With the referendum tomorrow, and in my case the article in the Daily Mail (see here in case you have missed it: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3649689/What-French-women-REALLY-think-us.html) emotions seem to be running at an all-time high.
What is going on? Where has the legendary ‘stiff upper lip’ gone? Why has everybody taken up such entrenched positions?
Whatever the result of the referendum, I will still bring my children to school on Friday. I will continue to do my grocery shopping, and to go to work. Life will go on, one way or the other. Am I also allowed to say that it’s OK (and actually quite healthy) to disagree? In short, I think that it is time to put things into perspective, try a little kindness, and move on…
It happened again the other day. What am I talking about? I had another formal dinner, and I wanted to look my best. Why do I still care? Well, I don’t know. It’s mainly for me, I suppose: despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I still like to look nice. Maybe it’s my French side? And it was also for my husband. I didn’t want people to think that I was letting myself go. I didn’t want to become yet another invisible middle-aged woman. There was only one thing for it: preparation. So I had everything covered. Of course I did.
When you work, have kids, older parents and PTA meetings, the logistics can be daunting. It’s all about planing in advance to make it look effortlessly. The outfit was chosen 10 days before the event. As you know, I don’t buy any more, I rent (https://rentez-vous.com). It’s cheaper, much more fun, and I can change more often, which means that I never have to wear the same dress twice. I borrowed the shoes from a friend (Which was a huge leap of faith because I don’t walk in high heels for more than five minutes). Then, I planned all the eyebrow shaping, waxing, etc…Finally I had to have my hair and make-up done a few hours before the event (because as I have a scientific background, doing my own hair and make up isn’t my strongest point -can you hear the British understatement here?). A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.
In short, I’d like to tell you that it was all easy, but the truth is that it was anything but, and I kept running around like a headless chicken the whole day. Not to mention that I had to go to a school meeting fully made up (but with casual clothes, as I put on the dress at the last minute), which raised a few eyebrows, but hey, I felt I had no choice because the meeting was right before the dinner. Anyway, we got there in the end, and I was extremely pleased with the result. What do you think?
It has just happened again. I didn’t get a position I had applied for. I am feeling, once again, like a complete failure. That said, I must admit that Brits are very polite. At all times and in all circumstances. They will always try to make it easier for you by sugarcoating their responses instead of simply saying ‘No’ or ‘you are not in’. I thought that I should copy you the email I got to prove my point. Here we go:
” Dear Muriel [They like to personnalise things. I am pretty sure that they sent the same letter to everybody, right?]
Firstly, please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. We received a very large level of response and interest on this project and wanted to ensure that we considered all applications carefully. [Yeah right. It’s been 8 weeks. How were the hols? Did you get away for half-term? What a bunch of lazy lumps!]
It was bound to happen. So it did. What am I talking about? Well, both my passports (the French & the British) had to be renewed. Don’t ask. It was all about some silly visa problems. On the bright side, I was going to do everything at once, and be done for the next 5 years. Well, at least that was the theory…
There was no two ways about it: I had to start. Renewing a passport doesn’t come cheap. If you must know, it costs £72.50 for the British passport. But on the bright side, I could do everything online. So I did. And I sent all the supporting documents by tracked mail, just to be on the safe side. I had almost forgotten about the whole thing when someone rang the bell and delivered me my brand new British passport. The whole process had taken less than 10 days. I was delighted.
I got your attention, right? Good, that’s what I wanted. Today, I wanted to talk to you about periods. Yep, you read this right. Nowadays we talk about gender, equality, races, but let’s face it, we barely talk about periods. Why is such a simple fact of life so misunderstood? Why is it still such a taboo? If men had periods too, I am pretty sure that we would hear about it all the time! So why are we still so embarrassed? What is wrong with us?
I have lost count of the number of times I have been told “You are a bit cranky, you must have your period (wink wink!)’. The truth is that, most of the time, I don’t have my period. It is just me. If I were a man, my colleagues would say that I am firm, or that I know what I want. But no, I have to have my period, right? When confronted, my male colleagues always say that they think it is a thoughtful comment (yeah right…). Some things never change.
Some women are told that they can’t go anywhere near kitchen ustensiles when on their periods. Or that they shouldn’t use salt. Seriously? What’s next? That we can’t sneeze when we have our periods? I shouldn’t complain, because things have drastically improved. A quick research showed that, not so long ago, it was believed that period blood killed crops and rusted iron, that menstrual blood both cured and caused leprosy, and that burnt toad could cure your heavy flow (not very animal friendly, right?).
That said, in Europe, we are the lucky ones. Jessica Holland from the charity ActionAid summarises it pretty well here: “Around the world, many girls often face prejudice, shame and discrimination simply because they have their periods. These taboos can have a long-lasting impact on a girl’s life and her body, often impacting her ability to go to school and gain an education.” What does it mean? Well, simply put, some girls miss school every month simply because they have their periods. And no school means no education, leaving girls without any ways to escape from poverty.
A lot of people think they speak French, and sometimes they do (let’s be honest here: sometimes they think they do when in fact they don’t). That said, despite even when they speak good French, they don’t sound French. Why? Because they need to use the right interjections. But fear not: here is a little help…Use without moderation.
- How to say ‘Yummy!’ in French: ‘Miam Miam’…
- We don’t say ‘Phew’!, we say ‘Ouf !’.
- ‘Shhh’ doesn’t exist in French (it sounds like ‘chou’ in French, which means cauliflower. It won’t do the trick and everybody will think you are mad), instead we say ‘Chut’. Got it?
- ‘Ouch’ is ‘Aie’ in French
- Yerky or Yuck is Beurck in French (we love to say Beeeuuuuurk!)
- Achoo is Atchoum (What can I say? wWe are slightly more demonstrative in French)
- Alas is actually ‘Helas’ . You could almost get away with this one. Almost.
- If you are really polite, you can say ‘Drat’ of course. In French, it would be ‘Mince’. That said, let’s be realistic, nobody says it any more (especially if, like me, you come from Provence). We use a more colourful language nowadays.
- Come to think of it, I have read somewhere that people who swear are cleverer (see here, I didn’t dream it: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/people-who-swear-most-cleverer-7011464) So here it is: we don’t say Sh*t, we say M*rde. And for the f word, we use my all-time favourite P*tain. P*tain is used all the time where I come from. It is part of your survival kit. You’re surprised? ‘P*tain’ You’re angry? ‘P*tain’.
George Mikes, How To Be An Alien
“European men and women have sex lives, English men and women have hot water bottles”
I spend the first three or four years in London never hearing the word ‘sex’. I promise you. I even thought that, well, the British didn’t have sex, or simply never talked about it, except maybe when completely drunk at the pub.
It must be said that things have drastically changed in London over the last few years. The British now find it cool to shout about their sexual lives from the rooftops. To make matters even worse, now it’s all about having a ‘fluid sexuality’, and lots of new words have become extremely popular in a very short period of time. If, like me, you are a heterosexual woman who has been married for the best part of 20 years, well, you are an old fart. So boring.
Sometimes you have to take a stand. What do I mean? Well, you know, you have to make a decision. Let’s be honest here: I hate it. I love to procrastinate. Come to think of it, it must be my British side. Because let’s face it: there is a growing epidemic in Britain: indecision.
Nobody knows what to do anymore, there is simply too much choice. For instance: do we leave Europe or do we stay in? Do we take the bus or the Tube? Do we make the first move if we like a guy/a girl? And what’s for dinner anyway?
But I digress. I finally received the drafts of the book cover designed by the lovely Vanessa Mendozzi and absolutely loved them. It was amazing to see that she understood what I meant and, frankly, it was love at first sight with the covers. I can’t describe how good it feels to see that your dream is finally taking shape. It’s a bit surreal.
So here are the choices:
As you all know, a referendum is being held on Thursday, 23 June to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. I tend to steer away from political issues on this blog, but today I will make an exception. As some of you have already read, I have made my position abundantly clear on the national press (read the article here in case you have missed it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12173177/Im-French-but-Ive-lost-my-patience-with-the-EU.-Ill-be-voting-Leave.html)
It is an understatement to say that my position has surprised most of my friends and family, but hey, here we are. Once again, as much as I love the concept of Europe, I don’t think that it is working, and I am sick an tired of all the forms that I have to fill for my business in France (not to mention that it keeps changing). I sometimes wonder what would happen if I stopped doing it. I think that I would have fines to pay. Because that’s usually the way it goes, right?
Right. It all happened the other morning, when I was starting the school run. As you may know, in England there are roundabouts everywhere. They swear by roundabouts over here. Roundabouts are apparently the solution to all traffic problems, without any exception. Small junction? No problem, let’s put a small roundabout. Big junction? Let’s put a huge one, or even a double or a triple one. There is even a ‘magic roundabout’ in Swindon; it consists of five mini-roundabouts arranged around a sixth central. I kid you not. They are thinking of listing it, I am told. Something to do with epitomising British values such as spontaneous cooperation. I am joking of course (I told you, even we French sometimes do sarcasm).
But I digress. When I arrived at the small roundabout down the road, I made sure I was driving slowly, controlling the speed of my Chelsea tractor, when a black cab arrived full speed ahead, ignoring that I was actually already on the thing, turning right. He honked furiously, at 7am, and I felt that I had no choice but to stop and let him pass while he was calling me all sorts of names.