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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A break in progress

It's Wednesday morning, and I'm sitting at my MacBook dictating this blog post. I badly wanted to write it but I haven't got enough movement in my right wrist. To catch you up just in case you missed it, last Thursday I randomly tripped and fell, I broke my radius bone in my right arm in half and needed to have 3 1/2 hours of surgery on Friday afternoon. I spent most of the weekend in the hospital and to date, my right arm is swollen, it has a steel plate fitted in and it's painful, I have very limited movement in the rotation of my right wrist.

Mandycharlton's garden a break in progress, Mandy Charlton Photography Blog, coronavirus they are getting angry email

Here's the thing though it could've been so much worse, I actually sprained my left wrist and there but for the grace of God I might have broken that one too. Similarly, it could've been my head, I smashed my glasses and my large nose took most of the fall,  had my head of hit the ground who knows if I would've even been here right now.

I'm really thankful that this happened now and not during a really busy wedding season when I almost certainly would've ended up missing weddings. At least at the moment there is no social photography and I have the time to heal, my next planned wedding isn't actually until September now and with any luck, I should be okay in around six weeks time.

What has happened though is that unfortunately, I've had to put both of my new businesses on hold until I'm in a better place where I can take photos and type properly again.  It also means that unfortunately, I am not going to be able to go back to portrait photography until at least mid-July although, to be honest with coronavirus it's likely that my restart has only really been delayed by about two weeks. I think frustratingly the things that have bothered me are the small things, I cried because I couldn't put a bobble in my hair the other day and I also cried because I couldn't actually sit and type this blog post, my right hand won't sit on the keyboard properly without it being excruciatingly painful and anyone who has tried to use the dictate settings on a MacBook will know that It doesn't always understand exactly what you're trying to say so proofreading is definitely essential! Usually, I just write in the moment which isn't currently possible.

I will recover though and this isn't forever, it is just a mere second of my life. 2020 has without a doubt being probably one of the most challenging years I have ever faced and I can only hope that this is a small blip and that the future is a lot brighter afterwards.

So let's look forward to what's to come, the launch of my online gift boutique, Philomena's Boutique, The continuation and expansion of Planty Mandy's Gardening gang and most importantly the resumption of Mandy Charlton Photography! There might be a little bit of unknown left about the world at present but with every bone (No pun intended) in my body, I will make sure that these three important things still happen!


Monday, May 04, 2020

New Business Nerves

Planty Mandy's Gardening Gang, New Business Nerves, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, gardening with kids, gardeners seed kits

Planty Mandy's Gardening gang was launched officially on Friday evening and like every small business, I definitely have new business nerves.  Since 2007, I've run a range of businesses but this is the very first product-based business and only I would choose to launch a business in the middle of a global pandemic and resulting lockdown!!  Nothing ventured nothing gained though and for me, it was the right time.

Lockdown is the first time in over a decade when I've had the chance to sit and had space to think, it was the first time for 2 years when I didn't have to worry about the success of over ten thousand women, for all of the good that happened and the lessons I learnt, it also made me really poorly and I stopped giving the things I needed to, to those who are so important.  I was not present because I carried around the weight of an entire community on my shoulders but if anything, the lockdown has been a lesson that I needed to change my life.

Now I should say that Mandy Charlton Photography isn't going anywhere, it's not a great time for social photographers right now. I will always be a photographer but the market is so much bigger now, the industry is more cutthroat and I want to work to live, not live to work.  There's so much that I still want from my life and given that I'm around halfway through it, I have so many ambitions still to fulfil and passions I truly want to explore, now is the time when I must think of me and my family.

Planty Mandy's Gardening Gang, New Business Nerves, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, gardening with kids, gardeners seed kits

Planty Mandy's gardening gang is not meant to be business of the year, a huge organisation or a world-conquering project, it's a tiny business I'm running from The Planty Garden with my gardening gang, Holly Bobbins, Iris and Mister Wednesday (please note, Iris and Mister Wednesday won't be doing the post office run).  It's borne from my love of being in my small garden, of building a garden myself which would be my haven from the world.  I wanted to create that haven not just for me but for wildlife, and for the bees.  It's worked too, I have so many varieties of fuzzy bumblebees in my garden, they're all completely adorable too, I feed them if they get tired, I accommodate them if they're tired and I provide safe water spaces they can fly into without the fear of drowning.
Planty Mandy's Gardening Gang, New Business Nerves, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, gardening with kids, gardeners seed kits

It's not just about the gardening though, I've worked with kids now for over a decade and without a doubt, it's my favourite part of my job, you know where you are with a 3-year-old.  I think if we can teach our children about gardening we will provide a path to better mental health, we will bring up a nation who nurture and care and we will have small ones who aren't so scared of our friends, the bees and who will truly cherish their presence and in some small way, that means we play our part in saving the world.
Planty Mandy's Gardening Gang, New Business Nerves, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, gardening with kids, gardeners seed kits

Growing your own flowers and vegetables is an adventure, there's nothing more exciting than the propagation of seeds, seeing your plenty babies emerge from their shells knowing they could grow to be giant sunflowers, that's the best thing ever.  Not only that but growing your own vegetables and fruits leads to a more sustainable life, more mindful life and a greener and more eco-friendly life.  Quite simply, love your garden and it will love you back tenfold.

The very first seed kits went on sale on Friday evening, my target for the first week was to sell 10 kits and I'd sold 8 in the first weekend so I feel it's definitely viable and my hope, when I have figured it all out is to have a shop selling gardening things for kids and adults and also to have a monthly seed kit subscription which is aimed at but not solely for children.

In one week, I designed a logo, I built a website, I started a Facebook page and got my first 200 likes and I sold 8 kits, I feel pretty accomplished.  To put this into perspective, if I can sell 12 kits, it equates to half an hour of photography, that may sound like a hard path to take but I know in my heart, this business is about something bigger than me, it's about the future of the world.

If you have enjoyed this article, I'd love your support to keep writing, especially during lockdown, buy me a virtual coffee


Monday, April 27, 2020

The 8 positives of Lockdown

Planty Mandy's Gardening Gand, the 8 positives of lockdown, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

It may sound weird to say that there have been some positives to lockdown but aside from missing people, the financial worries and rising anxiety which comes and goes, I have to say that there are definite positives.

  1. I've rescued some relationships I thought were gone forever and I'm so thankful for that.
  2. I've had time to start teaching kids the wonder of creative photography.
  3. I've started a brand new business, Planty Mandy's Gardening Gang, something I wanted to do last year but just never had the time.
  4. I've spent so much time tending to my garden, sowing seeds, planting things and watching the plants grow.
  5. I've sat in the sunshine every day and felt the warmth on my face and every day I do that, I feel less anxious and better about life.
  6. I've embraced cooking and baking like never before, you can tell that from my ever-extending waistline.
  7. I've wandered with Holly Bobbins not worrying about the time it takes (she's very slow) and enjoyed our gentle walks observing nature and the wonder of spring.
  8. I've reacquainted myself with the enjoyment of a glass of good wine, I couldn't drink alcohol from around 2011, I was completely intolerant and it turned out when they took me off bendroflumethiazide that it was that medication which made me intolerant.  Hurrah for wine and gin and an Aperol spritz in the sunshine. 
Now please don't think I'm being glib or that I'm not empathetic to the pains of lockdown, I've had anxiety at least once or twice a day and some days the lockdown malaise is so bad that I simply don't have the energy to do anything.  The thing is though, I'm a perpetual optimist, I live on the bright side of things.  For instance, some of my favourite restaurants are now doing great organic grocery deliveries, bakers are doing treat boxes and you can get most things delivered straight to your door, which is handy, if like me, you're in the increased risk category.

There's so much talk about ending lockdown, about saving the economy and it just doesn't sit well with me, even though I'm out of work I'd always favour saving lives over saving the economy.  For me, I want lockdown to end, when it's safe to end, even if that means setting free our young people whilst I languish in lockdown for just that little bit longer, better to do that than die and that's pretty much our choices at present.  I won't feel safe until the day I can access an antibody test that confirms that yes I've had Coronavirus and yes I have antibodies.  It seems for the latter part though, we still don't know just how much immunity the antibodies will gift us and that's anxiety-inducing too.

Last year I had an idea to start a subscription gardening club for children, I wanted to teach them how cool it is to grow your own plants and flowers whilst also learning about just how amazing wildlife and nature is, the bees are like the rockstars of the insect world and I will wax lyrical about that as often as I can.  Would I have launched Planty Mandy's Gardening Gang if we hadn't had lockdown?  Maybe, but I was always too busy.  Having no business to worry about has certainly been a boon at times.  In less than a week I have broadcast my first episode, I have set up a Facebook page and I have ordered all of the elements for the very first gardening gang boxes, including the boxes, thankfully it's all tax-deductible and good use of what little savings I had.  The gardening gang won't replace photography because I'll always be a photographer and really, having good photography skills is very helpful for such a business.

Quite simply I'm putting all of my passions together and starting something wonderful, it's unlikely to make a million but if it enthuses small children to save the bees and care about the wildlife then saving the world is much bigger than anything that financial gain could provide.  It does also help that I ran a membership site for the last couple of years so I've gained a lot of skills in that area.

I feel quite confident about the future, about my future and the future for us all, it might be bumpy but it can still be truly wonderful, as many have said, this too shall pass.

If you have enjoyed this article, I would love your support in buying me a virtual coffee for every person who supports me before May 7th I am entering them into a draw to win a 12x8 print of beautiful Newcastle, I have over 25 prints to give away so you have a really high chance of getting one of your walls.  Thank you!


Monday, April 20, 2020

Week Zero - When the money ran out

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, week zero, when the money ran out, business, coronavirus, economics

This week for many British companies and self-employed people, is week zero, the week when the money runs out, the cash reserves are empty and for normal working people who are just about to be paid, a large proportion will see their first official furlough pay with only 80% of their usual wage packets.  I think economically this week will be particularly bad as a nation, we will see many companies go under and our use of foodbanks will sadly increase once more.

From my own personal perspective, last week was week zero for me, it didn't help that I don't really work during winter and Easter is my rebound into the world, this was a really bad time for this to happen.  (although granted, there would never have been a good time).

Of course, I don't think we should forget that anyone who's actively working now is probably a keyworker who's actively risking their lives every day to keep the country running, to save the lives of our citizens, to teach our children and let's not forget all of those who are having to work around the clock to process all of the new Universal Credit payments.

I have, at this point, taken payment holidays where possible so, yay, for absolutely piles of debt on the other side, some expenses I can't take holidays from like business insurance, pet insurances, gas, electricity, rent, food and getting working tax credits of approximately £149 a week, well I'll let you do the maths.

Am I scared?  Yes, lots, it's such a long time until June when I should get at least something from the treasury, I know it won't be much because I had a dreadful 18/19 but it will be better than nothing like some of my friends who are newly self-employed or who are company directors.

Last week I managed to do a zoom session with local marketing and influencer agency, Revibe Marketing, I showed them how to use their smartphones to communicate better through video and images, to be able to continue to create engaging and amazing content right from their front rooms.  I have also been teaching children of all ages creative photography in my Facebook group for donations and it's incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, so much so, that I've decided to continue this in real life when the lockdown is a thing of the past.

Yesterday I listed all of my specialist areas on my Ko-Fi page and so you can ask me a question on any of them in exchange for a coffee or two and I'll help you as much as you're helping me.

I don't want to be a charity case and I don't want you to feel sorry for me, this isn't the point of the article, what I do want is for you to employ me so that I can help or add some value to your own business or organisation, it's what I do best and I love to work because it keeps me sane.  There are so many things I can still do from home and with a wealth of business experience plus skills in photography and making a small urban garden, I genuinely hope to have something I can offer which will help both of us.

I can't see how I can come out of this situation completely unscathed, well at least not financially but I will still be here on the other side, I'm a photographer, I'm a small business owner, I am an entrepreneur, always have been, always will be and no one can ever take those skills away from me.

if you have enjoyed this article, i would love your support to help me keep writing, I also have a list of my skills you can take advantage of you and thank you, I can't do this on my own but we can do this together

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Magical Small Garden Ideas

For regular readers or anyone who knows me in real life, you'll know that last year I transformed my outdoor space into a magical small garden. That was just the start though and this year I've been working to make it even better.  Of course, the problem at the moment is the access to garden centres which often provides small pockets of inspiration and Pinterest only goes so far, I am however madly pinning new ideas.  

Magical small garden ideas, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, gardening, small urban spaces

The first thing I've done this year is to install a pergola or garden arch and I've planted wisteria and a passion flower to grow up it, if I'm really lucky I may even get passionfruit and my goodness, that truly would be wonderful.

I've run out of space in the sunniest part of the garden so I've bought some coloured pots which hang on the fence and I'm planning to pot herbs in them so whenever I'm cooking I can just step outside of the backdoor to grab a handful.

I've also lowered the pond which was super wonky and replaced the pump for the fountain so it's a little more efficient and I can really hear the water babbling as I sit in my arbour.

Magical small garden ideas, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, gardening, small urban spaces

Magical small garden ideas, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, gardening, small urban spaces
I haven't decided what to do with the hanging baskets this year, they do have fuchsias in them which are just starting to come back but last year I just found they looked a little messy and I really want those overflowing abundant hanging baskets.  I also have a dark corner next to the compost bin which is much overlooked and I still haven't a clue what I can do with it so suggestions on a postcard please for that one!

One thing that I know is that you can have a truly magical garden even in the smallest space, seeds are available from around 25p a packet, I bought some bright lobelia for exactly that much and it will provide an abundance of blue and purple bedding during the summer months.  I also want you to know that you can still grow fruits and vegetables in tiny gardens, I have rhubarb, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, rocket, salad, strawberries, loganberries and beans which all grow amongst the plants and flowers.  I love just planting everything together and last year it all just seemed to work.  I'm also noticing that since I put the slate down that I haven't seen quite so many slugs and snails so maybe I should have another go with Lupins and Hostas.

One thing I know is, we need our green spaces and yardens, our small gardens and window boxes now more than ever, a comfy chair next to a pot of pretty blousy blooms in a sunny spot can make the difference between a bad and good mental health day and I know all too well just how much of a difference it makes to be able to sit outside every day just watching and listening to nature.

So, go now, make it your mission to grow something, find a pot or a planter or a box you no longer need, throw in some soil and scatter even the cheapest pack of wildflower seeds and you will be rewarded not only with flowers but also with life and insects and fuzzy bumblebees who are so grateful for the pollen they will buzz merrily around providing a relaxing chorus whilst you have a nap in your comfy chair.

If you have enjoyed this article or taken some value I'd love your support so I can keep writing
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