Operation Oysterhood: Day Forty-Seven

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



Small hours blues. Quite a gap in my sleep between three and five a.m. and it was impossible not to feel sadness and anxiety, thinking about the world at that time of the night when everything is a deeper blue than usual anyway. A stranger told me on Twitter to take antihistamines to make me sleep – not that I was asking for advice. Friends commented differently, saying that they also have poor nights, sit and stare at the dark sky outside with a cup of tea to keep them warm. Sometimes we voice our distress to share and not to feel alone; we are not searching for ways of how to drown out our emotions. Reading the stranger’s comment this morning, I remembered many friends and my doctor wanting to give me medication to help me with my grief after André died – I understood their concern, but I also knew that some things hurt because they are meant to, because losing a loved person is so catastrophic that it rearranges your DNA. I also remembered telling the psychologist I was seeing for a while four years ago that, as long as I was coping (barely, but I was), I did not want any medication to dull the pain I was feeling. What I was going through was bone-breaking and it hurt like hell, but the cause of the distress was so horrific that I understood why it was breaking me and intuitively I felt the need to experience it. That agony taught me a valuable lesson I will never forget. I am sorry that I had to pay such an excruciating price for knowledge, but in the end it saved my life and was worth it. We are in the middle of a lethal pandemic – distress, nightmares, insomnia are only a few of the reactions many of us experience when confronted with the enormity of what Covid-19 means for us today and in the future. The reason why I cannot sleep and why I feel an overwhelming sadness at four a.m. is gigantic and valid, and I would be only worried about my response if I felt no distress at all. Fear can be life-saving. Carelessness is potentially fatal right now. Our infection and fatality numbers are rising and it is hard not be feel freaked out.

I slept again until about eight, made coffee in my beautiful rat cup and started work. Another garden walk around lunchtime: I noticed one new plant with beautiful purple flowers has moved into my wild garden. And the sunshine flowers were smiling at me and the delicate ferns reminded me of the time I worked at a florist’s when I was still at university.

Mozart came to say hello when I sat down. As is his usual rhythm, he is gaining weight for winter and his coat is getting thicker. Because of this transformation (much more pronounced in him than the Lady Cats), I call him Winter Version during the cold seasons and enjoy cuddling with him even more when he is so fluffy.

Already during the walk, I felt the weather and atmosphere pressure changing, the day turning grey, but I was still okay throughout lunch and a lovely Skype conversation with the writer Penny Haw. Soon afterwards, however, a headache exploded just behind my eyes, blurring vision and thoughts, and this was a pain I had no interest in experiencing, so painkillers to the rescue. I lay down next to Glinka for an hour and just listened to the radio until the ache behind my eyes disappeared and I was ready to resume work.


The release of the first South African edition of Malibongwe: Poems from the Struggle by ANC Women, edited by Sono Molefe, was announced today. Another stunning title from uHlanga.

That the unborn child
May not see what I see
Or taste what I’ve tasted
This is my journey

(from “I must go: do not mourn” by Fezeka Makonese)

A new uHlanga title always makes me happy. The press and its founder, Nick Mulgrew, have been an inspiration for many years. And this particular book, after its initial publication in exile in the early 1980s, has been waiting for nearly forty years to be published at home in South Africa. And now it is here, finally. A homecoming worth waiting for.

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

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


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