Whether his presence was intended to bully us or butter us up it will never be known but it was very clear he was in a remote enough part of the country to not have heard from his mates about the horrors of a .22 rifle.NOTHING quite kills the mood of a moment meant for two like the arrival of a third.
Especially the furry kind.
My dinner date for three happened quite by chance on the isolated shores of Lake Tarawera on Sunday night, when the rest of humanity had packed up their picnics and headed back to the real world.
With steam from the thermal activity on the lake's edge doing a dance with the golden glow of the setting sun reflected on the water, it was as near to heaven as you could get with your feet still firmly planted on planet Earth.
Arriving under sail at a small remote beach, we set up our camp for the night and cracked open a bottle of wine, enjoying the fact that we were absolutely and utterly alone.
Well, with the exception of being right in the heart of New Zealand native bush being enjoyed by 30 million possums ... the largest of which had decided to join us for dinner.
Although I have always had a grudging respect for creatures with sharp teeth and nails, I can't say I've ever been particularly scared of possums. One even set up a permanent home in the back garden when I was growing up and we became rather good pals, at a distance.
But no one had ever taught our Tarawera possum the importance of personal space.
As I went to bite into my sausage in the dying light, I saw something shuffle a little in my peripheral vision and realised with horror that a large brown possum was sitting beside me with a look of love in his eyes reserved exclusively for barbecued meat.
What he got instead was a faceful of wine as my fright propelled me and my glass several feet into the air.
Unfortunately for us he was less inclined to move and did little more than scuttle off to the relative safety of a rock ledge overlooking our picnic, all the better placed to launch himself on to it and our heads at any moment.
The message was clear: We were in his turf and he wanted us out. We readily complied.
Transferring the remains of our dinner to the cockpit, we carried on eating.
It soon appeared we had not made it clear enough that he wasn't invited. Before long, a fat woolly brown possum was sitting on his haunches on the edge of the beach by our boat, wanting aboard.
Whether his presence was intended to bully us or butter us up it will never be known but it was clear he was in a remote enough part of the country to not have heard from his mates about the horrors of a .22 rifle.
Since we didn't have one onboard and I'm a typical girl who feels dreadful about killing sweet-faced fluffy animals (even when they are destroying our native bush), we pushed the boat out further and went to great pains to decorate our shore lines in plastic bottles in the hope of keeping our unwanted visitor at bay.
It worked because in the morning the only trace of him was a complicated collection of possum prints in the sand beside our boat - evidence, perhaps, of an angry possum jumping up and down in frustration at being out-foxed. Or, more particularly, out-possumed.
As we left, I looked back to our camp, wondering if somewhere, hidden in the folds of the trees, were two sleepy but still beady eyes peering back, reflecting our diminishing sails and belonging to a fat brown possum who was feeling rather chuffed with his efforts at triumphing over the invaders.
Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist.