Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day one

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

— @HaggardHawks

My love tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. His symptoms developed suddenly and were confusing even to the doctor, who tested for COVID-19 just in case, but was pretty certain it was something else. It wasn’t, but after his terrible health scare earlier this year, I was more worried about my love’s general condition than the possibility of COVID-19. He is not great, but at home with excellent oxygen levels and under doctor’s supervision. He should be on the mend. I am thanking all goddesses for vaccines. He has a very good idea where and when he got infected because someone who was with him is experiencing the same symptoms and at the same time. He has informed all close contacts – fortunately there weren’t many and all are vaccinated and/or fully recovered from COVID-19 already. I am the closest and last contact before the test result.

According to the latest recommendations:

“For those in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient we quarantine for 10 days from the time of last contact … A negative test does not exclude a diagnosis of COVID-19 due to the possibility of a false negative result and thus a negative test does not allow the close contact to end quarantine early … It generally takes between 2 and 5 days from the time of contact with a COVID-19 positive person to develop symptoms. The best day to test after an unprotected exposure to COVID-19 is day 8 if asymptomatic or day 3 of symptoms if symptoms do develop. This yields the lowest false negative rate at 20 percent when doing a COVID-19 PCR swab. Our current false positive rate is extremely low at 1 percent.”

I have no symptoms whatsoever, so this is day one of quarantine and symptom-watch. The first time I was in quarantine after close contact with a COVID-19 positive person, I was really scared, for my friend and for myself. We hadn’t been vaccinated yet. Luckily, she recovered, I never developed symptoms.

When I suspected having COVID-19 myself (and it turned out to be a typical cold, the PCR test negative), I was no longer afraid for my life as I was fully vaccinated by then. Self-isolating wasn’t fun, but it passed quickly. This time around, I am worried for my love – not so much about COVID-19 itself as he is also fully vaccinated, but the management of his underlying conditions that the COVID-19 symptoms are making difficult to handle. Quarantine for me is – at least for now – only a logistical inconvenience (I have to shop online for essentials). I hope I will not develop any symptoms and test negative when it’s time to do the test, but I am no longer frightened for my life. My only concern is my love’s speedy full recovery.

Work from home continues as usual. Thank goodness Salieri and I got our paws on the latest Ballard and Bosch thriller before going into quarantine. We need a bit of thrilling escapism right now.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Salzburg, yesterday

Operation Oysterhood: 4-5 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Even the hippos are getting COVID-19 now. The fourth wave is crushing over us in South Africa and all I can think of are the friends we’d lost during the early waves when we had no vaccines to prevent the worst consequences of an infection, and I cannot understand how many people are still resisting this – now available and easily accessible – protection measure.

A real oysterhood weekend at home, mostly in couple solitude apart from a Sunday lunch with three COVID-19-recovered and fully vaccinated friends. My love has been under a lot of professional pressure recently and he really needed the rest and the calm joy of being with lovely people who care. We were both excited about serving a meal and wine to people who are passionate about the food and drink industry and very successful at what they do. What is most inspiring about them is that they do not stop at their own success, always sharing with and caring about those less fortunate than them. And our wonderful guests brought fresh oysters for us to enjoy and happily cooked up a storm in our kitchen to serve a beautiful sauce with the meat my love braaied for us. He also served some truly special wine from his cellar. I contributed salads and crème brûlée for dessert. Joint efforts, jointly enjoyed. It was an amazing afternoon.

I did do a little bit of work this weekend, but mostly I relaxed, read, watched TV and even indulged in a bath. Much needed down time after the intensity of the last few weeks.

On Saturday, it was my brother’s name day and we met on Skype with Mom for a celebratory breakfast that included a pastéis de nata from The Hoghouse on my side of the screen. It was also a dear Friend’s birthday and I hope to visit her early this week to celebrate the occasion. A small birthday parcel is waiting.

I think most of us are exhausted after the relentlessness of this tough year, and there are still three weeks of 2021 left to make the most of. I want to unwind and spend time with loved ones (in the safest possible manner). My love and I made great plans for Christmas. I can’t wait!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 3 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Long story why, but I was driving around Long Street and Bree Street late last night. What I saw happening in the bars and restaurants around there made me despair. When I think what trouble we take in order to gather in small numbers and still keep safe – mask, distance, ventilation, reason – to keep going in these precarious times, on a social and economic level … and then all these hundreds of people just partying with abandon, not a care in the world, nor a thought for the consequences of their actions. Deep sigh.

I haven’t been taking good care of myself lately, but I intend to work harder at it for the rest of the month, especially now when one’s immune system will need all the help it can get (over 16 000 new cases today …). So, I treated myself to one of my favourite things in the world this morning: a green juice. This one was from Organic Zone, but there are many place that make really nice ones.

I took my love’s cat to the vet today and had to do quite a lot of driving around town. The heavy traffic in Cape Town is back, big time. Luckily, one of my routes went past The Hoghouse and I picked up some goodies there for the weekend and beyond. In the late afternoon, I could no longer focus on anything productive or creative, so I opened a Hoghouse beer and made a fire for a dinner braai – the perfect way to end a busy week.

Mozart was first to join me next to the fire, but eventually all three Cats came and then my love arrived after work, and the five of us had a lovely, simple dinner on the stoep.

Salieri’s evening ritual: wallowing in the dust.

Sir Antony Sher passed away. I did not know that he was suffering from cancer, so the news came unexpectedly. I still remember reading his beautiful personal essay in Stephen Watson’s Cape Town: A City Imagined, and I was lucky enough to see him perform on our local stages. A great loss to his loved ones, and to the world.

Earlier today, I asked someone I work with how he was doing. ‘Horrible,’ he said with that panicked, end-of-the-year look in his eyes. ‘I can’t even explain. It’s just horrible. Horrible.’ I said that there was no need to explain and I wished him well. I hope he has something nice planned for the weekend. So many of us are barely holding on …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Eggs Benedict in lovely company for breakfast – that is what I call a good start to the day! Not that it was really the start, because I was already in a Skype meeting at eight before driving out to the Food Barn Deli for my treat, but it felt like the best way of welcoming a new day. Coffee with my love afterwards, a few deliveries and errands, and the rest of the day was just staring at my screen and going through the items of the to-do list for today. Finished at eight – all done.

Despite the chaos all around, I have been sleeping again lately. I am always awake before six and it takes me a while to wake up properly, but I am not plagued by small hours insomnia. And it’s not like things have become easy, but we adapt, carry on, survive.

The infection numbers are rising big time again, but it remains to be seen how dangerous the new variant is and how people will react to the latest vaccination drive. I am scared/curious to hear what the President will announce this weekend. Thank goodness there is pink bubbly in the house, just in case.

My beautiful Salieri has gained a little bit of weight again – this makes me happy. The tiny-huge joys in my life.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

1 December. December! How did this happen? The year is almost over and the festive season just ahead of us. Well! Have I got the perfect summer/holiday/beach read for you!

We launched Melissa A. Volker’s The Pool Guy at The Alma Café earlier tonight. I wore blue today to match the cover’s colours. But the book will make you feel anything but blue. It is a warm, happy read with great characters and a beautiful story with twists and lots of laughter. And apart from anything else, one of the characters is a cat with a name that still makes me smile when I think of it months later after the initial read! Melissa was interviewed by Sammi, whom we both discovered via Bookstagram. She is a wonderful book reviewer and, as we found out today, a fantastic interviewer. Social media are at their best when they can lead to such great encounters in real life.

And to top it all, there was Retha’s famous lemon meringue pie. The perfect dessert at the end of a great day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear Book Lounge!

The Book Lounge has a few copies of The Pool Guy on their shelves – I saw them when I visited today for their birthday :)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 30 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Stellenbosch – my first home in South Africa when I visited for research in 2004. I love going back, and today I was invited to have lunch with a friend from overseas. She usually visits every year with her husband and they stay for a few weeks. This time, she arrived first and her husband was supposed to join her in early December, but … omicron. She is now hoping to go back as soon as possible instead of at the end of the month. That’s roughly what the tourist experience is like in SA right now. No wonder that I keep getting one email after another from local restaurants trying to make up for all the overseas cancellations in their booking diaries. Well, my love and I decided to use the opportunity for Christmas and are treating ourselves to a divine dinner we would have otherwise not had the opportunity to enjoy.

After my lunch in Stellenbosch, I decided to do a bit of tourism myself – the local industry will need us to survive – and walked around the town, mostly only window shopping, but I did stop at Oom Samie’s and got myself a bottle of Muratie wine, a funny soap and a chipped antique champagne glass. It was a lovely visit. We had waterzooi for lunch – simply delicious. I need to try cooking it myself.

Even though it was the last thing I felt like, I did work this morning, but in the afternoon, when I came back home, all I wanted to do was nothing (despite the to-do list waiting). Nothing won, thank goodness. The to-do list can wait until tomorrow. I feel much better about the world and my place in it tonight.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 29 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

It was a calm start to the week. Refuse bin out, cats fed, coffee made, a few quiet moments in bed. I had a plan for the day, but then chaos erupted and Plan A became B, and then C, and eventually I was just happy that I did not end up with Omicron. The most important part of the day was the evening with my love: we watched TV and had a lovely dinner together and the world seemed a much better place. Although, driving home, I could not help thinking about the petrol price rise on Wednesday and what that will do to other prices and life in general. It is hard not to despair.

I also found it very difficult to leave the latest Renée Ballard novel at my love’s house. He has a copy and I was feeling greedy (I am reading two really good books at the moment, so it’s not like I need more), wanting to escape – or rather disappear completely – into a story. There are so few safe spaces left in the world.

The Book Lounge is running a #MyBookLounge campaign – check it out on social media and post something if you can.

I am editing again. A real page-turner and great fun.

Yet, the thing that I am looking forward to most in the next while is that time around Christmas when my part of the city becomes a ghost town and everything is slow and quiet. I don’t think that I want to make any plans for the festive season. I just want to do what feels right in the moment. And I need to rest.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27-28 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

With Salieri in the audience at one of the events of the Karavan Press Literary Festival

The inaugural – it seems – Karavan Press Literary Festival took place yesterday and was a success beyond my wildest dreams. I created the festival to give us an opportunity to celebrate authors and books in real life again, despite the lockdown. I did not think of it as an annual event, but a temporary solution. Yet, who knows? It might happen again. It certainly provided us with so much food for the soul and mind that it would be wonderful to do it again. Last night, I went to bed absolutely exhausted, but very happy. I love working with the people who are the backbone of Karavan Press and our readers are a great bunch, too. Thank you to all my lucky stars for bringing these amazing people into my life, personal and professional.

Today, I woke up feeling like a zombie. I had two glasses of pink bubbly to celebrate at the end of the day, but I felt as if I’d had two bottles. Maybe an exhaustion hangover? Also, I think the stress went straight into my stomach this time. The morning was spent in bed, nursing my hangover body and catching up on emails and social media posts. Driving to Buitenverwachting to have lunch with my love and friends, all I could think of was a Virgin Mary. Sometimes your body just tells you what is needed. And that is how I started my meal and the non-alcoholic cocktail and everything that followed was wonderful. Beyond is a special restaurant and Buitenverwachting is one of my favourite places in Cape Town.

I was on Skype with my family while the President addressed the nation tonight. Omicron. Another new word in our vocabularies. Vaccine mandate – a phrase that I hope will become reality. We need to live with this virus and at the moment the vaccines offer us the most viable way forward. The Greek alphabet might run out of letters otherwise.

We live in an era of mass gaslighting with dire consequences. I doubt that reason will prevail anytime soon, but I live in hope.

The Sunday Times ran an article today about the GBAS Book Cover Design Awards. If you are on FB (which I am not), you can vote for your favourite covers in the readers’ choice award.

Karavan Press’s Stephen Symons is nominated for his cover of Beat Routes by Justin Fox. Please go and judge a book by its cover!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

It’s snowing in Salzburg.

I had a secret hope that I would still somehow make it to Austria this year. Oh well. My secret hope was just that. I haven’t made any plans, bought any tickets, reserved any accommodation. Many of my friends and people I know have, but the world is shutting down its borders and all those plans are coming to nothing. It is devastating.

I don’t even dare to think what this is doing to the travel industry.

It’s raining in Cape Town. I had to readjust my plans for the festival tomorrow, but I hope that everything will proceed smoothly anyway. One needs to be flexible nowadays. The other options is staying in a corner and weeping. Not tomorrow.

Two manuscripts arrived on Karavan Press’s doorstep, one with a fresh bunch of basil. I look forward to reading both. But first, we celebrate the arrival of the first copies of Cathy Park Kelly’s triumphant memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly. Fresh off the press today.

It was a long, difficult day. But Nancy Richards brought flowers and my love and I went to The Hoghouse for dinner, so the day ended on a delicious note. Now: sleep. If all that thunder and rain allow.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Joanne Hichens, Nancy Richards, Consuelo Roland, a lucky woman, Penny Haw

It was a day of festival preparations (all in place now!), and in the evening, we gathered at Exclusive Books Cavendish for the final Karavan Press launch of the week: The Skipper’s Daughter by Nancy Richards. And it was fabulous! I could listen to Nancy for hours, and then more. She was in conversation with the wonderful Kim Cloete. To think that this book was never really supposed to be shared with a wider public beyond Nancy’s circle of family and friends – and now hundreds of readers around the world are delighting in the story – is truly something. It is beautiful to witness and to be part of this journey.

With Penny Haw and Melissa A. Volker

The evening was also a great reminder of how lucky I feel to be working with all these amazing women. Every time I meet with them, I feel inspired and encouraged. Together, we make great things happen. Thank you!

The evening ended on a delicious high – with my love and our friends at Mario’s. I know tripe is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but oh, when it is prepared so well, it is a treat. And we had the most divine zabaione for dessert. The accompanying wines were to live for! But the best was the company. Especially on a day when a new variant and rising Covid-19 infection numbers were a strong reminder of the times we are living in. I am grateful to all my vaccinated friends for caring.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD