Operation Oysterhood: 30 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Lester Walbrugh with his debut short story collection, Let It Fall Where It Will.

A bad night, followed by a work-intense morning and early afternoon, but then the day began to brighten big time. I delivered copies of his first book to Lester. A very special moment for both of us. We met at Liberty Books in Grabouw, where Lester lives. Many moons ago, we first signed the publishing agreement at Liberty Books and now, finally, the book is ready to venture out into the world and find readers who will care for the powerful, moving stories it holds between its pages. We will be launching the book at Elgin Ridge Wine Estate on 21 November.

After the happy book delivery and hearing Christy Weyer’s exciting news for Liberty Books, my love and I journeyed on to the Wildekrans Country House with its beautiful garden. And then we met for an early dinner with friends from the area at the famous Manny’s Kitchen in Botrivier.

Finger-licking delicious! And the company was great. A place I will eagerly return to.

A little bit of manuscript reading in the bath. Bed readiness: 100%.

Good night!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 29 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Just to show that I can do healthy, too. Although I must say that I gobbled up the salad over a very quick lunch conversation with Mom and Krystian – quick, because we got the time we were supposed to meet on Skype wrong: Austria turned back the clocks and is now an hour behind SA – and that is no way, meaning hurried, to eat either. Anyway …

A morning of mixed feelings.

When you are attached to stuff as I am, it is never easy to part with it, but a while ago I decided to attempt to liquidate an asset in order to improve my dire cash-flow situation. The attempt was unsuccessful and I had to make my peace with it today. I had other promising news in this department, so I am breathing a bit more lightly, but it was all a bit draining.

And then I met a friend I haven’t seen for a long time for coffee. She has had a rough time in the last few months (and I mean ROUGH!), but has somehow managed to navigate an extremely difficult situation with grace and hope, and listening to her, I was simply in awe of her resilience.

Otherwise, the day was devoted to going over printer’s proofs with two authors, one a debut author (I edited the book for her) and the other one experienced (we have worked together before, but this is the first time I am her publisher), but the jitters are always the same. Both books turned out beautifully, even if I say so myself. But the feeling of utter disbelief that one has somehow brought a book into the world persists, and it doesn’t matter whether one is the writer, editor or publisher.

It is not my place yet to share the cover of the book I edited, but here is the beauty I will be publishing:

Joanne took a picture of me holding the proofs :)

And I was able to show the proofs to our fantastic editor, Helen Moffett, today, too. We are all extremely excited about this joint project. When you read the book, you will know how we have been connected through this story in the most magical ways for many, many years. And now, the book: Joanne Hichens’s Death and the After Parties. And we soldier on! Together!

We have all had our share of loss and grief in life, and more recently, in lockdown, but one always needs to remember that no matter how hard it gets, as long as we have one another and can share the kindness and love we have for one another and the things we do – writing, editing, publishing, reading – we can create spaces for one another that will keep us safe, no matter what. And there is a kind of calm in the thought that, one day, when Joanne, Helen and I are old, or even no longer alive, someone might pick up a dusty copy of Jo’s beautiful memoir and find solace in its pages. And the kindness and sharing will continue as long as readers are opening the books we so lovingly put into the world …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 28 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Yes, I did. Right after I sent a book I have edited for someone off to the printers and after my first errand of the day – dropping off author’s copies for Stephen: his poetry collection, FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT, is ready for distribution and we are both happy with the way it turned out – perfect!

By the time I got to the post office and was told that their system was offline again, I was so hungry that I decided to simply do it: a Big Mac. Quick, cheap, satisfying junk food. On my way back to the car with the unposted parcel, I was spotted by one of the post office ladies, who said that the system was back on and I could ship off my parcel after all. Yay!

Then some housework (laundry, cleaning, etc.) and a meeting with a lawyer and accountant to discuss a possible, promising business proposition.

Glinka supervising my work.

The rest of the day was spent editing and proofreading. But I did visit my love’s Cat again and go to Kalk Bay Books, bringing back this beauty:

Today, we also finalised the planning for the first Karavan Press lockdown book launch – socially distanced, of course. Invitation to follow shortly. It is going to be sooooo special, and we have three fairy godmothers to thank for it: the venue owner, the bookseller and the author who will interview Lester at the event. Quite fitting that our debut lockdown launch will be of a debut book for the author!

A hectic day. I am having a bath and going to bed early. I endured another long gap in my sleep last night, and I hope I can do better tonight.

Someone who reads my blog regularly sent me a lovely message full of care and empathy after yesterday’s post. Thank you, C.! For reading, and writing to me.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

A miracle! That is how this feels. After more than a decade of refusing to bloom, my amaryllis has decided to showcase its glory again!

It is fitting. This is a time of hardship and miracles. Most days, I sit down at my computer and am overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done and the sense of it all being somehow futile when there are so many more important things than books to consider for survival. (Although, obviously, some of us cannot imagine survival without books …)

A week ago, I was in despair. Today I think: we will somehow make it, Karavan Press and I. And we have been saved by not one, but several miracles. And the kindness of friends, loved ones and strangers.

Last weekend, someone offered to make something nearly impossible possible – just like that! And two days later, almost everything is in place to fulfill a dream for an author I am publishing.

I also met a woman who had read my own books and spoke kindly about them. Her comments made me realise once again how crucial sharing of feelings and insights can be, even when it is done unconsciously and between complete strangers: a writer and her readers.

We stumble on, do not give up believing. Two Karavan Press books are ready for distribution – I picked up a few boxes from the printer today. I will be delivering author’s copies later this week – always a pleasure.

Tonight, I go to bed with renewed hope in my heart.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

It is Austria’s Nationalfeiertag today. We celebrate the moment when Austria was declared “frei” (free) in 1955.

And my dearest Norwegian friends are celebrating their thirteenth wedding anniversary on the same day. Happy Anniversary!

My love and I were also celebrating today: we were celebrating that we made it through the last few weeks. We are both exhausted because of work – rewarding and wonderful work – but work that has pushed us near the limits of our endurance. But we made it! And tonight, we had a beautiful dinner at an amazing place and will have an early night and return to work – hopefully energised – tomorrow again.

Until then, I wish everyone sweet dreams.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

I slept. And had a morning in bed with Cats, coffee and leisure reading. It felt like an ordinary Sunday. I did a little bit of work, but, after the tensions and pressures of last week, I was tired and the creative juices refused to flow.

Friends invited us to a late Sunday lunch that ended after dinner and was glorious in all respects. Great company, delicious food, ridiculously divine wines, including a Cognac that was to die for, and vinyl music (with the host taking requests in the course of the meal). I ended up dancing with our friends’ cats (please don’t tell Mozart, Glinka and Salieri – my only excuse is that we did not play any classical stuff ….).

I cannot claim that I go to bed a sober woman, but I am definitely a happy one.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Glinka helped with the planning and Mozart assisted with the execution of my first ladies’ lunch since the beginning of the lockdown. To make it as safe as possible, I arranged two tables in the garden and divided all the dishes in two, so that each table had its own food and every one had their own serving cutlery, etc. We could be together, while keeping a safe distance to one another at all times. In the morning it was still raining, but luckily the skies cleared up just in time for us to enjoy the afternoon in the garden and it was soul-restoring. I missed my guests the moment they left and knew that I will have to do this again as soon as possible. It is different and complicated, but worth all the effort. Just what I needed at the end of a difficult week.

After cleaning up, I spoke to Mom and Krystian, worked a bit and then went to the last performance of The Outlaw Muckridge. It was wonderful to see a few friends there I haven’t seen in a while and to go out to dinner afterwards to celebrate the reopening of the Baxter with this simultaneously timely and timeless play.

A day that seemed ordinary, from the time ‘before’, but, of course, it wasn’t, because I prepared lunch wearing a mask and washed my hands a million times while doing it and had my name recorded while entering the theatre, sanatised and wore a mask for most of the time in the evening, unless I was drinking or eating. I spoke to people who had to completely reinvent themselves during the lockdown because they either lost their jobs or faced impossible challenges while still keeping one. And all day long I thought about loss, how a friend lost a parent in these already awful circumstances; how another, who is a doctor, lost colleagues to the pandemic; and another cannot be with her parents, who need her, but do not want to risk her travelling to see and support them. And there is no end to any of it in sight, especially if Europe is anything to go by.

If “all world’s a stage and all men and women merely players”, then the coronavirus is a shitty director and only love and kindness will allow us to get to the other side …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 23 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Hearing the news from Poland – banning nearly all terminations – I despair.

The Tangerine Troll did not throw all his toys out of the cot last night, but did you watch that face? What happened to the First Trollin? And the Trolltjie? How did they cope with the infection? … On second thought, I actually don’t need to know … Vote, dear Americans! Vote. Please vote some sanity into the White House.

This has been an intense week, as predicted. Driving home from my evening visit with my love’s recovering Cat, I was so exhausted, and my fridge was so empty, that I suddenly had an idea: HARU.

I nearly burst into tears when they brought me a glass of rosé and some simple sushi. I sat outside, alone, at a table meant for four, and just watched the traffic go buy and enjoyed my wonderful meal and my wine. The stress of the week drained away and I felt calm, ready for bed.

So this is it. I am going to have an early night.

Tomorrow, I am hosting my first ladies’ lunch since the lockdown. It will be under the trees in my garden, physically distanced and as safe as it can be.

And in the evening, I am watching my favourite Outlaw on stage at the Baxter.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 22 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

The Pope proclaims the previously unimaginable; Obama does not mince his words; Poland is erecting a field hospital in the national stadium; and I have just participated – joyfully – in my first webinar (the news of only the last twenty-four hours …). Aliens landing in my wild garden would no longer surprise me in 2020. Actually, I am expecting them to arrive before Christmas. Surely, no one in this universe would want to miss the new year’s celebrations on planet Earth – we will all be so glad to leave this year behind that we will not know how to mark the event. It will be outrageously fabulous …

… I will be in bed by eight, drunk on a bottle of Champagne!

(Only Goddess knows what tonight’s ‘debate’ will deliver …!?)

A book I edited went through the final revision stages today. It will go to print by Monday, latest. Another project I began this week is well on its way. I really enjoyed the webinar – it was a delight to interview Gigi Fenster about her remarkable memoir, FEVERISH, for the Jewish Literary Festival (@Home Edition). Gigi has a new book coming in 2021. I sincerely hope that the next Jewish Literary Festival will take place IRL and I can meet Gigi in person and listen to her talk about her second novel without screens between us.

I don’t think that I will last until the debate, but once again I am curious. The Tangerine Troll has never really been in control of any plot, but in the last few days, he has lost it irrevocably, it seems. I have an idea that he won’t be able to contain himself at all and the world is in for a freak show of note: a psychopath on full display. May enough people wake up to his malignancy and vote this particular horror out of power.

I was thinking about the reality of a Biden presidency: it will be decent and calm and we will be able to forget about the States for a while. Twitter might finally become boring – and more bearable – for a few days at a time … Imagine that!

“And that empathy, that decency, that belief that everybody counts, that’s who Joe is. That’s who he’ll be …” (President Barack Obama)

The rising infection, hospitalisation and death numbers worldwide … Deep existential sigh.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 21 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Forthcoming from Karavan Press: FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons, the press’s first poetry collection.

A day of driving around Cape Town from one corner of the city to another: a heartening (as always) visit at Protea Distribution, my local printer (also always a joy), Clarke’s Bookshop and The Book Lounge (ah, bookshops! – where would we be without them?), two banks (sigh), post office (I love my local post office), recovering Cat (twice, but she is doing great!) and I actually managed to send a book to the printers today. Yay.

Still to come this evening: a trial run for tomorrow night’s JLF@Home event: my interview with Gigi Fenster about her striking memoir, FEVERISH. Tune in at 8PM tomorrow and find out how a conversation about Velcro fantasies (!) led to the writing of an amazing book.

The Book Lounge’s Winnie-the-Pooh and I watch the protest march outside the bookshop earlier today …

Yesterday was rough. There was a moment in the day where I felt this deep-seated, numbing fear in the pit of my stomach that I might not be able to fix everything that needed fixing and a dream would have to be given up in the process of at least attempting to do something. But, as always, my family and my love came to the rescue and talked me through everything, offering practical advice and essential help. I soldier on. But only because of my Loved Ones.

I am tired, but I will go to bed with a lighter heart tonight.

Although there are other crushing concerns that are completely out of my control. I watch the pandemic updates in Europe and across the rest of the world with ever-increasing worry. And, locally, in my secular way I pray that our health minister, his wife and all others suffering because of an infection with the coronavirus recover fully and quickly. I do not understand anyone who is not wearing a mask and/or not trying to keep their distance from others as much as it is feasible. I don’t even remember how to wash my hands in any other way than as if I was preparing for a medical operation. I do not want to get sick. I want to continue fully with my life, personal and professional, but in a way that lowers the infection risk to an absolute minimum. And I pray.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD