Monthly Archives: May 2020

Operation Oysterhood: Day Sixty-Three

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

— @HaggardHawks

Last night, Glinka decided to join me on the couch, under the quilt (left above), and we had some (and a little) whiskey and watched TV, while Bobik, the teddy bear, held the bottle in place between his thick teddy ankles. A jolly bunch if there ever was one until we all fell asleep and eventually were so uncomfortable and cold that we woke up and moved to our proper bed. It took me forever to fall asleep again, but my favourite Twitter accounts kept me entertained until Morpheus was ready to welcome me back into his elusive arms.

No roof leaks spotted yet – a miracle! – despite the much needed rain coming down in streams for most of the day. I haven’t checked up on my Frog Prince, but I have an idea that he is loving the rain.

There wasn’t really another option today but to work in the warm bed and with a steady supply of warm drinks (mostly coffee, but also ginger/lemon/honey infusions) until it was time to move in front of a welcoming winter fire. I can always rely on my catssistants to supervise the mouse and the szczurek when we are all working under a duvet.

We did go on the live safari, too, as all of us adore the Wild Earth Kalahari meerkats. They are irresistibly cute.

Giraffes? What giraffes?




I had to write a rejection letter today and that is never easy. It is never easy to receive one either, but it is more awkward for me to be on the publisher’s side of the exchange. As writers, most of us have to learn to live with rejection letters and grow a thick skin, otherwise submitting work for potential publication becomes too traumatic. To be contributing to that skin growth as a publisher is no fun either and I wish it would not be part of the process.

Blogging is different and maybe even rougher on the soul, because there is no filter, no editor, only the deep waters of the internet. A few people have told me that they read this blog regularly, even daily, and every time I hear it, my heart smiles. So thank you to all of you for taking the time, for the kindness of reading. This has been my diary for the past sixty-three days. I haven’t recorded a single thought in my private diary during all this time. From the beginning of the lockdown, I have felt that it might be important to reflect on such a deeply affecting communal process on a communal platform. My plan is, however, to print these posts at the end of the lockdown, have them bound somehow into a book and add the lockdown blog diary to the collection of my private diaries. Thank you to all of you for being part of this daunting experience.

This was my treat of the day. My love arranged for me to have this delicious La Colombe Dine-In Experience. When La Colombe was still at its old location, that is where I first had oysters on my twenty-ninth birthday many years ago. No oysters on the dine-in menu, but everything included was so stunning that I did not miss an oyster for a second. And it was wonderful to remember our last meal there and to dream about the one that we will be able to enjoy together at the restaurant when it is safe for all of us to go back at level one or zero probably…

Level three regulations have been mostly clarified. Apart from walking more outside my property and the ability to stock up on red wine, no much will change for me personally. I just hope that everyone else who is returning to work can do so in as safe as possible manner. Let us please honour all these people by doing all we can to act in such a way that we don’t endanger them any further than absolutely necessary.

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

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Sixty-Two

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

— @HaggardHawks

Woke up under a cat blanket. We are all searching for warmth. The time has come when we basically move into the bedroom for the winter and only venture outside to prepare food in the freezing kitchen. Sheltering in place of a completely different kind. I left the house to sweep the stoep and get the wood for the fireplace this morning. Otherwise, read in bed, made the fire, moved to the chaise lounge in front of the fire, read, worked on my laptop, made food and a huge discovery…


This house has always been a place of stories, ghosts and treasures, and I have always loved discovering them all. Today, I discovered something completely different. A kind of treasure, under current circumstances: a bottle of whiskey. Yep, there was one hiding under a pile of ‘stuff’! A gift I have completely forgotten about. The only time I buy whiskey is during the Open Book Festival at the Fugard – daily, gladly. It has become a tradition. That is where I first discovered my love for it quite a while ago and from the start I knew that it would not be, shall we say, wise for me to have a bottle in the house… How I could have forgotten about the gift shall remain a mystery. But now, it is here. Pray for me! (At home, please. No need to gather; I am quite sure that cash donations to the relevant places of worship can be made online, too – your physical presence at the potentially lethal mass gathering will not be required.)

Forgive the sarcasm, but I have lost my faith.

Medieval feline proofreader

Good literary news of the day (apart from a fireplace and a bottle of whiskey in the house): my brother said that my copy of Medieval Monster Hunter by Damien Kempf has arrived. I wanted to have the book, but knew that having it posted to SA right now would be impossible, so I had it sent to my Mom in Austria. Krystian, who is visiting her at the moment, loved it so much that he asked whether he could take it with him home and show to his partner. When we briefly met on Skype, he said he couldn’t stop laughing while turning the pages. The best kind of book review, me thinks.

Nowadays, laughter is a huge treasure, so I am very happy that this book is making my brother happy and I can’t wait to pick up my copy when I visit Austria again.

And talking about Austria, earlier this evening, I saw this when I went on Twitter:

Van der Bellen

I can only hope that during this discussion, my other President, Van der Bellen, shared a lot of his insights on the effects of Covid-19 on Austria with our President Ramaphosa. After all, as an Austrian citizen, I could have been on a repatriation flight this weekend, but I know where my home is, and in my secular way I pray that my home will listen to insights from countries that have managed the pandemic exceptionally well, so that we can all enjoy the Austrian Alps and the Kruger as soon as possible without killing each other while at it…

Polish by birth, Austrian by citizenship, South African by heart. Love, Karina

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Stay tuned for a report on whiskey-fuelled dreams.

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Sixty-One

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


I can’t believe that I am reading about tobacco, but here we are. Yesterday ended with the Tobacco Wars and this morning began with them: fascinating stuff, reads like a thriller. The author’s personal story of complicated complicity and deep regret resonates with me in uncanny ways. The rest makes me happy that I’ve never picked up a cigarette. I like lighting candles, braais and fireplaces, but that’s about it.


This gorgeous creature came to visit today. Moths are considered messengers of death in many cultures across the world. But I don’t need to turn to symbolism to read the signs. The weeks ahead are spelled out in quite clear letters across the landscape of this city and beyond.

The last time I visited the CTICC, it was Valentine’s Day and I went to see Sue Greeff’s exhibition at the art fair. I find her work stunning. Knowing how much I like it, my love contacted the artist and bought me a beautiful artwork that I took to at the exhibition.

Today, I saw the chilling footage of the hospital for Covid-19 patients established in the CTICC in anticipation of what’s to come. Roughly at the same time as the centre was being considered for this purpose a few weeks ago, I also heard discussions about the identification of suitable spaces for mass graves. There is talk of them again. We are readying ourselves for these hospitalisations and deaths and burials and yet I don’t think that most of us understand what lies ahead.

And I have just read about the places of worship reopening at level three… Really? Really???

The phrase “a nail in the coffin” is all that comes to mind. But there might not even be a coffin. A cardboard box or a shroud might have to suffice.

Very little makes sense any longer. Did I write something about a vision the other day? Forgive me, for I have sinned.

And yet: I see people declaring their ‘religions’ on social media and feeling deprived that they can’t have their nails done, have tea with friends, or see their favourite show live. I get it. Of course it makes sense. Compared to a religious gathering, some of these activities are probably much, much safer.

But for now, I don’t want any of it. Not as long as that new hospital in the CTICC looms large, waiting patiently for our sick and all the prayers that will accompany them when they suffer alone without their loved ones to hold their lonely hands.

I will do anything I can to avoid this fate.

I will love my loved ones in ways that do not put them at risk. I will try to fulfill all my professional obligations as long as I can and as safely as I can. I will perform essential tasks, do essential shopping and walk in the rain. I will cuddle with The Cats. My home, my Family (human and furry) and Friends, have always been my sanctuary – may they continue offering me their hearts for sheltering in place.

We need to take care of one another.

Mother's Day

Today, my brother and I celebrated Mother’s Day with our Miś. She said that all she wanted for Mother’s Day was to be with us, so my brother organised a fancy take-away meal that was delivered to Mom’s home and he was there to receive it when it arrived. Then they set up everything and they connected with me on Skype. We chatted, ate, drank wine and laughed for over two hours together, and the world felt a saner place again.

Our reality doesn’t have to be forever like this, but if we keep it small and safe for long enough, there will be a tomorrow, and the day after, and eventually we will meet again and hug and cry with joy.

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

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Sixty

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


426The Cape of Storms. As the lovely Khalida commented on Twitter, I did brave the elements this morning, but, as I explained, only because I would rather brave the elements than people right now. And the weather has kept most people indoors before nine a.m., so I ventured out and loved every second of my walk on the Rondebosch Common.

During the last two days, the Western Cape has recorded over a thousand new confirmed Covid-19 cases each day. The area where I live is among the ones most affected. Physical distancing might be the only way to keep safe, no matter how hard it is. I think we need to comprehend that the possibility of minimising human interaction is a great privilege right now. At least that’s the way I see it. Rustum Kozain tweeted earlier today: “I am staying on lockdown level 6.” I get it! And for the foreseeable future, I don’t see much changing for me personally and professionally either, whether we are on level five or three. Acting as much as possible as if we were still in hard lockdown – if you have the luxury to do so – will save lives. I still remember that early advice: act as if you were already infected…

I walked in solitude with the elements and it felt good.

This beautiful autumn leaf wanted to be taken home. It is next to my bed and it makes me smile every time I see it. I love the colours.


I did sleep in my own bed last night, without interruptions, but with a little bit of help from the medicine box. I just couldn’t face a night of lying awake in a storm.

Salieri and I spent a long time in bed this morning. I got up briefly to handle a few professional emails, but returned to bed the moment they were written. After discovering the fun of a book ribbon, Salieri said that I must find more such books to read. With pleasure, dear Salieri! I love books with ribbons, too.


You know the weather is bad when Mozart refuses to go out during the day. He usually sits on the stoep even during the worst rainfalls, but this morning he decided to stay in and listen to the rain on the windowsill.

It was a chicken soup kind of day. I cooked it yesterday, anticipating that it would be needed in the beginning of this week.

One of the printers I work with had to close down for two weeks due to a confirmed Covid-19 case. It affects one of the projects I am involved in. We need to brace ourselves, be patient, support the people we work with in any way we can. Sadly, these are not going to be isolated cases. (Which reminds me, the moment I finish writing, I have to bring in the uncollected garbage – uncollected since last week, also because of a Covid-19 case at our depot…)

The good news is that from this week on the Alma Café is delivering home-made dinners in the vicinity of Alma Road in Rosebank. If you are in the area, but are not on their mailing list yet, do get in touch with them: – the menu for this week looks delicious. Retha’s famous lemon meringue pie features on the menu for each day. Bliss! I ordered a whole pie just for myself for next weekend :)

But tonight, a different kind of treat awaits…

435First fire of the season.

Good night.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. If in doubt about what we are doing, think of Brazil.

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


Day SIXTY!!!

Operation Oysterhood: Day Fifty-Nine

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


(Disclaimer: written under the influence of white wine. I DO NOT drink white wine. I DO NOT like white wine. But: I wanted to cook something really nice for Sunday lunch – the choice was between a recipe with red wine and one with white wine. This was before the level three announcement for SA, so at level four, I just could not imagine pouring half a bottle of precious red wine into a chicken stew. So I chose the white wine recipe. But again, at level four, I could also not imagine pouring half a bottle of any alcohol down the drain, so after using some for cooking, I decided to drink the rest of the white. And once again, I remember why I DO NOT like white wine. Sorry! So, please, blame my rambling on the wine. The lunch was delicious, though.)

Sunday: a lazy morning in bedroom bed with Salieri after a night spent on the TV bed with Glinka, surfacing and going under several times until, finally, five a.m. arrived and relieved me of the torture. Glinka followed me for her morning cuddle when I went to the bathroom. She loves accompanying me in the mornings, and often supervises my morning teeth brushing, hair combing, etc. She is the only Furry One who allows me to hold her like a baby.

This morning’s reading was fun. As was Wild Earth live safari. Salieri wasn’t too impressed with the leopard cleaning himself and just lying there, feline gorgeousness and all. (I was! But don’t tell her.)


We absolutely loved the Kalahari feed, with Dylan and the meerkats. A wonderful addition to the live safari experience.

Then, the human of the family had to brave the scary outside world again and do some shopping. It was manageable, but the pandemic scatter-brain is a thing. This time, I forgot the shopping list and shopped from memory – got everything apart from one item. Not bad, but that was before the white wine…

We cooked, we rested, we walked (in the garden), we spoke to Mom on Skype and wrote to a few lovely people. Then it was time to watch The Address.


I have never ever been interested in smoking. Haven’t even tried it once. But now, NOW the cigarette ban is beginning to intrigue me. Apart from two big conspiracy theories of the distant past (not SA-related), I am not really into them, so I still want to find a real, reasonable explanation for the ban. Research will be done. (And I can’t believe that I am actually thinking about this – I have a few dear friends who smoke and I always have ashtrays ready for them when they visit, but in general I am not a fan of smoking, yet I am fascinated by the continued ban.)

The walking at level three will be lovely. I gave up on walking outside my garden after last Monday’s excursion. I might walk in the rain tomorrow though, as I suspect the streets will be empty.

Otherwise, not much will change for me. Cape Town is not only a Covid-19 hotspot, it is a Covid-19 megahotspot and I understand what the President meant when he said that a lot will depend on us when we move to level three. One’s own safety and the safety of others will become even more difficult to maintain. When so much depends on individual responsibility, we better pull up our sleeves and do our bit.

Oh, but the road ahead looks rough! I am exhausted just thinking about it.

There is one more thing that I need to note tonight – the most important one for the day perhaps: I am so glad that I live in a country that has someone like Cyril Ramaphosa as President at a time like this. I spent a few years in the UK and in the US during my migratory days and have many fond memories of those times and places, but right now, judging solely on the attitude of their leaders during the pandemic, I would not want to be in either of those countries.

I know that once we get to the details of how to survive a pandemic, everything becomes muddled, but many countries fail that part of the plan too. No one has this really figured out. However, when it comes to an overall vision and the President’s official stance, not many countries have coped better than SA since the outbreak of Covid-19. The implementation of that vision is nowhere near acceptable, but at least there is a vision. For the rest, that is where individual responsibility can achieve wonders, as so many South Africans have proven over and over again under the most dire circumstances. We need to tap into those creative, positive, inspiring energies, be the best that we can be as individuals. Right now, our lives and the lives of our loved ones depend on it.

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

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Fifty-Eight

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



How do others survive insomnia nights without Soviet Soldiers Dancing? Last night was bad. Before I moved to the TV bed and finally fell asleep, I was simply paralysed with reality. But there is no waking up from this nightmare.

Yesterday, when I went to the vet and the post office, it took me forever to leave the house and in the end I did forget to take my cell phone with me and returned to get it before continuing with the trip. I feel the same anxiety about leaving the house now as after the break-ins. Complete scatterbrain-mode. Despite the crime in our area reducing to nearly non-existent – although I have no idea about last week’s stats as our police station is temporarily closed because of Covid-19 – I am more paranoid than ever. I think its the health-threat manifesting in more familiar fears. The overall risk to one’s safety is huge on all kinds of levels right now, especially when you are a woman living alone. And all I can think of saying is: Fuck. (Which reminds me, I discovered a wonderful Twitter account last night, too: Swear Trek. Highly recommended when you can’t sleep and want to scream into the night.)

I wish I could wake up from the pandemic. I have lived through some dicey situations, but there was always a sense that it’s all going to turn out all right, somehow, in the end.


“It’s a mystery.”

(Shakespeare in Love)

And now?

Lester Kiewit asked on Twitter: “At what point in the last 57 days did you realise we are well and truly in the kak?” And my dear friend Debbie responded earlier today: “When the reality of Italy lockdown hit the news. My kak-meter hit the red level.” I remember that moment, too. And then it was just a matter of time…


Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Have a G&T.

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



For J, J & S – missing you all!

Operation Oysterhood: Day Fifty-Seven

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


My favourite small person in the world has turned five today. This morning, I had a look at his baby pictures of when he was born and sent him birthday greetings via his parents. In return, I received a video of the birthday boy with his cake and his balloons and a photograph of him and his dad. I will never forget the day he was born and I went to the hospital to meet him. A few hours old, he hummed in my arms – it was pure magic. He stole my heart there and then and has had it ever since. A happy day.

Another good night in my own bed and a morning of reading with Salieri. Then, a long productive phone call with an author, a few hours of work at my computer and a visit to our vet (nothing wrong, I just needed to get some stuff for The Cats). I was really impressed with the way they have approached the whole safety first procedure. It was the first space where I really felt completely safe outside my home. Everything took a long time, but I didn’t mind at all – I felt that we all knew that we needed to do this carefully in order to take care of one another. I also went to the post office in the hope of being able to post something, but no – they are open, but mainly for their banking services. No posting of anything. No courier services either. I asked the lady whether there is any indication when these services might resume. She shrugged, ‘Maybe at level three?’


Patience is the one virtue that I have without any doubts. I can and will wait.

People I saw in the streets did not inspire much confidence for our safety. I wonder how many have to die for most of us to realise that Covid-19 is to be taken seriously?

‘They didn’t take it seriously at all. And by the time they took it seriously, it was really very bad.’ Verbatim interview with Dr Margaretha Emma McKerron (born 1895) on 15 December 1987 by Howard Phillips, included in In a Time of Plague: Memories of the ‘Spanish’ Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa (published in 2018).


I keep hearing from friends that they are gradually all finding ways to sustain their drinking habits, so I don’t feel too guilty about writing that this evening has been all about a good meal and a really, really nice wine. And now, I am ready for the weekend.

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

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Fifty-Six

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



I did have grand plans for this day, but after an initial bout of energy, a deep lethargy set in and I read – a lot – replied to all work-related emails, but otherwise managed very little apart from a slow walk in my garden. No counting the loops, but admiring the manifestations of autumn on the property and talking to Mozart, who eventually left his nest and followed me around.

Part of the afternoon was spent listening to the radio and reading some more. Glinka and Ms Monroe accompanied these activities.


The Covid-19 numbers in the Western Cape are rising and our hospital capacity is already being tested according to credible media reports. One needs to add the word ‘credible’ here, because a big part of the challenge of confronting everyday life in a pandemic is finding reliable information about what is happening. Although I must admit that I read/watch some of the other stuff with fascination, too. And I promised myself never even to attempt to pronounce the word ‘Hydroxychloroquine’.

This statement by Mia Malan at the end of her article, “Wretched and rank with politics”, gave me a lot of food for thought: “We have no cure, no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, at this stage. But we cannot afford to allow this to be the only factor that unites us. We cannot afford for our chief weapons against an epidemic that is changing life as we know it, to blunt one another.”

Integrity, reliable information, rigorous debate and the will to aim for the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of people is a tall order, but the alternative is lethal chaos.

And having one’s head in the sand is not an option right now when so much of our future depends on individual responsibility. As one of my friends said, we need to think clearly and hard about our role in facing this pandemic. Every bit helps. Every wise decision has the potential to save a life, or many, including one’s own.

I have been given unsolicited advice: a complete stranger suggested to me that I should stop looking at the numbers. I understand that this strategy might allow someone to cope with current stress levels, but it is not an option for me. Staying informed and cautious, especially if I have the luxury of being able to do both, is the way I hope not to end up in a hospital during a pandemic when every single ICU bed that can be saved might mean that someone who needs it will have a chance of returning alive to their loved ones.

If the price for this is anxiety and insomnia for the foreseeable future, so be it. As I have written a while back, all of this is difficult because we are trying to survive a deadly pandemic. Some things hurt because they are supposed to hurt. Denial won’t make them go away.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. No unsolicited advice from strangers, please (it only drains my already low energy levels).

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Fifty-Five

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



A very slow start to the day. I just did not feel 100% and with this horror in the air, one’s mind immediately begins to migrate to problematic spaces…

I stayed in bed and read about the numerous cases of people presumed dead, wrapped in sheets or blankets, buried alive, and crawling out of their mass graves during the 1918 pandemic in the Cape… I am rethinking coffins and cremations.

After a dose of the plague, eventually Ms Trollope did brighten the morning and, because it is World Bee Day, I drew this:


I think the bee inspired me, because by the time I got up, I became as busy as a… After some computer work, I returned to a story I have been writing for a competition. Today was the deadline for submissions, so it was time for the final polish. I haven’t submitted writing for competitions in years – butterflies, or rather bees, in the stomach, that’s for sure. Now we wait and see.

I have been cold all day, despite the wonderful sunshine outside. I ate my meals (exceptionally healthy today) outside, but I wasn’t in the garden long enough to soak up sufficient warmth for the rest of the day (rum tea and hot water bottle to keep me going). After submitting my story, I went outside to watch the sunset and listened to the radio in the ever-dedicated feline company of this home.


The Western Cape’s Covid-19 infection and death numbers – combined with the fear attached to my sudden dip in well-being earlier today – are difficult to process.

Let there be light and warmth and gentleness. And a restorative sleep.


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

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