Lost hope for the art of the picnic?

In the world of Enid Blyton children’s books, which were essentially stories of middle class children solving crimes that the police couldn’t, being at jolly good fun boarding schools where there was not a hint of bullying (or indeed anything of an unsavoury nature) and other stories of children having a unrealistically good life in middle class families, picnics were just part of that daily life.

The Famous five, the Secret 7 or the head girl at Mallory Towers would never have been seen with a takeaway burger or a milkshake. For them it was always potted meat sandwiches washed down with lashings of Ginger beer. If you are not from a country where these books were part of your upbringing, my apologies for baffling you. But it is worth reading one – even for me as a child from a relatively well off family, but growing up in a city in the troubled early 1970’s, these books (and they were a big part of my reading) were an anathema to my normal life.

So back to picnics…I think there is a comeback..partly driven by economic necessity, partly by a drive to reduce plastic and also driven by a desire to eat more healthily and do things together as groups of friends or family. They really do change behaviours….for example you will see far fewer people using phones for messaging or social media updates when outside picnicing compared to in a restaurant situation. Result!

And the downside…just occasionally, nature wants to barge in!

A quick visit to this story of a recent family event of ours is a reminder of that! Salsa with cows

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Salsa with cows

Little did John Constable the artist realise that he put the beautiful river stour and the hamlet of Flatford Mill and the village of Dedham well and truly on the map.

This sleepy and pretty riverside area on the Suffolk and Essex border in Eastern England is visited by many …some to see the unchanged scenes painted all those years ago such as Willy Lott’s cottage,

Flatford Mill and the riverside meadows also featured in many paintings. Others visit just to enjoy the countryside almost unchanged from the days of Constable.

Last weekend visiting family who live in the nearby area we too decided to enjoy the area and walk and picnic by the river. The weather was perfect, the wasps were confining themselves to sharing drinks at the nearby pub, and we were a well prepared group with picnic rugs and copious supplies of food. What we hadn’t prepared for were the cows. Now I too live in the country and have a healthy respect for cows, particularly when with their calves and we stay well clear when dog walking to avoid frightening them, disturbing them or even being perceived to be invading their territory.

Now at Dedham the herd seem to have been there a while and know the score. Totally unperturbed by dog walkers, noisy children, people launching dinghies into the River but what they have mastered is picnic raiding! And this is not collective herd tactics.. it is one stubborn bullock. He was determined to have some salad, then bread, as we desperately tried to scoop up plates, wrappers and indeed anything that might cause real harm, he then emptied the Bombay mix container and finished it by licking out an entire jar of salsa.

Nothing would move him. It was only when everything was removed he gave a final lick of his lips, a cursory glance at the devastation he had left and moved on up the field to the next unsuspecting victim.

Now this individual gave the impression this is tried and tested cow behaviour for generations of animals in this area. It does make me wonder if amongst the well known paintings of Constable such as The Haywain, Flatford Mill or Dedham Lock there is an unknown hidden and lost masterpiece ….’The Cow eating Salsa ‘. For sale at an auction room near you shortly.

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