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In Praise of Melamine Picnicware

Vital vessels quickly turn into a disabled person’s worst enemy. 

It is easy to be drawn into the centuries-long battle all disabled people have faced. Earthenware, ceramic, and even the supposedly lighter glass and china. They litter the shop shelves both virtual and real. They draw you in with pretty shapes and quirky designs. 

Silent foes, waiting until they’ve lulled you into a false sense of security to finally start their attack. 

It starts quietly. A plate slips when washing the dishes – meeting its fragmented fate amongst the bubbles and forks. Easy to brush off – it’s bubbly and slippery who wouldn’t smash a plate like that? At least confined to the washing-up bowl the pieces are easy to dispose of. 

Luckily your fingers miss the jagged edges and you manage to avoid a cut.  One down. The silent foes are restless as they wait for their turn to sacrifice themselves to ruin your day. 

Next up, the turn of the glasses. A mistake to stand and sip. Hands with a mind of their own loosen close around air as the glass hurtles to the ground – covering the floor in the sickly sweet scent of summer fruits squash. 

A more demanding clean up, legs creak and ache at the repeated crouch and wipe as you try to find the almost invisible glass in the spikey syrupy mess. Invisible shards haunt you for days, for weeks. How can one small glass spread so far? 

There’s quietness for a long while. You think you’ve won the battle, that your precious crockery and glassware are safe. 

The silent foes watch, it’s what they wanted. You’ve gained confidence, you think you’ve finally found the key to not smashing things around the house. 

Then, it begins. 

Smash. Crack. Bang. Plates. Bowls. Glasses. Dinner. Breakfast. Squash. All sacrificed to the floor. 

Once perfectly pristine matching sets are a hodge podge of dishes and cups picked up to try and fill the void. Frustrations and tears follow. No one wants to spend hard-earned energy on such a needlessly spikey cleanup. 

The silent foes watch on, proud of themselves for carrying on their ancestor’s attack. 

But then you find the secret weapon. A new invention, one that has only become an option in the last few decades.The one you wish you could yell about from the rooftops when you realise just how stupidly simple the solution is.  Finally, you can help to end the centuries-long battle between disabled people and their smashable, heavy, unwieldy crockery options. 

For once the silent foes have another enemy, one they never expected to break their hold on the population. 

A cousin of sorts to the popular china and glass, a lightweight and often pretty alternative. But yet it had been given its place to be a brief presence in a person’s life, favoured for infants and picnics but never the everyday. 

It catches your eye one damp summer day. Already reduced because we’d had our one day of summer and they need to make way for the Christmas sweeties. 

A melamine plate. 

You wonder if it would work, or would it be a waste of time?  It’s only a pound you reason, and the design is pretty. You pick up two side plates – easy to use at the beach if your plan fails. 

The first meal you try on the new melamine plate is a joy. 

It’s light so there’s no fear your arms will sag on the journey from the kitchen to the dining table in the living room. It’s thicker too than you expected, no heat to burn your fingertips before you’ve set it on the table. 

When it inevitably falls to the floor it clatters and bangs with an almighty racket, but…it’s still intact. Not even a scratch or chip adorn the edges. 

You wonder why you’d never thought of it before, every summer beach trip had featured a long-owned set of plastic plates. Now, it has opened up a whole new world, you eagerly wait for the picnicware season to start. It’s no use shopping in the winter months, no one has any use for the bright plastic pieces. 

Finally, picnicware season arrives and you eagerly buy up sets of melamine dinner plates, side plates, breakfast and pasta bowls. Plastic cups in various sizes, even a few melamine mugs. The patterns are prettier than you expected. 

No more boring white, the cupboards turn into a kaleidoscope of colour. What’s left of the silent foes are donated, to help out those who aren’t in a quiet battle with them. 

As you sip and eat, from a table laid for a year-long picnic, you feel a strange joy. 

You’re finally free of the centuries-long battle all disabled people have faced. You hope others can see your words and vanquish the silent foes lurking in their cupboards. 

Vital vessels are no longer a disabled person’s worst enemy. 

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