Today was quite possibly one of the happiest, most carefree days of my life. I went for a picnic lunch with some of my ladies, amidst some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms I have ever seen in my life (Nara aside). It was not a simple procedure for the ladies. The whole thing was planned with military precision, in that scarily determined Japanese way … even the weather didn’t dare disobey them, and obliged by being just about perfect. This morning I was taken to a large but little-known hillside park about 40 minutes drive from Kobe, where we found a good spot right under a huge tree, spread our colourful picnic sheets, and ate and drank to our heart’s content.
My ladies always do their best on these occasions, but today they really outdid themselves. I could hardly believe the feast that was put in front of me. Almost all of it was homemade. There was egg salad, potato salad, roast beef salad, broccoli salad, seafood salad, and green salad. There were ham and cucumber sandwiches. There were several rice dishes, all beautifully packed in individual servings so that we didn’t have to mess around with annoying paper plates (never advisable on a breezy day). There was chicken, there was salmon, and there were pork croquettes. There was hot coffee, iced coffee, various kinds of tea, and even several varieties of mineral water! For dessert there were oranges, fresh strawberries and cream, and exquisite pralines from a chocolate shop in Kobe that has them specially airfreighted from Belgium twice a week.
As usual in Japan, nothing was left to chance – most of the ladies admitted that they had been up since six o’clock preparing for it. One even said that she’d stayed up until midnight the previous night marinading the chicken, and then gotten up again at 5am to cook it. Another said that she’d made a point of purchasing bread from the best bakery in Kobe, to make the sandwiches. Yet another admitted that she was so anxious about the condition of the cherry trees that she’d made a special trip all the way to the park on the previous day, just to check on them … for it would never do to take “Miss” to a park where the cherry blossoms weren’t in their prime, oh no!
The darlings. They worked so hard, and seemed so worried about making a good impression on me, that I doubt that they had a good time at all … frankly I wanted to tell them “You don’t have to do anything to impress me, I’m always impressed with you!” because it’s true. (Oh, and need I mention that despite the early morning start, they were impeccably made-up and dressed in early Spring fashions? I didn’t know whether to gaze at the trees, or them.)
It was only when the picnic was over, and all of the leftovers had been beautifully packed in European paper napkins and handed over to me (in a splendid shopping bag proudly emblazoned with “United Arab Emirates Airways” because it would never do to hand “Miss” a common Japanese shopping bag, oh no!) that they allowed themselves to relax a little. Everything had gone well. The relief was palpable: they shook hands, and a couple of them seemed close to tears.
Cherry blossoms: they bring out the best in people.
They also make me gain weight. I’ve just finished eating the leftovers for my dinner. The pralines were especially delicious.
Looking forward to next year.