Yesterday I went out for lunch with my critique group to a local beauty spot called Wistow Park. It’s not that beautiful but it is in the countryside and it’s close to the canal so it’s one of Josh-the-dog’s favourite walks. (He does love tow paths. It must have something to do with a concentration of smells!) It’s also the place we used to go for picnics when I was a child.
A family of ducks waddled round our table as we ate and exchanged news about our latest writing projects. We were outside a colourful cafe sitting at elaborate picnic-style bench tables with large green umbrellas to shield us from the sun and we were eating food that couldn’t be more different from the picnics that Mum used to make.
Every so often I found myself glancing over to the field where Mum, Dad, my sister and I used to go for those Sunday afternoon picnics and it made me come over all nostalgic. I loved those picnics. Dad used to park the car on the grass verge (That’s not allowed now. There’s a proper car park with tarmac and white lines.) and Mum used to spread an old brown ground sheet in the middle of a big square field so that me and my sister could sit side by side and eat. The square field is fenced off now. Cows graze there and the rest of the area is landscaped with footpaths marked out, shops and even a Garden Centre... but my spectacles are not entirely rose tinted. Here come the five reasons for not having a picnic.
1. There were thistles on that field and I always managed to sit on one.
2. There were cowpats on the field and... ditto No 1.
3. The wasps loved my jam sandwiches more than I did.
4. There were no toilets nearby, the bushes were full of nettles and... ditto No. 1 again.
5. Someone (usually me) always managed to spill the drinks. They inevitably went over someone’s sandwiches (usually my sister’s). She would be upset. I would start to cry. Dad would declare the picnic over and we’d have to pack up before we’d finished and go home.
But in spite of the negatives, I remember those Sunday afternoons with a lot of warmth and affection. Yesterday, as I watched children eating carefully prepared cheese and marmalade onion ciabattas or jacket potatoes with Coronation chicken and side salad with olive oil dressing, I wondered if any of them would remember that outing with the same degree of fondness that I have for my family picnics. Somehow I don’t think they will.