November is going to be a memorable month for Duncan Pollock.
His days of flatting will come to an end on November 10 - as will his status as a single man.
He will tie the knot with his devoted fiancee, Anne-Marie Sykes, at his parents' Eskview property and then move into their own home - a cottage now being built on the grounds of Realpeople@Rowan in Taradale.
"This wouldn't happen anywhere else," said Duncan, who has spina bifida. It is just amazing - these guys have been absolutely brilliant."
"These guys" are the staff of Realpeople@Rowan, Presbyterian Support and everyone involved along the path of creating a vibrant, effervescent place to live in the community.
"It is unique here," manager Ross Boniface said.
"Many places are still very institutionalised - and while there are some things you can't get away from in that sense, we try to limit it."
The people who live with the support of Realpeople@Rowan are not residents, Ross says.
"They are flatters - this is the place they live and they do that here as independently as they can."
"You are able to get out - you feel you are part of the community."
Ross underlined the name the facility bears.
For Duncan, after arriving to live in Hawke's Bay from Christchurch and moving into his room at Rowan in March 2006, everything changed.
In his own words, life changed "dramatically ... for the better.
"There's a real family sense about it here and you're able to get on with life."
Getting on with life is something Duncan has never wavered from, despite the disability which has confined him to a wheelchair all his life.
Operations, journeys to hospital - the lot.
His father, Gary, said Duncan simply joined in with his brothers as best he could when he was growing up.
The family were all keen skiers, and Duncan joined in, of course. He had a toboggan and he didn't hang back on it when it came to taking on the downhill slopes.
He'd come off every now and then, and his brothers would pick him up "dust him off" and set him back on the track.
"He couldn't always do the same things his brothers did, but he'd still join in," Gary said.
"We always focused on what he could do - not what he couldn't."
Duncan has embraced that.
He is taking part in Level 2 computer studies at the EIT.
It is something he once said he would never have had the courage to do - but the encouragement and support he had received had been a rock-solid spur.
While he requires support to get through his days, he pursues and relishes his independence, which he said is made easier by the way Realpeople@Rowan operates.
He's limited, sure, but he gets out and gets on with the most precious thing he has - his life.
Although there is another equally precious ingredient in that life now: Anne-Marie ... or simply, Annie.
They met through Duncan's computer, and both still remember the date.
"Four years ago - October 28," Anne-Marie said.
at Rowan community
They went out looking for somewhere in the community but ended up ... frustrated.Ross Boniface, manager Realpeople@RowanEditorial, p10"Yep, October 28," Duncan said with a smile. He had been flipping through a dating website and came upon "a beautiful woman with long hair".
He said it felt right straightaway, got in touch, and they began to chat.
"After a couple of weeks of emailing we finally met ... the day is one I will never forget."
Duncan's chirpy approach to life and his sense of humour sparked with Anne-Marie.
Just over a year later, on December 2, 2009, he took Anne-Marie out for lunch and he asked her a question.
"Will you marry me?"
She didn't hesitate - "yes".
They set an initial date to tie the knot, December 17 last year, but the plans weren't smooth in settling.
Duncan suffered a serious brain bleed, which knocked things back, and they faced the prospect of having to find somewhere to live where they could have independence and the support Duncan needed.
"They went out looking for somewhere in the community but ended up pretty frustrated," Ross said. "So we discussed what we could do."
Duncan's parents then entered the fray and suggested that if they could find a cottage which could be relocated to the Rowan grounds, would that work?
"We decided on something a little more permanent," Ross said.
So, between the Pollock family and Presbyterian Support, it was agreed that a cottage would be built - independent of the main block but on site for the support Duncan needed.
It would also be a benefit to Anne-Marie as she has a vision impairment.
Plans and consents got under way and work on the $250,000 building started last month.
The cottage is effectively two units - one for the happy couple and the second, smaller unit, for another flatter who is also able to live more independently.
Duncan said he watched the progress day by day.
He and Anne-Marie's future is rising before their eyes ... but he said there were days there when (like waiting for Christmas as a kid) he could not wait.
"No, I don't go over and ask them to speed things up," he laughed.
"We just let them get on with it - they're doing a brilliant job."
Like the wedding, it will create a huge and uplifting life change.
"The beauty of it is that it allows me to stay here at Rowan and get my care, but I can still get out in the community."
The couple are already discussing what colour scheme they want - and the extra room which will be available.
"Oh, we'll fill it up."
So the cottage is coming along just fine - how about the wedding plans?
"All sorted. Anne-Marie has picked her dress out and we've done all the planning - it's just a waiting game now," Duncan said.
Their lives won't be easy, but with the support of Realpeople@Rowan, and the community which has been (and continues to be) outstanding in helping with funding, they have a future which makes them, and their families and friends and support crew, smile.
They don't have a name in mind for their new home but Duncan summed it up in five heartfelt words.
"Our own piece of paradise."