Operation Oysterhood: 26 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

Until I saw the news of Nadia’s passing yesterday, the day was so full of joy, a lot of it literary. The literary joy has dimmed significantly, because it means less if it cannot be shared with the people who make it all happen, yet it has to be acknowledged. Two Karavan Press books made the Sunday Times / CNA Literary Awards longlists yesterday. It is the most prestigious local literary award and I am absolutely thrilled for the authors and books that made the longlists: Dawn’s Breaking Milk (Fiction) and Joanne’s Death and the After Parties (Non-fiction).

Karavan Press has been in existence for only two years, so this means the world to me, and I am so proud of the beautiful books that made the longlists. They are in excellent company: Nadia’s book babies are among the many amazing titles on the lists …

We were invited to have lunch with wonderful people yesterday, and had a feast with a view of note. I gave the hostess a copy of one of the longlisted titles and proudly told her about the announcement. She is an avid reader and I know she will love the book. We were treated to divine food and some of the most exciting wines I have ever tasted. I was the designated driver, so I did not do much more than taste the wines in the course of the afternoon, but I delighted in every sip and in the fascinating wine talk around the table.

We arrived home in the evening just in time to see Rafa win – in style! – the Barcelona Open for the twelfth time. If I had been a nail-biter, I would not have had any nails left after the last few games of the third set. What a tennis thriller!

Rafa wins Barcelona Open

I took the above photo of the TV screen during the trophy ceremony and wanted to post it on Twitter when I saw the first RIP tweets for Nadia on my timeline and simply burst into tears. I don’t know how many times I whispered ‘no’ between the sobs. No. No. No. I still want to shout ‘NO!’ to the universe.

Nothing made sense.

I cried myself to sleep yesterday, slept badly, and this morning, I did not want to face the world. But I had to send off a new book to the printers and forced myself to get up and get going. I thought of what Nadia and I had most in common – love for local literature – and not giving up but doing my work felt like a way to honour her remarkable legacy. From my shelves, I also collected some of the books she had published and started reading one of them that was waiting on the to-read pile …

We are in the clutches of a ruthless pandemic, and there are moments when I am beginning to feel that Megan Ross is right: we will all go mad with grief. It might have happened already. Because, after all of this loss, only madness would allow us to get up every morning and somehow continue with our lives …

After the morning at my computer, my body spoke in sign language – literally – and I realised that I had to see a doctor (completely bloody-Covid-19-unrelated). I made the earliest possible appointment and until it was time to go, I saw my love and attended to the pot plants on my stoep. A few have been begging for new, bigger pots for a while and there was really nothing else I was capable of at that stage. I just pottered about.

Then I walked to the doctor (who confirmed that I’d interpreted my body’s language correctly) and the pharmacy and came home understanding that my immune system is weakened through layer upon layer of (di)stress and that I had to give in and take care of myself.

I took my medicine, visited The Frog Prince in my garden, listened to the radio, and after answering a few emails, I cooked a nice dinner for myself and had it while chatting to Mom and Krystian on Skype, tears falling again.

I keep thinking: what if the local vaccine rollout had been more efficient … A life – lives! – could have been saved.

A dear friend wrote to me last night: “We have to outlive this thing.” Yes. But even if we do, nothing will be the same again. We are all going mad with grief.

Francois Smit

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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


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