Book reviews – The Gentry and Between You and I and two confessions


June 2013 TBRToday we have for your enjoyment two books that look back at the past. One celebrates what has been and how it has changed, flourished, dipped and held on, the other is, in a way, trying to hold on to the past, even though it claims it isn’t. Intrigued? Read on. While you’re reading on, you will notice some book confessions at the end. Oh dear, and so much for my claim that I wasn’t likely to acquire many books this month (three isn’t “many”, is it?) – but you’ll see that none of it is My Fault …

Adam Nicolson – “The Gentry”

(22 Nov 2012)

A spectacular and amazing book that did not deserve to be in the remaindered bookshop. What were people thinking, not buying this? I see that there is a paperback edition now, but I’m glad that I’ve got the hardback, as it’s definitely one to keep.

Nicolson takes the stories of various gentry families (the gentry being defined, loosely, as the squire and MP class, below the aristocrats with their safe money, just above but dipping into the professional class, and clinging to this often precarious position) that have been active during various times from the 1410s to the present day and uses a combination of meticulous research, beautiful writing and the ability to tell a jolly good story to bring their lives, relationships and concerns vividly to life, capturing small details and personal testimonies and seeming to revel in the process himself.

Some of the 17th century stories were told in his TV series, “The Century that Wrote Itself”, but it’s so nice to have them written down on paper, although with fewer images, obviously (more of these can be found on the book’s website), and without Nicolson’s energetic stile-leaping and bicycle riding. That took a slightly different angle: while the written documents are still highlighted as an amazing source of information, perfectly preserved in all its details, the families are placed much more within their context and social history. The book as a whole is moving, honest, not extrapolating past the sources into “must have felt” this and “should have done that”, and letting the voices of the subject shine through – the best kind of history writing, in my opinion. Flexible like the families about notions of gentry, but also looking at how that term has been defined over the centuries. It brings us right up to date in the last chapters, skillfully weaving the experiences of the modern-day gentry into their context and history. Magnificent.

There is a good website to back up the book and provide more information on its contents – what a good idea!

Adam Nicolson is one of those authors whose books I will ALWAYS buy, no matter what the subject. Others include Hunter Davies and Andrew Marr. Whose books will you always pick up, whatever the topic?

James Cochrane – “Between You and I”

(25 December 2012)

Drawn from columns in The Times, fulminations on incorrect usage, etc. While the previous book is flexible and accepting of change, this one is a little reactionary, although it does claim to understand about descriptive rather than prescriptive description of language. Many of the topics are valid, with just a few being very old-fashioned. Many of the Troublesome Pairs that I’ve blogged about were there, and I made a few notes on new ones to include, and it was an amusing and interesting read.


July 2013 1My friend Verity, who is very good at book parcels, sent me a parcel with some great socks and these two books, which she thought I might fancy.  And, indeed, I do. The first is a history of the London Underground through the voices of people involved and using it, just my sort of thing, and the second is a novel involving vigorous exercise: I don’t read much that looks as chick-litty as this but I do let books with running and the sort through, and this looks like a light and fun read, which is always a useful thing to have around the place. These two will need to languish in the TBR pile for a bit while I Re-Read in July …

July 2013 2This one will need to be read soon, though, as it was kindly sent to me by the publishers and is out today! It’s the second in a pony book trilogy featuring a male central character, Joe, written by modern pony book author, Victoria Eveleigh. I very much enjoyed the first volume in the trilogy, which I reviewed back in May, and I can’t wait to start this one! Thank you, Orion Children’s Books!


I’m currently deep into my Month of Re-Reading, which is always fun! I’ve got a biography of Barbara Pym and Stuart Maconie’s autobiography on the go at the moment, although I have lots of novels to dip into, too. Don’t forget to tell me which authors’ names on the front of a book will always make you pick up that book!

Book reviews – Mummy’s Boy and Reading the Oxford English Dictionary


June 2013 TBRSince I moved to reviewing two books per blog post in more detail, rather than three random ones, I’ve liked to match them in some way – whether it’s pairs of books about the same person, books rooted in place, books by contemporaries, books by favourite authors … I will admit to having taken books slightly out of the order in which I read them (but not mixing books from two months, oh no!) in order to achieve this, but the pairings do seem to fall quite naturally.

I was  a bit stumped as to what to pair with this Larry Lamb autobiography, however, until I realised that pairs can be made out of contrasts. So, here goes: one of these books is about a man who can never sit still, who flibbertygibbets between jobs (not even staying in a major soap opera long) and changes his partner with alarming regularity. The other is about a man who devotes a full year to doing only one thing, and that thing involves sitting in one of two chairs and reading the same book every day. Read on to find out more!

Larry Lamb – “Mummy’s Boy”

(22 November 2012)

Admittedly, I knew nothing of Lamb when I picked up this book, apart from his lovely character in the Gavin and Stacey series and the fact that he appeared in Eastenders as a villain. Unfortunately, he turns out not to be that attractive a character in real life, and not especially nice, especially to the (many) women in his life. He doesn’t seem to have got a huge amount of self-knowledge from the extensive therapy sessions he describes attending and although he does tell stories against himself, the book never really engages and doesn’t exactly light up the page. To be honest, he seems more fond of his house in France than most of his girlfriends, and the final chapters of the book, when he goes back to a couple of the locations of his youth, seem really muddled and an afterthought (there is a good bit about his appearance on Who Do You Think You Are, however). One that I’m glad I purchased cheaply from The Works, and will probably go on the BookCrossing pile.

This read did make me think: I’ve read quite a few “celebrity” autobiographies (and I have more on the TBR) – have many of them (any of them?) been actually any good as works of autobiography? What about you? Discuss!

Ammon Shea – “Reading the Oxford English Dictionary”

(25 December 2012, a present from my friend Jen, who knows my reading taste and my wish list well)

In this slim volume, Shea describes sitting in one of two chairs (one in his flat, one in the basement of his local library) reading the Oxford English Dictionary. The whole, multi-volume one with the very small print (he does end up with a prescription for glasses!) that comes in a series of boxes and has to supplant other dictionaries on his bookshelves. Because this isn’t one of those pranky, “apropos of nothing” quests: dictionaries were already his favourite reading matter – he even lives with a lexicographer and he’s startled to find himself considered an oddity at a lexicography convention – no one actually reads the things from cover to cover, do they?

So, we end up with twenty-six chapters, which have either something about the experience of the reading project – finding a place outside the apartment to read, the physical effects, or what it’s like when you start to come to the end of a project like this – or something dictionary-related – the history of the form, errors, etc. We are then given a choice selection of words and definitions – mainly written by Shea himself – that are amusing, strange, horrible or a mixture of the three. I imagine that he carefully chose these so that everyone knows at least a few of them; or is that just me?

A gentle and engaging read. We’re lost with the author when he gets to the end, and I love the descriptions of him littering the apartment with scraps of paper with hieroglyphical instructions to himself inscribed upon them. I was more pleased than perhaps I should have been when I discovered that, during one exercise bike section, I had read exactly half of this book …


Currently reading: next up to review is Adam Nicholson’s “The Gentry” finished at last, but also sadly, and another book about the English language. One more book, perhaps, then it’s on to A Month of Re-Reading in July!

Book reviews – Two books on Iris Murdoch


June 2013 TBRI had a bit of an Iris Murdoch phase back in September 2012, buying a couple of books from an IM society colleague and picking one up at the IM Conference.  I’m trying to space those out a little, as you can have too much of a good thing (plus I don’t have many books on IM and like to savour them), but then I was also offered a review copy of another one in e-book form, so I thought I might as well group two of them here. Reading these two books took me back to the wonders of the Iris Murdoch A Month Project (reading all of her novels in publication order over a number of years) and the flabby progress of my own research, but as long as I keep reading and thinking about her, I’m sure that will be fine in the end!

Farzaneh Naseri-Sis – “The Dramatic in Iris Murdoch’s Fiction”

(24 September 2012)

The first thing I noticed about the book was that it was a thesis pretty well printed directly in book form. This has its place, of course, and allows researchers to send their research into the wide world, but this was obviously quite cheaply produced, being created straight from the file of the PhD, with the most noticeable effect being the very small print and double spacing. The small print strained my eyes, and the double spacing and Times font uncomfortably reminded me of my day-job proofreading PhDs, and I sometimes had to struggle to retain my reader’s, rather than editor’s, brain as I read it.

That said, it was an interesting read and a competent piece of research. It takes The Nice and the Good, The Black Prince and The Sea, The Sea, and looks at their use of the characters and situations of drama, and particularly their echo and parody of the forms, structures, language and characters of, respectively, As You Like It / Love’s Labours Lost, Hamlet and The Tempest. Each section on each book also contained a discussion of its demonstration of Murdoch’s philosophy of the dramatic, mainly encapsulated in the idea of the journey towards ‘unselfing’ which I have read about in other works. These last sections do seem a bit incongruous compared with the more whole studies of the books and, essentially, Shakespeare, and I wonder if this work was built up from a slightly less wide-ranging Master’s or MPhil originally.

The work is competent and well done, although I couldn’t help noticing a few typos and stylistic inconsistencies. It was particularly good on The Sea, The Sea, whether because the author had got into her stride by then or because The Nice and the Good addresses Shakespeare/his comedies in general rather than those particular plays. It would have been a better read if rejigged as a book rather than a thesis, although at least it didn’t have those sections on methodology and ontology that every student seems to be forced to write these days, so small mercies there. A decent addition to my Murdoch collection.

Jeffrey Meyer – “Remembering Iris Murdoch: Letters and Interviews”

(ebook June 2013 from the publisher)

Disclaimer: Although I am studying Iris Murdoch in my spare time and a member of the Iris Murdoch Society, and was presumably sent this book on one of those premises, I am by no means an expert or an IM “scholar” and my reaction to and review of this book represents my personal opinion as someone outside the IM and academic sector.

Palgrave, the publisher, kindly offered me an ebook of this new book by Jeffrey Meyer, who appears from his bibliography to be an indefatigable literary biographer and who has also interviewed Iris Murdoch and written articles about her. This book collects together an extended essay about IM and the author’s relationship with her; letters from IM to the author over the course of their friendship until her death; reprints of two interviews conducted by the author with IM and printed in the Paris Review and Denver Quarterly; and an essay on the books written about IM after her death by those close to her.

The memoir / essay that opens the book starts off surprisingly with the slightly snide insinuation that IM won the Booker Prize with “The Sea, The Sea” because she was friends with the chair of the committee. It then settles down to a personal and somewhat confiding exploration of her life – concentrating on the sexuality side of things, although the rest of the sections of the book leave this alone – and then of Meyer’s friendship with her, with very personal physical descriptions of IM, including her decline. This made the book seem to me to be more suited to the Murdoch adept or scholar rather than as an introductory text; it does give a different aspect to the views of IM and it’s always of interest to read about people who have met and been close to her.

The letters are all from IM to JM, and it would have been good to have the full correspondence. Her letters are sweet, kind, interested and slight gossipy on occasion and remind me that we really DO need a Collected Letters, although I imagine that this would be quite a large project. There is a lot about Meyers’ own novels; it’s good to see writers supporting other writers and a wider context would leaven the concentration on just one writer. We get insights into IM’s interest in other contemporary authors such as Timothy Mo, Anita Brookner and Vikram Seth (the last rather oddly footnoted as being the author of “Two Lives” rather than the better-known “A Suitable Boy”) and the insight that she does not like reading other people’s books about her. She also displays an antipathy to Women’s Studies which maybe explains the difficulty of applying a feminist literary theory to her novels, although she is glad that Somerville resists the introduction of men to the college and is pro women priests. Information on the staging of the play of “The Black Prince” is also useful; this crops up again in the interviews. It becomes heartbreaking towards the end of the letter sequence – it’s a personal book so I feel I’m permitted a personal reaction here – as IM begins to forget how to write a novel and starts to get tired and make mistakes. It was a moving surprise to find some letters from John Bayley rounding off the letter sequence.

The Paris Review and Denver Quarterly articles are fascinating (although part or all of these have been previous published in Gillian Dooley’s “From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction” published in 2003). There is a good deal of detail about how IM planned and wrote her novels, and about goodness, particularly the ‘good’ writer expunging themselves from their own novels as the good characters seek to become invisible and ‘unselfed’. There were also some nice passages about the ‘ideal reader’ which I’ve noted down for my own research. The deleted sections are interesting, although it might have been more useful to include these, marked in some way, in the text of the article itself, for continuity’s sake.

The extended essay about the books written after IM’s death by A.N. Wilson and John Bayley are basically long reviews of their books. Again, in an intensely personal book, they add the facet of information about someone who knew IM’s reaction to these books which is of interest.

In summary, as I said, an intensely personal book, written from an intimate viewpoint which will add a new dimension for the IM completist. And a call for a Collected Letters for us completists (and a Selected one for the rest of the world)!


For more Iris Murdoch stuff on this blog, running a search for Iris Murdoch will give you all of my book reviews and updates on my research project.

Current reading: I am coming to the end of positively WALLOWING in Adam Nicolson’s “The Gentry” – more of that later!

Book reviews – Wessex Tales and Hands Up!

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June 2013 TBRTwo very different works of fiction in this pair of reviews – but they are linked (if tenuously) by being by two of my favourite authors.  I’ve loved Hardy since I was a teenager – even reading him for O and A level didn’t spoil him for me, and I’m mightily enjoying the revisiting / new reading of Ali’s Hardy Project. His books are set in the landscape from which my family originates, and I love the “pathetic fallacy”, the relationship between the topography and weather and the emotions and fates of his characters. His women are unforgettable (I have even named cats after them) and who can fail to be in love with the Reddleman from “The Return of the Native”?

I first encountered Paul Magrs’ novels, mainly set in the North-East, in the mid-199os at Lewisham library. After reading one of his books which featured BookCrossing, I found out his email address and wrote to him, and now we’re in regular contact, guesting on each other’s blogs, and I was able to circulate his Brenda and Effie series via BookCrossing thanks to copies sent by his publisher. I have to say that my favourites are his YA books and the older books set in the urban North-East with slight touches of magical realism, but his more fully magical books are proving more and more popular, and of course I’m glad about that (he’s also written Doctor Who books and plays and teaches fiction writing!).

Thomas Hardy – “Wessex Tales”

(Bought late 1980s / early 1990s)

I have a pretty Wessex Edition of these books – the edition I also have on Kindle, but here in a portable book where you can work out how far you are through the thing. It’s nice to read really old hardbacks with lovely creamy pages sometimes, isn’t it. This one was published in 1907, and I bought it in Hall’s Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells for £4.50, and my friend Sara probably put it through for me, as she worked there when we were at school. The Wessex Tales themselves are marvellous, of course.

These are a mix of long and shorter stories, all set in his familiar world and among his familiar characters. The longer stories could easily turn into novels, or at least parts of them, in their own right, and are deeply satisfying in a way that I find many short stories aren’t. We get turns of fate, lost loves, mysteries, marriages gone wrong, marriages gone right then ripped asunder, rival women, rival men, and country folk providing a rich but not irritating backdrop (although I love Hardy, I feel that sometimes he does go a bit OTT with his rural chorus chaps).

“The Withered Arm” is an almost horror story that could easily form the basis for a novel. The hideousness of it all builds, as a woman’s life is soured through little fault of her own, and another’s is deeply affected, too. “Fellow-Townsmen” is a completely Hardy standard tale of two men in a town, rivalry and reversals of fate, fortune and marriage. “The Three Strangers” is an excellent example of a self-contained short story which could hold its own against the masters of the genre, and “An Imaginative Woman” is what can only be described as a story about a stalker, with an agonising twist at the end. “The Distracted Preacher” is a very funny account of the tribulations of a preacher in love with a lady who engages in suspicious behaviour and may be more involved than he thinks, with lots of little clues and guesses along the way. All in all an excellent and extremely readable collection.

Paul Magrs – “Hands Up!”

(22 November 2012)

As I said above, I love Paul’s YA fiction, and this is an excellent romp of a read, published 10 years ago but still fresh and funny. Jason’s 13 and lives in a horrible household with his mean dad, once a star ventriloquist, now an angry old man, and his glam mum, who watches TV when dad’s out. Jason doesn’t want to take up the family business, especially as his creepy older half-brother is carving out a career for himself, but suddenly there’s a spate of puppet killings, an old man on the rampage … and whisperings from the attic. Then there’s GIRLS to contend with, too. The pace gets faster and faster, and we end up with seahorses, TV studios and a certain gentleman himself getting mixed up with things. Some puppet murder throughout but it didn’t upset me.

I love the way that the ends are not tied up tidily and everything isn’t spelled out for the reader. Jason’s mum is a hoot, and the epilogue is charming and amusing. A good read!


Current reading: I’ve got some books on Iris Murdoch to review, had a disappointing go with a celebrity biography and am positively WALLOWING in Adam Nicolson’s “The Gentry” – more of those later!

Tales of my TBR and a Barbara Pym tea party


June 2013 TBRI hope that my regular readers will excuse this combined post and that it’s not too confusing – I didn’t want to miss doing my usual “State of the TBR” post; nor did I want to miss celebrating one of my favourite authors, Barbara Pym’s, 100th birthday celebrations. So, a bit about the TBR and what’s coming up next, and then a bit about the Barbara Pym tea party I went to today.

June 2013 currentFirst off, this month’s TBR, and actually I don’t think I’ve done too badly compared to the beginning of last month. You can see some of the same books, and the Iris Murdoch one hasn’t moved, but that’s because I’m (meant to be) reading another work on her at the moment. I haven’t acquired too many more new books than I’ve read existing ones, so I’m pleased it’s staying stable.  And I’m quite excited to see books from Christmas and this year’s birthday coming into view!

I am, however, reading this one, which I should have confessed about a little while ago – my friend, Sian, passed it to me via BookCrossing, and as a book of essays, it’s hung around upstairs at my desk and is being consumed when I’m waiting for things to print, waiting for the computer to reboot, etc.

June 2013 coming upComing up, I have books for some reading challenges, of course – and those include two Barbara Pyms, and, sadly, the Thomas Hardy (“Wessex Tales”) that I was supposed to start reading last month. Thank you, Ali, for allowing us two months per Hardy!  I’m reading “No Fond Return of Love” at the moment, and very good it is too, making me giggle and snort with its descriptions of a conference of editors and indexers and various faded gentlewomen.

And that brings me on to the Barbara Pym tea party today. My friend Ali, of the Heavenali blog and also a good friend in real life, had the idea of celebrating what would have been Pym’s 100th birthday with tea parties in her honour. She set up a Facebook group, and parties happened all over the world, with pictures posted for us all to see, which was exciting and lovely, and then she hosted at tea party herself at her cosy house.

pym4I tried to dress up as a Pym-esque lady (I was ever so pleased with how Pymmy I’d made myself, until I realised that I’d just basically dressed up as me dressed up …) which I hoped was reminiscent of Dulcie Mainwaring while fearing a lean towards the Esther Clovises of this world … Anyway, there I was, with my friend Sian, ladies who work from home as an editor and a translator respectively, in our flowery dresses, on the top of the bus, travelling round to our friend’s house for tea. As well as wearing a tea dress, cardi, sensible shoes, Librarian prefect badge and pearls, I was clutching a copy of Hazel Holt’s “Indexes and Indexers in Fact and Fiction”, which seemed appropriate. We met up with another friend on the way, and there were around eight of us altogether.

With our varied dietary requirements amply catered for, I personally feasted on salmon and cucumber open sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, low-fat chocolate and black bean cake, fat-free biscuits and delicious meringues, drinking Lady Grey tea and Pimms (alternately). We had a pass the parcel fat with Pym novels, which I managed not to win, as I have all of them, and a good time was had by all. What a lovely way to celebrate a favourite author; thank you Ali for having us, Gill for Being Mum and sterling work at the urn, sorry, with the teapot, and our friends for coming along and in some cases being introduced to Miss Pym for the first time.


What the well-dressed homeworker is wearing 7 – Friday


It’s the end of my week of well-dressed homeworker posts. I’ve had great fun writing these – hope you’ve enjoyed reading them! I’ve also thought quite a lot about image, clothes, dressing up, etc. And I’ve learned a few things along the way, too!

And I WAS established in 1972 myself!

First off, today’s outfit … I started off the day in pajamas and fleece for a pre-breakfast transcribing session, transferred to yoga kit for the breakfast-to-yoga period, then moved up to my slightly-less-than-shabby set of comfy clothes I bought to homework in back when I started doing this one day a week.

The lining is so fleecy-warm, though …

No Horror Pinks for me this week … but here’s a photo of them anyway!

What are you wearing today? What’s your most disreputable homeworking outfit?

What have we talked about?

On Saturday I introduced the series and shared what I was wearing.

On Sunday I got inspired and started to plan the week’s posts

On Monday I shared my levels of clothing depending on context, and everyone else talked about this like mad!

On Tuesday I talked about my transition from office suits to home office tracksuits, and asked you about your journeys …

On Wednesday I explored with you whether we’re hired for our appearance or our brains. Does it matter what we look like? And I shared a pic of myself “au naturel”.

On Thursday I asked what you wore when you got out of the house to networking events, etc., and realised I had a uniform for that, too!

… and today I’m rounding things off and seeing what I can draw from the whole process!

Which has been your favourite post?

And what have I learned?

I am really comfy living the way I live and dressing the way I dress, and I’m comfortable with that, too.

We all get cold and we should all wear more wool, silk and thermal undies.

We all have pyjama days if we can get away with them.

What’s all this “getting away with it” mentality anyway – we’re not hired for our looks, we’re hired for our brains!

Most of us like it best this way.

We are still able to get out of the house, dressed in a conventional / tidy / decent manner that sometimes doesn’t even involve any fleece!

Have you learned anything from reading these posts and comments?

And finally, a small gallery …

Tony from Alago Tony from Alago was sporting a nifty Darth Vader Tshirt on Tuesday … and we found out that lots of us are happy in our Tshirts and hoodies and fleeces.

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Matthew aka HistoryNeedsYou relaxing at home …

Matthew aka HistoryNeedsYou likes to relax at home in something comfy. Or maybe this is what keeping standards up is all about!

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Liz from Kidsontalks

Liz from KidsonTalks sports a kimono for homeworking, and says it gives her lots of options for layers.


And here are the famous SLOVES! How exciting! My friend Sian’s Mum made them for her. She (Sian, not her mum) popped round for a cuppa yesterday and posed for a photo in the sitting room. I’m glad I got them in! Any knitters out there like to be commissioned to make me some?

You can keep up with this series by clicking on the category “clothing” to the right. And do share / comment / both – I want this to be about us, not me!

What the well-dressed homeworker is wearing 6 – Thursday


I Can Haz Accessories!

Welcome to Day 6 of my week of posts on the well-dressed homeworker. We’ve talked about all sorts of things this week and I’ve really enjoyed reading all the comments and hearing what you’ve got to say – thanks for taking part (and if you’re coming to this later on, please do still have your say!).

Today I want to talk about what we wear when we do get out of the house. The main thing I do out of the house is networking. Well, networking might be a fancy word for it: I’m quite well established now and not always out touting for new business, but I like to get out and about, chat with my peers, exchange ideas and find out how everyone’s doing. I also love putting people together who could help each other. So, yes, networking.

What do you wear when you’re out and about on business?

For networking, I seem to have developed a bit of a uniform: skirt or trousers (usually my trusty black-jeans-that-don’t-look-like-trousers), a jersey top, and a cardigan. You can see from the top picture that sometimes I even manage accessories: there I’ve managed a brooch, a ring and a watch! Wow!

A skirt!

Sometimes I even manage a skirt. Actually, even I, devotee of hoodies and fleece, like to get a bit dressed up now and then, and I do have some lovely things in my wardrobe which aren’t really that suitable for my everyday activities of sitting at my desk or going to the gym. I love my bright skirts from H&M and don’t really care that the A-line knee-length skirt is out of fashion. I have also admitted in the past that the Social Media Cafe, run by the always exquisitely groomed Karen (see  her link to her lovely nails in the comments on Monday’s post) is the only thing that makes me pluck my eyebrows and makes sure I can still get earrings in.


I look quite the businesswoman here, don’t I, with all my bags! But I’ve still got my trusty DM shoes on …

But looking through the photos from the Cafe (all taken by the lovely Adam Yosef from Punk Zebra – if you ever need fab photos of yourself, go to him) I do notice a horrible reliance on a few cardigans that crop up time and time again. Do I need a new “capsule wardrobe” or is it not worth it for about 20 outings a year (I did do a presentation a while ago and really struggled to find something to wear to that. I was being a case study of someone who’d used social media for her marketing, I was among other small business people, and I could only find one outfit I thought was suitable.)

It’s tricky, because it’s not the suits of my formal office days, or the polyester trousers of my office girl days. I want to look a bit nicer, a bit more informal, maybe a tiny bit more up to date (although I’ve been ranting about the prevalence of smocks and puffed sleeves and detailing in current clothing for a couple of years now, none of them good for a short, high-waisted, small lady with broad shoulders!).

Do I need to go personal shopping or just trawl through TK Maxx? Has my trousers-cardi combo got stale? What should I do? What have you done in this situation? Would you like to take me shopping? Help!

And …

What are you wearing today?

Should I just stick with my homeworker uniform for all occasions? (Picture to come)

You can keep up with this series by clicking on the category “clothing” to the right. And do share / comment / both – I want this to be about us, not me!

What the well-dressed homeworker is wearing 5 – Wednesday


Public image of Liz (courtesy of Adam Yosef)

Today I’m going to talk about something that’s always been close to my heart:

I’m hired for my work and my brain, not my looks

Yes, I’ve written that big.

I’ve always struggled with this corporate image thing, especially for women. Being expected to dress a certain way, to put on make-up, to look “right”. I’m not talking about my right to be dirty or unkempt here, but to not dress up in what sometimes feels, to me, like drag. And I’m not criticising people who like to dress smartly, and especially not those people who dress very individually and interestingly – I’m talking about me and my resentment of the fact that I have had to present myself in a certain way in order to engender respect.

I’m lucky: I’ve not had many times in my life when I’ve had to dress up in office, suity attire. I do make an effort when I go to networking events or to do a presentation, but now I can pretty well choose what I want to wear. But I can remember times at trade shows where I’ve been openly criticised for wearing a dress and jacket, not a suit – “SO unusual”, when it wasn’t.

I’ll openly admit that I’ve not had the courage to be different and stand out; I’ve always toed the line and slunk around in my suit and heels, trying to be invisible. I’m fairly introverted and quiet,  and I don’t really like to attract attention by my physical appearance. I do know businesswomen who have brightly coloured hair or unusual outfits and can manage to sail on past the criticism. I salute you!

Anyway, I’ve always maintained that it doesn’t matter what people look like, but what they ARE like. Again, no to smelly and unkempt, but yes to pretty much anything else. And working invisibly like I do, on the other end of a wire(less), behind an email address, means that people probably don’t know what I look like, and hopefully don’t care. They hire me for my mind and my abilities.

Of course, human nature being what it is, I have been advised to, for example, have a photo on my About Me page of my professional website. And I have got one. And I am lucky enough to know Adam Yosef, who takes jolly good photos of me, looking like me. Cardi and scarf, a bit of make-up because, yes, I have got brainwashed into the whole image thing, and frankly it does make me look more awake these days, and we do have to present something of an image to the outside world, still, but it’s me, I think. But I hope that my clients, and potential clients, have a look, OK, she’s a human, a woman, about whatever age I look to be … and then concentrate on hiring the mind inside the outer casing.

Private image of me – can this woman spell less well?

This is a bit unfocused, but it’s been interesting jotting my thoughts down. I know I’m the same person with the same gifts, mind and talents as when I was sitting at an office desk stuffed into a suit – but I’m a more comfortable and relaxed home for those gifts, mind and talents now.

You can keep up with this series by clicking on the category “clothing” to the right. And do share / comment / both – I want this to be about us, not me!

What the well-dressed homeworker is wearing 4 – Tuesday


This week is going really well, with lots of comments and interest so far. I’m finding it all fascinating. I’m trying to have a little theme each day, and today I’m going to talk about …

The transition from office wear to home wear

What was your journey? Here’s mine …

Corporate Liz

I started off in a university library, not really any dress code but I changed from a goth look to trousers and jumpers, having panicked I wouldn’t fit in. Then the call centre was “anything goes, no one can see us!”. At the Cable Company I recall skirts, tops and cardis, and I haven’t changed much since then. At the Library Suppliers it was smart business wear at first, so suits or suit trousers and tops, and then when we got a new boss it change to business casual, so that was mainly an a-line or long skirt, top and cardi.

Library Liz

Then at the University Library again it was jeans or black polyester trousers, top and cardi, so I haven’t really slipped far from there.

I did buy some “smarter” loose jersey trousers, tops and hoodies when I first started working from home a couple of days a week. This was to give me something special to wear for my new job, and to keep me out of manky house-cleaning / gardening outfits. I’m not sure that worked entirely, but I do wear them, and I will be sporting a full set tomorrow (today is a difficult mixture of personal training at the gym and helping out at the Social Media Surgery, so no room for jersey trousers there).

Question 1 – do you miss your suits?

What about you? Did you find the move from office formal to home casual tricky to navigate? Do you miss the power suits and heels (or ties and cufflinks for the guys)? Or do you love slumming around in fleece all day (like I do)?

Question 2 – what did you do with it all?

I’m sorry – “timeless classics” are not timeless, they just last a few years longer than cheap fashion items. It’s like when M tried on his black tie outfit, purchased while at University, ready for his brother’s wedding a few years ago, necessitating a cry of “The 80s called, they want their dinner jacket back” (and the trousers! Crikey! Post them back to MC Hammer!) and a swift trip to Moss Bros. I had various suits left over from the library supplier days, but they went off to the charity shop a white back. I kept my black polyester trousers from the library years, but, again, haven’t felt the need to indulge in their chilly static electricity since I’ve been working from home, and those will be trotting down the road soon enough. None of it was suitable for the occasional client meeting and networking event I attend now (more on what to wear for those on Thursday).

What did you do with all your office gear? Do you sit in your home study, shoulder pads at full cock, expensive watch glinting on your hand. Guys, do you wear Pink’s shirts to do the gardening or under four jumpers?

Question 3 – and what are you wearing today?

A new day, a new work-from-home outfit … or maybe not? I’m in my gym kit at the moment; later it’ll be jeans/top/cardi for popping out to help people at Social Media Surgery …

You can keep up with this series by clicking on the category “clothing” to the right. And do share / comment / both – I want this to be about us, not me!

What the well-dressed homeworker is wearing 3 – Monday


Sunny dormer

Good morning! It’s cold, cold, cold here in Libro Towers this morning! But I’m lucky, in that my office faces south and has a big dormer window, so I will be getting the benefit of the solar gain soon …

I was all set to have my shower early, before M left for work, as I was going to be waiting in for a parcel for him, and I knew that if I didn’t take the chance to grab a shower, it could get pushed back through the whole day until the delivery guy came (especially as I am bathing rather than showering at the moment owing to a water pressure problem which means the shower doesn’t work) – ugh. I do have some standards!

This got me thinking, and the theme of today’s post is

Keeping up appearances

I’ll go first! I’m quite happy to mooch around in pyjamas until lunchtime, and am often to be found in gym kit when it’s yoga or gym day (which is most days). After getting up / getting back from the gym, especially in the winter, it’s often straight into tracksuit bottoms and a fleece. But I do have limits …

  • There are certain outfits which only go into the back garden and no further. This includes the famous Horror Pinks (very warm, fleecy-lined tracksuit bottoms in a lurid shade of hot pink; they only came in that colour, m’lud!) and crocs shoes with brightly coloured socks (actually, they go to the gym on yoga days, to ease speed of changing, but nowhere else)
  • Other items will go to Sainsbury’s and other basic shops, including the Post Office depot (which is a rare trip for me now*) – these include all tracksuit bottoms and gym outfits
  • I will wear gym outfits, i.e. yoga trousers and a gym top with a cardi over it, to meet my friend Sian for a coffee on the High Street, but no further afield
  • If I’m going into town, I will at least wear jeans/top/cardi or jumper (unless I’m doing the half marathon, in which case it’s running leggings all the way, and a MEDAL on the way home)
  • When we were having work done on the house in the summer, even though I know Terry, our workman, well, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care what his customers look like, I felt the need to shower and dress semi-properly (jeans and a top or gym kit) before he got there
  • While I don’t mind what I look like opening the door to the postman or delivery men (*, again), when we were doing the Jubilee Party and I had neighbours dropping by at all times, I did realise I’d shocked one with my outfit (the bunches probably didn’t help) and tried to be more conventional-looking when people were likely to ring the doorbell. That’s all gone, now, though!
  • None of this stopped me finding myself on the front step of my house in trackie bottoms, pink socks and crocs, merrily on my way into town to meet Ali. It did send me back inside to change, though!

Ancient, cosy, hoodie

Do you have levels of clothing depending on where you’re popping out to? Or do you just not care, and go to the supermarket in your pyjamas?

* one downside of working from home – the postman and all delivery people seem to share the knowledge that you’re usually at home in the daytime, and deliver all your neighbours’ parcels to you. But it keeps you close to your community, I suppose …

Oh – today’s update: pyjamas at the moment, and lovely warm grey and white hoodie that I’ve had since pre-M days, so we’re talking 13 or so years. It’s still cold, and a hood is good around the ears, although I might get a bit tangled up when I try to do some transcription!

You can keep up with this series by clicking on the category “clothing” to the right. And do share / comment / both – I want this to be about us, not me!

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