The Land of Counterpane

It is said that those who were often sick as children, spent a great deal of time looking out the window and reading.  Apparently many writers, including me, share this common background.  Why not? Illness can certainly make a child a reader. And readers often aspire to be writers.

Now, as an adult, I am facing a couple of weeks in bed as foot surgery heals. “Just two weeks” the doctor says and I find my anxiety level rising as the surgery (Friday the 18th of May) comes closer and closer.

I have all sorts of plans: a stack of magazines to read.  Just the copies of the Times Literary Supplement, my special weekly ‘treat’ from the The Times of London, ought to keep me busy.  Deliberately, I haven’t read the last four editions.   And of course two more will arrive while I’m in bed.

I have a stock pile of 14 novels and four non-fictions books that I should have read years ago, but never took the time.   (Any novel any time is my reading philosophy.  The rest when you have time.)

Then there is my real work. There are proofs to read on the re-issue of The Binding with a gorgeous new cover as my first publisher, RockWay Press, is packing it in.  (Thanks RockWay, you made all the difference in my career.)

There are also the two novels I’m currently working on.  I do not know where the habit of working on two at a time comes from, but it might be from my habit of reading several books at one time. (No, not simultaneously) A friend of mine recently said something like this: My upstairs book is a mystery. My downstairs book is a romance. My book in the car is a thriller,   That’s exactly how I am, exactly.  Thank you, Judy Seid for stating it so well.

And of course there is this blog. Hard to know if I ever would have got around to  blogging if I wasn’t facing time in bed.  Perhaps this is like the idea that there was something useful about having been a ‘sick kid.’ Nice to think that time had it’s uses and that this time facing me will be useful too.

Here is Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem on the subject.  (I first read this when I was a kid in bed with a wonderful set of gift books called My Book House.


When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

–  Robert Louis Stevenson





About Brenda Barrie

Brenda Barrie has had a career as a Jewish communal professional in her hometown, Winnipeg, Canada, in Minneapolis, Baltimore and Orange County, California. Previously a feature writer and editor, she has brought her range of skills and her travels to her two novels, The Binding and The Rabbi’s Husband, and to her volume of poetry, Full Speed. Full Stop.
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