Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

I have already covered, at some length (apologies, but I am still traumatised!), what it takes to pass the 11+. Another important milestone, over here, is to attend the right primary school (the first year is called Reception, and that’s the year when your child is supposed to turn 5). You have all types of primary schools here, but each school has its own admission policy, and, quite frankly, it is a maze. There is also a big craze about going to the right primary school: this is because otherwise, apparently, your child will be condemned to a life of drug addiction and petty crimes.  Once again, preparation is key. You are warned (I wasn’t!).
Here are a few examples of what you are going to be asked:
        How far do you live from the school? If you are lucky enough to live in the catchment area of a good state school, competition will be fierce, and there are instances where, out of two families living in the same house (one on the top floors, another one in the basement flat), only one got in (the one living in the basement flat). Some cheat but beware: anti-terrorist laws were used to spy on families who had tried to give a false address. Not nice and a bit over the top…
        Some state schools are faith schools over here (this is hard to understand for my French mind as only private schools are religious in France, because the State doesn’t subsidise them –long story). If you want to apply, you will need all the required certificates (marriage, Christening/naming ceremony… ) and, also a Priest/Minister/Rabbi  letter explaining how active in your religious community you are (yes, a religious reference – hard to comprehend for my French mind as religion is a private matter and you don’t advertise it). According to a good friend of mine who desperately wanted to avoid school fees “if you don’t have it, fake it – but start a good year in advance”. I will not comment on this advice. Let’s just say that it seems to have worked for her.
        Then, you have all the fee-paying schools. Some are single sex, some are mixed. Some are very informal, even a bit hippy (you can call your teachers by their first names), others very posh (teach your child to curtsy, it will be appreciated). Where I live most private schools are very posh. The children are being assessed at 3 and what exactly is being assessed remains a mystery. It has to do, apparently, with the child’s vocabulary (not nice if your kid is bilingual) and their attitude (girls need conform and be disciplined!). You might also want to dye your hair blonde (highlights will do, otherwise a wig), be skinny (prepare the interview at least 6 weeks in advance, you can have a hamburger after the interview anyway. What wouldn’t you do for your child?) and finally come wearing big, posh sunglasses even if it is raining and dark . A friend of mine (who, let’s say, is “medium-built”) was initially taken for the au-pair (apologies if I am hurting anyone, it is a true story). If you don’t fit the bill, take a business card with you stating that you or your husband are managing Directors of a leading bank, it will do. Or hire a driver for the day. Or just make a donation.
So why are we all so stressed about getting our kids in the right primary schools? I honestly don’t know, I just went to my local primary school in France and that was it. Is this craze really worth the stress? I am starting to wonder. I just want my daughters to be happy. But at the same time I don’t want them to miss out. I think that I might have become a Londoner!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

As you know ( see here and here), I have found 5 old newspapers in my house’s attic. Once a week, I will try to travel back in time with you to show you what was happening at that time…

Today is Saturday, October the 9th, 1869. You are waking up a bit later than usual in London and are walking to your newsagent to get this week’s  ” illustrated London News”. You open the door and mumble something like: “Can you give me the London news please?”. The shop is very dark and small. I silently hand over the newspapers to you. You give me the exact change, 10 pence, as it is a double issue. You barely notice me, and start reading on your way home. You open your entrance door, grab yourself a cup of your freshly grounded coffee prepared in your Italian coffee machine, and you start turning the pages.
Let’s start with” the foreign and colonial news”.
France is discussed first. The Brits and the French are so similar that they can’t stand each other. As usual, the French are treated with a slightly superior tone:
“Prince Napoleon received, on Friday last, a deputation of English politicians who desired to congratulate him upon the tone of his recent speech to the Senate. He expressed how much he felt complimented at their approval of his conduct; though, I dare say, at heart he, in common with most Frenchmen, thought their proceeding a slightly impertinent one. Still, your restless Englishman temporarily abroad must always mix himself up in the affair of his neighbours.”
Oh, and the legendary neutrality of Switzerland hasn’t changed.
 “The Federal Government has refused to interfere in any way in the affair of the banishment of Frankfurt citizens.” Why are you not surprised?
In the “America” section: “an unprecedented fall of rain visited the Atlantic States on Sunday and Monday, and the floods which it occasioned did much damage to the Railway”.
The Brits’ analysis of the situation in Spain is an interesting one:” The prospects of the Republican party have enormously improved; and this might not be a subject of unmitigated regret (you can’t say anything more British than this) for, through we believe Spain to be monarchical at heart, there may be no reason why she should not try a republican experiment.” They know it all, don’t they?
The Queen was poorly recently, and “should her Majesty’s health permit, it is expected that  the Queen will inaugurate the new Blackfriars bridge early in November”.
You must be careful because “An extraordinary number of counterfeit sixpenny pieces are in circulation in London”.
You don’t really care too much about the country news, so let’s finish with some ads.
“Nuda Veritas – this valuable Specific restores Grey Hair to its original shade; then it grows the natural colour, not grey. Hoveden & sons, 5, great marlborough St, London, W”
“Galvanism-remarkable cure of nervous debility and headache by pulvermacher’s patent improved chain bands, certified by the following testimonial “337, Oxford street, w, nov 4, 1865- Messrs. Pulvermacher and Co -Gentlemen-Some months ago I purchased one of your electric chains for my wife, who has been suffering for years from nervous debility, with extreme prostration and loss of appetite, and I am thankful to say that she is restored to health and strength, solely from continuously wearing it. I have also found it infallible in relieving headache from which I have constantly suffered ( what a couple!) -I am, gentlemen, yours, obediently, George Titlow (I am not joking). Pulvermacher, 200 regent street, W.”
Charlatans are everywhere and have always existed, I suppose…
 I now have to wish you a pleasant week. I will see you next week for your week-end’s newspaper…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Reading my last posts, I think that it is time for something more light hearted. Let’s talk about a British invention: boarding schools. You see, here, when your kids are seven, you can send them to a boarding school. This means that you are only going to see them during week-ends -if you are lucky- or during holidays-when they are not holidaying with their friends.

This is the main reason why British people tend to have only one child if they are not insanely rich. You see, for the privilege of not seeing your child any more, you will have to fork out more than 3500 pounds a month. Yes, you read that well.
Apparently, boarding schools are back in fashion. My daughter, at some point, even wanted to go to one, because all her British friends wanted to…it made my French blood boil. The phase passed, which is good -and we won’t have to remortgage the house.
I asked one of her classmates why she wanted to go. She answered me that “it was going to help her independence”. I was gobsmacked. She was ten. I must have missed a trick.
What is the impact of going to a boarding school? Well, it depends. Most kids seem to survive, find themselves and even thrive, but some are emotionally damaged for a long, long time. Going to a boarding school shapes you for life. It leaves subtle marks: a certain distance when you speak to others, a will of perfection in everything you do, a fierce independence mixed with extreme vulnerability, and a sense of having been through something, a real accomplishment. Oh, and boarding schools are single sex, I am convinced that it might explain why over here so many men are into cross-dressing. Weird.
Most of the time, it’s not too bad for the kids. But for all French mums, the result is the same: lots of tears and anti-depressants eventually. Wine might help. Some friends of mine started drinking in their forties, when their kids left for boarding school. And they had to spend more money in rehab, cleaning their act. They ended up almost broke, and sometimes single. Tough.
And then, a lot of Brits want to make it look like they went to a posh and expensive boarding school, when they weren’t. It is a pretend game. One day, they are all posh, the next, they are chewing gum and swearing as if there is no tomorrow. Why can’t they just accept who they are?
As for me, I would only send my children to a boarding school if I had no choice (i.e. If I was sick, or living far from a city). Call me a French Mum!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

                                        Spring in London – Just today…

After a long wait, sleepless nights because of the size of the mortgage and various delays in the building works, we finally moved to the Stuffed Cat’s house. It was a dream come true. I was home. Finally.
We found a dollhouse in the attic, as well as copies of old newspapers called “The Illustrated London News” and “The Graphic”.  Eight newspapers in total. The oldest one was dated Saturday, August the 28th, 1869 and the most recent one had been issued on Saturday, May the 4th, 1869.
History is a funny thing. We remember the main events of a life or a country’s history, or a period of time. But being face to face with the detailed reality of a week in 1869 is a completely different matter. It is difficult to reconcile it with the main headlines that we know about. It is a different perspective. Shall we have a closer look?
I am taking you to London, in August 1869. You have just given me five pence and are opening your weekend newspaper. The first sentence you read is “It is  a great convenience to newspapers that our men of science hold their annual festival in this, the dullest month of the year…”. Interesting. Who  knew? Now let’s move to the “Foreign and Colonial News”. You will be pleased to know that in France “The Emperor (Napoleon!) was sufficiently well to preside at the Council of Ministers yesterday.” In Turkey, “it seems that the preparations which are being  made in the capital for the reception of the Empress Eugenie are on a very imposing scale. Roads are being formed and districts improved entirely for the convenience of her Majesty.” At the same time, “In America, President Grant is visiting New Hampshire.”
The tone is a tiny bit patronising. The topic of the moment is the Spanish Revolution. A year ago, “the Spaniards had resolved on throwing off the yoke of a Sovereign whose personal good qualities had certainly not manifested themselves prior to the revolt”. “Spain is still in transition state”.” The Cortes (i.e., Spanish Parliament) was elected without any disturbance”, and “there were no margins to be left for wild patriots, eccentricities, or sham Brutuses of the French revolutionary type”. Ouch. That hurt.  So much for the Entente Cordiale.
But don’t forget the Special Grand Fireworks Next Monday, at Crystal Palace.
Let’s finish with the ads
“Bread-and-Milk Flour (for BABIES) is also excellent for Invalids and Ladies in Confinement (what is that?). To be had of Chemist and Grocer’s.”
“Those ladies who have not yet tried the GLENFIELD starch (The starch is a powder or spray used before ironing to stiffen fabric or clothing) are respectfully solicited to give it a trial, and carefully follow out the directions printed on every package. It is rather more difficult to make than other Starches; but, when this is overcome, they will say, like the Queen’s Laundress, that is the finest Starch they ever used.”
Have a nice week. I will see you on the 9th of October 1869.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

A very British institution is the Christmas party. I touched upon it in a former post and wasn’t intending to talk about it again so soon but I can’t help it. Something happened. I bumped into an old boss of mine. It has to be said that I never really liked him, mostly because, when I came back from maternity leave, my desk was occupied and I had nowhere to sit, so I ended up having to work from most London’s libraries -I especially liked the one on Buckingham Palace Road, but more about this some other time. Eventually I found another job and my new company is the main client of my old company. This means that my old boss the bully is now all matey matey with me, he has to keep in touch and tries to be nice.
We met at another of those boring corporate events and he looked pretty shaken up, which surprised me because he is the kind of person who is so full of certainties that usually nothing can rock his boat. It was all because, a few days ago, his secretary asked to talk to him in private and told him that she felt uncomfortable because of the way he behaved with all women, and her in particular, during the Christmas party. She didn’t elaborate but he was left traumatised and lost. How funny!
You see, he told me, he had just made a point of dancing with all the secretaries and he didn’t remember much else. I am a terrible agony aunt and wasn’t of much help. I just listened and nodded.
Suffice to say that, if the secretary has broken the law of silence, it must be pretty bad. It has taken her three months to break the Christmas party omertà. This is, in British terms, a declaration of war, nothing less.
I couldn’t resist it. I called her during a quick break. She started in a very British way:
“- You know, E always liked his wine”
Translation: as you know, E has a drinking problem.
And then she told me everything in a blur and couldn’t be stopped. He was so drunk that he started patting everything that remotely looked like a pair of breasts or bum cheeks. He ended up riding the fire extinguisher while explaining to her that he was the James Bond of the bedroom and he could prove it to her any time. She was not impressed but didn’t say anything. In France, the way to deal with such guys is to send them a glass of cold water or a good old-fashioned slap. It usually does the job. But not here. Here, you think about it everyday and after 3 months you sort of confront him.
I didn’t know what to tell him. To be frank, it confirmed what I thought about him. I might have made an etiquette mistake when I told him to get himself sorted. Not sure he understood what I was talking about. He will have to figure it out himself, which might take some time here…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Buttress on the Embankment

Today, I am a guest blogger for Cathy’s wonderful blog: While The Dervish Dances…

Dear New Family,
I know that you are interested in me. I can feel it, and it is good to be desired again. I have been neglected for such a long time.
On the face of it, I am just another vertical slice of a Victorian terraced house. But come on, look closer. I was built in the late 1840s. I have seen it all. You know, the Millbank prison was just down the road. Every person sentenced to transportation was sent here first, and then to Australia. Several thousands of persons convicted of petty crimes, such as stealing an egg because they were hungry, walked here before leaving. You can still see the buttress on the embankment. I remember their fears and also their hopes of building a new life. Some were so young!
Continue…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /


I really liked Elizabeth’s comment on my last post. You are so right Elizabeth. Over here, it is all about having good manners. I am convinced that you could get away with murder, provided that you are well-mannered. Obviously you would need to be charming and polite. Words really matter over here- acts sometimes don’t seem to.
It is all about style over substance. As I am not sure that you believe me, a few examples will probably help.
This morning I had to wait a good 10 minutes to get my much-needed cappuccino because the barrista was busy chatting away with her colleague. Busy night apparently – good for her, but none of my business…
When she eventually realised that there was a long queue and after at least 10 failed attempts -on my part- to grab her attention, she politely said:
“-sorry to keep you waiting Darling”, and then she smiled.
What she meant was in fact :”I couldn’t care less about you guys, I had important things to say and come on you can wait a little bit for your posh coffee, can’t you?”
It is also important to note that my sense of humour usually wakes up after my morning coffee and not before…my husband can confirm!
I didn’t smile back as I was slightly annoyed. She noticed it and asked:
“-skinny or normal, your cappuccino ?”
I was outraged. I am taking my coffee here every morning. What she meant was probably:
“-have you put weight on?”
I couldn’t believe it.
“-no, full fat as usual please”
What I meant was: as you can see, I don’t need to diet and you know perfectly well what I want as I come here every morning.
I think that she got the point. I might change coffee shop anyway.
And here, you can say the meanest things in a very polite way. Here are a couple of examples with their “real” translation:
“- You didn’t expect to get the job Darling, did you?
This means: “you knew you were too thick to get the job”.
“- She is such a nice girl”
Don’t be fooled, this means: “she looks like the back of a bus”.
The list is endless.
It is the way Brits are educated from a very early age. You have to conform and be polite in all circumstances. My younger daughter didn’t get into a posh nursery in London because, at her assessment -when she was 3-, she finished her scribbles, got bored and started to pull her little friend’s (very nice & expensive ) dress. This is not an acceptable behaviour you see, even at 3, if you want to become a lady -which after careful consideration I am not sure I want for her. We found the right school, and she is doing very well. I am especially pleased that she doesn’t have to do any curtsies ( not joking, it happens!).
French can be a lot blunter, and it felt nice, initially at last, to be surrounded by seemingly polite people. Well, it didn’t last, because I now can say what they actually mean. Maybe it means that I am ready for a British passport…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Writing this post following the terrible events in Japan was difficult, but I sincerely hope that it will give you a brief moment of happiness!
The Brits have a lot of unusual ways to have fun. To my French eyes, some of them remain hard to comprehend. I actually have to admit that I don’t find them funny at all…
For instance, they love quizzes. Each pub has a quiz competition every week. You can even have quizzes on specific specialist themes, such as birdwatching, train-spotting or whatever…The few quizzes I had to attend were such a bore that I almost fell asleep. But my British friends really had good fun! They were laughing their heads off, cracking jokes I couldn’t understand, despite all the interpretation skills I have developed over the years. I have to admit that the questions were not really designed for foreigners. Maybe that’s the point. It gives them a sense of community -and excludes anyone who has not been born & bred here. Here are a couple of examples:
1.    Were are the Scottish crown jewels kept? Well the response is “in the castle of Edinburg”. Being French & hence Republican, I didn’t know and frankly I didn’t really care. But the whole debate, during the evening, was to know whether the jewels had be brought to London. And believe me, it was a passionate one…
2.    According to Beatrix Potter, what sort of animal was Mr Jeremy Fisher? The response is “a frog”. Apparently, this is hilarious as I was the only French in the audience. It took me a while to understand that one (Beatrix Potter writes for children and her world is one of speaking animals, and Frenchies are known as frogs) I am sure that no harm was meant, but I have to admit that my love of quizzes didn’t really grow that night.
Another odd thing is the Vicars & Tarts parties. Or any costumed party really. Honestly, why on earth would you want to look ridiculous and make an effort to do so! I am struggling with this love of costumed parties, but Brits absolutely love it. It is FUN, apparently. Maybe it is just an excuse to drink and act in a mad way. It is not unusual to see your (male) stern boss with a plastic pair of breasts and make-up. And he will probably be completely drunk. Whatever he does during the party, you must not mention anything the day after. It is not good behaviour. Even if he made a pass at the young trainee. Everybody must pretend that all is fine and nothing has happened.  Even if it is a big, fat lie…for some reason, it is all part of the game. Not to worry, tomorrow everything will be back to normal…Really.
And finally, we have dog races…very popular indeed. A classic. It is supposed to provide you with a safe platform for gambling. People who are usually shy and discreet start shouting and cheering like there is no tomorrow. Weird.
So why is having fun so different this side of the Channel? No idea really! Something to do with being so polite most of the time maybe.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Thank you Sam , for the Lovely Blog Award, 



and thank you Janine, for the versatile Blog Award.


This week is Award’s week for 40BlogSpot. I am new to blogging and was delighted to find so much support amongst fellow bloggers. Thanks again for all your encouragements and kind words of support.

I understand that I now need to pass on the Lovely Blog award. Here are the lucky winners:
1.     The Accidental Londoner: I can’t remember how I came across this blog, but I love it. Something to do with falling in love with London, I suppose
2.     Secondary Blog Adventures: this is my daughter’s blog. She writes beautifully and I am a bit jealous.
3.     Reflections from a Red Head: Janine’s honest account of her life and dreams.

Now each winner can pass it on to 3 other blogs…Enjoy!


And for the versatile blog award :
1.     Dathai C A Republican invited to The Wedding Of The Year. If this isn’t versatile, what is?
2.     http://www.smileforlondon.com/ : I love the videos. Just have a look and enjoy…
3.    What Not To Do In Love And Business : Sherrod’s beautiful site and stories
4.    As the Actress said to the Bishop: Isabelle’s funny posts
5.     While the Dervish Dances : Cathy’s magic moments of life
6.     A Cup Of Romance: Sandie’s uplifting romance stories
7.     Vinobaby’s Voice : a ray of sunshine from Florida!
 Now you guys need to pass the award to 7 other blogs and say 7 things about you that we don’t know about you yet!

Right. Now, I have to tell you seven things about me that you don’t already know:
1.     I find myself checking the news every 5 mins following the Japan earthquake and tsunami. I am horrified by what happened. I hope that everybody I know in the South Pacific is fine & safe. I am worried and feeling useless;
2.     Despite the name of this blog, I am NOT 40 yet (but not very far from it, which is why I am writing it while I still can). I thought that I should clear that one out right away;
3.     I hate judgemental people. I guess you could say that I am very judgemental about judgemental people (but that’s allowed);
4.     I don’t believe that you learn from your mistakes. I personally prefer to build on my strengths and try not to make the same mistakes twice;
5.     I had one too many glasses of champagne yesterday evening and am feeling a bit tired today. My head hurts. Thought you couldn’t get drunk on champagne but was clearly wrong;
6.     Today is a beautiful day and I have set myself a target to run 3 times this week;
7.     I am Sooo looking forward to the week-end!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London