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

Monday, July 12, 2021

10 Interesting Facts about Scotland You Might not Know


10 interesting facts about scotland you might not know, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger



Scotland is a mythical and wonderful place, I've been going there as often as possible collecting all kinds of interesting information so here without further ado are 10 interesting facts about Scotland you might not know.

  1. On Inchconnan Island, which lies in the middle of Loch Lomond you'll find a colony of approximately 70 red-necked wallabies.  They were introduced by Lady Arran Colquhoun in the 1940s after she'd holidayed in Australia and fell in love with them.  She later died but the wallabies remained and there's said to be around 70 of them living on the small island.  Interestingly the island was put up for sale last July for £500,000 on the condition that you would have to have wallabies as your neighbours and you know what?  I am completely on board with that.
  2. There are no toll bridges in the whole of Scotland thanks to the people of the Isle of Skye. In 1995 a bridge was built connecting Skye to the mainland, previously you had to get the ferry from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin. When the bridge was erected the toll charge to recoup the building costs were ridiculously high, even for the residents so they stopped paying, they staged protests, some of them went to jail and they took their fight right to the supreme court and in 2004, the toll charge was abolished and later in 2008, the whole of Scotland abolished tolls thanks to the amazing people of Skye.
  3. Doune Castle may be more recognisable as Castle Leoch, the head of Clan Mackenzie in Outlander but it was also used in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones as Winterfell.  In the Game of Thrones people wanted to use Scotland for the entire series but the Scottish government at the time wanted to charge them.  Meanwhile the Irish stepped in, offered them substantial tax breaks and so off they went to use the Republic of Ireland instead.
  4. Whilst we're on the subject of Game of Thrones, inspiration for the Red Wedding came from the massacres that happened in Glencoe, if you want to read about that horrific incident there's an article here that makes for better reading than I can fit into one small paragraph.
  5. If you're a Harry Potter fan you'll know that a lot of the locations are filmed in the north of England and also in Scotland, in fact, Hagrid's hut nearly remained in part it was built at in the West Highlands but the locals, (not wanting to have millions of visitors to a fake movie set hut) demanded that it was taken down after the filming.
  6. Just below Oban on the west coast of Scotland lie the silver sands of Morar, the sand comes from the Caribbean due to the jet stream and the temperatures notwithstanding, it's easy to believe you're in a much more tropical location.
  7. Although Scotland is most famous for its whisky, they also produce around 80% of the gin consumed in the whole of the UK.  Whisky takes years to distil whereas you can make a bottle of gin in a few hours and so the Scottish have turned their hands to craft gin, my favourite gin is Theodore Pictish Gin, produced in the Highlands and with distinct notes of grapefruit, it's yummy!
  8. Orkney is home to the shortest flight in the world at 2 minutes long, the flight from Westray to Papa Westray definitely doesn't have time for the duty-free trolley to make it down the aisle.
  9. The first-ever international football game was played at Partick in Scotland and who was it between?  Well, Scotland and England of course.
  10. The world's first colour photograph was taken in Scotland in 1861 by Thomas Sutton, it was a photograph of a tartan ribbon.

    If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
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    Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
    which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

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Friday, June 25, 2021

Decree Absolute

I met Paul in the autumn of 1999, we got engaged in February 2000 and we got married on the 14th April 2000.  We renewed our vows in April 2010.  we separated in September 2014 and on the 23rd June 2021 the decree absolute was signed and sealed under the judge's hammer.

When I opened the post today and saw the certificate staring back at me all I could feel was sadness. My heart has been buffered a lot this week and I'm sure there are people out there questioning how it's even possible that I remain a hopeful romantic, head in the clouds, always dreaming of finding true love.

Decree Absolute, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, divorce, relationships, dating
Me, myself and I!

The truth is, just like Sweet said "Love is like Oxygen" I don't think I could have been a wedding photographer for the last 14 years if I wasn't a romantic old soul.  You have to believe in true love to observe so many weddings and one thing has stuck with me from shooting weddings in 2020, I only photographed 5 weddings in the middle of the pandemic last year and in each and everyone there was an absolute unending joy that the couple could get married.  They didn't care that only they could be there with a couple of witnesses.  They just wanted to be married, they wanted to start their married lives and they couldn't wait another minute longer because they loved each other so very much.

For those who are getting married now, finally, as the restrictions are ending, there's even more joy than there would have been originally, I suspect because if 2020 taught us anything it's how important the people that we love are.

In the 14 years, I was married, at least 10 of them were happy and I will never regret the choices I made.  I am thankful to Paul for so many things, for our beautiful daughters, for the adventures we had together and for those times when our love felt like a movie.  I could have been bitter about that and I was so very sad and angry but now as I move into the second season of my life, part 2 or the sequel, I only wish him well and that he finds his own happiness.

Now, it might have been a bit of a tough week for matters of my heart but I'm not despondent and I have no less hope in my heart that my person is out there and lets for a moment believe that we all have multiple people out there for us, it'd be weird to think there's only one in a world of 7 billion people.  The truth is, I don't think there is just one person for us but I do think we have a limited amount we'll really click with, the ones who can see into our souls, the ones we'll share those deep and meaningful connections with.

So onwards, I go, into that sequel, the one which I know has the potential to be better than part 1, for one thing, dating in your forties doesn't come with any of the constraints from your twenties. You're not looking for someone to marry or settle down with or have children (well not unless that's what you want).  Dating in your forties should be fun, it should be freeing, it should be full of adventures, holding hands, hugging whilst watching the sunset... It should not be codependent or mean overwhelming each other's lives, I truly believe that love in your 40's could be the best you've ever experienced, I don't know if I'm right having been single for so long but I hope it is with all of my heart and I hope that in 10 years time I am not sitting here writing about myself still being single because really, I think I have a lot to offer.  I know I'm not perfect but if someone takes a chance on me I could be a really positive little sparkly whirlwind in someone's life.

Ways to support my writing...


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!



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It's not you, it's me

"It's not you, it's me."

This blog post may get slightly ranty so I'm going to give you fair warning.

For the last 7 years of being single, I have worked on myself, I have transformed from someone who was so mortally afraid of being alone that I stayed in an unhappy marriage to someone who's quite happy to spend long periods of time alone.

2 years ago (April 2019 to be exact), I became aware of someone new on my Facebook, I never add people to my Facebook unless I've asked them in person for their permission because I'm old fashioned like that but I mostly accept people and then if they turn out to be one of those MLM selling "Buy my aloe cream" people I hide them.  My personal Facebook is actually pretty locked down so the chances of "a prince" adding me and then conning me out of my £2.50 of life savings is pretty slim and if someone does add me, I usually assume they're looking for a photographer or they're a business person who knows me from my days at Inspire.

It's not you, it's me, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, online dating, dating


Anyway, I became aware of the person because they started to message me, just general pleasant stuff about how my day was going or a compliment here and there and over time I felt like I was definitely picking up a "would you like to go on a date with me?' vibe and once I started to feel that I backed off because I really didn't feel ready and we were just going into a pandemic.  There was a small catalyst of me breaking my arm, being post-surgery with courage supplied by morphine and agreeing to go out for cake but in the end, it never happened because I backed off so much that I stopped having conversations.

A year or so passed and we would message from time to time and then we got into spring of this year, the lockdowns were ending and I'd dyed my hair pink again for the first time.  He was so complimentary and still lovely to me so I took a chance, surely if someone had been patient enough to wait for an entire year whilst I got your head in order they were a safe choice to go on my first date with in what seemed like forever?

I finally felt ready to date again, I'd worked on myself so much that I no longer hated myself, in fact, these days I am all about self-love and I certainly don't need validation from someone else.  I will always have issues with my body but I'm 47, I've had 3 children, 2 caesareans, a full hysterectomy and I've lived a life containing cake which I fully refuse to give up. I chose safely, a man who on paper seemed, safe, kind, stable and maybe even a little unexciting.  That's not meant to be any kind of insult, I've previously lived a life of entertaining exciting/dangerous men and it never ends well so this time I'd chosen my absolute opposite of what I'd consider being my taste.  We'd also been friends for 2 years now so I don't think I could have gone for what I thought was a safer option.  I even checked with mutual friends that I was in the safest of hands...

Our first date, a walk, I got to the metro station where we'd arranged to meet and my legs were shaking so badly that I nearly got on the first metro back but just then I saw him approaching and honestly, as first dates go, we got on really well, very little in common other than our shared political views but that's not a bad thing at all, I also did not get within 3 feet of him for the duration of the walk but I came home with spring in my step and on date 2, lunch by the sea, I had a great time, he'd had to be home for a meeting but we ate, I drank wine and got a little giddy, I could have stayed the whole afternoon if it hadn't been for the work meeting.  

Date 3 was again by the sea and I'd promised to get him home for dinner and football and really, I should have probably sussed at this point that maybe dating was going to be appointment based and believe me when I say, the last thing I want to be to someone is an appointment so when it came to arranging date 4 and I was given a 4-hour lunchtime slot with no room for manoeuvre I knew this wasn't what I wanted.  I replied in the nicest way that whilst I was not looking to overwhelm anyone's life at the same time, I'd enjoyed our time together and so I wanted to not have a specific end time, I wanted to allow for spontaneity for that is what life is about.

No sooner had I sent that message than I got back the dreaded "It's not you, it's me" text and honestly, is that not the oldest cliche in the book, if that really is the reason then say what's behind it, don't just use the cliche and expect that to be your get-out clause.

How can you pursue someone for over a year and then suddenly you realise you need to work on yourself?  Especially when I'd been so clear for so long in my words, my blog posts and my actions about my life. He knew exactly what he was getting in to and I'd told him the first time that I am at a point in my life where I'm ready to look for my person and that if that wasn't for him then I didn't want to waste his time.  Instead, I've spent a year of my life learning to trust someone thinking they were safe only to find out that the safe guys are the exact same as the exciting dangerous guys. Even worse, I'd built up a 2-year friendship with someone I thought was one of the good guys.  I am pleased that it only had got as serious as hand-holding and that when I promised myself that anything I ever got into now would be a slow burn, I'm glad I have that self-respect for myself.  I'm glad I didn't give myself away because in my twenties I couldn't have said that I would have done the same thing.

And so here I am, I started the week off with hope and promise, with joy in my heart and a spring in my step and now I am cranky and disillusioned.  I know it's unlikely that I will ever meet anyone through online dating, I just don't have the emotional capacity for it but I also know that I can't ever build up a friendship with someone for so long only to be let down so if I do meet someone online or in real life, I am not having a "talking stage" I am getting to that first date as quickly as possible because I cannot become invested in someone and then see it become a giant waste of time.

It's taken me nearly a week to write this post, to try and get my head in order, to mourn the loss of a friendship. I've clicked to post this several times and then decided not to because I'm not trying to hurt anyone here but I needed to get it out there, to write it down in the way that I always do.  There's a catharsis in writing, it's always been my go-to since I started this blog in 2006 and I want to end by saying something...

I am the luckiest person on earth that I get to photograph people in love, I get to see them stand in front of the people they love which they declare that they want to be together forever, I am and will always be a hopeful romantic, my head might be in the clouds but I also know that somewhere out there is my forever person and I'll never stop believing that just as I search for them, they're also looking for me.

Ways to support my writing...


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Mandy's Essential Playlist


Mandy's Essential Playlist, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, spotify playlist, the story of my life


Music, one of the very most important things to me, when I am happy I listen to music almost every day all day, when I'm out I have my earbuds in and when I'm at home I stream it all around the house.  When I am depressed or sad or having mental health issues, the first thing that goes is my enjoyment of music, it begins to sound too loud and becomes uncomfortable but at its heart, music is one of the greatest loves of my life.

I've talked about music on my blog on several occasions and I've written about music for at least 5 years before the pandemic, I have reviewed so much music and had very few bad experiences because, for me, live music will always be like magic.

I wanted to compile an essential playlist for a friend but what became clear, very quickly was that for each track I was going to add to my playlist I would also need to annotate why that particular piece of music is important to me.  After 30 minutes I realised the gargantuan task that I'd just set myself in a throwaway comment.  Compiling a playlist of every song that is important to me would probably take a month and where would I start?  If I go back in time with my musical history, I could go all the way to Chopin, Holst, Gershwin and listening to a playlist that goes all the way from the 19th century probably isn't consumable in one easy sitting.  My history of musicals alone goes from George and Ira Gershwin and covers at least 100 years of music.

So let's say this is my first essential playlist and there are probably 10 more deep cut playlists for every single genre because really, I love music from so many genres, from jazz to rock to country to uplifting house and even my hatred of rap music was questioned when I heard the Hamilton soundtrack for the first time, yes it's a musical but if it isn't rap music in there then what is it?

So, let me start by saying that when I compiled this on Spotify, I didn't organise it by history (and yes, I am sure that's going to annoy some people). I simply pulled the music from various playlists that I play endlessly.  I do add new music to my playlists but there are core tracks that will always be there. This entire playlist may not be to your taste but I am unapologetic about the music that is on it, musical education is never wasted.

Mandy's Essential Playlist (click that link to listen on Spotify)

  1. Blackbird - The Beatles.  I feel like I came to The Beatles quite late but I've been lucky enough to see The Bootleg Beatles live which were about as near as you can get today as well as extensively listening to their music.  Blackbird is such a simple song but it's also beautiful.
  2. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys.  I was writing for an online site a few years ago and had the honour of attending a concert, it was shortly after the atrocities of Manchester Arena and security was so high just to get into Sage Gateshead but they completely blew me away.  God Only Knows will always touch my heart, the lyrics in the second verse get me every time
  3. Zac and Sara - Ben Folds.  I saw this performed live when Ben Folds came to the northeast a few years ago, there's just something joyous about the heavy-handed piano style of Ben Folds and the complex lyrics of this song, there really is everything in this song if you listen to it.
  4. Us - Regina Spektor.  I discovered this song from watching the movie 500 days of summer and it became one of the most iconic pieces of my life, in 2010 it was one of 3 songs I chose to be played at the vow renewal of me and my then-husband, I had to reclaim this song after we separated because I loved it so much and I didn't want to not be able to play it again.  I play it now and it reminds me of a time and place in my life and I think it's important that we don't erase those memories because everything brings us to the place where we are now and the person we have become.
  5. Leave a Light On - Belinda Carlisle, this was a difficult choice because the Runaway Horses album defined the summer of my fifteenth year on earth, I managed to see this whole album performed just a couple of years ago for its 30th anniversary, I went on my own and I loved every single second, this was the soundtrack to my teenage years and to my first experience of love and all of the complexities that come with it.
  6. Prelude/Angry Young Man - Billy Joel.  I have loved Billy Joel since I was 11 years old and received the Innocent Man cassette for my birthday, Billy has such an eclectic style that it just makes me happy.  I may not have seen him in concert but I have seen Elio Pace who performs "The Billy Joel Songbook" 3 times, he sounds more like Billy Joel than Billy Joel and when he starts the show with Prelude/Angry Young Man, I always get that intense ASMR reaction.
  7. Old Town - The Coors.  The Coors were the soundtrack of my mid-twenties, or at least my weekday soundtrack, my weekends were mainly made up of euphoric house music but I remember working in the men's department at House of Fraser in the Metrocentre and being able to take in my own CD's and I used to play this track a lot because it's happy and bouncy and I am at my best when I am happy and bouncy
  8. Greatest Day - Take That.  I have seen Take That live about 4 times now and this song is anthemic, when I hear it, it's so full of promise, and the reality is, every day could be the greatest day of your life.  I will always love Take That, they're the soundtrack to my life in two parts.
  9. Proud, Heather Small.  This is another anthem, every day you should ask what you've done today to make you feel proud and if you're guessing the theme, I love uplifting music, I also love Miranda and you can't listen to Proud without thinking about Miranda.  A couple of years ago I arrived at a festival just as Heather Small came out and when she sang Proud I cried because I was so happy to hear her sing it live.
  10. Bad Habit, Ben Platt.  This is a pretty new addition to my ultimate playlist, I discovered Ben Platt through Dear Evan Hansen and when he started to produce his own music, I fell in love with it, this one has the lyrics "Someone to quiet the voices in my head, make the sing to me instead, you do" and really, those lyrics about having anxiety and wanting to be with people who make you feel happy, well that's what the meaning of life is to me
  11. Waving Through a Window, Ben Platt.  Two mentions on one list but this is my favourite song from Dear Evan Hansen written by Pasek and Paul who also wrote the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman.  Dear Evan Hansen is the show I was going to see before the pandemic, it's probably my favourite musical now and I think it's because it's about fitting in, I never fitted in, I have always been different and whether you're growing up or an adult, wanting to desperately fit in can be hard, this song really sums that up and the anxiety that goes beside it.
  12. Defying Gravity, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.  Wicked, the musical, saved my life and I am unapologetic about my love for it.  I was in a really dark place when Elphaba came along and told the world that she might be different but she was going to do things on her own terms. I love this musical so much that I've seen it live at least 3 times and it was the first West End musical I took my daughters to see, Looby was only just about to be 4 at the time and we've all loved Wicked ever since.
  13. Heroes, David Bowie.  David Bowie, obviously a genius and yet, I love this song not because of him but because of Moulin Rouge, it features in the Elephant Love Medley and the lyrics sang to me "Though nothing, will keep us together, we could steal time, just for one day" I love that lyric so much, I can't promise my entire life to someone nor would I expect them to do the same of me but those days where no one else matters, the days which never end like a little bubble of time, maybe they're the meaning of life.
  14. Mr Brightside, The Killers.  If there's ever a party this is the one where everyone is on the dancefloor, arms in the air, completely euphoric, I bloody love this song.
  15. Mr Blue Sky, ELO.  This is such a happy song but there's an amazing string section in there and when you play it loud it makes you want to dance.  It also features in one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who, I love it, my children love it and if there was ever a happy road trip playlist, this always features on it.
  16. I've got the music in me, Kiki Dee.  So I've always loved this song and then last year I watched Zoe's Extraordinary Playlist and this was in an episode which made me want to do a Flashmob before I was 50, I have 2.5 years left and one day, flashmobs will be allowed again, it's the ultimate dancing down the street, singing at the top of your voice kind of song and during lockdown I'd play it in the garden, singing it loudly because it made me feel happier and then one day my neighbours came out and said how they would hear me singing and they'd love it.  We have been friends ever since even though they've all moved back to India.
  17. Don't You, Forget About Me, Simple Minds.  Classic 80's song and The Breakfast Club, was there ever a more iconic 80's movie, I was in love with half of the Brat Pack and I still love the movies today, I also love when the Barden Bella's sing this and you'll only get that reference if you love the Pitch Perfect movies as much as I do.
  18. St Elmo's Fire, Man in Motion, John Parr.  Obviously, I was now onto the '80s. Brat Pack vibe and my favourite of all of the Brat Pack movies, St Elmo's Fire, I don't know how many times I have watched this movie but I will love it until the day I die!
  19. New York State of Mind, Barbra Streisand.  I was really conflicted about this one as iconically Billy Joel wrote it and he'd already had a mention.  Barbra, my ultimate diva, well I couldn't decide on which song from her amazing back catalogue I wanted to include but if I had not added any Streisand to my essential playlist then it would not have been my playlist.  I discovered Barbra in my early 20's and fell in love, she's one of the most celebrated female musical icons of our time.
  20. Black Eyed Boy, Texas.  I'm going to say a word which might instil in you a deep fear or loathing or both but for many years, this was my favourite Karaoke song.  In my mid-twenties when I would go out partying we'd go to the club, we'd dance around with our arms in the air and then quite often we'd end up back at my house which was pretty much at hovel at that time and we'd put on the tunes and do some karaoke, they were some of the best times of my life and I regret nothing.
  21. Bittersweet Symphony, The Verve.  Did you know that the piece of classical music at the start of this isn't really classical music?  It's just written in the style of a great symphony but oh those strings and that orchestra make my heart sing.
  22. Love of My Life - Queen.  The song that Freddie wrote for his muse and lover Mary Austin, it's simply a beautiful song and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.
  23. We are Family, Sister Sledge.  I play this at every party I have, I love it as a piece of uplifting disco and I honestly believe the people I have in my life now, they're my very real and wonderful family.
  24. This Woman's Work, Kate Bush.  If you have ever seen the video for this or if you have seen it in She's Having a Baby, the 80's Kevin Bacon movie, you will probably have shed a tear, anyone who's a mum will understand this song.  It's haunting, it's so quiet and yet powerful.
  25. Labour of Love, Hue and Cry, some of my favourite Scottish songsters, my love for their music began in the 80's and this song, part song and part major political message, well by the end you're left in no doubt where the political affiliations of the Kane brothers.
  26. Fergus sings the Blues, Deacon Blue.  My youth in the '80s was accompanied by Deacon Blue and though the popular choice might be to go for Dignity, I remember playing this over and over on the jukebox in the village pub in my latter teenage years and still listen to it today with a spring in my step.
  27. Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin.  I don't even have to give an explanation, it's Aretha, I love northern soul and this is one of the most iconic songs of all time ever!
  28. This could be (an everlasting love) Natalie Cole.  Not only does this feature in my favourite Christmas movie, The Holiday, it's also so happy and upbeat, but it's also a song that is filled with hope and we all need a little hope in our lives.
  29. Come What May, Nicole Kidman and Ewan Mcgregor.  My favourite movie musical of all time, the third of Baz Luhrmann's red curtain trilogy and the only original song to feature in the jukebox musical, it was written originally to go into Romeo and Juliet and it just didn't fit and so when he went on to Moulin Rouge and needed the "lovers secret song" this was it and honestly, any man who can sing to me like Ewan Mcgregor, I'll fall in love with in about 3 seconds.
  30. A Thousand Miles, Vanessa Carlton.  This song is probably one of the most listened to songs since it was first released in 2002 and I have listened to this at least once a month since then, if this song doesn't make you feel a little something with its upbeat twinkly piano medley then you might just have to check you're actually alive.

Ways to support my writing...


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!


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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This blog post contains no drama...

This blog post contains no drama, I just thought I would sit and write an update on a sunny June morning whilst the world is quiet and calm.  It's been the sunniest of weeks and life has had a gentle but upbeat pace for a little while and I for one, well I'm there for it, it's about time.  My businesses are far from perfect thanks to the "Pandemilovato" which just keeps on giving but last night there was at least an update that weddings have had the 30 guest restriction lifted so I hope this gives the couples the confidence they need to go ahead with booking their weddings and hopefully, me as their photographer.

Yesterday, after last week sorting out my wardrobe, taking 6 black bags to the charity shop and throwing away 3 black bags of rubbish, I commenced my quest to shrink myself enough to be able to wear all of the beautiful clothes I have left in the said wardrobe.

Mandy Charlton wears a gorgeous acai berry necklace, eco friendly from Philomena's Gift Boutique, a gift boutique full of gorgeous things for you and your home
Gorgeous necklace available from Philomena's Boutique

I have so many gorgeous dresses which just require a 2-inch shrinkage, I'm not going to get all obsessed about it but for a year I've not exercised enough and I've comfort eaten the contents of my home 132 times over.  I did spend a significant part of that scared to go outside and I think we're all a little heavier post lockdowns but I'm fully vaccinated now and I once again have things in my calendar I can wear dresses too so Pinch of Nom, Two Chubby Cubs recipe books and making sure I walk at least 10k steps every day and I reckon it's going to happen pretty quickly, (she said, hoping).

In February 2020 after being single pretty much since September 2014 I openly declared that I was healed, that I'd worked on myself enough and that I was ready to try dating again, I still maintain to this day that this statement did not make the pandemic occur nor did it make lockdown happen.  What actually happened was that I had another year to work on myself and honestly, I am in such great shape with my mental health, I've never been more stable.  In January I even got to reduce my meds to a half dose, and yeah, I will always have to take them but I'm about as well balanced as I could be and if this last year has taught me anything it's that I am at my best with lovely people in my life and that I don't want to be single for the rest of my life.  

Humans thrive in the right relationships, they bring out the best in each other, it doesn't mean they have to overwhelm each other's lives or be together 24/7 but I think (and I'm really channelling Simone De Beauvoir here) the right couple will enhance each other's lives, they will both have separate lives and go off and do amazing things and then they will come together and share those experiences, teaching each other things that the other might not know and when they are together because they're always growing and learning, they will be unstoppable.  No relationship will ever be perfect but if I've learnt anything from the past it's that if you can't communicate then you will always fail and that's the same for friendships and family relationships.  

I'm probably the least scared I've ever been about the future which is a huge statement for someone with anxiety but honestly, my anxiety levels have been much better lately and even using the metro seems to be a little easier.  I'm not saying I wouldn't feel scared in a crowd of thousands but I at least feel like when I go back to shooting full sized weddings soon with lots of guests that it will be okay.  My plan now is to hopefully take on more weddings, keep running the boutique but to do it all at a pace where I can squeeze in a great work life balance.  I gave up a lot in the past and really, photography will always be weekends but by taking less on and only really working 1 day at weekends I feel like I can achieve the peaceful, gentle and fulfilling life I really want to live.  It's not all about money, it never has been, it's about finding inner happiness, not worrying and about feeling genuinely fulfilled in my heart and soul.

Happiness, that's the real meaning of life and that starts with self acceptance, a little self love and learning to enjoy and appreciate the people and things you already have in your life for if you keep chasing happiness like it's always one more step and then you'll be happy, you never will be truly happy, it's taken me a long time to realise that but the future starts now.

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Friday, June 04, 2021

What I did in May (ish)


The Whey Aye burger, Hardrock Cafe, Newcastle, mandy Charlton photographer, writer, blogger


Consider this a catchup post if you will,  what I did in May, it's one of those posts dear reader, when, I'll be honest, I just could never sit down to write in the last month, it's not that I didn't have things to write about, it's that I couldn't find the time or concentration to write about them.  My usually distracted brain was even less capable of concentrating than usual so let's just round that all up now.

During the last month, I found a new gentle rhythm to my life and about time really, life was slow and steady and it contained lovely people.  I walked as much as I could and when it was with friends it was even better.  My life had zero drama in it and my goodness, that's so refreshing.  I didn't have to walk on eggshells with anyone, I was just me and that was okay.





I finally managed to catch up with a couple of dear friends I'd not seen during the pandemic but now we're all fully vaccinated we can once again enjoy each other's company.  I'll skip most of May as I don't really remember it but I did go to the press launch of the Hardrock Cafe in Newcastle which was amazing, I've been a fan of the Hardrock Cafe brand for years and I find it quite refreshing that the Hardrock Cafe in Newcastle is light and airy with shades of grey and turquoise.  The menu is delicious and the "Whey Aye Burger" is the star regional attraction.  You can sit next to Taylor Swift's dress or Ed Sheeran's jacket, you can even read a love letter sent from Amy Whinehouse to her husband at the time.  It's a very special place and it's no surprise that it seems to be booked solid.  Abi and I tried to get a table this Saturday and it was fully booked until later than I usually like to eat.  We shall go though, and yes there will be margaritas in Kilner jars.




On Friday my old friend Ron came over for a live stream concert straight from Sage Gateshead.  In this year of pandemonium, the thing I have missed most of all is live music, and especially the crescendo of an orchestra.  We were invited by Sage Gateshead and they were also kind enough to send us a Sage Hamper fresh from Blacks Corner, a deli based in the northeast of England who they've partnered with to make concerts at home just that little bit more special.  I can tell you, the cheese we were sent was perfection and John Wilson's Summer Songs concert was a most brilliant start to the bank holiday weekend.  Sage Gateshead is actually making their first tentative steps back to having live concerts with audiences and they have a Bach to Bach concert on Friday 11th of June.  Even though they will only have an audience of 300 to begin with I feel like it's a beacon of hope and I hope that I will be able to get back inside one of the magical concert halls soon for some beautiful melodious music as soon as possible.  It's also very possible that in the future Sage will not only have live concerts but they will also continue to use the live stream facility to bring musical performances to audiences who have never been previously able to partake.  This excites me as the more you people you can bring music to, the better the world is in my opinion.  I would like to also state at this point (as I have on many previous occasions before) that I am an absolute RHS orchestra fangirl and my absolute favourite orchestra member to watch at concerts is the Timpanist, there's something magical about the Timpani as it's an instrument no one would ever grow up wanting to play due to the size of the set of Timpani drums but I've always been a bit of a fan of percussion and tuned percussion.




Over the rest of the weekend, I refreshed my hanging baskets, and on Sunday I went for a walk to Rothbury with Li continuing our 40 coasts and country walks book, I'm not sure we actually did the walk in the book but it was so much fun getting lost.  After breaking in (and out) of Cragside accidentally we've now both rejoined the National Trust as penance and so maybe this weekend we should just play it safe and go to a National Trust property.  On bank holiday Monday, I went to the Punchbowl with friends, I think this may have been my first ever time going to the pub on a bank holiday Monday afternoon, I had 4 gins but by the time I walked home I was sober again, it was such a wonderful afternoon and a reminder that good friends are a wonderful thing.  On Tuesday still, in my happy vibe, I took a chance and did a scary thing and met a new person for a walk, I'm not one for meeting new people and certainly not on my own but it was so much better than I ever imagined it could be, a testament to the fact that sometimes it's worth pushing yourself out of your comfort zone because there are good things and new experiences to be found.



This weekend I am back to photography and have a busy June but there will still be time for walks with friends and shenanigans in the sunshine with gin or a crisp cool glass of rose, I've never really been a massive rose fan but on a warm evening, it's the perfect accompaniment.  I promise to try and do more updates in June and with any luck, it will be another gentle and lovely month, here's hoping!

Ways to support my writing


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee

I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 

You could also come and follow me on Instagram  keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all

of your love and support.

Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique















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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

A turbulent and troublesome week?


The Kelpies as a storm is coming, A turbulent and troublesome week, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

It's 7pm on an average Saturday evening, I'm watching Rocketman (because musicals make me happy) and eating a pork pie, yes, old school Ploughmans, don't worry I'm accompanying it with cucumber and some salted popcorn, I like to mix things up a little. I want to say it's been a turbulent and troublesome week but really it hasn't, mostly it's been filled with adventure and lots of walking.  Lots and lots of walking.  I saw the Kelpies, I went on the Falkirk Wheel, I took myself to the Botanic Gardens and felt happy as I walked, surrounded by nature feeling the sunshine on my skin the weather was colder than normal for this time of year.  

When I travel alone, I don't really get too many pangs of loneliness but I always wish I could share sunsets or beautiful vistas with someone special. It's taken me a long time in my life to find friends, I still struggle with the complexities of friendship, Abigail said to me, and quite rightly, that to be friends with me you have to understand that I see the world in a completely different way to everyone else.  I'd like to try and illustrate that but I can't because I've never lived that ordinary, neurotypical life.  I have wished on more than one occasion to just be like everyone else but no one has that magic wand and over the last couple of years, I've been increasingly interested in just trying to embrace all of my divergences and love myself more.

Look, this is as plainly as I can explain it but, on a good day my life is glorious technicolour, everything is vibrant, food tastes better, flowers smell amazing and I want to sing my way through the day (quite possibly why I love musicals so much).  I am confident that I have so many plans and ideas, and I can truly conquer the world.  On the good days, I am funny and great company to be with.  The flipside however is a dark and lonely place.  On the dark days, I am lonely, I am anxious, everything and everyone is grey, nothing holds any interest to me and I can't concentrate on anything or anyone.  You might assume I don't listen to people, but I'm trying so hard and failing. The flipside of me is a dark chasm, I assume everyone hates me and I'm suspicious of everything.  I have no energy, I eat everything in sight and all I want to do is sleep for days.

That paragraph is perhaps an oversimplification of how my general life works but should you have a spare half hour, please go and watch season 1, episode 3 of Modern Love, Anne Hathaway's interpretation of being a bipolar woman is my life entire.  Of course, I am medicated for that but what I'm not medicated for is the autistic part of my brain and when you put everything together, even with medication I can be a difficult and complicated person to love.

In some ways now, I think if I could just switch off that lonely part of my brain, the Achilles heel, I would do furthermore extraordinary things on my own and I would not worry that I was missing out on the things that neurotypical people enjoy so much.  Like visits to the pub and parties and crowds.  I do like occasional nights in the pub, I love to throw a good party but they all have parameters where I become exhausted and it can take me a week to recover from excessive peopling.

Look, I won't say, it's hard to be me because really, it's hard to be a human, especially this last year, sometimes it's been an emotional battle just to want to go on, to continue to not just give up completely but I am still here.  

It's now Tuesday and I went to bed very early last night because I could not deal with the day or the weekend any longer, I just wanted to sleep and forget, when I am depressed, the bed is my cocoon, sleep is the thing I love most and this morning outside it is gloomy.  The rain is falling and splashing against the window.  The cherry blossom still blooms though, it hangs heavy and abundant in the trees outside my window on the ugly urban estate on which I live, it reminds me that beautiful things still happen even on the darkest of days and as someone once said, what if things aren't falling apart? What if things are just shifting into a better place?

Thanks for reading, today and every day...


Ways to support my writing


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee

I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 

You could also come and follow me on Instagram  keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all

of your love and support.

Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique

which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Post-lockdown trip to Edinburgh - Part 2

So here I am, in bed at 8pm at night in a tiny wee apartment 4 floors up a winding spiral stone staircase, it was very much like climbing up the Scott Monument and I wasn't sure if I'd be sleeping in Rapunzel's turret.  Suffice to say, with a heavy case, when I made it to my room I did for a moment think I'd require a defibrillator. I sent Abigail the photo and she begged me to be careful, you know I can't even bring a bin in without having an accident.  There's no light on the staircase that I could see so I shall be only attempting this bad boy during daylight hours!

post-lockdown trip to edinburgh part 2, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I actually didn't take a photo of the apartments because I was too busy doing a TikTok video instead, click through if you'd like a nosy, it's called the Robert The Bruce Suite and it's old, really old so I hope I don't get visited by any ghosts of marauding Scotsmen!

I should add that I think for £29 a night I got an absolute bargain and you can bet that it's quadruple the price ordinarily.

Since I arrived this afternoon I've done a good 15km walk but it had no purpose and I always seem to stress myself out when I walk with no purpose.  I'll be honest because I want to always be real.  My head is all over the place.  I was too anxious to go to any shops or cafes or restaurants. I did manage a takeaway Starbucks at teatime though.   From today you can actually eat indoors in restaurants in Scotland although alcohol is only served outdoors.  I think it's going to take me some time to adjust.

Cherry Blossom in Princes Street Garden, Post Lockdown trip to edinburgh, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger



The good thing about today is that Edinburgh has never seemed more beautiful, it's blossom season and Princes Street Gardens were abundant with cherry blossom, I sat for a while in the shadow of the castle and enjoyed a moment of sunshine and calm.  Edinburgh is the quietest I've ever seen it and that's good and bad, good, because I'm not ready for a hectic, crazy place just yet but bad because it doesn't seem like normal Edinburgh and that in itself is a little unsettling.


Tomorrow, I haven't quite decided what to do yet, I know I want to visit the Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel and South Queensferry to view the Forth Bridge but I also feel like where my head is at the moment I might be better off getting myself on a bus tour for the day and then I don't have to worry about anything other than getting myself to the bus! Whatever I do though, you can be sure there will be photos.

New College Edinburgh, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger






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