Summer officially arrived today, for me at least. It wasn’t a scorcher but it was a fair day; the sun seemed rather shy at first, peeking in and out from behind the clouds all morning, but by mid-afternoon it was shining away in the blue sky. But it wasn’t the weather that marked the start of summer for me; it was my first picnic of the year. How I’ve been looking forward to this! Rob and I are taking a nice long break from work and I’ve been watching the weather forecast intently. Today was looking like the first of some increasingly warmer days so, come what may, I was determined that our picnic basket was going to be pulled out and dusted off. It’s a beautiful 4 person hamper, bought for us for our wedding by our friends Vivien and Antony, and I get a real sense of occasion when we use it. Forget warm, soggy sandwiches and plastic beakers, I like a ‘proper’ picnic, with china, glass and cotton napkins. Call me snobbish if you will, but I just love the whole idea of the traditional English picnic. To illustrate the point, one of my favourite literary pieces is not from Austin, Dickens or Bronte, but from Kenneth Grahame. I love the images this extract from ‘The Wind in the Willow’ conjures up:
“’Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?’
The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with a sigh of full contentment, and leaned back blissfully into the soft cushions. ‘What a day I’m having!’ he said. ‘Let us start at once!’
‘Hold hard a minute, then!’ said the Rat. He looped the painter through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole above, and reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket.
‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.
‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;
For our own little excursion today, Rob and I visited the very picturesque Hever Castle:
After walking around the castle and the grounds we went back to the car for our picnic rug and basket and laid them out on the grass in front of the castle. Out came the little packages: the Parma ham, the cherry tomatoes, the cheeses, the French stick, the strawberries. We had food, we had wine, we had books, we had suntan lotion; we were happy!
We were temporarily joined by one of the inhabitants of the castle grounds, as you can see:
But finding nothing but a few crumbs to peck at off he waddled to the next group of picnic-ers.
We enjoyed the food in the sunshine, then I read while Rob nodded off for a while. Blissful, lazy days!