Saturday, 22 November 2014

I Need A Bit Of TLC

It is all over the newspapers today: we French women are quite competitive. I am no exception. OK, I will go straight to the point: I need to be reassured. Right here. Right now. Let me explain: Valerie Trierweiler, the scorned ex-First Lady of France, is on the cover of this Saturday's Times magazine.

I am gutted. It is all going downhill from here, right?

First of all, I think that I look better than her. Please tell me that I look better. Then, I think that it is totally unfair that she has such an advantage simply because she slept with the French president. Because I never have. And I never will. We have an expression in French 'S'il etait dans mon lit, j'irais dormir dans la baignoire', which translates as 'if he was in my bed, I would sleep I the bathtub'. That's exactly how I feel about Mr Hollande. I simply don't understand what women see in him.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Turning 42

Me, 42. Picture by Alejandra Moral & make-up/hair by Anastasia Parquet

As much as I try to deny it, I am turning 42 by the end of the year. Sigh. The thing is, I feel 15 in my head. And I have never felt better. But the sad reality is that, just like everybody else, I am not getting any younger. My energy levels are not the same: after a  couple of weeks spent caring for the whole family and the business while hubby is away, I am knackered. The good news is that I look less like a monkey because of Jasmin, the lovely lady who threaded my growing moustache and shaped my thick eyebrows. But the bags under my eyes seem to be here to stay, and it doesn’t feel good. And who said acne is just for teenagers? I seem to have started a competition with my older daughter on that one –she is actually better than me at covering the pimples with foundation. Damn it-. To make matters even worse, I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted without putting on weight. Well, not any more. And the last time I had a haircut, we removed 25 grey hairs. Against only two not so long ago. Life is cruel. And it keeps getting worse. Seriously, why?

Friday, 14 November 2014

What Makes You Happy?

First Mince Pie of the year...Yummy!

It might have something to do with age, but I find that small things make me incredibly happy. It can be anything, really: a smile, a nice message from a friend, the first mince pie of the year, a beautiful dress (it must be my French side) or a run along the Serpentine (well, not today obviously, because it is pouring again). But here it is: nowadays I seem to be easier to please.
Just yesterday, I was asked  whether I was training for a marathon (I am so not, I just jog to stay in reasonable shape). The question simply made my day. It made me feel like a pro.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day. All over the world, we recall the end of the hostilities of World War I and subsequent conflicts. WW1 started exactly 100 years ago. In London, poppies are everywhere to commemorate soldiers who have died in war. I used to wonder why poppies were used in such a way, because in France there are no poppies for Remembrance Day. I was explained that it was because of a poem, "In Flanders Fields", by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John Mc Crae. Apparently, poppies were the first flowers to grow near the soldiers graves, in Flanders. Well, I will never see poppies the same way again, that's for sure.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I Am In Love

The Dress I Bought...

Maybe it has something to do with being French. Maybe it has something to do with being me. But here it is: I am always in love. Always. For the record, I am not talking about romantic love here: as most of you know, I have been happily married for, like, a century,   and contrary to all the cliches on the French keeping one man (and a couple of children) happy more than fills up my days. That said, I can totally fall in love with a nice smile, a child, a relative I haven't seen for ages, a British painter or a long-lost friend. I can also fall in love with something: it can be a witty word, a book, a place, a necklace or even an app. So here it is: right now I am madly in love with a dress I saw on a catalogue, and yes it is vain but I can't get it out of my head. Argh....

Monday, 3 November 2014

Wildcat Strike In Marseille: My Journey Back To London

Marseille, Old harbour

My journey back to London was more eventful than initially thought. I had to catch a plane from Marseille airport, which is quite far from my small village on the Mediterranean. The traffic was of course terrible, but, me being me, I was more than two hours in advance anyway.
Once arrived at the airport, we sat down to grab a bite and started eating. I remember thinking that the airport looked empty compared to Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
Then, suddenly, when we were almost finished, we were given a paper saying that the staff at the restaurant was not happy with their salaries. My daughter asked me what the paper was about, and I tried to explain it to her.
A few minutes later, we head loud whistles and people tooting. A group has entered the airport: it was the staff of the restaurant, and they were starting a strike. There and then, before our very eyes.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

My Friend The Maneater


am spending a few days back home, in France, and taking this as an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. The thing is, one of my good friends happens to be a maneater. She is bright, beautiful and absolutely charming. And of course she happens to be irresistible. She is French (I have yet to meet a British maneater). I love her to bits, but it dawned on me that I would never, ever, introduce her to my male friends (am I over-protective?), let alone my husband.

Does it make me a bad person or just someone who mitigates risks? I hope it's the latter.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Growing Older, French Style

Me, French, 40-something 

Last week was all about growing older gracefully - or not so gracefully, in some cases. You can't have missed the articles on Renee Zellweger: she was trashed in the press for not looking her age (45). What a load of rubbish! I personally thought that she looked lovely, and I didn't notice any drastic changes to her face. Speculation is rife as to the type of cosmetic procedures that she might have had.

Seriously, can we give her a break? Not to mention that I loved her dress, and she had a great body. What is wrong with people? Why can't they just, well, be nice?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

10 Things Not To Say To A French Expat In London

I learned the hard way that despite my brand new passport I will never be truly British. That said, the worst comments I get usually come from friends and family back in France. And to make matters even worse, I keep hearing them again and again. Frankly, it is becoming a bit tiring. Here they are...
1. 'Now you are a tax exile!' Well, here is a newsflash: I have to pay taxes in London too...and as I am renting out my flat in France, I still have to pay taxes there. Double the red tape for me. Not very efficient for a tax exile, right?
2. 'Don't you know any cheap hotels in London?' Nothing is cheap in London. Don't come here for cheap holidays. A single zone 1 tube ticket costs £4.70.  If you find a deal that's too good to me true, well, it probably is. £20 won't get you a night in Central London. This much I know.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Best French Kisses...In French Literature

It is a well-known fact that, in London, everything sounds sexier in French. You get menus in French in most restaurants (most of them with awful spelling mistakes, I have to say). And just think of a French kiss if you are not convinced. Between you and me, I really don't understand why we French have such a reputation. I can only speculate. So here is my latest theory: maybe it is all because, in my view, the best descriptions of kisses can be found in French books. Because, let's face it, nobody describes a kiss (French or not) better than the French. As a geeky teenager completely lost in a sentimental desert, I used to devour every book to get some information as to how a kiss should feel. French authors were my confidants, they taught me everything. I remember reading such descriptions for days on end. It was the sort of stuff that was making my teenage self incredibly happy. 

The first description that I found was in Candide, written by Voltaire. Candide is a child of "the most unaffected simplicity", whose face is "the index of his mind". Candide is in love with Cunegund (whom I never really warmed up to, she is quite pedantic), and he kisses her at the end of the first chapter. Here it is:
Cunégonde laissa tomber son mouchoir, Candide le ramassa, elle lui prit innocemment la main, le jeune homme baisa innocemment la main de la jeune demoiselle avec une vivacité, une sensibilité, une grâce toute particulière ; leurs bouches se rencontrèrent, leurs yeux s'enflammèrent, leurs genoux tremblèrent, leurs mains s'égarèrent.

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 - 

 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'.