The new normal has breathed new life into many of our old routines. Walks, for example, have a more leisurely pace these days (walking without a destination in mind is a lot more calming than rushing to change stations on the London Underground). It’s also a) as low-risk as it gets b) massively boosts my mental health, and c) provides a much needed break from the monotony of lockdown limbo. Another low risk activity that has gained momentum in recent times and cemented itself as a favourite pandemic activity? Picnics!
The last time picnics were a thing for me, was – well, never. I grew up in Bangladesh where the weather is picnic friendly exactly 1/12 months of the year. The picnic scene didn’t get any more happening after I moved to Britain. Choosing between weatherproof cafes that catered to my overactive bladder Vs loo-less parks that exposed me to cold, precarious skies was a no brainer for me.
In a sharp contrast to Bangladesh, Britain spends 11/12 months of the year suspended in a grey haze of mist and rain. We may not get winters as cold as Canada but Mother Nature is famous in this part of the world for soiling the best hatched plans. Everyone (except Dear Des from work who thinks December in UK is ‘t-shirt weather’), is obsessed with the sun. It used to amuse me and my South Asian sensibilities. Now I make it a point to appreciate the first hint of sunshine by throwing myself out of the house/office/any obstruction that stands between me and Vitamin D.
Its no surprise that Brits are uber keen on making the most of the outdoors during summer time, especially after three months of lockdown. Summer 2020 is making picnic persons out of everyone, including yours truly. The chances of contracting or transmitting coronavirus decreases in open air, so there is no safer way to socialise right now.
Safety concerns aside, picnics have a certain charm that is hard to ignore. The very idea of a picnic paints an idyllic image in our minds. You find yourself transported, walking under leafy canopies clad in a swishy dress, swinging a basket laden with wholesome titbits that you then park on the perfect gingham blanket. But of course its not all that breezy. There is a lot more to picnics than the picture perfect Pinterest image may suggest. If you are on the fence about them, and need some inspiration, here’s some practical tips to get you going!
- Research your locations
You want to avoid crowds as much as possible right now – picnics are no exception. If you are heading for popular public areas, aim for off-peak hours. Alternatively, consider going to a local park where you are likely to cross paths with a smaller group of people. For residents in UK, you can find the nearest green space in your area on The National Trust website. Simply type in your postcode and select your picnic spot from a list of available options.
Bring your own blanket. Actually, bring your own everything. In the pandemic era, NOT sharing is caring.
- Keep your guest list small
No matter what the ever fluctuating rules suggest, its better to keep the numbers low.
- Stay sanitized on the go
It’s never been more prudent to err on the side of caution. So pack your disinfectant wipes, face masks, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves – anything and everything that might help you to socialise safely. Sanitize hands before serving and eating. Avoid touching your face at all times. Use separate cups, cutleries, plates and napkins.
- Keep food simple but exciting
Lets be real – the food is what REALLY matters in a picnic. Picnic food should be simple, fun, able to travel well and easy to dish out. Cold pasta, salami, fruit skewers, sandwiches, cheese, salads, crisps and dips are popular options. And, if you are Bengali, homemade versions of fuchka and chotpoti never fail to delight. Last but not the least, dont forget the drinks. And cake! No picnic is complete without cake.
- Make it special
A little DIY can go a long way in creating the picnic mood. Set the scene with a few key pieces like a bunting, this gingham blanket and the must have classic wicker basket. Throw in some game options like football, frisbee or cards. (Note: we did find it hard to keep our mouths shut after months of social starvation. Our stack of UNO came back untouched).
- Clean up after yourselves
Picnics get messy so make sure to carry bin bags to collect all your rubbish. Leave the spot as you found it!
Being in the real-life company of friends is a truly special feeling – even with the awkward do-we-hug or do-we-not-hug phases that punctuate the start and end of our meetups. Its nice to don real clothes and enjoy the wind caressing our faces, knowing in our hearts that we cannot take these simple pleasures for granted. It’s a joy to watch our children running around and burning off that pent-up lockdown energy. It’s a privilege of course, and I am mindful and grateful.
Post lockdown life has certainly been no picnic. But that doesnt mean it cant be spent dipping in and out a series of it! In line with the transient nature of pandemic rules, picnics too are going to be short-lived. As we move towards colder weather and the dangers of a second wave, picnics will cease to be an option. But while we have here and now, I am all for making the most of it. Summer 2020 will forever be remembered as the Year of The Picnic.