Changing alert level rules overnight means that picnics are about to become the activity of choice for Aucklanders. Here’s how you can make that picnic as safe and lovely as possible.
Step one of Auckland’s phased withdrawal from alert level three restrictions kicked in at midnight, meaning that from today, outdoor gatherings between two households can go ahead, with a maximum of 10 people. That means, if you want it to, picnics – but please, stick to the rules. Picnics are nice. Keeping each other safe is even nicer.
For me, whenever picnics are brought up, Luncheon on the Grass, New Zealand painter Jacqueline Fahey’s 1983 reimagining of Manet’s 1863 painting Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, comes to mind. Two stylishly clothed young women sit with two naked men, plus a couple of bottles of bubbly, a biscuit tin and a can of Golden Circle pineapple rings. In reality this picnic has, frankly, not enough food, and definitely too much nudity for a public space. But I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s certainly a vibe. Whether or not you’re wanting to emulate this scene in some way, here are a few tips to make your level 2.75 picnic the best picnic it can be.
At alert level three (which this is, despite the 2.75 label we’ve given it), you must continue to wear a face coverings outside your house and keep two metres away from people who are not in your bubble. Though the natural ventilation outside makes it harder for the virus to spread, you should still wear a face covering when you can, and keep distanced when you have to remove it to eat or drink during your beautiful picnic.
But even a distanced picnic can be great after seven weeks of no picnics at all. Here are some must-haves for your two-bubble, 10-person-max fiesta.
1. Picnic blankets
When it comes to a proper picnic, picnic blankets are certainly more than just a nice-to-have. Yes, they’re very useful for lazing on while you gorge yourself with snacks, but in level 2.75, they do so much more. Whether you’ve got one of those fancy tartan ones with a waterproof underside (it’s forecast to rain for the next seven days so protect your bum where you can), or you’re ad libbing with a towel of some kind, consider a picnic blanket as an extra tool in reducing any risk of transmission between your two bubbles. Bring a blanket for your own bubble, and stick to it. If you’re sharing food, centre it in the space between your blankets.
While being outside does reduce the risk of transmission significantly, it’s still very much there – so it makes sense to be as careful as possible.
2. Location, location, location
Finding a good spot is key to a successful picnic. Ideally, you want to set up somewhere lush, shaded, grassy or sandy, and, importantly, in this case, out of the way of others who are outside your bubbles – especially if you’ve got children. Your own garden (if you have one) is the safest option. Avoid the obvious picnic spots like popular parks and beaches that are likely to be busier and more difficult to socially distance from other groups. Get creative: even a concrete picnic is better than a Covid picnic.
3. Plates, cups and cutlery
Bring your own plates, cups and cutlery and keep them separate from the other household you’re picnicking with, and make sure each person within your bubble has their own set.
4. Unfussy food
A good starting point for a picnic lunch is a salad. That could be potato salad or a beautifully light salad of asparagus or green beans. Fritters, scones, quiches and savoury tarts are excellent ways to use up excess ingredients. Something sweet to tie it all together is important too. Chuck whatever type of biscuit you’ve got hiding out in your pantry, or get baking. A beautiful option is these orange, hazelnut and chocolate chunk biscuits or these banana, chocolate and star anise muffins.
Chips are a classic but beware two hands reaching into the bag at once. That’s not very distanced. Instead, take multiple bags (ideal) or split up the food once at the beginning to avoid too much traffic on the food blanket.
5. Bubbly drinks
Obviously, drink whatever you like. But nothing says al fresco quite like an effervescent beverage. Sparkling water, prosecco, soda, beer or, if you’re really wanting to lean into this, Mateus. Bringing along a reusable straw for your drink means you won’t even have to take your mask off to enjoy a sip of your drink.
Check there’s no liquor ban where you’re picnicking. Council has said: existing liquor bans at some beaches and parks remain, and “police will continue to enforce them. Check before you pack your picnic please.” Adhere to the rules of level 2.75 but don’t forget all the other rules, also known as the laws we’ve had in place for years.
Unfortunately, frisbee and ball throwing are not the way to go at these level 2.75 picnic gatherings, especially if you’re in a public area. Those things have a habit of flying off, and run the risk of breaking your bubble and those around you. Instead, express yourself with a game of charades or through some sort of craft. Why not have a crochet picnic or an alfresco sketching session?
Whatever you decide, the important thing is to reconnect with friends and whānau while staying safe.