One of the really cool things I did from 30 March to 5 April, all while in lockdown, was an online memoir style writing course with my long time friend and brilliant writer Melinda Ferguson. It was pretty intense, and took us all to some real pain spots. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; some of the stuff we wrote about was hilarious, if not seriously bleak and dark.

I now have a small body of work created in that time and I thought it might be fun to share some of it here. It’s not like it’s destined for anywhere else, and I love this blog space, even though it is weathered and a bit neglected.

I thought I would start with this fun exercise, where we wrote about lockdown diaries day 10, and then day 100.

Corona diaries Day 10

It is only because I am lying on the floor on my Pilates mat that I notice it. Corona Zoom Pilates has become a thing, and my mat, usually squeezed between my cupboard and the wall and used for emergencies (I don’t know what kind, I haven’t actually needed a Pilates mat in an emergency), is now always in the lounge.

Linus, my boy dog, dog of my heart, IBD sufferer, Hobbit hairy foot, stinky breath, spatchcock lying down boy, is lying near me, waiting to see what I am going to do next. That’s how it has been in the house since lockdown. The dogs don’t trust me anymore. Anyway, I am staring at Linus’s body and I see that he has a weird, scaly, flaky, lumpy growth on his elbow. It is huge, and gross. What the fuck has happened, and how did I not notice this before? Well, that part is easy. Linus’s fur hides a universe of weird things.

I jump up, banging my knee on the furniture I have moved so I can paint the skirting boards, and go and take a closer look. The Game of Thrones scale disease has found its way onto Linus’s elbow (do dogs have elbows?).

I am hysterical. I call the vet. It takes an age for someone to answer. “Look, look, I know this isn’t an emergency emergency, but Linus has a sci-fi growth, fungus, goitre thing going on! I need to bring him in!”

She tells me to take photos and WhatsApp George (I am deeply in love with George. Have been for two generations of dogs and three generations of cats).

I squeeze Linus between my knees and photograph the flaking abomination. I send the pictures to George and wait.

George the saviour, the calm and thorough, the dog whisperer, messages back. “Common in dogs who have spent the summer lying on cool cement floors. Put Bactroban on. For 4 days. Then once or twice a week.”

And then…

Corona Diaries day 100

Friday 3 July (this is fiction! I am changing names to protect the real people)

We meet secretly at the top of the road. It is freezing. Only 7am and still dark in the middle of Cape Town winter. The dogs, now completely used to never leaving the house, are silhouetted by the stoep light as they wait for me, ears pricked.

Fikkie from the corner house and I have gone into business, desperado style. I have two packets to bring him today, and he has a small wad of cash for me.

Marion appears on her stoep with her cup of coffee and gives us the stank eye. She is religious and doesn’t approve of our little arrangement. Also, she is the unofficial street compliance officer and Fikkie and I really don’t want her to call the police. Really.

I smile at Marion and wave. Fikkie follows suit. I turn my back to her, and hand Fikkie the Checkers packets stuffed with the leaves, ready to be oven dried, cleaned, shredded and rolled.

It was an accident, I swear. On day 10 of lockdown I had found some fruit and vegetable seeds and planted what I had thought was cabbage and coriander. Instead the healthiest tobacco plants had speed grown and flourished – I have had all the time in the world to care for them – and I had approached Fikkie, a Woodstock hanger abouter, on WhatsApp to ask if he could help me. He had jumped at the chance.

So now I grow the stuff in my back courtyard, and he processes it, home grown style. Luckily he has a stash of rizla paper, stockpiled in the early days of cigarette banning.

Now we sell Fikkie’s Entjies, five a pack, loosely bound with elastic bands, totally organic and without harmful chemicals, to the neighbourhood. We can’t keep up with the demand.

Today I’ll be able to order much needed dog food.