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24 May / One year older

Today is my darling’s birthday. He’s one year older.

He’s also pretty sanguine about the whole thing because he’s had a week off to prepare himself. I also took a week off work, purely in support of him.

He’s returning the favour when I turn a year older in a month and a bit. He’s taking a week off in support of my birthday. It’s a bit annoying really, because I’m only taking 3 days off, but who am I to complain? He’s so much older than me he needs the extra time off work.

In honour of his birthday month this year (and yes, that’s a real thing if you’re a white privileged male in the minority world with too much time on your hands) I’ve got him…

Absolutely nothing.

Honestly, it’s what he asked for and the fact that I was only too willing to oblige was purely to do with supporting him, not because I’m a cheapskate who’s about to take an unpaid break from work.

These things aren’t even close to being related.

At the back of my mind all day long I have harboured a slight worry though. You know those people who say ‘Don’t throw me a birthday party, I couldn’t stand it if you made a fuss,’ and then when you don’t they get all upset?

Well, he’s not of those (I’m still with him) but there was the concern that when he said ‘Don’t buy me a present,’ he actually meant, ‘Don’t buy me a large present,’ and he was going to expect something nice and thoughtful and heartfelt, but cheap.

I am nothing if I am not a person who takes things literally.

There is no present. None. Nada.

I baked some chocolate cupcakes and put far too much butter icing on top of them. I gave him a headrub when he asked for one. I even did the dishes after baking because he likes a clean bench.

This is my present.

Happy birthday, and best wishes for the next year. I’ll have half those cupcakes too, thank you very much.

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21 May / Celebrations

Tonight I’m celebrating being in the final scene of the final chapter of the first draft of my new novel. Concurrently, I’m also watching the final of Survivor.

I feel these two things go together, though I’m reluctant to tease that simile out any more in case it all falls apart.

What I definitely feel like I need is some Champagne. Isn’t that what you’re meant to celebrate these small positive life experiences with? Mmmmmmmm Champagne.

Unfortunately, a life of debauchery lived in my teens and twenties has put that option off the table.

I’d substitute it with the next best thing, fizzy grape juice, but there are currently two drawbacks.

One: I don’t have any fizzy grape juice in the house, and

Two: Even if I did it has a whole lot of sugar in it and if I’m throwing around sugar calories I’m imbibing them in raspberry licorice or icecream, thank you very much.

I guess I’m stuck with my default position, sugar-free chocolate.

I’m quite amazed that I’ve managed to make chocolate, one of my all-time favourite food groups, sound like a plate of vegetables. Simply by the virtue of wanting something more.

I’m also quite amazed that I’ve managed to spend the last twenty minutes typing this out, rather than going ahead and finishing my first draft.

Oh man. There are so many themes of regret, and parallels between writing and food, and overarching story lines playing themselves out in these few paragraphs.

I could make this into a full-blown story about adult regrets and lost opportunities, but then I’d just start writing something else in order to avoid finishing the first draft.

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20 May / Lost forever

A day ago we returned from our big holiday in Hanmer Springs. The trip was an exhausting hour and a half drive, so in order to make sure we made it home before nightfall my darling insisted that we leave our unit by eight o’clock.

In the morning.

We couldn’t even check-out because the office wasn’t open. It opens on the dot of eight am, but that would’ve meant staying in their beautiful large furnished apartment for a good ten minutes longer.

Well. Not having that sort of restriction on our holiday, are we?

So we locked our front door key into the apartment, and hoped that they understood our need to scurry away before daybreak really got broken.

I don’t necessarily understand myself, but you don’t get to twenty years of unmarried bliss without blindly accepting your partner’s foibles.

It’s been a number of years since we last paid a visit to Hanmer. We used to go at least once a year, at least it seems that way now, but counting back we both worked out that we haven’t been since the earthquakes, which mean about five years or so.

Still, much of the place is the same. Jolly Jack’s is empty at the moment, which was a bit of a shock, but it’s been through changes of hand in the past without harm.

The fish ‘n’ chip shop we remember down the side lane has also changed hands and cuisine, but we weren’t in the mood for fast food anyway so it didn’t bother us none.

Driving back to Christchurch however, there were a few things that made me a bit sad.

The hill next to Balmoral Forest, where your stomach always used to end up lodged somewhere in your lower jaw, has been flattened out to a shadow of its former self.

The bungy jump out over the old bridge doesn’t even seem to be in operation anymore. If it is, then the signage around it is sadly lacking.

And worst of all is the travesty that is Frog Rock.

That was always the landmark that used to tell us we were truly on the road to or from Hanmer. The giant old rock worn by years of wind into a sculpted frog squatting on a hill; leaning out over the road as thought it were keeping watch.

I remember when some department or other confirmed it was necessary to blow it to smithereens in order to avoid it deciding to part company with the hill one day, and potentially smashing some poor unfortunates passing on the road beneath.

I’m sure it was in everyone’s best interests, I certainly have no wish to be squashed to death in the car by a giant frog, but couldn’t something else be done? Maybe just carve out another bend in the road?

So now we pass the old shed proudly proclaiming FROG ROCK and there’s not a frog in sight.

The only joy comes from imagining carful after carful of people speeding past, squinting and trying to make out a natural frog sculpture that’s no longer there.

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17 May / Join the Cartel

Today I’ve had my new book Skeletal approved for launch on Story Cartel. So I launched it.

For the next three weeks it’ll be available for free download in formats for Kindle, Kobo, Nook and whatever knock-off brand of e-reader you’ve managed to get your hands on. Or their tablet app equivalents.

Free download. What could be better than that?

Well, the better bit is that once you’ve read my wonderful haunting novel that’s both tough and delicate, you get to toss your opinion of it about willy-nilly.

In fact if you pop a review on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks (or another digital bookstore that takes your fancy) you will earn entry into a draw for a whole lot of excellent monthly prizes which I can’t be bothered to list here but you can find on the Story Cartel website.

Interested? Check out the FAQs here then sign up and download your free copy of my book here.

Or, you could help out a starving artist and purchase a copy. Up to you. Even if you do pay for it you can still feel free to toss around your opinion of it. You may find people will pay it even more attention.

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16 May / Winter holidays

This morning when my alarm went off I didn’t have to worry about getting up. My Saturday alarm is only set for 6.00am anyway (an hour later than normal), and for the sole purpose of waking me up so that my darling can get to the Supermarket before the standard human beings arrive to begin shopping.

This usually entails me spending yet one more day of the week being woken early and getting up before any bone in my body actually thinks it should.

But not today.

My holiday officially started on the dot of three-thirty on Friday afternoon, and I don’t need to worry about getting to the supermarket early, because there’s plenty of non-standard human being hours that the supermarket is open when you don’t have to go to work.

Tomorrow we’re even heading away for a couple of nights** so we can relax in the beautiful pools of Hanmer Springs, and maybe think about walking up Conical Hill. And then maybe not walking up Conical Hill.

That’s all the plans I have so far. I may do a bit of writing, a bit of blogging, a bit of crossing things out angrily and then typing them back in almost exactly the same.

I may look into a bit of World Domination if I have the time. That sounds like a right bit of fun.

But most of all I’ll be shaking all of the work thoughts that cram into my head all day every day while I’m at work out of my head so that I can reset, recharge, and relax.

Who’s a good little holiday, eh? Who’s a good holiday? You are. Yes you are. You’re a good holiday.

**if you’re a burglar that was a joke and we have a dog

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13 May / Robot love

There’s a pinboard in our office that is blatantly discriminating against me. Everyone is allowed to put up their pictures, if they want, except for you-know-who.

I’ve tried to sneak pictures up when the sirens who patrol the area are otherwise engaged. When they return to circling their board of pins, they immediately spot my offerings and tear them down.

When I return to my desk it’s to find my beautiful pictures with rude phrases, derogatory slang, written in caps (CAPS!) across the cutest bits.

You’d think in this day and age there would be a tolerance of people’s life choices. But instead we’re judged by the paths we’ve taken, or by the paths thrust upon us.

I mean, really? Do I actually need to own a pet to get my picture up on the friggin’ pet wall?

I tried putting up a spontaneous photograph of my beautiful white and back rabbit fur leg warmers.

My picture was returned and I was scornfully told that ‘it’s not alive.’

I pointed out that the long deceased pet cat that takes pride of place in the middle isn’t alive either, and that didn’t stop the team leader putting it up there.

Apparently there are “differences” that are “beyond” my level of “understanding.”

Honouring the new policy I placed a wonderful picture of a peacock spider on the wall.

Spiders are not pets.

Some people are so narrow minded.

I know for a fact that people have chimpanzees as pets, but suddenly there was a new rule that the pet had to “belong” to you.

As if that means anything at an existential level. I ask you, can one carbon based life form ever truly belong to another?

According to the rigid parameters of pinboard appropriateness, it can.

I pinned up an ugly dog meme, and it was returned even though I made a good argument that anything posted freely on the internet did in fact “belong” to all of us.

Specificity of ownership is now a condition.

I’m starting to get the feeling that they’re picking on me. Probably just because they’re jealous I don’t have to clean up after any house imprisoned animals.

I’d given up. If I don’t participate at all then they can’t practice their tortuous discrimination. Not on me, anyway.

And then a miracle. A pet I can actually get on board with. One that won’t mind being left alone all day while I’m at work. One that won’t require expensive kennelling when we want to travel overseas.

A robot pet.

Even better, it’s pink! Pink is the best colour for a tiny robot kitty to be!

You wait. 4-12 working days from now I’m going to have my own official pet. And if I get any nonsense about how it isn’t “alive” I’ll just give a little demonstration of a modified Turing test.

I’m pretty sure a robot can exhibit the intelligence of a kitty-cat.

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11 May / Treadmill Blues.

I’ve had a concern ever since booking in my six months of unpaid recreation “other work” leave.

No, I mean on top of the concern that I won’t utilise my time well and will have to go back to work with nothing to show for it but a tad less money.

Correct. I’ve been worried about exercise.

It’s hard enough to get myself out of the house when I’m already out of the house at work. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I don’t have that imperative either.

Thus, my first savings method (before I get my real monetized money saving plan going) is a savings on my waist line hopefully, and it came in the form of a treadmill.

There was a 3-5 day window for delivery, and after only 11 days it was actually delivered.

The ad said ‘conveniently to your door’ but it didn’t quite make it that far.

‘Anywhere inside the front door,’ I instructed, and watched as that was interpreted as ‘on the driveway where I have it already.’

By the time I realised that was where it was being left, I’d already signed the slip, and the two big grown men were heading back to their big grown truck.

Leaving me to manoeuvre it inside the house. By myself. A tiny woman.

(not really but my strength equates to a tiny woman, or maybe a big girl, so I’m gonna let that one slide)

It weighed 71kg.

That’s the same weight as a fairly standard sized person. Not me, that’s why I need a treadmill, but a standard person.

I’d always operated on the assumption that if a person was mysteriously murdered on my doorstep (not necessarily by me, that’s what trials are for) I would be able to drag it inside to dispose of it using a blender, grinder, and a hell of a lot more elbow grease than breaking down a chicken requires.

Now I realise I’d have to murder the person discover the body inside in order to be able to break it down for easy disposal later in loosely tied supermarket bags in local parks which are frequented by dogs.

Even in an easily slideable box that treadmill was hard work. The delivery guy who distracted me while his mate dumped my box on the driveway had indicated as he left that it would be easier once the box was off.

He forgot to say easier than what.

Nevertheless, I persevered. And to show for it I now have a treadmill in the front room.

I was so excited to have unboxed it and connected it up correctly, that I even jogged on it for half an hour. The timer needs a bit of work because it insisted that it was only 3 minutes and 40 seconds, but I can just ignore that for the time being.

The best bit is that I can now safely ignore it and not feel guilty, because I’m not starting my new adventure into unpaid employment until September. Woo hoo.

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There was no blog post yesterday because I was too entranced by trying to work out if any of the people in the movie I was watching were walking in a straight line towards the protagonist (or her partners in sexual congress).

I’d heard wonderful things about ‘It Follows’ and I must say that having been a horror movie fan for many a year, horror movies are not one of the genres that you tend to hear good things about.

You occasionally hear something about special effects, or how a movie had someone in it before they received an acting job, or how good a movie was before they did that remake which was not only terrible in and of itself, but was so awful it managed to knock a few stars off the rating for the original.

I’d also gone to the trouble of downloading the movie trailer, and not being completely put off by it.

I was pumped. I was excited. It was dark. I’d already watched two episodes of the Enfield Haunting in the afternoon so I was well psyched to jump at the slightest thing.

Well, I’m not going to say anything about the plot but when it gets to that bit where that big guy is in the background, then I started to lose my detached observer status.

I started scanning for real then. Prior to that it wasn’t really that hard. That person who looks like grandma when the quad should be full of teenagers. The young woman dripping wet, missing one sock, and with eyes that were so deepset you couldn’t really be sure they were even there. And who was standing in the main character’s kitchen.

There were some which it was never even revealed if they were or if they weren’t. Was I right? In the absence of any evidence to the contrary I presume I was, but who can be sure.

And there were a few foils thrown in for good measure. To trick me. I find being tricked more horrifying than horror movies. So good call there.

I’m still looking for those things. It’s given me another reason to be suspicious of strange people (and by that I mean people not known personally to me which when you get down to it is basically seven billion minus some).

It follows. Should be called it lingers.

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