Operation Oysterhood: Day Forty-Five

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



A Sunday mostly like this. I did nothing that could be counted as productive, and it feels good.

Another attempt at sleeping in my own bed, which was mostly successful, but I did have a weird gap somewhere between 3.30 and 5am, but was too tired to move and not tired enough to sleep. So I read stuff on Twitter (as one does). But the most interesting comment was sadly deleted shortly after being posted. Luckily, I took a screenshot, but won’t credit the author, since they clearly changed their mind about the text (although it might have been a quote from somewhere for all I know): “Ethics: the branch of philosophy known as economics” (Twitter, 4am).

Nechama Brodie’s comments about media reporting on the pandemic and re-opening of the economy later in the day also struck a chord in a similar fashion: “There have been threads/tweets recently […] pointing out that the groups who are pushing a ‘re-open the economy’ narrative are the ones for whom re-opening is low-risk & high return. Whereas, for many others this may be the opposite.”

I have been thinking a lot about defiance. My life has been marked by it in extraordinary ways since my conception. My parents have an age gap of nearly ten years between them, my Mom being the older partner; they had me out of wedlock and refused to get married for two years, despite pressure from Catholic families on both sides. Hugely uncommon at the time. At their wedding, my Mom remembers, I apparently cried out to her in the middle of the ceremony, shouting, “What are you doing?” Years later, she often told me, “If only I had listened to you.” I grew up in a country where everyone broke the law by simply breathing. That is how totalitarian regimes function. As long as you disobey under the radar – and you have to disobey to survive – and are not a nuisance, you are allowed to continue, but if you dare too much, speak too loudly, and become uncomfortable to the authorities, there will be, obviously, a million things that they will be able to hold against you, because it is simply impossible to lead a decent life without breaking the rules. It’s a vicious cycle. You are damned either way. To escape this, my parents broke international laws by illegally crossing a border when my brother was six and I was ten and by seeking asylum in a foreign country. Those borders did not cease to exist even after the Berlin Wall fell, and to cross them one often had to break many other laws, repeatedly. I was a smuggler in my youth; a pretty good one, although nothing major. Got caught only once, but not entirely because of my own mistake – on my own, I never got caught. I am more ashamed than proud, and I promise you, when the EU expanded and the borders across Europe disappeared, I celebrated the end of that adrenaline life with a bang. There are many ways to break the rules. And there are many reasons why we do it. Now that I am going grey and wrinkled and a little bit of life’s wisdom has begun to sink into the few grey brain cells remaining after endless bottles of pink bubbly, I understand one thing: if you do it, do it for love, or kindness, but don’t break the rules for money only.

There was no rule breaking in the mall I visited today, my first mall since the lockdown. Masks, distance, crowd control, disinfectant – the lot. I had to go into a computer shop and decided to do some advance shopping for the Cats at the same time, so as to use the trip to its full extent. I was also hoping for coffee capsules, but the mall I went to had that particular shop closed. Online order it will be then. I had never been big on shopping. Apart from bookshops and museum shops, I’d found shopping mostly boring in the past, and now Covid-19 has taken away the last bit of whatever small pleasure I might have gotten out of it. The long queues, the fear, the constant vigilance – it’s too much. It was difficult to hold back the tears. But knowing that touching my face would not be allowed until I was back home and safe, I swallowed them.

What helped was speaking to people I love today: my Mom, my love, my brother. I am about to meet my friend Charlotte on Skype. A little bit of gin with Mozart in the late afternoon sun on the stoep was also a joy. We had a rare moment today: all three Cats on the stoep in close proximity without any hissing breaking out.


The Cats have been in physical distancing mode among one another for as long as I can remember. But I am so grateful that they have no problem with being close to me – all the time. In days like these – with a pandemic rewriting the rules of our human social interactions – the company of Furry Ones is one of the greatest blessings. (Salieri has just arrived on my lap as I was typing this.)

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


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


Unless you are part of a pride of lions, then you can indulge in closeness and grooming as much as you want.

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