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From Bendigo to Ballarat

27 February, 2018

Some of you may recall my blog from February 2017 where I talked about buying the Jeep and a caravan. Well it’s now February 2018 and things have changed radically for Joy and I, and the Jeep and caravan feature prominently!

After six years post-spinal cord injury, continuing to live on our 10 acre property at Gordon, we decided the time had come to move on to something more manageable for both of us. We are in our mid to late 60’s, and we wanted to move to where the winters are a little kinder (we came home from our caravan trip in September to be greeted by snow!).

We settled on Maiden Gully in Bendigo and found a block of land that still had the feeling of spaciousness that we didn’t want to lose. Unfortunately that doesn’t tend to happen on flat blocks so we have a challenge on our hands; to make a level house site out of it, although the Jeep 4WD can cope well. 

Leaving Gordon for the last time.

"We are lucky enough to have family with a 2.5 acre property also in Maiden Gully, and our caravan is very nicely set up out the back with the awning out, and Joy has even set up her barista kit under the awning with a bar frig to save climbing in and out of the van."

Another aspect that will impact our design is the climate up here since our arrival – yes, the winters will be warmer (we are not accustomed to double figures in winter!) but the summers here are consistently hot.

Fortunately our caravan is air-conditioned, because until we design and build our new house, the caravan will be home. We are lucky enough to have family with a 2.5 acre property also in Maiden Gully, and our caravan is very nicely set up out the back with the awning out, and Joy has even set up her barista kit under the awning with a bar frig to save climbing in and out of the van. Adjustments will be made in winter of course, but until then life is good (did I mention that they have a pool?!)

When I mentioned to my Spire friends in Ballarat that the hot weather prompted the decision, and that our new house design is going to be built around a pool, there were instant helpful suggestions about a hoist for disabled access. At first I thought they were being very considerate but I quickly got the drift – build a pool and they will come!. My mobility is pretty good on the flat but climbing out of a pool has been a challenge so we will definitely be taking up their kind suggestions.

From there it prompted a lot of ideas of how to make our new home accessible and have features appropriate for my needs, and those of visitors. I actually vetoed one builder, on the fact that his company would insist on having a step up from the garage floor into the house; supposedly because there was a risk of flooding the house from the garage in a 100 year flood and we might sue them! Actually, I would sue them if I fell down a step during my normal daily activities accessing the garage.

He offered to provide a ramp outside to the front door as he had for a previous client. I was stunned that he thought that it was acceptable that the disabled people can go out in the weather to access their home. 

"When I mentioned to my Spire friends in Ballarat that the hot weather prompted the decision, and that our new house design is going to be built around a pool, there were instant helpful suggestions about a hoist for disabled access... From there it prompted a lot of ideas of how to make our new home accessible and have features appropriate for my needs, and those of visitors.

For those that are building, take note that it is not a requirement of the building code. All you need is competent drainage design – our house of 27 years in Gordon was cut into a sloping block and we had the garage floor at the same level as the house, which made wheelchair access simple and safe.

Although I walk around home as much as possible, the wheelchair is still the best seat in the house for prolonged periods, and normal 820mm doors are just adequate. I plan to make most doors 920mm because we don’t know what the future holds for either of us, and a lot of friends have electric chairs that should get through that width, or there will be wider sliding doors in some locations. Getting the outdoor paved areas as close to the floor level will also be a challenge.

Toilets are where I have particular needs and I am very specific where the toilet roll holder sits, and I have reachable drawers for catheters and all the gear that goes with them. Our caravan almost does this very well, although it is somewhat ‘compact’ in the en-suite. Handrails and a sink are a must, and Joy is quietly suggesting washable walls and a powerful exhaust fan – no idea why – I am almost self-sufficient in there. There is also an alternative toilet for her nearby, because apparently I occupy the space for extended periods, which is why there will be a window with a view, just like the old one. Strange how people with spinal injuries seem to talk about continence issues a lot!

After going through a massive sort and dispose of process from the old place, it will be fun to start with a clean page and create something that will suit our needs for the foreseeable future. One difference will be the grass – there will be no grass.  I sold the ride-on mower and hope to sell the tractor soon.

The ground at Maiden Gully is very dry and rocky – even the lizards stay in the shade in summer. I believe it’s because the gold miners turned the whole place upside down in the 1850’s leaving the rocks on top and no topsoil. Joy will have a simple low maintenance garden full of rocks and the occasional resilient succulent plants.

"We plan to move in to a finished, furnished house and all we will take in there will be some clothes, and we will even arrange for the groceries to be delivered when we arrive."

It will be built and finished by someone else. We plan to move in to a finished, furnished house and all we will take in there will be some clothes, and we will even arrange for the groceries to be delivered when we arrive. Reality will strike when the builder puts a price on the dream home plan, and then it will be literally back to the drawing board. I will let you know how that goes, but I hope it is not February 2019; we may lose our affection for the caravan by then!

Alan Hoare is a railway engineer who now works part-time. He lives with his wife on a ten acre property in the country, where he finds plenty to do to keep busy. He has been living with T10 incomplete Spinal Cord Injury since 2011.

Tags: Blog, Health & Wellbeing, Travel & Leisure