My new release this month—An Unlikely Bride for the Billionaire (in case you've missed me tooting my own horn ;-) )—is set in a wildlife nature reserve called Plum Pines Reserve. Plum Pines is based on a real live nature reserve—Blackbutt Reserve.
My parents were far from wealthy when I was growing up—there was never any money to splash about on treats—but picnics were an inexpensive outing and one we all relished. And when I was growing up one of our favourite picnic spots was Blackbutt Reserve. It had mile upon mile of hiking trails where we’d pretend to be intrepid explorers. There were huge enclosures containing kangaroos, wallabies and emus, as well as giant aviaries and the duck pond. Blackbutt Reserve was where I fed my very first duck, had the ice cream from my cone stolen by a cheeky emu, and where I discovered that cockatoos loved to have the top of their head scratched.
I’m sure that my continuing love for picnics dates back to these childhood adventures. :) So imagine my horror when I realized that I hadn't sent Mia and Dylan—the heroine and hero of An Unlikely Bride—on a picnic, not even once over the course of the book. What an oversight!
But this started me thinking about picnics in books.
I grew up devouring Enid Blyton, and many a picnic featured in the pages of her stories—usually involving jammy buns, sardine sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and lashings of ginger beer. :-) It all sounded heavenly to my child’s mind (and appetite). I had the entire set of The Famous Five not to mention The Secret Seven and Malory Towers...and I loved them with all of my madly beating heart. :-)
Oh! And who can forget Picnic at Hanging Rock? Shout, “Miranda!” and see just how many people get the reference. Can’t say Hanging Rock is on my bucket list, though. ;-) I saw the movie again recently, and it's just as atmospheric and chilling now as it was back when I was a kid
And then there’s the woefully disastrous picnic expedition to Box Hill in Emma. The one in which Frank Churchill flirts outrageously with Emma demanding everyone perform for her, where Mrs Elton snubs Emma, and where Emma humiliates poor Miss Bates for being a bore. It ends with Emma being told off by Mr Knightley. Now there’s one picnic that didn’t live up to expectations.
(In this particular movie version, when Mr Knightley tells Emma off, like her I find myself fighting tears.)
Do you have a favourite picnic scene from a book? Please share if you do, I want to know if any feast can live up to one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five picnics…or if it’s a recipe for danger and suspense like the Picnic at Hanging Rock…or if it can be as outrageously uncomfortable and humorous as Emma’s.
P.S. Blackbutt Reserve is still there…and I have been known to sneak away to enjoy lunch in its luscious surrounds. If you’re ever in Newcastle, you should visit. The Koala House is magnificent. :-)
Click here to visit Blackbutt Reserve's website