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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How saying yes actually made me more anxious

How saying yes made me more anxious, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, mental health, anxiety

It's Saturday and I have an unexpected and unplanned day off, I could be doing anything with anyone and yet here I am in my pyjamas sitting eating hummus with breadsticks catching up on work.  Harriet did take pity on me and invited me to the pub for a non alcoholic drink but since I've been completely allergic to even a sip of alcohol, going to the pub for a pint of Diet Coke which costs the same price as 2, 2 litre bottles sounds as enticing as inviting someone who's allergic to bees to go to a honey farm, and for anyone who thinks I'm being glib, the last time I tried red wine, I started wheezing so badly I needed an inhaler.

I realise I'm supposed to be saying yes to everything but quite frankly, saying yes more often has only proved that it's not working, not only is it not working, it's actually made me more anxious than I've been in ages. 

I think the big difference between Danny Wallace and I is that, firstly he was 26 when he did it, he had a large supply of friends who invited him to do things, he was a young go getter working for the BBC, oh and he also said yes to most of the offers in his junk mail, something I refuse to do or I would be having webcam relations with a Russian woman and my penis enlargement, I wonder why junk mail is all written assuming that the readers are men?

I'm now around half way through the experiment and all I feel is bad about myself, I've been trying to be braver, to put myself out there, I even offered up a spare ticket to a classical music concert to any bohemian man who might want to take me, guess what?  Yes, tonight I am going to see the Royal Northern Sinfonia on my own.

It is of course all my own fault, if you live like a hermit and only leave the house for work then the chances are that great things aren't going to happen very often and whilst I'm sure that never bothered Hannah Hauxwell I can't pretend that I haven't been feeling a little more lonely of late.  The worst part of this is that I know it's chemical related, I swapped my HRT again and it's the same one which made me decide I should try and date last year and we all know how that ended... Oh, if you're a new reader, I'll save you reading back, it ended badly, it made me realise that I'm such a niche catch that the chances of finding someone else who's compatible is smaller than the Higgs-Boson particle!

I don't mean to sound "woe is me" I think I'm just genuinely a little low and anxious currently.  I'm happy enough when I am working because work is the thing that completes me, once I stop and I'm here in my pyjamas in an empty house it hits me every time.  Of course I'm grateful for Holly Bobbins who loves me unconditionally and even chats with me on matters of philosophy from time to time, not only that, her thoughts on string theory and time travel, second to none, she's not so keen on Schrodinger's cat but that's dogs for you!

I'm considering now whether I should keep saying yes to everything and the answer is I don't know, I wanted it to change my life, to enhance the way I live and to offer me new experiences, so far it's only made me anxious and miserable showing up the shortcomings of both the way I choose to live and in my personality as a whole.

If anyone out there has any life changing experiences to offer please get in touch, I'd love to turn this month around and say that saying yes makes life genuinely amazing.  As always I'm waiting for your emails!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some thoughts about time and life and home education

My daughter who will be 14 next week, some thoughts on time and life and home education, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Where does the time go?  I remember looking down at Iain for the first time after he was born, I remember the first days in hospital and I remember when strangers told me to cherish this time because it would pass in the blink of an eye.  It did just that and last week he was a 21 year old, he's completely responsible for himself now, well sort of, he's still living at home with no sign of leaving but I love that, I'd miss him if he wasn't there.

Looby, my youngest, when she was just about to be three I told her not to grow up, she was perfect as she was, she promised me she wouldn't and then directly flouted my request, she's 14 in just 11 days. The truth is, we're all looking forward to things, we're making plans, we're booking holidays in advance, sometimes I think we stop enjoying the now because we're so busy planning ahead.

I'm trying to live more mindfully, to enjoy the passing moments and something I think is extra important when you are home educating.  We're in our settling in period right now, the one where we "deschool" because school is somewhere that institutionalises not just children but their parents too. We are so used to the daily routines that when we no longer have them we struggle a little to find ourselves again.  In saying that, we haven't encountered any major bumps but it's early days, it still seems like a holiday, maybe it always will, without the confines of timetables and rigid schedules, maybe we'll always just feel free now.

The strange thing about home educating is that the days are longer, the learning is everything, every single conversation we have directly teaches us something, it's something I never thought about before but then perhaps, perhaps it was because we never really had time to talk, the schedule of education encumbered us so that we had to try and fit everything we were and everything we did into shorter spaces of time, in a state education system there is very little time to just be, to be still, to think, to meditate.

Now, please, please don't get me wrong, I know for some school is a way of life and school is a good thing for some children but there are other ways and I know I am lucky to be able to give my daughter this untraditional learning experience.  Please don't think though it's because I am wealthy because nothing could be further from the truth, I still struggle to find the right kind of work to pay all of the bills and provide the extra experiences needed to get the most out of life, there are times when I worry what will happen if I don't get that next job or if I can't fill the sessions I've planned my income around but after 10 years I'm kind of used to the rollercoaster of work, life, finances, blood, sweat and tears that it takes to be self employed.

In home educating Looby I have given up seeing Abigail every day, her daily visits when she dropped her sister off on the way home from school every night are no more and her busy schedule means I haven't seen her in more than a week, something which makes me truly sad in my heart, I miss my big girl but isn't that life?  It's all so very bittersweet, I don't think there's a single person in this world who truly has it all, money doesn't buy happiness, love is the answer but even then, there are other extraneous factors which means having love alone isn't the whole answer to existence.

Now I don't want to be unnecessarily nihilistic because I do believe our lives have meaning although we'll probably never understand what that is, all we can do is try to make our mark, believing that all lives matter, I believe above all else that my children are the future and that the way that I parent has a direct correlation to their future failures and successes, another reason why it's the right choice to home educate Looby.

I hope this post has not been too profound, it's been a long time since I have been able to take the time to sit and write my innermost thoughts but here I am, at my desk sharing my thoughts whilst Looby is at the cinema with her friends, no need to worry about isolation with that one, she has many friends from lots of different areas of her life, a social butterfly will always be just that.  It is my aim with my month of saying yes that I too might become more social, I'm eagerly awaiting the chance to be less of a hermit, it's time to come out of my cave and into the light.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Home Educating My Teen, Our First Week

home educating Looby, our first week, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Oh, hey you, remember me?

Yes, I know, I was trying to blog more often you know but the first week back after summer always seems more than a little chaotic.

The funny thing is that Looby wasn't going back to school but we were settling in to our new way of life and anyone who's seen Looby in the last week or so has commented just how happy she is and how she's more like Looby again, hurrah for that I say, long may it continue.  It is amazing though, I think perhaps we're both so much happier and it was only a couple of days before we attended Home Ed trampolining where she made her first similarly aged friend.  I have no worries at all about Looby feeling any kind of feelings of isolation, she's made a new friend, she spent a day with her best friend from school at the weekend and then she saw all of her riding school friends yesterday, my social butterfly's wings have certainly not been clipped by the introduction to this new way of life.

What's amazing is that I wasn't sure when we should commence any kind of formal learning, the guidelines say that you need around 1 month for every year the child has attended school as a deschooling period and during this time you don't do any formal learning at all.  In Looby's case that would be 10 months which seems like an awfully long time to me so I decided that we'd just do things our own way, it usually works!  I feel and so does Looby that she's learnt more in a week about  real life than she ever learnt at school so that's already a win and within the first couple of days she set up her own blog and now she's blogging on a daily basis, please go over and give her blog a read, it's quite early days but she writes eloquently with a bouncy kind of style which makes for easy reading, she's more amusing than me and let me tell you, her blog about why she's home educated made me so proud, she also has had way better reader stats in a week than I ever had when I started blogging, she's a whizz!

This week is our first full week and we have lots of interesting things, we're at the Theatre tonight and tomorrow we're helping out at a dementia charity tea dance, home ed is brilliant because there are no boundaries and my financial aim this week is to accrue the funds needed for our cultural trip to Gdansk at the end of the month.

I need to sort my working times out, I am much behind currently as I wanted to spend as much time as I could with Looby but it's still early days and we need to work out how it's all going to work, it's probable that I'll just end up editing, sending newsletters and speaking to clients in the evenings and early mornings but that's fine, it's all doable, with my job, the brilliant thing is that I am mostly a digital nomad from Mon-Friday, I can literally work from anywhere on the entire planet!

I think I'm happy with life at the moment, I said yes to lots of great work things last week, nothing personal came up but there was always a chance that would happen, I'm just going to have to make sure I keep making my mark in a work sense so that I don't completely get forgotten about.

So this week, watch out for more blogging, more vlogging and definitely some new and interesting adventures, home educating is going to be the best ride we've ever been on together.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Why I'm about to say yes to everything

I'm Mandy Charlton and for the month of September I am saying yes to everything

Do you know the last time I went out with friends for a night out?  I think though I can't entirely remember that it was sometime in either January or February and it's not that I don't get invited out, it's just that I'm a bit of a hermit!  When I'm not working I like to be on my own, not speaking out loud and digesting as much information as I possibly can from wherever I can find it!

It's not that I don't like socialising, it's just that really, I'm now completely allergic to alcohol and I like to be in bed as soon as I can possibly manage it, plus the world is scary, I'm terrified of at least 50% of people, mostly the ones of the opposite sex, one of the reasons I've now been single for pretty much 3 years is that men terrify me, if I see one coming towards me in a pub I literally shrink back into the wallpaper.  

Now don't get me wrong, I love my life, I'm someone who embraces working 23 hours a day but I feel there's a change needed or not even necessarily needed, I've just decided that for the next month, in the style of Jim Carrey or Danny Wallace to be more correct, I'm going to say yes to everything. Obviously, I'm not going to take mad risks or endanger my life but it's time to say yes for a while instead of no just in case it makes a difference and there's something I'm missing out on.

I'm also going to say yes to every work offer I get, well with the stipulation that I'm not going to undervalue myself or put my business at risk but I do turn down a lot of opportunities which could lead to somewhere amazing but until I actually start saying yes, well nothing life changing is ever going to happen.

This week I have already said yes to going back to Slimming World and going to the pub quiz, I need to lose weight and the pub quiz jackpot is over £1500 with only 5 keys left, I'd be stupid to say no!!

I told Harriet today so she knows and I trust her with the information and power that I'll always say yes, I also told Abigail, cue several crazy ideas like sky-diving, I'm kind of hoping for more realistic possibilities, like maybe being asked on a date or receiving an exciting work assignment.

Of course there's always the distinct possibility that going to the pub quiz and rejoining Slimming World is the most exciting offers I'll get but you never know until you try and I guess that's why I'm taking a moment to write it down, first off, it opens me up to my readership, it puts notions out into the universe and it also means I can't go back on the idea.  I'll write a post in October to tell you if anything happens.

I am planning to travel in September with Looby so who knows what that might lead to and when she comes back from Tenerife this week I'll tell her my plan, again, I'll put aside any crazy ideas that come from that, I shan't be signing up for any bungee jumps or dangling by my ankles over any crocodile tanks anytime soon.

So, stay tuned, along with single handedly home educating Looby, this could be the most exciting September I've ever known.  So, over to you...  Want to set me a challenge or ask me to do something, you can leave a comment or email me!

Friday, September 01, 2017

There's No Turning Back Now...

There's no turning back, home educating looby, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I make no apology for the fact that my blogging has been utterly sporadic of late or that I've written very few posts over the whole of summer.  It's weird that sometimes it just seems impossible to grab five minutes to sit down and collect my thoughts but unfortunately that is the way it's been.  I can't remember the last time I was actually up to date with work and as of right now, I have 2 weddings and 4 photo shoots to edit.

It's not that I've fallen out of love with blogging or indeed writing, in fact, nothing could be further than the truth, it's just simply that I need an extra hour in the day!  It's only a few weeks since I started vlogging but I really love finding my feet on a new platform, it's a task to build up a new following but I'm on a mission to conquer Youtube before the end of the year, come subscribe to my face if you already haven't!

I cannot quite believe it's the first of September or that in just 5 days my son will be 21 or indeed that in 24 days my youngest will be 14!  Yesterday I sent off her letter to deregister from school, no going back now, home education here we come!

I wonder if blogging is going to get easier during our year of adventure or if it will end up being like that random year where I only managed to write 34 posts....surely not, I hear you cry?!

Well dear readers, what's going to happen over the next year I just can't tell but I am excited by the possibilities and whilst in some ways, everything is changing, in many ways, I'm going to have to work even harder to support us all whilst simultaneously being responsible for Looby's education.

So, what's on the cards for the next few months, well in a work sense I've just announced my "Last day of summer" Mini photo shoots taking place at King Edwards Bay on 23/09/17 and yes, technically it is actually the first day of autumn but I'm guessing I couldn't fill a whole day of photo shoots on a Friday!!

So if you want a mini photo shoot then, it's £100 and you'll get all of the edited digital images to print and keep forever!  Just send me an email,  sessions are available from 10 am until 4 pm and they're 30 minutes in length.  

It is of course that shooting these crazy days are the thing that sustains us, my income comes from working hard and to the best of my abilities, our lives are what they are because I work more hours in a weekend than there actually seem to be, but you know what, I wouldn't change it for the world, I'm actually a bit rubbish at a life without deadlines, I work better under just a little pressure,maybe that's why I'm single parenting, running a successful and award winning business whilst home educating my 14-year-old, or maybe I've just lost the plot!!

I have big plans for us, we're undertaking a project about tourism in Poland and we'll have a cultural trip to go along with that, we're also going to be working on many forms of media and I'll be helping Looby to set up a blog/vlog when she gets back from her well earned holiday with dad, she's currently in the sunshine in Tenerife, lucky girl.

I also want to do a project on farming since that's what she wants to do and I'll hopefully arrange a stay on a working farm for us and hopefully, Holly Bobbins can join us for that one!  Oh and towards the festive season we'll be studying Christmas around the world with a cultural trip to a Christmas market, it's just as well the English/Math and Science program we are doing is online and accessible wherever we are.

So I want to end this blog post with a note of great thanks, thanks for your continued patronization of my business, thanks for your continued friendly faces entrusting me with your special moments and thanks to all of the people who've helped and advised about our home educating adventure, I really feel, now more than ever, the very best, is yet to come.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Caribbean Food Week 2017

Summer is for BBQ's, it's no secret that I cook outdoors as much as possible from spring through to late autumn or as long as the weather permits really!  Last week as has now become an annual occasion we threw our Caribbean street party BBQ for Looby and her friends and Abigail also came along so that she and her sister could do a Caribbean hot sauce challenge and if you want to see how that went, well why not have a watch?!

If you haven't heard of Caribbean food week, it's this week and there are events in London, the week is organised by Grace foods and it's designed to educate us all in the joys of home cooking.  This year I made my usual Rice and Peas and also some Jerk chicken which was scrumptious!  As is customary we had a tropical fruit salad and copious amounts of coconut water, pineapple juice and some mango and orange juice just for good measure!

For me, Caribbean food week is just a great excuse to have a themed BBQ and get dressed up for the occasion, this year I was so prepared that we even splashed out on Lei's, grass skirts and a 6 foot inflatable palm tree, yes, those of you who know me know that I don't do things by halves!

Pyracantha cat was delighted to also be involved and if you believe that, you'll believe anything!  The great thing I've found about having themed BBQ's and parties at my house is that everyone gets into the spirit, my daughters friends parents must dread the messages sent home as they have to come up with all manner of themed outfits but hey, it's about getting into the mood, having fun and celebrating tropical style!!

This summer in England, well it's not been the best but on Thursday the clouds stayed away and the weather matched our Caribbean theme, ooh and this year, I have Alexa who found me a Caribbean playlist, we truly did live a tropical life even if it was for just one day!

As Caribbean food week is running until the 28th of August you still have time to whip yourself up a Caribbean street party to delight your friends and family and for more information you can see - 

Hashtag #CFW2017


Friday, August 18, 2017

Twitter made me famous!!!

Holly Bobbins gets in the mood for Caribbean food week, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer

This week has been wonderful, it's a week in which I've taken things a little easier, Looby and I have had a bit of a staycation, we've been to the Baltic, we've been to the beach, to Northumberlandia for a simple picnic and yesterday we had a Caribbean BBQ complete with a giant inflatable palm tree, I have a whole post to write dedicated to our BBQ so look out for that coming soon.

Something else also happened this week, my children thought I was cool for about 30 seconds longer than usual, usually I'm cool for 0 seconds!!  So what brought about this epic event?  Well on Tuesday Twitter finally gave me it's seal of approval in the form of the blue verified tick!!  Yes, just me and approximately 290,000 of my closest friends have the verified by Twitter badge which means we are, in Twitters words, an authentic account of public interest!  Who knew, so many people were interested in my general ramblings about beagles, travel and cats?

If you're not following me on Twitter, why in the heck not?  I usually follow back unless you're completely spamalicious!

You know what's been lovely this week?  deliciously long lies in bed, a couple of mornings I was up and at my desk by half seven however, not because I had to be but just because the morning thought I should be up and awake, not a bad thing when you choose it but I suspect the squawking of my alarm will angrily awake me starting tomorrow, I have another one of those hugely busy periods coming up, full of weddings and portraits, it's the start of the long slide into September when things get stupid busy at weekends, dare I say it but autumn is coming.  I actually published my up to date availability yesterday though some of it has since been taken but if you want to book a mini photo shoot over the next few months, you can check out my weekend availability  and as you'll probably note, yep, I don't have any weekends off now until Christmas!

I am planning on travelling though so don't despair, most of our trips will probably be Tuesday to Friday or Monday to Thursday, we're planning on exploring European destinations we've never visited, all part of Looby's home education out in the big wide world!

I am waiting to get paid for some stuff and then booking my plane tickets to Warsaw, it's been a quiet business week and whilst that's been wonderful for energy and enjoying life, it's not been so healthy for my financial state, August tends to be nearly as bad as January financially as the whole world goes on holiday, including me of course and as everyone knows, when your children call you the "Bank of Mum" life can get pretty expensive!  In their defence they really don't ask for a lot, it's just that life in general is expensive isn't it?  Single parenting is not for the feint of heart as I have said many times before.

Speaking of single parenting, I had a message off a man (whom I'm sure is lovely ordinarily) on Eharmony which rejustified the reason I'm never going to find a date on that website, his photos were highlights from the last 10 years and he asked if he could send me an up to date one giving me his phone number, I politely declined and told him I wasn't interested, I mean who gives out their number to a total stranger on a dating site?  I can only bet if I'd given him mine, the next photo I'd seen would be something naked and I'd be scarred for life!  Eharmony, you are the worst dating site I've ever tried, your days are numbered, well to be honest, all dating sites have been pretty bad so I'm removing myself from them all because quite frankly, I'd rather be single!
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