My visitors today

Monday 30 April 2012

Joy in the natural world

'Peewit or plover'

'Hares galore'

'The april-showers that fortunately missed me!

On my bike!

It has taken me a long time to get my bike out of the cellar, but this year not due to fear –

It was the cold weather that put me off this year, and tiredness. I must be getting soft in my old age!

We still seemed to be in deep winter during the chilly days before I set off to England, with even some snow still fluttering down now and then. It was not at all the sort of weather to put me in the mood for a forty-minute ride to work.

As soon as I returned to Germany in mid-April I brought one neglected bike out of the darkness of the cellar and spruced it up for spring and prepared it for long journeys. Then I wrapped it up and waited for a bit of warmth in the air!

Watching the weather

Day-by-day I watched the thermometer before I decided what to wear. Early each morning I asked myself whether it would it be my nice clothes and a hop on the tram or my cycling gear and a hop on the bike?

It was not until Friday 27th, almost the end of April, that I took the plunge. The temperature rose from three degrees on Tuesday morning to twenty-three on Friday, so off I peddled. 

It was lovely to feel the air on my face and watch the countryside fly past. Even in the city, where I cycled down streets that I have not travelled since December, there were many changes to be seen.

I doubt that the temperature will stay in the mid-twenties for long but I think that the frosty mornings may now be behind us. This will probably be the last month in which I spend money on the expensive ticket for the public transport system, until I dig deep in my pocket again next December.

Watching nature

The trams and buses have been very busy over the past few weeks, some days on the return trip being full to bursting. It was therefore a real treat on Friday to be out in the fresh air communing with nature.

I love the extra time that I get to read when I travel on public transport, but I think that I enjoy even more the time spent communing with nature on my bike.

It is not only nature that excites me, I also enjoy all the action at the airport where I love to stop to watch the aircraft taking off and landing just above my head. I love to dream of being up there. I sometimes think about making a spontaneous decision to jump on a flight that would take me home for the day instead of to work!

I have not done it yet. Instead, as I did on Friday, I watch the herons fly to their fishing grounds, smell the spring in the hedgerows, hear the peewit or plover in the still short cornfield with the skylarks twittering above. At dusk I will stop in silence, as I did this week, in hope of catching the hares in action. Observing a spring boxing-match is a treat yet to come.

But does it change the brain?

Arriving at work with ten kilometres behind me by bike I do feel much wider awake than when I travel the distance by bus and tram. I wonder whether the clients would be able to tell. We shall have to put it to the test next week.

Cycling certainly does change my outlook on the day, my personality is transformed, and my soul is awakened when I commune with nature instead of with the inside of a tram or a bus.


It took me the same length of time to cycle the distance as it did four months ago. The rest seems to have done me no harm at all and the bike seemed to manage it alright too.


More on the spring start to cycling –

Back home to roost

'The old nest...'

'...and the new.'

The arrival of more than just warm weather!

Last weekend I dragged my lonely and neglected bicycle up from the cellar, pumped up the tyres and hung it up in the Hof behind the house. I was expecting to jump on it for the first time this year the following morning so that I could enjoy the ten kilometres to work in the fresh air instead of on a crowded tram and bus. 

I did not jump on the bike until Thursday because the temperature at seven in the morning was still not much above zero. 

Am I really turning into a fair-weather cyclist after all these years of riding come-wind and come-weather?

On Thursday the wind changed and with it came high temperatures, over twenty degrees higher than on Monday morning. So not only did I get on my bike (more about this later) but I also got out on the balcony. 

While I was out there tidying up the winter’s debris I heard a familiar cooing. 

Home to roost

When I returned from my visit to England a couple of weeks ago the first thing that I had done, when I walked in the door at nearly midnight, was to check whether my balcony guest had returned. The old nest was still empty and looking untended but there were tell-tale signs on the ground below that someone had been about.

It was not until two days ago when the warm weather enticed me to sit outside with my coffee, and later with my lunch, that I heard that soft cooing again. It was coming from just above my head. 

Last year’s guests certainly had returned and much earlier than in 2011. There, just two metres away, I spied that beady-eye looking at me again. This year I was being observed from a couple of branches higher, actually in the neighbouring tree.

I still have a perfect view of the nest

I can see the male or the female bird (it is impossible to tell the difference) sitting there eyeing me up, but at a distance that makes me able to use my balcony without disturbing Mr and Mrs Collared Dove. 

It really was a lovely experience last year observing that bird family at such close quarters, witnessing the arrival of the baby-bird, watching it fledge and seeing the rate at which it grew, but it is better all round that the family decided to move house. I am, however, very grateful to them for remaining within viewing distance. I know what is going on from past experience so just seeing that they are they is enough to give me a bit of company without my disturbing them when I tend my geraniums and strawberries.

Welcome home!


2011’s seven birdy-bulletins – 

Friday 27 April 2012


"Grandma and Aimee" April 2012

Grandparents in my work

I have often written here on my blog about grandparents. I have described the important role that they play in many of the families that I have met who have children with disabilities.

Here you will find just one of them – 

Grandparents in my family

I know that this is no different to the role that grandparents often have in families with children who have no disabilities. I have observed my sister and her husband in their role as grandparents and I encourage them to continue to be as active as they are now with our new addition to the family as she grows into a young child and then a teenager and adult. My observations while at my work are the motivation I have to say this to my own family. Grandparents really are something special for all children.

Grandparents have lots of time. 

Grandparents can prepare for the hours that they spend with their grandchild so that almost every minute of it is dedicated to the child.

Grandparents have lots of knowledge and experience to share, and lots of stories to tell.
Grandparents have lots of love to share.

There is often no one else in a young child’s life who has so much time and personal attention to offer a child as grandparents have.

Grandparents all over the world

I discovered this story about yet another grandmother who dedicates a lot of her time to her grand-daughter who has cerebral palsy – 

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Always at work, even on the train

"A pitcher plant" by Susie Mallett, April 2012

Caring for the carers

I have always involved the partners and carers of potential adult users of my conductive services at all initial visits and in any subsequent individual or group sessions, whether at home or in a centre. These husbands, wives or parents have many questions and also have problems that need solving, so it has always been ‘team work’ as far as I am concerned.

These people need our advice on conductive living too, they need our listening ear. They need access to our skills in problem-solving. They need our ideas and suggestions just as much as do the clients themselves. They are our clients too.

They need the opportunity to ask questions and to share their worries and concerns for the present and for the future. It is our role as conductors to provide time for them too.

Train travel

When I was travelling by train in England just after Easter something happened that has never occurred in my lifetime of rail travel. It really has been a lifetime of train-travel, over fifty years of it, because Dad was a train driver and rail was always our main means of travel. For my first quarter-century I travelled free of charge and during the second quarter-century train travel is my choice because it is such fun!

Turning bad luck into an adventure

In April, for the first time ever I sat in a train, still in the station, for over two hours waiting for the signal to go up!

The signal could not go up because there was a points failure.

I knew something was up before my family had even said goodbye to me because, with only minutes to go before departure, the doors of the train had not been opened to allow us to get on board.

This usually only ever happens when the cleaners have not finished their work but on this occasion the cleaners were long gone.

We eventually boarded the train just before the whistle should have been blown, but there came no whistle, the engines were not even running.

After about thirty minutes we were informed of the points failure, a problem that usually takes fifteen minutes to solve from the control centre several miles away. This time it was taking much longer and travellers began to get concerned. 

I too was a bit concerned but I stayed on the train, despite home being just around the corner, with the knowledge that whatever happened to the train the rail company, whichever one it was, was obliged to get me to my destination, which I am happy to say, they did, albeit three hours late!

A young girl sitting in the same carriage was less sure about arriving at her destination in time for a meeting early the following morning.  She had a long way to travel and we had yet to move an inch. She went outside to investigate and we could hear her speaking to the guard on the platform.

She returned and confidently announced to the whole carriage that we had to change trains, so off we all went, laden with bags, to platform one. Fortunately there were no steps to climb or ramps to walk up and down, but unfortunately there were no tea and refreshment trolleys either! By now it was nearly two hours since we had boarded the train. There were already people arriving who were expecting to be travelling on the next and last train out that evening!

It was presently announced that those wishing to travel the next morning could have their ticket endorsed at the office, and a few subsequently left the train. 

I was by now seated next to the young lady who had conversed with the guard. We decided that as we had the same destination we would make the most of the journey. We would turn this journey that we had not yet begun into an adventure, and we began by getting to know each other. 

Let me tell you a story

It is at this point that I continue with the thread at the beginning of my story.

A three-and-a-half-hour journey turned into a six-and a-half-hour adventure with lots of time for story-telling.

While on that train I listened to the story of this young lady’s life and I realised that parts of it I had heard many times before.

Four years ago my fellow traveller had received a phone-call while out shopping with a friend. The call was to inform her that her partner had collapsed. He was in hospital being treated for a stroke. He was twenty-four years old at the time.

The cause of the stroke turned out to be a previously undiagnosed heart disorder, and he was taken to the heart specialist unit at Papworth, near Cambridge, UK.

Recently we have been able to read lots in the news about incidents concerning undiagnosed heart disorders, especially in young, athletic men. The story surrounding the Bolton Wanderers footballer, Muambo comes to mind here. 

There I was sitting next to a young lady who had experienced something not dissimilar in her own life.

Her partner remained in hospital for several months undergoing heart surgery and later for the rehabilitation that was necessary for him to recover from the symptoms of the stroke.

Now four years later and after retraining so he can follow a different career path to the one that he had planned the young man has returned to work full time, the couple are buying a house, marrying and looking forward to a bright future.

The young lady however told me what it was like for her throughout the ordeal and the long road towards recovery and their bright future.

Wanting to be a part of it

She told me how she wished that she had been invited to join in the physiotherapy sessions and the cognitive therapy session that her partner went to. 

Not only did she wish to know how she could help, not only did she wish to understand the problems that her partner had, she wanted actually to see how hard it was for him, and experience the effort that he put into making a full recovery. She also said that with hindsight she would have liked someone to have taken care just a little bit of her own needs.

She told me about the day that she drove towards the hospital to collect her partner with her father beside her. She explained how guilty she felt when she admited to her father during that journey that, although she was thrilled that they had reached this stage and a good recovery had been made, a part of her did not want her partner back home with her.

She was afraid. 

She felt that she did not know what to do. She had no idea how to live life with a partner who was a stroke survivor and had a heart disease. No one had explained about the medicine that he would have to take, no one had told her that his short-term memory was still impaired and how should she deal with this. She had to cope alone with his impatience when things did not work just as they used to.

This stranger on the train pointed out to me the missing links in the system that had taken such good care of her partner. No one looked after her, or prepared her for the future.  No one had helped her to prepare for this homecoming so that the release from hospital could be a happy time, and not a time filled with fear and trepidation.

My story

I had, by about half way through this story, almost at the end of our journey, owned up and explained that I work very closely with stroke survivors and their families, and I also owned up to having several copies of a book that I had just published with one of these clients, in my suitcase.  

I gave this young lady a copy. 

The story in the book does not relate too much to the lives of these young people. Her young man has almost made a full physical recovery and his memory and his patience continue to improve both work hard and plan their move and wedding.

I gave the young lady the book because, after I had told her how I had encouraged my client to write her story down, she said several times ‘ Perhaps I should write my story too.’ 

She should, she really should.  Maybe seeing my client’s book will encourage her to do so.

There are not many twenty-four-year-olds who have a story like hers to tell and it is these stories, written down by the people who really know, that are the best sources of information for people like me.

As often happens on a long journey when adventures occur, whether delays or other incidents, they bring people together so that they begin to chat, I did not get this girl’s name or any contact details. She has mine, however, in the book, so all I can do is hope that if she needs advice or help at any time, or even decides to write her story, that she would get touch.

By narrating her story on the train she has already helped me a great deal in my work. I think about this young lady often and hope that she has influenced me, if only in convincing me of the importance of the work that conductors do with partners, carers, parents and anyone involved in the lives of our clients.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Magic, change and transformation

'Spiral' by Susie Mallett, April 2012

A little bit of magic, plus a little bit of magic, added to several more little bits of magic. 

Hey presto! What have you got?

Change and transformation!

With so much magic weaving its spells it is impossible to know whether it is the one sleight of hand, or this trick or that illusion that is working its wonders.

Magic, life and conductive education do not work like that. We cannot isolate one thing from the other to say: Ah that is why it worked’, we have to observe everything as a whole and then marvel at what happens.

One part of a magic trick may not work without the illusion and the clever sleight of hand, the effects of lighting, a rabbit in a hat, or some other trick up the magician’s sleeve. All the separate parts of a conjuring act depend upon the others and influence the others. Success is reliant on everything and everyone working in unity, just the same as it is in the virtual spiral of living, especially conductive living.

Social, emotional and physical magic

I saw Little Princess yesterday for the first time in almost four weeks.

First I was ill, then there were the school holidays and I have also been at home in England.
It was nice for us all to be together again.

When we got up from the dinner table to walk upstairs where Littlie Princess was to do her homework I just could not believe my eyes or my hands. Littlie needed hardly any help at all when standing up, when standing still or when taking steps, and she walked up and down the stairs with no physical help at all.

She was off, and as is often the case with our children, all of a sudden. 

When we stood still to regain balance after taking a few steps we went through the list, trying to find out what had worked this magic spell, if indeed it was magic at all. 

Perhaps it was just hard work.

We asked ourselves lots of questions.

Was it the lovely new shoes or perhaps her amazing new clothes? (All the girls had treggings on that day!)

Was it the extra centimetre in height? Or had her feet or her arms grown?

Was it due to having spent the lovely school holidays in Berlin or was it perhaps due to her now practising free walking every day at school? 

Was it because of the warmer weather, and the fact that she can be outside for a long time in the evenings on her bike?

Was it joy in knowing that the people in the team that help smooth the paths in her life are so relaxed and enjoy their work?

Littlie and I have often talked about how some activities will become easier with a little extra height or with slightly longer arms and bigger hands. We have also regularly noticed over the years that we have known each other, but especially since she attends mainstream school, that after, or perhaps during a holiday, huge developments occur in her abilities. We also know that school is tiring and it is easier for her when she attends conductive groups during or just after the holidays.

Communication and transformation

At the beginning of March we had a very successful meeting at school with the educational team that works with Little Princess. Littlie was there in school for most of the meeting. We were there to see what help she needed from us in the future, so we needed her help, and of course she is fully aware of how pleased we are. Not only are we pleased with her physical progress and success in her school life, but also our own success in working together so well, communicating just enough to help our Littlie’s path to success.

A week after this happy meeting we had a more social gathering, a gathering that included other members of a wider team around Littlie and her family.

I truly believe that it was after these meetings that the web of magic began to work its wonders. The unity that we work towards was so visible and the souls of all involved were radiating joy, especially Littlie’s soul and the family soul too. We were all filled with renewed motivation to solve problems and achieve success.

Of course this happy working and living environment motivates us all and Littlie no less than the rest of us. 

A break in the routine and lots of time to rest and play also brings its benefits. Little Princess is still little for her age, she uses up a lot of energy during a school day. Having two week’s holiday means that she has a few hours' extra sleep, a few hours' extra play and a lot more hours with her family, and she thrives on it all.

Putting into practice what we discuss in the meetings is also reaping its rewards. 

Littlie and her class assistant decided that they would have the walking-bike at school instead of the rolator, as this affords a much better posture and they decided that they would walk freely a lot more in the classroom where space was a bit tight for the walking-bike. It seems that we made the right decision, Littlie is walking more securely and her posture is improving too.

What about the clothes? 

Well I suppose like all of us Little Princess really does feel like a princess when she is looking chic in her denim-look leggings, and when she adds the new shoes to the outfit then the effect on her walking and posture is huge.

No answers just joy

 After our discussion about magic, Littlie decided, and I agreed, that it is the unity of everything we do that has worked wonders over the past few weeks and has allowed her to take such big strides forwards.

We all agree that a new pair of shoes has helped a great deal, with the heavier winter boots discarded with great ceremony because they have huge holes in them! 

(Photographs will be published later of these shoes because it amazes us that a severely physically disabled little girl has walked holes right through the soles of heavy-duty winter boots!)

The daily walks in the classroom have also contributed to Littlie’s new-found walking skills.
We have stopped searching for answers to who or what casts the magic and have settled down to enjoy the new experiences. One of these new experiences is her getting off her chair and walking a few steps alone before we, the conductors, actually reach her. She is feeling very brave and of course extremely pleased with herself.

A pat on the back and an answer to the questions

I received a note from a Mum of another child last night. It said:

I am really so impressed with how Littlie walked today, they are both such hardworking children!’

That sums it all up in one sentence for us: ‘They are both such hard-working children.’

Yes they are, and all that hard work casts a magic spell over us all!