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Gooseberry Fool

New potatoes, Jersey Royals, steamed in their pale skins. Runner beans wet with butter, the glory of the British summer. Never a stringy bean, not Chantal. Not an expert cook, having only half a dozen main dishes and a couple of puddings to her name, every year she pulled out the stops with simple food suited to warm weather. She had learned to make gooseberry fool and rhubarb meringue for this annual lunch, having felt inadequate serving shop-bought desserts. Fresh, moist and piquant, gooseberries and rhubarb worked their seasonal magic, much as the runner beans did. Gooseberries this time.

Today Chantal was roasting a ham with parsley sauce, more than enough for two. Cut and come again, she thought. Randy could carve.

‘To past mistakes,’ Randy always said over the wine, this year a promised Jurançon from his own vineyard.

‘Mine especially,’ she would say, having in mind that June morning, the grubby studio, a so-called ‘director’ with a camera and Randy dressed as – for heaven’s sake – a policeman in shorts.

‘Oh, officer,’ she had to say, ‘what a truncheon,’ before having her clothes torn off, and undergoing humiliating forms of restraint and chastisement. The ‘director’ shot from the angles he wanted, as close as he wanted, for as long as he wanted. It was not sex as Chantal knew it, and afterwards she wept.

Randy was moved by her distress. He took her for a coffee, and they hit it off over a shared fondness for Virginia Woolf.

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