Having glued my eyeballs to non-stop Enid Blyton books at my most delicate age, I grew up convinced that no decent day out was complete without a yummy picnic in the fresh air. Hard-boiled eggs and tomato sandwiches, home-made lemonade and great slabs of cake for afters. Hoorah!
But a real-life, grown-up picnic is never quite like that, is it? By the time we decide to have one, it’s usually too late to go shopping for chicken satay and potato salad, so I peer into the cupboard and cobble together some sandwiches and crisps. If I find a packet of chocolate biscuits, that’s good. Raw carrots and a few water bottles in the bag and we’re good to go.
The time comes, and we meet our friends in the car park of our chosen scenic spot. I lug bags as the children shoot off like speeding bullets before I can ask them to carry anything. If there are picnic benches, they are splattered with bird poo or next to an overflowing bin, so we wander down to the riverbank or up a hill. Choosing a spot turns into a game of ‘find the least muddy bit’.
Out comes the food. Unless I’ve had a rare Nigella moment the night before, my friends will usually have out-lunched me. They joyfully nourish their patient, grateful offspring with delicious pasta salad and garlic rolls on smart orange plastic plates; Me, I wrestle my children to the ground and plonk squashed sandwiches and a packet of hula hoops into their grubby hands, growling “eat the sandwiches first.” We nibble our chocolate biscuits (melted) as we are attacked by wasps or menaced by dogs that look only slightly scarier than their owners.
But the dream never dies, and I will still plan picnics in the hope that they will be more romantic and delightful than they probably will be. Tonight I was reading some Enid Blyton to my daughter, and the children in the story did indeed have yet another picnic - this time it was a ham and a fruit cake from the market wrapped in a tea towel, and some ginger beer. Hoorah Hoorah Hoorah!