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06 Aug / Strategy Days

‘Hello and welcome to this two-day planning session. I’d like to start by suggesting a couple of things be done which your unit has already tried several times in the past but which I wasn’t employed at the time to observe, so think haven’t been tried and are exciting and new ideas.’

‘Sounds fantastic. I’d like to bring up an opinion that was shot down three years ago, but which I didn’t really understand the reasons for it not being incorporated so have held back as a long-standing grudge.’

‘That’s great. Thanks for participating. In fact I’d like to encourage everybody to participate, so that I can misinterpret it and use it against you in future conversations.’

‘Buzzword. Buzzword.’

‘That sounds a really sensible idea. I don’t understand why you do this thing you’re paid to do that tracks the things that you’ve previously been told to track. Why does that happen?’

‘Oh, now that I think about it I’ll disown all responsibility for that, and thank you for the great perception and insight you’ve brought to the table.’

‘Is it okay now to bring up the thing that didn’t work when I tried it halfheartedly with my team that one time which doesn’t really prove my point one way or another, or should I save that for later?’

‘I think that should wait until we transpose the digits on the whiteboard and confuse everyone because what they’re looking at on the printout in front of them is completely different.’

‘Oh good. Did I ever tell you about the time that the thing happened to me that isn’t relevant to this conversation?’

LUNCH!

‘Now while you were all out of the room for ten minutes we’ve rewritten a whole lot of stuff on the board to reflect our minority opinion.’

‘But we won’t lock that in until…’

‘It’s locked in.’

‘Buzzword. Buzzword.’

‘That’s great. Keep that sort of thought coming.’

‘ ‘

‘Really great contributions from everyone here today. Does anyone has a dissenting view that we can look confused about before we move on as though it wasn’t spoken aloud?’

‘Hey, I think this thing that looks like it’ll take about three years could be a quick win for us. No I didn’t say that. You misunderstood.’

‘We’ve certainly got some strong and positive vibes coming through, I think we’re almost finished and have everything tied up apart from this list of things we didn’t even touch upon and this other list of things we haven’t reached agreement on.’

‘It’s definitely been a productive couple of days so we’ll just clean up here and schedule another day or two to address the few remaining ends we have to pretend we’re considering before we just go ahead and do what we did last year.’

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04 Aug / Doctors

Every three months or so I trot along to my doctor’s office for a regular check-up. There’s medication to be adjusted and restocked, arms to squeeze blood pressure readings out of, and injections to be administered in my nether regions.

This is all par for the course, and nothing more nor less than to be expected.

The public weighing is a new thing, and I’m not all that pleased about it.

Back in the day, six months ago and prior, my doctor had a small scale in her room which she kept underneath the wheeled cabinet which contains gloves syringes, cotton wool and bandages.

Each time I turned up for an appointment it would be dragged out, and I would take my shoes off, step onto it, and a private notation would be made as to the reading on its little screen.

Things have changed.

Remember when the pharmacist used to have a full size weighing machine outside which was coin operated? They used to be fun to stand on when I was a child, but no one ever knew how much they weighed on it, because it wasn’t the sort of thing to actually spend hard-earned pocket money on.

My doctor has splashed out, and brought a similar model. Unfortunately, this one isn’t coin-operated so I can’t get out of standing on it just by pleading poverty. Worst of all, instead of being neatly tucked away inside her room, it’s located out in the middle of the surgery.

Yay. Going to the doctor just got even more fun.

It doesn’t help that at the moment it’s probably best she has a full size model, as chances are that I’d break a more petite version. Not the point at all.

Privacy. That’s the watchword of the day. Privacy.

After all, if I’m going to be fat that’s my own business. No one should be able to tell just by glancing over at me, while I’m on the scale.

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There I was, walking through the supermarket and minding my own business, when a packet fair sprung out from the shelves and screamed ‘Buy me! Buy me!’

I’d been fairly good up to that point. My one treat item had been some fresh bread. And a packet of potatoes thinly sliced, salted, and fried in oil. And a bunch of rice pressed into a delicious healthy treat, then slathered with cheese and fat. And a… never mind, this is getting me nowhere.

Needless to say, I was having a normal shopping experience where I was ignoring the list I’d painstakingly drawn up in favour of grabbing things that my stomach insisted it deserved off the shelves. I’d put about half of them back, which is a good week, and then I saw the dream item from hell.

Breakfast biscuits.

I’ve never heard of such a thing before. I may never hear of them again if they’re as patently ridiculous as their name sounds.

I grabbed them, and scurried to the checkout before I could change my mind.

It’s probably worth noting that at this stage I had no idea of what was in these biscuits. There was a list of ingredients of course, that’s mandated by law, but my darling frowns upon the reading of labels in the supermarket. It upsets his routine.

True story, his mother once walked through a supermarket collecting the items she collected each week, and almost fell into a construction pit in the middle of the store, because she was just looking at the next item on her list. Luckily her husband had chosen that day to accompany her and dragged her out of harm’s way.

These are the genes that were passed down to my darling. It’s not his fault, really. He has a list. He puts items on the list as things run out at home. He doesn’t try something new. Ever.

He doesn’t need to read the list of ingredients because he already knows them off by heart after having eaten the same item made by the same brand for at least forty of the last fifty years. You don’t want to be around him when they discontinue items. He often chooses to just eat less for a time until something sorts itself out.

Once I’d got the fantastic new item home, I cracked open the box and took one of the breakfast biscuit packs out of it. There are five. Well, not now because I’ve had them for two days, but there were.

Each packet has two biscuits. I don’t know why this is the appropriate serving size when you choose to have biscuits for breakfast, but it’s the size they come in so it must be right.

In case you’re wondering if these biscuits are like the North American biscuits that we would more appropriately call unlevened scones, or if you were one of those weird creatures from across the ditch you’d call damper, don’t continue to wonder. They’re not. They are sweet biscuits held together with chocolate hazelnut cream filling.

At least, the ones I purchased are. I did have the choice of other flavours of creamy filling, but this one appealed to me more than the yoghurt or strawberry or I-don’t-know-because-I-didn’t-have-enough-time-to-read-them flavours.

And what, pray tell, makes them biscuits appropriate for breakfast rather than dessert or afternoon tea? The label stating that they’re for breakfast which gives me permission as early in the day as I please. That’s all I needed. Thank you Sunblest. You are blessed amongst biscuit makers.

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01 Aug / Animal Hospital

I was sitting on the couch this morning, finishing up with a never-ending continuation of the Windows 10 upgrade, and trying to ignore the fact there were chores that probably should be done otherwise we’ll soon be living in a hovel, when there was an almighty BANG on the window.

The sound when a bird flies full-tilt into a window that it really should be noticing is so shocking that I wish they’d pay more attention. Honestly, I know it often kills them, but it frazzles my nerves something awful as well.

I went outside, expecting to find a dead bird, but found a live bird in its place. There were some bird friends? enemies? out there with her. I’m not sure whether they were trying to help or what, but three male sparrows dive bombing one vulnerable female around the tale region seemed more like they might not be helping.

In my defence, if they were helping they were pretty bad at it.

Opening the window put paid to whatever services they were or weren’t offering the distressed bird, and when the victim remained unmoving on the back porch I went forth to rescue her.

She was little and frightened and her eyes were at half mast. I decided it was unsafe to leave her sitting on the ground within eyeline of neighbourhood cats, so I picked her up carefully and placed her inside one of the bird’s nests I’ve collected over the years.

Not the one with the dead monarch butterfly, blue marble, and empty eggshell because those are my favourite treasures, but in the next best bird’s nest.

Once she was safely in her new home, I went inside to fetch her something to eat. I haven’t read a lot of books (any) on sparrow concussion, but I’m sure that having a large chunk of bread can’t hurt the situation any.

Her beak was firmly open, so there wasn’t much chance of getting any of it down her gullet, so I left it perched in front of her face. Her eyes went down to half-mast again, so I stroked her carefully down her backbone? and her eyes flicked fully open again.

Thinking back on it this was possibly due to the terror of having a large creature pick her up, place her in a strange location, dump some artisan sourdough bread which even the creature finds difficult to swallow in front of her, and then attempt to crush all her back feathers into some strange new pattern with her abrasive phalanges.

After a few more trips to check on her, she eventually recovered enough to stare at me with stark horror, and fly away.

They grow up so quickly.

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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.

Statistics.

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.

Analysis.

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

Spreadsheets.

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

Powerpoint.

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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