My visitors today

Monday, 29 April 2013

Abstract submission deadline

'Let me tell you a story 1985-style'

Last minute ideas

There is just one more day left before the abstract submission dead-line for the World Congress in Munich in October, so there is still time for a last minute idea.

I had my three abstracts all finished a month ago. I knew that I would get requests for help this week so I wanted my plate to be clear!

I have just sent the last one of five that I looked through back to the author for submission and one last one has just been lined up for tomorrow!

Helping hand

I have really enjoyed doing this finishing off work for my colleagues and am surprised that more people have not asked me. I hope this means that everyone feels confident with their English and not that there are fewer abstracts being submitted. I have the numbers 3, 20 and 49 on my three. I expect that there will be a rush of submissions tomorrow, let's hope that the computer network does not crash.

High expectations

I am sure that there will be enough submissions for the committee to choose from so that the 2013 congress-goers have an interesting selection to listen to. At 360 Euros pro-person I for one am looking forward to some high quality keynote speeches, presentations and discussions.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bits-in-between for conductors

Easter Bunnies for Aimee and Oli

They were loved immediately and christened Pinky and Bluey!

A fortieth birthday present, he is called Woofie
It was a shame that they had to leave, I miss them!
Sis and I made some teddies for a charity that sends them to doctors, who work in war-torn countries, to give to their young patients to cuddle.

Crafty times

It is nice to forget work, forget writing books and blogs, forget painting and housework, and just lose myself in being arty crafty for a while. 
That is just what I did in March while preparing crocheted bunnies for Easter and again after Easter, when I spent a few days with my sister who needed just a little bit of help with some knitting - we had fun and we hope the children who receive the Teddies do too!



Monday, 15 April 2013

A little bit of my life for a change

Genoa station

Living in an N-scale model of Nürnberg!

I was invited to Italy for Easter weekend to live like a princess in a medieval tower in Albenga! Well it was not quite exactly like that, I was invited to Albenga and once I was there I felt like I was living like a princess because the B&B was in a medieval tower and led to all sorts of day-dreaming!

Ligurian Coast Express

From the double-decker train to Albenga

I had enthusiastically traveled once before, in Cyberspace on You Tube, on the coastal train that runs through many tunnels from Genoa, along the Ligurian Sea coast, towards Ventimiglia, chopping its way through the headlands and trundling just metres from the beach on the straight stretches.

The reality show was much better than I could ever have imagined especially as we had missed the Intercity connection in Genoa which meant we had to go instead by the regional, stop-everywhere, train. These trains are double-deckers like those that I have traveled on in Germany and Sydney, Australia, so that was a treat in itself.

Memory Lane

Before I continue with the Ligurian holiday story, I have to explain that this holiday adventure had actually begun the evening before when I had landed for the first time ever at London City Airport, right in the middle of Docklands, just minutes from the City. Landing at five in the evening I sped my way from the airport to meet a friend at the Wyndham Theatre for a performance at 7.30! The theatre is just behind the National Portrait Gallery, opposite the shop that I worked in for about six months in 1979, after I finished my BA in Fine Art. A trip down Memory Lane, nearly thirty-five years down the lane!


I may have worked just in that spot in London opposite the theatre but in those days I did not have money to spare for theatre tickets and my love of theatre had not developed so much that I would have scrimped and saved to buy one. A shame really as it was so handy.

The theatre visit was to be a surprise. I had not been told what I was going to see and I had been very good and kept my fingers away from Google. I am so glad that I had done so.

My friend teased me at first, pretending to move away from the Wyndham towards one of the many other West End theatres. I was disappointed because by this time I had read the posters and knew who was performing there but at the last minute he steered me into the door, up many flights of stairs, through many tiny lounges, into the gods, where with a glass of white wine in my hand, I took my seat.

It was amazing to sit in a wonderfully old, over-the-top theatre, looking down almost vertically on to the actors. It was even more amazing that one of the actors was Rowan Atkinson! Yes, there was Mr Bean on stage in front of my own eyes. I had been afraid that I might drop off as soon as I had a moment to relax but with so much to feast my eyes on there was no chance of doing that anymore.

More than just Mr Bean

I must say I was very impressed. Of course Rowan Atkinson was not playing Mr Bean, he was St John Quartermaine in Quartermaine’s Terms.

The play was brilliant, the stage set was brilliant, I was in my element and it was the perfect beginning to the trip to Italy that was to begin the next morning.

I had heard and read that London‘s West End theatre is amongst the best in the world. I saw Tommy Steele in Half-a-Sixpence at the London Palladium when I was a teenager on one of my first solo trips up to The Smoke, and the memory of the wonder of that still remains with me, but I had never seen a real grown-up play in the West End of London before.

As some readers will know I am a regular theatre-goer in Nürnberg. I love everything about the theatre, from meeting friends beforehand, people-watching as the other punters arrive in their glad-rags, the first rise of the curtain, the interval drink waiting at a numbered table, more people-watching, and then the final curtain call – maybe even a premier party afterwards to boot. I do of course enjoy the plays that I watch too, and never have I seen a play of the quality of Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms, staring Rowan Atkinson. I was mesmerised from the very first moment. Everything was perfect. The acting was of a much higher calibre, the stage set-designs so artistically executed. It was just like real life, nothing appeared to be faked, and nothing appeared to be acted. Even a little bit of Mr Bean could be seen in the movements of Rowan Atkinson’s hands, the raising of his eyebrows and the tweaks of his lips.


The tower where I lived

Going overnight from a play set in a language school in 1960s Cambridge, to a medieval tower in a town on the Italian Riviera, was like moving from one stage set to another.

Italy, all foreign to me

I left my home near the medieval old city of Nürnberg at 18.00 and the next day at 16.00 I was unpacking my clothes in a medieval tower in Albenga, Italy.

After a flight from Germany - to be greeted by the bright lights of London and a wonderful evening in an amazing theatre in London, a few hours sleep, an horrendous ride travelling on a crowded M25 (I will never get used to how close people drive to each other on British motorways or how little time they leave to get somewhere even though they know the roads are always crowded), and an uneventful flight with a bumpy landing in Genoa I was beginning to wonder where I was.

I think if I had travelled to anyway else I would have been quite disorientated but it all felt so nice as I found myself in a scaled down version of the place I had just left the day before! I enjoyed thinking of myself being in an N-scale layout of a G-scale Nürnberg. It was like living in the layout on my coffee table at home, only the streets seemed even narrower and the buildings taller. Albenga is a city of towers, with originally over fifty with half of them remaining today, having survived earthquakes and wars. The B&B were I stayed was in one of these towers, one that lost the top bit in an earthquake at the end of the 19th Century.

Some of the beautiful painting

I fell in love with Italian culture immediately. I loved being in another foreign country, at times I found it quite reminiscent of 1989 Budapest. I loved not understanding the language but then realising that I did indeed understand quite a lot. I had been very sensibly advised, by my British host at the B&B, not to get too confident and to avoid the temptation to guess, he had obviously come a cropper doing this before he mastered the lovely melodious language!

There was much more that I enjoyed about being in this medieval town.

As dusk fell I imagined I was in a Dickensian novel. As darkness fell the shadows cast fears around every corner and I thought that any minute now the Artful Dodger would scamper by with a policeman close on his heels. It was a lot creepier than the G-scale version of Nürnberg where I am glad to say I feel very safe as the shadows appear in doorways even though it does remind me of the film The Third Man!

Although the coffee houses were similar to those that I am used to in Germany the coffee was out of this world and much cheaper too.  As it was Easter there were not only beautiful cakes on display in these cafes, there were also the most amazing and most enormous Easter Eggs that I have ever seen.

Easter eggs
I think I can honestly say that my favourite part of Easter in Albenga was the cafes with its coffee! 

My favourite cafe
I had relaxed and also slept more than usual. I realised later as I headed for Norwich that I was, for the first time in months, no longer tired. The plentiful supply of fresh, sea air had probably helped. As I strolled on the dark grey, sandy beaches I had lapped up the warm wind on my face as the chilly, but not ice-cold, sea lapped around my feet (note that I  did not paddle in the north sea a week later as my sister and I battled against the east wind blowing off the sea at Gorleston. Yes, it was invigorating like in Italy, but it was so bitterly cold, as usual).

Home from home on the beach too

In Italy it was more than a touch warmer than I am used to in my homeland and the wind had a different feel to it too. Not lazy like our Norfolk wind that cuts straight through anyone trying to battle against it. On the beaches of the Italian Riviera it was quite blustery at times too, there were even breakers on the sea big enough for a surfer to enjoy, but there was some warmth in the air. This warmth is the reason why cyclamens were in bloom on balconies, palm trees were lining the promenades, and orange, lemon and kumquat tree in many streets and gardens. To top it all the birds were singing and swallows diving over the river estuary for insects.

As usual I found my pockets full of stones and shells as I prepared to pass through the security checks at the airport but most of my treasure, sea-washed shards of ceramic tiles were safely placed in my suitcase at the end of each day, collected for use in a homemade mosaic souvenir of some sort.

I also spotted many shoes in the flotsam and jetsam I think if I lived by the beach I would have created an arty sculpture with them as there were so many. Fortunately I did not have a suitcase big enough to transport them home, they would have been a bit smelly too.

On the beach

On my way travelling back to Britain I wrote a list of all the things that I had enjoyed about Albenga and Italy. I have written about some of them above. Still on the list are –

·         the beautiful clothes and the elegance with which they are worn, even when bundled up in winter.
·         the lovely family orientated living
·         the handsome men
·         the potatoes roasted with sprigs of rosemary
·         how children and woman are treated so carefully by men
·         the trains and the stations, the coastal line
·         the shoes, everyone wore nice shoes
·         ice cream, gelato 
·         the paintings in the alleys

Art in the alleys

In the area of Italy that I visited it was obvious that I was not in a country as wealthy as Germany, with council taxes abolished by the previous government there was an obvious lack of investment in the maintenance of the town but these cut-backs were not noticeable in the dress, especially on this holiday weekend when families were out promenading and eating in restaurants together, everybody dressed in finery. 

Sharing holiday impressions

I took many impressions back home with me to snowy, windy and cold Norfolk and even shared some of them in the form of coffee, chocolate and multi-coloured pasta. Unfortunately the lovely ice cream, like the alley ways and beaches could only be shared through the photographs. 

Lemon and mint

Pasta trees in Norfolk

On yer bike!

Blustery and wet holidays
Yesterday as I arrived back in Germany after a very cold, wet and wintery, Easter holiday for everyone, whether in Germany, England, Hungary or Italy, spring arrived too.

In order to make use of the warmth and the energy that I have stored up while on holiday this afternoon I carried my bike up from the cellar at work, I got help to pump up the tyres then I peddled the ten kilometres home.

What a treat

I really enjoyed whizzing through the countryside after having seen it only from the window of a bus or tram for the past six months. I hope that the sun stays with us for a few days so that I can get my legs used to the twenty kilometres a day whatever-the-weather ride. 

It is not only the cold weather that has stopped me from riding my bike for so long. I have been worried about cycling, especially in the city traffic, because I have been so tired after a day at work. I was afraid that I would not be concentrating well enough to be on the roads in the poor light of winter. I hope that my fresh start today is the beginning of several months enjoying the fresh, early morning air and the warm, evening sunshine as I travel to and from work.

It was a good start back at work.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Adult clients, real collaborators

How group members care for each other, including me

It is strange how time flies past when my work with adults begins.

A three-week block with children appears to me to last at least twice as long as a three-week block with adults. I enjoy both but I wish that the work with adults would last just a little bit longer. No sooner has the camaraderie picked up again and it the time is over again for a while

I love to work with my colleague with the little children who attend our sessions for three weeks at a time, to meet the older children who attend sessions each afternoon after school, and to help them with their lives in mainstream schools, but my favourite work of all is with the adults. I especially enjoy the work with the stroke group, although I now have another favourite string to my bow, with the new group called Fit and Active at an Older-Age.

I wonder whether it is because we do not see each other regularly each week that this special camaraderie has developed. I expect that all group members, all in their own special way and for very personal reasons, look forward as much as I do to our intermittent blocks working together.

Taking responsibility

The stroke group has been established since 2002 and has a hard core of members, with one of them still with us from the very beginning. They are all active and it is their active work that often attracts new members who they then encourage and help integrate into the group. They all feel responsible for each other’s full participation and the development of everybody’s skills, including social skills.

A new group member, a new colleague...
...well sort of

I am really lucky to have a former colleague working with me once again after a five year break in the adults’ groups. I just love having him there; he brings a relaxed atmosphere in the group with him. We had worked together for years previously and developed a wonderful working relationship. We do not really have to discuss much as we work, we just know what the other one is doing, and we both know what all the clients are doing and need. We swap ideas and help each other, and the clients, carry them through in action.

Our clients love this atmosphere too as they know that things will run smoothly throughout the sessions.

Personality traits

Of course there are always clients who prefer to be with one conductor or another. We will all have experienced that in our lives, and not only with children. Adults often show preferences too. It could be a personality thing. It could be how we help, how we touch people, how we speak to them or our actual physical strength.

The big chap in the group feels safer when walking through the ladder in the middle of the room with my male colleague beside him. I always put the ladder beside the parallel bars when I work with him alone so he feels just as safe, he walks in the direction so he can grab the bars if necessary. 

Now that I have a colleague again who is stronger than me we all prefer it that he walks alongside the ladder with the clients.

One lady may prefer the fine-tuned finger-tip help of a quiet experienced conductor, while other clients might prefer the smiley personality of another, but perhaps less experienced, conductor.

We switch and swap so that no one gets too attached and everyone gains lots of experience, conductors and clients alike.

I like working with all these people, the conductors and the clients, and I love to observe how we all learn and progress, and how it all comes together like cogs in a well oiled piece of machinery.

Oiling cogs

Oiling the cogs takes place at the hands of all members of the team and last week it was one of the old-time clients who got on with some very necessary and quite tricky oiling.

There is a newish member in the group. He lives in a sheltered community, in a care home, whereas the rest of the group live at home with their families. He has lived in the care home for over ten years, since suffering a stroke when he was in his late thirties.  Two other group members are in their sixties, one has children and lots of grand-children and has an active social life, and the other enjoys travelling with her retired husband and participating in musical and carnival events with him. A younger member of the group has a young family, one of the children born since he suffered the stroke. All these factors are important in the changes and transformations that take place in these clients’ lives, in their personalities and relationships with others, both before they took part in conductive living and since.

Their ability to communicate and the expectations put upon them from others to participate in life differ, and of course change as their various social and physical skills develop.

It was in this context that last week I experienced something that made me smile inside.

One of the group who ten years ago could not string more than two words together in her native tongue (in English, a foreign language, it was a little bit easier) mentioned to the newest group member, the one who lives in the care community, that he did not smile very much in fact hardly at all. I remember her telling me the story years ago about when the smile came back into her life, when she realised that it had been missing and decided to live each day as it came, and to the full. She put a smile back in her soul with help from her husband.

She asked this man why he did not smile. He was forthright, explaining that he had consciously given it up years before, directly after he had suffered a stroke, at the time when the smile seemed to disappear from his life. The lady explained how important it had been for her to be influenced by her husband’s philosophy in life of finding a way to do their best, to put on a cheery smile as often as possible, and to make the most of their new lifestyle. The rest of the group, those with families at home, added their nods of agreement.

In the event, during that day’s session they all received smiles on more than one occasion from the younger man.  He is the one member of the group who does not live with his family and therefore does not have people rooting for him in quite the same loving way as the others do. He has no wife or children or grandchildren beside him, motivating and encouraging him constantly to reach new goals or to smile. This conductive group are his motivating force and it is they who got him to smile again.

During the three hours twice weekly that this group is together they often interact with each other like a family unit, each with their own jobs to do, their own supporting roles to play, their own acts of encouragement, their own highs and lows, just as it is within a family. And it usually all goes on without words, without spoken agreements, in much the same way actually as the work with my new-but-old colleague.

Finding the words in a difficult situation

As the session progressed on the day in question the older lady, who can now string together long sentences and hold interesting conversations, explained her more complicated thoughts about what she thought was happening in the group, and she soon became much bolder in her observations. I was amazed at her ever developing ability to express herself. She was able to translate her thoughts into words and directed them towards the newer group member, with the rest of the group spontaneously offering in turn their support to both of them. I was actually quite shocked by what I heard – but at the same time very moved.

More than a client

It was such a strange situation for me to be in. I was receiving the kind of support from a client that I would normally expect from a fellow conductor.

‘Why do you only complain about your aches and pains and your fears when Susie is standing beside you, and not when a male conductor is there?’ asked the lady.

For myself, I did not at first know what to say, but I soon pulled myself together and thanked the lady for thinking about this and being brave enough to ask. I had actually been struggling to find a balance between encouraging this client to be active and try new things and actually moving away from him and giving him a break when he became quite tetchy. The man who had been asked the question took a bit longer to react, he too I think was shocked and needed time to reflect on what was going on. 

The other group members had time to pass their own remarks before he eventually said that it is because I am small and he is more fearful when I am there with him. The lady replied that there was also a very tall and strong young man (not a conductor) who was helping him and that she suspected it was nothing to do with that at all. We all agreed that she was probably right and the atmosphere improved enormously.

Time to question the word “client”

I have happily used the word client for a long time, I do not like the word participate. As my clients and their groups develop so do our relationships with each other and the word client no longer seems enough.

The members of the group are there alongside me not as fellow conductors but as fellow human beings engaged upon common tasks.

I am no spring chicken but I am younger and less worldly than some of my adult “clients”.

As they begin to master their motor disorders and the social disruptions that these cause then these mature people emerge again in their own right and we really begin to work as a “team” developing alongside each other, every one of us with a contribution to make.


One of the clients who attends this group, one of its founding members, has long since come to the conclusion that it is time to question the words that we use to describe the people we work with.

She addressed this in the book that she wrote, “It came like a bolt from the blue”, a book in which she describes the establishment of her conductive lifestyle.

Having thanked several people for the roles that they play in her life she wrote –

“I also wish to say thank you to conductor Susie Mallett. With her I have learnt how to be happy again and how to do things. In the conductive group I have become an active person again (not seen as an object). Susie has become a very close friend to me.”


It came like a bolt from the blue, A post-stroke story in words and pictures by Waltraud Heußinger – edited and published by Susie Mallett, Conductor, Nürnberg