Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tapping away your problems | A candid review of EFT

I turned up to my first Tapping class as a secret skeptic, but I convinced myself that with an open mind, something good could come of it. The whole evening was an experience to say the least, spending two hours sat in a room full of women I didn’t know all crying together wasn’t exactly how I had pictured my night ending up.

For those of you that don’t know, Tapping is an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is a form of psychological acupressure that involves tapping on energy meridians that are situated just beneath the surface of the skin. In short, you say words that bring up stress/anxiety or anything you’re dealing with personally, then you tap in random places throughout your body (in between the eyebrows, under the collarbone etc.) to release the negative energy. Yes, I know, it sounds as much like witchcraft as contouring does, but bear with me.

So there I was, sat in a circle, feeling like I was attending my first AA meeting.

‘Hi, my name’s Hollie and I am an alcoholic’.

Tapping actually wasn’t far off; we introduced ourselves and then one by one shared what we were struggling with. As one person shared, the whole group would tap for them. Our teacher, Charlie, called it borrowed energy. I like to think of it as a group of women cheering each other on. Emma Watson would have been proud.

Everybody had their own issues, from a crippling eating disorder and the breakup of a marriage, to the stress of being in a job they hate. Some were tough to hear, others felt like the person speaking was reading my mind.

Each concern, no matter how small, was addressed by Charlie with the utmost care and attention, talking through the problem step by step and asking logical questions that made you dig deep.

Then the tapping would begin.

The edge of my fingers tapped underneath my eye and the cynical voice in my head mumbled ‘this is so stupid’. But then the crying began and I realised that for most people in the room, talking about their issues without really talking about them, worked. The idea that an unpleasant emotion could be controlled by a physical action meant that you were in control.

If you're struggling with pain, grief, anxiety, depression or good old fashioned relationship problems, pop along to a workshop and see what happens. I'd love to go again, if anything just to reunite with my fab little crew, but for £90 an hour it's a luxury that's out of my remit. I was lucky enough to find a beginners workshop for a much lower price, and I'm immensely glad that I showed up.

The whole evening was a team effort; there was no shame or embarrassment, just a group of people with genuine concerns. Life's tough, and sometimes you find solidarity in the strangest of places... like a tapping class.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016


During my time at university, when spare time was as common as my accent, I would spend hours watching panda videos on YouTube. Pandas sneezing, rolling down hills and throwing themselves off a slide were personal favourites. Every second of footage made my eyes water with cuteness overload. They looked unlike anything I had ever seen, it was almost impossible to believe that they weren't men dressed in suits fooling us all.

For five years I planned a trip to China, I would climb the Great Wall, take a selfie with the Terracotta Warriors and stroll down the bund. But, most importantly, I would spend a day at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding... and it was more than I could have imagined.

Pandas have fast become a symbol of China. Now we will make no assumptions that animal welfare is China's most pressing concern, pandas are a tourist attraction - and that is most likely the sole reason for their survival. And it worked, because I flew 5,700 miles just to see them.

The amount of science involved in making pandas breed is exhausting. Female pandas are only in heat once a year and are normally only in the mood for a few days. Not to mention they live off bamboo, which makes their milk a terrible nutrient for newborns. Now I'm no expert, but that sounds like bad odds for panda babies.

I am fully aware of the conservationist argument for letting them die off, and maybe if the situation were different I would wholeheartedly agree. Pandas are notoriously silly, and the amount of money spent on keeping them alive could easily be used for more worthwhile conservation projects. I mean, what's the point of keeping a species alive when it clearly has no concept of how to survive in its natural habitat? But seeing the amount of visitors that flock to the research centre every year, it's easy to see how this conservation programme is working as a tourism business. And of course the most obvious reason being that they are so darn cute.

I thus had a picture in my head that the facility would be one enormous science laboratory, solely for the purpose of pumping out baby pandas on a conveyor belt, sending them to panda nursery until they were old enough to continue the cycle.

But as I turned up at the entrance, feeling like a 5 year old at Disneyland, my predispositions seemed to wash away. The park, and I use the word park because it felt a little Jurassic Parkesque the moment I arrived, has everything you could imagine (minus the dinosaurs and electric fences). Two seconds in and there I was, standing 5 metres away from a panda shovelling bamboo into its mouth. Was it worth it? Yes.

The enclosures were large, covered in thick bush allowing privacy from the prying eyes of tourists. An inside area provided air conditioning when the weather got too hot for them and the breeding programme seems to be in full steam, as I arrived to see 16 baby pandas lying together on a bed - until one shoved another off the end – poor guy.

The crowds were intense, mostly Chinese nationals coming to see their country's homage. I showed no mercy, and persistence paid off as I got prime viewing time at every spot.

There was one unpleasant story I overheard of a hot summer day that resulted in copious complaints from tourists who wanted to see the pandas playing outside. It apparently resulted in staff forcing them out and locking the hatch - meaning roasting pandas banging on doors wanting to go back inside. I attended on a cold winter’s day, so I cannot attribute any validity to that story, but it is definitely something to bear in mind when deciding what time of year to visit. Pandas don't like the heat, and certainly shouldn't be outside in it.

There is no denying it though; I was impressed by what I saw. Hats off to China for creating such an incredibly magical place and bringing a species back from the brink of extinction.

I would go back and see the beautiful bears in a heartbeat.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Sintra, Portugal

I had never heard of Sintra, but followed a recommendation from a friend at work, and I was over the moon that I did. The home of monarchs, the town is filled with castles and palaces, all situated among the mountains. Whether you like your castles traditional, gothic, or a little whacky, you will find what you're after here.

The town is busy, and the roads leading into the mountains are more like tiny off road tracks. If you're arriving by car you may want to make sure you're a good driver (and definitely a good parker), I think I would have had a meltdown was I not with my brother.

Cabo da Roca was our first stop. As the westernmost part of Portugal, it took the longest to get to and sadly was sitting in the middle of a cloud when we arrived. It made for some beautiful photographs but we could just about see 5 metres in front of us, so marvelling at the cliffside wasn't an option. The journey however, was definitely an experience (like I said, make sure you're a good driver).

We ended up at the palace of all palaces, The Pena Palace. From a distance it looks like it belongs on a children's TV show, with fiery colour, sharp edges and quirky patterns. The place was heaving with tourists, but that can be forgiven considering how beautiful the spot was. The surrounding gardens are also rather lovely, providing a scenic hike up to the palace and offering different buildings and annexes to explore on your way.

If you enjoy a hike and want to feel like a princess for a day, I can't recommend this place enough.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

What to do in Lisbon

Bright, charismatic, and good looking - yes I'm talking about a city and not Tom Hardy. Lisbon feels old, but modern and fresh at the same time. Like it was built recently but made to look antique. I was travelling with a city scrooge who wanted to spend our entire trip beach hunting, so I didn't see as much of the place as I would of liked. But the best part of 48 hours was spent wandering, shopping, eating and taking an astounding amount of pictures.

Here is what I would recommend...

Jerónimos Monastery | For the architect in all of us
This building is astounding. So much so that the photographs I have taken don't do any justice to the amount of detail that has been carved onto the outside. The crowds were minimal, which meant we could have a look around without feeling like herded cattle, and the sunshine made the whole building sparkle

The fountain in front of Jerónimos Monastery |
With a light summer breeze, you can stand downwind from the fountain and cool yourself down in the mist. The gardens are picturesque, meaning you can sit down, cool off and just stare at the Monastery

Flea market at LX Factory |
If you're into second hand bargains, this place is a dream. It's only small, taking up the length of one street but it's filled to the brim with clothes, jewellery, ornaments and paintings. The weather was scorching when we went and the street provided zero shade - meaning I had little motivation to rummage and left without making a purchase. On a cooler day it would have been perfect.
It's open from 10am - 4pm every Sunday.

Doca de Santo Amaro |
This was my favourite spot in the city. You can look out to the 25 de Abril Bridge, and see Christ the King in the distance. At night, the bridge lights up, and you can grab dinner at one of the restaurants lining the dock.

25 de Abril Bridge | Love at first sight
I think it is fair to say I became obsessed during my brief stop in Lisbon. This bridge was stunning, from every angle, and at every time of day. I probably have hundreds of photos (and a film of us crossing over it), but I will spare you the torture and just share my favourites. It really it beautiful though, and considering it was built three decades before I was born, it has definitely stood the test of time.

Christ the King | Am I in Rio?
Standing at 25m, the monument sits pretty high above the city. Knowing it would be better from a distance we held no plans to go up to where he stood, but after taking a wrong turn we inevitably ended up there. You don't quite realise how big he is until you're sat at his feet looking up at him, you can take an elevator to the top if you don't mind heights - but if not, the site he is sat on offers the best views of the bridge (which one could argue was even more stunning).

Live music at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II |  
I have no idea if this is a regular occurrence, but we heard music and went looking, only to stumble across the strangest band I have ever seen. What looked like the most random bunch of people at band practice, turned into a really great performance by some incredibly talented musicians.

Find all the street art |
There is graffiti everywhere in Lisbon, some of it is questionable, but most of it is impressive.

Go looking for Dinosaurs | Praia dos Lagosteiros
If you fancy heading out of the city, we stumbled across an incredible spot due to a sign we saw with pictures of dinosaurs. The cliffs are steep, so maybe take a buddy and watch where you put your feet. I may go as far as to say this was the best spot in the world (or at least close to).

There is so much to do, what would you recommend?