come back another day.


Jackie Wilson Lonely tear drops -

Susie Mallett -

Andrew Sutton -

Thursday 15 October 2009

Multi-kulti and no tears

"A warm October day, last week" 2009 by Susie Mallett

Our new Kindergarten group started today

The children have had long enough now to settle in to their new environmment in our integrated Montessori - conductive Kindergarten to be able to come to yet another new environment without too many difficulties.

One of the difficulites of the past few weeks for these littlies was tears of which today there were none at all to be seen!

We were thrilled at lunch time when we rejoined the rest of the Kindergarten and one of the teachers immediately asked us what we had done to the children. Apparently they were changed beyond recognition. Bright and perky, very attentive, chatting and even eating!

Chatting is perhaps a bit of an exageration but we did very well considering that there is only one German in the group. This is the little boy who calls me Yogi. I think I explained in a previous blog posting that he says this because he has difficulties pronouncing the letter S. The S is replaced with a different letter each time he uses it, although funnily enough I am always Yogi. It is not any easier to understand his German that it is to understand mine!

Apart from him there were conductors from Hungary and England and children from Greece and Turkey.

I don't think that beats our nationality and language record. Once we had a German, a Hungarian and an English conductor, an American/German National Service helper, a Russian volunteer, one English and one Polish, one Greek and three German clients.

Today however in comparison to the record-breaking language-day when we all spoke German, we had two children that until joining the kindergarten hadn't spoken German before at all.

Our little German Yogi-Bear was able to show them all the tricks of the trade as it is now his second term with us.

And of course there was me! The English conductor who has been away too long and who keeps getting muddled up. I even started off in Hungarian today, which at least one of the gang understood!

A great time was had by all.


We were very hesitant about starting our group. I believe it is the first time ever in fourteen years of Conductive Education in Nürnberg that we have had no children in a group with cerebral palsy.

It is also the first time I or my colleague been "in charge" of the real littlie's group so we are shaing it!

As I wrote above the teachers in the Kindergarten were singing our praises after the first day so that gave us the start we needed and all the children want to come back on Monday!

So no more worries, just a lot of fun to come.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

I could smell the snow coming all day

There was a strange light in the room as my evening group were
arriving so I went outside to investigate why.
This is what I saw:

Then seconds later it turned into this:

......and then it snowed!
I knew it would I had smelt it coming all day.

I called indoors to ask the last person to arrive whether she was still in her wheelchair as there was a wonderful rainbow to see. No one was still sitting, they were all walking with sticks or in the bars ready and waiting for work to begin, but quick as a flash they were in their chairs and back out through the door to see this spectacle. I am sorry I didn't photograph their lit up faces.

We started the group late but we had fed our souls and already done the best work of the evening ... a fifty metre dash to the end of the rainbow.

A trip down memory lane

Sis and me, 1960

Grandma and two sisters, 1960

"Joyland" by Susie Mallett 1976

"My Uncle at Joyland " by Susie Mallett 1976

Me on horse Great Yarmouth 1963

A Norfolk sky by Susie Mallett, October 8th 2009

Great Yarmouth by Susie Mallett, October 8th 2009

Berney Arms Mill by Susie Mallett, October 8th 2009

"Joyland" by Susie Mallett October 8th 2009

"Joyland" by Susie Mallett October 8th 2009

On my last day in England I took a train journey. I think I can honestly say that it is my favourite train journey of all time, especially at this time of the year with misty, moisty mornings, cobwebs covered in dew and autumn sunshine.

Across the marshes to Great Yarmouth.

It was almost thirty-four years to the day since I began making this journey on a regular basis at the beginning of my adult life. I had left school and embarked on my art education with a foundation course at Great Yarmouth Art School. Being a Norwich girl I should have gone to Norwich Art School but I decided Great Yarmouth, and of course its art school, had more to offer. I was lucky as Yarmouth offered me the place first and it was with a very happy soul that I travelled daily from September 1975 till June 1976 on the 08.12 railcar to the seaside!

Everyday for that year after leaving the warmth of the train I would pull my flying jacket tight around me to face the bracing winds and I took a detour each morning to take a stroll on the deserted beach.

Even then I knew Great Yarmouth well, it being my grandmother’s home town. She ran a hotel in Norwich but all her sisters still lived at the coast and I remember with mixed feelings the visits that we made to our Victorian aunties and uncles. These visits were a mixture of fun, and trepidation. I hated the cuddly “Oh, how you have grown” stuff but I loved exploring in the old paper mill by the harbour where one Auntie lived and at the olde-worldly tea parties I was in my element.

There would be transparent wafer-thin sandwiches spread with crab paste, there was tea from the translucent pink china cups that I have now inherited. There were tit-bits piled onto a three-tier cake-stand the likes of which I am still searching for in the junk shops and car-boot sales!

That’s my Great Yarmouth of the 50s and 60s, not much to do with the sea and beach, we enjoyed that elsewhere. Somewhere where my mother could relax and would not feel obliged to visit relatives and behave herself by not eating chips on the market or licking an ice cream in the street. We just didn’t do it there in case someone of importance spotted us and reported back to the Victorian aunties! I still wouldn’t do it today even though there isn’t a soul there now who knows me!

In those days we usually made the trip by car, a black Ford Prefect with red leather seats, so it was only later that I discovered the delights of the train journey. The road and the railway track run parallel for much of the journey and along side them both run the rivers and the cut. It still thrills me today to look across the flatness and see the white sails of yachts seemingly moving effortlessly along through the fields.

Our visits as children would be to dark-brown Victorian houses, where smartly dressed ladies sometimes even wearing gloves, would meet us. There were four sisters, my grandma and three great aunts. Sometimes they would all be there and on occasions one or both of their two brothers.

My sister and I really did have to be on our best behaviour, seen but not heard. The more people there were gathered the easier it was for us to escape and we could always rely on the help of a Great Uncle who, also avoiding the ladies, would entertain us. He chased us in the garden and in and out of the house and down all its secret passages in much the same way as he had played with my mother.

Later in the 1970s I got to know my own Great Yarmouth which was no longer influenced by those golden days when Yarmouth had been the place for Londoners to take refreshing holidays. Being a port it never did have quite the status of Cromer or Sherringham but my Grandmother’s family didn’t seem to realise this. Great Grandfather was a chemist and therefore a man of much stature in the town, and his five girls where known as the most beautiful in town. They were shown off at every party, tea dance and ball but sadly none of them really found the prince of their dreams!

The day that I started travelling to Yarmouth alone in September 1975 I remember feeling just like I did on that day in 1989 when I went off to Budapest. It was another day that changed my life. The time at Yarmouth art school was extra special. It was a time when I discovered that I really enjoyed doing something and was actually already getting quite good at it: drawing.

As I have mentioned in other postings I discovered a teacher there from whom I learnt to draw.
He and his wife remain my friends and it was to meet these two that I went on my favourite train journey again last week, on an autumnal misty, moisty morning over the Norfolk marshes.

None of us feel any different now to how we were thirty four years ago, we don’t look much different either, except we all three have greying hair.

We still love being in each others’ company and we thoroughly enjoyed this trip down memory lane, the first time we have met in Great Yarmouth for years. We usually meet up at home either theirs or my family’s.

We looked at the market, the beach, the harbour and the estuary. We drove past the art school and several of my favourite drawing haunts. While waiting at the station for my return train we concluded that really nothing had changed, even the chips on the market smell the same and still I didn’t dare eat them!

We remembered because we were in situ many things that were long forgotten. Adventures such as building huge kites which got blown out to sea, the brave ones dressing up for rag week in wigs and straw skirts (not me), cycling twenty miles for a celebratory pub-lunch when we had all been accepted for degree courses and silly things like who cried at the drawing crit at the end of the big all-day-draw on Thursdays (again not me).

Yarmouth is much the same apart from the off shore wind farm, a few more seats in the market square and the new harbour that is just under construction. The Noah’s Ark and the octopus have disappeared from Joyland at the end of Britannia pier. The metal palm trees remain as does the wonderful Victorian architecture that is hidden behind flashing lights and gawdy, kitsch facades.


Great Yarmouth

Joyland – I went on this ride on 24th June 1976 as a treat with the art school’s printmaking lecturer. If you look closely you will see the palm trees in the background.

Monday 12 October 2009

For Sale – England

"Fancy that!", Cromer, October 2009 by Susie Mallett

England is for sale or should it be England is on sale?

I think that I could say:

England is one big sale
Everything is going cheap, apart from the birds. Everyone complains that there are fewer and fewer of them in the gardens.

Almost everyone I met while I was in England was either talking about “two for the price of three” or “buy one get one free”. This was often from older retired folk, boasting proudly about their weekly supermarket shop, but I noticed there were "2 for 3 stickers" on most of the books in Waterstones and WH Smiths too, no longer just on the selected few that haven’t been selling well.

In the high streets and in the malls the shops that are still open have offers for today’s bargains written in white paint all over the windows. I was unsure whether I had caught the end of the summer sales or the beginning of the January sales. It could be the January sales, as Christmas had already started when I arrived in the UK in September! It is all a bit confusing.

Another shopping highlight for the Norwich locals was the opening of a new Aldi store that, unlike most Aldi stores in Germany, was build in a row of shops on a high street just out of town. Easily accessible to all, supplying even more cheap food to discuss at evening classes or on the bus.

At the end of the day the market-stall holders were selling off their wares at one pound for a bowl. A lot more marketeering is being done these days, the banter from the stall holders still entertaining the crowds of bargain-hunters, just like when I was a child. The prices seem not much higher than fifty years ago either!

What I found very interesting is that while consumables are all going cheap, with bargain prices advertised and sale signs everywhere, even in the banks, I noticed far fewer FOR SALE signs in front gardens. Perhaps the slump in prices has seen a buying frenzy and the houses have all been snapped up, or maybe the low prices have put people off selling for a while. I expect the papers are full of the answers to that one.

Meanwhile the rush to find the cheapest Sunday dinner goes on.


As usual I found shopping in England far more pleasurable than I do in Germany, and not because of the bargains. I always feel like the cashiers are treating me like the Queen, even in a supermarkets, where every till is manned and where I am always surprised by generous amount of time the cashiers take to serve their customers.
There are rarely queues!

Sunday 11 October 2009

Dew we cue har?

"Cromer beach, no queues here!" October 2009

I had to queue up to leave the green and pleasant land!

I know that Brits are well known for queuing, anywhere and everywhere.

I used to get laughed at in Hungary while waiting for the tram, when my Hungarian friends would have to encourage me to use my elbows so that I could secure myself a place, especially during the rush hour.

Have I been in the quiet Norfolk countryside for too long?

I was suprised by the busy airport and I hadn’t realised that I would have to queue up quite so many times to get out of the country.

I queued up nine times between Norwich Bus Station and getting on the plane. It was my slowest and busiest experience at an airport ever, even worse than days when bombs have been exploding in London and security has been tightened.

The queues

  • I queued to board the bus in Norwich.
  • I queued to get off the bus in London.
  • I queued to check in, which I had to do twice.
  • I queued to go through to the hand-luggage check, which I also had to do twice.
  • Then there was the queue to be fumbled with when the buzzers went off despite my having no boots and no belt: soon we will have to go through naked!
  • Then I queued for the transit train.
  • Finally I queued to show my ticket and passport before reaching the plane.

I omitted two queues from this list as they were not really a part of leaving the country. One of these was when the bus joined the M11 and another was to buy a much-needed coffee after the first six or seven queues were over with.

During most of the waiting times I had my book under my arm and a sketch pad in my bag. If I haven't got either of these with me I can entertain myself for hours with all the games that I play when observing people. I wonder how long it will be before the airports come up with some kind of queue entertainment for those who cannot "do it themselves"!

Will it be buskers for frequent flyers or even Karaoke practice for those heading out to the clubs and pubs of Ibiza?

All those taped-off lanes would be perfect for some kind of racing game, perhaps the hundred-yard dash to the duty-free, to see who can put most in their basket before their turn comes in the queue to be frisked!

I hope next time that I book a flight the cheapest tickets won’t be on a Friday evening when all the business men are flying home and forming queues all over the place. But on the other hand by then I may be treated to some "airport entertainment".


Dew we cue har? - Do we queue here?

The title of this posting is in Norfolk dialect and is something we tend to say often. It became an "in-joke" at Great Yarmouth Art School in the days when, for some reason, instead of trying to loose the accent we exaggerated it. That was the seventies, a time when it really was not at all fashionable to speak like a country bumpkin, à la Pam Ayres.


It is nice to be back in my other home but I was sad to see the end of my very English Indian Summer. It was so warm that I had lunches out in the garden and even a paddle in the sea at Cromer, along with the crabs, the young herring gulls and holes with stones around them.

No queues there, not even at the ice-cream parlour on the pier. In October the East Coast is deserted but for a brave few locals with their dogs and cameras.

Huckleberry Finn!

"London from the Eye" by Susie Mallett, 2005

I often wonder what the German-speaking world must think of us Brits.

I am sure that when I am in Germany I don’t do an awful lot to discourage them from their opinion that we are on the whole more than a little bit eccentric!

While on my travels over the past few weeks I acquired a newspaper from Vienna, a freebie called the Kurier.

It has, just like many of the freebie papers that come through my door in Nürnberg, an article on its back page about Britain. These back-page snippets are often anecdotes about British life, or occasionally there is a story about a British celebrity or the Royal Family.

In this Austrian paper it is a story about London Cockneys that has caught my eye. Cockneys are the people from London who are born within the sound of Bow Bells in the east-end of London, people like my grandmother and grandfather and all the great aunts, uncles and cousins who were part and parcel of my colourful childhood.

I can remember being in parties in our “only for best” front room, moving amongst people who were all speaking in a dialect that I loved but rarely understood, and sometimes I even heard a language (Cockney-slang) quite foreign to my ears. It was like being at home in a foreign country. These Cockneys were so open and friendly and loud, and very funny. So different to us gentle, reserved and private Norfolk folk who to the Cockney ear also spoke an unintelligible dialect.

Together we made a happy bunch and to an outsider listening we were almost certainly incomprehensible!

Back to the Wien Kurier

The Kurier tells us that on Roman Road in the East End of London where, my niece-in-law tells me, you can buy the best pie and mash with gravy in the world, there is a cash machine with a button that gives the option to choose your language. The most popular choice, it seems, is Cockney rhyming slang!

Yes, this really is a choice and many people seem to enjoy using it. There is, the article tells us, always a queue. Some of the users, maybe tourists, need the help of the locals in the queue to get their hands on their money.

Some of the people quoted enjoy the joke. Others are sceptical. Some think it is all an advertising campaign, other think it makes a jolly change. The foreign newspapers add it to their list of British eccentricities!

Most of the readers of the Kurier will have no idea what Cockney rhyming slang is. They may be none the wiser from reading this article which tries, unsuccessfully in some cases to translate it. My sister looked over my shoulder as I translated the article for her and asked “Why does it say es ist too much, kritisiert ein Eastender, half in English and half in German?” I explained to her that this is a very popular and at the same time very confusing journalistic style in common use in many German newspapers. Throwing in a spot of English is very trendy.

What is “too much” we will never know but quite possibly it is the use of rhyming slang in inappropriate places. Another Eastender is quoted as saying that it is only a treat for the tourists. Real Cockneys wouldn’t be using the cash machine anyway, as they would all rather hide their money under the mattress.

Making connections

Whenever I write a posting about my life I always wonder what connection there is, if any, to Conductive Education. In this case I first thought that the connection was only that my interest in language has been generated from being in Hungary, then in Germany, and from working in different countries as a conductor, facing the many problems language and translation problems that this presents.

That was until I read that the original purpose for using Cockney slang has been diminished through its exaggerated use in everyday speech. This led me to think about whether the exaggerated use of the so called “conductive principles” (the one-two-three, and plinths and ladders) in many non-conductive settings has assistied in doing the same for Conductive Education.
While some terms have become well known the original meaning has perhaps been lost.


Huckleberry Finn -
This is used in the Roman Road cash-machine as rhyming slang for pin number, an example of modern cockney slang.
Kurier, Saturday 19th September, "Millionenshow beim Geldabheben" -