Monday, 19 April 2010

I love a good metaphor.....

I found this and I thought it was a powerful metaphor. I know it's odd to use a post to just exhibit someone else's work but I include it to show my respect for how it provoked my thinking, not having a disabled child myself....

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a disabled child. To try and help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would's like this.....

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo's David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?" you say, "what do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy. All my life I have dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy but after you have been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around...and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandt.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they are all bragging about what a wonderful time they have had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, "Yes that was where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever go away because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things..... about Holland.

Dear Richard Branson,

I have given myself some careers advice and have decided you need to employ me to create the most exciting, entertaining and unusual theme park in the UK. I'd make back the money you invested in no time - I promise!

Within the grounds of the park would be the Museum of the Imagination in which, because I have too many ideas to include, we would need to rotate the exhibits regularly.

There would be physical challenges (cross this terrain using the given equipment), murder mysteries - no actors needed!, add to the alien scape, moveable marble runs, a large (but miniature) treasure island around which children followed clues to find the treasure (different levels of difficulty), combat games that people could join in and leave at any moment, work out the one possible route puzzle, whole spaces that were visually and sensorilly spectacular, stream modelling, construct-a-fountain, 'cards' that I create for kids to collect -as prizes at various points in the park (they'll come back for more), scavenger hunts, collages that people add to, an interactive miniature railway, a sculpting park (you sculpt it), a muddled-colour scape, photo hunts, sort your own unusual furniture picnic area, finger races, .....actually the ideas are too many to list.

So please, Richard, employ me!

Sunday, 18 April 2010


This week we visited Dungeness in Kent. It really isn't at all what you'd expect to find in a home county. It's basically a remote and bleak shingle bank cluttered with 'shacks', a couple of pubs, a miniature steam railway station (we arrived by train), a cafe, a nuclear power station (!) and a couple of lighthouses. I could see how someone could visit and decide it was an absolute dump, but for me it was strangely captivating.

This was the view from the top of the old lighthouse....

There was also plenty of evidence of Dungeness' 'Bohemian' population. Several houses had arrangements of weird and wonderful 'clutter'.

Washed up debris....


A nuclear power station always makes for an interesting backdrop...

And of course, there was Derek Jarman's garden at Prospect Cottage....

Even the road looked artistically shabby!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Native Americans

Every time I read something about Native Americans my thinking is always provoked! I know there were many different tribes and I suspect their 'collective' wisdoms and philosophies varied but everything I have read has mostly not stated anything other than 'Native American'. Anyway - here is what I like:

1) I remember reading a story about how when 'whites' first arrived on the American continent, the Native Americans asked what it was that they were looking for. They did not mean what they were actually looking for, they were referring to a look in their eyes as if they were always looking for something. That something that the Native Americans knew you didn't go looking for because it didn't exist outside you.

2) In Raising Boys by Stephen Biddolph, the book refers to a rite of passage for boys. At about the age of thirteen, they were left on a mountain to fend for themselves (they were actually watched over all night but they did not know this). Upon returning to his tribe, he was forbidden from talking to his mother for two years and he was at this point considered to be a 'man'. Now I know this sounds a little severe but there was sound reasoning behind this. Stephen B's point was that in our western culture we have abandoned anything like such traditions. He states there is a need to acknowledge that childhood has been left behind but that adulthood is not yet fully attained. It is a transition stage that needs mentors other than parents. Very wise. I would add - it's probably true for girls too!

3) There was the wonderful Native American story about 'war'; a metaphor that illustrates the overall pointlessness of conflict. It's in an earlier post:

Conflict- A Tail of War

4) I also remember reading somewhere that Native American's view 'individuality' quite differently from western cultures. This is a sweeping generalisation I know but what I read said that individuals did not see themselves as separate from their community at all. They had a very collective consciousness - much like many cultures in the far east.

5) And then yesterday, I was reading yet another book on Myers Briggs when I came across this:

Jung and Myers were not the first to observe personality types nor was Jung the first to write about a typology of awareness. One of the oldest such typologies is part of the American Plains Indian tradition of the medicine wheel which assumes that each individual comes into the world with a way of perception that is but a beginning point in understanding others and the world. To these people, one's task in life is to master not only one's own way of perception but of the others. To put it briefly, this model holds that each person is born into a particular way of seeing the world:

the buffalo way - logical and analytical (I'm guessing that's Thinker as dominant function)
the eagle way - seeing patterns and flying high above the details (Intuitive - me!!!)
the bear way - relational and connected to the environment (Feeler)
the mouse way - grounded and close to the roots and details of life. (Sensor)

The addition of various colours and directions to these basic descriptions (a person might be described as a green bear looking inward for example) honoured the complexity and uniqueness of the individual while showing the patterns common to all people. Tribal elders identified the way of a child after much careful observation. As tribe members demonstrated mastery in looking at and appreciating other people's ways, the elders granted stones to them for placement on symbolic medicine wheels. An individual's wheel was then carried in such a way that those approaching could see from the number and placement of stones on his shield or her buckle how accomplished that person was in seeing other people's point of view.

So that is Myers Briggs and it's application!


I once met a Native American making and selling dreamcatchers on a street in Ottawa. I chatted to him for a while. He was very droll and he made me laugh a lot. Oh and I have a friend from New Mexico who is a little part Native American. That's my sum Native American personal history.

It tickled me

We have a game in our family called 'red car.' It's extremely simple. All you have to do is be the first to shout, 'red car' when you see one and you score a point. Obviously this is an outdoor game.

Last Thursday we were playing red car when the rules were changed. First my son suggested we play 'red anything' so we shouted 'red thing' when we saw something red. He then went on to say, 'how about we play anything anything, but in our heads silently!!!!!' Of course when you play it that way, it doesn't look like you're playing at all.

My suspicion is that he has grown out of the game!

Anyway today I informed him that I had been playing it for three days and had seen a huge amount of things first and therefore I must have won. He asked me to prove it.


Friday, 9 April 2010


Today my six year old son and I built a robot.....

that made it a good Friday for me.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

April Fool's Day

We had impromptu April Fools' Day actions that started with me wondering what I could do while I was lying in bed first thing and Andy was fetching a cup of tea. It's amazing how many sick ideas come into your head; ideas that could actually cause distress if my acting were maintained and not destroyed by succumbing to the urge to giggle. The sick ones were rejected and I came up with jamming my hand in the gap between the bottom of the radiator and the futon.

'Help Andy, I don't know how I did it but my hand has become stuck, I think I need you to move the futon down if I have a chance of getting it out.' I had him showing concern for all of three seconds. Then he said, 'April Fool' and I wasn't sure if it was an accusation or an indication that he hadn't been fooled. Still - it had worked a tiny bit.

Then we plotted to trick our ten year old daughter. We brainstormed and came up with this idea: it is performing arts week in her school, so we clained to have read a letter that said she needed to take a toy sword to school. We had this ridiculous sword all lined up and everything. Imagine her turning up at school with the toy sword and asking what it was for and then it dawning on her she had been an April Fool. However, she's smart and bombarded us with questions about the letter, about the sword and about how she had managed not to have heard of this and Andy cracked and giggled. Boo.

He did stall her for a while with a story abut her not being able to use the front door because the hinges were dodgy. But then she just opened the door and left for school. Smart cookie kids are no fun!