Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

I am spending a couple of days in France to visit friends and family. My grandfather is quite poorly, and it is heartbreaking to see him like this. I hope that he will bounce back, but I am fully aware that, at 90, it might not be the case. That said, nothing seems to have changed in my small village in Provence. I have walked the same streets, seen the same shops and enjoyed the very same gorgeous light. Time has had no impact whatsoever. Or so it seems.

Pace is simply different over here. Everything is slower. It makes me look and feel like an action junkie. The thing is, I have this urge to do as many things as possible. This morning, I went to run a few errands, and met an old aunt on my way. I said ‘hello!’ and made some small talks. I came back home half an hour later. She was still there, talking to a different set of friends. She hadn’t moved one bit.
Newspapers are talking about a political earthquake with the rise of the extreme right, but everything looks the same on the surface. As in, exactly the same. What is going on? What did I miss? How come I can’t see a difference?
The only explanation I can find can be summarised in a sentence I remember reading in ‘The Little Prince’.
“On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur”. This means “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”
Maybe I should forget about the light and the beauty of this region. What I feel in my heart, right now, is an incredible sadness: because of my sick grandfather, and because my home country has gone from a land of hope to a land that is oblivious to everything it already has (health, education, peace…). Despite the British weather, I am happier in London. Incredible, right?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I voted for the European elections in France (from the UK) and for the local elections in the UK. Not that it made any difference, of course.

In London, I registered for postal vote. It couldn’t have been easier. I received an envelope, and I just had to send it back with my vote. Done. I voted. It took me five minutes.
For the French elections, I decided to go for the vote by Internet. I thought that it would be easier than queuing in South Kensington.
How wrong I was…
Why make it simple when you can make it complicated? The French have to do everything differently, and this voting thing was a stark reminder of this.
I had received a login and a password a couple of weeks ago.
So far, so good.
The difficulties began when I started to connect to the website where I was supposed to vote. Basically, I found out that I couldn’t vote on my mobile phone or my iPad. Apparently, it was not secure enough.
Yeah right. I can sell stuff on eBay from a tablet. Surely I can vote as well. But no, I couldn’t. Of course not. Why make it easy, right?
Undeterred, I tried on the family computer. It didn’t work. First, the site was under maintenance -bad timing, right?- then, it said that my version of Java wasn’t compatible with the voting system. Damn it. They explained how to upload the right version but it still wasn’t working because my version was in fact more advanced than theirs, and my computer would not accept an older version (did you follow? It took me a while too… ).
It looked I couldn’t win. I had to think of something else.
I tried on my daughter’s laptop, but the Java version was also incompatible. What to do?
I went to the nearest Internet cafe, but it still wasn’t working. Damn it.
Back home, I managed to load a compatible version of Java using Firefox instead of Safari and changing various settings on the family computer (I removed Java and installed it back). I managed to vote ten minutes before they closed down the site. Phew! The whole process took me five hours in total. I would have saved time by going to vote the old fashioned way.
I wonder what the turnout of the election was for the French living abroad. I am pretty sure that most didn’t persevere as I did. It must be pretty low.
Anyway, my vote didn’t prevent the extreme right from winning in France, and I have to admit that I don’t understand my home country any more. My great grandfather lost his two brothers during WW1. Somehow I have always believed that a strong Europe would prevent such tragedies from happening again. Clearly quite a lot of people don’t share such a view. Where did I go wrong again?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Do They Seriously Still Sell these?

Today a miracle happened: I managed to get a little bit of free time and decided to go shopping. Somehow, I ended up in M&S on High Street Kensington. As soon as I got there It made me so utterly depressed that I went straight to their cafe. I even considered eating a couple of cupcakes to ease my pain (despite my new no-sugar resolutions). But I resisted. Instead, I decided to drink healthy green tea and to vent my anger in an email to the M&S big shots. What was wrong? In a nutshell, I felt like I had landed in granny land.
Here is my email. Please tell me what you think and circulate it if you agree with me. I can’t be the only one! Or maybe -shock horror!- there is something wrong with me.
Attention: Mark Bolland, John Dixon
Dear Sirs,
Today I went to M&S on High Street Kensington for a little bit of retail therapy. Somehow I ended up in the lingerie and nighties department, on the first floor. I was stunned: are you seriously considering us normal women to wear what is on display? If I wore anything from here I think my husband would be seriously worried.


No wonder the divorce rates are going up and the birth rates are going down. Come on, who would dare to touch someone who looks well, like a frustrated granny? I have a newfound respect for what British men have to endure. They deserve a medal. Just imagine your wife wearing such night clothes or pants. Add some socks and hair rollers and you are going to sleep in separate bedrooms for the rest of your life. In fact, your wife doesn’t need you: she will be warm enough!

Who Needs a Hubby When You Can Have  A Onesie
I quickly exited the shop, because I just wasn’t ready to wear THIS! 
I Pledge Never To Wear THIS

I crossed the street and saw another shop. I had a quick look, and once again felt completely out of place, but for very different reasons. No names, but I am sure that you know which shop I am talking about. This was way too much for me. Much too, well, slutty. I had gone from one extreme to another just by crossing the street. How bizarre.
So here is my dilemma: in this country, how can I find something sexy? Just sexy: not slutty, and not for grannies. Is there nothing in between over here? Haven’t you heard of brands like ‘Princesse Tam Tam’, Dim, Lou or Aubaine? I used to live in Paris and took them for granted. Silly me.
I quickly went back to M&S – it was all becoming a bit too much for me. The cafe is strategically placed on the same floor than the nighties,which helped. I sat down, pondered what to do and decided to email you.
Please do your part for a more positive body image for women in this country. There is such a thing , you know, as nice nighties and nice lingerie.
Yours sincerely,
Muriel Demarcus

 “
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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A couple of months ago, I realised that I was, well, too fat. After much hesitation (I am extremely good at self-justification), I decided to take action. If it sounds easy, well, be assured that it wasn’t. The rest, as they say, is history: I have lost a stone (YAYYY!). I have blogged about my journey here. To cut a long story short, I discovered that I was addicted to sugar (fruits, cereals, biscuits, bread, chocolate…sounds familiar?). It was coming all the way from my childhood. All my (French) family is addicted to sugar, and doesn’t want to see it. They suffer (in no particular order) from cataract problems, high cholesterol, depression and diabetes…but have never ever changed their diet. Instead, they take various medications. How odd!
I am of course not saying that they would solve their medical issues if they were to cut down on sugar, but, given the way I feel now, I am convinced that it would help. Maybe, after all, being French can give you bad eating habits. Who would have thought?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Right now I could really do with a lovely trip somewhere sunny. Ideally, it would be as far as possible. I need a break. The thing is, I am stuck here: I have work to do, children to take care of, and so on, and so forth. When does it get easier again? The other reason why I love traveling is that I like meeting different people. I simply need a change of scenery.

Let’s assume that you go to a beach in the UK: it is highly likely you are going to see British families with fair-skinned kids and a ginger dad, saying stuff like. “- Mummy, where did you put the jelly?” with a posh British accent. I would feel right at home.

On a beach in Brazil, things would be slightly different, right? You would see half naked bottoms everywhere, and tanned hunks would tell you ‘Muito Obrigado!’. Spot the difference?

In France, many topless women of all shapes and ages would surround you, and many men would of course look at them.

That said, I have to learn to love it here, because I can’t go abroad right now. To do so, I found a little help online. Take the quiz home or away here or click on the picture. Basically, they show you two pictures and you have to know which one is home (i.e. in the UK), and which one is away. It is harder than you would think, because obviously they don’t show the people…In fact, it is impossible to tell which is which.



Enter to win a fantastic Parkdean Holiday worth up to £750 Know your Newquay from Nice?  

 

Don’t forget to sign in with FB to have a chance of winning a 7-night break.

So, how did you fare? This test made me accept that, in fact, I have everything I need in this very country. On my doorstep. No need to escape anywhere. So here I am, and here I stay. Am I an expat? Am I a local? I simply have no clue…But there is one thing for sure: i am staying in the UK for the next few weeks. Does it make me British?


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I know that it is a first world problem, but I think that it is high time for some light-hearted debate. So here is today’s question: should you wear an underwear under yoga pants?
As for me, it is yes, 100% yes. Call me granny, but I like my layers, and it feels weird to have a bra and no underwear, right? Well, at least, at my age, it does. Friends of mine have told me that it can brighten the dullest of days, but I just can’t do it. Not possible. I might be French, but I can’t.

And here is why I think that we women should wear knickers in any circumstances: I went to a yoga class last Friday and there was another mum, whom I vaguely knew from the school. She was right in front of me. During the sun salutation, her yoga pants started to slip and I had to look away to avoid seeing her bum crack. If you are wondering why I noticed it, let’s just say that I was a lot less flexible than her, and she was very eager, whereas I was taking my own time. A bit later, I couldn’t help noticing her, well, camel toe. It simply was too much for me and I started laughing out loud, which was hugely embarrassing. I ended up going outside. Funnier yoga session ever. That said, I will not go back again.


Come to think of it, a no-pants policy might miserably fail with leggings or tights too. Come on, unless the leggings are really really thick, it is usually possible to tell whether you have some pants or not. And I hate to think of the hygienic side of things, if you ask me. Surely a thong is a better option. Or some yoga underwear.

I thought that the whole thing was over and quickly forgot about it all. But this morning, guess who I saw at the corner shop? Yep, the very same mum, with the same thin yoga pants, and still no underwear. But fear not: she had a lovely jacket. It was a bit chilly this morning in London, you see. How can you wear a jacket and no underwear? This is beyond me.

I politely said ‘hello’, of course. I am not British for nothing. That said, I silently said to myself that this wouldn’t be appropriate at the school gates. So, tell me, am I just becoming a judgmental old bore? Should you wear an underwear under yoga pants?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

There is something very wrong with me. Here are the symptoms: I miss French movies, and I catch myself singing ‘Les Demoiselles De Rochefort’ at every possible opportunity (click on the video and try to sing along with it please, it will make me feel better). I don’t know how it started, it just happened. I have missed so many good movies over the last ten years. A catch up was long overdue, right? I was craving French movies. What is wrong with me? Why now? Could I be, well, homesick? How is this even possible?

The problem is that it feels like my dirty secret, a bit as if I was having an affair. My daughters find French movies incredibly boring. After five minutes they start yawning like mad and want to watch something else, usually an American series like ‘Jessie’. It can’t work. 

 My husband is very worried, and I think that he believes that I am depressed. He can’t stand a French movie. For him, a good movie is usually an action movie. What to do?

Well, I watch a French movie at every possible opportunity. On my iPhone, at home when I can’t sleep, or while cooking. I cry, I laugh on my own. My own family must believe that I am getting mad. I don’t care. Today, I watched ‘The Beloved‘ (Les Bien-Aimes), of Christophe Honore. It is the story of unrequited love, and Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastrioanni are, well, simply magical.
To cheer me up, later on I will watch ‘Sky Fighters‘ (les chevaliers du ciel). Just watching Benoit Magimel will improve my morale. It works every time. I can’t wait to see the fights in the sky, they are incredibly realistic. You actually feel like you are on a plane.Woooosh!

Then, if I have some time left -which is highly unlikely unlikey but hey, you have got to dream on, right?- how about watching the fantastic movie ‘Polisse‘? It doesn’t make for an easy watch, but it is a riveting movie, up until the end. A must-watch.

And have you seen ‘Hidden‘, with Juliette Binoche? I can’t believe I missed it when it came out!
In short, I am hooked. Is it an addiction? Should I consult? Has it happened to you? I am starting to worry…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

I would like to be able to say that it is nice to see friends and family from France when you live abroad but the truth is that my mum’s visit was simply exhausting. She stayed with us ten days over the Easter break, and I am shattered. In fact, I am exhausted, both physically and emotionally. To cut a long story short, there is a widening gap between us, and I don’t think that she is able to understand any perspective other than her own. Or I have become a lot less patient with age.

I wonder if it is a French thing, or a generational one. Probably a bit of both.

The thing is, my mother is an educated lady. She used to be a maths teacher, and her interests range from painting and golfing to studying Hebrew symbolism. That said, despite being intelligent and obviously very well educated, she doesn’t speak English. To be fair to her, she can ask for directions in English, but that’s as far as it goes. This means that I end up doing everything for her.

When she arrived, she decided that she wanted to take a shower. Fair enough. I took her to our newly renovated bathroom. Five minutes later, I heard her climbing up the stairs and coming back to the living room wrapped in a towel. She gasped and started yelling that the shower wasn’t working. She couldn’t get any water. Apparently, somehow, it was my fault.

I calmly explained, that, unlike in France, you don’t have one button for hot water, and one for cold water, but one for temperature and one for pressure, but she didn’t listen.
“Nothing works in this house. What a pain in the neck! I know how to take a shower. I can’t believe that you can suggest otherwise.”

She must be tired. 
I silently took her back to the bathroom and explained what each button is for.

She still looked skeptical.

I ended up turning the buttons and the water started flowing. Of course, she didn’t apologise. She simply couldn’t accept that things were, well, different this side of the channel. In fact, it was probably deeper than this: she was convinced to be right and that our bathroom was badly designed.

A couple of minutes later, she bursted into the living room again, dripping water this time.

  The water is much too hot! It is burning me!”

I went back to the bathroom and showed her which button to turn, without saying a word.

The following day, when I woke up, she was already in the kitchen. She seemed to be fighting with the coffee machine: she was leaning forward on the table, looking closely at the machine, and banging it at the same time.

“The coffee machine is broken! I can’t believe it! Nothing works in this house.”

Here we go again.

“Well, you just need to turn the switch plug on.”

“The what?”

I turned the switch plug on and the expresso machine started working again. Problem solved.

“ I have never seen anything like this before!” She complained. 
Really? She is coming several times a year! Well, it is all a matter of perspective, right? If she were slightly more open-minded, surely she could have said “I can’t get the coffee machine to work!” instead of complaining.

The rambling went on and on over the last ten days. Because our old Victorian house was full of steps…Because we didn’t have any external shutters…Because I  made a grammatical mistake when speaking French once…Because my younger daughter didn’t want to take her scarf to go outside…Because my older daughter was wearing a crop top. And so on, and so forth…

I tried to reason her. I tried to confront her. I tried to shut up. Nothing worked. She didn’t understand why I could be so upset: according to her, she was just trying to be helpful and expressing an opinion. It felt a bit as if I had a third child to care for. A child that kept commenting on my life and judging it at every possible opportunity. She didn’t lift a finger to help. She didn’t cook any meal, clean, wash or empty the dishwasher. Not even once, despite the fact that my days are pretty full-on. In fact, she didn’t even ask if she could help. No, instead, she spent all her days doing some French crosswords and watching movies, while sitting on the sofa and sipping tea that I had to prepare for her. On the bright side, Netflix was a real saviour, because it had a few French films. But even watching a French movie could be a challenge.
“ Oh, the telly is too loud…”
“Well, reduce the volume then!”

“I don’t know how to do it!”

I am pretty sure that French remote controls and British ones work exactly the same way

I had to stop loading the dishwasher and turned the volume down.

I tried to make sense of the whole episode. I couldn’t help thinking that my mother was the product of a very French logic: one you have got your degree, as a teacher, you have a job for life. No need to make any efforts. And she was able to comfortably retire at 56. No need to re-invent herself. As for me, I left the Corporate world to set up my business and ramp up my writing. I run the house single-handedly (my husband travels a lot) and things need to be organised. My time is limited. I always have to do something. Always.

Things came to a head when she had to take a flight back to France in the middle of a Tube strike. I told her that booking a minicab from my place to the airport might be easier, but she thought that it was too expensive. She didn’t want me to pay for it. No, instead, she wanted a taxi to Victoria station, and then she would take a bus to the airport. Finding a cab company in the middle of the tube strike wasn’t easy, but I managed to get a booking.

The morning she had to leave, the cab company couldn’t find any available driver in our area because of the strike, and her booking ended up being cancelled. It was seven o’clock and I needed to deal with my daughters’ school run in parallel  –there was a swimming practice at 7.15am, it was my turn to drive and I was busy.  My mother was ballistic at me, because somehow this was all my fault. While I was talking to the cab company, she was shouting at me. She ended up walking away without a word. I didn’t know what she would have wanted me to do: surely I couldn’t leave the girls on their own?

So much for looking after her for ten days!
We haven’t talked since the whole incident. Moving to London has probably made things more difficult because we have very different lives, but frankly, I couldn’t have done more for her. I am sure that things will be alright pretty soon, because they always are in the end, but I would really appreciate if you could share similar experiences in the comments…Where did I go wrong?
 Oh, and don’t forget to vote for me in the ‘Outstanding’ category here.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London