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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fake Sunshine Saved My Life


Fake Sunshine Saved My Life, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, SAD, depression, anxiety



Sunday morning, just after 8am and I'm sitting at my desk with my new Beurer SAD lamp faking the bright sunshine needed to make me feel like it's summer and all is good with my bodyclock.  It arrived on Wednesday and I have to say that the thing is miraculous, for the first weekend in ages, I've just got up for work instead of thinking "I can't do it, I can't smile, I can't talk to people, I can't go out of my house". On the same day that my lamp arrived so did my super high dose vitamin D3 tablets recommended by my good friend Steve as well as my doctor, so I'm also taking 50,000iu a week.

When I eventually saw my GP, she asked me those questions "Have you thought about harming yourself?" I told her in truth that I had laid in my bed lacking the energy to even cry just wanting to be dead although I hadn't actually thought about killing myself, I also told her about being on a 12 week waiting list for CBT since January and suddenly I had call the next day inviting me to my first session a week on Monday.

At the same time I received a proposal to go on a travel assignment to Bluestone Wales tomorrow and  accepted in less than 3 milliseconds and just as we'd done that I was offered an emergency review of Crepeaffaire, clearly the Gods were on my side, they knew I needed sunshine, a break from real life and a hefty amount of sugar, in just one day the universe answered all of my prayers.

That's not to say that it's been an easy week, my head has been all over the place and I snapped at Looby who being hormonal ended up in hysterics, we chatted the next day about anxiety and being kind to one another as well as the fact that sometimes even the least shouty people lose it.  Thankfully I think she's forgiven me and I know that it was just a symptom of me having acute anxiety and being unwell at the moment.







Crepeaffaire was exactly what we needed on Wednesday, if you've not been before, it does what it says on the tin, delicious crepes done really well, we were already previous fans and though we tried the indulgent menu this time, I'll be honest and say they were just a little too sweet for me and I shall be going back to savoury the next time, if you have the sweetest tooth ever though you should really try the Reeses peanut butter, Looby loved the milkshakes and her crepe which I can't tell you what was in it as I wasn't allowed a taste, therefore I'll assume it must have been amazing.


On Friday we, with much excitement headed to the first day of the Christmas Continental Market which is on until mid December, it's based around monument and once that's finished it'll be replaced by stalls selling local crafts and foods in it's final weekend.  Now don't get me wrong, I love the continental market but it just feels like there's too much food, Looby gave it 5/10 because although there's a lovely Christmas feel to it, for us, it needs to have more things you can actually purchase for Christmas, we're big fans of the German Christmas market in Edinburgh and if it could be a little more like that we'd be delighted.  It'll be interesting to see how the second phase of Hadrian's Tipi and Winter Wonderland compares when that opens in a couple of weeks.  When we did try Hadrian's Tipi I wasn't actually all that impressed, yes it's warm and yes, it's dog and child friendly but £3.85 for a pint of lemonade is actually scandalous, I'd hate to think how much they're charging for alcohol!  For me, I also think you can't get away from the fact that it's been put up on a building site which is still full of rubble currently, I know in a couple of weeks this won't be the case but it's just not pretty or Christmassy as yet.

Tomorrow we leave for Wales, we have a 9.5 hour journey to get there but the middle of week looks about as relaxing as it can get and I'm looking forward to many, many Christmas themed activities too, I think it's really going to get us into a festive mood and I wouldn't be surprised if we end up putting up our Christmas tree shortly after we return.  I'm really on the countdown now, for my health and happiness more than anything, I only have 12 sessions to fill for the rest of the year so once that's done I can breathe and start marketing for January which has already thankfully started filling. January is a tough month as a portrait photographer but if we get snow you can bet I will end up being busy and I'm always super thankful for that!
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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Year of Great Adventure





In 2017, there have been moments which have taken my breath away, moments which have made me laugh so hysterically I thought I couldn't breathe and sad, poignant moments like saying goodbye to our old aged foster cat Hera as she crossed to the rainbow bridge.  I've had moments where I was the proudest mum in the world watching Abigail delivering a confident passionate speech on the importance of curriculum for life as she stood at the dispatch box in the house of commons and I've had many moments of happiness with Looby, knowing she's so very happy to be home educated now.

I'm a great keeper of memories, I always have been, I love nothing better than sitting on the sofa with the kids looking at old photos, laughing and giggling as we remember funny stories of their younger childhood.  I think the photographer in me craves to record as many moments as possible so when Popsa got in touch and asked if we wanted to make a photo book with the Popsa app, obviously I said yes.

The app is not only easy to use but the books are high quality and the colours match my colours, I chose matt for the pages and it turned out great, the printing on the cover had a tiny bit too much magenta in comparison to the pages but it's a tiny irk, mostly I'm delighted and that for me after 10 years of obsessing about colours matching the screen and colour calibration, well it's a delight to get back such a reasonable book with such high quality printing.  Whilst they have gifted me the book, I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't think they were great.



If you would like to make your own book, just click that link and once you've compiled your first book you can add the code MANDY for 50% off, that's a hardback A4 photo book for less than £20 and the soft back books start from just £6.99, with my code you could get them for all of your family for less than £20!!

To show just how easy it is to use the app, Looby helped me record a little video, please give it a watch and then download the Popsa App and get designing!

I want to thank the lovely people at Popsa for inviting us to collaborate with them, these are my own opinions and they may regret giving me unlimited books for the next year as I'm off to design a photo book every week!!
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

12 Best Christmas Gifts For Mums

12 best Christmas gifts for mum featuring  babe, cover, Dobbies, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, blogger, Christmas gift guide 2017
When I was writing the 12 best Christmas gifts for mums guide, I wanted to feature, items for all budgets and I didn't want to assume that all mums were the same, some of use are busy business mums, some of us are stay at home, work super hard looking after small ones, some of us are great power women, and one or two of us are a combination of all 3 things. I hope you love some of these ideas, I'd be delighted to get any of them in my Christmas sack!  This gift guide would not have been possible without the collaboration of the lovely companies involved, I'm so appreciative and I know you will love these 12 ideas to make mums Christmas the best ever!


1. Amphora Aromatics Candles and Diffusers, mums always love candles and lovely scented things, I think that whilst candles used to be indulgent now they're just part of life, look at Jo Malone, well thankfully just as lovely without the huge price-tag Amphora Aromatics have a beautiful selection of candles and diffusers available, you may even want to treat yourself to one whilst you're doing your Christmas shopping.



2. in 1976, Babe was the fragrance for women, it made over 75 million and now it's back, it's re-released and I have to say I love the smell, okay, the name, well, it was of it's time but as a fragrance it's powdery and has sandalwood and when it fades it's long lasting proving that good fragrance is timeless.


3.  Coffee and tea is a requirement and if I can keep it warm and not spill it all over my desk then I'm doing pretty well, this William Morris Ecoffee cup is made with bamboo fibre and reusable time and time again, being a huge fan of William Morris, this won't be gifted to anyone but me!


4. Now this Sleepwell Milk might not be the most traditional of presents but I don't sleep and I'm not the biggest fan of Horlics, this stuff is vanilla milk which also contains valerian, a herb known for relaxation and sleep, you can either drink it cold or warmed, have it warmed, it's delicious and it definitely helped me one night when I had already counted all of the sheep in the whole of the land.


5. Dobbies, my all time favourite garden centre, where Holly Bobbins and I like to wander around on cold rainy winter days sent this afternoon tea hamper and before I'd even photographed it Abigail demanded it in her Christmas presents, she's only 15, this tells me that this gift is going to go down well in any household and if you can tell me how I can hide it so that I can have it, I'd be very appreciative!!


6.  Yoga is for life and this fabulous Yoga Bellies towel with carrying strap is a must for any yoga mums out there this Christmas, this thing soaks up sweat without any bunching, it grips better as it gets wetter and it retails for only £19.99


7.  The Camo Pouch makeup and jewellery roll is perfect for travel, it not only holds your essentials but you can turn it into a freestanding pot on your desk, I actually think it's perfect for pen or makeup brush storage!


8. This Christmas buy mum something lovely from Nadur, a natural skin company based in Cork, Ireland, this Stop the Clock, super berry face oil is perfect for mums like me (of a certain age) as it supports the development of new collagen, the next time you see me, I shall look 22, well, maybe!


9. This friendship bracelet from Giftpup is sure to make mums heart swell with pride every time she looks at it remembering just how fabulous her children are to have bought her such a beautiful present, it retails for around £35 so it won't break the bank either and it really is a lovely thing indeed.


10.Crumbly fudge from Buttermilk is one of those essentials of Christmas and if your mum has a sweet tooth like me then she's going to actually love this stuff, what could be more Christmassy than Gingerbread fudge or Irish cream fudge, perfect for a twinkly lit night watching movies and sharing some crumbly fudge.


11. Adult colouring in has seen a massive rise in popularity thanks to it's known relaxation properties and I love these urban jungle colouring postcards from Reeves, show off your artistic talents and chill out all at the same time, great for mums who love to practice mindfulness.


12. This  Scribe executive desk set comes from Robert Welch, perfect for the busy business mums desk and I actually love the phone holder, I have mine on my desk holding my iPhone 8Plus.  This whole set comes in sparkling stainless steel for just £70


I hope this guide has given you just 1 or two ideas for every type of mum, one thing is for certain, get the right gift for mum this year and your life will be a very happy one, whatever you get her will make her smile of course and if you can't afford a gift this year, why not just give her a big hug and make some quality time for her, that's the gift that money could never buy!





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Monday, November 13, 2017

The week I nearly gave up


The week I nearly gave up, Mandy Charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, mental health, anxiety and depression


This last week has been the most physically and emotionally draining I can remember for a very long time, it would be completely understandable had their been a large life event, some kind of crisis but no, last week was just the week when I crumbled not imagining I would make it out of the other end. The week I finally said "I can't do this anymore, I can't take the pressure, I need a little help"

I've continued to work throughout and I've tried to not let clients down, people depend on me and if you're me, ringing in sick means telling your boss 10 times you can't come to work today, so even in the wee small hours when I didn't think I could make it through another day of work, I did, because I have to.

Whilst I'm not entirely sure what's going on or what the cause of my acute anxiety is due to, there have been times when I have struggled to breath, where I thought my heart would leave my chest because it felt to tight.  I've dreaded each email in case it was someone who was angry or wanted to shout at me.  To put this into context, in over 10 years in business I've probably had less angry shouty emails than I have fingers, it's a rare occurrence but with acute anxiety you imagine every single person in the whole world is angry, everyone hates you, the world is going to end, "run for the hills, we're all doomed". I have to laugh and make light of it because the only way through this is with humour, love and understanding.

I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow, I'm not sure what they can do, I'm already on the top dose of meds and I've taken those for 13 years and they're the only ones which suit me and actually work.  I've been on a 12 week waiting list for CBT since January, oh the irony!  I mentioned it to the doctor the last time I saw her and she said "Oh yes, we're really busy, mental health services are so underfunded". How the freak can it actually be like this, one in every four of us will need to use the mental health services at some point in our lives and yet our doctors just very glibly acknowledge it because they know they can't do anything about it?

Meanwhile, the unfortunate fact of my self employed life is that I can't take time off, if I stop working now, we'll all starve over winter, I dread the quiet period of Jan/Feb every year so although I'd quite like to switch on an autoresponder which says "I am now out of the office until spring" it's not actually feasible.

What I have done is looked at my remaining calendar up until Christmas, I've taken the decision to not shoot at all on weekdays because spending time home educating Looby is way more important right now and at weekends in December I'm going down to shooting sessions from 10-2 and having a lunch, it's so cold out there and I feel it more than I did 10 years ago, I still love it though, actually when I'm out photographing kids at weekends, I get the buzz of adrenalin I need to make it through, I bounce around, I'm jolly like Santa, it's only when I stop I'm instantly exhausted and fighting the urge to go to bed at 4pm in the afternoon.

When I said that I wasn't sure why I have succumbed to mass anxiety, I do know in reality the things which have caused it, small things which have just tipped the weighing scale, mostly I did way too much, I put so much pressure on myself and I crumbled.  I constantly try to be Superwoman because I want to prove you can be a single parent, you can run a business, you can be a good example to your children.  I hate being a mum with mental health issues, I hate having conversations where I try to explain to Looby about why my anxiety is so bad and I hate that sometimes we have to leave places because I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack and I can't breathe.

Christmas is my most favourite time of year and I want to get to the point where I can just focus on that without worrying about deadlines and bills and our general survival, I need a SAD lamp definitely  and I need to be less afraid of the outside world when I'm not working.

I wrote this today, not because I want or think I deserve any sympathy, on the contrary, I chose this life I have, well not all of it but certainly the self employed bit.  I wrote this because I have the ability to, because there are people all over the world who feel the same way as I do but they don't have a voice and they think they're alone, anxiety, depression, bipolar, it's out there and it's more normal than you think to feel the way I do.
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Friday, November 10, 2017

17 Ways to Survive The Christmas Preparations

Pre-Christmas gift guide 2017, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Blogger, Writer, food, Christmas preparations, indulgent party items
Over the next 6 weeks I'm going to be sharing my guides to Christmas, I want to make sure you can slide into the Christmas season, life is a busy old thing and the season of Christmas can be filled with the most frantic of moments but that doesn't have to be the case, I really have been on a research trip around the Internet over the last few weeks to dig out some amazing gifts and products you can pop on a shopping list, all of which will make preparing for the festive season just that little bit easier.

So for my first list, I've taken a gentle foray around the Internets most festive preparatory offerings for things which will see you through the period of Advent, the hectic party filled season of December and things which will help on Christmas Day itself and beyond.

I want to say a huge note of thank you to all of the lovely companies who have collaborated with me to compile this guide to surviving the Christmas preparations. and now without further ado let me take you through each product and let's dive in with 17 ways to survive the Christmas preparations.

Now the eager eyed amongst you may have spotted that there are only 16 images in the above grid and that's because my first item didn't arrive quite on time to find itself a spot in my grid up there but it doesn't mean that it isn't just as important.

Divine Chocolate advent calendar and salted caramel dark chocolate thins, 17 ways to survive the Christmas preparations, Mandy Charlton Photographer, Writer, blogger

1. I'm a huge fan of Fair-trade products and also Divine Chocolates and this year they have excelled themselves with these two fabulous advent calendars, that's the milk chocolate version for the kids and the 70% dark chocolate for the mummies (and daddies).  They've also released their salted caramel dark chocolate thins which make a refreshing change to the after dinner mints

  
Quickes Miniature Truckle of Vintage Cheddar, 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

2.  Did someone say Cheese?  This miniature truckle of mature clothbound cheddar from Quickes is bound to delight at your Christmas dinner parties or as part of a cheese board, it'll last all through the festive season as long as you are not a cheese fiend like me.

Crafted by Cracker Drinks Co, 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

3. Christmas being the time of gatherings and soirées we often have a house full of people and not all of them drink alcohol, Cracker drinks have solved that quandary with their range of grown-up soft drinks, my favourite is the apple, lime and mint and I reckon, if you should want to mix it with alcohol it would make a killer mojito.

Pools of light from lumens.design - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

4.  Christmas being a time of sparkle and warmth,  this years collection of beautiful glass tree ornaments from Lumens are appropriately called Pools of Light and you can hang them not just from trees but shelves or pretty hooks which catch the light.

Four Roses, Small Batch Bourbon - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

5. This Four Roses small batch bourbon is on sale at M&S for just £27, it doesn't contain sulphites and goes great with coke as well as on it's own over ice.  It's going to be the staple of my Christmas for cosy evenings under warm blankets watching the snow fall outside my window (she said hoping).

Figgys Christmas pudding - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

6. Another staple of Christmas, the Christmas pudding and this one from Figgy's comes in a small, medium and large, every time I say the name I start humming "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" just make sure when you delight your Christmas dinner guests you don't singe your eyebrows setting a light to it!

savoursmiths potato crisps - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

7. Champers and Serrano Chilli, Wagyu Beef with honey mustard, Truffle and Rosemary, just some of the fabulous flavours available in the Savoursmiths potato crisps range, these are not your average crisp to be consumed by "hangry" teens, these are the crisps of legendary grown up parties and sneaky 1am gourmet snacks with cheeky glass of wine and a nibble of your favourite cheese.

Food should taste good tortilla chips - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

8. Whilst we're on the subjects of snacks worthy of the very best kinds of gatherings, Food Should Taste Good have produced these multigrain tortilla chips and sweet potato tortilla chips so that you can dip just a few more times without any of the accompanied guilt, they're also gluten free and kosher, someone please pass me the salsa!

rescue remedy gum and lozenges - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

9.  The Christmas season is notorious for bringing with it frayed nerves, stressed out parents and over emotional children, for many years I have been using rescue remedy in all it's various forms to deal with my own anxieties and those of my teens, I swear by the stuff for calming down overwrought children, now it could be that we make it through Christmas unscathed but just in case we don't, you can be sure I'll be carrying around this stuff in my bag at all times.  You can pick yours up in most major supermarkets as well as your local boots.

Little Miracles drinks - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

10. Little Miracles are tasty, healthy, Fair-trade and definitely not boring, they're the perfect anti-dote to a fridge full of coke, lemonade and other such unexciting staples, available from Tesco I shall be making sure I have some space in my fridge for a batch of them over the next few weeks.

flamingini milano panettone - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

11.  In our house every year we buy a Panettone and if I'm honest, I actually prefer it to the traditional heavy British fruit cake, it also tastes way better toasted or warmed with ice-cream, this Flamingini Milano Panettone is available from Sous Chef UK and if anyone pops to my house over Christmas I might just give you a piece!

Speculaas Biscuit Roller from Sous Chef UK - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

12.  Also from Sous Chef UK comes this Speculaas biscuit roller which is just genius really, I mean, I love baking tiny biscuits and this removes all of the effort usually required, just make sure you don't eat them all at once.

ETI Superfast thermapen 4 - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

13.  If like me you worry year on year that you are going to give the household food poisoning because you get paranoid about cooking your turkey or chicken then this is the answer, The ETI Superfast Thermapen 4 is the Ferrari of meat thermometers and you can also use it to the check the temperature of jams, fudges, caramels etc, I will never sit next to the oven again trying to guess when my chicken is ready.

Christmas Roast Dinner Box - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

14.  I love this Christmas roast dinner box from Ross&Ross Foods, it contains dust to sprinkle on your sprouts, pigs in blanket dust, roast turkey rub and roast potato oil, it's everything you need to make your Christmas dinner just that little more amazing, I can't wait to try the sprout dust!

JJ Whitley Miniature Gin Gift Pack - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

15.  I like Gin but I can only drink a little so this JJ Whitley miniature gin gift pack is perfect and it contains delicious flavours such as Elderflower, Quince, Nettle and my personal favourite Rhubarb and ginger gin.  It's perfect as a gift as it comes in gorgeous botanicals design gift boxing or if you're like me and you just want it for yourself why not treat yourself?

English Tea Shop Gift Set - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

16.  As an antidote to all of that gin the English Tea shop gift set of Christmas blends is perfect for cold mornings and warm evenings by the fire, this gift box contains 72 sachets of delightful blends including warm winter and Christmas night, the best part is that it's only just over £8

The wine beagle carefully curated wines - 17 ways to survive the Christmas Preparations, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, pre-christmas gift guide

17.  Being that it is Christmas and the perfect time for gatherings, why not treat yourself or a friend to an evening of wine tasting with Jamie from The Wine Beagle, not only does Jamie curate a fortnightly list of amazing wines, he's also available for wine tasting events across London, the Home Counties and the West Country, you can sign up for his newsletter and find out all about his fabulous service, his wine recommendations and also don't forget to have a wee look at The Beagle Bugle whilst you're there!

So that's the end of my first guide and coming up over the next few weeks I'll be publishing gifts guides for mums, teens, stocking fillers, foodies and perhaps those last minute gifts too, oh and it wouldn't be a full collection without Holly Bobbins gift guide for pets so please stay tuned as I guide you through the muddy waters of the festive season.
















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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Christmas for less than £30?

I'm sorry for what I said when I was hungry T-Shirt, Sports Direct Challenge #SDFiverchallenge with britmums, Mandy Charlton photographer, blogger, writer

Christmas is one of the most expensive times of year, when I was young and single I would embrace the season with open arms, I had five or six presents to purchase and I would spend hours making sure the colour co-ordinated wrapping looked as neat as possible with just the right amount of ribbon curls.  Fast forward to today and it's not that I have more people to gift (and I really love to gift) it's just that 3 of those people belong to me (well, so to speak) and as teenagers they're at their peak of expensiveness (I hope, blimey, I really, hope). So I received this proposal from Sports Direct, they have a gift section where they claim you can purchase gifts, I mean not just bad stuff you'll throw away, decent presents which will be loved, accepted and used for longer than 3 milliseconds.  Now with kids, that's a tough one but with teens, it seems almost impossible to me but hey, always one for a challenge I headed over to the Sports Direct gift department and unbelievably and I mean this with all honesty, I actually found some pretty good stuff.





In fact, I found so much good stuff that each of these T-Shirts cost £5 or less, I actually got 6 T-Shirts for £29 although one of them turned out to be out of stock but T-Shirts from decent brands like Marvel, Disney, Golddigga and Requisite (the horse riding people, their stuff usually costs a fortune).  2 T-shirts for Abigail, 2 for Looby and 1 for Iain, yes Iain, I never find bargains for Iain because he's just so fussy and he's 21 now but he's actually going to like this T-Shirt and will probably wear it until  it gets holes in a drops to bits.

If you are a single person, this essentially means you can go to town and spend £30 to wrap up your entire Christmas if you're only buying for nephews and nieces etc.  The delivery fee is a fiver but if you get your things delivered to your nearest Sports Direct store then you can get a £5 voucher back to spend on your next purchase.

Sports Direct was the last place I ever thought I would shop for Christmas gifts so if anything I'm glad I was set the challenge and it's proved there are bargains to be found, Christmas gifts for £5 or less and the possibility of doing Christmas for just £30!

This post is an entry for BritMums #sdfiverchallenge Christmas Challenge, sponsored by sportsdirect.com






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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

In the wee small hours of the morning....


In the wee small hours of the morning, the confessions of an insomniac, mandy charlton. photographer, writer, blogger




Because I rarely publish posts at the exact moment when I've written them, I just want you to know that it's currently 12.30am and I did attempt sleep but none was forthcoming and now I'm wondering if I took 1 tablet instead of 2 this morning, one of my medications seriously messes with my sleep if I forget to take the right amount and sometimes in the morning when I'm so sleepy making coffee and I can barely see straight, yes occasionally I get a little more mixed up than I would like to admit.

The last couple of nights I have been asleep by 10 and this morning I woke up at 9am, 11 hours of sleep is definitely more like it, I've had this theory for a while that I'm actually becoming a cat!

So currently, and just to set the scene, it's dark, just me, lit by my iMac screen typing away furiously aghast that I'm still awake whilst Holly Bobbins snores loudly as she lies on a pillow, because the bed isn't soft enough, clearly!  The house is quiet, everyone is asleep and it's just me and my thoughts, scary!

Today I worked the entire day, I edited up to date, I compiled and wrote my first gift guide release on my Huff Post column and I have all of the images for all of the items I have which means I can start writing the gift guides for my blog too.  What's happening with that is I have 6 guides, each contains multiple items and my top 10 favourites then go into my Huff Post column, it seemed to me that it was the most sensible way to do things.  There's only 1 small problem, I'm really lacking in gift guide gorgeousness for pet's, every other category is fine but the pet's guide I only have a couple of items so I may have to rethink that one.

I taught Looby about product photography today, one of those things they definitely don't teach you at school, she was so great and fabulous at doing all of the styling too, I know she wants to work with horses or in farming but I'm pretty sure if she ever wanted to have a side career in photography she would be amazing.

My anxiety levels have been really up and down but I worked on Sunday and with the most amazing clients, families I've photographed year upon year, they know me, they read my blog or follow me on social media and they were the exact clients I needed on Sunday, even in freezing temperatures I was still smiling by the end of my day.  I think overall, its just been a case of being exhausted, the change in medication, being ill with an abscess in my stomach during half term, it's all taken it's toll a little and sometimes, well something has to give doesn't it, it doesn't mean I'm brilliant or that I'm failing and I've realised through the kindness of my clients that's it's okay to admit, today, I'm not so great.

I am however doing much better and I'm certain I'm going to make it to Christmas, and when that happens I shall be building a soft fort from pillows and squishy blankets and I shall be crawling inside it and not be coming out until the new year dawns.  I'm well overdue for a weekend or two doing normal family things, do you know I've had around 3 whole weekends off this entire year, even when we go away I try to make sure I'm back in time for the weekends because that's when all of my portraiture happens, it's a weird old life I lead but I wouldn't change any of it for the world, well maybe the anxiety, no one would wish for acute anxiety!

Things are also more manageable with photo shoots, I'm not shooting on weekdays where possible, I've started taking my day off again on a Monday and I'm only shooting between 10-2 or 10-3 maximum on Saturdays and Sundays, I really do love how much my business has thrived in 2017 and thank goodness it has, you never really stop worrying about where your next paycheck is coming from when you are self-employed and I know that it could all fall apart tomorrow and no one might ever book me again, each day I sustain my life, my business and my health, well that's things we can all be grateful for.
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