Planning, organisation, working ahead of schedule, all qualities that have haloes around them in the eyes of employers; and totally useless when it comes to picnics. If you don’t feel a sense of creeping trepidation when setting a date for a picnic, you are either outrageously audacious, or stupidly sanguine. Or you’re just not from the UK.
Making picnics in Scotland is up there with ice-road trucking and tornado photographers: it’s risky business. This summer in particular saw weather that I can only compare to the mood-swings of a sixteen-year old. Rays of the hot (yes, even in Scotland) summer sun could be replaced with torrential downpours in a matter of seconds, with little to no forewarning. You could go out in your sunnies and Birkenstocks and come back a drowned rat from going out to pick some herbs.
But that’s what I did. In Scotland. I set a date for a picnic. A week in advance. One week. Stupidly sanguine or outrageously audacious? I’m making a claim on my Belgian nationality for this one (and incidentally forgetting my British one…). Two days before the big day I began preparation, making all manner of goodies from homemade sausage rolls and hummus, to chewy flapjacks and a cucumber and rye crumb slaw.
The morning of picnic-day was full of promise with sunlight beaming through my bedroom window. As the time approached 1pm, however, the weather became increasingly dubious, until the pelting rain sealed the fate of the picnic, and there was nothing left we could do.
In an act of inspiration – or rather a parent’s desperation as he frantically tried to shield his children from the trauma involved in a cancelled picnic – the picnickers salvaged the situation. Laying out rugs, cushions, and all manner of picnicking paraphanalia in the conservatory, a room that occupies that philosophical in-between space where one is neither outside nor in, the picnickers created something worth fighting for: an indoor picnic.
The novelty of an indoor picnic is something that has to be tried in order to be understood. Being spirited away by the sound of the rain whilst dipping dry breadsticks into dry hummus (too much tahini) is a transporting experience. And, hand on heart, there is no better way to entertain children on a rainy day – and get them to eat their fruit and veg without them kicking up a fuss.