From the backyard orange tree to the mighty river. The evolution of the family picnic.

I can’t remember going on a picnic as a kid. It’s not something we did.

In fact, I don’t think I knew anyone who went on one. It may have been that my circle of friends were all smelly boys.

Dad was the driving force behind our anti-picnic stance. I don’t think fancy outdoor dining was something they taught him during the war.

I can’t recall Mum ever making the suggestion. Lunch was had at the kitchen table. Sandwiches, except for Sunday. Then we’d wolf down a roast, before starting a game of footy or cricket outside.

The closest thing we got to a picnic, was what took place under our backyard orange tree.

It was anything but spectacular, that tree. Not that big, and a pain if you were fielding at mid-off. Still, it had character.

It was where Dad liked to gather, when the neighbours came over. The wooden chairs were old and uncomfortable. Sometimes covered in grime. No-one ever complained.

The adults would have a beer. Mum would sip a shandy. Or two. And the stories would come thick and fast.

There would be food on offer. Sao biscuits and Coon cheese, if memory serves me correct. And the odd packet of chips. Hardly gourmet fare.

The reason I bring up this rambling episode from my past, is that I went on a picnic over the weekend.

It’s another one of those things I didn’t get, for many years. And now I do. I’m a picnic-convert.

Living by the river, I see picnic spots every day. Mental notes are made, as I go for a walk. There are so many of them. Huts, and benches, and seats. All with magic views.

Those enjoying their feast as I wander past must get a little nervous, as I eye them off. I see mothers cover the bread rolls, just to be sure.

I’ve established I prefer seated areas to the grassy ones. Easier on the back. Less chance of ant bite. Yes, I’ve done my homework.

The girls don’t quite share my enthusiasm. When I announced that we were off for a Sunday picnic, I detected rolling of the eyes. Such an activity required movement, and an interruption to phone usage, which neither had been planning.

There was also the matter of having to walk. All of a few hundred metres. Daughter Two is a big fan of driving everywhere we go. If she thought I could squeeze the car in the lift to get down to the pool, she’d be in the front seat.

After ignoring all protests, we set off, with our plastic bags full of goodies. Hot chook, bread rolls, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, drinks, biscuits, and grapes. The plastic plates and cups were in another bag.

I’d been hoping we could get into a little hut with amazing views down the river. I see it most mornings, and had always thought it would be perfect for us.

We were in luck. It was empty. I celebrated. The girls pointed out that the bench was dirty. Sigh.

As we munched our tucker, the girls came around. Hard not to enjoy such surrounds. Even if it meant missing out on Disney Channel for an hour.

We were joined by a large frilled-necked lizard. Another joy of that magnificent river. He almost sat on the bench with us. Passers-by took photos. He ate a stray grape. The girls thought that was cool.

We’ll return to our new spot soon. I might even go all out and buy one of those fancy picnic baskets. At least they won’t be able to complain about carrying bags.

It’s not quite the old orange tree, but it’s ours. I reckon Mum would approve. Not sure about Dad though. Although he’d be happy with that dirty bench.

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