Friday, 27 February 2015


I remember a day not so long ago when I sat down on the couch with a new box containing GTAV and decided to open it right then and there and play it.

There were a couple of dozen different other things that needed doing. Things to organise, things to write, things to edit, things to clean. As per a typical day off work the amount of work-like things that still need doing seems endless, when all you're looking forward to is a bit of a break and a bit of fun.

Luckily, I'm well equipped to ward off feelings of guilt about writing deadlines going by, and I tend not to notice things need doing around the house until they're forcibly intruding on my life; such as not being able to see the TV screen for dust.

So I gladly ripped off the wrappings and fed the disc into the mouth of my hungry wee PS4.

A couple of PS and Xs later the game was loading up. It was then that the trouble started.

One hour. That's how long it takes GTAV to load up the first time you go to play it. Unlike some genders I don't appreciate an almost naked cartoon lady, or view it as an entertaining immersive viewing experience. An hour is too long to stare at one.

So I've learned my lesson. The Order 1886 arrived this week. Today I went in and updated Playstation (because it requires that each time I turn it on) and then I inserted the disc. I then updated the system again, and installed the game, and then waited for it to load, and then updated the system to be able to play the game because God knows why but the previous update didn't get it updated enough.

Then I turned it off.

That was actually me physically turning it off, not the system turning itself off so it can reset and then turn itself on again and then update and turn itself off to be able to turn itself on again properly.

I plan to play it tomorrow, and was already planning that when I went in today. This way I may have wasted time today, but I haven't wasted playing time.


I'm beginning to think this is why Farm Heroes on my phone still holds such sway over me.

Now the only danger is if the game is complete crap and I stop after fifteen minutes shaking my head in dismay. But then again, that's probably not my Playstation system's fault.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

I saw the light

Last night my darling and I tried something new.

We went out on a school night to a pub on the wrong side of the tracks to see a band perform songs that haven't really been performed live since the lead singer topped himself thirty years ago, and which only one of us (me) enjoys.

I have not been to a pub in a very long time. We've been in restaurants that pretend to be pubs while really being places that people gather to eat and talk. We've been to restaurants that just happen to have a bar service (no matter how many ye oldes they put in their signs), but a proper pub that exists solely to sell alcohol to the general public and support people's addiction to TAB betting? It's been a long time man.

But I breathed in the smell of many people, some unwashed, crowding into a small space which a couple of manual fans were really not well equipped to keep cool, and I cradled my Coke Zero in a fancy plastic cup close to my chest until the ice melted.

The good news was that the band was due to start at eight, and the songs I wanted to hear were due to be played first. That meant, all going well, we would be heading back out the door at eight-thirty and hailing a taxi home.

Apparently bands are not known for their punctuality.

I waited, and grew accustomed to the fact that it was going to be standing room only. My knees locked into place to hold me upright, unused to being utilised in such a way for such a long time. I wasn't looking forward to when they unlocked.

But then the band came out and began to play. My darling inquired after one song if I knew it and if I liked it, in a way that implied incredulity.

Eight songs later, and we were out of there. We asked the doorman if there was a taxi stand nearby, but from the confused look on his face we gathered we were on our own.

My least favourite thing is to talk to people on the phone, but since it was my night out I swallowed my anxiety and dialed up the taxi company.

The lady dispatcher said that she'd send a call out and a taxi should make it out there soon. I was slightly concerned at the implication that a taxi might fail in the attempt to make it across the wrong side of the tracks, but one did eventually arrive.

All up, even though we'd ventured out from the safety of home on a school night, we were tucked up in bed a mere half hour later than we'd usually be.

So, a night's disruption, a couple of painful knees, a two-hundred and ten dollar investment for eight songs lasting just under half an hour. Was it worth it.

To see and hear Joy Division songs performed live in front of a crowd of people my own advanced age? Sure it was.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

99c sale

Hardly counts as a blog post, but still...

99c Sale now on for Skeletal. Available anywhere good books are sold, as long as you're shopping on Amazon, and you're based in the USA.

'Cause I don't like to discriminate.

Monday, 23 February 2015


A received a very nice surprise for pre-Valentine's day this year (yes, I am aware the date is now a distant memory). Or should I say, several nice surprises.

There was a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to the office in the morning. This was Friday morning, hence the pre-Valentine's because there's no use sending them to a home address. No, the purpose of flowers is to flaunt them in front of all the people you work with every day who don't waste money on such gorgeous extravagances and therefore live much duller lives. But retire earlier.

There was another surprise in the afternoon, courtesy of an overworked delivery driver's inability to fulfill the requirement to deliver prior to midday. Fudge. This is what you need from your darling when everyone else is strenuously avoiding the fact you've gained yet another twenty pounds you're probably not going to lose. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I love surprise presents where you're not sure about the whys or the wherefores but just get to sit back and thank the giver for the giving, and the present for the being present.

Today I took home another present, which wasn't a surprise because I knew I'd ordered it, but was a surprise due to being order on hotpoints (credit card scheme) thereby arriving on a schedule unknown to anyone but the bankers that be.

It is a wonderful quiet boil kettle which is coloured a deep dark red with a sheen of polish over top of it so that it glows like the finest enamel jewellery.

I suggested that the proper thing to do now is to redecorate the entire kitchen to match. It was an idea whose time has not come.

Another nice surprise present was announced on my phone at mid-morning. A lovely antique chinese nail guard in cloisonne and silver. I wondered for a moment who had bought me that, and then vaguely remembered at one in the morning when I was still awake I'd decided to comb ebay antique jewellery for a distraction for not sleeping.

Ohhhh, you shouldn't have.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Book Review - Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

Big BrotherBig Brother by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this book led me down the garden path nicely. I was so surprised at the turn this book took after the first half and, beguiled by Lionel Shriver's beautiful language, I followed it merrily along growing more and more frustrated that it just didn't seem like a Lionel Shriver tale AT ALL. Thankfully, I then careered headlong into the relief and satisfaction of a wonderful ending.

Big Brother tells the deceptively simple tale of a sibling relationship that's strained in more ways than one when Pandora's much admired older brother Edison falls down on his luck and moves in for an extended visit.

Years having passed since she last laid eyes on him, Pandora is taken aback to discover her brother has grown far wider than he's grown wiser.

Bored with her successful business venture, and constantly irked by her husband's overzealous health kick, Pandora mounts a challenge to her brother. She'll devote her full attention to him, including moving out of her family home, as long as he follows her exact instructions to lose the weight he's gained. All 223 pounds of it.

This is a sometimes uncomfortable read as Lionel Shriver confronts head-on the taboo that society has constructed around its overweight citizens. No one gathering the courage to confront an overweight person directly, while at the same time feeling the right to comment and pass judgement behind his back, all in the guise of concern about health.

Delightful, ambitious, and a completely fulfilling read. My favourite book so far this year.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Rain check

This morning I woke up to the last morning of my holiday, and discovered to my delight that it was raining.

I was delighted because me and my darling have been very good this holiday, and have been going for a lot of long walks up steep hills most mornings.

Due to this the following parts of my body now hurt each morning:
Lower Back
Ribs (and no, I don't know what they're doing when I'm walking either, but they do hurt so I presume they're involved somehow)
Upper Arms (ditto)

I've also had a headache, but I have a feeling that's a reactionary thing trying to ward off further damage by making me too unwell to go in the first place. Certainly, once I've got in the car it recognises defeat and immediately dissipates.

I've somehow managed to hide the crippling effects, because when my darling said, 'It's too wet to go for a walk,' I immediately replied 'Thank goodness.'

So emphatic was my response that further inquiries were necessitated and I explained I'd been in a certain amount of pain almost constantly for the best part of five days. My darling did point out that I could always say no, but I pointed out that in that case he would win and we can't have that.

And before you ask, if you don't know why he would win then you don't understand spousal-like relationships and I can't tell you. And yes that is the relationship advice version of "if you don't know what you've done wrong then I can't tell you."

So I've had a nice day lolling on the couch, thinking of things to do, and then thinking of extravagant excuses for why I won't do them. And watching Watership Down for the first time since I was eight and got upset at the fight between Bigwig and General Woundwort despite having already read the book and knowing perfectly well how it ended.

Then at two o-clock I said 'Oh look, the sun's coming out,' to which my darling responded, 'Yes, I thought we could go for a nice walk once this ended,' (referring to the episode of The West Wing we were watching).

And you know what? I could hardly say no then, could I?

So we went for a "lovely walk" and now I can barely move because of the checklist shown above.

I am so glad that I'm going back to work tomorrow. We don't hold with long walks in my office. Sitting is all the rage.

Friday, 20 February 2015


I don't know why, but when you're on holiday and it gets to Saturday it all seems like such an imposition.

We went out for our morning walk on the Port Hills this morning, and there were a whole lot of other people who hadn't been there during the week.

We went out during the day, and the roads were full of cars.

At our neighbours' houses there are children laughing and playing. Before 3.00pm!

Honestly, I usually love Saturdays as much as the next person, but they're like the world's holiday. When you get used to having just your own little holiday going on, it's just too crowded.

Not to mention that it also means there's only one more full day and then some people are probably expecting me to turn up to work. In the morning. In a fit state!

Hmmmmm. I bet next Saturday feels a whole lot better. This one just seems like a bit of a waste.

Grass is greener

At the moment I'm trying to force myself to type 80,000 words, more or even more (I can't use the word less there otherwise I might start to take it too seriously and I'll end up with another trunk novella), at which time I can survey it for the nub of some kind of story and write another 60,000 words making that work.

Despite the fun that this sounds, I miss editing. Having all the words written down has the great advantage of HAVING ALL THE WORDS.

Simple, really.

On the other hand, I seem to strongly remember a feeling I had the last time I was editing which was something along the lines of, God I wish that I was writing words down at random right now trying to shape a story and capture characters instead of checking to see whether ass or arse is the accepted New Zealand spelling of arse (it turns out).

Maybe the bit that I really miss is where an idea comes up in my brain (ideas do appear there often, too often) and doesn't get immediately shot down.

That's really fun. It appears out of nowhere in particular (like all the best ideas should) and keeps me occupied for hours while I test it to see if it's got legs.

The only drawback is that the nowhere in particular it appears out of always tends to arrive just as I'm about to fall asleep, and therefore the hours of occupation usually take me through until well after midnight. Waking up at 5.30am to go to work is never a joy, but there are some things that inevitably make it worse.

So then there's definitely the bit where I just put a new book on sale and wait to see how the first sales and first reviews come in. No, not that. That there's the stuff of nightmares. And waking at 5.30am after a sleepless night full of terrors is another in the inevitably worse category.

So now I'm pretty much back where I started. Could it really be that this bit that I'm not enjoying at the moment is actually the bit that I enjoy.

Hmmmmm. My day job is looking pretty good right now.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A beary nice surprise

Curly Bear looked the little baby bear up and down, then shook his head. He was so confused.

'Why is he here?'

Fluffy Bear looked taken aback. 'You didn't expect me to leave him at home alone, did you?' He inquired. 'My baby boy is only a few hours old.'

Curly Bear shook his head again. He just couldn't take it all in.

'I didn't realise that you were, hmmmm, expecting?'

Fluffy frowned. 'Then what were all those cracks you were making about me being extra fluffy lately?'

Curly Bear felt even more confused. None of this made any sense, and everything he said just seemed to make it a little bit worse.

He looked behind Fluffy to where Skeletal was taking pride of place in the bookshelf. He should be out flogging a few copies so that people could discover its genius. That was his job, after all. He understood that perfectly.

He'd take one last crack at understanding why there was suddenly a little brown bear in their midst, and then he was going out to sell. 'How is your partner feeling about all this?'

It was obvious from the fury on Fluffy Bear's face that he'd put his paw into it again. Curly's head drooped as he waited for the onslaught.

'You know I don't have a partner,' Fluffy said curtly. 'It's hard enough being a single mum these days, without you rubbing it in.'

Curly sighed, then balanced a stack of books in his paws and went out the door. Signed paperback copies of Skeletal were only $20.00, and an unbelievable $3.99 on Kindle.

It was much better to just concentrate on his job and put everything else out of his mind. He shook his head one last time though. He could've sworn that Fluffy was a male bear.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Skeletal by Katherine Hayton


by Katherine Hayton

Giveaway ends February 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

An entreaty to the peoples of New Zealand (who read fiction)

I've signed up in the past for a couple of giveaways on Goodreads. Great fun, and lots of people who possibly will never get around to reading a book written by me add it to their "To Read" shelves so it makes it look tres popular.

As a result of opening these competitions up worldwide I've had the pleasure of sending my books to the far corners of the globe. Portugal, Lebanon, Montenegro, USA, Canada, and the UK at the last count.

It's rather exciting to send books out to the far corners of the globe and wait to see whether or not people enjoy them. However, the one thing I've had little luck in finding out is how people in my own country feel about these things.

Therefore I'm happy to announce that I've now created a new Giveaway on Goodreads which is restricted to the good (and bad, I don't want to be too restrictive) people of New Zealand.

The only drawback to this is that there are five books to giveaway. At the moment I have ZERO entries. Granted, it's only been ten minutes since the giveaway launched, and chances are the peeps of middle earth have already tucked their little selves into bed with an existing book, but it does give me a bit of cause for concern.

So I send this heartfelt entreaty to the people of my land, please enter my giveaway. Please tweet or face or link or pin or plus or (insert any social media outlets that you use but I haven't mentioned here) or otherwise share to your social networks and make sure that I don't end up with pavlova in my face.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Skeletal by Katherine Hayton


by Katherine Hayton

Giveaway ends February 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The many uses for a sonic screwdriver

After attending the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular on Sunday I came away with wondrous memories of horrible horrible monsters, and a bit of tool envy.

Every time a Dalek attempted to exterminate the assembled human hordes little kids whipped out their sonic screwdrivers and forced them back.

And what did I do? I sat there and watched them.


Therefore when the twenty minute interval came about I took out my phone and searched for a price on a sonic screwdriver. I was definitely just interested in a price range. Yip.

Did you know it takes less than five minutes to sign up as a new customer, fill out a profile and make up a password, and then order a sonic screwdriver modeled on the twelfth doctor's version?

Well you do now, and so do I.

It arrived this morning and I have such plans for this little beauty. Pretending to wave it in front of locked doors while surreptitiously swiping my access card. Pretending to scan people who come to my desk just to freak them out a little. Using it to control the order of speakers inside a Team Leaders' meeting when I'm the facilitator.

Such fun.

And if a Dalek just happens to swing by at any particular point in time, I'm ready for it. Whom shall exterminate whom?

Monday, 16 February 2015


Ten years ago I smoked the last of my tobacco, ran all my smoking appliances under water before throwing them away, and never smoked again.

I did actually mean to give up smoking before I turned thirty, but my will wasn't behind it, and I kept putting it off for just a few more months, and just a few more months, and then almost two years.

What finally tipped the balance, apart from having wanted to quit for at least five years, was the fact that on hot days I couldn't catch my breath anymore.

Breathing is such an elementary thing that you don't notice at all while it's working - apart from when it heats up as you trudge up a hill - but the minute it starts to go wrong it takes over your life.

It reminded me of an article I'd read when it said that you should ignore the lung cancer statistics, the real cost of smoking can be found in the hospital wards in the guise of emphysema, COPD and chronic bronchitis. Dying of lung cancer is certainly no picnic, but it's also still quite rare. Loss of lung function leading to complications from flu or cold viruses, or a chronic breathing problem that leaves you tethered to a machine without the ability to move freely through your life, were the far more common result of a nation's smoking habit.

I didn't want to end up tethered to an oxygen tank, or so tired I couldn't even perform the rudimentary athletics of office work, so I quit. Cold turkey.

My breathing problems worsened into asthma; my skin flamed into a dozen patches of eczema; my weight ballooned into obesity and beyond, but I never regretted it for a moment.

Apparently smoking does protect you from some things. I discovered that the minor cases of eczema and difficulty breathing when there was pollen around that I'd experienced as a child and a teenager were actually full-blown anti-immune disorders that smoking ten or twelve times a day successfully sublimated. I also may or may not have lost the protection that smoking offers or doesn't offer (I love medical science, it's always so decisive) against Alzheimer's disease.

On the other hand, after getting past the first year of asthma I've never experienced another moment of breathing difficulty except when exercise related (the hills again!) And my skin turned down a few notches into irritation and annoyance which easily resolves with a few week's holiday in the sun.

I've never felt angry at tobacco companies for my smoking addiction. I've never felt angry at alcohol manufacturer's for my alcoholism.

And then I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and started to feel angry. I know why I took up smoking - I liked the way it made my head spin and I liked the fact that I could buy them even though I wasn't meant to - but although I can assign a certain rationale to my own fourteen year old self, I can't do the same with a two year old Indonesian.

Watching the Australian court battles with Tobacco Company Giants just reminds me all too well that my own country is about to be launched into the same battlefield with the same perpetrators when, or if, we implement it.

Why our public health policies are up for debate with foreign companies is a tad confusing. Much like the websites that sprung up in opposition to the bill for plain packaging when it was opened up for public debate. Some websites strenuously asserted that plain packaging shouldn't go ahead, it would cost us money to fight court battles, there was no proof that it worked to reduce the numbers of people smoking. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that many of these "public" websites were funded by overseas tobacco companies who 'were just making sure that every viewpoint of the New Zealand public was given a fair hearing.'

And of course there's always the threat that we won't be able to negotiate free trade agreements with countries who contain these companies.

So thank you very much John Oliver for putting a nice little campaign within easy reach of the general populace of New Zealand.

So I would like to lend my smoke-free voice to say #JeffWeCan

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The battle for middle armrest

There's a certain amount of courtesy required in public transportation because without it the whole structure will be in danger of collapsing and falling apart.

Even on the bus this is observed with attention to detail, and if it's not? Well, you don't want to be seated next to that bus passenger.

So I always find it quite surprising that for $2.90 I receive the same courtesy I afford others, yet for $199.00 it's entirely absent.

People next to you on the bus stare out the window if they're on the window side, and stare at their phone on the aisle side. No one sits next to another passenger unless all the double seats have an occupant and there's no choice. You don't talk to anyone if you can help it, unless they're mentally irregular in which case you nod and agree.

On aeroplanes however, these observed rules appear to be unknown to the general populace. Middle seat strangers will pin you against the window with their non-stop chatter knowing that you can't get off round the corner and walk a little bit extra to avoid the conservation. Sometimes they do this while I have earphones - the world renowned symbol for I don't want to talk to you - plugged deep into my ear canal.

People in the window stare longingly at the aisle, and people in the aisle crane for a glance out the window.

Nothing however, is as galling as the aisle side passenger believing that they are entitled to two -count them two- armrests.

Please bear with me as I point out the most well known and least applied rule of aeroplane etiquette.

The aisle seat had the aisle armrest. The window seat had the window armrest. The middle seat, and I hope you're following me this far, has both armrests.

Yes folks. The poor passengers crammed into the seat beside their travelling companion because they lost the toss, or find themselves crammed between two strangers because they checked in late, have two armrests at their disposal. God only knows, I wish we could give them more, and aeroplane seat configuration designers less.

So what happens when me and my darling have played turnabout and I'm sitting in the middle? Armrest theft.

Those exalted aisle passengers with their head in the clouds and their minds in the Fifty Shades of Gray gutter, for some reason forget this most elementary and sensible piece of common courtesy.

Well, no more aisle dwellers. I'm calling you at your own game and fighting you for MY armrest. I don't care what sorry of day you've had, our why your eyes are red and swollen. That's my armrest and you will respect my authoritah.

And if you don't think I'm right, then why don't you press your call button and have a chat to the air steward. Yeah, I'd like to see you try.

Friday, 13 February 2015

My take on critique groups

I'm tied up with the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular at the moment, partaking not performing, so here is a blog post I prepared earlier.

At my real job we have a system for new staff where every piece of work they put onto our computer system is checked until they achieve a level of 90% accuracy (as worked out by our system – it’s more like 99.5% across all possible fields on a risk.) Once they attain that exulted level we then put them onto ‘Buddy Signing’ and this is where we sometimes strike problems.

When you’re new at a job, especially one that involves attention to detail and memorising great swathes of information, you expect someone with more experience to tell you when you’re doing things wrong. Nobody likes it, but you deal with it because – duh – it’s your job.

You also take criticism from direct customers. You got something wrong on their policy, you handle the phone-call to explain why and what you’re going to do about it. Again this is perfectly fair and exactly what everyone in any type of customer service role expects.

The problem with ‘Buddy Signing’ is that you’re being judged by someone who doesn’t have more experience. Nor do your errors have a direct impact on their policy.

The problem with a buddy, is that they’re exactly like you.

And that means that when someone in the same boat as you pours criticism, even well-deserved, even well-meaning, even expected, on your work you feel belittled. Because they’re no better than you. By their very nature they are your true peers, with no more and no less experience than you have, so where do they get off telling you what to do?

What does that do to a nice working relationship? It causes havoc. We have buddy signers whose work we have to go back to having an experienced processor check because their error rates sky-rocket. Is this because they suddenly become useless? No – it’s because they pick on every little thing as a tit-for-tat measure against their buddy.

We also have buddy signers whose rates of output freefalls dangerously close to absolute zero. Why? Is it because they suddenly have the task of signing someone’s work in addition to their usual duties? Not often. It’s usually because they’re spending every minute of the day compulsively checking their work in case they’ve made an error, because so-and-so marked them down for one the other day and it’s knocked their confidence level to nil.

Or we have buddy signers who start processing so much work that no one can keep up with their output. This is okay because their errors decrease along with the increase in output until they are fully proficient members of staff. They also become self-signing. This is actually the thing we’re trying to achieve whilst often managing instead to drive the behaviours above.

It’s this third one that everyone joining a critique group thinks they’re going to get. Well, you’re not. As soon as you realise that everyone in your critique group is in the same position that you’re in they’re going to pick on option one or two and you’re all going to drive each other crazy. Yes, you’ll feel great when somebody compliments your work, but often in groups there’s a rule (even if unspoken) that you don’t hand someone criticism unless you also hand them encouragement.

When I was a team leader this was the way we were originally taught to give feedback to staff on their job performance. It’s called sandwiching, and it’s meant to ensure that you don’t pump up a staff member so much they’re not aware they’re making errors, but also not dragging them down so low that they feel they’re not getting anywhere and start to think about jumping ship and trying something new.

It doesn’t work.

The best practice we now teach is that you hand staff members ONE piece of feedback. If it’s good it’s the only good thing. If it’s bad it’s the only bad thing.


Because people who are overly complimentary about their own standards of behaviour will never hear bad feedback when it’s sandwiched with good feedback. And people with low confidence will never hear good feedback when it comes parcelled with bad. So you tell people, as soon as the feedback incident occurs, what your opinion is. Good or bad, but not both. So they actually hear what you’re saying.

If you’re in a critique group try to keep that in mind. Remember that if you’ve got one piece good, one piece bad, it doesn’t convey meaning. Not without knowing if they had to spend three hours trying to find something good to say about your work. Not without knowing if they thought the whole thing was fantastic but felt they had to criticise something because, well because that’s the point of a critique group, isn’t it?

So I don’t think critique groups give you accurate feedback without slanting for retribution, lowering your output, or leaving you confused as to which way you’re heading. But I would still recommend you join one.

The one thing they’re really good for is exposing you to other people’s opinions, and helping you to grow a thick skin. You’ll be getting a lot of one, and needing a lot of the other, if you’re releasing anything into the wild.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Unemployed and naked

'How do you get a job as a booksale bear?' Scruffy Bear asked. 'That looks like right proper fun.'

'It's not all fun and games,' Curly Bear warned. 'You have to work long hours, and make sure you're always looking good and smart. You need the proper T-shirt too.'

Scruffy looked downcast for a moment, and Curly felt a bit mean. He knew Scruffy only had a plaid tie to his name. He'd been unemployed for a while now, and it was hard to get by when you didn't have the money for upkeep.

'Why don't you lend him yours?' Fluffy asked. 'He could try it out, and you could teach him a few ropes.'

Curly tried to say the word no, but Scuffy looked at him with such enthusiasm shining from his normally beady eyes, that he couldn't.

'Here,' he said instead, pulling his T-shirt over his head and handing it across. 'It should be about your size.'

Curly tried not to wince as Scruffy pulled the shirt down. It fitted perfectly. Better than it fitted him.

'Now what?'

'Now you've got to take a posture,' Curly said. 'Try putting your paw out here, and make the book look like it's nice to touch.'

'Oh, that's good,' Scruffy said as he tried it out. His head was pulling a little bit higher; his chest puffing out a little bit further. 'This feels real natural.'

He did look good. Curly felt a tug of fear at the thought. Was his job really that easy?

'You're a natural,' Fluffy said with a short nod of approval. 'I think you'll do well.'

'You've had a try,' Curly said. 'But now I need to go back to work.'

Fluffy and Scruffy stared at him.

'You can't work here,' Scruffy said. 'You're naked.'

Curly work with a start, his breath coming in short, hard pants. It was the same nightmare again. As he turned over in bed and tried to get back to sleep he wondered where it came from. A fear of unemployment, or a fear of nudity?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A hard day in the book shop

'No one even sees us anymore.'

'What's that?'

Fluffy bear cleared his throat. He hadn't been meaning to speak aloud, but now that he'd broken the silence with his innermost thoughts he may as well continue. 'No one even sees us anymore. Remember the first day we were up here?'

'Last Monday?'

'No, the Monday before. It was the 26th here, but in the States it was the 25th, remember?'

Curly Bear nodded his head yes. He remembered.

'People kept coming by and giving us a pat on the head. They'd stop to have a look at the books, pick them up and read the back.'

'Yeah, yeah. There was that one woman picked me up and gave me a squeeze!'

Fluffy Bear laughed. 'That's right. I thought I was never going to see you again.'

'I don't think she even bought a copy.'

'No,' Fluffy Bear said. 'I don't think she did.' He thought for a second, then laughed. 'She certainly wanted to buy you, but.'

'I'm not for sale,' Curly Bear stated, sticking out his chest.

'And now they just walk on by. It's like we don't even exist.'

Curly Bear nodded his head. Fluffy Bear definitely had a point. He remembered the tight grip of the woman. The warmth of her arms, and the sweetness of her perfume. She'd put her nose down into his head and sniffed him deeply. Snuggled him under her chin.

'Maybe we should hold a sale? Maybe if we dropped the price they'd come back?'

'Maybe we could give them away for free?' Fluffy Bear mocked, and then held out a paw when he saw how Curly Bear's face dropped. 'Sorry. They're already a bargain. Signed too. We can't devalue her work that way.'

Curly Bear nodded his head. No way did he want to ever devalue her. She was the light of his life; worth a thousand sweetly scented cuddles.

'What'll we do then?'

Fluffy Bear shrugged his shoulders. 'Dunno. Maybe we should pack it up for a week or two. Maybe they'll notice when we've moved on.'

'We could always come back though, right?' Curly Bear's voice rose a few notes on the last word. He stared at Fluffy. 'It's nice here, isn't it?'

Fluffy Bear nodded at him. Maybe it wasn't a lie. 'Sure we will,' he said, his voice cracking on the last word. He cleared his throat and tried again, 'Sure we will.'


Another trip up to Auckland today. Another one and a half hour meeting had. Another trip back home to Christchurch.

I don't know about you, but it seems as though the three hour commute either way is a little bit of a stretch as a regular occurrence.

There should be some sort of rule. Something along the lines of - the travelling time for a meeting is only allowed to be equal or less than the overall time of the meeting - doesn't that seem fair?

If this rule was in place then perhaps people might try to arrange everybody they need onsite for one entire day worth of meetings, rather than one tiny meeting every week involving six hours of my life to attend. I'd much rather be hellishly bored for an entire day, than hellishly bored for a tiny bit every week forever.

Hellishly bored with BIG FAT ANKLES, BIG FAT FEET, AND BIG FAT LEGS due to water retention caused by the flight up to Auckland, and manifestly worsened by the flight back.

So, purely to save the company money I recommend this strategy to all and sundry.

Longer meetings, less travel, and slimmer legs. Who doesn't win out of this one?

Sunday, 8 February 2015


Well, beam me up Scotty! The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular is almost in town. Only 5 more days and in lieu of celebrating Valentine the Saint we'll be flying up to Auckland for a VIP pass introduction to the Doctor.

Full details of the night have just been forwarded, and the night broken down into hour-long segments.

For the first hour we can arrive, check-in with tickets and photo ID, and receive in return a laminate VIP pass and a bag of merchandise.

We then move through into the main area for some cocktails (or mocktails in my case) and some canapes. For an hour. Really? Okay, okay. I'll 'socialise' for an hour. I feel dirty just thinking about it. Or awkward.

Then we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to the talent who bring Doctor Who to life, hosted by comedian and huge Whovian, Rob Lloyd.

Fine, good. Sounds nice.

You will hear from some of the Creative and Production team behind both the TV show and Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular live show including Orchestrator and Conductor, Ben Foster.

Great, great. I'm sure they'll be interesting and everything.





Finally, fifth Doctor Peter Davison will take to the stage for an exciting Q&A.


I feel like a teenager.

Apparently, later we get a sneak preview of the full dress rehearsal. I'm sure that will be good too.

Oh, and last of all there's some sort of show on Sunday. We may attend.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Adult Male not allowed to pick his own friends

My darling goes for a walk almost every weekday lunchtime.

He crosses the quagmire of parking lots and slow moving traffic that decorate Tower Junction, en-route for the beautiful Hagley Park. He skirts around the edges of the park until he's used up half his allotted time, and then he turns around and heads back from whence he came.

I've known for many a year that he has a walking companion. Somehow only ever referred to by a nickname assigned since she likes to watch DVD boxsets. Oh, did you guess it? It's DVD |real first name suppressed|.

You know how it is when your partner talks at length about a group of people that he knows deeply and well by virtue of working alongside them for eight hours a day five days a week, and you don't know at all really by virtue of not? Your mind tries to pick out the relevant action details from a morass of names and descriptions that clutter up the storyline.

It doesn't help that I have trouble with names at the best of times. A few years back we performed a series of short fun activities in our workplace, to help liven the otherwise stifled atmosphere. One of the games was to stand in front of a person, ask them a question, and write down their name and answer.

So what, if it doesn't sound like fun. It was. Anyway I hadn't finished. After that, you got to take three steps to your side to end up face-to-face with another staff member and answer a question. See? High octane fun in the workplace.

Anyhoo, before I was so rudely interrupted, I wrote down the answer of a staff member that I'd worked with for six years. Not in the same team, but still worked with for a long time.

Couldn't remember her name. Went to write it down, knew that I knew it or should know it or had known it, couldn't find it anywhere. That name filing cabinet is a shocking mess, and I think someone's spilled some hot chocolate down the back of the PQR file draw. Luckily she understood my blank expression and provided it aloud herself.

So back to my darling and his walking companion. I've known it was a woman, I knew they went for a walk together most days, I cared about this only as much as I felt happy that he was having a nice walk while I was sitting in the breakout area sculling Coke.

This morning we went on a nice walk on the Port Hills far above Christchurch. A nice deep dark forest walk at the beginning, then joining up with Victoria Park and going on a nice open-air path around the side of a hill, and then back.

As we were crossing the road to join back up with the forest walk a nice fit blond lady on the other side of the road waved. I waved back in true exerciser code of conduct fashion (return the greeting with which you're greeted, and if necessary point out through the use of bad language that their dog isn't on a leash and should be) while my darling waved and said 'Hi' in a true I-know-that-person greeting.

'Who's that?' I asked when we'd passed them by.

'DVD *****'

'You never told me she was blond.'

I swear. That's all I said. If my darling somehow turned this into a restriction on who he can and can't see, and who he can or can't go on lunchtime walks with, that's on him.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Starting Over

Well, it's got to that time of the writing cycle again. I've edited, rewritten, re-edited, re-rerewritten, formatted, final edited, printed proofs, final proofread, final rewrote, and then published.

I marketed for a little bit, but not too strongly. Book number two can sink or swim on its own.

I sat back for a fortnight and waited for the first reviews and the first blogs to come in, and then breathed a sigh of relief when they weren't too bad, and gave a yelp of excitement when they were great,.

I rested. I rested for a whole week.

And now I'm up to the final stage. I'm rolling the first blank sheet into the word processor and typing out the first words again.

Two characters. Two backstories. One plot point. And the germs of a story.

85,000 words and I can start this whole thing over.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Did you know I was coming?

I tuned into the weather report last night. I was once again scheduled to fly up to Auckland for a meeting of a couple of hours that effectively took up the whole day due to the extended travelling distance.

As a special treat I scheduled a bit of me time by travelling up earlier than I needed. I thought I could do a bit of work on the plane trip up, go shopping for an hour or two, and then go into the office for the scheduled meeting without feeling too put upon.

Yup. That was my plan.

The weather report assured me that it was going to be 26° and sunny. I pondered on the advisability of wearing jandals on a work day, and sadly wisely decided not to.

I did however, throw aside my work uniform in favour of slightly more summery corporate attire.

On the ride to the airport this morning my phone reaffirmed that it was a nice warm sunny day in the nation's pseudo capital. I considered whether I should start with jewellery out shoes.

When I landed it was warm and calm and not sunny, but still a pleasant day all round. Forty minutes later as I was deposited outside the city office it was raining.

In Christchurch rain is a brief affair. Both in longevity and heft. It flutters around for a few minutes, maybe a half hour if you're lucky, and then it heads off to play somewhere else.

Two hours later the Auckland rain hadn't moved on. It wasn't playful. Remember I mentioned it was calm? Rain splats straight down on you when it's calm. Big warm drops of water. Not flurries. Drops.

I did try to go out in the end. I had only thirty minutes before my meeting, but I thought I'll still give my favorite Auckland jewellery shop a visit.

My shoes squeaked and lost their grip easily on the pavement. There were crowds of people, inconveniently spaced due to their umbrella accessories.

I was on a hiding to nothing so I turned and retraced my footsteps to return to the office. Older. Wiser. Damper.

Thanks Auckland. Right back at ya.

Monday, 2 February 2015

CourierPost. I don't have a driver's license.

Welcome to the CourierPost Feedback Form. Please provide feedback in the field below. (*500 characters max.)

Dear CourierPost,

I have a signed agreement with your company stating that it's okay to leave signature required parcels at our property and we accept all responsibility for them from that point.

Today I've received a Card to Call where this direction hasn't been followed. I've tried to use your website but I can't order a redirection because I don't have a drivers license.

I attempted to contact you on your Customer Service number, and a computer-generated phantom voice relayed two minutes of information and choices culminating in an explanation that I could order a redirection on your website. Which I can't. Because I don't have a driver's license.

I would like this item delivered again to my home address and left on the front doorstep if no one is at home, as per our agreement. If you don't want to do that any longer then I would expect that the usual course of action from the company terminating the joint agreement is to - at the very least - inform me that this agreement is no longer in place.

If you're not able to leave the package then perhaps you could explain why I'm not allowed to redirect my own mail because I don't have a drivers license. It is rather odd to expect me to collect an item from your back-of-beyond depot when - to be perfectly clear - I don't have a drivers license.

I haven't chosen your service, the person sending the item has. I haven't chosen signature required, the person sending the item has. And please don't worry, I will definitely contact this business on your behalf to stress how much they have inconvenienced you so that they know never to use your service again. I am happy to do this small thing for you.

However, I must stress once again that I have already made arrangements for this situation because it does inconvenience me as well when businesses choose to use your signature-required courier option. These form part of the instructions on your 'permission to leave items' form which I spent time and trouble to complete correctly and sign thus forming a valid contract between us.

Please either drop my item at my address where I have already signed an agreement saying you can deliver without collecting a signature even when the sender chooses to use your signature-required option, or redirect this item to the following address
why are you reading this
you can't possibly
believe I'd type in my actual
address in
where some lackie at reception will happily sign documentation to you heart's content.

Kind regards,


Sunday, 1 February 2015


Being a Monday, the traditional day of all dietorial and exerciserial resolutions, I was committed to walking home tonight.

It's a nice walk home that I don't do nearly as often as I should, and I have the current laboured breathing to show for it.

I was committed when I first sat down in the office. I was committed while I was eating my low-fat breakfast yoghurt.

I was committed when I felt like a snack at morning tea time, and I was committed when I remembered that I only had celery sticks and bravely decided to go without.

I was committed when I sat down to lunch and grimly chewed my way through konjac noodles and tried to pretend they were pasta, the same way the company that sold them to me had.

I was committed to it when I decided I deserved a Coke Zero and found to my horror that the machine still hadn't been refilled since it mysteriously emptied out on Friday and I had to settle for a Diet Coke instead.

I was committed to it while I was walking to the door of the office...

And then someone said, "It's hot out there. You won't need your cardigan."

I don't understand where commitment goes. Perhaps it overheated and decided to go off somewhere and sit in the shade.

I caught the bus, but then for some reason my commitment came back.

Half an hour from home it jumped back in control and demanded that I leave the bus right then and there. I tried to explain to it how that would be totally impolite to the driver who'd steered us so well up to that point, but eventually I gave in and jumped down at the next stop.

The reason the someone said about the heat was because it was very hot outside. Even without my cardigan. 31 degree heat, and I was a half hour from home. I managed the walk, but I still haven't cooled down. I decided not to heat my tea in the microwave in favour of eating it cold straight from the refrigerator.

I'm not sure that I'm committed to this tomorrow. We'll see.