Category Archives: Memories

Operation Oysterhood: 31 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

Salieri, pretending not to listen to online conversations

A day of live and online literary meetings and trying to deal with higher – much higher – levels of anxiety. Sore cheeks. Miraculously, I did sleep last night. Not terribly well, but I did rest. I dreamt of Topolino being rammed into by a car out of control – Dr Freud would have a field day with me (on most days).

It is difficult not to think of myself as a disaster magnet right now. Why can’t I have boring? I just want a really boring life for a while. (Yes, I sound like a broken LP.)

The US Open has begun, and I realised last night that I find myself unable to support tennis players who are anti-vaxxers, even when I had cheered for them in the past.

Thank goodness all my friends care and are eager to protect themselves and others.

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

Current mood

I had a surreal encounter with an intruder – the bizarrest conversations with a stranger ever – in my home earlier today. We both knew why he was here, in my house, exploiting an unusual lapse in security awareness on my part (I left the front security gate and door open for a few minutes), but we both pretended otherwise and gently (!) talked ourselves out of the mad situation. He left, I stayed. No one was hurt. Nothing was taken. He did not have a weapon. When I asked him to, he even emptied his pockets to show me that he really hadn’t stolen anything, that he was in my kitchen only because ‘the door was open’. We were so polite with each other that he even told me his name.

I am crashing fast after the initial shock. My love is here. The door is closed, the alarm on. And I am thanking my lucky stars that this young man wasn’t older, bigger, stronger, more experienced, less scared, armed, on drugs or purely evil.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 29 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

A proper Sunday: reading in bed, long walk along the Promenade with my love, browsing at the Book Lounge, Skype lunch with Mom and Krystian, gardening, more reading, some football and new series watching with my love, and his famous roast chicken for dinner. And last night, I slept again. No side effects, unless these two nights of deep sleep with dreams are an indication of some kind of vaccine-induced tiredness that needed to be slept off. It might simply be the relief that my life will be safe from COVID-19 soon. Whatever the reason – it is bliss to sleep properly. May there be many more such nights.

AN ISLAND and LET IT FALL WHERE IT WILL are both on the table on the left :)

Ever since watching Thando Mgqolozana’s “Gaslighting 101” video, as well as reading Siphiwo Mahala’s “statement” and the many social media comments which followed both, I cannot stop thinking about the unfolding consciousness crisis in the literary community. Believing is one thing; acting another. And integrity has a very high price. It will be interesting to see who will be willing to pay it, and how.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 28 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

We went to the Makers Landing Market at the Waterfront this morning. I have never been there before, but I will go back – perhaps at lunchtime next time: the food options are more suited to lunch than breakfast, although I loved the breakfast bun, green juice and delicious coffee I had to start the day. My love got a few vinyl records and we bought lovely fresh bread, and buns and Wagyu beef patties for our burgers in the evening.

I read and did some work in the afternoon. With every contribution I read in Our Ghosts Were Once People, edited by Bongani Kona, I want other readers to discover this special book. I am not so sure about other writing I had to read today, but sometimes it is good to compare and to look for what makes sentences/paragraphs shine and what doesn’t work.

No side effects from the vaccine and it has been more than thirty-six hours now, so I am not expecting anything any longer.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

Bed office with catssistants

I fainted and fell, bruising my left arm and thigh badly, the night before my second Pfizer vaccine appointment (thank goodness, it happened before, otherwise I might have thought it a side effect of the vaccine). This hadn’t happened to me in a while, but I used to lose consciousness because of menstrual pains quite regularly in the past. A scary experience, especially when you are alone and unprepared. When I was younger, I recognised the signs better and could usually protect myself by lying down before fainting. This time, I just did not realise what was happening before it was too late. Fortunately, I did not hit my head and recovered pretty quickly after the incident. But I felt strangely vulnerable, driving out to the New Somerset Hospital for my second jab in the morning. I arrived at eight. Despite having an appointment, confirmed by a text message, I wasn’t on the official appointment list at the hospital, but the gentleman at the reception desk quickly took all my details and asked me to sit in the queue. There were maybe twenty people before me and the queue moved swiftly. The doctor who administered my jab was friendly and careful not to show me the needle (I warned him about my phobia before sitting down). I told him about the painful bruise on my left arm and asked him to administer the vaccine on my right (twenty-four hours later and my left arm is still more sore than the right, where the needle went in). I was in and out of the hospital in just under an hour. I knew that I had a short window period before possible side effects kicked in, so I still ran some morning errands – I saw a beautiful rainbow against the background of Table Mountain while driving around – and returned home just in time for a walk with my love. Then, he went to his office and I just settled in for an afternoon of work in bed.

By five, I still had no side effects whatsoever, so I picked up two pizzas and headed over to my love’s house for an evening in front of the fireplace and TV. We started watching a new series. There was a thunderstorm and hail – Topolino’s first experience of ‘snowy’ conditions (I had learned to drive in snow, in the middle of the Austrian winter, but Topolino is a creature of the South).

Last night, I slept like a stone and had a dream about an author whose work I love: Katherine Stansfield. Still no side effects apart from maybe that unusually deep, restful sleep (if it was one, I will take it!) and a wave of gigantic, overwhelming RELIEF. I made it.

I MADE IT.

Through the global efforts of dedicated scientists and health care workers, their guidance and innovations, I have managed to keep safe from the coronavirus and COVID-19. This miracle – all these months in the making – is still sinking in. Two more weeks and I will be safe from potential serious complications and death should I contract the virus in the future. SAFE. I will live. And I will be able to travel and see my Family. I am overflowing with gratitude.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

Desperate times. Desperate measures. I had pistachio ice cream and coffee with pistachio ice cream for lunch. It was either that or getting a stiff drink – or three – much too early in the day. I am not going to say what I had to do this morning; I will just note that some things are not ‘easy’.

The rest of the day was just work, work, work, but all of it emotionally rewarding. Quick dinner with my love. And I had my pistachio lunch while chatting to Mom and Krystian on Skype. Their food was just plain boring in comparison, but hey, they did not have to endure what I had had to.

Tomorrow is THE DAY. My second dose of Pfizer! It might also be the anniversary of my first kiss, but it’s not a very fond memory and I am not entirely sure, so from tomorrow on, the 27th of August will be celebrated as the day I got fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Exactly one year and seven months after lockdown was declared in South Africa. Who would have thought this possible back then? Wow.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

Death warmed up. That’s how I felt after a nearly sleepless night. Something went horribly wrong yesterday, but I was unable to react to it while it was unfolding and, at first, I had no idea what triggered the acute anxiety response afterwards. The body never lies, though, and it gave me hell in the night. A lesson in boundary setting; recognising and protecting my vulnerability. Thank goodness today was the day I saw my astute and kind counsellor and, together, we actually reached a moment of true enlightenment – for me. There was this one sentence she said that was just perfect, and suddenly the world made perfect sense again.

Afterwards, while battling a monster headache despite medication, I just soldiered on. Coffee with my love, phone call with Karavan Press’s lovely agent, and two meetings with future Karavan Press authors – one gave me coffee and a delicious snack and the other gave me two masks her husband had made (see one in the above picture). I felt nourished and protected, and it felt great. I am looking forward to working with these remarkable women whose stories are burning with a light that will shock and warm readers. True survivors. I look at them and think: all the horror that life threw at you, and here you are, beautiful, brave, caring, kind human beings – true inspirations. I hope to do justice to their astonishing stories.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

Doring River at Oudrif

On our last day at Oudrif, early in the morning, I went to the boma to ask for coffee. While the kind people of the place boiled the water, I went down to the river and just stared at the reflecting surface and the yawning light.

I often think of Oudrif when things get out of hand. Just the idea of its calm soothes me. Today, there were two moments when I really had to hold myself together. Nothing truly significant, and eventually all was well, but it is situations like these that remind me that despite everything, I am still running on empty. Coping well, but also only just barely.

Highlights of the day: visit to The Book Lounge to pick up some lovely books I had ordered, short but sweet Skype lunch with Mom and Krystian, tea with a Karavan Press author, dinner with my love. Salieri ate all her food. Today, I picked up enough of her special diet tins to last us through an apocalypse. Although she might be in trouble, if she has to share them with me. No apocalypses, please! (For Salieri’s sake.)

I got my official appointment for my second vaccine. Not where I wanted, and I am still considering a walk-in instead, but I am not sure. Two days to figure it out. I am just happy that there is a dose of a life-saving vaccine with my name on it somewhere in this world.

Tomorrow, we will cross eighty thousand official COVID-19 related deaths in South Africa. The real death toll is probably somewhere around two hundred thousand. To know that I will not join these numbers is nearly impossible to grasp after eighteen months of anxiety. Thank you to all the scientists and health care workers who made this possible. My life might not be easy at the moment, but I love it and I want to continue loving and living with all my being.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 23 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

Monday. Woke up with monstrual brain fog and needed a lot of coffee to get going, but get going I did. By the late afternoon, I was sipping Prosecco (a gift from my lovely friend Debbie) on my stoep while finishing my work for the day. At six, it was time for a simple braai with my love; I burned the chops, but my love is very forgiving.

At the end of this week, I am getting my second jab! I am celebrating already and am taking the weekend off to be totally lazy in case I need to deal with any side-effects.

The latest episode of Last Week Tonight is available online, and it’s about Afghanistan …

Good night.

A rare truce

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 20-22 August

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

— @HaggardHawks

A visitor in my Mom’s garden. Last winter, she thought that she was feeding hedgehogs in the back of her house, until she discovered that she was actually making a family of rats very happy. Fittingly so, in the end, as we are family, but she did freak out a bit (for those who do not know: szczurek = little rat). It was good to see that the hedgehogs also survived.

This weekend, after a relatively busy Friday, I acted pretty much like the above hedgehog, curled up, spikes out, and not too eager to engage. I read a lot, mourned the end of Roger’s and Rafa’s 2021 season, watched mindless television, co-planned a new literary prize with wonderful people (yes, because I have so little on my plate and need to keep myself busy ;)) and went for a long walk along the Promenade with my love.

On Saturday, my love treated me to our LAST MEAL (!!!) at the famous The Test Kitchen, which is closing its divinely-delicious doors soon.

Every bite will be remembered with great fondness, especially the dill ice cream – you have not lived until you have tasted dill ice cream!

It feels like the following should not be simply part of a blog post on quotidian matters, but a book on its own (and I have been writing it for years now, so perhaps one day it will see the light of publication …), yet it is what it is: an integrated part of so many of our lives:

Today, Sunday, was filled with anger, and deep sadness. Thando Mgqolozana’s partner accused him publicly of horrific abuse. The literary community is mostly reacting in support of the brave Thabisa, and I hope that her loved ones will be able to keep her safe and help her find a way out of this hell and into healing. And even though I do not know her personally, I want to emphasise how much I admire what she did.

I have been thinking back to an incident quite a long time ago when I challenged Thando over something close to my heart in private – perhaps inadequately, but sincerely – and I have never forgotten his reaction, in words only, but words can be as powerful as fists. I did disclose to a few close friends at the time and made sure never to interact with him again, but that is where it ended for me. We so often create these whisper networks to protect one another, but whispers are not enough to stop monsters – they thrive on our silences – and only a few of their victims are brave enough to go public and accuse those who violate them.

I have tried, and mostly failed, to go up against abusive men’s influence in the literary community – in the world – and I still live with the consequences. That book is growing, i.e. festering, inside me.

I admire Thabisa’s courage. Deeply. I believe her.

To end on an uplifting, truly enriching literary story: I have been reading the anthology Our Ghosts Were Once People, edited by Bongani Kona. Many of my favourite local authors, including Bongani himself, contributed, and the book is beautiful. All the pieces I have read so far are enlightening, exquisitely written, and even if they have death and sometimes horror and trauma at their centre, there is something gentle and soothing in the storytelling. That is the gift of great writers.

Karin Schimke in Our Ghosts Were People Once, edited by Bongani Kona

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD