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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How to survive lockdown - 8 tips from a former agoraphobic

From around 2004 to 2006ish I had a really bad time with agoraphobia, I'd been attacked in Heaton Park and with already having shaky mental health I just stopped going out. If I did go out I had to have someone with me and it was so bad that I ended up on disability living allowance, finally, in 2007 I got better and went from agoraphobic to a professional photographer, writer and blogger, I found my freedom though I'm still a natural hermit and do have flareups when I get anxious and depressed.  In all of that time when I didn't go out I don't want you to think that it was always awful, yes, sometimes it was but I survived and for the most part, I found my happy right from home.
Cat and dog sit together during coronavirus lockdown uk, how to survive lockdown from a former agoraphobic, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Lockdown is hard for many of us, it feels so unnatural not to go out, like all of our liberties have been taken away and you might feel like you are losing the plot more than once or twice but I've come up with some tips of things I used to do when I was not the person who I am now.

  1. Reading, I used to consume books and magazines, you'll be surprised how much easier it is to read when you have no other distractions.
  2. Learn a new skill, my entry into photography was born from me being at home, I used my children who were just wee at the time and I practised on them, the cats, things I found around the home and I taught myself all about this art which later became my whole escape, my healing and my entire life.  Now photography is at the heart of everything I do.
  3. Craft - in 2004 I decided to make my own Christmas cards and it lead to me eventually working as a buyer for an online scrapbooking company, it also lead to blogging and I started this blog, my second one, in February 2006.
  4. Writing - Now is a great time to start a blog, write a diary,  or get to grips with that book you always wanted to write,  there's literally never been a better time.
  5. Cooking - Still, to this day I find that if I am particularly stressed out I cook or bake and it makes me feel more relaxed and less anxious
  6. Gardening - the art of gardening, to help to create new life, it's one of the most healing things you will ever do, it doesn't matter how big or small your garden is, creating a space that feels like a haven from the world is more necessary than it's ever been.
  7. Redecorating - have some decorating supplies or a list of DIY jobs that you have never got time to do, now is that time, you can create a whole new world for yourself, order supplies online though, don't go to the shops, even if they're open, the point here is to stay at home.
  8. Planning, there's never been a better time to plan ahead, book that future holiday, schedule your wedding for 2021/2022, make a list of all of the places you want to visit when you can get outdoors, looking to the future is the most positive thing you can do.
cooking and baking are good for surviving the coronavirus lockdown, mandy charlton, photographer, writer,blogger

You'll notice from this list that it's all about creating things or planning things and growing things, they're all positive actions which will help your health, your mental health and directly, how happy and content that you feel about life. I, myself have had a very tumultuous time in work, life and business lately and I'm hanging onto my sanity by my nail ends but I believe my inner resilience will kick in when I do all of these things.  I guess we have to find our groove and we have to get through the part where you kind of go stir crazy, it takes a few weeks but as we get further and further into this, you will find it easier as the human brain adapts to its situations remarkably well.

Also, remember that whilst we are indoors, we are quite literally saving the world and not only that, we're actually healing the world from all of the bad things that have happened to it, maybe we're lessening the effects of climate change as well as actively stopping a virus which is indiscriminate and kills our favourite people.

By staying at home, it is possible to thrive more than survive so hang on in there because your time is coming I promise.

If you've loved this article or got any value from it, I would love you to buy me a virtual coffee 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Small Business Owner? You're Not Dead Yet!

It's been a rough couple of weeks in the small business and entrepreneurial communities and it's only been a couple of weeks, it feels like years and a lot of us are questioning "what the eff just happened?"

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Small Business owner, you're not dead yet

Many businesses stopped trading almost overnight including my own and the stress was unbearable, it wasn't until I spoke to a mental health worker that I was reassured to know that it's not a me problem, it's a world problem, almost from that point I found my inner resilience and I've had actual times this week with zero anxiety, so much so, that for the first time in a long time, when anxiety does flare up I notice the massive differences.  I'd existed at top state anxiety for so long, I had forgotten what it was like to not feel anxious.

It's weird to be so relaxed given the current business conditions, the chancellors care package won't kick in until June and will amount to a little but not a lot for I've always run businesses for love and not money.

Take heart though, I have earned money this week and as a small business owner you can still do that too, you are not dead, you are merely sleeping.  Here are some ideas for things you can do right now -
  1. Most small businesses sell gift certificates and if you don't, now is your chance to get some E-vouchers designed, you can bring in some valuable funds and your clients who still have jobs and incomes are just waiting to support you.
  2. Set yourself up a Kofi account, mine is and it's a great way to buy a business owner or content creator like me a cup of virtual coffee for just £3, I managed to pay my rent this week from virtual cups of coffee and given that I currently still have to pay full rent it's something I'm massively thankful for.
  3. If you are a blogger or content creator there are still campaigns available, I wrote a sponsored post this week and though I had to negotiate a slightly lower fee due to the world financial crisis it's meant I will have some valuable money coming in, even if I have to wait 30 days.
  4. Almost certainly whilst we are in this weird lockdown period you might be wondering just how you're going to get your products for the new season on, maybe you previously paid a product photographer and now you can't access them or you just can't afford it, well fear not, I've just created a video for that purpose which will help you create everyday lifestyle product photography with just your smartphone so that you can still do business longterm
  5. If you are a photographer and have a Shutterstock account or any other stock photography account, it's a great time to go through your archive and tag and add all of your latest photos, I love and loathe Shutterstock simply because of the time it takes to upload and do all of the descriptions and tagging but right now, time isn't an object.
  6. It's also a great time to start an online business, I had a business idea this week that I'm now starting to action, something I've wanted to do but had no time and something with virtually no setup costs.  At this point I get to grow it slowly instead of doing a mad launch and, well I can't give too much away but watch this space.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners tend to be some of the most adaptable resilient people in our communities and I think we're all getting to that point where we accept what's happened, we find our inner resilience and then we start taking positive action for the future and really, what you do now will define how you fair when we do get back to business.

Just remember, you may be sleeping but you are far from dead, you started with nothing the first time, this time, you're going back into it armed with followings and knowledge and you can still be wonderful and have future success, I really believe that for all of us.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Photographs are Life

(Ad - Sponsored Post) Now more than ever we have realised the value of family, the value of memories and the value of photographs.  We have them on computers, we have them on our phones but now is the time to get them off your digital devices and onto your walls.  I've spoken so many times about having happy memories on your walls .  I particularly love canvas prints and have them all over my living room, most of these are actually available from 

It doesn't matter what's happening in the world, I can look around my living room and smile at the past memories that I've had.  I remember the smiles that Looby and I had on our day out at Holy Island and my infamous best friends trip to Barcelona, I also remember my love of discovering Lincoln, one of the prettiest cities I've ever been to, even if it does have the steepest lanes of anywhere I've ever been.

With this code MANDYCHARLTON you will get up to 5 FREE MIXPIX Photo Tiles from To acquire your free print, go , upload your desired photos and enter the name MANDYCHARLTON  during the checkout. The more you buy the more you get free! 

Life passes by at the speed of light and we never seem to have time to smell the roses but perhaps at this time, we do have the time to slow down, to take stock of what's happening in the world and to just sit and while away the hours thinking about all of the good times.  I know that I can't travel at the moment and that's really hard as I live to travel and to discover new places, new ways of life and different cultures but I do have lots of time to collate all of my memories and to order new wall art, blankets, mugs, memories everywhere that I look, eat, sleep, breathe.

Photographs are life and memories are the joy of life so surrounding yourself is such a positive thing to do for your mental health and your wellbeing.  I know we have the photos on our phone but how many of us take the time to just sit and look through them all, when they are on your walls you have the absolute joy of them always surrounding you, they're more than valuable, they're beautiful, wonderful moments of forever so, whatever your situation is currently, why not order someone a gift to bring some much-needed happiness, I can promise that you will make their day.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coronavirus - A brand new way of life?

I keep sitting with my MacBook open ready for action and just staring, not knowing what I'm supposed to be doing.  I think this may go on for some time to come.  I have to say that today I feel I've had a better day after the worst weekend, the toll on my mental health has been huge but today, I spent a whole day in the garden,  planting, planning, renewing and my goodness, it felt good.

I know it's not just me, I know there are around 5 million self-employed people and for a high proportion who work in the service sector, we're just sitting, waiting and wondering what we should do now?

I think whilst gardening today and enjoying the sunshine I started to finally accept that everything I thought was a fixed point in my life is now transient.  I literally don't know what comes next. I have started to accept things, to be resigned to my own fate and I'm sure over the coming days I'll become more and more resilient.

I know some of the choices I made just a couple of weeks ago I now regret,  that's a future blog post for sure and yes, hunker down because we've got a lot of time to come in this particular space and I know that I need to have an outlet and this is a time for me to have renewed passion for my writing, something which I usually just don't have the time to do.  I have full blog posts I've wanted to write for so long, I may just have the time to wax lyrical about all of the reasons I hate the multilevel marketing huns with their fake happiness taking advantage of those who might have fallen on hard times, it's usually women around my age that they choose to recruit too and then they all.  All MLM's are not alike however and Tropic Skincare is one of the good guys, I love their cleanser and my lovely friend Amber sells it through her beauty business and let me tell you, a hun she is not.

Anyway, trying not to get too distracted as that's a whole other post.  I have a list of things, actually, I don't, I have some thoughts in my head which may end up being some kind of vague list, all of the exciting things like -
  1. Choose new portfolio images
  2. Work on SEO strategy
  3. Work out what an SEO strategy is 
  4. Optimise web images
  5. Work on new marketing
  6. Order new product samples
All utterly boring but necessary stuff, when we do emerge from our Coronavirus social isolation bunkers, I want to be right at the forefront because the world is going to want to get married and I'm going to need to work 37947 hours a week just to try and rebuild my income.  I do however have some other plans - 

  1. Catch up on all of the books on my bookshelf
  2. Watch all of the movies I've been saving for a later date
  3. Exercise Bobbins and I until we are skinny and fit behind blades of grass
  4. redecorate bedroom
  5. grow fruits and vegetables and generally feel more like Felicity Kendall
  6. Work out how to find an other half whilst in social isolation
I mean, I know it's not like solving world peace but hey, I'm working on the deeply philosophical stuff too, it's just too wordy for your average blog post, I got very excited about nihilism once and I think I frightened people away, optimistic nihilist, that's me 😉

And so as we all get on with this slightly (for slightly, read very) weird world at this time of writing, our Prime Minister has just decided to place us all on lockdown for at least the next 3 weeks.  Bejesus, I never thought that Holly Bobbins would become my secret weapon to get out once a day,I hope she knows she's a superhero.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

The weight of the world...

Iris Rainbow, tabby cat, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, The Weight of the world

I have cried a little every day this week until today when it was harder to stop crying and just try and deal with life.  Everything we knew, lives we had, plans and promises, holidays, businesses, all gone in the blink of an eye.

I rang o2 today, I have about 8 contracts with them for various things for me and the kids, I wanted to tell them that I might not be able to pay all of my bills, they read out a standard statement about legal obligations and credit records and I broke down.  I also explained that if they cut me off,  I would be less likely to restart a business when this is all over.  They couldn't actually do anything to help because I'm up to date and have never missed a payment but they were grateful that I had told them.

Another small loan I have, I've stopped paying that one immediately as it's not a priority, they were understanding but reminded me that it may harm my credit record.  Honestly, when we come out of the other side of this, will any of us have a good credit record?  Can you seriously tell me there are people who're incomes aren't going to be affected by this?

Right now I am angry and overwhelmed, I'm furious that our government is helping the employed, and so they should but they've completely overlooked people like me.  I'm saddened that they could instigate mortgage holidays a few days ago but renters still get nothing, surely if it's local government-owned housing they could just suspend rents immediately.

As someone who is naturally empathic, I feel like I have the weight of the world, heavy on my shoulders and supporting women in my local business community who are in the same position as me, there are millions of us you know, the ones who bring in 330 billion pounds to the economy every year but are now scared about losing everything.

I am, at this point, worried about my mental health which, as you know, it's a difficult proposition at the best of times.  I thought I was a natural hermit but after 10 days of social isolation, I miss my best friend, I miss a little wander to the shops, small things that I will cherish once my isolation period ends next Friday.

I heard tonight, on the news, someone exclaimed "Capitalism has been put on hold" and you know what?  That's certainly something good, maybe people will realise how much we need socialism, we need to look after people when they cannot look after themselves, we need a society which works on the basis of human kindness and philanthropy and I do believe that it's in all of us, somewhere.

Next week, I start the fight back, I have some creative talents and a few good business ones thrown in for good measure so I shall sit and I shall think, what is it that I can do, which could possibly bring in some cash, and also help or cheer people, raise their spirits, educate or entertain, I need to think seriously and then take action.

I hate feeling alone and depressed, I hate feeling so anxious that it's like someone put concrete on my chest, for everything that goes into making me the person I am, at heart, I'm a happy, positive and enthusiastic (some would say excitable) person and so I know, somewhere inside me that it's my time to shine.

In the meantime, I must thank the people who have supported me, kind clients who've bought vouchers for when this is all over, brides who've paid or upgraded just because it would help, so much love and kindness.  If you, dear reader, want to buy a voucher for a photoshoot or you wanted to book me for your 2021/2022 wedding date, I'd be so thankful but also, if you cannot afford it, I also really do understand and I thank you for your kindness that you even thought about me.

We're only just at the beginning of this and I'm fearful for what comes next but by being together online, through kindness and friendship, we have a chance to heal the whole of humanity, maybe not against Coronavirus but with love and the promise of a new socialist planet.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The moment everything changed

For the last couple of mornings I have woken up to spring light pouring through my thin bedroom curtains, I've turned over to shut my eyes again for that extra 5 minutes of cherished sleep and as I've yawned and stretched for the first time every day I've remembered.  Each day there's that wonderful moment before I remember, life has changed, nothing will ever be the same because of Coronavirus.

I'm lucky I guess, I was one of the first to get sick, I experienced my body feeling so hot I thought I would burst into flames, my throat unable to swallow, blocked by shards of hot glass whilst my joints ached so much it made me sleep for 20 hours a day, this virus which invaded my immune system making me so poorly that I went from running a small business community to having a cyst burst and then projectile vomiting my own blood within just a few hours.  When this virus gets into your weak places, it really does it well.  So why am I lucky?  I'm lucky because I survived.

On the 27th of March, I can officially leave the quarantine period, I shall gallop through the park (Miranda style) with a grateful mind that I am one of the lucky ones.  I haven't been into the real world (barring hospital) since last week, Tuesday maybe?  Looby had been ill with a fever before I started to feel off-colour but when I was last out, the world was normal, I was, as I have always been, a freelance and mostly well-employed photographer.  

My previously recession-proof career died almost overnight, life stopped, weddings got postponed or cancelled and I went from a good income to no income, my business doesn't have premises so I won't get a grant and I think I'll be too small to apply for a business interruption loan when they launch next week and even then, when do I pay that money back, when will we switch from a public crisis where people are dying every day to wanting lovely family portraits of us all having fun.

Currently, none of my bills is suspended, I qualify for no help and the only piece of legislation which might help means that I won't be evicted whilst we have this crisis, I literally could lose everything but it could still be worse than that so for now, I am grateful to be here.

I see my job now to be one of the entertainers, I shall put myself out there, no matter how ridiculous I have to be to make people smile, I shall dance every day in my kitchen, I shall plant seeds and potatoes, I shall resume the redecoration of my home, I will bake cakes on Instagram, I will use the platform I love to cheer people up, to make people smile, laugh at me or laugh with me, as long as it makes you smile inside your tummy then it's all good with me.

Social isolation is hard and yet my hermity ways have been preparing for it for years, this is no time to complain or worry about the state of my own life because we are only just at the start so until I am dragged kicking and screaming whilst being evicted, and as long as I have an internet connection and something to broadcast on, that's what I'm going to do and I hope for light relief you will still pop by here and read my words or watch my Instagram and I promise to always be grateful that I am here and for now, whilst there's sunshine, my pets and a garden that I love, life could be so much worse.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How to prepare for Coronavirus as a small business

Whilst we don't know exactly what's going to happen, it's likely that some of us could end up having to self isolate and that could end up being a large part of the population so if no one is going out, and no events are taking place, it's a good idea to get your ducks in order right now.
  1. Remote broadcasting apps like Zoom - are going to be essential if you want to keep in touch with clients, hold meetings with suppliers and contacts or just generally get yourself out there in the world, the plans for Zoom start with a basic option which is free but it's not an expensive platform.  Also, think about how you can capitalise with things like Skype or Facetime.
  2. If you don't have a postal subscription service, why not start to think about one now, whether it's cake by post or just generally something to brighten the day of people who are self-isolating, keeping cheery is going to be a priority for a lot of people.
  3. Whilst we are looking at maximum disruption in the short term, all of those markets that have cancelled will want to recoup their costs as soon as they can so it's a great time to prepare stock for later.
  4. Do an audit of your own company, what is your online presence like currently, what do you need to do. I can provide a full digital online audit for you for a small fee of just £95 which would lead to a report about how you can maximise your potential. I'm also going to be offering crisis coaching sessions online to try and help as much as I can.
  5. Diversifying what you do is going to become so important, we all need to make income and whilst I hate profiteering, we all need to do our best to survive, especially as self-employed people who may not have a fallback. It's usually recommended to have 3 months of savings to get through things like this, but let's get realistic, who here is in such a privileged position currently?
  6. If you do have an online business, one which is particularly product-based, it's even more imperative that you have attractive lifestyle images which command attention now is the time to really amp up your photography skills, I can teach you "Everyday Photography" with your smartphone in around 2 hours for product-based with another 2 hours for people-based. If you would like to take advantage of that please email me and get in touch.
  7. If we do experience an economic downturn it will probably be temporary and I know that's scary but remember, it doesn't have to mean business disaster, Hershey's launched their business during the great depression and it was successful because even in the hardest times we all seek to make life just a little bit better.
  8. Please do not slash your prices, this may seem like a great idea at the time but once you've gone down the bargain route, it's hard to rebound at a later date and believe me when I say that this is something I've learnt the hard way.
To book a discovery call over Zoom to see if I can help you and your business please email me

Finally, please try and stay positive, I know that it's hard when there are so many uncertainties but positivity makes things a lot easier to deal with, be sensible, be realistic and don't worry if you aren't panic buying, in fact, try not to panic buy. I can't promise but I have to believe that everything is going to be alright.

National Feet Week {Ad-Gifted Products}

It's National Feet week, and until a few weeks ago when I was asked to take part in a Twitter party for it, I hadn't even heard of it!

Does anyone actually like their own feet, feet are weird things, they work hard, really hard and they're prone to hard skin, dodgy nails and all kinds of things but these overlooked parts of our body really do require extra care to keep us in good health.

I was lucky enough to be sent a box of goodies which are all about foot care from an assortment of wonderful brands like Footner who make those exfoliating socks that give you baby soft feet (after all of your old skin falls off) and I can't wait to use those, my feet definitely need to be exfoliated.

We all know that we should get regular eye tests, 6 monthly dental checks but we also need to go see a podiatrist to help care for our feet, you can search for your local podiatrist at Pods Fix Feet I shall hold my hand up now and say I've never been to a podiatrist but would I go to one?  Yes, if I thought I needed it, self-care is everything after all.

I do try and keep my feet happy, I have Reynauds Phenomenon so have really bad circulation and I'm happy to say that since I found some wonderful sheepskin slippers it's one less thing to worry about.  In our package of goodies was included some orthotic soles from formthotics, I don't have a need for those but have gifted them straight to Harriet, she has plantar fasciitis so they're going to be essential for her in her foot recovery.

I think feet are a funny thing, we rarely talk about them and we're almost embarrassed to admit when we have feet, toe or nail problems but really, when you consider just how much walking around on them, it's no surprise that you might have issues from time to time and it's really nothing to be embarrassed about.  One thing is for sure, be kind to your feet and your feet will thank you for it.


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Mother's Day Gift Guide for the Modern Insta-Mum {AD-Gift Guide}

Mother's Day is fast approaching and given that I spend half my life on Instagram I thought I would profile the modern Insta-Mum, mums like me, we're juggling, life, work, business, we love technology, we are renovating our houses and we love memories above all other things.  You don't have to look too far on Instagram to find thousands like me.  So here without further ado is my ultimate gift guide for the modern Insta-mum.

Ember, the world's first temperature-controlled mug, the internet of things has come along way since it's first inception and I for one could not be happier, I honestly never thought I would need a wifi enabled mug which keeps your drinks at the perfect temperature but since I've received this one I use it every day, long cups of tea in bed, coffee that doesn't go cold whilst I'm running around in the mornings, it's an actual miracle in a coffee cup!

If you, like me, love a good hot chocolate, then Cadbury's has the perfect gift for that hot chocolate loving mum with it's amazing hot chocolate gift hamper, just don't put it in the cupboard and expect the box of flakes to last when your teenage children get to them before you 😉

Gtech Myo Touch - an adjustable automated massaging bed isn't something I would ever have thought I couldn't live without but after having one now for the last couple of months I can tell you that this is the most amazing thing since sliced bread!  You lie on top of the bed and the massaging mechanism runs up and down a track massaging you in your chosen zones, you can go from a whole-body massage to adjusting on concentrated parts of your body.  Put on a candle, dim the lights and download a meditation and I promise you will never need a masseuse ever again.

Posterhaste Dual Star Map, I absolutely love this, when I renovated my kitchen it was the first thing that went on my walls, my star map has the constellations at the time of both Iain and Looby's birth and so every time I look at it, I'm taken back to a happy place, and isn't that what wall art is about, no matter how stressed or anxious you might be, one glance at something lovely and you feel a little better.

Beautify quilted storage stool, it's just not okay to be messy in today's aesthetically beautiful Instagram world and that's where clever storage solutions like this quilted storage stool come in really handy, it's comfy to sit on, it makes a great little poufee and it's roomy inside so you can store all of the clutter!

Mermaid Pink Gin, you may have seen my Christmas gift guide with the original Mermaid Gin direct from its home, the Isle of White distillery, well now it's younger sister, the Mermaid Pink Gin has been released and isn't she glorious, I quote "Fresh Island strawberries, grown in the rich and fertile microclimate of the Arreton Valley, are steeped in our signature smooth gin for four days, before being redistilled to create Mermaid Pink Gin, with its intensely aromatic, fresh flavour. Infusing fresh sun-kissed strawberries with our smooth yet complex gin creates a refreshingly layered serve, with a hint of sea air from fragrant rock samphire."  Now I know you're going to want to try that!

Every mum wants Tom Ford perfume, if you've ever been to their perfume counter and drooled like me then you'll wish for this to be gifted this Mother's Day, Tom Ford Noir Femme is a divine evening smell which lends it's self to high-end nights out as well as the Insta-Mums next most fabulous dinner party and unlike some perfumes, it does not fade, I absolutely love this. Available from Perfume Direct.

For the mum who has everything, why not print a year of memories with just a couple of clicks, printable from social media, I received a whole year of my Instagram in a book from My Social Book and what a delight to have it as a coffee table book, as a photographer, I enthuse often that we should be printing as many of our photographs as we possibly can so for me this is just perfect.

Exercising is one of the things the Insta-mum wants to do but never seems to find the time so this little gadget, the Active 5 is like having the gym in your pocket, it's a portable strength training and coaching app and it fits in the palm of your hand, it contains all you need to exercise at any time from anywhere and that to me is amazing.

Thanks to all of the companies who helped with the making of this year's Mother's Day guide, a lot of time, research and communication goes into compiling each gift guide and I'm so grateful to the amazing PR's and companies who make everything run so smoothly.


Monday, March 02, 2020

{Ad-Press Tickets} Hollywood Heroes, Sage Gateshead - Review

RNS Orchestra, Sage Gateshead, Hollywood Heroes, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, review

I've been a long time fangirl of the Royal Northern Symphonia having been to just about every one of their "Nights Out" concerts for the last four or five years as well as enjoying some of their classical concerts too.

I'll be honest, they could play a scale in a bin bag and they'd still sound amazing so, with much anticipation, my friend Ron and I were looking forward to Hollywood Heroes, a tribute to those who rescue others, those who's strength and compassion save the day every single time, the heroes and heroines of Hollywood movies.

Of course, it's also testament to the work of composers like John Williams and Hans Zimmer, many years ago before I knew that John Williams had composed both the music to Star Wars, A New Hope and Superman, I did always think that they sounded strangely similar, both pieces were played on Saturday night and you can certainly tell that he composed them at around the same time with Star Wars being released just a year before Superman, they remain two of my favourite pieces of movie music to this day.

I also had noted just how much I loved hearing Alan Silvestri's "The Avengers" piece,  what I think this particular concert did for me was to put the orchestra that I love, playing the music of the movies that I love, we all know, I love a good sci-fi blockbuster or the latest Marvel movie, I'm a huge fan of superheroes.

Of the many other pieces played during the (approximately) 90-minute concert, we enjoyed excerpts from Robin Hood, Batman, Gladiator and also the haunting Williams piece from Schindlers List with the solo being played by the head of the orchestra Kyra Humphreys.  The only piece I'd not heard from the evening of music was the theme to The Incredibles composed by Michael Giacchino and arranged by Mcewan, it's a noisy piece of music which has the whole of the orchestra playing uptempo beats with even the bongos making their appearance, you can't feel sad when you listen to music containing the bongos.

I've seen Stephen Bell conduct the orchestra on several occasions and I love his style, it's passionate and contains much movement, something you don't see with all conductors, I did say I'm a long time music fan as well as being a failed musician who can read music but only play a lot of instruments badly!
Violinist Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo and Cellist Daniel Hammersley, RNS orchestra, sage gateshead, hollywood heroes, mandy charlton

A highlight of the evening for me was during the interval when I got to chat to violinist Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo,  believe me when I say that I fangirled all over her, I'm sure meeting a pop star would not have the same effect.  I'm also sure that everyone knows now that if I could play any instrument I want right now, I would love to play the Timpani, I absolutely love the Timpani but it's not really something you can learn at home, unless you have a castle with a wing built especially to hold the huge set of Timpani drums.

Next up for the RNS Nights Out series is an evening of the music of Elton John and you can bet I will be there, quite simply, I'd listen to anything played by our wonderful northeast Orchestra, they are to be cherished and never let go of!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

14 years of blogging, what's next?

My blog is 14 years old this week and I feel like I'm at a great crossroads.  I have blogged about anything and everything for more than a quarter of my life, there's so much history, so many memories, the good, the great and the super sparkly.

Colourful interiors, mandy charlton, 14 years of blogging, photographer newcastle

I blog less now that I ever have but just because it's hard, I Instagram almost every day and that's really taken over as a daily document of my life online, it's just so much easier to post in the moment and since I was diagnosed with Hyperparathyroidism my memory fails me more often than not, nothing like an (currently) inoperable tumour on your parathyroid to interfere with your life.  It could be a lot worse though and it's totally workable.  I have found the greatest therapy is to work on my home day and night.  This week the transformation of my livingroom is well underway and I spend every spare second when I am not out working either planning or doing.  I have taken a week off currently though as painting the ceiling grey when you have fibromyalgia hurts a lot!!

Other than the transformation of my home, there's really not a lot to write about, I lead the most sedate life and live like a hermit, anyone wondering if I've been on a date lately, I haven't, not for at least 5 years but the single life is the happy life and the stable life when you're me, I've an inability to deal with conflict and when I think about relationships I immediately worry about what would happen the first time we have an argument so suffice to say, it's easier and less anxious to remain as I am.

I don't want to give up on blogging and it still makes me a few pounds every year in the form of sponsored ads/products/articles and indeed it's not like my traffic has slowed down, the last couple of months I've been getting over 30,000 hits a month, maybe it's even better when I blog sporadically than when I do it every day.

I still think about writing but most of the time, I'll have a thought and by the time I sit down to write about it, I'll have completely forgotten what it was.

I have this great plan to throw Harriet a fabulous party for her upcoming special birthday when she's 20 for the second time, I was just thinking today how I could recreate her favourite nightclub by having the rock room upstairs, the pop room downstairs and who knows what we could do in the garden on a sunny May evening, chillout room in the bedroom obviously 😉

I have also just launched my mentoring services today if you have need for photography mentoring, the time just feels right and now I have the perfect home to do it from, and I'm also teaching "Everyday Photography Masterclass" for business owners next month at my home through my other company The Inspire Network, if you're a maker this is the masterclass for you and you don't even have to be a member to join us.

So that's you and me, dear reader, we are caught up, we are reconnected and I would assume that the best is always just around the corner so onwards to our next adventures together and thank you always for reading.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

In renovating my home, I found myself {ad-affiliate}

*This article contains affiliate links

Identity is everything, authenticity is everything and learning about who you are can come from so many places, I did not expect to find myself whilst renovating my home but that's exactly what happened.

Flashback to February 2019, I'd had a fully assembled wooden arbour in my Amazon basket for over 12 months and finally, I managed to buy it through a lot of hard work and some affiliate marketing, I only wanted a fully assembled one because DIY and building furniture in 2983 parts, it's just not my strong point.  I can visualise creatively (and I'm bloody good at that) but spacially and logically, my brain does not excel at.  Over the next few weeks, I furiously worked on my garden every day, every bit of money I earned went into building this vision for my dream garden that I had in my head, finally at the beginning of May it was complete.
DIY home renovations on a tiny budget, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I spent the rest of the spring and summer spending as much time outdoors as I possibly could and I found it improved my mental health to the best it had been for years,  I had BBQ's, I sat in the evenings amongst the twinkly lights with the chiminea lit and the tiki torches burning. I finally had a garden I didn't want to run away from.

inside mandy charlton, phototographers home, a home designed on a budget

Fast forward to November and I randomly came across a guy who transformed kitchens by wrapping them in vinyl and though I didn't have the money at the time, he was so kind that once I did have it, I went straight back to him and booked him in, there was absolutely no going back, especially as the mural had also been ordered and my friend Steve had been booked for a day to help me put it up, the transformation was instant although for a while there, it actually looked worse as the bright colours of the new colour scheme clashed badly with the old, grubby flooring and I knew I had no way of replacing them until some income in and in the winter as a wedding photographer, well it's not the easiest.  

Whilst I was waiting for the income to replace the flooring I started painting the hall and the design there happened organically, I realised there was enough room for a small sofa and off I went to look for bargains in the Wayfair sale and found a pink sofa, I initially wanted ochre to match the retro yellow and cosy grey walls but my knowledge of colours from many years as a photographer told me I'd be safe with a fuchsia colour and lo and behold, it looks fantastic.

Finally, just a couple of days ago, the flooring went down and I realised that in completing the whole of the ground floor I'd finally found myself.  No one would question who lives in my house but me because it's got all of my personality stamped all over it.

I'm so happy with all that I've done, I've realised that I am to finding bargains on Amazon what Mrs Hinch is to eBay and I'm okay with that, it's perfect for someone who doesn't go out very often, click a button and a man turns up with your order the next day.

In finishing the hall, the stairs to the first floor, the kitchen and the garden I've given myself the confidence to go on further through the house and you can bet every wedding or portrait session I shoot this year will help me to complete the work and then, well, my grand plans include teaching makers the art of using a smartphone to create visually engaging images to use in their business and also a course to help future wedding photographers learn the business of weddings.  The weather may be dark and gloomy right now but this Saturday is my first wedding of the year and I can't wait to get back out there because I know I'm building my dreams with each and every assignment I take on this year.


Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The costs of renovating your kitchen on a budget

[Ad, the mural in this article was gifted to me] Over the last few weeks, I've been furiously renovating my kitchen, decluttering the hall, decorating, wallpapering, pretty much my goal for this year is to extend on the garden that I created last year and have a house I truly love.

2 cats stand in the kitchen of Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, the costs of renovating your kitchen featuring Photowall, FMS Tints and

Being a self-employed single mum supporting all of us, it was always going to be done on a really tight budget but at the same time I want it to be lovely, I want it to have my personality stamped all over and it and I don't want to have to go so cheap that it looks cheap if you know what I mean.

The Kitchen Units

3 weeks on from when I started and it's a wholly different kitchen, I have had the kitchen units and the fridge wrapped by an awesome local company, it took about a day and a half, cost £350 and I can't recommend them highly enough, they're called FMS Wraps and based not far from me in Newcastle.  Aaron was so lovely to deal with and there are a couple of other projects I have in mind which I'd like to get him back for in the future.

The Mural

Just before Christmas when I didn't have any plans at all, Photowall got in touch and asked if I wanted to collaborate, I'd just put the Christmas decorations up at that point so it wasn't really doable but then they contacted me in January and I decided to go for it as I really wanted colour, pattern and impact in my kitchen and I knew I could do it with them, I found the perfect mural, ordered it and it arrived just a couple of days later along with instructions and a kit to put it all up with.  Now at this point, I must insert a large caveat, I didn't put it up myself, my handy friend Steve did it for me, I was too worried that I'd make a mess of it and didn't want to ruin something which will be on my walls for at least the next 10 years.  It took around 5 hours to put it up, Steve tackled the installation like the Jedi he is but when I come to install a mural in my living room I'd probably give it a go myself as it's a much smaller space.

Once it was up though, we felt the immediate impact, it's just the loveliest, brightest, happiest pattern in the world and an instant mood lifter, I smile whenever I'm in the kitchen.  Photowall has given me a code which is "mandyphotography2020" and that's going to give you a massive 25% off so you can get yourself something transformative.

The Paint

Jedi Steve put me onto Wilkinsons Durable paint, you can paint your wood and walls with the same paint so I went for Cosy Grey for the walls and wood and then Crushed Almond for the ceiling as I hate white ceilings, it cost £26 in total for the paint and around another £10 for brushes, rollers and trays.  I'm not using gloss paint at all, I don't like its impact on the environment and I don't enjoy the finish or actually trying to paint with it.  I loved the finish on my walls and doors and I'm extending into the hall with both colours plus adding one other colour I haven't decided on yet.

The Cooker

When I went to clean my 40-year-old secondhand cooker I found it disintegrated before my eyes and that was before we even found out that flames were coming out of the top of it from the grill, I went on AO, ordered this Zanussi 55cm cooker and paid £599 for the cooker and another £100 for the delivery, gas fitting and recycling service which I can't recommend highly enough. 

The Accessories

I've tried to keep spending to a minimum but I did splurge on the cocktail chair below which cost £40 from B&M and I also bought a few little things from Homesense which remains my favourite homewares store.

The Flooring

And here we reach the end of the project so far, I've chosen the flooring options I love, there were a multiple options, the cheapest works out at around £260 and the one I love (and my Instagram love) is about £370 so I'm going to have to work like hell to actually get the work done, I would have loved to get it all done at once but I ran out of cash and we still have to pay our bills as normal.  It's chosen though and I know I'm coming into a popular time for couples booking their wedding photography packages so it's just a case of waiting and then paying to have it done at the first moment I get some income.

Next up, decorating the hall, the downstairs loo, the stair and then my bedroom and the living room, I cannot wait, I'm so excited to have the home I've always wanted, a house full of colour with a personality as big as the family who lives within it.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Kitchen renovation on a budget

iris the cat in the kitchen of Mandy Charlton's home, photographer, blogger, kitchen renovation on a budget
My kitchen as it is currently

I've always been really self-conscious about my home, I was told over and over that it wasn't good enough or that it was smelly or dirty or what on earth did I think I was doing, or even that people would report me for the state of my home.  It affected my mental health so badly that for a period of 7 years I wouldn't let anyone visit at all.  The more it's reinforced by narcissists who believe you are always failing to be what they want you to be, the more you start to believe it.  I remember a friend coming over on the night my marriage broke down and I wouldn't even let her in the house and sat in the garden!  I started to travel a lot, always running away from my home, never wanting to be there and dreading my return because I was so uncomfortable in my own space.

I'm not sure what the change was but it definitely had something to do with Harriet who would come over whether you wanted her to or not, I also started to get friends and visited their houses and realised that most people don't live in palaces whilst I was Stig of the dump but rather that I had a pretty normal house in the big scheme of things.  If I went back at told my old self that I would be sharing photos of my home on my blog or my Instagram I would have laughed at myself.  Here I am though, sharing the story of my home renovations and photos of my favourite corners of my home on Instagram.

I have come to understand that I am something of a boho maximalist in interior design.  I like things, I like unmatched things, I love colour and patterns which don't necessarily go together in practice but actually all end up looking okay as a collection in my home.

Now I want to keep this real and say that no one is looking at my home and thinking it's some kind of aspirational dream, I spend hours pouring over some beautiful homes and interiors on Instagram and Pinterest but I know they're as far away from what I want as I can imagine.  Grey is the trend currently and I love grey, having the courage to have your entire house in shades of grey a la Mrs Hinch, is something I aspire to but something I also know just isn't me because I love colour too much.  I'm also a single mum on a tight budget, self-employed single parenting does not make great fortunes as yet but even if it did, I love the fun of thrifted items, of charity shops and of quirky handmade markets. I am a bargain hunter and I'm never happier than when I'm standing in Homesense surrounded by the colours and quirky objects that make a house a home.

I'm actually quite happy to let people into my home now though it's far from finished and I have a lady called Lisa who helps around the house on Tuesdays who I love dearly and she's become a friend as well as someone who has saved me from myself on more than one occasion.

My house right now is a work in progress, nothing is really finished, everything is in a state of flux, my downstairs loo was nearly done and then someone knocked the washbasin off the wall and when that was repaired the tiles were removed and I've still not worked out how to put them back on.
My magical garden over the festive period

Last year though, I started making big changes, I transformed my garden from being your average tiny Yarden into something which I think is really special (although at the moment it's more of a wintery dead mess).  The project ended up looking exactly the same in real life as it did in my head and so that's given me the confidence to start making some really big changes.

The colours I've chosen for my kitchen

Next Monday I am having the kitchen completely revamped, I couldn't afford a new kitchen but then I found a guy on Facebook who does vinyl kitchen wraps, now I could have had the entire room wrapped in grey but as I've already said, I love colour so I'm having it wrapped in Yellow, Blue and Pink and I cannot wait, the benches are staying but will be wrapped at a later date with an off white with a slight sparkle and I also want to change the lighting and the taps on the sink, I need help with those things and a bit more of a January budget so I've decided to go for it this year and try and shoot 30 weddings, I shot just over 20 last year and did a bloody good job so I'm hoping all of that leads to an increase in bookings and going by January so far, it certainly seems that way.  (Hurray!).

The very rough draft of how the kitchen cabinets will look after they've been wrapped.

I'm also installing a fake living wall at one end of the kitchen and then I have a big blank wall to fill, haven't decided on what colour that's going to be or what kind of wall covering but I am excited and hopefully it'll be distinctly different by the time I throw my birthday party on the first of February.  If there's one thing I know about my friends is that no one ever makes it upstairs because you will always find them in the kitchen at parties 🥳 

Saturday, January 04, 2020

How to beat the January Blues Forever

How to beat the january blues forever, new year 2020, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger
At some point during the festive season, it's not unknown to wake up with a sudden feeling of anxiety or just feeling out of sorts, blue or weepy. January is like the evil twin of Christmas, it's the antithesis to joy, it's the return to routine, the return to boring food, messages in the media that we're not enough and failed resolutions. Here's the thing though, maybe it's Christmas which has a dark side, we're convinced we should eat all of the wrong foods, we're lulled into thinking it's better to be indoors for days at a time and even worse, sometimes with the most toxic people you've ever known (aka family).
I'm trying to love January more, I'm resetting my body today with some chicken, brown rice and green vegetables, it will taste healthy and I will curse the fact I'm not eating cake approximately 23 times but I made a promise to myself and to my liver consultant that I would lose at least 10% of my body weight before I see her again at the end of March, It's probably going to be a big ask to have gotten that far but I'm willing to give it a try. A few friends are joining me on the "Grumpy Girl's Lifestyle". We called it that because we'll be super grumpy if anyone asks if we're on a diet when we're actually just on a quest to change our lives and maybe you can join in too?
The concept is simple, get outdoors more, up your exercise, we're not talking Mo Farrah type marathons just moving a bit more. When it comes to food, something I struggle with because I love carbs and cake, it's just about cutting down a little, especially on cake and carbs, I've done it before and I know I have the power to do it again. I'm not going mad though, I'm not going on any crazy cleanse plans or doing sugar-free (which worked but wasn't at all sustainable on the long term). I'm just having a word with myself and generally trying to be a little more restrained than my festive self when we all say "Ah, sod it, it's Christmas" (for at least 3 months in my case).
Routine isn't a bad thing either, I go back to work on Tuesday and although my office isn't actually that far away from my bed I am making it my own personal resolution to get dressed every day, preferably before lunch as I'll be honest, Holly Bobbins also prefers an earlier morning walk before she gets down to the serious business of snoozing, beagle style. My mental health and anxiety can generally be at it's worst over the winter with the lack of light and the quietness of my photography business but I've decided that this year I'll enjoy the slower pace of life and I shall try to get outdoors as often as possible as being out in nature, once I actually force myself out of the cosy warmth of my house, is actually really good for me and more importantly for my mind. When I went into the festive season this year I was dreading it, I thought I would crash, burn and have an awful time but for some reason, I really enjoyed all that entailed and even had my best New Years Eve I can ever remember and my first without any alcohol at all, in the past, I've tried to endure alcohol but given that it feels like poison the moment I have 1 sip, this year I probably had 1 bottle of Champagne across the whole of the festive season and I'm happy with that, I am happy being a non-drinker! Whatever plans you have this year or however blue you're feeling right now try to remember that routine isn't a bad thing, the good foods are actually the bad foods in disguise and more than anything else, that you are good enough, you are always good enough, even if you don't believe that you are. Here's to 2020 and just being the same but better!
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