Monday, August 01, 2005

How to picnic in London

How to picnic in London

Pick a location
At first glance, this seems easy. There are many beautiful parks in Central London. Regents Park, Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James’ Park. But the parks are huge, so where’s the best picnic spot? Pick a location near a visible and well known landmark, e.g. “north of the round pond” in Hyde Park, which is where my husband and I met up with a group of co-picknickers yesterday.

Even finding a well-known landmark can be difficult, a friend of mine had to make several calls to my mobile in order to find us. I’m notoriously bad at giving directions, so at the first phone call I passed my phone off to the person who seemed the most confident. However, that confidence may have been misplaced, for my friend wandered off to another body of water some 20 minutes walk in the other direction before she finally found her bearings (and after a surreptitious phone call from the Vol-in-Law to make sure she was on the right path).

The balance between available dates and weather information.
The Londoner’s social diary fills quickly and for dates far into the future. But a picnic is weather dependent and British weather is notoriously not dependable, so it’s best to plan them at short notice. We had little choice, as this picnic was to honor a scholarship recipient and this was one of her few available dates before jetting off to America to start her university life in Texas. So we just had to cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Pick an alternative location

If it does rain – pick an alternative location, e.g. a pub. We did. Again, scads of pubs in London, and our alternative was a pub well known to many of the picknickers.

Pack some rain gear
As we were heading out, the skies looked ominously grey. It had been raining off and on all the previous week, and my husband, the Vol-in-Law. was seriously grumbling about the soundness of the picnicking venture given the climatological outlook. I packed various waterproof items, umbrella, giant plastic garbage bag, rain coat, etc. I also brought my sweater, it was a bit chilly (after all it was the last day of July).

Pack some food and drink
No soggy ham sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly for us. No, for a London picnic, you must be a little more class than that. We brought homemade pizza slices with grilled vegetables and carmelized red onion, cherry tomatoes (including some from my own lovely garden), blueberries and red wine. Others brought posh sounding salads and crudit̩s, summer fruits abounded Рas did alcohol. Yes, there are no open container laws in the Royal Parks you can drink out the can, the bottle or the glass.
Although almost all the picnickers in question were American, one was celebrated gratefully for doing the very British thing of bringing Pimms (mental note: do whole post on the glories of Pimms) which is a sort of summer cocktail consisting of ingredients which don't sound as though they ought to go together but do. (Ever had cucumber in a mixed drink? No? Essential in a Pimms).

Hope for the best
Maybe the skies will clear and it will be OK. Turns out, it was a glorious day.

Addendum: although it’s generally considered OK to drink in public here and the legal age is 18, when we took a group photo to send back to the university featuring the scholarship winner, we had to retake the photo, the second time taking the beer can away from the 18 year old scholarship winner in question.

No comments: