My ideal ... picnic


I was in my room the other day, wondering where tweezing ends and self-harm begins, when I suddenly grew restless. I pushed my magnifying mirror aside, applied witch hazel to the largest wounds and decided to imagine the ideal picnic.

Lower your creaky self into a deck chair and take this plastic cup that I’ve filled to the absolute brim with scalding hot tea. Shush now, while I tuck this plaid blanket super-tight around your knees. You won’t get distracted and wander off as I stand here on this grassy verge singing out my picnic truth, will you? After barbecues and silent, tearful binges in car parks, picnics are my favourite way to consume food outdoors. The ironic thing* about that is, 15 years ago, I almost didn’t make it to my first picnic.

I was approximately six years’ old back then, and sassy as can be. My mother, an anxious brunette, explained to me that instead of having lunch at the table, I would eat it off the ground. “Like a dog, Mother?” I asked her, coolly. “Are we dogs now?” She flinched, then wittered on about how she had brought my favourite drink and how she wasn’t able.

I fished a ginger ale from the proffered cool-box, asking, “This ginger ale, Mother, is this what you mean? And am I to lap it like a dog?” I held the bottle aloft, looking right at her as I let it slip from my hand and smash on the ground. She rushed to pick up the pieces of glass but I stood over them, barking and barking, until she had to go into hospital for another rest!

These days, I’m a cosmopolitan girl with a gingham attitude who loves nothing more than dining, as my Spanish friends say, “al dente”. Picnic food is pretty, it has to be, to stand up to the scrutiny of direct sunlight. Dainty triangle sandwiches and subtle little quiches tiptoe along sweetly, brushing a path behind them for delicate pastry treats to follow.

Wait! Do you hear those heavy footsteps? Who could it be, trundling along slowly, breathing heavily through her nose?

It is, of course, that enormous sausage ballerina who’s only gone and swallowed an egg, whole. The Scotch Egg – that leaden guest, uninvited, here to ruin another picnic.

The ideal picnic has almost
everything we need, except shelter, so there’s just enough time outdoors to remember where we are and wonder why that is, before we’re back inside again, hopping from foot to foot.

My dream picnic is a beautiful ad that’s not selling anything, just one part of a dappled day that flows through to a gold-coloured evening, with every silly goose I know doing party pieces on a hay-bale stage, making everyone laugh then going quiet, breathing in, lying back, with their eyes wide open.

*The other ironic thing is the way I use the word ironic with great irony, despite, ironically enough, not actually knowing what it means.

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