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Charlotte Visser Auteur

Je suis une écrivaine indépendante d'articles sur divers sujets. Plus récemment, j'ai contribué à "Life after Brexit", une série d'entretiens avec des expatriés extraordinaires vivant en France, pour le magazine French Entrée. J'écris aussi pour The Connexion.

I am a freelance writer of articles on a variety of subjects. I contributed to a series of articles "Life after Brexit" for French Entrée magazine, documenting the effects of Brexit and COVID-19 on the lives of British expats in France. I also write for The Connexion.

Short story: A very simple love story

I have been putting on weight this last year and now I don’t enjoy getting dressed, feeling waistbands dig into the fat around my middle. My breasts are spilling over my bra. I just eat anything I can get my hands on: tins of shortbread, rolls of chocolate digestives followed by a huge plate of pasta. At Christmas, I totally let rip. After all, what’s Christmas for?

What loser invented New Year’s resolutions, I’ll never know. But I do know that he ought to be put out of his misery. Of course, I have to diet. We’re talking stones, not pounds and pebbles. My target weight has never slipped further away from me. Skip breakfast for starters and try to fill up on an extra cup of tea. Discipline is what I need. I need discipline to make something of my life, which stretches out aimlessly before me in the damp fog of January 4th. I’m wearing my fat clothes.

At the supermarket, I am not the only person orbiting the tower of discounted Christmas chocolate, a merry edifice of greens, reds, purples and sparkling gold. The other is a man pushing a trolley which is empty but for a packet of fags. The tiny wheels rattle on the tiles in decreasing circles. He doesn’t look like a tramp, but not much better, with his blue hat of knitted nylon and shapeless clothes. He looks a lot like me. Only I have a basket. There isn’t much I want. I’m on a diet.

‘Will it last till next Christmas, do you think, all this chocolate?’

‘Let’s check the expiry date,’ I suggest. ‘This one says June 26, this one is only April 18. I’m sure they do it on purpose, so you have to buy all new when Christmas comes around again.’

‘Fucking expiry dates,’ he mutters, ‘bloody giant rip-off. Them chocolates don’t go off. They keep for years, until they go a bit mildewy-like.’ He takes a box of special edition Mint Delights with orange liqueur and tucks it swiftly under his coat.

In the fresh fruit and vegetable section, a new display has been set up and there’s a heavily made-up lady handing out orange cubes on cocktail sticks. The colour is very intense. ‘Spicy butternut,’ she exclaims, ‘naturally delicious without added sugar. Would you like to try one?’

It’s not the butternut she is trying to sell, but a book called Body Rescue, full of pictures and recipes for a glossy lifestyle. She tries to win me over with talk of insulin-resistance and fatty liver disease. ‘Go pick on someone your own size, bitch,’ I tell her.

‘Bloody wanker.’ The shoplifter pulls up behind me, his trolley still empty, and wafts into the electronics aisle. I see him again at the check-out, looking bloated. ‘Already paid for, love,’ he tells the girl, clumsily waving the packet of cigarettes with receipt in front of her. Outside, he needs my help to push his trolley into the line of trolleys taking shelter in the car park. I retrieve his grubby plastic coin.

‘Bargain of the century,’ he laughs. His teeth are surprisingly good. Perhaps they are not real. ‘Where to next?’ he grins. They look expensive!

I point along the line of sapling trees in the littered car park, across the road with the vicious speed humps and the bobbing cars, in the direction of the Apple Blossom Estate, where once stood rows of apple trees and now rows of low-budget houses in brick and white.

‘Mind if I walk with ya?’

Once the orange gable and neon letters of the supermarket have vanished from sight, he eyes around him suspiciously and empties his stolen merchandise onto a park bench. Batteries, ink-cartridges, a bottle of designer ale from a micro-brewery and a butternut.

‘Ah, there’s your man-boob,’ I say, ‘I thought you were a bit lop-sided.’

‘Charming! Did you not try them orange cubes? They were really good, so I asked the old bird what makes them spicy. Mild curry, she said, so I got that as well.’ He produces a small bottle from an inside pocket. His eyes sparkle with delight and his grin is somehow very appealing.

‘Blimey, a good haul,’ I congratulate him. We sit down.

‘What did you get then, ducky?’

‘I am on a bloody diet, aren’t I? I only got this giant bra.’ I allow him a peek down my shirt where two layers of bra support my tits. ‘I cut off all the labels and stuffed them into Tesco’s finest loo-brush holder, just to be on the safe side.’

‘Red lace. Sexy! How do you manage that then, you must be a bloody contortionist. Want a Mint Delight, luv?’ His dirty fingers tear at the delicate strand of gold that undoes the wrapper. A dog crouches on the grass and delivers a brightly coloured turd.

‘What’s this then?’ His nails are clogging with a dull silver as he scratches away at a little card. ‘Blimmin’eck,’ he exclaims. His eyes are wide with wonder and actually rather a beautiful green, the colour of country tweed. I haven’t noticed this before. ‘I reckon I’ve won summat’.

‘You lucky bastard.’

‘I have won dinner for two at the restaurant of my choice subject to conditions set out on the back of this card, which are too effing tiny to read. Let’s give ’m a call. Do you have your phone on ya?’

I’m annoyed at this request. Why doesn’t he have his own phone? Surely, he’s capable of getting one?

‘Is it one of them expensive numbers? Could be a con, you know.’

‘Nah, don’t think so.’

‘Does it start with 08 or 03?’

‘Come on, sunshine. What does it matter? One bloody phone call.’

I hand him my phone and he takes off his beanie hat. The beautiful head of curls, half brown, half grey, would be very recognisable on CCTV. After several loops of soothing music, he says ‘Hello Mint Delight? Oh good morning, this is Placido, Placido Smith. Yes, that’s right. My mother loved opera.’

They’ll never believe you, you twat!

‘Listen, it appears that I have won a prize on one of your scratch cards.’ He painstakingly recites the numbers on the card. He sounds like the Queen. ‘That’s correct. No, in fact we didn’t purchase the box of mint crisps, we found it on a park bench. Must be our lucky day!’

 Oh, you are good, my friend.

‘Listen, I would like to take my girlfriend’ –wink- ‘to the The Albatross, at Broadsands-on-Sea at the earliest opportunity…could you see to that?... oh, very good, thank you.’

‘What the fuck.’

‘You will you come with me, won’t ya? he asks. ‘Only you’ll have to stop swearin’ all the time, luv.’

His name is not Placido. It is Maxi and he spells it just like that.

In the run up to our dinner, I acquire the following by dishonest means; an evening dress, a pair of black stockings and the red pants to match my bra. And I am very taken with the Shiseido anti-allergenic gift set. Some of the cheaper brands make my eyes sting. I have always wanted my own hair straightener. I am going for glamour.

My jogging pants finally get around to jogging. I spend forty minutes in the fresh fruit and vegetable aisle, getting the gist of Body Rescue, and lose thirteen pounds by eating butternut and curly kale. Discover garlic. Makes everything better. I spend a lot of time with Maxi.

The Albatross is every girl’s dream. It’s squeaky posh and they have an enormous log fire in the bar. My eyeballs roast in their sockets as I sit sipping my champagne. Maxi looks ravishing in pale jeans and polo shirt, as if he has spent the day out at sea on his yacht. At our table in the dining room, he pulls out a chair for me.

‘Like fucking Downton Abbey,’ I mouth.

Mint Delight has sent a publicity person to take photos. ‘Can I take some details for the press release? May I have your name, miss?’

‘Listen,’ I say proudly, ‘you may call me Prunella.’

She clicks away, arranging and rearranging Placido and Prunella, Prunella and Placido, cheek to cheek, smiling at the camera, gazing into each other’s eyes over the silver salt and pepper shakers, fondling their amuses bouches of fluffy crab mousse. The waiter hovers, not because he suspects me of theft, but because he wants to serve me. I feel like a film star on the red carpet. We eat food I never knew existed. Scallops slotted with a paper-thin slice of truffle. Poached salmon delicate and fragrant with dill and spring onions, the sauce fresh and creamy with a perfect tang of wholegrain mustard. It is all so healthy that I can feel the weight dropping off me. And the wines! We have a different one with each course, brought by a very serious waiter. Maxi is a class act. He seems to be able to tell what wine he is tasting from the shape of the bottle.

‘Ah marvellous, this must have been grown on the sunny side of the hill,’ he nods as he swirls his glass under his nose.

What a strange custom it is to have cheese and crackers after all that! I ask the waiter for a pen and carefully copy the fancy names from the menu onto a paper handkerchief. I don’t want to see my mobile phone ever again. I want to live here. In style.

In the loo, I stuff my bag with little soaps in beautiful wrappers, enough hand cream to last the year and two soft rolled handtowels. Maxi is looking very shifty on my return. What has he been up to? The salt and pepper shakers are still on the table. The shiny ice bucket is in position on the trolley. The moment my silky arse makes contact with my seat, Maxi is down on one knee clasping a little box. ‘Pru, Nelly, my love, will you marry me?’ Inside is a diamond ring, which, I have to say, looks like the real deal. Where did he get that? Is that platinum? A rush of warmth and admiration wells up in me,

‘Yes, I will.’

There’s applause from the other tables and the waiter fetches another bottle of champagne. The dessert arrives decorated with flowers of violets and verbena, all edible. My body is safe. After coffee, the owner of the restaurant brings us a hamper of goodies arranged on a bed of curly wood shavings. The tins and packets have names in a foreign language that I will google later, but for now I enjoy the promise of the cellophane and the ribbons.

‘Wow,’ I say as I switch on the fluorescent strip in my kitchen, ‘that was the best evening ever!’

Maxi places the hamper on the table. ‘It’s kinda boring though, when people give you stuff.’

My God, Maxi, are you for real or am I bloody dreamin?’

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