Category Archives: Memories

Operation Oysterhood: 16 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Spring in Janice

The copper pipes were stolen from my friend’s property during the weekend. She was clearly upset. I asked whether there was something I could do. She suggested a visit, so today, mid-afternoon, I grabbed a bottle of pink bubbly from a store and was on my way to see her. About two kilometres away from her house, my cellphone rang: alarm activation, ADT on their way to my house. I alerted my friend, made a U-turn and rushed back home. Three of the outside alarm beams on the property were triggered, but the security guards arrived too late to catch the wannabee thief. I checked on The Cats, took a deep breath, reactivated the alarm and set out again to meet my friend.

I was halfway through my glass of pink bubbly and a conversation about how everything feels “just too much to handle” right now – because of the stolen pipes, my friend was left without running water for the entire weekend – when ADT phoned again. Another alarm activation, security guards on their way to my house. Again.

I left my friend, my glass and a second slice of carrot cake behind, took another deep breath, and made my way back home, stopping at my love’s house for a minute to explain why I would not be able to cook dinner at his place as planned. He told me about impending loadshedding. We hugged and I returned home. My love said that he would follow shorty just to check on me. I was relived because I wanted to cook a nice stew for dinner and did not feel like eating it alone, especially not after all of that …

Cape Town is my home. I want to spend the rest of my life here. But …

ADT phoned back and assured me that no one had gained entry to my house. When I got home, I saw that this time three different outside beams had been activated. Someone was really trying their luck around the house. Not succeeding! – thank all the goddesses, the alarm worked – but still.

What upset me the most was finding Mozart obviously distressed meowing in the garden. He is blind and alarms going off and strangers running around the property scare him. The other two Furry Ones can simply run away and hide, but he does not cope well with moving around when he is frightened. When he can’t take his time, he bumps into things and falls off stairs, etc. He is so dapper, but this is too much for him to handle. My poor baby.

I got the stew going, reassured the Furry Ones, gave them all some nice food, poured myself a pink double G&T and sat down to examine my loadshedding schedule and then to – finally! – try to enjoy the Italian Open final.

My love arrived halfway through the second set. All Cats came to sit with us in front of the TV and demanded TLC. It was very comforting, to felines and humans alike. When the stew was ready, we had dinner. I was tempted to have another G&T, but the last thing I need is for our dire reality to drive me to drink.

And the day started off so well. Long, lazy morning in bed with Cats, coffee, pastéis de nata and books. I met Mom and Krystian for lunch on Skype. My Mom is getting her vaccine this week. Driving back and forth around the peninsula today, I heard on the radio that we here might not have all the promised necessary vaccinations sites ready for the second phase of the rollout starting tomorrow. Pandemic, corruption, thievery, incompetence, loadshedding … and these are the general, grand woes we all experience – the list of my own personal woes that are not making my life exactly easy right now is also crushingly long.

Ericka Waller asked on Twitter today: “Ever want to just give up?” And Fiona Melrose replied: “Yes. But I have dogs so I can’t.”

My love loves me and is recovering. My feline family needs me, too. Giving up is not an option, but just a few truly boring days would be really lovely. I long for calm, rest.

Luckily, on a day like today, the Emperor of Clay prevailed – tenth Italian Open title, thirty-sixth Masters 1000. As someone commented on Twitter, we are running out of words to describe Rafa’s achievements. But not out of celebratory smiles.

And my Aunt Zosia sent me a stunning picture of the landscape near her home, one of my favourite places in the world, the region I originally come from. It is spring there …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 15 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

I am growing edible mushrooms – OYSTER mushrooms! This is only my first batch, but the results so far are very encouraging and I might expand my mushroom farming in the near future :) It seems like the perfect autumn enterprise. And today felt like AUTUMN. Rain, fog, darkness, cold and general weather misery. My love made the first fire of the season for us in the evening and it was bliss. He also prepared dinner while I read a book. That is a different level of bliss. It was an altogether lazy afternoon of books and sports on TV. But I worked from about seven a.m. until lunch. It looks like I will be able to relax for most of the day tomorrow. I want to stay in bed and forget about the world. Oysterhood activated.

The news out of Palestine is crushing – the escalation of violence and destruction makes one despair. As if the pandemic madness wasn’t enough for all of us to just weep and give up hope for humanity.

I am torn between helplessness, denial, sanity-preservation and deep-seated anger. I should be growing magic mushrooms!

Rafa is in the Italian Open final in Rome.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 14 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Performing chest compressions on a baby manikin is uncanny, but a strange reassurance kicks in when you see the dummy’s control lights go to green and you know you are doing it right, and that if you had to, you might save a life. I did my first first aid course at the same time as I got my driver’s license many, many years ago. Ten days ago, before the medics arrived to save my love’s life, in my head I was going through the basics that I remembered in case I needed to execute them. I didn’t have to, the medics got there in time, but afterwards I felt that knowing things and being able to execute them could be the difference between life and death, and I wasn’t prepared to take my chances – or anybody else’s – again, not after the experience we’d had. I contacted BLS Medical in Cape Town and registered for a refresher course. And it was good. The basics of CPR are one thing, but there are so many other things to consider: personal safety, consent, a living will, bloody Covid-19, and one’s own physical fitness (to name only a few). I realised that, if required, I might be able to do chest compressions for only a limited amount of time simply because of lack of strength and endurance. This will have to change. I also know that one should refresh one’s memory and skills on a regular basis. In the case of an emergency, you want your muscle memory to kick in, you don’t want to have to think about it too much.

My love is doing better every day, although a lot more rest is needed for recovery. One small step at a time.

But now, I am even more scared of Covid-19. I never wanted to get it, or worse, pass it on to someone, and now, the idea that I might bring it home to my love completely freaks me out. And the third wave is gradually advancing. Theoretically, after more than a year of living through a pandemic, we should know how to behave to stop it in its tracks, but …

Mandy Wiener wrote on Twitter: “I know half a dozen people who got vaccines this week who aren’t health care workers. No connection at all. Then I get a message from a guy whose mom is nearly 60, has diabetes, is a cleaner at a health facility, registered and hasn’t been contacted. How is this fair?”

I know more and more people, mostly doctors, who got vaccinated. I also know of people who have managed to jump the queue. Of course it’s wrong, and yet I can’t help feeling that at least they are safe(r). I can’t help feeling relief. At the same time, I am angry that many health care workers who registered officially – like the woman mentioned in Mandy’s tweet – are still waiting to get their vaccine. The system is letting us down and testing our ethics. It feels like the Titanic: if you have a chance, do you get into a lifeboat no matter what your choice means to another person? We should not have to make such choices. We have achieved the impossible and actually invented these vaccines in an unbelievably short time – now, all our efforts should focus on getting as many of them as possible into as many people as possible. Instead, we have to beg for the lifting of patents, face yet another wave and watch makeshift funeral pyres burn in parking lots.

In Austria, my Mom finally got her appointment for her vaccine. She has concerns about the possible side-effects as she is not in perfect health, but she has spoken to doctors and has been reassured that this is the best thing to do, and she is going. And I know I will feel great relief once she has had the jab.

If I am lucky, my turn will come later this year. Until then, I wear my mask, I wash my hands and keep my distance. It’s not always easy, but by now it is like muscle memory – it kicks in without much thinking, and it has the potential to save someone’s life, including my own.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 8-13 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

My love said he would buy the flowers …

He actually said that he would buy the groceries for our lunch yesterday. But, he bought the flowers for me, too! :) They radiate the same colours as my joy at seeing him recover one small step at a time after the frightening experience and ICU stay of last week.

The first few days were an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions. The horror visions of what could have happened running on a loop in my head, the overwhelming relief that they didn’t become reality, the gratitude for the miraculous medical interventions possible, the bracing for the recovery road ahead, anxiety, the incredible outpouring of love and support from family and friends – including the deliveries of delicious food, beautiful flowers, and other big and small gifts to help us both cope and make us smile again. The generosity and kindness of people in moments like these allow one to somehow keep going.

The last few days and nights passed by in a bit of a blur, too. I couldn’t focus properly for a while, had to write a few letters of apologies that I would be late delivering on some promises, but, in general, work and deadlines were a way to distract myself from spiralling into the depths of fear and anxiety. And I have the enormous fortune of working with many kind, understanding people.

The Karavan Press sale got the press out of publishing ICU, but looking at the latest official sales report – or rather once again returns report – it is impossible not to despair. And I know that Karavan Press is in the same boat as many others. It’s leaking and might need some serious repair and restructuring work before we brave the deep waters again. To be an indie publisher right now is rough, to say the least.

Yet, the gorgeous debut novel by Nick Mulgrew, A Hibiscus Coast, is out in the world since yesterday and will take readers on a journey in time and across from Durban to New Zealand.

“Book of the Week” at The Book Lounge

May it soar!

Another Karavan Press title is about to sail from Liverpool to Adelaide: the content corrections of the typeset text were completed yesterday and the final touches to the cover are in progress. And the last Karavan Press book before my Big Rest (I have not given up on it – I need it more than ever!) is in the last stages of design and typesetting, too. Almost, almost there.

Needless to say that I have not been able to read much for pleasure lately, but I am making small progress with two books that are giving me much joy when my mind can relax: I am in the middle of Heather Martin’s The Reacher Guy and the first book in Consuelo Roland’s Limbo Trilogy. Great stuff in both cases.

And yesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending a LIVE book launch!

The launch of Searching for Sarah by Dominique Malherbe.

Dominique was in conversation with Tracy Going. It was a deeply moving event for me on many levels: the book features a shout from me on the cover, Sarah’s story resonates with me in uncanny ways, Dominique’s journey of writing the book also echoes many of my own experiences. Above all, Sarah’s story is the story of so many women neglected by history, and there is something so wholesome about the fact that it could be told and is now being shared by another woman who champions women and our realities in her writing.

I have been vaguely aware about what is going on in the world outside my own tiny bubble and it does not look good. Ancient hatred flaring up with lethal consequences. The pandemic devastating more and more lives, with the images of the makeshift funeral pyres in India haunting my dazed mind. The third wave gathering momentum in SA and no successful vaccine rollout one can truly believe in anywhere in sight. Non-pharmaceutical interventions remain the only health-and-life-saving means of how to survive this virus. We soldier on …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 4-5 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

It is horribly frightening when your loved one disappears behind a door like this. Especially during a pandemic that makes everything – from diagnosis to care logistics – infinitely harder and even more scary.

My love has been behind this door since yesterday. It is not Covid-19. What is most important is that he is stable and is going to make a full recovery. I am allowed to visit him. We can communicate. We can say ‘I love you’ and know that the other person hears the words. And love is a miraculous, infinite source of strength.

And I am infinitely grateful to experience it.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 3 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Pandemic. Lockdown. Covid-19-related publication delays. Lower book sales. Crippling returns. Cashflow struggles. Increases in production costs. Limited promotion avenues. Debt. Debt. Debt. To be a small independent publisher right now is to survive on hope. Barely.

We published Karavan Press’s first titles in June 2019, not even two years ago, nine – very promising – months before the beginning of the lockdown in South Africa. Then the pandemic hit our shores and destroyed many dreams for the press. Against all odds, we are about to release the eleventh Karavan Press title. Last week, two of our titles – Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch and Death and the After Parties – made the Sunday Times/CNA Awards 2021 longlists.

No matter what, Karavan Press has always paid all invoices on time, and paid out royalties to all our authors as per our agreements. None of this would have been possible without the support of friends, family, dedicated booksellers and readers (and the fact that I have been running the press – including all editing, admin, promotional, etc. work – since the beginning pro bono). But despite all the incredible help, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep Karavan Press going. And there is little respite in sight. However, I refuse to give up.

In order to generate some much-needed cashflow, I have decided to have a book sale. It is running until 14 May and I hope it will bring some relief to an acute situation.

This is the deal:

Order any four of the ten published Karavan Press books and pay ONLY R550, including delivery.

For book details, click here: KARAVAN PRESS BOOKS

To order, please send your list of the four titles and your delivery address to karavanpress@outlook.com, and we will send you an invoice for an EFT.

Delivery options:

Cape Town: next working day after payment reflects in our account, to your door within 20km of Rondebosch Common.

Rest of South Africa: within a few working days after payment reflects in our account, to your nearest Postnet office.

Contact us for other delivery arrangements, if required.

OFFER VALID UNTIL 14 MAY!

PS Karavan Press books will make great Mother’s Day presents …!

First Karavan Press SALE parcels were delivered today.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

It was easier today. We worked in parts of the archive where the damage was not as horrifying. I met new people, but for some of the tasks assigned to me today, I was reunited with Sandra, the woman from my neighbourhood, and I saw a few other familiar faces (or rather set of eyes smiling above their masks). Together with Sandra and Melissa, I formed a labelling and packing team after the coffee break, but for most of the shift, I was part of several human chains, taking empty crates into the archive and taking full ones out. We have invented so many machines and technologies, but most of the tasks of the Jagger Library Salvage Project can be efficiently performed only by humans – and there is a certain consolation in that. The project continues until next Sunday. I hope to volunteer for at least one more shift.

In the afternoon, after a long hot shower, I had to catch up with some work around the house and garden and then went to see my love. We were supposed to watch the Manchester United vs. Liverpool match … but … well.

My love cooked a roast chicken for us – Karina and all Cats are very full, and very happy tonight.

The first Pfizer vaccines are arriving in the country. But the road to one for me is so loooooong, it’s quite depressing. Is vaccine envy also green?

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

THELEMA. My first visit. Not the first time I tasted their beautiful wines, but my first time on the farm – which is stunning! The way it integrates into its surroundings and allows the wild to mingle with the cultivated makes me – the wild gardener – feel at home. A lovely, relaxing, sunny autumn afternoon! Exactly what the doctor prescribed for my love (working around the clock right now) and my sore body after my first shift at the Jagger Library yesterday. Tomorrow, I will be up there volunteering again, and I hope I can do a few more shifts next week. Volunteers still needed: Jagger Library Salvage Project.

Archivist & volunteer – Jagger Library Salvage Project

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 30 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

“Crates.”

“Triage.”

“Books.”

“Careful, this one is heavy.”

These are words that passed through the human chain we formed during the morning shift of the Jagger Library Salvage Project. I volunteered for the first time today. Not much else was spoken between us, apart from an exchange of names and additional instructions. For most of the time, I worked along a UCT electrical engineering student and a woman from my neighbourhood. There was a mid-morning coffee break and a lunch at the end of the shift. The work was heartbreaking and not exactly easy on my lazy bones, yet the content of this library – any library – is what makes my life meaningful and I am grateful that I could be of some help. But seeing the damage and the loss is difficult to process.

Accusations, speculations and politics always surround such an event, and they will also have to be dealt with, but for now those books, documents and all the other papers which survived the fire need to be brought to safety and taken care of.

The recovery efforts continue. To volunteer, click here: Jagger Library Salvage Project.

After my shift, I took a long, warm shower and returned to my computer.

And in the evening, I dragged my exhausted body to the Theatre on the Bay for a LIVE SHOW!!!

Just being in a theatre audience during a live performance was a treat. And Alan Committie’s new standup show APOCALAUGHS NOW! was fantastic. My love and I laughed until we cried. Tickets for the show are selling out quickly, but if you get a chance, do yourself a favour and go and see it. Although it is mostly about the pandemic, it will strangely make you forget about the horrors of the past fifteen months. Confused about the regulations, the vaccine rollout, or the 5G conspiracy? Then look no further! This show will illuminate EVERYTHING. The yoga and meditation tips will work wonders for your face muscles. And you will want to start exercising your nipples when you see what his are capable of … He throws an unforgettable dance into the routine. Not to be missed! I loved it all.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD