Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

You Think You Know Me?

Yesterday was a hard, difficult and complicated day, I'd shared my heart on the internet and I also had to read about myself through someone else's eyes for the first time ever, that is hard if you are someone like me who's brain is scrambled and self-esteem isn't the best but I always favour the truth even when I myself by my own admission like to create a much more magical existence in my own head.

I think there's something which is important to state, what you read on the internet isn't always real, I've been writing this blog now for 11 years and I get lots of emails and comments which thank me for my honesty and you know what, that's great, I never lie but I can tell you something even with the way I write, I write best when I am at my happiest or saddest and when you are in both of those states the world becomes technicolor, it's glorious in all its shades in the happiest times and in the darkest days, you get more than fifty shades of cold hard gray so when you read them you really have to read between the lines almost and I know, you as my readers, you're very good at that thing, you are intuitive and you all know, it's not so much about what is written as it is about what isn't.  I love when people email or comment or leave lovely messages for me and for the most part it's heartening that you do actually realise that there's a real woman behind the words and she has a lot of thoughts and my feelings and can be hurt as much as the next person.

I realise that my right to privacy has been encumbered by the fact that I write about my daily life, I get that and if I didn't write my blog as a diary of my life, I'm not sure what I would actually write about, I guess at least I have an interesting enough life to write about, I should be thankful for that, well mostly, it's not all fun.  Yesterday I read a couple of comments from people who don't know me, negative comments, I didn't like them, I didn't understand them and I still don't know why strangers from the internet feel they have a right to judge me or tell me what I am allowed or not allowed to do. As I sat in my kitchen with tears rolling down my cheeks in a moment of anger and frustration that I couldn't get into an argument with the negative commenters because as much as I know the truth, strangers think they do too.  I considered walking away from blogging, I considered moving to a small island and selling cupcakes to friendly Koalas (that's kind of long been a dream of mine anyway), but in the end I realised that for all of the opinion, I and my real life friends are the only people who truly know me, I have friends online who I've known for longer than I've written this blog and they know me too of course but if you have actually been near enough to touch me (steady on there!) then you're in better position to understand the way my head works because unlike my blog which has what I would say is a 12A certificate, in real life you get the whole picture.

I as a person in my general day to day life am pretty happy go lucky on the surface with a big handful of low self-esteem underneath, I spent so many years in an unrequited relationship just desperately trying to do whatever I could so that I could be loved back that it turned me into someone who is eager to please and who likes to make people happy, in the best moments I follow my own path and dance to the beat of my own drum, I'm headstrong and independent and confident and forthright, in the dark moments, I am emotional, I seek validation from others because I don't feel I deserve it enough to give it to myself, I get overwhelmingly lonely and I cry because I don't know why I'm not good enough to be loved.

I'm messed up in the head, no, let's be real, I'm fucked up, for the most part, I own it and in the dark times, it owns me.  So to the minority of the people who feel they have the right to offer opinion or snap judgement, just ask yourself, before I speak am I going to hurt someone with my opinions, do I really know what's going on if I don't know someone personally, do I really have the right to tell someone what or what not to do?  When people email me with their issues and problems asking for advice, I always answer as honestly and eruditely as I can, they ask me personally for my opinions, I never judge anyone as far as I possibly can because you can't know or understand a situation unless you have truly walked a mile in someone else's shoes.

Monday, January 30, 2017

When Bloggers Date, a First Date in London with Martyn

Mandy Charlton with Martyn Kitney, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, Inside Martyn's Thoughts

Late Sunday afternoon and I've just got home from my weekend in London, a first real life (as opposed to Skype) date with Martyn, my brain is kind of scrambled, it's been a bit of a full on 24 hours  and I promised Martyn I wouldn't write a blog post where a flock of unicorn seagulls lifted us high on clouds whilst bluebirds sang, I'm sure you would have read it anyway and all clapped wildly but I promised that I would be real and write from my heart and with my head just as he told me he's going to do and that means taking off the rose tinted glasses and that's hard for someone who is by her own admission a bohemian romantic.

So here's some facts about Martyn, he's 34, a single dad, blogger, he's got facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy which is life limiting and he's also got dependent personality disorder, he's a genius, an actual genius, he plays 13 instruments but not the harp (I know, disappointing, right?), he home educates his 2 sons, he teaches piano, he's kind, funny and on an attraction level, my face definitely likes his face.  He blogs about his disability and his mental health (as well as many other things) and since he came into my life he's helped me become more real and I've blogged more about my own mental health.  We as writers need to put this out there, we need to help people talk about mental health and we need to encourage people who might be feeling helpless that even if you are messed up in the head that it's ok, you can be brilliant and funny, you can be entrepreneurial, most importantly you can live a life where you own your shit and just carry on, carrying on, living your life in the best way that you can.

I want to jump now to something I believe about relationships and dating, something I've always believed.  I'm lucky to have experienced good relationships and bad through my own experiences, that of others and through my work I'm always humbled to share the moments from others relationships at the most poignant moments in their lives, I've seen true love in all of its glory and I've known hurt, betrayal and had my heart broken and shattered into a million tiny pieces.

I think in the best relationships you always see a great combination of friendship plus the spark of attraction, the chances are if you want to rip someone's clothes off after 5 minutes on the very first date then it's just going to be lust which will die out after a month or possibly turn into something darker.  I've never been into the whole lust based thing because I don't want my life to be full of quick passionate relationships, I realise they work for some but essentially I start by looking for friendship and this is something Martyn and I have established over the last 3 months with messages and our once weekly Skype dates, we have laughed a lot and talked about more serious things and I'm pretty sure I could talk to him about anything.  When we met up yesterday it was just easy, I'd had my nervous half hour before he arrived but that was mostly due to hoping he wouldn't be a serial killer after I'd travelled the length of the country on a train surrounded by snoring black men, falafel eating mummies, smelly footed youths with their shoes off and an old man with a sheepdog, my cancelled earlier train meant a comedy journey of epic proportions, no wonder I was anxious!

I'm not a flirt, I am rubbish at it, always have been, always will be, I like laughing and talking and I like people who are smart and also people who'll not mind so much that I can't flirt.  It's on first dates that I always make sure that I kiss my date, if they don't want to kiss me, it's always a fail because I'll never know if there's a spark and if they kiss me and it's like kissing cardboard, well then that's also a fail because you need a spark, it's the difference between friendship and a potential relationship.  My point here is Martyn and I spent about 7 hours together having dinner, laughing, just being friends and when I walked him to his car at midnight we kissed (I should have perhaps just done this earlier but at the age I am, I always feel a bit uptight about public displays of affection) and, (remember, just the facts) we both felt a spark, a big spark, I said "wow" and I'm going, to be honest, we woke up together this morning!

So, what happens now? Martyn went off home to process his thoughts as did I, a smoother train journey home and I smiled a lot!  Martyn is a complicated enigma and to be fair so am I, you get two messed up people together and they either fix each other's broken pieces or they're just two messed up people messing each other up, I rather hope it's a Deadpool scenario and I do think that my crazy matches his crazy but it's still early days really.  I'm going back to London at the end of March for another date (seriously, how much easier would it be if he lived in Killingworth instead of Kent) and in the meantime, we'll continue to message and Skype each other.

What I want to do now is only write what's real and true so I'm afraid for you unicorn loving readers you might miss out on the whimsy (dang it, I nearly managed a blog post without mentioning it).  If anything strikes me I'll no doubt write but I think we need to be allowed to just go and find out ourselves if this has a chance of working without the expectation of half of the internet (as lovely as you all are and I want to thank you all so much for being there every step of the way).  Human relationships are hard, some work, some don't, some are honest and some are not, some are kind and some are harsh, some are imaginary and some are real and there are no magic formulae to make sure it works even if you want it to with all of your heart so you just have to be true to yourself, open your heart and try to be real and honest.  What I do know In my heart is that I think we have the chance of something which could be bright and shiny, even if it is just a couple of half broken silver spoons lying in a muddy puddle on a moonlight night.

Whatever happens now, we'll always remember London...


Friday, January 27, 2017

An Interview with Abigail aged 14.5 (ish) and Looby aged 13.5

My daughters are possibly planning to take over my blog, just after my phone had pinged with Abigail's weekly email another email hit my box with an interview with my darling daughters, I have to say that it's pretty obvious that they're very different types of people and really, I wouldn't have it any other way, it's one of the reasons why, when we are together we laugh so very much and that's mostly because Abigail and Looby are brilliant at teasing me and doing impressions which are hilarious but please don't tell them.  I'm not sure what gave them the idea to interview each other but I suspect that after the saw the article where readers put their questions to Mr France it probably had something to do with it.

Favourite colour?
Laura: Green
Abigail: Light grey

You win 500,000 pounds, what do you do?:
Laura: Buy a horse and stable the horse!
Abigail: Put it in a savings account, collect interest then use the money to pay for university.

You're on a desert island and can have one food what do you have?
Laura: Apples
Abigail: Ice cream!!!

The opinion of America's new President, Mr Donald.J.Trump?
Laura: I don't like orange!
Abigail: Honestly I'm waiting for the mid term elections on November 18th 2018 when the Americans can vote against the republican party and stop Trump passing any laws!

Favourite animal?:
Laura: Horse
Abigail: I don't know, dogs? Maybe cats. 

3 words to describe yourself, GO!:
Laura: Unicorn, Rainbow, Happy
Abigail: Sarcastic, Unique, Dramatic

3 words to describe the other person:
Laura: Nice, Opinionated, Strong minded
Abigail: Serendipity, Creative, Lovely

To my dear daughters,

You two, you are the funniest double act since Ant n Dec, you have the comedic timing of French and Saunders and I love that you are actually friends with each other, well at least for some of the time, you are as different as chalk and cheese and that's the reason I adore you both so much, whilst one of you will probably end up running the country the other will be saving all of the animals and you know what, that's a future we can all get on board with.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why I don't live with my mum by Abigail Charlton, aged 14.5

I moved out of my mums house to live with my dad and grandad in the autumn of  2014, this was after my dad had already left about 2 months earlier. It was not an easy decision but I can say I would do it again because it has been the best thing possible to ensure I retain a good relationship with my mum. 

I love my mum unconditionally and forever! It was difficult to leave at 13, knowing that it was hurting my mum. Even though I sort of hated her at that time it didn't mean that I didn't feel guilty for leaving her. However I am so grateful that she allowed me the choice to go wherever I was happiest.

I'd spent 13 years on top of my sister, brother and mums' toes always feeling cramped so when the opportunity came to have my own space, I took it! The most difficult part of moving out for me was not seeing Laura (my younger sister) as much as I wanted to. In the beginning I was so happy to be away from her, as being so close in age was very difficult particularly when you're both teenagers! 

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss going home to my mum and talking about my day, or chatting with Laura before bed about school and gossip and stuff like that! I miss playing sing star and screaming down the stairs at my mum to turn the radio down as she blared music whilst making tea.  Truthfully I miss having a mum to come home and cry with after a hard day. I never realised how much girls need there mums up to now, because you never realise what something means to you until its gone.

Living with my dad has been fantastic though, I've got my own room and space to breath! Space to scream at the world for sucking but also to dance around my room! My relationship with Laura is also better as she has her own space, however I often worry that she hates me sometimes for leaving her. She denies it but I was always there for her as a sister and friend but also as an outlet to scream at! I rely on her just as much as she relies on me.  Overall, I'm glad I left my mums house 2 years ago.  

To finish I would like to say that if any parents are out there with children who want to leave home to go live with there dad or mum, I think you should let them (obviously that has exceptions), because at the end of the day, though it may be unbearably hard to begin with they will come back to you in one way or another because children and young people need their mums and dads no matter how much they deny it.

My darling Abigail, watching you leave was the hardest thing I've ever done as a mum but to let you go was to set you free to find yourself and it worked, when you left you were angry and cross and you hated me on the outside but I always knew that one day we would have the best relationship and I am so proud of that, we laugh together and sometimes we cry together, we talk about everything, some things we do just to freak out your sister, heehee  I will always love you and I do miss you every day that I don't see you but I hope we make up for it in the times we are together, I'll never stop being grateful that you are my wonderful amazing Abigail and I am proud of you every single day, I love you so very much.


Travel, Adventures and Flight Attendants

The joy of air travel and history of air attendants, mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I love flying, I love aeroplanes, I love the feeling as you speed towards the end of the runway and whoosh you're off, your head is pinned back in your seat as you temporarily feel a tiny bit of the G-force and the next time you look out of the window you are in the sky and on your way to your very next adventure.

I've been lucky to travel quite a lot in the last few years, my adventures to France, Spain, Italy, Gran Canaria and Amsterdam have all been written about on this very blog, at the moment Abigail and I are in the planning stages of this year's summer holidays, I wanted to cruise, she wanted to go to one place for a week so we've settled on Amsterdam, there's just so much to see and do and I haven't stopped evangelising about how much I love it since we were there last May, this time I am resolute, our first museum has to be the Kattenkabinet which as you can probably work out from the title is a museum chronicling the history of cats in art and culture, they even have their own cats.

Travels by air, Gran Canaria 2013, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, Blogger, history of flight attendants

Looby and her daddy are going to Tenerife in the summer holidays, they fell in love with the Canary Islands back in 2013 when we all spent 2 weeks in Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria, it was one of those moments where the whole holiday felt like a swan song to our relationship and it was, in the end, the last holiday we had together but I still have the best memories of our brilliant family adventure, and of course seeing dolphins in the wild and a tropical whale on the horizon, a truly lifetime experience watching the happy dolphins leaping out of the water and alongside the boat, I will never forget that.
travelling around the world, history of flight attendants, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Last year, one of the main highlights of summer was my trip to Barcelona with Harriet, the first time I'd ever been on holiday with a best friend and I can't wait to do something similar again this year to Italy or France, who knows, I know though that there's just something magical about being on holiday with your very best friend, it's a shared experience with absolutely no pressure at all, we simply did the things we wanted to do from the ridiculous to the sublime, the Magic Fountains of Montjuic, the Jamón Experience and Tibidabo where my most favourite sunset ever happened, a magical time and a glorious expedition.
Travel to Italy to see the camposanto, pisa, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Let's not all forget my first solo cruising experience at the end of 2015 where I started to find myself again, I will always remember sitting at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the tears rolling down my cheeks as I realised just what I'd done, I'd travelled through 4 countries on my own, from agoraphobic to world traveller, 4 flights in 5 days is not for the feint of heart but that brings me to my next point, each journey I have ever made has begun on an aeroplane, and it's been made more comfortable, pleasurable and relaxing by the wonderful work that the flight attendants do, it can't be the easiest job, I mean I can miss my mouth with a cup of coffee, I can't imagine having to pour 2 hundred cups whilst being thousands of miles up in the air and not spilling it over everyone!  My friends at Opodo have shared a nifty infographic about the History of Flight Attendants, it's really very interesting so do go and take a look and then appreciate just what an amazing job they do, it's only because of them that we arrive at our destination ready to take on the world and have the most amazing adventures.
The ceiling of la sagrada, Barcelona, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Visiting La Sagrada, Barcelona, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I hope I get to share many many more of mine in this coming year of travel for whilst it's dark and wintery at the moment, just around the corner are lighter, brighter days and summer adventures all over the globe.

Staying at the Derby Hotel, Barcelona, having a swimming time in the luxury pool, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Goodbye Mr France

saying goodbye to mr france, Mand Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, dating

Each story that I have ever told has had a beginning, a middle and an end, each post complete in its own individual merits, just like my views on images that each individual image should tell a story in itself.  The last 3 months have been my favourite chapter on my blog and my biggest adventure in online dating because of meeting Mr France.

I'm going to London on Saturday and by this time next week we will both know if things are going to work or not, we've discussed the possibility that our first real life date could end up being completely disastrous and really, it's true, no matter how much you have chatted and Skyped online, real life is a different thing entirely.

In my heart I am hopeful but I am also being real enough to accept all of the possibilities that this may or may not work.  We have talked a lot and I don't think that you can make friendship up so whether it works or not in a dating way I think we'll always have a friendship, I hope so anyway, he knows way too much!

In getting ready to meet him and after a weekend where I have wrestled with so many thoughts and anxieties in my head I have to come to terms with the fact that a lot of the last 3 months has been a vicarious adventure, something almost unreal which happened and yet didn't happen, the messaging and the Skype chats, yes they all happened and there's been nothing but good things to come out of them, we have laughed a lot and we have had some really serious conversations too.

I was always kind of vague about him and that's because I didn't want to expose him before he was ready, I know he says he is grumpy and has lots of faults and issues and yes he does, he's human but so am I and as I've already said I am far from perfect myself.

Some things remain, he is kind and he is funny, these things are facts, in looking at the relationships he has online, I've only found respect and love for him, he writes with honesty and he is always just the way he is, whether that be a mess or whimsical or funny or whether he's tackling something deadly serious or something more fun.

If there's one thing I've learnt, perhaps the hard way, is that you can never be too honest, he has taught me that it's better to just be yourself rather than project a better image of yourself, so where I would always be caught up in putting out there that I was the happiest, the best, the smiliest, the most whimsical (I love that word way too much) but I wasn't, yes, sometimes I was but I certainly wasn't as honest with him as I could have been because I wanted to only project the very best image of myself, now I'm not sure if this is something everyone does when they are interested in another person but I have promised to just be real now, I won't hide my emotions or always have the same emotion.  I will still be silly and magical and whimsical because those emotions are very much part of me and there are almost certainly more musicals, movies and TV shows to plan together, more inventions no one has ever thought of and probably wouldn't buy but it's good to have that to distract you from the realities of the often mundanity of general day to day life.

Whatever happens, I will always be grateful for my Mr France and the happy thoughts he has brought me, for me to move on and for you dear readers to, we have to say goodbye to him, next week I'll write about him whatever happens but he won't be Mr France, he'll just be the real him with his good bits and his bad bits and I will just be me, I'm not sure if it's the old me or the new me but I know now that it's definitely the real me.

There is one thing and this is real and true and there's no question about, whatever happens, this man who fell into my life has almost certainly changed my life for the better, people always come into your life for a reason, I firmly believe that and if his soul purpose was so that I could find out who I really was then for that, I will always be grateful.

My dear Mr. France, who knows what happens from this point on but know this, to this point you have only made life better, you might have a problem believing that but I'm telling you anyway, goodbye and thanks for being the best chapter I've ever written, see you on the other side, when you are you, I am me and we most definitely are just us.



Monday, January 23, 2017

It's ok to not be ok

It's the start of a brand new week and I've just come in from a photo shoot with a lovely lady who needed some new headshots, the sun shone brightly and I could feel the warmth of the glow on my skin.  Sunshine is like a drug to me, in the dark days of January, especially in the last couple of weeks when my mood slipped.  I have craved the feeling of the sunshine on my face so badly, it gives me hope when seeing the first snowdrops and the buds of the daffodils just poking their tiny new heads out of the ground that spring is around the corner, yes it's still a little too far away to touch but without a doubt, better, brighter, sunnier days are on the horizon.

Now that I'm coming out of the fog I've been in for a few days, I've come to a huge decision in my life, something which kept me from sleeping, you see, I think I am the same in real life as I am online but then it seems like I only interact with people if I am happy and bouncy and if I'm not I lie to myself so well that I believe that I am, I've come to understand that this might not be for the best and maybe I should just admit everywhere that I am not perfect (far from it) and that actually though I am stronger than I have been for a very long time I still have large periods of time when I am not ok, I have anxiety and paranoia, I have upswings where I don't sleep and downswings where I sleep like a cat and can't wake up and days where I stay in bed until noon just wondering what the hell I'm going to do to sort myself out.

The thing is that I feel like I'm doing myself a great injustice in always pretending to myself that I am happy, whimsical and magical, I am of course all of those things but I'm also vulnerable, raw, mixed up, and pretty much a mess but I have to allow myself to be like that, I went through a huge period in my life where I could only have positive moods, it's a form of control when someone says they can't handle certain moods or they use their own moods to control things so much that you are essentially always treading on eggshells frightened to show your real emotions.

I'm not sure what happens now but I know there are stories which may need to be retold, modified or even rewritten, it's the end of a chapter and the start of a new one, having emotions still scares the living hell out of me sometimes.  I think there's a fear in me that thinks if I say I'm not ok that it will be frowned upon or ignored because people in general love to read the happy, upbeat, magical tales that I tell and really, there are lots of those mixed in with the not so good things I usually just gloss over or deflect.

Oh and yes, I know that's annoying, that I only choose to hear what I want to hear, that's just kind of protection for my heart, as Harriet will tell you, I am incredibly bad at dealing with anything which isn't positive, negativity in any form has a dark and profound effect on me because I feel it as a direct criticism of my own psyche, I guess that's the paranoid inner brain which secretly believes at all times that I am not good enough.

You readers, you have stuck with me through everything, the good, the bad, the whimsy and the real, I hope that if I start to express who I am more than I have ever before that you will be with me on the bad days, the dark days, the not so ok days, maybe I'll help someone, maybe I'll save myself in the process.  I know that not all the roads I go down will be happy but I do know that I am made of strong ingredients, I know I have the capacity to cope with more now than I ever did in the past and by finally coming out and being honest with myself and everyone else including you, dearest readers, I hope you will stay with me for although some of the paths ahead are treacherous there's still no doubting that I have some very big adventures ahead too.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Meeting Mr France - 7 Day's To Go

London, looking towards canary wharf, meeting mr france in London in 7 days, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Don't you ever wish that for each perfect moment in life you had some prior warning so you could record it in your mind, the moments that we are the happiest are often forgotten at the time and it's not until we are flatter and more introspective that we realise that it was that moment, that pinnacle that we felt the happiest we'd ever felt in our whole entire lives, I think hindsight is a blessing and a curse.

I went in search of the first conversation I'd ever had with Mr France on Twitter, I know it wasn't too long after I'd published my dating article on my blog and I know there were early discussions about Moulin Rouge and also him sending me cakes but the weird thing about Twitter is that everything gets a bit lost and complicated, twice I've had to ask him for his address because it's impossible to find 54 direct messages later, it does seem a shame then that it's there, written down and recorded in history but it's ridiculously hard to decipher, I can't imagine my descendants wading through that, I wonder what they would think anyway if they came across two people discussing the creation of a musical about a Koala or the production of a TV show where the Chuckle Brothers are introduced to 3 angry seagulls (TV Gold), I do know however that some of our most joyous conversations are by far the more absurd and ridiculous ones.  I remember on our first Skype date that I'd just relaxed and fell into myself 4 hours in and telling him my greatest fears one of them being bananas because they're sinister and suspicious, I should have known by the fact that he didn't run away at that point that he was as crazy bonkers as me.

We're 3 months in now and our first real date is in a week, without a doubt, I've had my greatest whimsical adventures in conversation with Mr France, I'd have to hope that in person it's even better, I can get a little tongue-tied in the presence of men I find attractive, in fact, I'd go so far as to say I can't speak to them, I literally lose my voice, now I haven't thus far with Mr F because it's been Skype, I just hope face to face I don't come across like a blabbering idiot but if I do then, Mr F, if you are reading, it's only because you're my kind of hot 😉

I think this week I'll have much excitement and many panic-stricken moments as I worry about our first date but it's only because I want it to be wonderful and I don't want to make an idiot out of myself and I don't want to disappoint him, I'm sure he's having the same exact thoughts, maybe it wouldn't be so terrifying if we hadn't spent a lot of time Skyping and we only lived around the corner so we went for a quick coffee, actually no, I know what would have happened then, I suspect I would have still been there 3 days later talking about writing a new detective show where he solves crimes whilst I assist wearing a ballgown.

I want to tell you now that Mr F isn't perfect, he has his faults just as I do, he can be grumpy, he's terribly forgetful and he's so clever that some of the low-level stuff completely surpasses his brain, he has as many issues like the rest of us , I write about him like he's a superhero because isn't that the way we should all be written about, like photographs, it should be the very best version of ourselves and I'm sure that I'll complain about him at length in the future, I am an honest blogger and this is my diary after all but this brings me back to the point I opened with, pressing record, because at the start of any new adventure, especially dating, you have that window where you only see each other as magical figureheads or Grecian Gods and Goddesses (I should be so lucky) so it's good to write it down this time, I want to make sure I capture those thoughts and feelings so that when the challenges hit I can revisit them and with 2 months between our first and second real life date I feel there are times when I'll just stop by and remind myself of a beautiful beginning.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why Pickled Onions Will Never Be Cake...

Tardis Cake, because cake is always the answer, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

Let's face it, the darkest days of January are no fun for anyone, I know that Sweden, Denmark etc are busy embracing their Hygge but I'm not sure it's ever going to translate to Britain really, I think we the British, well, we sort of excel when things get a bit "whiny" shall we say, if people ask us how we're doing we say "oh, I'm ok" and then we quickly find things we can complain about like the weather, the light levels, the fact that it's not yet spring, things that deflect from why we're actually unhappy.

I feel right now that I need some sunshine, in 9 days I'm off to London to meet Mr F and currently I am as pale as a cucumber and my hips have about an extra stone of sponge cake on them, my quest to lose a stone in the first few weeks of January failed in style, don't get me wrong either, this week, as advised by the bouncy slimming world lady I swapped cake for pickled onions (yes, she really did suggest that) did it work?  Well erm, no, actually I put 3lb on when I weighed in last night, I am currently a rotund barrel of pickled onions, I hope Mr F likes a barrel-shaped jar of pickles in lady form.

I'm going, to be honest, actually meeting Mr F in the flesh (gosh that sounds ruder than it's meant) is currently feeling 52% exciting and 48% full on terrifying, I mean up until now, we've only really seen the top half of each other on Skype, what if he actually thinks me a fat buttered baked potato?  I realise it's not massively likely because I think he likes me for me, for my brains and wit (ha, it's bad to say this out loud isn't it, I'm not being arrogant I promise), well you have to hope so because if he's expecting Miss World to turn up and it's me, well that's not going to work is it?

Okay, so I've been on first dates before and I've mostly just winged it, none have been too disastrous but then it's probably because I didn't care whether they worked or not, this is different because whilst it's technically a first date, we have been Skype dating for 3 months, please tell me it's not all going to fall apart because my body is akin to that of a giant white jelly baby!

I think I picked the wrong week to rejoin Slimming World, withdrawing from medication plus a new healthy eating regime was always going to be a bit of a fail but hopefully getting back on the meds plus regaining my happy outlook and I should be able to say no to chocolate and yes to spinach once again, I love spinach, no, really, I do.  One thing we must note, though, Pickled Onions will never be cake and it doesn't matter how many ways you try to introduce that subject or theory (who's theory, I'm not entirely sure, clearly they're deluded) it's just not true, I get none of the pleasure from a pickled onion that I do from cake or chocolate and if I ever hear this untruth at any time in the future I shall be tempted to throw a jar of said pickles at the proclaimers head (not at the Proclaimers, they're lovely bespectacled geeky singers with guitars, I'm sure they wouldn't say such things).  We do know though and there's no doubt about this, my funny, my humour, my whimsical synapses, they're definitely returning and that's something to be celebrated and you know the best way to celebrate...

Slice of Victoria sponge anyone?


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why coming off Reboxetine didn't work for me

Today, I took a choice, I took the choice to be happy rather than being medication free, after 9 days the withdrawal was intolerable, every measure I have in my self-care checklist told me that I needed to do something to rescue myself from the place that I've slipped to over the last couple of days.

Okay you're thinking, 9 days wasn't exactly the biggest victory and really you are right, I could have given it a little longer but as I sobbed to Harriet on the phone at the end of an afternoon of crying for no other reason than the effects of withdrawal I just knew that it wasn't worth it anymore.

Right now, my heart is the saddest it's been in a long time but for no known reason and that's the worst part, over the last couple of days my moods have plummeted to the very depths of depression like they used to when I was on the worst downswing of bipolar and I'm sitting her now writing this with tears rolling down my cheeks because I feel in such despair.  The fact that I've gone from happy to this in such a short space of time is scary, really scary.

I have not given up,  going back to the half dose is half the dose I've taken for nearly 15 years and yes I may lose out on getting back some of my muchnesses but it is better to have my high functioning quality of life back than to go through any extremes of mood ever again.  How I feel now is too familiar to the long dark days of depression.

The article I released on Blue Monday was actually written last Friday when I was still doing amazingly, had I written it on Monday it wouldn't have said what I wanted and so I'm glad I was still in my happy place when I wrote it.

I took some meds about half an hour ago and so I know it is now just a matter of sitting and waiting, in a few hours the physical side effects from withdrawal should disappear without a whisper, it may take several days for my moods to get back to tip top and full on sparkly but hopefully by the time I go to London on the 28th I'll be back to my old new sparkly wonderful self.

I have to forgive myself for not succeeding, I wanted to do it so badly, I wanted to be the success story but really I'm more than a little cross that these things aren't spoken about when you go onto the medications in the first place, yes it makes you better but you also lose facets of your personality, no one told me that I wouldn't be able to laugh for 10 years, nothing like that was ever discussed and whilst I now might be on this half dose for the rest of my life I'm not even sure what I'm giving up to be this way, are there parts of my psyche that I'll never get back, it makes me sad and it makes me wonder.

I don't think anyone will judge me for taking the action that I have taken but if there are one or two naysayers out there I just want to say one thing, in the last 6 months on the half dose I have had the happiest life that I can ever remember, it can't be such a bad thing to want to remain in that state forever.

Update -

It's 10pm and within a couple of hours of taking the medication pretty much all of the medical withdrawal symptoms disappeared, the emotional ones will clear up within a couple of days because I do at least have the medication still in my system.  Harriet hugged me and took me out for dinner and I've spoken with friends and Mr F tonight, all who have reassured me that I haven't failed.  To not try something is to fail, to try something that doesn't work is just a learning curve and this has by far been one of the tougher lessons I've had to experience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Who Are You Mr France, The 11 Questions You want to know

Most of the day spent feeling sad and anxious made better by Skyping Mr France, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

It's Tuesday evening (only just) and I've just climbed into bed after what will forever be remembered as a bad day made better by Skyping Mr France, I love that Looby just came and plonked herself down for a while and chatted to him tonight, it's kind of weird but good weird if you know what I mean.
I'd been feeling horrendous due to the withdrawal from Reboxetine, I have every withdrawal symptom on the list and there was a point today when I was weeping over a Toblerone for some unknown reason, even tweets today have made me teary and add to that feeling jittery, anxious and having 17 million purple sparkly (I'd imagine) crawly things running all over your body whilst feeling like you're wearing invisible giant mittens and having electric shocks every 30 seconds and that's pretty much how Tuesday, at one point I'd even decided that I wasn't going to Skype Mr F tonight because he shouldn't have to deal with me but I also know he understands and really he did, we talked about some serious stuff tonight, not all of it was the most fun subjects but that is us, it's usually absurd to deadly serious back to absurd or laughing at each other or with each other. Anyway, I managed to gently prod (imagine a fully charged fluffy cattle prod) Mr F for his answers to our questions and without further ado, here's my interview with Mr France.

1. Lisa from Little Orange Dog asks are your friends all as crazy bonkers as you are?

Imaginary ones that talk to me or real life? I think that answers that. 

2. Tracy from Hooks and Dragons asks if you could host a dinner party for 5 people past and present, who would they be and why?

Four of them would be my comedy favourites.

1. Norman Wisdom. He's not only hilarious but a musical mastermind. 

2. Kenneth Williams. Deep, emotional and brilliantly funny. 

3. Ronnie Barker. Do I need to explain why for him?

4. Hattie Jacques. She was beautiful, funny and personally, could produce a look that would have perfect comic timing. 

5. My Mum. She always loved the above. She was my the person to introduce these old time comedians and prompted the things I find funny and built my humour the way it is. So I could share the funniest favourites with me. 

3. If you could visit any place in time and space which would it be and why?

I'd like to travel 100 years into the future and meet my descendants. 

4. What's your favourite version of you in the multiverse and why?

The one where I have perfect hair and it doesn't take me ages to sort it. It has a mind of its own! Imagine the free time I would have not faffing around with it. I could solve so many problems in that time. 

5. Harriet asks Are you an African Prince?

Ek kan nie vir jou sê, want ek die geheim Wet onderteken

6. What is your favourite song and why?

It's a split between 

Everyday by Buddy Holly. Just makes me happy.

Have you ever seen the rain by credence clearwater revival? It encompasses the hard days.

7. Name 5 things that make you happy

My children. 
Playing the piano

8. What is your philosophy in life?

"It's better to be a live dog than a dead lion"

9. If a genie granted you 3 wishes right now, what would they be?

To eat whatever I liked without gaining weight. 

To be taller....and before you say it...I'm short it will make a difference! 2 inches would be nice. I'm sure the ladies would agree that an extra 2 inches makes all the difference. 

To be able to transform into various animals

10. What makes you smile without fail?

One of those deep belly laughs that really reaches the soul of a child....especially my own. 

11. Abigail would like to know, if you could change one thing about the world what would it be?

The destruction of wildlife to create and use palm oil. The use of Palm oil is ridiculous. 

And the quickfire round where I asked Mr F not to think too much about the answers

crusts - on or off? On
Crocs - right/wrong? Wrong
Snacks - sweet/savoury? Seriously, it's food, I don't care
Bed - soft/firm? Soft
cats or dogs? Dogs
brains or beauty brains
Marvel or DC? choice
Romantic or cold hard Pragmatist? I'm somewhere in the middle. 64% romantic maybe
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Cake or Chocolate? It depends on both. I would choose cheesecake over an orange aero but would choose a dairy milk over a carrot cake

So there you have it, Mr France has spoken, I think he gave some great answers, we're having a tiny fight over Marvel vs DC but only because my favourite superhero is The Flash, we might also fight over cheesecake because I hate chocolate and orange as a flavour but I don't like Dairy Milk so I'll have the carrot cake instead, I am glad we have the same stance on Crocs though, that might have been a fail from the start.

A note to Mr F,

I want to say the biggest thank you for answering all of these questions, especially some of the more ludicrous ones, you've had lots going on and I really appreciate that you took time out to do it, I also want to say something else, something that I couldn't say to your face earlier, or at least I couldn't find the right words, you worry that when people find out who you really are that it will be disappointing and you worry that you are at some point going to disappoint me but we are a couple who met in a weird situation and have the weirdest early relationship I know of but there's nothing of you that I expect that would disappoint me, I read pages and pages and pages of your blog before we started Skyping, possible before we'd even done little more than chatted on Twitter, we have spoken for hours, we talk every day and I'll never expect you to be anything that you are not capable of giving, we laugh together, we discuss, life, the universe and everything in between and I'm sure we'll end up crying together and some days you'll shout and scream and so will I but what we have started with is a really honest trusting friendship where we can talk about anything and where we just get each other, my expectations are only the things that I already know and that is that we are going to have lovely adventures together so removing all of the other stuff, thank you for being a friend who I can trust, a friend who cares and a friend who made the end of my day far better than the start of it

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Keeping Your Dog Happy and Healthy

How to keep your dog happy and healthy, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Keeping your dog healthy and happy
There’s no relationship quite like the one you’ll have with your dog; loyal and loving to a fault, dogs are our best friend in times of crisis, our partner in crime during those lighter moments, and a constant presence in life regardless of what we’re going through. Though you may have chosen to adopt a dog under the pretence of getting more exercise, or because you wanted to feel safer, you’ll always end up with a best friend in training – and there’s no feeling quite like it.

How to keep your dog at its healthiest and happiest
As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your pet is fit, happy, and healthy, and provided with everything they need to enjoy life to the full. While all of that love, care, and attention is going to do your dog the world of good, it’s also likely benefit you, enriching your relationship with a dedication that’s shared wholeheartedly. Dogs have an amazing way of returning the love that they’re shown. Whether you’re considering getting a puppy, have already adopted your first rescue dog, or have been enjoying the company of a dog for years, here are some of the things that are expected of you.

Ensure that your dog’s medical needs are met
First and foremost, you need to ensure that your dog’s medical needs are met. It’s up to you to keep your puppy’s vaccinations up to date, regularly treat your dog for fleas and worms, and to seek medical advice immediately if your dog becomes unwell, or displays distressing symptoms. Yes, such care can be expensive – but that cost is your responsibility. You’re also going to need to establish a routine of oral care for your dog, whether that involves regular cleaning or the supply of dental health snacks. These days, it’s a great idea to insure your dog from the moment that you adopt them; this can really help out when bigger bills rear their ugly heads, and ensure that your pet is cared for no matter what comes their way. You’ll also need to get your dog micro-chipped, which is a procedure now required by law.

Feed your dog the right diet
The best way to keep your pet in great condition is to provide a healthy diet for your dog. Familiarise yourself with the kinds of food that definitely shouldn’t be given to a dog, such as dairy products, onions and garlic, tea, chocolate, grapes, raw eggs, and bones. It’s a common misconception that dogs eat bones, but this treat could actually cause more harm than good; bones are prone to breaking up, exposing sharp edges that could pierce your dog’s digestive system on their way down. Instead, stick to foods and treats that have been created especially for your dog’s breed, size, and age. It’s a good idea to research the brands that feature the most natural ingredients, using supplements that will promote healthy bones, muscles, and joints. The benefits of such a diet should never be underestimated. You must always provide a steady supply of water. 

Go For Walks
Your dog is going to need a lot of exercise, including at least one walk a day. While it’s certainly true that some breeds require longer walks than others, getting outside into the fresh air is one of the best ways to bond with your dog – and to improve your mood. The daily walk can also be a great way to socialise your pet, bringing them face to face with dogs of other breeds and ages in order to make friends. You may even make a friend or two yourself. Depending upon your dog’s breed and age, it’s recommended that you aim for at least two 15 minutes walks a day, though you may prefer to enjoy a longer walk all at once. If possible, give your dog access to an outside space so that they can stretch their legs at intervals during the day, and provide chew toys, treat-dispensing toys, balls, and comforting soft toys that your dog can enjoy with you, and when you are out.

Master the tummy rub and grooming
More than anything, it’s important to be there for your dog. Dogs are the most sociable pet you can imagine, and will crave your attention, approval, and love. Perfect the art of the tummy rub, spend hours grooming your dog’s fur, and curl up together once the walk is over; the healthiest dogs are those that have that unbreakable bond with their owner, so do all you can to nurture it. If you’re likely to be out all day at work, consider meeting your dog’s needs in other ways, such as hiring the services of a walker or sitter to provide company and exercise. Your dog will still look forward to the sound of the key turning in the door as you come home.

The best way to ensure your dog’s happiness and health is to ensure that you’re providing the basics of pet care, and then some. Your dog needs a warm place to sleep, plenty of exercise, the right diet and access to water, medical care, stimulation by way of toys and company, and grooming on a regular basis. More than that, though, your dog needs love, which will be returned to you in ways you could never imagine; there’s no relationship quite like it. 


Why I am protective of my Mum, a guest blog by Abigail aged 14.5

After last week's blog, I wasn't sure what to expect from my dear daughter this week, she's obviously a teenager with a lot to say and whilst she feels she doesn't have the time or energy to blog herself I'm quite happy to let her publish a weekly article.  I'm not going to lie, there was a sharp intake of breath when I read this one and I totally understand why she feels the way that she feels, I should also say that we talk about this stuff often and it's only going to be time, and time itself that is going to heal things and make them better, I know one day she's going to meet Mr France and I hope that when she sees he's not a fly by night that she'll learn to trust him but I appreciate how difficult it must be for her to see both her dad and me with new people in our lives, one thing we do agree on though is that it is right that we were apart.

Over to Abigail - 

"If you hadn't heard my mum is dating Mr France, Mr France won't have it easy getting my approval. My siblings and I are very protective of my mum, however, neither of them are as protective as me. 

In my lifetime I've seen my mum feel heart broken too many times. I swore to stop it happening as much as possible. Luckily my mum respects my opinion and if I don't like someone or feel that they are going to hurt her I will tell her to steer clear. I have done it before and will do it again. My mum is a hopeless romantic which is both her best and worst characteristic.

It's important to say however that thus far Mr France has been given my approval but my opinions change like the weather and are not permanent (remember that Mr France).  I have wholeheartedly accepted that my parents have split up for good, what I have not accepted yet is the fact that they have both moved on and found other people, other people that I will have to get to know".

For children with parents who split up it must be agony to watch the people who love you and care for you separate, to see people you thought loved each other not love each other anymore, I can imagine it's heartbreaking, especially if you are a teenager who's only just formulating their own identity and don't forget that it's families and the people around the kids who do give them their identity and shape their personalities in the formative years.

To Abigail...

I can tell you, I love and adore you Abigail and I know you had to go through so much hurt and heartbreak yourself to get to this place you are in, you and I we have great times together and a relationship where we can discuss anything and everything, you are brilliant beyond brilliant my darling girl, in getting to this point in my life I have had to forgive myself for the hurt you had when your dad and I parted and there is still much to do.  Please don't think that you, Looby and Iain aren't my entire life and I wouldn't let anyone into my life unless I thought they were the best kind of person, the kind I'd want to introduce you to one day, someone worthy of meeting my amazing children, the most amazing teenagers on the planet.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Blue Monday, Why I'll never apologise for being happy ever again...

It's Blue Monday, traditionally the most depressing day of the year and so all over the internet bloggers like me are writing about it in various articles and a lot of them relate to mental health awareness which in my opinion can only mean good things.

Whilst January itself is the dark, bare and sometimes bland month after the sparkly, glittery month of December and I'll be the first to admit that it's usually the month where I want to hide under my quilt and hide from the world but this year is different for a few factors.

Firstly I only shot 184 portrait sessions in the whole of 2016, this means I wasn't completely exhausted by the time I got to Christmas and this usually stretches right through January.  Secondly, I have given up alcohol due to being intolerant and while I had a bit of a sad face, I hated hangovers and was pretty much a lightweight anyway, My doctor did say that I would probably get away with having a couple of glasses of wine a month due to the way the lack of enzyme works so it's not all bad!  Thirdly, a huge contributing factor is that I'm just altogether happier, I feel like I've got my shit together, I'm such a lucky person, I have a job that I love, amazing teenagers, I have friends I adore and I, of course, I have my Mr France who makes me smile every day.

My motivation to blog has never been higher, it takes me next to no time to write what I think are pretty good articles every day, now that I have my writing style I find it easy to sit down for an hour just about every day.  I guess the best thing about my blog is that it's a diary of my life, some people tell me it's like Sex in the City (it's not quite that fruity, I'm sure) and some people tell me it's like Bridget Jones diary but it's not quite so sweary as her life although we are the same age you know!

It's testament to the happiness and positive influences in my life that I have reduced my bipolar medication again and I've done it in January, I was going to wait until spring but I feel I'm coping with life so well and my doctors agree so why not do it in January, the leap from 8mg of Reboxetine to 4mg wasn't actually that painful although it was completely life changing, so far the leap from 4mg to 2mg is pretty much just physical withdrawal, I feel a bit fluffy and have headaches, my sleeping is also a little out of sync but I know in a couple of weeks I'll see the changes there too.

I think just like any day of the year can potentially be the best day of your life, every day also has the ability to become the darkest and depressing and please don't think I'm being glib with that statement but part of self-care is I believe setting your intention for the day,  you have to be kind to yourself and think, today I am going to have a good day, if you can't quite manage that then think about what you can do to break the days down into hours, and really, when I was super poorly with bipolar I would focus on the hours rather than the whole days, I would force myself to get dressed or to go in the bath and then I would reward myself for achieving the small tasks I'd managed, please don't ever think I know how it is to be trapped in the dark abyss of depression, the kind of depression which makes you question if anything is worth it anymore, the kind of depression which makes you wander to the side of a busy road thinking how easy it would be to just walk out, get hit and escape the quagmire of depression forever.  That was life, 15 years ago nothing I was then is the person I am now other than the fact that I am a fighter, I am a survivor and in the end I chose life over death, maybe through stubbornness more than anything else but in the end it was my children who got me through the darkest days, their laughs, their smiles, their hilarious behaviours, some things never change in that respect.

So I hope you'll excuse me if I skip through this Blue Monday, I hope you won't mind that I have a spring in my step, I hope when people call me the bounciest person they know that you won't ever underestimate what I had to go through to get here.  I feel I have earned the right to be this brilliant, bouncy unbeatable woman I've become and so I will never apologise for my happiness, life isn't and will never be perfect but that doesn't mean that every day I live can't be perfectly wonderful.

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