Operation Oysterhood: 13 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

We visited two friends in their garden yesterday. Apart from an emergency run to the vet, they haven’t left their property since March. Because of a serious medical condition, they cannot afford to get infected with the coronavirus, so they stay inside their home and garden and get everything delivered to them. Occasionally, they invite two people to join them for a meal or drinks in their garden, where the guests sit at a safe distance and follow a strict safety protocol. We spent the entire afternoon and evening with them and had the most amazing feast and drank/tasted Burgundy wines. I was the designated driver and the person who knows the least about her wines, so I just tasted, and only the reds – they were all delicious. A wonderful visit all together. I got home just before the curfew and fell into bed without writing my Oysterhood post.

I was so impressed with the strict lockdown measures these two extraordinary people have taken to protect their health and lives. He used to travel around the world for half the year and had to reinvent how to do business without leaving the house. She lost most of her work for about half a year before it gradually started returning and she continued from home. Together, they organised highly successful campaigns to help other companies survive the lockdown. They swim, read tons of books, keep in touch with friends and work on their relationship as it faces new challenges under these extreme circumstances. Despite everything, they radiate a positivity about life that is inspiring. I loved what they said: ‘It is actually nothing to live like this for one or two years of the hopefully eighty or so years of your life, at least you get to live it all.’ They are waiting for the vaccine rollout and hope that it will liberate them. They can’t wait to see the rest of the world again.

I forgot to take a photo of the lovely wine bottles we tasted, so above is a random Burgundy (I hope!) wine label.

The last news I saw before falling asleep was about the impeachment. I can’t say that it surprised me, but I can’t stop shaking my head whenever I think of it.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 12 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

A woman with clean floors, at the end of a loooong week

A pandemic nightmare: feeling really awful, I felt my sore throat constricting and knew I had Covid-19. But, mercifully, my Mom was there. When I told her, she said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.’ I woke up sometime after three a.m. and had a very patchy night from then on.

But it was a good opportunity to catch up with the full text of the SONA and to read Siphokazi’s poem and watch Trevor Noah and eventually get up and make coffee.

“The artist contemplates whether to eat her own words to ease her hunger – and art starves.” (‘What does not sink’ by Siphokazi Jonas)

This artist drowned in admin today, and she wrote a million emails (or maybe just 999 944). At the end of the day, she put a lovely UCOOK dinner into the oven and washed all her tiled floors. Then her love arrived with a beautiful bottle of wine and they had dinner and leaned a bit on each other, as the week had been brutal to both of them, and then he went home and she continued sipping the beautiful wine in front of the TV.

Another working week behind us. Kind of. I will try to do some editing tomorrow morning. Or not.

Hey, my floors are shining! What else can one want?

“SHELLINESS is reclusiveness, or a fondness for staying at home.” (Another Haggard Hawks gem.)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 11 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

‘Eish. Yoh. Yoh. Yoh. Yoh. Yoh!’ A voice message sent to CapeTalk earlier today to summarise what the SONA would contain in six words. I chuckled.

I know I should have listened to the real thing, but I just couldn’t. I will read about it tomorrow. The only thing I regret is that I did not hear Siphokazi Jonas’s performance tonight, but I hope the video will become available in time, too.

Among all her other amazing achievements, Siphokazi is New Contrast‘s newly appointed poetry editor (if there ever was a reason to submit/subscribe to the magazine! – and when you contact the business manager – moi :) – about subscribing, I will be delighted to assist).

This was another, mostly heavy, long day. Some things got done, others didn’t, but I am as kind to myself as I can be and just repeat, ‘tomorrow is another day’.

I went to the Mainland China Food Market in Claremont in the morning and got myself lots of dim sum and a few BBQ buns. Dinner was two steamed BBQ buns, a few dumplings and leftover red wine. Simple bliss.

Early night, me thinks.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 10 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Karavan Press poetry

‘It’s time to be responsible. It’s time to take care,’ said Rafa about the small crowds after his first-round win at the Australian Open. The Down Under Grand Slam is good for bouts of insomnia. There is always something to keep you occupied after two a.m. …

This morning the light was dancing on my bed and I thought that I should take a picture of it. Is there a better way to start the day than with coffee and poetry and a dancing morning light?

The rest of the day was work, work, work, until it was time for loadshedding at four p.m. I decided to go for a longish walk and buy a few needed things for the house and The Cats. Then I read the last of the Harry Bosch novels … A kind of enforced personal workloadshedding.

We soldier on.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 9 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

A new orchid – a gift from Qarnita Loxton. And she did not even know that I am the Orchid Whisperer. We met at the Book Lounge today. It is impossible to gather in large numbers to celebrate, but at least I could hand over the Philida Literary Award certificate to Qarnita and congratulate her in person. A happy encounter!

Qarnita, her novels and her Philida Literary Award certificate at the Book Lounge

A visit to the Book Lounge is impossible without buying a new book. My choice today was the latest from a new local independent publisher, Burnt Toast.

In the evening, I went to my love’s, and we had a simple pasta for dinner. We are both battling to keep smiling in the face of it all, but it is always easier to battle together.

Today, seventeen years ago, my brother and I arrived in Cape Town for the first time. It was J. M. Coetzee’s birthday. He celebrated his eighty-first today! And Krystian and I took a trip down memory lane.

Krystian and I during our first trip to Cape Point, 2004:

We travelled together around the country for three weeks and loved it. I stayed for another few weeks to do research for my PhD, and Krystian returned home to Austria, but he has been my most regular visitor ever since I moved to Cape Town permanently in 2005.

I always thought that the picture Krystian took of me on the rock said it all: I was where I belonged.

I am where I belong, no matter how challenging it is right now.

This day was once again filled with work and responsibilities, but for a brief time this morning, The Cats and I watched Rafa play at the Australian Open and we were content.

(I don’t want to think about the disheartening sales reports and crushing January returns – i.e. Karavan Press’s shaky future … Tonight, I will be Scarlett and think about it tomorrow.)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 8 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Stoep office with belated birthday lilies from a lovely author

I started work at six a.m., all Monday-style (no motivation, gallons of coffee), and finished at four p.m., with only a short break for lunch and a quick shopping trip in-between. There was some joy for about three hours of the working day when a lovely author arrived in my socially distant stoep office to go through the final polish of her manuscript before it goes to typesetting. The rest of the working day was unjoyous, but it’s done.

In the late afternoon, I took my love’s ancient, frail cat to the vet. She is doing remarkably well, but needs to go in for regular check-ins. Together with the vet, we found a care regime that seems to be working for her and she has a new lease on life. That makes me very happy.

Now, a nice dinner is in the oven and there is a great red in my glass, and after dinner with my love, I will have an early night.

The Australian Open is finally on. Yay!

And the vaccine distribution is suddenly off. Not-yay! The uncertainty of the situation is highly distressing. Putting on my N95 mask today, I thought, you & I – the love story continues … For the foreseeable future, non-pharmaceutical interventions remain our best bet against curbing the pandemic. And so we sigh and get on with it.

Please keep as safe as you can.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 7 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Sunday lunch with a view. A joyous all-afternoon affair with my love and lovely friends, great food and the most divine Italian wines. I was responsible for the starter and went for one of my favourites, Jamie Oliver’s ‘limoni di amalfi cotti al forno’.

If you can’t go to Italy, you can bring Italy to you. Bella Italia is a generous guest at any table and today she graced us with some of the best tastes she has on offer. Does one call this ‘taste travel’?

The day began with reading (armchair travel – Uzbekistan today) and some work and a radio interview about the Philida Literary Award with Sara-Jayne Makwala King. I was unusually nervous, but I think it went well. Next week, Sara-Jayne will be speaking to the 2021 winner, Qarnita Loxton. Looking forward!

After the interview, I phoned my Mom to wish her sto lat! (Happy birthday in Polish.) I sang and we had a short chat and will be meeting on Skype later tonight to celebrate virtually.

Here is a photograph of us in Kalk Bay harbour (we bought fresh fish) when she visited me two years ago. She now has shoulder-long lockdown hair, but otherwise looks the same. And she is still as young at heart as ever. It hasn’t been always obvious, but the bond we share today is one of the greatest treasures of my life. She is a wonderful woman and the best mother one could wish for. Our Miś (teddy bear).

I wished her health and I wished us a safe and happy reunion somewhere on this planet this year.

On my way to my love today, I listened to a Madonna song and the lyrics have been in my head all day long:

I can’t be Superhero right now
Even hearts made out of steel can break down
I’m not Joan of Arc, not yet
I’m only human

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 6 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Glinka catssisting with the announcement of the Philida Literary Award

6 February, fifteen years ago, I proposed and he said yes. We were married four months later. 6 February, six years ago, I whispered, ‘I am here. I love you.’ The last words spoken between us, just before André passed away over Brazzaville on a flight between Amsterdam and Cape Town. 6 February, today, we paid tribute to his life and work and announced the 2021 winner of the Philida Literary Award, established in André’s memory a year ago.

Qarnita Loxton – Philida Literary Award winner in 2021

The news was received with much joy in the literary community and beyond, and I hope that one day we will all be able to celebrate together. Last year’s celebration with Mohale Mashigo had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, and this year, we can’t even plan one yet for Qarnita, but there will be a day again when it will be safe to gather and laugh and toast these amazing writers and their work.

6 February brings with it memories that seem too much to hold for one day, but when I decided that this would also be the day of the award’s announcement, I had hoped that it would be transformative, over time molding and reshaping the memories of the tragedy of 2015 into the joys of the past and the anticipations of the future. I had hoped that eventually remembering would not be crushed by pain. And so it is. There is sadness, but it comes in gentle waves. And beyond it is the warmth of the rising sun of possibility.

There is gratitude, for everything that has been shared, for what lives on in hearts and words. It continues in magical ways through and around the award. To say that the past year has not been easy, is an understatement. To conceptualise and realise anything in these circumstances is so much more difficult than before. I wasn’t sure it could be managed, because I wasn’t doing too great and did not know where to find the energy to keep everything running smoothly. So, remembering how well we had worked together, I reached out to the award’s judges of last year and asked them to step in and assist again. Their enthusiasm and help made this year’s award possible. And again they brought so much joy into the occasion. A conversation that I will be forever grateful for.

And one only has to read a few chapters of any of Qarnita’s novels to understand how much insight, fun and compassion she brings into the lives of her readers by sharing the stories of her characters with us. She makes us laugh and cry and care. Once you pick up one of her books, it is difficult to put it down. There is another one coming and I, along with an entire community of Qarnita’s fans, can’t wait to encounter her characters on the pages of her next novel.

Fittingly for the day, after the announcement and the bit of admin that goes with it, I returned to reading and, apart from a simple, delicious lunch with my love and a Skype meeting with Mom and Krystian, I spent the day reading and remembering. Glinka, who inspired the famous Kleinkat in Philida, André’s last published novel, accompanied me throughout the day, from the announcement (above) to the afternoon reading session on our picnic blanket in the garden (below).

To beer or not to beer, that is the question.

‘Glinka, when it is Hoghouse beer, beer!’ I said to her (and that is why I am having another one as I type).

Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 5 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

I am calling it the Zondo Depression. Every day we hear more depressing/shocking testimonies from the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture and it is hard not to despair. Add pandemic, corruption, incompetence, loadshedding and tea with Zuma, who is blatantly in the middle of it all and refuses to take any kind of responsibility, and you start wondering how anyone is getting up from bed in the morning (if they still have a bed, that is).

I managed eventually at around eight, made coffee, read, and started work. Just before noon, I finished one assignment I’d planned for today and had a decent swim. Somewhere in the middle of it, I decided to gather all the books I have published as either author or (co)editor – I desperately needed tangible evidence that I can do these things. (There is nothing logical about doubt.) When I posted a picture of the books on Twitter, Pumla Dineo Gqola kindly replied, saying, ‘I do sometimes wonder whether you have a clone under your bed, Karina.’ And then it hit me: my clone is AWOL. I wrote in response: ‘Thank you, Pumla! You have identified the source of my identity crisis: Karinaclone has had enough & abandoned me – that is why I’m struggling all alone now, wearing too many hats at the same time & sometimes forgetting that in the deepest corners of my heart I am a writer.’

I run an independent press, a literary trust and a local literary award (watch out for the announcement of this year’s winner tomorrow!); I am one of the board directors and the business manager for a literary magazine and a board member for an African literary prize; I constantly edit other people’s work for all kinds of projects, including Karavan Press, of course. Yes, I do write. Every day. But not always as much as I want to and not always what is burning inside me. And I think that maybe that is what is weighing so heavily on me. And it doesn’t always help to remind myself that what I do is extremely rewarding (even if totally underpaid) and I couldn’t ask for a better mission in life (because money, as we know, does not guarantee happiness, but books DO).

I am tired. I have been tired for a long time.

The good news is that a friend wrote last night to say that, if all goes well, she will be in Cape Town next year and just the idea of her being here makes me smile. Today was another dear friend’s birthday – she lost her home during the lockdown, but has found a new one and will be all right.

And, despite everything, I am gradually wrapping up a few projects (I am behind deadlines, but people are being patient and kind); there is light at the end of the professional tunnel. I got a lot done today.

And my love and I are discovering UCOOK. Tonight, Icooked vegetarian tacos. They were also easy to make and delicious. (But I think I prefer mince to quinoa in my tacos.)

Tacos bring back a lot of memories from the time my family and I still lived in the States. It was so long ago and yet, every time I bite into a taco, I am transported back in time. And it feels good to indulge in positive connotations in relation to the US. It is astounding what a difference two weeks of decent people working in the White House can do for the ease of mind of the rest of the world (generally, I mean – former KGB foreign intelligence officers might be of a different opinion).

Yet, who knows who the Tangerine Troll is having tea with …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 4 February

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

— @HaggardHawks

Only eight hours of work today and a lunch Skype date with Mom and Krystian. The heaviness continues, but I am taking one step at a time and being as kind to myself as I can be. I have managed to nearly catch up with replying to all the patiently-waiting emails.

It takes me a long time to open my eyes in the morning, but once I do, I manage to read for at least an hour every day and that grounds me.

Today ended with pink bubbly on top of the Waterfront, at The Silo. The emptiness of the Waterfront in the evening is quite eerie, but everything there is still as amazing as ever, maybe even more so now that one doesn’t have to battle through crowds to enjoy it all (or what is left of it). It is all wonderful and depressing at the same time. So many emotions. And the one constant: the awe-inspiring Table Mountain, tonight at her most stunning, table cloth and all.

It is impossible not to love this city. It is impossible not to mourn its possibilities.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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

— NICD