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Have you noticed that, nowadays, it is a shame not to know? When I ask a simple question, such as “what is there at the canteen for lunch today?”,  my British friends and colleagues, instead of saying “I don’t know”, like to speculate. “Hmmm, let’s see, it is Wednesday, right? I bet we are going to have the overcooked burgers again”.
I might be naïve, but, when I don’t know, I just say so. Don’t get me wrong, I hate people who are always saying that they don’t know. Just picture yourself going to the doctor to be told, in response to each of your questions, “I don’t know”. It would be annoying, wouldn’t it? That said, from time to time, I prefer to say that I don’t know instead of making something up. This is obviously a major etiquette mistake over here. My boss once snapped back at me: “It is your job to know!”.
Let me rephrase what she probably meant –as you know, things need to be interpreted over here-: it is your job never to admit that you don’t know. Indeed, my colleagues are very creative at finding ways to avoid saying that they don’t know. The first technique is to buy time, and say that you will look into it, and then come back with an answer. It is even better if you can blame someone for not knowing, usually another colleague, who should have given you the information but didn’t –what a shame! It will be a useful diversion and the original question will immediately be forgotten.
Alternatively, you can ask another question, or ask your interlocutor to clarify the question. If you are really good, you might manage to look pompous and say something like “That’s not the real issue, I think that we should focus instead on…” and then lead the conversation where you want it to be.
Finally, some are more adventurous and simply make something up really fast. If they are talented, it might look credible. Some are experts at this.
Now that I have left the Corporate world, I am still fascinated to see how creative my colleagues could be. If only they had been putting the same energy actually doing their job!
When did it become unacceptable to admit that you don’t know? Is it because it would be a sign of weakness? Why are we ashamed of not knowing? Well, I don’t know.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Before I forget, please have a look at one of my post on Hajra’s travelling column here.

Right, back to business now: it is this time of the year again. Where do I start?  There are some changes that I need to share with you. For starters, Google Friends Connect will be discontinued by end of the month. Please don’t be shy, do not hesitate to follow/like me on my brand new FB page, or on my Google+ page (the buttons are on the right hand side of this post).
I have also tried to make the design of my site a bit simpler, in order to focus on the content of the posts rather than on the fancy bits. I hope that it worked. Once again, any comments are welcome.


I keep receiving lots of requests from PR agencies to put ads, links, or to guest posts on my site. So far I have just turned them down. For some funny reason, most requests come from gay dating websites…I don’t have anything against gay dating websites but I don’t believe that it would enhance my blog. Eventually, something I like will come along and maybe I will accept some form of collaboration. Let me be clear, I don’t really want to make any money from it (even if it would be nice, my blog is and will remain an author’s blog, focused on content). That said, I would like, with the money collected from the ads (let’s dream a bit), to sponsor a child with ActionAid (you can check out their website here). What do you think?
Finally, since I have created an email address for the blog, I also keep receiving requests from men to start a relationship. How funny (and unexpected)! I am sorry to break it out to you guys, but I am happily married. But this is all very flattering indeed.
Right, that’s it. Well, not quite in fact. OK, I will say it fast: I have started to draft a book on what it feels like to be French in London. It is early days and I don’t know where it will take me. Just wish me luck!


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a darker side to London than meets the eyes. Over the last few years, London has become the divorce capital of the world. All the oligarchs’ wives want to divorce here to maximise their wealth. London has a reputation to protect the interest of the weaker party (usually, but not always, a wronged wife, dumped for a younger version). It is still unclear whether prenups (i.e. signed agreements on how the money should be shared in the event of a separation) are valid over here and, from celebrities to bankers’ wife, London divorce courts seem to be issuing multi-million pound settlements every minute. In short, the implied message is: “if you divorce in London, you will be rich”.
In theory, this is all good: just look elsewhere if you need some convincing: if reports are to be believed, divorcing in China, for instance, is a nasty business and lots of women have ended up homeless as a result. But an unexpected side effect of this divorce thing is that there is a growing part of the population, in London, taking advantage of such measures. They are called, unofficially, the “professional divorcees”. I am sure that you have already met at least one.
Being a professional divorcee is a job. You need to take really good care of your (a 2-hour daily workout is a must, not to mention spa appointments, cosmetic dentistry & surgery, stunning wardrobe, oversized ego…). But it is all about anticipation. A friend of mine used to be a successful banker when recession stroke. He knew he was going to get sacked and told his then-wife that they would need to tighten their belt a bit. She quickly joined an upmarket dating agency and found herself another rich man before filing for divorce and getting a handsome settlement for, amongst other things, “emotional distress”-apparently he was working so hard that she was barely seeing him. Six months later, not only was my friend sacked, but also divorced and depressed.
Another acquaintance of mine also waited to have spent 10 years (to the day) in London to file for divorce (they were living in mainland Europe before). Things hadn’t been great for a couple of years. But she calmly explained that she had to wait because after 10 years you are sure to be able to apply the English Common law, which was much more interesting for her (and a lot more expensive for her husband obviously). She ended up with an 8-figure settlement. Her patience paid off apparently.
This made me wonder. The system in the London courts is all about “fairness” and protecting the children as well as the weaker party. But some use and abuse it to maximise their own personal wealth, not understanding that, in doing so, they undermine the entire credibility of the system. But they don’t care, because, in the short term, they will benefit from it. Maybe it is just an unavoidable side effect of trying too hard to be fair. Or maybe “what goes around comes around” and eventually the “professional divorcees” will be taken to the cleaners or end up on their own. Only time will tell.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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My Grandfather with My Daughter

Middle age should have made me a bit wiser. But somehow it hasn’t. I believe that I will never learn. I must have missed a trick.
There was a ballet exam at my younger daughter’s school. For some unknown reason it was a very social event and all mums were dressed up. Obviously, it was better to be blonde, skinny, and to have your nails perfectly manicured. Once again, with my dark hair, botox-free face and flat shoes, I was a misfit. Oh well, never mind.
It is my lot in life to get it completely wrong most of the time, and I don’t really mind any more.
Some men were waiting too, and they looked very bored indeed. I started chatting with an older guy (I am not very good at guessing ages, but I would say that he was in his sixties). He vaguely reminded me of my grandfather and because of this I felt at ease with him.
I was thinking that it was really nice for him to come to encourage his granddaughter. I was about to say it but something stopped me. Maybe I am more mature after all.

A couple of minutes later, a skinny, blonde and high-heeled creature came over to him and gave him a quick kiss on the lips while smiling at me. He was, in fact, the Dad. Thank God I didn’t say anything. I was in shock. Their daughter has just started school –she is barely 4. And he is older than my own Dad! His wife must be younger than me (it is a bit difficult to say with all this make-up).

Maybe, after all, I am a misfit because my life is incredibly normal and boring. Don’t get me wrong: normal and boring is good. It is just that I never cease to be surprised!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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This is a French expression that I have heard a lot over the last three days. “Faut pas pousser Meme dans les orties”.
Literally, it means “Don’t push Granny in the stinging nettles”. Well, obviously, you must now ask yourself why I would want to push my Grandma in the first place, let alone on stinging nettles. Don’t worry, I didn’t push my grandmother anywhere. I am not this sort of person, if you must know.
It is quite difficult to translate such an expression. I am actually not sure of what the exact English translation would be. I believe that the closest would be “Don’t push it”, or maybe “don’t get ahead of yourself”. Basically, it means that you mustn’t go too far, or too fast, and you need to adapt your pace and your actions to the persons you are dealing with. I have just spent a few days in France, and the pace there was really, really slow. I really tried to progress all I had to do, but, lots of times, I sensed –and was told- that I was pushing granny in the stinging nettles. That’s just the kind of person I am, I suppose. I like to make things happen. Apparently I am too pushy. That said, though the fresh leaves can cause painful stings, these are rarely seriously harmful. Some nettles are even eaten as vegetables after being steamed (I have to admit that I have never tried). Nettles can also be used to cure or alleviate a variety of conditions.
In short, the question that I am asking myself is: “Is it that bad to push granny in the stinging nettles?”. OK, she will be upset and she is quite old, but sometimes, you just have to act, don’t you?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It wasn’t a good start of the weekend. My street was full of signs like this one:

On Friday afternoon huge lorries started to park everywhere. Long traffic jams started to build up and I was wondering what was going on.
It dawned on me on Saturday morning when I understood that the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall”, was literally being shot on my doorstep! How exciting!
The crew wasn’t allowed to say anything but what they were shooting was pretty easy to guess…
Can you see? It says “Skyfall”

 I was very impressed with the amount of preparation. Two huge buses were apparently being used as a canteen.


There were lots of cars on Millbank, red double-deckers and even black cabs being filmed. A couple of tourists thought that the red bus was a real one and tried to hop on, only to be told that the bus wasn’t going anywhere. It was simply hilarious.
This red bus will not take you anywhere!

I saw Dame Judi Dench (M) with Daniel Craig in a Bentley, and the best shot I managed to take was this one (I promised that they were inside).

Despite the biting cold, I spend a long time walking along the river and if you see someone with a beige coat walking down Millbank when the movie comes out in October, it is me!
James Bond is my favourite British institution. He is a man of few words, you see, and he gets the job done. What is not to love about him? In such instances, you have got to love London!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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This is too good to miss. I know that some of you didn’t believe me when I wrote that I seem to have a problem, in this country, with white, usually middle-aged British public school guys (i.e., men who believe that they own the world because they went to a posh school –some didn’t even go, they just want to look the part and they usually are the worst). For starters, they make me repeat at least twice what I am saying and look concentrated when I dare to speak, as if they needed to be really focused to understand my bad, broken English. One of them once gave me a long-winded lecture on the fact that I should have said “to make matters simpler” instead of “to make matters clearer”. Funnily enough, everybody else seems to understand me, including my Irish builder and my more “normal” friends.
Well, here is the proof: an email has, once again, become viral. You can read the whole story here.
Come on, city boys, you need to be more careful and stop using your professional emails for what you believe to be “harmless banter”. What do they teach you in these exclusive institutions? Apparently neither humility nor caution. The email is about the behaviour that 4 high flyers need to adopt when on a trip in Dubai.  It also includes a short bio of each of them. Hilarious. Here are some of the recommendations:
 “ – Cheating is allowed [I am sure that the girlfriends will appreciate];
 – Mentioning parents salaries once a day;
 – Chants about your surrounding environment, being oily and how rich we are, are compulsory;
– Public school boy 10 minutes (collars must be up) at specified 10 minutes past the hour…”
Obviously such an email should not have become viral and I wonder what kind of “friend” has forwarded it to the whole planet. But this email is also a gem because it is a rare insight into how some public school boys, in this country, have fun. This type of behaviour is what makes city boys feel on top of the world. According to them, writing such an email makes them “witty”, not silly. Don’t you think that it is pathetic? These 4 boys are supposed to belong to the British elite. They have super-duper jobs but don’t seem to care about what the real world is about. I will say it: they look like obnoxious little brats. It is all about showing how superior they are. And this is exactly what makes me uncomfortable when I talk to one of them.
I sincerely hope that, in time, the 4 city boys will become more approachable. There is still hope for them: they are young and life will teach them a few home truths.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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French food is probably what I miss most in London. When I was living in Paris, I was buying fresh bread every day at the local boulangerie. It wasn’t a luxury, most people were doing it, and there was at least one boulangerie every 100 yards anyway. Furthermore, after a day of work, I used to stop at my local butcher or fishmonger to buy something fresh for dinner. What I was cooking wasn’t complicated, but it was healthy and tasty –usually something grilled with vegetables and a touch of olive oil.

Initially, in London, I felt lost. The bread was coming so tightly wrapped in a plastic foil that it actually tasted like plastic. I realised that I was, in fact, addicted to good, simple, artisan food. When I was looking at my colleagues biting their sandwiches -made of soft and soulless processed bread-, I was hurting inside. Worst of all, I used to treat friends coming around with fresh baguettes, found in exclusive gourmet shops after hours of research. Instead of appreciating it, as they were blissfully unaware of what good bread tasted like, they told me that my baguette was over baked. They simply were not used to fresh bread: the loud crack of the firm crust, followed by the soft noise (“squish”) made by the inside. Philistines. They don’t know what they don’t know. Sigh. They are not educated in good food. I will not, and cannot, ever, get used to eating crappy bread and processed food. Clear and simple. Sorry, guys, but at my age I have “to call a cat a cat”, as we say in French (the British equivalent would be  “to call a spade a spade”).


Don’t get me wrong: English food is not all bad. I am actually quite fond of fishcakes and I like the famous Sunday roast, especially with Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I also like to discover new types of vegetables I simply had never heard of, such as parsnip. And Pimm’s lemonade is simply fantastic, especially in summer (it simply brightens up the dullest cricket match, doesn’t it?) . But I miss the French culture of freshness.

Of course, French food can be complicated, with snails and frog legs, but that’s not what I am talking about here. Some days, I could kill to get something simple and fresh (and NOT fried please), that does come in a little box.

In order to survive in London, I had to develop new skills, such as learning where to shop and baking my own bread. I am proud to say that I managed. But it is hard work. How about you? How do you manage?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I am taking the Victoria line quite a lot nowadays. Taking the Tube in London is, in itself, quite an experience. You can see London Underground staff in their blue and grey uniforms everywhere: at the gates, on the platform and if you are lucky, they might have a hat. The whole thing carries an outdated charm. What never ceases to amaze me is the small size of the tunnels, with the trains just fitting inside. Woooosh!
The Victoria Line trains have been upgraded and a brand new Signalling system has been installed, which is great but took a long time to fine-tune. To cut a long story short, the trains still have drivers but the driving is completely automatic, the driver is here in case of an emergency, to open and close the doors, and to communicate with the passengers in case of incidents, which still happens a lot. As a result of the upgrade, trains are much faster and their speed profile is completely optimised. This also means that that they gain speed and brake much more abruptly and the ride is generally less smooth than manually-driven trains. This is obviously because the frequency of trains has increased.
I like to sit at the end of the carriage, right next to the door. It looks more like a bench actually, and you half-stand (or half-sit, depending on how you see it). We were arriving at Victoria station when the train started to brake quite violently due to the automatic driving probably-. The young man standing in front of me -I would say he was in his early 20’s- forgot to hold the bar and fell into my arms. To be fair, he almost managed to stop falling when he was one inch from me, but the train gained speed, he lost his balance again and smoothly landed on me. He apologised profusely while I was trying hard not to laugh. Then, just to rub it in, I said “The pleasure was all mine”. He blushed -at this point I think that I was laughing. He then quickly exited the train. The whole thing made my day and I couldn’t help smiling all the time. So tell me: am I becoming a pathetic old cougar or did he do it on purpose?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London