Killing time. That’s what Atkinson uses a picnic for in Started Early, Took my Dog for a Walk. But in the TV series Case Histories is cut and replaced with an afternoon snack in a cafe.

Importantly, what else is cut is a typical example of Atkinson’s method of balancing positives and negatives. Most of the time the balance shifts to the negative. I suppose that she can’t help it, and the picnic in Started Early, Took my Dog for a Walk meets expectation when Tracy Waterhouse, a retired sixty-five-year-old police detective,  inexplicably abducts Courtney, a child of five. Unsure about entertaining the child, Waterhouse is looking for to kill time. “How about a picnic?” she asks.

The offer works. They sit on the grass eating  store-bought food: tuna rolls, orange and apple juice, crisps, and a Cadbury’s chocolate bar and a bag of carrot sticks that in Waterhouse’s mind “neutralized” the other junk. While Courtney eats, Waterhouse thinks about her family childhood picnics with distaste. Visualizing peeling the shells hardboiled eggs until they revealed “solid greyish white flesh, which her brother would pop into his mouth whole.  It’s this negative image that lasts.

Featured Image: Tracy Waterhouse (Victoria Wood) buys snacks.

See: Kate Atkinson. Started Early, Took my Dog for a Walk. London: Doubleday, 2010; Kenneth Glenaan. “Started Early, Took My Dog,” Season 2, Episode 1, of Case Histories (2013). Screenplay by Peter Harness based on Kate Atkinson’s novel (2010)