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

Friday, November 18, 2022

Penguin "Sip and Read" Collection Box #Ad Gifted

Penguin Sip and Read collection box with nio cocktails, a review by Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer blogger

The cosy season is officially here and there's no better activity on the long autumnal evening than curling up with a book and a cocktail and that's where the Penguin Sip and Read collection box comes in.

The Penguin sip and read box is a collaboration between themselves and Nio Cocktails who make letterbox cocktails, they're premade and only need ice and you're good to go.  Personally, I think a book and cocktail set is the perfect night at any time of the year.  

So you have your perfect cocktail, say a Negroni, a Margharita or a Cosmopolitan and all you need is the perfect book accompaniment and that's provided in the form of " The Giver of Stars" by Jojo Moyes, a book about love, community and the power of reading.  I plan to read this on the Christmas break as it's the only time I ever get to really stop.

Life moves too fast, doesn't it? I know Ferris Bueller said that "life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it" and I feel that's one of the wisest statements an 80's movie could offer.  I am forever running around, trying to make a success of myself, juggling plates and smashing one or two of them along the way.  If anyone needs a brief pause from life it's me, unfortunately, that's just not possible.

We need more incentives to just stop for a while, I know we had enforced rest in 2020 but I also think that was one of the most stressful periods of enforced rest we have ever had and now because of everything that happened then, we can't afford to stop for a moment.

Maybe that's a sign we need these quiet moments more than ever, some time to stop, to read and to have our favourite cocktail, that definitely get's my vote!


Thursday, November 03, 2022

18 Gifts your friends will love this Christmas, the ultimate Christmas Gift Guide

18 Gifts your friends will love this Christmas is the ultimate gift guide to all of the best Christmas presents this festive season.  With the kind contributions of the companies involved, I have curated your ultimate guide to everything that's good for gifts for all of your friends and family.

Consider this your shopping guide, your inspiration hub, your definitive article to all that is good in the Christmas shopping world for Xmas 2022.

1. An experience voucher from Red Letter Days.

Always a firm favourite of this blog, Red Letter Days provide thousands of experience gifts, from Afternoon teas, to spa days to mini breaks in London, they have something for everyone.  It's mindful gifting at its best, experiential gifts mean you not only get a present but you get the gift of time spent with friends and family doing things which make memories and memories last forever.

2.  Coorie luxury candle from Arran, Sense of Scotland

Coorie is Scottish for Snuggle, it's the Scottish version of Hygge and just like our Swedish friends, if you live in Scotland during winter you'll know how important it is to snuggle, make cosy and bring in the twinkle, this 30cl candle will comfort you through the darkest season and make a wonderful gift for anyone Scottish or who loves Scotland.

3.  A Coconut Flower Beer gift set from Neitiv

Neitiv describes coconut flower beer as a "Coconut Flower Beer is fine-tasting premium lager that is light, easy and refreshing to drink. It takes around eight weeks to produce. Secondary fermentation sees the addition of the magical Coconut Flower Drops, with their beneficial live cultures which make the drink so fascinating! The exotic, bold and unique Coconut Flower Beer that is brewed and bottled in the UK, is in effect a work of art from the recipe, to brewing, to branding, all the way to customer experience - it is not just a drink, it is an experience! There are several varieties so the best way to experience them is in one of their giftsets which also contains gorgeous candles and coasters.

4. Christmas spirit vodka from Black Cow Spirits

Black Cow describe their festive vodka as "All the ingredients of a Christmas pudding, macerated in our velvety smooth Black Cow vodka. The recipe for Christmas Spirit was created at our kitchen table using an assortment of winter fruits and spices.

Ingredients: Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka, brown sugar, cloves, currants, figs , raisins, orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla".  Now that sounds to me like a drink I'm going to be savouring over the Christmas holidays and I'm sure it's also going to go down fabulously at my yearly Christmas party.

5. Warner's Rhubarb Gin - a personal favourite of mine as I love rhubarb flavoured anything but I especially love Rhubarb gin and one of the most delicious ones on the market is Warner's, it's perfect stocking filler for the gin drinker in your life this Christmas 

6.Amazing skincare from Amare Vita  - Now I don't usually feature skincare in my gift guides but I can personally vouch for this stuff as it's amazing!!  I tried The Afterglow and a miracle happened, it made my skin feel wonderful and not only that, it also decreased some of the redness I get from having rosacea.  It made my skin glowy and wonderful and that really is some kind of clever alchemy.

7. A mobile phone that won't break the bank and is amazing for grandparents and teens from TCL Mobile, finally a good quality mobile phone where you can buy the handset without breaking the bank, this phone is 5G and perfect for the resident phone breaker in my family.  Looby is always breaking her handsets whilst riding or generally being 19 and this handset means not having to shell out several hundreds to own one, it's android based, has an impressive operating system for the cost and it looks good.

8. A selection of fruits in alcohol gifts from Opies - Opies are a firm favourite on this blog with their amazing jars of drink accompaniments, garnishes and fruits in alcohol.  We all know that every year all of the shops try their hands at peaches in brandy or cherries in kirsch, well, I'd much rather hop over to amazon or visit the supermarket, pay a very reasonable £9.95 and get myself a jar of Opies because that's what they do, it's their speciality, it's not just for Christmas!!

9 - Enlightened as Hell, how to be spiritual without being a D*ck - "Geared towards people who want to be enlightened (or simply live a better life) yet feel they can't do so because of the past and/or current state of the spiritual world, Enlightened as Hell: How to Be Spiritual and Not Be a Dick is the third book by clinical psychologist Dr Tony Ortega.

Dr Ortega brings three decades of experience as an actual mental health professional and consumer of an array of spiritual studies, as well as his sassy humour, to distil mental health and spiritual philosophies down to a street level. This is a book for millennials as much as it is for people 40+. Most likely to appeal more to women than men due to the nature of self-help readerships, Dr Ortega is also a champion of LGBTQIA+ rights, so this is an inclusive, accessible book for anyone open to learning more about spirituality and potential answers to the question, "Is this it?"

"In Enlightened As Hell, you get ALL the building blocks to lead an enlightened life without spending any more money!"


10. Countdown to a Killing by Tom Vaughan Macaulay - Wen Li, an anxious young woman who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, is tormented by an incessant fear that she might have homicidal impulses. Wen falls for her self-absorbed colleague, Lomax Clipper, who is writing a whodunnit in his spare time. Lomax is pining for Italy and a Sicilian woman he met while on secondment, despite his recurring nightmare about someone being killed on a picturesque street in Palermo. Wen and Lomax both loathe their boss, Julian Ponsonby, who, unbeknown to them, is struggling… as is Fifi de Angelis, a vulnerable man who has been ostracised by his family.Packed with humour, heartache and suspense, this contemporary take on the epistolary novel interweaves the different perspectives of characters whose lives become increasingly entangled.

Told through interwoven correspondence, emails and WhatsApp messages, with the suspense around an impending murder steadily building, 
Countdown to a Killing is a deep exploration of multiple perspectives and points of view of individuals who are inextricably bound. The key themes of love, sexuality, ethnicity, mental health and acceptance are sensitively explored in a unique linear yet multi-layered and metafictional narrative. Packed with humour, heartache and a cast of expertly-crafted characters, this contemporary take on the epistolary novel will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

11. Up, Up and Away - The Flight of Butterflies and Other Insects - Through the use of novel photographic techniques John Brackenbury gives us an ‘insect-eye view’ of the world of flying insects. By presenting them in the wider landscape they inhabit, rather than at the end of a close-up lens, the author reinforces the view that even relatively ‘simple’ animals like insects share the same world as human beings. This theme chimes with current thinking about conservation and the importance of diversity in the natural environment.

Mastery of the air is the supreme achievement of the evolution of insects and the images bring the viewer closer than ever to an experience of the ‘action’. The visual framework forms a convenient basis for discussing some of the ecological, behavioural and physiological aspects of flight in accessible non-technical language.

12. A selection of handmade gifts from Philomena's Boutique - Everyone loves handmade hand-printed gifts and at Philomena's Boutique, they really know their stuff, they make the most beautiful gifts from their studio in Newcastle upon Tyne and accent it with gifts for you and your home from the most amazing UK companies. Supporting small this Christmas ensures the future of small British businesses and I think we can all agree that's something we should get behind.

13. A Scent Stone aroma diffuser from Made by Coopers - I have tried aroma diffusers before and really never been impressed, this amazing scent stone diffuser is slightly more expensive but it packs a punch and delivers a wonderful aroma for up to 5 hours along with colour changing light.  It immediately switches off when the tank is dry and I've been using mine since the day I got it, I absolutely love it.

14 - Stranger Things Calendar from Danilo - I don't really think I need say much about this, it's a phenomenon!  Any Stranger Things fans would love this as their 2023 wall calendar, I know my own daughter was very excited about it and yeah, you can guess who's bedroom wall this is going to end up on.

15 - Teapigs Limited Edition Winter Blends Teas - Tea fans are guaranteed to love this, for an easy gift idea you'll need a coaster and mug coupled with a box of any of these winter blends (try the gluhwein, it's been tested by myself and 2 friends and we all agreed it's super tasty and reminds us of Christmas markets) then pop them in some eco- friendly hamper wrap, tie them with a ribbon and voila, a stylish gift that doesn't cost the earth for your tea loving friend.

16 - Lindt Gold Teddy Sleigh Advent Calendar - This might be more of a pre-christmas gift but who doesn't love a Lindt Advent Calendar? I am a self confessed Lindor addict, I don't think there's any chocolate that beats a Lindt Lindor and luckily for me (what do you means it's just for kids?) there are quite a few of those gorgeous chocolatey balls behind the doors of this advent calendar.

17 - Have Yourself a Cosy Little Christmas Mug and Sock Giftset from Philomena's Boutique - Christmas is the most cosy and twinkliest season of them all and there's nothing better than wearing your favourite fluffy socks whilst sipping hot chocolate from a big festive hug mug.  They may be a classic gift but a mug/sock giftset will always go down well with the right person.

18. Sinita Cupro Soft Shirt - Cobalt from Kasbah Clothing, I don't usually feature clothing in my gift guides but this shirt is made from cupro also termed the vegan silk and it's so, so soft and comfortable to wear.  Kasbah Clothing specialise in plus size clothing from sizes 14 - 30 with a timeless feel, I received this shirt in a size 16-18 and it's the perfect roomy fit for me, it's also the perfect colour so I'm sure I will be wearing this a lot over winter.

A special mention to all of the companies who have gotten involved in this year's Christmas gift guide, I could not do it without them!  I hope that in this article you have been inspired and delighted and that I've given you more than a few ideas for your Christmas gift list this year.  Send it to friends, share it with your special people and maybe, you'll receive the gifts you really want this Christmas.



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)


Sunday, February 27, 2022

When the world feels heavy

When the world feels heavy, mandy charlton photographer, coping mechanisms to deal with covid and war in ukraine news

When the world feels heavy

The world feels heavy right now, doesn't it?  It's been such a long two years of coronavirus and in the flick of a switch Sky News changed their titles from Covid to the Ukraine crisis, we literally went from a pandemic to war in Europe in the blink of an eye.  You'd be forgiven for feeling exhausted and helpless right now.

The thing is, covid hasn't even gone, the government is just choosing to ignore it, I'm hoarding LFTs for when they stop being free as being a wedding photographer, I feel like it's my own personal responsibility to make sure I don't go to a wedding with covid and risk making someone's elderly relative very poorly or worse...

Of course, if we end up with war breaching Ukraine into a NATO country like Poland then we are truly screwed and in world war 3, some would say that won't happen but anyone who doesn't also believe that Putin is a maniacal dictator is also lying to themselves right now!

It's okay to feel heavy

It's okay to feel heavy, it's okay to feel confused, it's okay to feel completely discombobulated, your feelings are valid whatever they are and no matter what anyone else says to you. I'm an empath so I always feel these things like they're sitting right on my shoulders.  A few months ago I stopped watching the news and it was blissful but I also have a constant need for information so I found myself reinstalling Sky News on my phone.

Take a break

Take a break from doomscrolling, whether that be a walk in the park or an adventure to a place you've always wanted to go.  I currently have travel guides to Somerset, Devon and Cornwall and I have another arriving today about Oxford and the Cotswolds.  My usual trauma responses are to travel and go on adventures or if I can't do that I just throw more fairy lights at it.  I was a guest on a podcast yesterday and I was explaining that every time I get agoraphobic I go somewhere far away because for some reason my brain loves to travel even if I can't face going beyond my gate on some days.

We do not know how things are about to play out with the war or with covid but for your own sake you have to just try and be happy and try to find little pockets of joy in each and every day, for me, that ultimately means wandering with my camera, taking happy, colourful or interesting photographs to share with the world.  

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!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Thinking about Travel

Thinking about travel, travelling on a budget with Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger and Queen of cheap travel
The interior of the Corn Exchange, Leeds, spot the dinosaur 😉

Thinking about Travel

Today seemed like a good day to write.  After a week of being battered by storm Dudley, Eunice and now Franklin, staying at home never seemed quite so inviting.

I have to admit that all I can think about at the moment is travel, I want to explore, have adventures, take a billion photos and videos.  My last trip away (except a 1 day trip to Edinburgh to photograph a wedding at the Intercontinental hotel) was a minibreak to Windemere, I was photographing a wedding and managed to turn it into a 2-night trip.  That was early September and since then I have been at home.  Furthermore, I damaged my cruciate ligament and then became chronically depressed and for a while, over winter I ended up in situational poverty.  Life took a battering but I'm pleased to say that things are changing and the days are getting brighter not just outside my window but also in my mind.

I've been thinking about travel again this morning, some must-see places this year for me are - 

  • London (a return trip but there's nowhere with quite so many photographic opportunities 
  • Brighton, an independent artists dream, so much colour just waiting to be discovered
  • Bristol, one of the most colourful cities in the UK
  • Devon and Cornwall, it's such a long journey to get there but it's been on my travel bucket list for years
  • Scotland (as always a return trip and this one to Perthshire is already booked in my calendar)
I also really want to visit the Shetland Isles but it's a huge and epic trip, it may have to wait until 2023 and it's really dependent on how many weddings I can get booked into my calendar as getting to Shetland is more expensive than flying to Europe!!

Speaking of which, there are so many cheap flights available at the moment I could probably tour the whole of Europe for the same price as one of my expeditions and get some sunshine in the mix too but I've waited too long to see some of the places I've mentioned and this is the year I reclaim my life.

In saying all of that, I am still one of the very few people not to have had covid, my friend Rachel and I are the last ones standing as far as we know, even HRH, The Queen has covid now!!  I'm not sure I fancy the odds on a 12 hour Megabus trip to Exeter, triple facemasks maybe???

I will, of course, be doing all of my trips on a budget,  I am the queen of cheap travel after all!!  I have 2 accommodation vouchers for 2-night stays which will help and I've asked the kids for train vouchers for Mother's Day.  I am probably going to do most of my travel in the early part of the year as August is busy with weddings.  I need to have both the time and income to be able to do all of the above but I have a plan.

Cheap trains like the Lumo are going to help and I'm not averse to 12 hours on a Megabus to Exeter as the train (which costs £250) takes around the same time and it costs around £70 max return.  I'll also go with single room accommodation booked at the last minute and I can usually score some bargains that way.

I actually did a National Express journey last summer from Leeds to Newcastle and it was okay, perfectly acceptable.  I have done 7 hours on a Megabus to Birmingham, it was okay, only the toilet was horrendous but on the 12-hour journey, you have to change three times which must surely be the loo stops with a stretch of legs.  I've also checked for cheap internal flights and you can do a return to Bristol for around £70 - £100 depending on how far ahead you're booking and flying to Bristol takes around an hour as opposed to spending 5-7 hours on a train.

So lots of plans in progress and I've just ordered myself the Lonely Planet guide to Cornwall which is only going to make me crave travel even more than I am right now but I also know, it's just around the corner and soon I will be packed and waiting for my next train to adventure.

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!


Monday, February 07, 2022

Brighter days are coming

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Newcastle upon Tyne, small wedding photography coverage

Brighter days are coming she repeated to herself, not sure whether it was a manifestation or a mantra...

It's been a tough start to the year and I'm so exhausted that yesterday I went to meditate and I woke up 2 hours later, I thought that might wreck my sleeping patterns but it seems that chronic fatigue is currently the order of the day and I could possibly win the Gold medal for sleeping for England.

My health is a joke, as are my finances but I keep pushing myself onwards knowing that I have weddings this year and in a month or so I'll start receiving income from those and so I just need to get there.  On paper, I have 2 potentially successful businesses, one of which was super successful before the pandemic and one which is still a startup but has the most amazing potential if I could just grow the audience past the 3000 or so people I've attracted in the last 18 months.  At first, when I started the boutique I had the money for advertising thanks to the government but now as I try to stop direct debits from bouncing and my covid debts spiralling it really feels like a long way from where I want to be.

There is no answer, of course, I live on a weekly food waste hamper I get from a local charity for £15, as frugally as possible and each week I scramble to pay my rent and top up my energy meters before they run out of money.  I went over to PAYG energy a few years ago because of the lean winters as a photographer and it does help to have no big bills but right now, it's like a battle.

I am doing everything I can to push each business and I hope to take on a few more weddings this year, I think I have around 15 now and I'd like to reach 25-30 if possible because weddings are guaranteed income (lockdowns allowing of course).  I was going to retire completely at the end of the year but I've decided to keep my hand in and just photograph some smaller weddings next year, 2,3,4 hour bookings, perfect for me really.  I am still really good at what I do, I just need to get through the pre-wedding anxiety which has me in knots.  When I get there I love it, I am the least anxious person there thanks to my superpower.  It's weird how my brain works.

This week, on Friday, I am going to see my doctor, I want to get reassessed to see if I have ADHD, I did an online test where I scored 11/12 and 6/6 so I think it's probable, suffice to say, I think there's also a possibility that I could win an award for the most screwed up unquiet brain in Britain but hey, at least I get uber creativity as a reward.  I also want to sort out my weight, I am unhappy in my current body but need help as the traditional things don't work so I'm going to have a chat about Saxenda and see what the process is for that, I'd like to be a whole new person by the time I'm 50!

At the end of 2020 I got some travel vouchers for a collaboration I did so currently I have 2, 2 night breaks just waiting to be taken and for Mother's Day, I'm getting some train vouchers.  I plan to put the breaks to good use and take my camera to create more original photographic art I can sell through Philomena's Boutique.  to me, the boutique combines all that I love and need in my life, I get to be creative, I get to make things and I also get to complement that with things that I love, it's hard now but if I can successfully increase its audience then one day it has the potential to be incredibly successful.

I do not know what the future holds but there's one thing I am holding on to and that is that brighter days are coming...

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!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Let's start again, shall we?

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Let's start again, shall we?

It's been 2 months since I last wrote a single word on this blog and this blog will be 17 or 18 years old next month so it seems a shame to just quit.

The reality is though...




They all take so much time and then juggling life, Philomena's Boutique, my new Etsy Shop, Maggie Pie Print Co, well it all just got a little overwhelming.

My main concern was getting to Christmas with some money in the bank and so I worked 12 hour days or more every single day, I hand-printed hundreds of coasters and mugs.  In December I spent £829 on postage and I ended up with not a single penny of savings.  What I had done though was changed my entire business model for the boutique.  I'm now a fully-fledged print artist and everything at the boutique is designed by me, a lot of it is also made by me but I have outsourced a lot of the T-shirts, hoodies and soft furnishings, simply because I am one woman.

It's mid-January now and things are horrible, I have crawled through the month at a snail's pace, depression, low income, it's all connected of course but in the end, I know it will all work out and by this time next year, I am determined that January will be a joyful month of rest and recuperation, not an anxiety-filled mess.

I am continuing to photograph weddings and I love them more than I did before the pandemic, last year my wedding photography calendar was around 6 weeks long, this year I hope that it will be so much better.  Put quite simply, now we are coming out of all of the restrictions we had to put in place for covid, it's time to rebuild, in fact, it's time to be better, it's time to change my life.

By the end of 2022, I want to be a fully self-supported print artist but I would still like to have the option to photograph the occasional wedding because I'm really good at it, creativity is my talent.  I have a need to be creative or simply put, I wither.

I also want to be able to travel again this year, I've picked 3 things so far that I definitely want to do - 

*I want to spend a week in London in the summer exploring, taking photos of colourful places and I want to be able to see as many musicals as I can in the week that I'm there.

*I want to take a guided 6 day tour of Scotland with Rabbies, I've done several day tours with them before but this would get me to more Scottish islands that I've not visited yet.

*Finally, I want to be able to go to Europe before the end of the year, probably one of the Canary Islands because I always feel so safe there travelling alone.

It all seems quite far off to be planning these adventures when I have no money but sometimes I think inspiring yourself to do things can help you focus and then you become more determined to make the income that you need.

Generally, I just want to add value to the world and make it a better place, that might sound weird but I've felt quiet helpless and hopeless lately and I hate feeling like that.

So let's start now, let's start here and let's start again shall we?

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