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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When do we begin again?





It's October tomorrow, the month of glorious leaf fall, bright happy colours and sometimes, just sometimes warm woollen mittens although I must admit that warm woollen mittens do not go well with camera holding so I mainly end up in pointless fingerless gloves which must have been designed by masochists, fingerless gloves have so much promise without any actual point, they're gloves but you still have (or at least in my case) blue numb fingers, yes it's no surprise then that winter isn't my most favourite season.

I've been on my own now, a forty something singleton for over a year and I must admit that although I love my sparkly happy life and I'm grateful for each and every friendship I do miss kisses, hugs and someone to cuddle into on a cold winters evening, I do of course have Holly the Beagle but she's entirely rubbish at political debate.

Last night whilst pondering this and conversing with one of my loveliest friends we mused that when we are old and grey we'll call each other every day just to make sure we haven't died and we aren't currently having our faces eaten off by our cats!

I definitely know now that I don't want to be on my own for the rest of my life and more increasingly of late I've been wondering just when do we begin again.  I have this wonderful friend who's marriage ended just a few months earlier than mine and last week came the news that she and her new beau are to live together, it's so amazing that she's found the happiness that she so deserves and all this whilst I haven't even had one meaningful conversation with another member of the opposite sex in all that time.

I'm a bouncer back, I don't like to be sad for too long, I won't let myself be sad for too long, it's not good or healthy but I can't help but have the occasional pang of loneliness, I watch way too many rom coms, one quick look at the list on Sky Movies is enough to tell me that, there are not many I haven't seen.  last night I watched Man Up, a Simon Pegg rom com about a couple who accidentally end up on a blind date together, well sort of, it's a bit more complicated than that but I really recommend it in fact I cried at the end as I always do because I realise every time that's what I want, I want movie love and for anyone who says that never happens in real life well I would have to disagree, I've had it before and I know that I can have it again, well barring the fact that I am somewhat older now, actually lets not say older, lets just say wiser and much more experienced!

I hope one day it will happen to me, I'm certainly not going to force anything, internet dating fills me with dread and fear so I am leaving it to fate and the universe and I know it'll organically happen, I just hope it's before I die a lonely death and have my face eaten by my cat!


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Friday, September 25, 2015

Happy 12th Birthday Lovely Looby




You find me still in bed snuggled beneath the duvet feeling like someone hit me over the head with a poorly stick, this week has been the worst health week I've had in over a year, migraines lead to toothache which lead to an emergency extraction at the dental hospital which lead to a reaction to the anaesthetic which meant I lost an entire day of memories and now I'm full of cold, it's that thing where you are usually strong and sturdy and then someone takes the bottom Jenga tile away and you topple, my immune system has taken an attack and my body hasn't quite built up the weaponry to retaliate yet.

Well it's got less than 24 hours to make a movie like comeback and foil the evil germs like a super hero slaying the arch nemesis in the final moments of the story because today my baby girl is 12, today 12 years ago at around this time I was preparing to have my second cesarean section and at just after half past nine Looby's little body was placed on my chest and it was love at first sight.  She's always been my sunny baby, even the night feeds were a chance to spend extra time together, I remember her tiny years where she would still skip along even if she was crying and sad, She's a sunny funny gorgeous girl who loves everything and everyone, there's a special quality she possesses, a caring gene I think, she's always making sure that others are ok and helping where she can, she lives a life of being happy and hopeful and thankful and she gives the very best hugs, Looby like me loves with all of her heart, if Looby and I love you  then we love you and that's all there is.

I'm so proud of my baby, she's transitioned into secondary school far easier than I thought she would, she's still appalled that her school bag has to be a dark colour and can't be covered in unicorns but she managed to get a unicorn lunchbox to compensate, she's still not fond of the confines of the uniform she has to wear but within minutes of her coming home she's back in the brightest boldest colours she has in her wardrobe and when you look at Looby's wardrobe it's like sunshine!

This last year has been not without it's challenges and she's come through it all with joy in her heart and a smile for everyone so this weekend she's getting the five star treatment she truly deserves, tomorrow I have first class tickets to Edinburgh (our favourite place in the whole world, you know this) and we're booked into the 5 star Sheraton Grand Hotel and we cannot wait, I think it's my first 5 star hotel too actually when I think about it, we've read all about the swimming pool right on the very top floor and that's where we'll be heading followed by dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and then I think there'll be lots and lots of shopping and maybe an afternoon tea on Sunday before we come home on Sunday evening.

So a huge happy birthday to my gorgeous girl and I hope you have the most brilliant birthday weekend ever because you truly deserve it.
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Friday, September 18, 2015

Diary of a cruise virgin part 1, Norwegian Epic Solo Traveller Cruise


tropical sunset over the ocean

It's 68 days until I depart on Norwegian Epic from Rome to Barcelona, 3 countries in 4 days and more photographic opportunities than you can shake a literal stick at, to say I'm beyond excited is an understatement.

At the tender age of 41 new experiences don't happen every day and it's fair to say that I've dreamt of going on a cruise for quite a long time and if I had a list of places I've longed to visit you can bet that Rome, Barcelona and Florence would definitely be on my list so to see them all in a week is very much a dream come true.

I've a pile of European travel books on my night stand and I just don't know where to start, how do you pick the best experiences in every single city and then at the same time get the most out of a ship which certainly promises to live up to it's name, over 40 restaurants and bars, multiple entertainment extravaganzas including a touring production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, yes that's a certainty for this musical loving lady.

My daughter Looby, not a fan of boats, we know this,  but even she said I must go on the waterpark on the ship, I'm not surely I'm even nearly brave enough to try the big plughole slide, I only ever went on theme park rides under duress, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to adrenalin filled activities.

One place I have to go and this is a certainty, Tibidabo, a retro theme park on the side of a mountain with the best views of Barcelona on the sky walk,  yes it's a theme park but it's 100 years old and it's so much prettier with a retro feel and amazing views, no doubt one of the reasons Woody Allen chose to film Vicky Christina Barcelona there.

You know what I'm most looking forward to though? A whole week (there or thereabouts) of unadulterated me time, no schedules other than what I want to do myself, no demanding teenagers (although I'm going to miss them really and Holly the beagle of course who's going on her own doggy holiday) and maybe even time to read a book although I have a feeling there'll be far too much to see and do for that, it's an option though and I may even take it.  I've already decided to rise really early every day so I can catch the sunrises when we come into the ports.  I intend to take thousands of photographs and write like a demon and you'll be with me the whole way not only here but you'll be able to read my article in Cruise International magazine once that's published.

So I hope you'll enjoy my updates, I hope you'll leave comments and give me your hints and tips if you've been on a cruise of if you've been to any of the cities I'll be visiting, what worked for you? What were your highlights?  Is there anything I need to know or be prepared for?

It's going to be quite a journey...





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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Autumn Photo Shoots with Newcastle Photographer Mandy Charlton

Can you feel it in the air yet?  All around us the changes in the seasons are starting to happen, whilst September gives us beautiful glistening light October light gets more warm and rich before fading into the darker days of November.



I've been photographing families all over the North East for almost 10 years now and as my business has grown families have been booking earlier to make sure they get the location and the time slot they want.



Choose 10am or 2pm for the best light of the day, choose Jesmond Dene or Saltwell Park for autumnal splendour, or choose Tynemouth for year long beauty and glorious photos what ever the season but I don't recommend you bring babies to the beach in the extreme cold of winter as the winds there always make it super cold and blue babies are not recommended!


If you have a child who loves the beach then Tynemouth is the place to come whereas you might find that a visit to the fairy tree in Jesmond Dene (where the magical dragon lays his eggs) if you have a little one who loves nature or climbing trees or you just think there might be too much space for them on the beach then I would go with that.  Saltwell Park is magnificent in the autumn and has the benefit of trees, big open spaces, it's perfect for large family portraits as there's a huge tree with many many branches and there are select shelters and the bandstand if the weather isn't brilliant.



There are 3 types of photo shoot - 

A 30 minute mini session on location at Tynemouth Longsands, Jesmond Dene or Saltwell Park with a web gallery for 30 days, 15% off for the first 7 days your gallery is live and a 7x5 print. - £25

A lifestyle Photoshoot at home or on location which isn't governed by time (as a guide I say between 1-2 hours) with a 12x8 print and web gallery - £75 

An all inclusive lifestyle photo shoot at home or on location with no session fee and all of the images in high resolution form on a disk or in a dropbox - £250  

Prints start at £10 for a 5x7 and I sell everything from a magnet or keyring right up to a huge canvas which would sit well on the prettiest of walls.

To book a session with me, just click through to Photographer Newcastle, email me or you can also find me on Facebook











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Thursday, September 10, 2015

First Day of Secondary School...



There are milestones as a parent that you brace yourself for, first words, first steps, first day of nursery, reception and then one day when you've been through a million milestones and a myriad of life stages you eventually get to the day when your last baby starts at secondary school, it's the weirdest feeling, my children pretty much are independent people of their own being, Looby could have gone to school on her own today for the first time, she didn't of course, dad and sister Abigail (now in year 9) came to take her, good for me because I got photographs of my girls together on their first day back, something I wasn't sure would happen this year, a sadness of my daughters not living in the same house but a happiness that for the most part they'll be together at school every day and though I'm sure Abigail will claim that she won't admit that Looby is her sister I know in my heart that she'll look out for little Looby.



When Abigail started at St Mary's she was ready, she'd been ready for 2 years, always looking ahead, always wishing to be older, hurtling through life at 100 miles an hour but Looby isn't the same, she and I have taken the slow and winding path through her childhood, it's still full of wonder and magic and unicorns, she's still at her own inner stage where she feels if farming doesn't work out as a career she can always be a unicorn.  I hope that sense of magic and wonder never changes, she's my crazy girl, my baby, my bouncy happy little one, she's the one where she actually does practice being happy and hopeful and grateful and helpful every single day.



Of course I brace myself for the teenage years, in just a couple of weeks she's going to be 12 and I know that hormones and milestones play a huge part in changing children, particularly girls, beyond all recognition between the ages of 11 and 13, it's obvious when Abigail and Looby are together, if you met them and didn't know there was only 16 short months in between their ages you would think they were 3 or 4 years apart.



So today, while I go off to photograph a wedding in Yorkshire I'll be thinking of my little one, so grown up in her slightly too big uniform (you mums will know "she'll grow in to it) with her 2 huge school bags negotiating a school four times the size with quadruple the amount of students and teachers than Benton Park and I'll be hoping beyond all hope that when I get home tonight she'll say "It was a good day today mum, I can't wait to go back tomorrow"








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Saturday, September 05, 2015

Autumn is coming, time to plan ahead...

My wonderful son Iain is 19 tomorrow, I really need to stop referring to him as "My little boy" when having conversations about my children, he's old enough now to have a home, run a business, be a millionaire, in reality he's still in the top corner bedroom plugged in to hundreds of megabytes of data at all times, I'm proud of him though, he's been through a lot and he's just about to start his second year studying business at college, we talked about what he wants to do at the end this college year, "I'll be starting my life of seclusion" he replied.  I should probably have bought him Hannah Hauxwells autobiography to help him prepare!

I'm ever surprised by how fast time passes, I remark every year "September, September, how can it be September?" a ludicrous question if ever there was one but in my mind it's been yet a hop and a skip from cold and frozen January, why then does it seem so long until I depart for my cruise?



It's while I'm wistfully wishing away September and October that I check my diary and find that weekends are already filling up with families keen to record happy memories in piles of colourful leaf fall, take note dear reader that if you want to partake with your families the height of the autumn colour is usually around the 2nd and 3rd week of October, it all gets a little soggy and unpredictable after that.  No real mini session days this year and I've promised myself that I'll only shoot a maximum of 3 or 4 sessions a day, advance booking to secure spots is encouraged, neigh it's practically a requirement, if you pause to think about it you may find by the time it's actual welly weather (although I'm not sure it's been anything but welly weather this year) you may find I can't fit you in!!  Pricing for photo shoots at home and on location in North East England available via that link.

I've also been thrown into full blown panic that it's Loobys birthday on the 25th of September and I have barely thought about that matter, a quick 10 minutes on Sky Skanner yesterday evening seemed to suggest I could offer my darling daughter the possibilities of weekend trips to Dublin or Geneva or maybe London, if you were going to be 12 which one would you prefer?  I had thought about a mini cruise to Amsterdam but she hates boats, when I told her about the cruise I was going on she told me upon seeing a photo of the boat that without a doubt it was dangerous and would sink, she of course bases her expert knowledge upon watching Titanic too many times and seeing copious amounts of news reports from the Costa Concordia, yes that's 2 boats about of no doubt hundreds of thousands but these days I can't even get her on a boat trip down the river Tyne.

Usually once we celebrate Loobys birthday I quickly turn my attention to the impending arrival of the festive season but as my summer holiday ( if anyone asks it's not a holiday it's very hard work ) isn't until the end of November I shall be late to the festive plate this year and promise to not so much as mention the colour scheme of my baubles until at least the beginning of December.

So off I go now, out into the world, cardigan in hand for the chill in the air which awaits outside my door hoping that summers warmth has saved a last long breath for the weeks ahead so we can pretend the most fun part of the year isn't over quite yet.
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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Welcome to September



I woke up this morning to a myriad of photographs of cute little people all dressed in smart new uniforms tentatively heading to school, some returning to new year groups, some starting new schools and the smallest are starting school for the very first time, it's a momentous day for a lot of you and I can't help remembering past years with Iain, Abigail and Looby.  This year of course Looby goes to St Mary's although she doesn't start until a week on Thursday and at the moment she's off in the sunshine with Abigail and dad, oh sunshine how I crave thee!

September for me has always been the start of a new year after taking the summer off with the kids, I didn't do that of course this year as I've been busier than ever but there's still been time for fun, holidays, travel assignments and so this week is mostly about catching up so I am up to date, thankfully a lack of sleep last night means that I'm currently about 5 minutes into that state which we like to call "Up to Date"

I can't but help reflect on things in the past year but I don't want to dwell and I've already posted my reflective September one year on post but I was talking on Facebook about some stuff yesterday - 

1. I've only got 9 days left and then have to have a routine again, bohemian living is going to have to be much more restrained. (boo)
2. I've just bought the rest of Loobys uniform for St Marys (OUCH)
3. Iain is 19 on Sunday, nothing can make me feel older than that!
4. I've been a singleton for a year and I didn't even think I could manage a week.
5. Holly Bobbins is 15 months old, she's been with me for 10 months!!
6. In one whole year I've never stayed out past 1am or been to a nightclub though I was involved in accosting a celebrity after a comedy gig.
7. I need to get out more in a social way though I'm terrible, much like Hannah Hauxwell and mostly end up just staying in watching classic movies with Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn and eating noodles with my dog.
8. My main goals in this year are to increase the amount of travel writing/photography assignments and to keep growing my family portrait business so that it continues to thrive
9. I want to take Looby away for lots of adventures this year, some with Holly Bobbins of course but I'd also like to take her to some European cities to experience different cultures and see amazing sights together.
10.  In this next year I'd love to meet new people, and I want to say yes to more things, seriously if you're out there reading this, send me your ideas and requests, after all that is said and done I seriously think it's got to be my time to shine now hasn't it?  I'm so done with the harrowing life experiences ;)

Maybe I just need to find someone who'll come and eat noodles with my dog and I whilst we watch classic beautiful movies starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant?

One thing I've learnt from all that has been and gone is to never get complacent, never make too many plans for you just never know what's around the corner (good and bad), I've never really been a planner, I'm absurdly spontaneous (and very sparkly) which I guess can make me a great friend but also impossible to pin down and deal with at times.  I'm the kind of person who can get up in the morning and be in Inverness by the afternoon if the mood takes me, I'm an unstoppable force when I get something fixed in my mind, some call it madness, I call it creative spontaneity with a little added sparkle and it's something I will never ever apologise for again.

Be brave, be bold, reach for the stars and explode like a giant flower bloom into a glorious and memorable September.


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