My visitors today

Friday 30 November 2012

The benefits of cycling for Parkinson's, stroke and me

Me and Sis, 1959

Thanks again to Dean on deans’ stroke musings for the following link –

Dean is still working hard to get back to cycling after suffering a stroke and posts updates on his blog –

Dean has also recently linked to this story about cycling too –

As for my own bike, I am missing it very much as I have hardly ridden it at all these last few months. I have been feeling very tired and decided that it was not worth risking an accident by being inattentive in the early morning half-light, so I have been travelling on public transport. This means I have read more but missed the nature and fresh air and of course the exercise.
Although I am feeling a bit more alert now the snow began yesterday and the roads and cycle paths offer new dangers!

Perhaps there will be some sunny days in the Christmas hols on which to get out the bike and enjoy the fresh air.

Good luck to Dean with his practise sessions, that I suspect will also come to an end when the bad weather sets in, but will be renewed with great motivation in the spring, as I hope will happen with my cycling activity too.

Private integrated primary school in Inntal, Bavaria

One step at a time

In March this year, when I was at a conference in Rosenheim I spoke to the people involved in this conductive school project and first heard about their plans.

Later, in June, when I was attending a meeting in Vienna, I was told about the next steps and the progress that had already been made.

Today I received notification that the website is on line and the school will be opening in September

Congratulations to the whole team!

I look forward to hearing and reading about the next steps forwards.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Books and conduction

September's full moon, 2012

I am still with Oliver Sacks

In-between times I have been reading –

Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss; SPELL  IT OUT, The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal, and The Finno-Ugrian Vampire by Noémi Szécsi.

Me and vampires

I ordered the last book as it is Hungarian, both the author and the setting, and, of course, the vampires!

Tibor Fischer’s reveiew in the Guardian Weekly, 02.11.2012, says that it is a better read if the reader has inside knowledge of the Magyar language, culture and country, especially Budapest.

I discovered when I went to purchase it that this book was only available in ten of the book chain’s many stores, including Brussels. Nevertheless a copy was sent very rapidly to my local branch and I devoured it (an apt description considering the subject) in a matter of hours!

Vampires are not my usual cup of tea, but as I had a few days off it made a change from the stuff that I usually read. It was because of the Hungarianess of it that I was so keen to read it.

Having read Bram Stoker’s Dracula last winter, more for the wonderful language than the story line, I had some background information on the life of vampires that added to my enjoyment of the Hungarian book.

It was all in all a good holiday read and was a welcome bit-in-between amongst the non-fiction that I usually devour on planes, trains and trams.


Now, I am back to Oliver Sacks’s Hallucinations

It is because I have hit the spot in this book that deals with migraines, classic migraines that arrive with an introductory visual hallucination, or aura, before the pain begins, that I started to write about what I am reading.

I have suffered myself from migraines since I was nineteen years old and I had already seen my mother suffering from them throughout my childhood and teens. Oliver Sacks and his mother, both migraineurs shared their migraine experiences, just as I did with my mother.

They were both neurologists, my mother and I laypeople – like the people whom Sacks describes in his books.

While I am reading in this chapter about the range of visual and musical hallucinations, hallucinations of smells that the classic-migraine sufferers experience, I consider my own pre-migraine experiences.

I have no such luck to see interesting hallucinations; nothing has appeared to inspire my artist leanings as they have done with several well-known figures, including probably Lewis Carroll. Klaus Podoll and Derek Robinson have described some of them in their book – Migraine Art.

All I feel just before the onset of a migraine is nausea, that is almost immediately followed by a throbbing, excruciating pain that J.C. Peters described in his 1853 A Treatise on Headaches as a pain of a hammering, throbbing or pushing nature… pressing, dull, boring with a sense of bursting…as if the brain was pressed outwards.

Oliver Sacks writes – ‘…what a colossal and complicated achievement normal vision is, as the brain constructs a visual world in which color and movement and size and form and stability are all seamlessly meshed and integrated. I came to regard my own migraine experiences as a sort of spontaneous (and fortunately reversible) experiment of nature, a window into the nervous system – and I think this was one reason I decided to become a neurologist.’

As I read this chapter called— ‘Pattern: Visual Migraines’, I began to think that I was missing out on something. I thought that, if I am going to go through all that pain that accompanies a migraine, albeit to come out the other end one or two days later, pleasantly refreshed and more alive than before, then it would be good to have some hallucinatory images and visions to enjoy at the onset. They could even act as a warning for me to get some tablets taken!

I do not have that sort of migraines and I hope that I have to wait a long time before I next experience the type that I do experience, but I will be prepared to pay better attention when it comes and I have already placed a notebook and pencil in the medicine cupboard beside the migraine tablets. If I can reach the tablets then I will also be able to grab the notebook. Then I can record in detail what happens, what I experience, with or without visions and auras to satisfy my artistic eye, the next time that I feel like my head will burst.


What, readers may ask, do hallucinations and migraines have to do with conductive upbringings, lifestyles or education?

Whenever I read Oliver Sacks’s books I recognise that his words and his work have a lot to do with conductive pedagogy.

His observational skills and his description, his placing together of sequences of behaviour to form a picture, all remind me of what I do in my own conductive work.

His descriptions of how many factors influence symptoms and his insistence on not believing the first things that we see, remind me to rest on some of my own laurels but also to learn more from his words.

Within the virtual spirals of human lives, with neurological illness or wellness, with the influences of drugs, loving care, sleep disorders, eating disorders or visual disorders and much, much more, we must use our observational skills, not only of sight but also those of touch, smell, hearing and also ‘instinct’, to guide us to see the whole of an individual and to use these observations while making decisions on how to help clients progress and develop and continue spiralling upwards.

Back to the book

Perhaps while reading further and writing some snippets about things that strike me most in the next chapters I will end up with a unified whole.

I will discover more, I am sure, as I carry on with the next chapter, called – ‘The “Sacred” Disease’. It is about epilepsy, a subject that I think most conductors and many parents will have come across in their work and lives. Many of us will have observed the onset of convulsions or the affects that the anti-epileptic drugs have on personality.

I shall see what Oliver Sacks has written about all of this and more.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Déjà vu and eyes

'A winter garden'

Memories playing tricks
Been there, seen that…

Déjà vu usually stays around for only a short time, often for less than a second. It has not happened to me for a long time, maybe even years. It has never been as clear and long-lasting as it was at a meeting that I was at recently.

Someone joined in a conversation that I was having with two people, one of whom I knew well the other of whom I have known of for ages but we had only just met face to face. A fourth person began to speak to all three of us and I stepped back from the group as he leaned over the table to say something in quite a forceful way, not a disagreement, more a reinforcement of what was being said as introducing his own opinion.

This situation is all so clear in my mind. I even thought at the time that I knew what he was going to say next, that I was just a split second ahead of him. I was so shocked by this that I think the astonishment probably showed on my face, and this is why I took the step backwards. I almost felt no part of it any more, more like an observer. I was surprised I even had time to wonder about what was happening while it was happening and to question whether it really was déjà vu or whether something else was going on. It appeared to me as I imagine it to be when people describe how they have an enhanced, nearer and clearer view of the world from taking certain drugs. The visual picture of that déjà vu is still so sharp and the sounds are so precise in my memory, just as they were as it happened.

Tricks of memory

As it was happening I had that feeling of ‘I have been in this situation before’, ‘I know what he will say next’. Then came the feeling of ‘Yes, I was right, he did say what I remember from last time’. Oddly enough, however I have absolutely no idea what the conversation was about, or of what the newcomer, or either of the other two, said. I have no idea how the conversation ended or even when the déjà vu ended. Perhaps the meeting began and I was pulled out of it, I do not know.

It is all so extremely well deleted from my conscious memory that I wonder whether something actually happen to me, like falling briefly unconscious, and that is why there is a gap in my memory. I do not know, perhaps I was just ‘vacant’ for a second but did not pass out. If I had fallen unconscious I would have been told. The next that I remember is finding a seat to sit in.

I have always loved the feeling of déjà vu

This used to happen far more often than it has in recent years, and some déjà vus, I believe, at the time that they occured, had happened more than once before. I suppose that this would be called an already seen déjà vu! The one last week was a déjà, déjà vu.

I remember how as a child and teenager I loved this experience. I never spoke to anyone about it and I suppose that I eventually read or heard something that explained enough for me to know that it was a fairly common occurrence, so I was not afraid of it.

I do not ever remember thinking that this only happened to me. I suppose that, as children do, I considered it to be normal, happening regularly to everyone. I do think that I even believed that situations really had happened before and sometimes, only during the déjà vu itself, I believe that still. This time I also thought, as it happened, that it must be true as I knew the words, although oddly, I no longer know them.

Eyes playing tricks. Or are they?

‘As children often do’… I used to believe many things to be normal but never asked about them. Déjà vu is normal,  some conditions, however, are not.

It was not normal, something I unfortunately only discovered at the age of nineteen, not to see well enough to read a book after about three in the afternoon, in poor light, at school. I was embarrassed in class because I thought it was my shyness that made me stammer and stutter and rub my eyes a lot, but that shyness was probably due to a vicious circle.

I could not read in bed, or read a script for a play in the evening at youth club. I could not read more than just a paragraph and that not without rubbing my eyes a lot. I thought this to be just how it was with everyone, especially as we had school medicals, with eyesight tests annually that I always passed with flying colours.

I remember that this was how it was from the beginning of grammar school. I now know that this is why my homework took so long if I had to use a text book and that this was not because I was stupid and therefore slow. I now know that this is why I only became really interested in really reading books when I was at art school, when I took myself off to the optician and got myself such strong glasses that I had to have them in two prescriptions, one step at a time instead of at once.

I wonder how I managed to get through school as an average pupil, pass O and A levels and get on to a degree course without this ever being noticed. It helped I expect that my degree subject was art and I drew what I thought I could see and no one questioned what was on the paper, as it was ‘artistic’ enough and my hand-eye coordination skills were quite good! I noticed the problem myself when I started to learn about textiles and weaving and I could not thread a loom. Then a whole new world opened up to me, of newspapers, books and easier learning. Learning assisted by another source – the written word.

A personal view

I wonder whether this experience has sharpened my observation skills. I believe that it has. My ability to learn through doing is still much more honed than my skill to learn through reading about it. I do find though that, as I have practiced my writing skills in recent years, my ability to understand the written word has become easier and faster.

Perhaps in believing that it was normal not to be able to read sharpened my abilities to observe the world and taught me how to look at things that I saw and how I really see them, and I learnt how to fit things together in a slightly different way in order to understand the world.

Who knows what happened? All I know is that I found it a real problem to read before I got glasses and throughout my childhood I think that this embarrassed me and made me incredibly shy and timid, in class and out.

My family could never understand why, even when I had learnt to read, I did not do it. I loved books, especially those with lovely illustrations that helped me to understand the text that I could not see very well!

I always snuggled up to my sister in bed and asked her to read my favourite Enid Blyton fairy stories to me, ones with many elves, pixies and clever owls in them. My wish not to read is still a family joke and I think that the family thought I was lazy, but it was not laziness it was because it was after three in the afternoon, the light was dim and I just could not see. I admired my sister so much that she could read so fluently, and I am very grateful to her that she always did, right until I was ten or eleven years old.

I know that it is only recently while I have managed to practice through writing, that I can understand much of what I read with just one reading. Until then anything more than the headlines in the newspaper took a few readings to make any sense to me, even when I had my now very strong glasses.


It is no wonder really that I only ever felt really comfortable and relaxed with a pencil and paintbrushes in my hands. I do not really need to see what I put on the paper as I am drawing or painting, not that clearly. I need to see what I am looking at in reality, and that I could always see well enough to interpret in my own way.

Those well-honed observation skills come in very useful in my life at home and at work!

It is not only the observation of what I see that is important and vital to my work it is the observations of what could lie underneath. The patching together and finding the reasons why a walk is hunched up, or a voice has changed in tone, or words can no longer be found. Observing what cannot be seen is all so important to a conductive upbringing too, to any upbringing especially mine when I could not really see well enough to read but did not know it for a very long time.