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Artyness columnist and writer Barbara Henderson finds her recent Covid experience sees her considering loneliness, what makes good marriages and a talk by Fearn writer Philip Paris

By Barbara Henderson

For those of you who read my last column, yes, I have now recovered from the dreaded virus and am back in the country.

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

Moreover, my 85-year-old mother did not catch it – it seems that keeping away from her, having travelled 760 miles to see her, was worth it. Admittedly, I was a bit lonely.

As I mentioned before, I also spent much of that solitary week reading about Jean Gordon’s unhappy marriage to the infamous Boswell in Jennifer Morag Henderson’s Daughters of the North.

Both meant that I developed a whole new appreciation of a happy marriage – I picked a good ‘un, that’s for sure and certain (as Marilla from Anne of Green Gables would say).

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 9-15) is loneliness.

And Fearn-based author Philip Paris will give a talk at Tain library on Monday, May 9 at 10am to mark the occasion.

Philip Paris. Picture: Robert Taylor
Philip Paris. Picture: Robert Taylor

In it, he will explore the link between domestic abuse, isolation, loneliness, the recent lockdowns and mental health.

Philip is an excellent, engaging speaker, and a bit of an expert on these issues due to his research for his award-winning novel Men Cry Alone.

The book broke new ground with its storyline of men being abused by their wives.

“The novel also examines domestic violence against women,” says Philip.

“The recent lockdowns have resulted in a significant increase in domestic violence, with victims at even greater risk of isolation than others because of the controlling behaviour of their partner.

“In these situations, people can experience huge loneliness – while to the outside world they appear to be in a stable relationship and considered more fortunate than a person living alone.

“Loneliness often has little to do with being alone, and being alone does not have to mean being lonely.”

I vividly remember the night when Philip won the Barbara Hammond Trophy at the 50th Scottish Association of Writers Conference in 2019 for Men Cry Alone.

As a fellow Highlander – there weren’t many from the north – I volunteered to take photographs of him with his award.

But the trophy was so impossibly shiny that it proved very difficult in the light of all those chandeliers.

It probably didn’t help that I got the giggles.

Joking aside though, tackling important and controversial issues is something that books often do best.

Surely, this is one of the most crucial functions of reading: to explore new issues and challenge our opinions with every turn of a page.

If you are within striking distance of Tain, get May 9 in the diary. I have a feeling you won’t regret it.

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