If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.
It’s South African Lockdown Day 32, the day I switch my lockdown journaling from evening to morning (although not that early in the morning — it’s 10:39 a.m. already).
The first thought I had when I woke up this morning was: I was unrealistically positive in last night’s post. I made it sound like weathering this lockdown alone is easy for me, and although I may have legitimately felt that way at that particular moment, it is actually not true. The truth is my moods and perceptions shift wildly from one day — or even one hour — to the next.
Last night, basking in the glory of my successful bread-baking afternoon, I felt relatively good. I was cocooned in my comfortable home, safe for the moment and not terribly lonely. It rained hard all evening — a gift in Joburg at this time of year, before the cold, dry season sets in. Both cats were inside with me. I made a tasty toasted Emmental sandwich with avo and tomato for dinner, and it was delicious. I went to bed in good spirits.
I woke up to cool, gray skies, and didn’t actually get out of bed until 8:30. It’s a public holiday in South Africa — Freedom Day, which commemorates the country’s first democratic elections in 1994 — so I gave myself a pass to stay in bed late and not get dressed. (I’m currently still in pyjamas.)
I sat down at my laptop to edit through old photos. I’m currently editing September 2011, which was a very eventful month for me. During that month, I did the following:
1) Traveled to America to attend my grandmother’s funeral.
2) Got my first tattoo on a wild night out in Washington D.C., with my dear friends Claire and Michelle.
3) Visited my mom in South Carolina, where we took a long walk on the beach with her beloved schnauzer Trudy (now deceased), and had lunch at a traditional Lowcountry Gullah restaurant (now closed).
4) Spent quality time with my dad and sister and attended a Baltimore Ravens football game with Dad on the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
5) Returned to South Africa to find that Jon, who would die about three months later, had more-or-less adopted Smokey the Melville Cat, who was living a double life at the time but we didn’t know it yet.
I relived all these experiences, crying periodically, as I scrolled through the pictures. When I reached my photos from September 19th, of Jon and Smokey scampering around our old Melville garden, playing together with twigs and palm fronds, I had to stop. I stepped away from my computer and climbed back into bed.
Back under the covers, I switched on a podcast called: The Sunday Read: Closing the Restaurant That Was My Life for 20 Years. The broadcast is an audio recording of a New York Times Magazine story by restauranteur Gabrielle Hamilton, who runs a bistro called Prune in New York City’s East Village. Gabrielle, like most restauranteurs in New York and around the world — was forced to close her restaurant and lay off all her staff last month due to the pandemic.
The story was stunning: I both cried and laughed out loud while listening. If Gabrielle’s restaurant doesn’t survive the pandemic, her writing career certainly will.
The podcast made me think very deeply about restaurants, both in South Africa and America, and what they mean to me, and how they’re going to change for both better and worse because of COVID-19. Which restaurants will survive, and how? How will my own life change as a result?
One of the things I love about this pandemic is how deeply it’s making me think and feel. I love all the poignant writing and art, like this story by Gabrielle, that I’m being exposed to and have time to absorb. I love the emotion and creativity bursting out of people and onto the internet, because they have nowhere else to put it.
Once I finished that podcast I felt strong enough to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and sit down in front of my laptop to write this post. I’m grateful for that.
Today’s Worthy Cause
In honor of Gabrielle’s piece I’m featuring one of my favorite Jozi take-away restaurants, Fish Hook in Randburg. I wrote about Fish Hook last year in my Top 5 Fish and Chip Shops post.
The first time I went to Fish Hook, it was my birthday. When I mentioned that to Welman Son, the shop owner, he gave me my fish and chips for free. Welman is a very kind man.
Fish Hook has been struggling to pay its staff members’ salaries during the lockdown, and they still have to pay rent. At some point during the lockdown, Fish Hook’s electricity was turned off with no notification and they lost thousands of rands worth of frozen stock.
There is a GoFundMe page to help Fish Hook “stay afloat” (get it?). I just donated. Here is the page: https://gogetfunding.com/keep-fish-hook-afloat/. I really hope Fish Hook will be able to get back in business at the end of this week. I’ll be first in line for fish and chips.
Until tomorrow, friends.
Heather, I’m really loving your posts during this time – thank you. I read Gabrielle Hamilton’s piece in the NYT yesterday & felt so sad about the difficult decision she (& so many others) had to make, & yet optimistic about her thoughts on the future of the restaurant business. She wrote a book a few years back called Blood, Bones & Butter, which you might want to look out for – it’s a thoroughly satisfying read.
All the very best – it’s a trying time, & I don’t think our lives will ever be the same, but I hope that we will come out of this kinder & more thoughtful.
Thanks Kyra. I will definitely seek out the rest of her writing – I loved this piece! Especially the part where she writes about how she can’t wait to tell that woman that there will be no more brunch 😂
Those pictures of Jon and Smokey are so happy and peaceful.
As a long-time blogger, you have the great advantage of being able to go back in time and look what you were doing many years ago. With pictures. Really cool.
Thanks Catrina. I know I’m so fortunate! And it makes me realize how much of my life I would never remember unless I photographed/blogged about it.
Beautiful, moving post. I cried. Hug.
Thanks Margaret. Hugging you back!
Great post as always… I think that Prune restaurant is owned by the daughter of the legendary owner of Hamiltons Grill Room in Lambertville, NJ. A friend worked for him for many years.
I just googled her…Couldn’t find that in Wikipedia. Will have to more research!
I’m glad you climbed into bed. I hope Trixie gave you snuggles. It’s overwhelming going back into old boxes sometimes. One of my sisters finally got rid of a box of our deceased mother’s stuff this week. Didn’t really look through it again, or read anything in it. Even if you throw the physical box in the trash, the weight of the memories remain.
I totally get that.
Heather, I am one of the hundreds of people who follow your blog every day. You express your feelings so well, and whether happy or sad you get me THINKING about stuff apart from my own little locked-down situation. That is very necessary and certainly a good thing for you and for all of us. So for goodness sake don’t stop. It may feel like a frustrating monologue to you sometimes, but we are all out here listening to you. Maybe we could respond to you more often, but I for one do not respond unless I really have something to contribute.
Hi Stan, thank you so much! You certainly don’t need to feel compelled to respond but I’m happy for comments like this when I get them. I hope you’re doing well 🙂
I read every post when I get into bed at night. It’s my daily treat, and I look forward to it all day. Well, now you changed the times, and I just could not wait any longer. Lovely post, as always. Please keep them coming.
Hahaha, thanks Di. I was just telling someone how good it feels to have the afternoon ‘off’ for the first time in 35 days! The best 😂
Albeit that most social media “challenges” suck, we are all finding ourselves doing unexpected things. So this post got me thinking – how about moderating a tatoo challenge. Could be a fun diversion for a while. “I’ll show you mine of you show me yours …”
I just finished listening to the podcast by Gabrielle Hamilton…and be still my heart! An analogue girl in a digital world. I will probably buy her cookbook to get a taste of Prune. I definitely travel for food and if I ever find myself in New York, I will pick up the phone and make that reservation.
Me too. I was captivated.