The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 8 (February 1, 1933)
The Picnic Papers or Rambling by Rail
Weather or No.
There are some cynics who say that New Zealand's summer is merely the bit where the end of last winter joins the beginning of next winter. There are others who aver that New Zealand's only two seasons are the wet and the not-so-wet, while many maintain that there is nothing wrong with New Zealand's weather except the weather.
But climate, like socks, soap and socialism, is merely a matter of personal preference; some like it hot, some like it cold, and some prefer a climatic cocktail. Thus the winter which is too dry for the farmer is too wet for the golfer, the summer which is a drought in the country is a drip in the city, and the spring which is too early for the late worm is too late for the early bird. Autumn, of course, is the season of sadness, when the multitude mourns either that summer is gone or that it never arrived. But autumn hardly can be called a season because if it is wet it is the beginning of winter, and if it is dry it is the end of summer.
The truth is that New Zealand's climate is like every citizen who has managed to keep out of gaol—good enough to keep the country out of trouble. It escapes such exorbitant exigencies as Manchuria, where the country is under the ice in the winter and over the odds in the summer; or Sighbeeria, where in the winter the Sighbeerians reel in hopeless sleet, and in summer peel in soapless heat; or Iceland, where the only two seasons are “the night before” and “the morning after.”
True, New Zealand has more sunlight than many lands, but as it is spread more or less evenly over the year, there are no large lumps lying about on any particular part.
Socking the Solar Solecisms.
Noth/ing on this whirling wen of wheel and woe is certain, except the uncertainty of “certainties;” but speaking in round figures (which usually amount to nought) even if November is equinoctial and December is equinoxious, February can be relied upon to give a rendering of “the good old summer time” with prevarications.
January, being the first bout in the annual meteorological mix-up, often “mixes it” through utter exuberance and sheer sherbet, but February can be relied on to knock spots off the sun and sock the solar solecisms.
The Picnician Period.
February is the picnician period of the year, when man, the whirled forgetting by the whirled forgot, peels off the sartorial sanctions of synthetic sapience and offers his bare body as a burnt offering to old King Sol; when he rolls, romps and rambles in oneness with the worm, the wop and the wasp, and is of the earth earthy and the sand sandy.
The harried “homo” formulates picnics as a form of revolt against the dehumanisation of civilisation, which otherwise would make him so perfect that he would find it impossible to live with himself. The picnic removes the tyranny of the cloying coat, the decadent “cady” and the stultifying stud. Once and again he dumps these dampening detriments of democracy and calls Beelzebub's bluff in the buff. He grapples with his “grub” with his bare hands, and in every possible way defies the dominance of Hurry and Scurry, the twin gods of the Go-getters.
Filling the Gaps in the Wide Open Spaces.
When the sun shines like an illuminating slice of golden syrup, the breeze is as light and warm as a gas-man's caress, and all nature glows and palpitates like a new-moan chilblain, he packs a hardboiled specimen of the poulterer's art, a sitting of sandwiches, and the everfaithful banana, and goes hence to fill the gaps in the wide open spaces. Some prefer to ponder in ozoneous ease at the ocean's edge; some like to tackle the perpendicular preponderancies of Nature with hob-nailed socks, alpenstocks and optimism. But wherever they go and however they go, they perpetrate the picnic to escape the mummery of Modernity and the little stings that discount commercial conquest.
The Business of Living and the Living of Business.
Nature never intended Man to roost under a roof. The only dome he needed was the airodome. But when he began to sacrifice the business of living for the living of business, he was afraid to accept the fact that the sky was the limit; so he undermined the sky with roofing material so that his activities should not be distracted by ideals higher than himself. But deep down below his internal cashregister there always lurks the old Adam who prefers the greenwood tree to the grim roof-tree, and A.I.R. to L.S.D. Thus whenever he can square his conscience and his creditors, he chains up the cash-box, double-crosses the double entry, and throws a picnic. Lambasted liltingly, the situation is as follows:—
When the liver's limp and languid
And the mind is blank and bluey,
And the spirits shift and shuffle
Like a flounder flat and “fluey,”
And the outlook's dank and dismal
So it seems it can't be damper,
These are ample indications
That it's time to pack the hamper,
And to woo the subtle sandwich
Where the periwinkles wink,
Or to dally with the doughnut
By the burbling brooklet's brink.
For it's good to roll and ramble
In the wide and open spaces,
Thrice divorced from tie and collar
And the tyranny of braces,
While you sun the superstructure,
Raising blisters on your skin,
While the sand-flies get entangled
In the whiskers on your chin,
There is bliss as well as blisters
In the ample out-of-doors,
Where the only mild exertion
Is exertion of the jaws.
Oh it's good to throw a picnic,
When conditions are O.K.,
And to diddle Dad Depression
In the good old-fashioned way.
The Permanent Way of all Flesh.
There are many ways of promulgating a picnic, but the permanent way is the way of all flesh. When you picnic by rail, the picnic begins where the pavement ends; from the moment you are parked in the rolling stock, cares slip from you like oysters on an escalator. There is something about a train which breathes of freedom combined with speedom. A railway carriage is saturated with the anticipations, aspirations and salutations of all the picnickers it has ever whirled to the wide and free. It is the casket containing the picnician spirit.
Thoughts are as real as raspberries; they are the minted coin of the mind and continue to circulate for long after they are uttered. They rattle and roll about the subconscious counting house. Thus a railway carriage carries a rolling stock of all the happy thoughts left behind to jingle about its precincts. It tinkles and tingles with joyous feeling; it exudes the spirit of exultation. Its leather and wood and steel and brass wink and twinkle and murmur of merry moments, perpetuated in perpetuity. The railway carriage opens its heart to you as you open its door. It is adventurous, daring, cheerful, practical and poetical. It is more than a means to an end—it is an end in itself, an end to care.
It whispers to you of other picnics past, when Uncle Julius brought his accordian and played “Daisy Bell” and “The Anchor's Weighed.” It murmurs of past home-comings, of flushed faces, of tired but happy eyes, of ferns and flirtations of past days, and the joy of a deed well done. It whispers of Sunday-school treats when its timber and steel palpitated with the packed vitality of flaming youth. It echoes the songs it has shared, the laughter it has heard, and all the warm eager life it has transported. No wonder it breathes the spirit of freedom and the love of humanity. No wonder it represents the perfect pantechnicon for picnic parties. “Picnic by rail” is the advice of experience. Let us put it to patter:
You can hike
You may even take a boat, or
If time's the main
In your calculation.
Means of making picnics “topper,”
Is to park
The question mark,
And grasp elation
At a railway station.
“Jest and youthful jollity.“—Milton.
(Rly. Publicity photos.)
Scenes at the Children's Grand Free Christmas Carnival held at the Hutt Valley Workshops, Wellington, 17th December, 1932. (1) Arrival of the special train at the shops; (2) opening ceremony by the Works Manager; (3) Russian duo dance; (4) dancers on stage; (5) acrobatic clowns; (6) “All Aboard for Fun Land”; (7) Golliwog dance; (8) Workshops Band; (9) Maori Entertainers; (10) Waiting to enter the Magic Cave; (11) Father Xmas and his helpers; (12) Locomotive K901—a workshops product; (13) Charlie Chaplin; (14) and (15) beauty show.