Mandy Charlton - Photographer,Writer,Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places, Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger, Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sex and the City

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Sex and The City, Friendship, dating and nights out in newcastle upon tyne

People often tell me how my blog reminds them of Sex and the City and I have to admit to them that I've actually never seen the tv show, in 1998 when the first season was released I was too busy dancing in nightclubs throwing my arms up in the air and during the weekdays I had a 2-year-old so for some reason it just kind of passed me by.  I've seen the movie so I know who the characters are but this weekend I've just started to binge watch all 6 seasons.  Almost immediately I identified, especially as I've spent the weekend surrounded by my best girlfriends and boy do we share about our lives.  

I have in my life the most amazing ladies, all in their mid 30's and for some reason me in my 40's, when we get together there's nothing we can't talk about and we laugh so much, my friend Laura's current conspiracy theory that Richard Branson is hiding all of the dead celebrities on Necker Island is quite frankly hilarious, as we sat around discussing whether the dead celebrities were really dead or just hiding out somewhere in the Pacific, I asked if this was some kind of internet conspiracy but no, it's just a Laura one!  Meanwhile, someone asked "How do you get on the dark web?" and just as I was saying, "well what you don't do is google, how do you get on the dark web" Li was already asking google "How do you get on the dark web?"  I have no idea why we would want to access the dark web, I did interject that the Silk Road wasn't somewhere you bought second-hand luxury shoes and handbags...

Late last night my best girls and I went out dancing, well Laura dropped us off in her Uber on her way home, she was the lightweight of Saturday but then again, she has someone to go home to!  I myself not being in that category, especially at weekends threw myself into many dance shapes, I even jumped up and down and threw my arms in the air to a classic house tune at one point, that's why I love Madame Koo, it plays classic house, pop, and even party tunes all mixed together and all I drank whilst out was a glass of diet coke so £2 for a night of dancing is pretty cheap if you ask me.  I didn't kiss any boys this week, I left that to Harriet who was clearly giving off better hormones than me this week. 

Late into the evening or early in the morning we were stood outside in the little nook, a tiny outside space smack bang in the middle of Madame Koo when a drunken man who could barely string two words together decided to lick Harriet on the cheek, he then proceeded to ask if she could help him open the door, refusing his kind offer to be the door lady he simply decided to just pee in the corner and at that point we three ladies decided it was time for our taxi home.  I think you reach a certain point on Saturday nights in Newcastle and after that, it's a good idea to make a swift exit because all who remain are the kind of men you wouldn't want to talk to let alone let them kiss you.  Maybe it's because I at the most get a little tipsy so I'm always in control of my faculties but I can't tolerate intoxicated males, no matter how young and beautiful they are.  I like my men to be sober and in control of themselves.

Oh and meanwhile on Tinder, I turned down a man, I realise I'm being choosy but a royal marine holds no future excitement for me, as I told him, I'm looking for a metrosexual man who is creative, likes superheroes and knows of at least more than one musical, uniformed men really don't interest me, I realise half of the female population love that and I'm sure he's going to find someone just like that but for me, I prefer musicians to men with machine guns!  In just over 72 hours I've had 15 matches and spoken to 2 men, one of whom is lovely but quite far away and I really have learnt that it's just kind of easier if they live in your locality, it's all very well looking for your soulmate who's hundreds of miles away but who has the time?  Plato you are going to have to take one on the nose for me because I am restricting all future dating to within 50k of where I live!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Taking a moment

Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, taking a moment, singing at the top of my voice

I hope you'll forgive me for having a moment, I know, it's my age, right?  Not one of those moments though but I just want to take a moment to say thank you, my blog is continuing to grow every day, on mostly every day I get over 1k hits now and according to my stats I have 5k more readers than I did 6 months ago, this makes me happy, I've really found my writing style over the last couple of years and next week on the 28th my blog will officially be 11 years old!

This place where I come to collect my thoughts and make sense of the world, this place where I share the best and the worst of my life, mostly though I just ramble, it's somewhat of a talent of mine you know!  I'm not someone who is constantly thinking about the future, I try to live each day like it might be my last, a life of no regrets, lots of mistakes but no regrets because everything I am now is a result of the journey it took to get me here.

In January I made more income from writing than I did from photography for the first time ever and that in itself is a huge achievement because there's a big difference between the photography and writing industries and I'm really just at the start of my writing career despite doing it for longer than photography!!

Today we, that's Harriet, Looby, Abigail and I are off to the Scarborough Sealife Centre for an exclusive event, look out for news about that next week, I also have so much writing to catch up on, places I've been, events I've experienced and some fab new products to share too.   Tonight my best girls, Harriet, Laura and Li are all going to be with me and we are going to have a long overdue catch up followed by dancing at Madame Koo, I have a newfound love of the real world, I suspect because we're on the slow rise into spring and my zest for life is returning after the long dark winter, in this last week, I've seen 2 musicals, 2 comedy shows, went dancing and even kissed a boy, here's to more weeks like last week rather than the week before.

Ooh, I went back to Twitter this week, I know I said a month but I just need it for my business, however, it's now taking approximately 20 minutes a day rather than 20 hours a day, I don't have a lot of chats but I have so many goals to achieve I can't really afford to sit chatting on there, I'm choosing real life over online life (I know, I'm a blogger, that's an oxymoron at the very least) every single day of the week.  I've also been thinking about what happens when I do meet someone, do I go into hiding and never speak about it on my blog or do I just continue to be me and write about it, well I'm not exactly sure what the answer is but if I meet someone who doesn't already know about my blog I figure I'll just not tell them, I'll keep them off social media and then maybe a couple of years in I'll tell them, haha!  Maybe it's just safer if I meet someone who already knows about my blog?  Obviously, we have to find each other first and that's an adventure I'll definitely keep writing about!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Meanwhile on Tinder

Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, meanwhile back on tinder, dating when you are over 40, newcastle upon tyne

When I woke up at 9.45am this morning I suddenly realised I'd once again failed at writing a blog post in preparation for today, to coin a phrase I am something of a blog numpty at the moment, it's the damn transitional times when to be quite frank, nothing is really happening, most people think I live a life of Carrie from Sex in the City but actually, the reality is that for the most part, I live a pretty quiet life, some days it's harder to blog than others because nothing happens and I can't imagine 30,000+ people turning up every month to read the tales of a lady who gets up every day, does a little work, has some toast, walks her dog, does a little more work, watches too many movies and goes to bed, even Dickens couldn't make a bestseller out of that!!

It's true, I live a life of vicarious adventures through the movies I watch and in the way that I write, even I think my life sounds more exciting when I read some of my blog posts back, it really is a shame that I didn't ride off into the sunset on the back of a white stallion with Mr France, I am thankful though because of all of the things I've ever written about, that was my favourite chapter so far, if nothing else, it helped me be a much better writer and in some ways he fixed me and showed me there was life post marriage.  Still sad though I guess as, and I'm going to say this out loud, I HATE dating, I know it's supposed to be fun but it really isn't when you are in your forties. 

I hope you'll forgive me but I strayed back onto Tinder late last night, it's not that I'm looking to meet anyone right now but a little window shopping never hurt anyone and let's be fair, Tinder is a game, it's window shopping for grown ups and it's about a million more times exciting than doing your weekly online shop at Waitrose.  

Ok, so I swipe left way more than I should for someone of my age and status but I'm nothing if not picky, I mean, given some of my past choices you might argue with that but no, I definitely have a type and although I may have changed from favouring clean shaven to loving the bearded sorts I'm mostly unwavering, tall, dark (or blonde) and a little bit geeky gets me every single time, I can't help it, I'm definitely more brains over beauty but at the same time I'm quite visual so it always helps when my face likes their face!

I've dipped in and out of Tinder a few times in the last year or so and I've had approximately 3 matches in that time, whilst my friends seem to get matches every 30 seconds, it's the curse of all of my friends being younger than me and suitably more glamorous I suspect but for now at least it's something to entertain me on the dark stormy nights, I'm not even sure I've ever had a conversation on Tinder but I hold out some hope at least that there's a high functioning man who'd like to date a quirky lady and have adventures in my time machine as we fly across galaxies exploring multiverses and eating way too much cake with china cups of Earl Grey tea.

Holly Bobbins, dog of mandy Charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, in the sunshine, heaton park, newcastle

So that was Wednesday ladies and gents, I went to an event, drank 2 cocktails, watched a movie or two and caught up on The Flash and Supergirl, oh and walked Holly Bobbins in the spring like sunshine where I took the above selfie whilst singing loudly amongst the trees, oh and Nelly said to me last night, "I love your blog, I have to read it every day because it's better than a soap opera"  Well Nelly, soap operas must have gone down hill a lot in the last few years, that's all I'm saying!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tragic of Heaton, aged 43!

Holly Bobbins, dog of Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, tragic of heaton aged 43

I didn't blog yesterday, (just in case the less observant amongst you didn't notice) I didn't want to be "Tragic of Heaton, aged 43" and I wasn't feeling funny enough to write anything comical so I thought I'd have a day off, launch the Fairy Squadmother site (go read it, she's way more hilarious than me and she totally has her shit together!) and try to get my hands on as much cake as I possibly could. As it happened Lady Luck was smiling upon me and at the close of the day I'd received no Valentines cards/presents/bouquets but I had eaten 3 different types of cake, I'd consider that a success for at least part of my brain and much the same part as you get with a good snog, cake rarely disappoints though, that's the big difference!

Harriet and I went to The Stand again last night for the anti-valentines night, except it wasn't, all of the comics were happily married and there were more couples there than us singletons, I didn't mind, though, I love, love and I love happy couples and singing Gold by Spandau Ballet at the top of my voice with a room full of tipsy Geordies and a handful of the most hilarious comedians in the northeast was really the icing on the cake! I'm calling it laughter therapy, something which is currently a lot more accessible than actual therapy, yep, still waiting for some clever people to decide what's best to do with me, who knew my brain was so complicated?!

I have a lot of work to catch up on, things have slowed down whilst I've been shaky and I'm conscious of the fact that at the moment I'm just trying to not to put too much pressure on myself, my tolerance to stress is at the moment not brilliant but I am going to get there and then I will be better than ever.  My London train tickets I bought for March are going to be put to good use, I want to take Abigail with me and we'll just go and do fun stuff for a few hours, it's years since we were last in London together and I know that she'll appreciate it so much plus it means we'll be together on Mother's Day which is also lovely.

You know, in this life we do not know why some things work and some things don't.  Someone gave me a great analogy the other day, I won't say in reference to what but I thought it actually summed up my life a little, the analogy was "Like putting a marshmallow into a coin slot" too funny not to share but it's a bit like trying to fit a star shaped peg into a badly fitting square hole, sometimes life sort of fits but it just doesn't, it's like having all of the ingredients for a cake but you're one short, you know you could still make the cake and it would be passable but it wouldn't be the cake you'd set out to make and it would probably taste a little off, that's kind of my life currently, in the words of Roy Walker "It's good but it's not right."

I'm going to end today with some words from my favourite philosopher who's quotes pretty much get me through my daily life, he said "Basically at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all, there is only absurdity and more absurdity and maybe that's what gives us our joy for living because the only thing that can beat absurdity is lucidity."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reasons To Stay Alive

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, reasons to stay alive, mental health, friendship and dating

It's Monday, Woohoo!  I feel the need to cheer because I've actually made it thus far, I'm reading a great book at the moment which I bought a couple of years ago but filed until the moment I needed to read it arrived, it's called Reasons To Stay Alive and If you have ever travelled along the road with a mental health challenge I really recommend you read it.

I didn't blog over the weekend because finding the time to fit it in would have been the biggest challenge, I'd started with having to extract myself from home to photograph Nethermined 3 and then met Harriet at our local, The Northumberland Hussar, we all love the Hussar, we meet there often, mostly I don't even drink, I'm the queen of lime and soda but it's independent, the food is good, the atmosphere is friendly and my dog is better known than me and goes there more often too with her aunties.  Saturday became about Prosecco which lead to Harriet and I going out dancing, it had been a day of closure and gracefully letting go and so a night of dancing is always the cure when you are feeling low.

Something amazing happened, though, a gift from God I suspect, whilst Harriet and I were getting some air in between throwing huge shapes upon the dance floor and throwing our arms in the air, a man started chatting to me, not even sure what about but he was cute and had a charming smile, his friend took Harriet to one side and commented that I was pretty, now I just want to stop here for a moment, in my whole life, all 43 years of it, no one has ever called me pretty and for a 43 year old to be called pretty is either a lie or both guys needed an eye test but after the week that I'd had it was a lovely boost to my self-esteem.  Anyway, I chatted some more and then Harriet had an allergic reaction to something so I said to the attractive man that I was sorry, I had to go and take her home and just as I was about to walk off into the night he asked for my number, I mean, I didn't even know that still happened, it was like 1998 all over again, in fact, the last time someone did ask me for my number was approximately 1999!!  I popped it on my phone and then he kissed me goodbye (rude not to isn't it?) and off I disappeared into the night, half an hour later and he messaged to make sure I'd got home without any issues and then he messaged again yesterday.  Literally, this kind of thing doesn't happen to me, there's a but here and it's a big but, in the cold light of day I realised I'm never going to go on a date with this guy, he's 28!!  I discussed this with Iain yesterday, I've always promised that the lowest age of man I'll date is 32!  It's weird enough when your mum is dating without it being someone who's young enough to be your older brother by just a few years!

It was incredibly flattering though, I didn't get any kind of spark when he kissed me goodbye but my self-esteem needed it, it really did and you know what, it gave me hope of there being real people in the world who do still think I'm not a hideous white jelly baby and I'm hoping to drag my favourite ladies who are all gathering together next Saturday for a little more dancing!

Last night we went to The Stand, our local comedy club for an evening of hilarious political satire, well I'm not sure about the hilariousness but it was definitely interesting!  I did laugh though and laughter, as they say, is the best kind of medicine and as I fell into bed at midnight with tired feet and a less troubled mind I realised I'd come through the darkest week and I'd survived it, not only had I survived it but I'd even managed to squeeze in some moments of joy, I can't think that would have happened 15 years ago but the big difference today are those most special of friends, people like Li, Harriet, Laura and Kelly, ladies who make me laugh and smile and cuddle me oh and John, hilarious John, Kelly's brother (soul brother, not real brother).  My life is enriched by the people I have surrounding me.

So here we are again and I'm sure I have far too go,  On Valentines Day, I shall be as the song said, alone again, naturally and I have some stuff I really do need to work through, that is going to take people who are trained in such things but for now and forever there will always be more than a million reasons to stay alive.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

At the end of a brutal week...

At the end of a brutal week, mental health, depression, bipolar, end the stigma, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Nine fifteen on a Friday night and here I am, the rockstar, in bed, the cat next to me and some music by my side, music which comforts and soothes, music which heals.  This week has  been brutal, I have felt the warmth of human kindness and have experienced the cruelty of others which threatened to bring my whole inner self to a grinding halt, I hate negativity in any sense, I fight against it with all of my heart but sometimes things happen which you have no control over...

I've come to understand that this place in which I find myself now has been hurtling towards me for quite a while, what I held in my heart as being my happiest place was actually a bipolar high, all of those months of boundless energy were just my broken brain, thanks God, can't you give a girl a break?  The problem is no one noticed, I didn't notice, it's been so long since I've had anything other than small swings and times of light depression that I just thought I was the happiest I'd ever been and the associated anxiety was just that, I didn't see it being that jittery symptom of the high.

I can see all the patterns now though and here I am, on a low shelf somewhere in a well with the water rising to my ankles, I'm not up to my neck because I have friends actively trying to drop a ladder down for my rescue and I'm fighting hard to climb back up it.

I thought I had found everything I was looking for but here's the truth, the pursuit of love is so painful and yet we spend ourselves frantically searching like a lost child looking for their parents.  Some of us will search our whole lives and still never find that person, others will be lucky, they will find their soulmate, their twin flame and what I say to them is if you find it, love it, build that flame every day, feel everything with your heart, let yourself go, let yourself be loved and don't hold back, life is precious and short and every day should be spent in the sunshine with the warmth of love on your skin.

In this place where I am, please do not show me sympathy but be empathetic, be understanding and just give me a little time to pull myself back up, do not look down on me for I only write now so that others feel they can speak when they are in these places, do not cry for me for I have cried enough for everyone, in my darkest moments when I feel that the world hates me and I fear my fragile wings are about to break, I remind myself of the love I have for friends, my children and the animals I share my life with.

And, you know what, one day I'm going to have it all, I will be loved and cherished and someone will think me the centre of their universe and every day I will tell them I love them because they found me and didn't run away because I was broken, we'll just get some superglue and turn me into a slightly less broken new piece of artwork and I'll stand on platforms and tell my story, I'll tell the story of the woman with the broken wings, a woman who found the exact thing she was looking for when she wasn't even searching, I'm not going to actively look for something I can't find anymore, I'm just going to hope that it finds me instead, I'm not sure how that happens but love is nothing if it isn't magical.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Why Photography Will Always Be My Greatest Love

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, blogger, writer, why photography will always be my greatest love, recovery software, remo

I remember the day I got my first camera, a Kodak thing which used 110 cartridges, and the viewfinder was in a totally different place to the lens that it would frequently chop heads off, I remember the first adventure it went on, to London with girls brigade, I was 9 years old and I've loved photos ever since.  To me, both personally and also professionally I think photographs are a window to the soul or a moment in time, I've been to many photographic exhibitions including Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson and I fell in love with the way they saw the world, I love the work of Diane Arbus and the statements she made through her work and in my later years I have discovered a love of photographic artists like Eve Arnold, Loretta Lux, and Vee Speers, I am constantly amazed by the new ways in which people create images and in my own work I fall in love with photography over and over again.

My business Mandy Charlton Photography is 10 years old in June, I still retain some of my earliest clients and have photographed moments throughout their lives.  I have witnessed hundreds of couples get married, I have held a thousand babies and I have sung "Wind the bobbin up" way too many times trying to coax smiles from three-year-olds with their families.  I adore that I have the trust and love of my clients to share their special moments.

In my own life, I spent many years without a camera and then around 11 years ago I bought my first DSLR, a Canon 350D, it was at the moment I picked up that camera that I suddenly knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Today I'm in the best place with work, I have combined my love of photography with my love of writing, I tell the stories of lives and moments and memories and I take you readers to places you've never been or I help you see them with fresh eyes, every time I look through the viewfinder I know the photo I'm already going to take, I rarely crop and I'll be the first to admit I get quite protective of my images, no other business is as close to my heart because every time I take a shot, I give a piece of my heart.
One of my first ever photos with my first DSLR Camera, lovely little Looby

In these modern times I use 4 cameras, a Canon 6D, a Fuji X-Pro1, a Fuji X70 and my iPhone 7Plus, I'm not really bothered which I have with me, at least personally because I believe the best camera is the one you have with you at the time, every moment I document is just that, a cherished moment, it doesn't matter how I've taken it, in fact, some of my favourite moments were taken with an iPhone, my kids, my dog, my life, my heart, photography is all about heart.

Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes technology isn't our best friend and in those cases you need backup, I currently store everything on a time capsule, online with dropbox and google photos and on a separate data drive and you know, things can still go wrong, a couple of years ago at a wedding my memory card failed, it just failed, no rhyme or reason why sometimes it just happens, I swapped cards and shot everything again just in case (I stick to smaller memory cards for that very purpose, I've learnt a lot in 10 years) and when I got home I turned to the software I've used for many years now Remo photo recovery software,  the software is super easy to use and it got everything back, every single thing.  I'd always recommend having some software like this at your disposal whether you are a professional or not, can you imagine losing your entire family photo catalogue?  When people have drive failures or heaven forbid there's a crime or house damage, they don't care about the big things, it's usually the case that the things we are bothered about losing are our memories because memories really are the most important things in life.

In crafting my future I made a small decision to concentrate on writing for a while but it's only because I want to be able to find a way to do both things, I believe when you can offer amazing images put together with beautifully written words then truly the world is your oyster.  I love writing about my life, the ups and downs, the travel and adventure, the small moments but what brings each article alive are the photos I share to go with them.  Sometimes I'll revisit days with Google photos and I love looking back at the images I shot 9 or 10 years ago, I will say that I've rather improved in the last decade but there are still photos I'm so proud of that I'd love to share a few of my favourite cherished moments now, some are personal, some professional but remember, they're all created with love and passion.

In the next 10 years I hope that I grow into my style more than ever before, I hope to find new ways represent the people I work with and the places I go.  In my personal life, I just want to keep recording the moments, I have splendid teens who aren't so keen on photos of themselves anymore, well except when we go anywhere and they use me as their own personal photographer, Looby especially has my photos on her Instagram feed.  The best thing is that I seem to have passed on some of my passion to Abigail, she's already a talented photographer with her iPhone and one day I hope she'll dust off the heavier DSLR I gave her, I want her to continue to record history long after I'm able to although in saying that, as long as I can hold a camera and see well enough to take the image I'll continue to do so, photography never lets you down, it's always a friend and it's always true, in some ways it's the greatest love of all.

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