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LSD, Chopin and Volleyball: Picnic Time

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It's Na­tional Pic­nic Week. "Pic­nic" means some­thing dif­fer­ent for every­one - whether it's gorg­ing on a ham­per full of heaven, drink­ing your­self into obliv­ion, smash­ing a shut­tle­cock back and forth, trip­ping balls on acid - every pic­nic has one thing in com­mon - plea­sure, pure and sim­ple. Cafébabel spoke to pic­nic en­thu­si­asts from all across Eu­rope.

A rest from re­al­ity

Dun­can Grif­fiths: "Sit­ting and eat­ing is all well and good- es­pe­cially when com­pli­mented by some words, which can often hap­pen at a pic­nic. But the pic­nic's suc­cess ul­ti­mately rests upon en­ter­tain­ment. And when I say en­ter­tain­ment, I re­ally mean ball games. And ball games can equally be nar­rowed down to the one ball: The Soft Touch Vol­ley­ball. Stand in a cir­cle with this mag­i­cal ob­ject and use hands, feet, chest, shoul­ders or head. De­vise a game in which each mem­ber be­gins on five lives, and where a for­feit is for­ever men­ac­ingly lin­ger­ing on your shoul­der. Sud­denly out­side pres­sures and is­sues evap­o­rate under the glow­er­ing sun, as you be­come im­mersed within the sim­ple plea­sures of this com­pelling drama. A beau­ti­ful break from re­al­ity; the key to any true ex­cur­sion."

Chopin and sin­se­milia

Imag­ine lying on the soft, freshly har­vested grass, lis­ten­ing to Chopin’s Noc­turne in E Flat Major, which reaches your ears through the con­ducive mir­rory sur­face of a pond. In the mid­dle of the pond there is an is­land with a pi­anist play­ing the most ex­quis­ite pieces by Poland’s most promi­nent com­posers. Peo­ple gath­ered around the water let them­selves be im­mersed in the warm clouds of in­spir­ing sound­waves. Sud­denly, the pi­anist’s fin­gers begin to move at a fre­netic pace. The music changes from peace­ful to heroic and you open your eyes wide in a rev­e­la­tion­ary re­flex. You go with this new am­biance and you lazily stretch your hand to get a spliff some­how stuck in be­tween the fin­gers of the friend lying next to you. The af­ter­noon sun ca­resses your face lov­ingly and it feels like War­saw’s Łazienki Park is the most beau­ti­ful place in the world.

Kool aid acid test

At pic­nics I have often ob­served with great jeal­ousy, the joys and the jaunts of young chil­dren, frol­ick­ing in fields, watch­ing a sim­ple feather flut­ter from air to earth, eyes danc­ing with won­der. “Why can’t I be like that any more?” I ask my­self wist­fully. “Why can’t I re­cap­ture that child­like won­der?” “Why can’t I love every lit­tle quirk of na­ture?” Well, I can, and the sim­ple an­swer is LSD. So, after a meal of two tiny stamps, I lie on my back, the grass soft on my skin. A pro­saic park be­comes a king­dom of cu­riosi­ties. That child-like won­der is back. The ground is no longer below me. I am look­ing down at the sky, float­ing in a vis­cous ocean of plea­sure. A limpid canopy of leaves glows over­head. And then I’m on my knees, crawl­ing along, eyes closed, led by my nose, de­vour­ing every spring scent like a rav­en­ous beast. A par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful odour jerks me to my feet like a pup­pet on strings. I eat a straw­berry and look at a foot­ball- how can some­thing be so ex­quis­itely round? What a won­der­ful cre­ation. A shoal of huge Japan­ese tourists me­an­ders past, steam­ing with sweat, glu­teus max­ima trem­bling as if they are twerk­ing. I groan with de­light. Even this is en­chant­ing. Which di­vine being in­vented the pic­nic?

Gour­mands on the grass

Stick­ing to clichés, for the French, the ful­crum of the pic­nic is food- re­fined food, sump­tu­ous food, food to make your toes curl, foie-gras and di­vine baguettes. And as far as I am con­cerned, this is ab­solutely the case. Well, maybe not the foie-gras, but, for me, a pic­nic is all about the feel­ing of being at a din­ing table. The key in­gre­di­ent- bread. Whole-grain or wheat, or the most un­usual thing you can get your hands on. A pic­nic with white bread is like invit­ing bad weather. And what else? A rice salad, boiled eggs, straw­berry toma­toes… you’re not far from per­fec­tion. An ab­solute must is to go the su­per­mar­ket just be­fore hand to buy a lit­tle bas­ket of aubergine caviar, olives and basil. And, of course, an ice-cold bot­tle of rosé, from the fridge in the cel­lar. - Lu­cille Fonteny

Two ships to­gether in the night

Some­one once told me Dori­tos are car­cino­genic. Whilst I strug­gle to be­lieve they’re any more un­healthy than your av­er­age crisp, I still feel a slight guilt when I de­cide to in­dulge in them. Maybe that’s why in­dulging in them feels so darn good. On this par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion I was snack­ing on the bank of the lake of Re­tiro, which is one of my favourite places to spend time in the world. I had a warm beer from a seedy ven­dor, a bis­cuit not even Method Man could have twisted, and a sur­pris­ing bit of com­pany. Hav­ing given a home­less in­hab­i­tant of the park 20 cents to­wards his beer whip round over a year be­fore, a mu­tual ten­dency to fre­quent the same lake had led to a ships in the night type friend­ship. Today, he had de­cided, these ships in the night needed to find a cou­ple of hon­eys. After some re­luc­tance I made the leap from try­ing to eat a snack to try­ing to meet a yat, and my lonely pic­nic was no more. - Aaron Lewin.

Bad­minton Bliss

Re­cently, I re­gained my child­hood in­ter­est in Lon­don Fields: play­ing bad­minton. My friend brought some new rack­ets to a pic­nic and he asked me to play with him. But how could I play in a long dress and high heels? He was skep­ti­cal:  "Why not? You are Chi­nese so you must good at play­ing." I took him up on his chal­lenge. I threw off my high heels and the game started. I en­joyed watch­ing the ball sail through the air and the thrill of try­ing to re­turn the serves. Sur­pris­ingly, I beat my friend, who wore a pair of sports shoes. - Hang­wei Li