Posted by / Category London /


There is a new trend in town: a lot of my friends have been to Paris for a weekend with their respective boyfriend or girlfriend and –surprise surprise!- they all came back engaged. It must be dome sort of ritual for young couples in a manual that I missed. Once back, I get a full description of how he popped the question. It is usually something along the following lines “And in the middle of the Champ de Mars, in front of the Eiffel tower, he went down on one knee and asked me whether I wanted to marry him. Everybody applauded. It was sooooooo romantic. Paris is the most romantic city in the world. Oh, I love Paris! I said yes, of course.” And so on, and so forth. I am, of course, very happy for them, despite the fact that I keep hearing the same story and it is becoming slightly boring (Am I becoming cynical?). On top of this, I have to admit Paris doesn’t have the same effect on me. There is nothing romantic about dog crap every 5 yards (be careful where you kneel, boys) and mad drivers everywhere. I would know, I used to live there.
OK, I will say it: London is, to me, a lot more romantic than Paris.
There are lovely parks everywhere and the dog poo usually comes in a plastic bag! Seriously, even the lampposts are reminiscent of an old love story. You don’t believe me? I was once wondering what the cryptic signs on the Westminster lampposts meant. I got some help from my deliciously British friend the Accidental Londoner (check out her blog here). She happens to be a fountain of knowledge. Apparently, the W stands for the Duke of Westminster, who had a 10-year relationship with Coco Channel, hence the interlaced Cs on the other side of the lampposts. Obviously the Westminster council disagrees with such an explanation and has said that W stands for Westminster and the double Cs for City Council. What a bunch of old bores!

Coco Chanel famously turned the Duke’s proposal of marriage down, arguing: “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster, there is only one Chanel”. That’s French bluntness for you!
In London, you see, you don’t shout your love from the rooftops. You write it on a lamppost. How original is this? Frankly, I have never seen it anywhere else. Anyway, I know need to meet my friend L. Guess what: she was in Paris last weekend and she has got something to tell me. Why do I have this sense of déjà-vu?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Traffic in London was a nightmare this morning because there are all sorts of road works in Pimlico and to make matters even worse, the Vauxhall bridge was closed. I ended up having my morning coffee next to the MI6 building after a long and stressful school run. One thing led to another and I started thinking of spies…

This is James Bond’s house. How exciting! I live in Spy land: Pimlico and Vauxhall are where you can find them when they are not on a secret mission. The location of some of their offices is meant to be a secret. Well, it turns out that, no later than yesterday, I was taking a bus to go near Pimlico station. At some point, the driver stopped and said “All spies to get off the bus now”. Well, not so secret then. The thing is, I am not a spy and this was my bus stop. So I muttered, “Actually, I live here”. All the other passengers didn’t say a word and got off looking at their feet. I felt that I was caught in the middle of the cold war. Very weird indeed.


Adding 2 and 2 together, I came to the conclusion that the office block on my street is one of such locations and apparently it is an open secret because even my florist knew it. After some careful observation, this is what I can tell you:
1.     Spies don’t work during weekends. No black vans are coming out of the gates on Saturdays or Sundays;
2.     Some spies finish work really early. Like before 4pm.;
3.     Some spies look very fit. Others, well, not so much;
4.     My florist thinks that they should buy more flowers.

But I digress. This morning, while I was daydreaming and admiring the MI6 building, I noticed that the guy sitting at the next table had blue hair. If you don’t believe me, here is the evidence:


 The funny thing is that, apart from the hair, he had all the attire of the average office worker, with suit and blackberry. This got me thinking: maybe it is a signal: he is waiting for someone and the hair is the way the other guy is going to recognise him. Come to think if it, it is a very silly signal, because in London, you can see all sorts of hairstyles. Punk, green, rasta…you name it, we can see it everyday. Blue doesn’t stand out. I should have asked him but I was too shy to do so. I hope that the secret meeting went well.

The caffeine took some time to kick in. I started dreaming of a bus that would stop and say ‘Pimlico, home of the French Yummy Mummy’. In another lifetime maybe!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Joan Of Arc by Rosetti, kissing her sword

I need to come clean about something. After more than 8 years now, I still haven’t cracked the right way to say hello in London.
Usually, I say “Hi” or “Hey” and it does the trick. But the responses may vary. It can be ‘Good day mate!’, ‘Are you alright?’ or ‘How do you do?’. Sometimes, I even get the silent look and I feel like a total failure. Sigh.

In short, I never get it right. However, that’s not the worst part. My real greeting nightmare is: when do you kiss?  In France, we are all serial smoochers. Depending on the region, you have to do 2, 3 or even 4 pecks on the cheeks. Here, I simply don’t know. Apparently, the rule seems to be one light kiss on the cheek for your female friends only. Don’t ask me what you do with the boys, I have no idea whatsoever. None. I have seen some do air kisses, hugs, or just handshakes. I think that there must be a hidden addendum on the Magna Carta explaining whom you can kiss. Mental note to self: I need to call the British Museum to ask them.


So what do you do over here? I sometimes wish I were a stuck-up British man who would only do handshakes. Some of my male colleagues told me that they had never kissed anyone (to say hello, obviously. Mind you, they didn’t elaborate so it is open to all interpretations). I couldn’t believe it. I have tried to kiss male friends (in a friendly way, if you must know) only to be greeted with a clumsy handshake and a funny look. OK, lesson learned.

Actually, not quite.  It took me a bit more to learn my lesson and to NEVER kiss a British guy without prior warning, explanation and a business case (all three conditions are mandatory). I hadn’t moved for a very long time to London and I made the mistake of kissing British friend/colleague to say hello. The guy slightly turned his head and I almost kissed the corner of his lips. I was very embarrassed indeed and had to apologise to make it clear that I didn’t fancy him (at all, actually). And then he said “The pleasure was all mine”.

I couldn’t believe it. Well, I don’t like British kisses but you have got to love the British sense of humour, right?

What about you? How do you deal with the kissing conundrum?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /


Every mother knows the challenges involved in bringing up children. Right now, my daughters are fascinated by swear words. The ruder and the dirtier, the better. Sometimes it feels like they are having some sort of competition. I have to admit that I didn’t know that they could be so creative and make such an effort to expand their vocabulary –I just wish that it were in a different sort of register!

Without being able to admit it, I learned lots of new words and I am not sure that I will be able to use them all. I also didn’t know that swearing could be so funny. They seem to keep laughing their heads off all the time. I tried to put an end to it, only to find out that they were swearing at every possible opportunity, but behind my back, or -even worse- at their friends’ houses. It was time to take action. I told them that they could swear as much as they wanted, but only in our basement loo, with the door closed.
Initially, they couldn’t believe their luck and spent an hour cramming themselves in there, shouting all sorts of swear words at the mirror. Swearing outside of the loo is of course strictly forbidden. They were all giggling and kept going back to the loo, just to swear.

 The novelty quickly wore off. I don’t think that they have used the swear loo any more. The fascination of swear words seems to have gone, at least for the time being…And if it comes back, I will send them again to the downstairs loo to get it out of their system.

Come to think of it, I love this swear loo concept. Wouldn’t it be nice, every time you hold a grudge against someone, just to go to the basement toilet and insult the person all you want, until all the hate fades away? I need to try it out sometimes. Or when you are tired or sad and need some me-time, you could just go and cry all the tears of your body, in order to feel all refreshed and happy again? We all need a swear loo in our life, don’t you think?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Right, it is time to set the record straight here. I have been complaining about the fact that, whatever I do, I am never taken seriously because of my French accent but, right now, I feel like a princess. A goddess. For some reasons, being French also gives me lots of perks. To be fair, I am a lot more relaxed and I don’t put up with what I used to, which must help.

Let me explain. Yesterday, I decided to do some grocery shopping. I don’t like it, but the family has to eat, right? To cheer me up, I went to my coffee shop first where, for some unknown reason, I was offered a free cappuccino. By the female barrista, if you must know. Well, I just enjoyed it. It was great.

Then, I needed to go to my local supermarket to buy some fresh fish. Nobody was at the stand to serve me. Typical. It was about 11.30 am on a Friday morning. I therefore had to ask someone for help. Eventually a young guy arrived. He was clearly annoyed. I explained that I wanted a couple of fresh soles. I also ask him whether he could skin them for me. You see, in France you don’t even need to ask, they do it automatically. And you have to stop them if you don’t want them to. But the guy told me ”sorry, ma’am, I am not trained to do this.” What?


The thing is, a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have said anything. I would have bought them anyway. But after having tried to skin a sole in my own kitchen only to manage to send it flying on the wall, I wasn’t going to accept this. So I replied. “Well, neither am I. What am I supposed to do then?” Blank look. In a very British way, I ended the conversation with “Well, thank you for being so helpful”. And I walked away without buying anything.

I was of course fuming but I remembered that there was a fishmonger on Tachbrook Street market, so I went there. He was lovely and very helpful. Just like in France, I didn’t need to ask anything and he even gave me a fresh Dover sole because he accidentally cut the head of one while skinning it (see, it is not THAT easy!). Which really didn’t matter, but he insisted to give it to me. For free. It was HUGE.

I couldn’t believe my luck: free coffee and free sole today. Today, I still feel like a million dollars. And guess what: I have never felt like this in France. Life is good!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

We had a few quiet months but right now it is coming back with a vengeance: I keep reading articles about ‘the French’ and how extramarital affairs are not that big a deal on the continent. It is not making my life any easier.
Some British men still blush when I talk to them, because of my accent. I don’t know what they are thinking. Maybe that I am hitting on them? That I ooze sensuality? That I fancy them? Next time, I will pretend that I am German. Or Swiss. Most middle-aged British men are not listening to what I say for the first five minutes (sometimes even longer). Then, usually, I get a comment like ‘you look very French’. I retaliate ‘you sound very British’. Or I just smile. Most of the time, I give up and try to work with women. Much easier. I used to find the whole thing flattering. Now, I am just tired of it.
Give me a break. Being French and a woman is a double whammy: you have got to fight against the sexist clichés AND the stereotypes against the French. You need a good dose of patience and it is important to keep things into perspective: it is a cultural thing, nothing personal. I have learned to ignore the winks and the smiles after an allusion to the behaviour of DSK and the likes.
In London, they make it sound like the French have invented extramarital affairs. All the articles usually paint an idyllic picture of open marriages and glorify women who swallow their pride while their husbands have a roving eye. Apparently, being unfaithful is not that big a deal in France.
What a load of rubbish!
Come on, the aristocracy in this country has had affairs for ages (just look at the Royal Family!), and it doesn’t have much to do with the French, does it? They did it all by themselves. Affairs are not the privilege of the French. Over here, there are plenty of website for married people who want to cheat on their partner. Such sites might exist in France but apparently it is not as big a business as over here.
I sometimes wonder whether such articles are written by frustrated journalists who would like to have the opportunity to stray but are too afraid to do so. Admiring the French for their perceived promiscuity is an easy way to forget their own frustrations.
What would we do without stereotypes? I once was offered an ashtray despite the fact that I don’t smoke. As I am French, people assume I smoke. Well, I don’t. I gave the ashtray to my then British boss, who was a smoker. Maybe I should have kept it to throw it against the wall when I get a silly and inappropriate question about whether my husband has a mistress -because, apparently, all French men do. Instead, I play it cool. I say ‘oh yeah, the three of us had lunch on Sunday, it was great. Actually, she is waiting for me in the car right now, she is giving me a lift to the spa. Must go’. Or I take the moral high ground: you don’t cheat on a woman like me!
And here is why I feel angry this morning: while I was writing this post during my morning coffee, a British guy wearing the mandatory stripey suit came to me and asked me whether I knew him from somewhere. I didn’t –I can’t even have my coffee without anyone bothering me, can you believe it? He even wrote his number on a napkin. I won’t post it (I hesitated). Great, on top of everything else, I need to change coffee shop.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Living in a foreign country is probably what keeps me (reasonably) grounded. In France I used to take some things for granted, such as the freshness of food and free schools. I had to learn (the hard way) that such things don’t necessarily exist everywhere. As a result, I am more grateful for what I have, and for some weird reasons I ended up being happier over here, in London. But I am far from being the only one to have had such experiences.

Meet Sonia, a (very fit and even more gorgeous) mum of 3 boys. Sonia lives in California (lucky her!).

When her teenage son started going off the track, she didn’t know what to do.  Would she send him away to try to go and sort himself out? Would she try to deal with the issue herself? Would she become depressed? Would she seek a family therapist?
Faced with such a situation, Sonia devised her very own innovative plan: she moved all the family to Belize for a year. Yes, Belize in the Caribbean…
Her move surprised everybody, but somehow worked. Having a different pace of life and having to deal with the unexpected made the whole family more close-knit, and also more grateful of the small things of life -you know, the stuff we often take for granted, such as medical care or food in your local supermarket. They eventually came back to California and thrived.
Sonia wrote a novel of her experiences, Freeways to Flip Flops ( click here for the US Amazon link and here for the UK one).


But there is more. This is the moment you have all been waiting for: Sonia agreed to be interviewed about her book and, as much as I didn’t want you to hear my strong French accent and my lack of media skills, I ignored my natural shyness (I am an Engineer after all, you see) and did it. Here is the result:

Sonia’s novel is about the difficulties of holding a family together, trying to accommodate everybody’s needs. How do you make it work? What do you do when things don’t work out as expected? It is also a book about expat communities abroad and how your fellow countrymen behave when they have settled abroad.
I enjoyed Sonia’s story, because she tells things in an honest, understated way. She explained, for instance, how to try to find the same food than at home, and how what works on the paper might be a bit more difficult to implement. Sonia’s book needs to be read slowly, chapter by chapter, to be fully appreciated. Her story is about resilience, and thinking outside the box to make it work. I highly recommend it.
Sonia’s story resonated with mine. Maybe all expats have something in common: they need to go out of their comfort zone and make the best out of it. If you have the opportunity to live abroad, grab it!



Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /


It is typical, isn’t it? I was expecting some more rain, cold weather and grey skies but there is a bright sunshine in London.
This means that, of course, I am not prepared for my daughter’s first day at her new school as I only have her winter uniform. As a result, I have to cross London to find everything I miss, such as white ankle socks (for summer) and knee high dark blue socks (for winter). And the bad news is that I won’t get the summer dress by tomorrow. I am now considering sending my daughter to school with her newly bought white socks and her winter uniform. That said, I am not sure that you can mix and match.
The things we have to do when we become parents… I will blame it on the weather. I hope that they won’t send her back home.
But it gets worse. I thought that I was done with the leg wax and other niceties. Turns out, I am not. I have to attend various barbecues and new parents’ tea meetings and I need to make a good impression. There is nothing worse that meeting new mums and being told ‘you look tired’ (this means: for God’s sake, put some make-up on, Darling) or, even worse ‘you are French? Really? You don’t look French to me…this means that I have either put on some weight or my dress sense leaves much to be desired. That said, I can always answer ‘that’s right, I don’t smoke’. It might buy me some time. Might only. Usually, most of them are skinny and blonde. Why am I always a misfit?
In short, even for a veteran Mum like me, the pressure is on. I am sure that all will be ok in the end but I don’t want to let my daughters down. And I badly need a manicure too. How am I going to find the time to get presentable? The answer is: I am not. I need to think outside the box here and now. As a mum, you have to be resourceful. I have found a lovely light brown nail polish in my teenage daughter’s bedroom (where did she find it?). That will do. And her foundation to hide pimples. That will do too. How did I manage before having a teenager in the house? I have no idea.
Oh, and to hide the dark circles I have taken my husband’s designer sunglasses. He is not using them, right? Dress on. High heels on. I am good to go.
Wish me luck.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Magritte Painting

No matter how hard I try, I know that I will never be truly British. It has nothing to do with my vocabulary or my grammatical skills (ok, I admit, maybe a little), and everything to do with references and allusions. You see, the Brits recognise themselves with jokes, references and allusions only they can understand. Tough but true.
I remember once being told that a situation was ‘curiouser and curiouser’. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but discovered later that this was a phrase used repeatedly by Alice in Lewis Carroll’s story ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Everybody had understood the allusion except me. I was lost in translation. Neither did I understand the many references to a programme called ‘Fawlty Towers’. Some were about French women because of a character named ‘Madame Peignoir’, who apparently was often inebriated and slightly mad. Others were about not becoming bad tempered: ‘Don’t become a Basil Fawlty’. Apparently the programme was hilarious. The references to it, I have to admit, have always left me cold. But the Brits love them. They serve them at every possible opportunity. I suspect that it is their way to distil cultural stereotypes and convince themselves of their cultural superiority. If it makes them happy, well, it can’t be that bad…
To be fair, some allusions are easier to understand as they refer to a common culture. I understood a colleague talking of another colleague and saying ‘he seems to have stepped directly out of Magritte painting’, because of the shape of his hat. I was very proud to get that one. We French also talk about ‘nymphs’, noble savage and Notre Dame. In short, I am not completely lost. But sometimes, I just don’t get it. I remember a mum telling me that ‘there is no joy in Mudville’ when our daughters had lost a netball match. I didn’t get that one.
But I have a secret weapon. When a well-intentioned soul tries to impress me with various allusions, I fire back with French words, authors, philosophers or food -whatever works well and whatever comes to my mind. It usually does the trick.
What about you? How do you deal with references and allusions?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London