Picnic Power

By Charlie Smith-Knight

ISSUE NO: 1512

Picnics in parks and alfresco dining,  Sitting on beaches, whilst the sun is shining, Sandwich packages all tied up with strings,

These are a few of my favourite things…

Try saying that three times after a few beer garden beverages. Did you know July is national picnic month? No, probably not. It’s unlikely to hugely affect your everyday life. However, anything that involves sunshine and eating, I can get on board with faster than a billionaire entering the space race. It’s a simple concept, grab some grub, head out for some fresh air, and do like the Victorians did, albeit without the girdles and the threat of smallpox.

The good news is it involves little gear and a basic idea. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t be as prepared as a scout whilst still packing light. Invest in some quality eco-friendly plates and cups, like bamboo or enamel, as they’re easy to carry, can be reused for future endeavours or extended family Christmases’ and will also be light on your social conscious. Using wooden cutlery will help to eliminate unnecessary plastic waste. A decent sized blanket is an essential picnic aesthetic and will save you hauling chairs behind you like the Old Man dragging his giant marlin to shore. Contemporary picnic blankets come with waterproof backing and can be rolled up to be carried by an incorporated handle allowing you to work smarter not harder. Be prepared for all eventualities, after all this is still England. Bug spray and citronella candles are useful tools in your arsenal because although the great British countryside is beautiful, it’s also home to more bugs than David Attenborough can reasonably name. Additionally, Mother Nature can be a fickle mistress when it comes to the weather, so a general rule of thumb is always pack a poncho. Day out at an amusement park? Open air concert? Picnic at the park? Poncho, poncho, poncho. Pocket sized and pence to buy, a poncho will stop a passing shower ruining your afternoon pursuits. Just don’t scrimp when it comes to a cool box. Room temperature cream cheese and salmon sandwiches are as appealing as a day trip to a sewage plant.

If salmon doesn’t float your boat regardless of the temperature, it’s easy enough to rewrite the rule book. Spice up a sunny Sunday with samosas and bhajis. Take your pick from the best of the Atlantic and serve up some sushi. Choose a theme or mix and match. The culinary world is your oyster – although they may not travel well. Have some fun with the gastronomy but be mindful of how you’re going to eat it. Meats and cheeses can be skewered for convenience, as can fruit and marshmallows. Sandwiches and sausage rolls are staples for a reason. Jellies, cake bars and packet snacks are also easy wins. If your al fresco adventures are going to be more audacious, take a packet of wet wipes. It’s amazing how much sand or soil can stowaway home on sticky fingers. Complete your banquet with enough lashings of lemonade to make an Enid Blyton series look under-catered and throw a bin bag in your kit to ensure the only thing you’re taking home are good memories.

If you’re heading out to a rural spot, you’re likely to be out of a Wi-Fi zone and whilst the serenity of being off grid may appeal to you, those Gen Alphas are much more technologically minded. Stop those square eyes glazing over by planning something to do. A game of tag, a wheelbarrow race or playing cards can all help to create some quality family time. Engage with the world around you by having an impromptu scavenger hunt. Go squirrel spotting, flower picking or acorn foraging. Explore the landscape instead of the internet for the day and be present in the moment. In ten years time, the smell of sea salt or earthy woodland will conjure memories of sunshiny days in a way that a funny TikTok video never will. I still can’t see a crab without being reminded that my little sister liked to only put the dead ones in her bucket at the beach because she wanted to fix them. She works in the care industry now so you could say they are formative experiences.

However, you plan to do it, just do it. It’s all grass stains and daisy chains. But don’t forget to stay safe whilst indulging in some Vitamin D. As Baz Luhrmann once said, if I could offer you one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. You’ll be as grateful at 60 for the fresh complexion as you are for the treasured memories.