Category Archives: Memories

Operation Oysterhood: 6 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

HARU

Spoiled :) That’s how I feel. By delicious food consumed in lovely company – for lunch and dinner, nogal!

Had one meal at the Gardener’s Cottage with two inspiring women who have been through hell and back during the pandemic and are still full of love and kindness towards others. But listening to them today, I actually did not know how one survives what they and their loved ones have been through. And when I think what difference the access to life-saving vaccines has made in their lives and in the lives of people they care about, I want to spit in the face of a certain ‘detainee’ in Australia and tell him to F@#$% off.

Hang in there, Australia! You can do it. Yes you can!

Had the other meal with my love at HARU. I am so glad that he is fully vaccinated. Such a huge weight off my shoulders.

Remember how one year ago, on the 6th, Americans lost their minds and stormed the Capitol? These are the other outcomes of mass gaslighting.

For me, the 6th of January has always been associated with my maternal grandmother who celebrated her birthday today. One of my cousins, a dear friend and one of my step-grandchildren celebrate their birthdays on this day. Throughout the pandemic I have been very neglectful of my family and friends’ birthdays, but one of my new year’s resolutions is to remember and acknowledge – at least in a small way – the birthdays of the people in my life. I am a bit out of practice, but will try my best.

Spent the morning in bed with Salieri, reading more short stories by Mick Herron. He is an outstanding short story writer! He really understands the magic of the short form. I love his spy thrillers, but Dolphin Junction might become my favourite book by him.

Salieri and I are working on her weight, and we have gained a little again – huge relief :)

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: 4-5 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Our friend is in there somewhere, awaiting a life-saving operation. It was good to see him and to bring him books, but also so depressing because he is locked up in a ward with no proper visiting allowed – one can only wave and speak at the gate (“It’s Covid, dude!” he explained in his typical fashion and made me laugh). But he also assured me that he is well taken care of. One thing is certain: his wonderful sense of humour is 100% intact.

I did not write yesterday because, apart from the visit to the hospital (and, typically me, I first went to the wrong one!), a walk and meals, I worked from seven a.m. to one a.m. the next day and was so tired at the end of it that I could not fall asleep. And when I finally did, it was only for just over four hours …

Coffee and Salieri helped me to recover from the zombie state. And the work continued until this afternoon. But the thing I had to finish early this month is DONE. Finally.

Only two days and the world has changed completely: Zandile Mafe, Ray Zondo, the Bogdanoff twins and Novax Djocovid making headlines. The truth will set you free in all cases: show us the Parliament video surveillance; prosecute the state capture crooks; trust the science, get vaccinated and don’t die; and, be strong, Australia, and send the antivaxxer home.

I know that Rafa is in Australia and fit to play at the Open, but I am not sure I want to watch and support a tournament that is so reluctant to set a life-saving example to the world.

Something to celebrate: Sloane Stephens got married on the first day of the year, and today is Siphokazi Jones’s birthday.

And I am going to lie on my TV couch tonight and do nothing but lift a glass of lovely red wine to my lips. My eyes hurt after all the computer work and I am totally monstrual.

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: 3 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

I worked. From ten to ten with breaks for lunch, walk and dinner. And I did not even scratch the surface of all the things that need to be done this week. Deep sigh. Crawling into bed … 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 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

Seeing the Parliament fire today brought all the horror memories of the Jagger Library in flames last year. Ominous.

Finished reading The Dark Flood by Deon Meyer – really enjoyed it! But my name is not Markus. And my fictional naked corpse is not stuck in a freezer. And I do not live in Stellenbosch …

A day of cleaning out old cupboards – one of my new year’s resolutions: to get rid of stuff.

My love and I went for a walk and had dinner while watching the Chelsea vs. Liverpool game. Great first half and probably a fitting result, although I did want Chelsea to win.

I loved Evita’s “Happy 20tutu”.

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: New Year’s Eve – 1 January 2022

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

— @HaggardHawks

It felt necessary, but until I faced the Arch’s humble coffin, I did not know exactly why. We stood in the queue for a long time. Apparently, the Arch’s family arrived when I was about two hundred meters from the cathedral’s entrance and a private, short service was held for them, the bells ringing, the sun baking us in the early afternoon’s sun. Twenty minutes, they told us, but in the end, the cathedral was closed to the public for nearly an hour, and I almost gave up. I am glad I persevered though.

The loss – actual and potential; personal and global; private and professional – of the last two years has been staggering, relentless, at times nearly unbearable. And for most of the time, our rituals of mourning have been brutally disrupted.

To stand all alone, even if only for a few seconds, in front of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu’s coffin with my hand on my heart and whispers of gratitude passing my lips in the solemn cathedral was a necessary ritual of mourning. I went home with tears in my eyes, but my heart felt lighter. To be able to say goodbye in person, with hundreds of others, at a time when we have so often been left all alone in our grief, felt like a gift. Even in death, this good man’s generosity gave me comfort. It was one of the last gifts of a truly difficult year.

The other gifts were waiting two hundred kilometres away, in a place near the sea, where the late afternoon’s golden light and a bottle of golden bubbles and, most importantly, the golden hearts of my love and our dear friends welcomed me after a beautiful drive. Before going over to the cathedral, I stopped at the Book Lounge and got a gorgeous book for my love. On my way to our friends’ wine farm, I stopped at Liberty Books and wished Christy and Cleopatra a happy new year. In my family, we have all kind of new year’s eve superstitions. Visits to two of my favourite bookshops on the last day of the year felt like a good omen for the coming year. I also did all my washing – no leaving of dirty laundry for the new year!

Our new year’s feast was accompanied by the most divine wines and a sense of gentle relief. Last year has asked the impossible of our friends – they experienced loss beyond words – but they also lived through miracles. At the end of it all, we were still here, together, sharing good food and drink and friendship. So grateful for what could be celebrated.

We did not wait for midnight and went to bed just after dinner. I phoned my Mom and Krystian just before falling asleep and exchanged one greeting with an old friend. I slept soundly and woke up to the sight of a beloved man next to me and the sound of rain on the roof. Blessings. Outside, the grapes were looking healthier than ever before and the new, beautiful wine cellar stood waiting with its soft light for the first harvest. I read, we had coffee, snoozed some more, and eventually got up to welcome the new year with smiles, greetings and a royal breakfast.

I drove home with a lot of love in my heart. And here, my darling Salieri was waiting. It is her fifteenth birthday today and she has had a good day. She ate well and we cuddled a lot. That she can celebrate another birthday after everything she’d had to endure last year is the first gift of this year. What else will 2022 bring? Belinda Mountain tweeted about respair today: ‘fresh hope; a recovery from despair’.

I wish us all heath, kindness and respair in 2022!

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 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

My oldest orchid is flowering again. Salieri is not great, but stable for now. We made an appointment with the vet the moment he is back from holiday.

A day of reading, a bit of admin, Skyping with family, floor washing and bed linen changing. In the afternoon, I had tea with a friend and then went for a walk with my love. He had a big lunch with his friend, so he only joined me for dinner in conversation.

The day will end with ironing and TV watching. I almost feel like a domestic goddess today, but it is difficult to feel like a domestic goddess when you have just discovered that you have weird elbows. Unlike Jennifer Lopez, who is perfect …

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 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Salieri wasn’t well again this morning and vomited for the first time in weeks. I think she is better now, and has eaten well since the early incident, but just in case I made an appointment with the vet for tomorrow afternoon. I will see how she is in the morning to judge whether to take her in (always very traumatic), or allow her to be. I stayed longer in bed today just to let her sleep in loving company in the morning and the afternoon. In between, my love and I went for another walk around the Common and then I did some garden work and had a delicious lunch with my lovely friend and her delightful godson. In the afternoon, I actually returned to editing. And it felt great. I needed a rest, but I also need to complete this work.

I started reading the latest Benny Griessel today and am really enjoying it, a proper page-turner. Great stuff.

Quarantines are back. I will comply if exposed to COVID-19 again, but I wish we just vaccinated everyone and moved on. I read today that a Dutch anti-vaxxer who opposed lockdowns and mask-wearing died of COVID-19 at the age of 53. If this is the kind of freedom people are prepared to die for, they really can’t be helped, but I am so sorry for the family and friends who loved him and now have to deal with the pointless loss.

No beds means no beds” – this video!

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 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Boring. I used to think that being bored meant being stupid. A long time ago, I watched a Western where the hero told the beautiful woman he was pursuing that only stupid people got bored, because smart people always found something interesting to do or think. Needless to say, I haven’t been much bored since. He was really handsome. But, NOW, I keep longing for boring. Or simply sitting still with no need to do anything, or only the things that give one joy.

My love and I had breakfast (with lots of lovely bacon) and went for a walk around the Rondebosch Common together. The rest of the day was reading, for pleasure and for work. Butter chicken for dinner. Simple things. Almost boring. And boring nowadays feels like heaven.

One month from today I will be forty-five. “Tell me, what would you do in 2022 if you knew you could not fail?” Robyn Porteous asked on Twitter today. I know what the answer is for me and I do not want to wait until 2022 to start. I do not intend to fail. New year’s resolution(s) loading.

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: 27 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

One of those rare days when there wasn’t enough coffee to keep me awake. Arriving home last night, I stood on the stoep for a while and just breathed in the fresh sea scent. I live quite a distance away from the shore, but sometimes the sea visits, and last night she came in all her perfumed glory. A clear indication of a change in weather, and so it was. I could hardly keep my eyes open on this foggy, drizzly, partly sunny, mild day. My love and I went for a walk and got rained on towards the end. But we had a simple braai for lunch, so it was all warm and cosy next to the fire on the stoep. Mozart and Glinka came to join us.

In the afternoon, I managed to do some good work before and after my sleep. Not sure what this evening holds, but I guess my DVD collection will provide some much-loved distraction. And a good sleep during the night would be welcome.

Salieri is slightly better, but I think we will have to visit the vet before our scheduled check-up in February. Sigh. My poor baby.

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: 25-26 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Two days that feel like a lifetime, and they perfectly sum up this year: heaven and hell; things happening at such a speed that it seems impossible to take them in or comprehend them. I am overwhelmed by sadness and fear, but also eternally grateful. The story of 2021.

Journalist Miriam Mannak died at the age of 45. Apart from following her on Twitter, I did not know her, but she was a very dear friend to somebody I care about – somebody who has had a terrible year, but it had been made bearable largely thanks to the selfless efforts of Miriam, who assisted my friend during many months of need. I read the news of Miriam’s passing just before leaving home to spend Christmas & Boxing Days with my love. Miriam was my age; she died without any warning.

My love and I needed to be mostly alone this Christmas. We wanted to have a calm festive season and celebrate that we have survived this year and to honour all the miracles and grace that this year has afforded us despite all the horror. Earlier this month, when South Africa’s borders were effectively closed to travellers, many restaurants and other tourist destinations suffered immediate cancellations and reopened bookings for the festive season. When one of our favourites – La Colombe – sent out an alert about their open seats, we grabbed the opportunity and booked for Christmas lunch: our Christmas gift to us. It was the first time ever I had a meal in a restaurant at Christmas time. And it was beyond-words-marvellous. I am not sure that there is a going back to Christmas cooking after this … unless it is my Mom’s cooking.

Because I did not want us to drive after such a meal or bother about securing safe transport, I booked us into the neighbouring Silvermist Hotel. We swam, sunbathed in the late afternoon, walked, read, relaxed and slept early after having a pot of rooibos tea for dinner (nothing else had room in our happy stomachs).

The next day early, we headed back home and picked up the Sunday Times which featured my book of the year. The text was slightly shortened, so the full version is beneath.

I was uncertain whether I wanted to read anything else about the irrefutable fact of our mortality at a time when we were constantly confronted with its reality during the pandemic, but I have the greatest admiration for writer/editor Bongani Kona, so I braved the anthology he compiled on the subject this year, Our Ghosts Were Once People: Stories on Death and Dying. And I have no regrets. Not only does the book include contributions by some of my favourite authors, delivering incisive and exquisite writing – Mary Watson, Hedley Twidle, Tariq Hoosen, Dawn Garisch, Musawenkosi Khanyile, Karin Schimke, Shubnum Khan and Nick Mulgrew among them – but allowed me to immerse myself in the topic in unexpected ways, whether through Stacy Hardy’s haunting short story told from the perspective of a murdered forensic pathologist or Madeleine Fullard’s indispensable essay about the disappeared victims of apartheid’s horrors. I am deeply grateful to the writers for this remarkable book which feels like essential reading for our complex present.

Our ghosts were once people. Today, one of our people became an ancestor …

We started preparing breakfast when the news arrived via a phone call. My love was called back to work to report on the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Blinking away tears, I said to him, “I know he was old, and that he was ill. But it sucks.” And I wrote to a friend, “2021 can fuck off.” It really can. Because if we thought that this day was done with us, this afternoon, we found out that a dear friend is in the ICU awaiting a bypass after a brush with death yesterday.

I don’t know whether to mourn or celebrate. A life has been taken, another saved. With Tutu’s death, it feels like our country lost her soul. He was a truly good man, a man of greatness and grace. Someone we could always turn to for guidance. Always. But after the initial shock of the news, I realised that this soul, the moral compass that guided us and millions of others around the world for decades, is not lost as long as we continue cherishing the Arch’s legacy and carry his wisdom and compassion in our hearts.

I am a bit numb. All of this is impossible to hold simultaneously. My friend has cancer, another is waiting in ICU for a life-saving operation, another is mourning the loss of someone who cared for her deeply. And here we are, watching TV, writing, squeezing a loved hand, and having a simple dinner. We are feeling a gigantic sense of relief that our friend’s life was not taken, and we are shaken by the death of a moral giant who has come as close to being holy as a human can.

A friend told me today how special cherries are for her, and I remembered how we used to collect and eat them by the bucket during the cherry seasons when I was growing up in Poland. We need to celebrate the small, mundane pleasures in life. Those everyday joys. And live our lives with wisdom and compassion, so that we can live without regrets.

And tomorrow, we wake up with hope, no matter what.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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

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

— NICD