Being an aficionado of picnics, I sometimes like to prepare for the event most scrupulously. They are the sort of idea that can grow claws, wings and who-knows-what-else in their monstrous potential. They sometimes need to be finely tuned to prevent disaster. First and foremost, there is the scouting of the picnic spot. One must of course have the eye for picnicking values, but also a certain amount of stamina. My fellow purveyor of picnic foods and I undertook an afternoon of brisk walking and scouting several days prior to the main event. In a moment of weakness, I agreed on heading straight for the mountains. The green space was simply too much for us to resist. We stopped at what seemed the last outpost – A Lawson’s at the foot of the mountains – to stock up on drinks & onigiri.
From there we began our ambitious surveying of land and view. Following narrow paths around rice paddies and vegetable gardens tended by hat-wearing retired folk, we wound our way up to a suitable hill. Whether the tenders of the gardens commuted to their plots, or if they simply grew naturally among the onions was unclear. What was clear on this on this particular day was the skyline. Umeda could be seen without the haze that is usually shadowing it. We sat down next to a pond and pondered the area. The trees were close enough, the people were far away enough, and there was a comfortable place to sit. We then sat, munching and sipping with great gusto, testing for bugs and other unexpected enemies to picnics everywhere. Finally, it had been decided – the picnic spot had been found.
On Thursday afternoon my accomplice found the necessary treasures for food, and my own very important task meant stopping by a shop on the way to work for chickpeas. This was accomplished relatively easily and with relief. After work, the chickpeas were left to soak in a covered bowl.
On Friday morning we rose early. Garlic, fresh lemon juice and oil were assembled before the chickpeas, and together turned into hommus. The fresh vegetables were cut into appropriately lengthed strips. The chocolate and box of cherries were carefully arranged in the picnicking vessel – a canvas shoulderbag with silver insulation. The translation from our apartment to the picnicking spot had to be leisurely to build on the picnic mood. Thus it was at a respectable perambulatory pace that we moved to the picnic spot. We had calculated our average time of hunger, and the time that would transpire before the picinicking could begin. We had omitted from our calculations the time it would take to purchase chilled drinks on the way, however. And so the last climb of the hill was quite a painfully hungry one. With a few deep breaths we cleared the last few feet and managed to sink into the spot unscathed. Phew.
Now one of the best parts of the picnic could begin – the taking out and admiring of picnic foodstuffs, all of which have gained a magical importance and mysterious superior flavour somewhere on the way to this outside dining gala. Now, to depict each empowered item of food with appropriately flavoured language, and to go on in the descriptions of their consumption might well be enjoyable for the reader. It would unfortunately strip the futurekind of picnics of its unique magic. I certainly do not want to be responsible for such a depletion of joy, and fall to earth, and so I think I do right in leaving it well alone. Perhaps there will one day come a greater picnic enthusiast with the confidence and skill to navigate the details of picnicking with thorough justice.
Until then, I have to admit that spontaneous picnics are almost as much fun as carefully planned and organised ones. Assuming you have the right eye for magic of course.