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  • "Oh, I have a surprise for you" my husband said five minutes after he arrived home from his trip to Scotland.

    He opened his holdall and pulled out two plastic bags.

    "Look at this!" he said.

    In one bag there was home-grown rhubarb. It was dark green and burgundy.

    In the other was a filetted fish in a vacuum sealed plastic bag. I should have taken a picture because the colour was beautiful and had the authenticity of fish that has not been farmed in a loch with a million others.

    This was a very subjective definition of surprise, I surmised. Champagne would have been a surprise too. So would jewellery or perfume. But this fish and these fruits did also take me by surprise in a different way.

    Pointing at the fish he said, "Archie caught it himself."

    I imagined the salmon - for so I thought it was - jumping up river in rapids cold clear Scottish. Then I imagined a smoking house next to their home on Loch Rannoch. I had been to Loch Rannoch. A lake so long it felt like looking out at the sea. Smooth icy silk water and air the smelt of cold and heather.

    But actually the fish was a trout, and it had been caught on the Liss in Hampshire. Then driven to Scotland to be smoked and frozen before it was brought back to our house in London on the overnight train.

    This was a well-travelled fish.

    Eating it required the auspices of the sharpest knife in our house so we could cut it thinly enough to savour.

    There was some debate over the value of adding lemon and pepper to such an authentic fish as this.

    Those in favour of the adulteration won and the fish was delicious.

    It had come a long way to please us on that one day.
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