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, November 15, 2021

Family Safety: Tips for Keeping Your Car in Top Shape

Family Safety: Tips for Keeping Your Car in Top Shape

Being a parent is hard already – being a parent who has unwittingly caused an injury to their child is even more so. Make sure you keep your whole family safe on the UK's roads with the following tips to keep your car in top shape. Simple steps of caring for your vehicle go a long way and keep you and your family protected when you are out on the road. Pampering your car is definitely going to pay back and improve your car's performance.

Maintain It

Regular maintenance is the key to keeping any piece of machinery running smoothly, and your car is no different. Write up a system of checks on your vehicle, from the most cursory visual inspections to more detailed torch and touch checks (when you run your fingertips over the whole vehicle, feeling for distortions or blemishes, and use a torch to check the underside of the car and closely inspect the tyres) and adhere to it stringently.

Service It

Most vehicle manufacturers have a recommended service schedule which can be found in your instruction manual or online, on the manufacturer's website. Making sure your car is serviced regularly is another form of a maintenance schedule, albeit more intensive one, looking more deeply into your engine than you would be able to do.


Any vehicle in the UK must have an MOT once it is three years old, and annually thereafter. The only exception is Ireland where cars are four before their first MOT. An MOT is a check of roadworthiness, designed to make sure that your vehicle is visible to other road users, can be safely controlled by you, even in the event of an emergency (so you can move to the side of the road and stop, then activating your hazard lights, for example), and that you have a clear view of the road, its environs and everyone in the vicinity. Making sure your MOT certificate is up to date is a great way to ensure that your family stays safe on the roads. If you are looking for an MOT in London or nearby, why not try Iverson Tyres – call them now on 020 8566 4666.

Plan Ahead

It is seldom a good idea to barrel into a route without some forethought and planning, especially if it is going to be a long drive. Plan your route, making sure there are rest stops and hotel breaks along the way, and also ensuring that the roads you will be using are well-maintained and will not cause damage to your car.

Drive Defensively

Finally, learn to drive defensively, actively looking out for hazards and being aware of all the other road users at all times. This might sound strenuous, but you adapt to it surprisingly quickly and fairly soon you will drive defensively as a matter of course, keeping your family safe on the roads and doing your bit towards looking after other families too!


Monday, November 08, 2021

11 gifts your friends will thank you for this Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and so you'll be glad to hear that I have suggestions for 11 gifts your friends will thank you for this Christmas.  You see, this year, more than ever I'm consciously gifting, I'm making, I'm buying vintage and I'm only buying things for my friends that I know they'll love and want.  I've been listening out for their cues all year and now I'm happy to reveal this year's 2021 Christmas gift guide.

1. For your David Bowie loving friends check out these gorgeous prints from Ink and Drop.  Two of my oldest and dearest friends are massive Bowie fans and I'm not much further behind, I adore "We could be Heroes and I thought these two prints could be framed and go on the wall in my office/creative studio.

2. From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter comes this amazing enamel pin, Looby collects pin badges and loves Harry Potter, as does Abigail so there may be a fight between my two young adult daughters as to who gets this in their Christmas stocking on Christmas morning.

3. My friend Rachel adores peacocks and she doesn't mind a glass of champagne either so these beautiful midnight peacock design champagne flutes from Artland would be perfect for her, they're electro-plated and absolutely stunning.

4.  My daughter Abigail, lives, breathes and does not function without copious amounts of caffeine and so the worlds strongest coffee from Black Insomnia is going to ensure she is wide awake for quite some time to come.

5. My lovely friend Robyn loves to journal, in fact, she's got 2 crates of notebooks, it's definitely her thing!!  Good sleep is paramount for optimum mental health and so this end of day wellness journal from Echor is going to ensure that she can clear her mind every night before she goes to sleep ensuring only the most refreshing slumber.
6. I have loved After the Rain perfume from Arran, sense of Scotland for as long as I can remember and you know that the best gifts are the ones we give ourselves so this one is going under the tree just for me, everything Arran make is inspired by their surroundings and as you know, Scotland is my happy place so it's the perfect self-gifting opportunity for me.

7. My friend Steph, is adventure Steph, she loves a challenge and often takes herself off for the biggest, longest hikes, in fact, the longest walk I've ever done without stopping was with Steph last year when we walked to the pedestrian Tyne Tunnel during the winter lockdown.  I am sure that she's going to love this Kleen Kanteen 16oz insulated TKWide bottle which keeps drinks hot for 14 hours and cold for up to 47 hours, perfect for new year adventures in the hills.

8. I have been a convert to CBD products for a few years now and I always wonder why my anxiety is so much worse when I'm not taking them so when Alphagreen who I worked with on my 2020 gift guide got in touch about their own brand of CBD gummies and CBD oil, it's fair to say I didn't even pause, I just said yes.  I'm not a doctor and I can only speak for me personally but they really do help with my anxiety.

9. I couldn't forget Carter (who I still call Baby Carter even though he's approaching 6 years old) and inclusivity is incredibly important to me so I know that he's going to absolutely adore this selection of children's books from Little Box of Books.  I know that mum Stacey will also love this as she's on a mission to make sure that Carter grows up fully rounded and accepting of all human beings and really, she's doing such a great job.  We need more Carter's in the world.

10.  My daughter Abigail is allergic to all dairy and so when Buttermilk got in touch I knew I had to feature their brand new plant-based chocolate treats, dairy-free treats which still taste absolutely amazing, it's Christmas, we should definitely be able to indulge whether we're dairy-free, vegan or just regular old chocoholics.

11. It's Christmas and we cannot forget our beloved pets, so treats and tasty nibbles, as well as fun pet toys, arrived from Webbox for Holly Bobbins, Iris and little Maggie Pie and I know that they'll love them all, I also like that each product indicates if it's suitable for puppies or kittens.

I'd like to thank all of the participants in this year's Christmas gift guide, it's possibly my smallest guide that I've ever put out but it's also my most conscious, there's nothing here that won't be loved, used or indeed gifted and none of this would have happened without the companies who've gifted me the products wanting to be involved.  I hope that it's given you some inspiration and I hope that you have the merriest Christmas ever.


Monday, October 11, 2021

What happens when you go viral on TikTok?

You may have noticed that I have not been blogging lately and honestly, it's mostly down to TikTok.  For all of the love I have for social media, nothing has been so impactful as TikTok and as I've recently gone viral I thought I would share what actually happens when you go viral on TikTok.

I started doing TikTok for fun during the winter lockdown, I shared the walks that I was doing and my aim was to get to 1000 followers.  Within a month I accidentally had a semi-viral post of my pets being ridiculous and I started to get a few more followers, I then had a gradual build until I posted about some money-saving travel hacks and that got me to around 7000 followers, it was lovely and slow and steady and then suddenly I found my feet.

If you want to be successful on social media you need to add value or entertain, teaching people to do things in one minute or less seemed to me like a challenge and as I make things for Christmas every year I thought I would share the process.  I made a few videos that had some good views and I could see myself reaching 10,000 followers and being able to join the creator fund.  Then I posted a 1-minute Tiktok documenting myself making Rhubarb gin and everything changed.

Mandy your tiktok mum makes cinder toffee, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger

Since I posted that TikTok on the 22nd of September my follower count has risen from just over 8k to just over 40k and that one TikTok has reached over 465000 people, let's just think about how many people that would be in real life?!!  It's not only brought me followers but it's made me the loveliest community, a community of people who love making things, who love gin and who adore Christmas.  It is the best community and if you fancy joining me I'm Mandyyourtiktokmum I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up the content ideas but honestly, the internet is so full of things you can make that I can't see me running out of ideas anytime soon.

Has it changed my life or lead to my business going viral and selling out?  No, honestly, it hasn't but I use TikTok not to push my businesses but because I've always wanted to be a creator, I love making things and I love creating content.  I do have some added extras on my profile like my shop is connected in my profile through Shopify and yes, I definitely get sales that way but I would never encourage anyone to go viral on TikTok with the expectation that it's going to skyrocket their business.  It might do in certain circumstances and it really depends on what your TT that goes viral is all about.  

In the future I'd love to teach people how to make things, it's where I began all those years ago working in the craft industry.  Abi moves out at the end of this week and I'm turning that room into my craft room.  I plan to make things not just for me but also for Philomena's Boutique I've bought a Cricut, and I have managed to get my hands on a second-hand dye-sublimation printer and my next work purchase is going to be a mug press and T-Shirt/Bag press.  I can't wait to be more creative, especially as the winter is coming and my Jan-March calendar is never all that busy.

Am I worried that in January people will stop watching my content?  Not really because I'm building up a community that is all about making (and gin) and we can make things together all year round.  Handmade things aren't just for Christmas.  Plus I know how to add value in so many areas, I have been practising for this moment for years on other forms of social media, it's just how I happened to have found my people on TikTok.

Between various forms of social media and my blog I can reach way over 100k people a month, in fact, the last month alone on TikTok I've reached around 1 million people in total and we're only just at the start of video content, this is only going to keep growing over the years and I am there for it, I love it all!!

Do I get trolled?  Yes, occasionally, it's the curse of social media but I just block and delete, I'm pretty laid back when it comes to such things and I have the most supportive group of cheerleading friends who are all there behind me to keep me grounded and remind me that I am enough.

So if you're missing my daily updates you can find me on TikTok and I promise to still try and find the time to write, it didn't help that I shot 5 weddings in the space of 2 weeks and I've only just come out of the editing hole I was in for a month!!  Life moves pretty fast, I heard that somewhere...


Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Therapy is Necessary

Therapy is Necessary, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, mental health, autism, bipolar disorder

This is a collaborative post in association with Psymplicity

Therapy is Necessary

Therapy is important to make sure you can live your life as well as possible, whether you’re trying to overcome the stress of daily life or you’re hoping to overcome an addiction or mental illness. But despite the benefits of therapy, many people avoid it for one reason or another. Perhaps they feel embarrassed to admit they need help, or maybe they don’t want to spend the money on it. 

Why Therapy Is Necessary

Therapists aren’t just there to tell you that everything is going to be okay. Therapy can, and often does, help us through difficult periods in our lives when we need a guiding hand and a shoulder to lean on. Therapy isn’t just for those who have major issues in their lives: everyone has problems and challenges, and therapy can provide solutions where self-help books fall short. The benefits of seeing a therapist include:

Learn new coping skills -- In some cases, people turn to unhealthy habits as a way of coping with stress or traumatic events. When individuals have nowhere else to turn but themselves, these destructive behaviours may become worse without intervention from professionals with specialised training. Learning more productive ways of dealing with emotions and stressors not only promotes healthier habits but can also lead to a higher quality of life overall.

My experience with autism and bipolar disorder

I was diagnosed with both autism and bipolar disorder in my late 20s. I’ve worked hard to manage these diagnoses, but nothing beats therapy. Both conditions are chronic, so you need someone who can help you deal with the long-term. A combination of periods of therapy and good mental health medication has helped to keep the worst symptoms of bipolar at bay and helped me to learn to appreciate my technicolour neurodiverse mind.  

If you’re dealing with something similar or know somebody who is, it would be a good idea to see a counsellor. Therapy isn’t just about supporting your current mental health—it’s also about building resilience against future problems. As we age, our brains change physically and cognitively, so it makes sense that we should constantly reevaluate our self-care routines as well. Everyone needs guidance and support when they're in crisis or facing significant stressors (like losing a job). If we don't take care of ourselves mentally and emotionally we're likely going to end up mentally ill; there's no guarantee that even if you think like somebody without an illness that one won't pop up because of environmental factors such as poverty or an abusive relationship.

How to Choose a Therapist

The first step in getting therapy is choosing a therapist. It’s not as hard as you might think, but there are still some things to consider when looking into private psychiatry. How long has your prospective therapist been practising? Is he or she licensed and insured? A good rule of thumb: Don’t work with someone who isn’t qualified to do so. 

What Should I Expect From Therapy?

Your therapist isn’t there to give you advice but will encourage you to do your own deep thinking about how you can get what you want out of life. Your therapist will help you better understand yourself, other people and different types of relationships. If something in your life doesn’t feel right, therapy can be a safe place to look at why that might be so.

My life now

My life now is stable and good, I get to be creative every single day and my neurodiverse brain is content with life, I have best friends who love me for who I am and appreciate that my honesty will never let them doubt how I feel about them, the world and everything.  Not every day is plain sailing and I realise that I see the world very different from your average neurotypical person but I'm happier now than I have ever been and long may that continue!


The Big Change, Scary but Inevitable

Philomena's Christmas Boutique, Christmas gift shop, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

The big change...

Change is scary but it's not something I'm scared of, I'm not scared to ask for help, I used to feel ashamed when I had to ask for help, when I didn't understand why something was happening or when something was wrong but I couldn't fix it myself.  I have learned that shame is a very personal thing, we own it, it's ours, we actually do not need to respond to it, just acknowledge that it is there.  

Just lately at Philomena's Boutique, things have not been going so well, I actually thought I was just going to close the boutique because despite all of our efforts we didn't reach our next funding target,  we're still 10% away but we did get a lot of sales during a clearance that meant we could start planning for our future. I refuse to give up just yet and though the boutique has been valued at a decent sum of money, I wanted to get it to 2 years before I even consider selling it.  The boutique was set up in such unique circumstances that maybe it isn't a forever business, maybe it was my saviour when I couldn't work as a photographer and that's okay, everything that comes into our lives is for a reason or a season.

There are a couple of things happening, big decisions I've taken, full of love and positivity for the future -

Philomena's Christmas Boutique 

The boutique is becoming Philomena's Christmas Boutique and we'll be selling everything for the festive home plus gorgeous gifts you might just want to keep for yourself, in fact, I've already placed an order with the jewellery company we used before and we have some fantastic things on the way.  No one knows and loves Christmas like I do, Christmas has been at the very centre of my calendar for many years and it's well known that I try to out Christmas myself every single year.  I throw a grand party for all of my closest friends and because we couldn't hold one last year, this year's promises to be better and bigger than ever.

My love of colour is eternal and working on my Colour My World project actively over the next 2 years  I'll be promoting the Colour my World collection through the Colour My World page but they'll still be sold on the boutique site because I can't bear to make another website, I have way too many as it is.

When we do get our new stock at Philomena's Boutique we'll be a lot like TK Maxx or Homesense, we may only get 1, 3, 6 of each product and once they're gone we can't promise to get them back against if you see something you love, you'll need to grab it immediately as we won't be holding loads of stock. We haven't yet worked out how often we'll do a restock as it depends on a few things but we'll hopefully get new things at least once a month.

Photography is back!!!

I am working more as a photographer than I was previously, I have a real love for wedding photography and I'm really good at what I do. It's amazing to be working properly again so it's all a bit of a juggle but Looby will be running the boutique mostly and I am even getting Abigail involved where possible as a way of supporting them both through further education. I'll continue to do all of the social media and the admin but with any luck, it's all going to work well.  Looby was already doing all of the orders herself anyway as her way of paying for the stabling for Sil, her horse so she's totally capable and way better at wrapping orders than I ever am!

It's probable that we may close the boutique in January for a little snooze once the usual end of season sale is done and when we come back is the big question. To me being happy is everything and so I'll just keep working towards freedom and happiness which go hand in hand.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. I will be giving away a £100 gift certificate to celebrate when we do reach our funding target which hopefully won't be too much longer, especially with all of the things on the way like vegan chocolate, beautiful eco-friendly jewellery, gorgeous Christmas decorations and things to make your home smell yummy and seasonal.  The future is much brighter than I imagined it would be this time last month so I hope you'll stick with us as we continue to rebuild what covid took away.

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee

I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 

You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all

of your love and support.

Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique

which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!


Monday, August 16, 2021

Colour My World, an Artistic Project

Colour My World - A life lived in colour is a life made better.

Sunset colourful Newcastle Street, Colour My World, Mandy Charlton, Photographer

Colour is everywhere and I don't know if it's just me but I am noticing it more and more since the end of lockdown, it's like the world is on a mission to fill itself with the most colourful places and even the street art seems brighter and more vibrant than it ever was before.  Even the smallest of cafes have decorated their tiny yards to be bright, colourful havens from the world and I for one plan to celebrate that.

Over the next 2 years, I plan to create and curate my first exhibition entitled "Colour My World" and I've already started to create the work for it.  I have lived a colourful life my entire life but even more so since I became single 7 years ago.  I am currently in the process of applying for a grant from the arts council so things are getting very real but in as much as I can self-support to a certain extent, things are still incredibly financially tricky due to covid and its after-effects.

For years I have collected images of bright happy places, amazing colourful street art and I've also turned my house into my own explosion of colour, my kitchen is yellow, blue and pink.  I've even changed the boutique to sell only the most colourful of things, the monochrome collection is an exception as black and white are also colours.

Colour to me, means happiness and I think if you are surrounded by colour it makes you happier in your heart.  I'd love to look at the effect of colours in the environment and I think it's amazing how we have fully embraced today's art by decorating buildings and walls everywhere.

Can you help by nominating your favourite colourful place?

Whilst I have already collected quite a few images I'm also on the lookout for more so if you have a colourful spot near you, a cool cafe with an awesome back garden or you know of a great floral entrance please do get in touch.  I'd also love to get this project published one day so although I could go down the self-publishing route if you're reading this and you are a photographers agent or a publisher please let's have a chat!

Being an autistic neurodiverse person it's blatantly obvious that I see the world in a completely different way to the neurotypical but that's what makes this such a magical project, I get to share how I see the world in my own unique way to the world en masse.  It's an amazing opportunity to show how magical the world is when you are neurodiverse and for all being autistic does have its challenges, it's also my greatest creative superpower.

I'm on a mission to change my life over the next 2 years and this is the main part of it, to finally be taken seriously as an artist, I just want to leave my mark on the world, it's a hilarious ambition to have a blue plaque and I'll never find out if I achieve it as you only get them when you're dead!!

Colour my world club, a monthly art card subscription from mandy charlton, photographer and artist

Hop on board, join me on my adventures 

If you hop on board this journey with you can get a monthly art postcard for your wall or to gift to a friend, any mail that isn't a bill is most definitely happy mail and colourful art to brighten the walls is never a bad thing, you will also be supporting an artist on a quest to change her entire life in the next 2 years.  Not only will you get beautiful art for your walls, you'll also get exclusive content as well as the story behind each image for £3 a month, you can't even buy a coffee with that these days.

Ways to support my writing

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram or  TikTok keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!


Thursday, August 12, 2021

2 years to change my life - Part 1

2 years to change my life.

A few weeks ago I had the sudden realisation that I wanted to change my life for the better, I'd had a sit down meeting with my doctor where she'd ordered me to lose weight and it really shook me up, first of all, I became an unintentional influencer on the subject of weight stigma on TikTok! Around the same time I realised the boutique was no longer working as it had been, its purpose was to get me through the lockdowns but as we are opening up and shops are open all the time again, it's really deflected from online shopping for small businesses. We will get it back again in the autumn however but something needed to change.
2 years to change my life, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Here's my plan to change my life completely over the next 2 years -

1. I want to change my health and fitness for the better, I've already lost half a stone over the last month and I can walk up Dean Street in Newcastle without getting out of breath. I've just signed up to walk a virtual NC500 so 800km, I've given myself 90 days to do it but want to do it quicker, I just didn't want to put too much pressure on myself. I also want to state that your weight does not equal your self-worth and I'm doing this for holistic self-improvement.
2. I want to make money selling my art and turn this into my main stream of income. I've committed to trying to shoot 30 weddings (if I can get the bookings) in 2022 which should give me some savings to help achieve this. I'm also keeping Philomena's Boutique and I'm selling brightly coloured things to help people live a life of glorious technicolour. I find it incredibly easy to get enthusiastic about colour as I've lived a colourful life forever and even more so since I've been single, I love colour and I think if you're constantly surrounded by it, it makes you a happier person.
3. I have ditched all of the dating apps, I am so happy in myself, probably happier than I have ever been and if I am going to meet someone, I want it to happen organically so I'm leaving it up to the universe. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, they never really sat comfortably with me anyway, I am older and old school I reckon. All I want to do is see someone and they see me and we like each other and we go on a date, I don't think that's too much to ask for.

Fine art print London is Pride by Mandy Charlton, photographer

4. I want to travel with my camera more often looking for the most colourful places in the country (and possibly the globe eventually). Doing this really does depend on if I can sell my art from my first collection. If other people love my art then I'll know I am on the right path but I feel it in my bones that there are others just waiting to fill their walls with gloriously technicoloured fine art photographic prints.
So far, I have social media, I have my I have my websites and I have my blog so between those it's got to be possible to make a proper income again and that's why I'm doing this now, I've come out of the pandemic with not much more than I had in 2007 when I started my first business. I've nothing to lose really and as I'm going to be 50 in just over 2 years it's really very much a case of "if not now, when?" I've also started a monthly subscription through my coffee account where you get postcards of my art every month for just £3, it's all part of the grand plan to support myself through art and photography.
I don't want to seem entitled and I'm not asking for anything but I firmly believe that if I make one small change every day that puts me on the path to where I want to be then I'll get there and if I can help and inspire other people in my life stage then that's a bonus.
The last 18 months have for the most part been absolutely bloody horrible but I have worked on myself so much and I believe I'm a wholly better more intuitive, more stable and all-around calmer nicer person than I have ever been. I don't think I've got a single toxic person in my life now and I guess shedding the last of those was where my grand plan began because if you choose to surround yourself with only positive people you can achieve anything!

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

Monday, July 12, 2021

10 Interesting Facts about Scotland You Might not Know

10 interesting facts about scotland you might not know, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Scotland is a mythical and wonderful place, I've been going there as often as possible collecting all kinds of interesting information so here without further ado are 10 interesting facts about Scotland you might not know.

  1. On Inchconnan Island, which lies in the middle of Loch Lomond you'll find a colony of approximately 70 red-necked wallabies.  They were introduced by Lady Arran Colquhoun in the 1940s after she'd holidayed in Australia and fell in love with them.  She later died but the wallabies remained and there's said to be around 70 of them living on the small island.  Interestingly the island was put up for sale last July for £500,000 on the condition that you would have to have wallabies as your neighbours and you know what?  I am completely on board with that.
  2. There are no toll bridges in the whole of Scotland thanks to the people of the Isle of Skye. In 1995 a bridge was built connecting Skye to the mainland, previously you had to get the ferry from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin. When the bridge was erected the toll charge to recoup the building costs were ridiculously high, even for the residents so they stopped paying, they staged protests, some of them went to jail and they took their fight right to the supreme court and in 2004, the toll charge was abolished and later in 2008, the whole of Scotland abolished tolls thanks to the amazing people of Skye.
  3. Doune Castle may be more recognisable as Castle Leoch, the head of Clan Mackenzie in Outlander but it was also used in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones as Winterfell.  In the Game of Thrones people wanted to use Scotland for the entire series but the Scottish government at the time wanted to charge them.  Meanwhile the Irish stepped in, offered them substantial tax breaks and so off they went to use the Republic of Ireland instead.
  4. Whilst we're on the subject of Game of Thrones, inspiration for the Red Wedding came from the massacres that happened in Glencoe, if you want to read about that horrific incident there's an article here that makes for better reading than I can fit into one small paragraph.
  5. If you're a Harry Potter fan you'll know that a lot of the locations are filmed in the north of England and also in Scotland, in fact, Hagrid's hut nearly remained in part it was built at in the West Highlands but the locals, (not wanting to have millions of visitors to a fake movie set hut) demanded that it was taken down after the filming.
  6. Just below Oban on the west coast of Scotland lie the silver sands of Morar, the sand comes from the Caribbean due to the jet stream and the temperatures notwithstanding, it's easy to believe you're in a much more tropical location.
  7. Although Scotland is most famous for its whisky, they also produce around 80% of the gin consumed in the whole of the UK.  Whisky takes years to distil whereas you can make a bottle of gin in a few hours and so the Scottish have turned their hands to craft gin, my favourite gin is Theodore Pictish Gin, produced in the Highlands and with distinct notes of grapefruit, it's yummy!
  8. Orkney is home to the shortest flight in the world at 2 minutes long, the flight from Westray to Papa Westray definitely doesn't have time for the duty-free trolley to make it down the aisle.
  9. The first-ever international football game was played at Partick in Scotland and who was it between?  Well, Scotland and England of course.
  10. The world's first colour photograph was taken in Scotland in 1861 by Thomas Sutton, it was a photograph of a tartan ribbon.

    If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
    I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
    You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
    Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
    which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!


Friday, June 25, 2021

Decree Absolute

I met Paul in the autumn of 1999, we got engaged in February 2000 and we got married on the 14th April 2000.  We renewed our vows in April 2010.  we separated in September 2014 and on the 23rd June 2021 the decree absolute was signed and sealed under the judge's hammer.

When I opened the post today and saw the certificate staring back at me all I could feel was sadness. My heart has been buffered a lot this week and I'm sure there are people out there questioning how it's even possible that I remain a hopeful romantic, head in the clouds, always dreaming of finding true love.

Decree Absolute, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, divorce, relationships, dating
Me, myself and I!

The truth is, just like Sweet said "Love is like Oxygen" I don't think I could have been a wedding photographer for the last 14 years if I wasn't a romantic old soul.  You have to believe in true love to observe so many weddings and one thing has stuck with me from shooting weddings in 2020, I only photographed 5 weddings in the middle of the pandemic last year and in each and everyone there was an absolute unending joy that the couple could get married.  They didn't care that only they could be there with a couple of witnesses.  They just wanted to be married, they wanted to start their married lives and they couldn't wait another minute longer because they loved each other so very much.

For those who are getting married now, finally, as the restrictions are ending, there's even more joy than there would have been originally, I suspect because if 2020 taught us anything it's how important the people that we love are.

In the 14 years, I was married, at least 10 of them were happy and I will never regret the choices I made.  I am thankful to Paul for so many things, for our beautiful daughters, for the adventures we had together and for those times when our love felt like a movie.  I could have been bitter about that and I was so very sad and angry but now as I move into the second season of my life, part 2 or the sequel, I only wish him well and that he finds his own happiness.

Now, it might have been a bit of a tough week for matters of my heart but I'm not despondent and I have no less hope in my heart that my person is out there and lets for a moment believe that we all have multiple people out there for us, it'd be weird to think there's only one in a world of 7 billion people.  The truth is, I don't think there is just one person for us but I do think we have a limited amount we'll really click with, the ones who can see into our souls, the ones we'll share those deep and meaningful connections with.

So onwards, I go, into that sequel, the one which I know has the potential to be better than part 1, for one thing, dating in your forties doesn't come with any of the constraints from your twenties. You're not looking for someone to marry or settle down with or have children (well not unless that's what you want).  Dating in your forties should be fun, it should be freeing, it should be full of adventures, holding hands, hugging whilst watching the sunset... It should not be codependent or mean overwhelming each other's lives, I truly believe that love in your 40's could be the best you've ever experienced, I don't know if I'm right having been single for so long but I hope it is with all of my heart and I hope that in 10 years time I am not sitting here writing about myself still being single because really, I think I have a lot to offer.  I know I'm not perfect but if someone takes a chance on me I could be a really positive little sparkly whirlwind in someone's life.

Ways to support my writing...

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
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It's not you, it's me

"It's not you, it's me."

This blog post may get slightly ranty so I'm going to give you fair warning.

For the last 7 years of being single, I have worked on myself, I have transformed from someone who was so mortally afraid of being alone that I stayed in an unhappy marriage to someone who's quite happy to spend long periods of time alone.

2 years ago (April 2019 to be exact), I became aware of someone new on my Facebook, I never add people to my Facebook unless I've asked them in person for their permission because I'm old fashioned like that but I mostly accept people and then if they turn out to be one of those MLM selling "Buy my aloe cream" people I hide them.  My personal Facebook is actually pretty locked down so the chances of "a prince" adding me and then conning me out of my £2.50 of life savings is pretty slim and if someone does add me, I usually assume they're looking for a photographer or they're a business person who knows me from my days at Inspire.

It's not you, it's me, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, online dating, dating

Anyway, I became aware of the person because they started to message me, just general pleasant stuff about how my day was going or a compliment here and there and over time I felt like I was definitely picking up a "would you like to go on a date with me?' vibe and once I started to feel that I backed off because I really didn't feel ready and we were just going into a pandemic.  There was a small catalyst of me breaking my arm, being post-surgery with courage supplied by morphine and agreeing to go out for cake but in the end, it never happened because I backed off so much that I stopped having conversations.

A year or so passed and we would message from time to time and then we got into spring of this year, the lockdowns were ending and I'd dyed my hair pink again for the first time.  He was so complimentary and still lovely to me so I took a chance, surely if someone had been patient enough to wait for an entire year whilst I got your head in order they were a safe choice to go on my first date with in what seemed like forever?

I finally felt ready to date again, I'd worked on myself so much that I no longer hated myself, in fact, these days I am all about self-love and I certainly don't need validation from someone else.  I will always have issues with my body but I'm 47, I've had 3 children, 2 caesareans, a full hysterectomy and I've lived a life containing cake which I fully refuse to give up. I chose safely, a man who on paper seemed, safe, kind, stable and maybe even a little unexciting.  That's not meant to be any kind of insult, I've previously lived a life of entertaining exciting/dangerous men and it never ends well so this time I'd chosen my absolute opposite of what I'd consider being my taste.  We'd also been friends for 2 years now so I don't think I could have gone for what I thought was a safer option.  I even checked with mutual friends that I was in the safest of hands...

Our first date, a walk, I got to the metro station where we'd arranged to meet and my legs were shaking so badly that I nearly got on the first metro back but just then I saw him approaching and honestly, as first dates go, we got on really well, very little in common other than our shared political views but that's not a bad thing at all, I also did not get within 3 feet of him for the duration of the walk but I came home with spring in my step and on date 2, lunch by the sea, I had a great time, he'd had to be home for a meeting but we ate, I drank wine and got a little giddy, I could have stayed the whole afternoon if it hadn't been for the work meeting.  

Date 3 was again by the sea and I'd promised to get him home for dinner and football and really, I should have probably sussed at this point that maybe dating was going to be appointment based and believe me when I say, the last thing I want to be to someone is an appointment so when it came to arranging date 4 and I was given a 4-hour lunchtime slot with no room for manoeuvre I knew this wasn't what I wanted.  I replied in the nicest way that whilst I was not looking to overwhelm anyone's life at the same time, I'd enjoyed our time together and so I wanted to not have a specific end time, I wanted to allow for spontaneity for that is what life is about.

No sooner had I sent that message than I got back the dreaded "It's not you, it's me" text and honestly, is that not the oldest cliche in the book, if that really is the reason then say what's behind it, don't just use the cliche and expect that to be your get-out clause.

How can you pursue someone for over a year and then suddenly you realise you need to work on yourself?  Especially when I'd been so clear for so long in my words, my blog posts and my actions about my life. He knew exactly what he was getting in to and I'd told him the first time that I am at a point in my life where I'm ready to look for my person and that if that wasn't for him then I didn't want to waste his time.  Instead, I've spent a year of my life learning to trust someone thinking they were safe only to find out that the safe guys are the exact same as the exciting dangerous guys. Even worse, I'd built up a 2-year friendship with someone I thought was one of the good guys.  I am pleased that it only had got as serious as hand-holding and that when I promised myself that anything I ever got into now would be a slow burn, I'm glad I have that self-respect for myself.  I'm glad I didn't give myself away because in my twenties I couldn't have said that I would have done the same thing.

And so here I am, I started the week off with hope and promise, with joy in my heart and a spring in my step and now I am cranky and disillusioned.  I know it's unlikely that I will ever meet anyone through online dating, I just don't have the emotional capacity for it but I also know that I can't ever build up a friendship with someone for so long only to be let down so if I do meet someone online or in real life, I am not having a "talking stage" I am getting to that first date as quickly as possible because I cannot become invested in someone and then see it become a giant waste of time.

It's taken me nearly a week to write this post, to try and get my head in order, to mourn the loss of a friendship. I've clicked to post this several times and then decided not to because I'm not trying to hurt anyone here but I needed to get it out there, to write it down in the way that I always do.  There's a catharsis in writing, it's always been my go-to since I started this blog in 2006 and I want to end by saying something...

I am the luckiest person on earth that I get to photograph people in love, I get to see them stand in front of the people they love which they declare that they want to be together forever, I am and will always be a hopeful romantic, my head might be in the clouds but I also know that somewhere out there is my forever person and I'll never stop believing that just as I search for them, they're also looking for me.

Ways to support my writing...

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Mandy's Essential Playlist

Mandy's Essential Playlist, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, spotify playlist, the story of my life

Music, one of the very most important things to me, when I am happy I listen to music almost every day all day, when I'm out I have my earbuds in and when I'm at home I stream it all around the house.  When I am depressed or sad or having mental health issues, the first thing that goes is my enjoyment of music, it begins to sound too loud and becomes uncomfortable but at its heart, music is one of the greatest loves of my life.

I've talked about music on my blog on several occasions and I've written about music for at least 5 years before the pandemic, I have reviewed so much music and had very few bad experiences because, for me, live music will always be like magic.

I wanted to compile an essential playlist for a friend but what became clear, very quickly was that for each track I was going to add to my playlist I would also need to annotate why that particular piece of music is important to me.  After 30 minutes I realised the gargantuan task that I'd just set myself in a throwaway comment.  Compiling a playlist of every song that is important to me would probably take a month and where would I start?  If I go back in time with my musical history, I could go all the way to Chopin, Holst, Gershwin and listening to a playlist that goes all the way from the 19th century probably isn't consumable in one easy sitting.  My history of musicals alone goes from George and Ira Gershwin and covers at least 100 years of music.

So let's say this is my first essential playlist and there are probably 10 more deep cut playlists for every single genre because really, I love music from so many genres, from jazz to rock to country to uplifting house and even my hatred of rap music was questioned when I heard the Hamilton soundtrack for the first time, yes it's a musical but if it isn't rap music in there then what is it?

So, let me start by saying that when I compiled this on Spotify, I didn't organise it by history (and yes, I am sure that's going to annoy some people). I simply pulled the music from various playlists that I play endlessly.  I do add new music to my playlists but there are core tracks that will always be there. This entire playlist may not be to your taste but I am unapologetic about the music that is on it, musical education is never wasted.

Mandy's Essential Playlist (click that link to listen on Spotify)

  1. Blackbird - The Beatles.  I feel like I came to The Beatles quite late but I've been lucky enough to see The Bootleg Beatles live which were about as near as you can get today as well as extensively listening to their music.  Blackbird is such a simple song but it's also beautiful.
  2. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys.  I was writing for an online site a few years ago and had the honour of attending a concert, it was shortly after the atrocities of Manchester Arena and security was so high just to get into Sage Gateshead but they completely blew me away.  God Only Knows will always touch my heart, the lyrics in the second verse get me every time
  3. Zac and Sara - Ben Folds.  I saw this performed live when Ben Folds came to the northeast a few years ago, there's just something joyous about the heavy-handed piano style of Ben Folds and the complex lyrics of this song, there really is everything in this song if you listen to it.
  4. Us - Regina Spektor.  I discovered this song from watching the movie 500 days of summer and it became one of the most iconic pieces of my life, in 2010 it was one of 3 songs I chose to be played at the vow renewal of me and my then-husband, I had to reclaim this song after we separated because I loved it so much and I didn't want to not be able to play it again.  I play it now and it reminds me of a time and place in my life and I think it's important that we don't erase those memories because everything brings us to the place where we are now and the person we have become.
  5. Leave a Light On - Belinda Carlisle, this was a difficult choice because the Runaway Horses album defined the summer of my fifteenth year on earth, I managed to see this whole album performed just a couple of years ago for its 30th anniversary, I went on my own and I loved every single second, this was the soundtrack to my teenage years and to my first experience of love and all of the complexities that come with it.
  6. Prelude/Angry Young Man - Billy Joel.  I have loved Billy Joel since I was 11 years old and received the Innocent Man cassette for my birthday, Billy has such an eclectic style that it just makes me happy.  I may not have seen him in concert but I have seen Elio Pace who performs "The Billy Joel Songbook" 3 times, he sounds more like Billy Joel than Billy Joel and when he starts the show with Prelude/Angry Young Man, I always get that intense ASMR reaction.
  7. Old Town - The Coors.  The Coors were the soundtrack of my mid-twenties, or at least my weekday soundtrack, my weekends were mainly made up of euphoric house music but I remember working in the men's department at House of Fraser in the Metrocentre and being able to take in my own CD's and I used to play this track a lot because it's happy and bouncy and I am at my best when I am happy and bouncy
  8. Greatest Day - Take That.  I have seen Take That live about 4 times now and this song is anthemic, when I hear it, it's so full of promise, and the reality is, every day could be the greatest day of your life.  I will always love Take That, they're the soundtrack to my life in two parts.
  9. Proud, Heather Small.  This is another anthem, every day you should ask what you've done today to make you feel proud and if you're guessing the theme, I love uplifting music, I also love Miranda and you can't listen to Proud without thinking about Miranda.  A couple of years ago I arrived at a festival just as Heather Small came out and when she sang Proud I cried because I was so happy to hear her sing it live.
  10. Bad Habit, Ben Platt.  This is a pretty new addition to my ultimate playlist, I discovered Ben Platt through Dear Evan Hansen and when he started to produce his own music, I fell in love with it, this one has the lyrics "Someone to quiet the voices in my head, make the sing to me instead, you do" and really, those lyrics about having anxiety and wanting to be with people who make you feel happy, well that's what the meaning of life is to me
  11. Waving Through a Window, Ben Platt.  Two mentions on one list but this is my favourite song from Dear Evan Hansen written by Pasek and Paul who also wrote the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman.  Dear Evan Hansen is the show I was going to see before the pandemic, it's probably my favourite musical now and I think it's because it's about fitting in, I never fitted in, I have always been different and whether you're growing up or an adult, wanting to desperately fit in can be hard, this song really sums that up and the anxiety that goes beside it.
  12. Defying Gravity, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.  Wicked, the musical, saved my life and I am unapologetic about my love for it.  I was in a really dark place when Elphaba came along and told the world that she might be different but she was going to do things on her own terms. I love this musical so much that I've seen it live at least 3 times and it was the first West End musical I took my daughters to see, Looby was only just about to be 4 at the time and we've all loved Wicked ever since.
  13. Heroes, David Bowie.  David Bowie, obviously a genius and yet, I love this song not because of him but because of Moulin Rouge, it features in the Elephant Love Medley and the lyrics sang to me "Though nothing, will keep us together, we could steal time, just for one day" I love that lyric so much, I can't promise my entire life to someone nor would I expect them to do the same of me but those days where no one else matters, the days which never end like a little bubble of time, maybe they're the meaning of life.
  14. Mr Brightside, The Killers.  If there's ever a party this is the one where everyone is on the dancefloor, arms in the air, completely euphoric, I bloody love this song.
  15. Mr Blue Sky, ELO.  This is such a happy song but there's an amazing string section in there and when you play it loud it makes you want to dance.  It also features in one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who, I love it, my children love it and if there was ever a happy road trip playlist, this always features on it.
  16. I've got the music in me, Kiki Dee.  So I've always loved this song and then last year I watched Zoe's Extraordinary Playlist and this was in an episode which made me want to do a Flashmob before I was 50, I have 2.5 years left and one day, flashmobs will be allowed again, it's the ultimate dancing down the street, singing at the top of your voice kind of song and during lockdown I'd play it in the garden, singing it loudly because it made me feel happier and then one day my neighbours came out and said how they would hear me singing and they'd love it.  We have been friends ever since even though they've all moved back to India.
  17. Don't You, Forget About Me, Simple Minds.  Classic 80's song and The Breakfast Club, was there ever a more iconic 80's movie, I was in love with half of the Brat Pack and I still love the movies today, I also love when the Barden Bella's sing this and you'll only get that reference if you love the Pitch Perfect movies as much as I do.
  18. St Elmo's Fire, Man in Motion, John Parr.  Obviously, I was now onto the '80s. Brat Pack vibe and my favourite of all of the Brat Pack movies, St Elmo's Fire, I don't know how many times I have watched this movie but I will love it until the day I die!
  19. New York State of Mind, Barbra Streisand.  I was really conflicted about this one as iconically Billy Joel wrote it and he'd already had a mention.  Barbra, my ultimate diva, well I couldn't decide on which song from her amazing back catalogue I wanted to include but if I had not added any Streisand to my essential playlist then it would not have been my playlist.  I discovered Barbra in my early 20's and fell in love, she's one of the most celebrated female musical icons of our time.
  20. Black Eyed Boy, Texas.  I'm going to say a word which might instil in you a deep fear or loathing or both but for many years, this was my favourite Karaoke song.  In my mid-twenties when I would go out partying we'd go to the club, we'd dance around with our arms in the air and then quite often we'd end up back at my house which was pretty much at hovel at that time and we'd put on the tunes and do some karaoke, they were some of the best times of my life and I regret nothing.
  21. Bittersweet Symphony, The Verve.  Did you know that the piece of classical music at the start of this isn't really classical music?  It's just written in the style of a great symphony but oh those strings and that orchestra make my heart sing.
  22. Love of My Life - Queen.  The song that Freddie wrote for his muse and lover Mary Austin, it's simply a beautiful song and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.
  23. We are Family, Sister Sledge.  I play this at every party I have, I love it as a piece of uplifting disco and I honestly believe the people I have in my life now, they're my very real and wonderful family.
  24. This Woman's Work, Kate Bush.  If you have ever seen the video for this or if you have seen it in She's Having a Baby, the 80's Kevin Bacon movie, you will probably have shed a tear, anyone who's a mum will understand this song.  It's haunting, it's so quiet and yet powerful.
  25. Labour of Love, Hue and Cry, some of my favourite Scottish songsters, my love for their music began in the 80's and this song, part song and part major political message, well by the end you're left in no doubt where the political affiliations of the Kane brothers.
  26. Fergus sings the Blues, Deacon Blue.  My youth in the '80s was accompanied by Deacon Blue and though the popular choice might be to go for Dignity, I remember playing this over and over on the jukebox in the village pub in my latter teenage years and still listen to it today with a spring in my step.
  27. Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin.  I don't even have to give an explanation, it's Aretha, I love northern soul and this is one of the most iconic songs of all time ever!
  28. This could be (an everlasting love) Natalie Cole.  Not only does this feature in my favourite Christmas movie, The Holiday, it's also so happy and upbeat, but it's also a song that is filled with hope and we all need a little hope in our lives.
  29. Come What May, Nicole Kidman and Ewan Mcgregor.  My favourite movie musical of all time, the third of Baz Luhrmann's red curtain trilogy and the only original song to feature in the jukebox musical, it was written originally to go into Romeo and Juliet and it just didn't fit and so when he went on to Moulin Rouge and needed the "lovers secret song" this was it and honestly, any man who can sing to me like Ewan Mcgregor, I'll fall in love with in about 3 seconds.
  30. A Thousand Miles, Vanessa Carlton.  This song is probably one of the most listened to songs since it was first released in 2002 and I have listened to this at least once a month since then, if this song doesn't make you feel a little something with its upbeat twinkly piano medley then you might just have to check you're actually alive.

Ways to support my writing...

If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram 
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

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