My visitors today

Saturday 20 June 2015

Rain, rain, please go away tomorrow, just long enough for us to celebrate our 20 years of CE, Nürnberg

Our Little Princess, preparing for rain or shine!

Early this morning I wrote a letter to Andrew Sutton. I wrote in response to his recent posting about keeping cool in conductive centres...

‘Feeling the heat’

Andrew just replied, thanking me for my response and he wrote that his first response was to publish my letter on his own blog, but then he thought twice and decided to ask me to publish it on mine. So here I am!

(All you busy CE bloggers will recognise Andrew’s lovely method of encouraging us to get something posted after a bit of a lull on our blogs.)

Here is what I wrote –

On 20 Jun 2015 07:43, Susie Mallett wrote –

‘Dear Andrew

As well as being inventive with our games with ice when the temperature rises we are also experts on do-it-yourself air conditioning, not forgetting that our building is purpose-built for people with disability it is relatively easy to keep it cool.

When the temperature hits the mid-thirties we are used to closing the shutters over-night, opening the doors and windows early in the morning to let cool air in and then closing the shutters again to keep out the sun.

It also helps that our buildings are positioned so that the blazing midday sun cannot shine directly in the windows during the summer months but the low, cooler winter sun can brighten our sometimes grey days. 

Our children are also on the ball when it comes to keeping cool 

When the heat gets too much for the children and young adults wearing their hot and sticky, plastic-splints and thick, orthopedic shoes they often ask us for a bucket of cooling water to put their feet in. 

On very hot days often a child will phone to ask us to please go out to the garage where the paddling pool is stored and prepare it for the afternoon sesssion.

Stop the rain-dance, please!

Unfortunately we have none of these problems with heat at the moment; in fact it is quite the opposite.

As often happens around the summer equinox, and also on Mid-Summer Day, the weather turns cold and rainy. It looks like we will have to put the bad-weather-plan into action tomorrow when we celebrate our twentieth conductive anniversary – the weather forecast tells us that it will probably be held in a downpour.

Instead of all six of our conductive centres coming together for a rare gathering and filling the tree lined courtyard with activities that represent our work and with discussion amongst ourselves and with our invited guests, (who are coming from as far away as Budapest), it looks like we will be painting, drawing, singing and cooking in separate far-flung corners of the cellar in the buildings belonging to our association's sheltered housing.

I am not the only one wishing for a sudden change in the weather. 

All we wish for is just enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers. This would be much appreciated by all in the conductive groups who have been so busy all week preparing for this occasion. 

From Susie Mallett CE Nurnberg for 22 years !’


‘Feeling the heat’

(2015) Des nouvelles, Association CEC du Gard, 18 June –

Mallett, S. (2015) Beating the summer heat, conductively, Conductor, 14 June –

Sunday 14 June 2015

Our gardening project expands


Conductive continuity

As always happens when I begin a project with my conductive groups our work expands and different aspects of living become part of the whole conductive experience. As we wait patiently for the garden to grow, the first tomatoes have set but are we are a long way off harvesting, and we have many associated jobs to do as the project evolves into sometime bigger and more encompassing.

One of these jobs is naming the plants. We are not going to be quite so strict as at the Chelsea Flower Show, where every plant on show in the separate exhibits has to be labelled, but it is important that the children and adults who use the garden learn to recognise what has been planted. 

Later during the cookery classes they will also learn how to use the produce in different recipes and they can go out to pick what they need just outside the door; therefore they need to be able to recognise it.

So as the project evolves reading and writing came to the fore this week, as the children have been painting the plant-names on signs that they made last week. Those who wished also drew their own image of the plant in question.

We want our raised bed to look in top form when we celebrate our twenty-year conductive anniversary next Sunday, we expect our visitors will wish to take a look at and admire our ever expanding plot! 

In the heat, as our thoughts turn to cooling water, we are already thinking about our next project which is to find half a wooden barrel to make into a small water garden, then after this we will turn our talents again to painting, decorating some wooden fruit boxes to plant-up and perhaps sell next year at the summer fete.

We have a busy week ahead of us, during which our gardening plans will evolve to incorporate even more live skills and experiences.

Beating the summer heat, conductively

Friday afternoon’s ice hockey match

31 degrees is hot by anyone's standards but with a two-hour maths exam behind them at school it is no wonder that thoughts of a lying programme were far from our children's thoughts. Even those not at grammar school did not have much spare energy after a day behind the school desk, not even to go outside to water the vegetable patch.

Years ago I invented for such occasions a lying programme with facecloths filled with ice cubes. With an ice-filled facecloth in each hand the programme went a bit like this... right hand on left knee and stroke lower leg as far as the foot, repeat with left. Right hand on left cheek; repeat with opposites; right hand on left shoulder lift elbow; repeat with opposites; both hands under the head and slide in the neck; and so it continued until the ice melted!

On Friday it was surprising how soon the maths exam and the heat were forgotten once the ice cubes came out.

After the cool facecloths had brought the children back to life they no longer wished to lie sleepily on the mat so they invented their own version of ice hockey. The conductive input was that they could not use any tools as sticks or racquets, only use of feet, fists or finger-flicking was allowed.

It was fun. I was in goal, my job was to slide the ice pucks back into play. The game was only over when we ran out of ice. There was not much clearing up to do either as the heat soon dried up the puddles made by the melting ice.

It was lovely to watch how active the children became once they had cooled off. Their passion for invention made them forget their exhaustion.

Walking tasks and some cycling followed on from the hockey and then came requests for cooling footbaths while we carried on preparing for next Sunday when the children wish to sell their crafty creations at our twenty years of Conductive Education celebrations.

Even though the children were wide awake again still no one was willing to go out in the heat to water the garden. That did not matter as at least they were enjoying their activities and the heat of the school day was forgotten. I did the watering later in the evening when it got a little cooler, although it was still 27 degrees when I got home at seven-thirty in the evening.

No ice hockey for me at home just the cool breeze on my balcony and a cup of tea.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Conductive gardening

Gardening has played an important role in my life since I was very young. I have not always had a garden myself but I have always had the garden in Norwich to fiddle around in; earlier beside my Mother and now under instruction from my Father. In fact I am soon off to lend Dad a helping hand in his home and garden, and hopefully to gather advice for our new project at work. 

My Dad caring for the tadpoles

Raised beds

I have always dabbled with gardening with my clients but always on a small scale, in pots and window boxes, although I would love to do some on the scale of the Chelsea Flower Show that I have enjoyed viewing this week.

My colleague and I decided that it was time that we got a bit more adventurous than a few pots, perhaps by growing herbs and salad vegetables for the cookery group. Since the Autumn we have been looking at the many types of raised beds that are available for flower- and veggie-growing.

A long search

In March I attended the trade fair for workshops for people with disability where I saw a wonderful wooden pyramid planted with herbs and strawberries, but the price was way above our budget. We kept on visiting garden centres, Googling and scanning the advertisement papers, searching for something that was not too bulky and was accessible for both wheelchair-users and children. This took some time but eventually we came up with what one little boy says 'Looks just like the crib that Jesus sleeps in!'

The Veg Trug

We ordered our raised bed and waited patiently for its delivery. It eventually arrived late on Friday afternoon and it was all that we could do to stop the children unpacking it immediately and starting to build it. After we explained that we needed our friendly carpenter to help us adjust the height and add some wheels the children were content with making a visit to the neighbour who is a retired engineer to borrow the spanners that we would need to put the Trig together another day.

Another day

The stroke group arrived another day and they too were eager to get involved with the garden project. The husband of one of our group members had built several raised beds in their rural garden so that his wife could continue growing fruit and veggies after she had suffered a stroke. They have both given us advice and shared their enthusiasm with us.

One of the other group members had already put together a teepee for the runner beans and he was just as eager to help the carpenter when he arrived to start on the Veg Trug. As you can see in the photographs they made a good team.

Down to earth

Once the Veg Trug was in place on the terrace we had lots of people admiring, it even though it was still empty. The children lined the inner surface with fleece and we gradually filled it with the many kilos of earth that the children’s bus driver delivered to us over the next few days.

Little Princess loves getting dirty so she was in her element but another child chose to work with rubber gloves on. The gloves only lasted a few minutes; when he saw the joy that the others experienced running their hands through the soil he soon discarded his gloves and has never used them since.

With the Veg Trug now full with soil all that was needed was a few plants. We had already sown lettuce and beans, parsley and basil and they were all ready to move on into the bigger bed.

I had to rush home to England so I missed the planting action but I was back again to witness the growing and share in the task of watering. Watering the Trug has been the best motivation for walking, standing and both arm and finger movement. The children like to share the tasks. Some bring the large watering cans filled with water to the terrace; others fill the smaller cans and then bring them to more children who walk sideways around the Veg Trug while watering the plants. 

Team work

It seems as if the work never ends. Not only are we learning how to grow plants, we are also learning about woodwork. With the guidance of the Dad of one of our youngsters we are making small wooden signs so that we can label all our plants, just like at the Chelsea Flower Show. So we have borrowed all the tools that we need and the children are not only handling plants and soil for the first time in their lives but also holding a hammer and banging in nails for the first time too! We will use our artistic skills to decorate the signs, then finally practise spelling and writing skills to write the names  of our produce.

Many thanks to all who have helped us to bring this project, that has long been a dream, into fruition.