Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bread & Yogurts, London Style

Usually, when I am in France, friends and family taunt me because they assume I can't find decent bread in London. Well, they couldn't be more wrong. I have better bread than when I was living in Paris. There is a lovely French boulangerie just around the corner. The owner happens to be from Bosnia, and learned to become a baker while working for the French army in Sarajevo. It is a very London story, isn't it? As a result, I have fresh bread, croissants and pains au chocolat every morning, and the short walk to get my morning pastries is always a pleasure, even when it is pouring. I just love it. Let's face it, it is even better than France. There it is. I said it.

In fact, in a funny way, I miss French yogurts in London. This is what the yogurt department looks like in my local supermarket, and even after more than 10 years over here it puzzles me.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Let's Not Talk About Sex, We Are British

image by stockarch - stockarch.com 

 The relationship between sex and the Brits never ceases to amaze me. It is all or nothing: they don't talk about it, and suddenly you can't stop them. This week, I witnessed such a behaviour again, in an odd and slightly creepy way. Let me explain: at 14 (almost 15, actually) my teenage daughter is getting more independent by the day. Seeing her starting to spread her wings is a pleasure, apart from the occasional panic attacks when she arrives home later than expected. It is hard to let go, but it is part of being a mum, I suppose. A few months back, despite being in an all-girls school, she told me that she had a boyfriend. He is the same age, and from a similar school. They seem to enjoy each other's company: they keep texting and snap chatting all the time, they meet up at the tube station, and once or twice a month they see each other with friends somewhere in London for a couple of hours.

The other day, she was with him and other classmates on the Tube. His arm was on her shoulder, and one of her teachers saw her. The following day, her form tutor asked to have a quiet word with her. She explained to my daughter that she had been seen 'fraternising' with a boy, and that she needed to be careful 'because boys might want other things'.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi



On the face of it, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to go for a pre-work run in Hyde Park. Everything was going extremely well, as it usually does after ten minutes or so of running (for some reason the first ten minutes are always excruciating, and then suddenly it is all fine), when it started pouring. I was drenched. And I must admit that I didn't like it. Everybody seemed undeterred, except for me. I am not that British yet, after all. Instead of running my usual two laps, I stopped at one, and waited for the rain to stop. It didn't. I ended up taking a phone call from a French client under a tree. That's when it happened: two guys, apparently work colleagues, passed by, heard me and started looking at me as if they had never seen anything like it before. And then, one of them said:
"- French women have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, don't you think?"
I couldn't believe it: I was wearing black leggings and the first sport T-shirt that I could grab this morning, and they thought that I had a certain 'je-ne-sais-quoi-! Why? I was sweating and dripping at the same time. Not to mention my lovely ponytail. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

French Bashing


Why is French bashing so popular? Seriously, it is starting to get a bit annoying. Not to mention the fact that, after more than a decade, I have heard it all before. Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about some constructive criticism here, and I am the first one to admit that I am happier in London than in France, mainly because I find people more pragmatic. But seriously, what is it with the violent diatribes against the French? Things reached a new low last week with Andy Street's speech (you can read about it here). Basically he said that France was finished, and that we French were lazy lumps (that was implied, actually). He later claimed that his comments were tongue-in-cheek, and ended up apologising unreservedly. However, it was too late, the whole incident had already created quite a stir, and the French told him to go back home to have a fish and chips.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Top 10 Tell-Tale Signs I've Gone Native In The UK

Where Do I Go From here?

Where do I belong? I don't really know. I would like to be able to say that I am a 'citizen of the world', but the sad reality is that I am still very French, and becoming more British by the day. How can I tell? Well, little by little, I started to notice some changes in me. It came gradually, and I didn't see it at first. But here it is: I am going native. And I have identified the main signs of going native. Please reassure me and tell me I am not the only one. I am being brutally honest here...
1. I keep criticising the tabloid press but can't help having a look at the Dailymail online every day. Especially during my lunch. I know. But, you see, I am telling it as it is;

Monday, 29 September 2014

Do French Women Just Accept That Their Husbands Will Have Mistresses?

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso

I have heard this one so many times over the last ten years that it is starting to wear me off. After so long, I thought that people would actually start to get to know me, and also to understand my values. But nope, it hasn't happened just yet, and it probably never will because of all the cliches on the French this side of the Channel. So let me make it crystal-clear for you: I don't know a single French woman who would accept that her husband has a mistress without being upset. None. Yep, you read that well.

If you don't believe me, just have a look at what Valerie Trierweiler, the ex-French First Lady, has written about how being cheated on made her feel. Suffice to say, she didn't enjoy it. Quite the opposite, in fact. She wanted to end it all. What happened to the so-called 'Gallic shrug' in case of an infidelity? Well, it didn't exist in the first place. And to make matters even more dramatic, Valerie Trierweiler took her revenge in a very public manner by writing a best seller. It clearly hurt the President, who was already very unpopular, and made her a fortune along the way. Never underestimate a scorned woman, I say.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

High Functioning Maybe, But With Serious Mental Issues

Venice: Lovely Facades, But What About Foundations?

London is the city of all superlatives. I recently read that London has overtaken London as the world’s most expensive city.

I am not surprised. That said, I think the London also holds the sad record of high functioning people with hidden mental issues. I attended a party over the weekend. I thought that it would be lovely to catch up with friends and acquaintances. The food was indeed amazing. They served, amongst other things, delicious little pizzas with mozzarella melting on top of them. Who can resist pizzas? I certainly can’t. Neither could my teenage daughter, actually.

So, us being us, we tried the mini pizzas and ended up having quite a few. They were really tasty. Then, it dawned on me that we were the only one eating them. In fact, apart from another woman who had had a couple of grilled prawns, nobody except us had touched the gorgeous food. How weird! I naively thought that pizza was the teenage food by excellence, and there were lots of teenagers. Well, I was clearly wrong. What was going on?

Monday, 22 September 2014

How To Date A French Man

Dating Isn't Aways Plain Sailing (Port Moresby)


It happened again over the weekend. I caught up with a friend of mine. She explained to me that she had just met this French guy, and that she really liked him. And then, she asked me the dreaded question:
"- So, tell me, what should I do? Do you have any advice as to how to date a Frenchman?"
I started to panic. The thing is, I have not played the dating game for a very long time. I tried to mumble something about just being yourself, but I don't think that it made the cut. In short, she left without an intelligible answer. I thought about her question for a long time, and started remembering that, because of my engineering studies and my various technical jobs, I used to be surrounded by men. More often than not, I used to be the only woman in a meeting/project/office...After all, she was probably right to ask the question, because I had to learn how to read guys. It was a survival matter, really. So here is what I should have told her. Better late than never, right? Here we go...

1. There are no rules. 
Unlike in the US, there is no specific plan as to what you need to do at the first, second or third date. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. You are in control. Obviously, he often will want to go fast, but it is up to you to slow him down, if you so wish. Now you are warned. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

My French School In London Is Oversubscribed


Over dinner, the other day, I was told that a French primary school that had opened recently in Ealing (West London) was already oversubscribed. Because apparently, all French schools are. I couldn't believe it. Obviously, because I was French (or was it because of my French accent? I will never know), my interlocutor had assumed that I was sending my children to a French school. The thing is, I was not. I was brought up in the French system, and we sent our older one to a British nursery, because the French Lycée was oversubscribed (unless you had friends in high places, that was, but we didn't. I am told that, following a certain Ofsted report, the transparency of the admission process has greatly improved). I must admit that I was extremely disappointed at first, but as she was clearly thriving, we ended up keeping her in the British system, where she so clearly belonged. We didn't hesitate for our younger daughter: she went straight to a British nursery. To us, it was all about having happier children.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Is Romance Wasted On The French?

Eugene Delacroix, La liberte guidant le peuple


From the Sunday newspapers, it certainly looks like the French don't do romance any more. They have replaced it by vaudeville. When did it all happen? How come I didn't see it coming? I don't know. Seriously, why do French politicians put their love life on display like it is some sort of show? In case you started hibernating a few of months before winter is actually supposed to start, here is a recap of last week's French affairs. Bear with me, it is quite complicated:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Last Night The Gin Saved My Life

It wasn't all for me, I promise...

I am shattered. If it was down to me, I would go straight back on holidays right now. Today, for instance, my daughter was finishing school at 2.30 pm. How am I supposed to get anything done? I couldn't help thinking that if you arrive late for school, you might bump into those who leave early. How do women work in this country? But miracles do happen: yesterday, I was invited by the lovely Charlotte of @LDNWalks for a secret pub tour. This was exactly what I needed: I met fellow bloggers, including my old friend Flora @AccidentalLDNr (old because we have known each other for more than two years, which is a long time in the blogging world. She is obviously very young and also very bright). I met other talented bloggers (and they were so young. Sigh), namely: @SquibbVicious @MissKatyEnglish  @whoismilly  and found an unexpected ally in gin. Who would have thought? After all, it is only berries, right? And as I am not a huge fan of beer, the girls made me discover gin. What a fantastic medicine ! And boy I loved it so much that I couldn't be stopped...My head hurts today. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Quid Pro Quo


I used to love quid pro quos. When reading a Moliere's comedy, I always found quid pro quos hilarious. That said, are quid pro quos that funny when they happen to you? Well, I am not so sure.  Let me explain: a few days ago, I went to this party to catch up with friends and ex-colleagues. I went on my own because my husband was travelling for his job, and I suspect that some of my acquaintances believe that he is a product of my imagination. To be fair, my shyness probably compounds this perception: believe it or not, I happen to be quite reserved. Anyway, here I was, trying as best as I could to mingle, and also trying to get to know some new faces.
I ended up next to this guy, who was quite tall, with pale skin and freckles. In short, as much as I dislike cliches, I have to say that he looked very British. I introduced myself "Hi, I'm Muriel." , and initiated some small talks about the usual topics: the weather, the end of the summer hols...
After a couple of minutes I must admit that I was expecting him to answer back with more that one word and maybe, just maybe, find some other topics of conversations. Well, he did, but, it wasn't what I expected at all.
"You know," he said, looking dead serious "I am married"