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, October 30, 2018

Christmas 2018 starts here - 8 Weeks to go

Beagle, wearing a festive neckerchief, Holly Bobbins, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, Christmas 2018, advent calendards


Today is officially 8 weeks until Christmas Day, can you believe that, it seems like it's only weeks since we were turning over a new leaf on the 2018 calendar and already we're nearing the end of the year, for me it's been such a challenging year and given the choice, I'm not sure I'd ask to repeat it anytime soon but being that Christmas is the very epicentre of my universe I'm determined to make the next 8 weeks as sparkly as blooming well possible.  I see Christmas as a beacon of hope, it's a happy time, it's filled with lovely things and everyone is just a little nicer during the festive period and when you're a lonely old singleton, well these are the things you appreciate most of all.


So, the first thing I've done this week is record my very first Youtube video for about a year, I'm determined to crack Youtube once and for all this year and so I hope you'll give my 5 favourite budget friendly advent calendars for 2018 video a watch!

You see, I love Christmas but I wouldn't want anyone to end up completely broke and in trouble over it.  For me, Christmas is about friends, food and family, now I may not have any family apart from my 3 teens but I am lucky enough to have been adopted by lovely Harriet and her family and that's who I'll be spending Christmas with, I'm so thankful for that.

Over the next 8 weeks I'm going to be recording several festive videos focusing on all things Christmas, decorations, presents, decking your halls and making merry, I've got it all covered!

This week I'm writing all of my festive gift guides, so this year I'll be featuring my general biggest ever gift guide, my gift guide for foodies (my particular favourite) and also a stocking fillers under £20 advent calendar which I haven't actually began to collate yet but I figure no one buys the stocking fillers until last right?

I have things for mums, for pets, for teens, pretty much everyone is going to be covered in there so stick with me over the next 8 weeks and don't forget in one weeks time it's officially okay to watch Love Actually as that movie begins 7 weeks before Christmas!  Although if you are anything like me you've been watching back to back Christmas movies on Christmas24 for the last 2 weeks and last week completely fed up, I even watched Elf for the first time this year.

Christmas I am coming to get you!

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Life 1 - Mandy 0


Holly Bobbins in Bed, life 1- Mandy 0, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


It's been such a busy week that I'd not found the time to have even a quiet few moments to blog, packages keep arriving for this years Christmas gift guides which make me smile and thank goodness as life hasn't been too smiley for the last couple of days, a combination of a migraine I've had for 3 days now, my heart being squashed out of shape and just feeling all over off colour.

Life 1 - Mandy 0


As much as I would like to pour my heart out on my blog, sometimes I think it's just not worth it, I kind of made a promise that there are some things I don't talk about, mostly because of Abigail and Looby so suffice to say, I'm a moron, always have been, always will be.

You know, I am a dreamer, a lover, someone who can find magic in the smallest of things, I read this week for instance that we should truly cherish our friends who think about Christmas in February because they are the purest of heart, it's nice to think of myself like that, I just hung a quote on my stairs which says "As long as you have Christmas in your heart there will always be magic".  I've said that to the kids for years, I actually thought it was from a movie but it seems it might have been my own dose of wisdom, I have that you know, even if it isn't something I choose to use on myself.

For years I've looked to only see the good in others and this is the year when that has truly smacked me in the face, I know now that not all people are lovely or treat others as they want to be treat themselves, I still like to believe in good though and I think the reality is probably something like 90% of people are good and only 10% masquerade as good people but are truly cold with shrivelled hearts underneath.

I guess this is the year when I have learned so many lessons, whilst it's been not my favourite year I've definitely learnt so much from it, at least when you make mistakes you have something to learn from it.

Someone said recently of me that they worried for my mental health because it seems so all over the place and you know, I think that's because I blog, I write about how I'm feeling at the time when I sit down, I never pre-prepare blogs (kudos to the bloggers who do) and being bipolar, maybe I could describe that as when your brain is all over the place, it get's worse as you age unfortunately and I am, of course, considerably older than 2846!

Earlier today I described myself as an old bag of fat potatoes because that's how I currently feel, like a fat potato, you know the slightly mouldy one at the back of the cupboard, maybe not quite so bad as the ones which smell, I'm not quite that bad yet 😉(how did I just discover that you can blog with emoji now?)

I have several things I need to beat currently, when I'm not out working with my camera, basically people terrify me, I know it's agoraphobia but it takes me such a long time to get out of the house and carrying an enormous heavy camera and lens around isn't really a solution.  I think maybe I've been so ground down this year that I just feel like I'm not worthy of spending time with others, yep it's entirely crappy but that's anxiety for you.  I wish I could go back to before May when I thought I could change the world with my secret superhero pants and maybe next year I'll make a comeback with a new superhero weapon but until then, has anyone got a large cupboard I could come and hide in?
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fenwick's Christmas Window 2018 Revealed *spoilers*


The 2018 Fenwick Christmas Department, The Snowman is the theme of the Christmas Windows, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


It's that time of year again, The Fenwick Christmas gift department is open with huge clues pointing at the theme of this years Christmas window, if you don't want to know what it is, scroll past now...

Okay, if you remained, Looby and I think it's....The Snowman, in fact we're 99% confident, why?

Well, one, we were talking to a staff member yesterday who had been told that the pop up cafe was a huge clue (it's called The Snowman cafe) and two, it's the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs and Fenwick have lots of things devoted to that special event in their new Christmas gift department which this year, is in the basement.

Looby and I wandered around the Christmas department yesterday feeling that something was amiss, we can't put our finger on it but it seemed unfinished, it's certainly bigger now that it's taken over the basement but it just didn't feel as Christmassy as in previous years when it was on the second floor.

There are wooden frames up all around the department that look like they're a shell which need things attaching to, now either they've gone for a minimalistic look (awful, please never do it again) or they're not completing it until the windows are revealed in around 3 weeks from now (too late, the game is up, you might as well just do it).


I do think Fenwick have had an issue ever since they started having a dedicated Christmas gift department as it always reveals what the windows are going to be, even when they're trying to be all secret squirrel about it.  Looby and I of course are the great detectives and judges of all things Christmas being that we are possibly Newcastle's biggest fans of Christmas.


One thing Fenwick are doing differently this year is a whole new Santa's Rooftop experience, it sounds so exciting so after checking that it would still be age appropriate for Looby and I we've booked to go on November 5th home education comes in really helpful sometimes as most of the peak dates at weekends are already sold out.  Apparently if you're in Newcastle, you can already see signs that Santa's house is being erected upon the roof.  I can't even tell you how excited we are to go up there, not only for the experience but also for the epic views of Newcastle, it's £11.50 per person but it promises to last around 45 minutes to an hour so not too bad for Looby and I although if you're a big family I guess it's not the cheapest activity especially when in previous years a visit to Santa in Fenwick has always been a free activity.

Just to say, in case you're wondering, I wasn't paid to write this, it's not collaborative and Looby and I have bought our own tickets, we're just massive Christmas fans and assessing Christmas departments really has become our self given jobs at this time of year.

In conclusion, you can bet Looby and I will attend this years window unveiling, you can bet we'll queue like 5 year olds and take photos of every window and we really hope that we did spy the Christmas department in an unfinished state, it is after all only the start of the 3rd week of October.  if it is the finished article though, well, we might just have to jump on a train to Edinburgh to see Jenners in all it's glory in just a few weeks time.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I am everything and I am nothing - A Post for World Mental Health Day 2018

Mandy Charlton, a post for world mental health day 2018, depression, anxiety, bipolar, photographer, writer, blogger



Today is World Mental Health Day, a day when we raise awareness and understanding of mental health and I personally believe we've made more progress in the last 10 years than ever before.  The first news article I was featured in talking about bipolar caused me to lose business but now more than ever most people I know, clients, family, friends, pretty much all of them are aware of the personal battles I continue to fight, they also know it doesn't make me a worse person in business or in my personal life.  Because I have the ability to talk about my own issues in a public forum it also helps to create an understanding that I am who I say I am and if I'm not doing so well I will let people know, that's actually part of my own self care.

Bipolar, severe anxiety, agoraphobic thoughts, social anxiety, autistic traits, that's how you could describe me and I'd own every single thing because I'm also brilliant, slightly eccentric, a business woman, a mum, a friend, an entrepreneur, I own 2 companies and one beagle, I laugh, I cry, I love, I feel, I am everything and I am nothing all at the same time.

On days when I'm on top form, I am great at making money, I am fantastic at coming up with new ideas, I can speak in public passionately without any fear, heck I can even do a spot on the radio.

On the bad days, I worry about everything, I overthink everything, I'm scared of the world, I'm terrified of people and I'm paranoid that every single person out there hates me, I dread opening emails, I can't pick up the phone and I want to hide from the world forever without ever having to think about the simplest things like cooking or getting dressed or even getting out of bed.

I favour the good days over the bad although I have no choice which is going to hit me, sometimes it's situations I can't handle, sometimes it's work stress but sometimes it's none of that, sometimes I just feel so very very lost and completely lonely and the worst thing, those are the times when I have trouble reaching out and asking for help, the crazy upside down life of mental illness is that the more poorly you become, the more you feel trapped, that's when it's hardest.

I'm lucky, on the neurosis to psychosis scale I've never tripped into anything near psychosis since 2003 and I hope I never do again because that's when it's a quagmire, that's when you feel you are trapped at the bottom of a well with no way of escape.

I write about this stuff because there are others out there who can't, there are people who still don't feel they have the strength to talk about this stuff or they feel if they do it will affect their jobs or the lives they lead and in some cases we do have a way to go in the workplace understanding the effects of mental illness.

Today, I'm okay, I'm fighting a battle at the moment but it's not affecting my work at all and when I'm not at work I get to sleep lots, I don't go out very often but on the self care scale, I'm so much better than I could be.  I'm still funny and make people laugh, I can still have deep and meaningful conversations with friends and family and spending less time going out I have reacquainted myself with my love of cooking and baking, I try to turn each negative into a positive and one day I'll win again, I know I will and if you're in a similar place, if you understand what I'm saying and you feel it too, one day you will be fine too, with help and love and treatment and understanding.  Just don't sit there in silence, reach out to a friend, a mental health professional or there's always a listening ear here with me.

And when you can, continue to burn light the brilliant, bright burning star that you are.
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Monday, October 08, 2018

My Teen Did The National Citizen Service, You Should Sign Yours Up Too



NCS summer wave, national citizen service 2018


This Summer, Abigail took part in the National Citizen Service, a 4 week programme designed to make the teens of today better citizens and which helps them become better individuals.  She undertook a 4 week programme during the summer holidays which started with the first week at an outward bounds adventure type place and ended with committing to a social action.  I just want to say a big thanks to everyone who did NCS with her for granting me the usage of these photos, apparently I became a bit of a legend when they discovered I was verified on Twitter (apparently an easy way to impress the teens of today).

If you've not heard of the National Citizen Service or NCS as it's now more widely known here's the information straight from their mouths.

About NCS

NCS is a government backed programme established in 2011 to help build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society. By bringing together young people from different backgrounds for a unique shared experience, NCS helps them to become better individuals, and in turn better citizens.

NCS is open to 16 and 17 year-olds across England and Northern Ireland. The two to four week programme, which takes place in school holidays, includes outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’, a community-based social action project and an end of programme celebration event.

To date:
  • Almost 500,000 young people have taken part
  • Twelve million hours of community action have been completed
  • For every £1 spent, NCS’  2016 summer programme delivered between £1.15 and £2.42 of benefits back to society
It costs participants just £50 or less to take part in NCS and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is provided for young people with additional needs.

To find out more visit NCSyes.co.uk.



I cannot say enough good things about NCS, Abigail loved every minute from the white knuckle activities in week one when she was staying in Yorkshire, then onto a week spent living in student accommodation and learning to be more independent and finally social action, through the Inspire Network Abigail connected up with Michelle Robson from Smart Works, a UK charity which provides women in need with interview clothes, styling advice and training to help them get the job of their dreams. Together their social action was about ending period poverty and they raised over £100 which went on a 3 month supply of much needed sanitary products to give to the charity.



When it came round to the celebration, Abigail was one of the hosts, she shared her experience in front of the whole wave, my brilliant teen had achieved so much again and all whilst waiting for her GCSE results which she also excelled in. The experience was so transformative for her, perfect for a girl who's always looking to fulfil her next goal, I know the friendships she made at NCS have remained and without a doubt the experience will stay with her always, I still can't quite believe it's only £50. This autumn during half term is your chance to sign your teen up for the autumn edition for only £25, it's 4 days away from home, 3 days learning new skills, 30 hours of social action on an issue they'll feel positive about, a time to chill out, make new friends and pick up some new skills for the future, you really should sign your teen up for the autumn NCS, I promise they will thank you for it. To sign up for only £25 for a limited time when you enter code AUTUMN25 visit NCSyes.co.uk

This is a collaborative post with the NCS

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Monday, October 01, 2018

I'm Leaving Photography and Here's Why...


mandy Charlton photography, newcastle photographer, weddings and family portrait photography in the north east of england




last year I decided that after a career which has spanned over a decade that I was going to leave the world of professional photography, I was all set to do it and then I won 2 awards and found my love all over again.

One year on and a few things have happened including my most recent bout of depression.  After a weekend of photographing 37 sessions to try and raise some money for Mind as well as giving myself my biggest personal challenge I feel the time has now come to announce that next year will definitely be my last year of full time photography.

The world of business and indeed photography has changed so much over the last decade, some great advances have been made but the markets are now more crowded than they ever were, we have less money in general for luxuries like photography and in an ever more demanding marketplace where I've tried to adapt and fit so many times, I feel like it's reached that point where I've done everything I've set out to achieve and it's time to move on.

I have no current plan, I know that I want to be a digital nomad, I have The Inspire Network, my own company which I own 80% of and I know there's a lot of things which need to be done there.  My fear of people continues to worsen and after a couple of scary happenings which have negatively affected my mental health I know it's time to start to plan for an alternative future.

I'll always be a photographer at heart and I'll probably always take occasional jobs by request from my darling regulars who's children I've watched grow and flourish.  My accountant assures me that even if I wind up my business I can still earn a couple of thousand a year from it as a hobby. My last planned wedding is in May 2020 and even though I've had times when I've wavered over that decision, now more than ever I know it's the right decision.

I do plan to up my game with writing and blogging over the next 12 months, it's been the one constant, my blog is older than my photography business and I've had times when it's definitely showed signs it could provide an income I've just not felt I wanted to push it too excessively because I never wanted to stop loving my blog and there's always a danger than when you start to make an income from any hobby that you will lose your love of that hobby.

I'm lucky that I'll always love capturing moments and places and things, there is rarely a day when I don't take at least 1 photograph even if it is with only my iPhone, that's not a bad thing though, it is after all the truth that the best camera is the one you have with you at the time.

As I lay in bed last night, my whole body aching with hands that felt like claws from 18 hours of photography I knew I'd done some good but it didn't outweigh the overall tiredness I felt and after a night filled with nightmares and me trying to block them out and calm my soul, this morning it felt right to write this.

I've been touched by the lives of thousands of clients over the years, many who've become friends but I've always treaded a fine line between balancing my delicate mental health (trust me it's the only delicate thing about me) with running a super charged and ultra demanding career.  I'm going to be 45 years old in February next year and the next generation of photographers have come along, in their twenties and early 30's with a style which is so different to mine, they're full of energy and they're willing to work the longest weeks to make things work.  Maybe my future is to help and guide them, maybe I'll help teach the business of photography somewhere along the line, at this point I just don't know.

As I go into what will be my penultimate crazy season, autumnal mini sessions, autumn and winter weddings, a time of little rest and much productivity I'm going to give it my absolute best and try to ignore the demons that live within my head that tell me every day that I'm a fake, that I'm not good enough and that I'm an imposter in my own life. I have loved this life I've lived for a decade and I always will be thankful that me, the girl who was actually certifiably crazy, got to live her dreams, at least for a while.


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