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Wednesday 29 August 2012

It is The East Coast Truckers time again

It is that time of year again 

I was really lucky to be at home again to experience the East Coast Truckers' trip to Lowestoft —

Armed with my cup of tea to drink, an umbrella just in case of rain, flags to fly, and a hankerchief to wipe the wet eyes, I joined my Dad and many neighbours in giving these truckers and their very special passengers the send-off that they deserve. 

The annual trip to the seaside is organised by the drivers of huge articulated trucks. They have spent the past two years in negotiations with many of the local and borough councils, and the police, in order to secure the future of this wonderful occasion. An annual outing that bring smiles of delight to the faces of children and families with special needs, and brings both smiles and tears of emotion to the spectators that line the route.
I am especially moved when a child, who looks so tiny in the cab of such a monster truck, looks directly at me, grows in stature and waves like crazy. 

The noise of all those horns as they travel the thirty-odd miles to the east coast of Norfolk and Suffolk is almost deafening.

As the convoy, this year with 87 splendid trucks, begins in the County-Hall car park that is actually right at the end of Dad’s garden, we can hear exactly when it is time for us to step out on to the doorstep and begin waving until our arms ache. 

In a row of houses with no front gardens and where there are no buildings on the opposite side of the road, it makes for a great opportunity for the neighbours actually to meet each other for a change and have an early morning chat.  

At the end of the day the tired but happy travellers return from their day-trip just as it is getting dark and this time, as well as the wonderful cacophony of horns sounding, there is also a festival of lights on the front of each cab.

Dad, Sis and I all waved just a little bit harder in memory of my Mum. Mum would never have missed this occasion for the world. She was always out there to wave to one family in particular, some of my very early clients who loved her and enjoyed many visits in her amazing garden.   

A mine of information and always a really interesting read

"Creative moments", June 2012

I am using my little Netbook at the moment and for some reason my email in this account is set up differently from the version on my bigger laptop.
This is sometimes annoying as I have to scroll through a whole list of emails, all from one person, before I reach the next unopened mail. Then, having read that one, do the same for the next, and the next, and the next!
I know that there must be a simple explanation and a way to alter this and I am still clicking here, there and everywhere in the hope that one day I shall find it. (I am doing the same amount of clicking on the other computer in order to discover how to stop it reverting to red ink each time I press Send!)
On the Netbook I suspect that the reason that I have problems in finding what I need to click on is because the screen is small and the Netbook so slow that the full version does not appear. I soon get used to it and after a week I almost do not notice it anymore.
There is one great advantage of having a whole list of emails to scroll through. I am always reminded that I still have so much to read from one the blogs that I follow and value very much –
dean’s stroke musings,
Every day at just after midnight I receive an email that sends me the content of the latest posting on this site. I rarely delete these from my email account as this means that I have instant access to the information without being online and always have something to read. I can then make a note reminding myself to click on any links referred to in the postings that interest me most so that I can read more the next time that I get a good enough internet connection. 
Catching up
Catching up, that is what I have been doing this summer-holiday, camping-weather morning. Whether it is the cats-and-dogs rain that prevents good Internet access or being in the worst reception area in the city, (so the computer experts tell me), I do not know, but whatever the reason it has been nice to go through dean’s musings on stroke and pick out some interesting thing to catch up on the next time that a walk around Cyberspace is open to me.
As I have recommended before on this blog, take an occasional look at dean’s musings, it is well worth taking the time. 

Saturday 25 August 2012

1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 3 … Vienna-waltzing with AP

'Vienna now and maybe then'

SM and AP in Vienna 

It seems an age since I was in Vienna but it only just a little over two months ago that I nipped of the plane and on to a train to travel there.  


So much has happened since that visit. Birds hatched out on my balcony, I have been back and forth to England again, and dealt with a painful photo-toxic arm! As well there was work, several fests, a sleepover, conductive upbringing in someone’s home home and in the summer holiday group. Some of this got mentioned here, some got forgotten. This Vienna visit posting got buried in the ‘not yet published’ folder along with ‘Humour’, ‘Teeth’, ‘A certain Swedish firm’ and at least one ‘Oh, dear!’, all of which will be dealt with in due course. 

Back to Wien 

I was invited by my colleagues to join them in Vienna for the last meeting of a European project that they are involved in. As you can imagine I did not hesitate in accepting the invitation. I knew what a joy it would be for me to spend time in the city where András Pető spent some of perhaps the richest days of his life. Little did I know that the hotel and seminar rooms where I was to spend the three days visit were a five minute spritely walk from a house where AP lived for some of his time in Vienna. When I realised that I could wander along there before breakfast I was in Seventh Heaven! 

 One of AP's homes in Vienna

After the Jubilee 

I had had just about enough time to see the last boat in the Royal Jubilee pageant go under the last bridge over the Thames before getting on a plane to Germany where, after a short break I was on the train to Austria, swapping suitcases at my flat on the way.

I had joined in Jubilee fever at home having been there just long enough to catch the Thames river-pageant celebrations and pick up a bit of the, perhaps only temporary, joie de vie on the streets. At the railway station in Germany I dished out to my colleagues the Diamond Jubilee goodie bags that I had picked up at M&S so that we could all carry our victuals on to our train in Union Jack-adorned lunch bags, making for a festive atmosphere. 

Meeting nice people and NICE people 

Sometimes I wonder about the outcomes of all these European meetings, Comenius, Grundvig, and Leonardo, and the benefits gained. The centre where I often work in Nürnberg has been involved in all three of the conductive-related projects over the past two years. This has entailed about thirty journeys for conductors and other staff. It has meant more work for those travelling and more work for those left behind, but I think on the whole, especially for the conductors who I met in Vienna, there have been more positive than negative outcomes. One of the positive outcomes was that having spoken at one of these meetings three Hungarian conductors, who work in Britain, were invited to speak at the last German Conductive Education conference, in Rosenheim –  

I have attended only one Grundvig meeting, in Budapest, and two Comenius meetings, one in Newcastle in 2011 and this more recent meeting, exactly one year later, in Vienna.  

I presented a paper in Newcastle – 

I have also helped my colleagues prepare papers about our work together, in English and I have assisted with their various homework projects over the two years that the various projects have taken place. I am, therefore, up to date with the proceedings. 

Before the Vienna meeting I had as usual helped to prepare the homework, a summing up of the work over the two years, but I did not present a paper of my own. I could relax and sit back and listen to the others. 

I would not have wanted to travel to more of the meetings that took place over the past two years. The three that I did attend were enough to take time out of my already busy life and made planning work quite difficult.  

I did, however, enjoy being involved just a little bit in person and a lot in the background, helping my colleagues to prepare presentations about our work and I also enjoyed doing it all in English, the language of all European meetings. 

I enjoyed attending the meetings as they gave me a chance to hear Conductive Education discussed in my mother tongue. This is something that is still quite foreign to me and I enjoyed being able to contribute much more spontaneously and confidently than in either Hungarian or German.  

I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet people who are involved in Conductive Education in Britain, not something that I have been able to do much over the past twenty years. I regularly meet Germans, Austrians and Hungarians involved in conductive work at different centres. We get together at conferences and of course there are many Hungarian, and two German, conductors who work in all three of these countries also present.  

To speak to a few people in English about conductive work in England is something that I have really valued from attending the European meetings. I have also renewed my connections to the National Institute for Conductive Education, NICE, in Birmingham.  


Discovering the world of AP – a world he must have missed terribly 

I have been to Vienna just once before. Long before I had ever heard of AP or Conductive Education. In 1982 I attended a Reggae Sun-Splash weekend with a Reggae band from Birmingham. While they rehearsed for concerts I discovered Vienna, I walked from the city centre to the Prater so that I could see the big wheel that featured in the film of Graham Green’s The Third Man, and I saw a wonderful exhibition of work of artists from the Vienna Seccesion at the Art History Museum. 

It was that weekend in Vienna that I got well and truly hooked. Hooked on Vienna, just like I imagine AP probably got hooked too. I did not get hooked on the Vienna of the 1980’s but on the early twentieth-century Viennese life that I had caught a glimpse of as I walked through the wide streets, with huge buildings on each side of me and as I went through that wonderful, comprehensive exhibition, that included the painters, the psychologists, the musicians, the jewellers, the architects and dress designers of the time just before AP arrived. At that time Vienna was a hive of cultural activity, just as it is today, but different. It was into that hive of activity that AP moved in the early years of his life. 

I was already a fan of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele when I made that first visit to Vienna. After seeing their work in reality and in the places that it actually produced for, and after learning at the same time about the other aspects of Viennese life, I had a much wider picture, and that made a huge impression on me.

That is how I can now appreciate what AP’s life was possibly like in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, I imagine that perhaps he missed it so much after he was forced to leave. 

Musings about that time in AP’s life 

There are a lot of imaginings and maybes and perhapses going on here! Of course we do not know anything about what AP thought about life in Vienna so there is no option but to imagine and to think about all those perhaps  and maybes!  

I like to imagine and feel and soul-search. I like to do this more when I am in Vienna than I do when I am in Hungary. 

I can maybe do this better than others but maybe not. I have visited sanitoria in Bavaria that are possibly similar to those that AP worked in, but maybe not. I have trained as a conductor and lived in Hungary at a time when things had still not changed too far from Pető’s days. I have interviewed people who knew him, people who trained as conductors under his watchful eye or who learned from him at the university, but how good were their memories? 

I have recently got to know Vienna a bit better and have read more about the Seccesion, and I have tried to understand how it all was when AP lived there. I have read and read and read as much as I can find, both by him and about him, by the people he knew and in the papers he probably read and wrote for. Still all I can say is ‘I imagine’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. 

I came away from Vienna after three days of meeting and a day of searching for AP haunts, having come to the conclusion that AP must have missed that place dreadfully when he returned to Hungary. Perhaps not at first, but certainly in the last year of the war and the proceeding years when Hungarian life became more and more confined and restricted but life in Vienna was flourishing again post-war.  

AP had connections who sent him books and kept him well informed but what little is written about AP informs us that he never left Hungary after returning and I think he most probably missed the cultural capitals of Vienna and Paris very much. 

Back to reality 

Vienna waltzing and eating Klimt paintings 

Dinner had been organised for us on the second evening of our visit at the Central Café. This is one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses and I am sure one that AP would have known and used, to read  newspapers, meet friends and possibly enjoy a lovely cake. To keep the wonderful atmosphere with us as we went off to an evening of culture I purchased a selection of gorgeous cakes to eat later. I carried them in a pretty box tied with string as I remember seeing in films, The Third Man comes to mind. I am not sure whether this really happened there or whether it is just because it is one of my favourite films and I love the idea of walking the streets with a box of cakes! 
 Cafe Central and Dobos Torte

I carried them to the Kursalon where I was forced to leave them with my jacket at the cloakroom. (Leaving coats at the cloakroom – well that’s another story, something very foreign to the ‘non-continental Europeans’ amongst the group and something I that missed dreadfully at the 1210 World Conference).  

I had not thought that I might have to hand over the cakes and that the champagne interval would be on the roof and nowhere near the lovely arty cakes. So after enjoying an evening of music and dance we ended up hurriedly eating them at the tram stop at a few minutes to midnight, before everyone dispersed into the Vienna night, instead of sedately devouring them in the interval with sparkling wine!

This did not matter they were still beautiful and actually tasted as good as they looked. Mine of course was the cake with the Klimt painting on the top — a Dobos Torte, something known and well liked from my Budapest days and many a visit to the Vienese Café beside the Chain Bridge! 

As you can tell I was lapping it all up in Vienna, cafés, cakes, Klimmt and AP. What more could I wish for? 

And the rain came down 

There was more to come and quite my chance I ended up with something very nice to bring home with me. 

I spent my last evening walking through the avenues and admiring the huge palaces theatres and museums when the clouds turned ominous and, just as I  reached a Moszkva Tér-like tram and metro centre, the heavens broke. 

It was warm rain, that continental torrential rain with blitz and donner (lightning and thunder), and stair rods, it was not cold, damp English rain. It came down so heavily on that last evening out in Vienna that I had to take cover beside the Trafik kiosk at the tram terminal. Fortunately I was able to purchase, at that tiny kiosk that sells everything, an umbrella, an umbrella with a picture of Klimt’s Kiss printed on it. 

I put my new brolly to good use the following morning too when I visited one of seven exhibitions of Klimt that are on at the moment to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the year of the artist’s birth. I chose the one exhibition where I was also able to view some of Egon Schiele’s less well-known works in the same building. How I wished that I had lived there as AP did so long ago and could have soaked up this culture instead of getting soaked by the rain. I experienced enough to be convinced of what I said before, I am sure that AP must have missed it all terribly when he returned to Hungary. 





Sunday 19 August 2012

The Olympic Games are not over yet



There is just a short break for moving the furniture!

Most of the world is being told through the media that the games are now over. The people of Great Britain are also being asked to hang on to the Olympic Legacy and to prevent the closure of school playing fields and sporting facilities.

Headlines that cry out from newspapers front pages include – ‘Games go out with a bang’, ‘Team GB’s medal heroes’, ‘Was London better than Sydney?’, ‘The Peoples Games’.

All of these headlines seem to indicate that things have come to an end in the Olympic sporting world, but, for more than 4000 athletes, the excitement, hard work, moments of highs and lows, have all yet to come.

Team GB is waiting until after the Paralympics have taken place to have an open-top bus parade through London to celebrate the successes of all the sportsmen and women, but in other countries similar celebrations have already taken place without the Para-Olympians.

I believe that in Germany ARD and ZDF television channels will have live coverage of 5-10 hours daily of the Paralympics, but as yet there is little about the first ever all-tickets-sold Paralympics to be read in the newspapers here.

I wonder how much media coverage the Paralympics will get in other countries.

I have read in the British press that Channel Four have launched an advertising campaign, that the symbol for the Games has already replaced the five Olympic rings at some sites and that the torch is already underway on its relay through Great Britain. More and more tickets are being released and, just like the tickets for the events in the last couple of weeks, these too are selling like hot cakes.

I wish now that I had been more aware of the preparations for the Paralympics during the last four years. I think that I would have volunteered in some capacity had I realized that this was possible, but unfortunately I was not aware of this possibility until it was too late. I did, however, think about buying some tickets before it was too late!

Before the big rush for them began I got in touch with a friend in England who, having been to watch some of the Olympic sailing events was already conversant with the complicated ticketing system. Thanks to his patient efforts online we are now the really excited holders of tickets for events at the Olympic Stadium, the Copper Box and the Excel Stadium. I think we will see athletics, sitting volleyball and goal-ball but I cannot be quite sure until I get the tickets.

My sister has joined my excitement and informed me that has bought me a Paralympics’ T-shirt and I have already packed my Union Flag scarf that I purchased for the Diamond jubilee celebrations in June!

I am already for off and the Games have not even started yet! I have shared my excitement with all of my clients at work too and we all wish there was space in my suitcase alongside my Union Flag for them to come too.

How it all began

Most people in Britain have heard of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire. People my age and older perhaps know more than most through regularly watching TV campaigns for raising money for and awareness of this great hospital and the spinal injuries unit.

What I did not know is that it was here that the pioneering work, by a German neurologist, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, took place that evolved into what we now know as the Paralympics games.

Towards the end of the Second World War Sir Ludwig Guttmann was asked to move from his research work at Oxford University to run the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He was needed to develop rehabilitation and care facilities for the many service men returning injured from war.

A documentary film has been made that will be shown on the BBC in August that celebrates Dr Guttmann’s achievements, describing how he had faith in the tremendous ability of the human spirit, the human soul perhaps, to overcome difficulties –

The first Mandeville Games took place on the same day as the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 1948. It was an archery event organized for a group of 16 World War Two veterans with spinal injuries. Since that day the Paralympic Games for disabled athletes has grown to include many sports for not only spinally injured athletes but also athletes with many other disabilities.

If the media have got it right, this year is going to be the biggest event in the history of Paralympics, with most tickets for the many venues already sold and with the 4000 athletes arriving in London from over 150 different countries! 

I am so excited

I will be one of many thousands of spectators in the stadiums to cheer the competitors on. I realise as I write this that in the thirty-five years that I have been working in this field I have never been to a sports meeting for people with disability. This is rather a grand way of getting started and it is sure to be the highlight of my trip home.


Dr Ludwig Guttmann –

Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire England –

The Paralympics—

Getting crafty with young adults


A lot of trust was needed with an athetoid client’s foot on the pedal when I guided material through an electric sewing machine, but it worked.

As you can see from the results above it worked very well, but unfortunately I had no hands free to take any photographs until we were finished.

While working at the sewing machine I sometimes found myself saying stop a bit louder than I really wanted to and I also had to quickly explain how going faster on a straight stretch is a bit like doing the same when driving a car and is not always the safest way. We decided to go slowly so none of my fingers got stitched to the fabric!

We found a happy medium along the straights and the precision and timing that developed when stopping and starting amazed even me. We became a very proficient team by the time we had produced, between us, a couple of stuffed toys as gifts for Laddo's young friends who now have babies and young children of their own.

Art work for young adults

Laddo is an artist, but just like me, he does not really feel like painting pictures at the moment. During my recent visit to work with him I could not really motivate this young man to do anything really except learn to ride the buses and trains preparing for a new three-hour journey that involved three changes. 

Laddo changing transport, from bus to train

He has astounded us all by taking that all in his stride, but he just refused to get interested in anything else.

Except that is for stuffed toys!

Here is something I made earlier!

When I arrived at Laddo’s house I just happened to have a couple of examples with me that had been made by our school children. The only time in two weeks that I saw Laddo’s eyes light up with just a small amount of interest was when I showed him these partly finished toys. He was hooked and he named a couple of people who he wanted to make some for.

It took Laddo a whole week to find the material he needed, all he had to do was to ask his Mum but he kept forgetting. Once he had it deciding what to draw on it was no great problem as he has been creating paintings with me since he was seven years old and he does not lack ideas. Once we had the material we were well away, but he kept forgetting it!

Lists and gentle reminders

Forgetfulness is a problem that often causes difficulties in Laddo’s life. He forgets just about everything, although these days he sometimes remembers what he ate for his lunch he still forgets to put on his shoes, load his mobile phone, put money in his purse and many other much more important things. Fortunately he does not forget everything that he has learnt, but he forgets all too often that he should actually use it all. He needs reminding, a lot! Interestingly he never forgets where he has to go on a bus or on a train. He does it once and that’s it he knows. For all the other stuff we write lists and stick them inside his wardrobe door!

There is often a big battle in his life at home and work because of his forgetfulness. Everyone knows what he can do and all have high expectations of him. Laddo just simply forgets to do his best most of the time, but then he suddenly surprises us all with his capabilities and knowledge, like when taking his tablets, and when using the sewing machine to make his soft toys and later using an ordinary sewing needle to sew up the gap where the filling went in.

I guessed he would manage the needle and thread as he had shown me earlier in the day how he can now pick up, with his index finger and thumb, the tiny tablets that he needs to take daily. Life gets easier for Laddo and more independent and luckily his tablets are one thing he never forgets so as he practises that movement everyday he can transfer it to other uses, like sewing.

A stitch in time

A colleague, from years ago, and I have both got tales to tell about athetoid clients who learn to sew. We are thrilled by the success that we have seen in this craft by several of our clients. It really is a sight to see and it is surprising how many athetoid clients I know who really do love to sew, girls and boys, men and women, and who are quite provicient.

Laddo is one of them

Laddo’s dad has a workshop and years ago in our early years of conductive upbringing Dad made Laddo a huge needle. He learnt to sew cross-stitch patterns and made these and threaded-bead pictures as presents for aunties, grandmas and sisters. It never was a problem for him learning which side of the cloth to work from, a problem that occurs more often with diplegic, and sometimes tetraplegic children. Surprisingly it did not take long before he could also hit the right spot on the fabric with the needle, despite his shaky hands, arms and body.

It is always such a pleasure for me to watch my athetoid clients sew.

Just a couple of weeks ago Little Princess completed a hand puppet completely on her own, sewing the two pieces together with only help to thread the needle. 

I watched her entranced!

Laddo needed a bit of help to hold the stuffed toy as he sewed the last bit by hand with a needle and thread, but the sticking in and pulling out of the needle he did alone. What’s more he only pricked his own finger once and mine only got pricked twice.

All in all he did very well and with a little bit of effort on both our parts we got enough motivation going to make the toys pictured at the top of this posting.

We were a bit limited for colours as many of our fabric pens that had been left in the cupboard unused for several years had dried up, but we managed well enough.

I am rather excited about seeing our client’s art work taking on three dimensions. I think we will all be doing a lot more of this! It is such a nice way for children and adults to produce something useful with their creative talents.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Painting again


Since Easter 2012 there has been a building site outside the front door at work

Almost exactly five years after the architects’ plans were first shown to us, the building began. The building will house the Petö/Montessori Integrated Kindergarten and also a new Petö/Montessori Krippe (crèche).

Keeping records

We have been snapping away since the big hole was dug, when the children were so excited because they thought we were going to have an Olympic-sized swimming pool on our doorstep.

March 2012

We watched closely when the foundations were laid, when the lift shaft was cemented in, when the wall units were delivered and when the second floor began to take shape.

It was all happening so fast

Now, at the beginning of August, the rafters are up and the Richtfest (rafters-fest) has taken place. This is a party given for the builders by their boss to celebrate the completion of the first stage of building. There was the traditional speech from the rooftop, the traditional pig-roast, lots of silly games and some lovely singing from the children.

August 2012

Moving in

Moving the Kindergarten to its new home is planned for around Christmas time and lots of thought is going into how the rooms will be furnished and decorated.


I offered my services to the Kindergarten for a few afternoons when I had a couple of hours free between groups. I did not really wish to cycle home and back again so I was looking for a job to do.

It did not take them long to decide how they could put my skills and time to good use, to think about what was needed. The new Kindergarten would need a new sign and even perhaps a new logo and the children could design it with me.

The end product heads this posting. This and the following photographs show the work in process. Each week two or three children donned their painter’s smocks and depending on their age and skills contributed what they could to the art work.

We began with three three-year-olds daubing shades of blue on the canvas with huge brushes. This was followed by two four-year-olds gently dabbing sponges soaked with yellow paint within a taped off border on top of the blue.

Each week the creation was left to dry then hung in the Kindergarten for all to see how it was developing, and to allow the opportunity for children to talk about the different stages and what they would like to do next. 

Time for the Komet

This Kindergarten is called Kindergarten Komet, so of course we needed a comet in our picture.

It was decided that the comet should be executed in a different medium and in the end we decided that window-colours would make an ideal contrast, with lots of shiny gold and yellows on the matt blue-and-yellow background.

The pre-school children and the five-year-olds were chosen for this job. This work was spread out over two weekly sessions to allow for drying between colours, to prevent smudging and to have the optimum level of concentration!

With the comet eventually glued in place it was time to think about what to write on our house-sign.

The printing press!

We could not put a huge canvas through a printing press but we could print on it with individual letters.

I remembered that years ago I had bought some sponge letters about two inches high that would do just the job, if only I could find them. I found them quite quickly with very little effort amongst a box of old paint brushes.

But would we find the letters that we needed?

Yes, despite finding that only half of the letters of the alphabet were left in the box, the letters that we needed to print KOMET were there.

Waiting a while

We had decided to wait a while before adding any more information to the sign as, with the addition of a Petö/Montessori crèche to the establishment, it is quite possible that the building may be be called Kinderhaus and not Kindergarten.

We will wait and see but, even though the final decision on the name has still to be made, the sign was hung on the door of the yet-to-move Kindergarten on the morning before the Richtfest (rafter-fest) took place. It was there for all to see when they arrived to party with us!