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Yeah, I remember picnics…

Yeah, I remember picnics…

Technical help forums often feature random postings of completely unrelated matter, otherwise known as “spam”. Take this recent offering from the YouTube Community Help Forums:

My earliest memories as a girl are basking in a tree’s shade at a nearby park, with the warm summer breeze caressing by skin, the sounds of laughter and joy from children playing all around me, and the sweet aromas swirling from the BBQ. These are the sounds and smells of a summer picnic. Making time for a lazy Saturday nap, a delicious meal, and spending time with loved ones.

A picnic is a chance to get back to the simple things in life. Time slows down, and all that matters is enjoying every passing moment because you want it’s [sic] beauty to last forever. Spring birds and the first blades of a crocus signal the arrival of warm weather, and of course, the chance to take it slow. As the days pass, the daffodils turn to tulips, and soon the roses are in full bloom. Summer is finally here.

A quick dip in the lake can cool off any summer day. I take a deep breath and take a moment to reflect on the peaceful waters all around me. The hills are lush with greenery, and roll into each other.

I head back to my blanket as I dry off. A glass of wine is waiting for me — but don’t rush! I take my time and savor every sip. The bouquet of the red blush is sweet and savory. In my picnic basket I find seedless red grapes and some brie. A flick of a match into the pile of coals starts a flame that will turn into a feast. BBQ chicken and sweet, buttery corn, warm off the grill. I look in my picnic basket again, and I’m glad to see the potato salad with fruit. I look at my love and smile. The kids are playing in the background, and I feel lucky to be here. With my belly full, and the sun getting heavy in the sky, I lay my head for a light nap.

These are simple moments. These are the little gifts in life that we are given every day. All it takes is a picnic basket to make them come alive!

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Yeah, I remember picnics, too.

I suppose living in the English Westcountry wasn’t a good start because, as my German wife so succinctly puts it, if you don’t like the weather, just wait half an hour. That is to say, a seemingly cloudless sky can suddenly turn grey and start showering you with various types of precipitation, often enough of the sharp and icy kind. And then, suddenly, it clears up and the sun comes out; Mother Nature’s way of whistling nonchalantly.

Even if you do manage to pick a day when the weather is not suffering from ADD, finding a place among the cowpats and rabbit droppings can be a task in itself, and at some point you think to yourself, “Stuff this for a game of soldiers,” and put the blanket down right where you’re standing. Which turns out to be a mistake, because it’s right in the middle of a patch of thistles, so you move to the shade of yonder oak tree. It’s only after you’ve poured your drink that you remember that trees have a habit of shedding little bits of old twig, dead insects and dried leaves.

For most of the rest of the time, you have to fend off (depending on the time of year) flies, mosquitoes, over-friendly dogs belonging to the city folk getting lost in the maze of footpaths to your right, and that peculiar species of wasp that hovers menacingly exactly nine sixteenths of an inch from your sandwich no matter how often you try to bat it away (but gingerly, because a wasp sting feels like somebody stubbing a cigarette out on your arm).

We children, of course, did our best to play in the background, but couldn’t manage that for more than five minutes without falling into a patch of stinging nettles or getting a foot stuck down a rabbit hole. There were always tears sooner or later. No wonder our dad finally refused to go with us on a picnic.

Hills lush with greenery were all very well, but of course when my sister developed hay fever, that pretty much reduced our countryside picnicking to a couple of uncertain weeks in early spring, when we used to lay bets on who would be the first to hear a cuckoo, and who would be first to have a cuckoo relieve itself on his or her head.

Some things, though, were never meant to be. We never took a grill with us, partly because we enjoyed the simple things in life and didn’t need such fancy gadgets, but mainly because none of us could ever get a grill going with the flick of a match. Apart from the difficulties of getting a match lit in a fresh Westcountry spring breeze (about force 8, usually), there was the difficulty of lighting charcoal. Do you know what charcoal is? It’s burnt wood: it was on fire, the fire went out, and you have to light it again. That doesn’t happen without a flamethrower; at least, not in our family. And besides, hamburgers that are black on the outside and pink inside never appealed to me much. If we ever had potato salad with fruit in it, it was because somebody had been careless with the packing again.

Being British, we never went to the lake for a picnic, but we did regularly go to the seaside. You may never have been to a British seaside resort in the 70s, but they were basically sewage farms that were open to the public. Some beaches consist of pebbles the size of tennis balls, which are amazingly uncomfortable to sit on; others of so-called “shingle“, which not only sounds like an illness, but feels like one, too: a gritty, halfway house to sand that hurts your feet and gets stuck under your toenails. And then there are the beautiful, pristine beaches that look like an advertisement for a travel agency, but in practice large parts of them are transferred to your picnic basket by a good stiff sea-breeze, essentially putting the “sand” into “sandwiches”. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not dentists that are responsible for imperfect British teeth; it’s eating picnics at Lyme Regis that does it.

Whatever: I do take pleasure in small things, but those things have to be real, not some soft-focus trip down Sentimentality Lane into a third-rate bodice-ripper. Give me a hunk of fresh, crusty white bread, a selection of cheeses and a Cabernet Sauvignon any day, but don’t try to brainwash me into visiting some random website.