Operation Oysterhood: Day Twenty-Eight

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



I love owls, so this was the highlight of the Wild Earth live safari for me this morning.

Another night in my own bed. Another morning in bed with Cats, coffee and books. Tried to phone my Mom, but she was busy bringing her recycling to the newly reopened recycling centre near her home. Apparently only one person is allowed in at a time, which results in hours-long queues. But a lot of people have nothing else to do, so… I spoke to my brother on Skype instead and told him about the letter Lara Foot sent out this morning, asking people for support for the Baxter. I refuse to write about any other donations/support I am offering to good causes during lockdown (this is not the time to brag about doing good, but just doing it). However, I make an exception for the arts, especially books, because I hope that people feel a tiny bit inspired and, if they can, help too. Most artists are so horrifically underpaid, if paid at all, that any support for them – for us – must be shouted from the rooftops. I love books, I love the theatre. The Arts. I will do anything I can to support them.

My brother and I had a good conversation about what is happening to the arts in Austria and South Africa in the time of the pandemic. He was with me the last time I visited the Baxter Theatre and a certain tennis player made an appearance – not surprisingly: theatres are places of dreams, magic and possibilities! And theatre lovers will return to the stage and the audience when they reopen and we can delight in all that they have to offer again.

The Asian Aspiration launch 1

I ‘attended’ my first virtual book launch today. It was easy to register, the conversation was fascinating, and I think I will read the book. But I am not so sure about attending another virtual book launch again… And it wasn’t even the fact that for a few minutes all the speakers disappeared from my computer screen (some technical problem on the host’s platform). It was the fact that I couldn’t page through the physical book, could not have it signed and say thank you to the authors in person afterwards. It just isn’t the same as sitting in a bookshop with other eager readers and engaging live, and I just don’t want it. I am happy to wait until the real thing again, even if it takes months.

At the beginning of the state of disaster, I proposed the idea for a literary festival on Twitter. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and I almost had a whole plan ready how to pull it off. But then I started watching how other people in the industry took to social media to promote books and engage with writers and readers and I tried to follow the different developments and soon discovered exactly the same as above: it’s just not the same. One might be reaching larger audiences across the globe and selling more ebooks right now, but this is not what I wish for in the future. As long as it is not possible for me to visit a real bookshop or attend a real literary festival and speak in person to other readers and writers, and to TOUCH real books, I will exercise my patience. To all who were hoping for me to get the Twitter literary festival off the ground, please forgive me. I had second thoughts. But I love Twitter and use it to promote books all the time. We can do it together without any formal arrangements. The platform can do with more book love (love in general too). And when the time is right, we will meet in a bookshop or at a literary festival and smile and bury our noses in real books, and all will be well in the book world again. The screens can help us keep in touch, but they will never be able to replace touch.

After lunch, a few chores were waiting for me, but my heart wasn’t in house cleaning today, and I must admit that for most of the afternoon I just listened to the radio. It felt good. I grew up with the radio and it will always be a medium I turn to for comfort. Why is it different to the internet? I don’t know. Perhaps because it does not attempt to simulate something that it isn’t, it just is itself. The internet’s brilliance and strength lie in its ability to assist with tasks that nothing and no one else can perform. I would not want to live without it. But I want it to be an additional tool, making our lives better; I do not want it to replace most of our reality.

On the radio, I heard about this award-winning short documentary: Scenes from a Dry City.

Scenes from a Dry City

I heated up a can of really delicious chickpea and chicken soup for dinner and watched the documentary (these are moments where I am super grateful to have access to the internet, because I doubt that I would go to see a ten-minute documentary in a cinema). Loved it.

Now, the evening is young, and the President is going to address us again at 20:30. The latest figures are sobering: 318 new confirmed cases (I think the highest daily increase recorded in SA until now), total 3953, and we have recorded 75 deaths. I know death comes knocking on our doors every single day for all kinds of reasons, but these deaths occurred specifically because of this virus or with its help. Seventy-five families whose lives will never be the same again because of an invisible virus. All these people died only because they spoke to, or served, or sat around the table with, or hugged, or were present in the same space as an infected person. It’s horrifying.

You don’t have to go out of your way to be infected, but you can do one simple thing to avoid spreading this lethal virus: stay at home. And if you can’t, practice physical distancing, wear a suitable mask, wash your hands, think carefully.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Buy the Baxter a cup of coffee. And when the theatre reopens its doors again, I will see you there for a glass of wine to celebrate.

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