I wonder how many other writers, bloggers and reviewers are getting a tad fed up reading all those hints and tips about how to ‘survive working from home’.

A huge number of salary earners can no longer go to their offices so they’re forced to balance laptops on whatever table’s available, hold video conferencing calls instead of attending interminable meetings, and make their own sandwiches instead of popping into Pret’s at lunchtime. For many it’s the first time they’ve had to work like this – and sections of the media are going overboard with suggestions as to how to cope.

It’s lovely that we’re all asking after each other and urging everyone to stay safe. But it’s the, ‘How are you managing to fill your day?’ question that gets me.

Like lots of other writers, bloggers and reviewers, I’m more or less doing what I do most days: sitting in my home-office – and writing.

I don’t need to fill my time. It’s pretty full already.

I’m not going to start doing jigsaws and I’m not going to learn a Shakespearian sonnet a day – although that would be good for my brain. I don’t need to learn baking – although I’m developing a good line in vegetable soup. I don’t want links to the latest fitness fad you can join in with via the internet, and I’m not going to rearrange and colour co-ordinate my books.

Yes, I’m missing my regular swims at the local pool – not sure how I can replicate that other than popping down to the river and doing a bit of wild water splashing.

Pilates 1

Susan’s home gym

And I miss my twice-weekly Pilates sessions. However, I know enough of the routines to do an hour’s worth on my fitness mat on the landing of our house (which is unusually wide, light and airy).

Once you’ve finished laughing at the stereo player, I’ll have you know Phil Collins is a great accompaniment when you’re standing on one leg with your eyes shut.

And, rather than have a coffee after class with some of the other Pilates girls, we catch up on the phone and promise each other we ARE doing the exercises. Honest!


Life goes on

My ukulele group meets every Monday night thanks to Zoom (so lovely to see all their friendly faces albeit in individual postage stamp sized pictures on my computer screen); my book club posts comments on WhatsApp; and whatever sketches I produce for my Drawing club can be emailed for critique and then put on the members’ website (although whether they can tell what it is that I’ve drawn this week is another matter).

Fresh air and exercise

I’m lucky to live on the outskirts of Leeds where we have green spaces left. A 30-minute walk is something I try to do most days and thanks to the latest edict, we can still go out for fresh air and exercise once a day.

There’s a list of events and activities we all miss including cancelled book talks, literary gatherings, book launches but, fingers crossed, those engagements will re-emerge some day soon.

I can’t wander down to the local café for coffee and chat, which is one of the pleasures of working from home.

coffee and cake

Cafetiere coffee – sorry, it’s been drunk 

But hey, I have a cafetiere and some rather wonderful ground coffee, so I can do my home alone barista ritual, and there’s always video calling when I need to see family and friends.

What I can do without, though, is being told what to wear while I work from home. We’ve had this conversation before on an earlier blog. But ‘soft power dressing’ – which is one of this week’s work-from-home recommendations. Really?

Do fashion editors think we solitary writer types need telling that we’ll work better if we’re wearing a £125 pale blue jumpsuit or a £99 cashmere sweater?

And would the silver boots one fashionista was writing about this morning go with the track suit bottoms and tee shirt I have on at the moment (because I’m about to go for my 30-min walk)?

On my return I won’t be slipping into some designer outfit, but a perfectly good pair of jeans and a top. I find I can be creative just as easily in high street brands, and I don’t need a string of pearls and stilettos to sit in front of my computer to bash out the 5,000 words that my writing partner, Sue, is waiting for. (And, no Sue. I’m not taking up knitting – I leave the skilled stuff to you.)

The writer’s uniform 

I’d hazard that many of you are in comfortable jeans or leggings with tee shirts and jumpers too.

One thing I’m particularly loving about self-isolation though is not having to wear make-up every day. So I’m sorry, all you fashion writers. You can go on (and on) about the latest mascara and blusher, but this face is well moisturized and loving the natural look (albeit pale and knackered).

That is until it’s time for a video call or a Zoom meeting with the family.

Got to keep up appearances when you’re working from home.