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, April 26, 2021

Post-lockdown trip to Edinburgh - Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Post-lockdown trip to Edinburgh part 1

Edinburgh in the fog in cherry blossom season, post lockdown trip, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Some people craved for the shops to reopen, some people craved for a beer in their hands in a pub, not me, the one thing I wanted to do was travel again and not just travel but to Scotland.

It's funny that each time I have an existential crisis I immediately head to Scotland at the first opportunity and with everything that's gone on in the last year, it's been thoughts of Scottish trips that have kept me going.  I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in the Highlands in late August and it really helped me to find myself again.  Over this last year, I have on one hand been hyper-focused on the person who I am and the person who I want to be but at the same time with the gaslighting and coercive messages to keep us in our homes, I feel the need to break free and reclaim my independence.

The first legal day we can return to Scotland is Monday, April 26th, and so I'm booked on a train to Edinburgh for a few days.  I have a new book of walks around Edinburgh, some that I've never done before and I have a yearning to finally visit The Kelpies in Falkirk. I am vaccinated and I will be carrying a box of lateral flow tests but for the most part, I'm pretty risk-free, I live like a hermit only enjoying the outdoor life and I will not be doing any mad shopping trips or even eating out, I shall be living on whatever I can pick up at the supermarket and having packed lunches/dinners.

The great thing about opening up again was that I knew that the early bird would get the travel bargains and so I managed to book an apartment on the Royal Mile next to the castle for £29 a night.  I'm going tomorrow afternoon until Friday and I haven't been to Edinburgh since December 2019.  It's probably longer than any other gap between visits as I usually head up at least 3 or 4 times a year.

I am happiest when I am travelling or having an adventure and I know now that I have no aim to be the richest person on earth but I want to always be free, being free is my ultimate life goal.  For much of my life I have ended up in situations where I've felt trapped and I've reclaimed that freedom over and over but really, there's nothing like reclaiming your freedom from the top of a big hill and this time, finally, I am determined to climb Arthur's Seat.  Nothing is going to stop me!

Travel in a post lockdown world is actually a pleasure, generally, apartments are super clean, the trains are empty and the streets are quiet, this is my chance to see Edinburgh without the craziness of the usual flood of tourists.  Now I realise that I am technically a tourist but I have so much Scottish blood, Edinburgh is my second city and the place I feel most at home after Newcastle.  Plus my love of Scotland is so strong I have no idea why I'm not living there yet, one day when I decide exactly where in Scotland I'd like to live it will happen.

A lot seems to be happening in my personal life at the moment, I am becoming more me, I am changing and evolving into a better person and I am shedding baggage and layers of things that no longer serve me, I have had a quest for many years to live a peaceful drama free life and finally, I seem to be achieving a life with the best people around me, the biggest adventures and ultimately, the freedom I so desire.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Why the last 12 months has changed my friendships

iris the rescue, why the last 12 months has changed my friendships

Friendship has always been a little weird for me, I think when you're a "neurosuperhero" friendship can be confusing at times.  Growing up, close friendships were never encouraged and so it really took me until my twenties to make real and lasting friendships.  I'm lucky I have friends now that I met in my twenties, mostly in dark noisy nightclubs and the afterparties where we solidified those bonds.

When I was married I was definitely not encouraged to have friends in fact anything that took away attention from the marriage was destructed or people have pushed away for various reasons and the friendships I made during that time will remember the struggles that happened throughout, especially towards the end of the marriage.

Since then though, finding myself and learning to love myself more, my friendships have flourished, there are not a lot of them but the friendships I have are just gorgeous wonderful things I treasure greatly. 

I find that at the age of 47, I do not want drama, I cannot cope with drama and I never want to feel like I'm a burden, a duty call, an appointment in between two more important things or even worse, an obligation in someone's diary.  That just leads to my mental health being even worse than you can imagine.

This last year of covid and isolation has brought about so many paradigm shifts in the friendships I hold.  There are a couple of friends I've only seen very briefly in more than a year but you can bet when we're all soon fully vaccinated I'll be inviting them over.  Then though, sadly, there are the friends who have drifted, the one in a coercive relationship who I can't say anything to because they're just not ready to hear it and the one I love dearly who's taken a vast proportion of the year off the internet for the sake of their mental health, I can't wait to see them again.

There are a small circle though that I speak to every week, some every single day and without them, I would have been more of a mess than this last year!!  My mental health has been up and down, I mean, my mental health has always been up and down so throw covid into the mix and you just have a big muddle of a mess.

I am definitely not the person I was 12 months ago, I have had to learn to love and accept myself for who I am, after all, I've spent weeks on my own with only my pets for company, when the only conversation you have is with yourself you really do start to find out who you are.

My view on friendship is this, I think some people come into our lives and they stay forever, I think some people come into our lives and teach us a lesson and then leave.  I've always had a simplistic black and white view of friendship.  I either like you or I don't like you and because of my neurodiversity there's very little in between and if I don't like you, I can't pretend to like you and that can sometimes be an issue in a group situation.

If I look at myself I try to be the best friend I can be, at the end of the day all I have ever wanted is for someone to love me back in the way I love them and I still haven't found that in a relationship so I put everything I can into friendship.  I want to cocoon friends, I want to give them love, advice, and I want to entertain them with not just company but also readily available snacks and drinks and hugs.  My home, me, I'm a safe space, you can feel your feelings whatever your feelings are and there are things that I know that I will take to the grave because I am the ultimate keeper of the secrets, partially because my memory is so bad "insert winky face here".

And so as we emerge from the nightmare of continual stop/starts and lockdowns I hope that in time I can throw the parties I used to love throwing so much and I hope that the friendships I have now are the ones I hold for the rest of my life.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Northumberland, 40 Coast and Country Walks, Part 1

There's a book called Northumberland 40 Coast and Country Walks and it's been the saviour of my mental health since the pandemic started. Last year just as restrictions were tailing off, my lovely friend Li and I started going on a weekly walk together, first, we went to Northumberlandia and then as we were talking and looking for ideas for other walks I realised I had bought the Coast and Country book years ago with the intention of doing all of the walks and blogging about it.  Life, of course had gotten in the way and I never started but now it was the perfect time and so we began.

The walks in the book are all between 2-10km and have varying degrees of difficulty, however, none are for professional level hikers and so Li and I thought we would be okay.  Now I must admit that I intended to blog about this from the start but I'd lost my motivation to write in the middle of the pandemic so bear with me as I do a bit of a catch up to where we are up to today.  We're not doing the book in any particular order, we both just take turns to pick a walk from week to week.

Walk 1 -  Hareshaw Linn 

Our first walk from the book wasn't actually planned from the book, it just so happens that it is actually in there but we walked to Hareshaw Linn, a beautiful waterfall in the village of Bellingham, a 5km walk through beautiful woodland, it's 10km there and back, dog-friendly but not buggy friendly and over all kinds of lumpy and bumpy terrains but well worth a trip, the book tells me that it was a big hit with the Victorians.

Hareshaw Linn, Northumberland 40 coast and country walks, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Walk 2 - Brizlee Tower, Alnwick

I'd seen mention of Brizlee Tower in a few books and guides about Alnwick and really wanted to find it, the walk takes you through Hulne Park, the Duke of Northumberland's Park, it's buggy friendly but there are no dogs, cars or bikes allowed and when I say buggy friendly, it's on the top of a hill and parts of the walk are quite steep, we did it on a warm day and at one point had flies flying around our head, yes, that is how fit we are!!  It's a splendid 14km round trip and honestly, I loved it although Li did curse me (she's since had her revenge though).

Brizlee Tower, Alnwick, Northumberland, 40 coast and country walks, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer Blogger

Walk 3 - Black Middens and the Reivers Trail

It was upon this walk that Li and I decided we should both order walking boots, we were proper walkers now and also we'd stood in a wet field and consequently had wet feet the whole of the walk.  This one is only a 5km round trip although we got a bit lost and did 8km!! Definitely not buggy friendly but dog friendly as long as they're on leads as it's on farmland, there are sheep and partly it's owned by English Heritage.  It's a collection of 2 Bastles, the old fortified houses found all over the borders of England and Scotland.  It was a walk where it was dry when we got there and then it rained a lot, a weird walk as it's not particularly scenic and one old ruin is much like another but we enjoyed the exercise.  It's one of the walks from the book that I probably wouldn't do again but I am glad we got to check it off from our list.

Black Middens and the Border Reivers Trail, Northumberland, 40 coast and country walks, Mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Walk 4 Lindisfarne, the Holy Island

I absolutely love Holy Island, it's such a special place and I needed no encouragement to go on this walk, it's a circular 5km walk and there's always the promise of homemade crab sandwiches at the end of the walk.  It's a joyful and easy walk, child friendly, dog friendly, no real massive hills but do bear in mind that we get 4 seasons of weather in one day in the north of England and so pack a coat. If you only do a couple of walks from the book or if you're on holiday and can only fit in a few this is one of my top recommendations, you can do it in half a day and combine it with somewhere else on the Northumbrian coast as we did and I promise you will have joy in your heart when you have completed it.  Don't forget to visit the distillery and also pick up the coffee which is made on the island.

Holy Island of Lindisfarne, 40 coast and country walks, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Walk 5, The Bamburgh Circular

This is a shorter walk which is why we decided to combine it on a day when we did the Holy Island walk, it's only 3.5km very little in the way of inclines except for crossing the sand dunes, great for kids, and bringing along the dog and you can always combine it with a trip to Bamburgh Castle which in my opinion is the best of the regions castle's, it's privately run and might not have the popularity of nearby Alnwick Castle but it's fun and I highly recommend going to see the implements of torture in the dungeons.

Bamburgh Castle, the Bamburgh circular, Northumberland, 40 coast and country walks, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Walk 7 - Morpeth Loops

This is another of my favourite walks you can do in Northumberland, it's fairly low effort, a couple of inclines, especially if you want to climb to the top of Ha Hill in the park in Morpeth but just a lovely wander, a 6km circular walk which we did early one Sunday morning but combined with a meal out or a trip to the shops and you could make this a full day out.  Morpeth is one of the friendliest towns in Northumberland with regards to taking along your dog so it's the perfect place for a pooch and you day out.

Morpeth Loops, Northumberland, 40 coast and country walks, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

So, after the Morpeth Loops walk, it all got a bit tricky, I went off to the Highlands to find myself and then Abigail took me to Poland before she started uni, I shot some weddings and got back into shooting family portraits and before we knew it we found ourselves gradually becoming more restricted again due to the second wave of the pandemic.

The winter came and we ended up back in lockdown and I didn't see Li again until the restrictions started to lift, we've started walking again and done another 2 walks from the book and if you want to read about those, you'll have to wait for part 2, coming very soon...

If you'd like to get your own copy of the Northumberland, 40 Coast and Country Walks book, it's available on Amazon and you can let me know which walks you've enjoyed.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Catching up

So this is the first time I've sat at my desk catching up with blogging for the first time in, well, really, over a month.  The reality is, the lockdown has been a pretty standard and unexciting experience.  I've now earned £625 this entire year with photography so thank goodness that Philomena's Boutique has at least allowed me to pay most of my bills.  The last help from the government was in November and the halcyon days of the bounceback loan last June are well and truly over.

This month is a new month and I've decided to surrender myself to the universe, I had a chat, the universe and I and these were the things I've put out there into the universe - 

  • I want to buy a caravan on the northeast coast called Philomena's Hideaway that I can run as a, not for profit giving low-cost breaks to families who are enduring mental health issues
  • I want to find myself a bearded Scotsman with feelings
  • I want to book some weddings for the next couple of years so that I can have some certainty in my work calendar
  • I want to be able to support my daughters and me after all of the turbulence of the last year
  • I want to go to the Highlands and stand on a hill and breathe without anxiety 
So, just 5 things and I don't think I'm asking for the earth really, I continue to work hard towards all of my goals but with anxiety and the current state of my mental health, always constantly trying to plan 2 moves ahead is not without difficulty.

I have in exchange for the materialisation of my requests promised to only think positively in the next month to see where it gets me.  When you live with anxiety and depression that can be quite a challenge but it's April, it's spring and the world is opening up again.  I should get my second dose of the vaccine towards the end of May and that in itself is something that should be a game-changer for me as it will definitely help with my underlying agoraphobic thoughts.  it's hard to focus on the future when you are constantly worried about the world outside.

So, I am surrendering myself to the universe knowing it has a lot more power than me and I think back to January 2008 when I first made a vow of positivity to the universe, it really changed my life back then and every time I fall off my positive plan I act surprised when I find it again and change things around and miracles seem to occur.  I really should just keep the faith and that's a lesson I'm sure one day I'll finally learn.

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