Sunshine!

Day 15

The overnight stay in the youth hostel was fine, the beds have sheets and a duvet these days and the hostel was spotless. They do seem to have built in especially loud door meets frame features and shower/ flushing systems that resonate impressively but I had the 4 bed dormitory to myself and it is so cheap!

I went in to the church as they were setting up for flower festival at the weekend. There was much anticipation as the flowers should have arrived 2 days ago but had got stuck in Calais in the troubles their…they arrived at 8.20 am were rapidly distributed in tall buckets. I think I am developing a fascination with buckets size/shape/colour or is this just a hobby? The florists began and displays that had looked a little strange being all back ground features and no flowers up to that point began to take shape. There is something fabulous about watching a group of people in a shared activity and listening to the buzz of chat between then. I am sure there are some frictions in amongst the overall process but the shared endeavour and smiling engagement were powerful.

I breakfasted in a small independent cafe and met up with Amy and we shared a coffee before setting off. It is an interesting fizz of anticipation each time I meet a new person on the walk. It is an act of faith on both parts, I don’t know if I am going to like them and visa versa and yet there is a structure that helps us through. Say hello, smile, ask about their journey, share the outline plan for the day. It does help to get the whole interaction started and so far so good. It would be seriously challenging if I had to make it up every time, if I had no plan and had to work out each small step as I went. It must be so exhausting for those on the spectrum and they are faced with such scenarios every day, no wonder they avoid it sometimes!

The sun was out and apart from the fact that we missed the footpath, because we were talking too much, and had to back track a bit we were off. Amy has worked in both care and education settings, she has an impressive array of qualifications to match her life experience and has only recently gone independent in an effort to keep her work focused on practical support rather than process and administration.

We discussed the hiccups and victories involved in setting up a small business, that first step outside the comfort zone of regular paid employment and the concerns about employment law that make us both hesitant about expanding our teams. It is not the cost of the latter so much as the incredible complexities of employment rights, administration of salaries and pensions and the vulnerability of a small businesses to the machinations of the very few who exploit loopholes. We will both go forward cautiously.

We stopped in a small seaside village and sat on the harbour wall to watch a crabbing competition. The rules were related at intervals over a pair of loud speakers, this is an individual competition for the children so no helping mums and dads please, no teams so that means no pairs, all the crabs must be caught fresh today — interesting. We watched the dangling of lines, the occasional shout of triumph and much parental sitting on hands.

Nearby were 2 brothers clearly working as a team ankle deep in the mud when 2 further boys approached happily splashing, sloshing buckets of water too and fro casting the occasional line chatting to each other. The original 2 boys simply stared at them, it took about 5 minutes but the new arrivals gradually got quieter and then left! Not a word was spoken but it was a full on lesson in social skills, temporary rights of possession and non verbal communication.

day1515aAmy and I watched in fascination. How could such complex and subtle lessons be taught, we spent some time trying to work out a system of rules and guidelines but we gave up! Social skills are incredibly difficult things to teach.

We decided we needed a set of core guidelines that could be modified depending on age, context, desired outcome and this of course means the lessons are lifelong. It is easier to state what is needed than actually do it of course.

We looked at the sand castle building competition, I think it was meant to be family teams but the Dads were incredibly busy and it was against the clock! Such industry all of which would be washed away it’s the tide.

We passed a series of art installations in the sand as we walked on and amused ourselves trying to think what the title of each work would be before we got to the label.  This one was called Chords 123. Hmmm!

day1515bThese heads buried in the sand were a bit creepy but what was interesting was what passers by had added to them. Interactive art works, is it art? Amy felt a good definition was ‘It’s art if I couldn’t do’ it but had been challenged by a friend who said ‘it’s art if you are talking about it’…ah the debate could go on and on. It was such fun to give free rain to ones curiosity and be in the company of someone who also enjoyed playing and thinking playfully. Fortunately the route was very straightforward, basically keep the sea on your left.

We thought about social stories and the work of Carol Grey and the importance of simplifying and personalising the content so that it worked for the person it was written for. It is hard to build the confidence to write stories that pitch the ideas, language and concepts appropriately for the individual. nSimply delivering the story neatly written is not the answer and this means time and effort every time.

Amy related the story of a young lad who repeatedly challenged teachers and refused to do what he was told. His teaching assistant gave him a clip board and got him to interview each teacher in the school and took a photo of each teacher engaged in this process.

The question the boy asked was, “Why should children do what the teacher says?”  This was after all the key question. The teachers had been primed before and gave in their own words answers with a repeated theme such as because the teacher is sharing knowledge with the child, they have to keep the children safe etc. the resulting social story was a huge success, it is not that all the problems went away of course but there was now understanding. The child had ownership of the results of the interview, the answers were reasonable and everyone in the team knew what was going on. Time consuming yes, but an investment.  Amy is such a practical thinker, she sees the difficulties and can draw on her experience as a teacher, psychologist and care worker to encourage and train those working with the children. Thank you Amy your company was an inspiration.

day1515cAmy left to catch the bus back to Wells and I walked on in the late afternoon sunshine. There are miles of beach here that look so different in the sunshine and yes people were swimming and not all were wearing wet suits.

The last mile in is along a golf course, and there were some interesting visual demarcations starting at a sign that warns you to look out. There is a white line painted in the grass to show you where the path stops and the golf course starts. Interesting,cliff edge with crumbling features narrow path, line expanse of golf course. What will happen when the edge falls away and the path gets too narrow? Is it that the National Trust owns 3 ft from the edge and that the edge moves depending on the weather?

This evening I am taking myself to the theatre in Sheringham and am wondering what I have packed that could possible pass as theatre attire. The big question shorts or muddy trousers –choosing!!!

Time to walk and talk with a colleague

Day 14

I woke to the sound of heavy rain offering a background to cheerful chat in the kitchen as breakfast was prepared. It helped to know that all my clothes would be dry and that I had a pretty could chance of parking my rucksack at the Youth Hostel for the day as I am back in Wells tonight.

Breakfast was a wonderful example of English holiday makers conversation piece, that is, it followed the theme of the weather persistently with optimistic forecasts based on the flimsiest of information and tales of wellies, macs and windbreaks all to be packed and carted to the beach. Of course everyone is still going to the seaside.

The meal was topped off by today’s quote of the day form the waitress, “Car drivers must go backwards” delivered with resounding confidence when one resident, attempting to go home, popped back in to ask the assembled company if a double parked car could be moved. It was followed by a stunned silence. Obviously not just me that thought application of this rule might cause problems!

I set off to meet my walking companion for the day passing my favourite sign of the day.

day1514a

Once John and I had established contact, which is much harder when everyone is in dark head to foot waterproofs we decided to start with a coffee and let the ‘shower’ pass. Half an hour later it did so we set off for Walsingham.  Although Walsingham is a pilgrimage destination there were no footpaths all the way there, John prosaically pointed out that people went by coach! In fact John has been a regular member of the student cross groups that travel to Walsingham at Easter walking in from various destinations. I learnt that they do not ‘process’ but they ‘throng’, on advice from the police.  Language is an amazing thing.

Conversation as we walked ranged across many topics, the difficulties working in teams, variable leadership styles and the impact of poor leaders, employment law and changing careers midlife. I learnt about mental health issues, schizophrenia, the changes in thinking and body that occur for all in adolescence, stress and the concept of the Demands Capacity Model. We considered the concern about getting a diagnosis as an adult and how this cold help some people see the difficulties they had experienced since childhood in a different light. There is something about the rhythm of walking that makes free range discussion and the trialling of ideas much easier than It would be within the confines of an office or meeting.

John was able to show me Walsingham and the various sites of pilgrimage from an insiders point of view and it as astonishing place regardless of your spiritual beliefs. There are multiple chapels on the site overall including the conversion of the old station to a Russian Orthodox Church.

day1514bHaving taken our time to look at everything we thought we would take the train back. Imagine my delight when I discovered it was a steam train. We waited in anticipation alongside small children squeaking with excitement and jumping about with enthusiasm as we saw it chugging its way towards us.

The track, train and all aspects of the service are run by volunteers so the tweaking, standing about and general faffing or engineering was lengthy.

The train driver was charming but we stopped 2 minutes into the journey, more inspecting needed, a problem with the air brakes we were told, they will see what they can do. We all leant out of the carriages watching their every move something was released/adjusted/tightened with a length of pipe and we were off. It was such fun and it is the longest narrow gauge line in the country to boot!

On returning to Wells next John set off for his 11 hour drive home. Thank you for your company today John and sharing your sandwiches and knowledge of Walsingham.

day1514cThis evening I watched as whole families fished for crabs off the harbour wall amongst the arrival of boats that off loaded crabs of an altogether bigger size. I hadn’t realised crabbing and Wells were so closely linked but once you start to look you see crabbing buckets, bacon bait and people hanging lines into the water everywhere. I have never felt quite the same about crabs since I had to prepare 24 dressed crabs back in my catering days but catching them looked more interesting than stuffing them was!