Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Monday, April 27, 2020

The 8 positives of Lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, April 20, 2020

Week Zero - When the money ran out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Magical Small Garden Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

How Lockdown is Helping me Move on With my Life

Coronavirus and Lockdown have changed the world, probably forever, I don't think for one moment that the world will ever go back to the way that it was previously and for all of the bad stuff that's happened, I've personally found that Lockdown has helped me to move on with my life.

How lockdown is helping me move on with my life, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, mental health, coronavirus

Lockdown gives you a lot of time to think, the emotions we feel are so much stronger and I've been at the point of a mental health meltdown once or twice, those times when having a friend hug you and make you a cup of tea would have eased the pain but with no one there, you're left to your own thoughts and feel yourself slipping further and further into the abyss.  I spoke to a mental health worker fairly early on when I thought I was losing my mind and their reassurance that it wasn't a "me" problem but a whole world problem still carries me forward during the darkest days.

Losing 2 businesses almost overnight was nearly impossible but having had time to think and understand I know now that it was time to walk away from the one which had negatively impacted on my health and overwhelmed my mental health for so long.  When you spend each day trying to look after thousands of people it can be all-consuming so over the last few weeks I've learned to appreciate the joy and freedom that is time and space.  For the first time, I actually got closure with no chance of return and I will admit that I went on a spree blocking on mass not just on social media but also email addresses, newsletters, Facebook pages.  I wanted to be completely free and now, that I am.

The closure of my photography business was harder to stomach but over the last few weeks I have turned my attention to teaching children the joy of creative photography and now I'm going one further and have my first zoom chat with a marketing organisation on Wednesday to teach them how to make better images with their smartphones.  I've also completely redesigned my offerings to training aspiring professional photographers and I really feel the future is bright.  I've decided that I want to offer more photography tuition for kids and adults.  I know I have so much to offer after 13 years running multiple businesses, all of which had great imagery at the heart of them.

Some things have not changed, I have always been and will always be a photographer, I live my life creating images for myself and others, my main subjects may currently be my pets but the principles are much the same and I may only be using my smartphone but I reckon after 13 years I deserve a little holiday from my big camera, anyone who's ever seen my wedding claw the day after I shoot a big wedding would attest to that as would other professional photographers!

I think more than anything the time and space for self-development has never been more optimum, I'm not suggesting you learn a new language or write a book but if anything you can cleanse your life, your inbox, give yourself closure from painful things and difficult situations and more than that, maybe if you get one thing from all of this, it's to learn to be kinder to yourself.

By the time we made it to the weekend, I'd even managed to take a couple of photographs of myself that I didn't filter and I didn't hate and at the tender age of 46,  I didn't even hate my face so much, although, let's not talk about the bushy eyebrows.  The truth is, and this is the message, I've had such a battle with myself for years, I've been angry, I've been anxious, I've stressed myself out because of the bad relationship I've had with myself so if Coronavirus and Lockdown have given me one thing, it's that I love myself a little more and I can't ever see that changing again.

If you have enjoyed this article or had some value from it, I would really appreciate a virtual coffee

Monday, April 06, 2020

How I'm trying to get through lockdown one day at a time

When lockdown began I thought I would be okay because I would just write my way out of it, I would blog every single day and I would regale you with the tales from the voices inside my head, 3 weeks in and I've realised that I can't write every day as I just don't have enough things to talk about without becoming ranty and wisened and honestly, it's enough just to get through the day without punching myself in the face and not having a giant meltdown right now!

The truth is, and I honestly believe this, you just need to do, whatever you need to do, to get through this.  It's an extremely challenging time and berating yourself for not learning a new language or baking banana bread every day just isn't going to help.  I know some will flourish and will come out of this with a whole new skill set but I don't think we should be judging people who are struggling or people who manage to sit on the settee and just watch box sets every day.

Mental health issues are at an all-time high, being caged and trapped at home just isn't good for humans who, like plants, need food, water and sunshine to flourish and I'm truly thankful I get to take Holly Bobbins for a daily stroll, sometimes we head to the park or sometimes we just ramble around our estate whilst I turn it into a giant hide and seek game, I hide and then she runs, if she spots me, she stops so it's great exercise for her and she's doing really well.

One brilliant thing I have done is get a group of talented friends to help me turn my pre-existing Facebook group, Secret Superheroes Club into a place where every day we have a live photography challenge as well as having science, music and even storytime, it's truly a wonderful place with so much love and potential and I think, although I'm biased, it's one of the loveliest Facebook groups for parents and their children to spend their time.

if you are in business and particularly my self-employed friends who run small and micro-businesses just know that I am with you in spirit and I'm empathising with you that we're trapped in the most difficult financial circumstances and to anyone who says that we should have had savings, I had a buffer, it got me through a quiet December, January and February just as I was about to resume my usually busy business in March, this couldn't have happened at a worse time but really, I don't think there was ever going to be a good one.

The truth is, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss being around people and I'm just taking things one day at a time to get through this, some days I feel really positive, sometimes I laugh and I drink wine in the evenings, sometimes I bake and I cook every day and then there are the times when I cry, when I get so anxious I feel like I'm having a panic attack, there are the times I worry not only for my own mental health but for every one of us.

Taking things one day at a time is my considered approach to self-care and that comes from such a long time of living with chronic mental health and health problems.  So let's just do what we can, smile when we can and cry if we need to, really there's no shame in this and if there's anything I can say which I think can be of solace, it's that, every day we spend without each other, is a day closer to the time when we'll all see each other again, when we'll hug and laugh and maybe get a little tipsy and we'll remember just how wonderful our friends and family really are.

If you've enjoyed reading this article or had some value or maybe it's even just helped you get through the last 5 minutes, I'd love your support in buying me a virtual coffee so I can continue to write and so that I have a business to go back to when all of this is over.  Thank you so much to all who have supported me so far.

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