Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Food Abuse

There are days when my food intake ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. In all honesty, it has aways been this way even before I had trouble walking to the fridge. Since I became a wheelchair user (and sometime hobbler in the house), as the cheery, take-the-piss sort of attitude to my disability has set in, I don't always notice how my state of being impacts upon the sort of weird food combinations or consumption methods I regularly employ.

On the very worst days, I don't eat regularly or at all, until Mr F is around. This isn't as bad as it sounds - I'm not an early riser, so at the most I miss 'brunch', and then Mr F is there and feeds me up in the evening. Upstairs we keep water and fruit, so I can snack if I want. This scenario is all to do with the stairs in our current house, which we hope we'll be leaving behind in a month or so. Some days I just can't be bothered with stairs. I like to have someone around when I'm doing them, especially on a bad day. Some days I can't be bothered with dressing either and (eek) more than a little wash, but because I was a lazy sod before being a crip, I sometimes haven't noticed I'm not doing it now because I am a crip.

To be brutally honest, even before all this happened, I was the sort of person who took a spoon to the fridge. This is a sort of ultimate feed-myself-on-a-bad-day tactic. What more do you need? Spoon. Fridge. It's simple, fast and effective. No washing up - except the spoon, which can be sneaked into the bowl to catch the evening washing up session... hence very little evidence of misbehaviour.

In fact, when I lived on my on in a studio flat, the fridge was at the end of the bed. Result.

Then there's unwrapping things. As I've got older and larger, I've switched from unwrapping pringles and biscuits (pringles for the savoury course, biscuits for dessert) to unwrapping fruit and salad bags more often. I try and ignore all the snooty health articles about buying organic stuff covered in soil because its better for you, as although I like the idea of eating organic things that have probably not been washed in chlorine (like many packet salads are) most days of the week they are just too high maintenance. Today I had a lovely meal of cherries, Nain's fruity oatmeal biscuits and white chocolate maltesers. Last Sunday teatime, 2 magnum ice-creams and a large whisky. Unwrapping. It's hard to see the bad in it sometimes...

Right from the beginning, I was a latch-key kid - both my parents worked full-time - and rather than being brought up to cook with real food, I was brought up to open packets and tins. Food in a hurry, whatever the reason. Whilst I have to agree this fast and lazy way has served me well into cripdom, when I moved in with Mr F (who was taught proper by his Ma), I didn't realise what a world apart from real food it was. For example, I hardly knew the difference between mash - made from real potatoes - and packet smash. Bless him, this really horrified him - especially my admission that packet smash was really nice to eat dry.

It is, though. And so is Bird's custard powder before you cook it, at the stage you put the sugar and mix.... oh, never mind.

A while back, I had to renew my DLA. Now, despite having no particular problem with my lazy food habits, I have enough of a sense to know it is not normally how 'normal' people eat. Consequently, I don't often mention it - somehow it's easy to just send it out into the blogosphere, although some of my closest friends don't know the full depths...
Mr F does, but more often than not it just makes him laugh (although sometimes in a sad way) and then cook us something yummy. However, a friend of mine had taken a job at a disability advice centre and as I'd recently had a full diagnosis she offered to go through the form with me to see if I could get a better award. Over the last year things have deteriorated slowly, so stuff Mr F used to do for me as a choice has slowly got to the point where we have begun to realise when he isn't there I don't or can't do it - stuff like, um, well, taking a spoon to the fridge rather than actually cooking, or not going downstairs at all - amongst other washing and dressing type shortcuts or non-starters that I'm sure many other crips reading will be nodding their heads at.

This meant I had to tell her. I wasn't prepared for her to be shocked though. We were doing the bit about 'what do you do to prepare a cooked main meal for yourself' and I'd just let slip about my spoon/fridge habits.

"Do you do that because you can't cook for yourself?" she asked.

"Well," I answered, feeling a little flummoxed "I was never really the sort of person who cooked in the first place..."

"Ye-es, but on a bad day, what would you do - nothing? Not even (with a little shudder) the spoon thing?"

"Nope, not even the spoon thing..." I mumbled, leaping on the chance to deny it. "But it's ok... I'm not exactly starving..." I wobbled a batwing to add a bit of, um, weight, to the argument.

She gave me a Look. "It's Bloody Not ok" she said.

And so it continued. Did I get dressed on a bad day? Well, no. But nobody sees me. It's not as though I physically couldn't - couldn't I? Did tiredness and pain count the same way any other kind of barrier did? Yes, she said, it did. It began to dawn on me she might have a point. Did that mean I didn't answer the door? Yup. But it's usually only chuggers or the god squad... Doesn't matter, she said, if your health stops you from doing it, it stops you. What if I lived alone? Had a month of bad days? I realised moving the fridge to the end of the bed and buying more spoons was not the right answer...

I am eternally grateful to her. With her advice, the award was better than it had been before and covered things like personal care for the first time. I can have Mr F's needs as a carer assessed as well, which we now recognise is long overdue.

Maybe, I said, I could even have someone in to do some coo-

"Stop right there" he said. "I do the cooking in this place. Just eat what I put in front of you, or what I leave in the fridge for you to put in the microwave - stair horrors banished all being well. It won't be as difficult when all you have to do is wheel into the next room, put it on your trolley thingy and take it to the microwave. A proper meal. And for God's sake, leave the bloody spoons alone."

Could this be the end of an era? An accessible house - will it change my relationship with food when I'm able to easily reach it without being exhausted doing the dreaded stairs - or will I still find myself raiding the fridge, spoon clutched in grubby hand, unwrapping the biscuits? They'll be quicker and easier to get to, of course...

I'll let you know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

Awful Peed-On Pillows

I have done it - finally got myself one of those swanky memory-foam, NASA approved pillows that are supposed to take all your aches and pains away and give you the most peaceful sleep you've ever had in your entire life.

Being a tightwad (Capricorn, of course), I didn't pay full price. I'd advise anyone who wants one to try to get it for less than full price, especially if you are on benefits. We didn't plan to go bargaining for expensive pillows, we merely stumbled on the solution, but it happened to work - and best of all fitted in with my habit of not paying full price for anything if I can possibly avoid it.

We were having a little trip out to cost bedroom furniture for our new bungalow (dunno if it's going to happen yet, but fingers crossed). The bed showroom had those memory foam products, so we tried the beds, the pillows, the toppers - the lot. I've been hankering after this stuff because it sounds gadgety and wonderful - but there's the rub.

The saleswoman came over with a little demonstration kit designed to show how memory foam is different from the ordinary stuff. She dropped a small heavy metal ball onto a small piece of ordinary foam. It bounced several times and rolled around a bit. When she dropped it on the memory foam, it stopped dead. Didn't even move the tinest bit. This was good, she told us - it showed how absorbing and cushioning the foam was.

Good? Unfortunately, when we tried the mattress, our arses did the same. Didn't appear to be able to move easily on the foam. At all. Undignified pushing and sinking occurred. It negated your every effort to move, slowing you down and absorbing the effort as you tried to push yourself to the edge of the bed. Oof. Y'see, thats the reason why they claim you don't move around as much in the night - it's not just because you're comfy - it's because unless your body put in a herculean effort that would wake you up - you bloody well can't.

Thank god I didn't just order one of these things based on the marketing guff. Didn't they ever think it might be a consideration for the same people it was aimed at? Those who have painful joints who want to make life easier in the first place? I'm sure super-fit astronauts had no trouble, especially in zero gravity, but reality has a bad habit of happening here on planet earth, especially to crips who listen to marketing claims. My niggly hip cursed me as I tried gracefully to heave myself off the bed without showing my pants.

We tried the pillows. They were better. The 'classic' shape was ok. It was like a 'normal' pillow - not those horrid weird shapes that are supposed to fit into your neck and give you the ultimate position. That's a rip as well. In vain I've tried those pillows that have this 'core support' inside- basically a couple of hard lumps of another type of foam... Mr F has taken to called them "awful peed-on pillows" rather than say 'orthopedic' pillow because of these bitter disappointments.

We decided to get one of the classic memory foam pillows anyway. The remaining shred of gullability in my soul for this comfort-promised land overtook me. Like the matresses, the pillow was heavy and solid feeling. The saleswoman went to get a new one - we had tried a demonstration model - and she commented it felt much lighter than the test one. We all had a feel. It was. These pillows are made from what the manufacturor calls 'shredded foam'. It appeared every other pillow other than the tester was sort of lumpy, with loose covers and uneven-looking. We started edging away until my bargain-lust kicked in and I asked if she would sell us the demonstration pillow for a discount.

Whereupon she did. If you want one of these (eeeek - expensive) pillows, then try it. Prod all the others, proclaim the display one is the only comfy one, and say the magic 'D' word. Ten per cent is about right but if the discount is less than a fiver, wheel away.

I have to say I like this pillow (I will be in trouble if I reject it), but it isn't what I expected it to be. It is heavy, and after putting your head on to it, you sink into the foam for a few seconds afterwards, giving a weird feeling of involuntary movement. If you turn your head, the foam behind it takes a few seconds to follow. Stupidly, but perhaps expectedly, I'd got the feeling of lightness and airiness from the marketing - not the unwieldiness and heavy density of the actual product.

Even if I wake up with an aching neck, I am still trying to convince myself that it is on a journey to re-educate itself on good posture, aided - not thwarted - by the Rolls-Royce of the pillow world. It is only aching because it has never had it so good, and it must adapt for the sake of gaining something better than it had before.

But here I fear the concept of 'better' may be subjective - by around 50 quid...

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Apols for the lack of posts but I am rather under the weather at the moment. Hopefully it will get a little cooler soon and the twitching will stop.

Had to go out today for physio, and on the way home as I wasn't feeling... as bad as usual, so decided to go to big retail park near my home to buy a quick something for a wedding we're going to tomorrow.

Everything went smoothly (yes!), so clutching a couple of carrier bags, handbag and keys, I made my way back to the car. Only to be stopped by this very young man and what looked like a shy new girlfriend. He offered to help me, and bless him, meant well, but do you ever get people who just try too hard and terrify you?

I strongly began to suspect it was not for my benefit anyway, but for hers. You know, the 'I help cripples' thing. He loomed over into my personal space and asked (too loudly) if I needed help putting the key in the car door (um, no - being as I was obviously on my own and had driven on my own). I declined, politely, and went on to transfer myself into the car with his offering help at every little movement "Do you want me to put that bag into the other one?" (um, no, I can do that myself...) "Do you need help getting into your car?", (no look - I'm doing it) "Do you need help with taking the steering lock off..." (no - not seeing as I was able to put it on myself) and so on, along with the more usual "Do you need help putting the chair into the car..." stuff people often say. I don't think he was trying to nick the car or my bags, I just didn't get that vibe from him.

After each offer of help, he turned round to his girlfriend with a cheesy smile - she, on the other hand, started to look a little freaked out. How can I put it nicely? Oh, whatever. The guy was seriously oily. Glinting. Even his hair was oily, dark curls slicked back with shiny gel. And - whoa! the aftershave was a bit strong. A lot strong. I think he must have been watching those Linx adverts - where the guy sprays a 20p and chucks it into a fountain, then the girl, finding it irresistible, jumps in after.

After firmly but nicely declining any more close contact with his aftershave, he draped himself over his girl and they headed off in the direction of JJB Sports. He offered. I can't complain. I smiled thanks at her and she smiled back, but looked kind of awkward - possibly not from being near me (you do get a sense when it's you after a while...) , but more like she was a bit embarrased by his overwhelming persistence.

After a few breaths of blessed unscented air I got on with loading the chair in. It was so hot I sat with the fan on for a bit before driving off. I watched the couple as they walked away. She didn't seem keen to have him put his arm round her, and did a little skip forwards, then turned to watch him as he edged closer again, obviously intent on recapturing her. Another little skip, and he actually reached out to grab her sleeve. She waggled it to shake him off. I pulled out of the parking space slowly and drove past them, at which point he'd wrapped his arms around her waist and had buried his face in her neck. We caught each other's eyes as I went by. It looked as if she had a struggle on her hands. So much was I convinced of this, that in a reckless moment I gave her a sneaky thumbs-down gesture - then instantly regretted it. She might think it was to do with the helping thing rather than the boyfriend-octopuss situation and think I was an ungrateful beatch.

But she didn't - in fact she raised her eyes in an expression of long suffering - and gave me the thumbs down right back!

I think his days are numbered...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Unkymoods is no more

RIP Unkymoods.

I thought Unkymoods were great. A free site where all you had to do was sign up and pick your mood of the day, which was then transferred to your blog. I usually changed my mood every time I wrote a new post, and sometimes if I didn't feel up to writing anything, would at least change the unkymood.

I've seen a few other mood sites, but none seem to have the fun and quirkiness Unkymoods did. To find another too soon would feel like being unfaithful - I was kind of hoping I'd click the link one day and all would be well. The artist guy who ran it did it free and for fun. The web needs people like that. It was a sad day when godaddy! parked its fat @rse there instead. No, I'm not gonna make that a link. Poosters.

Mr. Unky, if you ever set up your brilliant site again, I'll be back.