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Writer and Artyness columnist Barbara Henderson finally finds time to read


By Barbara Henderson


There is a time for everything. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

Book Week Scotland has taken it out of me, but what a complete privilege to be on the road as an ambassador of the written word!

I began my book week with a live podcast recording at Waterstones Inverness. The event was a fun battle of the books, hosted by MFR’s (and now Channel 4’s) Grace Nicoll.

My worthy and hilarious opponent was the actress Karen Bartke of Scot Squad fame, and we took it in turns to recommend our favourite reads in a range of categories, with the audience voting on which of these suggestions they were most likely to choose.

If you like, you can catch the podcast under the name Books For A Better Life on Spotify, uploaded by our local charity Partnerships For Wellbeing.

After the event, it was a quick sprint home to pack for an early start to Queensferry where I was hosting an evening of Forth Bridge Stories – and as the bridge’s writer in residence, I even got to read some of my own work.

In true Scottish style, the audience kept us organisers waiting.

At 6.25pm, five minutes before the event I worried whether anyone would turn up at all. Bang on 6.30pm we had an audience of around 50, and with a mix of competition winner announcements, games, family activities, readings and open mic contribution, the evening flew by.

I had intended to fly to London the following day, but the course I was speaking at had been cancelled with days to spare.

Thank goodness for the internet.

A quick post on Facebook, and I had a school visit lined up in Linlithgow instead.

Book week was completed with a stint of book signing at Culloden Battlefield (a lovely opportunity to don my tartan cloak again!) and another day trip for a bookshop event in Edinburgh.

And… breathe.

The Chestnut Roaster.
The Chestnut Roaster.

The time for rushing around has passed.

Now is the time for curling up by the fire with a good book, and for moving as little as possible. I feel pretty confident I can do that!

I will be reading two new-ish releases. First up, the eagerly awaited The Chestnut Roaster by Eve McDonnell. A recent Times Children’s Book Book Of The Week, it’s just the sort of adventure I love, with an iconic historical setting: the Paris catacombs in 1889.

Then, Alastair Moffat’s Islands Of The Evening, fascinated as I am by Celtic Christianity: 14 centuries ago, Irish saints like Columba journeyed to the Hebrides and Scotland’s Atlantic shore, seeking spiritual solitude in remote places, and to spread the word of God.

Alistair Moffat goes in search of these elusive figures, follows in their footsteps, and I can’t wait to read it.


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