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, March 24, 2017

Win Your Own Star with Star Name Registry

win your own star, name a star with star registry, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger



Every night I wish upon a star, I believe that stars have the most magical properties, we're never as connected to the universe as we are when we are under skies filled with shining blankets of twinkling stars.  In my years of blogging, I've collaborated with so many companies and it's brought me the most amazing items and trips away but this collaboration is without a doubt the most special of all.

a star deed from star name registry, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, win your own star


The lovely people at Star Name Registry asked me if I wanted to name a star and so after much thought I came up with the name Abilaurain Bobbins which is a combination of Abigail, Laura, Iain and of course wonder dog Holly Bobbins, you also get to choose a memorable date so I chose my birthday and that way our family star would have a bit of me in as well and now for all eternity we have our own named star, whenever and wherever we are, we will always be able to look to the skies and see the place in eternity where we'll always be together.
a starry sky, embleton, northumberland,  star name registry, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, win your own star

You know the best thing about naming a star?  I got to choose the constellation and being the biggest fan of greek mythology I had to choose the constellation of Cassiopeia, a story which I love.

Cassiopeia is the mother of Andromeda, she boasted that both she and her daughter were the most beautiful of all of the Nereids which angered Poseidon who threatened to flood Ethiopia, to cut a long story short, Andromeda was going to be sacrificed but was saved by Perseus who she married. Poseidon still believed that Cassiopeia should be punished so he tied her legs to a chair and she dangles upside down in the heavens with her dress covering her face so even though she's holding a mirror she can never see her reflection again.
a star deed from star name registry, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, win your own star

In star terms, Cassiopeia is always visible in the northern hemisphere as it is so near to the pole star and even though I live in the city where light pollution is bad, I can always see Cassiopeia so everytime I glance upon her I'll know I'm with my family and my dog.
a star deed from star name registry, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, win your own star

Now here's the best part, would you like to name your very own star?  Star Name Registry are giving one of their extra bright star packages worth £24.99 to one of you lovely readers and here's all you have to do, leave a comment below "I want to win a star because..." and I'll choose the best entry on 31/3/17 and that person will win and get to name their own start and you'll receive a certificate, guide to finding the star and a sky atlas.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Love, it makes you crazy, Fact!


Why love makes you crazy, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, love, dating, mental health, bipolar


So I haven't blogged for a little while and although I would love to now reveal that the reason is something incredibly exciting and important, I have to admit that I've just had nothing to write about. Life has generally been quiet, smooth running, business has picked up, I've been working super hard and in reality, the most exciting thing I've done was seeing Iain Stirling live at The Stand, I laughed and laughed, best night out I've had this week, actually the only night out I've had this week!

So you might be wondering what's been happening in my exciting quest to find my soulmate the second time around, well, nothing, I suspect there are no eligible men left in the world, at least on the dating sites I use, I've all but given up on Tinder and Match Affinity is brilliant, it's finding people I have 80/100 of affinity with, sadly, it's not a case of my face not liking their face, I mean in some cases I'm kind of repelled by their suggestions!!

I think if I was going to invent a dating app, it would have to be a cross between Match Affinity and Tinder but more sophisticated.  Scientifically successful couples have facial symmetry and they're also matched on an attractiveness level so what you would do is describe your ideal person both physically and emotionally and then it would use its clever algorithms and come up with matches, now there would be fewer matches but the chances of them being successful would be surprisingly higher.  Now surely if we can come up with ways to find out the fundamentals of the creation of life in the universe we can find clever enough mathematicians and tech heads to make an app which actually works!

A couple of weeks ago I went to a brilliant talk about the science of love, it was fascinating, it was about digital dating and the stages of love as well as how animals approach love, I seriously love this stuff.  Did you know that every country in the world has the Tinder app, even the poorest most war-torn ones?  it's mind blowing!  I hope they're having better luck than me!

The thing is that it's spring now (thank heavens for spring) and I'm quite happy, settled and have returned to reasonably well balanced, well for me anyway  and I just don't know if I'm ready for the craziness of love, I always get to that point of maybe thinking about going on dates and then talk myself out of it and I think the reason is that I know what love does to you, love makes you crazy, chemically crazy, to get from stage 1 which is lust to get to stage 3 which is true love, you have to go through stage 2, romantic love,  stage 2 is the part which makes you crazy, it's partly obsession, it's a little stalky and this, of course, is even worse now that we have social media, who amongst us can say they haven't searched on FB for someone they've started dating?  

Romantic love makes us sick and dizzy, it makes us paranoid, it's the curse of the overthinker and yet we seek this out with our hearts and heads and minds like addicts and that's what love is, the romantic stage at least, it's an addiction! So when you couple that with your own mental health, it can often be a recipe for disaster.  You see I believe in true love but I also have bipolar and I never do anything by halves, in my life, work and almost certainly love, if I commit to something it becomes almost obsession-like and I guess that's why I do hold back, because once I've given away my emotions I literally lose the plot!!

There's no answer to this, I can't stay single for the rest of my life but I need to make sure that when I fall in love, as Nat King Cole once sang, it will be forever because I have enough crazy without tipping it over the edge with the craziness of romantic love.
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Just Throw Love At It



Just Throw Love At It, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Blogger, Writer, Love, The Secret, Positivity


Several years ago when I took my vow of positivity to the universe, I learned the most valuable lesson, to just throw love at every situation, in life, in business, in friendships and of course in love.

Just lately when life has been tumultuous I've had to remind myself of this so many times, you see when things aren't going your way it's so easy to get angry with the world or irked with the people you should be showing love and kindness.  You know when you have a bad day, especially in business and you are cross and cranky and then someone sends a query or says something you disagree with, in that and every other situation the best thing is to throw love at it.

There have been times in the last 10 years when I've made mistakes and I've had to go to clients or friends and say, I did something wrong, I made a mistake, I'm sorry, what can I do to put this right? It really is okay to make mistakes because none of us is perfect but sometimes we can get angry or defensive and you know what, if you show that to someone else then you'll only get anger or sorrow back.  In every situation where I have made mistakes, I've always found a kind reaction to saying sorry.  I guess after my angry rant last night with Deliveroo, I'm hoping they'll do the same, incidentally, they've still not gotten back to me but I'm trying to be patient and accepting that it's the weekend and they do care.

I've also figured out that sometimes, I think I have it all and I rest on my laurels, something you should never do because you should never stop trying, in life and in business and heaven forbid in matters of the heart.  You should never believe you have it all and things will always stay that way because if you do, one day your complacency will be punished.

I know now that one day I will have it all but when that happens I will never stop being grateful, I'll never stop trying and I'll never become complacent.  When you are in your 40's you have the benefit of hindsight and life experience and I do know that when I finally find that special person that I'm looking for that my next relationship will be the one which lasts forever, until then I'm just going to keep throwing love at the world in life and in business because what you give out, you most definitely get back.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

An Angry Rant About Deliveroo


An Angry Rant About Deliveroo, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, byron burger, food ne, newcastle upon tyne


Now I'm not someone who gets angry about things, usually, I get a little sad and disappointed but what's happened tonight with Deliveroo has me more than irked, if I was an average Joe in the street I reckon I'd be apoplectic with rage right now.

You see, there are so many issues with Deliveroo but my son deserved a little treat and Deliveroo was what he requested.  This is the first takeaway we've had for months so I was quite excited

So in case you've lived under a rock, you'll know that Iain has Aspergers, this means he has a restricted diet and likes things the way he likes them, tonight he said he fancied a Byron Burger, so we ordered, except there was no option to remove the various sauces so I emailed and got a reply that because they were so busy I needed to start a live chat, I did that and requested the changes and 25 minutes later our burgers arrived....Cold!

The burgers were cold, inedible and had extraneous Gherkins in the box even though I'd requested no extraneous items, you can't imagine the meltdowns this kind of thing has caused, I know to you and I it might be a small thing but to someone with autism, it's a whole lot more serious.

I contacted Deliveroo and spoke to Ramil, I explained the situation and requested replacements, preferably hot ones, I told him if we were in the restaurant I would have sent them back without question and I rarely complain in restaurants.  Ramil said that he couldn't get replacements as the restaurant were not responding so we could have credit which would expire in 3 months or a refund but that takes 3 days, as Iain was still without food I requested the credit and then we started all over again.  
So this time we ordered from Iain's favourite restaurant, Wagamama, he loves Cha Han with no mushroom, mange tout or spring onion but there was no option or notes section so we could request that so I had to order and then go back into live chat again, this time Abylane was on hand but he said "It's just as well I got through to the restaurant before they started cooking"  now hang on a minute, there's no way for me to order and request changes before I pay so what the heck am I supposed to do?  I mentioned this and he suggested that I should speak to the restaurant direct which rather negates the point of Deliveroo who are supposed to coordinate everything for hassle free delivery of restaurant quality food!

At this point I requested to speak to a manager but was told I'd have to email the support address and would have to explain everything again step by step, he then left the conversation after I rated him as unhelpful.

So, the Wagamama order turns up for Iain, Holly is a happy puppy as she's had cold burgers and I'd given up on eating or reordering anything,  Iain removed the lid from his Cha Han and guess what? Yes, after 2 conversations where I'd asked for no mange tout, it had mange tout in it, seriously all Abylane had to do was copy and paste my request or read it to them over the phone, I could start a new chat but my life is too short for this.

Deliveroo, should you wish to get in touch for a chat please email me at mandy@mandycharltonphotography.com

Next time I think we'll just brave the weather and go for decent burgers at The Grind!
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why I'm Happy To Be In Seclusion

It's Thursday morning and the last time I had to speak to anyone out loud apart from my dog was on Monday, it's been the most amazing retreat and I think this is going to be something I'm going to start doing more often.  I think I'm actually pretty happy living a life in seclusion every once in a while although I would be utterly lost without my four-pawed best friend who it's fair to say is having the time of her life.  We've walked 10 miles every day and I can say that it's no wonder that Embleton won Countryfile's best beach in the UK yesterday, such a beautiful, serene place we have retreated to, it's so good for the soul.

Beach Huts, Low Newton By The Sea, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, A coastal retreat


Some walks I've loved are Bamburgh to Seahouses via the beach, Embleton to Craster via Dunstanburgh Castle and yesterday we walked from Embleton to Low Newton and back as I puzzled inside my head, how had the residents of the Low Newton beach huts (huts which sell for up to quarter of a million yet only have water for 6 months a year and no access to cars) managed to get their furniture into them when they're perched up on the sand dunes miles away from the nearest parking spots?  They were originally built by golfers who wanted to stay next to the golf course and there's a rule which says they can't be sublet so they've been passed from generation to generation, I think staying in one would be amazing but unless any come up for sale in the same week I've won the lottery I'm not sure it's likely, plus if you are talking about a holiday cottage I'd want somewhere you could stay all year round.

A couple of friends messaged yesterday to see how I was and I couldn't actually give them a straight answer because the truth is, I don't know, since Monday I have just sort of existed, I am being, I am walking 10 miles a day with my dog and I don't feel sad, I think I'm quite at one with nature and the wilderness.  I did buy a random scratchcard yesterday and won £20, a definite sign that I am abundant and the tides are turning in my favour.



I always feel at my most peaceful when I am out in the countryside, I think living in the city dulls my spirit and one day I hope I can live permanently in the wilds of Northumberland, I don't even mind if it's just in a beach hut or a rickety old caravan, I don't even care if it's just in seclusion, as long as I have my canine best friend by my side I know I'll be okay.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Dog Friendly Break in Embleton, Northumberland

dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger
The best thing about booking accommodation for holidays and short breaks with Airbnb is that you always end up having a completely unique experience and so when you book and then discover that you've actually booked a cottage company it's always just a little bit disappointing.  The authentic Airbnb houses tend to be full of special touches whereas holiday cottage companies are all pretty much alike and you don't tend to get the special touches.  I genuinely don't think companies should be allowed to advertise on Airbnb or I think you should be notified if it's a private house or a holiday let. There's a huge list of rules around the "dog-friendly" element of the cottage and let's just say that while we're at home, Holly will be encased in a blanket!
dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

In saying all of that, the cottage that I have let for this week is very small, very cute and perfect for Holly and I, I think if I was a family of 4 there's a chance it would feel far too small, though.

The great thing about where Holly and I are staying is that it's 10 minutes from the beach, it's a tiny village and at night the stars twinkle like a giant glittery blanket in the sky, perfect for moonlight walkies.  Holly is currently the happiest little dog in Northumberland, she woke me up at 6.30am (usually she hates mornings and anything before 10 am isn't doable) and by half eight we were out the door, by 9 am she'd rolled in sheep poo and the day just got better and better for her, we walked the coastal route from Embleton to Craster via Dunstanburgh Castle which sadly doesn't open for another 2 weeks, we had morning tea in Craster at Shoreline which is very dog friendly and welcoming and then by the time we got back to the cottage we'd walked over 18k steps.
dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

There's something wonderful about holidaying with your dog, especially if you are alone, I think if I'd been completely alone I might have felt a touch lonely but that hasn't really happened with Holly by my side, she's such good company and very undemanding which means I have lots of time to think and plan for the future.
dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I love that it's nearly spring, whilst I often crave to be in a relationship during the dark winter nights, once the spring comes I am far too busy planning my next adventure and I guess that makes me a pretty difficult person to have a relationship, I know from conversations I've had during online dating that men don't seem to like women who are 100% committed to their work, they don't understand my work ethic even though I think I have the most fun jobs ever.  Who knows what the answer is there, my girls want me to work harder so that it brings in the benefits of more income which mean we can do more extracurricular activities but I'll likely never find someone who's going to tolerate me at my workaholic best/worst!
dog friendly holiday cottages in embleton, northumberland, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


One thing is for sure, though, whilst my life seems to be a double-edged sword, at least I can guarantee that my dog is happy!
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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Modern Hermit, an escape to Embleton, Northumberland


The modern hermit, an escape to embleton, dog friendly break at snowdrop cottage, airbnb, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger



So here I am, the middle of the countryside, in a teeny tiny cottage, 10 minutes from the beach at Embleton which if you're not from the North, it's part of the Northumbrian Coastline near Craster where the kippers come from and where I'm going to walk with Holly tomorrow, it's near Dunstanburgh Castle and it's around 7 miles from Seahouses, there are buses approximately once every 3 hours and there's a village shop which also doubles as the post office.  There are however 2 pubs and both seem to be dog-friendly.  I have no phone signal which is perfect as I hate using the phone, I do however have reasonable wifi which is a must, even Hannah Hauxwell tweets these days!

I think I'd make a fairly good hermit though I must admit I did bring a Sainsbury's shop with me, some Lavazza coffee for the cafetiere and a bottle of Sancerre so I'm far from roughing it.  I have a Velux window in my bedroom and because there's no light pollution if I'm lucky I might just be able to see the stars tonight!

I didn't bring masses of camera gear with me, just my amazing Fuji X70 and my Joby Gorillapod, I mean I have to at least be prepared in case the Northern Lights show their face this week, it would be a travesty not to photograph them.

So, what do I do now?  What changes can I make to be a better person, a better mum, a better businesswoman, I really thought that life was going in the right direction and that the kids were happy and appreciate just how hard I work and how much I want things to be good for us all the time. It's upsetting because we've gotten along so well for so very long, I simply did not see this coming at all!

The girls really seem to want me to shoot more weddings and whilst I don't want to increase the number of full-day gigs I'm quite happy to shoot more short small weddings, I love short weddings, I'm great at sweeping in, photographing a great outline of the day and then sweeping out so maybe if you know someone who's getting married who needs 2-4 hours of coverage this year or next you could send them my way.

Being discovered for my writing is just going to take time and hard work, I've only been pushing it for a couple of years now whereas it's nearly 10 for photography, I know only too well just how hard it is out there in the world of freelance writing but I do think I have something unique to offer the world so I'm just going to keep writing for myself as I've always done, for my editors at Huffington Post and Nights Out in Newcastle and of course I'll continue to do portrait photography, travel photography and travel writing for anyone who'll pay me.  It's not like I'm not trying!  If anything I am a serial entrepreneur and if I get an idea about something which can potentially make money you can be sure that I'll do it.

A life lived in fear is a life half lived!
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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Holly Bobbins on Her Travels




Holly Bobbins, Beagle, No Bones canine confectionary, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger
Shock update, I love my dog, I know, you didn't realise, right?  When I adopted Holly I was in such a dark place and she mended my broken heart and has brought me so much joy over the last couple of years.  She loves meeting clients and coming on adventures with me and I love when I can get away to dog-friendly hotels and cottages.  This year I've decided to take even more photos of her when we're out and about in different places, now there's a problem here because Holly hates having her photo taken, but I have a secret weapon, much like most of the kids I photograph Holly is quite easily bribed with goodies and treats.



No Bones, a wonderful north east company sent me a gorgeous selection of treats for my four-pawed best friend and so I think she's going to be a very happy beagle over the coming weeks with all of her special Easter treats, they specialise in quality canine confectionary and Holly Bobbins has a definite soft spot for all of the lovely tasty sweeties they sent for her, isn't it wonderful that you can get your dog an easter egg or some pretty little easter nests, I mean it's unlikely she'll realise the meaning of easter but at least she's not going to feel left out when her human brother and sisters are chomping on their chocolate confections.
No Bones, quality canine confectionary, dog friendly shopping in north east england, mandy charlton and Holly bobbins

Last week with spring fast approaching we had a couple of great days out, first we went to Sycamore Gap and climbed up and down big hills to get to the tree made famous by Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Holly particularly loved Sycamore Gap because she loves getting muddy paws, so much so that she needed a bath when she got home.




Our second visit of the week was to York, it was a day when I needed to get away, just for a while and there's no better place to visit than my happy place York, it's a fabulous dog friendly city and we enjoyed big walkies around the city, down by the river and we even popped into the Star Inn for some very tasty lunch.  Holly was in her element when she got some off lead time afterwards too, she really is the happiest beagle in the world and I can't imagine life without my furry friend.  This week we're going to Embleton, again I needed to get away so I've been accruing Airbnb credit for a couple of years which needed using so just she and I are going to wander down by the beach and amble in the pretty little Northumbrian village which will hopefully inspire me for the spring and summer in my writing and photography.

I know one thing, whatever the rest of the year brings, you can guarantee you'll be seeing a lot more photos of Holly on her travels.
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

It's Time To Take A Break

It's time to take a break, Holly Bobbins on adventures, airbnb credit, travel, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger



I've made it to the end of a particularly brutal week and all I can think of is, where on earth did I possibly go wrong?  Looby is staying with grandad for a week so she can have some space and in her words, so I can "sort out my life." Now I'm not exactly sure which part of my life needs sorting out which surely makes it harder but I think I'm going to try and get away for a few days, I have some Airbnb credit so I should be able to go away for virtually nothing and I'm sure Holly Bobbins could use the break.

I do know that if I have at all lost my sparkle it's only because I'm working so hard and because I'm lonely in my heart but tell me something new, it's always like this, I'm a self-employed writer/photographer single parent trying to juggle approximately 34 things at once and I have terrible coordination.

It's hard being a mama to teenage girls, teenagers can be irrational at the best of times and it's hard to know exactly what they want, I remember trying not to work so much at weekends before but then they both had so much on that I was just sitting on my own.  I don't think there are any answers, the harder I work the less I'm likely to be around and the less I work the more broke we are so I can't support us, it's a rock and a hard place situation and I would never have chosen to be here, single parenting was not something I happily opted into.

The truth is that mums have needs too, I get lonely and I need my friends around, when the girls aren't here I like going out because the house is so empty and being mostly freelance I have to work whenever I'm called to do so.  Whilst not everything I do is monetized currently I know that it won't always be like this, I am on a path to be discovered I guess, one day I hope that my writing will become more mainstream and that the ideas I have will be paid for.  You have to work hard, though, you can't just sit and rest on your laurels.

This is, I think why a break would do me good, somewhere near the beach or in the countryside, a quaint tiny cottage just big enough for Holly and I, we can go for long walkies and in the other times I can be inspired by nature and I can write and write and write some more.

All I want for my kids and I is for everyone to be happy but that has to include me too so now it's time to plan and think and dream and work, and then it's time to come back refreshed and put plans into action, watch out world, I'm coming to get you!


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Friday, March 10, 2017

Nethermined 3 - Another Fabulous Minecraft Convention





 looby at nethermined 3, newcastle upon tyne, minecraft convention, february 2016

Looby has long been a fan of Minecraft and the very first Minecraft convention she ever went to was Nethermined, she got a press pass and I got to be mum of the year for approximately 10 minutes, the second year we couldn't go because Looby was so very poorly in hospital but this year, we were back to a better and bigger than ever Nethermined and oh what fun she had, whilst I got to be photographer extraordinaire Looby and her lovely friend got to live the high life with VIP passes meaning they got to go in and meet their favourite Minecraft YouTubers for an hour before the general public were admitted.

Nethermined with Youtube star, minecraft convention in north east england, feb 2017


Looby and Gabby had the most wonderful day, they met Youtubers, they learnt how to build roller coasters in the educational workshops, they had their faces painted, they shopped and shopped and shopped some more and they came home carrying the largest bag of merchandise and gifts I've ever seen.


Whilst parents might not necessarily get it, the tweens and tween generation definitely do and I think it's been amazing to watch Nethermined grow as a Minecraft convention year on year, I hope that we always have Nethermined in our region, as a parent it's so expensive to plan to go to conventions in London when you factor in the travel and accommodation.  The unique and most wonderful thing for the kids about having a convention based in the North East is that their favourite stars are right there, for just a few pounds the kids got to meet their YouTube idols and lets not forget just how big these gamers are, one guy had over 750,000 subscribers, when you take into account that I probably have about 400 regular readers who read every single day I have a long way to go before I reach that kind of level!


I still actually know very little about Minecraft but I know just how much Looby loves it and at the end of the day that's quite enough for me to go along and sit through panels and live game playing, Looby and Gabby were so happy that day, they were in their element doing things which they love with people who understand them, I guess as a mum we owe it to our kids to sometimes do things we don't understand and sit through chats about things we're never likely to understand.  All credit to those parents who get Minecraft, I salute you!!


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Do Something To Make Yourself Smile Today


the sunshine box by pebblewise, subscription box, mental health, mandy charlton photography blog, do something to make yourself smile today


Life is pretty hard sometimes, Ferris Bueller might have said that it moves pretty fast but sometimes you seemingly get battered in the process, bills, mental health, family, kids, work, life, all of those things some days combine to leave you feeling like a used dish rag, or a crumpled piece of discarded Christmas wrapping paper.  Even the most positive people have days where they want to hide under the blankets, you want to stop the world and sometimes, at least in my case, it can be a while before you are ready to get back on it.

I have lots of things I do when these days hit to help with self-care more than anything else and even in those dark days you have to find yourself reasons to smile.  Recently the makers of the Sunshine Box got in touch to ask if they could send me one of their boxes.

The Sunshine Box from Pebblewise is a subscription box full of sunny treats, look it's not the cure to any kind of mental health issue but who wouldn't love a box of whimsical goodies, you can either choose to subscribe or you could send a one off box to a friend to make them smile, it doesn't necessarily have to be a sad time or a dark day, it could just be something to genuinely give someone a sunny surprise.

My box contained a chocolate fondue set, a candle, bath bomb some tea and an Origami rose, quite an eclectic selection and it's not something I would have ever bought for myself but it was a lovely surprise to receive in the post.

There are other boxes on the market but this one is only £15 per month and the one off boxes are also only £15 so this could be the perfect present for any occasion, especially if you're someone like me who loves random surprises.

Mental health is such a complex area and often when we first go to the doctors we're given anti-depressants and then told to go away and do nice things whilst the medication starts to work, it's happened to me and it's happened to friends, at those times you need to have coping strategies because your mental health just doesn't improve overnight, now I'm not for a moment saying that a box like the Sunshine box is the difference between the dark abyss of depression and the sunlight days of happiness and joy but it's a thing, it's £15 to show someone you are thinking about them with a selection of gifts which are at the very least something to distract you and make you smile for just a little while.


I received a complimentary sunshine box in exchange for an honest review and I'm still shopping for big marshmallows so I can try the chocolate fondue!


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Thursday, March 09, 2017

When your teenagers tell you that you're failing them...


when your teenagers tell you that you're failing them, parenting, teenagers, pblogger, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


Today, I had planned to write about an amazing International Women's Day and an Inspirational conference which excited me, when the main speaker was talking about sexy science, the science of love and dating and Tinder, seriously I was so enthused and inspired and then I arrived home to my disgruntled teenage daughters...

So, the good stuff will have to wait because I need to write about this instead, my teenage daughters are angry, I work too much, I don't get paid enough, I'm not there enough for them, I am not a good enough mum.

I never chose to be a single mum, no one would choose that, it's the hardest situation to be in, I'm a single mum who has bipolar and juggles around 65 different roles currently!  I work a lot of hours because it's the only way that I can support us and I am working to build a career which not only supports us all but also gives us a life where we can have fun things.

I'll admit it's been extra hard of late, the transition from photography to writing is a constant fight and I'm not ashamed to say that I do a lot of work I don't get paid for, I write gig and show reviews which I don't get paid for, I write a weekly column for Huff Post which I don't get paid for, most of the articles I write I get paid very little for unless they're a brand collaboration.  I'm one of the directors of The Inspire Network and I don't get paid for that either but each and every single thing I do gets my name out there, Inspire is about giving back and blogging is and always has been about recording history, telling my story and I know that it will lead somewhere one day, all of the things I do currently are leading me to something great, one day I will have it all.

At the heart of everything I do, I do it to provide a better life for my kids and we do have tough times and dark times, work is always quieter over the winter and even last weekend, after a week of making zero, I spent my last £30 on an advert which thankfully brought in some money so I could pay our bills.  Mental health, business, parenting and life and it's bloody hard and unenviable but the one thing I thought I was doing was being a good mum so to be sat down and lectured about how I'm failing them is almost too much to bear.  Maybe one day when I do my Ted talk, I can tell this story about how I turned it all around and triumphed.

I'm sure they'll get over it when summer comes and we are going away and having days out like we did last year, I'm sure then I'll be able to give them experiences other parents can't because of the work that I do, it hurts now though because I genuinely don't feel like I can do anymore, it's not nice when your 15-year-old says you need to go and get a job, I've got several jobs, things I've been working hard to try to be brilliant at for over a decade, I get that it must be so hard for them to understand when they have no real experience of the real world, I just wish I could make them understand how hard I'm working for all of us.  The funny thing is that Iain gets it, my son understands how hard I try, I wonder if it's because he's a little older that he can see what's happening a lot more clearly?

So right now, I am sad and hurting because it's not nice to feel not good enough and it's especially not nice when it's your own daughters who are saying it, maybe they do have a point, I never profess to be the best mother, I'm never going to get a mum of the year award but I try, I try so damned hard and I can only keep believing that one day we'll reap the rewards of all of the foundations I'm trying to build for us now.
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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Nine Reasons Dogs Are Better Than Boyfriends


Why my dog is better than a man, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, dating


No sooner had I told Mr Plumb that I couldn't go out on a date with him for a week than he decided that was too long to wait and off he went, I mean, seriously, people have busy lives, he also said that "All work and no play..." well that's all very well and good but I have a great job thanks very much, I work super hard and I enjoy it, I realise my work is my life but it also takes me to gigs, concerts and on holiday, my friends think it's awesome because they get to come along and so might he if he'd realised his antiquated views on work were at the very least misguided.

It's probably a good thing that I found this out early but I mean, who can't wait a week for a date? The longer I online date, the more men confuse me.  One man when I asked him my standard question told me that he wanted to kill the whole population of the world so that only he remained, now I'm not sure that's going to inspire anyone to go on a date with a potential mass serial killer.

Another man this week got so excited that I liked superheroes and musicals that it clearly left him unable to add any vowels in with his consonants, either that or he was writing in Welsh, suffice to say when I sent him a reply the second time which consisted of fully formed sentences I didn't hear from him again.

Maybe online dating was meant to convince me that really, I'm so much better off alone with a beagle by my side, it's quite got to me so today I escaped, I just needed to get into the countryside with Holly, I needed to be at one with nature because it always makes me feel better and it got me thinking of all of the ways that Holly is way better than most men!

1.  She might smell but I can at least give her a bath without any argument.
2. When she takes up too much room on her side of the bed I can move her without too much complaint.
3.  When I come home she always gives me a rock star welcome, even when I've only been away for five minutes.
4.  She loves me unconditionally, no questions asked.
5.  She loves it when I sing, especially songs from musicals.
6.  She doesn't argue.
7.  She gives the best cuddles ever.
8.  She knows when I'm feeling sad or poorly and will come and look after me.
9.  She doesn't mind that when we share cake that I get more of it than her.

This list could actually go on, and on and on and the truth is that it's going to take a very special kind of man who can prove that he's actually better than Holly Bobbins, I mean, I'm not sure there's anyone out there who's better than Holly but you can bet your bottom dollar that if he is out there, he's probably also a beagle parent or at the very least a lovely doggy daddy who's also looking for his soulmate.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

The problem with dating...

Cat Vs Dog, Man vs Woman, the problem with dating, dating, online dating, relationships, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger



The worst has happened people, I narrowly avoided a first date scenario last night, I mean, he's a really nice guy it would seem, a metrosexual bearded plumber, you don't get many of those but the thought of actually going on a real live date made me feel sick in the pit of my stomach, yes it might have been butterflies but it might have actually been sheer terror!  I'm lucky that I had valid excuses as to why I couldn't go out last night, I was seeing girlfriends, I had too much work, teenage Looby arrived home unexpectedly and demanded that I come home immediately ("I don't like arriving home to an invisible mother" she said).  I think the problem is that I'm absolutely winning at online dating, especially for my age but it all kind of falls apart after that, whilst you can do a little to help you hack the online dating world, when it comes down to it and you have to go on real dates, the fear of rejection is now so high that I think I just want to stay single for the rest of my life until I die and then become kitty food.

Dating, it's supposed to be fun, every column that I read tells me I should just enjoy it, meeting new people, it's interesting, you might make new friends, well yes this might be the case but lets not pretend that initially when you date you are basically marketing yourself and you know what I'm pretty bloody good at marketing and coming up with new and interesting ways to sell things but myself?  I don't think I'm that great at selling myself to the opposite sex (ok, get your minds out of the gutter, you know what I mean) in fact, I think I have failed so many times that I just find it's almost easier to live vicariously through my friends and their dating adventures.

To be honest, when I've looked at the week ahead that I've got I'm not even sure I've got space to fit in a man, I'm a very busy lady and I love my jobs of which I seemingly currently have around 65 of them, what a shame that they haven't yet made me a millionaire, I bet they have trouble finding true love too, I mean, you'd have to get your head around the fact that mostly they're just seeking your money, there's a reason the rich old guys have young glamorous girlfriends!

You know what would be lovely I think and what would maybe work better for me, if I just sort of happened upon someone in the real world and they liked me and they courted me and so I felt I didn't have to go and market myself and all of the ways that I could enhance that other person's life!  Maybe I should start hanging around the Lit and Phil or I wonder if lingering around the doors of my local gentleman's barbers, after all, Heaton is the centre of the bohemian north.

It's probable that I might just go on a date with the beardy man I've been talking to, he does seem awfully keen although I'm always wary of people who say things like "Hey beautiful"  for one, I don't think I particularly view myself as that and for two, you haven't actually met me yet, you've seen my best photos and I'm good at that, I photographed myself in very flattering light, you might be utterly horrified when I arrive in real life.

One of my real life lovely friends who's joined my great online dating experiment has, I'm happy to report got himself a date early this week, did they meet on Tinder, well, erm, no actually, they already knew each other from our local pub, oh and our pub is full of bearded men and often they come up to pat Holly, and then they proceed to either completely ignore me or they tell me how they're so amazing with animals because their wife/girlfriend has a dog/animals.  Yes I know, I'm getting on for 2.5 years of being single and you know what, I think I'm already a little jaded.  Incidentally, one of the stories I read by a mathematician who hacked online dating, it took him until date number 89 before he found his soulmate, lets just take a moment to think about that, date number 89, I could be dead before I make it to date number 10 with my level of dating terror!!

They said it would be easy, like getting back on a horse, well I can tell you this, I do like horses but you couldn't pay me enough to get on one the first time, never mind get back on again!!
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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Do You Want To Get More Online Dating Matches?

Just lately as I try to make my continued mark on the world I've been thinking about new and improved things I can offer both as a writer and a photographer and even more so I've been wondering if there's anything I can do which would essentially combine the two things and make life and work, I've got some very exciting things going on in the background that I can't talk about yet but as a pre-cursor to that, I'd like to tell you about a brand new service that I'm offering.

I've done a lot of research about dating and how you can weigh the odds in your favour, you can actually hack online dating if you happen to be a mathematician, now I don't claim to be good with algorithms and figures but content marketing is something I excel at and selling you on a dating site is just a form of personal digital content marketing.




There are certain things you can do to improve your chances and look, online dating sites like Match, Match Affinity, Eharmony and Elite Singles are not cheap so what if you could have a little help to make sure you get those all important matches because the more choice you have, the more likely it is that you'll find your soulmate.

20-minute online dating consultation where I'll help rewrite your profile for you and help you choose the best images for your profile. - £79, this is available worldwide and you can BUY IT NOW

30-minute in-person consultation where I'll help rewrite your profile and I'll shoot a great profile image for you, I'll also give you a couple of opening questions which are pretty much guaranteed to make you stand out for when you do get those all important matches. - £150, you must be in the Newcastle upon Tyne region to access this service. Email me to set up this session

60-minute in-person consultation, we'll sit down together, write your profile and then I'll shoot a plethora of images you can use, you can even have a change of outfit and I'll give you some questions you can ask to almost guarantee you'll get replies. - £250, you must be in the North of England to access this service. Email me to set up this session

For the last 6 months, I have actively been helping friends with their dating profiles with much success, I have increased their hit rates and it's lead to many conversations and dates, obviously what happens after those initial questions is down to you but I like to think it's great to get a head start.

Oh and me?  Well before I started researching this stuff I can tell you that in 6 months on Tinder I had 3 matches and zero conversations.  Since I've gone back to Tinder I get around 3 or 4 matches a day and have had lots of interesting conversations where I've had the power of choice, I'm 43, I'm not skinny or the most attractive woman in the world so I think I'm doing pretty well.  I have to admit that I've only really been using it as a bit of an experiment but I've been pleasantly surprised by a few of the men I've been introduced to so you never know what might happen in the future.
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Friday, March 03, 2017

10 things a man should never do on a first date


A great first date, here's 10 things a man should never do on a first date, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, dating, men, relationships


I have conversed with my panel/squad, think, the ladies of Sex and The City but more glamorous and slightly more northern, we've all been on some great first dates and some disastrous ones, here from the hive mind of lovely ladies I am surrounded by in my life are 10 things you men should not to on a first date.


  1.  Please don't just leave 10 minutes after you arrive with no real explanation! It's just rude!
  2. Try and ask questions about your date and don't just talk about yourself. And don't let your date rabbit on about herself. It's about getting to know each other, not an audition for a one person show!!
  3.  If you're still in love with your ex and have no intention of moving on, don't go on the First date. It's not nice to get someone's hopes up just to make them feel sad
  4. Also, don't expect sexy time on a first date. Don't even expect a snog! If it happens naturally then great, but don't speed through the date hoping to get down to business!! Take time to find out if you actually like each other first. If you do and sexy time happens, then it's a bonus!
  5.  Don't make your opening remark "you're bigger than I expected from the pictures" or show your disdain or dislike for something someone says or the way they look by your facial gestures. Remember a picture paints a thousand words and your face can say it all! It's not good for a woman's self-esteem!
  6. One thing not to do on a date, talk about the massive spot on your neck and how you want to squeeze it! 
  7. I hate it when men expect too much on a first date. I like to keep it chilled and casual. Coffee dates are seriously underrated (and easy to get out of).
  8. I don't want to get plastered on a first date or sit down for a huge meal because it can be awkward if you don't get on. Something overly fun like bowling or ice skating can be awkward too, I like to keep it casual.
  9. I don't think men should pump on a first date, that's 3rd date material, do it too soon and it's gross, leave it too long and it's just awkward
  10. Don't wear rubbish shoes, always remember what your granny used to say "The shoes maketh the man"
I should state that it took approximately 10 minutes of crowdsourcing to come up with this list and in truth, I reckon with a good half hour we could have come up with at least 50 things.  I'll be writing an article concerning women's bad behaviour on dates soon so don't worry men, you'll have your say soon too, in fact, if you want to leave me a comment of the worst things to happen on a first date you know where to leave it.

With thanks to my fabulous friends Katie, Pixie, Li, Laura and Harriet who were only too delighted to share their dating no no's 

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

This week on Tinder...


Spring is on the way and this week on Tinder the men are awakening, tales of dating, relationships and online dating, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

In case you aren't one of those ardent calendar page flippers like me, It's March people, the spring is going to be with us in 19 days, well unless you are a weatherman in which case you're already dancing amongst the daffodils because it's the start of meteorological spring today, whichever one you prefer to celebrate, one thing we can all be grateful for are the longer days, increased light levels and the sight of flowers growing on grassy banks. 

This week there have been the first signs of the rise of my business (thank God, the heavens and the universe) we really are all waking up again after the long winter slumber and that makes me happy, for spring, as I have probably already mentioned is quite my favourite season, I get bouncy and happy as the sunshine hits my face and I have an increased zest for life.  I return I suppose to my normal self instead of the woman with SAD who lives like an angry bear who's been woken up from hibernation too early!
Spring is on the way in Heaton Park, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, this week on Tinder, life, love, dating, relationships

This week on Tinder, well I've matched with more men than I've had conversations with, I did have a message from someone who was 150 miles away last night which said "Mmm, yeah, yummy" well, Mr Longdistance, what in the hell do you expect me to do with that information?  Actually, don't answer that, I think we all know the answer of how I was supposed to reply, I didn't though, I'd rather keep my dignity thanks!  The there was the young (33) engineer who's only a few km away from me but I just found myself lacking the enthusiasm to get excited about him, he was kind of hot, good job, not far away but I don't know, just no real gumption maybe?

Our final fine example of the male sex I'm still actually chatting too, he's a beagle daddy and that got him 10 bonus points and he's 37 and currently on his way home from Macchu Pichu, I did ask him why he was on Tinder whilst holidaying in Peru but we all know the answer, it's because men are strange and I'm guessing he's planning his next move, sort of holiday done, time to start dating maybe?  Anyway, I'll have to see what happens but for once I haven't resigned him to the man bin just yet, his beagle is really super cute and I'm sure Holly Bobbins would love some male beagle company.

Oh, something I forgot to mention, this month I'm going to be writing for Huff Post once a week, the truth is that I can write as often as I like but I have issues in that when you are writing for Huff Post you want it to be the very very best that you can do, sort of less rambling than my own blog so I tend to only write when inspiration strikes but I've decided that I'll never increase my readership on there until I write more often so that's the plan.  You know what's weird, though?  Writing for a huge publication where anyone can comment introduces you to the general public and their interesting points of view, let's just say I've had my eyes opened!

This weekend I have a review on Friday, I'm going to review G4 in concert, G4, yes, remember them, runners up on the first XFactor, I loved then and I'm sure I'm going to love them now!  Other than that and apart from a photo shoot with a lovely family on Sunday I'm just writing, writing and writing some more, this is the year when success is going to be mine, I have the excited feelings in my tummy that great things are coming, both professionally and personally, one thing I know, I'm starting to feel stronger and better than I was last month when I had a breakdown and today as I flipped the day on my bedside calendar was a poignant quote from John Milton himself...

"What doesn't not destroy me, makes me strong"
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