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Make pet friendly accommodation the norm!

Over a year ago I wrote a blog post called “Beauty in Cat Poo“, in which I had a rather long rant about pet-unfriendly rental and strata accommodation.

So it is with happiness that I write 18 months later that the NSW government is calling for submissions asking whether people support a review of the barriers to cat and dog ownership in relation to residential tenancy laws.

I will be submitting my opinion with a resounding yes. I only wish I could tick a double yes, or a yes plus, a yes on steroids, a yes the size of a mammoth! A yes which is big cat sized!

While some may not go as far as to say that pet ownership is a right (I think it should be), I’m sure there are plenty of like-minded people out there who are unaware that the government is even considering the issue. I think it would be terribly sad if the opportunity to make some headway on this issue was lost.

So I’m making as much noise as possible about it. I’ve put it on my facebook. I’ve emailed almost my entire address book, and now I’m blogging about it. (I find myself at this moment wishing I had more friends so I could help make a bigger wave of support).

Here’s a snippet of what got me so hot under the collar 18 months ago:

The invisible rulemakers

To be honest I often think of the body corporate and strata managers as figments of someone’s imagination. I acknowledge that one frequently hears of the body corporate. However have you ever seen one?

There’s no office with ‘body corporate’ signage. There’s no letterbox.

Forget the invisible man of politics the true mystery of today is the body corporate. Really, think about it… what does a body corporate look like? What makes a body look corporate? Is it the human figure which has been processed, streamlined, structured, and programmed to function off finance rather than more natural fuel?

However I will put aside for a moment the mysterious-ness of the body corporate or the strata management company and move on to the critical question at hand.

Why do these people get to decide whether you have a pet? In some situations, your landlord may be quite happy for your to own a pet, but this body with the corporate look has decided you cannot. Ah, I hear you all cry out… but of course they can decide this. Pets can be messy. True. However so can children and I’ve yet to see a complex advertised as ‘no children allowed’. (I suspect retirement villages are generally without children, although with the age of childbirth creeping ever higher who knows what may happen in the future).

In 2011, with more and more people remaining single, I believe pets should start to have the same rights as children – at least in the home. I get mad when I read on the cat protection society website that a cat was surrendered because of “unfriendly accommodation”.  

My home was ‘pet friendly’ when I moved in four years ago… Recently the strata management company issued new strata laws which said only fish and birds (in a cage) were permissable. I checked with the real estate agent regarding a grandfather clause. Surely if you have moved into pet friendly accommodation, they cannot suddenly become unfriendly and expect you to give up your pets? The answer I received was – as much as they knew – it was fine to continue as before. So while that’s good news for Licorice, Saffron and myself, I do feel for anyone new moving in who may be denied the chance to have a pet.

And why did they change their minds? Because some people had some dogs and they were irresponsible owners and the dogs made such a mess of the carpet that it had to be replaced. To this day I’m still puzzled how they went from ‘dog causes mess’ to ‘cat not allowed’.

Such a situation would be aided if the laws were changed as currently proposed. New South Wales would adopt the same laws as the ACT where

“the default position is that pets are allowed, with the onus on the owners corporation to not unreasonably withhold permission.”

Oh, what a delight if that were to occur. Had the strata remained resolute that no pets were allowed, I would have moved back to mum’s place rather than surrender Licorice and Saffron, yet I know that some people don’t have that option up their sleeve. According to Cat Protection NSW, up to 20% of adult cats they take in are victims of pet-unfriendly rental and strata accommodation.

That’s 20% too many.

Please take a few minutes to answer the survey and please, vote yes in question 18.

For more information see: www.dlg.gov.au/CATaskforce or contact Cat Protection Society.

I thank you all for your support in advance and the kitties thank you too!

The milestone

April is supposed to be the month of Event and Milestone Photography. When I started the year I had all this enthusiasm to explore a different photographic topic each month. I’m not even half way through the year and my attentiveness of petering out.

It’s not anything to do with lack of enthusiasm for the subject. It’s more to do with lack of time. Available time to be specific. I have quite the same number of hours this month per day as I did the month gone by. I’m just using lots of those hours working.

My neices first birthday would have been a fantastic opportunity for some good Event and Milestone photographs however I missed it as I was preparing to run a workshop the next day.

Indeed the rate i’m going the only milestone this month will be writing more than one blog post! April has arrived. Sneakily. I swear it was still March. At least 6 days ago it was. I didn’t even get around to posting my final landscape photography shots before the end of the month.

So here are the tardy landscape shots. They were actually taken at the very beginning of the month when I was still on holidays. They may seem like unusual choices for landscapes.

Northern NSW sugarcane

Northern NSW sugarcane. Captured from moving car. Approximate speed 110km/hr.

I get it that not many people are probably excited by sugarcane. Mum said to me:

it’s just like big grass.

Indeed mum it is. The reason it makes it to my list of landscape photography shots is because I managed to get this super clear photo from the moving car while Andrew was driving at between 100km/hr and 110. Of course I think I took about 50 shots before I got one that was a) clear, b) without a roadsign pole and c) not at an angle.

So it is that I have some pride about my picture of ‘big grass’ as mum puts it.

The building nature took back

The building nature took back

The second one, is a shot where man came along and made something and then nature took the landscape back. My father mocks Andrew and I for our love of photographing decaying buildings. This one I love particularly because it is not only the building which is weathered, but the trees as well. It seems such a lovely harmony. It’s one of my favourite shots of the trip as it is as I photographed it; no colour adjustments, no sharpening or tweaks. It is just as it was.

Finally my third shot is another ‘moving car feat’. I like this one for the contrast of the white tree trunks against the green of the landscape. I love how nature is so regimented, vertically ordered and rhythmic in this shot. It is also every bit the Australian road trip. When I travelled through parts of England, Wales and Scotland I was struck but the varying countryside. I remember emerging from the magical Snowdonia National Park to find a landscape of slate hills that were strangely beautiful. The other thing about the UK was the different kind of green. It wasn’t until I experienced that green, that I realised our green was different. Ours is limey, earthy, faded and scratchy. Only until I was without it did I realise that this slightly different green was home.

Nature's verticals

Nature's verticals

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast

When I saw the weekly photo challenge theme was contrast, I knew immediately which photograph I was going to choose. I took this on my recent trip, somewhere near the town of Rathdowney in Northern New South Wales. It’s the perfect contrast of man meets nature.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present The Datsun Tree.

The Datsun Tree

Uki Guesthouse: the home away from home

Regular readers of my blog will know that I occasionally write about accessibility challenges with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

I’ve given my disability dating tips, vented my frustration about disability parking and more recently, given tips for motel owners on how to make their disabled guests be spiderman.

This blog entry is different. This is about a place Andrew and I had the privilege to stay in for 2 nights: Uki Guesthouse.  Uki is a little village in northern New South Wales.

NimbinIt’s close to the rather infamous Nimbin which is synonmous with hippies and hash. Andrew and I drove through Nimbin to get to Uki and I took this photo of a house in the main street which really summed the place up.

Uki certainly had a different feel to Nimbin, although it was clear there was a very strong sense of community. The guesthouse is an old Queenslander which has been majestically transformed into accommodation suitable for people with disabilities.

For my overseas readers, a ‘Queenslander’ is a style of house typically made of timber, on stilts and with a wrap around verandah. The design is supposed to help keep cool in Australia’s more tropical areas.

The house was renovated about 7 years ago to ensure the best possible access.

Upon our arrival we were greeted warmly by Jules. She took us on a tour and showed us a couple of rooms and bathrooms and let us pick which suited us best. Pick up jaw off floor. This is the day after the bed shifting spiderman adventure and we are looking at a wonderfully accessible bathroom… not just one but 3 of them and we could have our pick! Talk about chalk and cheese.

We picked out a bedroom with tongue and groove panelling painted white going up to a very, very high ceiling. Jules told us we could move the furniture around in the room to suit us. You could turn the light off without getting out of bed – such a simple thing but just bliss.

The guesthouse also has an accessible pool. There’s a walk in ramp or a hoist and grab rails all around the pool. It’s the first time Andrew and I have been swimming together. In the pool Andrew could move his legs in ways I’d not seen before. The grin on his face was gorgeous. With the aid of water, he almost ‘picked me up’ in the pool. For me, it was one of the best parts of his 40th birthday. I felt like a normal couple in a swimming pool on a special birthday.

When we were done swimming, we ate out on the deck with a view of Mount Warning as the sun was setting.

Mount Warning

As if all that wasn’t special enough, Jules and Maggie cooked a magnificent meal for us for Andrew’s birthday. It was prepared with care and pizazz. It was perfect.

It was also the last time Jules and Maggie were to play host as the Guesthouse was up for auction on the Saturday after we left. I have no doubt that should new owners choose to continue to run Uki Guesthouse as a B&B, Andrew and I will be back. The house itself is wonderful and worth the trip.

However, the reason I used the word privileged to stay at this place earlier in this post, was because of Jules and Maggie. These two women made us feel so welcome and so comfortable in their home. We philosophised, we laughed hard, and we got to share a home created out of Jules’ and Maggie’s vision for universal access. It is indeed, a very special place.

Packing the high school exam

My boss is going to Peru in 3 months. He’s already started buying supplies for the trip. I’m going away the day after tomorrow. I haven’t finished packing.

Why is it that packing is like studying for a high school exam? Packing a week in advance is only for the nerds in this world. I can normally count myself among the geekery. Not this time. I seem to have slipped into holiday mode too early.

Last minute princess line dress

Delighted by not going to work on Monday, I started making a dress. But I couldn’t even finish my distraction properly! I had intended to complete all the facings today so it only left the hem for tomorrow. Did I do it? No! [80% completed dress pictured left].

Delighted that it was the second day of my break, I started compiling pictures for Andrew’s Christmas photo book instead. Yes, making Christmas presents in February! He says he is going to start calling my BTF. I racked my brain hard to think what that TLA meant. Big tall female? Brown truffle feet? Bristly touched face?

‘Back the Front’ apparently.

Fair call, I should be packing, I’m cropping photographs instead. I should be tidying; I’m making a dress!

The girls have been safely delivered to mums for their little ‘vacation’. Licorice has apparently explored the house (while the 3 cats in residence were outside) and found the bed to her liking. Saffron hasn’t emerged from under the chair.

Tomorrow it’s time to round up the boys and ship them off for cat boarding. Fortunately the boys don’t mind car travel. The girls on the other hand wailed in unison; as irritating as C-3PO but without the off switch.

As I try to write this blog, Andrew is complaining that the blog is getting more attention than he is. I roll my eyes at him. He replies:

‘One day your eyes are going to roll all the way back like a poker machine and never come back.’

9 days together in a car. A small car at that. Do you want to start taking bets on how many kilometres we get before the first debate about the appropriate speed at which the car should travel?

Fortunately we have a camera each and I’m on a mission to actually do some travel photography during February. Given I declared it the theme of this month’s challenge, I think it would be quite useful if I could come up with a few pictures myself.

Our first stop is Coffs Harbour. Someone asked me, ‘why Coffs Harbour?’ They stopped short of adding ‘there’s nothing there but a big pineapple.’ I at least I think it’s a big pineapple. Maybe it’s a banana. Or a lobster. I know it’s not a big sheep. That’s at Goulburn. I digress! No, I have no secret passion for Coffs Harbour. The answer is very simple. It’s about half way up the coast and the only place I could find a disabled hotel room. It looks like it may have some gorgeous 1970s furnishings to match. I’ll let you know in a couple of days. If they run to wireless in Coffs Harbour that is. If you hear nothing, just imagine: exposed brick with brown and orange soft furnishings. Yum.

PS: If anyone is more prepared than I and has February travel photos done, you can leave a link here.

Western Plains Zoo Accessibility: 4 1/2 stars from me!

Finding wheelchair accessible travel destinations is always somewhat challenging. I think the main reason for this is that so many people with a disability have different needs. Even if you narrow it to physical disabilities which impair mobility, there’s such a range. Where someone can go in an electric wheelchair may be impossible for someone in a manual chair. So embarking on a new adventure always come with a bit of anxiety.

I wasn’t surprised to read that Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is listed as one of the Top Five Accessible Travel Destinations in Australia. My childhood memory of a trip to the zoo is only that of flat, ridiculously hot and lots of animals sleeping in the shade. As Andrew and I elected to go in Winter, we successfully eliminated the hot and ‘sleeping in the shade’ part.
Meerkat: Western Plains Zoo
Instead most of the animals opted for any part of the enclosures with sun!

Oh, except for the galapagos turtle. He was in his hut trying to get warm. Consequently, I missed him. This was probably also because by the 5km mark where the tortoise rested, I too felt like resting!

While generally flat it is markedly better than Mogo’s entrance and I dare say that nearly every Zoo in the world would be flatter than Taronga (although who can beat those views!).  For us, all of the uphill areas of Western Plains Zoo were accessible with the exception of the pathway to the Lion enclosure. It not only has a steep gradient but is covered in loose gravel.

So Andrew skipped the Lion exhibit and for this I’ve lopped off half a star.

It’s not Andrew really wanted to see the lions. It’s that we had already selected the child we intended to feed to them. What a shame.

Weekend Road Trip: the Top 10

3 days; about 700 photos. I’m not sure how I accumulate so many and why I find it difficult to cull them, but it’s a fact: I do. So Andrew has challenged me to select my top 10 photos from the weekend. He hasn’t defined ‘top’… is it the best photograph, the most interesting subject, the most avant-guarde? Who knows. It took a huge effort. I started with about 40. I got it down to 21 ok, but getting it to the final 10 was tricky…

Rust on back of truck
1: Rusty Truck
This may seem a strange choice for my top 10. I selected it for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s not clear exactly what it is (the back of the cab of a white truck in the blue mountains). I think it could easily be mistaken for the bark of a tree.

Secondly I just love the texture and colour.

Thirdly, I took it while travelling at speed. (Andrew was driving). It’s often quite a challenge to get a clear picture when in the car. This is one of my better efforts.

2: The Sandstone Bricklayer
Laying sandstone: Blue Mountains highway

Being stuck in traffic due to roadworks turned into an opportunity! These guys were laying sandstone tiles up a retaining wall for the new road through the Blue Mountains. I was quite surprised that it was being done in the manner it was… guess I assumed it would be fake sandstone sheeting or the like.

Great job being done… perhaps this guy could at least be rewarded with a hat that fits?

3: Oberon; the 115km detour dog

The 115km Oberon dog

We took the scenic route for 115km. Our reward was this little dog; his curtain and his flag.

4: A grand entrance
Bathurst Gaol entrance
I’m positive that I’m not the first person to find Bathurst Gaol’s grand sandstone entrance to be memorable.

The gaol sits high on the hill and driving up to the main gates has that intimidating effect it’s original builders probably intended.

I had very little time to compose this shot. I’m confident the circular polarizer helped to create the richness in the blue background.

5: Bell River Church Brambles
Between Wellington & Orange I’m not sure whether there is a town of Bell River or just the creek called that. It’s between Wellington and Orange and littered with many derelict buildings and overgrown areas.

Thanks to Andrew I learn how to trick my camera into focussing on the foreground.

6: Weird Wellington Sculpture

Wellington

This is just one ‘flower’ of a very large sculpture at Wellington. I’m sure there is much debate about whether it is an attraction or an eyesore.

7.Emu

Emu: Western Plains ZooOne of many photographs from Taronga Western Plains (Dubbo) Zoo.

I like the monochromatic style of this photograph.

These guys move quickly enough to present a challenge in photographing them yet they are such peculiar looking birds I wonder who could resist trying?

8: Siamang Monkey with Orange
Siamang Monkey: Western Plains Zoo

9. The Dish: Parkes

The Dish Parkes II

10. My lovable fool

My lovable fool

Convinced that one loses 70% of body temperature through the top of our head, Andrew emerged from the bathroom in the motel with what he assured me was the perfect solution. He’d located a plastic beanie which had kindly been left for us. I declined the offer of wearing it out to dinner.