29 Mar 2018

Somewhere In The Middle

When's the right time to have a baby?

I am now at an age where if I announced I was pregnant, the overwhelming reaction wouldn’t be holy shit what are you going to do?! 

Cos I’m no longer a 15-year-old chilling in the girls’ toilets at school with my gals (we chill in the living room with a cheeseboard instead – going up in the world ladies).

But I do sometimes think that if I suddenly found out I was pregnant tomorrow – and it would very much be an accident FYI – I would probably react like a terrified 15-year-old hiding in the school toilets. I mean, okay, that’s partly because suddenly finding out I was pregnant would totally ruin my honeymoon plans but also partly because… okay no, I’d be pissed about my plans to return to New York being screwed up okay. That would really fucking annoy me.

And that’s just it. It wouldn’t be part of the plan and I really like a plan. I need the plan because I selfishly don’t want to be responsible for a little human life right now. Not sure baby would be too keen on their parents spontaneously doing a pub crawl in the middle of a Friday afternoon or their mum jetting off to Singapore last minute.

But on the other hand?

OMG SO BROODY. I want my own little family with G. Have you seen how cute babies are? Have you seen how much cuter they get when they giggle? HAVE YOU SEEN THEIR ICKLE TOES?! Impregnate me please and thank you.

Lol and that’s the battle going on between my brain and ovaries. Those guys just argue in the background whilst I go about my day to day life. What a jolly hoot.

This is only exacerbated by society telling us to plough ahead with our careers and have babies in our thirties but also tell us that it becomes harder to have babies in our thirties and that we should CRACK ON.

I cannot be the only one that has noticed this is somewhat contradictory information. Being a woman is swell eh?

I guess what this ramble of a post is trying to explore is that I don’t think I ever quite predicted how the feeling of wanting to have a baby would be such a slow, gradual process. Like this tiny, flickering light that starts out completely insignificant and then gradually gets brighter and brighter until you can’t help but start to pay attention to it.

I’m not sure what I did think would happen. That I’d hit 27 (the age I always said I’d have kids *gulps*) and BAM, throw that contraception out the window matey…?

But I definitely didn’t expect the different pulls in different directions. The feeling of really wanting to have a baby and also desperately not wanting to disrupt the perfect balance of trips abroad, nights in the pub and lazy Sunday afternoons you got going on. Having friends that you talk about going on maternity leave at the same time with and also having friends who look at you in borderline-disgust because you joked that you’re broody.

(I feel this is all perfectly summed up by me watching One Born Every Minute whilst drinking a glass of wine the size of my head.)

People have kids later these days; that’s the direction society has moved in. But nature hasn’t quite caught up. So I imagine that my brain and ovaries are going to keep arguing for a bit longer yet. And I’ll keep hanging out somewhere in the middle for now.

And this blog post is how I chose to start my Easter weekend. S’cuse me, I’m off to devour an easter egg now. Bye.

26 Mar 2018

Phone Break-Up | Week Two

Smartphone addiction


~ I am doing a 30-day phone ‘break-up’ challenge from the book ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price. Read more about why here and here. ~

The first week of this challenge was a very interesting way to learn about my relationship with my phone. I definitely felt like I got off to a good start but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t found myself absently picking up my phone this week, but this is a learning curve so there will be relapses if you like. The most noticeable difference so far is my relationship with social media. I have already decided that I will not be re-downloading the Facebook and Twitter apps when this challenge is over. I have been checking them but via my browser and on my laptop, and I just think it makes the world of difference to how I feel when using them. I’m actually enjoying Twitter again, through those (much) small(er) slices of time I spend on it via my laptop. Facebook is, well, Facebook. It’s funny that me doing this challenge should coincide with the headlines of the past week. I found this article about deleting Facebook accounts very interesting. Right now, I honestly don’t know how I feel about it – I’ve occasionally checked it on my laptop but it’s not been a daily occurrence.  

Instagram is the one I have still checked the most on my phone – but via the browser version which is clunky and irritating tbh. The amount of time I have spent on it has definitely gone done as a result; I now log in to check posts from specific people (basically my two favourite bloggers) and not to pointlessly scroll. I also haven’t uploaded anything myself. Quite frankly, the browser version puts you off. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up re-downloading this but I hope, if I do, it will be with a healthier relationship and with boundaries in place. 

So on to week two... 

Day eight means turning off all notifications. ALL. Well except phone calls. Messaging apps are optional. So I do just that. My phone will still notify me off phone calls, texts and WhatsApp messages but otherwise nada. 

Honestly? I have zero regrets/pangs/desire to reverse over this whatsoever. It’s a freakin’ relief to no longer be notified about how many emails I currently have sat in my Hotmail and Gmail accounts. Turns out life is much nicer without a notification that Somendra from a ‘legit’ SEO company wants to help me improve the SEO on my blog. Fuck off Somendra. Once again, I’m slightly baffled that it never really occurred to me to turn off my notifications before. Whilst my phone mostly lives on silent, I didn’t quite realise how much those little red bubbles negatively affected me. 

Day nine is about tidying up your apps. I already have a fair few of the apps on my phone in folders but I tackle the rest. The book suggests how you can do this (i.e. the categories) but I stick with my own categories (photo, communication, useful, entertainment and other – if you’re interested). The only thing left on my home screen when I’m done is the calendar, camera and notes. These are all things that I access regularly, are practical and yet do not suck me in. On my menu bar is the phone, texts, WhatsApp and safari. Internet browsing, again, does not suck me in on my phone – any internet browsing I do is on a laptop – on my phone it’s simply for quickly checking something. Therefore, I’d prefer the easy access to stay so I leave it. The other three are for contacting real-life people, hence why they can stay. My phone looks really bare when I open it now but it’s rather nice; calming and less distracting. 

 Day ten is to change where I charge my phone. I actually did this a while ago, before I started this challenge. I stopped charging my phone by the bed months ago and now charge it in the study. It immediately stops your phone being the last thing you see before sleeping and the first thing you reach for in the morning. I’m not saying it doesn’t mean I don’t go into the spare room pretty quickly after waking up but it’s certainly better than your phone being right by your head whilst you sleep. 

(On a side note, I’ve also been turning my phone off at night for about a year now. This has done absolute wonders for my battery life FYI. Charge your phone for the hour or so it takes to be fully charged and no more; don’t leave it plugged in, fully charged, all through the night. I’ve never moaned about battery life since - and I have an iPhone.) 

Day eleven is supposed to be about setting yourself up for success, i.e. I’ve removed some triggers that automatically make me reach for my phone so I now I need to add new triggers for things I want to do more of. I’ve not exactly worked out what these triggers are yet but I’ll let you know (a massive post-it note that says WRITE NOVEL…?). 

Day twelve’s task is to download an app-blocker. This is an interesting one because a) I discover that the only decent app-blocker for iPhone is Freedom which gets good reviews and is recommended by the book but it isn’t free and I’m a little reluctant to pay for it. It does come with seven free sessions so I have the opportunity to give it a go, but I’d want to use it to block social media at certain times of the day and as I have deleted social media on my phone; I’m not sure what I need it for right now. 

Day thirteen is about setting boundaries. First up, I have to establish ‘no-phone zones’. These can be a physical room (e.g. the bedroom), time periods (e.g. no phone after 8pm) or for activities (e.g. no phone at the dinner table). I muse over this for a while and decide that I definitely want one of my ‘zones’ to be when G and I are watching a film or a television programme together. I like the idea of having a time of the day when my phone cannot be used but I’ve not quite decided when that should be yet. The other boundary to set is a ‘phone wake-up time’. Basically, assign yourself a time where your phone will be switched on/taken off airplane mode in the morning; this should be at least an hour after you have woken up. 

Day fourteen. I wake up about half 8 but don’t turn my phone on until about half 11. I don’t do anything particularly significant in that time but I notice that my relationship with my phone is generally better for starting the day like this. Out of curiosity, I check my Moment app at around half 4 in the afternoon and I’ve only spent 10 minutes on my phone and picked it up 5 times – a huge decrease from my original Moment stats. Today’s task is to stop ‘phubbing’ – short for phone snubbing. Also known as having your phone on a table during a meal, checking your phone mid-conversation, texting whilst with a friend… these behaviours have become so common that I barely notice when I or someone else is engaging with them. But now I truly think about it… it’s so goddamn RUDE. Today is the day I resolve to stop it once and for all. Friends, family and partners should be giving each other 100% attention when with one another – no excuses. Life is short and these are my loved ones after all. 

25 Mar 2018

Singapore Diaries | Haji Lane, The Botanist & Chinatown

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

We started our second day in Singapore with a wander through Chinatown. Once again, it felt like we were in a whole new place, despite the fact it had only taken a ten-minute metro ride to get there.

Chinatown felt a little more refined than Little India, less run down, but it was equally as busy and colourful. Each house was individually decorated in different colours and patterns, Chinese lanterns swung above our heads and there were bright, vibrant market stalls everywhere.  It was hard to not succumb to that many stalls and we eventually did do a little shopping (there is a bridal-like kimono now hanging in my wardrobe).

We also came across an under-cover plant market, with rows and rows of greenery. So many different types of cacti, luscious orange trees and elaborate plant towers. It was really fun to wander through and examine all different types of exotic flowers.

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore
Our next stop was The Botanist for brunch, recommended to me by a friend. This garden-themed café was a delight and if you’re planning a trip to Singapore, I was absolutely add this to your list of places to eat.

There isn’t proper aircon because that would be bad for the plants so there isn’t the usual relief from the humidity that is common when you step indoors in Singapore. But that’s a small price to pay for the being surrounded by all the gorgeous plants, and for the amazing food. I went for the eggs and guac smash and Alice went for the French toast (I did have a teensy bit of regret when I saw hers ngl). Both were presented beautifully and were so tasty. It was a great place for a lazy brunch.

Next up on our list was Haji Lane, in the neighbourhood of Kampong Glam. Described to me as the ‘hipster area’ of Singapore, I had no idea if I was going to like it or not (something described as ‘hipster’ could go either way in my opinion) but, as it turned out, it was one of our favourite areas. I keep banging on about how so much of Singapore is colourful but Haji Lane took it to another level. Put it this way, every single shop, restaurant and wall could keep your Instagram grid busy for a looooong time. That street art was some of the best we saw in Singapore.

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane is a shopping area but a very different one compared to all the other shopping areas in Singapore. For one, it’s outdoors and two, it’s just the one street rather than a shopping mall the size of a town. It’s full of independent boutique shops, quirky cafes and restaurants. Each shop is full of the most beautiful jewellery, vintage dresses, unique candles and interior decorations. There’s cute juice bars, an Amsterdam-inspired café and selfie coffee; where you can get your selfie printed on top of your latte. Who knew you needed such a thing eh?

Despite it being just the one street, we spent several hours there, wandering around the shops, trying on vintage dresses and sipping juice in one of the juice bars.

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

We loved Haji Lane so much that we went back on our final day where we spent the morning having our nails done at The Nail Artelier, lunching in I Am, and snapping those gorgeous walls. This is also where we discovered the Sultan Mosque just round the corner, which 100% looks like something out of Aladdin. It’s beautiful, surrounded by little market stalls and really tall palm trees.

I loved this area of Singapore – definitely worth checking out!

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

Haji Lane, Singapore

20 Mar 2018

Some days are just 'off' days

Some days are just 'off' days

Last weekend, I felt like I was on it. G was away but that’s okay (very much a fan of time alone), I’d deleted all social media off my phone as part of my break-up challenge and I was pretty determined to nail the weekend.

And I did. I had a long lunch with my rents, I wrote a lot, I discovered Carluccio’s Cioccolata Fiorentina, I read nearly a whole book, I put together photo albums, I did some time on the exercise bike, I had a long soak in the bath alongside a Lush bath bomb, I made a list of things to think about re the wedding…. It just felt like the weekend lasted forever and I got so much done. There was also a real feel of spring in the air and, as much as I enjoy winter, the sunshine lifted my spirits even further.

The weekend just gone? Not so much.

I got sick on Friday night (after spending an extortionate amount of money on a fancy meal… let’s not discuss it) and Saturday was just a write-off. The clouds were dense, it was snowing again, I felt so blurgh and the day disappeared in a haze of bed, sofa and a fish finger sandwich. I spent the majority of that time berating myself for being unproductive, for letting the day – a Saturday – slide away unnoticed and unloved.

You may think I sound ridiculous (girl, you were vomming in the middle of the night, of course you spent the day in bed) or you may totally recognise my train of thought. Because I can’t be alone in this feeling of must-always-be-nailing-life. Perhaps it comes from the constant presence of social media and ‘girlbossing’, perhaps it comes from this idea that us gals can ‘have it all’ even when ‘all’ won’t fit into the hours we have, perhaps it just comes from my own pressure to fill those non-work hours with my passion for writing.

Who knows. But, jesus, sometimes we just have to accept that we’re going to have off days. We’re not robots and therefore, as human beings, we will be susceptible to illness, both mental and physical, to dismay at the fact it’s snowing in mid-March and to all other hazards life may throw at us.

Free time is precious as it is so let’s not fill it by chastising ourselves. When an ‘off’ day comes around, maybe we should appreciate eating fish finger sandwiches IN BED (G only allows me to do this when I’m ill because of ‘the crumbs’), the daffodils on the windowsill contrasting against the snowy sky and the concrete fact that life just has ups and downs.

18 Mar 2018

Phone Break-Up | Week One

Phone Break-Up | Week One

~ I am doing a 30-day phone ‘break-up’ challenge from the book ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price. Read more about why here and here. ~


So. Time to break-up with my phone. Let’s get cracking eh? Here’s how week one of the month-long challenge went.

Week one is the technology triage; it’s about gathering data about my current relationship with my phone in order to actually pay attention to what’s working, what isn’t and what I’d like to change. The first day is simple enough; download a tracking app to see how long I actually spend on my phone (compared to how long I think I’m spending on my phone). I download Moment (which is free and simple to use) and carry on as normal.

Day two is about assessing my current relationship with my phone. What do I love about it? What don’t I love? What changes do I notice in myself after using my phone? What would I like my relationship with my phone to be after the challenge?

What I love about my phone comes quite easy. I love that it helps me stay in touch with equally-busy friends and family. I love the camera. I love the intelligence of it. How it can send me reminders, allow me to jot things down and store music, podcasts and films. It’s an amazing tool.

Noting what I dislike about my phone, and the changes I notice in myself, forces me to properly think; to go through the small details of my days and really consider the effects of my phone on my life. I decide that I dislike the immediate distraction (i.e. when it flashes at me whilst it sits on the desk when I work), the compulsion I have to constantly check it, the way it’s easy to lose track of time whilst using it and the way it dampens my productivity.

I monitor my behaviour throughout the day (which is weird because you have to keep reminding yourself to acknowledge how you’re feeling) and realise that I can feel happy after using my phone because my friend has texted me something which made me laugh or I come across an interesting article to read.

But I also realise that sometimes the news or social media has the ability to make me anxious or unhappy when my day was going otherwise fine. Sometimes the notifications (even when from friends) popping up stress me out because I’m trying to concentrate or need time alone. I realise that my phone keeps me connected always but that I both like and dislike this in equal measure. I also properly note how distracted and less productive I can be after spending a lot of time on my phone, and other screens.

I jot down a few thoughts about how I would like to be after finishing the break-up challenge. It involves being a lot less tied to my phone. To not pick it up just to mindlessly scroll through when I’m not even bothered. To gain that time back, and not use my phone as a way to procrastinate. I want to be able to enjoy the benefits of my phone, but be more detached to it. To turn it off in evenings or at weekends without a second thought. To not always have it next to me. To use the time to focus on the things I claim I don’t have time for.

Day three is about paying attention to why I use my phone; the situations I use it, how often it grabs my attention as well as how I physically react/feel when using it. Here’s what I pick up on throughout the day:

  • I noticed that my main trigger for picking up my phone is boredom or when I’m waiting for something, usually a train or when my computer has frozen for example. I pick up my phone when I want a ‘break’ or am bored with something I’m doing at work. I pick it up the moment I’m not occupied with something else. A TV program finishes and I pick up my phone before I can even give myself a chance to consider what I might want to do next or acknowledge that I’m tired.
  • I check my phone almost instantly after waking up and just before I go to bed.
  • I often feel bored when using my phone; I’m just scrolling for the sake of it. Boredom encourages me to pick it up but I don’t feel less bored – social media is actually pretty dull most of the time.
  • My posture changes when using my phone, my head is bowed and I’m less observant of my surroundings.
  • I rarely feel better or happier after picking up my phone. I do if I’m talking to loved ones but otherwise, I tend to just feel bored, easily distracted and anxious.
  • After using my phone for a long period of time, I find it much harder to focus. It takes quite a while to regain proper concentration… and whilst I’m doing that, I pick up my phone again!
  • I may pick up my phone with the specific intention of replying to a text or setting a reminder and get easily distracted with something else and forget why I actually picked it up. Sometimes I’ll put it down not having done the thing I intended to do, pick it up again and the cycle continues!

I find it very interesting how much I realise just by paying attention to my own habits!

Day four is reviewing the ‘data’ gathered so far. It’s about noticing what you’ve picked up about your own behaviour (see all of the above) and reviewing the results of the tracking app. The tracking app showed me that on average, I spend about an hour and a half on my phone and check it approximately 42 times a day. That was one hell of a reality check.

Day five means it’s time to delete social media apps off my phone. This is the first actual change I’ve had to make so far and it feels slightly like being thrown into the deep end because they are probably my most-used apps (something I kind of don’t want to admit but this is all about being honest with myself). The book describes social media like junk food; bingeing on it makes us feel bad and yet, once we start consuming on it, it’s hard to stop. This is so true. It also asks you to consider how often you spend on social media per week and then how much you’d be willing to pay weekly to spend on social media. It then asks you to think of a recent experience where you had a lot of fun such as spending time with friends or doing something you love, and how much you’d pay to knowingly miss out on that experience. Valid point huh?

Deleting the apps doesn’t mean you can’t check social media, it’s just about creating a ‘speed bump’. Having to log-in to the browser version of social media (which is also a more clunkier version of the site) gives you plenty of opportunity to decide if you really want to be checking social media.

I delete Instagram, Facebook and Twitter off my phone and actually feel a strange sense of relief.

That was on the Friday and the weekend that follows is very interesting. My tracking app shows that the time spent on my phone halves overnight, I have an incredible productive weekend and I generally feel calmer. It makes me realise how big an effect social media was having on me. Saturday’s task is to jot down a few things that you want to do with the time you’re no longer spending on your phone. My list involves writing and putting together my photo albums (something I say I want to sort at least once a week). I then clean the flat and have a long lunch with my mum and step-dad where my phone remains in my coat pocket the entire time (rather than on the table). Sunday’s task is to ‘get physical’, to take time away from the screen and (if you want) actually use your body. I do 20 minutes on the exercise bike and then spend an afternoon scrapbooking. And you know what? It feels pretty great.



14 Mar 2018

Singapore Diaries | Little India

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

As our flights and hotel were booked via a British Airways January deal, we didn’t specifically choose to stay in the Hilton Garden Inn in Singapore. But I’m so glad that’s where we ended up as I’m not sure I’d have gotten to know Little India the way we did otherwise.

The hotel, a pretty ugly multi-floor building, did stick out of the surrounding area like a sore thumb. But every day, we got the chance to walk straight out of the air-conditioned lobby and into the hot, colourful streets of Little India. The hotel was right next to the Hindu Sri Veeramakaliamman temple (try saying that when you’re drunk) and I was just fascinated with this building. It was so interesting to look at; so much detail and colour. There was never a good time for us to go inside (although it’s free to do so) but we caught a glimpse in whilst walking past and it looked like the colour and intricacy continued inside.

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

I have never been to India (one day) but Little India was exactly how I would imagine it to be. Hot and busy, vibrant and colourful. The smell of incense in the air. Beautiful street art. The most colourful houses you ever did see.  People sat on the floor, eating curry with their hands. Women in saris of every colour. Bikes everywhere. The sound of chanting prayers. Market stalls full of flower garlands, exotic fruits and patterned clothing.

It was a fascinating place. Not perfect by any stretch. A lot of Singapore felt very clean whereas Little India felt much more run down (we actually did see a dead rat on the street one day…). It was also the one place where I felt we got a lot of stares which could get a bit uncomfortable; we particularly didn’t like the tekka centre which felt very male-dominated.

But every day, as we walked those streets, I was struck by how it felt like this was where life was happening; just people going about their day-to-day business with no concern for entertaining tourists. It was a dream for people-watching, and every street had a new colourful building, new street art, new smells.

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

There were a few times we found ourselves in the Mustafa Centre just round the corner from our hotel (I was struck down by a horrible cold/cough whilst we were away and was in desperate need of cough syrup a couple of times). It was the most manic shopping experience I have ever encountered but, now I look back, was an amazing way of experiencing the people living in Little India. I can remember being in the food area and being fascinated by the variety of Indian food available (combined with, slightly bizarrely, a whole section dedicated to Cadbury’s chocolate).

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore

One of my favourite experiences in Little India was on our very last day when we went to a restaurant called Lagnaa: Barefoot Dining. We had just had our hands/feet hennaed at a shop nearby, were pretty knackered from a week’s worth of exploring, and sad that we had to catch a flight home that evening. We sat outside the restaurant and ordered two mango lassis; it was the first time I’d ever had a lassi and I immediately fell in love with this traditional Indian yogurt-based drink; it was so good. When we were hungry, we headed upstairs without our shoes to sit on the floor and enjoy some authentic Indian food. I ordered a chicken korma and a peshwari naan; a favourite order of mine at home so I was intrigued as to how it would differ when cooked ‘properly’. The korma was an entirely different meal (green and much less coconutty) but still delicious. The peshwari naan was, again, very different; stuffed full of nuts and spices but so very tasty. We also tried gulab jamun – kind of like syrup-soaked dough balls is probably the best way to describe them. They were lovely, and I couldn’t help but order another mango lassi to go with. The whole place was super chilled and it was a really nice place to just sit and relax before accepting our holiday was over.

Little India had a distinct lack of tourist areas but I think that’s why I found it so interesting. At times, this meant that it wasn’t as accessible as other areas in Singapore but it also meant it was the most real, the most unapologetic and the most authentic.

Little India, Singapore

Little India, Singapore






11 Mar 2018

Why I'm 'breaking up' with my phone

Smartphone compulsion

You may have seen this post about me deciding that I needed to ‘break up’ with my phone, because I do not think I have a healthy relationship with it. Dramatic? Maybe. True? Absolutely. For the record, I would say I use my phone just as much as the average person.

I got my first mobile phone when I was 12 and the first iPhone was released when I was 15. Technology moved extraordinarily quickly in those three years, and has continued to do so ever since. It feels ridiculous to say that smartphones have only been a big part of our lives for the last ten years, considering how fundamentally they have integrated themselves into day-to-day life. But that also means there’s not really been that long to see the true effects of smartphone usage on our brains.

I got an iPhone over 4 years ago but, really, it's only in the last few months that I’ve begun to question my relationship with it, despite hearing/reading about numerous people saying that smartphones are designed to addict us and many, many blog posts about ‘digital detoxes’.

I generally think my phone is an amazing tool. The biggest advantage is it allows me to chat to my best friends on a daily basis, despite the fact that we all live apart. WhatsApp groups are honestly how the majority of my friendships are maintained, and I am forever grateful for them. But there are so many other uses that actually enrich my life. Reminders, well, help me not forget things. I can whack a new story idea in my notes whilst on the go. I can have the entire 3 series of Gavin & Stacey in my pocket, ready to watch on the plane to Singapore. I have a world of information at my fingertips (cheers google). I can take a photo at a moment’s notice.

I am happy to admit that I like my phone and everything it gives me. But I’ve also hit the point where I’m willing to admit it also might be creating problems for me.

In the past few months, I have started to consciously leave my phone in another room and close the door for a few hours. I have started to charge it outside of the bedroom. I have started to turn it off at night. Because it started to click that, whilst my phone is an amazing tool and can bring me joy, it also can make me anxious, distracted and stressed. There are so many reasons for this that you could write an entire book on it (and someone has already done it – see below) so I’m not going to go into them. But I’m sure I will over the next month as I explore my relationship with that rectangle in my pocket.

So, yes, the next month. The book finally pushing me to do something about my phone is ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price. It’s a really fascinating read but will also scare the shit out of you. Well, hopefully, anyway. That’s kinda the point because the second half is a 30-day plan to ‘break up’ with your phone. And just so we’re clear, it doesn’t suggest throwing your phone in the bin, digging out the old nokia and be done with it (although feel free to do that if you want). It’s about assessing your current relationship with it, creating a healthier one and essentially getting a bit of your life back.

Here’s a few reasons why I’m doing it:

You may or may not believe it but when I look at the science, it quickly becomes obvious to me that smartphone addiction is a thing and that’s mostly because phones are designed to addict us. Literally, designers are manipulating our brain chemistry (our dopamine) to trigger addictive behaviours. Yeah, I don’t like that. And why? Because it freakin’ works. I know; it’s worked on me. And probably on you as well. And I don’t fancy being addicted to anything thanks. 

I took the Smartphone Compulsion Test developed by the founder of the Centre for Internet and Technology Addiction (also a psychiatry professor). You wouldn’t necessarily call it an exact science as the questions are subject to interpretation but essentially, you have a list of 15 questions about your behaviours around your smartphone and you circle one if it applies to you. If you circle more than 8, the results suggest you are suffering from a behavioural addiction and should seek professional help. To be honest, the only way to score below 5 is to probably not have a smartphone and ain’t that just a little bit scary. I got 11. ELEVEN.

The average Briton spends more than two hours a day on their phone. That might not sound too bad but, just as a friendly FYI, that amounts to about 14 hours a week, 60 hours a month or 30 days a year. Don’t know about you, but the prospect of wasting a month a year on Instagram truly depresses me. Think what you could do with that time. I could finally write that bloody novel. 

There is a LOT of evidence to suggest that spending a lot of time on your smartphone negatively affects: sleep, creativity, deep thought, the ability to truly immerse yourself in an experience, attention span and your short and long-term memory. All of those are pretty important to me. Just sayin’. 

My phone keeps me constantly connected which is amazing but on the days where I just want to be alone, to gather my thoughts and reflect, to just goddamn switch off; my compulsion to check it means that social media can make me insecure, the news I didn’t ask for makes me anxious and even messages from my loved ones can feel like pressure; those little red icons more additions to the never-ending to-do list. And if I’m being honest, all of that can happen even when I’m not in the mood to switch off. So basically, I’m voluntarily engaging in behaviours that can make me insecure, anxious and stressed. Um, bit weird don’t ya think? 

You only have to look around you (not that many of us do because we’re all looking at our smartphones) to see that phones encourage self-absorption, re-design the lines of social etiquette and perpetually distract us. As far as I can tell, none of that is a good thing. 

I’m going to stop now because this post is already very long. I’m actually a week into my ‘break up’ challenge and will be doing weekly updates over the next month. Mainly to hold myself accountable but you'll also be able to see how I'm getting on.

For more information on the science and generally what the heck I’m going on about, I’d mostly suggest reading the book – but this article is a good place to start.

10 Mar 2018

Singapore Diaries | My Birthday

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Our first full day in Singapore just happened to be my 26th birthday, and the first time I've ever actually spent a birthday abroad. We started the day in a weird, jet-lagged funk, jumping between being wide awake or snoring away. We finally got our shit together and left the hotel room about 11ish with one thing on our mind: food.

We were staying in Little India so we got our first taste of the local area; hot, busy and colourful.

Keen to start the trip with some traditional Singapore food, we went on the hunt for kaya toast and eventually, after getting a bit lost in a shopping centre (a recurring theme of the holiday), we found Ya Kun Kaya Toast.

Kaya toast is a well-known snack in Singapore and Malaysia and it’s kinda a hard one to explain. Basically, imagine a toasted sandwich with slabs of butter, sugar and kaya (described as a coconut jam… but it doesn’t taste like coconut so that doesn’t really help. It’s a sweet jam. Let’s just leave it at that.). It’s served with two eggs in a bowl on the side and a milky coffee (drank with a spoon).

Honestly, we had no idea what was going on but it was a bit of a laugh, and I’m glad we tried it. We weren’t entirely convinced by the enormous slabs of butter but I did like the taste of the kaya. We very quickly learned that kaya toast was very popular in Singapore – the place was absolutely packed!

Once we’d finished our somewhat unusual breakfast, we headed back out into the heat to find the beautifully air-conditioned metro, buying an EZ Link Card (aka an Oyster) and hopping on a train to the Bay area.

Singapore

The metro came out into an enormous shopping centre meaning we had our second getting-lost-in-a-shopping-centre experience of the day. Honestly, it was huge (with a mini river running through it) and it took us an embarrassingly long amount of time to escape. We did eventually though and we emerged under Marina Bay Sands, the famous luxury hotel which has become a landmark of Singapore. The difference between Little India and this area surprised me a lot. I felt like I’d been transported to some futuristic city in a sci-fi film. It was extremely clean and green, with a lot of unusual and impressive architecture, most notably, the hotel, the helix bridge and the science museum. We had a little wander around the waterfront before heading into Gardens by the Bay. Right at the top of my to-do list was Supertree Grove so I was very excited to finally see those avatar-style trees.

But first up, we bought tickets to go into the Cloud Forest, one of the conservatories in the gardens. It was a pretty gorgeous experience. The Cloud Forest is an enormous, mist-filled conservatory containing hundreds of lush, tropical plants. The two main attractions in here are the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (35m) and the cloud walk; a pathway that snakes in and around the mountain-top waterfall, surrounded by floral gems and giving you a little hint of the city that lies beyond. We spent a good while in here before heading back out to get lost in the gardens.

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay
Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the BayThere are so many nooks and cranny’s; you could easily spend hours and hours in the gardens. My favourite area was, of course, Supertree Grove; those man-made beauties wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi film and I had a lot of love for them. We lost track of time wandering those gardens but eventually the heat became too much and we decided it was time for a drink and/or ice cream. We took a walk (aka got lost in a shopping centre) back under Marina Bay Sands and emerged back on the water front, where we quickly found somewhere selling ice cream and quickly learnt we needed to eat said ice cream fast if we didn’t want it in liquid form.

Slightly more revitalised (fighting jetlag in that heat is no joke), we walked over the helix bridge and around the bay. I love a good skyscrapers-on-the-water view so it was all very much up my street, but we were ready for another break by the time we got over the other side. We stopped for milkshakes at Over Easy which has a perfect view of Marina Bay Sands across the water. It was the perfect way to spend an hour; drinking a strawberry milkshake in hot weather on my birthday (not something that happens a lot when you’re born in February) and planning out the week ahead.

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Next up was a birthday cocktail! I decided the best way to justify spending $30 on a cocktail was to make sure it was the original Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel, and that it was on my birthday. I was a tad disappointed to discover that Raffles Hotel is under refurbishment until mid-2018 so we didn’t get to see inside, but luckily they have a little pop-up just round the corner so we could still try the famous cocktail. The barman whipped up our pink, gin-based cocktail and we took a seat on the bar stools. The first thing we noticed was that there were monkey nut shells all over the floor which didn’t really seem in keeping with a posh hotel. However, the barman explained to us that it’s an old tradition, supposed to bring luck and prosperity. So we dipped our hands in the hessian sacks of nuts and got eating/throwing!

When we were done drinking, we went back to the Marina Bay shopping centre (on purpose this time) to grab some food at their food court. It was a bit manic but we got some Indian food, and split a naan, for just a few dollars.

We then did a last minute dash back to the gardens to catch the Garden Rhapsody, the signature light and music show. Those Supertrees explode into a neon light show twice an evening, every evening, and yeah okay, it was basically my favourite thing about Singapore. We got there a bit late (it takes surprisingly long to get through that bloody shopping centre and into the centre of the gardens) so we just collapsed onto the floor wherever to watch the magic happen.

Once it had finished, we headed straight back to the hotel, completely dead on our feet.

First day: done

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay

Singapore, Gardens by the Bay