Operation Oysterhood: Day One

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



I wanted to remember them, because it felt like a good omen that my dreams were about something positive, but after I had surfaced properly into the morning, they were all gone, leaving behind a vague feeling of warmth and uncertainty.

My cats were there, all real and demanding. They like having their human permanently at home and have decided to smoke the peace pipe to allow me to enjoy their company together at the same time. They only do that when they know they are needed, when loss and anxiousness are in the air.

‘Be kind to yourself’ is the wisest advice I have ever been given. It is my intention for the duration of the lockdown, twenty-one days or longer, whatever is necessary to do my bit in this battle, to be kind to myself. I am staying at home. No routines, because they don’t work for me. Just being, breathing, seeing what is possible, and doing my best. I move between two beds. One is in front of the TV – contrary to most sane advice, the TV helps me fall asleep and it makes me feel safe that it keeps watching me through the night. I never finish an episode of anything before I fall asleep, so I usually catch up during the day if I am interested in who did it. This morning, I finished watching a pre-recorded episode of “Coroner” (the Universal Channel is the only channel I watch regularly, apart from SuperSport channels, and now news from around the world).

Coffee. Beautiful sunrise illuminating the side of the Mountain I can see from my garden. Simple breakfast. Coffee. Then, Refilwe Moloto on CapeTalk in tears just before the 9am news, reporting on the first two Covid-19 deaths in South Africa, here in the Western Cape. (Later, it was reported that one of the women was not Covid-19 positive, but she died at the age of 28, which is a tragedy in itself.)

I know people are dying everywhere, every day, of a multitude of causes. But there is something so simple, silent and sinister about this threat that one cannot help feeling terrified. I am terrified.

For the rest of the morning, I returned to my usual bed to finish proofreading a collection of struggle poetry by ANC women that will be published later this year by uHlanga. My electric blanket was on, Salieri was by my side, the coffee was good. The poetry was fierce and inspiring. An archival treasure of note.

Apart from the virus, the thing that dominates my thoughts is my privilege. The roof over my head, the wild garden, the stunning view of the Mountain, my pool (even though it has been leaking because of cracks on one side). I am doing what I possibly can to assist others during this unprecedented crisis, but it all feels insignificant in comparison to all the personal blessings I can count in my own life right now, even in this very difficult situation when I feel lost and scared. I have survived a severe case of pneumonia in my teens. I remember the nights when I couldn’t breathe and in my thoughts begged to be released from the agony. It was the only time I gave up my will to live. And yet, I don’t fear so much for myself as for what I could possibly inflict on others if I am careless…

I have been watching the pandemic unfold and have known before it was officially announced here in South Africa that we would end up on this spot. It seemed unavoidable. I bought my non-perishable supplies (no toilet paper though! – what I had from before will last a long time) very calmly almost three weeks ago and they will keep me and my Furry Ones going for a while.

The next few days are also predictable. I don’t dare attempt to look further into the future, because I know that if we don’t take this lockdown seriously, our actions might result in carnage. There is very little I can do, but I can stay at home.

Twitter has been a source of information and support. I have some really great people on my timeline and I count quite a few of them as friends, even if we barely know each other, or not at all, outside the platform. But I also worry about online predators for whom this crisis must feel like paradise: all these people openly signalling distress, all stuck at home, vulnerable and ready to be taken advantage of. It’s a topic for another day. Soon.

The funniest thing I saw online today were the Standup Paddleboard Witches during their annual event in Portland, US:

Standup Paddleboard Witches

(Image: Sam Bugarsky)


When I finally finished the poetry proofreading just after 1pm, inspired by the Standup Paddleboard Witches, I put on my witch’s hat in order to attempt to fix the cracks in my pool. The water started leaking noticeably a few days ago, so there was no time to ask the pool people to assist me, but I had once accidentally bought some putty meant for this purpose and I decided to try my luck with it. We will know by tomorrow how successful I have been.

Chicken soup for lunch (obviously!), quite a literary dish, because my recipe combines the recipes of Rahla Xenopoulos and Sally Partridge who both participated in the ‘Fatten Up Karina’ campaign a few years back when I lost too much weight after André’s death.

I was supposed to interview Rahla’s sister, Gigi Fenster, at the postponed Jewish Literary Festival about her excellent memoir, Feverish. At the time of reading, I did not know that Rahla and Gigi were sisters, but was delighted to find out afterwards. Gigi wrote about the period of her life when she thought of inducing a fever in herself for creative purposes. It is a fascinating account about the reasons behind this idea and about what happened with the experiment. I hope that I will still be able to do this interview. If not, I promise to write about the book one day.

Apart from me and the Furry Ones, there are only six other living creatures (officially, not counting the uninvited visitors creeping and crawling around) in the house: five orchids and a kombucha. I prepared a new batch of kombucha today and fertilised parts of my garden with the overflow scoby (a gift from Jacqui L’Ange).

After some emails and a lot of admin, it was time for a simple dinner and then another wonderful phone call with my Mom. I try not to think about it, but it is very difficult to know that even if I wanted to, I could not rush to her. She lives alone in Austria with her cat Myszka. Whenever I speak to her, Myszka’s brother, Mozart, who lives with me, comes to the phone and wants to cuddle with me. I think he recognises that I am speaking Polish and finds this somehow comforting. He has been blind for more than three years now and, even though he has always been independent, he has become very elusive, spending his time in the garden alone and not wanting to be bothered. Today, he sat on my lap while I spoke to Mom.

It is now time for bed. I am lighting a candle for someone I know who is in distress and needs kind thoughts right now.


May you all be safe tonight and be surrounded by kindness in your lives.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home.

1 thought on “Operation Oysterhood: Day One

  1. Debbie Minne

    It is very touching to read an honest account of the little joys, pleasures and blessings you focus on yet shadow of anxiety looms.
    As I focus on similar blessings I try not to (double) cross the bridge into the unknown future. The things I know about in my immediate future are making me anxious and insecure enough.
    Thank you for sharing Karina. Be safe, always.


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