A picture of family and friends laughing gaily, sitting on a rug in a daisy filled field next to a stream, eating lovely home-made delicacies is in the back of our minds when we think picnic in England. Think again…
As Georgina Battiscome said in 1949 in her marvellous book English Picnics, ‘A picnic is the Englishman’s grand gesture, and his final defiance in the face of fate. No climate in the world is less propitious to picnics that the climate of England’
There are great swathes of the world where eating al fresco is taken for granted, you just set a date and time and off you go with your picnic, or – and here’s the rub – you just open your fridge, take out food and go and eat it outside!
I don’t think these people realise how amazing this is to an English person, or how lucky they are. Picnics in England require the same sort of organisation and logistics that I think NASA used on sending man to the moon.
First of all where?
The beach? But it might be windy and our sandwiches will be filled with sand (sorry about the pun) or it might be sunny and we’ll get burnt or the seagulls will dive bomb or it’ll suddenly rain and we’ll end up eating the food in a steamy car.
The countryside? But what about the midges if it’s hot or roaming cows and their cow pats or sinking mud if it rains and we’ll end up eating the food in a steamy car.
Wherever we choose the English picnic isn’t just some jaunt in a T shirt and shorts with a bag of food. We have to go loaded with every bit of kit we’ll need from sun cream and sun hats to first aid kits to umbrellas and a spare jumper and still end up eating the food in a steamy car.
Of course there is always the garden, it’s not far and not very adventurous but at least we can run indoors for all the things we’ve forgotten and we won’t end up eating the food in a steamy car.
But as Elizabeth says in the final words of her book, ‘At this word, picnic, I heard the distant murmur of the seas, and the hurry of shadowy rivers, and the trumpets of bees upon moorlands, and the whisper of autumn woods, with the voices and the laughter of all those I love, ringing, year behind year, through all.’
That’s why we love the thought of picnics.