Monthly Archives: January 2021

Operation Oysterhood: 19 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

A gap in the night seemed inevitable. But I got up, made hot chocolate (Debbie, if you are reading this: thank you for the delicious hot chocolate!), watched some TV and eventually fell asleep again. The cheeks are still sore, but at least I managed a good swim in the evening after work and spoke briefly to Mom and Krystian over lunch.

Retail therapy also helped. I visited two of my favourite bookshops today. Love my new books!

It was also lovely to see Karavan Press books featured on the shelves of both shops. It gives me a little bit of hope for the press’s future.

Otherwise, editing – mostly – and a successful online meeting about a project I am involved in.

I am hoping that no news is good news from the ICU.

Tomorrow, I have to face the SARS-dragon. A glitch in the e-filling system does not allow my brilliant accountant to submit my documents online this year, so I am heading for the SARS queue in the morning. Pray for me.

Getting my gear ready!

I found two lucky coins today! That must be a good sign of something …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 18 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Anxiety levels through the roof. My cheeks hurt for the first time in weeks. I can’t pin down the cause, but the horrible visit to the bank and the fact that I have to abandon any hopes for the planned January rest might be contributing factors.

And the bank visit had almost nothing to do with me. It was in connection with an account that I administer on behalf of an independent entity. We had to complete an administrative change to the account, and emails and phone calls to the bank had proven fruitless in the past, so I went into a branch. There were people going in and out all the time while I had to wait for the changes to be made in a small cubicle with people assisting me who were only wearing face shields and no proper masks – partly hovering over me and breathing all over the place – and I was too desperate for their assistance and too meek to protest. I just wanted the task to be completed and to run. At home, I felt small and useless, because I knew that I should have had the guts to call the branch manager and tell them to do everything in their power to make me feel safe. I was helped in the end, but at a great cost to my sanity.

The rest of the day was about comfort eating (double portion of dim sum for lunch and a braai for dinner) and drinking (I tried out something totally new tonight) and attending to all the planned tasks for today and, sadly, realising that with the additional jobs I have taken on to pay for the accumulated bills, there will be no proper rest for me for quite a while. And, of course, all of it comes with feelings of guilt – because I should not be complaining about having paid work to do. Especially not when that work is as rewarding in so many other ways as mine usually is.

Anxiety, sore cheeks, prayers that I did not endanger myself in that bank … When I manage to calm down and feel a little bit stronger, I will try to write to the branch manager. I hope. Something has to be done – I just hate the fact that I have to be the one to do it. As if I wasn’t busy enough. Other people not doing their jobs properly is a large part of my work burden as it is. Anyway …

I had no time for a swim today :(

Good news of the day: positive report from the ICU, my latest batch of kombucha is beyond delicious (it hasn’t tasted that good for a while), the successful submission of a story for the Caine Prize for African Writing (fingers crossed that the judges will love it as much as I did), some good editing done, and I taught myself to make margaritas! My margarita tonight was as divine as the best I have ever had.

I saw this at EB Cavendish: Buy A Local Corker & Support a South African Indie Press

And this appeared on the blog of The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, curated this month by Jen Thorpe:

SA Womxn Writers – Day 12: A Reflection on Publishing by Karina Szczurek of Karavan Press

Be kind. Wear a mask (properly!!!). Support local by buying a corker (at Karavan Press, we only have those) from a South African Indie Press.

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

— NICD

Note to self: tomorrow is another day and you will get through it; the night, too (at least there will be no bloody loadshedding between ten and midnight! – the small mercies …).

Operation Oysterhood: 17 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

I swear, Flat Eric ate all the Doritos!

My love and I went out to Grabouw today for some book shopping at the fabulous Liberty Books and a delicious brunch at the Railway Market, both a huge success. I thought that I had all the Harry Bosch novels to complete reading the series, but realised that there was one more missing and I found it at Liberty Books :) There was also Gus Ferguson’s Carpe Diem and Bridget Pitt’s Unbroken Wing. Both asked to come home with me. I don’t say no to books. My love took a photo of me with the literary loot at the bookshop and only realised at home that he captured me with a halo :) I love this photograph.

My love had to work in the afternoon and I just settled on the sofa for some reading. And I actually fell asleep, which is quite unusual for me. We then had a swim and he went back home while I put on my PJs and settled on the sofa again for the rest of the day. I did some editing work on my laptop, but not for long because the day felt like a real Sunday and I just could not bring up the necessary energy and motivation to continue.

I am still on the sofa, watching Man U win tonight. Right!?

Best news of today: someone was waving at the doctors in the ICU today. Thank all goddesses!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 16 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

I can cope with loadshedding as long as I know the schedule in advance and can prepare, and, crucially, if the power failure does not occur in the evening between ten and midnight. Being alone and trying to fall asleep in a completely dark and silent house while praying that the recently installed new alarm battery will last for the duration of the outage is no fun. A bottle of pink bubbly was my solution against the anxiety. I might have a problem. Or not. There aren’t too many pink bubbly bottles left in my house and I do not intend to go out and try to get any more before the booze ban is over. No-problem solved. Although, I do have the ingredients for margaritas, and pina coladas and …

I did manage to fall asleep but was awake again shortly after one and struggled again for a while. My brother sent me a TED Talk about the importance of sleep. After watching it this morning, I realised that there is very little hope for me and my insomnia. I only seem to be able to sleep when I break all the rules of how to sleep more healthily. I am a hopeless case.

But what I found really intriguing about the TED Talk was the importance of sleep for memory. Of course, I do know from my own experience how ‘sleeping on things’ allows you to order and secure them in your memory. And perhaps that is why I can’t sleep. My brain has been actually refusing to remember. And I can’t blame it. My insomnia problems began with grief, continued through trauma and are now a companion to an insane pandemic. Perhaps I am not sleeping so that I don’t remember, so that I cannot fix these things in my mind, and that when the time comes to move on, I won’t be burdened by the details of the horror we are busy surviving?

There is a catch, of course. Lack of sleep shortens your lifespan. But maybe a shorter life without remembering details is better than having to live with all the memories much longer … One needs to survive a pandemic first, after all.

And the wonderful news from the ICU is that our friend is on the mend, all the signs pointing to recovery. Joy!

A morning of reading and editing until it was time for a lunch Skype date with Mom and Krystian before the next bout of loadshedding. I decided to spend the two hours in the garden, reading, sunbathing and swimming. I only got out of my PJs then.

The Frog Princes and his friend have abandoned me. But Mozart assured me that my froggish dalliance has been forgiven and that he still loves me no matter what.

Healthy olives for dinner. My love and I (with one eye – multitasking) are watching football tonight :)

Did you watch this TikTok video: “The African National Congress”? It’s the funniest and saddest thing since Sarah Cooper. It will make you cry with laughter or laugh with tears.

Good night.

PS I only had half of the pink bottle. The other half is still in the fridge. Just in case you were beginning to get seriously worried.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 15 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

I just said to my love at dinner that loadshedding is like the rotten cherry on top of everything. But I made a plan and I had hot coffee when I woke up just after the power failure began at six in the morning. Another one coming up at ten tonight. I need to search for candles …

And ‘everything’ is this:

You can follow Finuala Dowling on IG: @finuala_dowling

Finuala is one of South Africa’s finest writers and this poem … I am reading it again and again and I want to whisper to everyone, Please, please keep safe – as safe as you possibly can. Please.

I had been longing to walk along the sea for a few days now, and when the rain fell this morning I knew my time had come – the Promenade would be empty, safe. And so it was. Safe from Covid-19, as there were hardly any people. But a woman walking alone does not feel safe, ever, and I forgot to think about that when I ventured out into the misty day.

I needed to air my brain. I read two manuscripts this morning, one in full, one only the first two chapters. I had to say no to the first and I could not resist asking for the rest of the second. I don’t think that I can publish more than I am committed to already this year, but I can dream beyond this time of loss, uncertainty and despair.

The news from the ICU today was the most hopeful it had been since the beginning of this year. She is healing, surfacing.

In the afternoon, there was editing and admin. A simple dinner with my love in the evening. We spoke about the rotten cherry and the poisonous pandemic cake it sits on.

I read this article last night and it broke my heart: Bruce Jack on the devastating human and industry cost of Covid-19. This is also the guy who loves poetry and is sponsoring The National Poetry Prize, organised jointly with New Contrast.

Why think about poetry at a time like this? you might ask.

Read Finuala’s poem again.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 14 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Sjoe, it was hot today!

Cathy Kelly interviewed a few authors (moi included) about diary writing during lockdown and wrote a wonderful article about the topic: “How writers make sense of a world in lockdown” (LitNet).

I seem to be sleeping, which is a huge blessing. I also have intense dreams that feel like real memories in the morning when I wake up. But there is no way that I will be able to sleep and dream beyond 8.30am tomorrow morning – that is only when electricity returns after loadshedding at stage two in my area. Which means waking up without the possibility of making coffee. I am not sure I am ready for any morning without coffee, facing it on the 294th morning of lockdown feels too much to ask. But: I have an idea! (My love will laugh when he reads this! :))

This morning, I had lots of coffee and cookies and great books to read. Then it was time for an early swim to kick of the working day. I had the great pleasure of informing this year’s Philida Literary Award winner that they have been chosen by the judges. The official announcement will follow on 6 February.

I also wrote to an author I am about to edit and misspelled her name … Not exactly the best start to a working relationship between writer and editor! Luckily, I realised almost immediately and could apologise before she despaired. She was lovely about it.

Shortly before six p.m., I made a fire and braaied steaks for dinner with my love. And I found the last Hoghouse beer in my fridge! I forgot it was there. Joy on a hot day like today. And, fortunately for me, my love is doing dry January and could not be tempted, so even tough I was prepared to share, I did not have to :)

There was no news from the hospital yesterday because the general situation on site was too hectic for calls to families of patients who are stable. No news is good news, but …

Today, I spoke to an author about a book she is planning and she told me that her mother had Covid-19 and recovered without any problems. Another author I work with wrote to say that he still can’t taste or smell much but is on the mend. And I heard the story of a man who passed away not because of Covid-19, but because he had another condition that needed ICU attention and no bed could be found for him in time. This death won’t be even recorded as Covid-19 related. The official numbers – local and worldwide – have been beyond comprehension for a long time now. Two millions are simply ungraspable. And the real number is so much greater …

This year is only two weeks old and it feels like a decade had been packed into it already. I am celebrating my 44th birthday in another decade … There will be no birthday party, but I have an idea what to do on my birthday to mark the occasion :) I have only one wish: health. All else will follow from there.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 13 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

A scorching day. In winter, I survive in my old Victorian house because of the fireplace, the hot bath, the electric blanket and tea (with rum!). But in summer, the good old house remains relatively cool and offers respite from the Cape summer heat.

A morning of reading until it was time for a physically distanced meeting in my garden: the author and the designer of a book I have edited came to discuss the next step in the production process. We looked at all the visual material that will be included in the book. It is going to be beautiful. And the story is amazing. A lovely project that hasn’t felt like work for even a second.

“BIBLIOGONY is the creation of books.” — @HaggardHawks

Computer work that did feel like work in the afternoon. Just after six, I went for my sanity-preserving swim and then relaxed with The Cats on a quilt in our garden while the sun was setting.

Glinka takes the best selfies!

On Wednesdays, I usually watch TV in the evening. I watched with one eye on the TV, the other on my inbox, waiting for news from the ICU. No news today, though, which we all hope simply means: stable.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 12 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Armchair travel

Another day at the computer, with a short break for the post office and the delivery of documents to two different accountants assisting on projects I am involved in, and I was able to finish work at four in the afternoon. A visit to The Bookworm followed – they have – well, now had – a great selection of second-hand Bosch novels. I only have a few left to finish the entire series and am already dreading the long wait for a new one to appear.

No matter how rough and anxiety-inducing the lockdown has been, since the festive season I got back into serious reading, picking up several books at the same time and reading widely across genres and continents again. Alongside another Bosch, I started Erika Fatland’s Sovietistan today – armchair travel at its best. Although my love and I are planning two real short trips in the near future, lockdown regulations allowing, it feels great to simply explore in my head, either through proper travel writing or through crime novels – Bosch’s L.A. is gradually becoming familiar in ways it has never been before.

I won a Ferrari with Shell’s V-Rewards! Imagine the places one could go with a Ferrari … When I first got the notification, I read “you won a convertible Ferrari” and for a few seconds I was besides myself with joy (not for the reasons you suspect – in my head, I was already selling the car and investing the money into publishing beautiful books at Karavan Press …), but then I read again – it said: “collectible”. Well, for a few seconds, I could dream – that’s also a great prize. And I am certain that my yellow collectible Ferrari is going to make a child very happy when I have an opportunity to see the children in my life again. One day.

The sea accompanied a significant part of my journey to and from Fish Hoek today. For the first time since the beach ban, looking out to the blue horizon, I suddenly had a deep longing to walk on a beach again. It might have also been because of the beautiful poems I read about the sea in the morning (a poetry manuscript in the making). Maybe a walk on the Promenade will alleviate the awakened longing a little bit? Let’s see.

I cooked fresh fish from the wonderful Lakeside fishmonger for my love for dinner. All the Cats loved it too.

Tomorrow will be busy, but again in a good way. We stumble on, sustained by magic and beauty.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 11 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

And then there were two: the frogs are multiplying in my pool.

A day spent mostly in front of my computer. Some of it wasted while I was working on the wrong documents. I blame it on the pandemic brain.

Monday is usually also a day of housework and maintenance. I took the above photograph while cleaning the pool this evening.

So, lockdown level three, adjusted, extended …

Listening to the President, I kept thinking: why are we so irresponsible that these regulations not only seem, but actually are, necessary to prevent more deaths and misery because of the pandemic.

Wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain physical distance during a pandemic should require no prompting or reminding by now. And: don’t drink and drive, and, above all, don’t raise your hand against ANYONE, especially not women and children, under any circumstances, not even under the influence of alcohol, should also be obvious. But the only obvious things is … that these regulations and kindness are beyond too many people.

And here we are.

#FamilyMeeting

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 10 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

My brother and Mom went for a walk today and sent this photograph. Snow, a winter landscape – nearly impossible to imagine in this ranging, warm wind of Cape Town’s summer nights.

A morning of reading, an afternoon of work, an evening of being spoiled by my love – we swam, watched TV and he cooked dinner for me. Sunday.

Sandra Newman wrote: “Why dye your gray hair and pay for haircuts when all you have to do is nothing and you will eventually look like a powerful witch”.

The other day I looked at some photographs of loved ones and myself taken only two or three years ago, and we all looked as if we were at least a decade younger. I think the pandemic is making us age rapidly, and it’s not just the missing haircuts and visits to the beauty parlour. It’s all the stress. Well, I am embracing my inner “powerful witch” and simply going grey all the way, but only a few shades (fifty is overrated).

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD