One of the English traditions that I took to immediately, wholeheartedly and without reservations from the first year we arrived here, was the very civilised tradition of picnicking and Pimms-drinking which occupies much of the English summertime. Coming from South Africa, I was quite familiar with a long tradition of eating out of doors in fabulous weather. From when I was tiny, my mom would pack a picnic lunch when we went on holiday by car. We had a green and red tartan cooler bag (like everyone else in the 1970’s!!) and when we set off on a long drive, it would be packed with a cold roast chicken, potato salad and coleslaw, Hellmann’s mayo, Provita crackers, cheddar cheese, olives, Granny Smith apples and fruit juice. This feast would be enjoyed on one of the hundreds of concrete picnic tables that dot South Africa’s highways and scenic spots and I always loved it! In summer, the family would always spend a few days in Cape Town and that always included a picnic under the ancient oak trees at Groot Constantia wine estate, fending off the peacocks and squirrels. ANd then, of course, when I came round to getting married, I had a picnic wedding!
So you could say I’m an old hand at this. And it should come as no surprise that when I suggested a summer get-together for UK food bloggers (in the wake of our very successful first gathering), I suggested a picnic. But not just anywhere – a picnic on the banks of the Thames during the Henley Royal Regatta! For those of you who don’t know, this is one of the events of the London Season that has been going and involves loads and loads of men (and women!) in lycra rowing on the River Thames at Henley-on-Thames, west of London. It’s been held annually every year since 1839, except for during WWI and WWII, so you’re experiencing a piece of history.
It’s all awfully civilised – Nick and I have been every year since 2000 because he is a keen rower (and he has even participated in the Regatta, which is approximately the equivalent of an amateur club tennis player playing at Wimbledon). But even if rowing isn’t your thing, the people watching opportunities are extraordinary. Hundreds of people all dressed in all their summer finery (hats for the ladies, ties for the gentlemen) trooping up and down a (sometimes muddy) riverbank, glugging down Pimms cocktails and watching the rowing, before retiring to the grassy parking area at the lunch break to have a picnic on a folding table which Jeeves (or some other butler-sounding name) has set up and laid with a linen cloth, silverware, an ice-bucket and a smorgasbord of delicacies out of the boot of the Rolls (or similar…). And then of course you get the normal people like us, who arrive in jeans, walk a bit further along the course, away from the competitors’ tent and the Stewards’ tent, past the food stalls and makeshift cafes to the Remenham Farm enclosure. There we fling our blankets on the grass right by the river’s edge, unpack our Pimms and food and settle in for the day to watch rowing in front of us and an endless fashion parade and snippets of half-overheard conversations from the constant stream of people walking behind us. There is loads to watch as you quetly pickle yourself with PImms and (hopefully!) loll about in the sun. Perfect!!
And that’s where YOU come in.
- Are you a food blogger?
- Do you live in London or, anywhere in the UK within a day’s travel of London?
- Did our previous event look like fun to you?
- Do you want to meet other people who obsessively photgraph their food before they eat it??
Well, if so, then why don’t you join us on Saturday 2 July 2005 for the second UK food blogger’s gathering. And this time, you are welcome to bring friends, family, partners and kids (you may spend the day trying to keep them out of the Thames, though…!) Andrew from Spittoon has kindly agreed to co-ordinate the logistics (maps, train times, directions etc etc), so check out his invite. I have said that I will help out with co-ordinating food, so if you want to come, please could you drop me an e-mail including:
- how many are coming (just you, you and partner etc etc)
- what you plan to bring by way of food (let the imagination run wild here folks! As Andrew said, try to leave the Walkers crisps at home and think a little more adventurously – but then you’re food bloggers, I don;t have to tell you that!! Do remember though that a) it’s a picnic and cutlery may be in short supply and b) the food will have to survive a reasonably long train journey – an hour from Paddington Station, longer if you are coming from further afield…)
Andrew is providing some drinkies, but if you want to get into the swing of things, I suggest you invest in a bottle of Pimms and a couple of litres of lemonade as well…
So please let me know ASAP whether you will be able to make it! I guarantee you will have a great time.
**For those of you who have been asking about how my friend Christelle is doing, I have posted a couple of updates at the end of the original post. Her dad Bennie has also left a comment thanking everyone for their thoughts and prayers. **