Mandy Charlton - Photographer,Writer,Blogger

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

Friday, December 09, 2016

My greatest fear, dying alone...

everyone deserves to be together without ever feeling lonely, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

yesterday was one of those massively mixed emotion days, I had not had a lot of human interaction due to Looby being off school and under the weather, I had, of course, talked to aforementioned unicorn daughter but grown up meaningful conversation was definitely lacking in my life yesterday.

I'm not one who deals well with loneliness, in fact, I'd say that it's my Achilles heel, my greatest fear in my whole life is to die alone, I think I've always been this way, it's not that I have a problem with spending time alone, and don't get me wrong, I think one of the most fulfilling experiences I've ever had was to travel through Europe on my own last year.  Some days, though, I find that loneliness can be almost painful in the same way that silence can be deafening.

Look, I don't want this to come across as "woe is me" because I live a good life, I have great friends, I have a job I love and even the prospect of another Skype date with Mr France tomorrow night which I am so looking forward to. The truth is though I still find it quite hard that there's not someone sitting in the chair or lying on the pillow next to me, someone I can just empty my mind out to at any given time, someone who I can look into their eyes and tell them about somethings and nothings and get an immediate reaction, someone to whom I can tell a joke or funny story right now and they'll look at me and say "you're nuts but you make me laugh" or words to that effect.

I've been on my own now for pretty much 2 and a half years and whilst I've had many adventures and spent a great time healing, it's still the lonely moments which are the worst.  Last night I watched Me Before You, this movie should have come with a warning because I sobbed so much that by the end of the movie I needed to be wrung out, if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, you must do so but I'd advise you sit with someone who can hug you and tell you that it's all going to be ok and you should also probably have the biggest bar of chocolate next to you because we all know that chocolate contains tryptophan and tryptophan will make you feel better (so does Turkey but that makes you fall asleep, also you can't sit next to a cooked turkey can you?).  I, dear reader, had neither the chocolate or someone to actively hug me and so I ended up being a totally over-emotional wreck, I don't want to give you any spoilers but just be warned and don't do what I did...

The truth is that I think I've just learnt I'm better when I am coupled and yet I refuse to settle for anything less than my kind of perfect so we end up with a double edged sword and the self-knowledge that I may have to spend a few more weeks, months and maybe years crying into my pillow because I've just watched the saddest or indeed the happiest most loved up movie,  or I've just forgotten to buy new supplies of decent chocolate because my other half wasn't there to say "Hey you, don't forget to pick up chocolate, you know how you get when you watch sad movies without it"

I don't quite know what the answer is but I've just found Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in The Way We Were on Sky Cinema, and yes, I'll probably cry again but only because it's one of the greatest most beautiful movies ever written, well I think so anyway.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

My Story, by Holly Bobbins the Beagle

Hello Mamma's readers, this is Holly Bobbins, yes it's me, I've had to let Mamma do the writing because my paws can't operate the Macbook too well and I very inconveniently haven't got any thumbs although Mamma says this is a good thing because otherwise, I would be dangerous, I'm not really sure what she means by that but I can just imagine the possibilities!

I should also say that Mamma is translating this post for me because I speak in Beaglease and Mamma says if I wrote in my native tongue that the Grammar Police would be crying in their tea-cups and I'd probably be arrested for crimes against English!

So, anyway, there I was just sniffing out some new "swucculent swocks" off the clothes horse and Mamma said "Holly, it's the second anniversary of your gotcha day today and I think you should tell the world your story" So I left the tasty freshly washed garments and I came upstairs to tell Mamma my story and of course you, Mammas readers, I do not really understand what Blogging is but my Mamma is pretty good at it apparently, at least that's what she says, my mamma says a lot of things...

So lets go back to 2 years ago and I can't remember much before I was taken from the sad home of the people who couldn't keep me to spend a night with the lovely people at Beagle Welfare, those people work so hard looking after all of the unloved and lonely beagles and they try to find them new homes filled with love.  I was very lucky because I was 5 months old and quite frankly I was adorable and completely irresistible.  

On the day I came to live with Mamma and my human brothers and sisters I had to travel in the back of a van for 6 hours, 6 hours, can you imagine that?  Now when I travel with Mamma I usually go in first class, it's well known that I am a V.I.B. that's Very Important Beagle just in case you were wondering.

Anyway, once I got to Mammas I walked into her kitchen and she looked at me and said "Hello Holly, I love you" Now I was called Popcorn until that point so I did wonder if there was another beagle hiding around the corner but no, she changed my name and I was on a path to becoming Holly Bobbins, the celebrity beagle.

Since I came to live with Mamma we have been on so many adventures, I have reviewed hotels and luxury accommodations befitting of the best beagles and I have been on buses, trains, and boats, I love going out in Auntie Hawwiets car because we always go on adventures and sometimes (well more often than Mamma would like to admit) we go to my favourite pub The Northumberland Hussar where I always seem to see Auntie Hawwiet and Auntie Kelly, they are my favourite aunties and I get very excited and wag my tail a lot every time I see them.

I can't imagine living with anyone else other than Mamma, I might have eaten through all of her floor tiles and most of her wooden furniture but she still loves me the most in the whole wide universe and of course she has to because I am the best beagle.  I do however have a couple of strange habits, those being eating pieces of wood, stealing "swocks" and sometimes I'll pinch anything I can get my paws on, I love an open handbag and I'm very good at putting my nose in to get out the treasure.

Every night I sleep on Mamma's bed and do you know that the last couple of nights I have had to share with some naughty cats, I don't like those cats, they're always stalking me and swiping at me and eating my dinner before me, Mamma always tells me "Cats are friends not food" I'm not sure they are friends, though, they're a sinister bunch.

At the moment I don't have a daddy but that's ok, Mamma says one day she's going to find someone who will love her and someone who will give me pats and strokes and then I can sit in the middle of them on the sofa while they give me extra tummy rubs, my mamma has the biggest heart in the world you know, I have offered to find the perfect daddy for me because I can sniff him out, I like hairy men best of all because the ones with shiny heads make me bark, people without any hair are scary, especially the big ones, my mamma says the same thing and she must be right because she's quite clever for a human.  Mamma, however, says she's taking care of the dating because it's rude to just go and sniff random hairy men, I've tried it in the past and Mamma did not approve!

I don't know what is going to happen in the future but Mamma is always telling me that it's very exciting and next year is going to be the most brilliant year but, to be honest, she says things like that a lot and I don't care, as long as there are pats and cuddles and "swossidges" and "swocks" I'll always be a happy beagle.

I think I might have a future in writing, maybe I could get a job at the "Wuffington Post"...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

10 Best Christmas Gift Ideas For Mums

Christmas is fast approaching and so today I have my most favourite ideas for you to delight the most important ladies in your life, your mummies love you and will spoil you to within an inch of your life, without asking for even one thing in return but fear not, I have 10 of the best ideas which will make your mummies (or mammies if you are a northern sort).

1.  This framed family custom pixel cross stitch portrait from Scarlet Pyjamas is the perfect way to get a family portrait even if you're not all together, I adore this one of my family, even though I'm a photographer I've never yet managed to get a photo of us all together for various reasons so this one with us all and of course miss Holly Bobbins is just divine, would you believe they're only £26 which I think is astounding value and it's guaranteed to make mum smile a lot!

In this next section all of the beauty products below can be bought from the wonderful company and the best bit, use the code Mcp15 and you'll get a massive 15% off your whole order

2.  How about some rain care body mist, this stuff smells divine and just like the rain it's so hydrating, you want your mummy to smell nice now don't you?  It's available for only £15.30 and I'm wearing it right now!

3.  I love gifts which you can hang on the tree and so this Spongelle Body Buffer is perfect for that, you could even maybe hide this at the back of the tree and then just when mum thinks you've not got her anything you can craftily produce this and it's only £7.99 so dads, maybe this is one the kids can get for mum with their pocket money.

4.  If mum is a little retro just like me she's going to love this Vintage Kellogg's bath milk, it's only £6.99 and who doesn't love a citrus scented bath?

5.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I am the biggest candle addict and I'm saving this Golightme candle for a special occasion, it's only £12 and burning it is going to add just that little extra hygge to your life!

6.  Christmas means the party season is upon us and there's nothing more annoying than having a set of gel nails applied and then being so busy that you never have the time to have them removed again, well now you can with your own professional gel nail removing kit, I use Gel nails all the time but come January I'm going to give my nails a little rest and this will be what I'll be using to get my nails back to basics!  It's available for only £13.50 and that's way cheaper than the price of a decent manicure even around these parts, this kit is my go to life saver!

7.  Another time saver here with the original make up eraser, this amazing cloth erases your makeup with just water, now I don't know about you but if I've just had a party night out, the last thing I want to do before bed is a full on beauty routine, yes I know I should but sometimes i'm just too tired, at least with this I can erase all traces in one easy go and then follow it up with some amazing moisturiser. It's available for just £16.99 and is a total face saver!

8.  If your mum is a crafty sort then I can't speak highly enough about the Embellish Box subscription and It's over to Amy for some words about her monthly paper cutting subscription box, Amy says "If you love papercutting then an EmbellishBox is perfect for you. Each box follows a theme, giving you at least three printed templates to cut yourself, a self-assembly house to collect and gifts related to the theme. It's a collection of beautiful things, and the only way to be the first to have the new months templates. There will never be a repeat box. During the month, the templates in the box will be exclusive to EmbellishBox members. At the end of the month the templates will go up for sale in the Etsy shop - the cost of the box, including all of the extra items, will ALWAYS be less than the cost of the templates individually" A monthly subscription costs from just £19 and you can buy your Embellish Box with the code MANDY15 to get a massive 15% off that, just visit

9.  As I mentioned above I'm going to have to give my nails a rest for a while in January and I have the perfect product to replace my Gel nails, I adore Jamberry wraps, not only do they come in adult and child sizes they're so easy to apply and they last for up to 2 weeks, I saw a friend who'd been wearing hers for 10 days yesterday and they still looked nail perfect!  The sheets work out at only £15 per sheet and that's way more than you'll need for one manicure so you'll be saving money too and that's something we totally approve of!

9. I love Elizabeth Ardens 8 hour cream, it's her original product and one of her best, you can use it on your eyebrows, you can use it as a face mask, you can use it on your hard skin, it's the most versatile of all of her products and mums everywhere love the Elizabeth Arden brand and at only £26 mums will be delighted to find this in their Christmas stockings

10. Finally if you live in the North East of England and you want to make mums Christmas why not buy her a voucher for a photo shoot, these vouchers are for a £75 session which means you can have the photo shoot at home or on location and you'll then get an online gallery for 30 days with 15% off for the first 7 days your gallery is live and I'll even give you a complimentary 12x8 print upon placing an order, they're valid until December 2017 and if you click to buy it now you'll only pay £35, that's a better than half priced gift certificate for Mandy Charlton Photography  just click the buy now button to purchase yours but hurry there's only a limited supply, upon payment I'll email you a voucher back so you can print and gift it to mum or granny or auntie...


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

So I went on a Skype Date...

A virtual date on Skype can contain hot chocolate too, mandy charlton photography blog

I'll let you into a secret, I have a phone phobia, I hate using the phone and if anyone calls me other than my children and Harriet, I usually avoid picking it up!  The thought of having a conversation on Skype was more than a little terrifying and the thought of a Skype date was possibly one of the scariest things I've ever done, I was so nervous and probably more rambly than ever to start with, I could feel my heart beating way faster than it should have been, I'd propped my Macbook up on a box on the kitchen table to eliminate double chins because if you sit and speak to someone and your laptop is on your lap, well that's not a great angle at all is it?!

Of course, I needn't have worried, not even a bit, I think Mr France was more worried about how I would react to his charmingly bohemian beard in virtual real life, he calls it scruffy, I think it just adds character.  If I had to describe Mr France right now I'd say he's got one of those friendly smiley faces that you feel comfortable and at ease straightaway,  he's a good mix of geek plus bohemian and it kind of just works, his square-framed glasses suit his face and compliment his beard in an attractive geek chic type of way, that's not the best part of Mr France though because the best part is his personality and lets remember a box, however sparkly is really just a box if it doesn't have any contents, Mr France is even more lovely and fun packed on the inside.

I have not laughed on a date as much as I laughed last night, I laughed until at one point I couldn't catch my breath, he has a comedic presence when telling a tale, reminiscent of Peter Kaye, well if you imagine Peter Kaye as a slim, pocket-sized, quintessentially English gentleman.  I told him I would have hugged him if our date had been in real life and I think he may have attempted to do the same which really doesn't work over Skype, you can take that from me 😉  

We talked on Skype for so long that my battery nearly died so I had to carry him up the stairs very gently to plug him in and when it came to midnight and I had to go and he did too I felt a tinge of sadness because we were both having such a great evening.  Chatting for over 3 hours on Skype when you've never met before is quite a unique experience and by the end I was even relaxing into myself, he did say at one point that I wasn't as eccentric as he thought I might be but I told him I was on my best behaviour and also it's really hard for me because when I have spoken to men or tried to date them it's very rare that they actually get me and I always find I have to try to keep the real me inside. This just isn't the case with Mr France and I knew when he didn't run away screaming during my explanation of why Bananas are suspicious, sinister and must never be eaten that I'd found someone just a little special!  He did laugh but that's totally permitted and actively encouraged.

We talked for hours about everything, some things serious, some things not and it felt to me like it was a two way thing, I stopped and listened as much as I spoke, I got excited that we had things which we have exactly the same views on and then it's lovely that we have some areas that we are polar opposites (how can someone not love glitter?).  I think we could have a never ending conversation about all kinds of things and that's incredibly attractive.  I hope that he had just as much fun as me and that he feels the same, I think he does but you know I'm the queen of over analysis and second guessing, I went to bed smiling though and had the best nights sleep!

I'm not really sure what happens now, hopefully, more Skype dates and lovely shared experiences and hopefully if I end up in London for business or pleasure and he can get to London too then we can meet in glorious technicolour huggable real life,  maybe I'll even make it to Kent next year and there's obviously an open invitation if he ever wants to come to Newcastle.  I'd love to take him to some of my favourite places and I'd have no problem introducing him to Holly or my friends because if you fail to get along with Mr France you clearly have some kind of weird mind issues, he's adorable (Ssh, we'll just keep that among ourselves, we wouldn't want him getting a big head).

If you've never had a Skype date before then you should definitely go for it and if you're looking to date, maybe don't just stick with the safe man around the corner because there's just a chance that if you cast your net just a little wider you might just happen upon someone truly extraordinary.



Monday, December 05, 2016

The one that's all about friendship at Christmas

mandy'c best ever recipe for a cosmopolitan cocktail, mandy charlton photography blog,

This week, this glorious week, a week that I finally learned again that the best thing about breathing is to remember just how alive you are.  So much good has happened in the last 7 days and actually I could go back a little further, the tides have been turning and I feel that I am at last back on track. Recovering from the end of a marriage takes so much time and energy and it affects every individual facet of your life and your personality, If I look at where I was 2 years ago today, I am a completely different woman.  I can look in the mirror now and I don't hate the person that I see staring back at me, although I'm the first to admit to having put on my winter weight of late, too much cake and not enough walking , I try not to worry about it too much though as it's only my waistline and it's not worth making a change there until January now, I certainly don't believe in denying myself treats at Christmas!

In the whole of my working life I have strived to give the best, to be the best and to give my entire heart in everything I do but the truth is that I operate at my best when I am surrounded by people I love, people who encourage me, people who inspire me, it's that love and encouragement that drives to me to always look ahead, to be better and stronger and more brilliant and it's no secret that I only ever make one New Years resolution and that is to continue to be brilliant!

On Friday night,  some wonderful friends and I made merry at my house, our first Christmas party was all inclusive with Abigail, Looby and Iain all having a friend or two of there's present, we laughed, we ate, we drank too many cosmopolitans and champagne cocktails, there may have even been a tequila shot or two, a strange thing to do a tequila shot with your son but he is 20 after all!!

When I woke up feeling a little delicate on Saturday morning after sending home the merry makers at 3am I was relieved to have a day off but a couple of hours later I was back out with Abigail watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a whole day with just Abigail and I, it's always bliss to have a mama/daughter day, even if Abigail did comment at one point "I really want you to embrace Christmas on your own instead of always inviting people over, I want you to reduce the number of people you have so that next year I can spend Christmas with my dad"  Well that hit me right in the heart and she's got a valid point, I have no doubt that she will spend Christmas day with dad one year but I'll never stop inviting friends for they are the people who make my life the fun adventure that it is, why would anyone choose to be alone at Christmas unless they really wanted to, it's something I feel passionate about, I am not a hermit (well not all the time anyway), and yet I don't seek to have hundreds of people around me, for me, a handful of people who love me and who I love is quite enough, time spent with friends who are not only my friends but also each others, my favourite thing about my friends is that they all get along famously and I guess I've spent my life picking friends who I knew would all get along if they should meet, perhaps because I pick such interesting friends but friends who all at the heart of it are warm and loving and positive, I love my friends so much!

I'm honoured today to have made it through to the second round of the UK Blog Awards 2017, I was nominated by a couple of people initially and now the public vote has opened so I'd love it if you could vote for me, It's not that I expect to win but you never know until you try and I'd love to get some acknowledgement for my blog as it's probably the thing I work the hardest at, my blog will be 11 years old in February so it's not a flash in the pan and I've written enough words to have completed a saga of many books so a nice decorative object celebrating that would be lovely!!

Finally, can I just offer up a recipe for the best Cosmopolitan you've ever tasted?

20ml - Citrus Vodka
10ml - Triple Sec
5ml   - Lime Juice
40ml - Cranberry Juice

Give that all a shake with some ice in a cocktail shaker, rub the peel from a sweet clementine around the rim of a cocktail glass, pour in your liquid goodness and then pop in the piece of clementine peel, believe me when I say these are seriously moreish and impressively alcoholic!

So this week coming, I have more making merry to do with friends and a Skype date with Mr France to look forward to, it's going to be a very good week, I can feel it in my festive baubles!


Friday, December 02, 2016

My Festive Home at Christmas

Anyone who knows me well, and actually, pretty much anyone who even knows me just a little will probably be aware that I am the official Queen of Christmas, it's my favourite time of year! Christmas is all about magic and love and goodwill and as I tell my children if you have Christmas in your heart there will always be magic.  I tell this to other people's children too often to receive a bemused look in return, some of them nod and definitely get it, though.  

We started our festooning and decorating festively last weekend, this year has been brilliant but it's also been tough at times and I for one was more than happy to let the sparkle in a little earlier this year, there's also the fact that I am for the very first time holding a Christmas party tonight, it's a dream come true when you consider that there was a seven-year period when I felt I couldn't even let people into my home.

My home is far from perfect but it comes into its own for approximately one month a year with the low glowing lights and cosy surroundings, I love making cosy and feeling enveloped by warmth, if I can add my friends and my children into the mix then it's the makings of a perfect time spent in the company of one another.  We don't have a lot of people coming, that's something I'll be saving for next year, this year is just about cocktails, good friends and a little festive merrymaking, we might even break out the new Karaoke Machine

So, I went around the house with my camera last night and this morning to capture some perfectly picturesque portraits of my home in the hope of spreading some festive joy to you all.

In the bedroom, all of the festive touches came courtesy of TK Maxx in the Metrocentre, I love their Homestyle store and always come away with bags of stuff so it was even better that they sent me a gift card to pick up some home styling things which I've used to accent my very cosy bedroom and if you don't live near a story, you needn't worry as they have tons of festive treats online!  I adore their candle selection and there's nothing like an amazing selection of cinnamon scented ones when Christmas is upon us.  You may have even spotted Holly modelling a pet scarf from TK Maxx, perfect for the pampered pet or Christmas canine in your life!

In our kitchen I've added a whole lot of snowflakes, I'll be honest and say that every year I watch one of Jamie Oliver's Christmas special and he has a myriad of snowflakes hanging in the room he cooks in and I've always wanted to do this same, so this year I raided my local Wilkinsons and bought more than a few, I added some I found in the drawer and to make sure they didn't fall down, I finally stuck them up with pins, sticky fixers may work for everyone else but in my house they just fall down and then I have meltdowns over snowflakes and Christmas lights (just ask Looby) so I try to keep the decorating as stress free as possible.

So that's a little tour around my home and I hope you love it, also the rug in the last photo has now been replaced with a festive shaggy piled Christmas red coloured rug because this is Christmas in Newcastle not Christmas in Madagascar!

I hope that everyone who comes into my home this Christmas will feel cosy and warm, I hope they will quaff on mulled wine and cocktails, I hope they will sing their hearts out and most of all I hope they'll feel the love from my family to theirs because that's what Christmas is really about, it's not about the presents, it's about the quality time spent with the people you love and I'll never stop appreciating that.

So I hope you're all ready to have yourself a merry little Christmas and if not, why not go and deck the halls...

Disclaimer, I received a gift card to spend at TK Maxx in exchange for including the things I bought in my article and what a lovely festive selection of things they are too!


Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Best Is Yet To Come

It's late, the lights are low and twinkling and I'm tucked up in bed thinking what a great day it's been today, It's been quite a long work day but a good work day, I've photographed a 5 day old adorable baby, I've blogged my heart out this morning and you dear readers gave me some great feedback, it's so amazing how you're all so happy for me, in truth that post was actually 2 draft posts and I sort of combined them as I'd been collecting my thoughts over the last few weeks about how I felt and then yesterday just kind of happened!

Telling Mr France how I was feeling meant I also had to break the news to Bob T-Builder that as lovely as our lunch was, I couldn't have dinner with him, ladies there's a very lovely property developer looking to find someone just north of Newcastle...

The real truth about Mr France is that he makes me laugh and smile, and even his presence in my life genuinely brings out the best in me.  Oh and if you're wondering just how he came to be Mr France, well it's all thanks to lovely Laura and the fact that he lives nearer to France than he does to Newcastle, handily enough, I adore the Cote d'Azure (not a euphemism).

I had more good news today from my colleagues over at Huffington Post UK, I'd wondered where my blog post I submitted last week had gone to, I of course, as ever, assumed the worst but tried not to be too downhearted thinking "Oh well, it was just my first attempt" only to receive an email asking me if I minded them holding it back so they could put it on the front page on Friday, I can't even believe just how lucky that is, my very first article on the front page of the Huffington Post, I'm going to have to add that to my Linkedin, my CV (whatever that is) and pretty much just stop random people on the street to tell them, I'm sure they won't mind!

I find myself surrounded by the most amazing people currently, I have the best friends who encourage me as much as I encourage them and in my whole life, I have never felt quite so confident in my abilities as I do now. I honestly do believe that next year is going to be something truly special, I've just spent so long healing at my own pace, I didn't rush into anything and for me dating someone far away is perfect, it means I can't rush into anything and it means I have the ability to be able to cherish any time we do actually get together whilst still getting on with my super busy life and career the rest of the time.  Oh, and you know what?  I just mentioned my career, yes I think I'm back on it, I haven't thought of myself as a leading successful business woman for a while, possibly not since I was married but a conversation tonight made me realise, you know what?  I'm not in this for the heck of it, my blog might be where I share my innermost thoughts and feelings but I want it to lead somewhere because I want to be able to write and photograph every single day for the rest of my life. I have big things I want to achieve and I believe that I'm only just at the start of my life or maybe it's the start of my second life, well I don't mind as long as long as I win this time and with the people in my life right now, there's just no doubt about it!

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