Mandy Charlton - Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Sunday, 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?


Monday, November 15, 2021

Family Safety: Tips for Keeping Your Car in Top Shape

Family Safety: Tips for Keeping Your Car in Top Shape

Being a parent is hard already – being a parent who has unwittingly caused an injury to their child is even more so. Make sure you keep your whole family safe on the UK's roads with the following tips to keep your car in top shape. Simple steps of caring for your vehicle go a long way and keep you and your family protected when you are out on the road. Pampering your car is definitely going to pay back and improve your car's performance.

Maintain It

Regular maintenance is the key to keeping any piece of machinery running smoothly, and your car is no different. Write up a system of checks on your vehicle, from the most cursory visual inspections to more detailed torch and touch checks (when you run your fingertips over the whole vehicle, feeling for distortions or blemishes, and use a torch to check the underside of the car and closely inspect the tyres) and adhere to it stringently.

Service It

Most vehicle manufacturers have a recommended service schedule which can be found in your instruction manual or online, on the manufacturer's website. Making sure your car is serviced regularly is another form of a maintenance schedule, albeit more intensive one, looking more deeply into your engine than you would be able to do.


Any vehicle in the UK must have an MOT once it is three years old, and annually thereafter. The only exception is Ireland where cars are four before their first MOT. An MOT is a check of roadworthiness, designed to make sure that your vehicle is visible to other road users, can be safely controlled by you, even in the event of an emergency (so you can move to the side of the road and stop, then activating your hazard lights, for example), and that you have a clear view of the road, its environs and everyone in the vicinity. Making sure your MOT certificate is up to date is a great way to ensure that your family stays safe on the roads. If you are looking for an MOT in London or nearby, why not try Iverson Tyres – call them now on 020 8566 4666.

Plan Ahead

It is seldom a good idea to barrel into a route without some forethought and planning, especially if it is going to be a long drive. Plan your route, making sure there are rest stops and hotel breaks along the way, and also ensuring that the roads you will be using are well-maintained and will not cause damage to your car.

Drive Defensively

Finally, learn to drive defensively, actively looking out for hazards and being aware of all the other road users at all times. This might sound strenuous, but you adapt to it surprisingly quickly and fairly soon you will drive defensively as a matter of course, keeping your family safe on the roads and doing your bit towards looking after other families too!


Monday, November 08, 2021

11 gifts your friends will thank you for this Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and so you'll be glad to hear that I have suggestions for 11 gifts your friends will thank you for this Christmas.  You see, this year, more than ever I'm consciously gifting, I'm making, I'm buying vintage and I'm only buying things for my friends that I know they'll love and want.  I've been listening out for their cues all year and now I'm happy to reveal this year's 2021 Christmas gift guide.

1. For your David Bowie loving friends check out these gorgeous prints from Ink and Drop.  Two of my oldest and dearest friends are massive Bowie fans and I'm not much further behind, I adore "We could be Heroes and I thought these two prints could be framed and go on the wall in my office/creative studio.

2. From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter comes this amazing enamel pin, Looby collects pin badges and loves Harry Potter, as does Abigail so there may be a fight between my two young adult daughters as to who gets this in their Christmas stocking on Christmas morning.

3. My friend Rachel adores peacocks and she doesn't mind a glass of champagne either so these beautiful midnight peacock design champagne flutes from Artland would be perfect for her, they're electro-plated and absolutely stunning.

4.  My daughter Abigail, lives, breathes and does not function without copious amounts of caffeine and so the worlds strongest coffee from Black Insomnia is going to ensure she is wide awake for quite some time to come.

5. My lovely friend Robyn loves to journal, in fact, she's got 2 crates of notebooks, it's definitely her thing!!  Good sleep is paramount for optimum mental health and so this end of day wellness journal from Echor is going to ensure that she can clear her mind every night before she goes to sleep ensuring only the most refreshing slumber.
6. I have loved After the Rain perfume from Arran, sense of Scotland for as long as I can remember and you know that the best gifts are the ones we give ourselves so this one is going under the tree just for me, everything Arran make is inspired by their surroundings and as you know, Scotland is my happy place so it's the perfect self-gifting opportunity for me.

7. My friend Steph, is adventure Steph, she loves a challenge and often takes herself off for the biggest, longest hikes, in fact, the longest walk I've ever done without stopping was with Steph last year when we walked to the pedestrian Tyne Tunnel during the winter lockdown.  I am sure that she's going to love this Kleen Kanteen 16oz insulated TKWide bottle which keeps drinks hot for 14 hours and cold for up to 47 hours, perfect for new year adventures in the hills.

8. I have been a convert to CBD products for a few years now and I always wonder why my anxiety is so much worse when I'm not taking them so when Alphagreen who I worked with on my 2020 gift guide got in touch about their own brand of CBD gummies and CBD oil, it's fair to say I didn't even pause, I just said yes.  I'm not a doctor and I can only speak for me personally but they really do help with my anxiety.

9. I couldn't forget Carter (who I still call Baby Carter even though he's approaching 6 years old) and inclusivity is incredibly important to me so I know that he's going to absolutely adore this selection of children's books from Little Box of Books.  I know that mum Stacey will also love this as she's on a mission to make sure that Carter grows up fully rounded and accepting of all human beings and really, she's doing such a great job.  We need more Carter's in the world.

10.  My daughter Abigail is allergic to all dairy and so when Buttermilk got in touch I knew I had to feature their brand new plant-based chocolate treats, dairy-free treats which still taste absolutely amazing, it's Christmas, we should definitely be able to indulge whether we're dairy-free, vegan or just regular old chocoholics.

11. It's Christmas and we cannot forget our beloved pets, so treats and tasty nibbles, as well as fun pet toys, arrived from Webbox for Holly Bobbins, Iris and little Maggie Pie and I know that they'll love them all, I also like that each product indicates if it's suitable for puppies or kittens.

I'd like to thank all of the participants in this year's Christmas gift guide, it's possibly my smallest guide that I've ever put out but it's also my most conscious, there's nothing here that won't be loved, used or indeed gifted and none of this would have happened without the companies who've gifted me the products wanting to be involved.  I hope that it's given you some inspiration and I hope that you have the merriest Christmas ever.


Monday, October 11, 2021

What happens when you go viral on TikTok?

You may have noticed that I have not been blogging lately and honestly, it's mostly down to TikTok.  For all of the love I have for social media, nothing has been so impactful as TikTok and as I've recently gone viral I thought I would share what actually happens when you go viral on TikTok.

I started doing TikTok for fun during the winter lockdown, I shared the walks that I was doing and my aim was to get to 1000 followers.  Within a month I accidentally had a semi-viral post of my pets being ridiculous and I started to get a few more followers, I then had a gradual build until I posted about some money-saving travel hacks and that got me to around 7000 followers, it was lovely and slow and steady and then suddenly I found my feet.

If you want to be successful on social media you need to add value or entertain, teaching people to do things in one minute or less seemed to me like a challenge and as I make things for Christmas every year I thought I would share the process.  I made a few videos that had some good views and I could see myself reaching 10,000 followers and being able to join the creator fund.  Then I posted a 1-minute Tiktok documenting myself making Rhubarb gin and everything changed.

Mandy your tiktok mum makes cinder toffee, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger

Since I posted that TikTok on the 22nd of September my follower count has risen from just over 8k to just over 40k and that one TikTok has reached over 465000 people, let's just think about how many people that would be in real life?!!  It's not only brought me followers but it's made me the loveliest community, a community of people who love making things, who love gin and who adore Christmas.  It is the best community and if you fancy joining me I'm Mandyyourtiktokmum I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up the content ideas but honestly, the internet is so full of things you can make that I can't see me running out of ideas anytime soon.

Has it changed my life or lead to my business going viral and selling out?  No, honestly, it hasn't but I use TikTok not to push my businesses but because I've always wanted to be a creator, I love making things and I love creating content.  I do have some added extras on my profile like my shop is connected in my profile through Shopify and yes, I definitely get sales that way but I would never encourage anyone to go viral on TikTok with the expectation that it's going to skyrocket their business.  It might do in certain circumstances and it really depends on what your TT that goes viral is all about.  

In the future I'd love to teach people how to make things, it's where I began all those years ago working in the craft industry.  Abi moves out at the end of this week and I'm turning that room into my craft room.  I plan to make things not just for me but also for Philomena's Boutique I've bought a Cricut, and I have managed to get my hands on a second-hand dye-sublimation printer and my next work purchase is going to be a mug press and T-Shirt/Bag press.  I can't wait to be more creative, especially as the winter is coming and my Jan-March calendar is never all that busy.

Am I worried that in January people will stop watching my content?  Not really because I'm building up a community that is all about making (and gin) and we can make things together all year round.  Handmade things aren't just for Christmas.  Plus I know how to add value in so many areas, I have been practising for this moment for years on other forms of social media, it's just how I happened to have found my people on TikTok.

Between various forms of social media and my blog I can reach way over 100k people a month, in fact, the last month alone on TikTok I've reached around 1 million people in total and we're only just at the start of video content, this is only going to keep growing over the years and I am there for it, I love it all!!

Do I get trolled?  Yes, occasionally, it's the curse of social media but I just block and delete, I'm pretty laid back when it comes to such things and I have the most supportive group of cheerleading friends who are all there behind me to keep me grounded and remind me that I am enough.

So if you're missing my daily updates you can find me on TikTok and I promise to still try and find the time to write, it didn't help that I shot 5 weddings in the space of 2 weeks and I've only just come out of the editing hole I was in for a month!!  Life moves pretty fast, I heard that somewhere...

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