books

My favourite books

A little free library
A little free library I came across recently. Look carefully, amongst the dross is a Henning Mankell and a CJ Sansom…

So, my last books post went down really well, so I wanted to write a bit more about my reading life, and what I like.

It’s quite anal, but I keep a note of all of my books in my bullet journal. I mainly read on Kindle or on the Kindle app for iPhone.

My book recommendations usually come from What Should I Read Next. I recently started listening to What Page Are You On? I buy too many books from the Kindle Daily Deal.

I read lots – 101 last year. It’s mainly fiction as I read to relax, but there’s a fair representation of non-fiction too. I have to resist the temptation to retreat into non-fiction because it’s so tempting to search by topic for something to read. Fiction doesn’t work like that – but it’s ultimately more rewarding and more relaxing.

When it comes to fiction, I want to read books set in an unfamiliar place or time or in a fantasy society. Books are how I learn about experiences that aren’t my own. Having said that, I love a book set in the London I live in.

I always prefer stories where something happens. My most-loved books are plot and narrative-driven – and I’m not about the journey or about the character study. I always want a protagonist I can root for, no matter how imperfect. Innovation in style or technique is not my bag. I don’t read for aesthetic appreciation of a beautiful prose style.

Like Goldilocks, a book should be just right. Not too highbrow (I read some prizewinners, but not many) – but not too lowbrow. I’m (probably unfairly) snobby about Kindle First and self-published books. Genre books aren’t really my thing – I don’t read Westerns or romance, though I’m happy to read some sci-fi, fantasy and mysteries. I tend not to read long series (with exceptions, of course – I have read all the Bernie Gunther books, and all of Harry Potter). I read less lesbian and gay literature than I did, because coming out isn’t the only drama we experience. I read some YA – usually because it’s easier to find diverse voices.

I’m looking forward to the new Strike later this year. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I read it – and I’m so worried GRRM won’t complete the books. I love picking books for the teenagers in my life.

As I write today, my favourite books are:

  • American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield. Not Laura Bush’s life, apparently.
  • A Little Life, by Hanya Yangihara. Not light, but ultimately worthwhile. On friendship.
  • Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson. There is brilliant life left in the time-travel-kill-Hitler trope.
  • Winter in Madrid, by CJ Sansom. The Spanish Civil War in colour and emotion.
  • The Siege, by Helen Dunmore. Love and life endure in Stalingrad.
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue. On the endlessness of a mother’s love for her son.
  • The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. Don’t just know Black Lives Matter, feel it.
  • Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Japan, Korea, one family, eighty years. You will live with them.
  • The City and the City, by China Mieville. Two parallel divided cities, murder, Cold War intrigue.

Seven women, two men. The list will be different if you ask tomorrow.

When it comes to non-fiction, I read popular social science, politics and history plus some biography.

In the last few years I have enjoyed (whilst wincing) Tim Shipman’s masterful accounts of the chaos of UK politics during and after the referendum, All-Out War and Fall-Out. I loved Ed Balls‘ and Harriet Harman’s autobiographies, and I learned so much that I should already have known from Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Black and British.

My best history book of the past few years was Citizen Clem, about the modest architect of our welfare state and NHS – and the most frightening (though flawed) was On Tyranny: twenty lessons from the twentieth century. I learned about how we come back from where we are now through New Power and How to Resist.

I’d love to hear your book recommendations! And do tell me what you love to read – and what you hate.

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About me · Blog awards

Ask me anything: Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award logo

 

So I was rather surprised to be nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award not once but twice – by the lovely Multipotentialite and the brilliant Just Sophie.

About the Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given by bloggers to fellow bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog to this post
  2. Answer the eleven questions asked by your nominator
  3. Nominate eleven bloggers
  4. Ask them eleven questions, different to the ones you’ve answered
  5. List the rules
  6. Display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and blog site

How lovely to be asked to do something like this – twice over! – just a month after starting blogging.

Multipotentialite’s questions and my answers:

1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

If I’m honest, pretty much where I am now. With the missus, in the same job (which I love). Two important things will have changed: our baby will be 4, and starting school, and maybe they’ll even have a little brother or sister. And hopefully we’ll have moved out of our city centre two-bed into a house with a garden.

2. What social stigma does society need to get over?

The stigma of poverty. Most people living on a low income are stuck because of how society works. How it pushes people into low income jobs that don’t pay enough to live on. How disabled people are excluded from education and employment. How we don’t help people recover from homelessness and mental illness. How the austerity of the last eight years has taken away all the structures that help people get themselves and their kids out of poverty – SureStart, libraries, tax credits, social rents, a well-funded NHS, well-funded schools, regeneration programmes, new social housebuilding.

The stigma of poverty is centered on an assumption of failure: that people who are poor are making no effort to get out of poverty. That their choices lead to poverty. That poverty is their fault. This is the stigma that society needs to get over. Instead we all need to think “there but for the grace of God go I“. Any of us could need welfare benefits, social housing, the NHS – and those things should be a springboard back into a decent standard of living.

3. What are your views on religion?

I think the UK has it more or less right on religion. I don’t like formal secularism policies – they lead to hijabi Muslim women being hounded, and Islamophobia and antisemitism going unrecorded and untackled. On the other hand, I couldn’t live in a religious state, as an out lesbian woman. I won’t change planes or visit Dubai for that reason. I like our British settlement – a formal state religion, but protection from discrimination for people of all faiths, and active promotion of diversity and multiculturalism. I enjoy breaking the fast during Eid with Muslim friends, and I know to say “Mazel Tov!” when Jewish friends announce their pregnancy.

4. What is your lucky number and why?

I win things with 7s and 13s in. No idea why.

5. Why did you start blogging?

I have run personal blogs four times in my life – 2004, 2011, 2013 and now 2018. In 2004, pre-social media, I wanted to join in the experiment of blogging about news and politics. There were very few of us blogging then, so with little effort I got a reasonable-sized readership and profile. That came into conflict with my developing career, though, so I closed it down in 2008. There’s no trace on the internet of this phase any longer.

In 2011, I wanted to join the wellness blogging movement. That lasted about six posts. In 2013, I moved to a new area, and started blogging about how it was changing. Again, that lasted about six posts. Both were anonymous.

In 2018, I felt the urge to write about being pregnant. I wanted to remember this time, to record it, so I could look back. I wanted to meet other mums and learn about this new phase in my life. So here I am. Thankfully I’m already past the six posts mark!

6. Name 3 things that bring you happiness in everyday life?

Food, books, cuddles (of the five love languages, my preference is always physical touch).

7. What genre of music do you enjoy?

I have two distinct music tastes formed by distinct phases of my life.

They say the music you listened to as a teenager is your music for life. I agree: for me the music of 1994-6 will never be bettered. My Desert Island Discs would include Pulp’s Different Class, Elastica, several Blur albums, Oasis. Classic Britpop and indie. Give me more guitars. Down with wispy John Lewis covers of classic rock songs.

In 1999 I came out. I lived in a one-gay-pub town at the time – so the music that shaped the next period of my life was Steps, Britney, S-Club 7. In short, what the gay boys who monopolised the jukebox listened to (and line danced to). I added to that the house and trance of the gay clubs in London we started to go to at the weekends.

My perfect track is probably a mash-up of Total Eclipse: Bonnie Tyler’s voice over layers and layers of Metallica style thrash guitar.

8. Do you think aliens exist?

The sheer mathematical improbability of there being no other sentient life in this or another universe suggests they do.

9. When do you blog? During the day or in the evenings?

No set time. I blog from my phone when I have a moment.

10. Can you play a musical instrument?

No.

11. Do you speak any other language than English? If yes, which language/s?

I learned four languages at school. But (what a criminal waste) now I speak none.

Multipotentialite also nominated By KianahAnna Alina, Exquisitely, Holly Robiin, Nada, Maya, Megan, Laur talks makeup and Alternatively speaking. Do head on over to their blogs to see their answers!

Just Sophie’s questions and my answers

1. What is your favourite month of the year and why?

September. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. There is a sense of new beginnings, of possibility, to September. I always want new clothes, a new bullet journal, a new handbag in September.

2. Who is the one person that could make you smile, even on the most down of days?

My lovely missus.

3. What is the best dream you have had that you can remember? 

I’m not sure I dream – I certainly can’t remember one!

4. What is your favourite food and why?

Korean raw beef bibimbap. It’s rice, vegetables and raw beef fillet served in a blisteringly hot stone bowl. You mix the ingredients together fast, with as much chilli sauce as you can take. The beef fillet cooks in the heat, and the rice sticks together in a golden crust where it touches the stone. I eat this all year round (there are a few good Korean places near my office) – but I have a tradition of eating it after late night Christmas shopping.

5. If you could live anywhere on the planet, where would you live? 

London. It’s the centre of my professional field and the place I want to bring my family up. It’s where I’m from – and where I sound like I’m from. It’s where my missus lives. It’s the world in one city. I love to travel but I’ll never move away for good.

6. If you could only take one thing onto a desert island with you, what would it be? 

My iPhone. Who knew these multi-functional handheld computers would become so indispensable to so much of our lives? My iPhone is where I read books, listen to the news, read newspapers, watch TV, listen to podcasts. It guides my exercise. It’s where I store my notes. It’s where I chat to friends. It’s where I hear about births, deaths and weddings. It’s where I argue politics. It’s where I blog.

I remember the first time someone told me they didn’t buy the newspapers for their morning commute – they read the newspapers on their phone on the bus. It must have been 2006-ish. I was astonished. If you’d asked me then what I would have wanted from a better mobile phone, I might have suggested a better camera, or better battery life on my Nokia. The genius of Steve Jobs is that he knew what I wanted – even when I didn’t. I couldn’t imagine life without my iPhone.

7. What are your favourite things to blog about?

My tags tell me it’s pregnancy, maternity clothes, podcasts and books.

8. Where was the last place that you travelled to?

A small Spanish resort just outside Marbella, for a decadent weekend in the sun.

9. What song makes you happy as soon as you listen to it?

Yes by McAlmont Butler. Click on the link now if you’ve never heard it – I defy you not to smile through happy tears at the beauty of it as David McAlmont hits the top note at 3.00.

10. What colour is your bedroom?

Grey on grey, like out whole flat.

11. How do you eat your jaffa cakes?

Ugh. Can I have something else please?

Just Sophie also nominated Lynette, Caledonian Kitty, Imogen, Amy Jane, Earth To Connie, Don’t Give A Jam, The Talking Blog, Nancy Mulligan, Laura and Dan’s Book Blog. Go to their blogs to see their answers!

My questions

So now I get to ask some questions of my own to others. Looking forward to seeing the answers!

  1. What sort of a feminist are you?
  2. What’s your top tip for a new blogger?
  3. Dogs or cats?
  4. How do you give back to others?
  5. What’s the thing that you love but lots of people hate?
  6. What are your top three books?
  7. What are you grateful for today?
  8. What song will be played at your funeral?
  9. Where would you like to go on a city break?
  10. If you could add one thing onto the school curriculum, what would it be?
  11. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My nominations

And I’m nominating…

  1. BooBerrit
  2. Malou’s figments
  3. Kate’s Beauty Home
  4. Volcanology Liz
  5. Foundations and Fairytales
  6. Daedric Moms
  7. My life as a mummy
  8. Looking after your pennies
  9. Little hearts big love
  10. Soph Isobel
  11. Tattooed Mummy

Of course – there’s no obligation to do it if you don’t fancy it! And anyone else reading who would like to answer the questions, please do, and post a link in the comments. Looking forward to reading your answers!

beauty · Pregnancy · What's saving my life

14 weeks pregnant: what’s saving my life right now

Naturtint 9N Honey Blonde hair dyeWhere is the time going? I can’t believe that I’m 14 weeks pregnant (actually 15 weeks tomorrow).

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • At 14 weeks, you have a definite bump – and it has now crossed over into pregnancy not just fat in the eyes of the world. A man gave up his seat for me – without being asked! – on Monday.
  • I may be past the first trimester, but exhaustion is still a thing. We had friends staying Friday to Wednesday, went to bed later than usual each night, ate out lots, went to a show and sang karaoke. I was roadkill by the time they left. Must – slow – down.
  • Spicy food does not agree with me any longer. I went to one of the East End’s legendary Lahore grills earlier this week. It was so delicious that I broke all the rules and really did eat for two. And then I paid for it in the 48 hours after. I even had to take a day off work as it was so bad – not helped by checking the Food Standards Authority ratings to find the curry house had just one star for hygiene…
  • The lovely Eleanor Jasmin’s post on how she prepared for birth has got me thinking about the birth I want (yes, even though it’s still nearly six months away!) I hadn’t encountered hypno-birthing before, so I think I need to do some reading and try to understand my birth options.
  • More immediately, a friend asked if I’d thought about a maternity pillow yet. More things I need! Pregnancy does open up a whole new set of shopping opportunities, doesn’t it? The maternity pillows I’ve seen so far look dreamy – or they would if it wasn’t 30 degrees in London at the moment.
  • In more shopping news, my lovely missus – the savvy shopper – is ramping up the price comparisons on a new car for me, and the buggy we want. There are a surprising number of similarities between buying a car and a buggy – both very technical!
  • Listening to other mums’ experiences really helps – I’ve found a couple of new-to-me podcasts that are focused on pregnancy, birth and parenting, and am listening obsessively. My new favourites are Made by Mammas and Mum Talk. I am keeping a running note on my phone of things they talk about that I want to explore.

What’s saving my life this week? There is only one answer: Naturtint 9N Honey Blonde from Holland and Barrett.

I am naturally dark blonde with ashy undertones, which I hate. So for the past 20-odd years I’ve dyed my hair, topping it up with golden tones. When I started out, as a student, there was no way I could afford salon colour, so I just grew used to boxed self-dye jobs – and over the years I honed my technique til I could do it on autopilot.

I was loyal to Clairol’s Nice n’Easy 8G Honey Blonde for years. But then a chance recommendation from the brilliant Sali Hughes led to me to the wizards of ESalon. You send them some photos and your aspirations for your hair colour, and they send you your own bespoke dye in the post. And even better, it’s a subscription service so it always arrives just as the mousey roots start to get you down.

My last hair dye was the day before frozen embryo transfer, back in May. When I knew I was pregnant, I suspended my ESalon subscription til 2019, and started to contemplate life with roots.

Three months later, I had two inches of dark blonde roots to cover daily, with the help of Back2Blonde and Baptiste’s Brilliant Blonde dry shampoo. My hair turned into an immovable helmet, sprayed solid, so as to hold the camouflage.

I’d been reading about safe hair dyes throughout my pregnancy – and was reassured that the NHS deems it safe. But I was determined to make it to my second trimester without succumbing.

With 14 weeks safely under my (expanding) belt, this week I finally popped in to Holland & Barrett for their super-safe no nasties Naturtint permanent dye. I was just hoping for good enough – something to cover my roots and see me through til after the birth.

9N looked like the one for me, and the contents of the box were reassuringly familiar when I opened it. It smelled inoffensive, and felt fine on my scalp.

The end result was a gorgeous baby blonde with golden threads, not too light, with no visible roots and high shine. I was delighted!

So: there you have it. A pregnancy-safe hair dye with no nasties that gives as good a result as a mainstream and high end home brands.

What did you do about your hair when pregnant? Did you just dye as usual, or change your routine?

books

What I read in July

How to Build a Girl front cover
tl;dr – my favourite book of the month

July was an okay reading month. I read six books – three non-fiction and three fiction, which is a slightly higher ratio of non-fiction than usual. Four by women, two by men. Three BAME writers (though none of these were British), three white.

July’s reading haul takes me well on the way to my target of 100 books for 2018. My bullet journal tells me I have read 61 books since the start of 2018.

Not that the target matters per se, of course. What matters is that it makes me focus on reading books, not scrolling on twitter. 2017’s total was 101, so would be nice to repeat that.

Of course there are some perverse incentives to having a reading target. I can feel myself being less keen to embark on doorstep books – even when they are well-reviewed. I wonder if annual-reading-target me would have read A Little Life – or would have been put off by the length? But then I did read the (very long) Pachinko in 2017, which was my first reading target year.

And it puts pressure on me not to abandon books, even if I’m not enjoying them – which came into play for two of this month’s books at least.

So, this month’s books.

Zone One, Colson Whitehead

A post-apocalyptic tale of a man clearing New York of zombies. It’s by the acclaimed writer of The Underground Railway, which was one of my best reads of 2017 – and was why I picked it up. I love stories set after an apocalypse, from The Road to Station Eleven, so it sounded just up my street. In fact it was uneven, hard to follow and hard to finish. Plot was sacrificed to the journey of the protagonist- exactly what I don’t look for in a book.

City of Spies, Sorayya Khan

A little girl grows up in Islamabad, as anti-Americanism takes hold in Pakistan in the late seventies. I should have loved this – but again, little happened and it dragged.

The life changing magic of tidying, Marie Kondo

Just the palate cleanser I needed after slogging through two disappointing reads at the start of the month. I think I am entering the nesting stage of pregnancy. I certainly wanted to implement this at once! I picked this up on a 99p Kindle Daily Deal, and for that price it was certainly worth the diversion it provided.

How to build a girl, Caitlin Moran

Why had I not read this before? I think I thought it was non-fiction, popular feminism – not usually my sort of thing. Instead it was a thinly-disguised Moran escaping Wolverhampton and her family’s poverty for a life as a music journo covering the Britpop explosion of the early nineties. Highly highly recommended. It’s a light read, with serious points about self-worth, self-esteem, and being true to yourself.

If only they didn’t speak English: notes from Trump’s America, Jon Sopel

The BBC’s North America editor reprises the campaign, the early presidency, and where the US finds itself through a series of thematic chapters. If I’m honest, this was a solid read – but was a bit of a fallback option for me.

I don’t have an obsessive interest in US politics unlike many lefties, so tend to avoid reading about the mess of the Trump presidency outside of the headlines (the keyword “Trump” has been muted on my twitter account for more than two years).

The Unmumsy Mum

Since getting pregnant I’ve started mum blog, subscribed to a load of mum podcasts and followed lots of mum bloggers. So when this came round on the daily deal for 99p, I picked it up. It’s as easy to read as a blog and clearly fills a niche. Not being there yet, I found the robust defence of telling parenthood as it is and not rose tinting interesting but academic. I’m sure I’ll return to this and nod along in empathy when little one is here!

So there you have it: July’s Reading. Looking at this motley collection, I was clearly making do this month, reading stuff already on my Kindle and picking up reads in the daily deal rather than consciously picking from my TBR list or seeking recommendations from trusted sources.

Time to listen properly to What Should I Read Next? and to see if I can find some decent UK book bloggers or podcasters to follow. I am already very excited about Amy Elizabeth’s book podcast and looking forward to the first episode.

What did you read in July? And where do you get your best book recommendations from?

Career · Pregnancy

Telling work you’re pregnant

Gold Mini
This isn’t my car but I wish it was

One of the things I worried about most when I got pregnant was telling work. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work is endemic in the UK. Most women will experience some sort of discrimination. It’s luck if you don’t.*

Plus, I love my job. Not always on a Monday morning. But in general. It is endlessly fulfilling and stimulating. And I adore managing my team – I am proud of them every day.

Work and my relationship have always been the primary axes of my life – and I want it to stay that way as I add a third, our baby. Things will change – but women have babies all the time, and that shouldn’t mean we lose our careers.**

So I was worried about telling work. Perhaps they’d think I was less committed to my career. Maybe they’d expect my brain to turn to mush. Or that I’d start slowing myself down.

I stewed for several weeks, but as I started to show and the 12 week scan came and went, I ran out of excuses.

At 12+5, I told my boss – the chief executive. She’s got grown-up children of her own, and she brought them up as a single mum in a male-dominated industry. She’s from the first generation of women who had big careers while having a family.

Sometimes older women at work can give off a dismissive attitude towards younger women. I’ve certainly seen this in the dismissals of flexible working. It’s as if they think “We did it the hard way – why should we make allowances for you?”

These women were pioneers – they have my respect and gratitude for the doors they kicked in and the glass ceilings they smashed. But they don’t always get that my generation wants more. We want managing work and family to be a damn sight easier – and we want it as of right.

As a leader I help the parents of my team get the right balance, and I champion their right to lead and to interesting projects and career development. That’s what I want for myself.

My boss reacted well to the initial disclosure. I had underestimated her.

But one comment later from another senior manager cast a pall.

We were coming out of a meeting together, talking about a project that’s off track (no-one’s fault – circumstances). He was suggesting that maybe we should can it, and then said “Well, given your condition, maybe that’s best”.

And there it is. What I was afraid of. 17 years’ professional experience, consistently excellent reviews, the youngest divisional director they have ever had – and my pregnancy factors into a business decision. In that moment I nearly howled.

Look, I’m not accusing anyone of behaving illegally. The senior manager is not my boss. Canning the project is not a done deal. My company will meet all of their legal obligations and more – our policies are generous to a fault.

But my hard-won position, the respect I am held in, the opportunity to win more interesting projects, to extend my reach into more of our operations, to win more resources for my team – that’s what I am afraid of losing. I want them to see the tough forthright operator I have always been. I’m not just a pregnant woman needing allowances made.

Maybe we should can the project – maybe we shouldn’t. But my pregnancy and absence for six months (and make no mistake, my job will be covered by an interim) should play no part in that decision – and no-one should it imply it will.

So. I’ve done the deed and told work. I hope this comment will prove to be an isolated aberration. I will tell my colleague how inappropriate it was.

On the plus side, the first trimester fog and fatigue is fading, so I have a few months to get everything done I want to before I get into the final stretch.

When did you tell your boss and colleagues you were pregnant? How did it go? How are you finding being pregnant at work?

* If you’re having a tough time at work cos you’re pregnant or a parent, get some help. Start with your union – and for the love of god if you’re pregnant or a new mum, working and not in a union, join one!

Don’t want all your legal fees paid if you get discriminated against? Don’t want your flexible working application looked over by an expert? For sure, save the tenner a month. But it’s a false economy.

** Mums reading will be shaking their heads at my naïveté, I’m sure. And I know it won’t be that straightforward. How important work is will change. My life will be as different as it can be when Little One comes. I’m looking forward to it. But babyhood is a season: I have thirty years left in the workforce, and I’m darned if they’re not going to be interesting, fulfilling and rewarding in all senses. In the long run that’s good for me and for Little One. So no: I’m not stepping back, and I’m not giving up on all the things I still want to do in my career.

Fashion · Pregnancy

Maternity clothes shopping at Bluewater (& Bexleyheath!), July 2018

Newbie baby clothes shop, Bluewater
The gorgeous baby clothes of Newbie, Bluewater

So after my disastrous trip to Oxford Street where I ended up with just a scarf and some big pants, I decided to try Bluewater, accompanied by lovely sister-in-law.

In advance, I emailed Bluewater to check which stores stocked their maternity lines. I got a speedy response from their team:

Topshop now stock a maternity range, as do H&M and Next although it is quite a small offering. Mothercare also have a range of clothes for expectant mothers.

So I jumped in the car to meet SIL with some hopes. I was surprised, then, that our first stop wasn’t Bluewater at all – it was H&M on Bexleyheath high street. SIL explained that she had checked earlier in the week – and there is no maternity in H&M at Bluewater (despite what customer services had said!)

So Bexleyheath H&M it was. And unlike Oxford Street, their shop wasn’t a jumble sale and their maternity wear wasn’t hidden ten minutes’ walk from the front door. Having lovely SIL and lovely niece with me for a morale boost made all the difference too. I walked out of Bexleyheath H&M with skinny jeans, black skinny jeans, black leggings and a polka dot maternity dress with sleeves. Success! Massive thanks to the manager and staff at H&M Bexleyheath who stocked a range of sizes and didn’t segregate mat wear to some far flung corner.

Then we did head off to Bluewater. Our first stop was M&S, for a bra fitting. We’d missed our appointment, but they still fitted me in (what a difference to the surly refusal to help at M&S Pantheon on Oxford Street). The size recommended came as quite a surprise (I was one band size and a massive two cup sizes bigger than the bra I was wearing!). We picked up three lovely soft maternity bras (none in white cos WHO WEARS WHITE BRAS?!). I can’t recommend M&S bra fitting at Bluewater highly enough. Really lovely ladies who were just so matter of fact that nothing felt embarrassing.

Then we continued our quest for maternity clothes a professional thirtysomething would wear. Most of my work dresses still fit, so I’m staying in those for the time being, but I needed tops to go with my jeans and leggings.

Topshop Bluewater had two racks of maternity clothes, on their main shop floor next to Tall. Nothing suited me – but then I wouldn’t usually buy from Topshop anyway.

As we’d found out, H&M Bluewater had no maternity section, nor did New Look or Dorothy Perkins.

Mothercare had a small section of basics – absolutely nothing I would want to buy or wear, and all frumpy as hell. Nothing was patterned, nothing stylish – all was just black, navy or marl grey. I have no idea who they make maternity clothes for.

Our final stop was Next. I was very dubious that they would have anything – most Next stores don’t stock maternity wear in store. But they had a whole section at the back of the store near the fitting rooms, and I was so impressed. The jeans looked good – but most importantly I bought a silky grey slinky v-neck top that would work well for evenings out with the black jeggings and heels, and a striped glittery t-shirt to wear with jeans.

So, all in all, a good day’s work.

My maternity wardrobe

With hand-me-downs from friends and family, my maternity wardrobe now stands at:

  • three evening / going out dresses (new from Boohoo and Mamalicious, preloved from H&M)
  • six day dresses (new from H&M, New Look and the sunbed shop (!), preloved from Mamas and Papas)
  • two jeans, one black jeggings, one black trousers, one black leggings (new and old all from H&M)
  • three tops (new from Next, preloved from Zara non-maternity)
  • three bras and ten pants (all M&S)
  • two larger sized swimsuits (not maternity)

And of course some of my normal t-shirts still fit. Plus I have six Closet work dresses of the same style in three different colours for my work uniform dressing. They are gathered from a deep v-neck with sleeves and a knee-length skirt, so should be fine for several months more. As long as I look presentable at work, I don’t care about what I wear.

What was in your maternity wardrobe?

About me · books · Lesbian life · Pregnancy

Who is A Shouty Ms?

The Hate U Give

You know the basics. Thirtysomething, lesbian, pregnant, London.

This blog is anonymous as I’m a senior manager in a big organisation. So: alias, no pics. Don’t ask me.

I live with the missus and the cat. Baby’s due in early 2019.

We spend time with our cliques of footloose gay boys and shacked-up lesbians. We love the kids in our lives. We are loyal. We volunteer and donate. We use all our annual leave every year.

We’re cinema not theatre. The O2 not the Royal Opera House. Football not rugby. Curry not Zizzi. Beach holidays where we can hold hands in public, not far-flung adventures where we get taken for sisters. Labour not Tory. Twitter not Instagram. Car not bike. Planes not trains. Drag not clubbing. Tesco not the farmer’s market. Next not Hobbes. Neutrals not brights.

And me? I’m a Brit, English, a Londoner. I’m an 80s kid. My soundtrack is mid-90s indie and Britpop, and early 2000s pop and dance from too much time in disreputable gay clubs. Plus Magic FM in the car.

I read (lots – 100+ last year). I like fiction. Books set in an unfamiliar place or time or in a fantasy society. I want a story where something big happens. Books are how I learn about experiences that aren’t my own. I always want a protagonist I can root for. My most-loved books are plot and narrative-driven. I’m not about the journey. Innovation in style or technique is not my bag. I don’t read for aesthetic appreciation.

Like Goldilocks, a book should be just right. Not too highbrow (I read some prizewinners, but not many) – but not too lowbrow. I’m snobby about Kindle First and self-published books. Genre books aren’t my thing, nor are series (with exceptions, of course). I read less LGBT literature than I did, because coming out isn’t the only drama we experience. I love a book sharply set in the London I live in.

As I write today, my favourite books are:

  • American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield. Not Laura Bush’s life, apparently.
  • A Little Life, by Hanya Yangihara. Not light, but ultimately worthwhile. On friendship.
  • Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson. There is brilliant life left in the time-travel-kill-Hitler trope.
  • Winter in Madrid, by CJ Sansom. The Spanish Civil War in colour and emotion.
  • The Siege, by Helen Dunmore. Love and life endure in Stalingrad.
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue. On the endlessness of a mother’s love for her son.
  • The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. Don’t just know Black Lives Matter, feel it.
  • Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Japan, Korea, one family, eighty years. You will live with them.
  • The City and the City, by China Mieville. Two parallel divided cities, murder, Cold War intrigue.

Seven women, two men. The list will be different if you ask tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to the new Strike later this year. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. No-one needs that much gratuitous off-plot violence against women in their leisure time. I’m so worried GRRM won’t complete the books. I love picking books for the teenagers in my life.

I listen to podcasts. I bullet journal (disposable black Pilot fountain pen, black unlined Moleskine, words only, no decoration or stickers). I write cursive, with extra loops. I love my iPhone. Communicate with me in words, not through photos or videos.

I have always written. I started my first blog in 2004. In 2008, I had to choose between work and blogging. I stopped. I blogged in 2011 and 2014, and now 2018, anonymously. I write for work, and my pieces appear in my name and others’.

I run, when I’m not pregnant. Now I swim. I’m well-built, femme-presenting. My nails are always done. I wear false eyelashes and platforms on a night out. I will get up on stage when a drag queen calls me out; my missus won’t. She sings karaoke; I don’t.

My handbag is Coach. My trainers are Nike. My perfume is Jo Malone. My earrings are Links. My necklace is Tiffany. My watch is a Fitbit. My sunglasses are Rayban.

I do uniform dressing for work. I have six identical jersey dresses in three colours. I wear one each weekday. Weekend clothes never come to the office.

I am ESFJ. Or ENTJ. Depends on the day of the week.

I am the Shouty Ms because I have opinions.

I’m feminist, in the radical tradition. Women are at the centre of my politics. We must end male violence against women. I want no woman anywhere to have to sell sex.

I am a lesbian and a woman – not gay, not queer, not LGBT. I came out at 20. My missus is the first woman I have loved not to have been beaten up for being a lesbian. Being out saves lives. It gets better.

I’m white. I don’t know enough about the lives of black women. I pick books by black and Asian women about black and Asian women. My big diverse London team teaches me about living lives different to mine every day.

I’m an old-school social democrat. On some days, a democratic socialist. I support a big and generous state that helps people overcome poverty and ill-health.

It is luck, not my own hard work, that means I have a comfortable life. Everyone should have a decent income, no matter who they are. I don’t pull the ladder up behind me.

Change doesn’t come through individual acts. I cannot be the change I wish to see in the world. Change comes from people working together in common cause. I join in.

I despair at my party. I hate this government. I obsess about the right Brexit. But I am not a Remainer. Not any more. We lost.

Always: I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me.

What more do you want to know?

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger