Friday, 23 January 2015

Afternoon Tea

On Saturday, it was one of my best friends birthday, and for a change, instead of getting stupidly drunk and rolling in and out of taxis, we decided to head over to Birmingham for some tea and scones (very sophisticated I know). I love my tea, and may have been even more excited than my friend at the prospect of eating my way through various cakes and sandwiches that afternoon.

The Birthday girl
After finding ourselves a bargain deal on Groupon - Tea for Two for just £7 each, we headed over to the Novotel in Birmingham. I must say I wasn't quite expecting the service we experienced that day. In this case, paying less was certainly a good thing. We were greeted by our waitress who showed us to our seats and took our beverage orders, before being presented with an array of delicious sandwiches to choose from. 

As you can see, these aren't your standard poxy finger sandwiches which you would usually expect from such an affair; these were good sized sandwiches (and lots of them). I went for the tuna and mayonnaise sandwich to start, along with a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich - both of which were delicious. The only criticism I have to offer in regards to the sandwiches is, they were all arranged on white bread. What happened to the wholemeal?!

After we had finished our sandwiches, it was time for more tea and gossip (yes we got unlimited tea refills too). Our waitress came over to take our plates and presented us with this beauty. I love cakes, but my gosh - this selection was to die for! 

We soon got stuck in to our brownies, scones and flapjacks.I couldn't manage my cheesecake so I had to leave this one (to my utter despair) - talk about sugar overload. I am very fond of my cakes and again - these didn't disappoint. I am not sure if they were home-made but they were  fresh and extremely tasty nevertheless! So all in all, a successful afternoon. No fancy cake stand or selection of teas which you may find at your more traditional afternoon tea experience, but for just £7 you cant complain. I would definitely recommend you check this place out if you'e after a fairly inexpensive afternoon tea experience, or even just a quick catch up with your loved ones.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Learning to meditate

It is only recently that I've began to take an avid interest in the teachings of the Buddha, and as a result of this, started to learn how to meditate. Buddhism - a term I had heard used often enough but never really understood its true meaning. After a tough few months last year, I was determined to alter my negative frame of mind. Countless nights of over thinking and an evident lack of sleep was starting to take its toll on my body. It was one evening, whilst reading up on the marvellous South East Asia, and planning my travels for next year when a friend of mine asked if I would like to go along with him to a Buddhist centre in Birmingham. Evidently, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like just what I needed, and indeed it was. Two hours of listening to the teachings of the Buddha and learning how to meditate left me eager for more. 

I can't say I am a huge fan of religion for various reasons (which I won't go into on here), but Buddhism offers many logical and profound ideas that I am able to both relate to and preach. Unfortunately, a lot of people today use the symbol of the Buddha as a fashion accessory, but after experiencing a Buddhist centre in action, I can certainly say that it's much more than that. To be honest, I never even knew these sorts of places existed, especially on my doorstep. It was a breath of fresh air to see so many diverse people all in one place; from the young to the old, the eccentric to your everyday worker; the centre welcomed people from far and wide. 

Some would argue that Buddhism is not a religion, some will argue for it. Personally I don't mind - either way - it is fascinating. The first time I went along to the Buddhist centre, I must admit, I wasn't completely open minded to all that was going on around me. One of the reasons I attended the Buddhist centre in the first place was to learn how to switch off, to let go of reality. This excited me above all else. What really stuck me about this particular centre in Birmingham was its welcoming atmosphere. Everyone is equal; whether you were coming along for fun, because of recent trauma or to learn more about Buddhism, you can find it here. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, and after two more sessions I started to feel like I had achieved something. 

I am now on my way to completing my six week 'Introduction to Buddhism' course. Thanks to these sessions, I am now able to appreciate the little things around me; like making a cup of tea and loved ones. I love the mindfulness behind this teaching; the Buddha recognises that everyone gets angry from time time. It's about letting go of the past and living in the present, taking every day as it comes and not letting your negative emotions control you (as I often did). Not only have I learnt how to relax, I have even learnt how to take time out before I speak which is a first for me.  Even my sleeping pattern has improved which is amazing. Who knows, I may even consider converting to Buddhism completely after delving into its roots on my travels next year...

Evolution - Rebecca Elson
We are survivors of immeasurable events,
Flung upon some reach of land,
Small, wet miracles without instructions,
Only the imperative of change.


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