Monthly Archives: February 2021

Operation Oysterhood: 8 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Stoep office with belated birthday lilies from a lovely author

I started work at six a.m., all Monday-style (no motivation, gallons of coffee), and finished at four p.m., with only a short break for lunch and a quick shopping trip in-between. There was some joy for about three hours of the working day when a lovely author arrived in my socially distant stoep office to go through the final polish of her manuscript before it goes to typesetting. The rest of the working day was unjoyous, but it’s done.

In the late afternoon, I took my love’s ancient, frail cat to the vet. She is doing remarkably well, but needs to go in for regular check-ins. Together with the vet, we found a care regime that seems to be working for her and she has a new lease on life. That makes me very happy.

Now, a nice dinner is in the oven and there is a great red in my glass, and after dinner with my love, I will have an early night.

The Australian Open is finally on. Yay!

And the vaccine distribution is suddenly off. Not-yay! The uncertainty of the situation is highly distressing. Putting on my N95 mask today, I thought, you & I – the love story continues … For the foreseeable future, non-pharmaceutical interventions remain our best bet against curbing the pandemic. And so we sigh and get on with it.

Please keep as safe as you can.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 7 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Sunday lunch with a view. A joyous all-afternoon affair with my love and lovely friends, great food and the most divine Italian wines. I was responsible for the starter and went for one of my favourites, Jamie Oliver’s ‘limoni di amalfi cotti al forno’.

If you can’t go to Italy, you can bring Italy to you. Bella Italia is a generous guest at any table and today she graced us with some of the best tastes she has on offer. Does one call this ‘taste travel’?

The day began with reading (armchair travel – Uzbekistan today) and some work and a radio interview about the Philida Literary Award with Sara-Jayne Makwala King. I was unusually nervous, but I think it went well. Next week, Sara-Jayne will be speaking to the 2021 winner, Qarnita Loxton. Looking forward!

After the interview, I phoned my Mom to wish her sto lat! (Happy birthday in Polish.) I sang and we had a short chat and will be meeting on Skype later tonight to celebrate virtually.

Here is a photograph of us in Kalk Bay harbour (we bought fresh fish) when she visited me two years ago. She now has shoulder-long lockdown hair, but otherwise looks the same. And she is still as young at heart as ever. It hasn’t been always obvious, but the bond we share today is one of the greatest treasures of my life. She is a wonderful woman and the best mother one could wish for. Our Miś (teddy bear).

I wished her health and I wished us a safe and happy reunion somewhere on this planet this year.

On my way to my love today, I listened to a Madonna song and the lyrics have been in my head all day long:

I can’t be Superhero right now
Even hearts made out of steel can break down
I’m not Joan of Arc, not yet
I’m only human

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 6 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Glinka catssisting with the announcement of the Philida Literary Award

6 February, fifteen years ago, I proposed and he said yes. We were married four months later. 6 February, six years ago, I whispered, ‘I am here. I love you.’ The last words spoken between us, just before André passed away over Brazzaville on a flight between Amsterdam and Cape Town. 6 February, today, we paid tribute to his life and work and announced the 2021 winner of the Philida Literary Award, established in André’s memory a year ago.

Qarnita Loxton – Philida Literary Award winner in 2021

The news was received with much joy in the literary community and beyond, and I hope that one day we will all be able to celebrate together. Last year’s celebration with Mohale Mashigo had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, and this year, we can’t even plan one yet for Qarnita, but there will be a day again when it will be safe to gather and laugh and toast these amazing writers and their work.

6 February brings with it memories that seem too much to hold for one day, but when I decided that this would also be the day of the award’s announcement, I had hoped that it would be transformative, over time molding and reshaping the memories of the tragedy of 2015 into the joys of the past and the anticipations of the future. I had hoped that eventually remembering would not be crushed by pain. And so it is. There is sadness, but it comes in gentle waves. And beyond it is the warmth of the rising sun of possibility.

There is gratitude, for everything that has been shared, for what lives on in hearts and words. It continues in magical ways through and around the award. To say that the past year has not been easy, is an understatement. To conceptualise and realise anything in these circumstances is so much more difficult than before. I wasn’t sure it could be managed, because I wasn’t doing too great and did not know where to find the energy to keep everything running smoothly. So, remembering how well we had worked together, I reached out to the award’s judges of last year and asked them to step in and assist again. Their enthusiasm and help made this year’s award possible. And again they brought so much joy into the occasion. A conversation that I will be forever grateful for.

And one only has to read a few chapters of any of Qarnita’s novels to understand how much insight, fun and compassion she brings into the lives of her readers by sharing the stories of her characters with us. She makes us laugh and cry and care. Once you pick up one of her books, it is difficult to put it down. There is another one coming and I, along with an entire community of Qarnita’s fans, can’t wait to encounter her characters on the pages of her next novel.

Fittingly for the day, after the announcement and the bit of admin that goes with it, I returned to reading and, apart from a simple, delicious lunch with my love and a Skype meeting with Mom and Krystian, I spent the day reading and remembering. Glinka, who inspired the famous Kleinkat in Philida, André’s last published novel, accompanied me throughout the day, from the announcement (above) to the afternoon reading session on our picnic blanket in the garden (below).

To beer or not to beer, that is the question.

‘Glinka, when it is Hoghouse beer, beer!’ I said to her (and that is why I am having another one as I type).

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 5 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

I am calling it the Zondo Depression. Every day we hear more depressing/shocking testimonies from the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture and it is hard not to despair. Add pandemic, corruption, incompetence, loadshedding and tea with Zuma, who is blatantly in the middle of it all and refuses to take any kind of responsibility, and you start wondering how anyone is getting up from bed in the morning (if they still have a bed, that is).

I managed eventually at around eight, made coffee, read, and started work. Just before noon, I finished one assignment I’d planned for today and had a decent swim. Somewhere in the middle of it, I decided to gather all the books I have published as either author or (co)editor – I desperately needed tangible evidence that I can do these things. (There is nothing logical about doubt.) When I posted a picture of the books on Twitter, Pumla Dineo Gqola kindly replied, saying, ‘I do sometimes wonder whether you have a clone under your bed, Karina.’ And then it hit me: my clone is AWOL. I wrote in response: ‘Thank you, Pumla! You have identified the source of my identity crisis: Karinaclone has had enough & abandoned me – that is why I’m struggling all alone now, wearing too many hats at the same time & sometimes forgetting that in the deepest corners of my heart I am a writer.’

I run an independent press, a literary trust and a local literary award (watch out for the announcement of this year’s winner tomorrow!); I am one of the board directors and the business manager for a literary magazine and a board member for an African literary prize; I constantly edit other people’s work for all kinds of projects, including Karavan Press, of course. Yes, I do write. Every day. But not always as much as I want to and not always what is burning inside me. And I think that maybe that is what is weighing so heavily on me. And it doesn’t always help to remind myself that what I do is extremely rewarding (even if totally underpaid) and I couldn’t ask for a better mission in life (because money, as we know, does not guarantee happiness, but books DO).

I am tired. I have been tired for a long time.

The good news is that a friend wrote last night to say that, if all goes well, she will be in Cape Town next year and just the idea of her being here makes me smile. Today was another dear friend’s birthday – she lost her home during the lockdown, but has found a new one and will be all right.

And, despite everything, I am gradually wrapping up a few projects (I am behind deadlines, but people are being patient and kind); there is light at the end of the professional tunnel. I got a lot done today.

And my love and I are discovering UCOOK. Tonight, Icooked vegetarian tacos. They were also easy to make and delicious. (But I think I prefer mince to quinoa in my tacos.)

Tacos bring back a lot of memories from the time my family and I still lived in the States. It was so long ago and yet, every time I bite into a taco, I am transported back in time. And it feels good to indulge in positive connotations in relation to the US. It is astounding what a difference two weeks of decent people working in the White House can do for the ease of mind of the rest of the world (generally, I mean – former KGB foreign intelligence officers might be of a different opinion).

Yet, who knows who the Tangerine Troll is having tea with …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 4 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Only eight hours of work today and a lunch Skype date with Mom and Krystian. The heaviness continues, but I am taking one step at a time and being as kind to myself as I can be. I have managed to nearly catch up with replying to all the patiently-waiting emails.

It takes me a long time to open my eyes in the morning, but once I do, I manage to read for at least an hour every day and that grounds me.

Today ended with pink bubbly on top of the Waterfront, at The Silo. The emptiness of the Waterfront in the evening is quite eerie, but everything there is still as amazing as ever, maybe even more so now that one doesn’t have to battle through crowds to enjoy it all (or what is left of it). It is all wonderful and depressing at the same time. So many emotions. And the one constant: the awe-inspiring Table Mountain, tonight at her most stunning, table cloth and all.

It is impossible not to love this city. It is impossible not to mourn its possibilities.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 3 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

The Hoghouse

It was supposed to be twenty-one days and now I am pretty certain that the Oysterhood Diaries have a good chance of turning one soon. One year …!

Today was another heavy day, but I am gradually ploughing through my work and saying NO to more responsibilities and trying to be as protective of my sanity as I can be.

Food is a simple pleasure. And although I did not have breakfast this morning, I treated myself to a Hoghouse takeaway lunch (Hoghouse beer and a lovely surprise gift included – yay!) and my love and I tried something completely new tonight: UCOOK. Icooked and it was really easy and delicious.

I dreamt of mousebirds last night. That made me happy.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Captain Sir Tom Moore passed away today and the world feels emptier. He was a complete stranger and yet I cried when I heard the news. I know he was over a hundred years old and that time was not on his side, but there is something ungraspable about the fact that, of all people, he died because of Covid-19. As Elleke Boehmer wrote: ‘It is inconceivable and very sad.’

This news came at the end of a long, long day and just before a Zoom board meeting at seven that still had to be attended. Luckily, the meeting was inspiring. Working with kind people makes such a difference.

But then, just when I thought that the day would end on the positive note of the meeting, I received an abusive email about something that was not my fault, but I still had to deal with, forcing me to apologise on behalf of others to a person who decided to be unkind instead of giving their fellow pandemic-survivors the benefit of the doubt. We are all going through terrible times and yet there are people who will still strike first and only consider circumstances later. I despair whenever entitlement trumps kindness.

My friend Erika once send me the above to cheer me up. It always does. It did today.

One thing happened today just after my short swim in the late afternoon that allows me to say “Foff!” (my late friend Marina’s version of the above) to all the unpleasantness of today:

I saw a White-backed Mousebird (!!!) IN MY GARDEN for the first time ever! And, unusually, the beloved creature hung around the trees next to the pool for quite a while, so that I could enjoy a proper look. I am over the moon with joy whenever I think of the avian visitor. I love Mousebirds, they are this szczurek’s favourite birds. To see one in my very own garden was an unforgettable treat. A good omen, me thinks.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

The beach-me is being taken out of the closet, dusted off and returned to her natural habitat (pictured above on holiday at the mouth of the Mngazi River a few years ago).

The President has spoken.

I will just wait a few days before I venture out into the beach-world. I imagine the crowds will be gone by next Monday. It was the same with the outdoor restrictions in early lockdown. And I will go wine shopping after my first beach excursion. But I might be at The Hoghouse Brewery for some beer – and pasteis de nata – earlier than that :)

Most importantly, the first vaccines are here. Yay for the heroes among us: the healthcare workers! As for the rest of us: let’s do everything possible to make these heroes’ lives easier. Let us behave in such a manner that they can finally rest a bit after the relentlessness of the past year.

I am also busy trying to find some rest from an entirely different kind of exhaustion. The trick is to gradually work through the responsibilities that have accumulated and NOT to take on any more for a while. And to be patient, and kind, and not to feel guilty. I know I am making people wait and perhaps even letting them down, but I don’t know any longer how to push myself even harder.

And I have to stop feeling responsible for other people’s failures. I just need to take care of my own.

Monday. I managed to change the light bulb in my study today! I have been without proper light in this room since the beginning of the year … and yes, I do know how pathetic that sounds. But the light feels like a sign of hope, that it will all be well in the end. How? Don’t know. It’s a mystery.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD