Maisons and Mingle (Birmingham 2023)

Welcome to the fourth blog post about events I’ve been to! This time, we are headed to Birmingham. This is also the first time I’ve updated this blog this year, simply because life got heavy and I lost my swing. More on that in a moment.

This event was the third organised by Kayla (reynoldsresidence) and Charlie (overatcharlies), who last year came together to put on a series of events called Maisons and Mingle. These events usually take place in the centre of Birmingham and this one was in The Distillery.

I’m always on the lookout for things to attend as it’s always nice to meet people in person and make friends for life, so there are event organisers who I have notifications turned on for so I never miss a beat. When this one got announced, I jumped on it so fast I was the first account to express an interest, which is just as well as places ran out within hours. I could then start planning my next adventure away.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought…

The Best Laid Plans…

I wanted to avoid driving into Birmingham at all costs, as although I am a confident long distance driver, I’m less so with driving into built-up areas I don’t know. My initial plan was to drive to Crewe, where I stayed for last year’s Housewise Brunch trip, to allow myself the opportunity to see a few people and places I didn’t get the chance to during that trip. I would then get a train down to Birmingham for the event and do my own thing further north the rest of the time I was over. I was also planning a three night stay rather than the usual two.

On the 11th of January, my car broke down and it took five long and stressful weeks to sort out. Something went wrong with the gearbox and the amount of disruption not having a usable car caused me was enormous. I couldn’t really make any concrete plans for travel until that situation was resolved, and with all the disruption I couldn’t really think too much about organising a trip away anyway (it didn’t help that an extended internet outage meant I had to be taken to my family’s house so that I could do my job, making an already stressful situation worse).

I eventually ended up with a whole new car, and not two days after I became its new owner, news broke of train strikes scheduled for the 1st of April, right when I was meant to be travelling from Crewe. It took another couple of weeks trying to work around this, eventually settling for a compromise, foregoing staying in the north. I was under a lot of pressure at the time with work and life generally, so I was burning myself out with stress from multiple angles, and came close to pulling out of the trip altogether. I stuck with it though, and I’m very glad I did.

The strikes were eventually called off, but by that point it was too late for me to change my plans again, and I really didn’t have the headspace for more hassle anyway, I was to stay in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of Northampton, easily accessible by car, and get a coach to Birmingham on the Saturday morning. I accepted that visiting friends in Cheshire, an area that has become a second home to me in a spiritual sense, would have to wait until later in the year.

Friday 31st March – Rushden Lakes

The car part of the journey was short enough to do in a single stage, but I still decided to revisit Rushden Lakes, for the first time since at least 2019. I’ve written about this place before, but it’s one of my all time favourites. There’s a fantastic array of shops to go in, a huge cinema, and tons of places to eat out. It’s all sympathetically built at the side of a set of large lakes you can take a walk around. It’s a place I may not go to often as it’s a bit out of my way, but when I do go, it always leaves me feeling energised.

Except, it was pouring with rain, so wasn’t really the best day to be out and about taking pictures. The car park was almost a lake in itself. I’m afraid these three photos are all you’ve got.

I had lunch in Costa before browsing round all the stores, leaving with a small white vase with some faux eucalyptus in it, and some black jeans to wear for the Mingle.

It was then just another 20 minutes in the car and I was at my home for the weekend. Below is a photo of the room (I must stress I’d already used the bed at the point the photo was taken).

In the evening I took the time to test out different combinations of clothes I had with me, and also headed to the restaurant next door to have a nice meal before turning in for an early night, knowing I’d be having an early start.

Saturday 1st April – The Mingle

I got up at 6:30 to get myself ready. My coach out was at 9:35, so thought it would be a bit tight to have breakfast at the hotel. I made my way to a supermarket cafe in the town centre to have something there, then off to the coach station against the clock. There wasn’t going to be much of an alternative if I missed it.

There wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but here’s a couple of nice looking buildings I took quick photos of on the way past.

I got to the coach stop fine. Not much to do for the next couple of hours except sit back, relax and enjoy the views.

On the final approach into Birmingham I got directions to The Distillery ready on my watch. I was arriving at 11:30 with the event being at 12. Time to hit the ground running.

The UK’s second largest city is really a sight to behold. There are interesting juxtapositions of old and new and looking at the tops of some of the skyscrapers is something that, quite literally, involves bending over backwards.

I got to the event only a few minutes late. The sign on the door put a big grin on me. I’d made it.

The event venue was a really nice bar with a lovely laid back vibe. It was dark inside, but that made it more relaxing. We all grabbed our welcome Prosecco, or orange juice if you’re like me and don’t really drink, and got to know each other.

Everybody was so welcoming. It often takes me a little while to relax into these things, but there were so many lovely people I wondered what I was feeling nervous about.

The first hour of the event was an opportunity to get to know each other as they arrived. I was reunited with Ria (thecourtyardhayloft), who I met during last year’s Housewise Brunch and was the only person at this event I already knew in person. I’ve followed Ria ever since that day we met and I love what she does, and she’s so lovely too. The two of us were then talking with Jenna and Kate from Heart Made Interiors, who as it turns out are based near me, in Cambridge. I find I tend to do best in a smaller group to begin with and this was just what I needed to ease myself in.

The tables all had cardboard boxes on them, containing kits for the wreath making workshop. Claire from Amber Jean Flowers (amberjeanflowers), a florist local to the area, talked us through how to make the contents into beautiful wreaths to display in our own homes.

To be honest, I think most of us were completely new to doing this still winging it a bit even with Claire’s brilliant guidance. It felt like we all did a good job, though. Who would have thought Prosecco and wreath making would go so brilliantly together?

I was feeling very proud of my creation considering I’d had zero experience doing this. I already knew exactly where it was going in my house.

When we were all done, we had a little more time for chat before a lot of pizzas were brought out for us all to get stuck into. I didn’t take any photos of this because, well, I was too busy having some of it and getting to know as many people as I could!

I didn’t take as many photos as I did with other events I’ve been to simply because it was a much smaller venue. A couple below are from video clips posted to my Insta stories so they are a little blurry.

We all had to vacate the room at 4:30 so we made our way to the main bar and took a big group photo. I don’t have this but I’m sure you can see it on the Maisons and Mingle Insta page (maisonsandmingle). I said my goodbyes not long afterwards as I had to get back to catch a coach out at 6. I came away feeling pretty happy though. As I write this, I have several DM chats with people who went so I feel like I’ve made new friends and I am really paying it forward. If you are local to Birmingham and want to turn Insta friends into real life friends I highly recommend following the organisers and getting involved. Their events, I think, are pitched just right for people going to their first things so good for beginners. Since sharing the event to my stories I’ve had people messaging me saying they are wanting to get involved as well. Go for it. There’s nothing stopping you!

There’s never enough time to talk to everyone at these things, but I really came away feeling part of a community and I will definitely be keeping in touch with people I met. If I feel sad for leaving, I know I’ve had a good time.

Unfortunately, when I got back to Northampton I was badly let down by the taxi companies and had no choice but to walk two miles back to the hotel with my bag. This was definitely not part of the plan (and I admit, was potentially dangerous) but sadly there is always potential for things to go wrong with these trips. By the time I got back, I had done some serious numbers on my Apple Watch, in particular setting a new record for steps post-illness, doubling my daily calorie target for the first time post-illness, and setting a new all time record for the number of calories burned in one day (so even including when I had my first Apple Watch in 2017). Given the damage my illness did during the pandemic, I thought this was worth mentioning.

I got some food from a nearby McDonalds, then went to bed and unsurprisingly was out like a light.

Sunday 2nd April – Beckworth Emporium

I was really feeling it when I woke up in the morning, so I took full advantage of the checkout time being at 12pm. I got up as late as I could as I still felt exhausted. I decided to freshen up with a shower, packed up all my things into the car and checked out. Before heading home, there was the final part of the adventure. I’d asked in my Insta stories earlier in the week for recommendations of places to visit near Northampton. A couple of people DMed me with Beckworth Emporium, a large garden centre with an enormous restaurant inside offering great food in a beautiful setting. I went through Little Houghton to get there and thought it was a beautiful village as I went through.

I arrived and experienced the lunch menu for myself, and it didn’t take me long to see why this place is popular.

Browsing the home decor section, I got this cushion for mum to have on the sofa at the back of the house where the dogs like to sit. She loved it.

At this point I decided to call time on my trip away and I began the drive home. A very friendly cat was waiting to greet me.

I had a few hours to chill before heading out again for a Sunday roast with the family, but I was definitely ready for a day of rest on Monday.

The Goodie Bag

Of course, it wouldn’t be an event without a bag full of goodies. Here’s a photo of the bag and its contents, with special mentions to all the businesses that contributed.

There was also a discount code from Homestyle89 to share with followers, which is “maisons20”.

A big thank you to all the small businesses who contributed such lovely things to the goodie bags!

Some Closing Thoughts on the Trip

I’m going to repeat some of what I said in my Insta stories, but it’s worth putting here too.

I don’t have a big following on Insta, and I likely never will. I’ve always struggled to attract interest on the platform, simply because, well, I’m just rubbish at it, and with all that time I was off of it when my health collapsed in the pandemic. The algorithm likes to punish people for inactivity and doesn’t care if you were off for a good reason like I was.

However, Insta has given me something infinitely more valuable than numbers on an app. I now have four sets of memories I can cherish forever. The best outcome from these adventures is that I have made genuine friends. Some of my longest time friends have come from these events, and if they read this, they will know who they are. I’m sure we will meet again one day.

Some of the things that make life worth living are exactly this. Being able to meet new people, make new friends, share memories with existing friends and create memories with new ones. All things we were deprived of in the pandemic. That’s a lesson to all of us to better appreciate these experiences.

There have been times on Insta when I’ve come across people not so nice, and those people have completely messed me up in the past. But for every one of those, there are a thousand more who will welcome you into their circles with open arms. A few dozen of those were present at The Distillery on the day.

The wreath I made during the Mingle now hangs above the stairs, where it shall remind me of this wonderful occasion every day.

To finish, a massive thank you to Kayla and Charlie for organising these. You do these voluntarily, but I think we can all say that we appreciate what you do more than we could ever put into words.

See you again for the next adventure.

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