Monthly Archives: March 2021

Operation Oysterhood: 13 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Like so many other Kazuo Ishiguro fans around the world, I was eager to read his latest novel, Klara and the Sun. After a few pages, I anticipated that it would break my heart. And it did, but not in the way I expected. Roughly halfway through, I was beginning to get quite irritated with the tediousness of the narrative voice. But then about two-thirds into it, there was a revelation which, although predictable, opened up the possibility of a spectacular ending. That ending never comes. Instead, the novel insists on continuing with its explorations of theological concepts (not exactly in a positive light) and human fallibility, leaving us at the mercy of an artificial intelligence narrating the actions and emotions of characters who all seem to be devoid of any signs of emotional intelligence and nearly completely lacking in creative impulses or meaningful curiosity. In all its speculativeness, it is a damning critique of society, and perhaps we deserve no better. But I refuse to accept that this is all there is to it. No hope. No love. No possibility of redemption. Just cowardice, selfishness and exploitation. The bleakness of it is not how I want to imagine the world or engage with it. I believe in more. I imagine more. But reading Klara and the Sun you would never think it existed. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed, and angry. Highly conflicted. And yes, my heart is broken.

Thank goodness my love cooked a delicious dinner for me and we made a plan to rearrange some of the stunning artwork gracing his walls and watched a tense game of rugby together (this time I bet on the losing team, but hey, they were French), and ended the day on a high. Although, now that I am back home, I am about to face Eskom darkness at the worst possible time – I really hate loadshedding around the time I am about to go to sleep, even though my alarm has a new battery and I love candlelight. Luckily, I am about to finish another book – non-fiction – that has been simply amazing and cannot possibly disappoint.

Good night (I hope).

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 12 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Almond croissant from The Hoghouse, best start to a day

This week the third series of “Coroner” started on Universal Channel. It is set in Canada during the pandemic and, although it is not the first series I have watched filmed during the last year and reflecting our recent realities, it has the most authentic feel to it.

Knowing how much I love Madonna’s music, my love got one of her early LP for his turntable to play for me when I visit. I visited this afternoon to finish my work at his place when the loadshedding in my area started. I worked while my feet danced under the table.

I have completed the second last of my big projects today; one remains before I can rest. Everything is taking longer than anticipated, but I am getting there. Slowly, but surely.

In the evening, we went out to celebrate a very special occasion and potentially amazing news.

Almost every day brings with it new challenges, and opportunities. The intensity of living through these insane times is exhausting. But, no matter what, I am grateful for every moment I remain healthy. Although ‘healthy’ is relative after what we have been through.

When Glinka is happy to see me after I have been out for the evening

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 11 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

It might be a midlife crisis! All this strange heaviness and the questioning of everything. Statistically, as a woman, I should have had one at forty-two, but there were no real indications of one back then. Maybe this it IT, now, at forty-four? Why not? If I don’t get a boob-job or buy a Harley – just figure out the meaning of life all anew (as one does, right?) – then the temporary suffering might be worth it.

My love and I had breakfast at the Hoghouse today and so the day began (despite loadshedding in the morning) on a positive note and continued like that: things got done. I had one extremely constructive professional meeting and just ploughed through the tasks that need to be completed before the Big Rest. Today is the first day that I could actually feel my two remaining big commitments for this month coming to an end soon and I could imagine the holiday ahead, and the joy of letting go of all this work-related anxiety. A few more days, if all goes well …

I will spend the evening ironing in front of the TV and go to bed with my cheeks less sore than they have been for the last few days. There’s hope.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 10 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Salieri contemplates the loadshedding schedule for the next few days

They are shooting at unarmed student protestors. People are getting hurt, one person died. It is the year 2021. Surely, surely, there are better ways of dealing with such situations. Escalating violence is not it.

Loadshedding.

The brutal consequences of corruption.

Unusually, Mozart catssisted today, but did not want to show his whiskers to the camera. The rain chased him indoors. It seems we all slept through the worst of the storm in the night. No roof leaks that I could spot. Autumn has arrived. It will soon be time for fireplaces. The electric blanket is already being utilised …

What else? I read, worked, posted books at Postnet and the Post Office, cooked a delicious dinner – with pistachio ice cream for dessert. And talking of ice cream, my weekend plan:

Tickets: Quicket

We were supposed to see friends for a lunch in their garden, but they have been potentially exposed to Covid-19 and it feels wiser and safer to postpone.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 9 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

I might have eaten too many dumplings for dinner. But I have no regrets.

My love gave me a copy of Klara and the Sun and I started reading yesterday. I am only about fifty pages in, but I already know that this book is going to break my heart. Kazuo Ishiguro does sadness like no one else I can immediately think of. Although he is also the author of the funniest short story I have ever read (in Nocturnes).

I spent the morning listening to a podcast about words and reading. It was editing for the rest of the day. One of my three remaining projects before the Big Rest is finished, the second one nearly so, and the third one should be soon, too. I am getting there!

In the late afternoon, I was visited by an amazing writer who has a brave manuscript in her hands. We discussed its possibilities. She brought me delicious gifts.

Honey and mustard

In the evening, my love opened a beautiful bottle of red for us and we had dumplings for dinner (I am stuffed, pronounced in a Polish way).

All day long, the Cape has been preparing for a storm, but now it is all calm and eerie quiet. Will this be the spectacular end to our summer? Autumn is in the air, no doubt. She might be ready to move in permanently …

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 8 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

My Man U winnings of last night :)

International Women’s Day used to be a big thing when I was growing up in Poland. My brother sent a message this morning and we had a Skype lunch with Mom. I want every day to be Human Rights Day, full of kindness and celebration for everyone, but this is not Utopia, and hey, I will take any opportunity to celebrate women in this unequal, tough world.

Monday. All the usual tasks. Just putting out the bin on time in the morning feels like winning. Not exactly a full day’s work, but I was at my computer at nine and got up after four to go and take one of my love’s cats for her monthly check-up to the vet. She is doing great. I call her Fat Cat nowadays because she managed to gain the weight that she was supposed and has been keeping it for months now. A happy cat-auntie here.

I will not watch the interview. I just keep muting the hashtags and hope that this too shall pass. All I can say is that I am glad I haven’t been born into a mafia, and I would not marry into one without expecting to witness them burying some bodies in the desert …

I wish those two young people that they find a way to be independent and happy, royally so.

Highlight of my day was watching Salieri’s Mould Buster high. She is so funny when she smells it. The other two Cats do not understand what the fuss is about, but she goes completely crazy.

Dinner with my love, some TV, early night.

I found three coins today, 80 cents in total. I am a rich woman, R100.80 in my wallet.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 7 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Waking up in a magical place with a view. On a Sunday. Next to my love. Bliss.

It is impossible to travel to Franschhoek and not think about the FLF and how much we miss it. I couldn’t help imagining what it would take to organise a safe literary festival during a pandemic and no matter which way my mind went, it did not feel feasible, not with the levels of carelessness with which so many people approach our situation. And so I couldn’t help despairing a little, too. But, one day. One day!

Fortunately, one can read books during a pandemic (at least when your headspace allows it), and the best place for reading is a bubble bath. Add Sunday morning, a gorgeous setting, coffee in a delicate cup and a great new book, and you know how happy I was earlier today.

My love organised this marvellous weekend away in Franschhoek and it allowed me to take a deep breath and relax. There is something healing about being surrounded by calm and beauty – natural and human-made.

To end the excursion, we had lunch at Ōku Asian Eatery. We booked a table on their sweet, narrow stoep and had a feast, including the divine Japanese cheesecake.

I returned home a happy woman.

And then … I vacuum cleaned carpets, washed floors, did laundry, cleaned the pool and cooked myself a simple soup for dinner. Now, as I type, I am watching the Premier League. I’ve bet serious money on a Manchester United win. Living dangerously! I might be a happy, rich woman soon …

WordPress informs me that as of today I have been blogging for seven years.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 6 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

I got up at seven and worked half a day before my love whisked me off to Franschhoek for all kinds of treats. Before we got to the pampering bit, we first had the Rotisserie Lunch at Leopard’s Leap Vineyards. It was simple and delicious – like Ouma had made it.

Leopard’s Leap and the local literary scene go way back (at least before the pandemic), and they sponsored the Open Book Festival’s Take a Moment Competition in 2019 (among many, many other literary causes). I was one of the judges and received a case of wine and a voucher for their restaurant. The wine disappeared quickly, but I did not manage to redeem the voucher before lockdown and there haven’t been too many opportunities since then. Finally, today was the day.

The stunning Franschhoek Valley – home of the Franschhoek Literary Festival (also in the future, I hope).

Then it was time for some pampering. According to Haggard Hawks, “To LUSK is to lie around or laze idly.” We lusked around all day long, and in the evening, we had a lovely dinner and gazed at the star-filled sky. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 5 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

I arrived particularly early, so that I could make sure to get us a safe table outside. The restaurant does not take reservations. I ordered a mojito, opened a book, occasionally glanced up to look at the groups of sexy, young people passing by and waited for my love to arrive.

Another tough day for both of us, but here we were: together, cool drinks in hand, about to have a nice meal on the stoep of a nice restaurant …

… We were nearly ready to go when someone recognised us and approached the table.

‘Hello! So good to see. How are you? You don’t mind if I take this thing off, do you?’ Off went the mask before I could answer or shake my head. Stunned, I automatically shook the hand that was extended towards me at the same time. Then I went numb.

And it hit me: Don’t talk, don’t breathe, lean back as far as you can, pray for the light evening breeze to protect you.

Fortunately, the person said all they wanted to quite quickly and moved on. I grabbed my mask, sanatised my hands and went home to scrub them clean, the encounter leaving the taste of defeat in my mouth. Why can’t I stand up for myself in these situations? Why can’t I shout: “Put your mask back on and f@#$%^ off!”?

And this, exactly a YEAR after the first official coronavirus case was identified in South Africa. A whole YEAR, and no matter how hard I try to keep safe, no matter how assertive I try to be, when confronted with this kind of blatant disregard for my safety, health and life, I freeze. And I use the word ‘freeze’ very consciously. It often happens when someone violates your physical and/or psychological integrity: you freeze. But I am not sure that I have understood it until tonight in the context of the pandemic.

“When will it end?” – an article my brother sent me earlier today. One year since the first official case in SA, over fifty thousand official deaths here, worldwide numbers difficult to comprehend. And it is only the first year. The third wave will happen, because those of us who try to behave responsibly are not strong enough to shape even our own futures when faced with the onslaught of ignorance and carelessness of others.

Be kind. WEAR A MASK!!! Support local.

Current mood:

Photo: Pitchcare Magazine Issue 76

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 4 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Oysterhood oysters

For someone who has loved eating oysters for fifteen years and has devoted nearly a year to writing Oysterhood diaries in lockdown, it is quite something that I only bought fresh oysters from a fishmonger for the first time – ever – earlier today. I wanted fresh fish from The Little Fisherman for dinner and spontaneously decided to try having oysters at home instead of ordering them at a restaurant. I asked the fishmonger to open them for me and he did, putting them on ice and instructing me how to transport them. I did not plan this, so I had no lemon juice or tabasco sauce etc. ready at home. I had them just like that, fresh without any trimmings – they were DELICIOUS.

I got my latest author royalties statement today: the returns outweighed the sales of two of my books, so no book sales and no royalties for me. You can imagine how that makes me feel. Worthless.

When I was a teenager living in the States, I occasionally cleaned other people’s houses for $25. It was great pocket money at the time and my employers were really nice and appreciative of my work. I spent the money I earned mostly on books. Now, I am in my 40s, I have a PhD and an impressive publishing record to my name, but in half a year, as an author, I don’t even manage to earn $25 on my book sales. No wonder I struggle to open my eyes on most mornings.

But, I am still healthy, and I ate delicious, fresh oysters today. I do count my blessings. And I am deeply grateful. I won’t be walking into rivers or cutting off my ears anytime soon.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD