Posted by / Category London /

I caught up with French friends a few days ago, and they explained to me that they had bought a property in France for their retirement. They were adamant that they needed a place there. They were doing it up and project managing it from London, which must be a real challenge. And then it dawned on me: I am not going back to France. I don’t want to. Despite my French accent, the rainy weather and the condescending comments, I love it here. It is my home now.

How did it happen? When did I turn a corner? I don’t know. Probably after three or four years, actually. I just know that I am not going back to live in France. Don’t get me wrong, I might live in another country, but not in France.

Other expat friends are leaving London too. They had lovely expat packages, with housing and school fees paid by their (very) generous companies. They live in the most expensive streets of London. I can’t help thinking that such expat packages are a double-edged sword, because of course you get used to a very high standard of living. If you decide –shame of shame! , they would say- to go local, you are going to have to cut back your cost of living in a very significant way.  I have always wondered why companies are still giving such generous packages. What is in it for them? I will never get it. The thing is, I have been working on local contracts since we moved here.

This means that we had to be more careful than our expat friends with money. Still today, I love a bargain, and I compare prices on the web. I have tried to share my experience on various forums, and I participated in the latest HiFX campaign (see here) to share some tips -and believe me, I would have liked someone to tell them to me when we moved-. I ask questions to other mums to know where to go. It has become a habit, really. And I am glad to be doing this, because we don’t rely on any expat package for our life in London.

That said, expats come and go, and a new cluster seems to have invaded the city. They stay together. They make snotty comments such as ‘I can’t find decent yogurt over here’ or ‘we didn’t take the apartment because we could hear Big Ben. It might wake us up, right?’ Between you and me, I would love to be woken up by Big Ben.

Will they stay? Will they go? I really wonder. That said, I am under no illusion: most of them will go. Why did I stay on? What has happened to me? Well I am still working on this one…Any thoughts?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Somehow it is always on a Monday morning that shit happens. Literally. Today, I walked in dog poop right after finishing the school run, as I was rushing to start my day. What a stonking start of the day! Well, in fact, I meant stinking. And then it dawned on me: in Paris, I had learned to avoid dog poo on my shoes. I had my eyes riveted on the sidewalk in order to avoid such souvenirs, and I always had a pack of tissues just in case. Because, of course, despite doing my utmost best, it was happening from time to time. 


In London, most dog owners clean after their dog and carefully pack the dog poop in little plastic bags. Some plastics bags are left on the street but most are put in a bin. I am ashamed to admit that, over here, I have forgotten to watch out for dog poop. Silly me. That said, stepping in dog crap hadn’t happened to me for a very, very long time. Well, lesson learned, I need to be more careful over here too.

The problem was such a plague in Paris that, until a few years ago Paris had a fleet of ‘motocrottes’. (Ah, memories!) I am told that motocrottes still exist in some cities. The motocrotte is a small vehicle (usually a motorcycle, but I have seen small vans too) designed to vacuum up or clean dog crap. Apparently, there are no more motocrottes in Paris, because if you don’t clean after your dog you risk a hefty fine of €500. That said, the fine is far from being a deterrent, and I think that you can count on your hands the amount of dog owners who have had to pay it. In short, when in Paris, watch your steps.

On the bright side, apparently this means that I will have luck. Right. What a start! Let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

It is this time of the year I suppose. Everywhere I go, there are people snogging on the street. It must be the ramp up to Valentine’s day. Or maybe they are trying to get warmer and cosier. It seems to be working. I don’t want to sound like an old bore, but it is really starting to annoy me. They simply kiss everywhere: in front of the park entrance, the coffee shop, the corner of the street. And, worst of all, they find it absolutely hilarious that people might want to walk on the pathway while they are kissing. Sigh.

 

When did Public Displays of Affection become so fashionable? What is happening to the legendary British manners? What did I miss? Mind you, there are new trends that I didn’t see coming over here, in London: the other day, the lady behind me was running her errands in her bathrobe. Yep, flip-flops and bathrobe, to be precise. The shop attendant didn’t bat an eyelid. Apparently, it is completely normal, nothing to worry about. I knew about going outside in your PJs, but I had never seen anyone in a bathrobe on the street before. I suppose that I still have a lot to learn. That said, I am still much too French to go out in my bathrobe. I just couldn’t open the front door. It must be something in my genes. Except maybe if the house was on fire, of course.

In short, I am completely out of touch, and feeling very old right now. All is not gloomy of course, and, following the article in the Times, I have received a couple of Valentine’s emails from seemingly besotted readers.  I suspect it might be a hoax but I am not 100% sure. I will never know. Anyway, I thought it was nice, but it is a case of ‘thanks, but no thanks’. I might be French, but I am still pretty conventional, you see.  

And talking about being conventional,  the French president has yet to announce who the First lady is. How will be Francois Hollande’s Valentine? The suspense is simply untenable.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to write on the ‘Hollande affair’ again, but something was still bugging me. Here it is: don’t you think that the way the actual President treats his partners is appalling? From where I am sitting, it looks like he considers his various girlfriends to be fungible commodities. To make matters even worse, Valerie Trierweiler, who was until recently acting as France’s first lady, has now been humiliated in a very public way. If this isn’t a repudiation, then I don’t know what is.

Am I the only one to think that Hollande’s behaviour shows a deeply machist mindset? Actually, it is not only machist, but also careless and cruel. If we leave aside any moral considerations for a minute, the age-old commandments of having an affair have been broken here:

 
1. Thou shalt remember that someone will get hurt;
2. Thou shalt be discreet;
3. Thou shalt remember the old adage ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it’;
4. Thou shalt not be cruel to your spouse/partner- after all, you are already cheating on him/her;
5. Thou shalt dress immaculately;
6. Thou shalt pay for your mistress’ accommodation;
7. Thou shalt own up to what you have done (especially if caught);
8. Thou shalt remember that you have put yourself in such a pickle in the first place;
9. Thou shalt consider yourself lucky to have such first-world problems;
10. Thou shalt try thinking with your head, for a change.

What happens now? Well, I don’t know, and I feel sorry for Valerie Trierweiler and her very public meltdown. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been one of her fans, but I wouldn’t wish what is happening to her to anyone. That said, I feel like Valerie could make the most of a really bad situation by pulling herself together (easier said than done, I know), looking fabulous (as she usually does, I must admit). She should then proceed to packing her suitcase, and come to London or New York. She could have a fresh start over here, and would probably become a star in a jiffy. She could publish books about the whole affair, have talk shows and live the high life.

And finally, I can’t help thinking that things would have been different with a female French president. A woman would have behaved in a more dignified and respectful way, I think. Please, let’s have more women in office!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

It is all over the press: London seems to top up Paris for the first time as the world’s most visited city (See here). In typical Gallic fashion, my fellow countrymen say that this is nonsense and are questioning the evidence used for such a statement. Why am I not surprised?

Having lived in both cities, I think that Paris and London have a lot going for themselves, but that, right now, London is on a roll. We have had the Olympics in 2012 and the city is going out of recession. I believe that, by visiting London, we all want a bit of its energy. We all want to put the doom and gloom behind us, and London is clearly the city for this. And, obviously, London is full of French anyway.


 

Spice Girls at Olympics Closing ceremony

That said, it is so easy to hop on the Eurostar and to go from London to Paris that both cities should team up and offer joint travel packages instead of competing against each other. After all, I am convinced that the reason the Brits and the French love to hate each other is because they are so similar. This means that even the smallest of differences is magnified.

This week has been pretty full-on for me, and following the article in The Times, I was invited to speak on Sky News, ABC Australia, RBB (German National radio) and BBC radio5 live…They all wanted me to tell them whether I preferred London or Paris. Well, there is no clear answer. I still miss some things from my home country (for instance the freshness of food) and love others from my adoptive country (the energy and the open-mindedness especially !).

In short, I love it here. London is my home now. Where to now? Well, I don’t know. The beauty of living in a foreign country is that I feel like a citizen of the world. Right now, I wouldn’t mind a stint in  Sydney or New York. Just saying. Any offers out there?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

It is going from very bad to even worse. All the social media networks are rife with rumors of pregnancy of Julie Gayet, the mistress of the French president. Despite yesterday’s news conference, we still don’t know whether Valerie Trierweiler (the First lady/girlfriend) will go to the USA with Francois Hollande in February. She is still in hospital. Why did she checked herself in? What will she do when she gets out? Nobody knows. What a soap opera! 

Because of my article in The Times magazine, Sky News, ABC Australia and various other TV/radio have interviewed me. The publicity that I am receiving is possibly the only good thing to come out of ‘l’affaire Hollande’ and I am seriously wondering whether I should send him a Thank You card.

On a more serious note, this affair has highlighted the schism between my home country and the rest of the world. I was talking to my family over the weekend, and they didn’t understand why the foreign press was making such a big deal out of it. 
” Why is Francois Hollande on the front page? After all, it is his private life. Why do you Brits even care?”, said my Dad. And, pragmatic as always, he added “It looks like his prostate problems are over.” It does indeed.

Over here, nobody understands why the French press and the French opposition are so lenient with Francois Hollande. Yesterday’s news conference didn’t clarify much, if anything at all. Difficult questions were asked after a much too long preliminary speech (playing the clock, Mister president?), and in a very polite and circumvoluted way (such as: were there any security lapses?). Francois Hollande’s responses remained general and at times patronising, and I couldn’t help but compare Hollande’s vague responses with Sarkozy’s frankness when he admitted to being in a serious relationship with Carla Bruni. Whatever you and I think of president Sarkozy, he clearly owned up to what was going on.

So, why doesn’t anyone care in France? Apparently, the whole affair might even have marginally increased president Hollande’s approval ratings, because it has made him look more human. This is also because, as we French have no king any more, the President is, I believe, implicitly expected to behave like one, and part of the job was to be the Father of the nation, right? Well, he quite clearly took his role very literally indeed.

Two things are worrying me right now: as a French woman living in London, I can clearly see that the French president is a laughing stock everywhere in the world except in France. This is hard to deny, right? Just look at the press everywhere (Look here if you don’t believe me). This is clearly not going to help my home country in the long run, as it makes us look like clowns at best and amateurs at worst. More importantly, when will the real issues be dealt with? Can we please get back to work? PLEASE!!!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Woke up with a terrible headache. Might have had a tad bit too much champagne. Don’t shout, please, and be nice…What a weekend! What a start of the year! Thanks to all of you, my article is still going strong on The Times, and was the most read piece all of Saturday and Sunday. I can’t believe it. I am in shock. Mind you, as much as I criticise French politicians in general and our president’s tumultuous love life in particular, I am convinced that the whole Julie Gayet affair increased the number of hits on my article. So here it is: Thank You, Mister Hollande!


Some of you have told me that I am now a celebrity, a star, and so on, and so forth…Well, I hate to disappoint you, but it is still me, and I don’t feel changed at all. I am just another blogger and aspiring author. Please keep your fingers crossed for me, I still don’t have a book deal! The only thing that has changed is that my newsagent knows my face. When I was buying my Sunday newspapers yesterday, he asked me:
“- So, are we on the cover today too?”
Me:
“- No, it is complete crap today.”

Let’s hope he doesn’t make the same joke every day, it might become a bit boring. Come to think of it, there is something else that might have changed. Some British men don’t dare to look at me any more, and can only manage to talk to me while looking at their toes. I must be really scary! Great.

On a different note, did you know that the scriptwriter of “The Young And The Restless” soap opera wants to sue the French president for plagiarism? I am joking of course.

Right, I need a rest now.

 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Have you read The Times this morning? If not, please do me a favour, go and read it. Do it for me.The paper version has more pictures if you can get it. Because guess who is the cover girl this Saturday? Yep, it is me. I am still in shock. I can’t believe it.  Thanks to my readers, look where I am!!! Guys, I love you!!! You ROCK!!!

Mind you, my daughters, whose picture is inside the magazine, are not that pleased. I suppose that you can’t please everybody, right? That’s also part of being a mum. What a start of the year! The thing is, there is so much more to say…Watch this space, some good news might arrive soon. thanks again for all your kind words. x

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

 

First thing this morning, a couple of friends called me. They were all excited to tell me that the French president, Francois Hollande, is apparently having an affair with a French actress, Julie Gayet. It is all over the French press this morning. If you haven’t followed the whole saga, let me summarise (please concentrate, it is complicated): Francois Hollande has four children with Segolene Royal, but never married her. He might -or might not- have had an affair, and a child, with Anne Hidalgo, a fellow Socialist politician, while he was still with Royal. They (i.e. Royal & Hollande – Bear with me please) broke up in 2007 and the first lady/girlfriend/mistress (take your pick) is now supposed to be the journalist Valerie Trierweiler. Except that she seems to have been cuckolded. Did you follow? This whole story is not making my life any easier. “You see, said one of my friends, I always knew that French men were warm-blooded.” Damn it. Here we go again.

We started a heated debate on whether or not British politicians were as prone to affairs as their French counterparts. I personally believe that the British behave slightly better. My friends disagreed, and told me that the UK had had a fair share of recent sex scandals: look at David Blunkett’s affair with a married woman, Kimberly Fortier, Libdem politician Mark Oaten, and so on, and so forth. OK, point taken, power is an aphrodisiac. That said, most French politicians seem to rebound after a sex scandal. It even seems to enhance their CVs. That’s not really the case over here. Just saying.


Don’t get me wrong: what happens between consenting adults is none of my business (except if my husband was involved, to be perfectly honest). That said, I have to admit that I am intrigued: where do the politicians find the energy? How do they do it? Don’t they have 24 hours in a day, just like the rest of us? I am not the president of any country. I am just a blogger, a wife, and a mum. But believe me, my days are pretty full-on, and I never seem to be able to stop. I feel knackered most of the time, and right now I could kill for a lie-in (not of the naughty kind, to be precise). How do they do it? Don’t they have a job to do? Where did I go wrong? OK, I will admit it, I envy their energy (but not how they use it, just to be crystal clear).

The irony is that my home country is not going well at all: France is still lagging behind, hindered by lots of structural issues that are simply not being dealt with. This was reflected in Standard and Poor’s credit rating cuts at the start of November2013. Unemployment keeps rising (10.9% of the population according to the latest figures, an increase of 0.4% compared to last year), and the government’s only response seems to raise yet again already punitive taxes. In short, there is a lot to do, but right now the only indicator that seems to exceed expectations is the number of mistresses of the president.

So here is my suggestion to all French politicians: get your priorities right. Instead of screwing around, have your head screwed on and make the headlines for the right reasons. Tackle the recession and the growing number of unemployed. Please.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Definition of a fuckwit, by the  Urban Dictionary: ‘a person who is not only lacking in clue but is apparently unable or unwilling to acquire clue even when handed it on a plate in generous portions.’ New year, new me? Well, not quite…the fuckwits are back with a vengeance. Have you noticed it? Well, now you are warned. They are more condescending than ever, and they will make a point of, well, scoring points. Fuckwits do not care about what you say, they are going to correct the way you say it, and will be immensely proud of themselves along the way. Fuckwits come in all forms and shapes. In France, I used to try to answer back to them with a witty comment. To be fair, it was quite easy because most comments were sexist and easy to brush off. That said, I think that I was wasting my energy. Fuckwits don’t learn.

In London, I have given up answering back. There is no point, anyway. You can’t educate a fuckwit.   And as English is not my mother tongue, I often think of something intelligent I could have said a couple of hours too late. Not very useful. Since the start of 2014, I have already had to deal with a few fuckwits, and, believe me, it wasn’t pleasant. This year, the British fuckwit seems to love to correct my bad English in public, and preferably in slightly humiliating ways. Don’t get me wrong: I know that English isn’t my first language, and I do appreciate it when people take the time to correct my mistakes. What I don’t like is when it is done in a nasty way, or with an ironic twist. I find it completely unnecessary. Let me take a couple of (very) recent examples: I moved house, and I have sent cards to my new neighbours to introduce ourselves. I started each card with ‘Dear new neighbour…’ One of my neighbours replied that we were the new neighbours, not him. Lovely touch. I could have thanked him for the vocabulary lesson. I didn’t. I let it slide. 

Then, at work, I wrote an email recommending triple glazing for a building (there were sound proofing issues). Instead of writing ‘triple glazing’, I made a typo and wrote ‘tripe glazing’. It happens, right, especially with a tablet? no big deal, and I am sure that everybody understood what I meant. A well-meaning colleague made the point of replying to all that ‘glazing with tripe may prove tricky’. How funny.

I am glad that nobody (not even me) answered back. It restored my faith in humanity. He might be a fuckwit, but I am surrounded by nice people. Well, that’s a relief!

So, tell me, what is it with fuckwits? How come they never learn? Why do they think that they are intelligent and witty when I find them full of themselves and condescending? Come to think if it, the fact that I am a French woman living in London must make me an easier target, right? I think that it might also be a personality thing: I care more about substance than style, and because of this I seem to attract fuckwits like a magnet. I really don’t know why. Where did I go wrong?

 As I am older now, I have learned to ignore silly comments. Onwards and upwards, as they say. For me, one thing is crystal clear: I will move on and not let fuckwits get in my way. On the bright side, lots of nice people are surrounding me. It is what matters, right?

And it gets better: I will be on the cover of The Times magazine this Saturday. No fuckwit, British or French, can take this away from me…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London