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We are back in London and it feels good. Really good. But there are some breaking news over here. You can’t have missed it. All the newspapers have mentioned it: the daughters will now have the same rights than their brothers for the British throne succession. This means that the first born daughter will reign before her younger brother (see here for more details.)
Apparently it is a small revolution. Some are even saying that it might be the end of the monarchy: why change something that has worked (whatever this means) for centuries?The succession law has finally been changed, after 300 years. This has been discussed in Perth by the members of the Commonwealth, along with other “revolutionary” changes, such as allowing the future monarch to marry a Catholic woman. Can you believe it? Everybody here believes that the female power has finally been unleashed. What a Pyrrhic victory!
As for me, I think that I have missed a trick. Don’t these people have more important things to discuss? Are we really living in the 21st century or did I forget to put my clock 200 years back because of the winter time?
This is so typical. In a country where women had the right to vote in 1928, why did it take so long for daughters to be equal to their brothers in the Royal family? Don’t you think that this is the essence of the British paradox: a modern country, entrenched in obsolete traditions. The best and the worst.
And why the sudden urgency? Maybe we are going to find out that Kate, the duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant with a baby girl. I honestly can’t find any other plausible explanation.
Sometimes, I despair and firmly believe that I will never understand this country. That said, being French had its advantages, especially after the rugby world cup. We French didn’t do that badly, did we?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I am spending half-term in France, which is why I have been very quiet (I will catch up when I am back, bear with me).
Anyway, I have had yet another proof that my elder daughter is more British than French. She can’t say no. It doesn’t serve her well over here. We were at my Dad’s place and he offered her some Roquefort (a very strong French cheese). She answered “Ca va”. What she meant was “No, thank you, I am fine”. “Ca va” would be the translation of “I am fine”. Her grandfather understood that she wanted to try the cheese and that the size of the portion was fine. The thing is, she doesn’t like cheese, and roquefort is not for the faint-hearted …My darling daughter is slowly learning to say no, but she finds it incredibly hard. In France, you need to say “No” very clearly when you don’t want something. Tough but true.
 Signac – La Calanque

I have also decided to finally take her to the Saint Tropez Museum. It is called “Le musee de l’Annonciade”. It used to be a small church. They are showing local painters such as Signac, Derain, Camoin, etc…I wanted to explain to her that Signac started the “pointillist” movement, that he lived in Saint Tropez and that he was quite famous.
It didn’t go down very well. The problem of living close to the Tate Britain in London is that she is used to seeing Turner’s paintings. She found the painters of my childhood “very weak, and with poor painting techniques”. She might be more French than I thought, after all.
Anyway, I think that it is time to go back now.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

There is something deliciously old-fashioned about travelling on a train. I just love it. Today, I am writing you from the Eurostar. I am going to Paris on my own for a few hours of freedom (and shopping fix, but don’t tell me husband, he doesn’t know). No kids, no friend, no husband, just me and my iPad.
There is also something cutting-edge about travelling under the Channel, the sacrosanct boundary between France and England. That’s what the Eurostar is about: good, old-fashioned service and cutting-edge technology (that fails when it’s snowing, I have had to cancel my trips to France two Christmases in a row because of a silly technical glitch on the trains).
Anyway, today, nothing is going to deter my good mood. I love train stations and their huge structures. No fancy decorations there, just metal and bricks. A cathedral dedicated to the departure and arrival of trains.
It is early morning and I am slowly waking up, helped by loads of coffee. Life was good until I had to go to the toilets (all this coffee, you see). In order to lock the loo’s door you need to press a button (with a key on it, if you must know) on the Eurostar. There are no old metallic locks any more on this train. Times have changed.
Well, suffice to say that the gentleman in the toilet didn’t push the “lock” button and I opened the toilet door to see him standing, holding his, well, thing in both hands, and, to cut a long story short, in the middle of his wee.
How embarrassing. But I am proud to say that I acted completely normal, stayed perfectly composed and just said “hello!”. I politely closed the door and went to the loo in the next vehicle, as if nothing had happened. I can’t help thinking that before moving to London I wouldn’t have reacted in such a calm manner- I would have vented my surprise.
I think that this unexpected display of what I can only describe as British phlegm proves that I am ready to get a British passport. I even pretended that I didn’t know the guy when I came back to my seat.
Apart from this incident all went really well. Paris, here I come!
Nb: if you take the Eurostar, don’t forget to press the “lock” button. Do it for me.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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In the UK, people like to score points on a daily basis. At work. With friends. Down the pub. Point scorers are simply everywhere. I can’t help thinking that it has got something to do with this love of debating and talking. They just love to show off.

Don’t get me wrong, in France too there are point scorers. But somehow, over there, saying “I don’t know” in a business meeting is often seen as honest (as long as you don’t keep saying it, obviously).  Not here. It is your job to know. Or rather: it is your job to make it look like you know.

The point scorer will start talking in a meeting even if he (or she) has nothing to say. He will have to make a point during the first five minutes of the meeting, because he can’t help it.

The point scorer feels like he knows everything. He has done it all, he has seen it all. And even if it’s not the case, he will have a strong opinion on it. In short, he knows it all and he lets you know it. How do deal with point scorers is part of your survival kit in London. Here are a few tips:


1.     How to recognize a point scorer?
They are everywhere. It is the driver behind you who is going to start honking madly when your car just stopped while you were changing gear because you are in a difficult position (honking will not help me. Quite the opposite in fact. I am dealing with the issue, thank you very much. Just give me 10 seconds. Surely you can stay calm for 10 seconds?).
It is the work colleague who keeps talking and doesn’t do anything. He will be the first one to notice that you are late when he “works from home” every Friday. It is the boss who likes lecturing everyone.
They often use expression like “In my opinion,…” “If you ask me,…” –nobody asks them. They love talking about themselves “When I was working in Tanzania,…”-in fact they were spending a two-week holiday there. A good test is to stop talking or stop doing anything and see whether they continue their diatribe. It usually works very well.
2.     How to deal with a point scorer?
There is no point in talking and explaining that no, you know better because you actually have some real experience on the subject. The point scorer doesn’t listen anyway and will make a point of having the last word. If you have to use words, you have to be brief and hit hard. In short, go for the kill. You need to say something like “this is completely wrong”, and be able to prove it simply. I personally believe that actions speak louder than words. I usually shut up and, as they seem to know better, I carefully avoid working with them on specific subjects. I let them deal with it on their own, with very clear deadlines if possible.
When a honking driver is trying to make a point, I drive even more slowly. I don’t get angry or swear. I act. They can’t fly over me anyway.
The beauty of being a point scorer is that they are too silly to question themselves. I believe that this feature must make them immune to mental illnesses such as breakdowns. They don’t doubt, you see.
Now you are warned. That said, the best way to deal with point scorers is to get a life and do what you enjoy, no matter what . As we say in French “the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on”.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Good news: I have just signed an important business deal and it should keep me going for a while, which is just great. My decision to leave the Corporate world was therefore the right one, at least for the next year or so. But everything wasn’t as straightforward as I initially thought. Whether you are in France or in the UK, some things never change: as a woman, especially in a male dominated environment, you are simply not taken seriously.
As you know, I had even considered having an experienced guy with me to make my business look more “normal” for future clients -they expect the boss to be a man, that’s just the way it is. I thought of my grandfather – he is 87 but looks easily 25 years younger, but the time of the signature of the deal was in the middle of his nap and, even well-briefed, my grandfather is a bit of a risky choice -he can’t stop talking about his life. And he doesn’t speak English or understand cultural differences.
It was too late to brief anyone anyway. As usual, I was in my own, on my way to my lawyer to sign this important contract. It didn’t go as well as I had planned. At least initially. My client was also there, with his lawyer, and wanted to change all the clauses we had already discussed and negotiated. Funnily, the first question they asked was: “Are you on your own?”. It must be difficult for them to accept to do business with a woman…life is full of challenges, I suppose…Tough.
I had thought this meeting was only going to be a formality, just to sign the last draft of the service agreement (my business is about Facility Management) and start some collaborative working. How wrong and naive of me. To make matters even worse, the babysitter was only staying until 6 pm and I needed to head back home really soon. French babysitters are not very flexible. I didn’t want to give in and had no time to re-enter into lengthy negotiations. I felt stuck. Emotions were running high as well behind my polite and composed face: why did I leave my boring but safe Corporate job again?
My client’s tactic was the usual one. All the good clauses were completely ignored, and they wanted to re-negotiate terms of payment, prices, etc…basically, his lawyer and him wanted to change the balance of the deal.
After 45 minutes discussing things that had already been discussed at least twice before, I decided to stop everything. I had to go home anyway -I wasn’t going to stay any longer for them, this wasn’t going anywhere. Other potential clients had also expressed an interest anyway. I told the other party that the deal was on the table here and now, as it was. Not a comma would be changed. They had until the end of the day to sign it or go back home without an agreement. In short, take it now or leave it. Then, I stood up and left my lawyer’s office. Everybody was stunned. That’s not something I usually do.
I received a phone call from my lawyer shortly afterwards. They had signed and paid the first term of payment. They even apologised the following day (they didn’t mean to upset me and thought that they could still negotiate…the usual excuses) and now we can work together without any problem. They feel that I am passionate about my business and they like it (I can also see that they believe I am a bit mad and they mustn’t upset me. They are a bit scared now, which is brilliant).
I can’t help thinking that they wanted to take advantage of me. They wouldn’t behave like this if I were a guy.
All those years, I tried to tone down what I felt. Now it seems that I need to do the opposite. Next time, I will not even spend 45 mins listening to them. Mental note to self: need to toughen up.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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When you stop being employed life catches up with you. I have never been busier. Honestly.  I am doing all the things that I have never had time to do (and I am only starting to appreciate all the things I missed and it is actually quite scary).
For instance, I have attended for the very first time a service at St Paul’s cathedral. It must sound incredible, but I had never ever been there. Well, it was amazing and well worth it despite the very weird modern hymn that we had in the middle of the service. And I loved the way everybody was singing. The lady behind me was probably thinking that she was at the Royal Opera House and gave us an impressive -and slightly misplaced- performance. I like passionate people, so I don’t resent her too much (my ears do).
I have also learned how to say St Paul. I can’t resist sharing it with you. You must absolutely not say St Paul the French way – which is, for your information, something like St Pol, short and crisp-. No, the proper British way is:
St POOOOOOOOAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOOL


And nothing less will do.
Your mouth must look like the bottom of a chicken. If it doesn’t, then you are simply not saying it properly. I have finally cracked it! YAY (It took me 7 years though…)
Obviously, I am still learning. Let’s take the word “swap”, for instance. My very British daughter says something like SWOAOP. Oh, and you don’t pronounce the “t”s here. You say “wa’er” for water.
Anyway, I might get there when I am 100.
I also found out that there is a fantastic street market on Tachbrook Street. For a fiver you can eat a huge portion of Japanese, Moroccan or Indian food (I am forgetting half of the options I am sure). You can also buy fresh bread, fruit and vegs and anything you need really (and believe it or not, the can of Diet Coke only cost 40p) It is simply fantastic and I don’t have to fake my posh British accent there. You can grab a seat and feel life slowly coming back to you.
Life is good.
As for the business, I have just signed a new contract (more about that in a next post…)
And it feels good too. Thanks again for encouraging me to finally make a decision!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I am a city girl. This means that I don’t really like driving –I usually take the Tube. However, due to the location of secondary schools in London, I now have to drive twice a day all the way to Hammersmith. I hope that it will get better as I am getting to know other Mums and we will share the school run, but it will take time. This means that I am spending at least two hours a day in my car. Not nice.

Anyone who has ever lived in London will understand why I don’t want my 11-year-old daughter to take the District Line on her own. For starters, as soon as it starts raining it is suspended. We might consider the Piccadilly line in a few months –much more reliable- but we are not there yet.
To make matters even worse, we have changed car –something to do with hubby changing job. So, before you judge me to harshly, let me recap the facts:
       I am used to driving small cars, manual gearboxes, on the right (i.e. the French way);
       The car I used to drive in London was automatic;
       Now I have to drive a HUGE Chelsea tractor, manual gearbox  (but I need to change the gears with my left hand), on the left.
No wonder I am confused. I could probably start an international driving school just based on my experiences over the last years (well, we would of course skip the parking bit –I can’t park unless the street is empty).
Apart from the fact that I feel like I have been promoted to being a tank driver, I am struggling to understand why the street are so narrow in London and the cars so wide.
So, in short, if you see a slow car followed by a line of vehicles, it is probably me. You see, you are never too careful. I am monitoring the school run by the number of honking drivers I get. Only 3 yesterday, I am getting better. I am amazed by the number of accidents the drivers have to prevent from happening in London, on a daily basis. Cyclists are ignoring red lights over here. They overtake you on all sides, even on the left when you have clearly indicated that you actually were turning left. And the white van with a copy of the Sun behind the windscreen…Well, be careful: they can do a U-turn without any warning and they don’t hear anything because they have their iPod on.
I thought I was not confident enough behind the wheel, but after what happened yesterday I think I am fine. Let me explain: a lorry driver started honking because he had seen some leg and apparently he was finding it hilarious (maybe he doesn’t get it at home?). I went ballistic and put the car in front of him, started driving really slowly to annoy him, and at a green light I prevented him from moving ahead, and left in time for the light to turn red and stop him a bit longer.
I know it is bad but it felt good.
Beware, all of you: DO NOT MESS WITH A YUMMY MUMMY.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Today, I was about to tell you that the coffee lady had a black bra under her crisp white shirt and that this was a basic style mistake. That said, all the guys in the queue were looking at her (correction – at her breast). Then, on my way back home, I saw a lady doing her nails while driving (to be fair, there was a huge traffic jam). She was applying her nail polish while driving! I couldn’t believe it. But there is a change of plan. That’s just life!

Thanks to my fellow She-Writer Shelley, the theme of this week’s hop is: literary mistakes.
Now, meet Shelley Workinger: Shelley grew up in Maine, graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. “Solid” is her first YA series, and she loves hearing from readers and other writers about the series at:
Twitter: @solidnovel
She also has a fun blog about Food in Fiction, called “But What Are They Eating?” at bookfare.blogspot.com. Please check it out!
Here is Shelley’s hilarious mistake:
The mistake I would like to share today (let’s call it #44 of my repertoire, assuming I’ve made 5 good and memorable ones a year since I was old enough to know better) is a little more literary than lingual.
Right after we were married, my husband went back to school to get his MBA. We were invited to a huge party for our 1st Halloween at Cornell and, even though I’m usually a great costume person who starts construction weeks in advance, for some reason I dropped the ball that year and had to throw something together from our closet’s offerings. I came up with a Lolita-ish schoolgirl outfit (don’t ask why I owned pieces for that ensemble) and a passable Humbert. [Note from Muriel: Humbert is the main character in Nabokov’s novel, the –in-famous Lolita…]
We walked in the door and, literally, the first person we met asked, “Did he write that here?” It only took a handful of similar comments for me to put together that: 

1. Nabokov taught at Cornell, and 

2. Every person at the party knew it but me
Maybe there was a handout at orientation? I don’t know.
I do know that next time I’ll go Long-Island-style Lolita: Miss Amy Fisher and her to-die-for stud muffin Joey Buttafuoco. Thanks to a slow year on cable TV, that’s a story I can talk intelligently about at parties 🙂
If you want to share one of your mistakes please do not hesitate to contact me in the comment section. I will try to cover the following topics:
-Lingual mistakes
-Culinary mistakes
-Style mistakes
-Life-changing mistakes
Reminder:
The rules of the Blog hop are very simple:
1. Follow me on GFC and Twitter if you have an account – I will follow back ;
2. Leave a link to your blog below -if you have one-;
3. Share a mistake you have made in the comments. Please do it for the rest of us!
4. Visit as many other blogs as you can!
5. Have fun!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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This was parked just outside my house. I love it!
It’s the Indian summer in London. It is fair to say that it has never been warmer in a long time, which is nice -and unexpected. We keep wandering in London, with our sunglasses on and the whole experience tastes like holidays.
I went for my usual coffee this morning. On Sunday mornings, I like buying the Sunday Times to try to catch up with the news. Everybody loves buying the Sunday Times in London. As one friend explained it to me, it is good for the recycling industry ( who said the written press was dead?).
While I was trying to read, a tanned hunk with flip-flops, an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and short pants came to get a coffee. All the women were understandably distracted and even I had to stop reading my article to admire him. Then, a Japanese baby started to play hide-and-seek with my newspapers. He was approximately 18 months old and really seemed to enjoy my big pile of newspapers. He loved the noise of the cracking paper and we had a few laughs together. That said, my business section is now full of the crushed mango he had all over him. Never mind.
I finally made it back home to have a proper read of what was left of my paper. Apparently, the Prime Minister has apologised for some comments he made (like, a month ago ) to two female MPs (Members of Parliament). The comments could be perceived as sexist (he said something like “calm down, dear” and added that the other female MP was “frustrated”).
How odd. It got me thinking that, at least, he has apologised (better late than never, eh?). In France, no one would have blinked an eye. Does it mean that the Brits are less sexist than the French? I don’t think so. I have heard as many sexist comments this side of the Channel than in France. And no apologies in all cases. Let’s be honest, things don’t change that easily and if you dare to complain you are the one who is bitter and frustrated -she must having her periods-. Maybe we will get there in 200 years?
To conclude on the subject, I am seriously considering hiring an experienced male actor with charisma and grey hair to help me conclude business deals -I would pose as his PA, and it would be for my business. Negotiating with a woman seems terrifying and unacceptable for some, maybe I need to try to make potential clients feel more at ease. Yes, this is happening in 2011. I think that I might give it a try. What do you think?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London