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Thursday 25 March 2010

The opsimath is catching up

A detail of Unfurling, by Susie Mallett, 24th March 2010

Bright bits from a long, tiring, do-it-alone conductor's fortnight

I had been looking forward so much to working as a part of a team but, due to illness, for two whole weeks I had to go it alone again, just as I often do.

But despite the long hours, sometimes three groups a day, with all the talking and the planning and furniture-moving done alone I realised that I still had time and energy to observe and appreciate the high points. Here are some of them, in order of appearance:

High point number one

My workers' group cooked Spaghetti Bolognese for the fortieth-birthday celebrations of one of the group members. Instead of flowers, the cleaning lady brought as a surprise, the dessert, chocolate mousse.

Two severely affected athetoid young men were grating parmesan cheese when she entered with her tray of calorific bombs! Later she told me that she hadn't been able to believe her eyes, when she saw that there were four flailing arms but no spilt cheese and no grated knuckles.

I actually couldn’t quite believe it myself! Especially as the two of them were also in fits of laughter at my comments on the ideal disability for cheese-grating. The cleaning lady told me later that she had described the scene to her husband and had said that until the two young men got the lumps of cheese caught properly in the flailing hands she hadn’t believed it was going to be possible, but when they got going it was a wonderful sight. They really did do it with gusto.

And the smiles afterwards were worth their weight in gold, or parmesan cheese.

High point number two

I taught a little boy how to ride his tricycle! It has been standing there for several weeks, shiny new and yellow, waiting for the snow to melt and the temperature to rise above minus lots.

I remember the joy that I had felt when I learnt to ride my two-wheeler, just as if it had happened yesterday. I had whizzed around the farmyard at my Grandparent’s house until eventually I fell off and the gravel that was embedded in my legs was causing pain enough for me to stop to go indoors for “treatment”.

I saw this same joy in this four-year-old boy’s face when, for the first time ever, he took off on his own, on the first bike that he has ever had.

He got his first wheelchair this week too, and is also learning how to drive around the place in that. Soon he will get some orthopedic splints and maybe then he will be moving around with a rolator. You never know.

For the moment, it is the bike that is all the go!

Learning to tie shoe-laces, learning to ride bikes, learning to sew or cut out, I love teaching all of these. But in fact it doesn’t really feel like these things are being taught. They are all things that need to be done together until the moment that something clicks. It means doing them as often as it takes for the learner just to take over and do it alone.

I suppose that it is teaching, but it somehow feels different and the joy on the face of the learner is different too. Perhaps it is because of there being that sudden realisation that no help is being given that makes the difference. Riding a bike is not really learnt step by step, it is not really learnt a little bit at a time, like when learning other activities like reading, writing, dressing etc. It is done as a whole with help, until it clicks.

High point number three

Becoming a Great-Auntie.

High point number four

Two little boys, both four- years old, learnt how to share toys.

One had injured himself at the weekend and had stayed at home for a few days. I was so happy to hear on the day of his return a shout from the other side of the room “Basti, a car for you, come on, hurry up.”

Before this they had always snatched each other's toys away from each other. A turning point for them both.

One of these boys has a problem pronouncing some letters and calls me Yogi, or Shogi, or even these days sometimes Yoshi The other child is from Turkey and speaks very little understandable German. Despite this he corrects the Yogi boy and tells him how to pronounce my name.

Bythe way, I heard this week that to add to this Turkish, German, Greek, English, Hungarian group of five, we are soon to have a sixth member and sixth nationality join us. Oh what fun!

High point number five

One of the Grandmas of a little girl from the school group thatI have in the afternoons, believes in her grandchild so much that she leaves her alone to walk to and from the car with the new, bigger rolator. I consider this extremely brave. Well done, Grandma!

High point number six

On Friday I had two groups in the afternoon and I had to work until seven in the evening, so I took the morning off! There was plenty of time before setting off for a long soak in the bath!

High point number seven

Making the littlies laugh on Friday afternoon.

I just love it when the two school children both turn up on the same day. It happened three times in a week. They love each other and we have tons of fun. We do crazy things and build the whole room into an adventure playgroud with stations in between for different activities. Between the climbing, we play skittles, basket ball and memory. We sew, we bake and we eat and drink. We also make each other laugh. Usually it is the children who make me laugh with their antics but sometimes like on Friday, I can bring a smile to their faces and even make them giggle.

High point number eight

The cleaning lady brought me the most amazing free-range eggs that I have ever seen. One of her chickens lays green eggs. Really green and translucent, like a duck's egg can be.

They tasted delicious, just like those my Mum used to send me back to art school with, when I was eighteen.

A bit about working alone

I expect that there were more high points but these are the ones that I remember. Since I wrote this posting down in my note book I have had two more weeks when once again I worked alone. This work has also had is high points, and its low points too. Some of them will be recorded here.

I still have three weeks to wait until I work with another conductor. I hope that with the coming of spring next time it will work out without illness. I am not very happy about working entirely on my own, and it has been this way since Christmas. It really is time for me to have a colleague to share the day with.

When working in groups alone or in homes with families it is very important for me to have a colleague at the end of the phone somewhere, just in case!

This really is a must when I am living with a family, away from the conductive centre sometimes for weeks at a time. I often need to talk to someone who is a step away from the situation, so that I can get a clearer view of what is going on.

Do I perhaps need a holiday?

I have just realised, after having done another two weeks work with several ten-hour days again, and this time just a one-day weekend, that it is only a week until Good Friday. That means a holiday in some countries, in others the workers will have to wait until Easter Monday. To me it means catkins and daffodils and hot cross buns for breakfast, and a long weekend. I am looking forward to that.

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