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Before I start, I have to make a few announcements … First, I am guest posting at my lovely friend and fellow London blogger @RomanianMum. You can read here about how I adapted to the London life.

Then, my Texan friend Stacey @LubbocksLaquer gave me the Versatile Award please read her post here

In short, 40blogSpot : A French Yummy Mummy in London is on fire, all thanks to you!

Anyway, before starting this week’s debate, I need to clarify something: last week, I certainly wasn’t joking when I wrote that, in France, the State pays for at least 20 hours of abdominal re-education once you have delivered your baby. It is all about getting your flat tummy back (and I am a living proof that it works!). To be precise, I am talking about one-to-one lessons sessions with a physiotherapist here. Shall you need it, the State also pays for what it politely calls perineal re-education. I won’t get into graphic details, but let’s just say that it involves putting sensors down there, and dissecting your urinating habits (It felt a bit weird to talk about it to a complete stranger). To cut a long story short, France expects women to look the part and certainly pays for it.
This all sounds very nice and I am sure that some of my readers will be green with envy. But the other side of the coin is that, in France, there is a strong pressure on women to look good. Simply put, you are not expected to let yourself go and become fat. You simply can’t because people would look down on you. Most of my friends were so skinny that it (sometimes) made me feel guilty. They would never admit that they were on a diet, but they were barely eating. Or if they had had a good meal, they would skip the next one and eat like a bird for the next week or so. I even had a friend who told me that she couldn’t quit smoking because it would make her fatter (she was so skinny that she was almost transparent).

It gets worse. The French seem to have invented a massage technique called the “Palper-Rouler” to get rid of the cellulite. If it sounds like some sort of torture, it is because it is. Why else would you lie down to get pinched in all your delicate wobbly bits? As for me it was, “Thanks, but no thanks”.
Having work done is obviously common practice in France, but you need to look natural at all costs, whatever you do. If someone asks you whether you have had Botox/a facelift or even your hair dyed, you need to vigorously deny it. Even your best friends must not know. You will explain that you have good genes, that a change of eating habits did the trick or even that the sun has made you blonder.
Living is London is simply liberating because the pressure to be skinny is not as strong as in Paris. Here, I can enjoy my food without feeling guilty. I just love it.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Have you noticed that the small things in life can make a huge difference? This morning, just before starting the school run, I found out that two white vans (with the mandatory tabloid tucked behind the windscreen) had sandwiched my Chelsea tractor (one in front of me, one behind), and it took us more than 10 minutes to manage to get out the parking slot. Nightmare.
Then you have the cyclists that stop all the traffic on Crownwell Road. Crownwell Road is a 4-lane road in South Kensington but somehow cyclists seem to love riding on it, especially on the fast lane. Go figure. Maybe they are feeling a bit suicidal. Finally, when you find out that you have arrived two minutes before the school is supposed to open and you dare to knock at the door because it is raining cats and dogs, you get a long-winded lecture because the school opens at 8.00 am, not 7.58 am. “Is this a one-off or are you going to arrive in advance every day? You see, we were having a cup of tea, it might be a safety hazard for the children” I am not making this up.
But what keeps me going, believe it or not, is the British humour. It can happen at any time, you just need to keep your eyes and ears open. This morning, this sign did it for me. 

London is full of road works. But look closely at this sign and you will see a carefully placed sticker on it. Somehow it made me laugh and I finished the school run happier than I started it!
What about you? What keeps you going?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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This is a new series, and there will be 4 or 5 posts on different aspects of what “being French” entails. I will post on Sundays or on Mondays –depending on how busy the week-end is. Feel free to make any suggestions, comment, share on Twitter, etc…

It is the latest craze in town and I am sure that you can’t have missed it: apparently, the French are better at parenting than the British or the Americans. That’s what the American Journalist Pamela Druckerman wrote in her new book (already a bestseller in the UK, see here) : “French Children Don’t Throw Food”. She has three children and lives in Paris. She believes that French children are better-behaved, sleep through the night at a younger age and are less fussy with food.

How come I hadn’t noticed?  Why hadn’t anyone told me?

Let me be blunt here: I am not sure that the French have “parenting secrets”- we are all doing what we can. As an example, my younger daughter is still waking up at 6 o’clock every morning despite her French passport and I am very grateful to whoever invented the DVD.
A Strict Mum

That said, I think that we French tend to be more direct and I am not trying to be diplomatic with my daughters. Maybe I am a bit “old-fashioned” in terms of discipline: I tell my children off when they behave badly, and maybe, according to British standards, I am a bit strict. As an example, my daughters are not allowed to swear or they are sent to their bedroom. We try to stick to a weekly routine so that they can organise themselves around it with homework and after-school activities. In short, my kids are not in charge of the household, we are.

But don’t repeat it: the secret -if there is one- is that French women have a life that doesn’t revolve around kids. I have seen many women who simply lost themselves when they became mothers. They put on a lot of weight that they never try to lose –no time!- and their whole life is about bringing up their offspring as best as they can, sometimes to try to make up for their own mistakes and choices. In France, the State pays for what we call “abdominal re-education” (in short, getting your flat tummy back) and the paid maternity leave is only 16 weeks long (10 weeks before the birth, 16 weeks after – you have to cheat on the due date if you want to spend more time with your baby – don’t ask).
But is there such a thing as French parenting? I am not sure. At the end of the day, it is all about finding out what your priorities are, and doing as best as you can!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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The good old routine is in full swing and, to make matters even worse, I badly miss the sun. London is dark, grey and rainy. In an ideal world, now would be a good time to escape somewhere sunny to top up my tan. But I can’t. The problem of growing older is that you have responsibilities. If I were to travel, who would take care of my daughters/my work/ my bills? My only option is therefore to try to find out how people cheer up here and now. So, during a (well-deserved, I think) lunch break, I went for a walk, trying to dodge the rain, to find out.
The cafes were packed. Apparently, some people stuff their faces to keep the blues at bay. I have nothing against the occasional chocolate cake or tiramisu but another problem of getting older is that I can’t really do it too often. Or I need a 5 km run right after to eliminate. Not nice.
At Harrods’ 5th floor, I went to have a quick look at the hairdressing department. Believe it of not, the ladies were having cups of champagne after cups of champagne. They were giggling all the time and getting completely sloshed. How odd. I am not sure that it would do the trick for me and I would be too worried about getting a haircut I don’t really like. I am a bit paranoid with haircuts, you see.
A lot of corporate guys who were wearing the mandatory power stripes, were also yelling at their phone. It must make them feel really important. That said, I find it rather dangerous: they don’t even look at the traffic when they cross the road. And I don’t like being yelled at.
Sadia, Photo Courtesy Of ActionAid UK

Disappointed not to have found something that could work for me, I went to the ActionAid UK blogging party ( in Farringdon this afternoon. It was fantastic. I heard about kids who –unlike me – were having real problems, such as having to climb a mountain to go to a school where they only had one teacher for 90 pupils. It made me feel a lot less complacent about my life here, which was exactly the kick I needed. I saw Mark Watson (the comedian) for the first time (you can check out his blog here).  That said, I think that I recognise him because his face is all over the Tube. He looked tired (well, he has two young kids) and was very skinny (what is it with actors being so skinny?). Me being me, I couldn’t help noticing that his red boxers were showing on top of his jeans. His speech was great, very personal and I actually felt selfish: he is in the middle of a tight schedule and managed to come and be inspiring. Way to go!
In short, I had a great afternoon. My head is now full of ideas. And I feel re-energised. Watch this space…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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You could just say that you are angry!

Once again, I had a carefully prepared post but my plans have changed. Which means that it will just be a short post today! I was walking along the river with my daughters during the week-end -the weather was lovely, although a bit cold- when an angry driver, on the embankment, kept tooting his horn. I have no idea why, but for once it wasn’t because of my driving because we were quietly walking on the pathway.

My older daughter, always the one to find the right word, said:
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist!”

I didn’t know this expression, so I asked her what it meant. She explained to me that it meant “don’t be angry” or “don’t get upset”. I was obviously very glad to be still learning at my age. That said, I was really surprised. Where does this expression come from? What do knickers have to do with being angry? Not to mention that getting your knickers in a twist must be painful. Weird.
But what surprised me most is the fact that the Brits are usually very prude. They don’t talk about knickers at all. The funny thing is that I cannot think of a similar expression in French. But in France, I can assure you that we do speak about underwears. A lot. Maybe that’s the reason why we don’t need any expression with ” knickers” in it? Just a thought.
I thought I couldn’t be surprised any more. But, again, I was wrong…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I am still learning every day. Over here, if you want to be heard or taken seriously, you have to proceed in a certain way. There is no point in being blunt or stating the facts. It is not going to serve you well. You have to tackle the matter in a tactful, indirect way.
You need to take baby steps, and slowly get to your point. I know that it can be frustrating but this is the only way to have a chance to make things happen. Just a chance.

For instance, I was talking about childbirth the other day with a few female friends. Let’s be honest here: it was very painful and I have to admit that I thought I was going to die because of the pain. And I know that I can’t really complain: there were no complications and both deliveries were pretty straightforward. Don’t get me wrong:  it was all worth it and I have two beautiful daughters, but my point was that it remained a traumatic experience, even if all was well (as was the case).
Well, I got it all wrong. You are simply not supposed to say things like this. One of my friends lost a significant amount of blood and almost passed away during the process. Her comment about the whole experience was: “Well, it stings a little bit, doesn’t it?”. I was gobsmacked.  My other friends nodded. They didn’t get what I was saying but they all understood the “It stings a little bit”. Clearly, it was time for me to change strategy. And I did try to change.

I once set up a meeting with a client and my junior colleague showed up 45 minutes late, unshaven, and smelling like well, fish. Not to mention that his hair looked like a battlefield.
How could I convey the message that this was not acceptable? In France, I would have sent him back home. Pure and simple. With some harsh words, such as: “get yourself sorted! Your behaviour is not acceptable in a professional environment. This is a final warning…” Over here, I wasn’t so sure. How could I tackle the issue? I decided to put my observations into practice. I took him outside of the meeting room and said something like “Well, you had a bit of a blooper this morning, right?” “Would you please go and wash and we will talk about this later?”.  He nodded and did what I said. A couple of months later and despite all my tactful explanations of how to behave in a corporate environment, he fell asleep during a business meeting. To this date I am still wondering whether the French approach would have worked better.
How do the Brits do it? How do they get things done while practicing the art of understatement? Well, I can only admit that I sometimes wonder.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Coming back from Dubai, I was suffering from post holiday blues. There was just one thing for it: a Bollywood movie. So I decided to open the other movie sent by my Indian friend Nisha and we watched it.

This time it was “Lagaan”. The story is about a village of farmers in India during the Victorian period. In order not to pay the ever-increasing taxes imposed by the British, they need to win a cricket game against the British officers. Oh, and they don’t know a thing about cricket.

Watching Amir Khaan makes for great entertainment, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad for the British officer’s sister, Elizabeth, who helped the Indian team to achieve victory only to be left broken-hearted.
My younger daughter was absolutely mesmerized while watching the movie. You see, she loves cricket and she now wants to watch the movie again. All 224 minutes of it. I need to speed up her British citizenship application process. She is not French any longer!
As for me, I need to come clean. I will probably get a British passport this year but, you see, I don’t get cricket. I hope that they don’t retain the passport because I have just told you this!
Let me explain: first of all, I never understood the rules. When does the match start? When does it finish? I have absolutely no idea. Then again, it doesn’t really matter because the whole thing can last up to three days. Three days! And it is all about sending and catching a ball with a bat. Actually, my knowledge is limited to the fact that there is some batting and bowling involved. No contact. No fights. Apparently, there are good chances for you to be having a cup of tea while the only action of the day is happening. Maybe cricket is just an excuse to drink and socialise? I am also told that the cricket players have a lot of success with women. I wonder what that is. You don’t see a thing about them (Look at the picture!). Well, simply put, it doesn’t do it for me.

I much prefer rugby. I love watching the players and their strong bodies (OK, and especially their muscular rears, I admit it). They fight, they sweat and the game is full of testosterone. Rugby is a contact game and I totally get it. I understand what tries and penalties are about, and also that a converted try can worth seven points. And even when I don’t get all the rules, I enjoy watching the players. To me, the rugby player is the epitome of manhood: he can fight and get dirty but he has to follow some rules– he is not someone you want to challenge. What is not to love about them?
So, where does this leave me? Am I normal? I sometimes wonder…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Jumping into 2012 (Dubai’s desert)

I have a lot to be thankful for. I started this blog as a new year’s resolution and for once I kept it! This is actually unheard of- I have never managed to keep a new year’s resolution before. Have you?
Thank you to all my readers for being so supportive, thank you for all the comments, interactions, and all the good posts that I have read…I honestly didn’t anticipate this blog to reach beyond my (small) circle of friends and acquaintances.
So, what will 2012 bring us? I have to admit that I don’t know. But for once, I am happy with my new life, happy to have left the Corporate life and not too worried about my French accent. What I want, maybe, is to travel more and write more…

I do hope that we will continue the journey together. Thanks again!

Oh, and if you vote for me here I will love you forever !
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London