Friday, March 18, 2011

Embarrassed Silence....

So the last you heard from me was during the middle of the Perth Writer's Festival, where I was having a great time. And I was. I wrote my last entry up in a nearby pub and, after completing it, I walked out the door and straight into an old friend and housemate of mine who I haven't seen in probably 5 years or so, and who told me that he and his wife are pregnant. So we went back into the pub. Then another friend of mine, who I also haven't seen in ages (I'm really quite bad at keeping in touch with people) rang to tell me that he and his wife are pregnant. A definite pattern was emerging. So we stayed in the pub. Then I had dinner. Then I went to my hotel and drank a lot of water. Then I slept - a glorious, uninterrupted night's sleep.

The following morning I felt good. Some might say surprisingly good. Got off to the festival out at the University of WA, I phoned up one of Imogen and my old friends who I knew was at the festival that day and we arranged to meet that evening, after my final session, for a glass of wine and a catch up. Then I was planning to get to some of the evening events. After that, I had my first session for the day - a fantastic panel on Writing Australian Speculative Fiction, with (among others) my very good friend Margo Lanagan. We had a good time riffing off each other, and there was a good crowd and some fantastic questions.

Then off to the signing tent for half an hour or so. Then I bolted down half a sandwich, gave my son a cuddle (He'd arrived with grandparents just before my panel session) and then off to take a 3 hour workshop on writing fantasy. I was really looking forward to this workshop - it was one I'd not done before, and I'd put together some (in my opinion, at least) really interesting and fun stuff.

And it started well. The first hour was great, and the fifteen or so people who'd signed up were all lovely and engaged. The lecture theatre was a little gloomy, though, and so we had all the flourescent lights on.

The flickering, hard, white, flourescent lights.

About an hour into the workshop, while standing up the front of the lecture theatre, I noticed something a little odd - I couldn't read the monitor screen for my powerpoint projection any more. All I could see was a growing, pixellated blur. I also felt very suddenly nauseaus.

And this could only mean one thing...


I used to get a lot of migraines in my late teens and early 20's. I know the warning signs, and the first one of them is that my vision goes. That brings with it an odd sensation of 'spaciness', of feeling completely light headed and spun out. Light gets irritating at first and then, usually a couple of hours after the vision problems, the headache hits and, once that happens, nothing makes a dent in it. If I can gulp down some strong painkillers and get myself to a darkened room as soon as the vision thing starts, then the headache isn't usually too bad, and sometimes doesn't come at all.

Of course, it's a bit difficult to do that in front of a lecture theatre full of people who've all done me the courtesy of coming along to work with me. Especially when you're only about halfway through a workshop.

It was horribly embarrassing. I had to stop in the middle of a sentence, explain what was happening in my head, ask if anybody had any painkillers (one lovely person had some Panadol, which I knocked back like a junkie) and would they mind terribly if I turned all the lights off.

With the lecture theatre then plunged into darkness, and one of the lovely festival volunteers fetching me some fruit (I suspect that plunging blood sugar is one of the triggering factors for these) we all ploughed on with the workshop.

To be honest, I can't actually remember much of the rest of the afternoon. I know I got through to the end of the workshop, and then the festival got me back to the hotel quick smart. I remember vaguely getting some dinner into me ($50.00 for a plate of pasta. Thanks, room service...) and then it was lights out, both literally and metaphorically.

When I woke up the following morning, the headache had gone. I still felt spacey and a little light sensitive, but at least I was functional. Then it was back out to the festival for my final presentation - 40 minutes talking about my family on an outdoor stage during 'family day'. Lots of kids. Lots of old friends who I managed to talk to for about three minutes. As part of that presentation, Toby made his stage debut, bringing up some props for one of my stories.

Then another long night's sleep, and then on monday morning I checked out and headed up to my parent's place to pick up Toby. That afternoon we flew home to Canberra. Tuesday was back to work and 234 waiting emails, which took me most of last week to clear. This week's been similarly jammed, which is why I haven't written anything here (or anywhere else, for that matter - Orion is still firmly parked, about 3500 words from completion.)

In the meantime, one of my good friends has won an Oscar, the world has shaken in New Zealand and Japan, causing unspeakable suffering which I can't bring myself to write about, I've continued my weekly horseriding lessons, and life has basically continued at a breakneck pace.

Anyway, it's probably time I signed off from this long ramble. From next week I'm going to try and get back into my regular writing routine again, which will include blogging again. Actually, next monday evening, I'm involved in something exciting, which I'll tell you all about next week.

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