It’s not very often that I get the chance to spend a little time in the great outdoors, kick back and indulge myself with a spot of alfresco dining. Perhaps that’s more to do with my own laziness and inability to get my act together than finding the time and opportunity, although I daresay many of us are no different in that respect.
So it was extremely pleasant at a recent weekend away to have both the time, the weather and the ideal surroundings for a couple of impromptu picnics, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
There’s something quite special about nipping into a handy deli to pick up some rustic bread, a chunk of locally produced cheese, a few slices of tasty continental meats and a handful of fresh fruit and salad, all washed down with a bottle of vintage cider! Smashing – even more smashing if you can contrive to indulge in a long leisurely lunch in the sunshine, surrounded by beautiful scenery and birdsong.
My sunday morning cuppa was pretty special too – sat on the banks of a crystal clear river, surrounded by a family of sleepy swans, with the prospect of a top notch, full English brekkie ahead of me, and a day exploring the countyside to look forward to.
It made me wonder why i don’t do this sort of thing more often. The answer, inevitably – if you rule out the usual vagaries of the British weather – is that life in general is just not conducive to that sort of decadent lifestyle. The average working week pretty much precludes any chance of long, leisurely lunches, and weekends invariably end up with us playing catch-up. It’s just not practical, which is a damn shame, really.
And then it struck me – there is a place where i can find beautiful surroundings, sunshine, peace and tranquility whenever i feel the need, or have the time. There’s no preparation required, no need to wait for the skies to clear and no need for picnic baskets, rugs and preparation. That place, as you’ll have already guessed, is sl.
Now, i’ll be the first to admit that a virtual world – no matter how well conceived – is no substitute for the real thing. At the most fundamental level a virtual picnic lacks that essential and defining quality of a real picnic… the consumption of food in the open air; but a trip to the virtual countryside can be strangely satisfying, even if it’s a million times removed from the real thing. Like so many aspects of virtual living, sl can provide a potent placebo that, in its own way, can be refreshing, therapeutic and beneficial, much the same that the real life situations it reflects can be. The real beauty of this particular placebo – let’s call it virtual therapy – is that we can self-prescribe and indulge ourselves whenever the need may arise: at the end of a busy day, for example, when even if we had the chance it’s often a case of the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
You’d better believe me that, given half a chance and suitable opportunity, i’d be out and about making the very most of the life that i’ve been blessed with, but reality can conspire to make those chances and opportunities few and far between, and the likelihood of chance and opportunity coinciding are far less frequent that i’d like; so, what’s wrong with finding an alternative that ticks all the boxes even if it’s not quite the real thing? Until the day comes that i have all the time in the world to spend at leisure and the means to achieve it, why shouldn’t i seek solace using the means at my disposal, even if it’s all pretend and make believe? Personally, i’m thankful that sl provides that opportunity, unlike games and other means of ‘escape’, which themselves are usually a means to an end – the whole point of a picnic, whether real or virtual, is to enjoy the moment and to forget about planning what happens next. It’s a pause, a moment of pleasure in itself and – however and wherever we might find it – sometimes that’s just what we need.
Feel free to join me for a snack in the virtual countryside any time you wish – there’s plenty to go around!
I lost myself on a cool damp night
Gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree
Jeff Buckley – Lilac Wine