THREE DAYS IN DUBLIN (or mental ramblings from a bar stool) – Day 1

Art and Fish
(National gallery of Ireland)

Simon entered the gallery together with no fewer than three large groups of primary school girls. Giggling, squealing, pushing; their teachers straining to maintain order. One group wore tartan skirts, another wore tracksuits of royal blue and the last were in grey cardigans and slacks. As they entered the vestibule all together there was a moment when the three groups intermingled in seeming chaos, but then separated like so many distinct shoals of fish.

            Thus, they swam the morning long, throughout the galleries and halls, occasionally hovering before paintings deemed worthy of consideration by their smiling, earnest teachers.

           He remembered this unchanged ritual from the days of his own youth. A ritual, like so many school customs, with the noble intention of stimulating curiosity and enthusiasm in the hearts and minds of the young, yet in reality, sure to have quite the opposite effect. The bored expressions on the children’s faces were a constant and uncomfortable reminder to Simon of his own half-hearted presence in the gallery; the presence of a professional artist on vacation in a great city with too much time to kill and no excuse not to visit its national galleries and museums.

           Then it happened:

           Simon found that he had drifted into the neighbouring Yeats Exhibition, and in spite of himself he was instantly hooked by its presentation of the evolution of Jack B. Yeats’ genius and his work. Traversing along the limped, fluid surfaces as they gradually, naturally evolved from grave lucidity to pulsating abstraction, he felt for a moment that his life had begun again. The graphic exposition of the artistic momentum and imminence of Yeats’ painterly development reminded him of the sublime possibilities of art.

            One picture in particular seemed to radiate this quality. It was of a window, somewhere in Italy, thickly applied paint, like butter, with a half-inch palette knife. Beyond the open shutters, a warm, summer light, primrose and white.

            Standing before it, Simon smiled for the first time that day, virtually squinting at the muted brightness. The daubed light itself seemed to laugh gently, echoing his mood, and then, as he stepped back from the painting, tartan fishes once more engulfed him. A happy, excited shoal now, equally rejuvenated by the peculiar power of these truly great paintings.

            Perhaps, in the future, one or two of those little fish would return to this particular ocean by choice? After all, he had.


FROM ARABESQUE TO ARABESQUE – Dido’s 30 year journey from clinical ‘OT’ to tenured professor…

On New Year’s Day 1989 I had the great good fortune to meet a beautiful ex-ballerina called Dido Nicholson. Almost exactly two years later, on New Year’s Eve 1990 we were married at Marylebone Registry Office in the West End of London, by which time I had got to know and fall in love with the extraordinary mind, personality and character behind that beauty.

The pictures of two Dido arabesques which head this post roughly frame her career – at least the travel-related episodes of her career – with the first executed on the desert dirt outside San Pedro de Atacama in 1991 and the second, just last winter (2018) on a frozen lake in our current location of Jönköping in Sweden. Dido had been injured out of the ballet several years before we met (see: and, after having dabbled with things as disparate as biochemistry and estate agency she settled on a career in occupational therapy. By the time of our wedding she had been qualified only a few months, but it didn’t take long for her colleagues and employers to realise that Dido’s medical and scientific skills weren’t going to be limited within the regular parameters of her new profession.

Naturally, Dido’s background in dance and the arts was always going to make a significant and innovative contribution to her work as both a therapist and a researcher, from the outset of her career until the present day. Thus, it was no surprise when, as early as 1991 Dido won a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to go to Chile to study the role of folk dance as a therapeutic tool to support social integration and participation for children with learning problems (see: However, the ultimate acknowledgement of Dido’s unusually creative contribution to her science was when in 2014 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Among Dido’s many qualities, aside from her scholarship and devotion to her work, is her academic modesty and generosity – almost to a fault. The main reason it’s taken her until now to gain tenure (apart from the fact she came into OT ten years later than most of her colleagues) is her strict professional integrity and a deep reluctance to blow her own trumpet. Happily, I don’t share that reticence; hence this visual celebration of her illustrious career. These pictures (one or two of which have featured in earlier posts) offer a fun glimpse into Dido’s remarkable progress, from clinical occupational therapist to leading child neuroscientist, from the one arabesque to the other…

Chilean Lake District with Volcan Osorno in the background – 1991
Although we didn’t know it then, the Chile adventure proved to be the first of numerous work-related trips far and wide; with yours truly in-tow to provide what’s become a visual record spanning the best part of three decades…
First Morning in India – Chennai – 2003
By the time I took this photo (one of my favourite portraits of her), Dido ‘s expertise in child autism was already so internationally respected that she was brought over to southern India to design and set up a specialist clinic in the Tamil Nadu city of Coimbatore…
Dr. Dido’s First Trip as a PhD – University of Ghent – 2007
Despite the strenuous demands of her clinical lead position at Guy’s and St. Thomas Hospital (a London teaching hospital) Dido somehow found the time and energy for research into developing our understanding
of movement disorders and motor learning in children . In 2007, this aspect of her work was rewarded with a PhD from the University of Leeds…
Dido at Point Sublime – Blue Mountains – Australia – 2007
Unquestionably, one of Dido’s most pleasing and relatively regular destinations has turned out to be Australia. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel there three times, and each trip has been memorable; professionally, socially, culturally and scenically…
Dido and Jaffa – Tel Aviv – 2009
Dido’s first full-time academic post was at Tel Aviv University where apart from enjoying about two years of vibrant and dynamic research she established some of her most enduring relationships, professionally and socially…
Dido Working in the Library – Finca Carmel – 2012
Since 1993, our mountain home in southern Spain has been something of a sanctuary for Dido, and the place she goes to recharge her batteries – physical and mental…
Emergency Sun Hat – Stockholm – 2016
This picture was taken – during an unexpectedly sunny early winter’s day – on one of several work trips Dido made to the Swedish capital. Little did we know as I took this snap that Sweden was soon to become our latest base of operations…
The Ferry to Denmark – Femer Bælt -2017
This picture shows Dido on the ferry from Germany to Denmark en-route to take up her latest post at Jönköping University, where her full professorship was confirmed last month. As for the technicolor pencil case Dido’s holding; well, that’s a whole other story…