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

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The healing power of music, a vinyl revival

Mandy Charlton's wooden record player, the healing power of music, a vinyl revival, photographer, blogger

One of the changes in my life I've recently made was to buy a record player, a vinyl revival as it were.  I've been a great appreciator of music my whole life,  music is like magic, just one chord can transport you to a time and a place, music can invoke every single emotion possible, joy, love, pain, sadness,  it's all within the grooves of a record.

I gave my first vinyl collection to a boy when I was 18 years old and had just got my first CD player, probably one of my few regrets in life and funnily enough, I gave away my massive CD collection to my ex husband when I went fully digital.  Now I don't feel the need to go out and collect CD's again but vinyl is special.  It's not just music in it's most raw form but in that one package, you have music, you have art and you have a crackle that you'll only ever hear with vinyl.

I actually didn't pay a lot for the record player,  I bought one which didn't work properly, returned it and then got a wooden record player half price on Amazon Prime day and it's been absolutely super. I would buy it again tomorrow, it's got a lovely sound to it and the speakers are perfect for my needs, it's also aesthetically pleasing in my hotch potch, eclectic, sort of mid century modern sitting room.

As you can see from the photo, I've collected quite a few records over the summer, a lot I've picked up from Ebay or charity shops as well as getting quite a few records from a wonderful lady on Facebook who shared my passion for Barbra Streisand and sold me several of her albums at a huge discount.

Each day I listen to music is a day that brings me joy and as I have said over and over, life is better when there are little pockets of joy every day!!

In this digital world having something you can see and feel and hear, is truly a wonderful and most healing super power, I'm currently trying to rebuild the record collection I had when I was 18 as well as adding in soundtracks from musicals and movies, a hefty quantity of 1980's groups and of course, some modern music thrown in for good measure.  The good thing about vinyl is that it doesn't matter if a record costs 50p in a charity shop or £50 because it's a special edition you've found in a record store they all bring you equal amounts of joy!!


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Finding Joy in a Joyless World

Mandy Charlton, Finding Joy in a Joyless World, photographer, blogger, newcastle upon tyne

This week has been odd and heavy and full, the death of The Queen was something, I think we all knew would happen but still, none of us was quite prepared for it.  Abigail and I had gone out into town to try some new cocktail bars and we were having a splendid time until the news alert popped up.  We quickly decided that it wasn't appropriate to stay out drinking alcohol and came home for a big mug of tea and to watch the news.

I watched those rolling news reports for way too long until I made a decision that if I didn't switch off it would impact my mental health and while I didn't record my pockets of joy on Facebook on Thursday night as a sign of respect, I resumed posting them on Friday, again, I think finding little pockets of joy is crucial even on the darkest of days.  In fact, I think it's even more important to find the little pockets of joy on the days which are darker.  In the darkness, we must find the light.

This next week or so will be strange, BBC has back-to-back news reports combined with tributes and programmes about The Queen, the new King Charles the Third, comedy is banned from the BBC and their radio shows are not allowed to play bouncy music.  Whilst I partially agree we should be utterly respectful, I also think we still need joyful moments.  I would suggest switching off the TV and listening to your own music which makes you happy.  If you at all, like me, have any kind of mental health issue, this is even more important.  Please also remember that people who have lost those they love could be emotionally triggered, this is a time to check on your friends.

As I write this today, I also remember that it is 9/11, the day the twin towers fell. The biggest terrorist attack the world has ever seen. I had just found out that I was pregnant with Abigail two days before and as I arrived at my Granny's after picking up Iain from school we turned on the TV to see the second tower being flown into, I wondered what kind of a world I was bringing my children into and I remember feeling shell shocked.

I have lived through very many major historical events and honestly, I'm quite ready to live in a quiet world where nothing happens, I don't however think I am going to get my wish anytime soon.  I'm lucky to be a wedding photographer because no matter how bad things get I can escape for a while and be surrounded by joy.  Yesterday's wedding at The Grand Hotel in Gosforth was a prime example of that.  All of the TVs in the hotel were showing news about the death of The Queen and during the speeches, one of the guests paid tribute to The Queen as well as toasting God Save The King.  It felt the right thing to do but overall the day was filled with fun and laughter, joy and love and I came home feeling happier than I had all week, thankful to be surrounded by such wonderful emotions, at least for a little time.

I'm lucky to have 2 joyful businesses, at Philomena's Boutique, I prepare boxes of joy for all occasions and with Mandy Charlton Photography I get to tell the story of so many couples and families.  Surrounding yourself with joy doesn't mean you aren't being respectful, it means you are choosing to protect your mental health.  Turning off the TV is okay, being angry about the disruption to your life is okay, and feeling sad but not knowing quite why it's all okay.  You are allowed to feel your feelings whatever your feelings are.

This next week will be difficult so it's okay to walk away, you can even pretend nothing is happening if that's what you have to do, don't let anyone make you feel guilt about the way you choose to live or exist or get through the heavy times.  You are human, you are unique and that means, no two of us deal with things in the same way.


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

The Year of Living Quietly, slowing down in a frenetic world

The year of living quietly, mandy charlton, wintering in a frenetic world

During the lockdowns of 2020/2021, I decided to live a quieter and more peaceful life.  You could say it was the year of living quietly and now I'm here, ready to reflect on what that meant and how I'm holding those values more dearly going forward.

Before the pandemic I worked a crazy amount of hours, it was advantageous and some years I was lucky that I got to holiday once every couple of months but what I didn't realise until I stopped was how anxious I had become, I was living in such an anxious state all of the time that I believed that was what real life was.  I was wrong!

During the pandemic and the lockdowns when I thought I had lost everything I decided that when I came back into the business I'd worked so hard to build that I would regulate myself and live a quieter and happier life.  Of course, there were consequences, my income plummeted, my travel was encumbered but overall I got to live a more fulfilled life in the slow lane.

When I started Philomena's Boutique to help you gift better, my inability to sit and do nothing fuelled it.  I could have just sat and squirrelled away my government bounce-back loan but I chose to throw that into a new and exciting business rather than sit at home doing nothing.

2 years on and I have no regrets about starting the boutique, I get to be creative every day and between October and June 2022 I made or designed around 300 products.  The more febrile things became, the more I created to try and keep the business afloat.  I ploughed what little money I had from my photography business into the boutique.  It was the biggest mistake I've ever made but still, you only learn when you make mistakes.

Right now, I'm burnt out, I have pushed until I can push no more.  Our orders have dropped from approximately 35 a week to around 5-10 if we're lucky.  This week I stopped, I walked away and took a week off.  I didn't really do anything, I rearranged some furniture in my living room, went to Ikea, bought a chair from a charity shop and I breathed deeply for the first time in a long time.  At that point I was struck with inspiration, I realised, there are still spaces for treats and gifts, we just need to do it more mindfully and boxes of joy are the epitome of mindful gifting.  Find out someone's likes and dislikes and then curate a glorious box of treats based on that.

I haven't fully decided what to do, I live a pretty quiet life now.  I've bought 2 pairs of shoes in the last year, I buy all of my clothes from the charity shops and my weekly groceries are from a food waste hamper.  In some ways, I can live on very little and as long as I have cats, books and music I can be very happy. It's the little things like engineered wood flooring that can still bring joy.

In other ways, living costs are spiralling, my energy cost in the high of summer is £160 a month approximately and I worry deeply about winter.

1 month on...

I wrote that first chapter one month ago and today I was compelled to write.  I've been researching the concept of wintering and over the next few months, I plan to practice the things that I am learning to see if it will helpfully and peacefully get me through the darker months with my mental health still intact.  

The clocks will go back in just under 2 months and I will stop going out, my body will intensely work against me if I try and fight it, it happens every year and the more I fight it, the worse it is.  This year I will try and winter, I will let myself rest and stay home and I will shelter from the difficult world outside.

In Denmark, they practice hygge and in the Swedish countries, they call it Mysa, the Finnish call it talvitelat, that's preparing for winter and the art of stowing away for wintering.  We need to prepare for winter, we need to let ourselves retreat and more than that, we need to cosy up our spaces so that we help our bodies adapt to the dark times which are forthcoming.

Instead of fighting winter and becoming exhausted, if we simply let ourselves retreat and winter and be quiet and cosy, when we emerge in spring it should be more glorious.  In nature so many things winter, we don't try to make nature fight it's own urges to follow the seasons so why should humans be forced to live the summer life in the bleak mid-winter?

I hope you'll follow my journey, through wintering, there will be preserving, there will be cosy but simple recipes and in every day we'll try and find those little pockets of joy (something I record on my Facebook publicly at the end of every day)

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