Monthly Archives: November 2020

Operation Oysterhood: 27 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

A mixed bag of a day. Horrible news interwoven with miracles and things getting done despite unbelievable obstacles in their path. It is hard to believe that a day has only twenty-four hours. Every single one of them feels like eternity now. And it takes forever every day in the morning to get started. At night, I am scared to face going to bed. Thank goodness I am usually awake around five a.m. and can force myself to open my eyes by seven latest. In the evening, I put on the TV and hope for it to put my mind enough at ease to fall asleep eventually. I am afraid to be left alone in my own headspace for too long. It is frightening there at the moment. Any kind of external input is a welcome distraction. I function. I get things done. But by now I am only pretending to cope.

The thing is that I am still physically healthy, I do have a roof over my head, I can feed The Cats, even buy an occasional book, but I am trying to hold on to so many dreams in the process that are on the verge of shattering that the burden feels impossibly heavy.

I think the worst is that the worries are so overwhelming and often so paralysing that even when the most incredible things happen, they only bring temporary relief – they can no longer be enjoyed and celebrated with the kind of abandon they deserve.

A few things I read, was reminded of, today:

This interview with Nick, where he says:

What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?

There hasn’t been much, to be honest. It’s been awful. Almost every day has been a struggle, and the struggle is made worse by the fact that I know everyone else is struggling too. There hasn’t been a great amount of levelheaded, public honesty about how difficult this has been: we’re always looking for the positive angle, or the deft and lucid summation of the medical-political omnishambles we’ve been living through. I think it’s enough to say that it’s been horrible, it is continuing to be horrible, and that I cannot wait for it to be over. People have been and haven’t been supportive; what lifts the heart one day doesn’t work the next. 

I can’t be too curmudgeonly, though. uHlanga’s writers, suppliers and distributors have responded so wonderfully and bravely to the challenges we’ve been facing and will be facing for some time to come. But I think we’re all just doing the best we can. There’s really nothing else to it.

And then, Sally’s moving post about 2020: “Good riddance to 2020 (almost)”

And this interview Debbie reminded me of (I watched it live on TV a while back and watched it online again today): “Exposing the men who hate women” (Shattering!)

It was Black Friday today, but apart from a takeaway dinner with my love at his place, I stayed home and bought nothing apart from a croissant for tomorrow’s breakfast and two chocolate chip cookies for dessert tonight. I want to spend my money on books on the 1st of December at the Book Lounge when they celebrate their thirteenth birthday. I often think of which institutions I am desperate to see survive this insane pandemic and its aftermath, and libraries and bookshops are always top of the list. A life without access to books does not seem worth living for me. How will they survive? With our support.

I want Karavan Press to survive, but I am publishing against all demands of logic and hoping against hope that we will somehow make it.

Dreams can be like children. You never forgive yourself for neglecting and forsaking them.

I have done what I could. The generosity and assistance of the people I work with have been overwhelming. And soon, there will be time to rest. I just have to somehow make it until then.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Last night, another unforgettable feast at La Colombe. It was at La Colombe (at its previous location) that I first learned how to eat oysters on my twenty-ninth birthday many, many years ago. The restaurant has grown from strength to strength since then and it has survived the hard lockdown (!); I have also survived (lockdown, touch wood, and otherwise), and my love for oysters has also grown over the years. I am even writing Oysterhood diaries :) Yesterday’s extravaganza did not include oysters, though. Yet, every single bite was heaven in one’s mouth. Food magic! And now, La Colombe is running spring specials – still not exactly the cheapest meal in town, but you get an experience worth at million bucks for only a few hundred.

At the dinner, my love announced something spectacularly amazing. We are in for an adventure of a lifetime in December. Stay tuned for more details ..

And today? It was back to reality. A ten-hour working day and a simple salad for dinner with my love. I did go for a walk! The first one in forever. I seem to be chained to my computer most of the time nowadays (not good!). But, the end of this madness is in sight. And, throughout the day today, I have also been counting my blessings when it comes to the people I work with on a permanent basis. Today, everyone delivered on all fronts in ways that go way beyond what one could reasonably expect. We are living through an impossible time, and nearly every day when you think that it can’t get any harder or worse, something terrible and unexpected happens. And yet, and yet! Together, with the right people by our sides, we can make the impossible possible. And today was another example of it for me.

Our Covid numbers are escalating in the Western Province and beyond. The signs are ominous. All these months of horror behind us, and there are still people who think that the simple precautionary safety measures are beyond them. In most cases, all it needs is a little bit of care …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

A miracle! I have an eight-hour (only!) working day behind me. Yay! Started early and had only a short break mid-morning and then by four p.m. I was brain-comatose and decided to stop, clean the pool, do some gardening and my nails afterwards, and to draw a little bit (see above: drawing, phone filters applied).

Tonight, a fancy dinner with my love. I am soooo ready.

From Tuesday next week, I will start reclaiming a saner life for myself. These past few weeks have been as mad as this time last year, and back then I promised myself not to do this kind of thing again. Well … But I do sincerely hope that I have learned my lesson this time around. There is just one of me and there is just so much that one person can take on. This person is tired. Very.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

The second-last Karavan Press book for 2020 is about to be launched: the press’s second poetry collection. One of the goals I have had for Karavan Press was to create a space for authors to which they would want to return to. It thrills me that Disturbance is the second title I will be publishing with Dawn Garisch, and there is another one in the pipeline for next year already.

Don’t you just LOVE the cover of Disturbance? Designed by Stephen Symons and featuring an artwork by Katherine Glenday, it embodies the collection. I know readers will bask in its insights, beauty and compassion.

Although my cheeks are sore again, today was the first day in a while where I felt that I might be in control of my professional life again (although I first did post the wrong cover when announcing Disturbance …). A friend rescued a project I have been working on for a while, which despite my best efforts seemed doomed to failure for a few days, but then she said, ‘Don’t worry, we will get this done!’, when somebody else let me down completely, and she is delivering on her promise. I feel very fortunate to have people like her in my life.

On the pandemic front, the numbers are worrying again. It seems that we are on an upward trajectory in the Western Cape. I know that it takes a lot of effort to keep up with one’s vigilance. I still wear my mask diligently and wash my hands like a surgeon, but I am engaging in many more social activities, professionally and privately, and it is difficult to estimate how safe some of them are. So much depends on the cooperation from other people, and not everyone is willing to protect others as carefully as you are yourself, but you can’t be responsible for everyone else; even though the risk is mutual at all times … Many tough calls have to be made. I don’t have answers, just uncertainties.

Best news of today: the results of all the feline blood tests of yesterday came through and The Cats are in perfect health despite being nearly thirteen, fourteen and fifteen years of age respectively. I am a happy cat mother.

Tonight, I have a Skype date with a friend in Vienna. No risks attached to that – although who knows when we will get to bed when we start talking …

Good night! :)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 23 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Glinka always insists on driving when we go for our annual vet appointments …

The working day began at five and ended at five, with three visits to the Blue Cross clinic for check-ups in-between. It was a loooooong day. At five in the afternoon, I decided to call it quits and started cooking a stew (my love is coming to dinner later tonight), and ironing and de-stressing in pure domestic goddess mode.

A lot of work got done today and most of it was fulfilling and wonderful, but I also had to end a professional relationship with someone who was simply not doing their job. Luckily, someone else I work with stepped in to take over and I am infinitely grateful. I burst into tears out of sheer relief that something close to my heart is actually going to happen the way it was planned despite terrible obstacles on the way. And I owe it all to people in the industry who are not only super-creative and hard-working, but who have a heart and will assist in one’s hour of desperation and need. This generosity will not be forgotten.

What else?

My onion seed ‘plantation’ is coming along nicely.

I might actually sleep peacefully tonight …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 22 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

It was time to leave magical Elgin and go home this morning, back to the Cats and to work. Progress has been made. At lunchtime, I skyped with Mom and Krystian, and in the evening, my love cooked dinner for me. We watched a bit of TV together, and then I continued with my work until a few minutes ago. Time for bed. May the new week be a bit saner than the previous one. Eternally hopeful …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 21 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Elgin Ridge Wine Estate

When Marion of Elgin Ridge Wines offered to host the launch of Lester Walbrugh’s Let It Fall Where It Will on the Elgin Ridge farm a few weeks ago, I nearly burst into tears. The pandemic has made so many things impossible this year, but for seasoned authors who have had the experience of launching books in pre-Covid times, not being able to gather to celebrate their latest offerings has been sad, but not as tragic as for debut authors who have been robbed of this amazing experience of welcoming their book babies into the world, with family, friends and readers all around them to mark the special occasion. Lester’s short story collection was supposed to be launched at Liberty Books in Grabouw in May, a charming bookshop – one of my absolute favourites in the Western Cape – but with a very limited space inside and simply too risky to contemplate for a launch even at lockdown level one (the publication itself was delayed until November because of the early lockdown). But then, at a dinner party a few weeks ago, Marion heard me lamenting the fact and simply said: ‘Let’s do it at the farm.’ Earlier in the evening she’d been telling us that the only way forward through these impossible times is by supporting one another in any capacity we can, in private and professional lives, and here she was generously practicing what she’d preached. A woman of her word. Christy of Liberty Books immediately came on board to support the venture. And Bettina Wyngaard, like Lester a Grabouw author, who had previously agreed to interview Lester at the bookshop, had no objections doing it on the farm. I will never be able to repay their generosity and astounding organisational skills. The event yesterday afternoon was a success on all fronts: fantastic attendance, insightful interview, delicious Elgin Ridge wines and snacks, great book sales and smiles all around. And to top it all, Lester, who’d spent eight years living in Japan, and set two of his stories there, wore a kimono for the interview! I have attended many, many launches, but this one will stand out for me as one of the most memorable ones of all times. Thank you to everyone who made it happen!

The day of magic wasn’t over yet …

In the evening, my love and I celebrated four years of being together with a candlelight dinner at the little stone cottage we rented for this incredible weekend of love and literature in Elgin.

My heart is full.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 19-20 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Waking up in the Elgin Valley

I lost the plot. I have worked myself into a state of physical exhaustion and emotional paralysis, trying desperately to resolve one obstacle after another and not really succeeding (although an insane amount of stuff got done anyway). That is the reason why I did not post for two days; I just couldn’t think straight any longer.

But last night, after another day of fighting windmills, my love opened a bottle of Hoghouse beer for me, packed me into his car, and together we travelled to the Elgin Valley, where Karavan Press will be launching Let It Fall Where It Will at Elgin Ridge Wine Estate later today.

We had a simple late dinner and opened a beautiful bottle of red and let the tensions of the past few weeks drain away into the Elgin night.

I love this place. My love introduced me to it and we have been visiting here for as long as we have been together, which is four years today! We will celebrate: a wonderful relationship and a wonderful book – the miracles that make everything worthwhile, no matter what.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 18 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

Earlier tonight, Joanne Hichens hosted a private launch of her memoir at her home in Muizenberg. Friends gathered to celebrate the author and her amazing achievement. Tracy Going, who endorsed the book with a wonderful shout, kindly agreed to interview Joanne at the function. We all sat around Joanne’s lounge, kitchen and stoep – enthralled!

And earlier today, LitNet published a wonderful reader’s review of Death and the After Parties, written by Barbara Erasmus.

Thank you to everyone who made this book possible, and thank you to everyone who was there tonight to welcome it officially into the world.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 17 November

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

— @HaggardHawks

The earth shook for lovers last night, it seems. I slept through the tremors, though, and that’s a good thing. The last thing I want to have to think about right now are natural disasters …

I could not open my eyes this morning. Even the promise of coffee did not manage to get me out of bed. I did sleep for most of the night, but getting up seemed impossible. I was just paralysed in the face of everything that had to be done today. Don’t get me wrong, the to-do list was full of rewarding and wonderful tasks – there were just soooo many of them that I did not know how to begin. Eventually, I just started talking to Glinka to motivate myself and she responded with her usual morning chirping sounds. I took a deep breath and made a plan: shower, coffee, breakfast, easy/short tasks, short walk, more coffee and just one step after the other. I got through the day. For most of the time, I worked in the lounge today, Glinka and Salieri catssisting, and Mozart visiting every now and then to make sure that we were not becoming too lazy.

I am finishing a big archival project that, despite its challenges, is giving me so much joy it is difficult to explain. I will share the good news in about a month’s time, maybe earlier. I am wallowing in literary history like a pig in mud – loving it. But now, after eight hours of it and a few at the computer before it, I am calling it a day and pouring myself a glass of red.

Sad news of the day: Karavan Press’s distributor had to close down today for a few days because of a Covid-19 case. It is a long, difficult road ahead for all of us. Health and a full, speedy recovery for all concerned!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD