Monday, 13 May 2013

Lord Brassica's guide to picnic benches

Did you know it's British Sandwich Week? This year it's from May 15-22. What better time to get your sandwiches out for a picnic on a bench in some lovely spot. I've asked Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly, to give us some ideas for a good picnic.

Lord Brassica: Well, I'd ask Cook to put together a jolly hamper with cucumber sarnies and lashings of ginger beer. 

Picnic 1938, Harold Williamson

Surely not on the ground though. We need a picnic bench. Here's a beach picnic with fish and chips and beach toys and sand in your lemonade.

This is Lord Brassica at the Fribble Thank You bench with his much-loved Landrover, his dog Pru and his horse Tonks.

Lord Brassica: I say, why not just ring for a Harrod's Hamper? They do a jolly nice pheasant paté. And they'll send along a bottle of bubbly and a chap to open it for you. It's all jolly civilised.  

That's a possibility, Lord B, but really, we want to make our own picnic.

Lord B: I could send the chauffeur down to Fortnum and Mason for a nice tin of tea. Not those ghastly bags. Proper tea in a pre-warmed pot. I'll get my chap to warm it. 

Sorry, I think you've got the wrong end of the stick here. I mean a picnic. I'm talking pork pies, tupperware tubs, ants in the jam. 

Lord B: Rightio, Seashell. I'm up for a spot of survival. 

What about a traditional picnic? Strawberries, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs.

Or just a sandwich in the park? 

You don't see a sandwich? Well, it's all in the name. This bench is in Sandwich, in Kent. 

Lord B: Yes, my cousin was the Earl of Sandwich. Nice enough chap. Put some roast beef between two slices of bread and started a trend I believe.

That was in 1762 though. Some trend.

Lord B: We have a strong sense of history in my family.

On the Isle of Wight there's a sense of history. This sculpture is called Nammet Time, which is an old island word for a chunk of cheese, a hunk of farmhouse bread, and a mug of beer. 

 Paul Sivell at

Lord B: By jove, this chap has the right idea. 

A sandwich on a bench is fine but why not go for the whole works? You know: the gazebo and the candelabra and no crusts on the cucumber sandwiches. 

Lord B: In that case, why not forget the picnic and book yourself in at The Ritz? They do a spiffing afternoon tea.

Good point, Lord B. It's important to maintain decorum at a picnic. Even if you're just having a sandwich and a cup of tea. 

Sunday in the Garden, Jacob Bratland 1890

Here's a German family who got out the white tablecloth and dressed up in their Sunday best for a picnic.

The girl looks happy about it but Herr Grandfather looks like he would rather have gone to McDonalds.

Lord B: Now that's a place I take care to avoid. 

What, Germany?

No. McDonalds. Sat on a bench there once and bumped into some vulgar clown. Ron, I think his name was. 

Red hair? Dressed in bright yellow? 

Lord B: Terrible dress sense. I told him I'd stand him a pint at the Duck and Dogcollar. Thought it might buck up his ideas.

You're right, Lord B. Ronald is not very hipster, is he? He could do with a Hipnic Bench. It's made from state-of-the-art snowboards.

I say! This makes me want to picnic on a mountain! 

The woods makes a nice picnic too.

Lunch in the Woods 1925, Henri Le Sidaner

Lord B: I don't care for woods. Too many trees and whatnot.

What about the riverside then?

At a Picnic 1920, Edmund Leighton

Lord B: The women are easy on the eye but I wouldn't want to hear all that racket.

What racket? Do you mean the man playing the guitar?

Lord B: yes. Music plays havoc with my digestion. Besides, a picnic is about food. Plenty of lovely nosh!

What about a bellissimo miniature Italian picnic from Natalia Antonelli in Rome?

Lord B: Just so there's no nasty foreign muck. Pasta and what not. All those peculiar shapes filled with raw fish and such. 

A picnic would look just great on this brilliant rainbow bench.

A rainbow generally means there's rain about. And we don't want rain at a picnic, do we?

You're quite right, Lord B. We don't even want rain clouds

That's unless they're pretty Swarovski rain clouds like these earrings from the Picnic Bench Designs shop in Canada.

I could buy this for my wife. 

What, the earrings?

No, the shop.

Definitely rain is a problem on a picnic. 

I say, this picnic bench seems to be in a spot of bother. It looks like you could be in peril on this sea with this one.

There's a hymn for that I think. Used to sing it when I was a chorister at Saint Asphyxia's. 

But speaking of perils, I have a question for you.

Winter picnics: a good idea? 

I wouldn't have thought so. Brass monkeys and so on.

Of course it's possible to have a winter picnic, but there are some situations where picnicking just isn't going to be brilliant.

Blimey. I see what you mean.

This bench is well suited to freezing temperatures though.

This is smashing! I could put one of these between two hunks of bread.

An ice cream sandwich as a sandwich filling. Hmmm. Interesting. Might start another trend. 

This white picnic bench is called Iceberg. That's probably more to do with the colour than the temperature though.

And the name of the company. 

Here's Little Red Riding Hood all alone with her winter picnic.

Steady on! It's a rum turn of events if that poor girl got left out in the snow.

Yes. I'd be tempted to wait until spring when the birds are singing and the grass is green.

In the meantime, here is an indoor picnic table. And the grass is green, at all times of the year.

I say, one could find oneself tipsy and spill a glass of good vintage Claret on this table.

Yes, but you'd be watering the grass, so it's ok.

I wouldn't say no to a cricket match on this table.

But now we need to choose some sandwiches. After all, it's British Sandwich Week. 

Maybe the sandwiches would arrive in this Sandwich Suitcase?

image source unknown

This suitcase is top notch! I'd like one of these when I take my investments to the Cayman Islands next time.

As for the sandwiches, we could opt for good old peanutbutter and jelly, like these.

I know what you're going to say, Lord B. There's a problem with this:

1) peanutbutter and jelly is American and this is British Sandwich Week
2) these are key rings, not real sandwiches

So what about tuna and cucumber then?

Sorry, there seems to be a bite taken out of this sandwich. Maybe we should have hamburgers instead? In which case we'll need condiments. 

Salad creme for me. Good old British salad creme. And lashings of ginger beer. None of that foreign muck.

These vintage condiments seem to have their very own picnic bench.

I'd prefer something more British. More Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen. It's the Union Jack every time for me.

OK, then. What about a ham sandwich?

 © Peter Denton at 

Fair enough. I'll have a Scotch egg too. And some Wimbledon strawberries would be just tickety-boo.

I prefer watermelon. In America they have watermelons the size of babies. They put them in the river to keep them cool for the picnic.

Babies in the river? Hhmmm. Wasn't there a fellow in a Moses basket? What was his name . . . 

Picnics aren't only about food though. The setting is very important. 

This family has chosen their own garden for an informal breakfast picnic on simple wooden benches. 

Breakfast Under the Big Birch 1895, Carl Larsson

Their lawn wants mowing. I could send my gardener round to see to it.

This looks like a good place for a picnic. It's in Cyprus. 

Photo by Sheila B

That'll do nicely. Looks like there's a road for the vans to get up there.

What vans are those, Lord B?

The catering van. The furniture van. The horse van for Tonks. And of course my wife's throne.

This is Cyprus too. A lovely spot on the beach.

photo by Sheila B.

I'm not a beach man myself. Prefer a nice olde tea shoppe and a strawberry cream tea.

Interesting you should say that. Mungo likes to brew up when he has a picnic. 

Here he is with his camp stove beside the Kochelsee in Bavaria. In no time at all he'll have a good cup of Earl Grey. 

This mountainside might be a good place for a picnic but it looks like someone's got there first.

photo by Sheila B

Nice picnic bag. But no good for the vans. 

Do you really need all this stuff for a picnic? My ancestor Emil Geist didn't even bother to find a bench. He just put his picnic down on a cloth and got out the bottle of Bauer Haus Dornfelder. 

photo by Miggy's mum

For some reason there is a British Beefeater in Emil's picnic basket. Maybe Emil thinks either the raven or the beefeater are suitable as a sandwich filling?

Good Lord. Those Europeans have some peculiar habits.

Speaking of Europe, here are Miggy and Mungo having their sandwiches on a bench in Sevilla.

photo by Miggy's Mum

I wonder why they set the plates down in the sand? And why are they sitting by the dog pooh bin? There was a lovely picnic table nearby.

Two Women Sitting in A Garden 1932, Eric Ravillious

These are fundamental Picnic Questions which have to be asked.

This leads me to another question: can you have a good picnic in a city? 

I was at The Barbican recently. Right in the middle of London. Frightfully nice place to have a picnic and then go to a concert afterwards.

photo by Janet Wells

Of course sometimes you can find the perfect spot for your picnic and then the bench just isn't up to the job.

I've got a handyman for this kind of thing. Handy Andy. Nice chap. Not as biddable as the butler though. Old Unwin. Now he's a cheerful fellow.

Lord B, are you at all worried about animals stealing your picnic?

That's on foreign soil though. Bears and such.

Yes. The words Yellow and Stone come to mind. 

 The Patient Bear, unknown souce

This fellow looks like a thoroughly decent chap. I don't see a problem with him. I'd just say Toodle pip and be off. 

Here are some bears which seem to have totally disrupted a picnic. This wouldn't bother you?

Heavens no. It's wasps I'd be more concerned about. Nasty little blighters. 

But I've found a way to deal with them. 

Really? Tell us your secret.

Well, you know my chap Unwin?  Bald fellow. Thoroughly decent. I get him to stand away from the picnic with a dish of jam on his head. Lures wasps away. 

Raspberry works best I find. 

That's terrible! Doesn't Unwin get stung by the wasps?

He does sometimes, yes. But he just has to buck himself up. Stiff upper lip and all that. 

OK, Lord Brassica, you've been very helpful with this post. I'd like to take you to a picnic bench restaurant.

Jolly sporting of you, Seashell. 

I hope it's not this one. The service doesn't look up to much. 

photo by Sheila B.
What about this one? 

The food here has a fresh twist and it's very green.

Makes me feel dizzy just looking at it.

What about this one? Beautiful glittery purple benches with a lime green accent.

my photo, Dunkirk Art Museum

Or here's the Rest Air Restaurant. Should do nicely for a picnic in the air don't you think?

Make mine a pint, and a basket of cod and chips.

Tally ho, Seashell! I'll race you to the top.


Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly, is a gentleman farmer here on Paradise Island. He loves his horse Tonks, his dog Pru,and his 1947 Landrover, in that order. He indulges his wife, Lady Jessica Brassica with a replica mall in the basement of Drizzly Manor, a beach hut on the Esplanade, and unlimited amounts of cash for shopping. However, it has emerged that he doesn't know as much as you'd think about farm animal benches, especially cow benches or sheep benches. He knows a bit more about horse benches, learned from his horse Tonks, and possibly something about dog benches from his dog Pru. As you've seen though, what he really knows is picnic benches

The Picnic (1938) is by British artist Harold Williamsom (1898-1972). The Holiday With Pay Act of 1938 gave British workers the right to one week of statutory paid holiday each year. Throughout the 1930s leisure time became increasingly important and the middle classes were particularly fond of picnics. According to a 1936 book, the Perfect Picnic required egg mayonnaise sandwiches. 

The beach picnic miniature is from Lucy and Gillian in Tunbridge Wells. At   They have exquisite miniatures of dolls house food and table settings. Any one of them would make a terrific picnic. 

The delightful wooden picnic food set is by Jennie at Wild Marigold in Ohio. She makes all kinds of delightful food. It's not suitable for eating though because it's made out of wood.

I had a bit of luck with Picnics. Sarah Presh takes wonderful photographs, including the photo of the bench under the willow tree in Sandwich, Kent. She took this on 29 April, just in time for me to find it for this post. Her photostream is at

John, the current 11th Earl of Sandwich opened a chain of sandwich shops called, yes, you guessed it - The Earl of Sandwich. There was one in Orlando and another one in London. If you don't believe me check 1,411 QI Facts at  page 74. 

Nammet Time is by chainsaw artist Paul Sivell on the Isle of Wight. His numerous intriguing chainsaw sculptures can be seen at  A nammet is the Isle of Wight word for sandwich. I'll bet you didn't know that, did you?

The beautiful 1890 painting Sunday in the Garden is by Norwegian artist Jacob Bratland (1859-1906). It is in the Lillehammer Kunstmuseum in Norway.

Becki Harvey Myers collects vintage photographs, including the wonderful pre-war German picnic photo. She's in Alaska at You'll be seeing more of her photos on future Bench Site posts.

Ronald McDonald is a much-photographed character on his benches throughout the world. This Ronald was caught by Valerie Everett, who lives in Logansport, Indiana. She found him in Indianapolis on Christmas Day 2008. Valerie has a great selection of bench photos in her photostream at  

ZZIV in Milwaukee produces custom limited edition pieces of functional metal art. The ZZIV Hipnic Table features a unique twin independent aluminum pillar design and four beautifully designed snowboards. The hand welded aluminum pillars rise independently of each other, yet combine to each board to provide a timeless look and unheard of functionality in an art object. The snowboards are real, top of the line, Burton and Rossignol boards, fresh from the hills, as such they have wear which only adds to the table's character. Like nothing you have seen or sat on, ZZIV makes sitting at a picnic table cool.

Natalia Antonelli in Rome is a master of miniature picnics. You can get just about any kind of picnic you like. I chose the Italian one from her shop at  Buon appetito!

UK company makes a wide range of maintenance-free picnic tables and benches from recycled plastic. They come in all sorts of sizes, designs and colours, like the vibrant rainbow one. The rotten bench is also on their website but it's not for sale. 

The first picnic table under water is in Mendocino in California, taken in December 2006. The photograph comes from the photostream of outandaboutsf at

As you may know, I have two husbands. Mungo? His Excellency? Are you listening? Sarah in Canada makes Swarovski raincloud earrings at Picnic Bench Designs.  Come on, what more could a Bench Woman want? Please will one of you reach for your credit card and get these earrings for me NOW.

The second picnic table under water was taken at Jones Beach, New York in 2010. Jones Beach has fabulous swimming so it would be a great place for me. It was photographed by Kallie at 

The hymn Lord Brassica is thinking of is Eternal Father, also known in Britain as The Hymn of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. It's always sung at Remembrance Day ceremonies. The refrain is: Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!  In the States the second verse has been adapted to include those in peril on the land. 

There are many, many pictures of benches under snow. It seems to be a favourite subject for Flickr people. But I chose this one from Simplified Building Concepts, an international company which makes fittings, connectors, and other parts for assembly. The photo of their Kee Klamp bench demonstrates the strength of it, even if people leave it outside all winter. You can read all about it at

The ice cream sandwich bench is from Jellio and if you're a regular reader of this blog you'll have seen it before in the Edible Benches post. (Yes, maybe too much of a food focus here - Miggy's influence). It's the kind of bench everyone loves. I want one. It's one of many Fantastic Food furniture pieces from  It costs $950.  

The Iceberg picnic table is from Iceberg Enterprises in Illinois. They make a wide range of business products which are simple, durable, flexible and modular. This includes things like chairs, tables, shelving and of course, picnic tables. Their website is at

Little Red Riding Hood's snow picnic is a self-portrait by Daisy Harper at Paper Maché Dreams. I felt so lucky to find this image and to be given permission to use it. As for Lord Brassica's concern about the girl, I hope Daisy didn't have to stay out in the snow for too long. Her shop is at

The picNYC grass table is by architect Haiko Cornelissen in New York. It was a 2012 New York Design Week favourite. Not surprising. You can have a picnic anytime you want.

The Sandwich Suitcase is one of those internet photographs which is so ubiquitous that its original source is impossible to find. Google sandwich suitcase and you'll see what I mean. I copied it, unashamedly, from

I just love the peanutbutter and jelly sandwich keyrings by Danielle at  But it's true: you can't eat them. And as Lord Brassica says, peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches just haven't caught on in Britain. That may be because British jelly is the wobbly stuff Americans call Jello. You can see how the confusion arises. You really wouldn't want to eat Jello in a sandwich now, would you?

The half-eaten tuna and cucumber sandwich is from Jill, who makes a wide range of beautiful miniatures at  What I love about this sandwich is that it is half-eaten. How many artists would take a bite out of their product before putting it up for sale? Well done, Jill! 

Retro Grandma collects all kind of interesting retro stuff at Retro Classics in Saskatchewan. She informed me recently that the vintage condiment set has been sold. But of course she has lots of other brilliant retro stuff at  Her blogspot is at

Photographer Peter Denton found the Ham and Sandwich road sign in Kent. I saw it on Flickr, where he has a whole lot of lovely bench pictures.  Peter Denton's photostream of photographs from around the world, including benches, can be seen at

The Pixie Palace is in Walla Walla, Washington where, by strange coincidence, Miggy's Mum went to nursing school. Miggy has some cousins there (hello Gail and Chandler). The Pixie makes a veritible feast of handmade felted foods, including watermelons and strawberries. They all look good enough to eat.

Carl Olof Larsson ( 1853 –1919) was a Swedish painter representative of the Arts and Crafts movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes. He is principally known for his watercolors of idyllic family life but there are also some serious and beautiful landscapes of his homeland. The restful Breakfast Under the Birch Tree is a cross stitch pattern of a Carl Larsson painting by Lesley Bradshaw in France. Her shop is at

My good friend Sheila B lives some of the time in Cyprus. She goes out and about taking pictures of benches for me and she came up trumps with the picnic benches. It looks like lots of people picnic in Cyprus. However, I doubt if they would appreciate Lord Brassica's convoy of vans winding their way up the Troodos mountains.

Emil Geist is one of my Geist ancestors from Germany. More on that in later posts. Emil is something of an expert on sweet German wines. He's keen on Dornfelders from the Nahe region and he particularly likes the Bauer Haus Dornfelder, which is a sweet red. He tells me to say that Dornfelder is the second most grown grape in Germany. So now you know.

Janet Wells lives in The Barbican in London. A retired artist, she has an eye for interesting photographs. There are plenty of those in The Barbican. 

Unwin, The Cool Butler with Tray, is three feet tall and, as Lord Brassica says, looks like a thoroughly decent chap, even after having raspberry jam on his head. He was auctioned by New York Live Auctioneers in 2008 at a starting bid of $100. Wherever he's ended up, I hope there are no wasps.

The chipmunk stealing a picnic is by Alec Hartman, whose photographs can be seen at

The Patient Bear is another of those internet memes which . . . oh, forget it. I'm not going to apologise. There is absolutely no way I or anyone else can find the owner of this photograph. There are websites devoted to trying. There are even suggestions that he's been photoshopped. But it's an endearing shot. So, whoever photographed The Patient Bear, bearskin hats off to you. 

The Bear picnic painting is by Kara Hamer in Arizona. You see what I mean? Having bears at a picnic is not going to be a tidy business. It's chaos. And what a great painting. Kara's shop is at

Michael Beitz, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Buffalo, exhibits throughout Europe and the US. He makes all kinds of weird and wonderful sculptures which have emerged from his experience as a furniture designer. Sofas in knots, upside down tables - it's great to see his quirky, twisty, mind-bending stuff. The green tangled picnic table from 2013 is called Picnic.

The beautiful purple and lime green picnic table is actually the furniture in the cafe of the FRAC contemporary art museum in Dunkirk in France. Splendid!

Martijn Engelbreght and Miguel Brugman's 'Rest' Air Restaurant was in Wageningen, Netherlands in 2008. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking reservations. But isn't this the most wonderful thing? Martijn gave me permission to use the picture. He has a very cool website address:

Mungo and his parents at a picnic in Glendalough, Ireland

In 2018 sandwiches were in the news! When Frenchman Benjamin Carle wanted a sandwich, he set out to make one from scratch. He sowed the wheat to produce flour, pressed olives for oil, boiled sea water to make salt, raised chickens to get eggs, grew vegetables on his Paris rooftop, and landed a 65 kg tuna on a fishing expedition. After all that, he set out to make bread and ten months later, Carle, 30, had his sandwich. His experience is the subject of a Canal+ documentary, called Sandwich (or How I Made My Own Snack While Questioning the Manual Capabilities of the French and While Trying to Find Some Personal Pride).


  1. Wonderful much fun to read! It really is a very small world, isn't it!? Walla Walla isn't on the road to anywhere so you have to want to come here on purpose! :-) That Miggy's mum went to our outstanding nursing school is a fun "coincidence". Anyway, thanks so much for including my felt items--I'm glad they could add to the story. :-)
    Shirley of ThePixiePalace

  2. Many thanks, Shirley. Your felt foods are just delicious in every way. Well, Walla Walla is on the road to Pomeroy and that's where Miggy's Mum originally came from. Can you believe that? And I myself attended Pomeroy High School briefly while staying with Miggy's mum's mum one spring. It's complicated. I now find myself here on Paradise Island. And yes, it is indeed a very small world.
    Best wishes,

  3. Its wonderful. What a way of presentation. Thanks for sharing this.
    Wooden picnic bench

  4. Many thanks for writing, Peter. Glad you like the post. I see you have some very nice picnic benches too.

    Best wishes,