Katherine Hayton | BLOG
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25 Dec / Trapped

Once upon a time, many years ago now, my darling and I went out at night in Sydney. We were there on holiday, and chose to go tourist-as-all-get-out by having our evening meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Centrepoint tower.

If you haven’t been to Sydney, this is a very thin and very high tower in the middle of the Sydney CBD. The bottom floors are taken up with a mall with exits to major streets in Sydney, and then there is an elevator that takes you up, up, up to the very top to the restaurant.

At the time we went it would perform a complete revolution every hour. There were large windows all around the side of the restaurant, and you would have an uninterrupted view of the Sydney CBD as dusk fell on the city. I heard later that the revolving part had stopped, so to see the full view you actually had to walk around and stuff, but I’m sure the experience would still be wonderful.

The meal was a smorgasbord, and you would step from the revolving floor portion where the tables were located, to the fixed portion in the middle of the restaurant to fetch each course, and for the facilities and exit elevator.

Anyhow, on this night we’d enjoyed a great meal – with far too much dessert, the hallmark of any truly good smorgasbord – and made our way down in the elevator.

My darling and I are early diners, and fast eaters, and although we’d travelled up in the elevator with a group of people, we made the journey back down to the ground floor levels alone.

We exited the elevator and tried to walk out of the Centrepoint Mall through our usual exit. It was bolted shut. The retail trading day had come to a halt and no new entrants were being allowed, so we turned around and tried to find another exit that was still operational.

Malls are neither of our favourite thing. There’s too many shops, and too many people. Although this one was only occupied by ourselves at the time, it still felt as though it was crowded with people – the dead-eyed stare of many a shop mannequin upon us at every turn.

All up, it probably took us fifteen minutes to find a way out of the maze we’d found ourselves in. Not much of an adventure it’s true, ‘the day I was trapped for a short amount of time in Australia’s most famous city’ doesn’t have the ring of a great thriller about it, but it still left an imprint.

Over the intervening years, there’s certainly been more than one night in which I woke from a nightmare of endless corridors all leading to bolted exits.

Today was (or still is for a little while) Christmas Day in New Zealand. We’ve celebrated with family for much of the day, and after returning to our hotel room this evening we decided we felt a little bit peckish and headed out for a light evening meal.

We found a certain theme developing as we walked through the streets of Queenstown – many shops and restaurants are closed for the holiday, but there were still plenty left to choose from. A Vietnamese restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a Korean restaurant. There’s a trend in the cultures that do and do not observe Christmas day closing.

At one point we went down a down escalator to a food court – the escalator had actually stopped working at some point so we had to physically move ourselves down the steps. For some reason this involves more effort than walking down a similar size staircase would.

The portions of the food court that were open were McDonalds and a Turkish Kebab shop. After a quick perusal of their menu we decided that we would prefer to sit down in a proper restaurant setting, rather than the plastic seating area in the basement of a mall, and headed up to exit back onto the main streets of Queenstown (once again on an escalator that forced us to use our own steam.)

At the top we found a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of the electronic doors we’d so recently entered through. On closer inspection the newly placed sign seemed to refer to the gigantic padlock that was now holding these doors firmly shut.

Unphased, we turned around and saw another exit downstairs. Probably the one we should’ve used in the first place.

Grumbling only a little bit, I headed back down the frozen down escalator, and we walked through the basement exit.

Or at least, we walked through it until we reached a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of electronic doors which had a gigantic padlock holding them firmly shut.

Trapped in a mall. The nightmare came full-circle.

My breath came a little faster and my forehead glistened with sweat.

This may have had something to do with the fact that I’d just been clambouring up and down stalled escalators, and it was 28 degrees outside, and slightly hotter inside (for Fahrenheit and non-tropics based people, that’s very hot.)

Or it may have been something to do with the past reliving itself in the present.

Luckily we joined forces with a group of fellow desperate-escapees and managed to exit by climbing up the internal stairs to the McCafe and pushing aside a white plastic security gate.

We emerged, gasping for air, onto the street. Some of us were clutching beige, red and yellow bags of food. My darling and I were not.

A Thai restaurant that had a wide-open front door, and outdoor seating drew our attention shortly after, and we had a lovely chicken stir-fried rice (him) and chicken stir-fried egg noodles (me) before stopping for an ice-cream to eat in the heat of the park. That was our little treat to make up for the terror of being trapped.

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24 Dec / Hills

My darling and I touched down in Queenstown today, all ready to celebrate The Lord’s birth in some style. The day has been absolutely beautiful; hot sun and brilliant blue sky. The fact that we left exactly the same in Christchurch doesn’t detract from it one bit.

In fact, here is a gorgeous view out of our hotel room window which didn’t take very much standing on of chairs or zooming in of lenses to get at all:

There are the usual drawbacks you face when you’re away from home:

– my wardrobe didn’t travel with me so when I felt like slipping on a pair of comfy pants my choices were underwear or purchasing some brand new Queenstown-priced sweatpants

– we don’t have a toaster, but that’s not so bad because

– we don’t have bread either. Or butter. Or a knife.

We do inexplicably have access to a lot of wine and beer which is exorbitantly expensive, but only teeny tiny pottles of milk which isn’t.

Oh, and the hotel is very kindly putting on a special menu tomorrow for Christmas Day, which they informed us of in the same sentence as they informed us that this wouldn’t effect us because it was already fully booked. That’s either customer service or callous disregard – I can’t quite decide which.

Everything would be trucking along just lovely except, Queenstown is different from Canterbury. I don’t mean the boatloads of tourists all speaking different languages, or the way the prices all have a 10% location top-up, or even that there are ducks bobbing about on the beach because it’s freshwater and not saltwater.

No. Those things are strange, but that’s most of the reason you travel to another city, isn’t it?

The difference I’m talking about involves more effort than those things. Serious effort. Effort that starts off in my calf muscles, rises quickly to my thighs, and ends up in blinding white-hot pain in my lungs.

Yes, you guessed it. Queenstown has hills.

Christchurch does have some of these ridiculous things also, but you really have to set your mind to it to get to one. And climbing them would just be bizarre unless you happen to own a property at the top. And that property hasn’t tumbled down to the bottom in an earthquake.

So, beautiful views out of the hotel window, or the peace and quiet of knowing that you can make it back to your room without breaking into a sweat?

So hard to choose.

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23 Dec / Not Food

‘Tis the season to eat too much food… (fa la la la lah la la la lah)

Knowing that Christmas Day is likely to consist of a wall of non-stop food, and a breakfast sliding into brunch into lunch into afternoon tea into tea into supper into unconsciousness kind of meal plan, I thought it best to exercise some restraint today to offset it.

That’s exercise some restraint, not “exercise” – I haven’t changed my opinions on that one.

Since not eating wasn’t really in the spirit of being at home alone on holiday, I instead tried another tactic. Eating something I like to refer to as ‘not food.’

Not food consists of diet soft drink – Coke Zero and don’t look at me like that, it’s okay as long as I’m not in the office. Yes I did just make up that rule, someone’s got to.

It also consists of a substance that someone in a marketing department somewhere decided as a laugh to call diet pasta when what they really meant was tasteless plastic consistency not-food that smells unpleasantly of fish. Or Konjac as others would call it. Another name for the plant from whence it came is devil’s tongue. That is most appropriate.

But in any case, woman cannot live on insoluable root fibre alone. She needs ice-cream.

In the quest for the perfect diet food of course, I couldn’t actually indulge in the dreaded full-fat full-sugar nicety that is ice-cream. I considered eating some Zilch low-fat no-added-sugar ice-cream, but decided that even that was not an appropriate substitute. Mainly because I’d already eaten the container that I’d purchased in the weekend for emergencies only.

You’d be surprised how many emergencies there are in suburban Christchuch. It’s full on.

Luckily I had laid my hands on a machine that promised to deliver a product akin to soft serve ice-cream through the simple provision of a couple of frozen bananas.

Much to my darling’s disgust I do still believe in the infomercial fairies and their product boxes. The last time I had a gift card in my possession I almost purchased a chocolate fountain. Luckily common sense prevailed, and after returning the doughnut maker to the shelf as well, I picked up a great invention called a Yonana.

Having only briefly scanned the product information before the consumer that lives in my soul screamed BUY IT! I had a vague idea that I was going to end up with something that turned frozen bananas and yoghurt into ice-cream-like stuff.

Turns out the Yo from the title was more in the fashion of a Yo Mama! type of expression, and no dairy goodness was required at all. Just the bananas.

Does anybody out there in internet-land want to hazard a guess as to what frozen bananas taste like? I’ll give you a tiny clue. It’s not soft-serve ice-cream.

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22 Dec / Negative Reviews

Okay. So, we’re all grown-ups here. I knew this was going to happen sometime. It’s one of those inevitable things like the fat content in ice-cream adhering to your hips via your eye-sockets, or drug mules producing evidence after being fed laxatives (we watched ‘The Mule’ the other day – some images stick.)

It happened on ******** a site I will not name. There I was, just casually checking out my own book – as you do – and I saw that my review number had increased.

I then saw that my overall rating had decreased. And the ulcer in my stomach chose that moment to sink its long fangs into my soft flesh.

On ******** the site that will not be named, there is a warning message to authors that comes up after bad reviews. It repeatedly gives the very good advice that you should not leave comments on negative reviews. It’s a bad idea. Suck it up and get on with your life. People appreciate bad reviews because it legitimises the good reviews that have been left.

It’s all great advice.

They even appreciate the fact that at the moment you’re reading this message your brain is interpreting it as BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH so they add in one final time we really don’t think it’s a good idea to leave a comment.

So that’s cool. I don’t want to be THAT author (and we all know what the Catfish I’m talking about, don’t we?)

I also don’t want to get on ******** site’s bad side since they were nice enough to let my work colleagues post reviews when Amazon thought we were involved in some sort of vast review conspiracy theory (instead of them obviously being the only people I’d managed to sell copies to) and kept obliterating them.

But look. Look here. Look what I’ve found.

It’s a BLOG!!!

And because it belongs to me I can talk about anything I like on it (subject to Blogger terms and conditions of conduct.)

And what I want to talk about tonight is a negative review. I’m going to dissect it line by line by line to my sweet little heart’s content. I’m going to pick it apart and find out what useful information it has for me.

Maybe there’s a measure of truth to be teased out of this situation, maybe there’s an actual problem aside from personal preferences to be addressed. And if not, at the very least maybe there’s some kind of message that will helpfully let kindred spirits of the reviewer know of their similarity and therefore give them the opportunity not to waste their money purchasing my book when it’s just not going to be their cup of tea.

Line by line sounds a bit too intense. Instead, I’ll dissect it word by word.

First word – AWFUL.

Full of awe. For some reason this version of the word has become sodden with negative energy, whereas the flip-side “awesome” has a sprightly core which positive vibes ring cleanly through.

Onto the second word.

Oh no, wait. That was it.

I don’t know about you, but after having written this vitriolic wee rant leading up to it, I now feel a tiny bit let down.

The reviewer in question downloaded a copy of my book from NetGalley. It’s a website that allows reviewers to download books for free in return for an honest review. It costs about $400 for a self-published author to list a book for six months, and in return we’re promised an interested and opinionated readership who don’t mind letting everyone know their thoughts. This is the second review generated from NetGalley, so at the moment is $200 worth of opinion. That’s US dollars, not our feeble NZ ones.

A review usually encompasses some or all of the following: a quick outline of the story, a summary of the writing style, a note on how reading the book made you feel and, if the reviewer is feeling generous, a quote from the actual text to illustrate some points or a brilliant tag-line of their own invention to sum up the reading experience.

Unless your education and upbringing was radically different from mine, you’ve probably been forced to write at least a few of these throughout your years of schooling. On a book you didn’t choose, and didn’t necessarily want to start, let alone finish. I’m betting that if you did your work may have reached the expanse of a sentence. Maybe a full paragraph. Maybe more.

I have a one word review of my own.

LAZY.

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21 Dec / Monday, Monday

Plans for a Monday would usually go something along the lines of, wake up appallingly early and be grumpy all day.

Tomorrow, however, is the most magical of things: a Monday when I’m on holiday. To celebrate I have made plans for the following:

1) Sit on the couch for a while. I’ve picked out a nice comfy spot. I’ve even worn down the sheepskin rug on top of the sofa in the shape of my posterior to make it more comfortable. I’ve managed this feat through long hours spent sitting in it already. Perfect.

2) Stand, sometimes on one leg for an unknown reason, aimlessly staring at various spots inside and outside of the room before sitting back down (I never used to plan for this, but since I end up doing it for serious amounts on time when I’m on holiday I’ve decided to allow serious amounts of time for it in my day plan)

3) Cooking, perhaps some food, perhaps something that I intend to be food but which holds it’s own ideas about what it will be and will end up making the trip straight from the kitchen to the rubbish bin in the garage without crossing anyone’s lips (not implying that if it did pass someone’s lips it would end up in the rubbish bin in the garage – it would end up somewhere else entirely)

4) Eating, said food or something in a package that I resort to when the food plan Bs me

5) Advancing from A Wolf Amongst Us episode 2 to A Wolf Amongst Us episode 3 or perhaps 4 (5 at a long-shot.) Deconstruct some more fables for me you Big Bad Wolf you

6) Doing the one last thing that I needed to do before I left work on Friday, but completely forgot about and was going to do on Saturday, or Sunday, but didn’t because I didn’t want to (or I may put that off for another day)

7) Reading the book I’m currently reading, and maybe buying a few more to top up the never-ending reading list on my Kindle, and then thinking about doing something in order to get my own work-in-progress to the stage that it could go on someone else’s Kindle, and then not

Around this time I expect that my darling will return from work where he is going and my plans will be finished for the day, but I will not be forlorn because I can repeat it all on Tuesday, or just the bits I still feel like doing.

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I have been waiting with glee for the weekend. Apart from being on holiday for two weeks, my berry plants have been ripening up ready for me to harvest their bounty.

There’s something truly wonderful about picking fruit direct from the plant, warmed gently by the summer sun, and popping it straight into your mouth.

For a start, it’s free. Everyone knows that free food holds no calories whatsoever.

For seconds, it’s fresh. Truly fresh. It hasn’t been picked way too early, then ripened in a temperature controlled environment, before being dumped into a plastic shield and displayed in a store under fluorescent lighting in a two-for-one special with a sign containing tiny regulation print to point out the country of origin that for-sure ain’t yours.

I’m not really into food-miles and all that jazz – I like food when I like it as much as the next person – but there is a difference. Imagine yourself taking a airplane journey half-way around the world, and then immediately driving from the airport to the supermarket. You wouldn’t be fresh either.

But back to my garden of deliciousness.

I would prefer fruit that would pick itself. A nice crop of strawberries that would jump into a punnet; cherries that not only pick themselves at the stem, but also protect themselves from the mass of hungry birdies that seem to think I grow fruit for their sole benefit.

Alas, it’s proved impossible to locate so far, so this afternoon I ventured forth into the garden armed only with a container and eight fingernails. I returned with scratches on my knuckles and hands from gooseberry spikes, scratches on my knuckles and hands from blackberry thorns, and scratches on my knuckles and hands from the spikes and thorns located next to the blackcurrant bushes through someone’s awful landscaping abilities.

Oh, and nothing at all from the three miraculous cherries that have so far survived into ripeness.

I now have some rather ambitious plans to make a jar of gooseberry jam. The blackberries and blackcurrants are to eat whilst making this treasure. Unfortunately, it’s far too hot today to even think of making jam.

If it’s hot again tomorrow I may just have to eat all my fresh fruit before it deteriorates, and put my plans on hold until the next lot ripens.

I’m also wondering if I should perhaps invest in a pair of gloves. I do have some nice evening ones that I rather fancy would protect me very well from the gooseberry bush attacks. All the way to my elbow.

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19 Dec / Bazookas

Weight gain has some beneficial side effects. I don’t know if you’ve heard about them, but along with the jiggle in your posterior, is a matching bounce in your anterior.

Yes – you guessed it. My cups floweth over.

I’ve had to invest some of my hard-earned money going up a bra-size, in two ways. An extra size to stretch around my extra back. And up a size to encompass the bounty around the front.

I think it’s my childless equivalent to being in the first flush of pregnancy. Whilst also somewhat encompassing some of the features of the later stages of this disease condition.

When I was a growing lass I often heard of the merits of being that most mythical of creatures, a double-d cup. This comes from having two brothers, who had a lot of similarly-gendered friends around.

I’m happy to announce that I’m well on the way. One more D to add and I’m there. Not sure that I’ll end up utilising my puppies in quite the same way as the women that my brothers were so entranced with, or at all.

In fact I think the only thing that they’ll be genuinely useful for is providing yet another reason not to go jogging. Can’t ever have too many reasons not to go out and exercise.

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18 Dec / The best holiday

Much as I love my darling (a loaded sentence beginning if ever I heard one) I still can’t get around the fact that the best type of holiday is the one that you take by yourself.

Maybe that’s my selfishness shining through, but there’s something truly lovely about waking up in the morning and having no one to please but yourself.

The reason may be that I moved straight from my parent’s house to my darling’s, or it could just be that everyone who lives full-time with someone needs a break sometimes. It’s not that I kick him out or anything, just spend the day at home while he goes to work.

I do love holidaying together as well. Our trip last September was probably the best vacation we’ve had in years, and I did enjoy every darling-filled moment. The thing is, even when you’re relaxing together you’ve still got to consider someone else’s feelings every time you make a decision.

I want some ice cream. I’ll have some ice cream. Why is he staring at me like that? Do you think he may also want some ice cream? Am I meant to offer him some of my ice cream? Why doesn’t he just get his own ice cream?

The stress can get to you.

And, to be fair, I thought this was an understanding we shared. There have certainly been numerous occasions where I have struggled to work while my darling has lazed at home. Calling me during the day to remind me of how wonderful the noon-day sun is when you’re outside on the lounger. The b*****d.

But apparently he doesn’t feel the same way.

I have been looking forward to Monday and Tuesday next week. I have been looking forward to them for a long time. I have a full two weeks worth of holiday, but I have been particularly looking forward to the first Monday and Tuesday of it.

Can you guess why?

Full marks to the lady in the corner – I was indeed planning on spending those two days alone at home while my darling was being a banker somewhere.

I was going to wake up, in the morning maybe, and then I was going to… followed by a bit of… but nothing holding me to that because I might also need a bit of…

And then I walked through the door this evening to the surprise announcement that ‘If we don’t have enough work next week I’ve offered to take a couple of day’s holiday on Monday and Tuesday.’

Who are you, and what have you done with my soul-mate?

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17 Dec / Christmas posted

Only one week to go and I’m all sorted. Today I braved the elements and went outside in a howling gale to inch my way to the post-shop. Carrying a 45cm square box in a howling gale is not the easiest of tasks – my arm went flying straight out to my side more than once. I hope it was as amusing to anybody watching as it felt like to me.

But I managed. If I didn’t get the package in the mail today, then the laughingly described 2-3 day postal service wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas. And then I would be a BAD AUNTY. I hope now it gets there in time and therefore I’ll be a GREAT AUNTY.

I’m so good that this year I didn’t even play with it unbox the present to make sure all the component parts were in there. I have sent a virgin drone to my nephew.

It will admittedly be incredibly embarrassing now if the present is opened on Christmas Day and it doesn’t work.

However, I will be at the other end of the country at the time so it possibly won’t affect me much at all.

We do have one more Christmas present to organise. This one involves posting ourselves down to Queenstown for some festivities, sans luggage for some insane penny-pinching reason. Half-way through the walk to the post office this actually seemed like an easier feat – but with the package safely dispatched it’s starting to weigh on my mind again.

I’m hoping it’s a cold day and I can wear two to three layers of clothing so I have some options down there. If you catch me at the airport looking extremely rotund that’s almost certainly the reason.

Almost certainly.

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