So my antipathy to barbeques has been documented.
Now I find that picnics might be on my scratch list too. To be sure, I’ve never been 100% sold on picnics per se. Once, Curly asked me if there was anywhere one could picnic in Hong Kong and I said, I was sure there was, except I had never actually done it, because the thought of prepping the food put me off. “You can just buy the food,” Curly pointed out, which is why we are friends, I guess.
In Hong Kong, actually picnic-weather days are rare, what with the general heat and the humidity, if not rain. So fall and spring are the only picnic windows, and lately with the weather cooperating, I had begun to notice potential picnic spots – specifically Tamar Park and the Kwun Tong waterfront, where people spread out on blankets seems to be calling out to be imitated.
Then one day when were in Central for something, V suggested instead of going to a restaurant, we could buy sandwiches and eat them in the park. Immediately, I had visions of lounging on the grass at Tamar, though we didn’t get that far. We ended up sitting on benches eating our feast, which was nice but hinted that it could be so much more. Since then, I had a hankering for a picnic.
It so happened the last month or so has seen not one, but two picnics. The first was self-
inflictedinitiated, following the success of buying (admittedly pricey) food from the deli at City Super. I roped in a couple of unlikely collaborators – friends who normally like to not only sit down at nice tables but also have proper cutlery. There was an outdoor sculpture exhibition going on and I thought we could club the two. We ended up spending a couple of hours on the grass in the sun before we called it a day. Oh and I must mention while we were there, the kids found a little hole in the ground and started to dig it and I let them, but a security guard came and told them not to, which was ok whatever (there was already a hole there anyway) but it looked like a family had actually called the security guard to do the telling, and I could only roll my eyes at the stupidity of Hong Kong.
I then spent the rest of the afternoon in bed with the curtains drawn to prevent any sunshine creeping in.
In retrospect, we made a couple of rookie mistakes:
- We got to the park around 11 am when many of the attractive and shady spots were already taken. V figures we should have set up in the shade of the towering government headquarters – although this is a boring spot because you can’t see the sea (and then, what’s the point of being on the harbourfront). I surmise that we should have started off earlier, from say 8 am to 11 am – which precludes picnics with adults who don’t have kids, who tend to rise at 10 am on weekends. The kids would probably say there is no point going to a park without any play equipment and just lawn.
- I thought I had food sorted, but then realised that while the sculpture-ridden part of the park was near Admiralty, City Super was in Central. So my food source had become complicated. In the end, we picked up sandwiches from Pret at Admiralty station, which while tasty are limited in options. A picnic requires diversity of food.
- I ended up drinking a fair bit of wine, which is part of my idyllic picnic fantasy. Unfortunately, this gave me a terrible headache for the rest of the day. The combination of the outdoors and wine was confirmed to be deadly for me when I attended a party for Nene’s friend which was mostly held on the lawn (yes, this Hong Kong family has a house with a lawn), where I consumed one glass of wine and regretted it the entire afternoon (which happened to be the afternoon before my Phd exam).
The next picnic was organised by the parents of the kids’ friends who had moved to Singapore but were visiting over Easter. They had initially made the rookie error of choosing a part with vast areas of grass, but little shade or play areas – but to my relief changed the venue to a park with much more stuff to do.
Again, I stressed about what food to take, until V who had initially suggested making sandwiches (and kind of made me feel a bit guilty about never wanting to make anything) changed his mind and was like oh just buy something from the bakery. So that’s what I did – mini sausage rolls and mini pizzas. Not the most delicious – but whatever. We fed our kids before anyway because 11 am start times do not work for us, and they basically then just ate candy and chips at the picnic and I didn’t have to worry too much. There were few buns left over so I guess they weren’t too bad and anyway I wolfed down one mini pizza myself.
Initially, the kids were shy, but left to their own devices for about half an hour, they grouped together and played. The parents were not exactly friends, but we chatted a bit. I studiously avoided the wine. We lasted a good four hours I think, which is a record for us picnic-wise.
But I still had a mild headache when I got back. My takeaway – I’m allergic to sitting around in the heat if not exactly the sun. Moreover, I noticed that my kids tend to get kind of bored – the idea of doing indoor things, like board games, outdoors, doesn’t enthrall them. It helps to have friends around though.
Does this mean the end of my picnic career? I’m not sure. I’m not as antipathic to it as barbeques. The idyllic fantasy still holds. But I have to admit that it would probably do just as well to go to a park for a while and then head to a restaurant for early lunch.
Ok what the hell, let’s make a list:
Pros of picnics
1. There is a certain je ne sais quoi to sitting on the grass in the sunshine – for a while
Cons of picnics
- Figuring out food and lugging it there
- Lugging everything else – blankets, water, games – the number of things you need to take along to make a successful picnic is high
- Sitting on the floor is not one of my fortes
- Threat of headache after
Hmmm it looks like the cons are winning.
A random baby on a sculpture. Guess what it (the sculpture not the baby) is made of?