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, November 06, 2019

13 presents perfect for the hard to buy for this Christmas {Ad, Gift Guide}

13 presents for the hard to buy for this Christmas, mandy charlton, photographer, writer blogger

{Ad, Gift Guide} It's the festive season and everywhere people are planning what to buy for presents to please and delight so here without further ado is 2019 Christmas gift guide with 17 presents to please everyone this Christmas no matter who they are, even if they're usually hard to buy for.  From the foodie to the planner to the lover of luxurious things, this gift guide has everything.

1. Onaie bespoke handmade sheepskin slippers, if you like me, always have cold feet, these are perfect.  Any friend or family member will love the cosy toe feeling as these slippers envelop your feet and give you the toastiest of toes.

2.  Black Spade Nightwear, for the lover of luxury this Blackspade nightwear is just the ticket, silky yet comfortable and stylish, the person who receives this gift at Christmas will love you forever

3. Norma and Dorothy advent calendar candle, we have advent candles every year, it's a wonderful thing to burn one for an hour a day and contemplate, life, Christmas and everything else.

4. Homedics Stretch XS, for those who would love to do Yoga at home whilst lying on a mat which does the stretching for you, this product is something I've already tried and it's actually amazing, I felt so much better doing a 10-minute programme every day, you can also meditate for added mind clearance

5. The Amazing Mystery Box, Doctor Who.  The Amazing mystery box comes in several different varieties but it's filled to the brim with so many goodies, I absolutely love this Doctor Who one.

6. Constellation Hoodie from tentree, as if the thought of a hoodie featuring a beautiful constellation which glows in the dark isn't enough to tempt you, what about the fact that for every item sold by tentree, they actually plant ten trees?  Go, quickly, sustainable gifts are the best.

7. Stabilo Stationery products, I have been an ambassador for Stablio for a while now and I love everything that they do,  I am a stationery addict so this Christmas, why not get the stationery addict in your life something fabulous from Stabilo this Christmas.

8. Nads Cruelty-free hair remover products, if you want to be party-ready this festive season check out Nads for their cruelty-free hair removing products, hopefully, a few moments waxing and you'll be smooth and silky the whole festive season.

9. The ridiculously rude plant's mug, I bet you didn't know there were so many ridiculously rude sounding plant names?  This gift is perfect for the good-humoured gardener and promises to raise an eyebrow or two upon unwrapping!
 10. Meater + meat thermometer We’re all looking for ways to make our lives that bit easier, what better place to start than in the heart of the home, the kitchen. This smart kitchen gadget will not only ensure juicy cooking results, but it also allows the chef to step away from the oven. Just connect the MEATER+ to any smartphone or tablet and using patented technology, MEATER+ provides estimated cooking times, monitors meat whilst it’s cooking, sends alerts to mobile devices such as notifications when meat is cooked to perfection and ready to enjoy, saving time and effort. If not for someone’s stocking, then an absolute must-have cooking tool this year to ensure the Christmas turkey is at its yummiest, while you focus on all the trimmings!

11. The Max Glo Ball from Chuckit, let's not forget our four-pawed family members this Christmas with a ball they can play with all year round and when they lose it, with luck it will be easier to find as it glows in the dark!  Holly Bobbins will be delighted.

 12.  Parrots and Palms Water Bottle from Kambukka, Kambukka are a premium drinkware brand and they have the most beautiful water bottles you've ever seen, perfect for hydration on the go at all times and this one is small enough to fit in your handbag, bonus points as it's also thermal!

13. candles from Pyropets, for the someone who has everything I bet they don't have a candle which melts down their pet and then you are left with the metal skeleton, it's definitely different and might be just the present for the hard to buy for friend

So I think we've got something for everyone here, even those hardest to buy for relatives and friends and if you gift some of these, I'd love to know how friends and family react, I personally would love all of them, that's why I spent so much time choosing the items.


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

This year, let's celebrate the build up to Christmas

This year, let's celebrate the build up to Christmas, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Last year, I wrote this article about why I don't like Christmas anymore, what quickly transpired was that whilst Christmas Day makes me depressed, I do still love pre-Christmas, the build-up. in the weeks before.  I've since asked questions to people, I've listened to answers and it seems I'm not alone.

Most people don't actually think very much of Christmas Day, we're either spending it with difficult family members we can't wait to get away from or we're on our own and maybe lonely with no one to celebrate with.  For several very good reasons, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year for many, including me, the self-declared queen of all things Christmas.  Let's just take a moment to think about that though, not the queen of Christmas Day, the queen of all things Christmas.

I love pre-Christmas, once Looby has had her birthday on the 25th September I can think of nothing else, I read all the magazines, I write lists, I shop, I Pinterest, every single detail is meticulously planned.  I guess it's that which I find most magical of all.  For instance, I throw a Christmas party every year and that's probably the most exciting event of my year, it's always a riot and now one leaves without being well-fed, and usually a little tipsy.  In all probability, I think it's that experience which I crave as the best Christmas Day ever.

Maybe I peak too soon, by the time we get to Christmas Day I've watched 100's of Hallmark Christmas movies,  I've watched every single Christmas TV special I can get my hands on and then you get to Christmas Day and you don't want to watch anymore trimming the tree or snowfall at midnight on Christmas Day, all you have left is a pile of sprouts and nothing to look forward to other than a long hard winter and your annual tax return.

I have an idea though, why don't we just enjoy all of the Christmas build-up for as long as we possibly can, as a friend of mine said in a video the other day "Anyone who's seriously triggered by someone putting a Christmas tree up early needs to take a long, hard look at themselves".

My suggestion for this year is to go to all of the festive markets you can, go and hug as many Santa's as you can irrespective of how old you are.  Dance with elves, go down the festive helter-skelter.  Drink egg nog or mulled wine, make the biggest and best hot chocolates you can, toast marshmallows, squirt canned cream into your mouth.  If it snows make snowmen, have snowball fights, go sledging.  Imagine you are the real-life personification of Buddy the Elf.

My theory here is that by the time it actually get's to Christmas Day that you will be so worn out with all of the Christmas activity that you will be able to sleep the day away or you just won't care anymore and will happily sit on your own with a selection box in front of the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.  Here's hoping anyway!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

The hidden loneliness epidemic no one talks about

Iris Rainbow, cat of mandy charlton, the hidden loneliness epidemic no one ever talks about, photographer, writer, blogger

In 2007, I had no one except my then-husband who commanded my whole attention, he was the centre of my universe and I'd had agoraphobia, to all intents and purposes he was my whole world, I even heard a scathing relative say that if he ever left me they thought I would kill myself because I wouldn't be able to cope on my own.

Well, 12 years on and I'm still here, I still have very few friends but I am free, I have a good job that I love and I'm around people all weekend when I'm working.  I do have friends and I see Harriet a couple of times a week if I'm lucky but that's where it ends, I can't go out because the only compatible evenings for the pub quiz are the nights when Looby is home (now that she's at business school and I want to spend every spare minute with her) and not horse riding and I can't meet anyone to share my life with because I never go out.

Don't get me wrong, I am good in my own company, I like my own company and I'm independent enough to take myself out to the cinema, or for dinner or on holiday but I guess that's just it, I spend a lot of time with people I don't know being overly happy like I just won the lottery (because, try photographing kids or weddings and being miserable, it would not end well). When I come home it's just me a lot of the time.  So I live this life being perpetually lonely whilst on the face of it people not realising that I am. 

I think this doesn't just affect me, I think there are lots of other people in the same position, the hidden lonely.  I also think I've led a weird life in some ways because I always introduce friends to other friends and they end up being friends whilst also having their own friends and there's me in the corner (not losing my religion, I never had one).

Please understand that I'm not looking for sympathy, I just want to raise awareness now because in the future I probably will end up being one of those old people who doesn't have a single person, I dread it, I worry about it and at the back of my mind I have this memory of when my husband left and he told me that he would make sure I ended up with no one.

I have raging anxiety today, my stomach is literally in my throat, and that's perhaps why I decided to write this, I don't know what the answer is, if I knew how to fix it I probably would have done that by now, currently, my energy levels are completely awful too but that's more likely due to the fact that I've been having a ton of medical tests for months and this week I finally hope to get a diagnosis, my doctor thinks I have hyperparathyroidism which causes depression as well as many other things, I've been just existing for months, and all I'm hoping for now is the diagnosis so I know it's not just my stupid brain again because really, I already take a significant amount of medication for my mental health, don't really fancy taking anymore.

Monday, October 28, 2019

How to spend Christmas alone

How to spend christmas alone, mandy charlton photography, blogger, writer

This year for the first time I am spending Christmas alone, Looby wants to be with her sister, Iain wants to spend his first Christmas with his brother and sister and so I'll be alone for my very first Christmas.

When I was younger, in fact, my whole life, I dreamt about having big family Christmases with all of the family, extended family and the funny old drunk aunties falling asleep after a big Christmas lunch.  We'd play charades, we'd eat all of the Quality Street and then we'd settle down for the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

Life, of course, doesn't always go the way you'd expect and the price of freedom from being in controlling family relationships is that I've ended up with just Looby and Iain and it's only fair that they get to spend Christmas with whoever they want.  Harriet of course, lovely as she is, extended the yearly invitation to have lunch with her folks at the pub but last year I was depressed and I felt I ruined other people's happiness and that's a lot when it's £60 a head.

In truth, Christmas will be the very antithesis to what I've hoped and dreamed of but I have to start thinking about ways to make the best of it because people all around the world have to face Christmas alone, it's not just me and it's not about sympathy or pity.  It's just finding ways to cope.

I've researched, I've read articles and they all seem to say the same kinds of things - 
  • Go for a walk, and enjoy how quiet everywhere is.
  • Have a lie-in with no pressure to get out of bed.
  • Take yourself out for Chinese food.
  • Spoil yourself with presents to yourself.
  • Take naps whenever you want.
  • Catch up on TV, watch whatever you want
  • Eat whatever you want
  • Embrace your pets
This, of course, is all fine and well and there are some good suggestions in there but I already spend quite a lot of time alone, have sole possession of the remote control, cuddle my pet's daily and if I want something, I buy it.  I also rarely set an alarm and take naps more than you'd think, so it's not like embracing time off as a rare thing because I have a fairly flexible life with lots of free time.

I did think of going away but Looby will be home on Boxing Day and we'll have our celebrations then but whatever I do, I can't shake the fact that I will be on my own on Christmas Day.  Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if I weren't the queen of Christmas having loved every single thing about the whole festive season for my whole life.

So, dear reader, maybe you are sitting there feeling the same way as me, maybe you too are a single parent who's children will be away, well, here's what I suggest, would you like to come for Christmas Day?  I really want to cook a big feast, I can't drink so I'm going to need some help with that and I can promise a cheeseboard to end all cheeseboards.  Yes, you'll have to share the sofa with Holly Bobbins and the cats but it's got to be a better solution than Christmas alone.  I love to entertain, nay, I live to entertain, I don't have the smartest house, I'm far from being financially happy but Christmas, Christmas is my thing and I embrace it with all of my heart and soul.

Alternatively, some kind of suggestions to add to my list of coping mechanisms would be greatly appreciated, last year was bad and I only got to spend a few hours with the kids, this year is ten times worse.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Best Places To Visit on a Weekend trip to Hull {press trip}

Best Places to visit in Hull, Hull Minster, Michaelangelo Exhibition, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

Last weekend I went on a weekend press trip to Hull with some lovely bloggers/journalists from around the country, we visited some of the best places and attractions that Hull has to offer and it's taken me a week to recover because we packed so much in.

It's never the easiest for me to meet new people and it can take up to 6 months before I really relax but I had no such worries last weekend as everyone was so welcoming.

I last visited Hull in 2014 and I loved it then and I love it even more now, Hull is one of those cities which is completely underrated, I'm not sure why it isn't more loved or spoken about because it's a total gem, it's winding streets, it's independent shops, it really is a special little city.

I have lots of Hull facts like "It's the home to England's smallest window" or like the fact that it's Minster isn't actually any kind of cathedral, it's simply Englands biggest parish church.  It's also hosting an exhibition which has brought the Sistine Chapel to Humberside and it's a really impressive exhibition and as close as I've been to the work of Michaelangelo having not had the time to visit the real thing when I was last in Rome.

Hull also has a "Land of Green Ginger" just like Tynemouth, from speaking to Paul our tour guide it seems that the one in Tynemouth gets its name from the one in Hull but no one knows where the original one gets its name from.

Hull, at first sight, can look a lot like a post-war city which has recovered from the bombing it suffered by rebuilding with brutalist architecture and really, it was one of the most bombed cities outside of London but there are still pre-war buildings and lots of quirky architecture to boot.

One of it's finer places is Hepworth's Arcade which is not only home to the Hotham's Gin School but also the oldest joke shop in Hull and it's a very quirky owner who likes to wear his products on his face, just a word of warning!  It's the only L shaped arcade in the country and it's full of small independent shops, much like the rest of Hull really, it's been ages since I visited a place with so many independent shops.

The Hotham's Gin School was one highlight of an amazing weekend and I don't even drink.  We distilled our own gin in pairs so I spent the afternoon getting to know Natalie from Hello Cuppies and she took on the difficult task of not only helping to make the gin but also drinking all of my extra alcohol.

Our finished Gin, named "Ronnie Pickering's Cherry Pie" has flavourings of cherry, vanilla, marshmallow and some citrus undertones and it gets its name from the infamous viral sensation of 2015, Ronnie Pickering, I'm sure he'd be delighted with the finished Gin, I shall be unveiling it at my yearly Christmas party . Suffice to say I graduated from Gin School and have a 54%abv craft Gin to prove it!  A 4 hour experience costs £150 and you get to take away your own bottle of gin as well as sampling some gin drinks over the afternoon, it's well worth the money even if, like me, you don't drink alcohol.

Of course, no weekend away would be complete without lots and lots of food and Hull did not disappoint, from lunch at the Trinity Market to dinner at Ambient Tapas near the marina and then on Sunday a trip to the Lion and Key pub, full tummies are happy tummies after all.

Hull, of course, has been known as the home of The Deep since 2002 and no trip to Hull would be complete without a trip, it's a place I've been several times before and I love it, as you readers know I love aquariums, I find them the most calming places and I could sit and watch the fishes swimming in the tanks all day long.  I love the sharks, I love the beautiful sea turtles and I love the manta-ray.   My only tip with The Deep is to go when it first opens as it gets absolutely crammed with small people and the queues at peak times can be huge.

These are really just a few of the highlights of a wonderful weekend I'll remember for always and if you want to experience the trip as I did, I have an Instagram Highlight devoted to all of the wonders of Hull which contains everything you've seen here and more.  I had the best time in Hull and I already want to plan a trip with Looby because I think she'll love it too, I love that everything is within walking distance and now that the Hilton has their own Doubletree hotel there just next to the theatre, it's a destination you have to visit.

My train tickets cost just over £50 going on the Transpennine Express and I paid for them myself, all other aspects of the weekend were paid for by Visit Hull as part of the press trip.  All of the opinions are my own and what I honestly thought of lovely old Hull!


Monday, October 07, 2019

Easiest Green Tomato Chutney Recipe

This is the easiest green tomato chutney recipe you will find on the internet, it takes moments to prepare and makes perfect Christmas gifts filled with home-made love.  Just don't eat it all yourself!

Easiest green tomato chutney recipe on the internet, mandy charlton photography, photographer, writer, blogger

Green Tomato Chutney Ingredients

2.2kg tomatoes, it doesn't matter how green
1 litre of malt vinegar
500g soft brown sugar
500g red onions roughly sliced
250g of Sultanas
3 tsp sea salt
3 tsp ground black pepper


Pour the vinegar into a large pan and then empty in the sugar and heat until it dissolves, continue to heat until it reaches boiling.

Add the sultanas and bring back to the boil
Add everything else,

halfway through once the tomatoes start to split their skin, take a potato masher and gently mash the tomatoes, it's so much easier than chopping over 2k of small tomatoes, in essence, this is why it's the easiest green tomato chutney recipe on the internet

After around 90 mins of simmering, it will turn into gloopy thick chutney, take off the boil, wait until it cools and then decant into jars, I paid £5 for 6 380ml jars with lids at Wilko.

I got 5, 380ml jars out of this whole mix.  Label with pretty labels, not forgetting to add the date and then gift all of your friends.

You can either use the chutney straight away or you can leave to season for a few weeks, it's the perfect time of year if you wanted to store it for Christmas, I plan to open one of my jars at my yearly Christmas party and will be serving it with some of my favourite Blackstock Blue cheese.

It's quite a sweet chutney so should nicely sit amongst the Boxing Day buffet or on a cheeseboard to have with some good red wine when your friends and family come together.

I scoured the internet to find a good green tomato chutney recipe and then used this one as a base and altered it slightly for my own needs.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The worst week...

Some weeks are the work of the devil, I mean they seriously suck!  Life has been pretty gentle in many ways for ages, I've photographed so many lovely weddings and had a spring in my step but this week just goes to prove we are all human and have weeks where it feels like everything happens at once.

Looby decided she wanted to return to full-time education and starts the Newcastle Futures business school tomorrow, 9 to 5 days and I can't even vocalise how much I dislike the principal but it's her choice and I'll always support her decisions 100%.

I got smug about getting a cold and not worrying because of taking Vitamin D3 and now it's turned into flu and Beecham's is my new friend, I feel absolutely shocking!

I also had to reschedule 11 sessions due to the abysmal weather and the peak of the week was Pyracantha going over the rainbow bridge, losing a pet just never get's easier. 

Now I'm not writing this for any kind of need for sympathy, just that it's been a shocking week and I truly hope I don't have one of these again for a while.  There are some good things, small things maybe but good things all the same -
  • I can make my own pumpkin spice lattes at home saving money and time thanks to a bottle of pumpkin spice syrup and my Nespresso Lattissima (which Harriet bought me last Christmas).  Let me tell you that pumpkin spice lattes are just the ticket on dark, dull, dismal days, they're almost a hug in a mug.
  • Christmas is coming, I have already read several Christmas magazines, put all of the M&S Christmas food into my online basket and have been thinking about different types of presents I can make for my wonderful friends.
  • This week I plan to make lots of green tomato chutney before I lose my crops to the weather, one thing I'm thankful for is the abundance of my tomato crop this year, it's been the biggest success of my gardening pursuits and I know it's top of my list of things to grow again next year.
  • It's the cosy season and I've fully embraced Hygge once again, I have all of the cosy blankets, cushions, twinkly lights and houseplants to help me maintain my sanity through the darkest half of the year.
  • I may have flu right before I'd even had the chance to think about getting this year's flu shot but at least I should make it through the rest of the year with my health intact.  I'm rarely ill, take around 1 sick day per year and I know it'll be at least another 2 or 3 years before another bout of cold/flu comes along.
So much to be thankful for, more than any bad week can throw at me but thank goodness for the mental health medications I do take which surely help me deal with all of this stuff so much better than I ever could on my own and I'm sure that right around the corner there's a much better week waiting for us all.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Best Ways to Embrace the Cosy Season

The cosy season is upon us, the nights are getting longer, the days are shorter and if you can't spend so much time outdoors, it's the best time to start declaring your love of houseplants.  Houseplants bring the outdoors indoors and earlier in the year while I was planning my urban haven I declared that by the time it got to this winter I would have a house full of plants to try and help me with seasonal affective disorder.
Houseplants, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, best ways to embrace the cosy season

Every year in the last 5 years I've done small things to help with SAD, I've bought a lightbox, I've continually taken a high dose of vitamin D3, I've embraced all things hygge and now, I've got my own indoor garden for the days when I can't embrace the outdoors.  I don't particularly care about the varieties of houseplant, I just buy the ones I like and really, in a lot of ways, houseplants are a gentle way of gardening, you buy the plant, you buy the pot and then you take it home and put it where you want it.  

I do talk to my plants but you'd expect that wouldn't you, you might think I'm slightly eccentric but I'm also pretty sure that there's scientific evidence that if you're nice to your plants then they will grow for you.  I also know that they improve the air quality and they're so much prettier than buying an air purifier.

I've also, for the last few years, worked really hard at making my living room the cosiest place on earth, yes, the walls and the ceiling could do with a paint, it's definitely not Mrs Hinch's house and it's a little rough around the edges but to me it's the perfect nest to live in during the cosy season.  I love twinkly lights, cushions, throws, second-hand furniture, and of course, lots and lots of plants plus candles, wax melts and reed diffusers.  I genuinely love the space that I've curated and whilst I used to dread the knock of the door (I once went for 7 years without letting someone in my house) now I openly embrace friends coming over and once a year, when planning Christmas, I open my house to as many of my close friends as I can squeeze through the door at my annual Christmas party.

I love shopping at Homesense and Ikea as well as charity shops and garden centres, I think if you put all of those stores together and jumble them all up, you come out with my style somewhere in there.  I like colour and patterns and I'm not scared to mix them up, oh and of course, I love, love, love, photos on the wall.

I love dark nights and warm blankets even though I hate the cold dark days of winter which is why I curated my own adult-sized nest, now add in some good friends and a sparkly glass of Champagne and you will find me in Cosy Season heaven.

Monday, September 23, 2019

5 Ways to get ready for Christmas 2019

Christmas at Fenwick, 5 ways to get ready for christmas 2019, mandy charlton photography blog

This is a collaborative post

It's just 3 months until Christmas and before you run around screaming "I love Christmas" you can bet it will be here.  I am of course an enormous kid when it comes to Christmas and so I thought I would impart some wisdom with 5 ways to get ready for Christmas 2019.

  1. Start saving now, you can bet your bottom dollar that it's a lot easier to save a few pounds each week now than waiting until the last minute and then panicking. Setting up a savings plan with a service plan like Plum can really help, I have mine set up and it saves me around £200 per month currently.
  2. When you do your weekly Sainsbury's shop, try and buy something a little extra, a bottle of wine, a box of biscuits, if you start now your cupboards will be full and bursting by the start of the festive season.
  3. Start your Christmas shopping early, there are lots of bargains in the shops at the moment with the end of summer sales, it's a seriously great time to start stocking up rather than waiting until November when all products become premium prices.
  4. Set your dates on the calendar now, you'd be surprised just how quickly your friend's festive calendars fill up with events and parties, I try and set the date for my annual Christmas party at the beginning of October and then it means I know I can have all of my favourite people in one place at the same time.
  5. If you do end up in a panic at the last minute, days before Christmas, sometimes looking online for a loan is a good option, don't just sit worrying in a corner, you've got this!  

There's something about Christmas which fills my heart with joy and returns me to a state of childlike wonder even after all of these years, for a couple of months I get to have the twinkliest house, the best party and release my inner 3 year old.

Even though Looby is 16 this year you can bet we'll be planning some kind of festive adventure, we always go and see Santa, we've seen him at  the Bluestone  resort in Wales and last year we went to Santa on the rooftop at Fenwick, it was the most joyous of events, it was funny and magical and no one batted an eyelid that we were probably the oldest attendees.

Truly Christmas is a time for magic and wonder, a time when people are just that little bit nicer to each other and where love becomes the strongest message around the world, Brexit is forgotten for a short while and that's why I love it and embrace it with my whole heart.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

I have something to say, after all of these years...

You know when you just get into your groove and then life throws something else up in your path and disturbs it?  Yeah, well, that happened.

It's okay though, as much as I loved my new off the cuff writing style, the numbers would suggest that not many other people did so I'm reverting to weekly updates and long rambling sentences (lucky you!).

It seems so long since the carefree days of my holidays, I currently feel like I've shot 100 weddings this year, I haven't but I have shot a lot and I've loved every moment. the editing pile though, uy!

You know I said that I'd stopped swearing and instead replaced it with the word "Uy" well, I now say that approximately 784 times a day and even more if I'm tuned into Sky News.  I'm grateful for my continued success in business.  Both companies are currently thriving, Inspire is only in its second year so it provides more challenges than photography which just continues to be a constant that I am supremely grateful for.

I decided that I didn't want to be alone for the rest of my life but at the same time I'm super picky, I installed dating apps and yet, I think I only did it to feel more normal, because window shopping is good in the quiet moments of the night.  I decided that I would truly be myself and so, choosing Pansexual from the list, I was emboldened, even though I've never declared myself to be anything really.

Oh and for those who wonder, what's Pansexual, the Wikipedia definition is - 

"Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are not determining factors in their romantic or sexual attraction to others"

The truth is though, just between us, if you ask my friends, I've always been someone who thinks that attraction is based on the person rather than the gender and I've always been someone who's refused to give myself a title, there's  a "love without labels" movement for instance and I've always been a bit of a wild bohemian, though, let's be honest, I'm 45, I'm still a bohemian but my wild days are over.

So there you go, I just sort of came out (in public, on my blog, at least) I guess but that's what you do in your forties isn't it, you figure out exactly who you are, you redefine yourself because after so many years of being defined as mum, your kids are independent and you have to rediscover the whole of you.

I should point out at this point that generally I'm hoping that one day I'll meet someone in real life because it's easier to meet someone on a pub than it is online, I mean, after all, I am a bloody good photographer, I actually look nothing like my dating profile in real life.  At least if you meet someone at the pub then visually at least, what you see is what you get!  Will I ever meet someone?  Who knows, I favour Scottish men and men who have beards and are thin, it's no wonder my top 3 list is Ewan Mcgregor, Richard Madden and David Tennant.  For sure I have a favourite type, I can compromise on the beard and on the Scottishness but hair is super important.  I'm, also not willing to compromise on one other fact...

If you've never seen Moulin Rouge or you hated it, we're never going to have anything in common because to me, Moulin Rouge is more than a movie, I have a clip of it saved on my phone to watch whenever I'm feeling sad or distressed or confused, it always makes me feel better and I guess it has something to do with it being about the bohemian ideals of beauty, truth, freedom and love.  As long as they can put up with the fact that I watch it at least twice a month and that "Come What May" is an anthem for life, well we'll be just fine.  I remember watching it for the first time with my then-husband in 2002 and falling in love with it because we had both found what we were, although I always say, if you think I was a bohemian, he was the real wild one, that's why we fell in love in 1999 because we were the same, at least for a while.

So there you go, my life as it is, it has so much more freedom, something I've fought so hard for and something which has cost me more than you can ever understand.  To have this freedom, I've had to lose things I've loved with all of my heart but I'm happy now, whether that's on my own and accompanied by a beagle or out, at the local with my best friends and friends I've yet to meet.

Being free is future-facing, being free is me, now, and forever


Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The diary of a slightly demented middle aged woman - part 3

#stopthecoup protests, the diary of a slightly demented middle aged woman, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

August 28th 2019

Sighed approximately 432 at the day's news, watched the news channel, signed several petitions and got quite cross at several points, getting cross is such a British thing isn't it?

I do think that we British are fabulous at protesting in a peaceful way so congratulations to the person protesting outside of parliament with his glockenspiel, I only really recognised "Wombling Free" and I can't work out what that's got to do with Brexit but bravo, it can't be easy carrying a glockenspiel around London when it's crowded.

Weighed myself, I've lost 3.5lb, weighed Holly Bobbins, she's lost another 100g, we shall be slinky Mandy with the slinky beagle before the end of the year.

Questioned why ready to eat peaches cost £1.85 but ripen at home peaches cost £1, now I think this is a scandal we should be protesting (with glockenspiels if necessary) I don't want to buy fruit I can only eat in a week or fruit which you put in the fridge and it never ripens until they day you want it and then it's magically overripe!

Bought unripe fruit with a very British resolve that I will just eat it hard and like it, screw you, supermarkets!

August 29th 2019

have resolved to go and peacefully protest on Saturday after work, did think about making a "Beagles against Boris" placard but called our quiz team the same name last night instead as a mini protest.  I bet Boris didn't even care, I doubt he even likes a pub quiz.

Spotted a few nice bearded men in the local, this, however, means I cannot speak to them, I go mute if they're even near me and I have to ignore their entire presence which doesn't bode well for me ever finding my lobster, who cares though?!  I have years before I am shrivelled and dead (she said, hoping).

August 30th 2019

Stayed in bed for most of the day, awoke with "driller biller killer" migraine and feeling rougher than a 45-year-old woman with a hangover, I don't even drink!  I am assuming my new resolve to be a social butterfly didn't account for the fact that the general public en masse is full of germs.

Sent Looby to Morrison's to look for emergency avocado's, apparently, there were none, not a single one, there must be some kind of avocado crisis.  She also came back with cat food when I asked for cat soup (for our old and infirm cat, Pyracantha who hates us) so I'm not ringing Huw from the BBC just yet!

August 31st 2019

Went to work followed by a protest against Boris Johnson and his crazy cabinet of wannabe dictators, proud of being there with my son (his first protest, proud mother moment), it turns out that protesting makes you really hungry so we went for lunch straight after the end of the protest which really, well it seems a terribly British thing to do!  We sit in the middle of roads, we meet others doing the same and then we have a terribly nice time getting to know each other.  I think we're the best at peaceful protests.  I did see at least 4 vicars leading each other through the crowd towards the end of the protest, again if a crowd of vicars are protesting then it must be bad, did Jesus ever stage protest marches I wonder?

September 1st 2019

The realisation that I am now nearer to 50 than I am to 40 has just hit me, mostly because my son turns 23 on Friday, even on my rough days I'm pretty sure I don't look like I am approaching 50, maybe there's been some kind of mistake with the numbers, after all, I was never very good at maths.

Unceremoniously fell out of my gate on my way to work, I tried to cling on with my nails as I saw myself in slow motion falling into next doors wheelie bins before I finally landed on my bottom with a thwack, luckily it was early and no one saw, my bottom has been hurting ever since.

Got caught in a super scary storm on the beach which seemed to go from 0-150mph in the space of seconds, couldn't catch my breath, though I might die and then I remembered it was Tynemouth Lonsgsands and not the Sahara, even though I was on the secret beach, it's not the same as being trapped in the middle of a desert in a sand storm.

Went to the pub quiz and had 3 whole glasses of Viognier (first time since February), did not die or have horrid hot flush, skipped home at 10.30pm in a haze of slightly squiffy happy bounciness.

September 2nd 2019

Stayed in pyjamas, headache caused by happy wine drinking, note to self, alcohol consumption is not big, nor is it clever...

September 3rd 2019

Finally caved into the young adults of the house and bought a microwave, thankfully technology has moved on since I had one 10 years ago and you can now cook things in dishes instead of having to cook everything in bowls, yes, a flatbed microwave, how very up to date!  I suspect all they'll use it for is the heating of beans and the reheating of Chinese food but I shall be stocking up on Jamie Oliver grains which never seem to cook as well in a wok!

Mostly felt dreadfully depressed at the political shenanigans going on currently, my son and I have decided that we need new swear words, ones you must never use, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg were the most hideous ones we could come up with.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The diary of a slightly demented middle aged woman, part 2 #todayihave

Today I have...

21st August 2019

Sighed more times than humanly possible at finding the following problems upon my return home - 

1. hanging baskets wilted and droopy despite asking son to water them, emergency watered at 1.30am whilst loudly proclaiming "Uy"

2. 3 tiles from downstairs loo missing and large holes in the wall from the plumber reattaching the basin, little did I know that he would leave a path of destruction in his wake from fixing something.

3. Sunflowers in the community garden, not only dead but also pulled up by random morons.

Went out to lunch with daughter and best friend, Holly Bobbins is back, she is now a slinkier beagle after losing nearly a kilo in 19 days, happy skips and waggy tails all round.

Came back from lunch to discover random morons had emptied my pond, it was either in the process of being stolen or just vandalised.

Lament ever coming home from beautiful sunshiny Tenerife.

Had approximately 750 anxious thoughts about the return to work tomorrow.

Had a serious talk with myself reminding myself that I live the dream with jobs that I actually love.

Smothered myself in various restorative aloe vera products I brought home from the Canaries, expect to look like a 22-year-old by Sunday.

Given daughter slightly confused souvenir lizard, she loved it (hurrah), I can always depend on Looby to love cheap souvenir chat, you should see her on the 2p machines, the girl is a maverick at winning piles of cheap tat no one ever wanted.

Found the first Elmer Elephant, ironically called Holibobs, it was a meeting of two minds, not sure Holly Bobbins was as impressed as I was.

22nd August 2019

Lamented at the state of Italian peaches but it was all I could get from Amazon Prime Now.

Gave a heavy sigh at the weather which meant the postponement of today's photoshoot, as a portrait photographer who works mainly outdoors I'd like to kick this year's weather in the face, Mother Nature you are testing me...

Caught up on Sky+ recorded shows, it's not that I watch a lot of television but The Handmaids Tale and Gardeners World are essential viewing, although I'll admit that Gardeners World is a less traumatic watch mostly.

Put Frontline on cats and dog, we are not doing "flea explosion" in this household!

Been to a swish event organised by a gorgeous lady who has the energy of a litter of beagle puppies, she could sell it by the bottle and I'd definitely buy some.

Briefly looked at Airbnb for the bank holiday weekend as I'm off work on Sunday/Monday but had a word with myself and declared "I do not need a mini-break, I have just had a life-changing holiday, calm yourself and step away from booking button Mandy"

23rd August 2019

Did not have a good nights sleep due to beagle lying lengthways over my pillows and snoring loudly in my ears, apparently, Looby could hear it too as she came in and removed her from my bedroom and put her in her bed in the lounge declaring "No, you too loud, you are going in your bed".  Thank goodness if I snore I mustn't do it too loudly or I would end up waking up in the dog bed I suspect, the joys of living with a teen who has misophonia.

Had early (11am, not that early) photoshoot with a lovely lady who saved my morning by buying me a latte, my shock at finding out the card machines were all broken at the cafe momentarily traumatised my uncaffeinated self. I do not carry cash ever, well unless I am overseas and then I refuse to pay in anything other than cash.

Reminded myself that I am a weirdo.

Gently guided precious beagle back into the house ("Get in the house now") after she ran "arrooing" towards a large man on an even bigger ride-on mower, how can she be scared of everything and yet she things she's going to win in a standoff between herself and a mower which is so big it can go on roads?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Tenerife Trip Which Changed Everything. #todayihave

(n.b. if you are confused about the writing style of this blog, you need to read this post)

Mandy Charlton on life changing trip to Canary Islands, Today I have, photographer, writer blogger

Today I have...

14th August 2019

Walked from one side of Puerto de la Cruz to the other,
Chatted with a dog and his owner,
Booked trips to go up Tiede and to see the dolphins in the wild,
Watched a woman telling her husband to photograph her being fun with a fountain 🤣,
Found out that yes, you can crochet a house I have seen the proof!
Swam, am now an olympian swimmer!
Read some of a book,
Walked over 9 miles or 22,000 steps,
Put my feet in the Atlantic Ocean,
Fed my Jamon addiction,
Sunbathed for more than 5 minutes,
Ate a peach that was so good I nearly cried with joy!
Thought to myself that you can fit quite a lot into 1 day when you’re on holiday on your own.

15th August 2019

Finally spotted a Canarian beagle, he looked quite happy and beagly

Went to Loro Parque

Cried because...
1. Baby Robin the dolphin hasn’t learnt all of the tricks yet but he tries hard.
2. They have a rescue Orca who’s deaf and she’s just had a baby orca, she would have been euthanised without the zoo’s intervention.
3. Sea lions just being adorable
4. Life is wonderful really

Got soaked by an Orca 

Walked 7.6 miles 


Sunbathed for 1 whole hour, this is a relaxation miracle for me!

Went out for tapas and an Aperol Spritz.

16th August 2019

Climbed a volcano

Stood in a crater

Took the highest cable car ride I’ve ever been on
Realised I’m not cut out for mountain climbing

Had an altitude headache 

Ate tapas 

Spoke to a Spanish speaking cat who didn't respond to hello but once I said a cheery "Ola" he was my new feline best friend!

Drank Sangria 

Decided I like the green mojo sauce better than the red one 

Found out there’s a better 4g signal from the top of a volcano than there is in some parts of Northumberland, how can this be in the year of 2019?

Had an involuntary 1-hour nap, I lay down and it just accidentally happened!

Read 50 more pages of a book

17th August 2019

Decided to be terribly virtuous and walk to the botanic gardens instead of getting a taxi.

Regretted decision to walk after realising it was 1.5 miles up twelvty billion steps, at points I thought my heart would explode.

Felt very fit having completed exercise goals and move goals before 9.30am

Watched bright red dragonflies frolicking amongst the water lilies.

Became slightly horrified realising just how big your average houseplant really grows when it’s in the right conditions (run, triffids, help, never underestimate a ficus).

Spoke to a cat who was quite vocal that I’d disturbed him whilst he was eating a small lizardy thing.

Chatted with a much friendlier lizard, disabled with only one front foot but living the dream living in the Orchid gardens.

Tried to cunningly plan walking out of the orchid gardens with all of the orchids, not the most practical idea I’ve come up with.

Had my first and last bubble waffle, probably more addictive than heroin and destroyed all of my earlier virtuous exercise goals.

Had disappointing tapas at a touristy restaurant, my own fault (stick to the back streets Mandy).

Had a fish foot spa followed by a deep tissue massage resulting in a headache and lie down for 2 hours.
Complained to myself about the heat this afternoon at least 4 times, 34c does not like Mandy.

Ate steak at a restaurant with the best view this evening and realised it was cheaper than tapas.
Hatched plan to move to the Canary Islands once the kids have left home, cheap steak, sunshine every day and no way can their political system be any more screwed than ours. (Actually impossible if you ask me)

Took the perfect Insta-Moron photo with all of the filters, my career as an influencer is unlikely to blossom because of this.

18th August 2019

Went on a boat trip to see Whales and Dolphins in the wild.
Saw a pride of pilot whales

Saw a pod of dolphins

Swam in the sea at Masca but only for 30 seconds as the cold water made me panic that I would drown, I don't like swimming in deep seawater where I can't touch the bottom even though I am a proficient swimmer with childhood badges to prove it!

Took approximately 1 photo and 1 video where you could actually see any of the whales due to the boat being full with twelvty thousand Spanish and German “National Geographic Photographers” all clambering to the side of the boat,  the only photo I got was from underneath someone’s armpit!
Uy’ed at the bad buffet

Uy’ed at the fact that my P20 factor 30 did not help at all with the Canarian sun

Uy’ed at all of the people who got seasick ( its a 4.5 hour cruise in the Atlantic sea, what did you think would happen?)

Spent 4 hours on a bus to get to and from the boat trip wishing I was not on said trip.

Had a sudden anxious thingy about filling in my tax return even though it’s only August and my accountant (God bless her for putting up with me) mostly does everything anyway.

Booked a trip to La Gomera by jeep for tomorrow to restore faith in my trip booking abilities.

Lost Harriet’s sunglasses

Found Harriet’s sunglasses

Made plans to buy me some sunglasses of my own.

Lamented the fact that tomorrow’s trip pickup is at 6.30am and not even from my hotel.

Had a conversation with my son about moving to Scotland when they declare independence because of Brexit clusterfuck.

Decided a career in wildlife photography is not for me.

Ate Cheetos and giant corn for dinner because I couldn’t be bothered to go back out for dinner.

19th August 2019

Got up at 5.30am to go on today’s trip (Uy) 

Realised since I decided to replace swear words by just saying Uy, I say it approximately 7936 times a day...

Shared a jeep with Margaret and James from Glasgow, hurrah for the Scottish!

Also shared a jeep with an angry Russian woman who seemed awfully cross for someone on their holidays.

Went around the island of La Gomera in a jeep, probably one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had, La Gomera is so breathtaking that photographs will never match seeing it in real life.

Watched a demonstration of the whistling language of La Gomera, I can’t even speak Spanish nor can I whistle, decided this is not a language for Mandy.

Ate almond cake, finally! 

Swapped peaches for nectarines because it was all I could get, disappointing!

Decided I should skip Christmas after last years disappointing year and subsequent meltdown.

Lamented that children might disown me if I skip Christmas.

Asked Looby if we can travel in September only to be told “No” (Uy)

Booked a late checkout for 3pm for my transfer at the oddly precise time of 3.38pm (sob...)

Decided on new blog format (Today I have) which will surely become an award-winning tv show/movie/book  😉
Lamented the state of the British political system to my son, again!

Noticed my shoulders drop and then realised the irony of this happening on Day 6.
Finally smashed the happy and relaxed selfie!

Wondered (at length) why Margaret and James didn’t take one single photo, not even a camera phone snap, I bet they’re those weird sorts who haven’t a single photo in their house 🤦🏻‍♀️🤣

Decided I’m much more fun/humorous when I only have to exist inside my own head and made a note to self to travel much more to destinations where no one speaks English.

20th August 2019

Sighed 495 times because of impending departure back to rainy old England.

Walked the whole neighbourhood of Puerto de la Cruz taking more random photos in case I forget what it looks like.

Had last Canarian peach of the trip (sob).

Made plans for a sit-in and subsequently refuse to leave.

Had word with self to remind self that a holiday is only fun because it’s a holiday, even Canadians must sigh or Uy occasionally.

Finished a whole book,  I am now top bibliophile of the year
Had approximately twelvty hundred anxious thoughts about the return to rain, work and Brexit.

Decreed to never watch the news again or think about rain, politics or Brexit.

Got quiet transfer to airport noticing no one spoke although did observe at least 22 inward sighs from surrounding passengers.

Decided after an important business convo with my best friend that “Today I have...” will be converted to a weekly blog post, she remarked “Well I find you funny with your random mandyisms”
Forgave best friend for lack of capitalisation of own name...
Spent money on random guilt souvenir tat for daughter including slightly confused looking lizard cuddly toy which was an improvement on sad-looking squashed faced parrot toy.

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