Ahhh, it really is true that sometimes a change of scenery is all you need.
This weekend, Mr TwentyNine and I escaped on a mini break to Birmingham. Maybe not your obvious choice for a change of scenery, but we had a purpose! He wanted to go to a drum clinic (please, don’t, I’ve had all the “Why, are his drums sick?” jokes from my Dad that I can take!!) with Aaron Spears, super talented drummer to super stars like Usher and the American Idol tour. These things aren’t usually of particular interest to me, but I wanted to go along for the road trip anyway so we booked two tickets and set off.
Actually, we set off rather early. The clinic started at 1pm, and we live 4 hours drive away (allowing for no stops!) – plus we had to give a bit of time to allow for the fact we would be driving into the centre of Birmingham at somewhere near midday on a Saturday – chances were that the traffic wouldn’t be on our side. So what time did we leave? 5:45am. Ouch.
It was actually a really pleasant drive up there. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and driving across the moors watching the mist rising above the dewy fields and the still-as-glass lakes was pretty breathtaking, I have to say. We put on some good tunes (thanks Emilie Sande, and the American Pie: The Wedding soundtrack – our tastes are nothing if not eclectic!) and the miles just flew by.
Despite a stop at Exeter for a much-needed coffee (I’ve been caffeine-free for about 3 months now, but even I caved with that early wake-up call!), and a subsequent stop a few miles up the road for a toilet break (I have a bladder like a sieve) we arrived at our destination shortly after 10am.
Now I absolutely hadn’t planned it, but the drum clinic was taking place in South and City College which I discovered to my delight was very close to The Bullring! Anybody who lives near a city or anywhere with a big shopping centre won’t get my excitement as you’ll think it’s ‘the norm’, but let me tell you – when you live in a little town in Cornwall where your ‘shopping centre’ is so dire that even budget stores Peacocks and Bon Marche moved out a few months back, leaving just a New Look, a TK Maxx, and a war between Poundland and 99p Land (I kid you not) – a shopping centre the size of the Bullring is like bloody Disneyworld!
At my reassurance that we wouldn’t make ourselves late for the drum clinic, Mr TwentyNine reluctantly agreed that it made sense to kill some time, so we (I) literally skipped over to that shiny, towering shopping Mecca.
I was walking around in total paradise, randomly exclaiming “Karen Millen!”… “Radley!”… “Oh my god there’s an actual Lipsy shop!” You just don’t get brands like this at home and I found myself mentally calculating just how many weeks of beans on toast I would have to survive on in order to buy that coat/those shoes/every item in that window display. Sensibly I realised that if I had any hope of venturing over the threshold of any of these revered stores, I was going to have to feed Mr TwentyNine first. It worked – one chicken sandwich and blueberry muffin later he was following me round in the Lipsy store suggesting I try some things on.
I must just take a second here to explain that as long as he is properly fed, watered and not too overtired, Mr TwentyNine is not your average guy when it comes to shopping. He doesn’t stand outside the shop tutting and sighing, he doesn’t begrudgingly poke his head into the changing room and grunt “Yeah s’alright” to everything I try on – he helps me pick things out, he gives me a thorough and honest opinion, and if I’m lucky he also picks up the bill at the end!
Sadly, it was just not meant to be this time. I took in 3 dresses to try on, and while I don’t think the dim downlighting did anything to flatter my cellulite, and it gave me rolls and lumps and bumps on my stomach that I swear did not exist until I stepped into that changing room, it was still pretty clear that I had a long way to go on the health and fitness bandwagon before I could think about wearing any of the dresses I tried. I was pretty bloody depressed. Especially as Mr TwentyNine was waiting outside with a ready and willing bank card. *Sigh*
Needless to say I wasn’t in the mood for shopping after that, so we took a leisurely stroll down to the College to get ready for the drum clinic. We were among the first few there, forming the start of a very orderly, very British queue!
I won’t go into a lot of detail here, as the whole drum thing is more Mr TwentyNine’s scene than mine, but Aaron Spears was absolutely brilliant – talented, funny and a genuinely lovely, lovely bloke, fascinating both to watch and listen to. I thought I might be a bit bored, but absolutely not, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and actually found myself wishing it would last longer! At the end of the clinic, he took the time to stand and sign autographs and have photos with everybody who wanted one (most of the audience I think!). We told him how far we’d driven to come and see him, and he thanked us and said he was really grateful, before taking the time to write a lovely personal message on both a poster and DVD we’d bought! Mr TwentyNine was thrilled.
Reappearing into the bright sunshine of the early evening, we were suddenly faced with driving out of Birmingham centre at 5pm. The traffic was pretty much at a standstill and it took us about an hour of stopping and starting every 5 seconds to finally get out onto the ring road to head to Bromsgrove, where our hotel for the evening was located.
I’d booked the hotel on a whim – we were originally going to drive home the same night but I decided we needed a treat, so logged on to lastminute.com and booked one of their ‘Top Secret Hotels’ for the bargain price of £59 (I couldn’t even find a Travelodge for that price on a Saturday night!) It turned out to be the lovely 4* Holiday Inn Bromsgrove, which was in a really picturesque setting overlooking the surrounding Worcestershire hills. On check-in we were informed that breakfast was included in our hotel price (hadn’t realised this – bonus!) and when we got to our room, although I’d only booked a standard we found ourselves in an executive! It was a really lovely decor, great facilities (including sofa bed which was bizarrely all made up ready for us to use! I told Mr TwentyNine that if we had an argument, he could sleep there!)
What followed was a lovely, chilled out, relaxing evening – in the bar, of course! We treated ourselves to dinner and a pricey bottle of wine, and while I can’t rave about the food (it was fine, just nothing spectacular) the wine went down very well and we had so much fun sitting, talking, and laughing at the DJ’s poor musical taste in the function room next door. (A disco-opening 5ive medley, followed by Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again … seriously?!?) After what had been a very busy 6 weeks since we came back from holiday, that little bit of ‘us’ time was therapeutic. As we’d sadly forgotten our swimming costumes so we couldn’t take advantage of the inviting hot-tub, we headed upstairs for a night cap with the X Factor and The Jonathan Ross show – both of which we found hilarious in our mildly inebriated and hysterical state!
Sunday dawned all too early, and despite our best intentions to make use of the hotel gym, the lure of a cooked breakfast was stronger. Once fully fuelled with bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, yoghurt, fruit and pains au chocolat (yes I visited the buffet three times, so what?) we set off on the journey back to Cornwall.
It was another relaxing journey, made all the better by stopping off at Cribbs Causeway for a quick (read hour-long) browse around (read filling multiple shopping baskets) at HobbyCraft! Now I’m getting back into my arty things again, I’m going to try my hand at some Christmas crafts this year, and also make and sell some Christmas cards which is something I used to do every year. I could have spent an absolute fortune in there and I think a trip back in the near future may be necessary. All jokes aside, it sparked a bit of enthusiasm in me again and I made 9 cards as soon as I got home! I am absolutely at my happiest when I’m crafting. It was the perfect end to a fabulous weekend. 🙂
(Oh and for the record – Monday morning’s gym session was harsh – but at least I did it!)