There’s a country park near where I live. Most people jump in their cars on a Sunday afternoon and tackle the throngs of other people jumping in their cars on a Sunday afternoon to visit this historic, ever-changing object of beauty. I’m lucky though, I can just pop on my shoes, take a short walk up the street, go through a jitty* leading onto some fairly cow pat intensive fields and within twenty minutes I can be standing in the park, breathing in all its splendour. No car park rage required.
I know this because I’ve done it for years. When I was a lot younger, in the school holidays my Mum used to bring me and my two brothers here to stop us driving her mad at home. We’d picnic on cold cheese and tomato pizzas, bags of Skips and apricot and chocolate chip Cluster bars (why, oh why don’t they make them anymore?). We’d climb rocks, explore the crumbling ruins of the 16th century manor house (Lady Jane Grey’s family lived here but we won’t mention her unfortunate demise, except to say that you should always keep your head when it comes to the dizzy temptations of fame and fortune) and sit in the blistering heat slurping orange squash.
Over thirty years later I’m still amazed by this place and just last week I discovered a part of it that I’ve never noticed before. A rickety old picnic bench, scored with the names of hundreds of visitors, sitting resolutely at the top of one of the park’s many hills, inviting me and countless others to sit for a while and watch the world go by.
Which I did…..well, it would have been rude not to wouldn’t it?
In fact, I sat for so long that I got a numb bum and the apple that I’d eaten in my excitement at discovering the bench soon became a distant memory as I sat looking down at miniature humans walking, jogging, cycling and being pulled by their dogs through the park.
I took a couple of pictures and thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I did this on a regular basis? Maybe I could take pictures as the park changes through the seasons. Perhaps I could bring a more substantial snack with me next time and really have fun. I could even start a blog and write about the thoughts and ideas that this humble bench seemed to be inspiring.
And so my secret picnic began.
* Jitty: otherwise known as an alleyway to those who don’t live in Leicester