We would take a picnic hamper to Dovedale, jam and sugar butties for Bumble, sandwiches of cheese, paste, tongue, ham, lemon curd (the dessert sandwich), and crisps for the rest of us. Mother was enthusiastic about putting this together: picnics were not the dull, everyday meal from which she was in constant flight, they were the alternative adventure that she was always seeking. Our hamper was not the wicker-basket ideal with gingham napkins, it was better than that, it was a pair of new-fangled silver thermo cool-bags with blue ice-blocks for temperature regulation. We did not take a picnic table and deck chairs, there was no need: the open back doors of the Mini-van offered one bench, the bonnet and wings provided further seating, and Bumble could sunbathe on the roof, whatever the weather. Our friends would bring their own sandwiches, or ‘pieces’ as they were know:
Q. What you got on you pieces.
Fillings would be bargained and swapped: ‘A ham for a jam?’ Primula was a popular sundry. Primula is the cheese product that you squeeze out of a tube like toothpaste, the one that contains little specks of smoked ham or pineapple or mushrooms according to its flavour. For a time, Primula was the new Dairylea triangle. The principle methods of consuming Primula were: one, squeeze it down the indent of a stick of celery, or, two (the Bumble method), suck it straight out of the tube while sunbathing on the roof of a Mini-van before anyone else notices. Years later, in my teens, I was living in a hotel staff-hostel in Holland Park in London. For a while I shared a room with a French waiter who introduced me to a French version of Nestlé sweetened condensed milk which came in this tube form. He would lie on his bed listening to Edith Piaf and nursing at it until it was finished. It seemed to comfort and help him with his homesickness.
When abroad on a school trip you could find funny foreign versions too