Operation Oysterhood: 4-5 May

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

It is horribly frightening when your loved one disappears behind a door like this. Especially during a pandemic that makes everything – from diagnosis to care logistics – infinitely harder and even more scary.

My love has been behind this door since yesterday. It is not Covid-19. What is most important is that he is stable and is going to make a full recovery. I am allowed to visit him. We can communicate. We can say ‘I love you’ and know that the other person hears the words. And love is a miraculous, infinite source of strength.

And I am infinitely grateful to experience it.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 3 May

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Pandemic. Lockdown. Covid-19-related publication delays. Lower book sales. Crippling returns. Cashflow struggles. Increases in production costs. Limited promotion avenues. Debt. Debt. Debt. To be a small independent publisher right now is to survive on hope. Barely.

We published Karavan Press’s first titles in June 2019, not even two years ago, nine – very promising – months before the beginning of the lockdown in South Africa. Then the pandemic hit our shores and destroyed many dreams for the press. Against all odds, we are about to release the eleventh Karavan Press title. Last week, two of our titles – Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch and Death and the After Parties – made the Sunday Times/CNA Awards 2021 longlists.

No matter what, Karavan Press has always paid all invoices on time, and paid out royalties to all our authors as per our agreements. None of this would have been possible without the support of friends, family, dedicated booksellers and readers (and the fact that I have been running the press – including all editing, admin, promotional, etc. work – since the beginning pro bono). But despite all the incredible help, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep Karavan Press going. And there is little respite in sight. However, I refuse to give up.

In order to generate some much-needed cashflow, I have decided to have a book sale. It is running until 14 May and I hope it will bring some relief to an acute situation.

This is the deal:

Order any four of the ten published Karavan Press books and pay ONLY R550, including delivery.

For book details, click here: KARAVAN PRESS BOOKS

To order, please send your list of the four titles and your delivery address to karavanpress@outlook.com, and we will send you an invoice for an EFT.

Delivery options:

Cape Town: next working day after payment reflects in our account, to your door within 20km of Rondebosch Common.

Rest of South Africa: within a few working days after payment reflects in our account, to your nearest Postnet office.

Contact us for other delivery arrangements, if required.

OFFER VALID UNTIL 14 MAY!

PS Karavan Press books will make great Mother’s Day presents …!

First Karavan Press SALE parcels were delivered today.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2 May

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

It was easier today. We worked in parts of the archive where the damage was not as horrifying. I met new people, but for some of the tasks assigned to me today, I was reunited with Sandra, the woman from my neighbourhood, and I saw a few other familiar faces (or rather set of eyes smiling above their masks). Together with Sandra and Melissa, I formed a labelling and packing team after the coffee break, but for most of the shift, I was part of several human chains, taking empty crates into the archive and taking full ones out. We have invented so many machines and technologies, but most of the tasks of the Jagger Library Salvage Project can be efficiently performed only by humans – and there is a certain consolation in that. The project continues until next Sunday. I hope to volunteer for at least one more shift.

In the afternoon, after a long hot shower, I had to catch up with some work around the house and garden and then went to see my love. We were supposed to watch the Manchester United vs. Liverpool match … but … well.

My love cooked a roast chicken for us – Karina and all Cats are very full, and very happy tonight.

The first Pfizer vaccines are arriving in the country. But the road to one for me is so loooooong, it’s quite depressing. Is vaccine envy also green?

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 May

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

THELEMA. My first visit. Not the first time I tasted their beautiful wines, but my first time on the farm – which is stunning! The way it integrates into its surroundings and allows the wild to mingle with the cultivated makes me – the wild gardener – feel at home. A lovely, relaxing, sunny autumn afternoon! Exactly what the doctor prescribed for my love (working around the clock right now) and my sore body after my first shift at the Jagger Library yesterday. Tomorrow, I will be up there volunteering again, and I hope I can do a few more shifts next week. Volunteers still needed: Jagger Library Salvage Project.

Archivist & volunteer – Jagger Library Salvage Project

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 30 April

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

“Crates.”

“Triage.”

“Books.”

“Careful, this one is heavy.”

These are words that passed through the human chain we formed during the morning shift of the Jagger Library Salvage Project. I volunteered for the first time today. Not much else was spoken between us, apart from an exchange of names and additional instructions. For most of the time, I worked along a UCT electrical engineering student and a woman from my neighbourhood. There was a mid-morning coffee break and a lunch at the end of the shift. The work was heartbreaking and not exactly easy on my lazy bones, yet the content of this library – any library – is what makes my life meaningful and I am grateful that I could be of some help. But seeing the damage and the loss is difficult to process.

Accusations, speculations and politics always surround such an event, and they will also have to be dealt with, but for now those books, documents and all the other papers which survived the fire need to be brought to safety and taken care of.

The recovery efforts continue. To volunteer, click here: Jagger Library Salvage Project.

After my shift, I took a long, warm shower and returned to my computer.

And in the evening, I dragged my exhausted body to the Theatre on the Bay for a LIVE SHOW!!!

Just being in a theatre audience during a live performance was a treat. And Alan Committie’s new standup show APOCALAUGHS NOW! was fantastic. My love and I laughed until we cried. Tickets for the show are selling out quickly, but if you get a chance, do yourself a favour and go and see it. Although it is mostly about the pandemic, it will strangely make you forget about the horrors of the past fifteen months. Confused about the regulations, the vaccine rollout, or the 5G conspiracy? Then look no further! This show will illuminate EVERYTHING. The yoga and meditation tips will work wonders for your face muscles. And you will want to start exercising your nipples when you see what his are capable of … He throws an unforgettable dance into the routine. Not to be missed! I loved it all.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 29 April

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

It is getting colder. Real autumn chill is in the air, even when the sun is shining.

A day of Friends arriving and bearing roses and other gifts, especially the gift of their lovely company.

Otherwise, just the daily grind. I told someone today that I am tired of fighting. What I meant was that I am tired of having to prove myself, specifically after years of loyalty to and support of a worthy cause. It’s not that I expect anything in return; I just don’t want my intentions to be doubted.

Anyway. As a wonderful friend reminded me today: sometimes only greedy bastards get ahead. But if that is the case, I rather stay behind. I need to be able to live with myself.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 28 April

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

A HARU day. A dear friend invited me to lunch and my love invited me to dinner, and both had HARU in mind, and I had absolutely nothing against eating their delicious food twice in a day.

The last seventy-two hours have been intense. I feel dazed most of the time. But I slept last night, I am eating and doing my work. I manage to read for pleasure, write a little and enjoy some sunshine, yet I feel disconnected from reality. I suppose it is a coping mechanism.

To feel less helpless, I volunteered to help with the recovery efforts at the Jagger Library. They are still searching for volunteers, so please have a look if you are interested: Jagger Library Recovery. Maybe I will see you there during one of the shifts.

Small steps.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 April

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

We had an alarm activation in the night, just after three. Maybe someone thought that the house would be empty for the long weekend. It is always frightening when this happens, but also very comforting to know that the alarm system does work and does protect us. ADT reacted immediately and, because I could not go back to sleep for quite a while after the security guard’s inspection of the property and his ‘all clear’, I heard that he only drove away from in front of my house about half an hour later. Even if I realised that he was there only afterwards, it was still extremely reassuring. I had chamomile tea and listened to the gentle rain on my roof and eventually fell asleep again for a little while. In the morning, The Cats did their magic of spreading their purring love. The polar bear suit from my Mom helped, too.

An easy morning with coffee and books in bed and then a lovely meeting with dear Sindiwe Magona. She kindly signed a copy of her latest book for me.

It is a real beauty and I look forward to reading it! Sindiwe is such a great storyteller and she cares so deeply …

Returning home, I kept hearing my cellphone ring in my handbag and got worried when I saw who it was. Back at home, I returned the missed calls, knowing that the news would not be good, but I could never have guessed or anticipated what I would hear. Someone very close to me went through the most horrific ordeal, and, thank universe and all the gods and goddesses, survived, but just thinking about what happened makes my mind freeze in horror.

After the call, I was shocked and eventually asked Krystian whether I could chat with him on Skype. I told him that after EVERYTHING that had happened in the last while, I am going to be watching out for the nearest volcano to erupt, because surely that will be the next thing on the list of possible catastrophes to touch my life. He said: ‘Don’t even dare think about it. It’s enough that you’ve got Koeberg basically on your doorstep.’

Yes, let’s rather not go there!

The hired owls

The rest of the afternoon was admin for the Trust and New Contrast and an attempt to stop my Rosebank Glasspecker from driving me insane with his pecking on my window. I hired two owls to scare him off … He was gone for about an hour, and then …

Yeah, you guessed it …

I have one more idea how to stop this mad bird. Pray for me.

27 April – Freedom Day! I know exactly what I was doing on this day in 1994: celebrating my best friend’s – Isabella’s – birthday with her in Austria. Back then, all I knew about South Africa was who Nelson Mandela was and that apartheid had ended. Ten years later I fell in love with this country, and today it is my home. But I am not a citizen, so I can’t vote.

In the evening, Mozart and I braaied for my love and now I am ready for an early night in front of the TV. I hope that I can have one uninterrupted night of sleep again. I am tired.

My great inspiration, Mary Wollstonecraft, was born on this day in 1759, 262 years ago. Happy Birthday, Isi and Mary!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 April

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Until I saw the news of Nadia’s passing yesterday, the day was so full of joy, a lot of it literary. The literary joy has dimmed significantly, because it means less if it cannot be shared with the people who make it all happen, yet it has to be acknowledged. Two Karavan Press books made the Sunday Times / CNA Literary Awards longlists yesterday. It is the most prestigious local literary award and I am absolutely thrilled for the authors and books that made the longlists: Dawn’s Breaking Milk (Fiction) and Joanne’s Death and the After Parties (Non-fiction).

Karavan Press has been in existence for only two years, so this means the world to me, and I am so proud of the beautiful books that made the longlists. They are in excellent company: Nadia’s book babies are among the many amazing titles on the lists …

We were invited to have lunch with wonderful people yesterday, and had a feast with a view of note. I gave the hostess a copy of one of the longlisted titles and proudly told her about the announcement. She is an avid reader and I know she will love the book. We were treated to divine food and some of the most exciting wines I have ever tasted. I was the designated driver, so I did not do much more than taste the wines in the course of the afternoon, but I delighted in every sip and in the fascinating wine talk around the table.

We arrived home in the evening just in time to see Rafa win – in style! – the Barcelona Open for the twelfth time. If I had been a nail-biter, I would not have had any nails left after the last few games of the third set. What a tennis thriller!

Rafa wins Barcelona Open

I took the above photo of the TV screen during the trophy ceremony and wanted to post it on Twitter when I saw the first RIP tweets for Nadia on my timeline and simply burst into tears. I don’t know how many times I whispered ‘no’ between the sobs. No. No. No. I still want to shout ‘NO!’ to the universe.

Nothing made sense.

I cried myself to sleep yesterday, slept badly, and this morning, I did not want to face the world. But I had to send off a new book to the printers and forced myself to get up and get going. I thought of what Nadia and I had most in common – love for local literature – and not giving up but doing my work felt like a way to honour her remarkable legacy. From my shelves, I also collected some of the books she had published and started reading one of them that was waiting on the to-read pile …

We are in the clutches of a ruthless pandemic, and there are moments when I am beginning to feel that Megan Ross is right: we will all go mad with grief. It might have happened already. Because, after all of this loss, only madness would allow us to get up every morning and somehow continue with our lives …

After the morning at my computer, my body spoke in sign language – literally – and I realised that I had to see a doctor (completely bloody-Covid-19-unrelated). I made the earliest possible appointment and until it was time to go, I saw my love and attended to the pot plants on my stoep. A few have been begging for new, bigger pots for a while and there was really nothing else I was capable of at that stage. I just pottered about.

Then I walked to the doctor (who confirmed that I’d interpreted my body’s language correctly) and the pharmacy and came home understanding that my immune system is weakened through layer upon layer of (di)stress and that I had to give in and take care of myself.

I took my medicine, visited The Frog Prince in my garden, listened to the radio, and after answering a few emails, I cooked a nice dinner for myself and had it while chatting to Mom and Krystian on Skype, tears falling again.

I keep thinking: what if the local vaccine rollout had been more efficient … A life – lives! – could have been saved.

A dear friend wrote to me last night: “We have to outlive this thing.” Yes. But even if we do, nothing will be the same again. We are all going mad with grief.

Francois Smit

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 April

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Nadia Goetham

I can’t stop crying. And I don’t want to write about you, dear Nadia, in the past tense. I just can’t.

If there was a prize for publishing superheroes in South Africa, you would win by a million miles. Your wisdom, generosity, support, kindness, passion, and wonderful sense of humour illuminate our literary scene like sunlight – like sunlight, you are indispensable. How are we supposed to do this without you?

My heart is sore and I miss you, even though we hardly know each other. You are an inspiration, a creative force for good, a champion of all things bookish and a friend to so many authors and all others in the publishing industry.

“I am loved”, you wrote recently on Twitter. Yes, you are.

Rest in peace, wonderful Nadia.

Our world is so much poorer without you in it.

My deepest condolences to Nadia’s family, friends, loved ones.

~ ~ ~

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD