Category Archives: Memories

Operation Oysterhood: 4 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Oysterhood oysters

For someone who has loved eating oysters for fifteen years and has devoted nearly a year to writing Oysterhood diaries in lockdown, it is quite something that I only bought fresh oysters from a fishmonger for the first time – ever – earlier today. I wanted fresh fish from The Little Fisherman for dinner and spontaneously decided to try having oysters at home instead of ordering them at a restaurant. I asked the fishmonger to open them for me and he did, putting them on ice and instructing me how to transport them. I did not plan this, so I had no lemon juice or tabasco sauce etc. ready at home. I had them just like that, fresh without any trimmings – they were DELICIOUS.

I got my latest author royalties statement today: the returns outweighed the sales of two of my books, so no book sales and no royalties for me. You can imagine how that makes me feel. Worthless.

When I was a teenager living in the States, I occasionally cleaned other people’s houses for $25. It was great pocket money at the time and my employers were really nice and appreciative of my work. I spent the money I earned mostly on books. Now, I am in my 40s, I have a PhD and an impressive publishing record to my name, but in half a year, as an author, I don’t even manage to earn $25 on my book sales. No wonder I struggle to open my eyes on most mornings.

But, I am still healthy, and I ate delicious, fresh oysters today. I do count my blessings. And I am deeply grateful. I won’t be walking into rivers or cutting off my ears anytime soon.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 3 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

The cook, drinking bubbly

I cooked a lamb knuckle stew today. It wasn’t the greatest achievement of the day but, apart from the bubbly and the pasteis de nata from The Hoghouse that we had for dinner, definitely the most delicious.

I slept, and I managed to get out of bed. Simple miracles.

It wasn’t planned like this (Covid-19 had other plans), but together with Rachel Zadok and Jason Mykl Snyman, I am co-editing the next SSDA anthology: Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa. This week the stories are going for typesetting. The cover, designed by Megan Ross, is ready. I have been working with seven authors from across the continent and I can’t wait for people to read their stories. Disruption is going to be another great book. And being part of this project for several years now has been one of the most enriching experiences of my literary life.

Officially, over fifty thousand people have died in SA because of Covid-19-related causes. Excess deaths are probably close to three times as much by now. I understand that it is not always easy to keep safe. What I don’t understand is that in situations when it is easy, people choose not to.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Being, with Glinka

To understand that what you do is worthless, at least in monetary terms, to most people, is hard. To continue anyway is usually naive. It equals accepting that no matter what beauty and meaning your work brings into the world, you might still starve doing it.

What does it mean about you when you have the choice between spending your days simply being and barely surviving or working yourself into an emotional breakdown and barely surviving, and you still get up and do your work?

It was one of those days when all my dreams felt pointless.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 March

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

— @HaggardHawks

Filtered

On the 27th, it will be a year of lockdown in SA. Reading comments and listening to people today after the Level One announcement, I realised that the third wave is in the making. We are one year into this and we know exactly what to do to keep, if not hundred per cent, then at least relatively, safe, but we are still being simply careless with one another. And I know that I have been part of the problem by not always being cautious, strict and assertive enough. Perhaps I have been extremely lucky, too. But I don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. I don’t want to run out of luck. There are ways of living one’s life and enjoying many activities, also with others, without endangering one’s and other people’s well-being in the process, so why should I not follow the simple rules and keep as safe as I can?

I keep repeating to myself: I don’t want to get ill.

Financial Times: Yuval Noah Harari: Lessons from a year of Covid | Free to read

Monday. The usual tasks, work, dinner with my love, Skype meeting with my family. In the evening, the inaugural National Poetry Prize winners have been announced during the monthly Off the Wall poetry reading.

First prize: BUSISIWE MAHLANGU “I wear mother’s bones” (R10 000). Second prize: MELISSA SUSSENS “A New Veterinarian Spends a Compulsory Year Working at a Slaughterhouse” (R3 000). Third prize: STEPHEN DEVEREUX “2020” (R1 000).

Over forty people tuned in for the announcement – a lovely crowd. It was inspiring to hear the poets read their work. Great stuff.

With Burma in the media again for all the wrong reasons, I often think about this stunning novel.

“Now dusk-mauve darkens the sky, and just before the big lights crack on and erase everything, a flood of indigo ink writes up the night.” (The Lizard Cage)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 28 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

My baby turned thirteen today (she was born on the 29th, but it’s not a leap year, so we have been celebrating today). She still looks and acts like a kitten. And I can still remember the day when she came to live here: Michela Glinka (13).

Lovely friends came to lunch today. We haven’t seen one another since before the lockdown and it was amazing to catch up. They also somehow managed to stay healthy all this time, but like everyone else have battled with the world turning upside down on us, especially in the arts.

Late in the afternoon, The Cats and I settled next to the pool to enjoy the lingering warmth of the day and to read one of Elsa Winckler’s novels. My reading has been quite heavy in the last few days and I wanted a book that would make me relax and smile. The Whisperer is perfect. And the moment I turned to romance, the Frog Prince showed up again. I thought my Cape River Frogs have abandoned me, but at least one is still hanging around after all.

In the fictional world, I was really, really disappointed in the Survivor finale. In the real world of surviving, I am glad we have moved to Level One. Nothing changes for me personally, but a few economy sectors have a greater chance to recover now. And if we just keep one another as safe as we possibly can, perhaps we can make this work, somehow. Perhaps. A third wave is not something that I am looking forward to, but it is probably coming …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

I love the colours, the smell and the taste, but I just can’t help feeling simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by granadillas, especially when the pulp is removed from the fruit. I can’t explain it. It is just one of those weird Karina-things.

A day filled with the full spectrum of news, from the worst to the best. Every pandemic day feels like a week.

One of my dearest friends, whom I have known longer than any other South African, has invited us to a postponed celebration of my birthday at Benguela Cove today. It was my first, but definitely not the last, visit to the estate (apart from anything else, perfect safety conditions – large shaded outdoor spaces where one can sit in comfort and not agonise over other people being too near).

After returning home, my MiniMo and I mowed the grass in the garden and cleaned the pool. My love and I are expecting two lovely guests for a simple, socially distanced lunch in the garden tomorrow. A good weekend.

The number of active Covid-19 cases in the area has returned to pre-second-wave figures and although I am not relaxing my guard, I do want to socialise more again, as responsibly as possible, of course.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

A morning in bed, reading about the different levels of abuse and discrimination women face in their lives. First, the next chapter in Rita Colwell and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne’s A Lab of One’s Own. It’s not that any of these stories are entirely new to me. None of them shock me. But reading about the unabated discrimination women in the sciences (and everywhere else) have been dealing with for centuries and still have to battle every bloody day of their lives makes me tired, and angry. And it strengthens my resolve to work with more women, support more women, tell more women’s stories and walk proudly with my head held high, because, goddess knows, I have witnessed and experienced the misogyny, the sexism, the bias – conscious or not – all myself in one form or another – all my life.

And then, a manuscript. A story about abuse. I finished reading it today. Incredible, beautiful, powerful writing which somehow manages to reveal, hold and transcend a story of horror. Even though we have met several times at literary occasions, I don’t really know the writer personally, but I have been reading her work for a while now and have become a fan of her prose. What I did not know, but what the manuscript revealed to me, is that over a decade ago, the two of us have shared the pages of the POWA anthologies, Breaking the Silence. These were some of my earliest published stories, for which I also won prizes. Our lives touched back then already and, years later, here we are: a gentle trust of sharing established. To write a manuscript like that you have to make yourself vulnerable beyond most people’s comprehension and you have to summon a courage from somewhere deep inside that you usually don’t even know is possible. And somehow words spill onto a page, reach someone else in the early hours of a morning, and transform, as if by magic, into the tears of compassion, understanding and, most importantly, healing. These are the stories that make you feel less alone in the world, make you comprehend that all your brokenness, shame, loneliness and hurt have been felt before. And that they have been overcome. That there is a light at the end of this particular tunnel. Often, all it takes to reach it is “breaking the silence”.

It was another full day of work and stuff, but nothing as important as this morning’s reading. I did get a lovely phone call from a friend, and my love stopped by for a HARU takeaway dinner. I am going to spend the rest of the evening watching TV and sipping a nice wine. My wild Friday nights.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

(P.S. Yes, my name has been completely misspelled in one of the anthologies, but it is still me.)

Operation Oysterhood: 25 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

The wind was relentless, pushing the incoming waves away from the shore with a force only the sea would recognise, and whipping up gusts of sand that cut like razors into my exposed skin. I stepped onto a shell and cut the sole of my foot. Salt water, I thought, the best medicine! But I realised that I was still too scared to venture properly into the sea after underestimating it a few months ago, the scars unmistakable on my arm.

Once again, I had the place almost entirely to myself. And it was good to have only the wind howling all around and chasing all thoughts away from my head. Just one hurt foot in front of the other, and the rhythm of the sea. Its colours today, as always, were balm for the soul. The lighthouse in the distance. The light …

I returned home to my work and did what I had to. Dinner with my love. Post-dinner chat with Mom and Krystian about to begin …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

My first (and until now only) published novel, Invisible Others. I signed a copy of it for someone today and realised that by pure chance I was wearing the same outfit as in the author photograph of seven years ago. The only thing that is missing is the beautiful Scandinavian brooch that was stolen from me a few years ago when someone broke into my house and took many things that can’t be worth much to the people who own them today, but were invaluable to me. The gorgeous jewelry piece was a gift from a special woman I met in Norway many years ago. So many memories …

An ordinary Wednesday. I am beginning to feel that I am stabilising mentally, coping, somehow. Despite hormonal monstruality. But then, I did have chocolate cake for lunch – whatever it takes to get through the days.

My love and I went to an artist’s studio in the evening today to view their most recent work, which was utterly stunning. I wish I could, but it is not mine to share; all I can do is assure the world that it is worth waiting for, as all great art is.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 23 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Letting my hair down at the end of the day.

I go through these weird phases. Basil. Fresh basil, I just can’t get enough of it right now.

Today was a good day. A morning of reading, some admin, my love stopped by for coffee, editing, lunch at HARU with Lester, who submitted the manuscript of his debut novel (!!!) to Karavan Press, more editing and then an hour of hanging out with the Cats next to the pool before it got too dark outside to read.

I meant to go walking on the beach today, but I ran out of time. It felt good, nevertheless, to simply get through a lot of the work planned for the day. And seeing Lester and talking stories, books, writers and, of course, Covid-19 (it’s impossible not to) over a delicious lunch was also good for the soul (although the Covid-19 conversation was full of sorrow).

Wait until you hear what the novel is about …! And if you haven’t discovered them yet, Lester’s stories are brilliant:

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD