Monthly Archives: December 2021

Operation Oysterhood: 18-19 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Overcome by a bout of laziness. Not entirely guilt-free, because I should have worked more this weekend, but it was just sooooo goooood simply to relax: stay late in bed, hang out by the pool, read one book after another, spend time with my love and friends. Just be. Loved it. And Rosebank has become its usual ghostly self this time of the year. It feels as if everyone has left the neighourhood for the holidays. I can never get enough of this atmosphere around the festive season. This calm is so badly needed after the year we have had that I am just going to bask in it and forget about guilt.

Saturday evening braai with friends.

Reading and relaxing with Salieri.

Tomorrow is going to be busy, but I hope in a good way. Tonight, I am going to bed with the latest Grisham. I have also started Dolphin Junction, the Mick Herron story collection – wonderful! – he is one of my favourite writers. All this joyous pleasure reading – a real holiday.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 17 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

First day of ordinary life: a morning walk on the Promenade with my love and breakfast at the deli near the lighthouse.

Our friend Caroline of Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar relocated to a new shop in Sea Point and we went to visit her there for the first time after our walk.

Caroline has great taste and her collection is simply wonderful. And it is not just for wine snobs – she has wines for all, prices ranging between just under a hundred rand to well over a few thousand. There is a shelf for a few bottles from Austria, and I bought the Zweigelt for Christmas.

Next stop was the Book Lounge, where #MyBookLounge lucky draw hamper and the books I had ordered were waiting. Getting all those books felt like Christmas. I was delighted to get them home and start choosing which to keep and which to give away to friends (I have a few of them already, so the extra will be happily shared).

At lunchtime, I met with Mom and Krystian on Skype again, and we just laughed and laughed after discovering how to use different backgrounds for our chat. This is my absolute favourite:

Yes, I did do some work today as well, but the day was just about going places and doing nice things. It had to end at The Hoghouse, of course. I bought us a takeaway dinner and took it to my love’s house, where we had a delicious, quiet evening at home.

I am relived to have dodged the COVID-19 bullet yet again, and I am glad to be vaccinated and to live in a city where there are so many places and experiences that can make one so easily happy. I am also very grateful for all the beautiful people in my life. And all the laughter, despite everything.

(That a certain someone is eleven point five million rand poorer also makes me happy. We need so much more such justice in this land.)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day ten

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

— @HaggardHawks

Last day of quarantine. My love is out and about, fully recovered. I am symptom-free and COVID-19-negative. And I intend to stay that way at least until Christmas, because I really, really want to have the Christmas we’d planned. So, sorry, dear everyone, no close contact with anyone who might pose a risk to these plans. Also, the book bug has bitten me again and I have come down with the reading fever. All I want to do is read for pleasure. And for now, what gives me pleasure is crime/thriller writing that includes armchair travel. After Ballard’s and Bosch’s LA and Rea Valentine’s Cape Town, I am now well into Brunetti’s Venice and loving it, although I am discovering – unusually – that I prefer to read Donna Leon in German translation. I am not sure that she has the same translator for all books, but whoever it is, they do something to the prose that I find more appealing than the original. I have only visited Venice once – it was unforgettable! – and following in Brunetti’s footsteps has awakened a not so transient desire to go there again. One day.

Joanne Hichens interviewed a few authors about crime/thriller writing in Africa for CrimeReads: “The New Generation of African Crime Writers”. Their comments about setting are fascinating in this context.

So, on my last day of quarantine, I read about Venice, and forced myself to work, and did some housework, too. But the highlight of the day was the birthday Skype celebration with my brother, who has turned forty-one. My younger brother …

Level One remains. Infections rising rapidly – I know so many people who are ill, but no one in hospital, thank all the vaccine goddesses! The fourth wave does not seem to be as lethal as the previous ones, at least not for those who are vaccinated.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day nine

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

— @HaggardHawks

I won all these books yesterday in the #MyBookLounge lucky draw! It feels completely magical. I have quite a few of them already, but it will be so lovely to share the extra copies with friends before Christmas. And it will be equally wonderful to just dive in and read. Quarantine allowed me to return to proper leisure reading. It is bliss to read for pure pleasure only. The Cats are loving it, too. Their human is available for cuddles at all times.

Other great news yesterday: a certain ex-president is going back to jail where he belongs – even if it does not happen practically, it is simply reassuring that it is happening in theory. He is into book selling nowadays, charging R1000 for a signed copy. The fact that there are people willing to pay this money for a signed book makes me despair and celebrate at the same time.

I recently paid R550 for a beautiful copy of Damon Galgut’s Small Circle of Beings, first edition (Lowry Publishers, 1988). Not signed yet, but I hope that will change soon. One way or another, it feels like a much better investment – emotionally, intellectually and financially.

Today is my last day of quarantine. First destination tomorrow morning: The Book Lounge! Where my lucky hamper and the books I have recently ordered are waiting. Yay!

More importantly, today it is Reconciliation Day. And my brother celebrates his birthday on this important South African public holiday. Happy Birthday to THE BEST BROTHER IN THE WORLD! He really is, and that is the greatest luck of my life.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day eight

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

— @HaggardHawks

Bubbly

It’s that time of the year when you are asked to reflect on the past twelve months and pick favourites. Yesterday, I wrote a paragraph about my best book of the year for the Sunday Times again. It was an easy choice. When asked the question, I did not even have to think about it. But I did look at the list of all the other books I have finished reading this year (I started many more that will probably also feature among favourites, but I did not have much time for leisure reading, so the list will be completed only next year), and there were quite a few that stood out.

The obvious ones are the books I published at Karavan Press, of course. I read and reread them and loved them so much, I had to see them in print. And it is a list to be proud of:

A Hibiscus Coast by Nick Mulgrew
The Skipper's Daughter by Nancy Richards
Conjectures by James Leatt
Beat Routes by Justin Fox
The Pool Guy by Melissa A. Volker
Boiling a Frog Slowly by Cathy Park Kelly
The Wilderness Between Us by Penny Haw (not Karavan Press, but part of the family)

Others on the 2021 favourites list so far are:

The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Writing and Righting: Literature in the Age of Human Rights by Lyndsey Stonebridge
Sovietistan by Erika Fatland
A Lab of One's Own: One Woman's Personal Journey through Sexism in Science by Sharon McGrayne and Rita R. Colwell
Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa
Slough House by Mick Herron
Dance of the Dung Beetle: Their Role in Our Changing World by Helen Lunn and Marcus Byrne
Those Who Live in Cages by Terry-Ann Adams
Consent by Vanessa Springora
Lady Limbo by Consuelo Roland
Walking With Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne
The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly 

Robyn Porteous asked on Twitter what are people most proud of this year. This was also easy to answer, so I replied:

“Finally taking the time to learn how to set boundaries and continuing to grow with the newly acquired self-preservation skills. Work in progress, but it feels good.”

This has been essential for me in the second half of the year and the process was brought on by the breakdown I experienced in July and the work with my counsellor that followed. And I keep repeating to myself: just because you are capable of doing something does not mean that you have to do it.

Thinking about boundaries and responsibilities and love and guilt probably triggered the intense dream I had last night. It even had a soundtrack: Humans – Ennio. It was so vivid that I had to think really hard after waking up whether this was just a dream or a memory. It felt like I had to rearrange my head to make experience fit with reality. At the end of the dream, I was walking and running through Jelenia Góra in the middle of a cold night and felt a sense of freedom and carelessness I hadn’t experienced in a long time. The liberation one feels after walking away from a toxic situation.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day seven

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

— @HaggardHawks

The President is COVID-19-positive. And every day I hear of more and more cases of people I know being infected and/or quarantining. But this time, no one I know is in the hospital. And because all my nearest and dearest are vaccinated, I am very hopeful that it will stay that way.

Monday was mostly an admin day and I completed all the usual Monday duties around the house. I finally took out my bead Christmas tree and opened a packet of Hoghouse gingerbread hearts and all of a sudden it felt like Christmas was coming after all. It’s not easy to get into the proper mood.

Judging from the info the doctor supplied us with, yesterday was a good day to test for COVID-19 after my exposure and no symptoms so far. I went to a walk-in testing centre in Goodwood, paid a newly-announced, reduced fee of R650 (because I did not need a doctor’s appointment and referral for this PCR test, it was actually half the price of what I paid previously), had my brain tickled and went home within a few minutes of arrival (very smooth organisation). I knew that the result would be negative, but was happy to pay for the confirmation. Theoretically, a negative test does not excuse one from quarantine, and I decided to follow the advice for two reasons: the first is that there is a miniscule chance that the test could be a false negative and that there is also a miniscule chance that I might still develop symptoms and test positive ten days into quarantine, and thus become a danger to others; and the second reason is that quarantine protects me from a potential other infection source that would completely muddy the traceable infection waters. I am not an essential worker, healthcare provider or anything else important that requires me to go out there into the world as soon as possible. Quarantine keeps others and myself safe. I am continuing with my work and also resting. After the stresses of the past year, it is not a bad idea to sit at home and not risk anything for a few days. Life is hard enough as it is.

My love worked from home yesterday, and in the evening we sat a few metres apart in the chilly wind outside and just enjoyed each other’s company for a little while again. He will be out of self-isolation soon. We have wonderful plans for Christmas and I now need to keep safe not to jeopardise them. I want to enjoy the festive season without stress. At least the kind that can easily be avoided.

The pandemic has made our lives smaller and more complicated, but we need to learn how to go on anyway while doing the least possible harm to ourselves and others.

My test result arrived late in the evening when I was already asleep, but I had a huge insomnia gap (first in a while) in the early hours and saw it in the night. When I finally went back to sleep, I dreamt of being at a birthday party of a friend who passed away the year before the pandemic. The birthday party was at an old-age home and he was happy to have all his friends around him, performing a little jig for us. In the dream, seeing him in such a great mood, I thought that heaven was good for him. And then I woke up and missed him, and other loved ones who are no longer with us.

Mortality – ‘the state of being subject to death’ – is haunting.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day six

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

— @HaggardHawks

My runaway baby slept for most of the day and made her mother quite anxious when she went out again in the evening. She did return, though, this time and spent the night at home. I still have no idea what prompted her to leave the property, but I am just grateful I found her.

We had a beautifully lazy Sunday, reading, watching sports and finishing the total relaxation with the last two episodes of Star Trek: Picard. Quite an ending. I will be thinking about the embedded philosophy for a while.

I watched the F1 championship race. I don’t usually watch F1, so I had no idea really what to expect or what actually happened, but it was very exciting nevertheless. I know a few of my friends were delighted with the outcome. I enjoyed the thrill of it all, but did not care who would win.

What I did care about was finally getting to read the American edition of Divine Justice by Joanne Hichens. I started quite a while ago and swallowed the first fifty pages or so in one go, but then a mountain of professional reading overwhelmed me and it took the quarantine to give me proper time to read again. I reread the opening and just kept going until it was time to deliver fresh milk to my love and wave at him in the ‘prison’ of his house. I did not take a photograph but the image of him will stick with me; he looked like one of those people we saw so often in the beginning of the pandemic: locked up behind a glass pane – unhuggable, but desperate for a hug. Soon.

Jo is such a bloody-good writer. I am loving Divine Justice, the characters, the pace, and Cape Town as more than just a setting. Looking forward to more.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day five

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

— @HaggardHawks

A day of monstruosity and international feline drama. When shopping online, I planned for everything but the cycles of the moon. In all this chaos, I was surprised to wake up feeling totally monstrual (thank goodness, the symptoms were immediately recognisable for what they were and could not be confused with COVID-19). The tampon count in the house revealed an imminent emergency, but luckily a friend who lives nearby got in touch just then, asking whether there was anything I needed because she was going shopping. Last time when I was in quarantine, she saved me with cat food. This time, with tampons. I did have all the painkillers needed in the house already. And they were needed. I spent most of the day in a state of utter laziness and painkiller fogginess and just read and watched TV. Salieri, bless her, spent a lot of that time purring healing into my cramping belly.

I finished the latest Ballard/Bosch thriller, The Dark Hours. Loved it. Michael Connelly is continuing with the magic. The wait for the next one begins, very happily.

Less happily, on Skype with Mom and Krystian, I heard the sad news that Mozart’s sister, Myszka, who lives with Mom, is also going blind. Five years later than her brother, but it is happening. It is a great shock for Mom, but I could assure her that Mozart has dealt with his missing eyesight in the most remarkable way and continues a rich, completely independent life. I am certain the same will apply to his sister. The transition will be tough on her and Mom, but I know from my own experience with Mozart that they will be okay. It just takes time.

In the evening, some of my energy returned and I did some house cleaning, but then, after dinner, I fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV.

By the time I woke up again and moved to the bedroom, I did notice that Salieri wasn’t on the bed, but I thought that she went to her other favourite spot for her sleep. Without checking, though, I just set out a plate of her food for the night and threw myself into the arms of Morpheus. This morning, she still wasn’t here and her food was completely untouched. A search of the house revealed that she wasn’t in any of her usual spots. No amount of calling in the garden brought her back. I went into panic mode, because Salieri has only ever once left the property on her own: many years ago, when she accidently ate snail poison the gardener at the time carelessly spread in the garden – she was poisoned, completely disoriented, and I found her foaming at the mouth and hiding under a neighbour’s car.

Quarantine or not, I got dressed and went out to search for her. I found her in the corner of the garden of the property two up the road from ours, looking completely lost. The moment she saw me, she just ran to me. We had to do some acrobatics to get her out over the gate, but she was so glad to see me that she allowed me to do whatever was needed to get her out. I took her home and the purring hasn’t stopped since. She had lots of water and some food, and is now sleeping on my lap as I type. What a relief that I found her. I have no idea how and why she got out, but I hope it never, ever happens again. My poor baby. Her poor cat mother!

The adrenaline has now left my body. I need more coffee. No more drama, please!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day four

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

— @HaggardHawks

Not the best of days for Salieri, health-wise, but she slept most of the day – best medicine – and seems to be much better again this morning. Fortunately, these poor-health days are not so common any longer. She is purring next to me as I type.

My love is also recovering. I delivered some of the groceries I ordered online to him yesterday and after dropping them on his doorstep could wave a hello from a safe distance. Can’t wait to hug again. This pandemic is so bodily real for those who have to fight off the virus, and so unbodied for all others.

Work motivation wasn’t at its highest yesterday, but stuff got done and I managed to complete the pool cleaning and repotted a few of my stoep plants that were in need or larger living spaces. The best garden news is that my lemon tree, which I had pronounced dead a few weeks ago and was on the verge of taking out, is coming back to life. Patience pays off. At the end of the day, Mozart, Glinka and I hung out near the pool and the human had a Hoghouse beer and we all watched the light seep away from the evening.

After dinner, I met on Skype with my Austrian friend Charlotte who is now in her new, gorgeous flat. We spoke about her next visit in Cape Town and my next visit in Austria, hoping that both will happen soon, but also understanding that everything is different now when it comes to hopping on a plane to go places …

I am almost certain that I don’t have COVID-19 (unless completely asymptomatic) and I don’t mind the quarantine because I understand its purpose, but I am still thinking about doing the test on Monday, which would be apparently ideal timing for the detection of a asymptomatic infection. Let’s see. Theoretically, a negative test does not excuse one from quarantine after such an exposure as mine – “A close contact will need to quarantine for 10 days. A negative test does not exclude a diagnosis of COVID-19 due to the possibility of a false negative result and thus a negative test does not allow the close contact to end quarantine early. Symptoms can develop up to 10 days after an exposure in some patients.” – so not sure whether to spend the money on the test that won’t change anything about my behaviour at this stage. Unless I test positive, of course. One needs a medical degree to decide how to act responsibly nowadays. My literary doctorate is not exactly helping in interpreting all the medical advice I read.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: quarantine, take two, day three

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

— @HaggardHawks

Initially, I did not want to be caught up in the rush of everyone downloading theirs. Then, I did not really feel that I needed one, as I wasn’t going anywhere and no one was asking for the proof. But yesterday, I decided to finally download my vaccination certificate. It took about a minute, went smoothly, and my shining certificate is on my phone and computer.

I am convinced that the reason my love is recovering at such speed and that neither I nor the three people we saw last weekend have developed any COVID-19 symptoms is because we are all vaccinated. The data has been showing for many months now that in the overwhelming majority of cases the vaccines save lives and prevent the worst of the disease, if not infections all together, and now, I have experienced this on my own flesh. Still no symptoms.

Quarantine has been calmer than my usual days, but busy. I had a lovely, long Zoom chat with a Karavan Press author – she is working on a new book, and together, we are contemplating a new project.

We have finalised the financial statements for André’s literary trust. I did other admin for projects I am involved in. Some editing. And my pool is almost sparkling again. Ready for the summer. But summer is slacking. I am loving the Ballard/Bosch thriller, but am trying to pace myself, so that the ending does not come too soon. Although I have many more amazing books at home waiting to be opened. So, no worries there.

Today, the fabulous book people of Liberty Books are celebrating their first anniversary of making book lovers happy in their beautiful shop at the Peregrine Farm Stall. When you buy books at the bookshop today, you will receive a stunning tote bag with your purchase. From tomorrow on, the bag will be available to buy for R80 (or free if you buy books for R500 or more, basically when you do your Christmas book shopping). The image on the bag is a drawing of their iconic book nook. See their Instagram account for details, and GO BUY BOOKS! They have a fantastic selection, including Karavan Press titles.

Happy anniversary to one of the best bookshops in the world!

Can’t wait to visit again when I am out of quarantine.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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

— NICD