Sunday, 22 February 2009


Claire, my youngest daughter and I were reminiscing. I really enjoyed being with both my daughters during the summer holidays. We didn't have any money or a car for much of the time when they were little, but we did do things together.

We lived about 3 miles from the sea at that time, and one day we packed a picnic, all got on our bikes and cycled to the coast. Looking at the map I noticed that the shortest 'as the crow flies' route was across fields, so off we went.

"Slow down mum!" shouts Claire peddling her 6 year old legs like fury on her little bike over the rough track.
"If I go any slower," calls mum, "I'll fall off the bike."

We get to a fork in the track and this does not appear on the map so it looks like we are lost. We try to commune with our higher selves to see which way we should go. Claire gets nothing, and Helen and I each get a different answer, so someone isn't in tune, but who?

When we arrive at the coast we find that the sea is not actually accessible from this part, and we have to cycle down the road a ways to find a path over the dunes.

The next time we save up and take the bus.

Claire thought that was a hard trip. Then she remembered another cycle ride. We took another picnic and, following a map we set off to a picnic spot by a river which I had been to before in more affluent times when we had a car.

I wanted to avoid the roads so we headed for a path along the river. What the map did not tell us was that by August, not only was the path overgrown with stinging nettles, but it was very steep. Of course we were in shorts because it was a lovely day, so the girls, being near the ground on their little bikes could not help but get stung. The nettles though, were the least of my worries because the path was dangerously steep leading down to the river! I had visions of someone having an unscheduled swim.

We decided it was safer to get off, and use the bikes to clear a way for our bare legs to pass by those stingers.

Our misery was not over when we got to the picnic site however, because the rubbish bins were all full and there were swarms of wasps everywhere! We were hungry so we had a little bit to eat and I instructed the girls not to eat their jam sandwiches. "But that is our treat mum!" "Sorry, you don't want to be eating a wasp with your jam do you? You can have it at home as your treat for getting there."

They went off to play on the play equipment but I had to call them back because it was dangerously broken.

We were the only people there.

No way were we going back along the nettle path, so we braved the country lane, with me at the back of the line trying to protect my brood from the traffic. It took longer, and we were all so tired when we got back. It was a relief to sit on the sofa and eat our jam sandwiches.

Claire said, "That was the worst picnic we've had."
'Oh," says I, "but I've had a worse one than that before you were born."

I was at college with her dad, Adrian. It was an unusually hot summer. The sun was so hot that we darted from patch of shade to patch of shade going from one building to another. The roses had all withered and we had several showers a day because the only place that had air conditioning in those days in Britain were the Marks and Spencers stores.

So, on Saturday I planned a picnic by a stream under a shady tree. (I do like picnics). I found just the spot on the map, so off we set in his newly acquired car.

Unfortunately this red car turned out to be a 'lemon'. The only thing that prevented the engine from overheating was to have the heater blowing full blast onto us. So, already hot by the temperature outside, I was roasted by the car inside. It didn't go onto Adrian! Still, I thought it will be worth it when we get there.

When we 'got there' we found that the stream had dried up! And there were swarms of insects under the shade of the trees, so we turned round and headed back in the boiling car. My body was so hot I felt my blood was boiling.

Adrian's place was next to a school outdoor swimming pool. There was a hole in the fence, and we had all had a few midnight swims before, so I was looking forward to a cooling dip in the pool when we got back.

But of course the teachers were there with their families on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. They were shocked to see us climb through the fence and wouldn't let me in the pool. At this time I felt my blood was dangerously hot and was desperate to cool down. A dip in the pool would do just that. But no, so I rushed to the bathroom and filled the bath with water. It took a long time laying in that cold water before my body felt normal again. I can still remember the feeling of being in danger from the heat.

I have never felt like that since, even when I endured the 114°F (45°C) temperature of a June day in Kuwait. (Mind you, I didn't stay out in that for more than a few minutes.)

I still enjoy a picnic, although I steer clear of them in August when the wasps are around.