My visitors today

Saturday 21 March 2015


Today I had the morning off and after a leisurely breakfast I was in time to catch the beginning of the solar eclipse.

Last minute preparations

As I had not realised until last night that this natural phenomenon was taking place today I was unprepared. But late last night I found a video showing me how to produce a pinhole camera in a few minutes.

This morning with only minutes to spare till kick-off I grabbed myself a cardboard box, a piece of tinfoil, a square of white paper, some sticky tape and a knife.

Watching together all across Europe

I was communicating with a friend while I was preparing to watch the eclipse and having built my viewing camera in less than two minutes I recommended it for a fast, last-minute viewing, but my friend preferred a bowl of water on the lawn. I tried this but with the sun not reaching the floor of my balcony it was impossible to arrange.

I also phoned my Dad, who I thought would be smoking a piece of glass as he did for me in the mid-sixties to take to school, but there was no sun to be seen in Norwich this morning so he was indoors and had no need for my pinhole-camera instructions, he was however very pleased to have a call from me so early in the morning.

I thought that I would only be able to view the sun from my balcony for part of the eclipse but it was so well timed that it was only after the last part of the moon had passed by that the sun disappeared behind my neighbour’s house.

A contemplative two hours

I was so thrilled when I saw the first image on my pinhole-camera screen that I just had to take lots of photographs.

It works!
I spent the next two hours on the balcony not only watching the changing image on my screen but also experiencing the changing atmosphere.

Most noticeable was that I was experiencing an evening sunshine on my balcony where I never have sun in the evenings. The light had that evening quality about it that makes all the colours more vibrant. It was really exciting. 

Evening atmosphere
Gradually it got colder too

I have had mornings off work all this week and I have spent most of them sitting on the balcony working. Sheltered out of the wind the sun has had a warming quality but this morning that warmth disappeared only to return when the moon had passed by.


The atmosphere was very still and the birds certainly quietened down for a while. They did not go totally silent as they did in 1999 but today at the peak of the eclipse they certainly quietened down for a while and they were less active.

Back to conductive reality

I was sorry to pack up my camera and jump on my bike to go to work. By the time I was out in the countryside on the cycle path the midday sun was make to its normal strength again.

The sun looked like the moon

The eclipse had been the favourite subject at lunch yesterday. One little boy had said he was afraid of the eclipse, others were worried about whether mum would have managed to buy some special viewing glasses to take to school or whether they would have to borrow Dad’s welding glasses.

Today the little boy who had told us that he was afraid had lost his fear and happily described to us  – ‘The sun looked like the moon today and we will be able to see it again in a thousand years’ time!’

A rainbow in my coffee cup!

Monday 16 March 2015

Biking on two or more wheels

Nürnberg, 2014

Once again I am indebted to one of my favourite blogs,  Deans’ Stroke Musings, for this link to a Mountain trike for wheelchair users –

As I was pumping up the tyres on my lonely mountain bike this evening, with my new stand pump, I remembered that several days ago I had saved the link to share here on my blog.

There are links to several more means of transport for wheelchair users on Deans’ stroke Musings –

Thank you once again for all the info on this site. I read it first thing in the morning, and it is always well worth the long read.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Touch-free smart-phone and tablet use

Early spring 2015
I yesterday wrote about the opportunities that I had to read when my mobile phone was in for repair and I also wrote about how I also missed the early morning read of the blogs that I follow.

Today I discovered the link below and I realised how lucky I am to be able to use a smart phone at all.  Not only lucky that I received help from my niece and my nephew to learn what to do with when it was new (I had purposely bought the same model that they both had at the time) and not only lucky to have colleagues who back up that learned knowledge and rescue me when something goes wrong, I am lucky that I can physically use it – there are many people who cannot.

I love watching our most severely disabled children invent their own techniques to use their smart phones and tap out words on their computers. Luckily most of them work out how to use them independently with help from our fine-motor tasks and games. But there are still many people, especially paraplegics, who just cannot manage to use a phone or a tablet alone.

A man in Israel was asked by a disabled man whether he could remedy this. This led to the invention of a touch-free controlled phone that is controlled by using head movements –

Saturday 7 March 2015

Books, blogs and phones

Communication between friends

My phone was broken this week but I did not miss it, even though I was glad to get it back today in normal working order again.

One friend called to ask whether I was OK. She had noticed my absence because she missed her daily doses of my photographs of our work – she works in the offices of our Association and enjoys seeing what we get up to and seeing  what she works so hard for!

No one else seemed to notice my absence from the smart-phone world because I still had Skype and email connections from my home-computer.

I thought that I had not missed the phone until looked back through my emails to check for those I had not read. There were a few, all from the blogs that I follow with the latest blog posting sent to me in my email inbox. Most of these blogs are American so the emails telling me about new postings usually arrive during the night. I read them on my mobile phone in bed, between alarm calls. There are three. I doze between the first two and read the blog postings before the third.

This is one posting that I missed from a blog that I have only recently began to follow –

It is good once again to read and learn about life with a motor disorder from a very personal point of view.  

Here is another posting that I missed this week, from an old favourite –

And of course I missed the daily offerings, packed with so much valuable information, from Dean’s Stroke Musings. I had to find time to read these in the evenings on my home computer rather than in the early hours on my phone

I discovered two advantages of having no mobile phone. The first was that I read books undisturbed by phone calls and messages on the bus and tram, and the second, also to do with reading, I read books instead of emails in bed in the mornings – something I have not done for years.


I have two books on the go: a heavy one that I take to work as it is too heavy for bedtime reading, and a smaller one, Lingo, a Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe, by Gaston Dorren. This is an amazing book.

Many of you must have seen people, usually men but I have also seen a woman or two over the years, standing at the end of railway platforms writing down the numbers of all the engines that they spot. Well this book is written by someone who spots languages in the same way as train-spotters spot engines!

I love the footnotes at the end of each language-chapter, especially the second note which is always a word from the specific language that the author has picked out that does not exist in English but one that he believes should perhaps be adopted.

I enjoy books on language and culture so much because my day revolves around so many languages. I love to read about how these languages evolve and Lingo makes a very entertaining journey from one country to the next, describing how the languages travelled to become what they are today.

My life is full of different languages and cultures I have often written about how many mother-tongues we have in our groups.

One Friday I spoke a bit of Hungarian, I worked with three different Hungarian conductors and I met another four. I worked with two children whose mother-tongue is Turkish, with one whose mother-tongue is Dutch, and another whose mother-tongue is Russian. I worked with only two German children, one of whom gets top marks in English and Latin and between the conductors we are fluent in Hungarian, English, German, and Swedish, with a bit of Greek, Italian, French and Russian!

More about the brain

The heavy book that I carry to work is The Brain’s Way of Healing, Stories of Remarkable Recoveries and Discoveries by Norman Doidge, who also wrote The Brain that Changes Itself.

In my opinion this his newest book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, is not quite up to the story-telling standards of Oliver Sacks but it is well on its way to being in the running. Oliver Sacks is quoted on the back cover as saying that this book is – ‘A remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain.’

With Oliver Sacks’s next book being published in the spring, and its possibilty of being his last, it is good to read a few new books that follow in his footsteps. Another one of my recent reads in the same vein is – Reaching down the Rabbit Hole by Allan Ropper and B. D. Burrell.

Food for thought for a journey

I hope I have given some readers some food for thought over the weekend or on the journey to work next week.


Gaston Dorren (2014), Lingo, a language spotter’s guide to Europe, Profile Books. IBNS 978-178 1254 165

Norman Doidge (2015) The Brain’s Way of Healing, Stories of Remarkable Recoveries and Discoveries, Allen Lane- Penguin Random House, ISBN 987-1-846-14424-0

Allan Ropper and B. D. Burrell (2014), Reaching down the Rabbit Hole - Atlantic Books, ISBN 978 1 782 39547 8