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.