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September 9th, 2010

Melbourne/Auckland

The end of the con was a bit of a blur.  Literally.

Monday at dinner, I began to notice a giant black squid floating and pulsing in the corner of my vision.  The world was covered with floating black soot and my glasses seemed to be unaccountably smeared with unremovable vasoline.  Denial immediately kicked in:  I'd had two glasses of wine, it was a visual migrane (which I've had before), it would be gone in the morning, I'd be glad I hadn't worried Ellen with it, and we'd go out to the zoo with Aussie author/fan/friend Melinda Rose Goodin and pet wallabies, as planned.

Yeah, right.

Bless Melinda four ways from Sunday, is all I have to say.  No sooner had we called to cancel our plans than she had persuaded her GP to shoehorn us into her heavy schedule, picked us up at the hotel, and run us out to the suburbs.  The GP (an extremely kind woman in a crimson suit and black pumps of great grace) set us up with an opthamologist (a tall and grave gentleman who reminded me of Commander Dalgliesh from the P.D. James novels).  He found a small retinal tear with bleeding.  "It's tiny," he said.  "If I had a laser, I could fix it right now."  But lasers are thin on the ground, although not as thin as eye surgeons on short notice.  Instead of simply expressing his deep regret and telling me to hang around Melbourne until someone could see me, he had a friend leave a key in the laser at a local hospital outpatient clinic, met us there after his consulting hours were over, and darned 3 neat rings around the tear.

And if that weren't enough to make me his slave for life, he turned out to be a fantasy fan (Ray Feist is his favorite author).   Ellen gave him a copy of Thomas the Rhymer, Melinda drove us back to the hotel again, and that would have been the end of the story, had it not been for the fact that we were booked on an airplane for Auckland the next day.

The doctor had told us to go ahead and take the flight, so we did.  I watched Chicken Run for the umpty-umph time, trying very hard not to think about pressure changes and floating retinas and the possible consequences of being a stupid idiot.  Needless to say, I was plenty freaked out by the time we got off the plane, picked up our rental car, and started north.

I draw a veil over our trip through Auckland.  I couldn't see the signs, we were racing sunset (we lost), Ellen has never driven on the left-hand side of the road.  We missed exits by the handful, got honked at, banged u-ies, and generally gave an inspired impersonation of the Two Stooges Drive In New Zealand.  We did, however, make it, without so much as a scratch or a dent, to Warkworth, a town far enough north of Auckland to get us out of the city and on our way, but not so far we couldn't get back easily if we had to.  We totally lucked out finding a guest house on a main street with a room that was not only available but lovely and comfortable and a restaurant nearby where we had warm smoked salmon and blue-lipped mussels and Portabello mushrooms over mashed sweet potatoes and a nice, sharp Marlborough sauvignon blanc and the loveliest conversation with the retired couple at the next table.  My favorite moment was when I asked the husband if they liked to travel, and he said, "Oh yes,  Phyllis and me, we just pack a toothbrush and a pair of knickers and we're off." 

My second favorite was when Phyllis--a motherly and practical soul--advised us (when we asked about it) to pop by the glasses shop down the street and talk to their optometrist in the morning.

This morning, bright and early, I was in the glasses shop, listening to another fashionable young woman (all in green, with the coolest green boots EVAR), with a gentle manner and a gentle touch, tell me I should see a specialist.  After a few phone calls, her blessed receptionist found one with time available, in Albany, just north of the Auckland urban sprawl so we didn't have to deal with city traffic. 

By this time, as you can imagine, I was pretty freaked out, in a quiet, tooth-gritted kind of way--although not as quiet or tooth-gritted as I was while undergoing what has to have been the scariest and most thorough retinal examination I ever hope to have in my life, given by one Dr. Archibald McGeorge of Auckland Eye Clinic, who learned the technique at Univ. of Iowa, of all places.  The verdict, heaven be thanked, was that the darning had held, the bleeding had stopped, and all was as well as possible.  The soot (he called it "The Snow-Globe Effect") and giant squid will go away in a couple of weeks, I can fly as much as I like, and life is generally very much less stressful than it was last night.

Tomorrow, I will return to my regularly-scheduled posting, and catch you up on Melbourne and WorldCon.

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