Operation Oysterhood: 8 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Not enough hours in a day. No matter how hard I try to catch up with my workload, I just don’t seem to be able to get through the to-do lists. But it is what it is and all I can do is try.

A few days ago, I ordered a Yoco card machine for Karavan Press and it arrived this morning in all its glory. It is one of the best devices ever – I am thrilled.

My love and I are trying out new – healthy – recipes. The results are delicious. I just wish I had more time to explore … But, it will come. A few more days and the worst of the rush should be behind me. And, courtesy of Eskom, I might have a few hours of enforced relaxation every day. We can’t win, can we?

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 7 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Salieri holding on to me last night

A registered letter was sent to me from Austria on 16 September and it arrived already! This gives me a lot of hope for the restoration of the worldwide postal service (and we might need it if Facebook and Co. give up on us again).

Hello loadshedding! Again. Scheduled for the middle of the night. I can only hope that insomnia does not strike during those hours. I did have such a gap last night and it wasn’t pretty even with the lights on.

After the last three intense days, I found myself staggering through today. And right in the middle of it, my alarm went off twice while I was in a meeting with a future Karavan Press author. It seems it was only a heavy branch in the wind, but … not only the alarm was triggered. Yep, the wind is back. Yep, I did cut down the branch. Thank goodness my alarm backup batteries are still okay and will last through the blackouts.

Abdulrazak Gurnah wins the 2021 Nobel prize in literature. I am thrilled, of course, but I do wonder why is it sooooo difficult to give the Nobel prize in literature to women?

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 6 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

We launched The Skipper’s Daughter at the Alma Café earlier tonight. Full house, wonderful audience, including two real skippers, great food and wine, and Nancy’s amazing stories – it was all pure joy! Books have been sold and signed.

The rest of the day was cover design discussions, tons of admin and the quarterly trip to the post office with boxes of copies of the latest New Contrast issue ready to set sail into the world.

I am beyond tired again and cannot remember what it felt like to be on holiday any longer …

I did see my counsellor again. She had been away on sick leave, but she is back in her chair, welcoming people to tell their stories on her comfy couch.

Exhausted, but going to bed a happy publisher.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 5 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Another day of work, work, work. Among my tasks today was picking up copies of the latest New Contrast issue from the printers. I will post them to subscribers and contributors tomorrow. Another great issue: 195 – it will be 200 next year!

At the end of the day, I had the great privilege to talk about Colum McCann’s Apeirogon to a book club – real readers gathered together in a room! All vaccinated. Simply amazing to be able to do this again. It was my second discussion at this particular book club. Last time (before the pandemic), I was invited to talk about Lyndall Gordon’s Outsiders. Everyone in the book club owns copies of the books they read and they really read them, so the discussions were wonderful both times. I will be invited again and I can’t wait. Apeirogon is stunning – we could have talked for hours, or thousand and one nights … ‘A community of feeling.’

Came home late, just before ten, and am now exhausted. But in a really good way.

Good night.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 4 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Until I heard the 6.30pm news, it seemed like a typical Monday. Work, work, work. At the end of the day, I took my love’s cat to the vet for her monthly injections and discussed the next steps of Salieri’s recovery with him – no op yet, we are continuing with the diet and monitoring the situation. I heard the news on the way back: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are down. Still, hours later, while I am writing. I have never really been on Facebook (apart from ages ago for a few hours – which was enough for me to decide against it). I have never been on WhatsApp, not even for a second. But all those nice photographs I have posted on Instagram over the past two years … It is weird to think that all of it is inaccessible and might be gone, maybe even forever.

The thought crossed my mind that I better start printing my blog – just in case.

Twitter is busy tonight!

I have only taken one photograph today, of a freshly sharpened pencil. It feels strangely prophetic.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 2-3 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Weekend. A perfect one. Long mornings in bed with Cats, books and coffee; time relaxing with my love; only a little bit of work (intellectually and emotionally rewarding); and then, to top it all, my love and I hosted a socially distanced lunch for friends (all vaccinated). We were only six all together, but we opened the windows and doors, made a fire, and set two tables for us. We had space and food for twice as many guests, but we did not want to contribute to the beginning of the fourth wave. Ooooh, but it was nice to have a lunch party again! We made French onion soup and racks of lamb, my love took out a few special bottles from his collection, and friends brought more great wines and chocolates. There was laughter and the joy of reconnecting, not only via a screen. A true feast.

Afterwards, we cleaned up and did nothing for the rest of the day (at least I did nothing but watch TV). Tomorrow, we return to work and other responsibilities. Life is good. (And I am writing this while being fully conscious of the unbearable loss and pain and struggles we have had to endure.)

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: Working week

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

— @HaggardHawks

I hardly left the house this past week, and if I did, it was for work-related meetings and, on Thursday, to go to the vet. The days passed in a blur, from one deadline to another. I survived on leftovers and takeaways. I only took a few photographs – the one above kind of says it all: books, manuscripts, and my lovely Salieri, who is not as well as we’d hoped she would be at this stage of her recovery. The visit to the vet confirmed that her liver is not regenerating as quickly as anticipated, and even though the thyroid diet is working, the test results could have also been better (maybe). Next week, we decide when to operate and I am dreading the time ahead. But, throughout it all, Salieri has been brave and loving and has never abandoned her literary catssistant duties (even now, she is next to me as I type).

My love has been away and the working week ended on a high yesterday afternoon with my trip to the airport to pick him up after his travels. I used to think of airports as my natural habitat, and now, it is so unusual to have an opportunity to go to one, no matter in what capacity. I recently spoke to an Austrian friend who had hoped to visit SA in November, but is postponing the trip for better times. I still don’t know whether I will make it to Austria before the end of this year. A lot will depend on Salieri’s recovery. And lockdowns: here, there.

I almost missed the announcement of the move to Level One. 27 March 2020 was 554 days ago. I continue watching the official infection and death numbers and they continue to break my heart. I understand that most of us will get infected sooner or later, but none of us should be dying from COVID-19 any longer. Vaccinations cannot save every single life, but they can save most of us, and so now that they are available across the country and there are enough for every willing person, every death feels preventable.

I am hoping that the Vooma Vaccination Weekend will encourage people to save lives, their own and the lives of others.

We have had some heartening news at Karavan Press again: award nominations, reprints, great reviews, live events coming up, new authors becoming part of the Karavan Family and new books being almost ready for print. Three more coming before the end of the year. I am no longer afraid to make plans for the future. Nothing is easy, but we are not only surviving, but thriving. A huge THANK YOU to all who made it possible – through kindness and patience; by reading and supporting us.

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

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: Camdeboo

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

— @HaggardHawks

My love had been planning the road trip to the Camdeboo for a while, but I had no idea whether I would be able to join him because of Salieri, work and then, at the last moment, a COVID scare – but it all worked out in the end: Salieri’s condition was stable, I could travel and work (part-time) and my test came back negative. Off we went! Destination Camdeboo.

Being on the road in South Africa is a transcendent experience. The vast landscapes, the endless paths, the beauty of it all. Travelling in this country means being in a constant state of awe.

Our first stop was a friends’ farm. Great company, great wine and food and all around a landscape that is simultaneously unrelenting and generous. Our friends keep cattle and fowls and make the most wonderful cheese. Being on the farm with goats and hens everywhere made me constantly think of two of Karavan Press’s novels: Breaking Milk and An Island. And it was the first time ever I had a real opportunity to interact with hens and roosters and to get to know their rhythms and truly connect. Many of the birds on the farm are more like family members than farm animals. I will never forget finding Principessa between my blanket and the duvet, where she settled happily when I went to the bathroom. I was disappointed, though, that she did not gift me with an egg.

We headed to the Mount Camdeboo Private Reserve next and spent two blissful nights up in the mountains in a secluded pod – an architectural/design feat of note – before returning to the manor house in the valley for the last night of our stay.

Once again, the calm of the incredible landscape was soothing for the soul, and the game drives delivered the most fascinating viewings and adventures. On the last evening, on our way down the mountain, we encountered a rhino mom with her baby going up on the narrow path to the top to graze. They had right of way, so the ranger reversed for about two kilometers in the dark and we waited for the family to come up and disappear into the bush at the top. While waiting for these majestic beings to make their way, we heard the horror stories of poaching in the area before drastic security measures were introduced to protect the animals.

The Camdeboo is the setting of A Fractured Land, one of the first books we published at Karavan Press. Melissa’s descriptions of these landscapes are stunningly evocative and it was wonderful for me to see them with my own eyes and to imagine the story all over again.

You cannot be in this area and not visit Nieu-Bethesda: The Owl House, Dustcovers Bookshop and the fabulous Stirlings at the Ibis that offers a six-course menu, including the most divine garlic ice cream (only one of two puddings at the end of the meal), for R180 – yes, it’s true.

If this restaurant was in Cape Town, I would stop cooking.

If the Dustcovers Bookshop was in Cape Town, my book buying addiction would stand no chance whatsoever.

The first book we saw on display when entering was Breaking Milk, and the last one I spotted after paying was The Fifth Mrs Brink. I felt totally at home.

Outside the bookshop, we discovered that we had a flat tyre. A family visiting Nieu-Bethesda was passing by and the father and sons, seeing the despair on our faces, took charge of the situation and rescued us within twenty minutes. They were amazing!

The puncture and the need to have the spare repaired before the public holiday made us rush a bit through The Owl House, but I was not sorry. It was important for me to see the place, and it was nothing like I had imagined (way beyond what I could imagine), but there is something truly unsettling in the haunting house and its fantastical garden that did not make me feel comfortable. But I love the two owls I brought home from there.

Final stop was Graaff-Reinet. Even though it is a beautiful town with many fascinating places to visit, we were not entirely ready for the return to people, traffic and ordinary life, so we headed out to the Camdeboo National Park and The Valley of Desolation on Heritage Day. For the rest, it was reading, relaxing and another dinner with our friends at the wonderful Hello You.

And then it was time to go home …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 17 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

“NOT DETECTED” the message from PathCare said. Just an ordinary cold. What a relief. I never thought I would be so happy to be simply sick.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 16 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

Catssistant and nurse Salieri

A sweaty night, a scratchy throat and the general feeling of suffering from a mild cold. I phoned my GP first thing in the morning, got a phone consultation, a script, a referral letter and a PathCare form for testing in the course of the next few hours. The pharmacy delivered my medicine and I got a test appointment just after receiving all the necessary documents in the afternoon. When you are symptomatic, you do not get out of your car to get tested, it seems. It was as uncomfortable and quick as always, but it was the first time I wasn’t sure what the outcome of the test would show. I spent most of the day in bed – I managed to do some editing work and admin, but the majority of the time was passed worrying and going through all the possible scenarios of ‘what if’. It’s either a cold or COVID-19. If it’s the former, the doctor said I can simply get better and go about my life. If it’s the latter, I have to isolate until the 23rd, independent of how quickly I recover. Thank goodness for contact-free Mr Delivery. I ordered some really nice food for dinner just to cheer myself up. I can taste and smell everything, which is bliss no matter what. Now, I just wait until the test results arrive. I think and hope that it is just a cold, but I need to make 100% sure, primarily because of the people I had been in touch with two days prior to the onset of symptoms. Sigh. Hope.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD