We’ve got a bit of a thing about picnics in our family. My mum was so evangelical about them that we used to picnic in all seasons and in all weathers. From rain-lashed, windswept beaches to sunlit Dorset fields, she chose picnic spots with an expert eye and reckoned that food always tasted better when you ate it outside.
Sometimes she’d unload a wicker hamper, old patchwork tablecloth, china plates and glasses from the back of her bright green 2CV and lay it all out on the grass. Other times she’d manage to stuff a whole picnic into the capacious pockets of her blue InWear coat. My husband still talks about the time, soon after he first met her, when we decided to walk to the beach at the lost village of Tyneham (above). As we sat on the pebbly shore, gazing at the boats tacking back and forth, she promptly produced hot cheese and tomato rolls, seasoned with mustard and wrapped in tin foil, and a flask of coffee for four out of her pockets.
And now, all these years later, my children are just as enthusiastic about picnics as my mum. So when we woke yesterday to discover that the grey skies and freezing temperatures had miraculously disappeared, they suggested an impromptu picnic. We hurriedly assembled a lunch of soup, rolls, cake and coffee and strolled down the road to Oxford’s lovely University Parks.
We walked to the middle of the park, stopping to admire the spring crocuses and snowdrops and passing dog walkers, Lycra-clad runners and parents with babies in prams. We chose a picnic spot near the river and marvelled how even in the middle of a bustling city, you can still be on your own. Then we glanced to our left. On a pitch in the distance, two teams, one sporting pale blue, the other navy blue, were charging around at top speed. Hundreds of cheering spectators seemed to have materialised from nowhere and a little marquee was selling T-shirts and hoodies. We looked again and burst out laughing. I don’t quite know how we’d managed it, but we were right in the middle of the annual Oxford v Cambridge mixed lacrosse varsity match. Did you know such a thing existed? No, me neither.