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Have you ever wanted to escape from wherever you were sitting and bury yourself in the sand?  If you have, well, you might, just like me, have had to attend a few formal British dinners.
I hate to generalise, but I have to say that it can be a dreadful experience. It might be a charity dinner or a so-called informal dinner at someone’s house, (don’t kid yourself, the informal dinner will turn our to be very formal). I learned that the first rule is to smile and shut up. You are here to flatter the hosts or organisers anyway. This means that you can’t talk about yourself at all. If you do, it will be considered impolite. At one of such dinners, I was immediately on my back foot when I was told “Oh, what a nice dress, I thought that short cuts were not appropriate after 40 but I was clearly wrong”.  Smile. Don’t say anything. Thank whoever made such a comment. Don’t even mention that you are not 40 yet. It is simply not worth it. Lovely start. How do I get out?

I suddenly remembered my doctor telling me to squeeze my tummy after my children’s birth, in order to get back in shape. I decided to put his advice into practice immediately, even if my younger daughter is 7 now. As you can’t really talk when you suck your tummy in, it is a win-win situation.

I tried hard to find a subject that would break the ice. On one occasion, my mistake was to talk about kids. You see, our hosts used to have kids, but they were all grown-up now and had been to a leading boarding school aged 8 anyway.  They were basically shipped there and never returned. It didn’t give us much to talk about. But, come on, said the lady who was hosting the event, pets are so much more rewarding than kids anyway. I couldn’t believe my ears. But I hadn’t started drinking yet, so surely I had heard her correctly.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against pets and I grew up in the French countryside, surrounded by cats and dogs. But, to me, the order of priority is:
1: Children
2: Pets
Well, it turned out that I was wrong again. Silly old me.
The right order of priority, for the evening, was:
1.     Pets
2.     Garden
3.     House
Right. It is just a dinner, no need to voice my indignation. 

To add insult to injury, I then had to endure all the details of their beloved cat’s illness (her name was Izzy, and she was 15), and how in the end they decided to put her down because the poor darling was suffering too much. It must have been a terrible for them, I said. I swear that I saw a tear in the corner of my host’s eye. “It was hard”, she said, “and Walter and I are still very upset”. We still don’t know whether we will replace her. The whole monologue had lasted 6 minutes and 35 seconds according to the kitchen clock. And the cheap wine wouldn’t really distract me anyway.

The funny thing was that, when I had mentioned that my grandmother had passed away earlier in the year, she had quickly changed subject and said “Oh, these things happen”. They do indeed. Come on, there must be some white wine somewhere.

I hoped that a white knight in shining armour would rescue me but my husband was discussing gardening with the husband. No end in sight for both of us.

I spend the whole evening smiling and nodding while trying to get a flatter tummy. To make matters even worse, I didn’t really enjoy the food. To be fair, the steak and kidney pie was really heavy.

I now need to send a Thank you card for the privilege of having spent such a lovely evening. I am not sure what I will write.
On the bright side, apparently they said we were great company. Maybe they were just testing us?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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As all of you know, French has now a whole new government. That said, some things never change there. In France, when a private company wants to implement a redundancy plan, it is a big deal. This means that, even if the company is not even remotely owned by the State, the government will get involved, one way or the other. It is a French specificity. It is what French people expect. I am not talking about politicians making a comment in passing and acknowledging that the local communities will have a tough ride, which is what seems to happen this side of the Channel. No, in France, the Government will negotiate directly with the company in question and try, as much as possible, to stop the redundancies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

In 2012, Peugeot, the car manufacturer, may have to close down some of its French production sites. Nothing has transpired yet, but the newly appointed Arnaud Montebourg (Minister of “Redressement Productif” –don’t ask me what it is, I don’t know) has already sent a letter to Peugeot’s managing Director, asking him to clarify his intentions as soon as possible, and telling him that a government’s representative, Emmanuel Sartorius, will assess the situation (you can see the full letter here: I am sure that the Peugeot management team appreciated the gesture. They must be ballistic!

Things are slightly different in the UK: in 2003, the Alstom train manufacturing factory in Birmingham (UK) closed down, after 158 years of operations. Tony Blair, the then-labour prime Minister said that “he would do whatever he could to help.” , and that was the end of it. Not much was done and the factory was eventually mothballed. The difference of behaviour is quite telling, isn’t it?

I wonder what’s next. In 1982, the French government nationalised a wide range of French companies.  Without going as far as this, France is pretty much an expert in giving subsidies and other social benefits to a wide range of activities. Sometimes other countries complain and the subsidies are deemed to be unlawful after a long and costly legal battle. But most of the time nobody bats an eyelid. That said, such state aids usually buy time for some industrial groups but don’t solve the underlying issues.

I wonder what will happen to French interventionism once we move towards a more federal Europe. I can’t help thinking that the transition will be tough. Really tough…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a first time for everything, right? My first job, my first kiss, my first child…And guess what: first times never turn out the way you expect them to. Never.

Right. Today is no exception. I am happy to share one of my first times with you… Well, here is my first TV interview ever. But there is a twist: it is in Arabic. Al Jazeera found my blog and wanted to understand why the French love London so much. We met and they interviewed me.

Unless you have a grasp of Arabic, you won’t understand too much. But you can still see me (I love the way I look on camera, don’t you?), and, with some luck, this is the first of many more (let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?)…
Thanks again for all your support!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It might be something to do with age. It might be this country. But I have to come clean, so I will admit it: I am becoming more and more of a pain in the neck.
Don’t get me wrong: I choose my battles. But when I have decided that I want something, I don’t let go. To make matters even worse, I do it the British way now. You see, you don’t shout over here.  You stay dignified, and you make your points. You seek clarification. Well of course you do, because you are confused. You play the clock. And whatever happens, you don’t lose your composure. Under no circumstances whatsoever…

Recently, a new venue has applied for a license to sell alcohol. As it is on my daughter’s way to the Tube and as I didn’t want her to have to deal with any more drunken behaviour, I objected. I made a big fuss with the council and wrote polite representations detailing why I disagreed. In the end, I was the only one to object to the license. Everybody else had agreed but me. I know, I know, I am becoming unreasonable. To be fair, the other persons were mainly office workers who were not living in my area. In the end, I had to compromise (This is a word I am still struggling with, I must admit). They got their license (a few months late) but with several additional conditions that limited the number of hours when alcohol can be sold, the number of persons, etc…

The funny thing is that I wouldn’t even have bothered to object a few years ago. So what has happened? Why am I like this? Have I become British?  Am I just another over-protective mum? I don’t know. There must be something wrong with me.

It must be my hormones. 

If I am not happy with something, well, I complain. I now believe that it is important not to keep my frustrations to myself. I am generous now: I share them. A friend of mine was telling me that she didn’t dare to shout when she was at the hospital, delivering her baby. Well, come to think about it, I am not like that at all. I did so much more than shouting. Between contractions, I actually lectured everybody as to how they should be organised. Come to think about it, I might be unreasonable.

What can I say? You don’t mess with a French Yummy Mummy – and it is getting worse…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I am mourning a France that I thought was my home country. But it probably only existed in my dreams. Something must have gone wrong. Is it me? I must have missed a trick. I certainly didn’t see anything coming.

Let me explain: the Euro is on the verge of collapsing, the G20 summit was a non-event and France’s relationship with Germany has hit rock-bottom. But France keeps making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It is all about our new President, Francois Hollande, his journalist girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler and his ex-partner, mother of his 4 children, Segolene Royal.

On the face of it, it looks like a classic tale of jealous exes. But, in this very case, I believe that things are a tad more complicated. Ok, a lot more complicated.

I started to do some background research for this post and my findings are summarised below.

-Segolene Royal and Francois Hollande (the newly elected French President) have had 4 kids together. Although they never married, they were in a long-term relationship spanning over 3 decades.

-But it was not all easy. Francois Hollande had an affair with Anne Hidalgo some 24 years ago. He might even have fathered a daughter with her. Anne Hidalgo is a socialist politician involved in running Paris;

– While her partner was fooling around, Segolene found a shoulder to cry on: she had an affair with Jean-Marc Ayrault (the newly appointed Prime Minister) who, for the records, was married (to someone else, obviously);

– In 2005, Francois Hollande and the journalist who was following the Socialist party, Valerie Trierweiler, had an affair (she was also married to someone else). Segolene and him separated and Valerie Trierweiler is now the first girlfriend of France.
– Jean-Marc Ayrault was appointed Prime Minister, which proves that Francois Hollande doesn’t resent him for having an affair with his ex-partner (did you follow?)
That’s what we know. Just imagine what we don’t know…
Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with the right to a private life and what happens between consenting adults is none of my business. But I can’t help finding French politics in general and this new government in particular a bit, let’s say, incestuous…and how do they find the time to fool around? I barely have time to take care of my family and write my blog? How can they run a country and have such a complicated love life? How do they do it? Please tell me what I am missing.
That’s it, I sound like a killjoy now. But come on, when do these people work?
I know that politicians all over the world have made similar headlines. But never before have I seen such a tangled story at such a high level of power. Simply put, I feel like running away as fast as I can to get some fresh air, because it stinks. What I dislike most is what I perceive to be a form of nepotism amongst certain politicians: they sleep together, they work together. It is a small, cosy world: I hate it.
So tell me: what is wrong with me? Is politics? Is it the French? Or both?

PS: Don’t forget to read my guest post as well:

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Do I really look French?

From time to time -I would say once a week maybe-, some well-meaning friend or acquaintance tells me that I look very French. I am still struggling to understand what they mean. Apparently, it is supposed to be a compliment. No, really.
Despite always seeking clarification, I haven’t really managed to get to the bottom of what they mean. They just want to make a point, I suppose.
Is it the fact that I am a brunette and not a blonde? Has it something to do with my accent? I am not sure that I will ever know.
The thing is, I am not skinny (and for the records, I am not fat. I am somewhere in between, just like most of us) and I don’t chain smoke. Actually, I don’t smoke at all. And, as I have been told many times, French women smoke. So why do I look French again?
Maybe it is the way I dress? That said, this is highly unlikely, because, on an average day, I am dressed down, and to make matters worse I don’t wear any make up (OK, maybe a little bit of foundation) unless I am going out. I am what some would call very low maintenance.
I don’t even spend a lot of time in the bathroom in the morning because my husband takes too much time in there.  This means that I wash myself on evenings. Apparently, French women are known to spend all their time in the bathroom, grooming themselves. I don’t do that. No time with the kids anyway.
Or maybe it is because I am not really fond of beer? Maybe. But how would they know?
In short, I don’t get it: what is it that makes me look French? Actually, I also have some Italian blood, which means that I am not 100% French I suppose. So why do I look French again?
When you really think about it, don’t you think that saying to someone that she/he looks French is a crappy comment? Would I go to anyone and say, out of the blue ‘ you look very English!’ because he/she has freckles and is redheaded? Please, enough with the stereotypes.
Why on earth would I say something like this anyway? Oh, wait, I wouldn’t actually.
So please help me: why am I always being told that I look French?
Don’t forget to like my page on FB here:
Check out a new blog I found out about as well:
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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You have got to love French politics. It seems that a complicated love life is a must for any French politician.  What has happened this week is indeed too good to miss. You can read the whole story here if you want more details.

Let me explain: one tweet from Francois Hollande’s partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has created a huge embarrassment amongst French socialists. To cut a long story short, the first girlfriend of France decided to support a dissident socialist running for MP in La Rochelle in the middle of the elections, against the official candidate, Segolene Royal, who happens to be the former girlfriend of the actual president and the mother of his four children. Did you follow? Yes, I know that it is complicated, but that’s French politics for you. You can see the original tweet –in French- here.

The feud between Valerie Trierweiler (Francois Hollande’s actual girlfriend) and Segolene Royal (how ex partner) is a long-running one. When the then-married Valerie Trierweiler started to have an affair with Francois Hollande around 2005, she was working as a political journalist. A couple of years later, when the affair was still going strong and when Miss Royal was running for presidency, she allegedly asked her brother, who happens to work for the French Intelligence services (and bombed the Rainbow Warrior. It is a small world, after all) to contact Paris-Match, Valerie Trierweiler’s newspaper and ask them consign her to a non-political role, which Paris Match did. So much for the independence of the press. Welcome to France, guys!

Valerie Trierweiler was too upset to vote for Segolene Royal in the subsequent French general election in 2007. That was how personal it was.

But for Valerie Trierweiler, revenge is best served cold, and I suspect that her tweet is, in fact, a tit for tat (you made me change job. Well, I am going to make you change job too, Darling…)

Of course, some say that Segolene Royal only has herself to blame as she didn’t follow the process of primary elections to be chosen as the official MP candidate in La Rochelle. No, instead, she probably used the “special relationship” she enjoys with the highest instances of the party. She has also made it clear that, if elected (and that’s a big if right now) she wants to become the speaker of the Parliament. Her political ambitions and undemocratic ways to get selected for the elections have made some gnash their teeth and as a result the dissident candidate was already enjoying a lot of support, even BT (Before Tweet).

Where does this leave me? Well, I don’t know whether I should find the whole episode incredibly funny or just plain pathetic. I find it harder and harder to relate to French politics. I honestly can’t find a similar scandal in the UK. How can anyone take French politics seriously after this? Come on, there is a recession looming out there and frankly, I am not interested in your rivalries. In short, my message to French politicians and their wives/mistresses/girlfriends is:  if you could spend less time sleeping around and more actually running the country it would be great. Come on, grow up!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Before I start talking about the UK citizenship test, I have to share something with you: yesterday, I was buying a lovely falafel sandwich on Tachbrook Street, in the heart of Pimlico. I happen to love this market, the food is always super fresh, very tasty and extremely cheap (£3 for a lovely falafel sandwich).
Anyway, it was reasonably early and there were only two clients (including me) waiting for their falafel. Shorty after, a British gentleman arrived. He looked quite puzzled. His first question was “Where is the queue?” . He couldn’t believe that there was no need for a proper British queue when there were only two clients. He really seemed  upset. Sympathetic, the Egyptian shop owner told him “No queue today, Sir” and the English client seemed quite shocked. I hope he managed to get over it.

Anyway, I digress. My husband is now preparing his UK citizenship test (I am proud to say that I have already passed it) and I have to admit that the questions are pretty dull. Basically, it is all about knowing some facts and figures by heart. I have therefore decided to design what I believe to be a more relevant test to establish whether you are truly British. Here it is:
1. You need to be able to walk in the rain and in strong winds while firmly holding your umbrella. Don’t laugh, it is more difficult than it sounds. I asked on Twitter what the secret was, and here is the answer, thanks to @FranglaiseMummy “You put your head as hard into the umbrella as possible and attempt to walk into the wind. Move the umbrella as required to block the wind.” This will be a very useful skill, especially after the bad weather we are having in London.
2. You need to be able to go for a jog during a very cold and rainy winter day in short pants and T-shirt. Evidence of this will be required.
3. You need to be able to queue for more than 45mins without complaining. A smile on your face, even a fake one, is an added bonus.
4. When you look for a house to buy or to rent, you need to be able to say: “the location of this house is great” or anything positive really, despite the fact that the house is massively overpriced and that’s all you can think about.
5. You need to spend a whole day without saying “No”. Just forget about this word. Obviously, you are allowed to say that you “don’t disagree”, you “might consider it” , and so on, an so forth…Just be creative.
6. You need to be able to survive on baked beans and cheap toasts for a couple of days. No cheating allowed.
7. You have to go to work or do the school run in your pajamas as if it were perfectly normal. Don’t blink an eye and act perfectly normal.
So, how did you score? As for me, I might almost be there officially but I suspect I still have some way to go…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It is the end of half term and I am getting ready to get back to London. Catching up with friends and family in France is becoming more and more difficult. The gap between me and them is increasing. I go to great lengths to avoid hurting their feelings and I keep very quiet all the time, but they don’t seem to reciprocate and usually subject me to a shooting of questions: why did I leave? Why don’t I intend to come back? Why would I want to live in such a rainy city? Come on, I should know that France is the centre of the universe, the country that invented human rights, impressionism and Camembert.
And, as you know, I keep complaining that I am being patronised in England but, over here (in Saint Tropez), I am being lectured at every possible opportunity. I feel trapped because I am usually offered something really nice to drink and some nibbles, I start to relax and there we go, the down putting begins. In no particular order: I need to lose some weight, get a haircut, stop scratching my nose, change dress because this one shows too much cleavage, check my restaurant bill more carefully because they added 3 Euros of service charge last time, stop blogging because it is a waste of time, pay more taxes in France because it is my duty, become a civil servant to have a job for life, spend more time in France, and so on, and so forth.
It is a miracle that I have managed to remain reasonably sane with such treatment. To be fair, Nurofen helps. That, and glasses of rose wine.
Don’t get me wrong : I spent a whole week on the Mediterranean sea, the weather was gorgeous and the food would have tempted a saint (ah, the taste of olive oil on fresh fish…). It was great. It just hurts a bit to see that I can’t really share what’s on my mind as openly as I used to. Maybe it is all part of the growing old (and wise )process.
Don’t say it out loud, but I am almost missing the way people are telling me that I have a French accent in London.
I am not sure where I belong any more. Yep, time to go home. In London.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Before I forget, I need to thank you for 40blogSpot’s success: 
– you can read one of my guest posts here. Enjoy and leave a comment! 
– I am mentioned on the BBC webside. Have a look here.

Today, I am not going to talk about the Diamond Jubilee. I am sure that you have seen it all anyway. No, instead, I am going to tell you about the small changes that we Londoners have had to put up with over the last week or so.
It started with yellow signs like this one popping everywhere…
Hmm, it is going to be difficult to move in London.

It continued with barriers stored on the pathways, at every corner, literally everywhere. It proved to be a bit of a pain in the neck during the morning rush hours, when the streets are full.

Countless cubicles were also brought in, in case you badly needed the loos during the festivities. Well, better safe than sorry, right?

Some houses, windows and shops were decorated with flags. It wasn’t every house, just a couple of houses on every street.

Even boats were celebrating the event.

And then, in case you had partied too much, some locals had a ready-made action plan to keep you going…

But well, now that the celebrations are over, all is supposed to be back to normal. Except that I wouldn’t know, I managed to escape (I don’t really like big crowds and massive events). Guess where I am…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London