The compendium Ruined Picnics gives accounts of one thousand ruined picnics between 1959 and 2017. An unsurprising number of ruinations are caused by rainfall and wasps, but there is only one recorded picnic ruined by a panic-stricken goose.
This picnic took place on 14 January 1987, in a field hemmed by larch and sycamore, not far from a farm, or, better, farmstead, yes, a farmstead, where many geese were kept. It was a sort of goose-farmstead, if you can imagine such a thing. The bulk, or majority, of the geese were content and placid, but one of their number was thrown into a state of panic by something strange and grubby and inchoate. At this distance in time, we cannot know for certain what it was, precisely, or even vaguely, this thing. All that can be said for certain is that it induced panic in a single goose, which, maddened, broke out of the farmstead by hurling itself repeatedly against a portion of fencing weakened by rust and metal fatigue, until it had created a gap large enough for it to go goose-stepping away from the farmstead, in a direct line to the field, hemmed by larch and sycamore, where a picnic was, on that afternoon, in January!, taking place.
This was one of the so-called Picnics of Piety, organised by the pious and puritanical Reverend Ringo Starr – not to be confused, though he often was, with the drumming Beatle of the same name, though we would do well to remember that the latter adopted it as a pseudonym or stage-name, whereas for the Reverend it was his real name. At least, he claimed as much, though was curiously reluctant ever to produce his birth certificate when asked, for example by petty bureaucrats working for petty bureaucracies, and similar curses upon humanity.
Picture, them, on a freezing January afternoon, in a field, a Picnic of Piety, with sausage rolls and cream crackers and marmalade and buns and digestive biscuits and reconstituted meat-style gaeitiés, accompanied by flasks of spigot-water. Fast, or fastish, approaching the picnic blanket is the panic-stricken goose. Nobody at the picnic sees it coming, for the Reverend Ringo Starr has commanded the picnickers to shut their eyes and think pious thoughts while chewing their sausage rolls and cream crackers and marmalade and buns and digestive biscuits and reconstituted meat-style gaeitiés and slurping their spigot-water. The scene is set for the ruination of a picnic, by a maddened and panic-stricken goose, and that is precisely what happened. Tupperware was strewn everywhere.
Valuable – some might say invaluable – as the compendium is, we might lament the fact that it neglects to give any details of what occurred in the aftermaths of the one thousand ruined picnics it covers. Thus we are left in the dark about, for example, whether the January 1987 Picnic of Piety was able to resume after its goose-visitation, or whether it was abandoned, or whether the picnickers, with their eyes shut and their minds wholly concentrated on pious thoughts, even noticed that their picnic had been ruined. We might lament these omissions, and we do, by weeping, and singing dirges, or humming them, if we cannot sing in tune.
There is weeping and wailing all over the nation
At untold picnic ruination
Untold until now – now the tally is tolled
And it makes our blood run cold