Category Archives: Memories

Operation Oysterhood: 2 June

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

— @HaggardHawks

No shouting at walls today, but a long day of work. Exhausted, again, but in a good way. A short sunny mid-morning walk with my love and our dinner the personal highlights of the day.

Literary highlight: the announcement of The Skipper’s Daughter by Nancy Richards – forthcoming from Karavan Press.

This project has been pure joy throughout. I had the pleasure of working on it with Nancy and Monique Cleghorn, and we had a lot of fun, no matter what challenges we encountered along the way.

Now, for a bit of tennis under the lights in Paris, and then sleep. Hopefully! Big yawn …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 1 June

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

— @HaggardHawks

When in doubt, make a fire.

I knew about loadshedding, but between the confusing Eskom and City of Cape Town loadshedding stages and schedules, I was caught unawares last night just after ten. I thought I was on stage one, but it was stage two from ten onward. The. Worst. Time.

There was only one thing to do: light the fireplace. My first fire of the season. Together with a few candles, the fire and the light made it possible for me to read for a bit and eventually fall asleep. Not for long, but insomnia gaps in my nights are nothing unusual – somewhere around stage four or five, or is it level four or five for insomnia?

Anxiety levels going through the roof for most of today. But I did my job. At least the most important tasks set for the day. I only screamed at the walls of my house in despair twice in the course of today: when Salieri was being fussy about her food and when I could not find a document that I desperately need, but have somehow misplaced.

No time for tennis, although I was so eager to see Rafa play.

Highlights of the day: Skype lunch with Mom and Krystian to celebrate Polish Children’s Day (always a big deal in our family – Mom wished me some peace …), coffee with a dear friend to discuss the state of independent publishing in SA (dire), and dinner with my love (I cooked, and it was delicious, even if I say so myself).

A little bit of work awaits tonight, but nothing major any longer. Tomorrow, a lovely literary announcement!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 31 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

When Salieri thinks that Oysterhood writing can wait …

Just a day of work, with brief glances at the TV screen for glimpses of my favourites and scores from RG. Federer looking good. Great to see Tsonga on court again, too. Williams, fittingly, playing the first match under the new Parisian lights. And then, the Osaka fiasco (badly handled all around – very unfortunate).

My love cooked dinner for us and made a fire tonight. Domestic bliss of the simplest kind. No loadshedding – yet – but the house is getting really cold. I am holding on to my hot water bottle as if it was the last creature stranded with me on a deserted island. And there is lots of tea (without alcohol at this stage, but that’s the next survival step in winter).

I heard a radio interview with Lara Foot today and she made me realise what Level Two means for the theatre. I am very glad that we already have tickets for the Life and Times of Michael K.

I also heard privately that a friend who was about to start a new job at another theatre tested positive for Covid-19 before he could begin. It is all very depressing.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 30 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Sunday morning was our last in Franschhoek during this short break and we woke up to crisp sunshine dispersing the mist around the beautiful valley.

To start the day, we had a leisurely walk and a delicious breakfast – exceptionally, I ordered croque monsieur and did not regret my choice; the entire dish was great, but the cheese sauce topping was phenomenal.

Then it was time for some culture: Everard Read Gallery at the magnificent Leeu Estate. There is a statue at the entrance of the gallery that made me immediately think of the last fifteen months of the pandemic, with most of us crashing to earth head-first despite our wings wide open. Blue. High heels, pretty dress and all.

Inside, a few artworks spoke to me, but I find it difficult to respond to a lot of modern art. I look at some of these artworks and their price tags and think, ‘How?’

‘Bearing Your Becoming’ by Angus Taylor was intriguing, because of the beauty of the statue, the materials it is made from (bronze and gem stones), the title, and the fact that a male artist brought it to ‘life’.

I also loved this artwork: ‘A Textbook of X-Ray Diagnosis’ by Barbara Wildenboer. I have now seen a few of her ‘books’ and find them always fascinating to engage with.

And as always, I could not resist a few tongue-in-cheek selfies.

Fallen Angels / Bearing Our Becoming / Holding My Selfie

Someone (yes, a man; yes, a complete stranger) on Twitter asked about the last selfie, ‘What’s the point?’ He obviously did not look closely or read the text in the mirror. ‘Hold your tongue,’ I say. No one asked you for your opinion, sir.

I returned home to a relaxed and happy Cat Family – they were in the care of a dear friend who even managed to give Salieri her medication twice a day (with only a little bit of feline fuss around the administration). Going away has always been difficult because of the Furry Ones, but now that they need special care, it will take some more careful planning.

A happy cat mother with one of her fur kids

The return home meant a return to simple everyday pleasures (although the French cheese I bought in Franschhoek is a taste-bud delight of note) and some household chores, but I could do my ironing while watching the first day of tennis at the French Open – Dominic Thiem :( – and do some gardening while basking in the beautiful afternoon sun.

My love and I had a simple soup for dinner and watched TV together before I returned home to Level Two Lockdown and Friends: The Reunion. The slow vaccine rollout with all its teething, or rather fanging, problems, the Health Minister’s dubious digital vibes, people’s refusal to adhere to the simplest non-pharmaceutical protection measures … and I am sitting here and bracing myself for more morale-crushing news and suffering.

The Reunion was not what I had expected. I never really watched Friends – in total, I might have watched about twenty episodes – so I do not consider myself a fan, but I was curious.

I often think of the artists associated with the Bloomsbury Group, how they defined an era. Or the Sestigers here in South Africa. How a group of friends and family members working together and believing in their vision and the possibility of change influenced generations of people who came after them. Friends was a TV show, but just as much a cultural phenomenon, the creators and actors involved also captured the zeitgeist of their era, and judging by some of the Reunion‘s testimonials from around the world, they made many people feel better about themselves and their lives, and that is quite something.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 29 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Birthdays, anniversaries and all other occasions which are loaded with memories, no matter how beautiful – or rather, because they are beautiful – are never easy when the person you used to share them with is no longer there to celebrate them with you. Time passes and mends you, you carry on, build a new life for yourself, but loss lurks in unexpected corners and the past continues to shape your life. Today would have been André’s 86th birthday. I always feel unsettled on such days. There does not seem to be a right, comfortable, way to approach them. In that sense, I was grateful to have Jo-ann from Radio KC interview me to mark this year’s occasion, to remember, to share my memories: “Celebrating the life and times of André P. Brink”.

And it was good to have lovely things planned for the day that were not connected to the past, but firmly rooted in my new reality. I was mostly lazy, but did some work and finished reading a manuscript and began another (both amazing in their own right) for Karavan Press. I spent some time in a hot tub before the rain chased me indoors. We managed to walk twice between the rain showers, soaking in the astounding views of Franschhoek in her autumn finery. Before lunch, we visited La Cotte wine and cheese shop – my love buying wine and I indulging in buying some wine labels. The prices were amazing, all much lower in comparison to the shops in Cape Town.

THREE MEN IN A TUB WITH A RUBBER DUCK & Miss Molly’s IN MY BED – who could resist? I can see the following in my near future: a late morning in bed with Miss Molly red, a late afternoon in the tub with three men and a rubber duck, and an evening with dear friends and Miss Molly pink bubbles. Something to look forward to.

Franschhoek means great wine and great food: Ōku Eatery for lunch and Chef’s Warehouse for dinner (our first visit to the restaurant, recommended by a friend who joined us for the meal). And, of course, I had Eggs Benedict for breakfast, but I might be less predictable tomorrow morning.

Franschhoek is also the FLF, dormant for another year. But the dates for next year’s festival have been confirmed (13 to 15 May). There is hope.

The fire is still burning in our weekend cottage. There is a smooth brandy to enjoy, old and new memories to hold, dreams to dream.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 28 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

A gift

Away for the weekend, and this delicious soup was a gift. We heated it up for dinner. And we ate in pyjamas, all ready for an early night. There was a fire and some lovely wine and just a slow unwinding. Sometimes it is enough to do the simple everyday things in a different place to gain a different perspective on life. And the tension I felt this morning, a feeling of desperate not-coping, is receding.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

With Joanne and Melissa at EB Cavendish

A day of two interviews.

In the morning, Harlan Cloete and Jo-ann Prinsloo invited me to the studios of Radio KC in Paarl to pre-record an interview about André’s life and writing for the occasion of his 86th birthday (29 May). It was wonderful to meet them and to be introduced to the amazing work they do at the community radio and to talk about books and stories with people who love both. And it all started with Harlan picking up The Fifth Mrs Brink at Bargain Books and writing to me about it. As a fan of André’s writing, he wanted to mark his birthday and to explore how André’s legacy could be remembered.

It was a pleasure to spend time with the inspiring team of Radio KC and to hear about their involvement in the community and plans for the future.

On my way back home, I decided to stop at Babylonstoren and just go for an autumn walk in their beautiful gardens. Balm for the soul.

In the evening, we gathered – yes, gathered! – at Exclusive Books Cavendish to talk about Death and the After Parties by Joanne Hichens. I had the honour of doing the interview and when I sat down in front of the live audience full of readers/writers, I felt as if I was waking up in a beautiful dream. I think we bookish people are starved for literary events: festivals, readings, launches – all those interactions that inspire us and allow us to grow and connect. We were a socially distanced but proper crowd tonight and it was lovely to see Melissa A. Volker and Cathy Park Kelly in the audience. Melissa is already published by Karavan Press and Cathy’s writing has always made me want to publish her. I hope to have the opportunity to work with her very, very soon …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 May

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

— @HaggardHawks


Miś & Krystian

We celebrated Polish Mother’s Day on Skype today. Mom said not to buy her anything, so Krystian went out and collected a bouquet of wild field flowers and I designed a special e-card for her – our beloved Miś.

The day was more stressful for a cat mother in Rosebank. After Salieri had completely refused to eat the special thyroid diet food (chicken mixed in or not), she and I returned to the vet and got her new thyroid medication. She was allowed to eat anything she wanted after the meds had been administered by the vet. I have three happy cats in the house again. We managed the evening dose without any complications. And there was a portion of lovely cooked chicken with carrot waiting for Salieri afterwards. Everyone is going to bed with a sigh of relief and a full tummy.

(I might be in need of tranqualisers after the past few weeks, but that’s another story.)

My love was here after work for a simple evening braai. The world seems an easier place to face than it had seemed only twelve hours ago.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Ants. That’s why the alarm sensor has been misbehaving. It has to be replaced. What a nuisance. It feels like revenge for all the ant genocides I have been responsible for last summer. They were everywhere. Even in places I had no idea they could be … No wonder the sensor was going crazy with all those little ant feet running across it and building a nest inside the contraption around it. Ah ja.

Good news: another friend got her vaccine today. Yay! Facing the impending third wave will be so much easier knowing that at least a few of my friends will be less vulnerable to this horrible virus.

And a friend who is as much of a crazy cat lady as I am advised on a possible treatment for Salieri, something that her vet has prescribed for a family cat and it has worked wonders. I will investigate the possibility, because the diet thing is not really working for us, chicken mixed in or not. There has to be another way. My poor baby has to get healthy.

A day of sore cheeks again although work went well. I just feel strangely unsettled. I walk around dazed, pretending to cope.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

My first home-grown oyster mushrooms

A typical Monday, i.e. headless chicken kind of day. But most of the stuff that needed to be done, got done. I just couldn’t help wanting to return to Oudrif all day long …

I really did not mean to prophecy the volcano eruption. It was uncanny to read about it in detail today. What else could possibly go wrong? How about something – many things – going extremely well now? Most of us need a break from the relentlessness of the times, especially the third wave …

And I do have fantastic news: my love returned to work and is feeling cautiously optimistic about it. And my Mom had the first dose of her vaccine on Friday and is feeling great. No side-effects whatsoever. Also, she had some unexpected but pretty awesome financial news. I am relieved and super-happy for her.

Here, the disaster zone is being attended to. Front gate fixed, ADT technician booked, the number of a reliable contractor found. I phoned the vet to ask about Salieri’s diet. We are trying out a compromise involving some chicken (Salieri’s favourite), and I am feeding the other cats their favourite treats on the sly. Not sure how far we will get with this solution, but I will do whatever I can to keep them healthy and safe.

My love and I had the first batch of my home-grown oyster mushrooms for dinner tonight (they were absolutely delicious). If you never hear from me again, you know what happened …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD