Some clich�d pun on "eyes", V

Afterwards

After finishing up the second eye, and waiting the three minutes, they took off the drapes, wiped my face a bit (to get the betadyne and dribbled eye drops and stuff off), let me get off the table and then Lisa led me to the post-op waiting room — same leather chairs and carpetless floor, but with a bookcase (full of journals) a desk, and an end table with a tackle box full of drugs. She took off the gown and cap, and gave me a little black bum bag with the name of the clinic embroidered on it. This was to keep the stuff they were giving me in one place. She gave me some panadol right away, with a cup of water, because my eyes would be unhappy for the next several hours (and who can blame them ?). She gave me another couple packets of panadol for later that night, if I needed them, a couple pills of something with codeine in it, in case the panadol didn’t do it, and a sleeping pill if I had trouble sleeping. I might have used another dose of panadol later on, but I don’t remember. I didn’t need any of the other stuff. Then she left me alone long enough to get really bored in there. Probably to make sure I was okay & the sedative had worn off and I didn’t have any immediate bad reactions. For the most part, I could see. Things were kind of smeared and off-kilter, like I had water in my eyes or my contact lenses were sitting wrong. I could read the spines of the magazines with a bit of effort.

They came back, checked my eyes to make sure everything looked like it was back in the right place, and then taped “eye shields” onto my face. These are slightly cupped pieces of clear plastic with holes for ventilation, big enough to rest on your brow, cheekbone and the bridge of your nose, and so protect your eye from being bumped by anything. They’re also there to prevent you from rubbing your eyes. I was to keep these on until my appointment at 9:30 the next morning, and until then, I wasn’t to shower or wash my hair, and I wasn’t to touch or rub my eyes, no matter how annoyingly they itched. (I was also instructed not to squeeze my eyes shut too hard). Discomfort was to be expected, but actual pain meant I’d probably dislodged the flap, and in that case I was to call the after hours number. Lisa observed apologetically that the after hours number was in rather stupidly small print on the business card she tucked into the black bag, and I assured her that if I had any trouble, I’d get help from the hotel staff. She (and Helen as well) recommended that I mostly just sleep for the rest of the day.

The hotel staff, who for the entire rest of the experience were fantastic, took forEVER to come and get me (they did apologise). I did my best to read my book, but it was hard, because even though the eyeshields were clear, the curve and the eyeholes distorted things. It was hard to tell how much distortion was from the eye shields, and how much was from my eyes being wonky after the surgery. Back at the hotel, I rang Stephen, rang Helen, ordered room service (a really less-than-appetizing attempt at a caesar salad), took a bath, took some panadol, and slept. Mostly in that order, I think. My eyes *were* uncomfortable, but I never felt the need to claw them out of my head. Stewart described the sensation as “like wearing really dirty contact lenses”, and that’s not a bad description. They felt a bit like they felt fighting one of Stephen’s brush-fires, sort of burning and stinging and gritty. I slept like a rock. I always sleep well in hotel beds.

Friday

I expected to sleep later than I did, and so I was raveneous and bored by the time room service brought breakfast. At the followup appointment, they took off the shields (huzzah), took a look at my eyes to make sure they looked like they were healing okay, and did a shorter version of the eye test. I have “normal” vision in my left eye (not as good, I think, as I had with the contact lenses), and “better than normal” vision in my right eye (better than with the contacts). They reiterated that my sight might shift a bit as my eyes healed and got used to their new shape. They warned me (again) that I’d have crap night vision for a while — halos and starring and stuff — while my eyes were healing, but that this should gradually clear up over the next several weeks. They reminded me that my eyes would probably feel dry for a while, and this would also clear up as they healed, and they gave me samples of four different kinds of lubricating eye drops, which I was instructed to use as much as I liked, as keeping the eyes nice and wet helps them heal. They gave me a fifth bottle, which was an antiseptic/antibiotic that I was to use four times a day for the next four days. I was to keep the eye shields and wear them whenever I slept (even naps) for the next two days (a good thing, considering the first night home Stephen rolled over and elbowed me in the face) — longer, if I tend to rub my eyes when I wake up — and they gave me a little roll of tape for this. Likewise no moisturizer or makeup near the eyes for two days (which meant I could wear it again for work Monday). I’m to avoid dust as much as possible for two weeks, so Stephen must do the vacuuming. Wearing sunglasses is a good way to keep dust out, and also helps if you’re light sensitive afterwards, which some people are. I should still avoid rubbing my eyes, which includes vigorous towling. No contact sports for six weeks, and they specified that children are included under “contact sports”. Heh. I’m to schedule followup appointments with my Wellington optometrist for one month, three months, and six months post-op & she’ll report my progress back to the clinic in Christchurch.

Back at the hotel, I rearranged all of the books and stuff into something that could reasonably be carried on a plane. I’d come down with just a day-pack of clothes & it’s lucky they gave me a decent-sized handled shopping bag when I bought the coat, or I’d have nothing but a handful of thin plastic grocery bags to carry everything else home in. As it is, the hotel laundry bags were pressed into service. I put my wallet and sunglasses into the new bum bag (they’d also given me a hat, in case I was light-sensitive — don’t they just think of everything ? — but I left that in the backpack) and hopped the bus back into town to kill the rest of the day until my flight out at 6:30. This time, I hit the Arts & Crafts center the city cleverly set up in an old gothic boys’ school. Stephen and I had been there when we came through before, but I think we may actually have missed half of it. A whirlwind tour of the Art Museum across the street gave me enough time to grab the 4:30 bus back to the hotel, which shuttled me to the airport by 5:30, where I paid $1.50 to not have to carry 40 pounds of books around for 40 minutes, forgot about the Sbarro upstairs and instead paid $6.95 for a pint of really actually rather unpleasant pasta salad. But it kept me alive until I got home where Emily, blessings upon her head, had sprung for Hell Pizza. Yum. (I’m sorry that between Canterbury Faire and the laser surgery I didn’t get more time to play with Emily while she was staying with us, but she scored a contract, an apartment, and several more job leads without me fussing over her, so it worked out okay anyway.)

I’m one week into it now. Vision is still good, except at night. At night, it’s fine out in the dark, but I do get smudgy halos around bright lights, which fract out into long-tailed stars when the windshield is dirty. It’s not bad enough to be disorienting or unsafe, though. My eyes do occasionally get dry & uncomfortable, but it mostly just feels like I’ve got contacts in, and of course I’ve worn contact lenses for so long that I hardly notice. Having worn lenses for so long means also that I’ve long since developed the habit of *not* rubbing my eyes — learned that the very first time I rubbed my eyes and lost a lens, down a chasm in a cave in the Carolinas somewhere, I think. What I developed instead is a (no doubt disturbing to watch) habit of sticking my finger directly in my eye and gooshing my lens around. Luckily, I haven’t accidentally tried *that* yet. The only thing bugging me at the moment is that my eyes tend to be really dry and actually stuck shut when I wake up in the morning, and it does hurt a little to unstick them. I think I might try keeping some water or drops by the bed, and try soaking it through my eyelashes before I open my eyes in the morning. When I call to make the first follow up appointment, I’ll mention it.

And that’s that. It’s weird being able to see the mildew in the shower in the morning, and I keep getting brought up short by my hindbrain telling me I’ve forgotten to take out my contacts when I notice I can still see climbing into bed at night. Speaking of which, it’s pretty darned cool to lie in bed and see the Southern Cross through the slider.

Some clich�d pun on "eyes" , IV

Thursday

The appointment wasn’t until 1:30, so I had a morning to kill. I investigated possibly going to the Willowbank wildlife park, had the Antarctic Centre recommended to me (but Stephen and I had been there in ’99, and I didn’t think it would have changed much), and ended up just grabbing a bus pass and going back into town. The weather was fantastic. I hit the little street market they have in Cathedral Square during the summer & snagged a new hair stick, had breakfast by the river (fending off mooching gulls), and generally wandered around a bit. Managed to find the bookstores again, and picked up a couple that I had waffled about the day before, along with a nifty blue suede topcoat from a junk shop next door.

The Procedure, yes actually

The first thing they did was give me a multi-page consent form to sign. They seemed very keen to make sure I understood what presbyopia is (that long-sightedness you get when you get old), and that it’s got nothing to do with eye surgery. Then they took my credit card details. Oh, and they offered me a mild sedative, and had me sign a separate consent form for that. There was some waiting around, then they stuck a gown on over my clothes, and a showercap thing over my hair. They don’t want any lint or anything that might affect the laser. The floors of the inner waiting rooms aren’t carpeted, and the chairs are these big overstuffed leather things. You’re not supposed to wear makeup or perfume, or heavy spray deoderant. They put the first of a couple of different anaesthetic drops in.

WARNING: Okay, if you have an eye squick, or are generally squeamish, you may want to skip down to “Afterwards”.

PRK, the way they first started doing laser surgery, involves using a laser to essentially abrade the surface of your cornea down to a better shape. It takes a while to heal, I’m told. Lasik is a little different. What they do, is they use a machine with a really sharp blade to slice a little flap in the front of your eye. They peel that up, then use the laser to abrade the eye underneath, then put the flap back down. It heals a lot faster — the flap sticks back down almost immediately. The cornea has some kind of natural “breathing” thing that it does that “sucks” the flap into place, and they put the “hinge” at the top, so when you blink, your eyelid is going in the direction that would also tend to smooth the flap in the right direction. The reason they measured the thickness of the cornea is that they need to make sure there’s enough there for them to take off the right amount to correct your prescription (and the worse your prescription, the more they have to take off) *and* have this flap, *and* leave enough left over to still be structural to your eyeball. The measurements they took of my dilated pupil also figure in — they want the flap (and the surgery site) to be big enough to overlap the width of the dilated pupil, so every part of your cornea that you’re ever going to see through had a consistent contour. If your dilated pupil ends up wider than the surgery site, you’ll end up getting some of your vision through the corrected part of your cornea, and some through the ring outside that, and you’ll have two different focal points at the back of your eye (sort of like astigmatism). The effect is that your night vision (when your pupil is dilated) will be crap. My dilated pupil without the special dilation drops was around 5mm. With drops, it was 8mm. As mentioned previously, my corneas were a bit on the thin side, which meant it was going to be tricky to get the flap big enough to keep my night vision good *and* have enough room for my rather large correction. (I mentioned that my nearsightness generally put me between -5 and -6, but the astigmatism combined with that meant that some parts of my eye were as bad as -8 ). They worked around this by making the flap as thin as they could get away with.

So, they gown me up and lead me in. The table is padded and pretty comfy, with a wedge for under your knees. Once you’re on the table, things move pretty quick. They do one eye at a time, and cover the other one with a shield so you can keep it open (which helps keep the one they’re working on pointed in the right direction), but can’t see out of it (which keeps whatever you might see out of that eye from being distracting, which also helps you keep the eye they’re working on pointed in the right direction). Amidst putting an assortment of drops in your eyes — anaesthetic, antiseptic — they swab all around your eye with betadyne (which doesn’t sting, on account of the anaesthetic), tape a drape around your face, tape your eyelashes back, and shove a speculum in to keep your eyelids pried open. Kind of uncomfortable, that. Helen apparently had some bruising from this, but I didn’t. The whole time, you’ve got this little blinking red light to fixate on. The machine that slices the flap has a suction cup that grabs onto your eyeball to hold it still, which is good, but also pretty uncomfortable, and pretty scary as well. The pressure makes your vision go dark while it’s on, so for a mercy you can’t see it actually doing the cutting. It takes all of maybe ten seconds, and after that you can sort of see again, but not really, because now everything’s all smeared and grainy.

I think the most nerve-wracking part of this was that, apart from the suction cup on the slicer, you have to hold your own eye still. What if I twitch ? What if I SNEEZE ?!! (Apparently, the laser has sensors on it that track your eye movements, and if it moves too much or too fast, it stops. But still.) They peel back the flap and the smeary red light expands out into a broad, uneven blob of flashing red grains. I pick a patch of slightly brighter grains that are mostly in the middle of the blob, and try to fix on them. I try to sing a song in my head and focus on that, but have trouble stringing the words together, probably because of the sedative. The laser makes a sort of ticking noise, and there is (as they warned me there would be) a disconcerting burning smell. It goes in 15 second increments (which helps the eye-holding-still anxiety), and Stewart reassuringly calls out how far along we are after each little burst – “22 percent !”, etc. The lasering takes about 60 seconds or less, all up. I can see Dr. Kent carefully smoothing the flap back down with a little plastic paddle, and the grainy light goes back to being merely blurry. They put some drops in and leave me there for three minutes while the flap sticks itself back down, before taking the speculum out and letting me blink. Everything is still blurry, because of the eye drops.

Then they do it all over again on the other eye.

Next up: Afterwards

Some clich�d pun on "eyes" , III

The Procedure

The way this clinic does it, you fly in (assuming you’re not local) on Wednesday morning. Sometime Wednesday, you have the final two hour full exam, where they take all sorts of measurements and confirm that yes, it’s safe for you to do this (if you bail after going through this big exam, they charge you a couple hundred bucks for it, otherwise it’s included in the overall price of the procedure). If you elect to go ahead with it, they schedule you for surgery the next day. Then Friday AM you have your first followup exam, and then fly home. Helen, who got hers done at a different clinic, says her schedule was similar. (The surgeon does cataracts on Monday and Tuesday).

Wednesday

We got up at the regular time, and Stephen dropped me off at the airport. The plane was a bit late getting out, but since my appointment wasn’t until nearly 4, I didn’t particularly care. I hadn’t been able to get a B&B in Christchurch, as they were all booked (my original plan had been to find one near the clinic and walk to the various appointments). Partly this was because half the country takes their holidays in February & partly (the hotel staff told me) it’s because this was right around the seasonal staff turnover point for the Antarctic stations, so a lot of people were “coming off the ice” or else going out to it. I don’t know about you, but on any given day, I don’t tend to think about Antarctica at *all*, never mind expect it to affect my accomodation plans. Wacky. Anyway, the eye clinic has a special deal with one of the local hotels: special rate, and they shuttle you to and from the clinic. More expensive than some of the B&Bs, but reasonable for a hotel and the B&Bs weren’t available anyway. Bonus: they give out free passes for the bus than runs into the city.

I got into the airport, rang the hotel for a pickup, ditched my bag (the room wasn’t ready yet), and hopped the bus into town, where Helen took a half-day (well, a bit more) off work to guide me around the local book shops. Whee !

The Eval

Back at the clinic, the promised two hours (which actually was closer to three, I think) was actually a series of short 15 minute segments separated by stints back in the waiting room. The eye surgeon (David Kent), an optometrist (Theresa) and two clinical assistants (Lisa, and Stewart again) shuffled the various patients around between them, running us through the battery of tests and consultations. It seemed pretty efficient, and although it was obvious that this was something of an assembly line, and that each of them had given their set spiel a gajillion times, they were all quite nice, seemed genuinely friendly, and generally had a good vibe. Actually, I think the standardized routine-ness of it was kind of reassuring — they’ve done billions of these, they do them every week, it’s not big and scary, they’re old hands at it, you know ?

They gave me a full eye exam — “Which is clearer: one… or two ? Three ?… or four ?”, read the eye chart, etc. — to nail down my current prescription. They did take down my previous two prescriptions at this point, so it was good I had them with me. They also asked for the names of my current optometrist and clinical practitioner. They ran me through all of the same tests Stewart had given me back in Wellington, with the yellow rings and the rubber-eye poking stick (that was was last), and stuff, plus another scan for “higher order anomalies”, which I didn’t have, but which they could have corrected if I had. They did another test which involved looking at a little drawing of Mount Fuji (complete with cherry blossoms) which they pulled in and out of focus. I think that was the iris mapping, which the machine that guides the laser uses to make sure your eyeball is lined up the right way. There was another staring down a tube thing that measured how big my pupils were, both constricted and dilated — they did that one both before and after using those dilating drops. They did most of them at least twice, to make sure the results were consistent.

Then they went over again all of the explanations and descriptions that Stewart and the printed info had explained already, went over again what to expect, blah blah etc. They want to make sure your consent is very thoroughly informed. My appointment was made for 1:30 the next day.

Dinner

Helen, bless her, had finished picking up some groceries next door and was waiting for me to get out of the somewhat over-run appointment, after which we managed to get ourselves stuck in the magic no-busses-for-another-hour window. Ugh. Helen gave up and phoned one of their flatmates to come and pick us up.

Helen and Duncan, for you folks Playing at Home, are SCAdian friends we met through Stephen and Jennifer. I had a standing invite from Duncan to do the bookstore thing if I was ever in town, and when I indicated I’d like to take them up on that offer, they invited me to dinner as well. Actually, they invited me to stay with them, but I took the hotel room to take advantage of the shuttle service. Renting a car wouldn’t have been an option, since you’re not supposed to drive immediately after the surgery (or having your eyes dilated, for that matter), and I didn’t want to screw around with taxis or buses.

Dinner was late, because we were, but it was yummy, because they are foodies (they frequently cook the feasts for SCA events). They rent a gorgeous antique house right across from the river. Duncan showed me his shoe-making techniques, and loaned me another stack of books, to add to the pile I’d bought that morning. We watched Cold Case while we digested, and then Helen borrowed a car and drove me back to the hotel.

Next up: The Procedure.

I know I said that last time, but I need to do this in little pieces, or else it won’t get done at all. Sorry !

Some clich�d pun on "eyes" , II

The First Evaluation

Contact lenses do change the shape of your eye a bit, especially toric lenses, which are what I needed (Look ! Past tense !) for my astigmatism. The Wellington lasik place had indicated that they wanted one to not wear contact lenses at all for three days prior to *their* free initial screening, so they could see one’s eyes once they’d had a couple days to think about being their normal shape again. The Christchurch place that I ended up actually scheduling the appointment with only said thay they’d ask me to take them out at the eval, so to bring a case with me, but I elected to just wear glasses for the weekend before the appointment anyway.

Since the actual eye clinic is of course in Christchurch, this free eval was held in a hotel suite on the Terrace, with a young surfer-looking optometrist named Stewart. Sounds like it could be dodgy, but it was all very professional, I assure you. Stewart has a habit of ending every other statement with a little affirmative “hmm”: “It’s been humid lately, but not as hot as in Auckland, hmm.” There was an eye chart on the wall, and on the table/desk were couple of machines that Stewart or whoever pulled the “away” duty that week evidently had to haul around to these evals on the plane. He had me read the eye chart as best as I could, which wasn’t fantastic, as I was wearing my glasses, which are at least 10 years old. I was expecting him to ask about my current and next-oldest prescription, to see whether my eyes were still changing (the optometrist I’d been to had been concerned about the astigmatism in my right eye), but he reckoned that if I could still read as much of the chart as I could with 10-year-old glasses, that I was fine.

After the chart came the machines. The first one just worked out roughly how bad my vision was — if you’re worse than -8 or so, the surgery gets tricky (I was between -5 and -6). The second one required staring through bright yellow concentric rings at a little red “flower” light. The machine used the reflection of the yellow rings bouncing off the front of the eye to map the contours of the cornea. Nearsightedness means the cornea is too steep. Astigmatism means the cornea is steeper on one axis than the other (I think mine were steeper on the vertical than the horizontal). If your slopes aren’t roughly symmetrical, then it gets tricky again. My right eye was a wee bit off, but not far enough to cause problems (Stewart assured me).

The last test was “corneal thickness”. This involved those anaesthetic drops that make your eyeballs feel like big rubber chew toys. The fact that I didn’t flinch in the slightest either when he put the drops in or when he poked each numb eyeball with the little stick-thing that does the measuring seemed to impress Stewart a bit. “You can tell you’re a contact lens-wearer, hmm.” They want your corneas to be at least 500 microns thick, so they’ve got enough to take off with the laser (and of course the worse your prescription is, the more they’ll need to take off, hmm). Mine were again borderline — 499 and 505.

Stewart then pulled out a little A4 flip-chart with eyeball diagrams that explained first how the eye worked, what nearsightedness and astigmatism meant, and how the lasik procedure would correct these conditions. He gave me some info about possible complications; I asked a couple of questions; he described what having the procedure felt like during and after.

Stewart then gave me a letter confirming that the initial eval had determined I was a suitable candidate for the surgery. I asked about scheduling, and he told me they could usually arrange appointments with two weeks notice. However, since I wore toric lenses, I’d need to be out of them for three weeks before having the procedure, to give my eyes the best chance to get back to their normal shape first. I was the last appointment of the day — Stewart had a plane to catch to Dunedin for more evals there the next day. I went straight back to work and made an appointment for three weeks away.

Next up: The Procedure

Some clich�d pun on "eyes"

I have had lasik surgery to fix my eyes. I had looked into getting it done actually
before we left the States, but with all the prep and packing and stuff, didn’t get
the ball rolling in time. For those of you who are curious, and haven’t gotten it
first-hand from another source, here’s how it went for me:

The Decision

My contacts lenses had gotten to the point where they really weren’t wearable
anymore — old and full of protein deposits and really uncomfortable. I’d taken to
wearing them just at work and maybe at parties, and wearing my glasses the rest of
the time. This was really only a crap stop-gap solution, since my glasses were
large enough that they tended to slide down my nose if my face got sweaty or oily,
and my scalp muscles would tense up to try and keep them on my face, giving me a
headache. Bleah. Plus the unfashionably large frames made me feel, well,
unfashionable.

Fortunately, the Council likes its employees to be able to see their computer
screens, and springs for an eye exam a year — once you’ve been working for Council
for at least six months, that is. I waited my six months, then scheduled an
appointment. New contact lenses to my prescription would be $300 for three
one-month pairs. Ouch ! If they didn’t try to correct my astigmatism all the way, they
could probably squeak me into a set that was “only” $150. Ugh. Between the cost of
the lenses and the cost of all the solutions and crap, I reckoned now just might be
a good time to look at laser surgery again.

The optometrist indicated that their patients had good things to say about three
surgeons in particular — one each in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. It’s
resonably common knowledge that the more of these the surgeon has done, the fewer
complications there are, statistically. The grapevine indicated the guy in CHCH was
the front runner. The Wellington guy seemed to have been doing the procedure for
about as long, but had had a malpractice suit early on — a relatively innocuous
one, but it seemed bad luck. Plus, although the local place was quick to post me an
informative brochure, they were hard to get ahold of in the post-holiday period when
I was making the decision. The CHCH place, on the other hand, regularly sent people
around the country to do free initial evaluations, and the Wellington one was only a
week away. I got an appointment.

next up: The First Evaluation

Freezer Fare

So, on Monday morning I was out spraying fungicide in the Triangle paddock. We do this in high summer so we can have a place to put the ‘paca if we get good “spore weather”, as some types of fungi produce spores that are really toxic to camelids. Kiills a few every year ’round the country.

As I was walking under the pine trees, spraying away, I spied a lovely native raptor (hawk or falcon, not sure which) lying dead under the trees. A quick inspection showed it was very freshly dead, a few hours at most. II am not sure on cause of death, it might have hit a branch and broken its neck. I don’t know.

I would not want to waste such a beautiful bird, so I called a local taxidery shop. As native raptors are protected, they told me to call DoC (Department of Conservation), which I did. To get protected birds stuffed you need special permission, and generally DoC only gives that permission for birds that will go on public display. They don’t want private collections.

So, DoC will come along at some point and collect the bird. The will offer it first to Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand) to see if they need it for their collectiion. If not, next they will offer it to the local Iwi (Maori tribe) for use in making traditional feather cloaks. If they don’t want it, they will offer it to bird-rehab people, who apparently can do feather transplants to replace broken wing feathers on injured birds. And if they don’t want it, it gets tossed in a hole. I really hope it goes to a good use.

And in the mean time, we have this lovely native raptor in our freezer!

So far behind…

So, as our dear readers know, we have beeen very slack about updates recently. Let me try a bit of catch-up.

The last weekend in January was filled with events. Our friends Sylvia and Michael got “civilized”, that is they had their civil union ceremony. They rented out the Carter Observatory, which is located in the middle of the botanic gardens, for the event. This provided a lovely outdoor setting for the ceremony (under the glaring yellow eye of Mr Sun), and the reception afterwards was held in the observatory buildings. They had informative space-type videos running in one room, and ran periodic planetarium shows thorughout the night. Once it got dark enough they fired up the two telescopes and you could look at a star cluster in the magellanic clouds, or look at Saturn- the rings and some moons were visible! Very cool!

That same day our friend Emily arrived from Auckland. She is staying with us while she apartment/job hunts down here in Wellington. We would have dragged her along to the CU, but after a 9 hour drive she was a bit shattered.

Last week was the frenzy known as “preparing for Cantebury Faire”. This is the biggest SCA event held in NZ each year, sited about an hour north of Christchurch. Tam spent the week working madly to create two Dells, which are a mongolian/central asian garment that has been worn for thousands of years. They are very nifty, her design is a double-sided/reverseable one with silk on one side and cotton on the other. As is so often the case, doing something for the first time takes waaaaay longer than anticipated, due to the whole learning curve. She got one done in time though, so we had new garb at an event! (For the first time in many, many years.)

Canterbury Faire (CF) was fun. We went down Friday morning, catching the 3 AM ferry. This “cunning plan” allows us to get on site by lunch time, without having to take a vacation day on Thursday. Like two years ago, we traveled with Steve and Jennifer, allowing us to switch passengers between cars to vary the conversation. The event was not too hot (which Cantebury can be at this time of year), with periodic showers cooling the place down nicely. Dillan designed some very fun war scenarios, and with a hundred or so hay bales we made a fort (which we took turns defending, whoever could hold it longest won), a ship, and other sorts of battlefild terrain that we fighters (and combat archers) could run around and in. At peak we probably had close to 35 or 40 combatants on the field, which was pretty nifty. The total population at the event peaked at about 200, with a number of participants over from Australia, inclding the King and Queen. (And I killed the king the first time I met in him in single combat! Woot! The unexpected style of the Katana led him to make a mistake the the local fighters know all about now. I just need to get more tricks in my basket so I can win a _second_ bout against a skilled swordman!)

Satruday evening we left the site and drove 30 minutes south to visit Silverstream Alpaca Stud. We had met Kiet and Sheryl at many previous events, and they were happy to have us crash their BBQ. A fun evening of socializing, but we got so into chatting, we forgot to tour their farm before it got dark! Ooops! We did get a glance at their new $100K stud male (Jolimont Attitude). It would be nice to have such money to throw at problems.

One bit of Drama was on Monday night. Tam and I were helping in the kitchen to prepare dinner, as they were short on staff (and not very organized). At 5 PM the deperate cry went up “we need butter!”, as 2 kilos of needed butter was missing from the fridge. I hopped in my Ute and zoomed down the road to Amberly, the nearest town (about 6 km away). Problem! It was Waitangi day, and little Amberly’s (Pop 1100) one small supermarket was closed. Nearest supermarket- Rangiora. Distance- 26 km. Insert scene of ute zooming down Cantebury back roads at 107 km/hour (just below the limit where police will tag you). I made it back just before six, when dinner was to start. The head cook looked up from her work, said “Oh, I found the butter”, and without a word of thanks walked away. Not so impressed with that lady now.

On the way to the ferry yesterday we had a lovely long lunch in Kaikoura, and stopped for a chat at Totara Grove, an old alpaca/llama farm outside of Picton. Totara Grove is the first alpaca farm Tam and i visted in NZ, back in 1999 when we came here on Vacation. Russel is one fo the pioneers of camelid husbandry in NZ. We made it home by 10:30.

And now our short work-week begins. After the long weekend I expect a certain zombie-factor these next few days. But it was a fun event.