Educating Flojo

Educating Flojo

My undergraduate BA in music in the early 90s was a bit of a wash out. Learning life skills and social skills took precedence as I attempted to learn the rudiments of house sharing, balancing a post-rent-payment budget of £7 a week, and basic self-care skills such as cooking, using the launderette and not burning the house down (that’s a whole other story or two).

I worked hard in orchestral and chamber rehearsals but lacked the motivation to practice my own solo music; turned up to lectures but couldn’t focus on a word I was told; coordinated a record breaking rag-week, fought for institutional ethnic inclusivity and threw myself into voluntary work assisting on art, music and drama workshops for disabled people in connection with the City of London Sinfonia – but didn’t ever figure out how to use the library, references or a computer.

There were no grey areas in my grades. I either aced courses or failed them. Autistic burnout caused me to leave town for a few weeks while I decided whether or not to continue with my studies; and a breakdown in communication meant I ended up short of credits and had to return for a fourth year while forfeiting my honours. I repeatedly confused, irritated, offended, and upset friends, housemates and lecturers while battling chronic anxiety, depressive episodes and executive dysfunction. My essays, handed in late and illegibly handwritten, were a mess. My room was a mess. I looked a mess. Hell, I was a mess.

But, this return to academia twenty five years later, thanks to a place offered on a research masters (without the necessary prerequisites of a 2:1 in a relevant honours degree but taking into account extenuating circumstances and gained experience) has offered a whole new outlook, increased confidence and widening of comfort boundaries. And why? Because of people’s unquestioning generosity but also my own new understandings since my autism diagnosis in 2016.

My husband patiently demonstrated how to use the automated system to take library books out and also how to return them. Twice. I still don’t use automated check-outs at supermarkets but glow with pride when I check a book out.

A classmate showed me how to log onto the university computers, send articles to print and then log in again and print them off in the designated print rooms. Magic!

Another showed me how to format assignments and automate references within a document.

Another showed me how to buy my bus tickets from my phone; proof-read my first assignments and explained how to use more authoritative language. He also recognised the signs of me going into meltdown from sensory overload during a lecture, swiftly got me out of the lecture room to recover and then later collected my books and drove me back to Bristol rather than me having to navigate crowds and public transport.

It takes a village…

Yet another classmate rescued an assignment that my laptop dramatically lost just days before the deadline.

The IT folk cheerfully sort out my laptop, WiFi, passwords and software for me on a regular basis.

My course leader helped me to find my way around campus and checked that I could access quiet places without me ever having to ask or explain that I needed that support. Most days someone has to help me open a door (apparently most of them are automatic. Maybe they just don’t recognise me).

On two separate occasions strangers recognised impending meltdowns, calmly led me to quiet, outdoor spaces and patiently waited until I was ready to rejoin other people. (Once was in reaction to a fire alarm – it wasn’t fear of fire that made me cry and shake, it was the change of pace, the noise, the confusion.)

All this support may sound trivial but it has all been profoundly helpful. Until I knew I was autistic I didn’t know that it was ok to ask for or accept help for these things. Autistic people are recognised as having a spiky profile. My spiky profile comes with difficulties adapting to new environments and situations; overwhelm at noises, lights, smells, people and unexpected changes. It also comes with a high IQ, an ability to see patterns and links across disciplines such as health, philosophy, art and science; and skills in effectively disseminating information to a range of audiences.

I’d not considered blogging all this until I messaged a shortened version to a super intelligent and accomplished autistic friend this morning and she replied: All that stuff? I know how hard it is. I have tears. I sometimes forget how much the experiences I thought were embarrassingly pathetic are familiar to my autistic sisters.

Accepting generous offers of help in my areas of challenge have meant that I’m succeeding this time around. I have learned more in the last six months of study than I did in four years in my twenties. I start my assignments in good time, plan them, give myself time for multiple drafts and submit them hours, if not days before the deadlines. So far all my assignments have been marked at merit or distinction level. Time will tell if I can keep this pace up. I need a bit of help from you too – please keep your fingers crossed for me!

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Walking in a straight line

Walking in a straight line

I’m not sure how its nearly eight months since I last posted. I started a Masters in Research in September and had to learn a whole new way of writing; everything meticulously referenced and using fancy words ending in “ology” like ontology, epistemology and qualitative methodologies. Turns out I’m actually pretty good at it but it is hard to swap back and forth between that and blogging which reflects my natural verbal speech patterns and tendency to make up words.

But I wanted to get down in writing a thing that happened and the effect it had on me. And I wanted to write in my usual way. With plenty of alliteration and creative phrasing. And a distinct lack of either Harvard referencing or correct punctuation.

Last month I fell over.

My overdramatic tip, skip n flip didn’t result from any kind of extreme sport; from a slip on ice or trip over an large obstacle. I was just walking along a busy pavement (happily pondering a health and wellbeing workshop I’d just given to some exhausted looking trainee teachers) when I did some kind of slow motion stumble, stagger and swoop towards the ground; spraining my ankle, creating large and bloody holes in my knee and elbow, jarring my wrist and shoulder and still managing to end up on my back with my feet in the air in the process.

So graceful.

I posted about this on Instagram and many of the (sympathetic) comments and DMs that came back included “that’s so you”, “you haven’t changed”, “only you!” And its true. People who have known me over the years have been there for me when I’ve been hit by cars (five times, luckily no serious incidents), knocked myself unconscious walking into walls; fallen off pavements and tripped over my own feet.

And why? Because I forgot to concentrate on walking in a straight line. Maybe I let my mind wander or something caught my eye; perhaps I misjudged a distance or the speed of an oncoming car. Probably I was listening to someone talk and that took away from the focus I needed to pick one foot up and put it in front of the other.

I’ve been told often that I have a characteristically determined walk and it has taken until recently to realise why. I am consciously reminding myself how to walk most of the time I am walking. Straight back, look ahead, swing my legs from the hips, keep it fluid, feet up… no not that much, look ahead, don’t swerve into that person… stick to the left left! Smile! FEET UP dammit they said hello, smile, say hello, straight back breathe…. it’s ok you can stop smiling now they’ve gone past, swing my legs from the hips, feet up, back straight…

If I’m walking or even running somewhere quiet, along paths that I know well, where there are no people and their sodding “it’s ok, he just wants to say hello” dogs then I’m fine. I can go all zen-like; or even go into a slow-mo Matrix mindset style, avoiding holes or rocks with ease and walking in a perfectly straight line. Or if I’m chatting with someone who knows to grab my arm every so often when I stumble and wait for me to recalibrate which way is up; that’s ok too. More than ok in fact. It feels really good to walk like this. Like I’ve activated some kinda cool superpower. Look at Flo, walking without constant instruction – how does even she do that?!

But I am wondering if other people get this too. If there are others using up valuable cognitive energy talking to themselves like they would to a child riding a bike for the first time. I’m not suggesting I’d be learning multiple foreign languages, composing symphonies or pondering complex equations (or indeed any equations) but I wonder what it might be like not to have to maintain that constant stream of instructions getting safely from A to B. What might that feel like?

p.s. the featured photo is not me. It’s a stock photo. But that’s kinda how it all went down…

 

Heatwaves, Hornets and Horses

Heatwaves, Hornets and Horses

I may have forgotten, but I don’t recall there being what Simon and I catchily refer to as one-of-those-weird-days when we lived in any of our other houses: from cities, to towns to just the other side of our village. Days when everything around us starts to feel a little frantic and out of control.

Either my memory has blanked it out or it is a phenomenon limited to the tiny ’60s council estate which we moved to ten years ago.

On one-of-these-weird-days there is a strange air. More shouting than usual, more fires lit to fill the air with black clouds of noxious smoke, more public drunkenness, more sirens announcing the emergency services driving onto the estate. It doesn’t fit with moon cycles, days of the week or the weather. I can see no pattern.

With the exception that heatwaves can trigger more of those days with not just the locals but the wildlife itself joining in. We had one of these recently, a couple of weeks into this long spell of oppressive heat that much of the UK is hoping will break soon.

A large hornet took up residence in my living room and refused to leave through the wide open windows. It bounced around hitting walls and windows, steadfastly resisting efforts to coax it back outside. After a time the loud, lazy droning became quite soporific.

Eventually it found its own route to freedom and nobody was hurt.

A neighbour kicked off inside their own home, screaming, shouting, destroying. It’s a regular occurrence and is already being monitored. We closed the windows and the curtains to the noise but on this occasion other neighbours poured out of their houses to witness.

We waited for the people to clear and the melting tarmac to cool so that we could walk the dog and we climbed over the stile just in time to see 6 horses stampede from their field, manes and tails flowing as they thundered along the footpath and onto the public green towards the A road.

We warned a man to keep his young children away from the horses and with that they all ran out of the kid’s gated enclosure and towards the horses yelling excitedly.

We called the police. Luckily the horses headed back and nobody was hurt.

And, by the evening, with stuffy nighttime temperatures requiring windows to be pushed as wide open as they can go, opposing sound systems kicked in, bass notes ricocheting around the backs of houses until they collided. Children shrieked in their gardens long after bedtime. Adults hollered conversations out of their windows across the street. Dogs added their staccato voices to the general cacophony.

And the next day, despite the heat still holding steady at 30C, all was quiet.

Mozart, Wine and Pizza

Mozart, Wine and Pizza

I figured it’s time I told you all another daft story. I have many. This one is a tad farcical and explains why I was teetotal for two whole years in my early twenties…

In the early 90s, while I was a music student, I busked with a string quintet in my summer holidays. Four highly talented and fairly laid back blokes and me, an anxious undiagnosed autistic woman with hennaed hair, nose ring and questionable dress sense (70’s waistcoat, striped PJ bottoms and ex-military boots anyone?)

We played the classics such as Mozart’s Eine Kleine Natchtmusik, Ravel’s Bolero,  Vivaldi’s Seasons, Pachelbel’s Canon and Hendrix’s Purple Haze (yes, really) in Bath outside the Pump Rooms or the Abbey to crowds ranging from 1 – 200. Some days dodging the raindrops and desperately hoping to make enough money to cover the bus back in the next day; others counting out up to £70 each in loose change after a few hours.

One Saturday though we’d been asked to play for a charity function at Longleat house. If we wanted to turn up and play lovely, cultured music in the formal gardens for the afternoon we’d get food, drink, any takings from busking and a lift home after the disco. No holes in that plan right?

We busked in Bath as usual for the morning as it was a gloriously warm and sunny Saturday – the takings were good. We celebrated with cider and headed for Longleat.

Over the next few hours we were plied with wine. Much wine. It was hot, we were thirsty.

The busking of fine classics happened. Food did not happen. More wine happened. Those are the main things that I remember.

Other things I remember include:

  • going to the disco and asking the 7th Marquess of Bath if he would like to dance (he declined, dodgy leg apparently – maybe from servicing his many, many wifelets)
  • getting very lost in the maze, which in case you are wondering is the longest maze in the world, and having to crawl my way out. I use the word crawl literally here. There was a little staggering but I kept crashing into the hedges so crawling made more sense
  • falling asleep on some grass using a pizza box as a pillow (I can only hope that somebody had already eaten the pizza)
  • the rest of the quintet waking me up to tell me that the driver had refused to drive us home because he was also drunk but that he would take us home in the morning. The morning?! Our bass player asked for beds, pillows and courtesy – except with several well placed expletives inserted in that sentence. The driver responded by punching him in the face. Nice.
  • being bundled into one of two taxis that would cost us our entire day’s earnings to get just half way back to Bristol. Then being bundled into a car that would take us to the bass player’s parents house where we were kindly all given beds, pillows and courtesy.
  • being violently ill and having to pretend I was ok. Because parents.
  • getting to my parents home and spending the next three days in bed with what I can only assume was alcohol poisoning. It was bad.
  • discovering a “please keep off the grass” sign in my bag. Apparently the others smuggled it in my bag while I was asleep. It was a lovely sign, I kept it for years.

Some other daft stories:

Guinness Punch and an Altercation with a Bus Driver

Lost in Paris

Face Hugger

 

Nourish, Align, Transform

Nourish, Align, Transform

I’ve been thinking about the reasons that more people might not sign up with a health and nutrition coach and talking to friends and colleagues about it. Turns out there’s quite a few! So I’ve decided to blog a short series of posts committing some of those thoughts and conversations to written words – I hope you find them interesting!

To start this series off I want to give you an idea of how I personally coach – I can’t talk for all health and nutrition coaches because we won’t all be coming from the same place in terms of training, experience and fields of expertise.

My belief is that the majority of health challenges come from a place of excessive stress and that the biggest stress of all is for anyone not to be person they were born to be.

I refer to my coaching practice as Nourish, Align, Transform. While every client programme is different (for the simple reason that every client is different!) if you were going to sign up with me the following should give you an idea of how our work together might look…

NOURISH

From the very first consultation I’ll be looking at helping you to increase time-honoured foods and practices that truly nourish you. We’ll be looking at what your ancestors thrived on in terms of nutrients, sunlight and sleep. We’ll look at what your health patterns since birth were trying to tell you in terms of what you actually needed in order to feel sustained, content and happy. And we’ll go through your current symptoms to figure what your unique physiology requires right now in order to feel energised and revitalised.

It is likely that I’ll be recommending abundant seasonal vegetables served with plenty of butter; an increase in delicious, traditionally-prepared and nutrient-dense real food; and a ban on margarine. You may be surprised to see an increase in salt, sunbathing and saturated fat. And I will be showing you how coffee, chocolate and cholesterol are not the demons the media makes them out to be.

You’ll also find out the difference between using targeted, quality supplements as therapeutic healing agents and taking generic multivitamins as a just-in-case measure. And I won’t ever ask you to count calories!

ALIGN

Everyone is, whether knowingly or not, affected by the seasons, the moon phases and their own twenty four hour circadian rhythms. Women are also particularly influenced by the phases of the menarche, of menstruation cycles, of motherhood and by the menopause. In my coaching practice I teach clients how these patterns cause hormone fluctuations which require adapted nutrient intakes and lifestyle changes in order to become truly balanced and in-the-flow.

The more we turn away from the nutrition, movement, sunlight, fresh air and sleep patterns that sustained our ancestors for thousands of years; and the more we rely on processed food, gym routines, artificial lighting, air-conditioning and disrupted sleep, then the more pressure we put on our health, and particularly our stress hormones.

Without taking a “hair-shirt” approach I make recommendations as to how to apply an ancestral approach to modern living in order to help our health become more aligned with that of our own life cycles, the seasons, and of the environment itself.

TRANSFORM

When you learn to eat and live in a way that honours your unique heritage, that allows your body to regain balance, and that clears your head from brain-fog, depression and constant anxiety you pave the way for profound changes to take place!

True healing means that you gain the strength to leave behind old expectations and unhealthy paradigms; and to live in a way that aligns with your beliefs, your passions and your hopes and dreams.

Good health isn’t simply the releasing of bad health.

It’s waking up with enthusiasm and vitality and getting a satisfyingly sound night’s sleep.

It’s getting to actually enjoy your meals rather than using food as a tool.

It’s enjoying your day, knowing that you can overcome whatever challenges get thrown at you.

It’s the sparkle in your eye, the smoulder in your smile, the strength in your constitution and the spring in your step.

It’s about thriving rather than just surviving.

I’d like to ask you a favour! Would you leave some of your thoughts in the comments as to why you personally would not seek out support from a health and nutrition coach?

However, if you would like to work with me to discover your unique path to nourishing, aligning and transforming yourself then please contact me here to arrange a consultation!

The Liebster Award 2018

The Liebster Award 2018

The very lovely Vanessa of The Simpson Sisters honoured me with a nomination for the Liebster Award 2018 in this post over a month ago and so I am rather ashamed that it has taken me this long to respond… Vanessa (and you really should pop over to her site because it’s gorgeous) asked a great set of questions and so, without any further delay (because let’s face it, this is just a written post, not a stage performance) I shall now get on with answering them!

What prompted you to begin blogging? Was it for a business, to share personal stories or maybe to share a specific event?

I started this blog in September 2013 with an apologetic and super wittery piece about not knowing how to start blogging. I deleted that post because it was ridiculously awful but the second post, MFK, still remains.

I had recently stopped running Flojo’s Easy Detox workshops from home and had taken on a part time job at the local pharmacy – so I think I mostly wanted to keep some kind of connection with food and health while my days were spent dispensing prescriptions. As and when I had the headspace I added recipes, ruminations and rants to my blog – for a sense of creating and completing than for fame or fortune.

Which social media platform do you feel most at home on and why?

I find Instagram a safe and accepting forum and I’ve made gorgeous friends from around the world on there; some of whom I have actually got to meet!

Share with us a podcast that regularly inspires you and tell us why. If you’re not a podcast listener how about some other resource that you regularly turn to.

I do love me a podcast or two! Tricky to choose just one because I dip in and out of shows and listen to different types for different reasons – health, lifestyle, coaching etc. – anything that gives me information or new frames-of-reference to ponder while I’m doing the housework. Sas Petherick’s Courage and Spice is always inspiring. It makes me smile while I’m doing the washing up.

Countryside or seaside?

Seaside! But I prefer a thermos of hot chocolate on a windswept beach to eating ice-cream on hot sand. My husband proposed at night on a cold, wet and windy beach – it could not have been more romantic.

Do you have a creative hobby other than blogging and photography? Are you a crafter, painter, stitcher or gardener perhaps?

None of the above. I knitted myself a beautiful wrist warmer in dove grey and charcoal in 2016. It’s partner still hasn’t materialised.

How do you write best? Do you need silence or prefer music to fill the void? At a desk, on your knee or in bed? On your phone or laptop?

I write on a laptop at my kitchen table. Usually with the soundtrack of my washing machine; a (cold) mug of coffee to hand and a sleeping dog on my feet. Sometimes candles or incense are involved. Rarely is there anyone else in the house.

I would like to nominate the following bloggers for The Liebster Award 2018 and as such would like them to answer these questions and nominate others with their own questions.

Nominees for the Liebster Award should comment on this post – with a link to their responses; nominate 5-11 other bloggers you’d like to get to know, set 11 questions of your own, and link to the official rules

Ok – y’all ready for questions? (If you aren’t please don’t worry. I know you are all incredibly busy.)

  1. What book has made the biggest change to your life or outlook recently?
  2. Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter?
  3. Chocolate – the posh stuff from the fancy deli or the big bar on offer at the supermarket?
  4. Which of your own blog posts was your favourite to write?
  5. The meal to top all other meals: where is it, what are you eating and who are you eating it with?
  6. Favourite fictional character?
  7. Bouquets or posies
  8. What was the last piece of music you listened to?
  9. What superhero power would you choose?
  10. Social Media or Socialising?
  11. Yes or No?
Eating Chicken Frugally, Ethically and Deliciously

Eating Chicken Frugally, Ethically and Deliciously

I’m typing with slightly numbed fingers because when it comes to hot, crispy, salty chicken skin I will burn myself over waiting for it to cool every single time. So. Damn. Good!

But here’s the deal. Organic, pasture raised chicken is not cheap. It takes time, space and patience to raise a bird in it’s more natural habitat, with access to dust baths, tasty (!) insects and wild grown herbs – which is why I spend approximately 3.5 times the £ for an organic Riverford bird rather than one from my local supermarket. You’ve seen footage of intensively farmed birds right? Compare that with the care taken over these: https://www.riverford.co.uk/aboutus/environment-ethics/animal-welfare#chickens

Worth every penny. Apart from the issues of welfare, ethics, and the environment there’re also the bonuses of not routinely feeding my family a cocktail of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides; of the comparatively vastly improved nutritional status; and of getting a far superior taste.

But, I really don’t have the budget to do this regularly so what to do?

My friends, I’ll tell you how you get to save the world and your health all in one go!

Alongside my regular organic delivery from Riverford I add three chicken carcasses for £2.65 which I whack straight in a hot oven with a good sprinkling of salt. As soon as the house is full of the tantalising aroma of roast chicken I know it’s time to start picking. This is why I have burnt fingers! I eat the salty crispy skin and any spare meaty bits; and throw the really fatty scraps down for EllaTheDog and PoppyTheCat.

The bones go in the slow cooker with salt, veggies, herbs, ACV and water for several hours to make the most delicious and nutritious bone broth. This week half of that will go in a stew for tonight and the rest will get saved for a vegetable curry tomorrow. Sometimes we’ll just drink the broth straight. Once I’ve strained off the broth the bones will be soft enough to squish down (together with the broth veg and any remaining scraps of meat) for Ella and Poppy’s supper tonight.

And the fat still in the pan? I chuck a load of veggies in, combine them in that delicious and healthy fat and pop the pan in the oven for a bit. Roast veggies for lunch are heaven! If you want to mix it up a little I’ve got a couple of other serving ideas on my other site florenceneville.com

£2.65! Breakfast, lunch, dinner and pet food. I mean *really*! What are you waiting for…?!