Operation Oysterhood: 7 July

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

— @HaggardHawks


I worked, walked, saw a snake and froze at my computer. Tuesday in a nutshell.

An early wake-up, but I slept again and resurfaced into the day as occupied territory: Salieri on my chest, Glinka on my legs. I bribed them with breakfast to be able to get my coffee.

On my way out to walk around the Rondebosch Common, I saw my lovely neighbour: another of his acquaintances has just died of Covid-19, one other survived the infection. He says it is impossible for him to be creative right now (he is a sculptor). I can’t blame him. His studio is next to my study on the opposite side of the boundary wall dividing our properties. In those distant days, when I could still work through the nights and he was preparing for yet another exhibition, I liked hearing the sounds coming from his workshop and, he used to say, the light from my window made him feel less alone. We used to discuss creativity and inspiration. Nowadays, we mostly speak about surviving, and wine.

The bounty of mushrooms on the Rondebosch Common made me think of my parents, getting up really early in autumn to go searching (with flashlights!) for edible mushrooms (they are fanatics) before they had to go to work. Mushroom collecting is a national sport in Poland.

Flowers are out after the rains and I spotted a Cattle Egret on the Common, and was all relaxed and happy when I bumped into this lucky charm of the wilds:

The first time I encountered a scorpion in the wild, people never believed me how huge it was. But I had no camera to prove back then that I’d had every right to be freaked out of my wits by the scary creature. Because this wasn’t my first meeting with a really long and impressive snake on the Common, I was prepared and had my phone on me.

The snake made me think of a cover draft that a designer, an author and I are working on for a book right now. One of the ideas is to have a symbolic snake on the cover. It will probably not happen, but I saw the live snake as a good omen for the cover and the book.

And the latest drafts for Lester Walbrugh’s book cover came through today – very exciting (there might be a winner among them) – and Debbie Minné dropped off her original artworks for the cover of Karen Jennings’s novel. I won’t reveal anything yet, just a little teaser …

The artworks are exquisite. I will have them framed when the cover work is done.

A day of cover design then, and manuscript work and emails and admin and positive signs of hope and renewal for Karavan Press. May this warm energy around the press last. I fear that we are heading towards stormy waters. Although many readers are turning to books for solace, guidance, escape, entertainment, joy, and, and, and right now, I have the impression that not many books are actually being bought. The reasons are obvious. How the book market will survive, I have no idea.

Further sad literary news this morning: two Bargain Books branches had to close down for a while because of Covid-19 cases. And a co-member of a board I am on also tested positive. All of us know people who had contracted the virus, or worse, by name now. It feels like the world is shrinking day by day.

It was shocking to read today that Sweden did not register any significant economic gains from not imposing the lockdown. It seems that their economy is just as bad off as the neighbouring countries’ that had a much stricter approach to lockdown regulations. But Sweden’s death toll is horrendous in comparison. All those people died, and it did not help the economy at all. We don’t learn from history. This effect should have been predicted just by examining the ‘Spanish’ flu of 1918. In the book I read about it, In a Time of Plague: Memories of the ‘Spanish’ Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa, the state of affairs that the survivors described once the flu had reached local shores was in effect a lockdown: towns affected becoming ghost towns and economic dead zones without an artificial lockdown being imposed. People were too sick and too many were dying to carry on as usual … A natural lockdown followed anyway. Pandemics and economies haven’t found a profitable way of co-existing. What we need to learn is that human lives are more important than the wealth of the 1%.

Jair Bolsonaro testing positive is some twisted sense of justice in the world. I don’t wish anyone to suffer from Covid-19, and yet … and yet …

Thank goodness for Sarah Cooper aka Tangerine Lone Ranger: How to mask

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


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