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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Why I'm still alone after 3 years

Me, why I'm still alone after 3 years, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, relationships, love, dating

The year was 1999, it was October and I was out dancing on a Thursday night with one of my best friends, Mark (sadly not with us anymore) and I kicked our height in disco night club Baha and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a tipsy bohemian looking man with surfer like wavy blonde hair, he came over an introduced himself just before the end of the evening and we kissed goodnight.  Seven weeks passed until once again I was out dancing with friends when I spotted the blonde boy I'd kissed all those weeks ago, I ran up to him and said "I kissed you seven weeks ago at Baha, do you remember?"  I can't remember if he replied or if he just kissed me but that was the night that my life changed forever.  That was the night I met the greatest love of my life.

It's hard to believe that it's nearly 20 years ago and it's still harder for me to believe that we are not together, I thought this crazy bohemian boy with the weird ideas and even stranger behaviour would be mine forever, he still remains to be one of the few people on the planet who actually understood me, our bohemian ideals of truth, beauty, freedom and love drew us together, his love of life and total disregard of conformity terrified the life out of me at times but politically, morally and ethically we agreed with each other on so many levels.

We shut out the world and built a nest that no one else could invade, maybe that's where my hermit tendencies originate, I really don't know, all I know is that, in those first days, weeks, months, years even, I didn't want to let anyone or anything disturb what we had found.

I will never have any regrets about meeting him or spending a large chunk of my life with him because when it was good it was like the most magical thing on the planet, it was like the best piece of music you ever heard, or the tastiest cake you ever ate, 15 years we spent together and 3 years on from that and I'm whole again, I'm as healed as I'm ever likely to be but I've come to realise that you only really get one shot at love, well maybe not love but true love and soul mates, I honestly don't think that kind of lightening strikes twice, I'm not even sure I would want it to.

I'm much happier to be just me now, I sometimes shy away from the company of others because I'm content in my aloneness.  Meeting someone else terrifies me and though I occasionally glance at the Eharmony account I have, in 1 year of being on there, only 1 person has ever messaged me and he couldn't even spell!

I think the truth is that even though I get lonely from time to time, I would rather spend my life alone than settle for second best, I'm a complicated person to be with, don't get me wrong, when I love, I love with all of my heart but I'm not emotionally connected a lot of the time, I can seem standoffish and guarded, I can seem distant and aloof but that's more self preservation than anything else.  I know even before you have to deal with my strange personality you have to get past the fact that my face is odd and ageing and I have the body of a giant white jelly baby, I'm not what you would call, catch of the day!

It took me 25 years to find someone the first time and I think the only reason we fell in love was because we were in those days, clumsy and foolish, we spent a lot of our time out with friends partying and that meant that I dropped my guard, I relaxed, I stopped being so uptight.  I can't even drink alcohol without being wildly allergic and it actually interfering with my breathing so the chances of me relaxing enough to let anyone see the special parts of me (and they are in there, it's just an effort to find them) are microcosmic.

Since I've been on my own, I've watched couples split up, I've watched both sides then go on to have new relationships and it's amazing, people have actually got divorced and married again to other people and here's me, still on my own trying to work out if there's any way of becoming the kind of person someone could fall in love with.  Sadly, and believe me when I say that I'm not looking for pity here, but sadly I think not, at 43 I've missed my chance, I guess it's a good thing then that I have my kids, I have my dog and most importantly I know myself and whilst I can travel and not stay in one place for too long, I don't have to worry about the times I spend alone.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How practicing Hygge helps me deal with anxiety.

Holly Bobbins sits in the Neyladn Star Tartan Fabric Wingback Chair, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, a place to hide from the world

If you have read my blog for any great length of time you'll be aware that I have anxiety, it's actually been much improved over the last couple of years but every now and then, in times of stress, it rears it's ugly head.

The beginning of September was so full of change with no back to school, a massive change in routines and business took a dip with everyone returning to school and the world at large not having time to think of anything other than getting the kids back into routines.  I always worry when my income suddenly drops, it's essentially not really something you can plan for and part of the rollercoaster of self employment but it really hit me when I was down to the last £35 of my savings, I guess at least I had savings but scary as I'd just taken on the responsibility of home education and it's not like it's cheaper than state education, the costs are just different.  I'm also still supporting Iain who is trying hard to get an apprenticeship but because of Aspergers, well it's just tougher and that's without going into the fact that the job centre refused to accept his proof of id all of a sudden when they went online and so currently he's not receiving any benefits at all.  He does have a charity helping him to find an apprenticeship now though and came home from a day of work experience at the amazing tech firm Accenture so excited about the possibility of working there, I can only hope they see how brilliant he actually is because I think if they give him a chance, not only will they not regret it, it will be the making of him.

Suffice to say, this month has been tough although in the last week things have been getting better, at least financially, autumn is coming (tomorrow in fact) and so my calendar is getting very busy again, so much so that some dates are now close to full and I can relax a little knowing that I have a ton of hard work ahead but that also it's one less thing to worry about until the winter hits.

This week in home ed, Looby has been looking at Hygge, the Danish art of making cosy, it's something I've practiced for years, loving my home during autumn and winter, I hate it in summer as it's set up to be so dimly lit and cosy it doesn't really fit with summer so well, luckily I'm not often around in summer so I've just learnt to ignore it.  With the arrival of the cosier season it's meant I can truly embrace my love of all things Hygge so candles lit, new cosy throws for the sofa and this brand new chair courtesy of Sloane and Sons.

When Sloane and Sons got in touch to ask if they could gift me a chair I jumped up and down with utter happiness, our previous wing back chair was a little past it's best after spending a couple of years being Holly's favourite chair and I have to say after I took the photos of her in this one she quickly retreated back to the sofa, she hates the smell of new, I'm delighted!! I chose the Neyland Star tartan fabric wingback chair and it's the perfect size of chair to cuddle up in with a cuppa and a book and it goes with my lounge so well that it was just meant to be, I'm going to have many happy hours sitting in it and though I don't want to pre-empt the white stuff, it'll be the best chair to sit and watch the snow falling outside of the window.  Should you want to indulge, the regular price is just £299 but they have an offer on at the moment and they're just £245, plus they come in different fabrics so you can choose whichever style fits your own comfy sanctuary, I just give fair warning that when it arrives you'll want to stop everything and sit in it for just a little while, have that pot of tea or coffee ready to go!

My lounge, is really my place to escape to, to hide from the world and to feel rested and relaxed, it's the place where my anxiety subsides, where I feel safe and warm, I suppose you could call it my sanctuary, every home should have one of those.

Also in home ed we've been really upping our game with cookery and baking, I have to say that Jamie Olivers 5 Ingredients book is amazing for someone like Looby who is really just learning to cook, every single meal we have tried has been fab and she's needed no help at all because the recipes are so very simple, she even cooked when Harriet came over last week, if you have kids who are keen to cook or you just want simple and easy recipes which don't mean extra trips to the supermarket for exotic ingredients, this really is the best cookery book I think I've ever bought.

I think both building our own cosy sanctuary and cooking/baking more I'm easing us into the season of increased darkness, the lower light levels don't have to mean depression and the more I practice Hygge, the more it helps with my own seasonal affective disorder.  I'm lucky really, I can occasionally hide from the world, work in pyjamas and no one knows, well no one apart from Looby and Holly and to be honest, they like to embrace the cosy just as much as I do so I think, dear reader, my secrets are safe for now!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How saying yes actually made me more anxious

How saying yes made me more anxious, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, mental health, anxiety

It's Saturday and I have an unexpected and unplanned day off, I could be doing anything with anyone and yet here I am in my pyjamas sitting eating hummus with breadsticks catching up on work.  Harriet did take pity on me and invited me to the pub for a non alcoholic drink but since I've been completely allergic to even a sip of alcohol, going to the pub for a pint of Diet Coke which costs the same price as 2, 2 litre bottles sounds as enticing as inviting someone who's allergic to bees to go to a honey farm, and for anyone who thinks I'm being glib, the last time I tried red wine, I started wheezing so badly I needed an inhaler.

I realise I'm supposed to be saying yes to everything but quite frankly, saying yes more often has only proved that it's not working, not only is it not working, it's actually made me more anxious than I've been in ages. 

I think the big difference between Danny Wallace and I is that, firstly he was 26 when he did it, he had a large supply of friends who invited him to do things, he was a young go getter working for the BBC, oh and he also said yes to most of the offers in his junk mail, something I refuse to do or I would be having webcam relations with a Russian woman and my penis enlargement, I wonder why junk mail is all written assuming that the readers are men?

I'm now around half way through the experiment and all I feel is bad about myself, I've been trying to be braver, to put myself out there, I even offered up a spare ticket to a classical music concert to any bohemian man who might want to take me, guess what?  Yes, tonight I am going to see the Royal Northern Sinfonia on my own.

It is of course all my own fault, if you live like a hermit and only leave the house for work then the chances are that great things aren't going to happen very often and whilst I'm sure that never bothered Hannah Hauxwell I can't pretend that I haven't been feeling a little more lonely of late.  The worst part of this is that I know it's chemical related, I swapped my HRT again and it's the same one which made me decide I should try and date last year and we all know how that ended... Oh, if you're a new reader, I'll save you reading back, it ended badly, it made me realise that I'm such a niche catch that the chances of finding someone else who's compatible is smaller than the Higgs-Boson particle!

I don't mean to sound "woe is me" I think I'm just genuinely a little low and anxious currently.  I'm happy enough when I am working because work is the thing that completes me, once I stop and I'm here in my pyjamas in an empty house it hits me every time.  Of course I'm grateful for Holly Bobbins who loves me unconditionally and even chats with me on matters of philosophy from time to time, not only that, her thoughts on string theory and time travel, second to none, she's not so keen on Schrodinger's cat but that's dogs for you!

I'm considering now whether I should keep saying yes to everything and the answer is I don't know, I wanted it to change my life, to enhance the way I live and to offer me new experiences, so far it's only made me anxious and miserable showing up the shortcomings of both the way I choose to live and in my personality as a whole.

If anyone out there has any life changing experiences to offer please get in touch, I'd love to turn this month around and say that saying yes makes life genuinely amazing.  As always I'm waiting for your emails!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some thoughts about time and life and home education

My daughter who will be 14 next week, some thoughts on time and life and home education, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Where does the time go?  I remember looking down at Iain for the first time after he was born, I remember the first days in hospital and I remember when strangers told me to cherish this time because it would pass in the blink of an eye.  It did just that and last week he was a 21 year old, he's completely responsible for himself now, well sort of, he's still living at home with no sign of leaving but I love that, I'd miss him if he wasn't there.

Looby, my youngest, when she was just about to be three I told her not to grow up, she was perfect as she was, she promised me she wouldn't and then directly flouted my request, she's 14 in just 11 days. The truth is, we're all looking forward to things, we're making plans, we're booking holidays in advance, sometimes I think we stop enjoying the now because we're so busy planning ahead.

I'm trying to live more mindfully, to enjoy the passing moments and something I think is extra important when you are home educating.  We're in our settling in period right now, the one where we "deschool" because school is somewhere that institutionalises not just children but their parents too. We are so used to the daily routines that when we no longer have them we struggle a little to find ourselves again.  In saying that, we haven't encountered any major bumps but it's early days, it still seems like a holiday, maybe it always will, without the confines of timetables and rigid schedules, maybe we'll always just feel free now.

The strange thing about home educating is that the days are longer, the learning is everything, every single conversation we have directly teaches us something, it's something I never thought about before but then perhaps, perhaps it was because we never really had time to talk, the schedule of education encumbered us so that we had to try and fit everything we were and everything we did into shorter spaces of time, in a state education system there is very little time to just be, to be still, to think, to meditate.

Now, please, please don't get me wrong, I know for some school is a way of life and school is a good thing for some children but there are other ways and I know I am lucky to be able to give my daughter this untraditional learning experience.  Please don't think though it's because I am wealthy because nothing could be further from the truth, I still struggle to find the right kind of work to pay all of the bills and provide the extra experiences needed to get the most out of life, there are times when I worry what will happen if I don't get that next job or if I can't fill the sessions I've planned my income around but after 10 years I'm kind of used to the rollercoaster of work, life, finances, blood, sweat and tears that it takes to be self employed.

In home educating Looby I have given up seeing Abigail every day, her daily visits when she dropped her sister off on the way home from school every night are no more and her busy schedule means I haven't seen her in more than a week, something which makes me truly sad in my heart, I miss my big girl but isn't that life?  It's all so very bittersweet, I don't think there's a single person in this world who truly has it all, money doesn't buy happiness, love is the answer but even then, there are other extraneous factors which means having love alone isn't the whole answer to existence.

Now I don't want to be unnecessarily nihilistic because I do believe our lives have meaning although we'll probably never understand what that is, all we can do is try to make our mark, believing that all lives matter, I believe above all else that my children are the future and that the way that I parent has a direct correlation to their future failures and successes, another reason why it's the right choice to home educate Looby.

I hope this post has not been too profound, it's been a long time since I have been able to take the time to sit and write my innermost thoughts but here I am, at my desk sharing my thoughts whilst Looby is at the cinema with her friends, no need to worry about isolation with that one, she has many friends from lots of different areas of her life, a social butterfly will always be just that.  It is my aim with my month of saying yes that I too might become more social, I'm eagerly awaiting the chance to be less of a hermit, it's time to come out of my cave and into the light.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Home Educating My Teen, Our First Week

home educating Looby, our first week, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Oh, hey you, remember me?

Yes, I know, I was trying to blog more often you know but the first week back after summer always seems more than a little chaotic.

The funny thing is that Looby wasn't going back to school but we were settling in to our new way of life and anyone who's seen Looby in the last week or so has commented just how happy she is and how she's more like Looby again, hurrah for that I say, long may it continue.  It is amazing though, I think perhaps we're both so much happier and it was only a couple of days before we attended Home Ed trampolining where she made her first similarly aged friend.  I have no worries at all about Looby feeling any kind of feelings of isolation, she's made a new friend, she spent a day with her best friend from school at the weekend and then she saw all of her riding school friends yesterday, my social butterfly's wings have certainly not been clipped by the introduction to this new way of life.

What's amazing is that I wasn't sure when we should commence any kind of formal learning, the guidelines say that you need around 1 month for every year the child has attended school as a deschooling period and during this time you don't do any formal learning at all.  In Looby's case that would be 10 months which seems like an awfully long time to me so I decided that we'd just do things our own way, it usually works!  I feel and so does Looby that she's learnt more in a week about  real life than she ever learnt at school so that's already a win and within the first couple of days she set up her own blog and now she's blogging on a daily basis, please go over and give her blog a read, it's quite early days but she writes eloquently with a bouncy kind of style which makes for easy reading, she's more amusing than me and let me tell you, her blog about why she's home educated made me so proud, she also has had way better reader stats in a week than I ever had when I started blogging, she's a whizz!

This week is our first full week and we have lots of interesting things, we're at the Theatre tonight and tomorrow we're helping out at a dementia charity tea dance, home ed is brilliant because there are no boundaries and my financial aim this week is to accrue the funds needed for our cultural trip to Gdansk at the end of the month.

I need to sort my working times out, I am much behind currently as I wanted to spend as much time as I could with Looby but it's still early days and we need to work out how it's all going to work, it's probable that I'll just end up editing, sending newsletters and speaking to clients in the evenings and early mornings but that's fine, it's all doable, with my job, the brilliant thing is that I am mostly a digital nomad from Mon-Friday, I can literally work from anywhere on the entire planet!

I think I'm happy with life at the moment, I said yes to lots of great work things last week, nothing personal came up but there was always a chance that would happen, I'm just going to have to make sure I keep making my mark in a work sense so that I don't completely get forgotten about.

So this week, watch out for more blogging, more vlogging and definitely some new and interesting adventures, home educating is going to be the best ride we've ever been on together.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Why I'm about to say yes to everything

I'm Mandy Charlton and for the month of September I am saying yes to everything

Do you know the last time I went out with friends for a night out?  I think though I can't entirely remember that it was sometime in either January or February and it's not that I don't get invited out, it's just that I'm a bit of a hermit!  When I'm not working I like to be on my own, not speaking out loud and digesting as much information as I possibly can from wherever I can find it!

It's not that I don't like socialising, it's just that really, I'm now completely allergic to alcohol and I like to be in bed as soon as I can possibly manage it, plus the world is scary, I'm terrified of at least 50% of people, mostly the ones of the opposite sex, one of the reasons I've now been single for pretty much 3 years is that men terrify me, if I see one coming towards me in a pub I literally shrink back into the wallpaper.  

Now don't get me wrong, I love my life, I'm someone who embraces working 23 hours a day but I feel there's a change needed or not even necessarily needed, I've just decided that for the next month, in the style of Jim Carrey or Danny Wallace to be more correct, I'm going to say yes to everything. Obviously, I'm not going to take mad risks or endanger my life but it's time to say yes for a while instead of no just in case it makes a difference and there's something I'm missing out on.

I'm also going to say yes to every work offer I get, well with the stipulation that I'm not going to undervalue myself or put my business at risk but I do turn down a lot of opportunities which could lead to somewhere amazing but until I actually start saying yes, well nothing life changing is ever going to happen.

This week I have already said yes to going back to Slimming World and going to the pub quiz, I need to lose weight and the pub quiz jackpot is over £1500 with only 5 keys left, I'd be stupid to say no!!

I told Harriet today so she knows and I trust her with the information and power that I'll always say yes, I also told Abigail, cue several crazy ideas like sky-diving, I'm kind of hoping for more realistic possibilities, like maybe being asked on a date or receiving an exciting work assignment.

Of course there's always the distinct possibility that going to the pub quiz and rejoining Slimming World is the most exciting offers I'll get but you never know until you try and I guess that's why I'm taking a moment to write it down, first off, it opens me up to my readership, it puts notions out into the universe and it also means I can't go back on the idea.  I'll write a post in October to tell you if anything happens.

I am planning to travel in September with Looby so who knows what that might lead to and when she comes back from Tenerife this week I'll tell her my plan, again, I'll put aside any crazy ideas that come from that, I shan't be signing up for any bungee jumps or dangling by my ankles over any crocodile tanks anytime soon.

So, stay tuned, along with single handedly home educating Looby, this could be the most exciting September I've ever known.  So, over to you...  Want to set me a challenge or ask me to do something, you can leave a comment or email me!

Friday, September 01, 2017

There's No Turning Back Now...

There's no turning back, home educating looby, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I make no apology for the fact that my blogging has been utterly sporadic of late or that I've written very few posts over the whole of summer.  It's weird that sometimes it just seems impossible to grab five minutes to sit down and collect my thoughts but unfortunately that is the way it's been.  I can't remember the last time I was actually up to date with work and as of right now, I have 2 weddings and 4 photo shoots to edit.

It's not that I've fallen out of love with blogging or indeed writing, in fact, nothing could be further than the truth, it's just simply that I need an extra hour in the day!  It's only a few weeks since I started vlogging but I really love finding my feet on a new platform, it's a task to build up a new following but I'm on a mission to conquer Youtube before the end of the year, come subscribe to my face if you already haven't!

I cannot quite believe it's the first of September or that in just 5 days my son will be 21 or indeed that in 24 days my youngest will be 14!  Yesterday I sent off her letter to deregister from school, no going back now, home education here we come!

I wonder if blogging is going to get easier during our year of adventure or if it will end up being like that random year where I only managed to write 34 posts....surely not, I hear you cry?!

Well dear readers, what's going to happen over the next year I just can't tell but I am excited by the possibilities and whilst in some ways, everything is changing, in many ways, I'm going to have to work even harder to support us all whilst simultaneously being responsible for Looby's education.

So, what's on the cards for the next few months, well in a work sense I've just announced my "Last day of summer" Mini photo shoots taking place at King Edwards Bay on 23/09/17 and yes, technically it is actually the first day of autumn but I'm guessing I couldn't fill a whole day of photo shoots on a Friday!!

So if you want a mini photo shoot then, it's £100 and you'll get all of the edited digital images to print and keep forever!  Just send me an email,  sessions are available from 10 am until 4 pm and they're 30 minutes in length.  

It is of course that shooting these crazy days are the thing that sustains us, my income comes from working hard and to the best of my abilities, our lives are what they are because I work more hours in a weekend than there actually seem to be, but you know what, I wouldn't change it for the world, I'm actually a bit rubbish at a life without deadlines, I work better under just a little pressure,maybe that's why I'm single parenting, running a successful and award winning business whilst home educating my 14-year-old, or maybe I've just lost the plot!!

I have big plans for us, we're undertaking a project about tourism in Poland and we'll have a cultural trip to go along with that, we're also going to be working on many forms of media and I'll be helping Looby to set up a blog/vlog when she gets back from her well earned holiday with dad, she's currently in the sunshine in Tenerife, lucky girl.

I also want to do a project on farming since that's what she wants to do and I'll hopefully arrange a stay on a working farm for us and hopefully, Holly Bobbins can join us for that one!  Oh and towards the festive season we'll be studying Christmas around the world with a cultural trip to a Christmas market, it's just as well the English/Math and Science program we are doing is online and accessible wherever we are.

So I want to end this blog post with a note of great thanks, thanks for your continued patronization of my business, thanks for your continued friendly faces entrusting me with your special moments and thanks to all of the people who've helped and advised about our home educating adventure, I really feel, now more than ever, the very best, is yet to come.

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