Whether or not you think it’s the best season, spring is typically the most anticipated: every year, we shake off the dreary winter blues and head back outdoors, where warmth and sunlight coax flowers out of the soil and people back out of their houses. And this year, it’s even more important: has there been a longer, more isolated winter in memory?
As this spring approaches, we’re excited not just for the sunshine but for the long-awaited return of ‘the rule of six’: come 29 March, the UK will once again be allowed to meet with friends in parks and gardens, on beaches and hiking paths.
But what if you could meet with literary friends, surround yourself with five mates from the pages of our favourite books and take in a sunny day on picnic blankets spaced two metres apart? We’ve curated a few good groups below, arranged by the vibe you might be looking to cultivate.
You just want a regular fun day out
Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby
Show us somebody planning an outdoor social without including Jay Gatsby, a man better known as “The Great”, and we’ll show you a fool. A party expert with fabulous wealth, Gatsby’s generosity and his built-in adeptness for banter make him a shoo-in here: Jay, my good man, come take a seat.
Yazz, from Girl, Woman, Other
Smart, sarcastic and political, Yazz is an easy choice here – she’s funny and warm, but sharp and worldly enough to keep the conversation interesting. She’s also a balanced thinker, able to see both sides of issues, making her a nice complement to…
Lizzie Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice
Well-read and quick-witted, Lizzie Bennet is a welcome addition to any social gathering, but it’s her sharp tongue that’s most welcome here – she’s fiery and can be a bit stuck in her ways, but Yazz would prove her conversational equal. Can you imagine? We’re picturing not getting a word in edgewise – and loving every minute of it.
Anne, from Anne of Green Gables
Fun, spontaneous, and just enough of a handful, we’re thinking a mid-20s Anne – and that’s Anne with an E – would bring the right balance of spice to the occasion: she’s going to drink enough currant wine to get a bit rambunctious, but conscientious enough not to get in any real trouble. Remember getting just a bit too loud? Surround by friends? Outdoors? Anne Shirley lives for that. She’s in.
The mole, from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Hear us out: not only is our little guy here cute as hell, he’s also a little fount of serenity, and he almost always has cake to hand? Like, he’s just always thinking of cake, and it’s always… nearby? Obviously the mole is in.
You seek a thoughtful, peaceful afternoon
Bilbo Baggins, from The Hobbit
People tend to think of Bilbo as an adventurer first, but the hero of Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit was a reluctant one. Really, Bilbo would rather be lazing around The Shire – and now, he’s got a tale as tall as time to tell, too. Gather round, folks: Bilbo’s in our rule of six group, and he’s spinning another epic yarn.
Pooh, from Winnie-the-Pooh
“Oh, bother,” Pooh gently murmurs, “I’m out of cider.” Pour the calmest, gentlest, sweetest bear in the world another tipple, and he’ll listen to all your troubles.
Hazel Wong, from Murder Most Unladylike
Quiet, sweet and gently anxious, Hazel Wong is the kind of smart, supportive unsung presence that provides the glue to social occasions. She might not speak often, but when she does, people listen – and rewarded justly for it.
Clarissa Dalloway, from Mrs Dalloway
This group threatens to get a bit quiet at times, so we need a talker – and who better than the deep-thinking, deep-feeling main character of Virginia Woolf’s classic?
Leopold Bloom, from Ulysses
Speaking of needing talkers here! That said, Bloom is also a friendly and compassionate chap who’s curious about the world. Put him in – in a circle of reluctant socialisers, Bloom will get on like a house on fire.
You crave drama and mayhem – and you’ve missed it
Max, from Where the Wild Things Are
Everyone loves a bad boy, and Max is the baddest boy there is – and actually, he’s got a heart of gold anyway. Good for a laugh, a football kick-about, and maybe just one incredible, anecdote-generating tantrum, Max is in for your chaotic park afternoon.
Captain Ahab, from Moby-Dick
K, picture this: your man Ahab is in the very middle of a wild whale story when, all of a sudden, he spots a fox out of the corner of his eye: “Ye downy degenerate!” he cries, leaping from his blanket, big ol’ knife in hand, putting his foot through the veggie dip, “I’ll have your satiny hide yet, beast!” You never see him again, but it’s an afternoon for the ages.
Harriet, from Harriet the Spy
Guess who’s already written down some absolutely foul secrets about Max and Ahab? That’s right: the original Gossip Girl. Wait, shh – here she is with the tea now.
Emma, from Emma
And, obviously, a matchmaker. Emma doesn’t have the best record of playing cupid, but she absolutely adores a picnic, and she has these two great guys she wants you to meet. Twins, actually…
Thing 1 and Thing 2, from The Cat in the Hat
I mean look, you asked for drama, no?
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Image: Mica Murphy / Penguin