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Artyness columnist and writer Barbara Henderson finds even a Covid cloud has some silver linings ...


By Barbara Henderson


The novelty of Covid isolation is wearing off. Week one of my Easter holidays hasn’t exactly gone to plan.

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

First, I arrived in Germany for my mum’s 85th birthday, only to test positive and lock myself upstairs, doomed to listen to celebrations only from afar. I rebooked my flight.

For extra fun, my original connection had been abandoned by the flight company. Too much Covid among the staff, they say – the irony! To add insult to injury, I am now missing two of my three children’s birthdays. A sense of humour failure is pending, I can feel it!

But wait. What of the silver linings of this particularly loathsome cloud?

Perhaps I should count my blessings. Without any further ado, and in no particular order, here they are:

1 I have an excellent book with me. Remember my uncharacteristic addiction to non-fiction at the moment, which I mentioned in my last column? Well, let me tell you, I am utterly obsessed by Jennifer Morag Henderson’s Daughters of the North, detailing the fascinating life of Jean Gordon, a contemporary of Mary, Queen of Scots. What a woman! (both Jean Gordon and the author herself!) I was lucky enough to meet Jennifer for a coffee at Eden Court recently. It is so fascinating to hear her speak of the salt industry in Brora, for example, one of Jean’s endeavours in later life. Full of anecdotal gold, this is a hugely recommended read for anyone who loves history, the Highlands and tales of inspirational female resilience. You’d think that the north of Scotland would have been remote and insignificant in the 16th century. Well, think again!

Jennifer Morag Henderson.
Jennifer Morag Henderson.

2 I have turned the edits for a whole book around in less than three days! I can hardly believe it myself. A little pat on the back may be in order.

3 London Book Fair has been in full swing while I sit here, surrounded by only the four walls of my childhood bedroom. I had never planned to attend, but it has been such a joy to follow the Twitter feeds of publishers and agents doing the wheeling and dealing.

Seeing real people meet real people over their mutual love of books has been a buzz, even if I can only cheer them on from a distance.

4 Zoom has been a lifesaver. I conducted almost all of the meetings I had scheduled for this week virtually, and from a different country, including mentoring a budding teenage writer as part of the Book Aid for Ukraine auction.

Best of all, I was able to join my family for the crucial birthday cake moment.

5 Finally, I perhaps underestimated the value of scrolling.

What free workshops are out there? What opportunities and what funding pots should I consider?

By complete chance, I stumbled across the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Showcase and became engrossed in readings from fellow authors who may well be the next best thing!

All in all, time well spent; don’t you think?


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