Sunday, 11 January 2009
"Partners" by Susie Mallett July 2005
Sex on the menu
Don’t be shocked or disappointed at the title of this posting. It is only the
name given to one of the many breakfasts on offer on the menu at what is
becoming my “local”, the Café Fatal.
I was recently asked why I always go to this particular café when I now
live in the city and the world could be my oyster. My answer is that it is
almost like an extension to my living room, at just 188 paces away (see my blog
26th December 2008) on the corner of the next street. I counted the paces again
tonight as I was quite sure that there would be more. The temperature is down
to as much as twenty below zero at night and the few hours of sunshine during
the day are not enough for the weak rays to have any affect on the compacted
snow and ice. My footsteps were therefore somewhat tentative and, I assumed,
shorter than usual as I avoided slipping over. I was sure that I would take
more steps but I was wrong, 188 it remains.
Another advantage of this extension to my flat is that the nearness makes it
unnecessary to don the many layers of clothes that I would need to venture
further afield, to another very nice café at least ten minutes’ walk away. The
route to the Café Fatal is not long enough to get cold but just far enough to
feel the tingliness of the bitter night air on my face. It is near enough that
at nine in the evening I can decide to grab just my long winter coat and scarf
and go for a drink or even a meal and see a bit of the world.
New bits in between
It is a entirely new experience for me to go out alone to a café or a
restaurant to eat a meal. During my days in Budapest I got quite used to café
life, to sitting on the street with a newspaper or a sketch-book, with a coffee
or a hot chocolate, but to go to a restaurant to eat, even with company, has
never been one of my favourite “bits in between”. Since living in the city this
has changed and I gave it a go for the third time this evening.
There is always a real mixture of characters in the restaurant, which I really
enjoy as it means that I have some interesting faces to draw. There are young,
old and middle-aged, and I suppose that last one is the group to which I now
belong! There are groups of friends, there are couples and there are several
people like me, alone with a glass of wine and a book. This evening I had
actually got Barnklau’s Unfug on the table beside my notes and
sketch-book and I was about to search for some more interesting snippets for
“Conductive Upbringing Part Two” but, as often happens, my attention was caught
by something else, this time the menu.
There is more to
life than marmite on toast!
“Sex and the City” caught my
eye about half way down the list of breakfasts, which also included, Tatort
(scene of the crime), Golden Girls, Our Little Farmyard, Verliebt in
Berlin (In love in Berlin) and Lindenstrasse (the German equivalent of
the English soap Coronation Street).
All of these breakfasts combined meats, cheeses, eggs, juices, fresh fruits and
bread rolls, teas and coffees, to suit the given name.
The cheapest, at 3.50 euros and by far the least healthy was “Scene of the
Crime”, offering an expresso, with a dash of schnapps, and a cigarette
that one now has to go outside to smoke!
For such a small café the menu has a wide choice of dishes and I ordered Winterlichen
Blattsalate mit geb. Camenbert und Preiselbieren (winter leaf
salad with baked Camenbert and cranberries) from the Wochenkarte (menu
for the week).
One of my favourites, Käsespätzle, a Bavarian dish of a special egg
noodles baked with a covering of two different sorts of strong mountain cheese,
was also on the menu, plus more comfort food of pancakes with fromage frais,
sultanas and ice cream.
Searching the menu again for the coffees, I found some much more interesting
drinks on offer, such as hot white chocolate with slices of orange and a nip of
espresso, Assam special with rum, and again for comfort, hot milk with honey.
I just about managed a cheese cake and coffee for “afters” while enjoying the
music and general atmosphere. Sometimes the music can be loud and slightly
overpowering, more often it is discrete. It is nearly always unusual and this
evening it was French and jazzy.
As well as packing in all the activity described above I also read a couple of
chapters of Unfug, sketched several faces from the crowd room and wrote
this. Not bad for two hours of bits in between, more than I had managed all
Now this title may surprise or shock the reader as it isn’t something from
the menu at the Cafè Fatal, it is a bit more serious than that. Writing about
the café and its menu did set my mind off and I got to thinking about something
which has been a recurring theme over the years. This is a subject that is
rarely broached, although it comes up regularly in my work: sexuality and
disability, sexuality and conductive pedagogy/upbringing.
It is there and I deal with it.
It starts with the giggling girls in my teenage group who get their ten minutes
to discuss boys before the programme begins. It continues in the holiday groups
where we make time for lunchtime discussions. Themes chosen have included “My
mum and dad fight and fall out because of me”, “Why can’t I find a non-disabled
boy/girlfriend?” and “What will a partner think of my dis-formed figure?”
We discuss sexuality as openly as we can and we actually encourage the
discussions, we try to plan time for them in our programmes.
In my evening group for young adults such themes are also discussed although
young adults with cerebral palsy are not prepared to discuss sexuality quite as
openly as the teenagers. They do, though, mention their concerns about their
relationships with the opposite sex and talk about their wishes of finding a
partner at some time in their lives.
I also have adult groups for people with multiple sclerosis and stroke, who
certainly have concerns about their sexuality too. Who do they speak to,
it very rarely comes up in our groups. It seems to have become a taboo subject.
I have been working as a conductor for over fifteen years now and with disabled
people for twenty-five. I have clients who I have known since their childhood
and it is with these, now young adults, that the most open discussion takes
place. Sometimes I am bombarded with questions about their bodies and
body-image, relating to their sexuality, and I sometimes do art projects
drawing around their bodies and painting and decorating them, making them
They ask me how can they be attractive despite their deformities or strange
movements, there are even questions about communicating with the opposite sex
when they have a disability which also affects their ability to speak clearly.
Often I have parents contacting me for literature to help them deal with
problems arising with their adolescent children and their new found sexuality.
All of this is important and must be dealt with within my work but this touches
just the tip of the problem as many people do not have anyone to talk to.
Most of them, I have known for many years and it still isn’t easy for these
young adults to broach the subject of their sexuality with me, although I
suspect it is easier than speaking openly with their parents or peers.
Fortunately, when they do pluck up the courage or are encouraged to join in
discussion I am prepared to listen, we can be open with each other and do a bit
of problem-solving together.
Sex and training
I am however prepared for this only because of my twenty-five years of
experience and not because of my training as a conductor at the Petö Institute.
Does any other conductor who trained at the Petö Institute remember sexuality
and disability being covered in their lectures? It certainly didn’t get
mentioned in my own training days. We were taught that we were working in “a
holistic manner”, “treating the person as a whole”, but this part of the whole
person, developing sexuality, never once got mentioned in my training. I have
learnt to deal with these situations as they arise, sometimes adequately,
sometimes I fear not offering enough. I work together with parents when
necessary, finding other professionals to step in when we feel that we need
more help and advice.
What about you conductors who trained at NICE, or the conductor/teachers who
trained in the USA? Was this a subject covered in your training?
If it was it would be interesting to know to what depth and who taught it.
In my own twenty-five years working with disabled teenagers and adults it was
only last year that for the first time I heard someone at a Conductive
Education conference openly discussing the issues of sexuality and people with
physical disabilities. This was at the congress in Munich and it was the only
presentation that I heard there that I often call to mind to help me in my
After this congress I asked a director of a fairly big German organisation
working with people with disabilities what kind of provision there is for the
adults living in its sheltered housing and care centres for discussing their
sexuality and/or receive advice and counselling. She was unsure of the answer
but she was pretty certain there is none.
Who then do people turn to?
And who or where can we as conductors turn to in order to educate ourselves to
deal with the problems that are bound to arise, more adequately and with more
Sex and Petö
I don’t think that there is anything on sexuality in the Unfug but
when I was in the Mária Hári Memorial Library last year I read a play that he
had written in German, set in a suburban brothel. I do not think that András
Petö was coy about sex!
Also last year in Budapest I met a lovely old Hungarian lady, now more than 80
years, who has cerebral palsy and was treated by András Petö when she was
young. She told me the following little story.
She told me about asking Petö how she could enjoy love-making with her new
boyfriend. András Petö went to the conductor leading the "workers’ evening
group" and told her to insert certain tasks for relaxing the hips into the
lying programme for the next three months. This was done and Bob’s your uncle,
the nene (auntie) said, she was soon having as much fun as I do!
I don’t think that anything of András Petö’s was ever thrown away and so this
programme is probably still there in the Library collection. András Petö is not
the only one who can write a programme and since I was told this story I have
discretely put a few tasks into my evening group's programme what I hope may be
of help to at least some of them.
Have any of you other conductors working with adults got anything to share on
this often taboo subject?
Bärnklau’s Unfug – Unfug der Krankheit – Triumph der Heilkunst Dr. med.
Karl Otto Bärnklau, Verlag- Karl Schustek, Hanau/Main, 1965
my blog 26th December,2008-
“bits in between” –
NICE – National Institute for Conductive Education
Congress - Konduktivee Förderung baut Brücken, Okt.24-25, 2008,
Jugenliche mit ZP und ihr Umgang mit Sexualität, M Sanna, Munchen.