Monthly Archives: June 2020

Operation Oysterhood: Day Ninety-Six

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

— @HaggardHawks


Touch wood: I have been sleeping exceptionally well lately. I can’t say that I have been feeling well during the days when I am awake, because I am often overwhelmed by the direness (my word) of the world, but at least I am getting some rest. It makes getting through the long work days easier.

Cat blanket.

Most days still begin with leisure reading, despite heavy workloads, and today Glinka was first on the scene to catssist when I settled back in bed with my coffee. But then Salieri arrived and was not amused that she had to share not only the bed but her human. A hissing and staring down contest ensued – if looks could kill, we would all be mausetot (German: mouse-dead).


I lay there mausestill (German: mouse still) and tried to read my books.

Eventually, duty called and work had to be done. Professional highlights of the day: Skype meeting with an author that I look forward to working with on a beautiful project. And: signing of a publishing agreement (long time in the making) to be officially announced shortly. The Karavan is trudging along. No one knows what the future will bring, but that is nothing new in publishing.

At lunchtime, I briefly spoke with Mom and Krystian.

I took a short break in the afternoon sun with Glinka and Mozart sunbathing next to me in the garden. With batteries recharged, we returned to work. I saw someone mention on Twitter today that one should also allow oneself holidays in these strange times. Yes, I suppose so, but for now, it is a relief to have work and the energy to do it. I have decided not to push it like toward the end of 2019 when I ended up so tired and ill after the last project of the year that it took a few weeks to recover fully, but I am glad to be able to work again at nearly full capacity despite the recurring moments of paralysis and bone-chilling fear.


I love the way the light moves around the house with the seasons. In winter, it visits my bedroom in the afternoons. This is where I work now if I don’t have to be at my desktop computer in my study. A few days ago, I rearranged the bedroom, so that I could look up from my laptop and enjoy the afternoon sun falling on the bed in front of me. And there is usually at least one cat dreaming in the light. The view always makes me smile.

I cooked a stew for dinner, opened a bottle of the beautiful wine that my neighbours gave me after the booze ban was lifted. I will do some more work, watch some TV, hopefully have another sleepfull night. Tomorrow should be another good day. Please. At least in this small bubble I call home.

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 Ninety-Five

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

— @HaggardHawks


A miserable day.

I had to go out briefly to pick up signed documents and had them scanned and sent to the relevant party. I couldn’t wait to get back home. The rest of the day was devoted to work.

Highlight of the day: afternoon tea leftovers for dessert after lunch.


It is still cold and wet and miserable outside, but now we have a fire and a glass of red wine to keep us warm. Simple but hearty pasta for dinner, eaten in front of the fire. An evening of reading and TV watching ahead.

I have been thinking about ordinary ‘engagement’ protocols during the pandemic, apart from shops and businesses. It is easy to discuss how to interact with people one knows well. For example: because it will require a lengthy conversation, a Cape Town-based author and I decided via lengthy emails that, even though we could possibly meet in an open space and safely discuss our project while walking or physical distancing in nature, we are going to opt for a meeting on Skype after all.

But what happens when you are supposed to engage in a certain, previously discussed, way during a supposedly short encounter, but then the other party suddenly asks you to act differently, in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. But you don’t know them well, and want to be respectful, and don’t know how to tell them: NO!

It is like my friend Helen said: the same way we need to practice safe, consensual sex, we need to practice safe, consensual meetings, personal and professional – when encountering people we know and love or when engaging with strangers.

I felt uncomfortable during a brief meeting with a near-stranger today, but did not know how to voice my misgivings. Afterwards, I promised myself to speak up for my safety and comfort next time, but I know that situations like these are never easy to negotiate.

No wonder my oysterhood drive was quite overwhelming today.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Remember the broom can be used as a social distancing tool – in the air and on the ground.


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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Ninety-Four

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

— @HaggardHawks


Glinka, Harry & I.

Laundry, vacuum cleaning, sweeping, floor washing, gardening, FA Cup and editing – or: Sunday. There was a hair-drying walk around the neighbourhood, but I felt strangely weak and needed some time to recover afterwards.


The greying Witch of Rosebank.

Highlight of the day: Mount Nelson’s famous Afternoon Tea, delivered to your home. What. A. Treat.

The Mount Nelson and I, even though I have never stayed there, have been having a love affair for many, many years. For me, it is a place of celebrations, dreams, ideas and luxury for the soul. Above all now, it is a literary place, where I meet my lovely writing friends when we have something wonderful to toast or when we need to drown our sorrows in a bucket of G&T. The hotel has a black resident cat who comes and says hello when one is lucky.


Today, Glinka decided to fill in and appeared on the opposite side of the table just to make me feel as if I was at the hotel, and not in my own lounge. But she kept her distance. The Afternoon Tea was clearly not designed with feline connoisseurs in mind – not a hint of tuna, and the salmon sandwich was on white bread, and Glinka only does brown (she is watching her figure).

We are really enjoying reading about Harry Bosch. We loved the TV series, but never read the books. I bought the first three in the series in one volume at a second-hand shop for R85 a year or so ago, and last night we dug in. Good stuff.

I don’t know what it is, but I tend to have either nervous breakdowns, cunning creative ideas or other great epiphanies while on all fours, washing the tiled floor in the passage with a lappie (I do have a mop, but I don’t trust it). Today’s insight found on a dirty floor:

Eventually, all umbrellas will walk out on you.


(No, I wasn’t drinking at the time.)

The local taxi industry announced today that they aim to infect as many commuters as they possibly can with Covid-19. As if their driving wasn’t enough of a national health hazard…

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Avoid taxis, if you can.

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Ninety-Three

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

— @HaggardHawks


Last night, I had a lovely dinner AND ate a whole bag of popcorn while watching an episode of Carter. So what.


Morning routines.

A pretty decent night, but waking up to the Cape of Storms doing its thing was quite scary. Even Mozart spent the day indoors. I saw him sneaking out once for about twenty minutes when the sun came out briefly, but then he was back in his nest under the desk in the back study.

A lazy day, much needed after another intense week of work. I watched way too much TV, but it was entertaining stuff and I feel all relaxed and my brain feels less busy.

27 June today. Three calendar months since 27 March, the beginning of our lockdown. It feels like a long time, but it actually isn’t – it’s not like we have lived through three years of war… Just three months of mainly sitting at home (at least that is what we were supposed to do to protect our and other people’s health and save lives). And when you think of it like that, it seems ridiculous how many people itch to ‘do stuff’. I know, I know: the economy, livelihoods, etc. I get it! I am not thinking of people who have very little choice in the matter whether they expose themselves to the risk of a Covid-19 infection or not. I am thinking of all of us – people like me – who have a choice and can mainly sit at home and keep themselves and others safe. It feels so simple, so why is it so difficult for so many? Why all the whining? Why not wear a mask? Why ignore all regulations and travel to distant places where there are no infections and risk bringing the virus to people living there? Why go to parties? Why want to engage in other risky activities?

I heard a few people ask on the radio about the reopening of dance studios. If you are a competitive dancer, sure – of course. But just for the fun of it? Dance is the one thing that all of us can also do in the solitude of our homes. I have two left feet and I dance at home all the time, alone, happily so.

When there is a safe alternative to an activity that used to be enjoyed in groups, at gatherings, and people still want to go back to the way it was before the pandemic at a time when we are registering thousands of new infections daily – that is what I find so difficult to understand.

Instead of whining and hankering for the way things used to be before the pandemic, why not invest our energies and creativity in finding ways of doing the things we love in a new – safe(r) – way while the pandemic is still raging all around the world? Covid-19 doesn’t seem to be eager to disappear from our lives anytime soon.

We are nearing ten million confirmed cases and half a million deaths worldwide. Half a million! How can anyone take numbers like this for granted?

I was listening to someone on the radio this morning being interviewed about the PSL returning to our stadiums and screens. The planned protocols for the resumption of play sound logical and caring – I had the sense that it is not only about business, sponsors and money; that there was an element of wanting to protect the people involved to the extent that this is humanly possible. At least the person interviewed exuded this attitude. It actually made me want to watch PSL for the first time ever, just to support the efforts portrayed in the interview. I look forward to following the story.

Highlights of the day: NZ rugby, delicious breakfast in bed, Skype with Mom and reading next to the fire.


Armchair travel at its finest.

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

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


Austria once more

With greetings from Austria from my brother and his partner. 

Operation Oysterhood: Day Ninety-Two

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

— @HaggardHawks


The day began the way it is ending: in bed, with cats. I had an exceptionally good sleep (and hope for a repeat tonight).

In the morning, we read, watched Wild Earth and worked in bed (well, one of us did) until fresh air and movement was needed.

There was almost no one walking or running around the Rondebosch Common at lunchtime today. I enjoyed the sun and it was good to stretch legs, and my back, especially the shoulders a bit.

I am now back in bed, with the sore shoulder resting on a hot water bottle. The afternoon in front of my desktop computer killed my back again. I am not sure why it took me thirty years of menstruating to finally realise this, but it seems to me that my back pains at this time of the month are simply the result of the cramps, general muscle tensions and discomfort I experience in the entire body. My brain is usually foggy around this time, so maybe that is why it took three decades to figure this out.

The less foggy bits of my brain have been all used up for work today. And the little bit of energy I have left after this long week will be invested into cooking dinner (the temptation to just have a bag of popcorn while watching an episode of Carter is strong and has to be resisted). I think there is an opened bottle of lovely red waiting in the kitchen…

Cheers to a kind and calm 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 Ninety-One

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

— @HaggardHawks


I woke up feeling completely broken today: a shoulder that hurt so much I could hardly turn in my bed without pain, a headache that made it difficult to open my eyes, cramps that made me want to curl up for the day and not get up, and a general state of reluctance (the ‘joys’ of monstruosity). Coffee helped, of course, and a hot water bottle under my shoulder, and the last stories of Searching for Simphiwe. What a wonderful collection – worth waiting for, even a decade.

And because the bed was warm and my body was gradually relaxing into the day, I started reading the two gems pictured above, and continued with them in the evening next to the fire after finishing my work.

Paul Anthony Jones is the person behind @HaggardHawks – the one who taught me the word ‘oysterhood’.

My Viennese friend is back home after a freaky hospital stay. We skyped in the evening and it was good to see her in her own space, doing much better.

Work was done today. Work-related deliveries were made. All small steps, but progress in the right direction.

Beautiful manuscripts keep coming in for Karavan Press. Decision-making is nearly impossible right now because of all the uncertainties involved, but there was an email with a manuscript attached in my inbox today that moved me deeply – a true literary treasure. I can’t wait to read it. There are times that one has to forget practicalities and simply dream. When I open this manuscript, I will allow myself to dream. The rest will have to follow. Earlier in the week, I received a manuscript I know I want to publish, but I simply don’t know how yet. And then there was the one that will need some work, but the story is so important to tell that I will do whatever I can to make it happen. How? I don’t know. “It’s a mystery.”

Well over six thousand infections in the last twenty four hours. Among them people I know.

Tonight, I will fall asleep to the sounds of the rain falling outside and the fire whispering inside my bedroom. May this be a kind night to all of us.

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 Ninety

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

— @HaggardHawks


All in all, another productive day, but it started with a certain kind of adrenaline rush that I could do without, but that I will have to get used to now, it seems. I’d prepared the latest issue of New Contrast for posting on Monday and Tuesday. I was at the post office early this morning to send it all out into the world when in the middle of all the stamps and transactions, my cell phone rang. My heart sank when I saw who was calling: ADT. Again.

Every third or fourth time I leave the house now, someone attempts to get inside it, triggering the alarm. The system works and deters the would-be-thieves, but I find it more and more freaky to be monitored like this for weak spots. It is telling that the alarm goes off every time about twenty minutes after I leave the house. The day before I saw a glob of fresh spit next to the pool and I knew that someone had been on the property, checking it out probably. If only they knew that I have nearly nothing left to steal for casual thieves. And the stuff I have of value to me has no value at all to others. It is just this constant threat and the possible damage and the reporting and claims that follow that I just don’t have the strength to deal with right now.


The people at my local post office know me well, so I could rush off and promise them to return without having to explain much. ADT arrived immediately. The would-be-thief was already gone. I drove home with ‘my soul over my shoulder’ – a Polish saying – and afterwards, when all was okay, and I finalised the posting of New Contrast no. 190, I crashed emotionally and physically. It must have been the adrenaline.


The solution: a long walk, a long shower, coffee and hair drying in the sun. I felt human again and could resume my day’s work, but I felt grey and tired.


In the evening, I spoke with my brother and my friend in Vienna on Skype for a long time. Krystian sent me a few pictures from the place he is visiting with his partner now. They were meant to be in France for this holiday but had to change their plans to a local spot – and, they are loving it. Who wouldn’t?

Austria again

Second day in a row that over one hundred people died of Covid-19 in South Africa. Over five thousand new infections. I heard of another person I know, a very dear family friend of my dear friends, who is fighting for his life in a hospital because of Covid-19.

Even when there are magical things happening right now, it is nearly impossible to simply delight in them, but they are happening and I keep them close to my heart and try to draw of their energy to keep going and to keep safe.

Ninety days of lockdown. I listened to the adjusted budget speech today and the comments that followed, and it really hit me that whatever we are dealing with right now is only the beginning of something bigger, tougher. The road ahead is signposted with a multitude of warning signs.

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 Eighty-Nine

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

— @HaggardHawks


A day of turbulence. My early morning with Frida and the last pages of Mick Herron’s This Is What Happened were the last quiet moments of the day, and considering how Herron’s book ends, that’s saying a lot. I usually never skip to the last page of a book to see what happens, but the last few pages of this one were so tense and unpredictable (Herron has no qualms killing off characters that one likes) that I just had to look to relax.

But then: a bag of mixed news, almost too much for one day to hold. I am not sure I can even summarise it all.

The worst of it was the news of Mr Mozart’s cat mother, Gienia, ascending to Feline Heaven. Mom told me the news on Skype. The vet thinks that she was poisoned, and despite trying, he could not save her. I told Mozart, and we shared a bowl of chicken soup and sat together in the sun for a while. I went to say a little secular prayer at Anya’s hibiscus grave in the garden. She died in 2007, killed by a passing car. If there is a Feline Heaven, I hope that Anya and her cat mom are reunited in it right now. Here, on Earth, there are a few felines and humans missing them terribly.

The best of the news was that my friend’s husband who is still in hospital could communicate with her today. He is conscious and on the road to recovery.

On the literary front, this beauty arrived and made me happy:


And my brother sent me this beautiful picture from Austria:


And there were a million other things, good and bad, that happened. But… I need to get to bed.

(Just in case you are wondering: I am worried about the sharks off the island in my head. I realised today that I fed them Covid-19 positive ‘bait’… How ‘boneheaded’ of me. I hope they will be fine, despite the indigestion.)

In all this chaos, I did so much work today that I am falling on my nose. I did cook my small dinner on the fire tonight – a fire always calms me.

Our Covid-19 numbers are… too many. Well over 100 000 confirmed infections, over 2000 deaths.

I am tired.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Be careful who you feed to your sharks.

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Eighty-Eight

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

— @HaggardHawks


I didn’t take any photographs today, so here is the cover image of one of the books that I will be buying from the EB Homebru list: Becoming Men by Malose Langa. The Homebru promotion runs from today to the end of July.

And talking about masculinity, please read this post by Melissa A. Volker: WHEN SURF RAGE OVERRIDES STOKE.

When tennis covidiocy overrides caution and respect for one’s fellow human beings, you get the Adria Tour. I am not a fan of Novak Djokovic (and that’s the understatement of the year), so I did not watch any of this, but when I heard last night of Grigor Dimitorv testing positive for Covid-19 after the tour and I saw what had been actually allowed to happen during the Adria Tour, my jaw dropped. I LOVE live tennis and can’t wait to see some action again, BUT NOT LIKE THIS! It is clear that nobody was thinking when they ‘organised’ this tour, and the consequences will be dire, I assume. Not only for the players and personnel who tested positive. I am still shaking my head in anger. People who know me or who read my memoir will probably remember the island in my head. Well…! A certain someone had been residing there for a long, long time. Last night, around midnight, he was marched into the sea and fed to the sharks. The fate of all covidiots from now on. No mercy.

The most exciting news of the day: I got post! An invoice delivered to my postbox. I have never been so happy to see an invoice before. And I think that my postbox was smiling.

Bad news: no bin collection again. I dread to think why.

Otherwise, a day of work, work, work. On all possible fronts with good results, me thinks. But now: I am tired. And all I want is my warm bed and a great book.

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 Eighty-Seven

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

— @HaggardHawks


Oysterhood with oysters – first oysters since the beginning of lockdown. A happy Karina.

Sunday morning of work-related reading and a little bit of pure pleasure reading. And some reading up on the Tangerine Troll Tulsa Tragedy. The Covid-19 pandemic is one thing, but this, this is a pandemic of a kind that will never be eradicated as long as people continue showing up to cheer for psychopaths.

I remember my favourite aunt once telling me about a tongue-in-cheek proposal she saw somewhere online: when the wall between US and Mexico is complete, Canada should also build one on its border with the US and the rest of us should chip in for the lid on top. If that egomaniac is re-elected, the US won’t deserve anything else.

After the oysters lunch, I was so energised (they do say that oysters are aphrodisiacs, but you know, lockdown and all) that I decided to fell some trees in my garden in the afternoon. There was a minor injury, and some blood, but nothing that a doctor of philosophy could not handle. And what needed to be done is done!

Afterwards, I made a fire and sat in front of it for a while with Glinka, resting. It is going to be a working Sunday evening, so I am posting this and returning to my duties.

Today, many countries celebrate Father’s Day. We never did when we were children – the tradition did not exist in Poland at the time, and it is something that we never really managed to pick up from anywhere else during our migratory existence. Women’s Day (8 March), Mother’s Day (26 May), Children’s Day (1 June) – those three have always been big in Poland and we still celebrate all of them in the family, yet Father’s Day never caught on. But the internet tells me that it it was introduced in 1965 and it is always celebrated on 23 June in Poland. Interesting. When I was a little girl, I celebrated my Vatko every day, so maybe that is why he never missed the official celebration. Our relationship has transformed over the years and has reached a stage where we would probably both find it awkward trying to introduce Father’s Day celebrations into it. Anyway, Vatko has always been an excellent gift giver, but a very, very reluctant gift receiver. To organise anything involving him has also always posed a challenge (his understanding of time is different to most people – when Vatko says ‘I’ll be there on Wednesday’, he might show up on Friday, or the following Wednesday…). And, apart from anything else, nowadays we are hardly ever in touch – for no particular reason. When there is contact, it is positive, but otherwise we have nearly become strangers to each other, strangers with a treasure trove of shared memories from a distant past. The ebb and flow of family relationships… I must say, however, that no matter what else, I owe two things to my father that I thought a lot about today: he taught me to think for myself and to believe in the impossible; and, he taught me not to be afraid of tools, which is a very practical skill when you are a woman living on your own and have a tree or two in the garden that need taking care of…

Happy Father’s Day to all who celebrate, and Happy Cat Father’s Day to all the lovely cat fathers I know!

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

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