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Dating disability style: 2 years on

I wrote the blog piece below 2 years ago and not much has changed. I’m still climbing on chairs to reclaim items out of reach. The latest of which was a milk jug. A square milk jug. Now, square may be aesthetically pleasing but trust me, it’s not a particularly functional milk jug! If he’s going to ask me to climb on things it could at least be for a fully operating piece of equipment… no?

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Andrew and I recently celebrated our 2 year anniversary. It got me thinking about dating disability style. If someone said to me, I’m thinking about going out with a guy in a wheelchair, what advice would I give them? This is my somewhat tongue in cheek list with a few serious thoughts thrown in.

Don’t be afraid of heights

You know those things in the ceiling which emit light? Well, it may usually be men who fix them but if you’re dating a guy in a wheelchair, let me tell you now that you will be climbing on that ladder with light bulb in hand. You will also be putting and retrieving things from the tops of cupboards; hanging pictures; removing curtain rods; repairing blinds. Get used to being the ‘tallest’ person in your relationship and develop a love of ladders and chairs – you will need it.

While not height-related, another ‘man job’ you may have to do is putting air in the car tyres. I know, my mother would be horrified. She always says, ‘I don’t do garbage and I don’t do tyres – they’re you’re father’s jobs’. What I’ve learnt is that tyres are really not that tedious; the hardest part is finding a service station with a working air guage.

Check your figures

Before you get very excited and launch yourself at your man with a hug, check the weight bearing load of his wheelchair. Sadly some of them aren’t designed for you to sit in his lap, so perfecting the lean over hug is a must.

Ask!

If you don’t know why he’s in a wheelchair, ask him. A person with spinal injury will have different needs to someone with muscular dystrophy (Andrew has something very similar to muscular dystrophy). If you’re afraid to ask, or he’s hesitant to discuss, personally, I’d run for the hills. Someone who is able to freely talk about their disability and its impact on their  life has probably reached a greater level of acceptance than one for whom it is a touchy subject.

Rediscover the romance of simple things

Sometimes when it is not possible to do whatever you want, whatever you do becomes just that bit more special. I still remember the day that Andrew picked me up from work and casually said – do you want takeaway? We drove to a Thai place, picked up some food and then he said, why don’t we go eat it by the water? We found a place to park which had a nice view of the bay. It wasn’t until he pulled out plates and cutlery that it twigged he’d planned a ‘car picnic’ at dusk all along.

Think big

I know I just said that you get to enjoy the simple things as some others are off limits but this point is about questioning the impossible. There are many outdoor physical activities which are certainly possible, especially if your partner has upper body strength. (I missed out on the nice torso muscles 😦 ). Sometimes you may find it’s you being challenged and not him.

A while ago I bought Andrew a surprise gift of a Harley Davidson ride (as pillion). Upon giving him the gift he said he wasn’t sure whether his lateral muscles were strong enough to hold on. I rang the company back. They suggested swapping it for a trike ride. Great. Now I had to go with him! I’m not sure who was more nervous that day – him or me!

Grow a wicked sense of humour

If you don’t already have a slightly odd sense of humour, dating disability style will sure help to develop one. I worked for 10 years with people who are blind or have low vision and now with children who are deaf or hearing impaired. One things I’ve found is that most people with a disability have a remarkable sense of humour. I do recall one guy I worked with who, if placed in a humour competition with a termite nest, the nest would win hands down… but he was an exception.

Here’s two examples of Andrew’s dark sense of humour.

While shopping one day, Andrew was staring at all the motorbikes. He loved riding motorbikes pre-muscular dystrophy (hence my aforementioned gift). He turned to me and said:

I love to roll past these guys and say to them: ‘I used to ride one of those’. The look on their face is priceless.

If you think that’s a little dark, well, the second example is worse. He once told me that he was bored at home and chatting on a disability forum. He posted a message on the forum saying that The Gap (a cliff face in Sydney known as a suicide hot spot) was discriminating against those in wheelchairs as there was no ramp.

Thankfully someone else in the forum had an equally wicked sense of humour and wrote back:

I have found a suitable ‘dispatch’ point for you in the Blue Mountains. Should you wish to kill yourself, you’ll have to drive 2 hours west.

Have fun

My last tip would seem fairly obvious in any relationship however I’m including it anyway. Lack of walking doesn’t equate to lack of fun. In the two years I’ve had with Andrew, 90% of the time, I’ve had a ball! Who could ask for more than that?


Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

Saffron making herself at home

Saffron making herself at home… on the quilt no less!

When I saw the weekly photo challenge was on the theme of home, I was kicking myself for not owning a pair of red sequined shoes. Even if I did own the right pair of heels I’m not sure where it would take me when I clicked my heels together. Sometimes I feel as if I have 3 homes: Mum’s place, Andrew’s place and here – with cats at every one!

So it seemed fitting when I decided to quilt this evening (yes, I’m still working on it!) that Saffron leapt up onto the table and made herself right at home. I had my weekly photo. Not to be outdone, as I write this, Licorice has curled up next to me encroaching as best she can on the keyboard.

Home is not where the heart is… for me it’s where the cat(s) is!

The Big Wind

The big wind III

The big wind II

The big wind I

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!

Sydney’s Vivid festival

There’s a vivid festival of light. At night the opera house becomes the ‘screen’ for many images. Custom house lights up and installations spotted around the harbour do their thing.

So Andrew and I went during the day!

Courtesy of a public holiday, an RDO and me just being tired enough to put in for another day, I’ve got 5 days away from work. Mister decided that he’d surprise me on my first day off with an unexpected outing. Only problem was that I had a massive headache and was very cold, so the first part of the outing was me behaving like I’d drunk too many the night before… at least until the headache tablets kicked in.

‘And where are we going?’

‘To see the Sea Shepherd! And to the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art)! And then boot shopping!’

Yes, girls. A man volunteering to take me shopping. I swear he’s the woman in our relationship. He cooks. He cleans. He complains if I put something someone it’s not supposed to go. He’s eager to go shopping – IKEA, freedom, shoe shopping – all good things. Lastly, he sings while cooking breakfast – this morning he had a duet with Billie Holiday.

Meanwhile, I groan at the thought of shopping. I’d like it if I could remove all the people and find shoes which fit my feet!

Sea Shepherd Crew Member

Sea Shepherd Crew Member. Circular Quay, Sydney.

Sea Shepherd

It was a boat.

I find it hard to get excited about boats.

They are big things which float (or not if it’s the titanic), rock and generally make me want to throw up over the side.

Yet I can understand Andrew has a particular passion for this boat and it’s mission to stop Japanese Whaling. It was clear that passion was present in the gaggle of Sea Shepherd Crew members scattered around the harbour.

I don’t have any decent photos of the boat. I did like it’s adaptation of the ‘pirate logo’ and the painted shark jaws on the front.

Vivid Festival

Viewing the vivid festival in the daytime was not such a silly exploit. There are many installations aside from the light shows, not least of which is a giant chandelier built around a pole near the jetty.

Vivid V

It’s not often you get to photograph the Sydney Opera House with a giant chandelier in the foreground

Vivid VI

Light source or UFO?

Vivid II

A giant cube of colour

Vivid III

The opera house taken through an installation of metal and green string

Vivid I

High in the air: a metal and balloon bridge

Vivid IV

My favourite – the white bubble poles

Sunday 15th April: My day in photographs

Bilpin

Bilpin

the wonky cross

The church of the wonky cross

Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens I

Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens: is it a tarantula in disguise?

Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens III

Capture of a bee using a +4 lens

Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens II

Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens

The Galah Tree

The Galah Tree: look closely and the tree is 'dotted' with birds

Homebush

Homebush

Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens IV

My favourite shot of the day: Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens

Genre a Month Photography Challenge: Travel

As February draws to a close, I think it’s about time I post my travel photographs for the month. During the month I’ve read a few articles on travel photography. All recommend trying to capture the essence of a place or a moment in a new way.

I have tried to take photographs during my travels (from Sydney to Brisbane) which sum up that place and that moment in time. Here are five of my favourites.

The Foggy Early Start

Foggy Morning
Andrew and I left Sydney at 4:55am when it was still dark. By the time we got to Newcastle the sun was finally making a decent appearance; hampered all the way by heavy fog.

Refuelling

Refuelling

It’s an obligatory part of every road trip: refuelling. Whether it’s just collecting petrol or stopping for some much needed food, there’s a certain atmosphere which comes with the ‘pit stop.’ It usually goes hand in hand with bad coffee, the smell of bacon and eggs and a feeling that everyone walking through this door is a transient.

Roadworks

Yet another lot of roadworks
Another inescapable experience of the road trip is the lollypop man. In the case of the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane, make that lollypop men (PLURAL!). Roadworks are more common on this stretch than roadkill. At one stop where we had to wait quite some time, Andrew took the opportunity to post a picture of one of these guys on facebook with the caption: ‘He wasn’t impressed when we offered him $20 to dance around the pole.’

The final two photographs I took at Bombah Point while waiting for the Ferryman. (He was reading the newspaper. You can’t rush a man doing that). I like these two shots as they were not only taken during my travels, but they are a means of travel in themselves.

So here are the last two: the Rusty Truck and the Bombah Point Boat

Bombah Point: Rusty Truck

Bombah Point

Valentine’s romance for $6.50 each

In 2012, Andrew and I proved that you don’t need a big budget to have a romantic Valentine’s day. We had a lovely evening watching fireworks for $6.50 each! (The $6 each was for parking; the 50cents was for a McDonalds ice cream).

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour Sydney pre-fireworks

This was Sydney’s Darling Harbour before the fireworks. We’ve attempted before to go watch the Saturday night fireworks, without success. This time we researched parking stations in advance.

Darling Harbour Fireworks IV
The only downside was that I’ve misplaced by release plate for my tripod. I was therefore relegated to shooting using a ‘gorillapod‘ sitting on the ground. While it’s a fantastic little light weight device pointing the camera toward the sky is difficult and making it vertical near impossible. With the tilt it wasn’t that steady so most of my exposures were around 1/6 sec. Andrew on the other hand has brilliant shooting lines from 2 and 3 second exposures.

Darling Harbour post fireworks

Darling Harbour post fireworks

After a third and final search of everywhere I could think of, I’ve ordered a new release plate for the tripod. Mr cynic says, ‘congratulations, you now own 2 because sure as eggs you’ll find the other one now.’

I love the night lights

I spent a rainy Friday evening undertaking a 3 hour ‘night lights’ photography course. While the course is run by Sydney Photographic Workshops, I purchased it via Red Balloon using a voucher I was recently given. Despite some nervousness related to walking around the city following a week of consistent rain, I had a fantastic time. While it did continue to rain, it was light and I managed not to step in any large puddles so my feet remained relatively dry.

We undertook a series of exercises at different locations through the city. These included

  • shooting a bracket to check which level of exposure we liked
  • making people ‘vanish’ through adjustments in aperture
  • ‘torch writing’
  • extremely slow shutter speeds to get ‘trails’ of traffic
  • using exposure adjustment to turn night into day, and
  • shooting crazy lights with lots of movement

We really didn’t go far in 3 hours. We started at the Opera House and made our way up to the Cahill Expressway where there was a fantastic view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We ended in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art which gave us another view of the Opera House and the bridge. In the end, it didn’t matter that much where we went or how far, or even how good our photographs were. The night helped me get a better grasp of the three pillars of exposure – Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. Previously I was a ‘change the shutter speed’ junkie. I finished the evening with a new found appreciation of what I could do with aperture. That I could set the aperture to F22 and almost make people walking through my shot vanish was really pretty neat!

Here’s a few of my shots from the evening.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6 for 1/2 sec, ISO 1600

Capturing the mood

18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/4.5 for 1.3sec, ISO 400

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Cahill Expressway

18-55mm lens at 18mm, f/5.6 for 1/2 sec, ISO 1600

2012 Genre a Month Photography Challenge

Ok, a quick recap.

I’m picking a photographic ‘genre’ each month for the next 12 months in the hope that I will learn more about this media and different styles. I’d love people to join me and thanks to those who already have. For more on the rules of the challenge, how to participate and the topics, I’ve set up a separate page here.

So, 1 down, 11 to go.

February 2012 = Travel Photography.

Now, if you were planning on joining me but you’re not expecting to ‘travel’ anywhere this month, then I hope you’ll take on my ‘travel with a twist’. Whenever I think Travel Photography, I immediately think rich colours of countries far away; the bright colours of Indian Sari’s; the grittiness of some American cities; the historic buildings of the UK with some gloomy weather thrown in.

Travel photography for me until recently would have been impossible. I didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t until I met Andrew that I started exploring places; first on short day trips and then overnight. We are about to embark on 9 days in the car together in mid February. (If I suddenly stop blogging, then check Australian newspapers for a story about a girl killed by her partner where he’s claiming justifiable homicide as she told him one too many times what the speed limit was!)

People take holidays for all sorts of reasons. Whether it’s to relax or trek the Inca trail (I don’t think the two can co-exist) people take a camera. Why? For the memories. To say ‘I’ve been there.’

What does this have to do with those of you not taking a holiday this month? Well, there’s another definition of travel. It is simply ‘to go from one place to another.’

Now unless your planning on confining yourself to your home for the next month, I’m presuming that everyone is travelling somewhere.

If I wanted to be especially pedantic I could claim that going from the living room to the bedroom constituted travel; it is afterall going from one place to another.

Travel Photography is often about memories and capturing the essence of a place. I think that’s what’s at the heart of travel photography and why I believe you can do a lot of travel photography in your own city. Indeed, your own street! When was the last time you really tried to capture the essence of those places? Well, February may be your chance! Become a tourist in your own city.

I’ve included a couple of photos I took at Bondi Beach this week. When people come to Sydney, Bondi is usually on their list. As someone who turns bright red quicker than you can say ‘cheese’, I’m not a fan of the beach. After this week, I’ll admit that it is a fantastic place for photography, particularly at dusk. There is so much on offer; so many ways to capture that place; Bondi in that moment. I’m quite happy to stand along side all the tourists with my camera and look like a blow-in from pommy land (I doubt they’d think I was from the tropics with my lily livid skin).

Bondi Beach Feb 2012 II

75-300mm lens at 190mm, f/5 for 1/125 sec, ISO 800, monochrome setting.

It seems the Bondi locals are very used to amateur photographers. No one seems to pay any attention to what you’re photographing. Their eyes are on the kid running through the sand; keeping the dog from inappropriately sniffing other dogs on the promenade or keeping your head above water.

So who’s up for the challenge?

If you are participating in the February Travel Photography Challenge, please go to this page and add a comment with a link to your efforts. 

Bondi Beach Feb 2012 I

75-300mm lens at 130mm, f/5.6 for 1/125 sec, ISO 800, monochrome setting.