Author Archives: Karina

About Karina

Author living in Cape Town.

Operation Oysterhood: 7 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

A morning flower walk on the Rondebosch Common with my love. The best start to a busy week.

But most of today was spent in front of the computer, with a few short breaks for household duties: ironing, brass polishing, cleaning, etc. I loved harvesting my potatoes, Mozart assisting (of course). We planted onions that had gone wild in the kitchen instead.

We won’t be able to feed the nation, but there will be a lovely potato dinner soon. Served with butter and salt and happiness.

As people who know and/or read me will remember, I am a tennis fan. And I have been following the US Open on and off for the past week, but not with much enthusiasm, I must admit, at least not on the men’s side. My favourites are not playing. And I had no intention of watching the one player who had been dominating the men’s game during the Open and was basically destined to win his next grand slam, especially not after the disastrous Adria Tour earlier this year and the ferment over the players’ association. So you can imagine that the tennis news of this morning was music to my ears. I watched the relevant video clip, and then read some of the articles and comments on his disqualification with a sense of relief: not because he is out of the tournament, but because his persistent reckless attitude has finally palpable consequences. I know that he is a hero and idol to many, but so is the Tangerine Troll. I find both to a lesser or greater extent uncomfortable to observe in their respective positions. It’s the sense of arrogance and carelessness with which they encounter the world that I find comparable. And their cowardice when it comes to acknowledging responsibility. We all make terrible mistakes. We all hurt others. But it is the way we deal with these hurts that is interesting to watch: whether we make the aftermath about the aggrieved party or ourselves. Why not stay for the media conference? Apologise immediately and unequivocally? What I also find revealing is the level of hatred aimed at the woman who was hurt in the incident by his fans, as if she had been somehow at fault. There is a reason why the rules that disqualified him are in place – they are there to protect people. And in this case, they revealed that sometimes it takes only a moment and an unintentional action to expose a character that cannot be curated and masked at all times. It is when the mask slips that we learn about who or what we are really dealing with …

In a way, it’s no different to a careless placement of an advert – it can reveal a whole history of injustice and pain.

We mustn’t look away from these moments of disruption, when momentarily someone or something are shown for who and what they truly are. It is not easy having to deal with these incidents, but it is the only way we can learn, grow and move forward with more understanding and compassion for our fellow travellers.

The weave easily came off as she pulled at the strands that attached it to Angel’s hair. As she gently removed the weave, Angel’s hair was revealed. It was thick, black and rich, shining with a healthy sheen that rivalled the weave. She stared at the hair, her hands sinking into the clumps. She felt the hair, tracing every precious spiral with care and love.

“A Woman’s Glory” by Kholofelo Maenetsha, HAIR: Weaving and Unpicking Stories of Identity (2019)

Let us proceed with “care and love”.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 6 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

Just when you think something cannot get any better, there is breakfast with a view. Vineyard Views Country House is one of those places that radiate perfect hospitality. Our hosts, Gareth and Grant, made us feel welcomed in a way that one seldom encounters with complete strangers. We were staying only a night, but the hours spent at the Country House completely recharged my batteries. I slept through the night, woke up refreshed and eager to explore. But first, there was the divine breakfast with a view that took one’s breath away. I love travelling around the world to faraway destinations, but sitting on the stoep of the Country House this morning, with the Vineyard Views spread in front of us, I thought: why long for faraway places when you can have the ideal getaway on Cape Town’s doorstep?

After breakfast, we had a stroll around the village and its quirky shops and galleries. Riebeek Kasteel will see me again soonest. But preferably, next time, we will know how to manage what one local explained was “The Mountain”, no reception in the centre of the village because of the nearby mountain range which reduces the available signal to nearly nothing. Usually, no problem, but when you are in a new place during loadshedding and are searching for a place that turns out to be closed anyway and you can’t rely on Google Maps or phone anyone and have to drive around in nearly complete darkness to find another somehow functioning restaurant, it can become ‘difficult’. Also, and I say this with a heavy heart and knowing that after the Mullieneux tasting not many wines would have managed the comparison, but the Brink Family wine we had last night was … shall we say, ‘difficult’, too. No wonder we never heard of it before … But I did enjoy the label :)

Isn’t the Swartland simply stunning?

We came back home in the afternoon to the sad news of Achmat Dangor’s passing. I have been reading his work ever since I discovered South African literature. He was always kind to me on the few occasions we met on the literary scene. The last time was at the Open Book Festival in 2017 when I interviewed him along with Qarnita Loxton and Jonathan Jansen. Qarnita took this wonderful selfie of us – one of my favourite festival photographs ever – at the event.

This year has taken away so much from so many people and the loss deepens with every passing day. It is difficult, if not impossible, to allow oneself to feel all the pain – communal and individual. But every loss brings with it the reminder to treasure the moments we have with one another, to embrace the joys that others bring into our lives. We need to keep one another in our hearts and in our memories. One day our smiles will be on display on our lips again – until then let us shine goodwill with our eyes. May Achmat rest in peace, and may his loved ones find comfort in the memories he leaves behind.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 5 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

My love invited me for a weekend in the Swartland.

We visited the inspiring winemakers, Andrea and Chris Mullineux of Mullineux and Leeu wines. Their farm is something out of a fairytale and I loved listening to them talk about their approach to farming and wine making – regenerative and wholesome. One can taste it in their wines.

We are staying at the FABULOUS Vineyard Views Country House. It is simply perfect. The epitome of hospitality. You begin to relax the moment you walk through the door, from the kind welcome to the delicious afternoon tea and the charm and beauty of the place, you just feel at home, but pampered and special in every moment.

Our dinner outing was a (mis)adventure of note, including loadshedding, no phone signal, wrong booking, and a bit of desperation: but, in the end, we found a place with a decent menu and a surprising wine on the wine list …

Today, I ate too much, drank too much, indulged too much, but I have no regrets.

I blame it on The Mountain … (will explain tomorrow).

Goodnight treat at the Vineyard Views Country House.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Review: My Mother’s Laughter – Selected Poems by Chris van Wyk

My Mother’s Laughter: Selected Poems by Chris van Wyk, compiled and edited by Ivan Vladislavić and Robert Berold, is one of those literary gems that you will want to have on your bookshelf. Most readers will know Chris van Wyk as the author of Shirley, Goodness & Mercy and its sequel, Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch, both memoirs published in the decade before Van Wyk’s untimely death of cancer in 2014.

He was a versatile writer of children’s books, autobiographical works and other non-fiction, as well as fiction. As editor of Staffrider, the literary and cultural magazine founded in the late 1970s (in existence until 1993), Van Wyk mentored a whole generation of emerging writers. In 1979, he published his only poetry collection, It Is Time to Go Home.

And now, My Mother’s Laughter brings together a selection from the debut volume, also the poems which appeared in Van Wyk’s memoirs, and includes previously unpublished work, showcasing the much-loved author’s poetic talent.

Inescapably, many of the poems from It Is Time to Go Home are set against the socio-political landscape of its time, but even decades later they radiate an energy of awareness and resistance that seems timeless and inspires to action against injustice. My Mother’s Laughter opens with “Metamorphosis”, a poem signalling transgenerational concerns about how historical events such as the Sharpeville massacre and the Soweto Uprising influenced and politicised whole generations of South Africans – a young son, “fidgeting around his [father’s] work-worn body / asking questions at his shaking head”, as a teenager trying to make sense of the world “after June 16”, ends up comprehending what was and is at stake: “I nod my head. / I understand.” Despite the horrors witnessed and the struggles which followed, the sense of hope for a better tomorrow does not abandon the poet. One day, he assures, hearts “will throb / to the rhythm of a drum / And all of Africa will dance”.

The political poems are interspersed with tender love poems, dedicated to Kathy, Van Wyk’s future wife. They were married in 1980 and had two sons. “I am happy here; / just being against your navel”, the poet declares in “You Must Never Know I’m Writing You a Love Poem”.

The previously uncollected poems evoke a strong sense of home and community, how the world infiltrates both with its deeply troubled realities, but also how family bonds and friendships as well as commitment can, if not shelter you from the worst, at least allow you to confront it. They are tributes to heroes of the struggle and heroes of the everyday alike. Van Wyk remembers his “ouma’s yard” and how the “black words / on the white sheets” of the books she bought for them were “like coal strewn across a field of snow.” Equally, his “mother’s laughter” sustained the family throughout the harsh winter of oppression.

My Mother’s Laughter: Selected Poems

Chris van Wyk

Deep South, 2020

Review first published in the Cape Times on 4 September 2020.

Operation Oysterhood: 4 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

One of those days during which I went from one project to another (my own and other people’s), switching back and forth between different tasks, from early morning until evening with only a break for lunch. I slept well again the previous night, but there was lots of coffee during the day to keep going anyway. The day’s reward was a dinner with another couple in their home with the above incredible view from the parking lot of the building. Physical distancing was observed, good conversation and delicious food have been had, and we were having such a great time that we only remembered about the curfew on the way home through the nearly entirely empty streets of Cape Town just before midnight … Luckily, no one stopped us to inquire what we were up to.

A chaotic, tiring week, but a lot has been achieved, loadshedding and all. There will be rest during the weekend. I look forward to it.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 3 September (one day late again because of loadshedding)

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

— @HaggardHawks

Loadshedding, again. Candles everywhere. Writing on my laptop; the battery is fully charged. This will be posted in the morning. Five hours of no electricity in a day, and thus, in my case, no access to the internet is not easy to maneuver around when you are working on several projects that need to be coordinated and completed with other people. I feel like a headless chicken. Pandemic, economic crisis and loadshedding are a lot to handle (or not handle) at the same time.

Miraculously, I slept through the night last night, which felt amazing. I am hoping for another sleep like it tonight.

A day of running, but with great results; despite all the obstacles, things are falling into place.

Highlights of the day: cooking dinner for my love, Melissa delivering this wonderful beauty product that my face simply cannot get enough of (discovered through her DIY Sunrise Beauty Studio facials); picking up the new black cat in the family – custom-made for us by our favourite bead specialist; and, accidentally bumping into (in the age of social distancing, only metaphorically speaking) Rachel Zadok in the supermarket – we promised each other to have a glass of wine in the garden soon.

I go to bed exhausted, but smiling.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2 September (one day late due to loadshedding)

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

— @HaggardHawks

Dr M’s birthday! The Witches gathered in Noordhoek for a delicious, physically distanced lunch and literary gossip galore. My first social encounter with girlfriends in months. The bubbly was flowing like the torrential rains. There was a chocolate brownie birthday cake to die for and a gorgeous ginger-rose infusion for afterwards. And throughout, tons and tons of laughter. So much to be grateful for and celebrate. So much love.

In general, a great day on the literary front. I wrote a review, we finalised a cover, texts are going off to typesetting, announcements will be made.

The day started with a visit to my oral hygienist. She looked like an astronaut, but all the protective gear made me feel safe – not only for myself, but especially for her. I asked her since when she’d been working. May, she said. But! She only saw her own kids last week, first time in five months. We mustn’t become complacent, she warned. Indeed.

I enjoy doing more and more ordinary things like celebrating a dear friend’s birthday or catching up on my regular medical appointments or going out to dinner with my love (another treat tonight – there were oysters!), but there are places – private and public – where the safety protocols are clear and make me feel safe, and there are places where I don’t want to spend a second longer than necessary. And a lot of it comes down to the fact whether you can instinctively feel that someone has not only their own, but also your interest at heart. A lot of it is about transparency and consent. Like safe sex.

I am writing this on my laptop, in bed, surrounded by Cats (although they arrived reluctantly tonight – there was some hissing and fighting beforehand) and candles. Loadshedding. No internet. But fortunately, my garage, alarm and laptop batteries are working. And Harry is waiting between the covers of a book.

Dear Eskom, please, please get your act together. It’s high time.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

Spring day!

They picked up the bin first thing in the morning today. Yay! My work day started soon after and finished at half past ten in the evening, with a short shopping excursion, Skype lunch break with Mom and Krystian, and dinner with my love in between. My head is spinning. I drove through a red light in the evening, on my way to dinner. Not a good sign! But three manuscripts are at a critical production stage and there is lots of other work on multiple projects, so no wonder. Yet, not a good sign. Deep breath, sleep. Tomorrow will be slower and more relaxed. There is a birthday to celebrate!

No photos today. Just a tired good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 31 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

909

A night of nausea and suffering – I ate some leftovers which perhaps I shouldn’t have and paid the price. It took a long time to get going in the morning, especially on a cold and rainy day, but eventually I got my act together and put in a solid day of work at the computer (in bed, with catssistance). I don’t feel entirely recovered yet, but I think I am going to sleep tonight.

Bin day, and again no collection. And these are the people who used to manage to collect refuse even during holidays which fell on a Monday. Uncertainty prevails. This is just one of the numerous symptoms. It is impossible to assess yet what consequences the pandemic will have on just about everything. The excess deaths in South Africa have risen to disturbing numbers. One doesn’t really know which statistics to orientate oneself by. It seems as if the worst is behind us, but maybe that depends on which province you live in and how much you are forced or/and prepared to risk.

I am going out of the house with more and more ease, but I am happiest when I am at home next to a fire my love made for me, reading, with purring cats all around. (And now that my Harry Bosch collection is nearly complete and my binge reading is well underway, I feel safe in my oysterhood.) But, there are also friends and travels and wonderful experiences waiting – and with so many people trying their best to operate within safety precautions, it doesn’t make sense to live in constant paranoid fear. It is exhausting in itself.

So, I stumble on.

I will be watching Bulletproof tonight and going to bed early.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 30 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

908Sunday. Not much to report. Luckily. Morning in bed, coffee, reading, breakfast, Cats.

The rest of the day was spent in the company of two gentlemen I rather fancy. One – my love – made lunch and a fire for me. The other – Harry – entertained me in front of the fire for most of the afternoon. I am a happy woman.

A lazy day like no other. As it should be on a Sunday after a long week of work and before another tense one of deadlines and commitments and fascinating literary projects in the making.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD