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

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The healing power of music, a vinyl revival

Mandy Charlton's wooden record player, the healing power of music, a vinyl revival, photographer, blogger

One of the changes in my life I've recently made was to buy a record player, a vinyl revival as it were.  I've been a great appreciator of music my whole life,  music is like magic, just one chord can transport you to a time and a place, music can invoke every single emotion possible, joy, love, pain, sadness,  it's all within the grooves of a record.

I gave my first vinyl collection to a boy when I was 18 years old and had just got my first CD player, probably one of my few regrets in life and funnily enough, I gave away my massive CD collection to my ex husband when I went fully digital.  Now I don't feel the need to go out and collect CD's again but vinyl is special.  It's not just music in it's most raw form but in that one package, you have music, you have art and you have a crackle that you'll only ever hear with vinyl.

I actually didn't pay a lot for the record player,  I bought one which didn't work properly, returned it and then got a wooden record player half price on Amazon Prime day and it's been absolutely super. I would buy it again tomorrow, it's got a lovely sound to it and the speakers are perfect for my needs, it's also aesthetically pleasing in my hotch potch, eclectic, sort of mid century modern sitting room.

As you can see from the photo, I've collected quite a few records over the summer, a lot I've picked up from Ebay or charity shops as well as getting quite a few records from a wonderful lady on Facebook who shared my passion for Barbra Streisand and sold me several of her albums at a huge discount.

Each day I listen to music is a day that brings me joy and as I have said over and over, life is better when there are little pockets of joy every day!!

In this digital world having something you can see and feel and hear, is truly a wonderful and most healing super power, I'm currently trying to rebuild the record collection I had when I was 18 as well as adding in soundtracks from musicals and movies, a hefty quantity of 1980's groups and of course, some modern music thrown in for good measure.  The good thing about vinyl is that it doesn't matter if a record costs 50p in a charity shop or £50 because it's a special edition you've found in a record store they all bring you equal amounts of joy!!


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Finding Joy in a Joyless World

Mandy Charlton, Finding Joy in a Joyless World, photographer, blogger, newcastle upon tyne

This week has been odd and heavy and full, the death of The Queen was something, I think we all knew would happen but still, none of us was quite prepared for it.  Abigail and I had gone out into town to try some new cocktail bars and we were having a splendid time until the news alert popped up.  We quickly decided that it wasn't appropriate to stay out drinking alcohol and came home for a big mug of tea and to watch the news.

I watched those rolling news reports for way too long until I made a decision that if I didn't switch off it would impact my mental health and while I didn't record my pockets of joy on Facebook on Thursday night as a sign of respect, I resumed posting them on Friday, again, I think finding little pockets of joy is crucial even on the darkest of days.  In fact, I think it's even more important to find the little pockets of joy on the days which are darker.  In the darkness, we must find the light.

This next week or so will be strange, BBC has back-to-back news reports combined with tributes and programmes about The Queen, the new King Charles the Third, comedy is banned from the BBC and their radio shows are not allowed to play bouncy music.  Whilst I partially agree we should be utterly respectful, I also think we still need joyful moments.  I would suggest switching off the TV and listening to your own music which makes you happy.  If you at all, like me, have any kind of mental health issue, this is even more important.  Please also remember that people who have lost those they love could be emotionally triggered, this is a time to check on your friends.

As I write this today, I also remember that it is 9/11, the day the twin towers fell. The biggest terrorist attack the world has ever seen. I had just found out that I was pregnant with Abigail two days before and as I arrived at my Granny's after picking up Iain from school we turned on the TV to see the second tower being flown into, I wondered what kind of a world I was bringing my children into and I remember feeling shell shocked.

I have lived through very many major historical events and honestly, I'm quite ready to live in a quiet world where nothing happens, I don't however think I am going to get my wish anytime soon.  I'm lucky to be a wedding photographer because no matter how bad things get I can escape for a while and be surrounded by joy.  Yesterday's wedding at The Grand Hotel in Gosforth was a prime example of that.  All of the TVs in the hotel were showing news about the death of The Queen and during the speeches, one of the guests paid tribute to The Queen as well as toasting God Save The King.  It felt the right thing to do but overall the day was filled with fun and laughter, joy and love and I came home feeling happier than I had all week, thankful to be surrounded by such wonderful emotions, at least for a little time.

I'm lucky to have 2 joyful businesses, at Philomena's Boutique, I prepare boxes of joy for all occasions and with Mandy Charlton Photography I get to tell the story of so many couples and families.  Surrounding yourself with joy doesn't mean you aren't being respectful, it means you are choosing to protect your mental health.  Turning off the TV is okay, being angry about the disruption to your life is okay, and feeling sad but not knowing quite why it's all okay.  You are allowed to feel your feelings whatever your feelings are.

This next week will be difficult so it's okay to walk away, you can even pretend nothing is happening if that's what you have to do, don't let anyone make you feel guilt about the way you choose to live or exist or get through the heavy times.  You are human, you are unique and that means, no two of us deal with things in the same way.


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

The Year of Living Quietly, slowing down in a frenetic world

The year of living quietly, mandy charlton, wintering in a frenetic world

During the lockdowns of 2020/2021, I decided to live a quieter and more peaceful life.  You could say it was the year of living quietly and now I'm here, ready to reflect on what that meant and how I'm holding those values more dearly going forward.

Before the pandemic I worked a crazy amount of hours, it was advantageous and some years I was lucky that I got to holiday once every couple of months but what I didn't realise until I stopped was how anxious I had become, I was living in such an anxious state all of the time that I believed that was what real life was.  I was wrong!

During the pandemic and the lockdowns when I thought I had lost everything I decided that when I came back into the business I'd worked so hard to build that I would regulate myself and live a quieter and happier life.  Of course, there were consequences, my income plummeted, my travel was encumbered but overall I got to live a more fulfilled life in the slow lane.

When I started Philomena's Boutique to help you gift better, my inability to sit and do nothing fuelled it.  I could have just sat and squirrelled away my government bounce-back loan but I chose to throw that into a new and exciting business rather than sit at home doing nothing.

2 years on and I have no regrets about starting the boutique, I get to be creative every day and between October and June 2022 I made or designed around 300 products.  The more febrile things became, the more I created to try and keep the business afloat.  I ploughed what little money I had from my photography business into the boutique.  It was the biggest mistake I've ever made but still, you only learn when you make mistakes.

Right now, I'm burnt out, I have pushed until I can push no more.  Our orders have dropped from approximately 35 a week to around 5-10 if we're lucky.  This week I stopped, I walked away and took a week off.  I didn't really do anything, I rearranged some furniture in my living room, went to Ikea, bought a chair from a charity shop and I breathed deeply for the first time in a long time.  At that point I was struck with inspiration, I realised, there are still spaces for treats and gifts, we just need to do it more mindfully and boxes of joy are the epitome of mindful gifting.  Find out someone's likes and dislikes and then curate a glorious box of treats based on that.

I haven't fully decided what to do, I live a pretty quiet life now.  I've bought 2 pairs of shoes in the last year, I buy all of my clothes from the charity shops and my weekly groceries are from a food waste hamper.  In some ways, I can live on very little and as long as I have cats, books and music I can be very happy.

In other ways, living costs are spiralling, my energy cost in the high of summer is £160 a month approximately and I worry deeply about winter.

1 month on...

I wrote that first chapter one month ago and today I was compelled to write.  I've been researching the concept of wintering and over the next few months, I plan to practice the things that I am learning to see if it will helpfully and peacefully get me through the darker months with my mental health still intact.  

The clocks will go back in just under 2 months and I will stop going out, my body will intensely work against me if I try and fight it, it happens every year and the more I fight it, the worse it is.  This year I will try and winter, I will let myself rest and stay home and I will shelter from the difficult world outside.

In Denmark, they practice hygge and in the Swedish countries, they call it Mysa, the Finnish call it talvitelat, that's preparing for winter and the art of stowing away for wintering.  We need to prepare for winter, we need to let ourselves retreat and more than that, we need to cosy up our spaces so that we help our bodies adapt to the dark times which are forthcoming.

Instead of fighting winter and becoming exhausted, if we simply let ourselves retreat and winter and be quiet and cosy, when we emerge in spring it should be more glorious.  In nature so many things winter, we don't try to make nature fight it's own urges to follow the seasons so why should humans be forced to live the summer life in the bleak mid-winter?

I hope you'll follow my journey, through wintering, there will be preserving, there will be cosy but simple recipes and in every day we'll try and find those little pockets of joy (something I record on my Facebook publicly at the end of every day)


Sunday, February 27, 2022

When the world feels heavy

When the world feels heavy, mandy charlton photographer, coping mechanisms to deal with covid and war in ukraine news

When the world feels heavy

The world feels heavy right now, doesn't it?  It's been such a long two years of coronavirus and in the flick of a switch Sky News changed their titles from Covid to the Ukraine crisis, we literally went from a pandemic to war in Europe in the blink of an eye.  You'd be forgiven for feeling exhausted and helpless right now.

The thing is, covid hasn't even gone, the government is just choosing to ignore it, I'm hoarding LFTs for when they stop being free as being a wedding photographer, I feel like it's my own personal responsibility to make sure I don't go to a wedding with covid and risk making someone's elderly relative very poorly or worse...

Of course, if we end up with war breaching Ukraine into a NATO country like Poland then we are truly screwed and in world war 3, some would say that won't happen but anyone who doesn't also believe that Putin is a maniacal dictator is also lying to themselves right now!

It's okay to feel heavy

It's okay to feel heavy, it's okay to feel confused, it's okay to feel completely discombobulated, your feelings are valid whatever they are and no matter what anyone else says to you. I'm an empath so I always feel these things like they're sitting right on my shoulders.  A few months ago I stopped watching the news and it was blissful but I also have a constant need for information so I found myself reinstalling Sky News on my phone.

Take a break

Take a break from doomscrolling, whether that be a walk in the park or an adventure to a place you've always wanted to go.  I currently have travel guides to Somerset, Devon and Cornwall and I have another arriving today about Oxford and the Cotswolds.  My usual trauma responses are to travel and go on adventures or if I can't do that I just throw more fairy lights at it.  I was a guest on a podcast yesterday and I was explaining that every time I get agoraphobic I go somewhere far away because for some reason my brain loves to travel even if I can't face going beyond my gate on some days.

We do not know how things are about to play out with the war or with covid but for your own sake you have to just try and be happy and try to find little pockets of joy in each and every day, for me, that ultimately means wandering with my camera, taking happy, colourful or interesting photographs to share with the world.  

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  TikTok keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Thinking about Travel

Thinking about travel, travelling on a budget with Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger and Queen of cheap travel
The interior of the Corn Exchange, Leeds, spot the dinosaur 😉

Thinking about Travel

Today seemed like a good day to write.  After a week of being battered by storm Dudley, Eunice and now Franklin, staying at home never seemed quite so inviting.

I have to admit that all I can think about at the moment is travel, I want to explore, have adventures, take a billion photos and videos.  My last trip away (except a 1 day trip to Edinburgh to photograph a wedding at the Intercontinental hotel) was a minibreak to Windemere, I was photographing a wedding and managed to turn it into a 2-night trip.  That was early September and since then I have been at home.  Furthermore, I damaged my cruciate ligament and then became chronically depressed and for a while, over winter I ended up in situational poverty.  Life took a battering but I'm pleased to say that things are changing and the days are getting brighter not just outside my window but also in my mind.

I've been thinking about travel again this morning, some must-see places this year for me are - 

  • London (a return trip but there's nowhere with quite so many photographic opportunities 
  • Brighton, an independent artists dream, so much colour just waiting to be discovered
  • Bristol, one of the most colourful cities in the UK
  • Devon and Cornwall, it's such a long journey to get there but it's been on my travel bucket list for years
  • Scotland (as always a return trip and this one to Perthshire is already booked in my calendar)
I also really want to visit the Shetland Isles but it's a huge and epic trip, it may have to wait until 2023 and it's really dependent on how many weddings I can get booked into my calendar as getting to Shetland is more expensive than flying to Europe!!

Speaking of which, there are so many cheap flights available at the moment I could probably tour the whole of Europe for the same price as one of my expeditions and get some sunshine in the mix too but I've waited too long to see some of the places I've mentioned and this is the year I reclaim my life.

In saying all of that, I am still one of the very few people not to have had covid, my friend Rachel and I are the last ones standing as far as we know, even HRH, The Queen has covid now!!  I'm not sure I fancy the odds on a 12 hour Megabus trip to Exeter, triple facemasks maybe???

I will, of course, be doing all of my trips on a budget,  I am the queen of cheap travel after all!!  I have 2 accommodation vouchers for 2-night stays which will help and I've asked the kids for train vouchers for Mother's Day.  I am probably going to do most of my travel in the early part of the year as August is busy with weddings.  I need to have both the time and income to be able to do all of the above but I have a plan.

Cheap trains like the Lumo are going to help and I'm not averse to 12 hours on a Megabus to Exeter as the train (which costs £250) takes around the same time and it costs around £70 max return.  I'll also go with single room accommodation booked at the last minute and I can usually score some bargains that way.

I actually did a National Express journey last summer from Leeds to Newcastle and it was okay, perfectly acceptable.  I have done 7 hours on a Megabus to Birmingham, it was okay, only the toilet was horrendous but on the 12-hour journey, you have to change three times which must surely be the loo stops with a stretch of legs.  I've also checked for cheap internal flights and you can do a return to Bristol for around £70 - £100 depending on how far ahead you're booking and flying to Bristol takes around an hour as opposed to spending 5-7 hours on a train.

So lots of plans in progress and I've just ordered myself the Lonely Planet guide to Cornwall which is only going to make me crave travel even more than I am right now but I also know, it's just around the corner and soon I will be packed and waiting for my next train to adventure.

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  TikTok keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!


Monday, February 07, 2022

Brighter days are coming

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Newcastle upon Tyne, small wedding photography coverage

Brighter days are coming she repeated to herself, not sure whether it was a manifestation or a mantra...

It's been a tough start to the year and I'm so exhausted that yesterday I went to meditate and I woke up 2 hours later, I thought that might wreck my sleeping patterns but it seems that chronic fatigue is currently the order of the day and I could possibly win the Gold medal for sleeping for England.

My health is a joke, as are my finances but I keep pushing myself onwards knowing that I have weddings this year and in a month or so I'll start receiving income from those and so I just need to get there.  On paper, I have 2 potentially successful businesses, one of which was super successful before the pandemic and one which is still a startup but has the most amazing potential if I could just grow the audience past the 3000 or so people I've attracted in the last 18 months.  At first, when I started the boutique I had the money for advertising thanks to the government but now as I try to stop direct debits from bouncing and my covid debts spiralling it really feels like a long way from where I want to be.

There is no answer, of course, I live on a weekly food waste hamper I get from a local charity for £15, as frugally as possible and each week I scramble to pay my rent and top up my energy meters before they run out of money.  I went over to PAYG energy a few years ago because of the lean winters as a photographer and it does help to have no big bills but right now, it's like a battle.

I am doing everything I can to push each business and I hope to take on a few more weddings this year, I think I have around 15 now and I'd like to reach 25-30 if possible because weddings are guaranteed income (lockdowns allowing of course).  I was going to retire completely at the end of the year but I've decided to keep my hand in and just photograph some smaller weddings next year, 2,3,4 hour bookings, perfect for me really.  I am still really good at what I do, I just need to get through the pre-wedding anxiety which has me in knots.  When I get there I love it, I am the least anxious person there thanks to my superpower.  It's weird how my brain works.

This week, on Friday, I am going to see my doctor, I want to get reassessed to see if I have ADHD, I did an online test where I scored 11/12 and 6/6 so I think it's probable, suffice to say, I think there's also a possibility that I could win an award for the most screwed up unquiet brain in Britain but hey, at least I get uber creativity as a reward.  I also want to sort out my weight, I am unhappy in my current body but need help as the traditional things don't work so I'm going to have a chat about Saxenda and see what the process is for that, I'd like to be a whole new person by the time I'm 50!

At the end of 2020 I got some travel vouchers for a collaboration I did so currently I have 2, 2 night breaks just waiting to be taken and for Mother's Day, I'm getting some train vouchers.  I plan to put the breaks to good use and take my camera to create more original photographic art I can sell through Philomena's Boutique.  to me, the boutique combines all that I love and need in my life, I get to be creative, I get to make things and I also get to complement that with things that I love, it's hard now but if I can successfully increase its audience then one day it has the potential to be incredibly successful.

I do not know what the future holds but there's one thing I am holding on to and that is that brighter days are coming...

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  TikTok keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Let's start again, shall we?

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Let's start again, shall we?

It's been 2 months since I last wrote a single word on this blog and this blog will be 17 or 18 years old next month so it seems a shame to just quit.

The reality is though...




They all take so much time and then juggling life, Philomena's Boutique, my new Etsy Shop, Maggie Pie Print Co, well it all just got a little overwhelming.

My main concern was getting to Christmas with some money in the bank and so I worked 12 hour days or more every single day, I hand-printed hundreds of coasters and mugs.  In December I spent £829 on postage and I ended up with not a single penny of savings.  What I had done though was changed my entire business model for the boutique.  I'm now a fully-fledged print artist and everything at the boutique is designed by me, a lot of it is also made by me but I have outsourced a lot of the T-shirts, hoodies and soft furnishings, simply because I am one woman.

It's mid-January now and things are horrible, I have crawled through the month at a snail's pace, depression, low income, it's all connected of course but in the end, I know it will all work out and by this time next year, I am determined that January will be a joyful month of rest and recuperation, not an anxiety-filled mess.

I am continuing to photograph weddings and I love them more than I did before the pandemic, last year my wedding photography calendar was around 6 weeks long, this year I hope that it will be so much better.  Put quite simply, now we are coming out of all of the restrictions we had to put in place for covid, it's time to rebuild, in fact, it's time to be better, it's time to change my life.

By the end of 2022, I want to be a fully self-supported print artist but I would still like to have the option to photograph the occasional wedding because I'm really good at it, creativity is my talent.  I have a need to be creative or simply put, I wither.

I also want to be able to travel again this year, I've picked 3 things so far that I definitely want to do - 

*I want to spend a week in London in the summer exploring, taking photos of colourful places and I want to be able to see as many musicals as I can in the week that I'm there.

*I want to take a guided 6 day tour of Scotland with Rabbies, I've done several day tours with them before but this would get me to more Scottish islands that I've not visited yet.

*Finally, I want to be able to go to Europe before the end of the year, probably one of the Canary Islands because I always feel so safe there travelling alone.

It all seems quite far off to be planning these adventures when I have no money but sometimes I think inspiring yourself to do things can help you focus and then you become more determined to make the income that you need.

Generally, I just want to add value to the world and make it a better place, that might sound weird but I've felt quiet helpless and hopeless lately and I hate feeling like that.

So let's start now, let's start here and let's start again shall we?

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