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Jane Bates: Who wants a picnic in the bleak mid-winter? 

Picnics should mean wasps and sunburn, not sub-zero temperatures and hypothermia, says Jane Bates 

Picnics should mean wasps and sunburn, not sub-zero temperatures and hypothermia, says Jane Bates


Picture: iStock

‘A picnic?’ I said, with a shriek of horror. It was my husband’s birthday, and the coldest day of winter so far. Even the icicles had icicles on them, and he wanted a picnic.

To a nesh southerner like me, a picnic means wasps and sunburn, not hypothermia. But he is the kind of stalwart northerner who says ‘Eee, luxury!’ when he sees an inside lavatory.

My husband was not the only hardy soul I encountered that week. A patient in his eighties, an old countryman, intended walking 14 miles from his home in the back of beyond to the hospital, have his cataract operation, and walk 14 miles back again. In the depths of winter, and in the dark.

Dangers of the cold

He seemed surprised when I said it was a bad idea, particularly after surgery. He could afford a taxi, money wasn’t the problem, but he walked everywhere and couldn’t see the point of anything with a wheel at each corner when you had two feet.

I had to insist on conventional transport post-operation. I warned him about the dangers of the cold for older people, and the risks associated with bad weather, but his medical history spoke loud and clear – there wasn’t one. He was fitter than any fiddle you’ll ever meet.

Of course, there is the cause and effect conundrum, but still… so I raised my thermos flask in salute to him as my husband and I rounded off our brisk, sub-zero birthday walk – with a picnic.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmology nurse in Hampshire 

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