The Picnic by Alison Lock

Alison Lock writes poetry, short fiction, and is the author of a fantasy novel. Her recent publications are a collection of short stories, A Witness of Waxwings (2017) Cultured Llama Publishing, and a poetry collection,  Revealing the Odour of Earth (2017) Calder Valley Poetry. 

The Picnic


Boughs stretch across the hollows where the dappled leaves are the faded colours of a late summer.

In the valley, the stream rattles through the stony shallows, gushing around boulders until it arrives

winking in the sunlight. Just for a moment it is almost still, puddled in pools, where in these

summer months the children play. Their cries of joy can be heard far downstream as they slide the

tiny rapids and plunge into the colder, browner pools. It is here that the minnows skit and the water

boatmen free-skim the surface.


I sit on the bank and watch, a picnic basket by my side, the sun warming my face, and, for a

moment, letting the vibrant colours filter through my closed eyelids. I shiver as I am interrupted by

my children who are standing over me dripping ice-cold droplets on my bare arms. They are

‘absolutely starving.’ Already, they are pulling out packets of crisps and bars of chocolate from the

basket. Feebly, I protest with ‘eat the sandwiches first,’ but I don’t really mind.


Later, we walk back along the path and up the steep side of Royd Edge. The midges have begun to

hover over the stream, so we head for the last of the sunlight at the top of the hill and collapse into

the heather, chests heaving. The bilberries are in their final fruit, and within minutes each child has

purple smeared lips. Poking blue tongues out of their mouths, they laugh and laugh until they are

rolling around in fits of mirth. In the last embers of the daylight, we arrive home, tired, dirty, still

damp from the final paddle of the day.


Alison Lock