Monthly Archives: January 2022

Operation Oysterhood: Heat wave

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

— @HaggardHawks

The hottest weekend this summer, by far. For someone with low blood pressure, this kind of heat requires a lot of bedrest in a cool ancient Victorian house designed for such temperatures, lots of reading, tennis watching, diving into a pool, gentle sunbathing in the late afternoon sun, and a steady supply of chilled wine. Mission accomplished, I am happy to say.

My lovely neighbours visited for drinks and snacks on Friday; on Saturday, my love and I went to the Theatre on the Bay to watch Alan Committie’s Comedy Carousel (and had a good laugh); on Sunday, we watched Survivor 41 (another exciting season).

Friday was an admin day, Saturday was reserved for rest only, and today, I worked on my book.

I am reading a truly fascinating book that is going to change – is already changing – my life: Stolen Focus – Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari. It’s not that the research and ideas he presents in the book are totally new to me, or that I haven’t experienced or felt exactly what the author had gone through at some stage, but his coherent analysis of the situation and the solutions he presents to the challenges we face are stunning. With every page I read, I feel empowered to do better and to safeguard my sanity and focus, and my creativity, empathy and humanity. These are not trivial things! Stolen Focus is essential reading for our times and I am grateful that my love brought the book to my attention.

I am also grateful to myself for never succumbing to the pressure to join Facebook or WhatsApp (and I am constantly bombarded with requests to do so). I have a cellphone that takes pictures and connects to the internet, but it is not the cellphone I use for making phone calls or sending text messages. Apart from these two functions (calls/text messages), all my notifications are off at all times on both phones (one is always on silent, the other most of the time – the reason I put it on to ring is actually quite horrible: in case ADT phones when my alarm goes off …). I mostly use the cellphones when I feel like it, not when they demand my attention. People sometimes get very angry about my telephonic unavailability – and I always say, if you really need me, I have a landline and I will always hear it ring when I am at home; when I am not at home, I probably do not want to be bothered with phone calls anyway. And even if it takes a while sometimes, I do reply to text messages – eventually. Two of the websites/blogs I run (Karavan Press and Philida Literary Award) have been ad-free since inception (this personal one for several years now) and I am very happy to pay for this freedom. I still spend much too much time on Twitter and Instagram, but as of now, I have not managed to really figure out how much of a tool these social media are for my own professional and private use in comparison to how much they use and abuse me. I assume that further investigation/introspection will reveal that change in this respect is necessary, too. However, one way or another, I have been quite precious about the way I interact with the computer, the internet and the cellphone. And I know there is still lots of room for improvement. My focus is definitely not what I want it to be and I am going to do what I can to restore it to what I remember it like from before the attempts to steal it became a reality and a threat to the integrity of my/our world. It is poetic karma that a physical book will help me find the right path forward. As I am reading, I am also trying to reconfigure how I rest, sleep, time-manage and be kind to myself and to everything that is meaningful for me. It is an empowering journey to be on. A bit scary, too, but I am often braver than I think, and usually quite resolute.

I love being creative and I love writing – thank you for reading and sharing this journey with me.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 20 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Bittersweet was our return to Solms Delta. The farm is a husk of its former glorious self. But Sanna was there with her generous hugs and eyes smiling above her mask, and her presence was enough to make the visit completely worthwhile. We – five Brinks – were the only guests at Fyndraai (still serving delicious food) and the Museum van de Caab (the main exhibits still there, yet the space feels gutted), but we did see four other people arrive when we were leaving. Despite obvious farm activities all around us, the place felt strangely empty. Apart from the ghosts, who were all there. And our links to the farm’s history remain undeniable. Philida … All those horrific and brave stories. I brought a few bottles of the old wine back home and look forward to seeing what their memories will taste like.

‘No one makes music on the farm any more,’ Sanna said, and that broke my heart.

Driving back to Cape Town on the Old Elephant Path, like always, I kept thinking of Philida and her resistance to injustice, and felt inspired. The third recipient of the annual Philida Literary Award will be announced on 6 February.

And I thought of my own writing, a form of resistance to injustice on a different level, and the fact that I was meeting my editor Danél that afternoon felt like serendipity.

We haven’t seen each other in ages and it was simply wonderful to catch up on the gorgeous stoep of the Vineyard Hotel. Incidentally, one of Lady Anne Barnard’s sketches inspired the artwork that features on the Afrikaans edition of Philida, among so many other connections between the two places – Solma Delta and the Vineyard Hotel – for me. I gifted the cover artwork to the first of André’s grandchildren to get married two years ago. May Philida continue to inspire many more women to forge our own paths.

The amazing day ended with a meal with my love at our HARU. The place was full of people last night. And that was really good to see after everything that they have been through during the lockdown. I can’t wait until that moment when one will have to book in advance again to get into HARU :)

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 19 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

A long, intense day. It began with coffee with the wonderful Catrina Wessels, who is Karavan Press’s literary agent. Seeing her is always a joy and I haven’t had the pleasure for quite a long time. It was great to talk books and possibilities with her.

For the rest, a lot of admin, organising and email writing. There are days when I think that I will never get them all answered. EVER.

My counsellor asked me today whether I feel exhausted after our sessions. It differs. Mostly, I am energised by the insights we reach, or relieved about being able to confront stuff, but sometimes the work with her is hard and draining. And everything – cleaning out my home, writing, seeing a counsellor – about this year so far feels like an excavation, external and internal. I am digging – using both spades and brushes as my tools – in cupboards, in the past, in language and my soul. Some of this is really tough and nearly impossible to face. At the end of my session with the counsellor today, I thought: Karina, just articulate these five sentences and get it over with. I think I know what the key to unlocking the deeply buried pain I feel is. It is so simple, and yet it feels like climbing Mount Everest – beyond my capability. And it’s not enough that I know this for myself. It is the act of articulation that will open the path to healing, calm. There is still so much grieving to be done, especially for those things that are not gone, but remain unreachable for the time being. How brave am I really?

A long day. At the end, there were still a few tasks on the to-do list that were waiting, but I just gave up at six. I had to free a bird that somehow ended up in my bedroom. Luckily, she realised pretty quickly where the big open bathroom window was and flew away.

Afterwards, I just set in the early evening sun with The Cats and had a glass of pink wine and slowly the tensions of the day began to disappear.

Last night, I found a relatively big praying mantis in the kitchen (apparently a bad omen when they come inside the house) and had to guide her to freedom.

Now, my inner lost bird and praying mantis need to be set free.

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

“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

Flat Eric

I did not take any photographs yesterday, so here is a recent one of Flat Eric and me. I got Flat Eric from my Austrian friend, Isi, who is a huge fan of the iconic French puppet. Flat Eric has been with me for over twenty years now. He still remembers a Karina without grey hair :)

When my Ouma Ala was still alive, whenever I visited her, she would either have her famous tomato soup waiting or would make it for me. It was our tradition. Everyone loved her tomato soup, including Isi, but no one as much as I did. Ouma Ala never made a secret of the recipe. I watched her make the soup many times, as did others, but no one could replicate the taste, even when using the same ingredients and proportions. It took me a while to figure out that there was a secret ingredient after all, and that none of us could ever include it in our tomato soup attempts: Ouma Ala’s touch. It just tasted unique when she made it. I was not a great eater as a child and my parents struggled with me, but whenever I went to stay with Ouma Ala, my appetite reappeared and I ate the same bread and cheese (there was only one kind when I was growing up) that my parents would serve me, but without any fuss and triple the portion.

I remembered Ouma Ala’s kitchen when my family visited yesterday and my step-kids and -grandkids asked me to make crème brûlée for them. I make it every time they visit. André used to – he had the magic crème brûlée touch and somehow managed to pass it on to me just before he died. The last time he made the dessert, he asked me to assist for the first time ever in all those years that we were together, and so, somehow, fortunately, magically, I learned how to prepare it and and can bring back all those delicious memories in the old ramekins for friends and family.

Ouma Karina.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 17 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

The full moon sent explicit directions: ‘Write,’ the note said. And so I did. Finally. It feels amazing: a mixture of excitement, relief, sadness and cathartic anger.

January’s full moon is known as the Wolf Moon.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 14-16 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Cape Town, summer heat, work, love and adventure – the summary of the weekend.

And we are adding a new word to our pandemic vocabulary: endemic. But, the state of emergency has been extended, so lockdown continues until mid-February, at least.

On Friday, I finished the latest editing project and had a meeting with a fascinating woman. Our encounter involved all these books:

I hope that she and I can work on a great project together. Fingers and toes crossed.

It was impossibly hot on Friday and all I wanted was to get into the pool, but I ran out of time during the day. I did, however, end up in the evening next to the sea, at the Waterfront, in a perfectly air-conditioned restaurant with my wonderful love. PIER is not the cheapest place around, but when you delight in their exquisite food, you know what you are paying for: an experience that is impossible to recreate at home, no matter how good a cook you are.

Saturday during the day was all about reading and continuing with my resolution to clean out the house. This includes the garage. I started the excavation of this terribly cluttered, cobwebbed and dirty space yesterday and finished today. It is now emptier and cleaner than it has EVER been since I came to live in Cape Town in 2005. I even hung up an old painting in the garage, so it is decorated now, too.

I did get to swim on Saturday in the late afternoon and then made my way to my love’s where we watched a transcontinental Zoom wedding in the evening. There was love, a stunning couple, sheer happiness, beautiful wedding vows, laughter and tears of joy (my love was so deeply moved, he cried throughout, blowing his nose and smiling from ear to ear at the same time).

We drank champagne and were content with the world. That’s the magic of love: it multiplies when it is shared (even on Zoom).

Today, my love and I went for a walk on the promenade and I continued with the garage into the afternoon, and then went over to his place again for dinner. And an episode of Survivor 41! We did not know that it was coming, but fortunately the clever TV recorded for us. Great stuff.

I will not spoil my good mood by commenting on a certain covidiot (in this respect I have very similar thoughts and feelings to Oliver Holt). Let me just say that I am very pleased that I will not have to endure his presence on my TV screen in the next two weeks of tennis. I will be cheering for the delightfully named Salvatore Caruso to make the most of this remarkable opportunity. I don’t think I have to name my favourite to win, though :)

Tomorrow, something big begins. It is even written in the stars:

My car is serviced and my bills are paid …

Wish me luck!

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 12-13 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

When you have children, for the first ten years of their lives they are almost completely, totally dependent on you. Then, they gradually evolve into independent beings who, a few years later, leave the nest and start leading their own lives. When you share your life with cats, it’s the opposite: for about a decade of their lives, they are almost completely, totally independent and free. Then, they gradually need you more and more to keep them healthy and safe.

Salieri and Mozart had their check-ups in the last two days. Some good news, some bad. I am still processing. Salieri’s thyroid is doing really well on the thyroid diet – it is astounding how her test results have improved on this front. But her liver is not in the best of shapes. Some more monitoring is required, and a lot of TLC. The shocker: she might be showing early signs of dementia. Yes, that’s a thing: cats can get dementia.

Mozart’s kidneys are doing partly better, yet not entirely great. But this time, he was much more graceful about the visit to the vet and I knew how to make him feel safe when he got home. He found his way around quite quickly again.

So, I live with one blind, one probably demented, and one feisty old cat. In human terms, they are all in their eighties, so I can’t expect them to be as healthy as they were as kittens. All I can do is try my best to make their last years on this planet as comfortable and meaningful as possible. I love them very much. They deserve nothing less.

Apart from worrying about my Furry Ones, I have been worrying about the humans in my life, but the most important medical news is: our friend is doing well after a quadruple bypass. What a relief! And yay for modern medicine!

What else? I am finally getting to the end of an edit of a book that I have enjoyed thoroughly, but which should have been finished a month ago; I just did not have the necessary headspace to make it happen. But tomorrow it will be done. Thank goodness.

I found and braaied skilpadjies tonight, despite the heat. Delicious. For my love, I braaied chops. That’s the only skill I have acquired during lockdown: I can braai. And I am really good at it :)

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

“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

Grabouw to Muizenberg, or Tour des Karavan Press Authors. In Garbouw, I met Lester for coffee and lunch – and bread, which he is now baking and supplying to a few outlets in the area (the bread is as brilliant as his writing – the good news on the writing front is that the rewrites of his forthcoming novel are almost done). In Muizenberg, I delivered copies of Theatre Road to CCFM for a book giveaway; they interviewed Sindiwe about the biography this afternoon. Afterwards, I went to see the new venue of Xpression on the Beach, where you can always pick up a copy of Melissa’s novels. Then I saw Joanne and we discussed a writing project – she always inspires me. In between, I posted and delivered other books to readers, entered Karavan Press books for a literary prize and picked up new manuscripts from the printers. My love prepared a simple but delicious dinner for us, and now, here I am, back home, exhausted but full of stories and delicious seed bread and plain sourdough bread.

Spotted in an archival copy of the Southern African Review of Books (July/Oct 1991), which Joanne’s partner used to edit:

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

“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

Is amphora hugging a thing? If it isn’t, it should be: they are very huggable. I had the pleasure earlier today at a wine tasting.

Catherine Marshall’s nomadic garagista days are long behind her. She and her stunning wines finally have a permanent home at CM WINES. We tasted our way through the beautiful range, with all its artistry, purity and liquid joy. I even enjoyed the Riesling, which was actually quite pleasant on the nose (I did not believe it possible).

I think one should start every week with a wine tasting. No matter what else the rest of the week throws at you, you will be able to handle it with a smile on your face. At least that is how I feel today.

We returned to work after lunch, and despite the indulgence, I was very productive for the rest of the afternoon and the to-do list for the start of the week does not look so scary any longer.

What does scare me is that antivaxxers are allowed to get away with (potential) murder.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 8-9 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Sunday evening on my stoep. I can hear the traffic in the distance, but otherwise, here, in the garden, only the olive thrushes are scratching in the undergrowth, and the evening descend in peace.

It was a good weekend. Yesterday, we met very dear friends for a braai and caught up with all their news and hopes for the new year. Afterwards, we dived into the pool. When my love went home, I stayed on with my feet in the water and read and drank leftover French rosé in the late afternoon heat. It was the perfect end to a great day. I watched some TV before I was allowed a long, deep sleep.

Today was more of a working day. I finished reading a manuscript I intend to publish and worked on the edits of another book that is coming in the first half of the year. In between there was Rafa’s successful return to competitive tennis and his 89th ATP title. He acknowledges the global suffering caused by the pandemic and has no problem following the scientific advice or safety regulations that are intended to move us into a brighter future. He is fully vaccinated and recently had COVID-19 and yet he dutifully wears a mask when required – it is a show of respect for others. He is an inspiration on and off the court. And it comes naturally to him. He has no need to ask people to like him. We just do.

The second issue of Everyday Journal is out. I dipped into it this morning. Literary magazines are where so many of us cut our teeth. They are precious incubators of literary talent.

I started reading my first Sally Rooney novel. I am not thrilled with the wooden prose, but intrigued enough by the story to see where it will take me. Rome, it seems …

Salieri did not have an easy day. I had to help her eat throughout the day, but she managed her own dinner and I think that she is feeling better now.

My love and I were too lazy for a walk today, but we did have leftovers supper together and will have an early night. I hope some rain clears the heaviness in the air.

I solved my first Wordle today. Hooked!

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

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

— NICD