Posted by / Category London, Politics /

Monday mornings are always that little bit more difficult… So here I am, having a lovely cappuccino in the independent coffee shop around the corner of my house.

I love this time of the day. For me, it is an opportunity to organise the week and to try not to panic about the long list of tasks ahead of me. Two guys then enter the coffee shop. They are French, reasonably good-looking and fashionably unshaven. Typical metrosexual, with Armani jeans and Hollister T-shirts. They believe that nobody can understand them. Of course they do. Typical behaviour, isn’t it? They sit down and start a passionate conversation about their respective trading positions while sipping their skinny lattes. Things are not well. The French bankers have the blues.
Taxes are too high, you see. It is not worth staying in London any more. One is considering going back to France, the other feels trapped because his children are going to British schools, but might consider a move to Singapore. And the school fees are soooo high and have even been raised. Can you believe it? His wife is having her annual health check-up, paid for by the lovely private health insurance. She then has a spa appointment and will pick up the kids later today. One of them is going to the Philippines for their holidays (where do they find the time and the money?). Life is really difficult.
The trading floor has been reorganised and half of the team has been made redundant. It seems to me that even less traders are needed given that they have been shouting behind my back for the best part of an hour, and it is mid-morning only. When do these guys work? How do they make their money? Their concerns range from the French exit tax to their latest equity investments. The problem is that their company won’t pay them their generous housing allowance after a few years and they have been asked to go local. How rude! You see, it is not worth it, and they can’t finance their lifestyle on a local salary. Maybe they would like to be expats for life.
Finally, they stood up and left. They were still complaining. I couldn’t believe it. Come on, how can you complain when you obviously have so much? This got me thinking: my target for this week is to be grateful for what I have.  Time to stop complaining! I might be French too but I will make a point of NOT complaining. 


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Despite my British passport, everybody thinks that I am French. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. People assume lots of things about me. Such things may come from what they have read or been told. Who knows? I don’t try to understand it any more. In particular, one of the usual prejudgments is that, as I am French, I don’t shower a lot and don’t clean my house very well.

As a result, I have had mums coming to my house to ‘inspect’ it before they would allow their kids to have a first play date with my children –you never know, they might catch something (it is called a French bug, very contagious indeed –be careful ladies). One mum in particular even opened the cupboard under the kitchen sink and looked in amazement at my cleaning products. With kids, I try to disinfect as often as possible, and she was so impressed that she didn’t hear me come back from upstairs. She was still crouching when she asked me whether I was really French. What a bloody cheek!

Yes, my house is clean and I like to do a bit of spring cleaning in March/April. Honestly. That said, such misconceptions make me want to pick my nose, eat my bogies in public and forget what a vacuum cleaner is.  The sneaky mum then went on explaining that she had just come back from a week-end in Paris and couldn’t believe how dirty it was, with rubbish and dog poo everywhere. That’s why she was so intrigued by my lovely cleaning products.
I didn’t know what to say. I shut up. You can’t fight this, can you? And there is no point anyway. I can’t win. You have to choose your battles, right?

As I was angry, I went to the gym for a workout, and bumped into another mum at the sport centre. She was sitting at the café next door when I got out, after my shower. She said ‘You took a long shower, didn’t you?’. I didn’t know that my shower had to be timed but there you go, it looks like I am under close surveillance. I must be careful. I couldn’t help it, I had to answer back. I then said:
“ Did I really? That’s funny, because I don’t really mind body odours. I think that they are very sexy. Don’t you?”
She was stunned. I walked by.

I shouldn’t have said that.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

London is nice and sunny.  After a few miserable weeks, spring has finally arrived here. That said, something else has arrived in London too.  When I look around, love is simply everywhere. It started when I was taking a stroll in the in the park and saw a superb peacock wheel. My daughter asked me what this was all about. I explained that the peacock was trying to impress a peahen. The said peahen didn’t seem too impressed, but I am sure that everything will be all right in the end. The peacock was trying very hard indeed.

It continued at the airport, where I was picking up my older daughter. The guy standing next to me was waiting for someone with a bunch of red roses. How romantic! What is going on?

Everywhere I go, there is a couple kissing or looking at each other as if the world around them didn’t exist anymore. This can be quite annoying, because you can easily be blocked by such a couple passionately kissing in the middle of the pathway. Maybe I am just a bit jealous. Or simply older. Becoming more cynical is probably part of the aging process, right?

When I was walking on High Street Kensington, a young man started kneeling in the middle of the street and took his fiancée’s hand. I couldn’t believe it. I would be so embarrassed if I were the fiancée. I don’t know what she said, I just walked faster to continue to run my errands.

Who said that the British were less demonstrative?  Is it me, or are British men quite romantic? I don’t remember seeing things like these in France. Don’t get me wrong French men seem to look at women in a very sexually explicit way (see here for my last experience of Paris), but I don’t remember seeing romantic demonstrations there. Maybe I forgot.

Spring is definitively here, and there is nothing like a ray of sunshine in London to cheer you up!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

You all know the old saying ‘less is more’. Basically, it means ‘don’t overdo it’. As in, for instance, don’t put on a gorgeous necklace and fantastic earrings, because it will be too much and could even clash. I used to completely agree with such an attitude. Well, now, I am not so sure. What has changed exactly? Well, lots of things.

For starters, the latest craze in London is the crop top. Basically, just like hot pants, the shorter, the better. Take a normal T-Shirt, cut it just under the breast and there you go, you have a crop top. Crop tops are everywhere, and Crop ! Crop! Crop! seems to be the new motto in London. This made me wonder: why does everything need to be in a lighter, shorter version?

I ordered a salad in a restaurant tonight. It was a bit disappointing because all I had was 4 leaves of endive topped by a spoonful of crab meat. Surely it was, once again, a minimalist version of a normal dish. I ended up ordering a big British cheese board to compensate, and immediately felt better.

Sometimes, you just need more and less is not more. Honestly, don’t you think that this minimalist fashion is, well, a bit boring? Where is the fun in this? Come on, it is perfectly ok to have a maxi dress, is it not? And to have a starter AND a dessert? And if I want to have three necklaces and earrings on top of it, so be it! After all, who cares?

In a professional environment, I was repeatedly told that I should not make my points too strongly, because, you see, you need to suggest and, in a British environment, less is more too. What a load of rubbish! At the end of the day the notes I was reading were so bland that I didn’t know what to think after reading them. Not helpful at all…

This minimalist mindset is starting to get on my nerves. Come on, why can’t we have full-length T-shirts ? Or large portions of food when we are hungry? And if I feel strongly about something, why can’t I tell it as it is?

How do you deal with it? Did you succumb to this minimalist mindset? I sometimes wonder where it will lead us: minuscule T-shirts and non-existent opinions?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Everyday, I am reminded that my daughters are more British than French. Today is no exception. We have to prepare for a dinner and I want the girls to be dressed a little bit more formally. Me being me, I am intending to wear my black dress. You can’t go wrong with a little black dress, can you? I personally like mine, because it is classic, timeless, flatters the figure, and the length is perfect. Here is a picture taken a few months back. Well, for my elder daughter, it was a no brainer: she said that she was going to wear her formal hot pants. I was stunned.

Naively, I thought that hot pants could only be something informal but no, I was wrong, there are hot pants for all sorts of occasions. In British fashion, that is. I have never seen a French woman wear hot pants in a formal setting. You can wear them on the beach during a sunny day but that’s as far as a you would go. And given the fact that I do not have the legs of a young girl, I am not sure that I would risk it. Would you? This is a great fashion schism: hot pants are BIG this side of the channel, but not in France.
So here she is, wearing her formal hot pants. 

In pure French style, I would prefer a black dress but I have no saying in the matter. Come on, she looks better in her dress doesn’t she? 

To tell you the whole truth, she didn’t want to try my black dress on, because ‘Come on, it would be a maxi dress on me!’ Wearing teeny-tiny hot pants is OK, but a normal dress, please no! And she prefers her hot pants anyway. Maybe it is some sort of teenage rebellion, maybe it is a British fashion statement. I will never know.
I had to face my fears. I decided to try her hot pants on. You see, I am no Kate Moss, and I am 40 now, but this is something that I had to try at least once. Well, it is done, and here is the result. It is nothing short of a miracle that I managed to fit into her hot pants.

Well, that’s a tick in the box. That said, as I am French, I will stick to my black dress. And she will stick to her hot pants. She is British, you see.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

Let’s start with the fact that I am upset. To me, French politicians in general and the actual government in particular have lost any credibility whatsoever. The last straw was a few days ago when the Budget minister, who was in charge of tackling tax evasion, admitted to having a hidden account in Switzerland with €600 000 on it. In itself, this is not illegal. What is illegal is the fact that he didn’t declare it and repeatedly said that the allegations of tax evasion against him were false, even threatening to sue anyone who would report them. He lied to his colleagues, to the Parliament, and tried to intimidate anyone who would dare to mention the matter until, eventually, he had no choice but to admit the truth. The whole saga lasted a few months.
The French media were surprisingly polite and considerate in reporting this. You may remember that a newspaper insulted businessman Bernard Arnault (f… Off, rich c****) just for wanting to become Belgian and our Prime Minister said that the actor Gerard Depardieu  was ‘pathetic’ because he wanted to move to Russia. Well, I couldn’t find any insults in the newspapers this time around and the word ‘pathetic’ wasn’t used at all. A clear case of double standard. Journalists and politicians have always had a cosy relationship in France. Very cosy indeed.
But fear not: in order for my readers to understand what this is all about, I have decided to compile a list of the skills that you need to have if you want to make it as a politician in France. This list will be useful next time you hear another big fat lie or another lecture citing French philosophers coming from one of our beloved leaders.
1.    Being a sex pervert is seen as a quality (DSK);
2.    Having lots of affairs is a sign of good health (F. Hollande, J Chirac, F Mitterrand….the list is too long and I would need several posts to be exhaustive);
3.    You don’t need to apply the principles that you preach. Principles are completely disconnected from the reality and laws don’t apply to you anyway (see Jerome Cahuzac). Of course they don’t;
4.    It is all about scoring points and not doing things. Debating is much more important than solving problems. After all, you need to be popular, not solve issues, right?
5.    If something goes wrong, just create a new law/decree/rule (it is a shame that there is no law against hypocrisy and incompetence). See, you have done something! No wonder we end up with so many laws and rules;
6.    It helps to be married to a journalist (a lot), or to have one as a lover;
7.    It also helps to have a degree of Ecole Nationale d’Administration (for some reason, most French politicians have the same academic background. Exactly the same. And it is not about what you learn, it is about your grades. Go figure);
8.    No need to speak English or any other language. Who needs anything else when you speak French?
9.    No need to have any work experience. Having worked in the private sector is actually frowned upon;
10. You can change side. Clearly, it doesn’t matter as long as you remain in power. Francois Mitterand used to support Petain before becoming a resistant of the eleventh hour at the end of WW2. He then became a socialist.
In short, I am gutted. Is it the same everywhere? Older generations have fought hard for a democracy and this is what we get! I can’t believe it. I am so angry that I am considering getting rid of my French citizenship. I probably need to calm down. What would you do?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Would you pay a fortune to buy something that was already worn? Apparently, some do. I haven’t really seen it in France, but vintage is big business over here.
Come to think of it, in  France, some well-kept mistresses sell the gifts of their sugar daddies in well-known shops to finance their lifestyle. But that’s as far as it goes and, frankly, I find the whole business model a bit sad. I have never seen this passion for old designer clothes in Paris. Except maybe in fleet markets, when you look for a retro dress. Maybe I just missed the vintage revolution.
Anyway, my question today is: when does a piece of clothing become vintage? If I don’t like a top, can I say that it is vintage and sell it at a premium? After my spring cleaning, I started to have a lot of ‘vintage’  to sell. I used to give old stuff to what I thought was a charity, only to find out that the guy was keeping (most of) it for himself. I felt cheated. Not nice. So instead, I am trying to find ways to make a little bit of cash with my so-called ‘vintage’ -or rather, old clothes that I will never wear again. What can I say, I am becoming stingy. Every little helps, as they say.
Well, it turns out that my ‘vintage’ clothes don’t interest a lot of people. Recycling clothes doesn’t interest a lot of  companies, but you might want to try the usual suspects (eBay, GumTree) and a few others that I didn’t know existed (MusicMagpie, Clothesforcash)
I didn’t make much (a bit less than £50) but hey, you have to start somewhere, right? And I am very grateful for the extra space in my wardrobe!
While I was busy deciding what to take and what to toss, I found a treasure : an old Daniel Hechter skirt with the matching jacket. I had completely forgotten about them and I am not selling it for anything. Have a look at the picture. It is adorable, isn’t it? I am not sure that I would fit in it any more but who cares, I still love it!
Maybe that’s what vintage is about. It is the stuff that you would never, ever sell!
On this note, I will keep on tidying up!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London