Category Archives: Memories

Operation Oysterhood: 28 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

752

To all of you who have been wondering: the frogs are fine. They have both survived my pool ministrations. And a creature has moved into my bedroom wall, and another one lives under my study’s floor. More szczureks? Maybe … The Cats and I are certainly never alone. (It might also be that I am beginning to hear things …)

I don’t want to be reading manuscripts during this time because the odds are stacked completely against them, but I understand that authors need answers, so I am pulling up my sleeves and returning to the manuscript piles. This morning was thus spent reading, and trying not to dream.

I had too much coffee and forgot to eat my breakfast. I only remembered when my stomach started making strange noises while I was driving to town to pick up some books from the Protea Bookshop and the Book Lounge. On the way back, I stopped at Frankie Fenner to buy something for a braai.

The rest of the day was spent at the computer. At the end of it all, it was wonderful to light the fire and just wait for the sun to set. I had my wine out of a wine glass, but I just love the story of restaurants apparently offering their red, white and pink tea menus to customers and serving ‘tea’ in tea cups. I understand that there is an alcohol problem in the Cape, and beyond – I am Polish after all! – but there are ways of enjoying alcohol responsibly, and there are ways of making sure that there is enough joy in people’s lives so that they don’t have to drown their sorrows in pink tea. Instead of banning tea, how about making sure that no one wants to forget their miserable lives by drinking it …?

Last night’s numbers were quite disturbing again, fewer cases, but only because of fewer tests conducted; and the death toll close to three hundred. Over seven thousand people all together. And that’s only the official number. What about those who don’t get counted as Covid-19-related deaths, but clearly are? Tonight’s numbers different again, less official deaths, but hundred and ninety are so many people – and what about their families and friends …

Every day, I repeat to myself: be careful, wear your mask and visor, sanitise everything you can, wash hands, think and think again. Be rather paranoid than sick. And there are moments when I think that I might get through it all unharmed, last long enough for a vaccine to arrive or a Covid-19-proof cure to be mastered by the medics taking care of our lives … Sometimes, I think that maybe I have already had it, with no symptoms and no lasting effects whatsoever. Although, can anyone who has lived through this collective trauma claim that they have suffered no lasting effects of this pandemic-lockdown-madness? And there are moments when I forget that all if this is happening – for a few blissful seconds, I don’t think about death …

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

751

An ordinary Monday. Not the best of nights, and this evening, my cheeks are sore again, but the day itself went well, with most tasks set also accomplished, at least the urgent ones. Highlight of the day: a visit to the art shop. I needed materials for a project and had the most wonderful time choosing the paper and colours. A new challenge. And a small drawing came to me again (but still on old paper, with my usual pencils).

‘Don’t get it,’ warned Alan Winde on the radio this morning, when asked about what he had to say about being ill with Covid-19. Someone I haven’t heard from for many months wrote to me today, saying that she’d also been infected. I know most people survive and are well. But … Fortunately, as far as I can judge, the numbers in the Western Cape are stable to falling, and our province might have the worst behind it. At least in terms of infections. The impact on livelihoods will continue haunting us for a very long time.

Every day, people ring my bell, asking for food. When I direct them to the place where they will be assisted and given food for free in our neighbourhood, they always have a story why they can’t go there and why they need my help. It is hard to know whom to believe. Impossible to explain why I will never open the gate to an unannounced stranger ever again.

My own worries pale in comparison, but they also exist. I keep forging ahead, believing in my dreams, but the reality out there does not allow one to be too optimistic. I read, write, review, publish and dream books for a living, and I continue supporting books and authors on all possible fronts, but right now it feels like an impossible quest. And then I get inquiries from people who want me to publish their books, but they haven’t even read a single thing I have written or published – they just assume that I could be a means to an end, I suppose. It saddens me. Anyway. I still can feed myself and my family, so I shouldn’t complain. And apart from anything else, I love what I do. That in itself is a huge gift. I just need to learn how to say ‘no’. And to say it gently. Because being cruel always comes back to haunt one.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

749

A better night. A long morning. Rain, coffee, poetry, breakfast in bed, some staring into space. All much needed. Eventually, I got up, washed my hair, and after an early lunch, did some work in the garden and on a manuscript. I promised myself no work-related emails this weekend, but there was a lovely one about a possible title, then one about a potential Karavan Press title and one with a stunning cover option – I could not not respond.

Short, but relaxing walk in the afternoon. Some tense football action on the last day of the British Premier League. Roast chicken for dinner – enjoyed by more than one member of the human-feline family :)

Salieri is on my lap as I write, purring her heart out in content.

Does anyone know what is happening to the Sunday Times book pages? The spaces for the reviewing of local books seem to be shrinking drastically. My love will tease me after reading this, but I have an idea. (Apparently, it is something I say a lot.) Something needs to be done.

And my Sunday Times horoscope concurs:

Off to study the facts!

Good night.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

btfmdn

When you are too tired to sleep and too wired up to think straight, music can be an answer. And dancing. Last night, I flossed and brushed my teeth, got into my PJs, put on my favourite Austrian radio station and danced around my bedroom until I felt my body relax, my mind unwind and I just sang and moved along to the music – with only the Lady Cats watching and my shadow laughing.

It was easy to fall asleep after that, but the night was still not entirely restful and it took me a long time to open my eyes in the morning, then to get up and make coffee. I read a bit in bed and then watched the NZ rugby with Glinka. Another exciting match.

After breakfast, I cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom and water-sinned again, indulging in a midday bath, with another coffee and the only novel by Siri Hustvedt I haven’t read yet, her latest, Memories of the Future. I love her work and I cannot believe that it took me so long to get to this one. Many moons ago, she gave me permission to use a quote from one of her books for the epigraph of my novel, Invisible Others. The idea still thrills me.

The pool has started turning green with all this warmth and sunshine, so I cleaned it again and discovered that my Frog Prince got tired of waiting for me to return and got himself a companion.

I always take the frog(s) I find in the wire to safety before cleaning, backwashing, etc. But today, when I turned away, one of them jumped back into the water and ended up in the pool pump filter! Thank goodness I spotted it immediately and rescued the poor thing. I don’t know how they survive the pool chemicals and my constant interference in their lives, but I am always so happy to see them, especially when I know that they are more than one. No more kissing required from me.

I returned to work in the afternoon, but not for too terribly long. I started fading fast and ended up sleeping in the late afternoon until it was time for dinner. A quiet, good day – much needed after the craziness of the last week.

Soup for dinner, entertaining TV for dessert.

Today, one of Karavan Press’s authors made me aware that I dropped the ball in respect of something – not the end of the world, but the potential loss of an opportunity. I apologised for my slackness and got the nicest email in return. Moments like this make me understand how crucial it is to work with decent people. Even when one makes a mistake, there is still hope of fixing things and making the most of an unfortunate situation – together. I am so grateful that the authors I work with are not only wonderful writers, but also such great people – friends.

Siri Hustvedt awaits. Good night.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

Damien Kempf

Relentless. This week. Has been.

What to do when there are no more words left to share? Dance myself into the weekend …

ö3x-feel the weekend

Good night :)

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

P.S. Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

Operation Oysterhood: 23 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

733

Mood of the day, best expressed by Salieri.

Sleep did come and carried me through the night despite yesterday’s elevated anxiety levels. It took me a long time to open my eyes in the morning, to get up, make coffee. Sometimes, even a deep sleep is not exactly restful.

Where to go for beauty and serenity? Poetry. I have been indulging again in “Poetry for the people.” This morning, another upcoming collection from uHlanga Press. Will reveal more when it is officially announced. For now, I can say that poetry readers are in for a poetic treat: another tender, wise volume of deeply moving poetry.

734

Work continued for the rest of the day, apart from a sunny walk in my neighbourhood and a Skype chat with my Mom and Krystian.

I have never seen a mousebird around my house, but there are other wonders everywhere.

Setting the midday sky on fire.

The SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 numbers around the world are staggering. And locally, we have recorded a new high of 572 deaths in a twenty-four hour cycle.

And then there was The Address. Public schools closing. Acknowledgement of corruption. The greatest failures of the last twenty-six years in a nutshell. How about a ten billion rand bailout for public schools? That would be around R400 000 per school, if divided equally. Can you imagine the upgrades and possibilities?

Corruption … power, greed, vileness. I do not know how anyone stealing from emergency relief funds can live with themselves.

It is impossible not to despair. I need a drink!

When in doubt: read poetry, walk, eat sushi. Simple pleasures are all around. If only we could all live in a system that delivers the basics and occasional little luxuries – whatever they may be to an individual – to all.

Lockdown Nigiri from FYN Restaurant.

The above was delivered straight to my gate just in time for dinner, a treat from my love.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 22 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

A bad night. A headachy morning. Only one thing to do: a scenic drive around the Cape Peninsula. Balm for the soul. All the memories of all these miraculously beautiful places. New magical impressions. Back home at noon.

For the rest of the day, I worked.

And someone else broke into my garage and stole stuff (again), making me feel small and vulnerable and much more tired than I would have felt otherwise (and that was already exhausted enough).

It is difficult not to feel vulnerable. Not to want to throw in the towel. To dream of a little cottage in the Austrian mountains with only the snow to worry about.

How much vulnerability can one take? How deep must one’s roots be to survive the relentless storms?

An early night.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 21 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

A morning of reading exciting poetry proofs. It made me think of two poetry collections which have stayed with me after reading. The first is Stranger by Sihle Ntuli, who is about to publish a second collection, Rumblin’. The other is Zikr by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, who has just won the Ingrid Jonker Award. It is inspiring to see authors spread their wings and fly. Karavan Press will publish a poetry collection later this year, a first for the fledgling publishing house I am also eager to see soar high in the sky. May the winds under our wings be kind.

I didn’t take a single photograph today, which is unusual, but the day was just full of work, my attention needed on all possible fronts, so once again I am simply exhausted, but in the best possible ways. I don’t mind hard work when it involves projects and people I believe in.

It was time to shop for fresh milk, veggies and meat, and I had to fill up the car again. My favourite attendant, Elliot, was on duty at my local Shell garage. I asked him how he was doing. ‘It’s not easy,’ he said. We smiled at each other with our eyes. He has always been so kind to me, through loss, grief, road accident, new car acquisition and all our exchanges about work, family and the everyday. A hard-working man who always has a good word and smile to share – I admire that so much. It was so good to see him again.

I cooked a rack of lamb today. And there was chocolate pudding. I thought that after a tin of soup for lunch and no breakfast, it was only right to have a proper, delicious dinner. Two members of my family also enjoyed the lamb :)

Time for bed. I am sleeping, and it makes all the difference when there is so much work to be done.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 20 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

724

To see a Karavan Press book in a bookshop, especially now, is magic. This was my first bookshop sighting of Sue Brown’s Earth to Mom: Personal Essays on Loss & Love. I went to pick up two books I had ordered and also briefly waved hello to Mervyn. He reaffirmed the Book Lounge’s continued commitment to delivering books to readers, but I told him that I just needed to walk into a bookshop again. And I did. Just to remind myself that if we all commit to sustaining such places as the Book Lounge and all other wonderful bookshops out there which used to be such integral parts of our lives, they will continue existing and waiting for us all to come back and browse without risks and perhaps even to enjoy a totally crowded book launch again. I refuse to give up hope.

These are the two new books I picked up and Mozart came to inspect them with me while I was having coffee on the stoep before picking up my work for the rest of the day. So much happened again today that I don’t even want to attempt to summarise the wonderful literary roller-coaster I had been on – emotionally exhilarating and draining at the same time. There are good things happening. Dreams are being born. I spoke to a dear friend on Skype for nearly two hours and we are going to work on a project together. Announcements soon, and if all goes well, a book, or two, or three (!) in April next year … Both of us know how to dream big, because … why not?

It might all be insane, but these are not sane times.

727

I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I got into a bath with my dinner and a glass of pink wine and watched two episodes of John Oliver on my laptop. Then, Glinka and I watched a bit of TV, and now I am in bed, ready for sleep.

And the pandemic continues spreading all around us, the numbers rising, often in an unexplained manner. New phrases like ‘excess deaths’, ‘long tail of Covid-19’ and ‘breakthrough protein treatment’ are making the rounds. Hope. Despair. And the future constantly shifting, unpredictable – more than ever.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 19 July

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

— @HaggardHawks

723

Sunday walk. The essence of our present lives captured in two encounters.

Setting out, I saw a mousebird: fluffy chest, punk hairdo, long tail and all. I am completely and totally and unconditionally in love with mousebirds. Every sighting makes me happy. My love taught me how to identify them.

On the way back, I carried an injured laughing dove to temporary safety. The fragile creature felt warm and soft and utterly helpless in my hands. Probably in shock. No resistance. The eyes closing and opening slowly. The bird was found on the railway tracks by a teenage boy on a skateboard. The boy was visibly distressed about the bird, and embarrassed and apologetic about asking for help without wearing a mask. He tried to cover his mouth and nose by pulling up his T-shirt. Yet his heart was in the right place, and it would have been cruel to break it.

“Hope is a thing with feathers.”

And so is grief.

Every day, we attempt to fly carrying both in the palms of our tired hands.

Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.

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

— NICD