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

Monday, September 28, 2020

Staying happy in an unhappy world

Iris rainbow, staying happy in an unhappy world, mandy charlton photography blog, photographer, blogger, newcastle upon tyne

It's hard staying happy in an unhappy world and the world we're in right now really isn't all that happy.  There are 94 days left of this year and I spoke about this on my Instagram over the weekend, it could be the saddest and most challenging 3 months of our lives, Coronavirus, climate change, Donald Trump, Boris and his conservative cronies, Brexit, my daughter being at Uni, only in Durham but not allowed to see me because she's in a new household, not seeing friends or even Looby nearly enough...

I could go on, it's just not a happy time but I don't think being unhappy is good for my psyche, it's bad enough that SAD is coming and this year due to hyperparathyroidism I can't take any vitamin D3, nor can I escape to a sunshiny place and let's not even start on the uncertainty of my photography business due to the restrictions.

Truly 2020 sucks and I cannot wait for 2021 but I have to stay happy, it's too easy a decline into bad mental health.

What is the answer?

What is the answer?  I'm not entirely sure but I know that in the last 3 months of the year good things do happen.  Let's start with the biggest thing to get excited about, Christmas!  Anyone who knows me or has followed me on social media anywhere in the last 15 years will know just how much I love Christmas, I am the Queen of Christmas and this year, I think we're going to have to go extra big on Christmas to deflect all of the collective sighs of the world.  

How to spend Christmas Day alone

At this point, it looks like I'm going to be totally alone on Christmas Day and I can't even have an open house, my support bubble all have their own families and the girls will be together with their paternal relatives, it feels like a tragedy but I'm thinking that TV will be wonderful, I can eat and drink what I want and to prepare for that I'm going to build myself a hamper of treats (like this one I just found at M&S) just for me with everything I love, maybe books, pamper stuff, chocolates, Gin (that's obvious), Champagne, maybe a new lovely throw to wrap myself in.  It's the best way I can think of to cope with the day and hopefully I will be able to see both of my daughters on Boxing Day when we'll pretend it's Christmas Day again.  Maybe we'll have the rule of 6 back by then and I'll be able to have friends over, I can hope...

Embrace Autumn

It's autumn in just a couple of weeks the full splendour of autumn will be present in all of our parks and woodlands, natures last show before it goes into it's long winter slumber and this year we need to embrace the outdoors as much as possible as it's when Coronavirus is at it's least powerful so think woodland walks, flasks of hot chocolate, toasting marshmallows, making smores, leaf kicking, wearing wooly jumpers in bright colours and more importantly just enjoying the family or friends we can actually be with, I had Sunday lunch with my support bubble yesterday and it was bliss, I'd been in semi-lockdown before shooting 3 weddings to make sure I was as healthy and risk free as possible so I hadn't seen them for 2 weeks, it felt like an age and it was just lush to be there, I think if we can appreciate the small things, we're giving our mental health the best chance to come out of this relatively unscathed.

The cosy season

The cosy season is the best season in my humble opinion, I live for twinkly lights and candles, surrounded by cosy throws and tartan blankets, even though I redecorated my home this year it's still all revolves around making your home a cosy nest to protect you from the world and now is the time to feel like you're enveloped in a safe nest.  You could (like me) try some new craft Gins or open a bottle of the good wine (never the cheap wine, wine should be savoured and drank slowly), grab some artisan nuts (stop, it, cheeky) and maybe some strong crumbly cheese or maybe a charcuterie board and pop on your favourite movie (Moulin Rouge until I die) or explore the latest box sets.  Read books, play board games, make conversation with those you're with (if you don't live alone like me, I just talk to the pets).  See this season as though you're in a bubble (many of us are) and embrace pumpkin spice everything.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts and oodles of Christmassy content over the next few months so do look out for my Christmas Gift Guide, my Foodies Gift Guide and my "12 Gins of Christmas" article.  Though I don't have all of the answers for staving off the loneliness or just getting through this awful time, hopefully having some ideas and putting our heads together, we can at least attempt to get through this supporting each other, checking in on each other and dare I say it (I hate it) Zoom Christmas parties are back on the schedule.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

What the hell is 2020?

Autumn strikes in inverness, What the hell is 2020? mandy charlton photography blog, photographer, writer, blogger

As surely as day becomes night, summer must also turn into autumn and I find myself asking "what the hell is 2020?"

Now I must firstly say that I'm currently sitting at my desk catching up on 9 days off whilst also throwing my arms in the air singing along to "Proud" and other wonderful music from my "Happy music for musical moments" Spotify playlist.  I'm happy when I'm at my desk in a way I don't think I ever was previously, there's a simple kind of joy in sending out parcels which bring delight to the recipients of what I like to call gifty goodness.  Who can even believe I'm sitting here in my home office where I have an online gift boutique?  Madness, that's what it is, that's what this whole year has been.

I've been genuinely distressed at several points of this year, I remember just after lockdown thinking I'd lost both of the businesses I had when we went into 2020 as well as being separated from my daughters for way longer than I wanted to be and that was even before I broke my arm!

Where are we now?

So, where are we now?  Well, my gift boutique certainly seems to be thriving, even in August, the 4am of retail it did pretty well by anyone's standards and I have high hopes for Q4.  I'm still not fully ready to talk about the future of my wedding and portrait photography business, it's currently just in a coma sleeping, paid work is still incredibly hard to come by and after losing between £20-30K this year, well let's just say I try not to think about it for fear I'll throw up.  I don't think there are any answers as yet, we're in a massive bloody recession, people still don't feel safe and there are so many restrictions around what I can actually do that I do question often if it's even worth it.  Dammit though, I do still love photography and I love my clients, I love telling stories through images (and words) and I still cry at most of the weddings I shoot because love is beautiful.

What Happens Next?

What happens next is anyone's guess really, I do know that the one thing I have fallen in love with again is writing about my life and more specifically about travel so when Abigail asked me if I wanted to go to Gdansk next Monday for a minibreak, first I questioned how I was old enough to have a daughter who wanted to take her mum on a minibreak, then I accepted with much gratitude, I've had a Polish guidebook on my bookshelf for at least 2 years, I literally can't wait to go to Poland, to soak up the culture and to spend time with my daughter before she goes off to Uni in a few weeks.  I will, of course, take many photos and write a few words to go with each on both here and on Instagram and you can bet that my soul will be full and happy and nourished because travel fills my cup until it runs over and soaks everyone else it touches with love and enthusiasm.

The best adventures are yet to come...

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 to 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!


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Scotland By Rail Part 5 - The Best of the Highlands

Packhorse bridge, Carr Bridge, Highlands of Scotland, Scotland by Rail part 5, the best of the highlands

As the sun rises 9 days after I departed from home, I'm sitting on the train at Inverness having seen the best of the highlands and waiting to be spirited back to Newcastle.  Last night as I watched the sun setting over Inverness, I cried, happiness that it has been such an amazing trip and sadness that it was over.  Coming to the north of Scotland for 9 days is the longest trip I've taken since a trip to Gran Canaria for 2 weeks in 2013.

Long trips are always worth it!

Long trips are always worth it!  When you get to a destination it takes you time to acclimatise, time to feel settled but by the end, you almost feel like a local, you have sussed the best trips to take, you know where the best restaurants are and you know your way around, the little shortcuts, the best photo spots that maybe someone who's only there for a couple of days hasn't figured out yet.

It's not always possible for me to take such a long time away from my desk but you can be sure I want to do it as often as I can in the future.  There are so many places I want to visit and I'm finally getting to the point of having a life which is flexible enough to do that.  It's weird, I guess that it's taken a pandemic and change of career to enable that to happen.

Loch An Eilein, Rothiemurchus Estate, Highlands, scotland by rail part 5, the best of the highlands, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Highlights of the Highlands

I'm not sure where to start with my highlights of the highlands, I could write endlessly about some of the things that I've done, but, dear reader, I know your time is precious so I'll try to be succinct and just round up a few of my favourite highlights - 

They're just a few of the things I really loved about this trip to Scotland by rail.  I never did make it to Wick, the public transport situation just made it too awkward by the time I'd been to Thurso, John o Groats and the stacks at Duncansby and Ullapool, I've wanted to visit Ullapool for years and still never made it so at least I know I have things to come back for and really, I'd love to do the whole of the Northcoast 500, either with a friend in a campervan or on an organised trip or tour.

There's also the west coast of Scotland which I've not done a lot of, I've extensively toured the Southwest coast of Dumfries and Galloway and I've done Ayr, I've even been to Ben Nevis and Fort William although it was so many years ago (Looby was about 6 months old) that I really can't remember a lot of it.

I wonder if there's such a thing as the ultimate tour of Scotland where you see the best of the whole of Scotland, I'd love to do that as well but finding a friend who can take long enough off work and planning an epic long trip around the whole of Scotland is going to take some doing, for a start they'd have to deal with me for however long it takes, nominate yourself if you fancy it.

native scottish woodland, highlands, scotland by rail part 5, the best of the highlands, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger

What is the best tour of Scotland?

"What is the best tour of Scotland?" I hear you ask, well, for me I'd have to say that my favourite trip I took was the ultimate tour of the Isle of Skye with Wow Scotland but I did also love the trip to Glen Affric and the visit to the Cairngorms with Rabbies, they were all completely different in their makeup, The Ultimate Isle of Sky tour is a full-on 12 hour day but it's also the most photographically perfect day ending as the light softens so you get that perfect view of Eilean Donan Castle from the Kyle of Lochalsh.  Yesterday's tour of the Cairngorms with Willie from Rabbies was like going out with your dad in the 80's when on a Sunday afternoon he'd ask "Do you fancy a run in the car?"  Willie seemed to set his own schedule so be warned, it's quite possibly never the same trip twice.  

How much do tours of Scotland cost?

Tours of Scotland vary in cost depending on how long they are and where they depart, I found them to be really reasonable and you should expect to pay around £30-£40 for a one day tour of the areas surrounding Inverness or between £70-£90 for a one day tour to the Isle of Skye which is a much longer day and also much further away as you have to cross the Highlands from east to west.

Should I visit the Highlands

So, as I make my long journey home and if you're asking yourself "Should I visit the Highlands?" it would be a resounding yes from me,  it's actually around the 4th time I've been to the highlands although my first time making it to Thurso.  I would not hesitate in coming back, doing more trips and tours and just taking time to really soak in the atmosphere of this wonderful region.  Inverness may have a population of less than 100,000 (the exact number varied depending on which tour guide told me, from 50,000 to 100,000) but it definitely packs a punch.  Scotland will fill your heart with joy and no matter how long you stay there for, it will never seem like long enough.

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 to 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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