Rosie and Jim: The 10 rules of throwing the perfect beach picnic (N.B. You’re going to need a unicorn)

This week, Rosie shares a series of tips which in no way reflect bitter personal experiences, while James reminds us all to take care of ourselves, and each other.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher — who have both, one way or another, ended up alone for the duration — are sharing slices of their lives.

So far they’ve ranked musical instruments (and not in a good way), mused over mysteries, shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows. You can catch up on all their columns here.

Let’s start with a special shout out to my parents — Polly and David* — who helped write this week’s column. It’s a list of handy instructions for throwing the world’s (or at least Devon’s) best beach picnic.

  1. ‘Forget travelling by boat,’ says David. ‘Take a ferry because it’s the only watertight vessel big enough to accommodate all of your picnic stuff and the kitchen sink.’

  2. ‘Ignore point one,’ says Polly. ‘All you need is a compliant husband to carry stuff and do as he’s told. Because the boat is so full, said husband will need to ferry guests, dogs and strangers from various pontoons to the beach.’

  3. Do check the weather and tide times before you set out and/or prepare any food. Sounds obvious, but do jump to point ten for justification.

  4. ‘A west-facing beach for the sunset,’ says Polly, sounding amenable until she adds, ‘and one not easily accessible by walkers or, frankly, anyone else.’

  5. Pack a giant inflatable unicorn — my own addition to the list. They make excellent picnic tables and will guarantee that every other person on the beach is jealous. Which brings us nicely onto point six…

  6. ‘Ensure your picnic is superior to anyone else’s in the vicinity,’ says Polly. She recommends recipe planning days beforehand and spending a minimum three hours preparing at home on the day.

  7. ‘Take a dog,’ says David. ‘But it will most likely eat your (superior) picnic before you get to it and then defecate on someone else’s.’ (From his tone of voice, you get the feeling this has happened under his watch more than once.)

  8. ‘A slab of fruitcake,’ says Polly. ‘It fills up guests when the picnic is eaten by the dog or covered in so much sand it’s inedible.’

  9. ‘Oh and a corkscrew,’ she adds, continuing, ‘and aforementioned husband to blame when you inevitably forget it. You can also blame him if the boat is low on fuel or it isn’t moored properly and drifts off into the distance.’

  10. Spare knickers. Hypothetically speaking, you wouldn’t want your father (who may or may not be called David) to misjudge the tides, nor force you to carry everything from the beach through chest-high water out to the boat (several times) in near darkness. As a result of this hypothetical situation you wouldn’t want your mother (who may or may not be called Polly) to subsequently strip off her wet clothes in the boat, nor for your (male) friend to later find her knickers in his shoe. Which begs the question, what was Polly (or your own hypothetical mother) now wearing?

*Any resemblance to people called Polly and/or David is entirely intentional.

I was at the pub the other day with a few friends (doing my patriotic duty/creating the ‘Second Wave’ — delete as appropriate) and, strangely, we decided to talk about this coronavirus pandemic that you might have heard of.

One thing we all sort of noticed and agreed on, is that all of a sudden it’s basically August, when last week it was March, and that somehow, we had all switched off our brains for three solid months.

Time, for me at least, stood still and then suddenly snapped forward.

It’s an unsettling feeling, just having a hole in your memory. I forget stuff all the time, and I’m often reminded of embarrassing/unusual things that I’ve done that I had just erased. But this gap is different, isn’t it?

Maybe I didn’t bake enough banana bread, or go for enough runs (or perhaps it was too many), but if someone were to ask me ‘what did you do in April’, I would reply ‘nothing, probably’.

Like, I know I did ‘something’, I just don’t know what it was. It’s odd looking back, now, because it feels like the virus itself, as awful and devastating as it is, is in fact just a small part of the pandemic. It’s an event that is so new, and so extensive, that we don’t know what to expect. Every ramification, every aftershock, will be a new experience that we will have to deal with, with no handbook to understand how. Hands up who had ‘forgetting an entire quarter of a year’ as a symptom of Covid 19?

So we talk about it, in the pubs, and in the Zoom calls and on WhatsApp. Because coping with the unquantifiable damage that this bug has done, not just physically, but certainly mentally, requires us to reach out and discuss things and experiences that we never would have imagined six months ago.

So keep doing this. Keep talking, because while you may be aware of what you are dealing with, you won’t know what others are. Healing a body is one thing, but healing a mind — one that has been smashed and battered by something nobody prepared for — is a group effort, and it will be far harder and require a lot more work than any vaccine.

Also, wear a mask.