Katherine Hayton | 2015 July

July 2015

When I looked up the other day to see how to get Windows 10 installed on my own timeline (I turned off windows updates years ago because I don’t like having anything drop by unannounced, even updates) I noticed that there were a few people reporting there was an error saying ‘something happened,’ which they couldn’t get past.

This was reported in text only, so I made the rather foolish assumption that they meant there was a more specific error which meant that something happened which stopped the upgrade.

Oh no. That would be too easy. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, welcome to the most helpful Windows error message yet:

Way to waste my time Windows 10. I don’t mean providing me with unenlightening messages that look like they might have started life as a program placeholder to come back to later (or not as it turned out), I just Googled the answer to that conundrum and was done with it.

No, the bit that took the time was finding the hashtag on twitter and reading the random nonsense that this particularly existential explanation had spawned.

I hold a strong belief that people are at their best when they’re mocking. It truly releases fonts of creativity that would otherwise go untapped. To appreciate this, it’s essential that every last sarcastic comment is read.

So, thank you Windows. Thank you for releasing such glorious fodder to the creative geniuses of our current generation.

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29 Jul / Introverts

Despite being half of the population (or maybe more, we do keep to ourselves after all) introverts just don’t have a lot of events catered to their needs.

Next week, we’re going to be offsite for two days of torture discussion about the strategy and direction of our unit for the coming year.

I know, right? Bundles of fun all around.

In addition to this horror-show being slowly drawn out over two full working days, I’ve been belatedly informed that on the first day I’m also attending (that’s an order) a delightful evening meal to commence directly after our fun-filled extravaganza of a strategy day.

There are certain rules that should guide all planning sessions that involve introverts.

Rule Number One: Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone. Give them alone time.

This is the ultimate rule that should always be observed. If you fail to follow this rule you’ll have a group of burned out, irritable people making up approximately fifty percent of your group. It may not be the origin of ‘going postal’ but it certainly mimics many of the key features.

Rule Number Two: Introverts like being invited to things. Invite them to things. They can then turn you down politely.

Just because I would rather gouge my eyes out than be trapped at a table in a restaurant for a meal that’s going to be served long after I’ve stopped feeling hungry, and the digestion of which will keep me awake long past my bedtime, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be invited.

On the other hand the key word here is invitation. I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go. If you make me go you’re breaking rule number one, and you won’t like me when I’m over-socialised.

Rule Number Three: If you break rules one and two I will take introverted revenge.

Okay, you extraverts. You catered for your own needs. You planned things out your own way. You think things are going to be pretty sweet during the social days from hell.

You’re especially looking forward to going out for a nice meal afterwards. I bet you’re planning on making it last for a really long time so you can wring maximum enjoyment out of it. I can hear you ordering your dessert course now and making me realise that I’m at least half an hour away from freedom.

I’ve got one word for you.


You think you can trick me into participating in lively discussions all day long, and then unwind later over a long degustation? I’ve got a few more one-words.


Oh, is that a bit more social fun you’re trying to force down my throat?


Really? It’s compulsory to join in the group activity and role-play?


Yeah, you just try to run.

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27 Jul / Time-travel

I’ve spent a lot of the past few weeks dreaming about my upcoming holiday. I firmly believe that this holiday is going to be a good one, a holiday to beat all other holidays in fact, mainly because it hasn’t arrived to not live up to my expectations.

An unfortunate side-effect has been my decreasing ability to tell what day or time it is. Slips of the mind that are perfectly natural on beach holidays, but slightly more concerning when attempting to perform my officely duties.

Today I was unhappily ensconced in a meeting room, when I looked down at my watch to check on the time. It said 2.00pm which was patently ridiculous as it was still morning. Stupid Samsung watch. Or, I’d been replenishing my lives on Farm Heroes and forgot to reset the time afterward.

Except, it wasn’t the fault of the watch or my gaming addiction. It really was 2.00pm. I was eventually able to verify this myself by recalling that I’d sat in the breakout area and enjoyed lunch a few hours beforehand.

At least that one was headed in the right direction. Last Friday I had my more usual wake up in the morning before the alarm dead-set certain that it was Saturday only to find out it wasn’t.

Fair enough. On Saturday at midday I thought that I was at home on a weekday, and didn’t bat an eyelid that my darling was also home, even though on the rare occasions that we’re sick at the same time I force myself to go to work because being sick at work is better than listening to someone else be sick at home.

In two weeks and four days (not that I’m counting) this will all be irrelevant because everyone knows that holidays at the beach reside outside of the time space continuum unless you want to have an evening meal at three in the afternoon in which case it reasserts itself pretty sharpish.

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Ooooohhh. Aaaaaaahhh.

I hope you all have a nice slow Internet connection so that the cover reveal was slow and meaningful and not all just in-your-face thereness. After all, I wasted spent hours designing that for your viewing pleasure.

You’ll be please to know that this cover comes to you absolutely free with the purchase of Breathe and Release, due for release on 31st August 2015.

(Unless I finish all the little fiddly bits early, whereupon it may be sooner. It can’t be later or Amazon will take away pre-order privileges from me, and I have so few privileges these days that the loss of any of the few I have would leave be bereft.)

In order to convince you to buy it, below you’ll find an excerpt of the first chapter. This is sometimes called a ‘reveal,’ as was the cover above. I call it ‘I couldn’t think of anything to blog about tonight because my life is empty of interest.’

Please note, that this excerpt (and indeed the rest of the book) is currently undergoing an intense proofread and therefore any mistakes I couldn’t possibly count as my own, as they truly belong to the person who hasn’t yet found them and pointed them out to me.

Point them out to me here at your own peril. Or, you know, for a quick and easy, ‘Thank you, that saved me having to fix it later.’

Chapter One

Elisabet woke for the first time one morning. An odd occurrence as she was an adult woman, but although she knew that she didn’t know much else.

She had no memories. There was a lot of knowledge in her head, untethered, but there were no memories to accompany it except for those she’d formed since waking.

They’d been uniformly bad.

Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her back ached, and she couldn’t rotate her right shoulder at all.

She insisted that the pretty blond nurse who was tending to her bring a mirror so she could waylay her first horrified thought, that she was old. She wasn’t, but that was the end of the good news.

She was in a hospital, and judging by the sour looks on some faces and the harried expressions on others, she didn’t think it was a good one. A public hospital for sure.

At least in ICU it was one patient, one nurse, and Elisabet liked hers. The nurse’s hair gleamed and was cut in a short bob. It curled under her chin in a way that made Elisabet shiver with delight. She was pretty, but not in a way that time would treat well. Her chin was weak, and her cheeks were shaped from fat not bone.

At the moment no one would notice because of her plump lips, and the rose flush of her skin. Her gleaming white teeth were so perfect an orthodontist would shrink from them as they contained no hope for paying to send kids through university.

Machines beeped and churned around Elisabet. Those she was hooked to weren’t too bad, she had to tolerate them. She didn’t see why she should put up with those attached to other patients. Their sounds were far more annoying, and she wished they’d all fall silent.

Bet that would keep the nurses busy.

A doctor popped in to see her. He flashed a bright light into Elisabet’s eyes by way of welcome, then helped himself to the seat next to her bed so her pretty attendee had to stand.

‘How’re you feeling?’

‘I’m in pain.’

He seemed surprised at that and gestured to the nurse who shook her head.

‘I asked to have my morphine reduced,’ Elisabet said. ‘I was having far too much fun.’

‘Can’t complain then.’

As though one followed the other. There were billions of people in the world right now, most of them not in pain and not taking morphine. If Elisabet wanted to complain about not being one of them, she felt she had every right.

‘Can you tell me your full name?’

She shook her head. Perhaps her lower lip pouted a tad too much, as he further inquired, ‘Is that because you can’t, or because you don’t want to?’

‘I don’t know my full name. What is it?’

He held up a long finger. Patience.

‘What about the year? Do you know what year it is?’

Elisabet shook her head, and a memory flashed into her brain. A contestant on Mastermind who’d picked a subject he didn’t know as well as he’d thought. Pass. Pass. Pass.

‘Who’s Prime Minister?’

‘David Lange,’ she said without even having to think about it. His frown told her that perhaps she should’ve given it a bit more time, but when she paused nothing else came. Her headache started to grow worse.

She didn’t like to lose, especially when the game should be so easy.

The doctor gave up and handed her a journal after a while. ‘To help your memory.’

Elisabet wasn’t sure what he thought a notebook that cost downwards of two dollars in any halfway decent stationery store would do, but when she asked him he just got excited.

‘You can calculate money then,’ he said, and handed her some loose change to count out to show him.

That was when he told her that she had a memory problem.

Elisabet personally thought that her memory was working just fine, thank you very much. She could remember every detail of everything she’d done since she woke up that morning.

Her doctor seemed to think there was another thirty-eight years’ worth of memories prior to that which would come in handy. Honestly, the way her head was pounding she didn’t know where they were going to fit in. Trying to squeeze fourteen thousand days in on top of the memories she’d formed that day was just asking for trouble.

* * *

There was an annoying man in the rehabilitation area. He kept crying and saying, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it,’ then made a series of grunts as he tried anyway.

He swung his legs forward, placing his feet carefully on the ground, then moved his arms along the parallel bars that kept him upright.
Honestly, you’d think his parents were zombies the way he shambled along. Zombies who didn’t instil the right measure of manhood in their son, the cry baby, thought Elisabet.

She didn’t cry out, and there was a furious bolt of pain ripping through her body with every step, too. Not to mention that her left arm wasn’t any too steady or reliable at the moment. Something to do with the side of her head that was caved in. She’d send a polite request out to the muscle ‘need a little help here’ and sometimes it was as obliging as a niece coddling up in hopes of an inheritance cheque, and sometimes it just sulked in its room with its headphones on.

She wasn’t very impressed with any of the other people who were here, actually. There just wasn’t a very high class of injured body at the hospital. They just didn’t take any pride in themselves. It was as though they didn’t think it was important to look their best at every moment.

Since Elisabet was judging everybody based on their personal appearance she presumed everyone else did, too. Therefore, she tried to maintain an immaculate facade. She was let down at that moment by the large patches of hair that were shaved off her head and the yellowing lumps down the left side of her face, but she was doing the best with what she had.

Anyway, hair would grow and lumps would flatten. Her face was fairly good looking aside from those immediate concerns. Smooth and unblemished, then lumpy, then smooth and unblemished again.

Not like the man who’d come in to visit her that day. Elisabet’s husband. Well, she’ll be the judge of that. His face looked like someone took a picture of a handsome man, then screwed it up and flattened it out. Creases everywhere.

She’d been a bit concerned there were so many lines on his face that it may actually have been due to injury, but when she mentioned that to him he’d screwed his face up and created even more, so whatever’d gone on was obviously self-inflicted.

That was an awkward meeting.

‘Elisabet. This is Graeme, your husband.’

It was the pretty young nurse that introduced him. Elisabet had been moved out of ICU into a separate room, but the nurse followed along. Elisabet no longer had her undivided attention, but she had enough to be getting on with.

She nodded and held out her hand because that was what you do, wasn’t it? He’d launched himself at her instead and started crying. Crying, and clutching at her back, her waist, her head. Elisabet waved her arms until the nurse tapped him on the shoulder and suggested he lay off for a while. Or, ‘I think you should take it slowly for a while,’ as she put it. ‘She’s had a nasty accident, and her memory is playing up.’

‘This is Kristen. Your daughter,’ he said.

‘Step-daughter,’ the girl corrected immediately. She glared at her with such resentment that Elisabet gave her a smile of appreciation in return. Nice attitude.

‘That’s not true, honey,’ her husband said. Elisabet scowled at him in unison with Kristen. ‘She’s your adoptive mother, remember?’

There was a muttered sentence, which may’ve translated into ‘When it suits,’ but Elisabet couldn’t be sure.

Kristen stood by the window. She was so tall that she reached the top of the old wooden mouldings. If her mouse brown hair wasn’t so lank she could’ve eclipsed them.

‘I’ll leave you alone to get reacquainted,’ the nurse said as she walked out of the room. Elisabet looked about for the call button in case she needed to fetch her back, sharpish.

‘I was so worried about you,’ her husband said as he sat on the side of the bed. It was too narrow for him to do it comfortably, and it knocked her off balance, but he didn’t seem to notice. She levered the sheets up so she could move farther away and sat with her back against the metal headboard.

‘Mmmmmm,’ Elisabet responded when it seemed he needed something from her. ‘Were you?’

‘Oh yes. I know we’ve been separated for a while now, but you know I still care for you.’ He reached out and tapped her nose with the knuckle of his forefinger.

‘Oh thank God,’ she said, as his words registered. She’d been wondering what on earth she was doing with the idiot, but a separation explained a few things.

Kristen snorted.

‘I know you’re having a bit of trouble remembering things at the moment,’ he said and stretched out his hand to brush at Elisabet’s fringe. She jerked back even though the movement caused her headache to worsen. ‘But don’t worry. I’ll be here if you need to know anything.’

‘We’re not meant to tell her, Dad. The doctor said to let her remember on her own.’

He shot her a look and Kristen moved farther down the wall, away from him. Elisabet raised her eyebrows and studied the two of them. Kristen was scared of him, or nervous at any rate. Elisabet wondered if she should be nervous, too. There was no harm in being careful.

Kristen pulled her phone out and started playing with it.

‘You can’t use that in here,’ Graeme said. ‘It mucks up the machines.’

‘That’s a load of rubbish,’ she responded. ‘They only leave those signs up because they want to control their patients. Anyway, she’s not even hooked up to anything,’ she said, the disappointment clear in her voice.

‘She’s the cat’s mother,’ Elisabet chimed in as the old phrase entered her head.

They both stared at her. She had nothing more to add.

‘Take it outside if you’re going to use it,’ Graeme continued. ‘We don’t need to get kicked out; we just arrived.’

‘Whatever,’ Kristen said, but left the room. Elisabet could hear her clomp down the hallway. The linoleum did nothing to disguise any sounds of movement. It was chosen for ease of cleaning, not for sound dilution.

‘So,’ Graeme said as he turned and stretched his legs out on the bed beside Elisabet. ‘Just the two of us.’

She didn’t know why that phrase should send a shiver of fear down her spine, but it did.

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23 Jul / Tissues

Tissues are amazing things. A bold statement for sure, but also justified.

They clear up the things that no other self-respecting fabric would go near. Okay, a hankie would do some of the same jobs, but if you’ve still got one of those in your pocket you need to beam back to the 1950s where your sort is still tolerated.

I have a bag full of the little beauties right next to me on the sofa. They’re admittedly not so beautiful as they started out, due to the nature of their job, but they’ve served their purpose well and deserve some respect. I have them in a separate bag next to me, because my nose is in fountain mode and I can’t be bothered walking all the way (two metres!) to the kitchen bin.

Besides, it’s best the two forms of rubbish don’t meet. One is hazardous human waste, and the other is hazardous vegetable waste. Who knows what sort of chemical warfare they may end up producing when combined?

There’s not only the tissues you use for wiping your nose, of course. They’re just the ones closest to my heart, or throbbing nasal passages, at the moment. No, there’s facial tissues for wiping off your make-up, if you use make-up, or toilet tissue for wiping down your toilet or something.

Really, if you were picking a job to be as an inanimate object (admittedly, inanimate objects aren’t usually known for exercising their rights to pick things, but bear with me) a tissue is probably not something that would top the list.

As is usual in these situations, the jobs least sought after are the very ones that we would miss most if they weren’t performed, yet monetarily value the least.

In the scale of human shopping, shouldn’t we spend more on the things that actively make our lives easier and better every day, and less value on the things that leave us indifferent?

If you were to take your average bag of toilet paper, four rolls of thick ‘n’ long, and stack it up against the moisturiser that you apply every day out of some lame attempt to cheat death, which would you think you should be forking out $1.99 for, and which would you price at $15.99.

Silly, isn’t it? If someone were to steal these two items from your household and then extort money from you at point-of-use, which would you pay out twenty bucks for?

Economics is a stupid system that should never be trusted.

Sure, there are high-minded types who would more eloquently say that if the world runs on a system that gives a father more incentive to sell his daughter into prostitution than to train her as a teacher then it’s time to get a new system, but you don’t need to get as elevated from your normal life as that.

Anyone who’s been caught short without a handful of tissue knows that there are some things more important than money. Economics means nothing when you have a handful of thin air, and a noseful of mucus.

But yeah, that human rights stuff too. As soon as tissue is valued appropriately, I’m all for getting that sorted as well.

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21 Jul / Kiwi chocolate

Oh, happy days. A Friday afternoon discussion led to the following correspondence with Whittaker’s chocolate:

Sent: Friday, 17 July 2015 5:12 p.m.
Subject: Lolly Cake Chocolate

Sent by: Katherine Hayton

Dear Whittaker’s,

Today our office pod had its usual Friday afternoon discussion about the various flavours of chocolate available, and have decided that if a chocolate maker were to produce a variety of Lolly Cake Chocolate we would definitely be hearty supporters of such a venture.

Do you know of any chocolate makers who would be interested in producing such a flavour?

Kind regards,

I expected this email would drop into the bottomless pit that is a corporation’s ‘Contact Us’ email address, but today I received the following in reply:

Good Afternoon Katherine,

Thank you for your product suggestion. I agree a Whittaker’s lolly cake would be a delicious product!

I have forwarded your email on to our product development manager and she will add your product suggestion to our customer database. We monitor this database with the marketing team to look for product trends so hopefully one day we will be able to consider this further.

Thanks again for contacting us. We hope you continue to enjoy our chocolate.

Kind Regards,
(name of representative removed for privacy reasons, hers not mine, I’ve failed miserably at maintaining my privacy by aggressively marketing myself)

P: +64 4 2375021 | F: +64 4 237 4743
PO Box 50139, Porirua 5024
24 Mohuia Cres, Elsdon, Porirua 5022

Tres excitement.

In case you hale from a country outside of New Zealand, lolly cake is a staple of our wide and varied culture. It is created by taking a packet of malt biscuits*, crushing them mercilessly into crumbs, mixing in sweetened condensed milk and melted butter (because biscuits don’t naturally contain enough fat and sugar) then chopping up an inappropriately named bag of lollies (Eskimos**) and mixing the whole lot together, rolling in coconut and popping in the fridge until set.

We call this baking. We don’t have a lot of call for pastry chefs down here.

Needless to say, the whole thing is absolutely delicious. It would be entirely appropriate for this fantastic tasting foodstuff to then be packaged into little squares, coated with Whittaker’s chocolate, and sold in family size bars. Even more fat and sugar can only be another improvement.

If any peoples of the world would like to help me in my quest, please feel free to drop your own inquiry through to Whittaker’s and see if we can raise some demand.

*Apparently there are some people in the UK who actually eat these as biscuits. You won’t find that happening in New Zealand. We have malt biscuits to make lolly cake, the same way we have reduced cream and onion soup to make dip. They exist solely for the purpose of the recipe we use them in.

**Eskimos are like fruit puffs, but are a tad racist and shaped like old-fashioned Inuit dolls. Yeah, I don’t know why either. I shudder to think the marketing department that dreamed that one up.

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20 Jul / Not fair

Ahem. Before I begin my rant tonight if there are any among you who are germs, or friends of germs, then you may want to stop reading here because offensive language is waiting for you further down the track.

I complained last week about the typhoid Mary that had brought disease into the midst of our pod. A completely inaccurate description because he wasn’t a Mary, and unlike the historical version he’d succumbed to the same disease he spread around rather than just being a carrier.

I complained about him because he’d passed his dirty little germs onto me, and they’d taken up residence in my beautiful warm moist nasal canal.

Over the weekend my spirits waxed and waned in tandem with my illness, but I came through relatively unscathed to join the working classes on a fine Monday morning with little more to show for my internal battle than a sexy-arse voice.

Well. It seems some cousins of my original germ family have decided that they like the view from my nasal cavity and have joined their relatives in squatting in my precious real estate.

Now, I’m okay with getting one cold every six months or so. Thems the breaks for being a social human. Thems also the breaks for being an anti-social human forced into a pretence of being social in order to earn a living.

But to have a cold less than a week after contracting my last cold is just not on. Not to mention that there I was celebrating my fantastic immune system that had run the rhinovirus out of town in less than a week, and I discover that meanwhile it failed to notice a bigger uglier version sneaking in the back.

And I know that this time it’s not going to be an easy ride. Oh no. My internal bits are already downtrodden from the last viral load. They aren’t ready to take another pounding. No wonder new tenants moved in. The inflamed surface must look like nice comfy padding to them.

There are over a hundred people on our floor. That means there are two hundred moist nostrils that these little critters could’ve called home. I suppose I should be flattered they chose me. I should be flattered they dragged their stinking sticky spiky selves into my deepest darkest places. But then again, I should be a lot of things.

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19 Jul / Almost perfect

Having taken a short break off from ginger crunch wars, I think I’m heading into a showdown tomorrow.

To prepare for battle I’ve taken the standard sugar component of the crunch out, and replaced it with a half and half mix of coconut sugar (deeper flavour and dries out the crunch nicely) and raw sugar crystals (adds its own crunch with no effort on my part).

I’ve also used a new dried ginger spice. I don’t know that it makes any difference to the flavour, but it comes in a nicer looking box than the last one I bought, and also had a free recipe for pumpkin soup included in the box.

It was a strange choice of recipe being as how there was no ginger involved in it at all, but I’ll have to wait until I open the second box before I work out whether this was a joke at the packing factory or part of their master plan for expansion by including recipes that contain the spices you haven’t bought yet.

Back to the ginger crunch I used a new twist on the ginger topping. Instead of making a fudge, toffee or standard recipe induced icing, I decided that the topping I love most in the world is a butter cream icing.

It may have its detractors, but if you overlook the cup of butter and three cups of icing that go into your standard buttercream icing (sized up or down) then all you’re left with is milk, and what’s wrong with a nice bit of milk, eh?

In order to replicate the stodge of the traditional topping I did move the proportions a bit, and was left with a lovely thick icing that dried very quickly and appropriately on top of the squares of crunch.

My hand is now exhausted because it was so thick that trying to pipe it through a little nozzle required a lot more effort than your standard cake decoration. I’m calling it my workout for the day. My body is a temple.

For anyone wanting to know how the final version worked out, I’ve included a few photos for your appraisal below.

It’s possible they could have used a tad more icing topping, but as it stands they’re almost perfect.

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17 Jul / Like flies

Working in pods is great. You get to have a chat with your co-workers, and get to know each other.

If you need a hand with something, there’s a captive pool of trainers and mentors awaiting you.

If you break open a cake of chocolate, you can guarantee that you won’t be the only one to eat it, and you find out what other human beings do on the weekend that you can never be bothered to do yourself.

Unfortunately there’s a downside to this particular brand of companionship. It comes in the form of viruses that use the closeness of our office relationship to spread their viral families and buy cheap real estate while we’re looking the other way.

There’s actually another downside which is if you’re an introvert it’s very hard to get your alone time to recharge your batteries when in such close proximity, but that will keep for another day.

On Monday there was a person in our pod who started to feel unwell. On Tuesday the same person was far sicker, but misery loves company so they dragged themselves into work to breathe their horrible, virus laden breath into the previously uncontaminated air that their pod buddies were also breathing.

On Wednesday, the ill person didn’t show. Everyone else did, but one had to leave early because they, too, had fallen ill.

On Thursday the same two staff were away, and another two staff members were starting to feel a bit off-colour.

This would’ve been an interesting study in the social life of disease, except I was one of those two staff members.

Not happy. Not interested. Except in grumbling. Man flu sometimes crosses the gender boundaries, you know.

Today was Friday and what would usually be the best day of the working week was instead full of coughing, spluttering and headaches. Pounding, pounding headaches.

It was also full of sugar. Sweet, sweet sugar. Diet’s out the window again. Those odd wee virus bodies moving through my bloodstream, not to mention my mucus stream, have powerful cravings that laugh in the face of my willpower.

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