My visitors today

Sunday 29 January 2012

Private conversations made public

 Me in my earache hat, my cousin in his fishing hat and Big Sis wearing just a smile,
after a day catching shrimps, eels and whiting,
Walcott, 1963

I have not been blogging very much recently, the time and energy have been missing.

I had a tooth pulled out on Friday and the painkillers made me so sleepy that I have been wrapped up in a cosy flat all weekend. With the pain gone and a state of wakefulness returning I have been looking at my notes.

Sometimes I just write down snippets of conversation that I have with myself and if I do not post them fast enough they get buried.

This snippet has been buried for weeks. I no longer know what it was that I was reading online to cause me to write this in my note-book, no doubt it was one of many Google Alerts that land in my inbox. 

The conversation went like this:

I just read something online, it said something like this:

“Conductive Education helps children with cerebral palsy as it teaches them how to use their bodies.”

You know what I would say: Conductive Education does not teach children how to use their bodies, sometimes these children will never learn to use their bodies. Conductive pedagogy can be applied to teach children and adults how to prevent themselves from becoming disabled through a motor disorder and lack of knowledge about their bodies, and can teach them how to use the abilities that they have to experience the world.

A conductive education assists them to experience the world and therefore develop socially and psychologically despite the difficulties in moving their bodies. I would say that learning to use their bodies is a side effect of teaching them how to experience the world and develop their whole personality.

Or as AP might have said, they are 'healed'... and as Mária Hári would have said they are integrated ( body  and soul, not  inclusion).

And if the conductive upbringing begins early enough it could be that there is actually nothing to heal!

Disability in the sense that I am talking about here can be prevented. A soul can be healthy so life can be lived.

It seems like yesterday

" Path in northern Germany", by Susie Mallett, 2008

In August 2009 I took a day off from work and went on a regional train, a double-decker, to Schwabische Hall in search of an exhibition of the work of an old favourite of mine, David Hockney. One of my first art tutors had known him before he became famous and introduced me to Hockney’s work early on in my arty life. I remained a fan, collecting books of his work and I have always enjoyed dipping in to them and admiring most of all the drawings, but also the vibrant colours of his painting.

I remember the joy I had in viewing the photographic collages and the  Grand Canyon paintings both of which he also made on a grand scale. I remember seeing the stage designs for The Rake's Progress and wondering whether theatre design was a path that I should take with my art training. 

Now I remember the awe with which I viewed the recent exhibition in Schwabische Hall and how the colours and shapes in Hockney's most recent works inspired and delighted me more than any other work of his that I have seen. I felt like I was there, painting beside him, watching the landscape change with him as the clouds moved over the sun, as the sun sank low in the sky, as the seasons changed and as the chain-saws marched in!

I wrote about that 2009 journey and the exhibition here:

David Hockney is all over the British press at the moment because this same exhibition A Bigger Picture, with I expect some newer works included, can be seen in London at the Royal Academy. It has made quite a splash!

Even though I have seen these paintings in real life in that small town in Germany, I would love to see these big pictures displayed in the grand environment of the Royal Academy. The cathedral-like avenues of trees must look so majestic in their new setting.

Perhaps I will make it to the UK before the exhibition ends on April 9th. If not, I still have my catalogue to drool over and my memories of that lovely day off in August 2009.

David Hockney, A Bigger Picture at the Royal Acadamy, London -

David Hockney, official website -

Monday 23 January 2012

Living lives and visions

 My lovely, fits-in-the-palm-of-my-hand (and in my pocket), 
beautifully bound copy of Dracula

Living other people's lives

I have been reading Bram Stoker's great epistolary Gothic novel, Dracula, for the very first time, and it is getting really scary.

As I was walking from the underground looking up to see what sort of moon if any I could see. I was thinking about why it is that I so love the book. Is it because of the long descriptions that I can walk into – into the character of people, and rooms and places? This is how I like to be drawn into a story and how I try to draw people into my own stories. I can only dream of ever being able to do it as well as Mr Stoker.

Other lives, other visions

And yes, what I also love is how the story is told by so many people, how we are treated to peeps into privately written dear diaries, all those personal things that you write in a journal, stuff that might be eventually read after your death but is really first and foremost only for the writer, a way of recording events, feelings, reactions etc.  As I read it I feel like I am intruding a little bit into someone's secret worlds, in this case many people's secret worlds

I really love the idea of writing the journal of someone else, in the style of someone else, trying to describe the feelings that a different character may have and how someone else might see the world. I believe that people see colours differently, shapes differently. I see car headlight as stars or groups of stars but I suppose that some people see them as they actually are, as round yellowy circles of light. I think that different people see many things differently but not only because of the physical make-up of the eyes but because of the psychological connections attached, through their experiences throughout life.

I wonder how easy I would find it to pretend to be writing something that someone else has experienced, someone with a different background to my own. That is what Bram Stoker does so really well.

“I kicked the doctor into the wall”

"Winter" by Susie Mallett
That is what Jason Carr tells us on his blog!

This just appeared in my inbox:

Please make the time to read it, and not just this posting but all of it.

There are only three posting on the blog as yet so there is not much back-reading to do.

I, for one, will be following it in the future and I will pass the URL on to by budding students who will enjoy the inspiration that I am sure they will receive from reading this and, at the same time, they will be able to improve their English.

Well done Jason! I look forward to hearing more, especially about how you kicked the doctor into the wall!

Saturday 21 January 2012


Snow is in the air

I was sitting at the drawing-desk writing the previous posting when I heard scritch-scratch, scratch-scritch. 

When I hear this noise I always hear it in double-pack!  I hear the actual noise and I hear it whispered in my ear in Mum’s voice.

The spoken words are a memory from Beatrix Potter’s Mr Mcgregor who, with his glasses placed on his long nose, was busy working in his garden as Peter Rabbit made a dive for safety under the gate. 

I loved this story but it made my sister cry. Mum read it to us anyway and she always whispered the scritch-scratching!

As I heard the scritch-scratch for real at midday today I wondered for several minutes what it could be. A familiar sound that I could not place it at first.

It was strange that it took me so long to remember what the noise is because last night I had told a friend that there was a familiar smell in the air, I said that I thought we would wake up in the morning in Nürnberg to a white-world.

The world was not white when I woke but it is now!

The scritch-scratch was the snow shovels out on the pavements doing the first clearing before grit could be sprinkled.

It is that dirty, slushy snow that must be cleared and salted before the evening temperatures drop low enough to freeze it thus making the pavements treacherous.

With the first scritch-scratching of the winter I will now have the extra alarm clock, that is a sign for me on snowy mornings to get out of bed a bit earlier so that, despite the weather, I can get to work on time.

Out with the sledges at last!

As the children left us on Friday evening I wished them a happy and snowy weekend. They will be thrilled to be outside on their sledges. The wetness of the snow does not deter their fun.


Language and angst, fear of the unknown

Green Men by Susie Mallett, 1999 and 2009

Whatever do Germans think about England?

My German acquaintances often comment on things that they find rather odd about my homeland, things like the state of English food or the separate taps for hot and cold water.

I often wonder what they ate while over on the island. When I have eaten English food in England I have never found anything to complain about especially when eating at my sister’s house or with my niece or nephew and their families. 

As for the taps, yes, they are different. There are only mixer taps in Germany.  I do not quite understand what their problem is here except that with two taps you have to use the plug to get warm water but, probably, by doing so actually save water.

Something really shocking from England

Each night before bed I read the The Telegraph online. Sometimes I just run through the headlines and pick one or two articles to read, sometimes I get really stuck in and read it just like I do my paper version of the Weekly Guardian, word by word for hours.

Last night I just went through the headlines and something “German” caught my eye, in the same way that things “Hungarian” catch my attention or things “Norfolk”:

When I read this report I immediately thought about how this dreadful event really would give my German friends something to discuss, even complain about. I was shocked and I was both surprised and pleased to read that the police had been involved immediately when the incident occurred and that an official complaint had been made.

What is the world coming to?

I still can hardly believe what I read in this article. I now begin to wonder how careful I will have to be in the future when I am at home. What I wonder will happen when I meet my conductor friends, many of whom share the three languages that I speak. We could, as we often do, lapse into a language other than English. This is so easy to do, it happens quite unconsciously and sometimes we use three languages in one sentence!

Very scary! I hope very much that this is an isolated case.


The Telegraph -

Monday 16 January 2012

Just a question

Cromer Pier, 30th December 2011

Did any diplom-conductors who are reading this receive formal instruction, as part of their training, in passive, stretching techniques that can be practised with clients with disability?

I did not myself experience, at any time in my conductor training at the Petö Institute, anything more than some informal, practical and observational involvement when certain clients took sage-baths before the beginning of each daily session in a conductive group.

Joints were passively and actively manipulated in the sage-water, but the actual stretching was always done through the movements and activities in the group and individual programmes throughout the day.

I wonder whether perhaps other full-time conductor-training courses have included stretching in the formal training and whether as a foreign student at the PAI this was something that I missed.

Why do I ask?

I ask because I recently came across information on a one-day course for parents that I think is misleading as it tells me:

“Through the gentle stretching techniques from physiotherapy, from Conductive Education and from 
Dr Pfaffenrot we wish to keep the functional movement in all joints and to build on them”

I am well aware that Dr Pfaffenrot uses a technique that many of my clients have benefitted from. I have been treated by him personally myself.

I know also that physiotherapists do a good job manipulating joints to encourage movement. I have also benefited from the work of an excellent physiotherapist when my badly broken wrist was on the mend.


I did not learn gentle stretching techniques as part of my conductor training.

I did learn how to build up an active daily programme for my clients so that they could use their limbs, make directional movements and build on the movements of their body in order to live an active lifestyle and be as independent as possible. The clients of course received whatever assistance necessary from conductors to learn to achieve success in all that they did.

I understand this as being other than “gentle stretching techniques from Conductive Education” that I saw being offered in this workshop for parents.

I know that many conductive centres incorporate a stretching time at the beginning of the programme and I expect that the clients enjoy this and that many also benefit from it. I always understood that this was introduced from another field, such as physiotherapy or manual therapy, and that conductors had taken supplementary courses to learn the techniques. I had never before heard, however, or read, claims of its coming from Conductive Education.

What do others think?

Sometimes I wonder whether I should just let such things pass by unmentioned. 


I have returned to work today, so I had the opportunity to ask the opinion of my PAI colleagues who trained in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. All said No, they had not had any formal training in stretching techniques and they too consider the group and the individual programmes the places for active stretching. Two of us have observed in different centres a pre-lying programme, passive stretching that was taught to the parents or carers by a manual therapist.

I am still interested in reading more comments, especially about how conductors integrate techniques that they have learnt on other training courses into their conductive groups.

As an art therapist I do this regularly, and I know that there are many other conductors who are trained in many different fields. It would be really good to know how this integration of techniques takes place without misleading our clients in their understanding of conductive pedagogy.

What a treat

St.John the Baptist Cathedral, Norwich
by Susie Mallett, 6th January 2012

 Finn and Moos, River Yare

Otters in University of East Anglia Broad 
by Susie Mlallett, 6th January, 2012

A kingfisher fishing the broad
by Susie Mallett, 6th January 2012

A special bits-in-between-day-for-conductors
An amazing Janet and John, or Enid Blyton, sort of day!

My first adventure was a viewing of a knitted Christmas tree, the second a walk with the dogs, two lurchers.

This day was not only special for me, it was a grand occasion for lots of other people. It remained exciting even days after when the stories had been told and pictures shared again and again. The only thing that was missing from the adventure was the lashings of ginger-beer, but Dad and I made up for that by opening a bottle later that same evening!


I have been with my family. We had a few family-outings to celebrate the coming of the New Year but for me this one just about topped them all.

Twelfth Night

Dad had got the decorations out this year. This had always been Mum’s job, she kept and reused, with tender, loving care, all the Christmas decorations that we used for years to decorate my Grandmother’s pub. This year my Dad carefully unwrapped all of it to place it all over the house, and on the tiny tree, ready for my arrival at the end of the year. It looked a treat.

On the sixth of January I had the pleasure of returning the ancient “bling” to its just-as-ancient Tom Smith’s cracker box. It was a wonderful hour full of happy and interesting memories of my life, of the strange but lovely family Christmases that we spent at that pub just down the road. Memories too of joy, remembering how much Mum loved all these tinselly things and how she had cared for them so well that we could still enjoy them now. I had an hour to spend thinking about her and about her Mum!

With the re-filled cracker-box stored safely at the top of the house for one more year and the eighty Christmas cards that Dad received all in a pile on the dining-table, for him to look through later, I got ready to go out.


My first stop was the Catholic Cathedral that is situated just outside the city-wall, on the opposite side of the city to the Church of England Cathedral and my also my family-home.

My sister met me at the Cathedral. We were there to see something that we had been looking forward to seeing ever since she had heard about it: a knitted Christmas tree!

The tree had been made as a fund-raiser by a group of disabled people and their carers, friends and supporters of the charity involved.

You can see the photographs above of the tree and the building. Sis and I took the opportunity to look at the lovely architecture, and gorgeous flower arrangements, and as we are neither of us proud to say that after over fifty years in Norwich we have never been into this beautiful church! I use the other Cathedral often as a short cut into the city or for a coffee break, and it is always a first stop when we have visitors as it is so near to home. The Catholic Cathedral on the other hand, that always looked so dark and ominous from the outside and was never a venue for school events, was until now a stranger to me.

Not any longer, I expect my sister and I will make a point of taking our visitors there in the future and watching out for any other unusual events such as the knitted tree and nativity scene.

It was quite an impressive object, that tree. It would not have fitted into our living-room that’s for sure. It did not look out of place in the wonderful towering arches of the cathedral either. A lot of very hard work had gone into the design and making of this work of art.

It really was a work of art. Blankets made from knitted squares and stuffed knitted toys are usually seen on stalls at the church fete. Many artists would turn up their noses if anyone ever suggested that they were art-works! But here, on the tree, were knitted shapes artistically sculpted together. Leaves and grass, paper-chains, crackers, candles, lanterns, presents, toys, and even a knitted star, really did create a wonderful work of art.

The story behind the creation of this sculpture made the whole event even more special. Read about it here:

There was more about artistic work with people with disability in the news in Norwich this week:
“More than just basket-making at the centre for the blind and partially sighted”

I now know where I will be taking the art materials that I have had stacked away for thirty-years under several beds in my Dad’s house!

On with the tales of adventure

With two dogs waiting patiently for their part of the adventure we carried on with our journey to the outskirts of the city.

Walking dogs

I enjoy walking with my sister and her husband and their two dogs. Both dogs are lurchers. One looks exactly like a border-collie, even though his mother was a whippet, so he attracts a lot of attention. The other, only seven months old, looks exactly like a lurcher should look, skinny and shaggy and grey, with a long neck, hanging head and doleful eyes, so he gets his fair share of doggy-comments too.

We trudged through the mud from the car park, across the parkland down to the river. I suppose the mud was preferable to the ice and snow that I encountered on my last walk in the same place. The dogs paddled, one even had a quick swim, before both shook water all over us before chasing each other and a variety of interesting smells.

As well as observing the action of the hounds I observed nature, and what a lot of it there was too.

Our walk followed the River Yare towards the south-west end of the University of East Anglia Broad. 

We then turned turning sharply left to take us though an ancient wooded area where bluebells were already bravely showing their bright green shoots through the decaying leaves, before making our way towards Earlham Hall and its parkland, leading us to the Park Café and a warming cup of tea.

The Café allows dogs on leads to enter as long as they do not bark!

Before entering the bluebell-woodland we walked close to the reeded bank of the Broad and it was here that our adventure continued.

It was at this point that we encountered several dog-walkers and non-dog-walkers all facing the water in silent observation. In whispered tones I asked what was happening, I could hear, splashing and rustling and chomping but could at first recognise nothing in the wintering colours and tangle of decaying vegetation.

It was an otter!

The first man in the line, whose dog was patiently waiting several yards behind us, told us that he knew that there had been a mother and her three cubs spotted in the spring by walkers on the adjacent river. 

Cubs stay with their mother for quite some time so maybe this was not just an otter but several, perhaps the same family from the river. From the noise being made chomping on the fish it could have been a whole romp of them.

I had been watching for quite some time before I remembered that I had my camera in my pocket. I had never seen an otter in the wild before and I was fixed to the spot with my eyes peeled and with a fixed grin on my face.

What no pics?

I had not considered that I could be taking photographs. I did not wish to miss a second of the action through fumbling with my camera. When I was certain that the close proximity of a dozen adults, a couple of children and several well behaved dogs, was not disturbing these rare creatures too much and I felt sure that they would stay in view for a while longer, I reached for my camera. I began snapping in the direction of the noises and the moving weeds hoping that when I got home I would see something on the computer pictures. I certainly did, we spotted three if not four creatures on one picture.

After a couple of shots the commotion in the shallow water moved over to the left and all of a sudden out popped an otter on to a log, already chewing on a silvery fish, probably a dace. He remained in full view, just a couple of metres away from us for several minutes, and at the same time a blue flash flew through the air between us and the otter.

Young enthusiasm for wild life

I had been distracted earlier in my otter viewing by two little girls, who were beautifully dressed and looked as if they had just stepped out of an Enid Blyton novel or the Janet and John first readers from infant school days.

These children were so excited about the otters but even more excited when they were able to show me where, in the tree just above the otter’s head, the most beautiful kingfisher was sitting. Just at the moment that I had it in my site it plummeted down into the water, like a bomb dropping, to emerge seconds later with a silvery catch in its mouth, just like the otter’s catch but much smaller.

As my Dad described to me later, the kingfisher took his catch to eat on a lower branch before returning to his look-out position.

I had never seen a kingfisher before either!

As you can imagine I was delighted with our nature walk!

The Janet-and-John-children were delighted to see all the photographs of the otters in my camera, they enthused over my artistic skills and lamented that they had not had a camera with them. They were so excited when their mum swapped email addresses with me so that the girls would have pictorial-proof of our adventure to include in their nature diaries at school on Monday morning. A real nature trail would be travelling through cyberspace!


Janet and John

Enid Blyton

Tom Smith’s Crackers


University of East Anglia

Rolling Stones – Walking the Dog

River Yare at Earlham

University of East Anglia Broad