Monday, May 29, 2006

Picnic lunch

As today was a public holiday we planned to share a picnic lunch with our neighbours. I have this mental image of picnics. A rug spread on cool green grass, clear blue skies, a bulging picnic hamper (never mind that we do not possess a hamper!), leisurely eating and drinking while the children play happily. By now I really ought to know better. The problem is not the lack of an elegant hamper. It is English weather. We are blessed with a mild and temperate climate. Unfortunately our weather is also ridiculously unpredictable, even in these days of weather satellites and computer simulations.

To be accurate, we originally planned a barbecue. Since the middle of last week we have watched the weather forecast. First it predicted a wet weekend from Saturday through to Monday ... then Saturday was to be good followed by rain on Sunday and Monday ... next the BBC weather service admitted they didn't know ... rumour had it Monday was to be sunny and warm ... no, it would be Sunday ... hold that forecast, Sunday would be dry but cool, Monday damp. Maybe. Neither family could make Sunday, so Monday it had to be. Perhaps a barbecue was not the best idea. We would go out for a picnic instead. After all, the weather might not be bad. It might at least be dry. And if we only indulged in outdoor pursuits like picnics if there was a cast iron guarantee of good weather we would rarely get out at all.

This morning I checked the BBC online 24 hour forecast for our area (specific to a town less than ten miles away). Dry at 7am, wet at 10am, dry again at 1pm, and warming up as the afternoon went on. Tevye checked the BBC forecast on TV. Rain arriving at lunchtime. Does the BBC's right hand talk to its left? Is right or left a better predictor of weather? We consult with our neighbours and decide we are too robust to be deterred by unpromising weather. We only planned to visit a canalside picnic site a couple of miles away, so could always abort our plans at the last minute and have an indoor picnic instead (is that a contradiction in terms?).

We planned to leave some time after 1pm in the hope that the 10am rain would have passed. The morning was bright and sunny. At 1pm there was a heavy shower. It passed. The sky turned blue. We packed picnics and children into cars. The sky turned dark grey. As we set off another heavy shower began. Four hundred yards up the road we passed the edge of the shower. A mile later it caught up with us again. We arrived at the picnic site. No rain. To the left, blue sky; to the right, heavy grey cloud. We were, quite literally, under the dividing line. Which way were the clouds going? Yes! Away from us! Do we picnic? How long before the next rain cloud passes overhead? Where is that British spirit that pushes on in the face of adversity? We have made it this far, we are not giving up now! Nobody had cut the grass at the picnic site, and the long grass was more than a little damp. We were prepared for that one, and had brought a large plastic sheet to put under a picnic rug. We sat down ... in sun ... and began to eat. Thirty minutes later we were finishing off our assortment of crusty bread, chicken, crisps (potato chips) and salad and contemplating fruit and cake for dessert. Drip. Another drip. Many drips ... yes, the rain has caught up with us. We stuff everything back into bags, stuff bags and children back into cars, and race for home in heavy rain to eat dessert indoors!

When will I learn to put aside that romantic mental image of a summer picnic?

Postscript: When I started writing this blog entry at 6.30pm there were sunny blue skies and Angel and Star had just gone outside to play. Halfway through they came back in because it was raining. Now the blue skies and sun are back.


Anonymous said...

It was worth it...if only for the 30 minutes or so spent outdoors. You can't beat eating "al fresco".

(Writing this in the office, a day later, with the sun pouring through the window and thinking how the timing of weather can often play cruel tricks!)

Mary G said...

This post brings back so many memories of plans "dashed" by English weather...thanks for the glimpse into your lives...

Drive By Fruiting said...

Your blog rocks!