Nanny’s breakfast bar was full to bursting with food as we walked through the door. Hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches, Smiths Crisps (The one’s with the little bag of salt in,) cakes and plenty of bottles of Corona, fresh from the morning delivery. It was 1979 and my Brother and I, Mother and Father, Nan and Grandad and Uncle Paul and Aunty Helen, were heading to The New Forest for a picnic. Childhood summers seemed longer and hotter than they are today and the sun shone brightly as we all piled into the back of Grandad’s racing green Land Rover.
Mother sat in the front along with Nan and Grandad drove. These were the days when no one wore seatbelts. As kids, we sat on the metal benches in the rear cabin, we were thrown around, from side to side, holding on to leather straps at the top of the windows. Together with Nan and Grandad's dogs we happily bumped along, singing songs, counting cars or playing eye spy. Days like this were happy, fun filled and full of joy, free from pressure, not a care in the World and hope for the future. The seventies may well have been a lost decade in many respects, but they were the best of times to grow up!
Everyone grabbed something; bright orange Tupperware boxes, a garishly coloured cool box adorned with the obligatory seventies flower motives, bottles, cans, jars of pickles and toys for us kids. Grandad headed for a place he knew well, a beautiful clearing, sheltered by tall, imposing trees, room to play or sleep, just enjoying the day with the birds and bees. As everyone went their separate ways, I stayed with Mum and Nan, helping to lay out lunch under an old evergreen, free from the afternoon sun. Gently arranging paper plates, cups and flasks of piping hot coffee we unpacked tubs of coleslaw, potato salad and cups for tea. Nanny popped into the back of the Land Rover and brought out some multi-coloured deck chairs, finally beckoning everyone over for some much-needed sustenance; it was finally time to eat, a truly seventies affair!
I sat down next to Paul who certainly was my Uncle, but we were of the same age, even attending school together. Like all boys, we began to nudge each other, tickling, pinching, play fighting in the heat. Occasionally a stare from Nan, would make us sit up straight and behave for a moment or two, before our game of one-upmanship took hold once again. The adults sat in a group, gossiping about neighbours and family stuff, things that didn’t concern us as we dived into the picnic with gusto, ignoring shouts of ‘leave some for everyone else!’
I must have drifted off, for what seemed like a minute or two, but as I awoke, the sun was going down below the horizon. A breeze could be felt across the meadow and everyone was packing up the debris from the day, mindful of the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign and leaving the forest, just as we had found it. Before I had time to fall asleep again, I was scooped up by Dad, who sat me on his lap in the back of the Land Rover, as we made our way home.
A day out with Grandparents at a time when life was tough. We didn’t have a lot as children, but we did have a loving, caring family, close and there for one another. As the years have passed by, people have died and I no longer experience the joy a picnic can bring, preferring a meal in a restaurant or a glass of wine in a bar. The memories however stay firmly with me; an innocent and forgiving time remembered more frequently as I grow older, more emotional and in touch with recollections that are more important now, than they ever were!
47 year old Author, Columnist and Blogger.