My visitors today

Thursday 29 April 2010

Progress report

Blackbird and thrush by K.L. Mallett, 2010

I have just enjoyed a phone call from my young-man client with whom I did lots of bus journeys, museum visits and trips to cafes for lunch, when I was with him in March.

Primarily, he said that he wanted to hear how I am and then went on to tell me that his work is going well, much better than before my visit and my chat with his group leader.

He asked me for a few "tips", as he calls them, on how to get on better with the colleague who sits opposite him at his work-bench. He told me about his twin-brother passing his final exams today and actually left all the important things about himself until last.

I got reports in the end on how independent he has become. He is going on much longer walks alone in the village and he is regularly watering the flowers on his Grandmother's grave whenever he has the time. He is still helping his father every evening in the workshop clearing away tools.


The best news for me was when he casually told me that he had been to physiotherapy after work today and that for the second week running he had been dropped off there by the work bus, and as usual his Mum met him afterwards. The difference today was that, instead of Mum walking with him to her car, she walked with him to the bus stop. Where he waited alone for the bus to his village and Mum went home in her car alone.

He is so happy that he is doing these things alone. He just asked whether, when I am there again in August, we can go travelling around the countryside again. He is keen on another trip to Paderborn, this time to have lunch with my friend and conductor-colleague before he returns to his home. Alone.

All fine by me

It is lovely when my clients take the bull by the horns and plan the daysfor themselves. That's real life, planning exciting things to do, taking oneself into new and exciting places where it is possible to learn and to grow. I am more than willing to go there with my client and share the learning process with him.


Landscape by Susie Mallett, 2nd April 2010

I was browsing through the "Conductive World Jobs" pages and I noticed something that I do not think I have ever seen before. Someone has written in to say that the posts that he had advertised have now been filled.
I just looked again to get the references for this posting to discover that Andrew Sutton has beaten me to the post and has already thanked Rick Devolder for being thoughtful enough to tell any potential applicants that they can save their time because the jobs have been filled.

I still would like to thank Rick for being so considerate and I wish him all the best in his work with his new colleagues.

Smiling today

Lastest news

The supervisor and the leader of the Kindergarten came into our group today. We had the intergrative "Petö" children with us this morning, including the young man with the new shoes, new bike and new wheelchair.

They were both amazed, actually they thought we had a new child in the group. There he was, walking on the plinths! He was up there pushing a stool, alongside the walkers in the group, and grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

It appeared that he would have stayed up there for the rest of the morning he was so happy, but he eventually made it down to the floor again and crawled off as fast as he could to the wall bars, where he quickly stood up again. He sang to himself, let go of the bars and clapped his hands and had more fun while he waited for the others to join him.

He joined in all our singing of songs with movements today and again communicated with his peers. What is more, for the fourth day running, he stayed awake for three whole hours. We like to believe that this is because he is afraid he will miss something exciting.

I am sorry to say there are no photos of today’s action. I was otherwise engaged. I was needed at the plinth walk-way so I could not man the camera

Arty time

Here, though, are some photographs above of the group’s attempts at self-portraits. The features on most of them went a bit skew-whiff, but they are works of art none the less.

The children do well with recognising features when we sing and play, and they have to point to their own eyes, mouth, nose, etc, but when it comes to painting them on a face they get a bit confused, to say the least.

When they have a clown face with stick-on features in front of them they have no difficulties then to complete the picture, but even with a mirror and lots of verbal guidance the painted self-portraits produce some really peculiar characters!

On Monday a bit of conductive spontaneity came into practise when we changed the craft theme for the week. Now anything goes that has to do with ears, eyes, mouths, hair, noses, cheeks, eyelashes etc. Next week bread-dough masks and puppets on sticks are on the cards.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Sometimes I could cry

31st March, 2010 "Aimee's first encounter with Grauntie S."

A bike, shoes and a wheelchair

Six or seven weeks ago now I wrote about teaching a five-year-old boy to ride his new bike, that was just before I left Nürnberg for six weeks. At the conductive centre in Nürnberg WE have been waiting for this child to get a bike, a wheel-chair, under-the-knee orthopedic splints and new shoes, since October 2009!

At last we have them all, and we also have a "new" child in our midst!

The wheelchair and the bike arrived in February and March, and while I was away the splints and the shoes arrived too. For three whole days I have been fighting back the tears.

Today this child who has never been on his feet walking until the splints arrived, walked sideways holding on to what ever furniture was put there for him to hold on to. He did it all on his own! No one was beside him and no one telling him what to do. He just wanted to get from the play area to the table, for his breakfast.

Each day this week he has been walking with a ladderchair, in his new shoes and splints, on his very spindly legs from one room to the other. A distance that some of our long term "Petö" children consider to be a marathon. It is hard to believe that this is the same child who before he came to us spent hours in a corner flapping his hands before his eyes and clapping. What else had he to do? He was keeping himself amused.

Today this child, with his new-found view of life, amuses himself in different ways. He played today with the other children in the group, he spoke to us spontaneously, he showed us that he can count and that he knows the noises that animals make. He hardly ever waved his hands about in front of his eyes as he was too busy moving about and socialising. He responded to instructions, and he smiled and smiled and smiled. Not surprising really, the amount of praise he was getting! In his place I would have been smiling too.

This is the same child that was on the point of getting the stamp "autistic"on his files. I wonder what those who were making such judgements would have on the stamp if they had seen him in the group today.

For us he was top of the class. He was motivated, socialising, learning at break-neck speed and most important of all, he was wide awake and happy.

Why should I cry?

I could cry because this child really did sit on the floor in the centre that he attended before coming to us, he was afraid of all the other children there, who were noisy and running around him hectickly. He slept a lot and cried a lot when he could have been riding around in a wheelchair or on a bike, when he could have found his feet and with them a completely knew outlook on life.

But there will be no tears now, there is no time for them. We have too much to catch up on. We just look forward to the future with progress and developments that will make up for the lost years. How lucky we are to be witnessing a bit of magic taking place, sparkly eyes being created and a soul being filled with energy.

Yes it is nice to be back at work. It is nice to be believing in the children and in their abilities, just like our family believe in Aimee. I am also enjoying observing the results of our belief and expectations, and everyone's hard work.

Planes and buses, but sadly not boats and trains

"Cutting asparagus", Norwich, April 2010

"Listening to asparagus growing"

"Flags flying", Gorleston, Norfolk, St. Georges Day

"Oh, we do like to walk along the prom!"

"Could that be a vapour trail?", Gorleston

Conductive posts, conductive upbringing and living

Last week I was asked by a friend when my blog-readers are going to see a conductive posting again. I dont remember now what I answered. I probably brushed the question aside as quickly as I could, knowing how little time I have these days to write.

I do however remember what I have been thinking about since the question was asked. Whatever it is that I write about, whether it is the weather, my life, my experiences or my work, it is all conductive. I have no such thing on my blog as a non-conductive posting! I think conductively, I see the world conductively, I live conductively, so surely my writing is conductive too. Not always about conductive upbringing but always conductive.

I have been on holiday, a longer holiday than I expected and one that has done me the world of good. I made especially good use of the extra five days that were handed to me on a plate by Eyjafjallajokullan, the Icelandic volcano that sprung into action. The very last day of the extended leave was spent with my family in glorious sunshine at the coast. For the very first time for forty years I ate a whole portion of greasy chips on the prom, how more conductive can I get than that!

When I include the time that I was away working before my holiday, I have been living out of a suitcase for six weeks. You can perhaps imagine how lovely it is to be back in my flat. Now after two days I can honestly say it is also nice to be back at work.

I dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, as I think the whole day through,

To think and dig and dig and think is what I like to do!

When I was at home with my Dad, doing lots of digging in his lovely garden I found the programme for a 1967 junior-school production of Snow White. My name was on the programme along with those of all my class-mates because we had all been given a role – If not as a dwarf or a wicked step-mother then in the chorus, singing the jolly songs.

I remember to this day the words to most of the songs that we sang, and the one that inspired the words in the sub-title often comes to mind as I work in the garden.

As I dig beside my Dad, I think. My thoughts are not only about work but they often are. I plan groups, get inspiration for art projects, write blogs and paint pictures with my minds eye. I save all of this in my own personal data-bank until I need it. At other times my observation skills are in action, both conductive and artistic, as they are impossible to separate. I watch the birds, the flowers, the skies, the trees, the ladybirds, the foxes skulls and bones, and last week I watched the asparagus grow, almost in front of my eyes. Three weeks after weeding it with Dad, there it was tall enough to pick and eat.

Discovering babies

Even more conductive were the observations that I made of my great niece. For many hours I sat on the floor beside her carry-cot, watching her every move as at only three weeks old she discovered her world. I was constantly asked by her parents, “Don’t you wish to hold her?”.

No not really, I didnt. I wanted to watch her and learn from her. I am so sorry that I wont be able to do this on a daily basis so that I can continue to learn from her. Photos and Skype will have to suffice.

I was totally engrossed in watching her movements and her reactions, amazed by her attempts to socialize and interact with different members of the family. I watched when she turned her head the moment that she heard her fathers deep, loud voice in the next room, and how she squiggled with delight as her Mum listed all the lovely things they were going to do with each other the next day. When my Dad, her great-grandfather was beside her, talking to her, she could not take her eyes off him, and when she was placed in his arms it wasnt long before the two of them were sleeping soundly.

Of course I was thinking and observing all this time conductively, but the artist in me was also present as I longed for enough time to paint her lovely wrinkle-free face and her lovely long fingers with perfect nails.

I wanted to capture those moments when she discovered the softness of her own cheek, and perhaps realized how different it was to the roughness of her Dads one-day old beard. I wanted to record the time a few days later when she discovered that she had two hands, and now, just a week later, a picture has arrived that shows me that her thumb has now discovered her mouth.

Yes, I am looking at my great niece and learning from her in my role as a conductor, I have never spent so much time with a very young baby before, but of course am loving my niece as the great auntie that I am. That makes a big difference to just being at work!

As I said, I dont know any babies, I never have done except for my sisters twins who I only saw once in a while and just happen to be twenty-seven years old today. I was in Budapest studying when all my contemporaries had their babies and the friends that I later made in Germany all had older children.

New-born babes have been for me, until the past few weeks, a completely unknown quantity. I find that a pity really, as I have found our new family member fascinating. It has been a privilege to have had those three or four afternoons with her. There were times when yes, I was the great grandfather's daughter, the grandmothers sister, the dads auntie,and of course when I was filling the grauntie role, but mostly I must admit that I was a conductor. I was constantly reminded of the importance of my work in the upbringing of children with motor disorders and I was reassured that, despite having so little experience of new-born babies, what I am doing and what I am teaching families to do is certainly on the right track.

We as conductors must encourage families to give their babies the experiences that my little niece Aimee was learning from, spontaneously, and at only a few weeks old at that. Moving her head to follow faces and moving her eyes to follow voices, moving her hands in front of her eyes, accidentally touching other parts of her body until after a few days she began to do the same movement on purpose, as she does when she now sucks her thumb.

Yes, I do believe that my postings are all conductive, from watching asparagus grow, to observing children playing in the waves on the beach and to being fascinated by lovely Aimee. My holidays are as conductive as my working days, my cycling and my adventures with trains.

That brings us back to the Planes and buses, not boats and trains of the title.

Home again, home again

I actually travelled back to Germany at the weekend by bus and plane, as I usually do. I was quite disappointed but it was the easiest, quickest and cheapest method in the end. I would have enjoyed that train journey across northern Europe so much and I still have plans to do it at some time in the future. Once, when I have less luggage!

I arrived home after my six-week absence from my flat, more than three of them in England. When I was last here there was snow still piled high at the side of the streets, now the dandelions are in full bloom and the apple-blossom buzzing with bees. Times have changed, so have the seasons.

I am back at work in full swing, with five different groups this week. Who knows, maybe my conductive blog postings will be about conductive upbringing in the coming days or weeks. To start me off, here are just a few words on something that I have just read on the Conductive Community Forum. There is something posted there from a third-year trainee conductor. The student wishes to know our thoughts on whether people who are not conductors should be leading a task series.

I wonder why the student isnt asking for discussion about whether people who are not qualified as conductors should accompany a child to the toilet. Surely, this is the more important question, surely the bathroom is one of the places where the actual conduction is taking place? Just like it is in the asparagus bed weeding, or on the beach with a bag of chips.

Notes on photographs

St George's day

The "flag-flying" in the picture above has nothing to do with patriotism. We were celebrating the extra holiday that I had been given and the glorious weather. I had just bought the flags as a present for the children at work who, I had been told, were following with great interest my slow return to Germany. I found the flags in the same seaside shop that my sister and I used to visit when we were six or seven years old and out and about in Gorleston on the annual Sunday School outing. Nothing has changed there. The beach is just as sandy, the sea just as cold, the toffee apples still as sticky and the fish restaurant where we always had our tea still there. The pier is just as windy and the fishermen still catching codling. Lugworms still cost the earth, now twenty pounds for one hundred! As children we used to go with Dad to dig for them at Wells-on-Sea.

I was so happy to have those extra days with my friends and family, with the sea and the sunshine, that I did something that I have not done for forty years. I ate a whole bag of greasy chips on the sea-front. And what do you know, they tasted quite nice. Not so nice that I will eat them again tomorrow but I may not leave it forty years until the next time. The nicer food of the extra holidays was asparagus. What a surprise I had when Dad took me to the garden to pick my tea! There in the bed that we had weeded three weeks previously on my first day in Norwich, when I had not seen a sign of life, was a jungle of prehistoric-looking shoots of asparagus. Enough for high-tea for two, sis and me, to be eaten with butter and brown bread.


Snow White -

Home again, home again

Conductive Community Forum -

Friday 23 April 2010

The London Marathon

"Another penguin" Norwich, April 2010

Luxury transport and free newspapers!

I was reading about the London Marathon in my free copy of the London Evening Standard this evening as I sat in a luxury plane winging my way home to Nürnberg.

(Yes, I made it, but more about that later.)

I read that the London Marathon, which takes place on Sunday and most probably in summer temperatures unfavourable to the runners, will raise four-hundred million pounds for charities. Now that is a lot of money.

I got to wondering about how much of that huge amount is raised for centres offering conductive education. I expect most of them could do with some of it.

At least one

As I read my newspaper backwards, as I always do, I moved from the sports pages to the centre spread, where I found a map of tomorrow's route that the runners will take, and I expect some walkers, needing anything between one-and-a-half and ten hours to complete the course.

After a few seconds I realised that I was reading an advertisement for beer. There was a list of all the Fuller's pubs that will be passed by, drinking places where the official marathon beer "London Pride" can be consumed.

In a corner of the advertisement was a man dressed up as a huge bottle of this very same beer and beside the picture a caption that stated that Rich Erdilek, from, will be running or waddling perhaps. like a penguin, after only fifty hours training, dressed as a bottle of London Pride beer. It goes on to state that he will be raising money for a centre in Hampshire and that it is still possible to sponser him. This is a centre that provides conductive services to children with cerebral palsy.

How many others will be joining the runners on the start line tomorrow, hoping to raise a few pounds to help fund conductive centres in Britain?

Good luck to Mr Eldilek and everyone else running on Sunday. Whether dressed in the regular vest and shorts. or as a bottle of beer, or in a suit of armour weighing six-and-a-half stone, it is going to be pretty hot and sticky out there, but I image a lot of fun.

Running in the London Marathon is something that I have always wanted to do, since it started thirty years ago. Perhaps one day I will make it and then I too can raise a few pennies for conductive education.


Marathon runner -

London Pride beer -

London Evening Standard-

A First!

My first-ever model railway exhibition in England

I thought that I was going to spend my Saturday morning looking at railway-layouts and rummaging through cardboard model-kits and odds-and-ends all on my own. But, at the last minute, Retired Driver K. L. Mallett, that‘s my Dad, decided that he would come too. You can’t imagine how happy that made me!

We had a wonderful time. I don’t know what the people who we chatted to liked most, that a fifty-two year old Great Auntie has an N-Gauge on her coffee table, or that her Dad was a train- driver. Not just a driver, but one telling them that at some time in the forties, when he just happened to be in Cambridge at the same time as the Mallard, but as second man on a different train, he asked whether he could fire her up, just so he could say that he had done it! Every fireman’s dream, I should imagine.

My Dad has so many of these stories to tell, and I thoroughly enjoyed having his company and hearing more of them.

Another advantage for me was that Dad also pointed out many things that I would have otherwise missed had I been on my own. He explained about skeleton signals and he showed me how the sheep pens fold down as the cattle wagons pull alongside, and all in Hornby OO! The layout in the centre of the hall with a diesel locomotive pulling twenty-five trucks, and a turntable in constant use was on of our favourites and where most of the stories got told.

At mid-morning we met one of my Dad’s old "mates", a man who is the same age as Dad who had been a fitter and who coincidently was also there with his daughter. The big difference is that his daughter doesn’t have an N-Gauge on her coffee table. In fact she told me that her Dad is really disappointed that none of his children is really interested in trains. I do believe that my Dad quite likes to be taken off by his daughter on an Easter Saturday morning!

It is always fascinating for me to be with my Dad and his mates

They talk non-stop railways, covering anything and everything from the 1930s to the present day. Wonderful drawn out descriptions of life on steam, diesel and electric. Not just about the actual trains but the bits-in-between too, the life on the banks and further afield. Stories about glow-worms to admire, pheasants to collect, cows to herd up, sheep to turn on to their feet again, rookeries and heronries, mourning swans and waving children. Stories from the mess room and the engine sheds, from the footplate and the shunting yards.

I would love to be a fly on the wall when they all meet next Friday for the Annual eunion of retired Norwich Railway men. And also today, when my Dad visited his school friend and driver colleague who he has known for eighty years. They followed each other on trains out of Norwich, on the road to London Liverpool Street for fifty years! They were in the Scouts together, learnt to sew together as five-year-olds, and now go swimming together and meet for lunch.

Back to school

On Saturday I did not just visit a model railway exhibition with my Dad: I also got to visit my old school. Even with its classrooms emptied of desks, chairs, teachers, pupils and school uniforms, filled instead with railway layouts and all the paraphernalia that goes with them, it really didn’t look much different. On the other hand, the rooms did seem much smaller than I remember, and the doorways were incredibly narrow. How did we get through them six abreast when the bell rang, with satchels on shoulders?

My former RE room was set out with models for children. Next door the English room had my favourite of the day, a layout of a holiday station, Fenley-on-Sea. This was a terminus station, very like Great Yarmouth, with a superb overall wooden canopy roof, but differing in its view of the sea, and beach huts and allotments with greenhouses along the sidings. There were also lots of boxes full of N-gauge building materials and tiny people in this room, that kept me occupied for a while.

In the Maths room was a stand advertising the newest preservation society in Norfolk, the Whitwell and Reepham railway, the M&GNJR. This is a long-since-demolished route out of Norwich City station that my Dad drove regularly in the fifties.

The enthusiasts there invited him ride on the footplate on the “Steam Sunday”, that happens on the first Sunday in each month. You can read all about it on the website:

In all the classrooms the paint was the same colour as it was some thirty-five years ago, the playing fields looked as green and well tended, the rows of grass tennis courts probably just as immaculately kept and the place smelt the same as it did in 1975.

It was one of many perfect holiday days

A day that was made even more special by a present bought for me by my Dad. He bought me a station building ”flat-pack” as he called it. Red-brick laser-printed on thick cardboard. I would have loved to have put it together with Dad but then it would have been impossible to transport it back to the coffee table layout in Germany.

We will have to make do with a play with my ancient OO Hornby collection that is in boxes in my childhood bedroom.


Thank you to the friend and fellow enthusiast for sending me details of this exhibition:

Norwich Model Railway Club, 2010 Exhibition -

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

It was cold, sunny and really lovely driving through Norfolk villages with their flint-walled cottages and churches , daffodil-lined lanes, small white blackthorn blossom in the still black hawthorn hedges, and the sticky buds on the chestnut trees just bursting into life.

Seeing the sea

The bit of Norfolk up north is not as flat as one imagines our county to be. The ice age hit that part of the county and formed slightly rolling hills. Approaching the coast from this “hilly” direction is more exciting than driving eastwards out of Norwich where you “can see today who is coming to tea tomorrow”.

In my family whenever we are out for a trip in the car, we always rushed to be the first to spot the sea. ”"I can sea the sea” wass the call the winner needs to sing out. In North Norfolk one has to be much more alert, on the look out for a gap between the trees or a rise or fall of a slight incline.

To the east the sea appears on the horizon directly in front of the car. In the hilly north of the county it can appear just anywhere, on any side and just as suddenly disappear again. You have to be quick to convince everyone in the car that you have seen it at all.

Different seas and different worlds

At Easter the sea at Cromer was as flat as a pancake and as blue as the sky had been in England on Christmas Day.

Moving southwards round the north Norfolk coast in the direction of Lowstoft, Britain’s most easterly point, the sea although still the same North Sea changed dramatically. Within just ten miles of the blueness at Cromer, it became very choppy, and as brown as mud at Walcot. The wind remained just as lazy as ever and cut us in two. Our Norfolk wind always travels straight through the body instead of blowing around it, this is why we say it is lazy.

En route along the Norfolk coast southwards there was lots to see, all the familiar sights from childhood and some more recent. The rolling pasture with gorse bushes just coming into bloom leading to the caravan sites and sandy cliffs, the Ministry of Defense geo-dome at Bacton, looking like it was waiting for a leading role in the remake of the Prisoner, the British Gas power station a bit further south, and as always a few ships out to sea.

The cliff coastline gradually gives way to sandy beaches, with concrete seawall defences and wooden groins, all of which is gradually becoming inadequate. These defences can no longer head off the raging winter storms that now see Walcott and its caravan park under water more regularly than when it was our annual holiday destination in the 1960s. The tea rooms and many holiday chalets at Happisburgh are already lost to the ocean.

In the north at Cromer there are always several seaside “must dos”. These include a visit to the lifeboat station and its famous Henry Blogg museum, a feast of Cromer Crabs either for the tummy or for the eyes , a walk up the tower of the town church, a walk along the pier and a turn on the helter-skelter. And of course a paddle but not this time, it was far too cold!

Enough, till next time...

The weather was also too blustery for much promenading on the front so we retreated inland for a picnic in the park with delicious piping hot cups of take-away tea from the cafe on the corner.

I returned home to the garden with rosy cheeks and salty tiredness, pockets heavy with holes with stones round them collected from the beach for friends.

Oh, I really do like to be beside the seaside. It draws me back time and time again like a magnet.


“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside”

A quick fix of England!

"Spring In England"

"Spring arriving in England"

"In the walled garden, weeding the asparagus"

" Somerton church"


" A fox skull found while gardening"

"Bishy barnie bees"

Getting high in the lowlands!

Just a few of my favourite things


Stiff sea breeze, a lazy wind we call it as it blows straight through us

Stones with holes around them

Cadburys mini-eggs, speckled like a blackbird’s, coloured like a rainbow

Gardening, more specifically weeding

My friendly robin

Hundreds of ladybirds, wallowing in the sunshine

Stroking the heads of frogs in the pond that is full of tiny tadpoles

Primroses in every crack in the pavements and peeping out from behind each stone

Sticky-buds and pussy-willows

Hot-cross buns

Speaking English, a funny English, a sort of drawl called "Norfick"

Flatness, meadows and marshes, cows, sheep and horses

Pigs, there are pigs-a-plenty in Norfolk, living outside in the fields too

A new born baby, and all the trimmngs

The steam trains of the Bure Valley Railway

Branston pickle and blue stilton cheese


Heritage British N-gauge as a present

Last but not least, perhaps the best bit of all:
Norfolk skies.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

The Great Escape

An East Anglian sky, by Susie Mallett, April 2010

It all seems quite odd to me now to think that last Thursday I was sitting on a train in East Anglia watching the strange weather conditions in the Fenlands and wondering what castastrophe had occured.

Little did I know how much the discoveries that I made that day would affect me!

Today the whole world knows a lot more about volcanoes than it did five days ago. The world has learnt very fast about the effects that volcanic eruptions, molten lava and volcanic dust can have on the immediate and not so immediate environment, with impacts both natural and financial.

I know now that the amazing weather, that fascinated me so much that I had to text my friend about it, was just that,amazing weather. It had absolutely nothing to do with the volcano in Iceland and the masses of dust gushing out of it. Or had it?

What I and many others also know now is that such volcanic dust is not visible to the naked eye but, despite being so inconspicuous, it can still cause chaos! And this is exactly what it has done.


Little I knew on Thursday, as I sat enjoying myself on a train, waxing lyrical to my friend with descriptions of the wonderful skies, that come Monday morning I would not be where I had intended to be. Instead I have been stranded in my own homeland, just as many others have been stranded in other places, ending up being like me in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The place was especially wrong for many people yesterday, Monday, morning, the first day of term in England after the schools' Easter holidays.

School's out

Not only are there many people in the wrong places but on the radio I have heard mention of bone marrow for a transplant operation being stuck on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, roses for the British market stuck in Kenya, and mange-tout peas and other out-of-season-in-Britain fruit and vegetables rotting in various airports around the world.

I actually feel that, despite not being where I wanted to be, and with clients waiting for me, I am one of the lucky ones. I am not sitting in an airport or sleeping at a railway station, and not on a crowded quayside waiting for a ticket for a slow boat to China. I have been stranded amongst friends and family, I am well looked after. I shall have the extra costs of buying a ticket to travel home overland, when there is one available, but I do not have to pay for an extra week in a hotel. I also have something to look forward to: the long train journey across Northern Europe is something that I have wanted to do for a long time.

This weekend saw the end of the Easter holiday for most schools in England. On Monday morning I was wondering how many conductors there might be missing from centres across the country, I know of at least two stranded abroad. Just briefly I thought that perhaps I could help out here in England. I could offer my services until I get home. But that was a short-lived idea. I quickly realised that I would likely be on my way home, even back with my own clients, long before the compulsory police check could be completed. I could probably get on a bike and cycle home in far less time than it would take to be cleared to work here in England.

German airlines are flying again, but that does not help me much as long as British airports remain closed. I shall just have to go overland and make that lovely long train journey that I shall so thoroughly enjoy, transporting myself back in my mind to the times when ladies made such journeys and wrote journals describing their adventures.

Watch this spot!

I will certainly record the journey, whatever method of transport I use, in both words and pictures.


The dust cloud cometh -

Saturday 17 April 2010


Great Aunties Winifred and Doris, Grandmother Kathleen,
Great Aunties Mabel and Ethel
in Norwich, 1950?

Almost sixty years on - Great Auntie Susie in Norwich, April 6th, 2010

Great Grandad Ken in Norwich, March 2010

Apparently, I have become a GRAUNTIE!

When I arrrived in the UK for Easter, my brother-in-law informed me that I am now called a 'grauntie'. The whole family now call me Grauntie Susie, which is a bit strange to say the least, as my niece and nephew never called me Auntie Susie in their lives!

I like the name and the role but in other ways I don't really feel like a Grauntie.

I suppose I am greatly influenced in this by the memories and the photographs that I have of my Grandmother and her sisters. In the photograph at the top of this blog all five sisters are between fifty and sixty years of age, the two on the left being younger than I am now! They all looked, and in my memory were, so ancient. I remember them as being pretty, some were fun, they all had lovely clothes, but they all looked so old. In reality I remember them from the age of four, that was from 1961. They still all looked like they do in the photo above.
Time for tea
The visits that we made out to Great Yarmouth, where most of them lived and often gathered for tea, are some of my favourite memories. I can still see now so clearly before my eyes the image of about eight of us sitting at the tea-table. Me, of course in my best clothes, squeezed between Great Aunties, all in theirs, the table laden with pretty china tea-cups, a gorgeous three-tier cake-stand laden with homemade fare, and always a plate of those wafer-thin, just- about-transparent, shrimp-paste sandwiches (or as a special treat with lemon curd).

Tea would be served by Great-Uncle Bert who would otherwise be out of sight in the back kitchen, a dark-brown room with a huge table and all manner of things hanging down from the ceiling, or in his office. He was manager of Waveney Flour Mill next door.

Although it was expected that I remain in sight, actually the main purpose of the visit was for these ladies to see and express how much I had grown (quite the norm for four-year olds to do, I always thought). It was always a case in this company of seen-but-not-heard, unless of course when spoken to!

There I would sit, hands in lap having politely eaten enough to keep the host happy and to stop her from pressing plates of sandwiches under my nose. When I could bear it no longer, with Mum's blessing and a secret "Sssshhhh" from her, I would creep from the table and climb out of the huge sash window into the garden, just as she and her cousins had done many years before. Once out of the room I was free to pop around the back and into the huge, dark kitchen from where I would be playfully chased up the back stairs and down into the garden again by a lovely, young-at-heart Great Uncle.

I do hope that in my role as a Great Auntie I will be more like the chasing Uncle and not like those prim, seen-but-not-heard Victorian Graunties who I met around the tea-table in the "swinging sixties"!

Gill's New Virtual Library

Norwich Library, 9th April 2010, by Susie Mallett
Isn't Gill Maguire wonderful and so deserving of her recent award?

Gill has provided us with a new library, making information on conductive education on the Internet so much more accessable to us.

Once again, many thanks, Gill!

Thursday 15 April 2010

Apocalypse now

"Something strange happened to the sky", 15th April 2010

What is up with the world this morning?

I was on the train in East Anglia and, although the sun was there, it wasn't really. The Fenland sky was spectacular but different to the sky that I am used to, with its amazing cloud formations whatever the weather having vanished.

It was odd, so I sent a couple of texts to a friend, describing what I was seeing.

"There is an amazing grey layer clinging to the Fenlands, with blue above. It has the feel of Mexico City about it, a flat expanse always enveloped in smog. I can see Ely Cathedral on its slight mound looking as grey, mighty and impressive as the sky behind it. The river, the Ouse I think, is full to overflowing, reflecting the dark grey sky and hazy sun."

"Ely Station is, I think, the bleakest station that I have ever been on, but on a clear day there are such huge open spaces with marvellous views and skies that even the bitterly cold wind can be forgotten. Atmosphere is really wierd, like I imagine the end of the world to be, as predicted on a sandwich-board."

At this point I received two text replies:

"Waxing lyrical as always!"


"Here, in the city. all that the sandwich-boards have written on them are the fillings!"

There I was, alone in the wilderness of Ely Station, thinking that the world was coming to an end, and all I got was a text about sandwich fillings!

Undeterred, I carried on with my observations of the most amazing atmosphere and cloud formations, sharing it all with my friend. I continued:

"It is a lovely day, or should be. The sun is there, up above, with this greyness hanging right down to the black fenland soils like a sea fret."

I started to get worried. I had lived in Central Europe in the 80s and 90s, I remember the weeks of greyness, when government warnings were given, advising citizens to remain indoors because of high smog levels. It looked very similar today to those days.

I continued with my texting, now with a more concerned "lyrical waxing".

"Has there been a big explosion somewhere in the world? Something like Chernobyl? It is the same sort of greyness."

I suspected something was up, But what?

It felt strange because I was on a train in this age of high technology and I was not hearing a word from anyone around me about explosions or pending doom!

Eventually I got a text from same friend, telling me:

"Volcano in Iceland, dust now over UK, nearly all flights cancelled."

Ahah! So that was it. Volcanic dust was playing havoc with the East Anglian skies!

This revealing text was followed a few seconds later by another one, this time from my sister. She asked whether my train was on time or whether rail services were disrupted, affected as planes had been by the volcanic dust. I reassured her that I was on time, as obviously trains do a lot better with dust than they do with the wrong type os snow or with leaves on the line!

Just a few words of explanation for my ignorance.

I have been with my Dad, in his garden, working away on the digging and the weeding, isolated from the outside world by a high red-brick wall. I had taken a holiday away from television news and newspapers. But today the world appeared to catch up with me lsmost as soon as I stuck my head out of the door. The world from as far away as Iceland was all around me.

As I write I am still on the train, travelling through a greyness that really does remind me of those grey weeks after the explosion in Chernobyl. I hope that this natural disaster is less of a risk than that was.I it seems that with the precautions of advising vulnerable people to stay indoors and cancelling flights it probably will be.

Friday 9 April 2010

An upbringing... social, collective and conductive

"A conductive day out"

A tractor museum

What do you do next when a teenager thinks that he can do enough to survive in the situation that he is living in?

This is what I came across recently when working with a family.

In a way it is true. This young man has learnt an awful lot during his long conductive upbringing, at least fourteen of his nineteen years, but there are still many things missing. Perhaps these are things that we who look in from the outside observe and feel to be missing, but these are the same things that, having never experienced them, the young man himself finds it hard to imagine could become a part of his life.

He could if he would

The family and I believe that they could be his life, and that they really would be a part of his life if only we could find out what will motivate this young man to give them a go, try them out, keep on learning.

I am searching for a key but where do I look when this teenager seems to have no dreams to fulfil, when he has no role model to look up to, when he has no ambitions or hopes for his future? He says that he is happy how he is but still wants to take part in conductive work, so it is still our job to find the way forward for him.

Perhaps he does have aspirations but he never mentions them and shrugs his shoulders if asked what they are. The shoulder-shrug is in fact an answer to many questions when he cannot be bothered to think or when he finds it too much trouble to speak and make himself understood.

I have spent the last few years in this teenager’s life searching with him for the key. We have been looking here, there and everywhere for the special thing that will motivate further development. We discovered several things along the way, painting, marching, cooking, even sometimes cleaning, but the enthusiasm for them all seems to pass after a while. Even music doesn’t really motivate at the moment.

Every day for two weeks I was asked if we could listen to some music, as he has always done since he was twelve or thirteen. I agreed as always but on not one day out of the twelve that we spent together did he bring any CDs with him. It was very strange for us to be working and painting for the first time in years with no music.

Life seems to be at a standstill. But why?

School has finished, work has begun. This should be the start of a new and exciting adventure, but it isn’t. The question that we are all asking is: apart from late adolescence what has happened?

Last year the pre-work year, learning some extra living skills and having a couple of days for practise in the work-place where he would later be working full-time, was a great success. He made good progress and enjoyed the projects and learning about Germany, its politics, and life in general.

Then, I suspect, the break between the end of this “college” year and work was too long for this young man. College ended in June, with great expectations for the future, and work began in September. Maybe this was just too long, long enough for the anticipation of a wonderful new life to wane and the questions and uncertainties, and the worries, to take over.

A strange situation – for us both

It is not just change from school/college to work that is a problem. This young man has not been in a conductive centre every day. He had experienced a conductive upbringing within his family, with conductive sessions in groups and individually continuing at regular intervals three or four times a year.

I find myself in a new situation. What to do when a young adult moves away from home, or at least spends much less time at home – moving away from the “conductive upbringing” in the family yet still being dependent on others for many things in his life? These people are not conductors or his parents, though, but a completely new set of people, who need to be informed of the way of life that this young man has been living.

Finding out more

I have been working for two weeks with a sad boy, not at all at ease with himself or his life. At first I was not at all certain how to help.

We decided that we would have to completely change our routine, introduce new experiences to try to re-light the spark in this usually extrovert and fun-loving young lad. One of our ideas was to find out what was happening at work, get to know everybody and set up connections.

I get a lot of long-distance phone calls from this young man, telling me about daily happenings, and I have had difficulty following the stories because of my not knowing any of the people or the routine. This was the time to change all this.

So one of our days in the two weeks together was spent at this teenager’s place of work. I was hoping to discover what we could do to improve life and evolve a new routine for our conductive work.

This visit proved to be a great help to us both. I now have a better idea of who he is talking about when he phones with a problem, I now have contact with his group leader and I have seen and learnt about life in the workshop, a place where my client is finding it very difficult to integrate and find friends. This is indeed something that I had not known before and seems the key to the unhappiness.

On the buses

We travelled to work by public transport, and homewards too. Our plan for the next two weeks when we work together is do this journey every day until my client knows how to carry on alone.

Because of the success of our trip to “work” we went on to spend as many days as we could out in the “big wide world”, trying to get to grips with bus travel, and eating and drinking in strange places, with different cutlery, different cups and plates, different chairs, toilets downstairs, and all the other details that make going out in the world difficult for someone with a disability.

The biggest surprise that I had, although it really I shouldn’t have been surprised, came when we were using public transport. This young lad had grown up with buses in his life. His family own a fleet of them. He also travelled to school every day of his life in a mini- bus, and knows the ins and outs of the local transport system, but he had never travelled on a public bus. He had never had to read a timetable, to wait at a bus stop, and look to see whether the bus had the right number on it when one arrived. He has never had to move inside a bus when it is in motion, never had to think in advance to look for a hand grip, or decide that perhaps it is better to sit beside the driver!

Where he got on and where he got off had never before been his problem.

He really has so many things still to be learn if he is to get by alone out in the big wide world. Things that were unimaginable even two years ago because physically they were not possible for us even to consider trying.

Questions, questions...

I often ask myself whether all this might be too late. During the past two or three years this young man has developed so very much physically. Enough to be able walk well, independently, without fear of tripping, falling or stepping into the path of cars – but he still has not been able quite to manage to step out on his own into the world.

Could it be that he has been protected too much, despite his conductive upbringing? Has too much been taken out of his hands? How could this have been worked out any differently, though, given that he could not get around safely independently for the first eighteen years of his life?

These questions are of course without answers, we have no way of knowing what might have been. What needs to be done is to find the path to travel now, discover the key, that will motivates this young man now to step out into his world.

Sometimes during a week full of excursions, I wondered whether it would have been better had my client needed to use a wheelchair, an electric one at that, so that he could gone further distances without fear of falling over, and could have tried to conquer the world at an earlier age.

But would he have conquered it? Would there have been too many other restrictions? Would he have been able to use public transport now if he had been using a wheelchair ten years ago? I doubt it. I doubt whether in Germany that long ago access would have been good.

Learning together

It is time for us all to work together. Me, my client, his group leaders and his parents. Many aspects need to be practised that will improve independence, that will make it possible for my client to travel independently to and from work, improve his abilities to socialise outside his immediate family.

I do not know whether the difficulty that he has, to concentrate and to take care of himself and of others when he is out and about, comes from his not being interested in doing so, because someone else has always taken care for him, or because he just does not know how. These are things that we are now finding out together. We are doing a lot of work on the influence that he has on other people in his life, and the influence that they have on him.

Sometimes I fear that I am not with my client often enough or long enough to teach him, to assist him on to his next stage in life, which is why I am so keen to involve not only his family in our work together but also the people he works with every day.

I still ask myself whether he really wants to learn? He still says that he does, so I try to discover ways to teach him, and when we are together he learns and is motivated to use what he learns, but I have discovered that, when I am not there, he does not often use what he has learnt – even more reason to involve the other people in his life, so they can carry on the teaching process.

Wanting to learn, together

Deep down I believe that my client does want to learn, otherwise we would not have just done all the exciting things that we have done recently. But will he remember how to take care of himself next time? How many times will I have to visit until he learns how to travel alone to work. How much interest will he show when other people offer to help him do the things that he began with me? Will it be enough to encourage them to get involved.

We have talked about how anyone will help him do whatever he wants if only he asks and then tries his best. People will not offer if they do not see his enthusiasm, and often they do not even know what he may like to do.

I do so hope that he can show enthusiasm, enough to encourage people to help him to read, go walking with him in the country, travel buses with him and show him how to read the timetable.

I hope that by the time I see my client again in three or four months time he will be hopping on and of the buses like an old hand.

A social upbringing

I have so many questions.

This recent work convinces me more and more that, as a child moves into adulthood, conductive upbringing must include more and more people.

In the case described here, and of course in many others, continuation of development can take place only as children get older and their world widens into an adult world, and only if all of the relevant people become involved in the ongoing conductive “upbringing”, right through into adulthood.

It is through the activities undertaken over the past weeks that I have hoped to introduce the people involved in my client’s new world to his world of conductive upbringing.

The tractor museum...

Let us leave these questions for a while and get on to the tractor museum and its side effects.

As already mentioned, when I arranged this period of work with my client I had suggested that we should try a different approach. We decided that we would do more living, and do everyday things that are not yet everyday things for him. We would then try our hardest to turn them into everyday things as soon as possible.

We used the computer to organise all of our days out. “Googling” is something that my client is getting quite good at.

One day we decided to take the bus from the tiny village where my client lives to the nearest large town. We would visit a museum, have lunch, buy a birthday present for his Mum, have afternoon tea and, the most important thing of all, he would go home alone. I would remain for a night with my conductor friend and her family, and do a bit of baby-watching.

We did it all

There were two highlights. First there were the really long concertina-buses with a bendy bit in the middle. We walked a couple of times to the back, learning where to hold on as the bus rocked us about. And secondly, there was travelling home alone, with getting on the bus home was made even more special by the fact that my conductor friend turned up unexpectedly at the bus station to collect me and waved this young man off.

It had been difficult to decide what we would do, which museum we should visit. My client can, when fit and motivated, walk up to ten kilometres in a day. But at the moment the motivation is missing, and the long snow-bound winter has meant less exercise, which has made him less fit.

I did not want my client to pick a museum with long distances to walk both to get there and then again inside, which would result in us not having the energy to do anything else with the day. I need not have worried. My client made the right choice after we had looked at plans and lists of contents of various museums. The tractor and car museum was to be our destination, a small museum, just a short bus ride from the centre of town with everything on just two floors.

I could not have been more delighted with the choice. The Tractor Museum was chosen in preference to the Computer Museum. I was surprised at the choice believing that he would be more interested in Cyberspace and its history than farm machinery. I was wrong and silently very pleased. Give me a John Deere any day, before an Apple Mac!

I think that my client was surprised at how much he enjoyed it. He took a lot of photographs of the reconstruction of a Shell petrol station, that he discovered on the ground floor, to show his grandfather who had kept a similar one himself.

...and more

Back in the town after our fill of tractors, my client picked a restaurant for our lunch, a very spacious one so that he could walk carefully between the tables to a seat. He took his jacket off alone, he choose his meal alone. He ordered his drink and food and remembered to ask for a straw for the drink. Not only was I impressed with my client's ability, I was impressed by our waitress who understood his almost every word and, when she did not, not once did she look at me for assistance – she asked my client until she understood. She was thrilled that she had understood and my client was just as pleased at having successfully placed his order.

The same success was repeated when we had afternoon tea, after my client had taken me to the cathedral. He wanted to show me this beautiful building, even though he was flagging quite badly. We sat on a pew after completing the circuit and discussed our next moves, an early bus or afternoon tea. My client decided that if he went home it may look to his family as a bit of a failure. Anyway he wanted to eat waffles with hot cherries in a huge traditional German cafe, drink hot chocolate to warm up, then play a couple of games of Noughts and Crosses and another of Town and Country with me before getting on a fourth concertina bus to the main railway station to begin his solo journey home.

The day was his, and as he was proving that he was getting decidedly better at decision-making, one of the areas that we were working on. His wish was my command! We spend a lovely relaxing hour or more in the cafe.

Thoughtful, planning

There were many times during the day that I noticed my client was deep in thought. He admitted that he had been worried about the journey home. The quiet time in the cathedral and the hour or so that we spent in the cafe was a perfect choice to calm him and prepare him for the coming event. The excitement of an extra bus journey also distracted him from the adventure to come, and spared him a long walk through the town to the station. All his own decisions.

My client had actually planned his day perfectly to suit his capabilities. He obviously knew them well and is now learning that he can decide things accordingly.

He showed some more of his thoughtfulness when, in between eating in cafes and the visits to museum and cathedral, he managed to spot a bookshop and a gift shop where we bought the perfect present for his mother and where he insisted that I bought a painting book for my friend’s son!

As a step on the ladder to learning how to make his life more independent, more interesting and motivating I think we did very well. We had climbed up several rungs over the course of a few days.

We still need to keep hunting for that key to what will motivate my client to want to do such things when I am not there. But we are now full of renewed hope and buzzing with ideas for future trips to museums, and bus excursions.

I work on my own so much, but after I have had periods of work where I visit homes, go to schools, meet speech therapists, get invited to meetings with teachers, physios, classroom assistants and parents, visit work places and meet friends and relatives of clients, I begin to realise that I do not really need to feel that I work alone.

A collective upbringing

When the communication between all parties is good, and when we all begin visiting each other, we begin to see that the conductive upbringing is extending outwards, alongside the lives of my clients, just as it must do for continued development to take place.

I often think about what it would be like working in a country, for example somewhere like China. I wonder whether, with or without conductors but with many different professionals who take a extra conductive training to becoming “feldscher conductors”, a conductive upbringing might proceed more smoothly in all parts of someone’s life, more so than it does in a case such as I have just described. A case where a conductor alone (me) is trying to reach and teach everyone in my client's life.

In a country that is introducing CE in a big way can it happen as I imagine it? With the clients' development and life spirals upwards and outwards can the number of people who are informed and trained in CE also radiate outwards and upwards with them? In countries such as Germany where I do most of my work, conductors and feldscher conductors are far too few and far between for this to work in but the rarest of cases.