Katherine Hayton | BLOG

Today is the 4th anniversary of the Christchurch Earthquake. Not the one that closed down the Boxing Day sales. Not the one that caused mass chaos, closed the central city, rerouted 2/3 of the traffic flow, spilled 400,000 tonnes of liquifaction silt onto the cities lawns, footpaths and roads, and brought a terrible and undeserved end to 185 vibrant lives. Not the one that brought a miserable mid-winter to a populace already shaken to the edge of their tether. Not the one that came as an early Christmas present just when everyone hoped it all may be settling down again, but the one that started it all.

The one that triggered not only the events above, but also the other 13,000+ aftershocks that have rattled our small city to its bones. Aftershocks like the magnitude 2.1 earthquake at a depth of 6km that we had this morning at 4.15am. 13,000+ plus one.

On Saturday, 4th September 2010, I woke up around three-thirty in the morning. I routinely swing between bouts of insomnia that keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning, and insomnia that plunges me into a deep sleep as soon as I fall into bed but wake me in the wee hours of the morning. I was in the latter stage at the time. I am again today, which probably means its a seasonal thing or something. Whatever.

I was knitting, my hobby at the time, and watching the penultimate episode of The Tudors season one. When the earthquake hit, the whole house started juddering. I waited for it to pass. We live on the pacific ring of fire, a huge fault-line run diagonally through our entire island. We’re used to having an earthquake large enough to feel every year or two. Still, at least our South Island volcanoes are extinct – not like the North Island. At least, we’ve been led to believe that. Experts can be wrong too, you know.

I waited for about twenty seconds by my internal count – or two seconds in official clock-time – and then realised that this one wasn’t going away. In fact, it seemed to be gathering momentum in an unsettling way.

I leapt off the couch and ran for the nearest doorway – advice drilled into me as a child which “they’ve” changed their minds about now as I found out later. I had to pull the door open as I’d closed it so I wouldn’t disturb my partner. In case he was missing the fun I yelled “Earthquake!” at the top of my lungs. A cry which he didn’t hear over the roar of the earthquake.

I lodged myself with my back jammed against the doorframe where the door joined, and my arms braced against the doorframe where the door wasn’t. And I mean lodged. My back held the impression for a good half-hour afterwards.

Above I’ve referred to the roar of the earthquake. I should probably mention here that I didn’t have any experience of sound during this period of time. I know that the earthquake was loud because I didn’t hear the brick chimney fall onto the concrete driveway just over the road. I know it was loud because I didn’t hear books popping off the shelves in the spare bedroom – 2kg books not paperbacks. I know it was loud because I didn’t hear an entire bookshelf collapse in the front room, falling onto my spare wardrobe and disintegrating both structures.

My memory of the earthquake is characterised by these dichotomies. On one hand there are entire senses that are missing. On the other this is the strongest memory I have. There’s an instant transportation when I think of it, something my other strong memories don’t have.

Even the memory of watching the hearse carrying my mother’s coffin away from the church and with it the final realisation that I was never going to see one of the people I loved most in the world ever again – a memory that’s making me cry right now as I type – doesn’t have the instant attachment of emotion that this one does.

Maybe deep sorrow doesn’t flood through the human body as fluidly as instinctive fear.

As the earthquake started to ease the “STOP stop STOP stop STOP stop” that was beating time to my pulse also let up. I looked to my left. Nothing in the kitchen had fallen. It was over.

And then the whole house lifted up and was shaken – hard – back and forth, back and forth. The cupboard doors all swung open, slammed shut, swung open, slammed shut. I tried to wedge myself in harder and instead almost lost my footing altogether. There weren’t any words left in my head, just wide-eyed terror.

The lights went out. It was pitch dark. My eyes wouldn’t adjust.

Back and forth, back and forth. My fingernails dug into the wood of the frame. At some point I knocked my head so hard that an egg rose up on the back in the hour that followed.

One more jolt probably would’ve tossed the crockery out onto the floor. The plates had rocked out two inches over the edge. The glasses would’ve fallen, but the front ones were out on the bench from where they’d been used the night before.

And then it started to ease again. And finally rocked to a stop. A second before the final shake the lights flickered and came back on, whatever connection had been knocked out was knocked back in. They went out again with the first aftershock and stayed out, but for a few minutes we had light.

For months we told our stories of what happened. Where we were, what damage our houses suffered, what fell down, what bubbled up. There was the one in Kaiapoi whose house was a wreck, the one in New Brighton who had to shovel a driveway back into their property, the one who hadn’t even woken up and had to have a knock at the door and a talking to when a worried friend got sick of no response to their phonecalls and paid a home visit.

We told our stories compulsively while the aftershocks worsened our house damage day by day, and our office tried not to take it personally when it felt like the whole of Christchurch hated us because of our profession. We banded together into the had-been-there hadn’t-been-there groups. We tried to find out who was worse off than us, who was better off than us. We tried to turn it into the event that happened in 2010, to let it go and let it be gone.

The realisation that the Earthquake had no intention of going was slow-dawning at first. It wasn’t until February stirred everything up again – except 185 times worse – that I understood that we’d all been incredibly lucky (for unlucky people), and I also began to comprehend that this was a long way from over.

So it’s four years down the track. Our central city is still in the process of being turned into flatlands. Things open up every day – new homes, new shops, weird and odd little attractions that turn despair into opportunity. It’s still projected to be another two to three years away from completion, but the progress is now visible everywhere. Roads are under true reconstruction instead of the slap of tar and crossed fingers that happened initially (so we could all at least have roads to travel on.)

And every time a large truck goes by and the house shakes; every time a train passes by our building and the meeting room vibrates; every time there’s a noise I can’t immediately identify – even for a split second – my brain screams “Earthquake!” My fingernails dig in. And I brace.

Lets hope four years from now I just think, “Oh – a train.”

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

Technology is wonderful, but not in the hands of people who don’t know how to use it, or when it pits itself against you.

This morning I spent a nice time sorting through a report, counting columns, ticking boxes, trying to get scope on a project. Lovely, dovely. The numbers weren’t adding up to me – the percentage of one package to another was all out of whack – so I tried to find an example of where the report could be wrong by trying to find an un-uploadable risk on a farmpack. Needles and haystacks spring to mind. Or, more accurately, one oddly shaped needle in a giant needle-stack.

After a half-hour I gave it up in lieu of complaining loudly and insincerely to colleagues. Whatever. I’d look at it later.

Ten minutes later as it turned out when an email from the originator of the report came through to say that it was wrong, but a new one was attached, and hopefully I hadn’t spent too much time on it.

So I started again. Joy. This is why I come in early after all.

Later on, I was creating a new page on our website. Lovely stuff. Pictures, titles, icons, lists, questionnaires, more pictures. Half an hour of work I spent molding it gently to my liking. Adding and moving and typing and trying to find tiny little errors in large screeds of html to shape it into a work of art. A work of art that experienced a fatal error and reset to the title only.

Never mind. I’ll start again. That’s why I stay late after all.

Where’d my life go?

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

I think the worst thing in the world is to leave for work one morning, and never return home again. Because someone else made the decision that you would die.

Yesterday, there were six Work and Income New Zealand employees who turned up to work for Monday – already the worst day of the working week – and only three returned home. One is in hospital, the other two deceased.

A gunman opened fire in the morning, systematically shooting targets in the small office. Except they weren’t targets, they were people. And their co-workers and clients had to run for their lives; running away with legs that probably felt like they were moving through concrete. Running while waiting to see if they would feel a bullet in their backs, hoping they wouldn’t. Terrified.

The man got tired of shooting people and left the office to make his get-away. His bike was chained up to a post at the corner of the street. Because that’s what you do, isn’t it? This man is armed with a sawn-off shotgun, he’s about to go into an office with the intention of shooting people to death, but he chained up his bike. Because it might get stolen.

In the getaway he left his bike helmet lying on the street.

It’s awful. It’s unexpected, but at the same time it’s always expected.

I work in insurance and we’re security aware, but I’ve still lived with the thought in the back of my head for the past four years that there are a lot of frustrated people, and a lot of desperate people, and a lot of angry people, and that one day this might be happening in my office to my co-workers, to me.

It’s happened previously to government workers, to bank tellers, to office workers. And one day it may happen again.

The worst thing in the world. To leave for work one morning, and never return home again.

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

Der spring is sprung
Der grass is riz
I wonder where dem boidies is?
Der little boids is on der wing, Ain’t dat absoid?
Der little wings is on de boid!

Ahhhh Spring. Unless you’re living in the wrong half of the world you’ll currently be joining me in the relieved celebration of the end of winter, and the promise of a hot (maybe) summer.

The nights are getting shorter; the days longer; the morning frosts are easing; the afternoon sun has a bit of warmth.

What a beautiful time of year. Most of our daffys are out, and the fruit trees are starting to bloom. My berries are starting to show the first sprouting of life, and it’s nearly time to turn the front garden and pop in a few seed potatoes to be ready for Christmas dinner.


Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

I was working through our holiday itinerary the other day – yes we have an itinary 1) catch plane 2) get off in holiday-land – and I realised that the date that we arrived reminded me of something. Hmmmm. Now – what was that. We’re away for ten days so there’s a few things happening? The election? No – that’s a different date and we’ve made arrangements for that anyway. Our rental car? Well, yes but I’m sure there was something… something else…

Oh, that’s right. On the same date that we go on holiday my giveaway on Goodreads ends. The same date that I’m meant to autograph, address, wrap, and post five books out to complete strangers is the day we also have to be at the airport at 4.10am (yes AM that’s not a misprint.)

So one of those things is not going to happen, right? Can you guess which one?

Never even crossed my mind to check the end date. I waited until the books arrived because I didn’t want to look like a dick if I listed them and then they took the full eight weeks possible to get to me so I was late sending them and made a very bad first impression with the readers who (some at least) I very much hope are going to take the time at some point to tell the rest of the Goodreads community what they thought and I don’t want to skew that the wrong way.

On the bright side I’m soon going to be on holiday for two weeks in what I think is the nicest place on earth (after Christchurch of course) – Mission Beach, Tropical North Queensland, Australia.

I’ll stress out about it when I get back home. I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with it better then.

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

It’s started to freak me out how much it freaks me out to hand over my debut baby to some stranger and then wait to find out what they thought via review. I understand that it’s important that reader’s be able to review the book with their actual opinion otherwise the review is worthless; but likewise if they don’t like it then the review is useless to me.

So I was very please when two of the first of seventeen potential reviews that I’ve asked, begged, funded and plead for came through with a positive response.

I still had fear tingles while I was reading them through. I’d already seen the rating so I knew there shouldn’t be anything bad in there, but I did worry until I’d gotten to the last word and then read it out to my partner to make sure that I hadn’t misinterpreted anything because I was still strung out and shaking.

Yeah, this is my life now. I put my pride and joy out into the world and it’s turned me into a nervous wreck. I should get back on my SSRIs and let THEM ride the storm but who can be bothered with the three weeks of side effects until they start to work.

Still, why am I complaining when I have two, count them TWO, 5 star reviews back and a nice wee silver star that I can stick (electronically) to my book cover in an effort to attract more views (sales). You can read both of them below if you’d like. That saves me having to type any more tonight!

Reviewed By Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers’ Favorite

Found, Near Water by Katherine Hayton is a tale of suspense. Christine has recently lost her daughter and runs a Victim Support unit. Having been a psychiatrist for many years, she also now works as a Victim Support officer with the police. One day she is asked to visit Rena, a woman in hospital who was involved in a car accident. Rena seems to be saying that she has a daughter who is missing, but when they talk to her ex-husband, he doesn’t mention the child. Christine has to determine if Rena is telling the truth or not. The ex-husband is not an easy man to talk to; a paedophile is on the loose in the area, having just been released from prison on parole, and a psychic who knows perhaps more than she should. The story is intertwined with 6 other stories – women who have all lost a daughter and with a crime that has been committed across many generations.

Found, Near Water by Katherine Hayton was a great read. Full of surprising twists, a great storyline and some very good characters all mixed up to be a thrilling read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down until it was over and even then, it wasn’t really over. I was left wanting more than the story offered – and that is not a criticism of Ms Hayton. That is the mark of a great storyteller to make someone want more when they finish a book rather than just being glad they finished it!

Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite

Found, Near Water by Katherine Hayton is a compelling story that will keep readers glued to it with its intrigue and mystery. Rena Sutherland’s daughter, four-year-old Chloe, is missing. No one knows since when because no one knew she had gone missing in the first place. Rena notices it first when she wakes up from her coma. Christine Emmett has enough problems of her own, but as a victim support officer, she tries to help Rena. A lot of other people make the search tougher; Rena’s ex-husband, a paedophile and a psychic. And beneath all this ongoing confusion is a crime that adds to the intrigue and mystery of the story. Will Rena be able to find her daughter?

The plot is mysterious and intriguing and will keep readers riveted. The plot takes you through many twists and turns that enhance the plot. Rena lying in the hospital bed is the main character in the story and her character portrayal has been executed well. The victim support officer, Christine, is another character in the story that will remain etched in your memory once you put the book down. I liked the manner in which the characters get introduced in different chapters. Whether it is Tina, Ilene or Kendra, the author has managed to weave their parts into the main plot with great expertise. The crime angle in the story is what will blow the minds of readers with its suspense and intrigue.

And if you’re interested you can buy it here and write your own opinion.

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

A few years ago I was convinced that I was doing any number of things that were about to lead me into straight into the face of death. Without even knowing it. It was going to be one of those things that seemed fairly innocent – I’d already given up drinking and smoking after all – but something in my genetic makeup was going to surprise me and I was going to find out that if only I’d known beforehand I wouldn’t be dying horribly from… whatever it was.

Torn between purchasing the hypochondriacs handbook and never going to see a doctor ever again, I instead invested in a little tube that I spat into and then posted overseas (after declaring that it was perfectly fine to post even though it was classed as a biological hazard.)

A few weeks later data poured into my membership page. At last, at my fingertips, I had the keys to my genetic code and I could fathom the full depths of all diseases to see which ones I was likely to die of. Unless the genetic testing attached to them was separately patented. Like, you know, BRCA1 & 2. Which I kinda wanted to know. And kinda thought I would.

Not to worry though, I still got to give myself a few good scares. The ones you really, really don’t want to have are carefully hidden away and you have to verify that you understand the consequences that will result if you open them and find out you have a high risk of dying of it, because you can’t unsee that s**t. Ever.

There weren’t too many horrible surprises. I have triple normal risk for psoriasis (big tick), double normal risk for Alzheimers (and it was at a higher prevalence than I’d realised so that was a double double-shock) and Bi-polar (I’m not), and I was a carrier for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency with increased risk of liver and lung disease.

Which did explain a few things about attacks of dry pleurisy that kept being noted down as idiopathic. And made me glad I’d already given up drinking and smoking because that, oddly, would’ve been harder if I had to because it was going to kill me. It would’ve really felt like giving something up, instead of just stopping something I didn’t like doing and something that felt like it was killing me. Especially the bits of me I liked.

It was all very interesting, and I keep checking back on the site to see which information has been updated because new discoveries are made all the time in genetics. Some solid. Most tenuous.

Another service offered, which I didn’t really need or care about, was an ancestry overview that told me which matriarchal lines I was descended from, where my genetics groups had moved from and were most populous in (Basque region anyone?), and which members of the site had the most similar genetics to mine – indicating a relationship.

This section also, not surprisingly, had a large opt-out question that you had to go through before you found out the information. There have been at least one, and possibly a few more unreported, cases in which someone discovered they were adopted and their real family was suddenly available to be contacted at the click of a button.

Once again, these are things that you can’t unsee.

But I didn’t have any drama. There’s been a constant stream of 3rd to 6th cousins noted in my file since joining, and every few months the tally jumps up a couple of notches. I’ve exchanged DNA information with a few, but never actually pinpointed a common ancestor.

Until today. I researched a name that a contact provided to me, and discovered that we share a great-great-grandfather, which makes us 4th cousins. It was really quite exciting. I looked up my Ancestry.com account to trace back the family tree and see if I could work out which other child her lineage may have sprung from, but our common ancestor having had ten children all with the highly distinctive name of Mitchell, and naming them exotic things like John, Edward, Elizabeth, makes it all a bit hard to know if you’ve got the right person, or even the right generation.

Well, at least I’ll have someone to look after me as I live into my disease-free old age. I’ll let her know.

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

Lunch-time talk today didn’t take it’s usual turn down ebola-update avenue. Instead, we categorised our own list of woes. Myself, I’ve woken up with a headache for the past two days. I usually get stabbing in my right eye headaches, but this was a new one. Pulsing back of the head headache, and I found out pretty quickly that you don’t want to bend forward with this one clanging in the back of your brain.

But that’s okay. I have access to Panadol and Nurofen and if it gets any worse I think the opioid caress of Codeine might need to make a stopover.

Truth be told I probably wouldn’t have dragged myself into work today, but having been sick only last week I feel somewhat obliged to try to actually do some work in return for my living.

Meanwhile, this headache seems to be catching. Opposite me was the image of death warmed up, with aches and pains so uncomfortable that even a cat-nap during a lunch-break was out of the question.

And sitting right next to me was a pain-filled half-face. Jaw pain – one side only; Sinuses blocked – one side only; Nose running – one side only. Still, could be worse.

Usually people only walk off to meetings looking like they’re about to land on the beaches of Gallipoli when there’s some genuine problem, but today there were grim faces everywhere when people just went for a coffee and a catch-up.

Even the wholesome win when the side I was on managed to produce evidence (not by my hand I’m far too lazy) direct from the manufacturer to prove that on Chocolate Thins the chocolate is ON THE BOTTOM was not enough to cheer people up. Especially if you were on the losing side.

Thanks be to the Gods of Labour that we only have a 40 hour working week (or 37.5 hours to be exact because some of us are more equal than others) so that tomorrow is the last day I have to drag my sorry carcass into the office. I wonder who else will make it.

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

I received an unsolicited message from Orcon yesterday. They cheerfully announced that due to demand (not from me) they had auto-enabled Global Mode so that I could surf the web uninhibited by the fact that I am a foreign person and live in an inferior country (or so Cards for Humanity would have me believe.)

No more would I need to use Borat-proxy (my all-time favourite) to surf into places I probably shouldn’t go while pretending to the gullible computers on the other end that I was Big American Person.

No more tunnel-bear (my second favourite and far more useful) to dig deep into the core of the computer network and pretend that I’m from the UK or US or Canada or half a dozen others (including My Closest Tunnel which turns out to be Japan – well done Japan).

No more.

Now I’m a real citizen of the web and I can go anywhere and do anything and sign up and pay for everything I want (as long as I’m morally okay about fibbing about my home address and making up a phone number.)

So I try to create an account on Netflix – and discover that this would be easier if I could actually get onto their site. Never mind. Can’t be bothered to be available when I want you – there are other options out there you know. Hello hulu.com! Or rather, hello ‘Problem loading page’.com. Well, maybe crackle? Maybe not. BBC.co.uk? Nope.


Nice one Orcon. You scored another slum-dunk.

Ahhhhh Borat. So good to see you again.

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More