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Picnic baskets and billy tea


I think I went on enough picnics when young and living at home to last me a lifetime. They are not my favourite way of eating these days, unless someone else does all the work and I can sit at a table with a knife and fork.

There was rarely a weekend or public holiday that went by without Dad deciding we needed to go for a drive and then deciding it would include a picnic. Sometimes it coincided with collecting firewood or dropping something off to a farm. Dad had a carrying business and always delivered goods as soon as requested. We knew everyone in the district and there was no trouble finding a beaut spot to set up our temporary dining table.

Mum would always agree, even if sometimes reluctantly. The lion’s share of the work would be hers. Deciding on suitable food to take – usually sandwiches and cake although Dad much preferred to cook sausages, onions and fried potatoes over a fire. She would forage in the fridge and pantry, pack up the picnic basket, mix up some cordial in a bottle and check that all the usual supplies were in place.

Dad would load the car boot with kindling, the billy, tripod and often a barbeque grid with bricks to support them. And a large container of water in case the creek water wasn’t suitable to drink. There was always a creek.

It was up to we kids to work out what to take. In summer it was our togs rolled up in a towel. In winter we wore sturdy shoes for exploring and carried paper bags and buckets to collect plants or anything that took our fancy. We looked for animal tracks and competed to spot birds and insects.

There was a certain amount of arguing about where to go but usually it was by a waterhole in Duck Creek. It had a stony bottom which was greatly preferably to slimy mud or reeds. Dad would be in charge of the fire – he was a man of the land and knew how to do it without setting the countryside alight.

Always billy tea, although Mum would have a flask of tea prepared earlier, just in case. Once we’d swum and eaten (in that order), or eaten and explored, it was time to head home again. We’d look out for wildlife in the dusk and watch the sun set over the hills. That was my favourite part of the adventure and I still love the early evening light.

At home again we’d decide that nobody wanted anything more to eat – perhaps a cuppa and biscuit later in front of the television. Mum would have the job of washing up and replenishing the basic supplies always stored in the picnic basket. These were small containers of leaf tea and sugar, paper twists of salt and pepper and clean containers for milk and cordial. I believe my success as an event organiser is due to learning from my mother. Always have everything prepared in advance. You never know when you’ll have to cater at a moment’s notice.





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