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One of the things I miss in London is a certain French pragmatism. Today, I had, once again, a stark reminder of this and for the first time in a long, long time, I missed France.

As part of my job, I have to visit factories and depots in and around London. After one of these visits, which lasted quite some time, I felt the need to go to the ladies. As much as, sometimes, I pretend that I am a mysterious creature, full of charm and wit, I still need to go to the loo. After all, I am only human.

I saw the sign to the ladies, excused myself, went along the dark corridor of the industrial building and eventually try to open the door. Nope. I needed a code. A code! I tried to find fellow female workers but there were none. Only men. I still needed the loo. Bracing myself, I went to see my (male, of course) host and causally asked whether he knew what the code for the ladies was. He looked at me in a funny way and explained that no, he didn’t, and that was the whole point. Apparently, the (very few) ladies working in this unit had complained that their toilets were dirty because, they believed, men were using them. As a result, a programme called “dignity at work” had been launched (you have to admire the Brits for finding such names just to put locks and codes to enter the female loos and keep them clean) and here I was, not able to go to the toilet because of the dignity of some happy few.
I thanked my host with a dignified smile and a now furious need to excuse myself (the explanation was a bit long winded and I had to pretend that I was interested. It is all about good manners here). I managed to find the gents, hoping that they would be empty. They were. I locked myself in one of the cubicles and suddenly felt better. But my relief was short-lived: two guys entered the lavatories and used the urinals. I couldn’t get out. I was mortified. I didn’t move or breathe. I just waited. Eventually, they left. Sigh of relief. But when I opened the door to go back to the corridor, another male worker was on the verge of entering the loo. He looked at me in a funny way. I thought that he was about to say something, so I took immediate action: to avoid an embarrassing explanation, I managed a huge smile and quickly clicked my high heels. It did the trick. He didn’t say anything. To be fair, I ignored his pale attempt of an “excuse me…”
The French way of dealing with this issue would have been to put signs to keep the ladies nice and clean, or to name and shame the men who would have dared entering the ladies.
In this instance, you have got to love the French.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour

A necessity. Something in me that needs to get out. It is also about being able to say things without anyone hearing my French accent.
Writing to me is also a way to escape from my busy routine. Kids. Work. Stress. I leave it all at my keyboard.

Writing to me is a way to explore what I am, what I think, what I want. It is a way to make sense of the difficult times. Make them funny. Once written, problems seem smaller. Bad experiences become less painful. Writing helps the healing process.
Writing to me is a substitute of chocolate. Well not quite yet…

Please check out what writing means to my other Blog-A-Licious Friends…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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We haven’t heard about DSK for quite some time and this relative calm has allowed me to try to put things into perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I still firmly believe that the attitude of the French intelligentsia was unacceptable and you can read my previous posts here and here to understand my immediate thoughts on what has happened.


But I am now convinced that there is another collateral victim: the decent man. You see, most men are just decent, hard-working chaps who are trying to support their family or simply make a living and, on top of this, have to endure our mood swings during PMS.



Now that we know that Arnie is a cheater, Weiner an exhibitionist and DSK a potential rapist, I am reading everywhere that men will need to behave. Careful, those bad deeds will not go unpunished from now on! “Le Nouvel Observateur” (A French Political magazine) even reminds its readers of all the sexist comments made by some French politicians and personalities. I am not sure that it will help. The main issues for women are, I believe, education, affordable childcare and equality at the work place. But they are swiftly swept under the carpet. Gone with the media storm
Stigmatizing the men will not help anyone. Most men are reasonable guys. Actually, I am hugely indebted to them. Men in my family, my friends, men at my workplace. Or simply the chap who helped me the other day when my car broke down.


Normal men need to be celebrated a bit more. They are everywhere and without them, I am not sure that we would manage. And, sisters, let’s face it, if men have to analyze every word before speaking to us, it is going to be quite boring.


In short, I love men and I’d like to think that I am close to them. Very close.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Millbank Prison in the 1820s
This is a letter from my house…
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!
I am crumbling. The ceiling of the study is about to collapse, and the gutter on the roof is leaking. You see, they have never been changed, and are full of old memories of the sad faces leaving London.
I was rented by the room at the time. The turnover was high. Musicians, road sweepers, office workers, engineers and dress makers all lived here. Pimlico was becoming fashionable, and Millbank in those days was industrial with a Coconut Fibre factory, the Imperial Flour Mills and the Cement Works. I was stuck between the two, and loving the energy.
You know, I have seen lots of Chelsea men going to the house at the end of the street for some illicit entertainment. They looked happy and passably drunk.
The infamous prison eventually closed down in the 1890s and was replaced by the Tate Britain. You will love it. I can’t recommend highly enough the Turner collection. You could go there every week-end.
In 1928, all of Millbank and a good part of Pimlico were flooded. You had to be resilient to survive this. I was. All of Pimlico was. But you don’t need to worry. The Thames barriers will protect you now. You will be safe here.
I survived World War II. Some houses on this street were bombed. I wasn’t. Have a look at Atterbury Street, and you will see the scars on the walls. I was one of the lucky ones. I am a survivor.
I can see that you have two daughters. They are going to the same school than the family who moved in after the war. Both did very well and went to Oxbridge. What are you waiting for? I am exactly what you need. I am sure that their Dad will renovate me. He seems to like me too.
The last owner had two dogs and two cats. They were clearly passionate about their pets. As you have seen, I just have a small patio. I am still angry about having to accommodate so many animals, it is so unfair on them in central London. I think that you can smell it. Don’t worry, it will all go away. When one of the cats died, the owner stuffed it to keep the other cat company.
I know that, when you are talking about me, you are calling me the Stuffed Cat’s house. I don’t really mind. I am making my way into your heart and you know it.
What is the price of your own piece of London anyway? Welcome home!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a big storm while I am writing – This is one of my collages – It says “In London, it rains all the time but we are happy”.
I am getting older and none the wiser. And no, I am not moaning. I have some evidence to prove my point today. Here we go: I received a friend request, on Facebook, of one of my 11-year old daughter’s friend.
First of all, I didn’t know that children could have a Facebook account. According to Facebook’s rules you need to be 13 but it seems that every girl in primary school has one.  Maybe it is specific to London. How come no one had told me? My daughter doesn’t have one (yet), I don’t want her to (but she writes a very good blog. I am an unconventional mother, I know and it is hard work). Anyway, it took me a while and a cup of coffee to understand that the girl, let’s call her D, who wanted to be my FB friend was in fact the one I have known since she was 4.
I accepted D’s request. And then, I made a major mistake. I posted a message on her wall, asking her how she was, and explaining how weird it was that she was so grown-up now.
This is against the etiquette. You are supposed to accept your daughter’s friend request and never say anything. Not a single word. It is embarrassing for her, you see. So here we go, I am an embarrassing Mum. The message got back to me via my daughter. I have posted something on her friend’s wall. What a weirdo I am! Mums are not supposed to do that. I didn’t know. How hopeless is this?
Maybe she will de-friend me? Let’s wait and see.  Anyway, I can’t help thinking that things have really changed since I was 11 (can you believe that we didn’t know what FB was then?) and I am officially old and out of touch.

But the good news is that I received a very good response to my last post on this blog. Thanks for all comments. I will keep you posted. Suffice to say that it is not a question of if but rather a question of when. Watch this space!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Do you remember The Clash? They were great. I especially liked their hit song “should I stay or should I go?”. And guess what: I live close to 36 Causton street, in London, where The Clash have recorded their songs.
The Vanilla Studio doesn’t exist any more -it has been replaced by the diocese of London:


 However, every time I walk along Causton Street, I have this tune in my head: “should I stay or should I go?”.
Anyway, today, I have a very personal dilemma to share with you. I am thinking of quitting my day job. You see, I am too busy doing the school runs, taking care of the girls, working full-time and my husband travels very often -too often, in fact. And also, I am knackered all the time. Simply exhausted -in a way that I didn’t think existed-. I always have something to do or to attend (I am writing this while watching The Princess and the Frog).
But I have a secret card to play: 4 years ago, I started my very own business, on top of my day job. It is now tumbling along quite nicely and will require more time if I want to take it to the next stage. Don’t understand me the wrong way, it is not going to make me  become Bill Gates. Let’s just say that being my own boss feels nice, and I could have more time with my daughters and my family, and take it easier generally. Financially, I could always look for another job or work free lance in the future if things don’t work out as expected.
But I spent a long time studying Engineering and I pride myself in being an Engineer in a male-dominated environment. I am reluctant to give it all up, after so much effort. I am finding myself excuses to keep my day job: it represents security, I know the Industry, I am reasonably recognised- whatever it means-… And wouldn’t I miss the interaction with colleagues ? It is difficult to be on your own all the time.
In short, I don’t know what to do. That said, I know that I am very fortunate to have a choice when people around me are struggling to make ends meets.
It is a funny time in my life. My grandparents have now passed 90 and, let’s face it, might not be around for much longer. It feels right to have more time with them now, and it simply won’t happen if I keep my job.
So come on and let me know: should I stay or should I go?
I am hoping that I will not have to make the decision myself, that I will be able to take advantage of one of the many reorganisation plans that my company is going through. It would be so much easier…
Maybe I just need a break and everything will be fine. Again, I know I can’t complain: I am in good health, and don’t have any real problem.
But it is a big deal for me.
I will give myself more time to decide. A few months. End of the year, top…
So come on and let me know:

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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For the last few weeks, we have all been living with the Weinergate, DSK,  George Tron (a French minister who happens to be a foot fetishist-trust me, you don’t want to know more). I received a comment from Thom, a fellow blogger, who in essence asked: what about women? Are they as bad as men? Why don’t we hear more about them?

Well, I am sorry to break it out to you all, but I think that women can be as bad as men. They are just less likely to be in a position of power (just look at the statistics if you need to be convinced). That said, I tried to gather for you a few gems coming exclusively from sisters, in no particular order.
1.   –  Do you remember Edith Cresson? She was a French Prime Minister and eventually became a European Commissioner. Not only did she hire her dentist as an AIDS expert (see here) but she also famously said that “one in four British men [was] homosexual”.  Well, as a French woman living in London, I get a lot of unwanted attention. No later than this morning a (drunk – I hope) gentleman told me I was the most beautiful woman on earth. I was going to the dry cleaner (half asleep as it was early morning), I am dangerously nearing 40 and I have at least a stone to loose. I think that she misinterpreted the signs. British men were not interested in her, that’s all;

2.    –  While living with Jean-Paul Enthoven (a well-known French editor), Carla Bruni fell in love and had an affair with his son, Raphael Enthoven, who had the time was married with Justine Levy (a well-known novelist). –I hope you followed, I had to read it twice before getting it-. The affair and the end of the marriage inspired Justine Levy to write the very good novel “Rien de grave” (Nothing serious in French).  Carla Bruni denied having an affair with Raphael Enthoven  and went on to have a son with him. She is now the First Lady of France. Men love her as indeed she is very beautiful. As for me, well, suffice to say that I am getting my British passport as soon as I can. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in people’s right to a private life. But destroying other persons’ life, even if it wasn’t intentional –as I am sure was the case-, takes what she did to unbearable levels;

3.    – Gisele Bundchen said that there should be a “breastfeeding law” for the first six months of the baby. I was just trying to imagine what the breastfeeding police would look like. Would they knock at your door and try to extract some milk? Knock knock! Milk police here! We all say stupid things of course, but someone needs to explain to the gorgeous Gisele that, as moms, we are all doing what we can.
If you have heard about other gems please do let me know. My point was that no one is immune from saying or doing silly things. It has nothing to do with gender or nationalities. There is, however, one universal truth: sometimes –especially when you don’t know enough-, you might want not to say anything…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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This post was first published on Technorati


This is something close to my heart. I am convinced that there are different levels of communication, and some don’t require words (before we continue, I am not talking about hanky-panky here. Please be serious, dear reader!). For example, when I was pregnant, I was very frustrated because I couldn’t have a conversation with my baby. My husband felt the same way (and was actually putting on weight at the same pace than me to show his solidarity).
To give you another example: my grandmother suffers from Alzheimer and even if, technically, she can speak, most of the time what she says doesn’t mean anything. So, how do you communicate?
Well, you need to try something called “
haptonomy” (haptonomie in French). This is about touching someone (or, when you are pregnant, touching your tummy) and trying to convey what you want to say with your touch, and concentrating on how the other person is reacting. It is actually amazing: my daughter was feeling my husband’s hand and she was tucking herself in it. She was reacting differently depending in the way we “touched” her. We felt like we knew her before she was actually born.
I am not talking about gently patting someone, just touching to say you accept and you care, or whatever you want to say, in an accepting and non-judgemental way. Words can hurt. Words categorise people : an unborn baby, a 90-year old lady who is losing her mind, …but some things never change: we have a body and we can feel how the other person is reacting to our touch: a slight hesitation, a sadness or an eagerness to be touched.
Touching is an important part of our life. That doesn’t mean that we are doing haptonomy in our daily life. Haptonomy is to touching what poems are to literature. Do not be put off by the way it is described, it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Haptonomy doesn’t seem to exist in the UK. What a shame! In France, it can be used to prepare women for the birth of their baby. I am normally a very rational person, and some people actually found it incredibly funny that I could even mention it. Well, my response is: if it helps me, if it makes me more accepting, it can’t be that bad!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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My life is incredibly busy…and incredibly boring as well. Don’t get me wrong: boring is good. I suppose that, when I say “boring”, I mean conventional. Again, “conventional” works for me. There is, however, something that bugs me since the DSK affair (see here).
My question is: when did it become acceptable for powerful men to be stupid?
There are numerous examples: look at DSK, a known womaniser now accused of assault against a maid in Manhattan. Even his (gorgeous and intelligent) wife seems to excuse his numerous indiscretions, as apparently “it is important for politicians to be able to seduce”. Give me a break.
To make matters worse, another French politician, George Tron, had to resign for alleged assaults towards two members of his staff. It was well known, in informed circles, that he was a foot fetishist (I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Ignorance is bliss).
It has been said that all of this is because French women have put up with such behaviours for so long without saying anything, and I have read lots of negative comments about how French feminism is weak and has, in fact, let this happen. Come on, sisters, that’s too easy an explanation.
Let’s have a look elsewhere: we have Arnie and his love child ( with the housekeeper- can you imagine what his wife must be going through? No wonder she said “hasta la vista baby” and, in my view, he deserves to be taken to the cleaners ). Then, John Edwards fathered a child out of wedlock while his (brilliant and beautiful) wife was sick with cancer and denied everything for a couple of years. The list is endless…
In short, I don’t believe that such attitudes have anything to do with nationalities. I think it has to do with power and the implied assumption that powerful people can get away with anything, it is somehow excused because of what they “give” to society. I will go even further: in some circles, debauchery is seen as “cool”. Reading the “Sunday Times” this morning proved it to me again: the philosopher Freddie Ayer has lots of extra-marital affairs and her stepdaughter Gully Wells describes the very special parties that went on in her youth. Personally, I believe her. This self-proclaimed intelligentsia believes that what society expects from them is “bourgeois” and that rules are made to be broken. Or they are above the law because they are after a greater good…Acting like petulant teenagers somehow flatters their oversized ego and seems to be part of the package deal.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not a paragon of virtue, and I am all about supporting our hard-earned freedom. We all make mistakes, and I have yet to meet someone perfect. I just believe that life is too short to hurt people with such twisted attitudes. Because, inevitably, people get hurt. And if people are hurt, isn’t it better to be honest?…
So why do we sometimes overlook what powerful men do? They obviously have a right to a private life. But is it right to accept that great economists, promising politicians or philosophers behave in appalling ways? Where do we draw the line? Well, for starters: no-one is above the law. And what happened to leading by exemplarity?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It is amazing how doing nothing can become addictive. I have spent a couple of days near St Tropez and it has made me realise how hectic my life in London is. I find it really hard to go back to my old routine, which includes:


1.      Waking up far too early
2.      Preparing breakfast for the whole family
3.      Helping  the younger one getting dressed
4.      Preparing  myself (or rather, trying to)
5.      Doing the school run (two different schools because no sibling policy of course)
6.      Going to the office (3 hours after point 1, that’s how long the whole process takes)
7.      Once at work, listening to the generation Yers’ complains while they are eating their breakfast at their desk (for some reason, the office becomes a breakfast parlour in the morning). They are tired because, you see, they have just woken up and are coming back from a week-end in Amsterdam/Paris/Madrid/Rome/Wherever. Poor darlings. They keep yawning, which drives me mad because if they knew what being tired meant they wouldn’t dare to open their pretty young mouths.
I will spare you the rest, I am sure that you understand where I am coming from.  To make matters even worse, we had applied for some tickets for the Olympic Games in 2012. You see, I have never attended the Olympic Games and I was looking forward to it. In London. But tough luck, we have been cheesed off. Out of the 11 applications for 4 tickets each  (even fencing, which we like and can’t be THAT popular, can it?), we haven’t had one. Zero. Nada. Kossong. Apparently more than 250 000 persons are in the same boat and even the London mayor, Boris Johnson, didn’t get his tickets either. Not much consolation. For once it might help to be French as I might be able to buy some tickets from there…
I have tried to understand the rules of the lottery and have come to the conclusion that we didn’t get any tickets because we wanted the whole family to go. It would have been easier if we had asked a couple of tickets for each event. But what would be the point? We have so little time together…
Anyway, I will pull myself together and try to do the best I can. Keep calm and carry on…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London