Monthly Archives: June 2020

Operation Oysterhood: Day Eighty-Six

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

— @HaggardHawks


For the past twenty-nine years, I have been missing the chocolate chip cookies that the St. Stephen – St. Edward School cafeteria in Warwick, NY, served. I have finally found another chocolate chip cookie to take their place: another Hoghouse treat! I had four of them with my morning coffee and will have to get many, many more at the next opportunity…


A day of reading laziness, almost. Inspired by Salieri, I just stayed in bed until mid-afternoon, apart from a rugby/ironing (one of my favourite combos) session in front of the TV, Glinka assisting.


Today, fourteen years ago, I married André. One of the happiest days of my life. Every year, on this day, I watch our wedding video, today alone for the fifth time. For the first time in five years, the day was full of good memories – only. No pain. Time, the miracle healer.

In the last while, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to take care of somebody’s legacy. It is mostly an incredible honour, and when that person is someone you love, it is a deep-seated pleasure, too. But, it is also a heavy burden of responsibility, and reflecting on this aspect of my work in the past five years, I feel that I have often blundered more than done justice to what was entrusted into my care. The reality is that it doesn’t matter that your heart is always in the right place and you act in good faith when dealing with a world that often lacks integrity and where your trust and goodwill are often taken advantage of. In the words of Fawlty Tower’s Manuel, “But I learn, I learn.”


I am now a few stories into Searching for Simphiwe and am absolutely loving the writing. Short stories can be so satisfying. The titular story is wow, just wow.

The other book I have dipped into today was the Herron stand alone novel. It is becoming darker and darker and I am beginning to feel that I know what is coming and I am not sure that it will be easy to read.

I skyped with my Mom this afternoon. She is healthy and well, but Mr Mozart’s cat-mom is spending the weekend at the vet’s. Most likely a poisoning. We are hoping that the vet can help her recover fully and go home soonest. She lives with one of Mom’s best friends. There was other sad news in our acquaintance circle to report and it was the first time since the lockdown that I was trying to cheer up Mom and not the other way around.

A message from a Twitter friend brought with it deeply saddening news of her cat passing after seventeen years of close companionship. I asked her for permission to post here the beautiful, heart-breaking poem that she shared with me.

Poem by Monica Kagan


Any cat lover who has ever lost a feline companion will know how she feels. We are thinking of you, Monica! And sending purring love.

I also found out that one of my dearest friends in Austria ended up in the hospital with very strange symptoms (not Covid-19-related, but scary). I had to google the name of the illness they are suspecting because I had never heard of it before. She is a fighter and she has the best possible care, so I hope she can get a proper diagnosis and recover as soon as possible. She told me about the giant squid that was discovered on one of our beaches here. I had no idea, but the news made it into the Austrian media. I had a look at a few reports. What an incredible creature!

So, all in all, a certain heaviness crept into my day.

In the evening, I cooked chicken soup while listening to a live Derek Gripper concert that my love alerted me to. Balm for the soul.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Today, the NICD recorded nearly five thousand new Covid-19 infections. People are dying all around the world because of this.

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



The Boss.

Operation Oysterhood: Day Eighty-Five

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

— @HaggardHawks


Insomnia. It happens. Another long gap in the night. But Glinka was watching over me – with Salieri on standby, sleeping next to us.


I eventually fell asleep, but found it difficult to wake up in the morning and think straight for quite a while. The headache only went away after lunch.

Pharmacy, post office & William Simpson. Good news from the post office: they are resuming services, limited but moving in the right direction. Within the country, postal delivery is up and running, but with limited staff and expected delays. There is a list of about fifteen countries to which post can be delivered and from which we can also receive post. I heard of one person I know getting post from overseas today. All of this means that the latest issue of New Contrast can be posted early next week.

And my visit to the Fiat dealer was great. From the moment I entered their space, I felt that I was safe and that this company really cared about the welfare of their employees and clients. The entire process of interaction was well thought-through and executed. Topolino and I were impressed.

On my way home, I picked up the braai hamper from The Hoghouse for the weekend. Also well organised pick-up system, all safe and happy. You don’t even have to enter the premises. And their SOUP SHARE initiative is amazing. Now that I had some of the feast, I look forward to a weekend of delicious leftovers.

Until it was time to braai, the rest of the day passed at the computer, with one short Skype conversation with a friend who is in a tricky situation, having no certainty about whether they had or didn’t have Covid-19 and not knowing how to proceed from here. I hope accurate anti-body tests can be made easily available to people who need them for their peace of mind, especially if they are willing to pay for them from their own pocket.

Great news for Karavan Press authors: Sindiwe Magona’s biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Theatre Road, is on this year’s EB Homebru list. And: Sue Brown’s moving collection of personal essays, Earth to Mom, will be ready for distribution next week. The printing process was much longer than usual (interrupted paper supply chains), but this beautiful book was worth waiting for.

I have everything that I need to stay at home for a long time now. Apart from the post office excursion, I have no reason to leave the property, unless I go for one of my walks or drive to somewhere nice to walk with a different view. Advanced Operation Oysterhood begins.

Today’s drawing:


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

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


P.S. Started reading Mick Herron’s This is What Happens, a stand alone novel by the author of one of my all-time favourite series, the Jackson Lamb spy thriller series. I am hooked, again!

Operation Oysterhood: Day Eighty-Four

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

— @HaggardHawks


Bobik, at the edge of his seat, watching the President last night.

Ahead of a battle, a general looks at the battlefield and at his (in any other context, I would probably write ‘their’, but I will stick to ‘his’ here) troops and knows that many, perhaps most, of his soldiers will not see the sun rise the next day. When you live in a world where war is a possibility, and there are governments and armies willing to wage it over one issue or another, loss of life is part of the deal. That issue is usually power, or riches, or both. Basically greed. I always think that if one day, simultaneously, all soldiers of this world would decide that they would never again aim a weapon at an enemy, no matter what, there would be no war. If it weren’t for greed, there would be no war either. But that is not the way the world functions.

It’s the same with the economy. It’s a war, waged against others because of some people’s greed for power and riches. If we wanted to create a world where we would concentrate on feeding one another and building shelters, including structures that would protect both fundamental human needs, and otherwise engage in activities that bring meaning to our existence and not just bury a void of despair under mountains of stuff, the world might become a kinder place – for all. Our environment might survive, too.

Our economic reality, like war, demands that loss of life is part of the deal. Not only during a pandemic. For greed, human life has always been expandable. The economic machine is so hungry for activity that it does not care how many suffer in the process to sustain it. The show must go on. Making sure that most, if not all people, have food and shelter and are protected from harm are not priorities. Profit is. That’s the way it has always been. We can imagine different scenarios, but we don’t seem to be able to transplant them into reality. Maybe that’s human nature.

I am not naive enough to dream of utopia, but I cannot help feeling a great sense of loss watching as people are asked to risk their health and their lives to feed the economic machine, because they have no other way to feed their families, to put a roof over their heads, to survive…

I have the privilege to opt out. I can stay in hard lockdown for quite a while yet. I can live like this, still do my job, and hope that when I eventually get infected (which is not unlikely, no matter how unwanted), there will not only be highly effective and experienced medical care available for me, but also tested and effective drugs, to deal with Covid-19. I understand my privilege and I do not want to do something stupid to jeopardise it. I am not about to gamble my health away, or cut my life expectancy short, or massage my conscience into thinking that since everyone else is doing it, I might just as well risk my life and get my nails done. One can’t have one’s cake and sit down to eat it. Not during a pandemic.

The economy is not a fair place. Nor is it safe. But we all have to live in it somehow. There is next to nothing that I can do to change it, but I can stay at home, participate in economic activities that do not necessitate the unnecessary endangerment of others, wear a mask, wash my hands, and be as creative and kind about all of it as I possibly can.

I took a Syndol last night to help me sleep. I did not want to lie awake again in the middle of the night thinking of casinos and the gender based violence pandemic. Salieri and I worked in the morning after finally surfacing from the Syndol-coma. Around lunchtime, I braved the shopping centres and got us food etc. for at least three weeks. Another trip will have to be done tomorrow to complete the preparations.

The shopping wasn’t too awful this time. I had my list, mask, visor and a bottle of hand sanitiser and everything went smoothly. There wasn’t even a single queue anywhere. But on my trip to the car, my trolley full, I was approached by a man wanting to help. He wasn’t wearing an official uniform and he had no mask. I said, “Thank you, I do not need any assistance.” He came nearer and wanted to take over the trolley from me. I said, “Please, you are not wearing a mask, and I do not need any assistance. I am fine, thank you.” He did not retreat. “Please, I can do this myself. You are not wearing a mask,” I repeated. Then he just stood there, invading my personal space. I moved slightly. He watched me. I glanced around – we were alone in the parking area. And then I felt that fear – that fear that I was at his mercy. “Please, I do not want any help,” I tried once again, more emphatically. He moved away only to watch me for a while longer. Time stood still. I suppose he was considering his options while I felt I had run out of mine. He let me be and walked away. I packed the car with my groceries and raced away.

On my way home, I remembered the President’s passionate speech against gender based violence. Words will not help us, no matter how heartfelt.

I worked on the stoep for the rest of the afternoon and had feline visitors at different stages. Then it was time for a fire and a glass of red, or two.

After tomorrow’s trip to the pharmacy and to the Fiat dealer (Topolino needs a warranty service), it’s Advanced Operation Oysterhood for as long as possible. I will have to go to the post office in my capacity as business manager of New Contrast, but otherwise I cannot imagine what else could bring me out of safe solitude when we move towards the peak infection season. I will walk, preferably in the rain, when there is no one else around. Otherwise I will keep close to my hearth.


In 1918, when the influenza pandemic reached South Africa, the country came to an economic standstill, too. Not because of a lockdown, but because of influenza. The only people who continued digging for a fortune were undertakers. But I am not sure whether even they got paid…

We could still control the economic impact of the lockdown. The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic without lockdown restrictions remains to be experienced. Or not (if one is unlucky). But we do have spaces for mass graves ready, if necessary. And it is now mostly in our own individual hands whether we get to see the sun rise the next day.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Support the economy in life-and-livelihood-saving ways.

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


P.S. Bobik is not going to eat at a restaurant, go to the movies (not even the theatre), gamble, cut his hair, get a massage or his nails done any day soon, but he thanks the government for the offer.

Operation Oysterhood: Day Eighty-Three

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

— @HaggardHawks

A bad night. Woke up sometime after midnight and just could not go back to sleep. So, the Ladies and I migrated to the couch in front of the TV and made ourselves as warm and comfortable as possible (but only two of us succeeded…) until sleep did return sometime in the early hours. I was back awake by six, though. Returned to bed for some coffee- and catpulmonary resuscitation.

I couldn’t really open my eyes for a long time and listened to the radio. I was tired and depressed (probably because of the tiredness, but also in general). It is strange how I can get excited about being out there in the world, but being there also means being constantly confronted with the fact that we live in a pandemic. When I am alone at home with the Cats, I often forget about it. Here in our happy, safe bubble, life mostly feels ordinary – ordinary and simple. Outside the home, everything reminds us that we have a pandemic raging all around.

Eventually, I opened my eyes and read another manuscript submitted to Karavan Press, because the author needed feedback as soon as possible for a very specific reason. After the reading, it was time to shower, get dressed and go for a walk close to home to dry my hair. The day was beautiful, but there were only a few people out walking or exercising.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to admin, emails and one wonderful phone call. I usually find talking to strangers on the phone torture, but this time there was a fantastic literary initiative to be discussed and I gladly assisted.

Good news from my friend whose husband is in a hospital. Small steps in the right direction and a small sigh of relief.

Steroids are getting great PR and bringing hope.

The Premier League is back tonight. I will have to declare my colours soon. There are certain expectations of me to turn all devilish red and, in principle, I am definitely considering, but it is hard to switch one’s loyalty in things like these, so I have to choose wisely.

And then: the President will be doing his “Fellow South Africans” thing again later tonight. But do I want to hear about “advanced level three”? Allowing such close personal contact will probably only “advance” the pandemic. I would LOVE to see my beautician again – my skin is suffering (badly), but… I will find another way of supporting her business. I think I need to order a DIY kit! The lovely things I got from her at the beginning of the lockdown have kept me going so far, but they are everyday basics. A more serious intervention is needed, me thinks.

According to these two experts I happen to know, Covid-19, in an advanced stage of the infection, can really damage your brain functions. When I think of what this could potentially mean for creativity, I shrivel inside.

Imagine a life when, as a writer, you can no longer be creative or smell and taste coffee. Pure hell, and not the pretty one I imagine for myself for when the time comes to go in, hopefully, very old age. Not at forty-three because of a @#$%& pandemic.


Glinka ready for her catssistant duties.

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-Two

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

— @HaggardHawks


When life gives you lemons…

I might or I might not have broken the law. No matter; it’s done. I went to a farm stall on a wine farm that is located not exactly a few minutes away from where I live. Everything I bought there is classified as essential, and I got the most essential items for free: lemons. If you read about previous pandemics, every survivor will tell you about the importance of lemons in a pandemic. I now have many. And! I saw snow on the mountain peaks in the distance.

Before I embarked on this wonderful trip – not having left the vicinity of my home for three months, this felt like an expedition to the moon – I worked. I woke up before the alarm and was told by the catssistants that I would not be able to get up before a substantial amount of work had been done, notwithstanding the public holiday. Salieri even held me and the mouse hostage to make sure that our deadlines were met today.

16 June, forty-four years later. I wasn’t even born yet, but I have read and listened to the stories of this seismic event in South African history when the young people of this country decided that enough was enough. All day long, I thought of the way Thembi Mtshali-Jones remembered and Sindiwe Magona captured this day in their Theatre Road. I will never be able to thank them enough for bringing this inspiring and empowering biography to Karavan Press.

Theatre Road

Thank you to two of South Africa’s living legends for this book! It has been such an honour to work with you.

In the afternoon, after my possibly ‘illicit’ trip, Mozart and Glinka took over the catssistant duties, and together we managed to complete the task set for today. The balmy weather allowed us to work on the stoep before it was time for a sundowner. What a gorgeous day this has been. Not exactly free from work, but relaxing nevertheless. And inspiring, as always. Forty-four years ago the youth of South Africa showed us all the way and the world has never been the same again – thank goodness.


When life gives you lemons, drink gin & tonic!

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-One

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

— @HaggardHawks


It is almost as if my body had known that it would need the rest to brace itself for a difficult beginning of the week: I slept. Deeply, uninterrupted, for something like nine hours. I dreamt good dreams. Waking up, I felt refreshed, my eyes no longer hurt (screen time), there was light outside, and I made it just in time to put out my bin to be collected. For some reason, while attending to other Monday morning duties, I took the above photograph (and no other today) of the owl my friend Charlotte gave me when she was visiting. I made coffee, settled back in bed to read and then … the windmills, real and imagined, began their approach.

I did not know Elsa Joubert well. Our paths crossed a few times. She had always been good to me. She phoned after André died and we had a soul-heartening conversation that day. The first time I met her, I fainted at her feet. It was at a memorial for Marjorie Wallace. I accompanied André to the occasion although I was recovering from the flu and, still quite weak, I fainted while he was paying tribute to his late friend. Right in the middle of his speech. When I opened my eyes, I saw Elsa’s face hovering above me. The incident made it to Die Burger‘s page three…

Ninety-seven is a respectable age, but I hate the idea that she passed away due to Covid-19 related causes. That as a community we cannot mourn her all together, gather by the hundreds to pay tribute to her life and work. Some young woman should have the opportunity to faint at a remarkable writer’s feet at Elsa’s memorial. Hopefully, we can still honour her when all the chaos is behind us.

Elsa Joubert

Her words will carry us readers through this time of mourning. She will be missed.

The windmills kept attacking on all fronts throughout the day. “My skin is not thick enough for this world,” I wrote to my love. He phoned to remind me that the world needs thin-skinned people. I know, but feeling everything acutely is not easy.

A friend’s husband is in the hospital, his condition stable but complex and the road to recovery unpredictable. I cannot imagine what it must be like not to be allowed to rush to his side, to wait all day for phone calls with updates from the medical staff taking care of him.

The deluge of work-related matters descending into my inbox managed to overwhelm me in the context of the day. It was only in the early evening that I was able to make a fire and sit next to it at my laptop, and attend to the manuscript I’d promised to deliver to the author I am working with by tomorrow. If I get up early, I will make the deadline. And this work is the only thing that gave me joy today. Everything else was steeped in loss and sadness and, after all these years, my inability to accept that some people, when given a finger, will take your arm and try to chop it off for good measure. It is hard to protect one’s boundaries, especially when they are paper-thin and despairing. I feel and look like my owl, bewildered.

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

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

— @HaggardHawks


Last night was THE NIGHT: a bath. No ice-cold beer, but I did feel peckish, so cheese and olives and bread, a candle, and the brilliant Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit. I no longer recall how I discovered her writing, but may that day when it happened be blessed. The insight, empathy and kindness in her work are everything that a non-fiction writer could aspire to. I do.

It wasn’t difficult to fall asleep after the warm bath. But I was still awake enough to receive an unexpected text message from someone who’d thought of me because of seeing a frog… I changed phones a few months ago (held on to my vintage Nokia for as long as I could) and have not transferred all the old numbers to the new one, so it was a lovely surprise to find out before sleep who was behind the message.

Even though I am usually an early riser (at least I have become one in the last few years), I did set the alarm for 5:28 (if you are reading me for the first time, you should know that I have a thing for numbers and would NEVER set my alarm for 5:30) to watch the Blues/Hurricanes game live. But I woke up before the alarm because I was freezing! Winter in Cape Town…


My rugby buddies and coffee warmed me up and we began the ‘highly anticipated’ live tweeting of the match, focusing on rugby players’ calves, as requested by Nadia Goetham. What else do women in publishing have to tweet about at 5:35 a.m. (kickoff) on a Sunday morning? Nothing. And Nadia did not even show up on time (wise woman!), but I had enough material to amuse myself throughout the two tense halves – or was it calves? – of the match.

I give you the winning Blues captain, Patrick Tuipolotu:

As you can see, hardly anyone can resist those calves, especially not the opposition. Once she was awake, Nadia agreed that the captain was the (calves) winner of the match.

I am keeping my favourite calves (not to be found on any rugby field, but occasionally on the theatre stages of Cape Town…) to myself. And there is the Frog Prince, of course.

Once I returned to bed, the Cat Ladies were in a fighting mood that resulted in a stand-off, with Glinka simply turning her offended back to Salieri. Eventually we all fell asleep and I woke up with Salieri sleeping under my arm. Bless her.

She was very possessive about the book I wanted to read. Short stories by Sifiso Mzobe. It has been a decade since his award-winning debut novel, Young Blood, but anyone who read it at the time will be excited about this latest publication. No wonder Salieri wants to have the book all to herself.

When I returned to it in the afternoon next to the fire, she showed up after a page and I had to read with her on my lap…

Glinka arrived for some literary work, too. She loves having her favourite blanket close to the fire.


But before we settled next to the fireplace in the afternoon, I was out in the world and went for a long walk along a path with a distant view of the ocean. I miss walking on a beach, especially my favourite beach in Noordhoek, but just seeing the ocean in the distance was soothing. On the way home, I stopped at a fishmonger to get us some fresh fish for dinner. Fresh fish is the only guarantee that I can have dinner with the entire family.


I don’t know how they know, but they do, ALWAYS. The moment that fish hits the pan, three Cats arrive in the kitchen and sit quietly satellite-like around me, waiting. I asked the fishmonger for “a very generous portion for one”, not wanting to explain who I would be sharing my dinner with. It all disappeared within minutes of being served. (I also like my fish.) It has been raining heavily this evening, so all three Cats are in the house and now sleeping after “a very generous” dinner for four. I am about to join them. Will catch up on the news and read a bit and fall into Morpheus’s arms.

Two priceless animal videos on Twitter today. One just heartwarming about Honk, the Goose and the human he found to hang out with. The other one is not strictly about animals, but it features The Tangerine Troll and a voice-over by Sir David Attenborough. I know that if it was someone else being made fun of in such a way, I would probably have a problem with it, but when it comes to this vile tangerine creature, I have no qualms whatsoever. Please – PLEASE! – vote him out of power!

Apart from such gems, social media nowadays delivers a lot of rage, confusion, hatred, sorrow… A lot of it understandably so, but there is also a policing (!) aspect to it all that feels completely out of control, and, as always, it comes primarily from the people who consider themselves in power, thus invincible. People are throwing first stones like there is no tomorrow. What frightens me is how mere cheap gestures and empty words are being thrown right after the stones. There is no reflection. No proper engagement. Just an awkward kind of posturing that will probably do more damage in the long run than we anticipate. Personally, I know very little about everything, but I constantly question my integrity to make sure that my heart is in the right place. I cannot stop thinking about consent and complicity. But above all, there is one thing I do know: kindness. Flowing out of an honest heart, it will guide the way. And when it manifests in gestures and words that are filled with compassion, we will all be better off. All of it takes time and work to accomplish. Before the systems, laws and habits can be changed, focusing on the mundane kindness of the everyday is already a step in the proper direction…

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Think about the stones in your hands.

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


Operation Oysterhood: Day Seventy-Nine

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

— @HaggardHawks


Reading Rebecca Solnit with Glinka.

LIVE RUGBY! #SuperRugbyAotearoa

The sports minister of New Zealand spoke about the Team of Five Millions before the broadcast and I looked at all the players and the fans in the stadium and the essential workers they were honouring just before kickoff, and I envied them all. Imagine living in a country where you can gather, touch, celebrate together without fearing that you might get infected with Covid-19. As Duncan commented on Twitter, “I’m an ardent fan…of their captain.” When self-islanding, we should all want to be New Zealand.


To hear rugby commentary in the house on a Saturday morning felt like the best of the ‘good’ old days. Glinka, Bobik and I watched together, me hanging on to a hot water bottle and a quilt for dear life. A long, long time ago, I had a rugby ‘crush’ on Richard Kahui at a time when he played for the Chiefs, so I kind of wanted them to win, but it was not to be. They lost by one point in the last minutes of the game. But I didn’t care; I was just smiling from ear to ear that I could actually watch live sport I enjoy again. Thank you, New Zealand!

I ordered lunch from the Fire Monkey, a restaurant a very dear friend took us out to in March before the lockdown to celebrate my love’s birthday. The place was so crowded that night that we could hardly hear each other shout inside the restaurant, but they found us a table outside. The evening was balmy and the company and food and wine were gorgeous, so the delivery brought back delicious memories. Salieri took one look at the menu they sent with the food and demanded her share.

In the afternoon, I decided to clean up the garden path after the storms and found beautiful signs of new life on the property. The pool was also a mess, so I did some maintenance and discovered that my Frog Prince missed me so much that he came out to parade his swimming strokes for my adoration and was not shy about photographs.


Look at those eyes, and the delicious legs! I think Mozart got jealous because he arrived next to the pool and wanted to cuddle, so after finishing all the work, I sat down with him on the stoep and we had a lovely sundowner cuddle. But then Salieri arrived and, after hissing at her, Mozart decided that it was time to venture off to do whatever he does when he is pursuing his independent feline adventures.

In the evening, I had a wonderful Skype conversation with an author who is writing a memoir and wanted to pick my brains about structure and voice. Most of the story takes place at sea and it is simply incredible. I can’t wait for the next installment to be written.

Tonight, there will be a bath and hopefully another deep, long sleep. I went to bed earlier than usual last night and slept almost immediately, waking up only at seven this morning. It has been a long, busy week. Rest was needed. Tomorrow, there is more rugby and I will be tweeting live commentary about rugby players’ calves. Yep, I have had a request on Twitter… One of many ways of conquering the lockdown blues & hurricanes.


My wild Saturday nights during lockdown…

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 Seventy-Eight

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

— @HaggardHawks


A witch at work.

Fourteen degrees in my kitchen. I don’t expect more before mid-August. Hello, Winter! Last night, it was so cold inside and still so miserable outside that I made myself some grzane piwo (hot beer) according to an old family recipe. Although I suspected it, I wasn’t entirely sure whether this crazy drink had Polish origins. It does. We have been brewing and drinking this stuff for centuries, it seems. It is very healthy, my research has assured me.


It definitely made me warm and sleepy. And it will be enjoyed again! My Hoghouse beer stash is going to keep me warm, falling asleep and healthy for a while.

Being cold brings with it many memories from our migratory years when we were often so poor and desperate that we lived in unlivable places and suffered quite a lot in the process. Our parents tried what they could to keep us safe and going, but it wasn’t always easy. I remember cutting up and folding discarded boxes, which Vatko brought from work, into improvised ‘bricks’. We burned them through the nights in a small wood stove Vatko installed in the main room of the ancient, damp ruin of a house we were renting back then. We could afford the rent because there was no central heating in the house, a standard in most Austrian homes. During the first two winters, we all slept on mattresses around the small stove until Vatko finally installed central heating (he did it all by himself, from scratch, after studying manuals!).

I could never afford to heat the ancient Victorian house I live in with central heating, even if I had it. These gorgeous, spacious houses with their high ceilings were made for the Cape summers; they keep the heat out even at the height of the warm season. In winter, they turn into fridges with fireplaces. And straying away from a fireplace is only recommended on sunny winter days when you can be all warm and cosy outside the house – something that is very difficult to explain to people from elsewhere.

There was a brief break in the rainy, cloudy day this morning and I was lucky enough to have ventured out for my walk at exactly the right time. It was the only thing I did other than work today, with Glinka joining me next to the fire again in the afternoon. My polar bear suit is a lifesaver right now.

I only slept until five a.m. this morning, so coffee was my companion through most of the day. It is nice to be able to make it in the bedroom. Apart from watching TV (Carter tonight and NZ rugby in the morning – YAY!), I only leave the room for cooking in the kitchen. I had to do some admin work at my desktop computer earlier tonight and nearly froze my nose off. It’s the combination of sitting still and the cold. But: one gets used to it!

I heard yesterday about someone I know – he was in a small town in the Western Cape for the lockdown, had been super careful about masks, hand washing and social distancing, but when he had to do the Covid-19 test for professional reasons, it turned out to be positive. No symptoms yet, perhaps none at all ever – hopefully. But he got infected despite serious precautions!

I sometimes wonder about those moments of inattention that happen to us no matter how careful we are. It’s so easy to slip. You can’t be vigilant at all times. I think of all the runners who passed me today without masks and hope that at least my mask and navigating skills have protected me from their carelessness.

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 Seventy-Seven

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

— @HaggardHawks


Home office.

At seventy-seven days, South Africa’s lockdown is officially the longest in the world. I have a soft spot for the number 77 for personal reasons, but otherwise I am not sure whether this is something to be proud of, especially with infection rates still rising and no end or any good news in sight.

A day of endless rains. Also hail, but I did not notice it in this part of Cape Town. The dams must be filling up and that is a good thing. I might even have a bath this weekend and won’t feel too guilty about it. A hot bath and a cold beer. Mmmmm. Bliss. But not tonight. Tonight, I just need to get into my warm bed and fall asleep with the fire singing lullabies long into the stormy night.

I made the fire only in the afternoon today. In the morning, we just stayed and worked in bed, Salieri catssisting and finally falling asleep on the job. She was cross with me that I did not want to share the mouse with her.

Once I moved next to the fireplace, Glinka moved with me and I placed her favourite blanket under my small desk for her. She is still settled here as I write, her body glowing with warmth on the side of the fire.

A day of rain and continued work on the text I started proofreading yesterday, with admin emails in between and some fun on Twitter. When I am not online, I play cards on my computer to air my brain. Online, I tweet. I always need these little breaks to focus better throughout a long day’s work.

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca SolnitReading Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of My Non-Existence makes me want to crawl into an oyster shell and wait until all my imperfections turn into a gleaming treasure while the world outside comes to its senses. As a woman, I have lived, more or less consciously, in fear for most of my life. Like Solnit, I have not been raped, mutilated or killed, but the violations of my psyche and body over the years have left so many open wounds and scars behind, that sometimes it feels like I will never heal fully again. And I refuse to count myself lucky that no man had hung my stabbed, lifeless body up on a tree in a veld. No one – no one – should suffer such a fate. Not when they are eight months pregnant. Not ever. No one should have to live with constant fear that the integrity of their being could be violated at any moment, in unimaginable ways. But that is the world we live in. And there is no luck in that.

All this violence, and so little healing, hope.

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

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