The Picnic Basket

Technology versus tradition… hmmm, which approach will win the day when the rugs are down?

Al liked gadgets. All the mod cons. Lately, he’d become a little obsessed with online catalogues and kept ordering new and nifty products.

Mary found Al’s obsession a tiny bit annoying.

She had taken to heart the mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and objected to Al’s frequent deliveries.

Mary knew Al believed that his purchases enhanced their lives, but she’d noticed there were often unforeseen drawbacks to the newfangled items he ordered.

Like the insulated cool box which arrived on their doorstep last week. It was huge, and had taken both of them to lug it indoors.

“Space-age technology in these!” Al held up a sleek stainless steel icepack as if it were a trophy. “We’ll be able to…”

“Feed the five thousand!” Mary huffed, dismayed at the size of the cooler.

“Keep our food cold on days out!” Al countered.

They used it that weekend, on a day trip to the beach. With its easy-glide wheels, it should have been a breeze to transport from the car to their favourite location in the dunes.

Unfortunately, the wheels did not glide easily on the fine sand, so Mary and Al each took a handle and jostled the cooler between them.

Too heavy to carry far, they settled for a spot on the busiest, noisiest part of the beach.

But, as Mary pointed out, not venturing far from the car park meant they were near to the public toilets.

Al noted happily that the cooler’s innovative technology kept their picnic exceptionally cold.

Mary spotted the old-fashioned wicker basket in the window of her favourite charity shop the following week. It was part of a summer themed display that featured a tartan rug and a deckchair.

“Now that’s a real picnic basket,” she sighed, gazing wistfully at the scene. “Nothing says ‘English summer’ more than a countryside picnic.

“And look! The original tag is still on the hamper. I bet it’s never been used! I’ll just pop in and …”

Al put a restraining hand on Mary’s arm. “It’s never been used because it’s not practical. That basket won’t keep anything cold!

“Warm sandwiches and food poisoning is what that basket says to me!

“Besides, we don’t need it. We have the new cooler. Reduce, reuse, and recycle,” he reminded her smugly.

The next morning, when Al wasn’t with her, Mary returned to the shop to buy the basket – and the tartan rug for good measure.

The warm weather held, so she suggested they drive into the countryside for a picnic lunch.

“OK! I’ll get the cooler,” Al offered.

“Everything’s in the car already,” she told him. “Let’s go.”

They drove to a picturesque village in the Downs and parked behind the pub. Al opened the boot to unload the cooler. It wasn’t there.

“Are we having a pub lunch?” he asked. “I thought you said a picnic.”

Mary produced her wicker basket and tartan blanket from the back seat.

“Everything we need is here,” she smiled. “I thought we’d head down to the river, that spot we used to go to years ago.”

“That’s quite a trek.” Al frowned, eyeing the wicker hamper. Mary wasn’t sure if he objected to the long walk or her basket.

“At least this isn’t heavy,” he said, taking it from Mary.

Without the bulky cooler to carry between them, they walked hand in hand along the narrow country path, and made it safely down the steep, wooded hillside to the riverbank below.

“That would have been tricky with my cooler,” Al admitted, leaning against a tree and catching his breath.

Following the riverbank, they found a grassy spot by the water’s edge.

Mary spread the blanket in front of a fallen tree trunk which had been worn smooth by the elements and warmed by the sun.

Propped against it, they could look across the river to the castle in the distance.

Opening her basket, Mary produced cheese and tomato sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and two bottles of juice that she was pleased to note were coated lightly with condensation.

Al inspected his bottle. “Nicely chilled.” He sounded disappointed. “I guess we didn’t need my fancy cooler after all.”

He looked deflated, and Mary took pity on him. Delving into her basket, she pulled out a couple of Al’s ultra-thin freezer blocks.

“I borrowed these,” she confessed.

“So my cooler wasn’t a completely wasted purchase then …”

“Filled with ice, it’ll be perfect for keeping drinks cold at back garden barbecues.” She winked at him.

Al smiled and took a bite of his sandwich.

Mary leaned her head on his shoulder and admired her cute little hamper.

It was the perfect picnic basket, but no need to press that point now.

Mary suspected that Al’s cooler wouldn’t be the last purchase they’d disagree on, but they’d always known how to find common ground.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.

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