Little clouds were being chased across the sky by a bossy wind, the odd aeroplane swished silently over us and we noshed away on a delicious picnic, under our favourite tree in Brockwell Park on Sunday.
When we first moved here, I was somehow under the misapprension that it was called Broccoli Park, not Brockwell, and once the error was corrected by a hooting friend, some of the charm of the place was destroyed forever. But it’s still our favourite picnic spot, partly as it’s downhill all the way and you can stop in at the little Herne Hill Sainsbury’s en route to get all sorts of stuff that the children crave, which are normally on the banned substances list. They have discovered that I am softened up no end by the trek down the road carrying a picnic bag, rug, sandwiches, juice etc and, by the time they get me into the shop, I’m too knackered to remonstrate as they hurl apple and blackcurrant squash (yuck!), crisps (shudder) and biscuits (too, too yummy) into the basket.
This time, we’d picked up an enormous tub of humous and some crudites for dipping as well as the usual nasties, so I felt we were still on the wholesome end of the scale as we tucked in to the whole lot on our rug.
Just then, something big, beige and furry blocked out the light. It was a huge golden retriever, which had bounded over for a nice pat, I thought. How sweet. The children love animals and there were instant ‘ahhhhhhhhs’ – which then turned rapidly into ‘arghhhhhhs!’ as the dog ignored our attempts to stroke it and fell, instead, upon our picnic in complete ravening beast style. Within seconds it was tearing into our chicken sandwiches, hoovering up the salami and finally, outrage of outrages, sticking its vast hairy beige chops into our humous pot and scarfing up the lot!
By this stage, I had staggered to my feet and was shouting ‘off, off’ and being completely ignored by the beige eating machine, who had finished the crudities and was about to tear open the biscuits. The children, meanwhile, were whimpering as all their food disappeared into its slathering jaws. It turned its nose up at the apple and blackcurrant squash (even mad dogs have some standards, apparently) but everything else went – in moments. Then, as suddenly as it had bounded over, it raced away over the hill, wearing a Sainsbury’s bag round its neck, dragging the silver foil sandwich wrapper with it, and scattering the remains of our feast to the winds.
I looked down at the children, sitting in dog-slobbered debris, with their little bottom lips a-quiver. Right, I thought. The owner of this dog has it coming. It’s not the dog’s fault, of course – dogs are dogs, picnics are picnics and I know better than anyone that you can resist anything except temptation – but the owner should have kept a wild dog like that under control, on a lead, I fumed. It had snatched the bread out of my children’s very mouths!
I glared about crossly, scanning the horizon for signs of a mad sandy-coloured beast with a feckless human in tow. Finally, I spotted them – recognising the dog by its ‘I’ve eaten a hundred chicken sandwiches and a pot of humous’ bounce – and I strode off in martial mood, practicing terse complaints under my breath, like ‘you do realise your dog has eaten my children’s food. Can’t you keep an eye on it?’ My feisty moment lasted until I got within twenty foot of the owner, who’d sat down on a bench and was putting a complicated harness back on the dog. He then stood up, took hold of the harness, and picked up his white stick, which he’d propped against the bench for a moment. Then the two of them walked past me, the owner striding confidently with his trusty dog by his side – while the retriever stared right at me and gave a big, wide, doggy grin.