Operation Oysterhood: 29 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

It is getting colder. Real autumn chill is in the air, even when the sun is shining.

A day of Friends arriving and bearing roses and other gifts, especially the gift of their lovely company.

Otherwise, just the daily grind. I told someone today that I am tired of fighting. What I meant was that I am tired of having to prove myself, specifically after years of loyalty to and support of a worthy cause. It’s not that I expect anything in return; I just don’t want my intentions to be doubted.

Anyway. As a wonderful friend reminded me today: sometimes only greedy bastards get ahead. But if that is the case, I rather stay behind. I need to be able to live with myself.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 28 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

A HARU day. A dear friend invited me to lunch and my love invited me to dinner, and both had HARU in mind, and I had absolutely nothing against eating their delicious food twice in a day.

The last seventy-two hours have been intense. I feel dazed most of the time. But I slept last night, I am eating and doing my work. I manage to read for pleasure, write a little and enjoy some sunshine, yet I feel disconnected from reality. I suppose it is a coping mechanism.

To feel less helpless, I volunteered to help with the recovery efforts at the Jagger Library. They are still searching for volunteers, so please have a look if you are interested: Jagger Library Recovery. Maybe I will see you there during one of the shifts.

Small steps.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 27 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

We had an alarm activation in the night, just after three. Maybe someone thought that the house would be empty for the long weekend. It is always frightening when this happens, but also very comforting to know that the alarm system does work and does protect us. ADT reacted immediately and, because I could not go back to sleep for quite a while after the security guard’s inspection of the property and his ‘all clear’, I heard that he only drove away from in front of my house about half an hour later. Even if I realised that he was there only afterwards, it was still extremely reassuring. I had chamomile tea and listened to the gentle rain on my roof and eventually fell asleep again for a little while. In the morning, The Cats did their magic of spreading their purring love. The polar bear suit from my Mom helped, too.

An easy morning with coffee and books in bed and then a lovely meeting with dear Sindiwe Magona. She kindly signed a copy of her latest book for me.

It is a real beauty and I look forward to reading it! Sindiwe is such a great storyteller and she cares so deeply …

Returning home, I kept hearing my cellphone ring in my handbag and got worried when I saw who it was. Back at home, I returned the missed calls, knowing that the news would not be good, but I could never have guessed or anticipated what I would hear. Someone very close to me went through the most horrific ordeal, and, thank universe and all the gods and goddesses, survived, but just thinking about what happened makes my mind freeze in horror.

After the call, I was shocked and eventually asked Krystian whether I could chat with him on Skype. I told him that after EVERYTHING that had happened in the last while, I am going to be watching out for the nearest volcano to erupt, because surely that will be the next thing on the list of possible catastrophes to touch my life. He said: ‘Don’t even dare think about it. It’s enough that you’ve got Koeberg basically on your doorstep.’

Yes, let’s rather not go there!

The hired owls

The rest of the afternoon was admin for the Trust and New Contrast and an attempt to stop my Rosebank Glasspecker from driving me insane with his pecking on my window. I hired two owls to scare him off … He was gone for about an hour, and then …

Yeah, you guessed it …

I have one more idea how to stop this mad bird. Pray for me.

27 April – Freedom Day! I know exactly what I was doing on this day in 1994: celebrating my best friend’s – Isabella’s – birthday with her in Austria. Back then, all I knew about South Africa was who Nelson Mandela was and that apartheid had ended. Ten years later I fell in love with this country, and today it is my home. But I am not a citizen, so I can’t vote.

In the evening, Mozart and I braaied for my love and now I am ready for an early night in front of the TV. I hope that I can have one uninterrupted night of sleep again. I am tired.

My great inspiration, Mary Wollstonecraft, was born on this day in 1759, 262 years ago. Happy Birthday, Isi and Mary!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 26 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

Until I saw the news of Nadia’s passing yesterday, the day was so full of joy, a lot of it literary. The literary joy has dimmed significantly, because it means less if it cannot be shared with the people who make it all happen, yet it has to be acknowledged. Two Karavan Press books made the Sunday Times / CNA Literary Awards longlists yesterday. It is the most prestigious local literary award and I am absolutely thrilled for the authors and books that made the longlists: Dawn’s Breaking Milk (Fiction) and Joanne’s Death and the After Parties (Non-fiction).

Karavan Press has been in existence for only two years, so this means the world to me, and I am so proud of the beautiful books that made the longlists. They are in excellent company: Nadia’s book babies are among the many amazing titles on the lists …

We were invited to have lunch with wonderful people yesterday, and had a feast with a view of note. I gave the hostess a copy of one of the longlisted titles and proudly told her about the announcement. She is an avid reader and I know she will love the book. We were treated to divine food and some of the most exciting wines I have ever tasted. I was the designated driver, so I did not do much more than taste the wines in the course of the afternoon, but I delighted in every sip and in the fascinating wine talk around the table.

We arrived home in the evening just in time to see Rafa win – in style! – the Barcelona Open for the twelfth time. If I had been a nail-biter, I would not have had any nails left after the last few games of the third set. What a tennis thriller!

Rafa wins Barcelona Open

I took the above photo of the TV screen during the trophy ceremony and wanted to post it on Twitter when I saw the first RIP tweets for Nadia on my timeline and simply burst into tears. I don’t know how many times I whispered ‘no’ between the sobs. No. No. No. I still want to shout ‘NO!’ to the universe.

Nothing made sense.

I cried myself to sleep yesterday, slept badly, and this morning, I did not want to face the world. But I had to send off a new book to the printers and forced myself to get up and get going. I thought of what Nadia and I had most in common – love for local literature – and not giving up but doing my work felt like a way to honour her remarkable legacy. From my shelves, I also collected some of the books she had published and started reading one of them that was waiting on the to-read pile …

We are in the clutches of a ruthless pandemic, and there are moments when I am beginning to feel that Megan Ross is right: we will all go mad with grief. It might have happened already. Because, after all of this loss, only madness would allow us to get up every morning and somehow continue with our lives …

After the morning at my computer, my body spoke in sign language – literally – and I realised that I had to see a doctor (completely bloody-Covid-19-unrelated). I made the earliest possible appointment and until it was time to go, I saw my love and attended to the pot plants on my stoep. A few have been begging for new, bigger pots for a while and there was really nothing else I was capable of at that stage. I just pottered about.

Then I walked to the doctor (who confirmed that I’d interpreted my body’s language correctly) and the pharmacy and came home understanding that my immune system is weakened through layer upon layer of (di)stress and that I had to give in and take care of myself.

I took my medicine, visited The Frog Prince in my garden, listened to the radio, and after answering a few emails, I cooked a nice dinner for myself and had it while chatting to Mom and Krystian on Skype, tears falling again.

I keep thinking: what if the local vaccine rollout had been more efficient … A life – lives! – could have been saved.

A dear friend wrote to me last night: “We have to outlive this thing.” Yes. But even if we do, nothing will be the same again. We are all going mad with grief.

Francois Smit

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 25 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

Nadia Goetham

I can’t stop crying. And I don’t want to write about you, dear Nadia, in the past tense. I just can’t.

If there was a prize for publishing superheroes in South Africa, you would win by a million miles. Your wisdom, generosity, support, kindness, passion, and wonderful sense of humour illuminate our literary scene like sunlight – like sunlight, you are indispensable. How are we supposed to do this without you?

My heart is sore and I miss you, even though we hardly know each other. You are an inspiration, a creative force for good, a champion of all things bookish and a friend to so many authors and all others in the publishing industry.

“I am loved”, you wrote recently on Twitter. Yes, you are.

Rest in peace, wonderful Nadia.

Our world is so much poorer without you in it.

My deepest condolences to Nadia’s family, friends, loved ones.

~ ~ ~

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 24 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

Bubbly & moi, a love story

After a lazy morning in bed – during which I finished reading the wondrous The Gospel of the Eels by Patrik Svensson – I visited The Book Lounge to pick up a gift for friends and two books (Sindiwe Magona’s latest novel and Fred Khumalo’s latest story collection) for myself:

Then it was time for a sunflowery afternoon with my love at Vergelegen, where we listened to a talk about the farm by Rob Caskie and had a fabulous lunch with a few fabulous wines and listened to the winemaker André van Rensburg (an avid reader!) speak about the liquid magic in our glasses. The sunflowers are in bloom, the ancient camphor and oak trees provide shade and comfort, and the varied gardens are a feast for the senses. Vergelegen is a living legend, a place I enjoy returning to where lovely memories keep accumulating.

What else?

Rafa is in the Barcelona final! :)

Goodnight selfie :)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 23 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

Nancy, Monique and Lulu, designing a book

World Book Day – I did not realise until quite late into the day. Every day is a book day for me, and I will support a book celebration any day, too.

I had a very bookish day planned for today, involving reading, bookkeeping, book design and book proofs. In the morning, I went through the mental list of things to do, braced myself, had coffee, read for pleasure, got up and got going. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I aired my brain by cleaning the pool. And the washing machine ran throughout most of the day, doing the accumulated laundry. Clean bed sheets tonight. The small pleasures.

It is getting cold. I am grateful for my new winter slippers and the electric blanket in my bed.

My love and I had braai leftovers for dinner and watched some TV tonight, and we are both ready for quite a busy – work-wise and socially – weekend.

No sore cheeks. A few hours of sleep every night. Getting there; I can almost smell the Big Rest.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 22 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

A morning with Glinka, coffee, biscuits (Glinka insisted on her share) and books. My best time for reading is after waking up, but I haven’t been able to read for leisure in a few days, so today was a treat.

The Rosebank Glasspecker Strikes Back

Yesterday, he managed to pull down some of the newspapers I used to block the reflection of his ‘rival’, so I taped the window. This morning, he not only pecked away at the remaining newspapers, but also at the tape, and he found the ‘other’ bird again. The glass-pecking continued through the day.

The dedication is admirable.

I am getting an owl.

A social Skype lunch with my Family in Austria (I had spicy two-minute noodles, my Mom cooked a real meal for her and Krystian) and a real dinner around my dining room table with my love’s Family! I braaied for us – felt a bit nervous braaing for more than two people, but all went well. I even impressed myself, so I am happy to brag about it.

Otherwise, a day of work. Progress made on many fronts. A great development: gradually, toxic people are disappearing from my professional life. On all projects I am involved in, I am surrounded by lovely people who inspire me. It makes such a difference!

A worrying development: the first indications of the third wave rolling in are surfacing. F@#$%ck!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 21 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

We launched a book today: at a real bookshop, with real people and books, and a live conversation and reading! It felt like a miracle.

The bookshop was Wordsworth Books at the Gardens Centre. They have an authors’ door. Stephen signed it in 2018. Today, I was asked to ‘join’ the illustrious door and was very happy to pick a spot near one of my all-time favourite poets whose work I have the honour to publish at Karavan Press.

A friend sent me pictures of the Jaffer Library after the fire. I cried. The official preliminary statement about the losses suffered was devastating. I continue crying just thinking about it. Finuala Dowling posted this beautiful poem on IG today:

This is a stunning reminder of what poetry can do for us. It can make us ache. It can enlighten, comfort and heal. I cannot imagine my life without it.

A woman wrote to me today: ‘I long for precedented times’. It made me think of my wish to experience boredom (no matter how unlikely in my case).

What we did experience in the last twenty-four hours was a confirmation of reality: a murder is a murder, a jury said. No gaslighting, no impunity. A man died at the hands, or rather a knee, of another, and the perpetrator is not going to get away with it. What makes my heart sore, apart from the tragedy of the lost life, is the relief we all felt when the verdict was finally pronounced. The fact that it had been unpredictable, that we were prepared to be gaslighted again, is another tragedy.

‘Justice’ is one of the most elusive words.

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 20 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

After the fires

Yesterday morning, I got a phone call asking me to write about the Jagger Library. I wasn’t sure I could find the words to express what I thought, felt. I completed the piece in the evening but wanted to sleep on it before sending it off for publication.

Sleep has been erratic during the last few nights.

In order to begin writing, I consulted my travel diary from 2004. The significance of the fact does not escape me.

“Heritage to ashes, dust to dust.” (LitNet, 20 April 2004)

Layer upon layer of grief, scars, unfathomable sadness.

I got up early this morning to complete the revisions, send off the article, and returned to bed with more coffee to finish the – interrupted by the Sunday fire – proofreading of A Hibiscus Coast by Nick Mulgrew.

The firefighting continued throughout the day; helicopters in the air.

I briefly spoke to Nick on Skype about the final corrections of his beautiful – beautiful! – debut novel in the late afternoon. Then I rushed off to EB Cavendish to the (live!!!) launch of Illuminated Darkness, the debut poetry collection by Jacques Coetzee, published by Nick at uHlanga Press. Jacques was being interviewed by Dawn Garisch, the author of many amazing books, Breaking Milk and Disturbance among them – both published by Karavan Press.

Layer upon layer of creativity, growth, unfathomable togetherness.

Somehow, nearly every day, numb with pain, we manage to get up, hearts on fire, and we forge literary heritage into being. Against all bloody odds.

Even – especially? – when the world is burning all around. Illuminated darkness indeed.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD