Lovely, I have time for lunch. “Gluten-Free menu please” I ask. That morning I had driven 14 miles in my Twizy. This included dropping my dog at doggy daycare, another drive for a swim, and buying some groceries mindful that the dog needed to fit into the car. And I had lunch in a café I knew had a gluten-free menu, essential as I have coeliac disease. I ordered lunch reminding the server that my order needed to be gluten-free.
A cold day in my Renault Twizy
It was a very cold day. I love my Twizy, but it is bare bones; no heating, no sealed chassis allowing excellent air conditioning in all weathers. I tucked my blanket, heated from the cigarette lighter, around me. Whilst driving I watched the number of bars decreasing on my electric power meter. For charging the Twizy requires a 3-pin electric socket and cannot be charged at an Electric Vehicle charger. The number of bars remaining was over half by lunch time; should be fine. It was a delicious sandwich.
I thanked the server, paid my bill, and left a tip. Back to the car I set off to go and pick up my dog. It was starting to get dark I worried a little about the power left. I reached a main road, unfortunately the late afternoon traffic had started. I needed to turn left, cross the throughfare and immediately turn right. I felt unable to do this safely. I took a detour via the next roundabout. It was a safe journey, just longer than it needed to be. I arrived with the remaining power well below half. Luckily, the doggy daycare had an extension lead and I was able to plug in and charge for a while. After a walk with my dog, chatting with the man who helped me I realized I was going to throw-up. I knew what this meant. My meal contained gluten. I would be really sick for hours and unwell for several days. But I had asked for gluten-free and reminded the server several times.
That’ll be charged enough I decided; I wanted to get home. My dog, swimming togs, me, shopping and Twizy with no heating left for home. I considered turning the headlights off, but wisely did not. Several stops were required on grass verges, it was getting colder, at least we were getting closer to home. We reached the pub at the bottom of a hill leading home. Should I park here and walk for ¾ hour home? No, too sick, too cold. I’ll attempt the hill. I didn’t make it. A WhatsApp Neighbours group, set up in Covid-19 days meant a kind neighbour, a farmer, came to look for me. He connected a band between my car and his while I was throwing up over a farm wall. “Bad day?” he asked.
Finally, home, profuse thanks, to bed with a hot water bottle and a bucket. I was so cold, so sick. We all know people, friends or family who don’t eat gluten. Some have coeliac disease, others different complaints or preferences. It doesn’t matter. Just treating us all the same will work. The working solution is no gluten. Really no gluten.
Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten. According to Coeliac UK, 1 in 100 people have coeliac Many more have sensitivity to gluten.
The next day I followed up with the café. The email reply said:
“….We then checked with the staff/order pad to try and find out what happened. I…. we can’t be 100% sure, but it appears that the waitress who took your order never marked it as gluten-free, so the kitchen made your sandwich as a panini, rather than in gluten-free bread. The paninis unfortunately are not gluten-free.”
In some ways it is not a difficult disease to have. Simple really, no gluten. And I developed this disease at a time when there are so many gluten-free options. But I must be cautious, my friends and relatives must be cautious. I need my own breadboard, my own butter knife. In homes I frequent regularly I am given my gluten-free corner. I need jam, butter, communal food uncontaminated by gluten. If invited to parties, few in the past couple of years, I ask to check packets of crisps or nuts. I ask how the gravy was made.
I have recovered now; it took some time and required a GP visit. And now, I’m extremely excited. I was able to find a converter so that my three-pin plug can talk to an electric vehicle charger.