October Read – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion Book Review…

October 13, 2018

Within a couple of weeks three people recommended The Rosie Project*, by Graeme Simsion.  I wasn’t that keen as when first described as a romance novel this turned me off.  Just not my bag.  However, the descriptions built and I was intrigued.  A romantic novel where the lead character has Autism, written from his view point, with plenty of comedic moments and commentary on social norms.  This sounded good!

Don Tillman is our lead and it’s easy to grasp from the beginning he sees the world differently due to Autism or Asperger’s.  We are never told exactly where Don lies on the spectrum and this works brilliantly.  As explained in the novel those with Autism often don’t know.  Why would they?  For their brains are operating, often at a high function and they are getting about in life just fine.

Don is a university genetics professor and the story is based in one of my favourite cities, Melbourne, Australia.  Keen to fulfil social conventions, Don decides he will resolve the wife problem with ‘The Wife Project’.  He formulates a detailed questionnaire for prospective dates, trying to determine their suitability for marriage.  Don’s list didn’t sound that much different to the online dating forms I have filled in!

The questionnaire brings Rosie into Don’s life by way of best friend Gene, an older professor who is always on hand to help Don navigate social norms.  Rosie is quickly determined as an unsuitable wife but her own search for her father results in Don establishing ‘The Rosie Project’.  This project quickly escalates as Don is challenged to reconsider his personal rules and routines, interact with a multitude of people at a university reunion, all to determine Rosie’s parentage.

‘Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant.  It’s potentially a major advantage.  Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organisation, focus, innovative thinking and rational detachment.’ – Don Tillman

What I loved about Graeme’s story is that he painted a world where Autistic people should be accepted and not considered faulty.  Don’s thought processes throughout a situation or social interaction are clear and often make our complex social norms ridiculous.  His dependency on routines and the situations he gets himself in make Don likable and someone we all root for.

If you love the characters and story as much as I did you will be pleased to know there is a sequel* and a third in development!

I’d love to hear what books you are reading at the moment? PF xo

*These are affiliate links.  Learn more about that here.

The Rosie Project



What I Learnt About Reducing Screen Time…

October 7, 2018

I’m as guilty as the next person for spending hours on my phone, falling down internet rabbit holes realizing its 3am and that I need to be up for work soon! It was whilst reviewing my daily routine in a workshop at The Nature Sessions that I realized a lot of my stress waking up and going to sleep was caused by my phone.  Reducing screen time to force a digital detox was the resolution.

First let me clarify what I was experiencing.  With family based on the other side of the world and in a time zone 180degress opposite to me, it was not unusual to wake up and want to immediately check for whatsapp messages.  How many flashed up on screen could drastically change my mood and more often then not I felt I was waking up stressed. Not a good place to be.  Equally as I was going to bed my family were waking up and this meant lots of messaging and another rabbit hole at 11pm chatting.  Add to this my current social media project where I am doing everything on Instagram I encourage my clients to do, to experiment and see what really works and it is a lot of blue light, headache inducing, restless sleeps nightly.

It was the headaches that worried me the most.  I would go to sleep with one and wake and it was still there.  This is a recent symptom that I believe is also the result of looking down at my phone screen creating stress on my neck muscles. If you ever catch me on the train I’m the person holding my phone up high now, it helps.

It’s been years since I used anything other then my phone to wake me every morning.  I’d transitioned from the harsh alarm sounds to quite charming bells that started softly and got louder.  I never understand why alarm clocks have heart attack inducing sounds. What an awful way to wake up and potentially be launched out of your sleep.  Whenever I’ve had a plus one in the bed I’ve set their alarms on my phone so not to risk their preference for high pitched fire like alarms!

Finding a replacement alarm clock took a lot of research.  I wanted something that was just that, no Bluetooth, Alexa voice commands or inbuilt radios.  Ridiculously after trawling the interweb and reading waaay too many forums where others were trying to find the same and couldn’t I realised I would have to increase my budget.  Anything that allowed the user to download their own song was over £100 which seems ridiculous and came with all sorts of bells and whistles I didn’t need. I kept coming back to the Philips Wake Up Light that had two inbuilt nature sounds, potential to connect to radio (not a requirement for me) and the ability to replicate a sunrise.  Honestly I wasn’t really into the company as they use to be a client of mine and I didn’t want to give them my money.  Bad memories!  But I had to step back and acknowledge that for the price point and from the review this product was fit for purpose.

For the two days before my Philips Wake Up Light arrived I binged hard and stayed up well past midnight really pushing the boundaries of screen time and internet holes.  I even got back on twitter which is a minefield and moodhoover.  On the day it arrived I committed and stopped using my phone at 8.30pm, reluctantly putting it on the kitchen bench.  Then moving it to the bedroom and set the alarm just in case the Wake Up Light didn’t work!  It did and I had a better sleep.

The following week I continued to go off screen at 8.30pm and found this seemed less dramatic if I set alarms on my phone for 8pm and 8.30pm.  The 8pm one is a reminder that I need to be off screen soon and allows me to quickly respond to anyone, set up some Instagram posts and check the weather.  It took about 4 days to get into the routine and it changed my sleep dramatically.  I started packing my bags for the next day and doing a quick flat tidying. Then I would read, something I haven’t done recreationally a lot this year.  The headaches were gone and waking up to the songs by birds is lovely.

Here is what I learnt.  Reducing my screen time and setting alarms to get off screen works, but not if I think I am invincible again and stop doing it!  The stress and headaches come back quickly.  Having an alarm that wakes you with bird sounds can become a bit tricky if you hear birds outside your window before sunrise.  You are going to wake up and have to tell yourself to go back to sleep!  It isn’t dark enough to make a conclusion if the sunshine feature on the Wake Up Light is useful yet.  I do have to remember to turn off the alarm or set it for later on the weekend as it does automatically set for each day!  My reading speed has improved and I’ve found that my vocabulary has picked up as a result of widening my consumption of stories beyond online magazines.  Win!

When I roll out of bed I get straight into the shower and previously I’d have squinted at my phone and then blasted some music.  Now I shower mainly in silence listening to the water hit the shower pan and hum my own tunes.  This is much more peaceful and helps to set my mood for the day.

How are you sleep routines?  Are you looking to remove your phone from your bedroom as well?  I’d love to hear about any tips you have. PF xo

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Three Drawing Classes In London To Try…

October 3, 2018

Keen to get some drawing direction I’ve been hunting down drawing classes in London to share with you.  Throughout school I was good at art and I even won awards but I was never great at drawing.  I can make pottery, abstract wooden sculptures and knit a blanket but I struggle to command pencils or paint in that way.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve envied those that can paint beautiful landscapes and capture someone’s emotion on the page.  Recently I’ve realised that everything takes practice and my lack of abilities are just lack of practice.

Wildlife Drawing is incredibly fun and I attended a workshop with 10 week old piglets!  Bred to be pets within homes outside of London, Petpiggies brought these skittish creatures to us for some drawing.  There are lots of different classes on offer including owls, jellyfish and guinea pigs!  Jennie started the classes after wanting to introduce more animals into her fellow city dwellers lives.  Throughout the class she will provide guidance and you will also learn about the animals, how they behave and their unique abilities.  All your drawing implements are provided and once everyone is settled and drawing you will get to be up close with the animals.  I’ve never patted a piglet and it was so cute to play with them and feed them some apple!  Take your camera or make sure your phone is charged up.  Some of the animals are a little shy, especially piglets, who move quickly and a photo was sometimes easier to work from.

Life in London can be quite pricey and when I heard that The National Portrait Gallery has Drop In Drawing every Friday for free I was there!  They provide all the materials and start the session with some inspiration within one of their galleries.  Changing up each week with different themes there is plenty to draw and I tried my hand at replicating one of the many portraits on display in the style of Michael Jackson!  Everything you need is provided from stools, to paper and drawing implements.  There are quite a few people who are keen to do this so arrive a good 15minutes early to make sure you get a chair.  If you turn up late don’t worry, there is likely a few spots on a leather bench or try drawing standing up.

For my third drawing class I went a few Saturdays ago to meet on a rooftop in Shoreditch with Phil and his sausage dog George.  Phil’s work centers around the buildings of London and he specialises in line drawings.  We started on the roof of his design firm where we could replicate the lines of the modern and traditional buildings of the area.  Phil wanders around giving everyone tips and his way of starting a drawing changed my thinking and abilities.  Afterwards we had a great lunch and everyone shared their tips for drawing.  We even got to try all of Phil’s different pens and made plans for another drawing catch up in the North!

I’ve loved trying to draw different things from animals, people and buildings.  For me the most pleasure came from drawing the buildings.  I fell in love with replicating brick patterns and now I have my own sketch book with pens you will be seeing more drawing in my instagram stories!

Do you know of any other drawing classes in London or the UK?  I’d love to hear about them.  PF xo

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