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, October 14, 2017

London, We Love You!

I'm lucky to have one of those careers where I don't know what's going to happen next so when I was offered a day in London to go to play with the latest iPhones by Three I didn't pause before accepting, especially as Looby was also included in the offer.

I'd say that Thursday was a gift, it was one of those rare magical days when the planets align to create near perfection, we had a plan to go to Harrods, and then the event at the Three discovery centre in Islington followed by a swift trip to Hamleys at Looby's request.

We travelled down at 8am and got home at 11pm exhausted because we'd also managed so squeeze in a trip to Buckingham Palace, Looby noticed an open window and concluded The Queen must have been looking for us, the same as she had when we'd had a trip to London when Looby was just 4 years old.

I think there's something magical about London, perhaps because I don't have to live there on a daily basis, I know my way around from all of the time I've spent there in another life and I'm pretty good at negotiating The Tube though I will say £18.50 for an off peak day ticket for Looby and I, we're used to just over £5 on the metro!!

So we began our trip at one of the most magical places of all, the Harrods Christmas department, you'll know from previous articles that I have a big of a love of department stores but Harrods is something else, I mean where else could you purchase a reed diffuser for £22,000 or a Suitcase with internal desk for £99,500?  Luckily all Looby wanted was this years Harrods Christmas bear which at £19.95 I think was a bargain and they don't even charge you for the carrier bags.

Yes, Harrods is the place where dreams can come true and when I win the lottery I shall be heading straight there for a celebratory shopping spree, Looby hadn't been there before and loved it, let loose with spare cash I think she could have come away laden with goodies.

Our main event of the day was of course going to Three for a session on the new iPhones, and iOS11, being an Apple fan girl by my own admission I was thrilled to have some time to test out the new iPhone8 plus, I will say that the camera on it is amazing

This is with the 7Plus my current phone which I love

This is using studio lighting mode on the iPhone8 Plus, now if you're me and you're a photographer you'll notice the difference straight away, the shadows alone with the even lighting are amazing, especially when it was shot indoors under artificial lighting, it should be that my outdoor late afternoon light is better but there's just no contest!  If I was going to upgrade right now I would without question however, what I'm holding out for is the iPhone X, that's going to have completely different and revolutionary new ways to take photos and it's going to be more intuitive, have better lenses and modes, I just hope I can pre-order one on the 27th October and have it in time for Christmas, there are rumours afoot that we may not actually see them in reality until early next year.  I also managed to pick up some new tips about Live Photos, did you know you can change the type of photo, it's a bit like having Boomerang but within the camera.

I thought I knew most of the new features of iOS11 but there were some hidden gems, and if you have never played with augmented reality yet, I'd suggest you check out one of the apps, I think AR is at the very beginning of it's creation and it's only going to get better and better, it's certainly got me excited.

After the event we knew we had enough time to go to Buckingham Palace so we had the loveliest wander through St James Park before finally visiting The Queen, it's a total highlight for me and Looby couldn't remember her visit when she was small except for the fact that she'd seen The Queen waving out of the window at her and she looked like granny, who knows if it actually happened but I've always believed it was possible!

She was definitely at home as the Royal Standard was flying this time around, could she have been looking for us too I wonder?  Looby did get a photo standing next to her this time, even if she was slightly more square than I remembered, definitely her though, I mean, look, she's even got a corgi!

Funny that she seems to live in Hamleys though!  I should mention at this point that I thought that Hamleys was actually hell on earth, it was noisy, crowded, they charged us £5 for a reusable carrier bag when Looby bought a London themed jigsaw, I was wholly unimpressed though she loved it and that's all that mattered.

For me, I got a walk in the royal park, I got to watch the pelicans and I got to spend some time soaking in the atmosphere at the palace, Looby said she wished we could have spent more time at the palace but sadly time was not on our side.  London is so vast that you really can't see much in day but I hope we'll get back down there soon through work or leisure, wouldn't it be amazing if I got more work there?  It's more probable than the train tickets perpetually costing half a months rent.

Thanks to Three for facilitating our trip and inviting us to their fabulous Apple event, they did not sponsor this post and all of my opinions are that of my own, I remain a fan of all things Apple and most things London.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Still succeeding in spite of anxiety!

still succeeding in spite of anxiety, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Yesterday I got confirmation of a couple of things in my calendar which have made me smile.  I work incredibly hard and I'm prepared to work even harder if I have to, trying to support a family on my own, running a now multi award winning business, it all takes time and utter dedication, yesterday I was helping Looby empty out her bedroom, lifting up carpets whilst trying to keep my business going, trying to come up with more ways to boost our income, well at least try to find that constant and before you say it, yes I realise that sometimes it would be a lot easier to just go to work for someone, earn money, come home and not worry about every single minute thing but hey, this is me, it's been 10 years of my life and although there are times when my anxiety is horrific and times when I think my entire life is about to fall apart and we'll end up living in a box on the side of the road, well I still wouldn't change it, it's me against the world with my brilliant teenagers (and super hero dog).  

I'm still trying to establish myself as a writer and get constant work and I'll always be a photographer, that's just who I am, I just hope it doesn't take 10 years for my writing to pay the dividends that photography has because I love them both equally and when I get the chance to use them together, well it's like magic really.

Tomorrow, Looby and I are off to that London, the big smoke, the city, we're thankful for Three who are enabling us to go and we'll be heading to the Three discovery store in Islington for an afternoon of Apple fan girl goodness.  Being not in a position to afford big trips to London, it's a fabulous chance to pop into Harrods and Hamleys to marvel at their Christmas departments before we hop on the train back at 8pm tomorrow night, when we get back we'll be exhausted but it will all have been worth it and you can be sure we'll share our London adventures with you dear reader.  I'm so grateful that they not only chose me to go along but they were so lovely and understanding about Looby coming too, it's the sign of a great brand for sure.

And next week, well on Wednesday we are collaborating with the Tyne and Wear Metro, you'll be able to follow our adventures all day on your social media as Looby, Holly Bobbins and I go on a great northern dog friendly day out to places we usually wouldn't go, it's a very exciting brief and we're so looking forward to it, I won't give too much away but stick with me and you can travel along with us.

I said yesterday didn't I that work is a constant, do what you love, it will keep you sane, well for me, it certainly does, it takes me to places I couldn't ordinarily go and it provides so much more than financial gain, which is just as well really...

We have grand plans in our house at the moment, yesterday we emptied Looby's bedroom ready to paint a giant sky on her walls, think blue skies and white fluffy sponged clouds, it's no secret that one of our inspirations is the decor of our local Sky Apple Cafe, Looby has long wanted to sleep on a cloud in the middle of the skies and we're one step closer to achieving it, yesterday we moved furniture, we demolished wardrobes, from a home education point of view this is a giant art project, it's design and technology and I hope when she has her projector showing the night skies on the walls and ceilings it'll also prove to be a constant science and astronomy guide, well at night, anyway.

Life may be quiet, life may be filled with my own stupid anxiety but at the heart we have each other and that's not something I would let anyone invade, for all of my rhetoric about finding someone, I'm not sure I'd change the dynamics of my family for anyone,

Mama, Teenagers, Bobbins, Cats and a whole lot of love, it's all we need really.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The continued search for the man with the swooshy hair

This is a post that I meant to write last night but yesterday was such a whirlwind, in fact the whole weekend was like a mini cyclone with work so when I got home yesterday evening, I sat in front of the TV unable to say anything other than "Wibble"

So I'm writing this on Monday evening and it's a well timed post because when you read this on Tuesday it will be World Mental Health Day, a day when I think we just need to be out there talking openly about this subject, something I've advocated for years and it's relevant because this weekend for me has really passed in a haze of anxiety. I still went to work though, I still did a great job.

I've had anxiety for years, it's partly due to bipolar, it's partly due to the meds I take and it's partially to do with life in general!  Do you ever feel sometimes that you can't do right for doing wrong?

Fenwick Newcastle Christmas Department 2017, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

I was trying to be organised, trying to plan my Christmas party early so that all of my friends could be there so me being "wise" I started a group message, put the date out there and, well, suffice to say, I have no idea what happened but all hell broke loose and I remembered why I am a hermit and not great at friendship.  I'm kind of glad that Harriet puts up with me actually!  So after spending an angst filled evening followed by a sleepless night and very much overthinking I've decided that I shall never try and be organised and whatever happens in my life I shall never be temped to try a group message.  To be honest I hate Facebook messages at the best of times, for about 4 years I just stayed perpetually offline even when I was online. I do try to be slightly less hermit and more social butterfly (Yeah I know, who am I kidding eh?) but generally being the kind of person I am, I find friendship to be exceedingly complicated.

I also decided that I probably shouldn't have a Christmas party and then I though, to hell with it, I'm having one anyway, even if it's just me in a corner with jar of pickles and a bottle of sparkling water accompanying myself on the ukulele whilst doing Karaoke to show tunes, go on, you know you want to.  At least I have Holly Bobbins, she's a total party animal.

Holly Bobbins the beagle with the big personality, mandy charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, the continued search for the man with the swooshy hair

I've also been worrying about dating again, do you know it's around a year since I put my dating profile on my blog? I am still single, still scouring the internet (when I can't sleep) for a swooshy haired bohemian, I've decided that some of my other requirements are negotiable but not the hair, now I'm not talking long hair, I'm talking surfer swooshy, let me tell you, I might have to move to Australia because that could be where he's currently hiding.  I'm holding out for him though and if I never find him, well, hey ho, I'm happy to remain a hermit. Oh and I've just re-read my requirements from a year ago, let's just revise this to 33-40, swooshy, bohemian, funny, smart man who loves animals, travel, and cake. Must love Sci-Fi, Superheroes, and Christmas.   If you know this man, please send him my way!

Aside from that, good things are happening, this week and next week I have 1 special day when both Looby and I are doing things with brands we love, I can't give too much away at the moment but look out for updates this Thursday and again next Wednesday, work is the constant that never let's me down and it's that continual push to stay alive in the world of business and to keep striving to achieve the next level that actually keeps me alive, so many times when I could be swallowed whole into dark places but I fight, I fight some more and then on the really tough days, well my inner strength is an insurmountable thing. Over and over, I say this every day and to you I say the same because I see this message everywhere and it speaks to me...

Do What You Love!


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Last Night I Fell In Love...

Last night I fell in love, yes it actually happened, last night I fell in love with...

an advent calendar which costs just £150!!

John Lewis Beauty Advent Calendar, £150, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

I'll tell you one thing, this beauty advent calendar is a definite way to my heart, just look at it's beauteous goodness and okay, yeah, it's £150 but it does contain £300 worth of beautiful presents, 24 tiny treats to make you fall in love over and over again, well at least for 24 days of December.  Maybe it was made more magical by the fact that it was in John Lewis?

For anyone who doesn't know me well, John Lewis is my favourite and my best, when I'm feeling sad and a bit glum I take myself to John Lewis and everything is happy again, all of the good in the retail world exists in John Lewis, cushions you can bury yourself in, sumptuous drapes you could hang in country houses, only the best people get to shop at John Lewis.

Now I should state for the record, I am not a beauty blogger but when John Lewis got in touch to invite me to their inaugural blogger event in their beauty retreat there was no way I was going to refuse, it's like being invited by the Queen for tea at Buckingham Palace, next year John Lewis, you should have a Christmas bloggers evening although I'm not sure I could cope with so much excitement, John Lewis and Christmas now go together in grand tradition, it isn't even Christmas until after we've first viewed that special advert which heralds the real start to Christmas.

Okay, so I'm guessing one or two of you cynical minds out there might be judging me for my materialistic love of a department store and for the idolisation of a false God but really, without John Lewis and Fenwick, life would be miserable and much like Waitrose the staff are the success of the store, they're always happy to help, always smiley so allow me this one deferment from my usual statement that life is about experiences and not things.
In saying that, last nights bloggers evening was most definitely an experience, I had a Decleor massage, an Elemis facial and a lovely hand massage from Jessica nails, there was music from a divine man announced only as "Mark" who I wanted to steal and pop in a corner of my living room so he could sing to me every time I walked past *insert winking smiley face here*

Last night was about so much more than beautification, it was about teeny tiny canap├ęs, sumptuous macaroons and more importantly it was about catching up with my most favourite ladies from the blogging world, some of whom I haven't seen for ages.  I don't go out a lot at night and I only work with select brands now, juggling a photography business, writing, home educating, single parenting, well it doesn't leave a lot of time and that was one of the reasons I went along, an excuse for a pamper, just for a couple of hours to leave the world behind and spend it in the glittery wonderland that is John Lewis Newcastle.

I really do hope they throw more events and even more so, I hope they invite this fan girl to come along and escape the humdrum of the world outside and slide into a decadent department store where simply everything is taken care of.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Is Facebook A Dating Site?

Is Facebook a dating site? dating in your forties, relationships, social media, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

The first time I thought about dating post marriage breakup was probably about 2 years ago, I had a look around, found out what Tinder was, went on one dodgy date with Doctor Dave and that proved that I was not ready to date anyone.

I tried again last year and after a couple of failed attempts I realised that I still wasn't ready although I did make a lovely friend from it so it's not all bad.  The thing is though that men, generally freak me out, if someone approaches me in a bar, I literally try to retreat into the wallpaper or I tense up so much that it's hideously unattractive, and that's just the ones I'm not interested in.  Should I, heaven forbid, see someone I actually find attractive (few and far between, I have niche tastes) I can't even speak in sentences.

On dating sites I swipe left on anyone who's too attractive feeling I'm not worthy and then I swipe left on all of the ones I'm not attracted too, let's just say it's not a huge pool of men left at the end.

I don't know how dating works now, I don't know how people meet people and even more so, I don't know how people meet people without freaking each other out!

I need to talk about a situation dear reader, I need to get this off my chest, in truth, it's late, I'm perturbed and I really don't know what to do.  You see, it appears that I have landed myself in a situation...

Let me just state, if you didn't know already, that I take my Facebook friendships very seriously, it's a rare day when I add someone I haven't already formally asked if it's okay that I add them.  If people add me, I usually accept assuming that I know them or in some cases, that they want to do business with me and haven't quite figured out Facebook business pages or LinkedIn.

So a man added me and then he broke into conversation like I've known him for ages, he's very civil, gave me compliments and can mostly speak in fully formed sentences.  So the first problem I have is right in that sentence, I am not good at accepting compliments, compliments make me suspicious, I'm not someone who gets complimented and when it happens it instantly worries me.  Also from adding someone on Facebook to treating them like you're new best friend, that's weird right?  Maybe I'm in the wrong here, maybe it's perfectly acceptable and it's being brave and the 21st century equivalent of walking up to a stranger in a bar?

It's always a bit of an issue when someone reads your blog and therefore thinks they know you, I hear the same thing from Vloggers, people come up to you and start chatting like they've known you for ages because, I suppose to them, they have.  I mean there's always a chance that someone out there has been reading my blog for the whole 11+ years I've been writing it, yikes, if it's you, you probably do know me better than I know myself.

Now, here's the thing, if someone just started speaking to me on Twitter every day, it would be fine, it wouldn't feel so weird because I think that's kind of what Twitter's purpose is, Facebook, and messaging someone, well that just feels intrusive to me, plus of course I'm on the back foot where someone has a greater knowledge of me and I know literally nothing about them.  I did tell them they'd freaked me out and they said that they just wanted to get to know me and me to know them but is this how it actually works?  Is this the way things are now?  Is Facebook fair game as somewhere you look for dates?

I actually have not replied to the second message, I've written this instead, it's probably a better way to understand my innermost thoughts and I guess it's funny that I'm comfortable sharing them with the 20,000 or so of you that read my blog every month but I can't do direct person to person conversations, it's also entirely possible that I am in the wrong and this is how things are done now and I just need to get with the program.

A friend of mine, in a previous comment or message, I can't remember which but he said maybe I didn't actually want to date anyone, maybe I only ever look for someone unobtainable or set myself unachievable dating goals because actually I'm just not ready, it's more the case I think that I'm scared, maybe I'm terrified of life moving on and things changing, while there's only me there's no one to let me down, no one to tell me what to do, no one to get in the way of all of the things I've worked so hard to build up, no one to argue with, no one to shout at me or get angry, no one to hurt me ever again the way's that I've been hurt before, no one to break my heart or the pieces I've glued back together...


Sunday, October 01, 2017

Slimming World, an Indoctrinated Cult, part 227

Slimming world, an indoctrinated cult part 227, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, dieting, health and wellbeing

Sunday morning and I've just climbed back into bed, the first day of October has brought with it rain, low light and all around bad photography conditions, especially when my day was supposed to be on the beach, many of my clients must have realised this yesterday as a lot of them had already rescheduled leaving me to break the not so unexpected bad news to the other couple.  I do hope that October gets its act together for the remainder of the month.

October is a funny one, it's nearing Christmas but it's too early to start seriously thinking about, it's the month of Halloween but if you're not a big fan of ghosties and ghouls then it's not got that much significance although I have promised Looby that it's going to be one of our home ed topics this month.

What October does give us though is usually the most splendid photography of the year, it's my busiest period and my favourite for the light (today excepted) which will only continue to get warmer and golden before sometime in November when it starts to get, well a little gloomy as the light levels fall, no matter then though as that's when the world starts to get twinkly, no with light and seasons and magic, the only ones I really worry about are January and February, dark forboding months, hopefully this year with all of that Hygge research they might be a little more bearable.

I read an article the other day which suggested that this is the busiest time of year on dating sites, it seems as we approach the cosier months of the year we all seek companionship a little more and I can understand that, I was just saying to Harriet the other day that it's been ages since I threw a dinner party, it's trickier now that I only have a table for four bottoms but I guess we could do teas on knees and a big bowl of slow cooker stew, maybe with a glass of warm dark red, for those who aren't so allergic!

One thing I am definitely treating myself to is a soup maker, there's that first autumnal day every year when I make the inaugural pot of soup, it's like a welcome to the warmth season, if you're making it, you get 10 bonus points if it's made with butternut squash or pumpkin.  It's funny that a couple of weeks ago I sorted out all of my cookery books, clearly, I was already preparing myself without knowing it. This leads me to my next point, that of dieting, I hate dieting, I love cake, it's been a battle ever since my HRT shenanigans and now I must do something, I briefly tried returning to Slimming World but it's more of indoctrinated cult than it is a supportive club, all of my issues were not only still there but heightened even more than they had been previously, I just can't be part of a club in which avocados are the enemy and also, whilst we're on this subject, I don't want to be clapped every week out of praise or sympathy, especially on the weeks where I already feel the world is too loud.  I've read many books over the last few years about nutrition and I have lost weight without the need of a club before so I've come up with a plan I'm calling "The Very Hungry Mandypillar" except I don't intend to starve, I just quite liked the name.  I'll let you know how I get on but I'm on a bit of a mission to be able to wear ballgowns for the formal nights on our forthcoming cruise to Norway  and not look like a beached whale, every time I look in the mirror at the moment I see Brian and Brian has got fat!

And so, I'll end this multi-paragraphed ramble in the hopes that someone, somewhere has at least enjoyed the emptying of my brain, I'm off to the shops to buy soup ingredients, squashes and avocados, just call me a Slimming World anarchist, go on, I dare you!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Luxury Retreat, Northumberland

A luxury retreat, Looby relaxes at Haggerston Castle Holiday Park, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, travel, holidays,

Sometimes it's good to take a couple of days off from the world, I have to admit that since April I've averaged 1 trip away every month, it's a necessity though, business is so frenetic that when I can take time off I have to get away, it's the only time I really stop working.

Looby requested a lodge or caravan break for her birthday, she knows I much prefer experiences over things and so that's what we're doing, we're staying at a caravan called "The Retreat" it's situated in a quiet neighbourhood of luxury Haven holiday park, Haggerston Castle and it's so much more than your average caravan, it's everything you need and more and as we crossed the threshold with owners Jan and Carrie showing us around I felt my stress and anxiety subside for the first time in ages.

Today Looby and I have had fun, precious quality time, we hired a trike and with Looby in charge she rode it way too fast which made me giggle and occasionally squeal, in reality, it was probably perfectly safe but I'm such a cowardly lion when it comes to such things.

We've walked 17k today, we've ambled around the lake and we've explored the Italian walled gardens, it really is the most beautiful and serene place,  I know there's the Funworks and the noisy amusements, the show bar, the family pools but this holiday park is what you make of it, it's also got a luxury spa on site and a riding school, and you can bet when Looby goes on a hack tomorrow I'll be heading straight to the spa for a much needed massage.

We could have gone to the show bar this evening for the entertainment as we bought the passes so we could go swimming, shame we discovered after our purchase that Looby had forgotten to pack her swimming costume.

The last time I stayed at Haggerston Castle, I was 11 years old on holiday with my best friend Carole, much has changed since then, all for the best I would hasten to add although I was sad to learn you can't go up to the top of Haggerston tower anymore as the views, if I remember correctly, were fabulous.

I don't think it's the last time we'll hire Jan's lovely van as it's the perfect escape for us, it's a 2 hour bus ride, it's a dog-friendly park and because the park is so big I'm sure that Holly Bobbins would love it here, with all of the geese and swans around she'd be guaranteed lots of sniffs.

You know in 10 years time we may forget what we get for birthdays and Christmases but we'll never forget these moments, the quality time, the precious time, objects and things become obsolete but memories live forever.
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