Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Some thoughts on my 47th year, my personal history of Coronavirus

Mandy Charlton, some thoughts on my 47th year, my personal history of coronavirus

When I was 16 I felt 35, I've always felt 35 and now I'm coming to the end of my 47th year on this earth and I still feel 35, I wonder if I will always feel 35, even when I am 65?  The truth is, my 47th year is one that on the face of it, I'd rather forget and this is my personal history of Coronavirus and how it affected me.

This time last year, I threw a party for my friends, you know I usually have an annual Christmas party, well last year for some reason I decided to also throw myself a birthday party.  I love parties where I can feed people, give them drinks, where we can all be together dancing in the kitchen.  We even went to Rise, it was, I think my first time in a nightclub for years.  We had the best night, 15 people in my kitchen all singing "Let It Go" at the top of our voices.  It's strange that it seems like a lifetime ago right now.  yes, Covid was a thing but we were only just hearing about it on the news, and actually, on the 31st of January the first 2 cases were recorded in the UK, people travelling to York who would later be taken to the RVI in Newcastle.  It was still another 7 weeks before lockdown would begin on the 23rd of March.  


I've become a bit of a hermit in the last few years, I have a small circle of friends who I adore and I work really hard, travel as often as possible and it doesn't leave a lot of time for anything else, although I've had occasional pangs of loneliness I'd only really decided last year that I might start to look for someone to share my life with, I'd even started going to the pub more regularly and would occasionally spot someone I liked over the bar.  By the end of February, I was back to shooting weddings, Stacey and I shot our first  small wedding of the year up at the South Causey Inn, it was horrible weather, freezing cold, rainy and we didn't get outside to do portraits but it was a beautiful wedding, the buffet was immense and 50 or so people on the dance floor throwing shapes not suspecting what was just around the corner although, that was late February and there had been some talk of social distancing.  We really didn't quite understand what that would involve and Boris was still shaking hands with coronavirus patients claiming we'd all be fine.

March happened and I shot a few pre-wedding shoots for my upcoming 2020 weddings, we had just started sort of social distancing and I remember saying to clients on the 7/8th March how sad I was that I couldn't hug them, March 8 turned out to be the last time I shot a portrait session until July 24th, partly because of the lockdown but then, of course, I broke my arm.  At a time when we were supposed to not use the NHS, I managed to break my right radius bone completely in half and had to have a plate fitted.  Badly timed too because at the same time I'd decided to start my own gift boutique, Philomena's Boutique, yes, that was me bouncing back with the help of a government loan.  My plan was to invest what I made from photography now that the country was starting to open up again and my little boutique would grow and thrive into something wonderful whilst making people happy with lovely gifts and things for their homes.

I'm pleased to say that Philomena's Boutique has thrived and I reached order number 1000 just before Christmas thanks to the love and support of an entire community, it's not been easy but I've found the joy in the most wonderful of small businesses.  Photography did sort of restart in September and in total, I shot 5 weddings and 50 portrait sessions, in a normal year I'd shoot over 300 portrait sessions and 20-25 weddings. I rescheduled something like 23 weddings in total last year and you know, when that happens, your life falls apart a bit, weddings have always been the constant in my life for the last 14 years, the only things to never get rescheduled and only in exceptional circumstances cancelled.  I thought it would be okay but now as we get to 4th and 5th times for rescheduling I am starting to lose hope of ever being financially stable again.

I worked so very hard to become financially independent, it cost me so much emotionally, to be in the mess I'm in now, well it's heartbreaking really.

In July August and September, I also managed to travel, assuming that things we're never going to get bad again, I spent some time in the Lake District emotionally healing myself and I spent nearly 2 weeks travelling the Scottish Highlands visiting places I'd always wanted to go and completing life long ambitions.  When Abigail told me that she was taking me to Gdansk in September before she went to Uni, it was the highlight of my year, we flew without issue feeling safe and noted that Poland really did seem to be recovering more quickly than the UK.  I couldn't imagine another lockdown happening ever again.

Some thoughts on my 47th year, a personal history of Coronavirus by Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer blogger


Thoughts on my 47th year, a personal history of coronavirus, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

In September and October I shot portraits, I did a rescue weekend in October to try to make it to the end of the year with all of my weddings rescheduling again as the numbers of guests were cut from 30 to 15, I did shoot my last wedding this year in October and I will say, the weddings I shot in 2020 were so full of joy that I cried after every single one that just for a while, life had seemed normal and I'd fulfilled my purpose.  Whatever other business I run, I will always, be a photographer in my heart.

In October half term we knew something was coming, Looby and I went to Durham to see Abigail, I later went back the very next week, the day before we went into lockdown 2.  I sold gift certificates and my shop was thriving with Christmas orders and I was building up to having Abigail at home for Christmas so my mood was pretty joyful considering, plus of course the fact that Christmas is my favourite thing of all!

Christmas was spectacular and everything I wanted, just me, Abigail and Looby, I didn't need anything or anyone else, to me it was perfect and whilst people were struggling with not being able to see their whole families, I had everyone I needed with me.  It's taken me so long to have a good relationship with my beautiful children but I am so very grateful.

I knew January would hit me hard after having Abigail home for a month but what I didn't expect was that the day she went back to Uni, that evening we would be put into lockdown 3, the hardest lockdown of all.

This last month has been dark, gloomy and without hope, I have no money left, I can't pay my bills and couples are rescheduling to 2022, I can't plan for Mother's Day or Easter photoshoots because we have no idea when we will come out of lockdown again.  Abigail is trapped at Uni not allowed to come home, Looby is at her father's and is only able to come over on Sunday's because of her school/horse schedule and so I have spent mostly every day of January completely alone.  Sometimes when I'm lucky I get to see one or two people a week but for someone who thought I was a hermit, I've learnt now just how much I need people.  So much so that I'm giving myself a year to meet someone and I don't know how but I plan to put some effort into it because I just can't spend the rest of my life alone.

Tomorrow, I will be 47 and we still have no idea when lockdown will end, Abigail will be home for Easter in Mid-March and I can tell you I am holding onto that one hope that I have.  I still have few ideas about how to financially survive but I am stocking the boutique when I can even if it's a much smaller range until some kind of help comes.  The way I see it, the government who sold us bounceback loans as the answer must not help us further because we are so very far from bouncing back and I will be lucky to be debt-free anytime in the next 10 years.  We have so many vaccines now, I keep holding onto that and thinking, surely, by summer, most of us will be vaccinated, they have to let us go back to some kind of normal life, don't they?  I keep thinking, this is my lowest ebb and therefore it means I will, myself bounceback.  Each day we are one day nearer to spring, 3 minutes closer to the lightest part of the year and hopefully, just hopefully, one step further towards a normal life again.




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