In London (or at least where I happen to live!), going to a secondary school is a selective process and only the best get their first choice of school. If your child is bright, you will inevitably try to get him (or her) into a grammar school or a selective school. This is called the 11+. Beware: the selection is ruthless and my older daughter had to deal with a lot of pressure. All of this is already well documented, and all of it is true ( the reality is in fact much, much worse). Having being educated in the French system, I am kind of used to this. That said, I wasn’t anticipating such a selective process at such a young age (more than 1200 girls applied, and app. 100 got in). And this year, I have to do it all over again, with my younger one this time. It just never stops. But fear not: here are my top 10 tips to make this tricky phase that little bit easier.
For some reason, this weekend’s first round of local elections in France didn’t really make the headlines on this side of the Channel. Me being me, I tried to understand the results, and avidly read all French mainstream newspapers. The funny thing was that, for once, everybody was happy.
Is my home country in denial?
The socialists, who happen to be in office, thought that it wasn’t as bad as anticipated (they had c. 21.5% of votes nationwide). The right was extremely pleased with its 29% of votes, and said that France was seeking change. The far-right National Front managed to get 25% of votes and declared that they were the first political party in France. This is because traditional parties tend to be coalitions. That said, last Sunday was only the first round, and we should get a clearer picture of where France is heading this Sunday for the second round. Let’s not kid ourselves here: it clearly doesn’t look good.
That said, all was well for everybody. No, really.
For those of you who have hibernated a bit too long, GSOH stands for ‘Good Sense Of Humour’. Virtually very ad, every on-line profile, mentions ‘GSOH’. It drives me mad, because I believe that sense of humour is a mine field. After all, as Theodore Zeldin said:
“I believe that nothing separates people more than their sense of humour”
I am pretty sure that we have all been in similar situations: you are on date with a reasonably good-looking bloke, and then he feels comfortable enough to crack a joke. Except that you don’t find it funny at all. For instance, I don’t get Monty Python jokes. This is because, you see, I was brought up in France. When a guy starts quoting Monty Python and laughing off loud, I feel like yawning. I don’t get it, and even if I am trying, I really don’t find it funny at all. Seriously, what’s so hilarious in mimicking the sound of a horse’s gallop? To be honest with you, I find it incredibly boring. Some guys are also still indulging in jokes about blondes. Frankly, everybody knows that such jokes have long passed their sell-by dates. In short, we all have a slightly different sense of humour. And to make matters even worse, some of it might come with your nationality, your gender or your education. Here are a few examples to better illustrate my point:
I had an unusual weekend. You see, I needed a break but couldn’t travel (because of children, work, responsibilities and all this. I know, all very boring, right?). I shouldn’t have worried. After all, this is London. What to do? Deborah of Shared-City had the perfect solution for me. I spend most of my Sunday with the Norwegian and the Finnish communities. Without living London. Yep, you read this right.
Let me explain: we met at 10.30 am at Rotherhithe station. I didn’t know it, but Rotherhithe has a long history as a port. This is because, after the London fire in 1666, timber was exported from the Nordic countries to rebuild the city. As a result, there is a Norwegian church, as well as a Finnish one, near Rotherhithe. They are not on their original sites, obviously, but have remained there. I must shamefully admit that despite having lived in London for more than a decade, this is a side of London that I didn’t even know existed. And to make matters even worse, I shop at Decathlon in Canada Water regularly, which is literally a five minutes walk from where I was yesterday. So much for thinking that I was a Londoner.
I woke up all excited: today is the day of the total solar eclipse. My excitement was short-lived. The sky in London is hopelessly grey and you can’t see the sun anyway. I wonder whether the solar eclipse will make any difference whatsoever. It is probably one of these things: at the end of the day, the pictures that you see on TVs are great but normal people weren’t able to see a thing. Maybe the sky will just be a different shade of grey (no pun intended!)…Maybe not. To be honest with you, I can’t see any difference with a regular day. There it is.
I was recently nominated by Janine of Reflection Of A Redhead for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. I normally don’t pass on awards because I have become a grumpy old lady, but Janine isn’t any blogger: she is one of my very first readers and despite having never ‘met’ in person, I feel like I know her.
The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award is a bloggers-nominated award aimed at helping you and other bloggers to get to know me better, and for me and you to get to know other bloggers via the answering of some fun, silly or probing questions!
It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts, so let’s get started with the questions Janine provided:
I have often wondered how couples get together this side of the Channel. After a friend’s dates with a British guy went terribly wrong (read the story here), I started observing my friends and colleagues to understand how things were working, and quickly came to the conclusion that copious amounts of booze were often involved. To cut a long story short, I think that, over here, the art of seduction involves 90% of booze and 10% of words. The said words usually are ‘should we share a cab?’ If the approach is successful, that is. Obviously.
How unsexy. You see, we French are all about words. I believe that the French art of seduction consists of 90% of words and maybe 10% of wine (And in my view, champagne is even better. But that’s just me, I suppose). The booze’s only purpose is to enhance the whole experience.
It was mentioned in passing by some newspapers, but for some reasons it didn’t make the headlines. So here it is: you may remember that, in 2012, France decided that even non-residents who were renting out their flat or holiday house in France had to pay French social contributions on their rental revenues (we call it CSG/CRDS). This added 15,5% of taxes for hundreds of thousands of owners who happened not to live in France (and believe me, this can happen to the best of us!). Just like that. And as it was decided end of 2012, of course it was applied retroactively to all rental revenues in 2012. Of course it was.
We happen to own a studio flat in Paris. We decided to rent it out when we moved to London, and as a result, in 2012, our French tax liability almost doubled overnight (from 20% to 35.5%). Obviously I think that it is unfair to levy such a tax because, as a non-resident, I am already paying for National Insurance, Pension and the rest of it in the UK. Not to mention that, in France, we are paying for all the infrastructure through the local taxes. The new tax came on top of everything else. This is, to me, the perfect example of what a populist decision is: as most owners don’t vote in France, they are an easy target. Let’s make them pay more, nobody will complain! Populism at its best. Utterly disgusting.
I read something that still puzzles me. Here it is: “Compared with the women of France, the average American woman is still in the kindergarten.” It was written by the hugely talented Edith Wharton. I wonder what she meant. Personally, I think that it says more about her than about us French women; after all, she loved it so much in France that she ended up living there. She understood the culture and the social rules, and after a while adopted them wholeheartedly. That said, it made me wonder whether we French women really have our own ways. Seriously, what’s so special about us? I scratched my head, and came up with a few traits that might (only might) explain such a statement. That said, feel free to add to the list. Simply put, I don’t fully understand what is so special about us. After all, I am still learning (aren’t we all?).