Katherine Hayton | BLOG

08 Jun / The return

Today I turned up for work with my winter white arms, and my pale blue legs, both of them well hidden beneath layers of wool as befits a day that starts off with degrees counted in negatives.

I shivered through the first hour of work until the air conditioning kicked in. The positives of being dropped off to work in the morning are sometimes hard to weigh up against the misery of turning up to an environment that is hostile and ignores that you’re there.

Once the air conditioning started I went to get myself a coffee from the new coffee machine. That would warm my body up to body temperature and then I could hopefully keep myself in stasis until it was time to leave.

Our new coffee machine makes exceptionally strong coffee compared to our old machine. As well as that added benefit it also uses fresh milk from a little fridge next to the machine.

Once my cup was fully finished with a flourish of steam I took a grateful sip.

Do you like greek yoghurt? I prefer my yoghurt a bit sweeter and with a fruit or vanilla flavour. I really don’t enjoy greek yoghurt at all.

I especially don’t like it when my morning coffee treat appears to have a hefty dollop of greek yoghurt deposited in it.

On later investigation it turned out that the fresh milk in the little fridge to the side of the machine is only fresh when the little fridge door stays shut over the weekend.

I poured my treat coffee out and had an instant coffee instead. Black.

Settling myself back into my desk and grimly facing the thought of a week full of work ahead, my team leader breezed by with a cheerful ‘Good morning.’

She has just returned from four weeks in Thailand where temperatures have perched approximately thirty degrees above our own. Her skin tone has darkened at least eight shades, and she wore short sleeves and a short skirt in order to show her tan off.

My internal temperature dropped another degree and I started to shiver again.

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06 Jun / Private Jokes

I started a new book in bed last night.

No, not the Kama Sutra. I’m too old for all those bendy things. It was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, and I’m using the term “book” loosely.

What it really is, is a keen observation of the inside of my brain.

I don’t know when she had the occasion to peek inside there, or why she thought it necessary to graphically represent it so accurately, but it is so.

I know this because the secret internal thought processes that I keep to myself (and believe me I keep very little to myself) were written out in perfect detail within its pages.

And they were funny.

Funny, funny, funny, funny, funny, funny, funny.

I was trying to read quietly, because that’s what you do when you’re reading in bed next to someone who is also reading. You don’t want to be making a whole lot of extraneous sound effects unless you’re actively trying to annoy them for some light relief before going to sleep.

After a while though, I had to giggle. It was tickling my funnybone, and I could no more keep quiet than I could stop reading.

The bad thing about my giggle though, was that it opened something that is commonly referred to as a “floodgate” and a whole lot of other laughter that had been stored up behind it was suddenly released.

I thought each time that I’d got it under control, and then I would read another page, and another burst would – for want of a better word – burst out of me.

After the laughing came the snorting, then the soundless laughter where you’re laughing so hard that your muscles all lock up and no sound can emerge even though you desperately need it to.

After the soundless laughter came the convulsions where I almost dropped the book because my whole body was now trying to expel laughter and the muscle groups that normally deal with that detail were unequal to the task at hand.

Then I got to the end of the story, turned off my book, and closed my eyes.

‘What was so funny?’

‘You wouldn’t understand.’

Is there anything better and worse than experiencing a private joke?

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04 Jun / The rules

Today we spent a good ten minutes updating the “rules” for the new staff who will soon be joining our ranks on the floor.

Years ago, we realised that when staff went off the rails it was usually in the same direction. Although we force new staff members to read through a long list of terms and conditions of employment on their very first day in the office, they usually treat it the same as I treat the T&Cs from Google. Yeah, sure, accept, accept, accept.

So we streamlined the main culprits, the inter-office email chats, the unusually high internet activity, and boiled it down into a current hits list of don’ts.

Whichever team leader loses the draw gets to deliver it to the eager faces down in the training room.

They get to watch as those hopeful grins turn doubtful, and then change into a rictus of fear.

It’s when you get to that point you know that you’ve made your message clear.

As an added bonus this year we updated things along the lines of various discoveries we’ve made over the years.

1) If you make people phone their team leader when they’re calling in sick, they have less sick days.

An interesting discovery, and one which we’ve updated in the DON’T document today.

2) If people have earphones in they ignore their team members and don’t answer the phone and all unit spirit dissipates into the ether and we’re left with a load of people who suddenly realise they’re being seriously underpaid.

NO EARPHONES ALLOWED. (We can’t afford to pay you more, talk to each other)

3) If you don’t let your staff charge their cellphones at work when you have an earthquake you can’t fulfill your team leaderly duties by phoning them because they’re batteries are all flat.

Go on. Use the company’s electricity. It’s free. We may want to call you and make sure you’re not dead one day.

There’s probably more stuff we could be tweaking, but that was ten minutes worth and we do have day jobs to be getting on with, you know.

For more tips on how to scare and disempower YOUR workforce tune in tomorrow.

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02 Jun / New peeps

Today my little work team of four FTE and five staff expanded massively to six FTE and seven staff. Luckily three of them were away or I would’ve been completely overwhelmed.

For weeks leading up to this day I’ve been thinking, gosh won’t it be great when the new peeps start because they could do THIS instead of me having to.

Come to the actual day, and all of the THIS disappeared, and left me with not much to show the newbies at all.

All of the grunt work I was swearing under my breath about, gone.

All of the new projects that I was swearing aloud but quietly about, started.

All of the documents that I was swearing at volume about, updated.

Gosh darnit, but I’m efficient and then some.

It’s left me trawling back through my to-do lists for the past couple of months, where all the items that I really wanted to be getting on with but couldn’t because I was only one woman damnit, have been storing up their workload of goodness.

Once I have that compiled then I just have to deal with the next problem.

In order to teach someone how to do something it’s necessary to show them how to do something which requires the same amount of time, if not more, than doing the something required in the first place. Then there’s the preparation of the training materials for things I didn’t need training materials for previously because I was the only one interested in doing them.

If I didn’t have time before when I only had five staff to look after, how am I meant to do it with seven?

Oh the pressure.

Luckily there’s only two and a half months to go and then I’ll be winging my way overseas on a holiday to recuperate. Phew. I feel like I’ve earned it already.

Bring on day two.

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01 Jun / Impounded

Yesterday I was sitting peacefully at my computer looking at things I shouldn’t be, when there was a strangled yell from outside, and my darling bounded through the front door.

As he slammed it behind him and continued to run around the corner I began to form a vague idea of what had just happened.

Sure enough, the dog from next door was in our section again.

I’ve emailed the council about this dog previously, and was reassured by the dog pound people that they’d paid a visit and ensured that there was a sufficiently well fenced area that the dog could be contained within. They’d even suggested that the neighbours drop their phone number in to all of their neighbours so that we could call if the dog got loose again.

The phone number in the letterbox never eventuated, and the dog continued to roam through the neighbourhood freely whenever it felt like it.

Apart from occasionally yelling at it out of the windows it hasn’t been too much trouble since. We can yell. We can yell very scarily when we’re safely inside.

But yesterday the dog was under the tree, and the sun was in my darling’s eyes, and the dog tried to exit the property by running directly at him.

And girly screams and running.

Well, this time I was talking a stand. There was to be no email this time. No.

I picked up the phone and I called the council directly.

Ben was having a bit of trouble with his computer but I managed to stress the words large and dog several times, along with tossing the colour scheme of brindle in there because no one likes a brindle dog (except for brindle dog owners I presume).

Not too much time passed and a dog van pulled up across the street from our neighbours. A few minutes more and a second van turned up.

We’ve heard that oftentimes the police only have one van out patrolling the streets of Christchurch, but if you’re a dog on the loose watch out.

They sat for a while and surveyed the scene. Then they pulled into the driveway and the action started.

There was chasing and yelping and ‘whose a good dog, you’re a good dog’-ing, and then a whole lot of hammering.

We received a phonecall later to say that the dog had been lying in the sun on the front porch, but due to our dobbing him in they’d discovered the gate was broken and had taken the opportunity to secure the dog on the property by fixing it up with a bit of DIY.

Here’s hoping that’s the last time either of us run screaming across the driveway certain that jaws of death are about to fasten on our backsides.

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When I was on holiday (ah sweet holiday where did you go?) I started a mammoth task in the front room. Over the past year it’s steadily become a giant wardrobe for my ever-burgeoning selection of clothing in multiple sizes due to weight changes.

From being a giant wardrobe it then started to resemble a teenager’s bedroom.

I had clothing spread across the sofa. I had clothing in piles on the floor. I even had a few items of clothing in my spare wardrobe, but it was outnumbered there by food and electronic equipment, because what else is a wardrobe for?

I’ve tried to keep pretending that it’s all fine, it’s not out of control, but this lie has become harder and harder to tell myself.

Finally, I gave in and confronted the fact that I needed to organise the front room. And since most of the stuff was mine, this was going to be a solo journey.

I created more mess, briefly, as I sorted out all of my belongings into groups. Tops, bottoms, dresses/jumpsuits, undergarments, overgarments.

Once everything was in piles I took a little break, because that was a major effort, and then started on the next part of the experiment, which was seeing how I could store everything in its separate piles inside of the wardrobe.

I got most of the way through this new journey of discovery, when I discovered something rather unhappily against my plans.

The wardrobe I’m referring to is a mobile wardrobe. Or, to give it another name, a cheap piece of crap.

It’s basically an assembly of thin metal pipes that slot into (or hammer into if you want to be closer to the truth) little plastic joiny bits that hold it all together in a framework that resembles shelves and hanger space.

At one point there was also a cloth cover which zipped up along the front so I didn’t need to see the mess that was forming inside.

Perhaps I should have put the word cloth in “” because cloth doesn’t usually disintegrate in sunlight so that you can vacuum it up as powder. Powder with a couple of long zips in it.

The naked bones of the wardrobe looked cooler in a bohemian dream type of way, so I never bothered to try to find something else to take its place.

However, it’s possible that the “cloth” served another purpose in that it lent stability to the overall structure. Without it the entire wardrobe started to lean in different directions. After a time the plastic jointy bits started to crack where the pressure was now applied unevenly.

So, getting back to the major cleanup, I started to pile my piles into the shelf space that remained around the shelf space already reserved for electronic bits that may come in handy one day. I was down to my last two piles when there was a loud crack and the wardrobe started to lean to one side.

Well, it had been leaning to that same side for a while now, but it had some serious intent behind the lean now. It was leaning in a pay attention to me type of way.

I paid it attention by stopping what I was doing and announcing that I couldn’t complete the clean-up until I had purchased a new wardrobe.

There was no real incentive for me to buy a new wardrobe. I’m trying to save money at the moment, and the room looked a little bit cleaner and easier to navigate as it was. There was no hurry.

Monday night there was a large cracking sound and a thump. My darling jumped off the couch to investigate. I followed more slowly as I had a good idea of what we were going to find.

The purchase of a new wardrobe moved up my to-do list.

So after scanning the pages of Trade Me for hours, I now have a new wardrobe. It’s made of a lot of cubes that I assembled this morning, then disassembled when I was halfway through, then assembled once more in a structure that made a bit more sense.

I’ve tried to pour the entire room into this little collection of cubes, and I’m now most of the way there.

I’m ignoring for the time being the fact that the wires and plastic joiny bits remind me very strongly of the start of another piece of furniture that I once owned.

I’m sure it will all be fine.

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It’s been a while since I performed the two core duties that the majority of our unit performs.

When I was performing these duties, I kicked arse. Or, if you’re a citizen of the United States of America, I kicked ass. Now I only have the memory of kicking arse (ass).

When asked specific questions, about a specific situation, I can usually stall for long enough by typing in numbers on a computer screen to bring up views that I probably don’t need in order to internally trawl my memory for the few cells that contain information relevant to the problem at hand.

There is nothing that a few brain cells with a tad of memory can’t fake to reliably impress upon someone that the situation they’re striking is nothing new, we’ve been down this track before, and don’t worry we can solve it.

Sometimes these things are even coincidentally true.

However, when new young minds are entrusted to my care and long hours are to be filled with the knowledge of how to do their job…

I’m not sure I can show my face again tomorrow.

A brief memory filtered through to my subconscious about three minutes into the training session that there was a reason I’d run full tilt screaming away from training as a career.

It wasn’t the humans, although they’re a definite drawback.

It wasn’t the hours of preparation, because lets face it who can be bothered with preparation when winging it will do.

No, it was the intense sensation of loneliness you can feel when all eyes in the room are on you and you’re somehow expected to know stuff.

Hey, I know stuff. I don’t need to be cross examined about it every day by some wannabes, okay?

Thank goodness that tomorrow I’m going back to my good old ‘Oh yes dear, don’t worry, we’ve all had THAT error message before.’

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27 May / The Dentist

The last time I visited a dentist he examined my teeth (well, duh) and announced that there wasn’t a lot of room for my growing wisdom teeth, and I should probably have those out the next time I visited.

That was twenty three years ago.

In my defence, it turns out that there was almost enough room for my wisdom teeth. Almost.

My perfectly straight bottom teeth now have a slight snaggle to them, but that sort of stuff just adds character. Right?

Lucky for me I grew up in a suburb that embraced fluoridated water, and I haven’t had any problems that necessitated a visit before now.

Throughout all the visits of my young years the worst thing that ever happened was that I received one small filling. And when I say small, I mean the dentist didn’t even offer me pain relief because it was over before I even knew it was happening.

Usually I wouldn’t bring up dentists, because I don’t think about them that often. Absence has not made the heart grow fonder. But tonight dentists are on my mind.

My tooth is very sore.

That sounds a bit weak compared to what I’m experiencing.

Very, very sore. Indeed

My tongue keeps going for an exploratory journey to see what’s happening in sore toothland, and then snapping back to the front when it finds out that it’s still a pain swamp back there.

The edge of my tooth is so rough that I’ve even started to consider that I may have broken it somehow. Between the soft cheese and the chicken I’m not sure what it found to break itself on, but I’m not thrilled at the direction my mouth is going.

There is a dentist on the corner. I always cross the street just before I have to walk past it because superstition.

Another day or two and I may just have to book myself a visit.

No more than a month or two, anyway.

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26 May / What holiday?

Last year I experienced the best holiday I’ve ever had the pleasure to laze my way through.

There was sun and sand. There was good company and good food. There was no work and plenty of play.

If I close my eyes now I can still picture key moments from that holiday. I can feel the sun on my shoulders as I read on a lounger after taking a dip in the pool. I can feel my teeth saying NO and my belly saying YES and them fighting it out over a bowl of ice cream. I can remember walking in the sand in my bare feet, and the feel of my rough skin being worn smoother and smoother each day.

Last week I was on holiday. I can’t even remember what we did.

There was a trip to Hanmer Springs and a dip in the hot pools, but aside from that and an excellent Butter Chicken and Naan Bread I can’t pinpoint a single moment.

Where do they go?

I scrimp and save my holidays, and when it comes to the glorious days when I spend them wildly, I can’t even recall what I paid them out for.

I’d say it was like gambling, if I ever spent money on gambling and could therefore personally relate the two experiences together in a believable way.

I’m not complaining, and I’m certainly not forsaking any future holidays in some gesture of despair, but wouldn’t it be good if holidays could be ordered over the internet (I mean metaphorically; I am aware you can book and pay for holidays over the internet) that catered exactly to your needs?

I need as least three days of being so relaxed that I can’t tell where the couch ends and I begin. I want a pool so enticing that I won’t get out even when my fingers pucker up like a young dog’s asshole. I’ll pay extra for vanilla ice cream that’s melted just enough to let your spoon run through it with no resistance.

Oh, and I’ll take eight pounds of weight gain that I’m too happy to care about, thanks.

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