Operation Oysterhood: Day One Hundred

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

— @HaggardHawks


In my late teens, someone suggested that I could become a successful diplomat. I thought about it seriously for a moment, but thankfully never pursued that path. I think I would have been good at it, but not for long. Personal and professional politics broke me in my late thirties. The politics of diplomacy would have probably managed it a decade earlier. By choosing the path of the writer, I gained about a decade of wholeness. That’s not a bad life deal, me thinks.

This morning, I was asked to be a peace negotiator while being myself the contested territory. And all I wanted was a slice of cheesecake for breakfast …

A story in seven pictures.

Glinka and I settle in bed, have the cheesecake ready and are about to dig in when Salieri arrives wanting a piece of her human. I grab the nearest book and like a tangerine troll erect a wall between the puffing Glinka and the hissing Salieri. The wait for them to settle down begins.

After a while, I gradually remove the book wall (I am not a tangerine troll!), repeating like I always do: ‘Everyone here is welcome and there is enough love for everyone.’ (I am never believed.)

And then, just as I am about to relax, Salieri starts cleaning her nails, and her movement upsets Glinka so much that she runs off, hissing and puffing all the way to the other end of the bed. Salieri gets all of me; I get the cheesecake.

But! Glinka does not give up easily. She knows her rights and she knows that a piece of me is her territory and hers only.

A few minutes after the cheesecake disappeared, she appeared again and wanted to know all about the book I was reading. So I told her.


I finished Lynn M. Thomas’s Beneath the Surface: A Transnational History of Skin Lighteners today. It is a fascinating study of these products, but also of our relationship with skin – surface, appearance – and beauty in general. For most of my life, I have had a difficult relationship with my skin for all kind of purely biological, inherited reasons. In the last four years, my relationship to my skin has changed drastically because of an a medical condition I struggle to deal with as it has completely redefined the way I feel about my body. And in the last few days, I have been feeling quite unwell again because of it. Stress-related, I assume. So reading this book was strangely healing – comprehending the complexities of a difficult and uncomfortable topic usually does that to one.

In the conclusion of her excellent book, Thomas writes: “Understanding practices that have been shaped by histories of subjection requires humility and empathy. It requires apprehending the world in ways that are more generous and more nuanced.” Beneath the Surface offers this kind of space for discussion and teaches us all about the shocking truth of how much illusion, power and greed can be found in a beautifully scented jar of toxic lotion.


Culinary highlight of the day: Kyoto Garden Japanese Restaurant deliver their fantastic food to one’s door.

And there was a walk, Skype meeting with Mom and Krystian over lunch, some live rugby and live British Premier League, a manuscript, a full moon.

I didn’t think of lighting a fire before I suddenly found myself in front of the fireplace tonight, full of longing. Not so much for the warmth as for the light, the soothing sound. The perfect writing companion. And the perfect bedtime storyteller. Glinka is already sleeping on her blanket in the armchair in front of the fire; Salieri is purring softly on the bed. We might all have an early night. But first: a drink with Harry.

If you were expecting to read something truly profound for Day One Hundred, I am sorry to disappoint. My pandemic brain is in weekend mode despite all attempts at trying to force it to act otherwise.

Yesterday, there was a death in my extended South African family. I heard the news this morning. Not Covid-19-related, but because of the lockdown, family members abroad not only have to deal with their loss, but with the logistics of possibly not being able to be back in the country in this time of mourning when one so desperately needs loved ones around one to cope.

A hundred days of lockdown. No end in sight.

We gaze at the moon. We listen to fires. All this longing, and fear.

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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