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The CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation, Isobel Abulhoul, who received the OBE in 2012, is also the founder and was the director of the award-winning Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. She lives with her family in Dubai.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced working at home during this time?
I think the most challenging aspect of working from home has been the isolation from the wonderful Emirates Literature Foundation team. We can pop between our offices, share ideas, brainstorm projects, discuss books we have read. You don’t have to schedule a meeting but just pop your head round the door.
I have always done much of my daily work from home, so I still appreciate the time to think and gather my thoughts into words.
How difficult has it been to adjust to this new reality?
There has been little adjustment – this is the reality and I love change and challenges. It is at times like this that we become our most creative, if we allow ourselves.
How are you and your family spending time? Favourite activities?
I love the generous amount of family time that we can enjoy at present. Teaching my young grandsons chess and very rapidly being beaten by them has been fun for us all. I am competitive and always try to win as my family knows, but I am certainly not a brilliant chess player! So, any kind of board games at the moment have been a wonderful and relaxing way to spend time together.
What are you and your family doing to manage the anxiety that is stemming from the pandemic?
We have been discussing what a virus is, how Covid-19 spread from animals to humans, why the measures to protect our health have been necessary. I think it is important for us to recognise that children are finding this complete upheaval of their normal routines very disturbing. We must openly discuss their fears and reassure them that this is only temporary.
What are some of the things you miss the most from your life when Covid-19 had still not affected us?
The things I miss most are everyday things: walks along the beach at sunset, meeting friends for coffee, browsing for a new book, walking the grandchildren to their school nearby.
What will be the first thing you’d like to do once this scare of Covid-19 is over?
Once this is over, I can’t wait to take a long swim in the ocean early in the morning.
What have you learnt about yourself during this trying time?
I have recognised how necessary it is for me to write daily to-do lists if I am to keep on top of work and deadlines in a timely manner.
What will be your favourite memory from this experience?
I really have valued family time and hope that we will continue to carve out special times for our loved ones in the future.
One lesson you think the world should remember from this experience.
Human beings need to learn that they are far from invincible, and this experience of our lives being turned upside down in a short space of time, can always happen again, without warning. We all need to remember what we truly value in our lives.
Any book(s) you are reading at this time?
I have reread several of my favourite novels by Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene and Kate Atkinson. A non-fiction book that has kept me turning the pages is Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson. What a great title! It is primarily a psychology/business book in which the author identifies four different personality types and gives sage advice on how to deal with each type and form successful teams.