Some years back our young priest thought it a good idea to take some youngsters, aged between 16 and 20 from under-privileged families, for a day out in the forest at the edge of town. The idea was to go out on Saturday, have a picnic lunch and return early evening about 5 o’clock in time for evening Mass.
Somehow, he managed to convince me and a few other adults to go with him and help with supervision and also to provide transport there and back.
We arrived at the forest at about 9 in the morning and we parked our cars on the edge of the forest. Everyone was excited and well prepared. They all carried haversacks filled with all sorts of picnic foods and drinks, and cameras, binoculars and all kind of other things that are considered necessary for a day out in the forest. They were all dressed appropriately of course. Shorts were the order of the day and big thick boots and hats. Even the young priest did away with his white collar and wore a multi-coloured open necked shirt and a large hat.
I wore an old pair of khaki short trousers I use when gardening and I brought with me my large cowboy-type hat; the one with the large feather. I had an open necked shirt, so no need for the turquoise bow tie with pink flowers!
I brought with me some sandwiches and small drink in a plastic bag, and most important of all six large bars of chocolate. You need chocolates when out for a long walk; it helps keep your sugar levels well under control if you get tired. Six bars should be enough so I can share them around with the rest of the group.
To save me carrying the chocolates in the bag I put them in the back pockets of my khaki shorts. Three bars in each back pocket. They fitted perfectly.
They all moved eagerly ahead into the forest with the priest leading the way and a few adults interspersed every now and then. I chose to be the last one in the long queue of people, which would give me an opportunity to stop and take a rest every now and then. I’m not into long walks, especially in the forest.
On and on they walked and they sang as they walked. “Sing Halleluiah to the Lord … Our God reigns … Seek ye first the Kingdom of God …” and several other hymns led by the priest at the front and echoed by the rest all the way back to me.
Pleasant it was. But tiring too! Where exactly were we heading? Searching for Dr Livingston or the treasures of the Inca?
It was getting hot … very hot under a punishing sun which you don’t often get around here. Even the feather in my hat was the worst for wear.
After what seemed miles of walking I felt a trickle down my legs. I stopped and to my horror discovered that the six bars of chocolates had melted soaking my short trousers and dripping away leaving a tell-tale track of brown behind me.
I felt my face go red as panic set in.
What am I to do? I pulled out the empty wrappers of chocolates from my pockets, for that is all that was left … empty wrappers. Each bar was 600 grams; so that’s more than three kilos of chocolates melted down my pants and on my legs with embarrassing visual results that would be almost impossible to explain away.
I tried to wipe as much as possible with my handkerchief which soon became soaked anyway and of no use. I hid the handkerchief under some leaves and forest debris. No point in putting it back in my pocket is there?
I scraped as much of the chocolate off my legs but they still looked embarrassingly brown, as indeed was the back of my trousers.
I could see the rest of the gang well away in the distance. I must catch up with them if I’m not to get lost.
I took off my jacket and wrapped it round my waist by the sleeves just like trendy people do when they pretend they are hot. Well … I was hot all right … with embarrassment, panic and fear of getting lost.
I hurried and caught up with the rest of the team just as they were settling down in the woods for a picnic lunch.
I whistled nonchalantly as I arrived and sat on a log some distance away so as not to over-power them with the sweet aroma of melted chocolate.
The young priest said “Grace” and they all started eating their picnics.
Now, why is it when things go wrong for me they continue to go wrong?
As I sat there considering how best to hide my situation for the rest of the day I heard an ominous buzz around me. I’d inadvertently sat on a wasps nest in a hollow in the tree trunk I was on.
Now … they have the whole forest in which to nest … why choose this particular tree trunk?
Pretty soon I was up on my feet and dancing in a panic, tapping on my buttocks and legs as I did so.
Wasps up your short trousers are no fun I tell you.
Everyone stopped eating and turned to me wondering what I was up to. Then they realized and a few adults came to my rescue shooing away the wasps with their hats and napkins.
Once the wasps had gone a pleasant young lady helper offered me her chair and the young priest got me a drink of white wine from his haversack to calm my nerves.
The young lady saw me shivering and said I was in shock. I should take the jacket off my waist and wear it to keep warm.
Well … I could hardly do that? Could I?
The sight of my chocolate stained brown trousers would have sent her into shock as well!
I sat there calmly for the rest of the day and until it was time to go home.
Needless to say, I did not join them to Saturday evening Mass but drove straight home for a quick shower and change of clothing.
I hate chocolates. I hate picnics. And I hate forests. Wasps too!
EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIRS
"AS I QUOTE MYSELF"
"AS I QUOTE MYSELF"