Author Archives: Karina

About Karina

Author living in Cape Town.

Post-lockdown Dispatches: Week One

Wrapped in my Mom’s love

The season is changing, the house is cooling down, as is the water in the pool. But the days are still sunny and warm, and if I sit in the sun for a while after lunch, I can jump into the pool and enjoy an icy swim before the rest of the work day unfolds. I try to do it daily, because my walking routine refuses to return to normal and I do need the movement.

I am enjoying the return to group activities even if many people are ignoring the mask and numbers rules. My love and I went to the theatre again – the magical Firefly, which captures the essence of stage magic, at the Baxter; we went to FYN for another birthday celebration and realised that by pure chance this was the last restaurant we went to before lockdown, and the first after; I attended a highly successful book launch – Liz McGregor’s Unforgiven at Wordsworth Sea Point – and had dinner with authors and friends afterwards; on Saturday, I was at the first post-lockdown Women Zone CT Book Club meeting; and I was invited to a 70th birthday party, where the person celebrating is connected to me in strange, literary ways, and even though we hardly know each other, we are literary family. I registered for one online event: the Tongues Book Club with Alexander Matthews and Alistair Mackay. It was great, but I hope live versions of the gatherings will follow. And I can’t wait to read It Doesn’t Have to Be this Way. (Indeed, it doesn’t.)

Work has continued, but in a vague manner. I stare more than I write or edit. My thoughts have been elsewhere since my Mom walked herself into an emergency room because she thought that she was having a heart attack (she wasn’t, but the symptoms were similar and she was frightened for her life) and has been in the hospital ever since. She is stable and there is no threat to her life, but the doctors are still doing more tests to determine what had happened. We message a lot and meet on Skype during visiting hours when it is all right to talk. These are the moments when I hate living ten thousands kilometres away from her.

The only thing I am truly enjoying right now is reading. I have started Finuala Dowling’s The Man Who Loved Crocodile Tamers and am simply loving it.

Think a peaceful writerly thought, I told myself. I imagined that I was a medieval woman who had chosen to enter a convent, taking her fortune with her. The simple yet comfortable room I’d have, the silence. No phone. No email. I could write a book without interruptions, except for occasional prayers I suppose. Constant kneeling would be a drawback. On the plus side, if someone wanted to complain, they’d have a long ride to Rupertsberg. And even if they got there, I’m sure there’d be a drawbridge. A home improvement every writer should invest in. Could I order boiling oil to be poured over an approaching complainant? No, an abbess shouldn’t do that. Hildegard, Hildegard, watch over me.

The Man Who Loved Crocodile Tamers

I am working on my drawbridge.

Operation Oysterhood: 4 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

From midnight South Africa will no longer be in a state of disaster. Some transitional regulations will remain in place before we are solely guided during the remainder of the pandemic in terms of the National Health Act.

750 days since the state of disaster was declared. 738 since the lockdown began. It all ends tonight, apart from the pandemic.

And completely coincidently, I am home alone again. My love is back at his place, and my lovely houseguest is on a flight to Europe (she no longer required a PCR test to board the plane home).

Not an ordinary Monday.

But after weeks of no shows or delayed appearances, the refuse truck was back on time this morning. And, as for the past thirteen weeks, I went to see Joanne to write with her today – and three other writers; our group is growing – again. My memoir is growing, too. And as I go along, it is all falling into place. I am encountering challenges every week, but every week solutions present themselves alongside the challenges and I am soldiering on. It is an intellectual, creative and emotionally volatile battle field.

I did some research about Carlos Alcaraz Garfia’s historic Miami Open win, and while reading up on it, I came across a former tennis player I really enjoyed watching on court before he retired from the sport a while ago: Alexandr Dolgopolov, who was born in Kyiv and returned to Ukraine now during the war. I clicked on his social media accounts and saw his outrage and despair. He mentioned the five Ukrainian women who were raped and murdered by Russian soldiers. I do not know why since the war in Ukraine started I – totally naively – did not think of one of the oldest weapons of war. I should have known that rape would become part of this horrific story, but Alexandr’s brief mention of the crime caught me unawares. And all day today, no matter what else was happening, I have been walking around feeling wounded. Writing about violation only exacerbated the feeling of helplessness, and disconnect. I know women are raped all around me, every day, relentlessly. Yet, there’s something about the layers of trauma – loss of control and narrative – that a madman, a war, displacement and all imaginable violations of human dignity, integrity and freedom bring into one’s life, no matter how distant, that are beyond grasp. That wound.

I am grappling to find words to articulate the horror, even though I am writing from my relatively safe space, my home. Surrounded by love, purrs and kindness. I understand that my words change nothing. I am just grateful. I am still here. I’ve survived the pandemic. No soldier is knocking on my door. I will never take that for granted.

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: 3 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

The surest sign of autumn: The Cats are – reluctantly – sharing my bed again. And Glinka always wants to be as close to me as possible. I like our double chins (although, officially, she isn’t allowed even one) in the selfie.

We had a leisurely morning in bed, with coffee and books, and then I cooked for my friends. All these amazing, talented, kind, lovely people around my table and my heart swelled with happiness. I am grateful. I know we have been living in lockdown for over two years, so I should be used to this reality, but I cannot help feeling estranged, and I often have moments of awe that I have survived, that I am now as safe as one can be, and that we can have Sunday afternoons like today. I am deeply grateful for all these possibilities.

Good night.

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: 2 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

Any excuse to go to Elgin will do, but when there are great wine and food and Liberty Books on the menu, there is basically no stopping me.

We went to The Melting Pot at Oak Valley for lunch today. Our first visit, but certainly not the last. The food was exquisite, and they make the only Pinot Noir that I will open with gusto. I am usually not a fan; to me, Pinot Noir tastes like a wannabe red, and I like my reds properly red, but I had my first taste of the Oak Valley Pinot Noir during lockdown and I have loved it ever since. To top it all, there were oysters. Fresh and simply divine. A different kind of oysterhood :)

And then, just as we were about to leave, someone from another table, where he was celebrating his birthday, approached us and said hello, recognising my love and asking whether we would perhaps join the party for a glass of something to toast the occasion. The young man was so charming that we agreed, and the rest of the party turned out to be as fascinating. Going home we felt like we’d met new friends. The fact that the young man is an oysters purveyor was a truly happy coincidence. And they deliver oysters to one’s door … No need to tell you what I’ll be ordering in the next few days :)

No visit to the area is complete without a stop at Liberty Books, where Cleo was on duty again and sold us a book.

Iga Świątek is not only going to be world number one on Monday, but she actually won the Miami Open today, her third 1000 Masters event win of the season – impressive. Tomorrow, another fascinating final. I hope to watch. But first, I am cooking Sunday lunch for friends. And I can’t wait.

A real weekend, and it feels good.

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: 1 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

I had every intention of writing last night, but then I fell asleep watching TV … When I woke up Carlos Alcaraz Garfia was about to get into the Miami Open final. Exciting to watch this young star rising.

Yesterday began with a fashion show. My Mom’s language of love are gifts, and she particularly loves giving me clothes. When I now saw her, she gave me a suitcase full of new things. They had accumulated over two years of me not visiting her. In the morning, I finally had time to go through it all to see what fits and what doesn’t. I have permission to give away what doesn’t to charity. I put on a fashion show for Salieri and, as you can see, she had her definite favourites. I doubt I will get to wear this evening gown any time soon, but among my new clothes is a beautiful dress that I can wear at a friend’s wedding next year. And there are a few warm garments for the upcoming SA winter (always a challenge). I hardly ever buy clothes for myself, but my Mom continues to take care of me :)

Afterwards, I got through some heavy-duty admin and some lighter, more rewarding, work. And the pool needed cleaning and I had to visit the local printer. Another day that just somehow disappeared into the past. But it did end in style on the rooftop of The Silo Hotel, where my lovely houseguest invited us for drinks, sunset and a light supper to say goodbye before she leaves for distant shores again. Good news is that she will be back soon.

She is going back to a country where every tenth person is sick with COVID-19 at the moment. We are no longer dying from it like flies, but this virus is not done with us yet. And judging by the increase in infections locally, I suppose our fifth wave is in the making …

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: 31 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

It was just me and The Cats waking up this morning in our old brass bed. My love’s houseguests have left and he could return to his own home again. I went to visit his house today to do my washing. He has a brand new, state of the art machine that I had no clue how to operate despite very careful instructions. My visit did not result in much laundry being washed, but I did have a great time reconnecting with my love’s feline family member. On Skype, my brother diagnosed that my washing machine’s pump must have given up its ghost – I have a feeling that there is a transcontinental Skype washing machine pump replacement session coming up … Watch this space …

In the evening, my love and I went to the Vineyard Hotel for Bon Appétit!

Bon Appétit!, a captivating pairing of music and food, is brought to you from the Vineyard Hotel show kitchen. The flavours of Bernstein’s “La Bonne Cuisine: Four Recipes for Voice and Piano”, Bach’s unique secular Coffee Cantata Schweigt stilleplaudert nicht (“be still, stop chattering”) and others will serve as hors d’oeuvres and main course. Dessert is Julia Child’s “deliciously decadent” chocolate cake recipe, reincarnated as a musical monologue by American Composer Lee Hoiby from a transcript of an episode of “The French Chef”. Join Chef Mike Basset and Cape Town Opera on this exciting culinary journey with musical direction from José Dias.

Book on Quicket

Superb voices, captivating performances, delicious food and ‘John Wick’ on the piano:

Loved it. I will be serenading my coffee tomorrow morning!

But first: sleep. Good night.

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: 30 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

I suppose it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to fit over three hundred people into a room during the pandemic, but we did manage to fit into a webinar. Thank you to all at All About Writing, to the inspiring Cathy Park Kelly and all who attended our webinar tonight. It was great fun, and it reminded me again: read, read, read, and be kind. The rest will follow.

I also saw my counsellor earlier today and spoke to her about the difficulties of writing my memoir, and I introduced her to Bobik and Rudolf and told her their stories. It fascinates me how all of these things are connected. How crucial it is to be seen, and to see; and, how sometimes you do not have to explain anything and yet those who love you understand.

At lunchtime, I was back at the Alma Café – they now offer Eggs Benedict. And they are really good. With the coffee Jono serves, the perfect treat. I walked home in the rain and remembered my grandfather always reminding me: ‘Karina, you are sweet, but not made out of sugar; you won’t melt in the rain.’

I didn’t.

Good night :)

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: 29 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

This week is turning out to be an almost accidental tour of the Cape’s beaches. Fish Hoek today. I met a future Karavan Press author there for coffee.

Cold, rainy day. True autumn. I got into a hot bath in the evening.

The state of disaster is ending, and my Oysterhood Diary will be ready for printing. I never expected it to be sooooooooooo long. I might have to divide it into volumes, or waves.

This is happening tomorrow night:

Live Zoom Webinar
30 March 2022
17:00
UK time
18:00
South Africa Time

Click here to register: ALL ABOUT WRITING

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: 28 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

I promised my counsellor that before seeing her again I would do this for myself: a walk on my favourite beach – Noordhoek. I added the bucket of Kristen’s Kick Ass Ice Cream to the deal of my own accord.

Great writing session with my lovely writing group this morning, but confronting the material I am mining for my book is highly triggering for me.

The walk did me a world of good. The beach was nearly empty, the wind merciless, the ice-cold water froze my veins, but I loved every second of it. Even all the sand that I now have in my hair.

One can feel autumn in the air. The afternoon light is gorgeous this time of the year. And tomorrow it might rain …

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

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

— NICD