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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

How I'm learning to be myself again.

Sunset skies over heaton by Mandy Charlton, how I'm learning to be myself, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger

So here we are, just about to close the book on the old year, near enough to touch the new one, just one day until we get a brand new chance to start again, a blank page without mistakes, without regrets, we get to start 2018 clean and new.

I happened to read my blog post from this time last year and it was so full of hope and promise, I thought that I had cracked it, I'd figured it out, I'd moved on. It's easy to go back and see with hindsight that I was heading for a crash, my bipolar high had lasted for several months, some of it was good, it helped me work, it provided me with the tools I needed to constantly create and it helped me to live in a fairy tale rose-tinted glow where everyone lives happily ever after.

After the crash, I stopped pretending to be the person I thought everyone wanted me to be and I learned just to be myself.  I learned that people loved me more for that and those that didn't fell by the wayside. That was okay too because if you don't like someone, it's very much your problem, not theirs, they are merely being the person they are meant to be, but of course, this doesn't extend to people who are just plain bad, that's not your problem, it's most definitely theirs.

So this year, I'm ending the year pretty sanely even by my own standards, I'm scarily well balanced and today I bought new kitchen knives, last year I would have bought a rocket to the moon, Christmas was a calm and relaxed affair instead of one long massive overspend. We're hours from January and I'm not worried about a quiet business month if it happens, I am stable and clear-headed, my meds along with vitamin D, Magnesium and a lightbox are working in synergy.  The only sadness is that my creativity is slightly dulled, the price you pay for sanity I guess.

Each year I choose a focus word, last year it was joy and you know what, I did receive joy and I gave joy, all of the magnificent voyages I took with my children and friends are a testament to that.  2018 though, I want to focus on something deeper, my focus word for 2018 is balance. I just want to find that natural balance in life, in as much as I love being a hermit, I should probably try to get out a little more and that's why I am going out tonight despite many days of protesting with my own thoughts, if I don't ever go out, well life in some parts will pass me by.  Now I'm not about to become Newcastle's next over forties party girl but I guess I'd like to go out to dinner every once in a while and I mean good dinners in lovely places where you get to wear sparkly dresses, don't worry though, I'm not going to dive back into dating, I'm happy as I am, my heart was lost long ago to one man and that's the way it will always be.  Being single though, it comes with such freedom, not having to make compromises and getting the whole bed to myself (well minus the beagle and cat space) I never have to worry about the fact that I don't sleep so well or that I toss and turn for hours each night, I can unapologetically be a bad sleeper.  I know I don't need anyone but myself and I know that I have wonderful friends I can go to dinner with if I want to, I can have as many adventures as I desire without ever feeling the need to be with anyone but myself.

So, 2018, I don't quite know what you have got in store for me and I'm always hopeful that you'll bring good things, in my heart I would love the chance to have someone who really loved me again because let's not pretend that love isn't a magical wonderful thing which makes you feel complete but for now, I'm content and i'm ready, 2018, I'm coming to get you

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017 - Weird But Lovely!

We're currently in that period where we're all a little confused, full with cheese and no one really knows what the date or time is, if we feel hungry we simply reach for the nearest box of Maltesers or we top ourselves up with another glass of Bailey's and a cheeseboard, welcome to Twixtmas everyone!

I said in the title that this Christmas was weird but lovely and really, that is the perfect description for you see, we just did everything in a completely different way to previous years although the basic structure of the days still remained.  On Christmas Eve for the first time ever I had no girls, Abigail was with dad and Looby was riding so Holly and I went up to Harriets, we went to the pub for lunch and then Harriet and I went as usual to the crib service at our local parish church, St Gabriels in Heaton, in fact I think perhaps, that was the only normal thing I've really done.

When I got home Looby was back excitedly rummaging through her Christmas Eve box to find pyjamas, bubble bath, a book which she proceeded to read and finish before she went to bed and some teeny tiny nano blocks from which she built a snowman.  She trotted off to bed at ten-ish and Iain came downstairs to remove the rest of his gifts from under the tree at around 11.15pm, he'd already had most of them on account of the fact that he doesn't do Christmas, at, all!  After 21 years of being the mum of an Aspie I've learned not to worry about it.

Christmas morning was a calm affair, just Looby and I wading through the presents under the tree, Harriet came to help open hers and then we got dressed and decamped to her house to await her parents arrival from Yorkshire, Lunch out was a noisy affair but the food was good, Holly Bobbins behaved impeccably in her favourite local pub the Northumberland Hussar and the atmosphere was one of a bustling Christmas, all served up with a liberal handful of delicious Christmas fayre, it's the first time I've ever eaten out at Christmas and yes, it was weird to not cook on Christmas Eve or the big day itself but I kind of enjoyed it and I did get to cook an autistic Christmas lunch for Iain when I got home, if you are curious about that he had a Waitrose chicken roast, mashed potato, carrots, gravy and Yorkshire pudding, he had the same again on Boxing Day when I cooked a Veggie Christmas dinner for Abigail whilst Harriet and I had aged sirloin, Looby of course by that time was at dads, my girls never actually saw each other until the evening of Boxing Day and I think perhaps this was why, when I asked Looby if she'd had the best Christmas she said "It was lovely but the presents weren't all the way to the middle of the room and we weren't together as a family'. It's true that Christmas has been a quieter, smaller affair than ever before and I do wish that I could give her exactly the Christmases of the past which she loved, I said I would try and work on it for next year but I can't promise.  It's really been the theme of this year that all she's wanted is to be a family again and I totally get it, I wish it too in my heart and I think the perfect Christmas now for me would be the one she wants, with her dad, and Abigail and then I'd love to add in Harriet and her parents because they're also my family and I think all together we could have the most amazing time, well if the Gods allowed it and the planets aligned.  It may of course never happen again though, so much has happened, so much time has passed and many waters have flowed under the bridges of our lives, I do think it's poignant and telling though that here I am, sitting here, still single with the love in my heart still only for one man.

I don't want this post to come across and maudlin or depressing, on the contrary, Christmas has been lovely and my best gift, a portrait of Holly from all of the Randalls, made my day, well it made me sob but that's because it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and no matter what happens, it means that Holly Bobbins will be with me always.

I hope you all had the best Christmas ever, it's true not every year can be just that, if it was, then we wouldn't really appreciate the special ones, the ones which only happen once or twice like magical pieces of time we hold in our hearts so we can remember and smile.  Maybe next Christmas, it's something to work towards because each year, we get a chance to start all over again, everything passed is forgotten now, there's only the future ahead and we owe it to ourselves to make it as perfect as possible because soon, this too will pass.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Things I've learnt in Therapy

Things I've learnt in Therapy, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Christmas, therapy, health, wellness

Happy Christmas Adam Everyone! For anyone who doesn't know, Adam of course, came before Eve and therefore, the 23rd of December is known as Christmas Adam, I'm sure it's not just me that calls it that?!

So, I've just played "find a hole in the fridge for the carrots" (not a euphemism) after being rudely awoken by my fabulous veg man, our fridge is packed so tightly it's a game of skill to find space for even a sprout right now but we are ready for Christmas, hurray!

I just have a couple of presents to wrap which I picked up on a festive saunter through the Metrocentre yesterday with Harriet and Abigail, it was lovely, we went for Yo Sushi and then we wandered around the shops, all around us men (really, yes, mostly men) were running around like headless chickens with their faces contorted with worry searching for the best Pandora charm, or even worse, in the Primark lingerie department which has been recently replenished with the cheapest red underwear I've ever seen!

There's a point I need to make to the menfolk, I know I don't exactly have one but if I was going to be bought lingerie, I along with most of the female population would agree, it's either La Perla or go choose another gift, never ever buy us cheap undersized red lace underwear and especially not from Primark!

I have to admit that I've never really fully understood the male psyche and that is of course why I'm perpetually single but surely they know when Christmas is coming, it can't be a complete surprise that the 25th of December is some kind of special holiday, surely the arrival of the Christmas tree is a big enough hint?  Suffice to say, I'm sorry but I can't really give you any sympathy when you're queuing to get into the Pandora store for 2 hours today although at least with Pandora she's not going to get an uncomfortable crotch just to try and please you.

Now I don't want to bash men because some of them are kind and thoughtful, some of them spend hours agonising over the right presents, many years ago when I was happily married to the girls dad, I was pregnant with Abigail and so a lot of the normal presents were not going to work, I awoke on Christmas morning to find an enormous hamper full of presents, each one individually wrapped, they weren't expensive things, some were just little bubble baths but the fact that he'd gone to the trouble of wrapping up about 50 small things, plus the most gorgeous silver bracelet which was around a cuddly Bagpuss's neck meant everything to me, he actually bought me several bracelets in the time we were together and really, you can't go wrong with a beautiful bracelet.

Anyway, I kind of got distracted there but there's a point in there about thoughtful gifts, to me, the best gifts can't be given in small packages, it took me a long time to realise that, the best gifts for me, well they're experiences, they're time you can't get back, they are the memories you'll dream of in the many years of the life that we live.  I guess that's why I've travelled so much this year because, no matter how trying life can sometimes be I can always look back at the amazing memories I've created with the people I love and then I can smile and appreciate how wonderful and precious life is.

This Christmas won't be about presents for me, it will be about the friends who visit, it will be about the people who have stayed by my side through thick and thin, as my therapist is helping me to understand, it's not worth worrying about the things you can't change and really, you can't change the thoughts of another person, sure there will be those you lose along the way side but if they won't talk to you, what is the point of imagined conversations inside your own head, I'm learning through therapy to put aside the things I can't change, my therapist said more than anything, she wants to give me back my self worth, something that I've lost over many years, I don't think that's something which is going to happen in 8 sessions but I can already see the changes taking place, it's having a profound effect on the anxiety which troubles me so greatly from time to time.  The funny thing is, since finishing work on Tuesday afternoon, mostly all my anxiety has subsided, I haven't really done a lot but I've enjoyed the feeling of just being happy and relaxed.

Today, it's Saturday, the first Saturday I've not had to worry about work in a very long time, I'm going to applaud that and who cares if I stay in my pyjamas all day, you've got to love the life you have, you have to grab it by the horns and be happy that you are living in the way you want to because it's your life, you are unique and no matter what happens, no one ever can take that away from you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

I yearn for Christmas Past

So it's been a week and I've not blogged, I think the possibility is that, it's just been quiet apart from my major anxiety meltdown when I found out that I had to go to court as a witness for the prosecution in March over the weird guy who threatened me after me seeing him chasing a man down the street with a knife.

Anyway it's my 4th CBT today and the last before Christmas and I'm not noticing any difference to my anxiety levels yet, surely if I'm halfway through I should be noticing some changes, I honestly don't believe that 8 sessions will be enough, I had a year of psychotherapy!

So, this week is all about finishing up for Christmas, I have 2 more photo shoots tomorrow and then just the editing to go and then I'm done until January 8th which is the longest break I've ever taken.  The £100 all inclusive voucher offer ends at midnight on the 22nd and I'm doing a Facebook Live on the 23rd to announce the winner of the £250 upgrade, or at least I will be if I sell at least 10 so that it's a fair contest.  I'm hoping as people get paid this week that they'll consider purchasing one to use in 2018.  
Last Christmas playing boardgames in the kitchen, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, I Yearn for Christmas past

I stupidly lost my bankcard yesterday, no idea how I did it but between home and the post office it somehow went astray so now I have to rely on Iain and Harriet to give me cash and me transfer the money until the new one turns up, if it's not here by Thursday Iain is on standby to pay for the Christmas grocery shop, thats one delivery you definitely don't want to have cancelled at the last minute or we'll be eating a freezer full of odd contents, chicken breasts with smiley faces for Christmas dinner anyone?  Actually, Iain would probably love that!

I was thinking about 2017 and the fact that I never really expected to be ending another year as a single lady, I really thought after all this time that someone would have found me by now, I'm mean it's basically unsurprising, I'm a middle aged bipolar woman with 3 children, not exactly what you would call a catch.  I do hope though that although I'm happy on my own for now that I won't have to spend the rest of my life alone, I mean 50 years or so, it's a bloody long time, argh, what I wouldn't give to turn the clock back about 10 years, Christmas 2007 I remember being one of the happiest, I loved being a proper family at Christmas, I'd literally sell my soul to have it back.

This blog was not meant to get all maudlin so perhaps it's time to sign off, perhaps that's the reason I've not blogged this week very much, I think I need to go and get a hold of myself, give myself a good talking too.

I wish you could craft your very own life, I would be married with happy teenagers having the friends I have now, it would be like the greatest cake you ever tasted.  Meh!  I'm sure it's just a stage and by midweek I'll be a bouncy, happy, cheery bunny by the middle of the week, Christmas of course fires up all of the emotions and no one can be super happy 100% of the time so maybe this is my hour of mourning the loss of Christmas past and by lunchtime all will be well again, maybe I should cook some party food because that always makes me feel better!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Educating Looby, 3 months in...

Looby building a gingerbread house from the Biscuiteers as part of her home education, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Christmas days are magical days, especially when it snows prior to the big day, it really makes me feel so much more festive, I think watching the snow fall when you are cosy and warm and everywhere is twinkly and bright, it's my nirvana, couple that with cuddles from Holly Bobbins and a big cup of hot chocolate topped with squirty cream and marshmallows and it's the nearest thing I think I'll get to absolute perfection.

This year has been my favourite countdown to Christmas for as long as I can remember because Looby has been here and we've really been able to embrace the whole countdown from decorating our house together which took many days to building (or trying to build) an epic Gingerbread house from our friends at Biscuiteers.

Let me just say now that Looby and I shall not be entering into any professional competitions anytime soon, it took 3 people to secure the sides of the house so that the walls didn't fall in whilst the roof had to be held on for 5 minutes.  Some people are ace builders of Gingerbread houses, I can say now, I am not one of them but we did end up with lots of tasty sugary icing dowsed gingerbread and the house is actually standing this morning so I think we've achieved our goal.

Just as we were erecting our gingerbread structure another heavy snow shower happened, now I should just say that the rest of the country have had snow days for the last couple of days whilst we in Newcastle have had approximately 2 heavy showers so I was a little shocked when I saw Looby and her friend wheeling 2 major parts of a snowman up our path and we have a chubby short snowman now sitting outside of our door.

So that's been this weeks quotient of art covered and Looby is also working on a horse related project about stabling and looking after a horse which her dad set her and as I write this she's doing 2 hours of science with her tutor after a morning of maths with her tutor, she's exactly where she needs to be with her educational level and the best thing for me to see is just how keen she is to learn just because no one is telling her that she has to.  I think the best and biggest difference about home ed to traditional education is that we are constantly learning, "school" never stops, she'll be writing a blog post at 10 in the evening or we'll be off doing grocery shopping in the mornings where she'll have a shopping list or where she'll work out what we need to purchase for recipes and then we cook together though I must admit, she's not the biggest fan of cooking or of cookery programmes but I feel she'll have enough skills to look after herself when she eventually does leave home one day.

Home education isn't a cheap fix, it requires time, patience and the financial ability to be able to pay for tutors and activities but it's 100% worth it to see how happy she is.  There are some days where I want to teach her things which she doesn't want to know or she just isn't interested in and that can be frustrating but we spend very little time arguing and I have nothing but appreciation for the time we get to spend with each other.

In January we're meeting with the representative from the local education authority and hopefully they're going to give us their blessing that we are doing exactly the things we need to do but you know what?  I have no doubt that it will all be fine because what I have now, is a confident unicorn who is bright and shiny and happier than she ever was, with home education, Looby really has come into her own.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The week of minimal spending

The week of minimal spending because Christmas is such an expensive time, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Last week is always going to be a memorable one, I finished my Christmas shopping, I threw the Christmas Party of the year (well in my book anyway, it was the only Christmas party to which I was invited and that was only because I threw it), and I didn't work outdoors at all because of the weather.  Wait, me, have a whole weekend off so close to Christmas?

It's true, I'd already booked Saturday into my calendar as a day off and on Friday I took the wise move to reschedule Sunday's clients because of the cold, it's rare I reschedule due to cold but I have Reynauds and 95% of my clients are under the age of 5, for me, being out in -5 temperatures for 4 hours could actually induce hypothermia and for my small clients, well it's just not fun and it can actually be painful for even an hour.  I love what I do but it's definitely not worth dying for.

So this week after the flamboyant week that was last week and the no working, well this week has to be the week of minimal spending.

I have a veg box due tomorrow, I have a pretty full fridge and freezer and I'm not planning on going out for anything other than therapy, dog walking and tomorrow I have a newborn photo shoot (indoors).  Next weekend, well I think it may warm up a little, I'm due to be outdoors for 5 hours on Saturday and 4 on Sunday, usually, I'm used to January being super cold so I only go out for a maximum of 2 hours at a time.  I'll be watching the weather keenly this week because I don't want to disappoint families so very close to Christmas and I also really need to work, I only have Saturday, Sunday and next Tuesday outdoors doing photography before I break up for the Christmas holidays, yet another reason why I really am having a week of minimal spending.

On the top of my to-do list, make a gingerbread house and when Looby surfaces from her Monday sleep in (she always gets up late on Mondays after doing a full day at the stables on Sundays) that is our task of the day, we were kindly gifted one by my favourites, the Biscuiteers and I'm excited to try and make the best gingerbread house ever!  I've also got the ingredients to make some gingerbread and I want to make fudge this week too although my minimal spend might have to stretch to the fudge ingredients it won't be too much.

Next week is really the big countdown to the most magical day of the year, for me, I'll be honest, it's Christmas Eve, so full of magic and expectation, even now in my forties I believe that anything could happen on Christmas Eve, it's such a special day and I always make the time to go to my local parish church for the crib service, it's the nearest thing to a Nativity play I get to experience now my own children are older and I love that hour to reflect and sing Christmas carols as loud as my lungs will let me.  I usually cook a Christmas dinner for friends afterwards but I'm still not sure what I'm doing this year, maybe it's more fun to not quite know what to expect.

The enormous Christmas shop will surely happen next week too, I have booked my Waitrose slot for the 21st and I need to pop into Aldi and Iceland so minimal spend this week will be followed by stocking up the winter store cupboard and I for one am determined to let the Christmas bubble last for as long as possible, I don't want to engage in real life, I want to relax during Twixtmas, I want to take long baths and catch up on reading books and watching trashy movies, there's no need to rush back into the outside world I feel and this year, I might just have a big enough fridge-freezer to achieve that and on that note, I'll stop writing before this becomes a blog about kitchen appliances *shudders*

Thursday, December 07, 2017

2017, a year in review

December is that time of year when we look back and reflect on all that's gone before and as I've been lying awake in the wee small hours (sleep and bipolar during December are always a challenge but one I've grown to accept and deal with) I've been thinking about all of the wonderful things that have happened this year.  

This glorious year, full of travel and friendship, a year when I've shot over 350 portrait sessions and around 15 weddings, a year when at times, it's been a challenge just to go on but thanks to a little stubbornness and my steely resolve I've not only managed but in most cases I've beaten all of the challenges I've faced, and I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's required friends to help me through the difficult times but a life with good friends is a life worth living.  Possibly one of the most trying things and something I'm still dealing with was the exit of 2 friends of more than 10 years, in the blink of an eye they cut out not only me but also Harriet from their lives completely, no explanation or argument or discussion or reasoning, we were all of a sudden just dead to them, I still don't understand but thankfully in therapy I'm working on it.

I don't want to dwell on the negative though as it's only one small part of what was otherwise my favourite year.

In 2017 I've visited Madrid,  Palma de Mallorca, Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Ventimiglia, Soller, the southwest coast of Scotland, Northumberland, Bluestone in Wales, and my favourite, Antibes, take me back to Antibes tomorrow, a jewel in the crown of the Cote d'Azur, so much sunshine and easy living.  Most of my overseas adventures were with Abigail this year with the exception of Madrid to where I flew with Harriet, my best friend, and soul-sister, with Harriet and her family I have found family and that's' something I'll be forever grateful for.

2017 will forever be the year I decided with Looby that we would home educate and what an adventure that's been, we've flown by the seat of our pants, and every day is different, some of our learning is so relaxed it's actually happening by osmosis but I don't regret it for a single moment, even on the hard days when I'm faced with a teen who refuses to speak and will only grunt in the way that monosyllabic teens do.

Work this year has been crazy and there were times when it completely enveloped and overwhelmed me but I continue to thrive in business and as we go into 2018 I want to keep building on that, I launched Photography for Life a couple of weeks ago and as yet, people are still scared of this brand new shiny way to look at the way we do photography, by this time next year I will have at least 100 subscribers, It's going to take a lot of hard work but to that I am not adverse.

Christmas this year is a marvellous thing, I've finally got our whole house looking magical, even the bathroom has festive rubber ducks and we must have at least 20 different sets of lights in our rooms.  I also think from a health point of view that 2017 will be remembered as the year I finally conquered Seasonally Affective Disorder, I'm taking 10,000iu of Vitamin D a week, 2 magnesium tablets a day and when I get up in the mornings I spend a couple of hours sitting in front of my SAD lamp, in the last couple of weeks I've seen my energy levels soar and I've accomplished so much, I actually feel like a new woman and along with the CBT therapy I'm having for anxiety and to deal with old wounds I think I might be a whole new woman in 2018.

In 2017, I went on 1 date, had no relationships and I think it might be a sign from the universe that I am pretty undateable but I don't think I mind anymore, I am happy to be single, I am happy not to have to make the compromises that relationships take.  It is of course because I only go out if it's for work or home ed things so my own fault because I'm not putting myself out there but one of my things I'm learning to deal with in therapy is the fact that I am terrified of men, once I've had CBT to retrain my brain I may feel differently, I may want to try dating again and if I do, I'll know it won't make me crazy.  I've also come to terms with the fact that I judge every man against Paul and whilst that happens there's no chance I'm ever likely to meet anyone, I thought I would stop loving him one day but I've dealt with the fact that no, I'll love him to my dying day and again, that's why it's best that I remain single and that's not a bad thing, at least I've had movie love, all-encompassing and at times  fullfilling to my very soul, some people aren't lucky enough to find that at all so I'm glad I did, even if it wasn't forever.

Looking ahead I've no idea what 2018 is going to give me, I know I'm going to Norway in the summer on a cruise when Abigail finishes her GCSE's and I'm sure there'll be an adventure or two with Looby as we continue our home ed journey and I think Harriet and I cherish best friends holiday every year to somewhere we've never both explored.  

It's my Christmas party tomorrow and I only have 4 days outdoors photographing small people and their families before a couple of weeks off, I've just about met my writing commitments for the year and so we are really relaxing now and doing fun things, baking, festooning, partying, reflecting and celebrating.

2017, you were a good year, a great year, 2018, I am coming to you get you.
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