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
What a great post, Michelle. I think you've nailed all my favourite picnic scenes. Makes me want to go on a picnic this weekend.ReplyDelete
I know exactly what you mean, Jen! I've had to be very stern with myself today -- I have work to do, no skiving off to Blackbutt Reserve to commune with nature (at least, not until my work is done). ;-)Delete
I've been to Hanging Rock, Michelle! Although its probably not the best advertisement for picnics :-) We went on lots of picnics as kids. Quite a few Sunday School picnics and the annual Railway picnic for the families of railway workers.ReplyDelete
I suppose I must have read books with picnics in them but none spring to mind. I'm positive the Anne books would have been littered with them! :-)
Ooh, did you yell "Miranda!" when you were a Hanging Rock? I wouldn't be able to resist. ;-)Delete
Oh, and yes! Anne was littered with picnics! I remember one in particular -- a church picnic, where Anne sampled ice cream for the first time. Happy sighs.
Oh what a great post and I too love picnics and went on may as a child then took our kids on lots and there have been a few with the grandkids :)
And yes you have picked all the picnics in books that I can remember although I know I have read lots of them but can't remember the names of the books although I remember one in n historical by a river and a boat and rowing :)
There's just something fabulous about a picnic isn't there, Helen? There's so much freedom and relaxation, and something downright fun about them -- they're mini-holidays. :-)Delete
I have to say a picnic beside a river that involved a boat and rowing sounds rather wonderful. :-)
When I was a young person Ron and I would go to The Royal National Park for picnics and hire a boat and row down the river and find a nice place :)Delete
Oh, Helen, how divinely romantic. I bet it's one of those memories that brings a smile to your face. :-)Delete
LOL- you clearly didn't grow up in England where a picnic was guaranteed to be soggy!! Actually, we did have the odd dry day and lots of fun eating our spam sandwiches at the side of a river or in the shade of an old Abbey (England is full of these old collapsing places... we used to go to Bolton Abbey a lot, a popular place for picnics and swimming). Somehow, though, our little sandwiches and crips (chips) never did seem quite as appetising as the sumptuous picnics in the books!! (I too read Secret Seven and Famous Five and longed for lashings of ginger beer!!)ReplyDelete
To my mind, Louisa, England was an endlessly green and warm land of tea and scones, lacrosse and horse riding. Not to mention Magic Faraway Trees, Circuses, and boarding schools. LOL.Delete
Oh, Bolton Abbey sounds so romantic...even with little sandwiches and crisps rather than jammy buns and lashings of ginger beer.
And now I'm thinking a LoveCats Picnic would be a darn fine thing. Hmm... ;-)
Your reading is so like mine was. Loved Famous Five and Secret seven.ReplyDelete
Adventures plus fine food, Sue. It couldn't be beat. :-)Delete
Michelle, I so enjoyed this post. I adore picnics. In fact that's what I asked for (and got) for my recent birthday present - a family picnic. Just wonderful! I also used to read English stories where children's picnics always seemed wondrous. As for Hanging Rock - definitely worth a visit!ReplyDelete
Oh, I remember you talking about that picnic, Annie! Happy sighs. You know, I feel that's exactly what I need at the moment -- a nice slothy picnic...maybe a slothy writers picnic where plotting and brainstorming could be on the menu, along with lashings of ginger beer. ;-)Delete