Posted by / Category London /

Hard At Work, Picture by Jo Crawford of

I was humbled to be mentioned by the super-talented Sanya Hudson to participate in the in the #mywritingprocess blog tour. Please check her fantastic blog, Love? I’d rather Eat Ice Cream.
Each person participating in this illustrious tour must answer four questions. Hopefully after reading this, you will have an informative manuscript of my writing journey. Are you ready? Come with me, here we go…

1)    What am I working on? 

As usual, I am working on many things at the same time. Obviously, my own business (you know, the one that pays the bills, not my writing) is keeping me incredibly busy. I am waiting to get some feedback on a manuscript I submitted to various publishing companies, but nothing exciting has happened so far. I am under the impression that, being French, they would like me to write something saucy. I am not a prude and I don’t mind the odd joke, but, simply put, I don’t write mummy porn. If nothing else works, I will consider the self-publishing route. I will make a decision by the end of the year. I have also been invited to a couple of radio talk shows, and I will also publish articles in some newspapers. For the first time I have published an article in French (watch this space, it will soon come out!). I would also like to step up my involvement with charities, and travel more. In short, life is pretty full-on.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I am a self-proclaimed French Yummy Mummy living in London, and I write about all the differences between France and Great Britain. Don’t expect big political debates and theoretical issues. No, I write about day-to-day life over here. I write about being a woman, and bringing up bilingual children. I write about British food, British art, and sometimes about my British colleagues. I write about the growing gap between me and my home country. That said, I don’t take myself very seriously. According to an exhaustive statistical analysis of my posts, what I write is:
– 73% parody
– 19% opinion
– the rest couldn’t be categorised.
But here is the twist: you will have to figure out which is which, because I won’t help you. Come on, you can do it. Just chillax.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Well, I don’t know. I just do. Sometimes it is easy to indulge in self pity, and to think that you are the only one in the whole world feeling the way you feel. Writing has allowed me to find my voice, and thanks to the blog I started seeing the funny sides of expatriation. As I work on my own, my blog is also a way to connect with old and new friends, and interact with my readers. I am part of a supportive community, and I love it! Actually, I am addicted to it… 

4) How does my writing process work?

I write whenever I have a minute. On the bus, while I wait, at the school gate. I think of something and I write it down on any old paper in my handbag. When at home, I sit and I empty my bag. I throw away some papers, and I keep others. Then, I start writing whatever comes to my mind. It might be related to one of the papers, or it might be completely new. I am never happy with what I write, and often I start again and again. I like writing. I could do it all day long, but I have to allocate a specific amount of time to it because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do anything else.

Continuing this blog tour during the week on the 7th of July, I am proud to introduce:
– Anne left her native Brittany to settle down in Ireland…She blogs about her experiences here: Nearly Irish
A Frog At Large Moved to Britain at the tender age of 18. Check out her blog and you will not be disappointed!

NB: and there are more pictures of my at work on Jo’s blog here

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I am soooo confused…

Following my last post, I keep being asked whether I think in English or in French. 

Guys, I wish it were that simple…This morning for instance, a guy asked me on the street whether he knew me from somewhere. Obviously he didn’t. He probably just thought that he was funny. Well, I hadn’t had my morning coffee, and didn’t fully appreciate his sense of humour. The very first thought that came to my mind was, I am proud to say, in English. If you must know, it was: “F**$k off!”. Me being me, I simply answered ‘No you don’t’. I told you I was British. So there you go: I think in English. But does it mean that English has become my main language ? Well, I am not so sure.

Shortly afterwards, I went to run a few errands. The shopkeeper was quite rude and had no small change. As a result, I caught myself thinking -in French this time- ‘Quel incompetent!’ (What an incompetent person!). I think that I like complaining in French. It is always snappier to complain in French, right? I just love it.

In short, I never know which language will prevail. That’s just the way it is, I suppose. I sometimes think in English, and sometimes in French. And it doesn’t matter. 

I was once told that you are truly bilingual when you start dreaming in a different language. Seriously, what a load of rubbish! I dream in English and in French. It depends on what I am dreaming about, who I am dreaming of… I never know, and I don’t really care. In short, it changes all the time, and frankly I am not sure that it means anything. When in Bali, I dreamed of the dashing Indonesian diving instructor, and he was of course speaking Bahasa. Does it mean that I am trilingual? Certainly not. But I am pretty sure that I would have gone out of my way to learn it if I had had the slightest chance of getting noticed (which, I am sorry to say, didn’t happen). I think that our mind can adapt itself to all sorts of situations.

Where does it leave me? Well, I don’t know. But this much I know: each bilingual is different. What is true for me might not be the same for others. There is no general rule. And yes, it is a bit confusing…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Me: French Or English? About To Go Out…

Today, I had an epiphany: I am not the same person in French and in English. Come to think of it, it is really weird, right? But it is true: for instance, I am stricter in French. When I tell my daughters off, it is always in French. I wonder why. Apparently, I am scarier in French. As in, really scary.

That said, I write almost exclusively in English. Somehow it is easier for me, because in French I tend to rewrite the same sentence over and over again. In English, I can go straight to the point, and I like it. And, if I am completely honest, I feel less judged in English. Maybe I have had too many bad grades for my essays in France. However, I still count in French. This is probably because I don’t do the imperial measures. Never have. Never will. The only thing I can’t say in French is my mobile phone number. I know it by heart, but in English. Life is complicated, right?

How did it all happen? I have no idea. Maybe it is because I act according to different cultural norms depending on which language I speak. Sometimes, I get it wrong. For instance, the British keep saying ‘Great’ at every possible opportunity. When I start saying ‘Super’ all the time in French, I get funny glances. Go figure. I was just trying to be positive.

I sometimes feel sorry for myself in French, but pick up the pieces and move on in English. That’s just the way it is. I think that I am suffering from a severe case of split personality.

But there is one thing that doesn’t change, and never will: in French or in English, I love listening to music and singing along as if my life depended on it. It drives everybody around me absolutely mad. And I sometimes add a little dance routine to up the ante. In French and in English, I am hugely embarrassing.

NB: I wrote about bringing up bilingual children in London, please go to Knightsbridge Village if you are a member.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Just a very quick post to let you know that I was very pleasantly surprised to see that I am featured in The Guardian booth.

Click here to watch me (and others). Mind the French accent (you can’t miss me).
Have a great Sunday!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Big Ben: Relax, You Are In London

I tried so hard to make it work. I really did. And no, I am not talking about the good old cliches here -don’t get me wrong, most of them are true-. No, there is something deeper going on here. After ten years in London, I have come to the conclusion that the British and the French are so similar that they can’t help but hate each other. Any differences between them will appear to be magnified because of this close cultural proximity, and all hell will break loose eventually. It is only a matter of time, and that’s just the way it is. We have to accept it, and get on with things. Such is life.

Take the British sense of humour for instance: it took me a while to get it, and I must admit that I sometimes still don’t, but the British can laugh at their own expenses, even in a working environment. This would be impossible in France. It would be interpreted as a sign of weakness. No, in France, you need to be serious. And if you must joke, it has to be at somebody else’s expense.

And it doesn’t stop here. Let’s talk about the Anglo-Saxon puritanism for a minute. If, like me, you have spent some time in the Corporate world you will know that office affairs are a common occurrence. Come on, just open your eyes! That said, in France, it is something to boast about. Simply put, a good old-fashioned French boss is not really a French boss if he hasn’t slept with a few of his employees. I have lost count of the number of advances I got in France. This side of the Channel, they have affairs too, but they don’t talk about it. It is all a bit hush hush until the boss finally tells you over some drinks about his divorce settlement. He will also inform everybody that he moved in with a younger version of his ex-wife. Come to think of it, I have also lost count of the number of advances I had over here. Some things never change. Who said the British were stuck up?

One of the most difficult aspects about this bicultural working relationship is the language. My English was always corrected, no matter what. Verbally and in writing. My notes were rewritten because they were not in ‘Oxbridge’ English, and I had to eventually develop a lexicon of all the magic words and expressions that my colleagues were so fond of (such as: ‘the crux of the matter’ or ‘the different  stakeholders’ -if it makes them happy, it can’t be that bad, right?). I was thinking of selling it at some point. To make matters even worse, some of my colleagues were also convinced that they were speaking better French than me, and were correcting my French as well. That said, the treatment of British expats who dare to work in France isn’t any better: their pronunciation is always corrected (because a pull -jumper- is not a poule -chick-, right?) and, believe it or not, there is a French way to write a note in English, and they simply don’t get it. I told you, it can’t work between us.

Where does this leave us? Well, I don’t know, but let’s just say that I am not surprised by the long and rocky relationship between Britain and Europe. Because both parties are very proud and of course convinced to be right. As for me, well, I suppose that I have to suck it up. I think that I am lost somewhere in the middle of the Channel. It is a funny place to be in, but not always a comfortable one.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

How Do You Like My Collage?

Talk is cheap, right? This side of the Channel, everybody talks. They do it all the time. They call it counselling sometimes: before fitting braces to my daughter, we had to listen to a lengthy presentation made by the orthodontist. To make sure we had got the point, we even had to endure it twice. We almost fell asleep. Complete and utter nightmare.

I can’t stand this talking any more. You see, I need some action. And I am becoming less and less patient anyway. It is the same with schools. Recently, we received a 22-page document on how division is taught in my daughter’s year. Seriously? All this explaining is killing me. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that it is done with the best of all intentions, but, come on, I can’t afford to spend all my time at school, listening to the theory of the teaching and reading lengthy notes when my daughter only needs to practice, whatever the method used. Now can we get to it please? Enough talking.

It was the same in a working environment. I spent days and nights reading lengthy business papers that could mean something and its very opposite. As I used to write business notes in bullet points, I was lost. No wonder France infrastructure is so much better than England. No TGV over here. Maybe the French talk less and build more. Well, that’s the way it used to be at least. I am told that things have changed. I had to try really hard to play by the rules. I am not sure that I ever learned, actually.

So here is my question: does using as many words as possible really ensure that a message is conveyed in a better way?

I don’t think so.

I am dreaming of a world where people would do what they say and say what they do. No extra words needed. No need to score points, to be witty or show off. And what is wrong with a little bit of silence anyway? I might be becoming asocial but I am not ashamed to say that I love peace and quiet. Come to think of it, I love a quiet date. 

That’s all wishful thinking over here. Words are simply everywhere, and there is no escaping. On this note, I wish you a quiet evening.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

It all started when I was in the small village where I grew up in France. I received a message asking me to cover the End of Sexual Violence In Conflict Summit In London for ActionAid. I have been an online ambassador for ActionAid for a couple of years now. Time was of the essence, and I had to urgently submit various documents to get my press accreditation. This was a bit of a challenge because my Internet connection was, at best, patchy. I eventually managed. My father didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. I tried to patiently explain to him that I was going to participate to this event, only to be asked what it had to do with me.  Didn’t I have enough to do?
Undeterred, I tried a different approach to convince him:  “You know, I said, Angelina Jolie will be hosting the summit.” He paused for a few seconds and said “Oh yes, Angelina Jolie. The footballer, right?”
I couldn’t win. It got me thinking: if nobody cares, no wonder sexual violence is on the rise. My dad added that rape was an unavoidable part of war anyway. But is it really? Hasn’t humanity made any progress?

I went to the summit yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect. I met fellow bloggers Donna, Liz, Sylwia and Penny. Angelina Jolie kicked off the day in the main auditorium. What she said about the scale of the issue was truly shocking. Hundreds of thousands have been affected: former Yugoslavia, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Syria… Most perpetrators go unpunished. Various speakers then talked. Some were passionate, others less inspiring. For instance, I was expecting the Nigeria representative to mention the kidnapping of the schoolgirls by Boko Haram, but he didn’t. The story of a woman in Liberia, who was raped and fell pregnant by someone who ended up being elected in parliament, struck a chord with me. How do you rebuild your life after this? Years after the end of an armed conflict, perpetrators still taunt their victims in their community. Behind the numbers, each individual case is a tragedy.

I have to say that I felt grateful for my life and my education. The thing is, as I studied science and engineering, I was surrounded by men all the time. I sometimes was the only girl in the classroom. I have never had any problem with men. Quite the opposite, in fact: my best friends are male. They are decent and well-educated guys. Some may have, let’s say, a very personal sense of humour that I don’t always relate to, and I have had to slap of couple of them when they tried their luck with me in an all-too-obvious way, but that’s as far as it went. In short, I am convinced that it is all about having the right role models and respecting each other.
Brad says Hi!

The afternoon was very different. I started wandering around the various fringe events. I also indulged in some shopping in the stands. I had the opportunity to get close to Brad Pitt, which was nice.  I had a look at the lovely mural created by Julie Bennett.

We then sat down with three ActionAid delegates: Ellyjoy Masila Karima, from Kenya, Zynat Binta Kamara Senesie, from Kenya, and Emime Ndihokubwayo, from Burundi. The conversation was supposed to last 20 minutes but of course we ended up chatting a couple hours. Once again, things were far more complicated than I had anticipated. Sexual violence was an on-going issue rather than something that happens ‘only’ during or after armed conflicts. The overarching theme was safety for the most vulnerable.  Obviously, the safety issue was more acute in the countryside than in cities. That said, even in cities, Emine had some scary stories about how the police didn’t help vulnerable women.
But all is not doom and gloom. Mothers clubs haven been set up in Nairobi, and apparently some are even starting to write blogs. I need to check them out. I love to read real stories of women (and men) around the world, without any filter. Women collectives are also being set up to give the most fragile a voice. Slowly, little by little, women are elected to be members of parliament. It is all about giving the most vulnerable a voice and fighting against the climate of impunity that still seems to prevail. Slowly, little by little, things are improving.
At a national level, the summit to end sexual violence in conflict has resulted in the drafting of an international protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict. It is a step in the right direction. That said, I am convinced that only local work, with grassroots communities, will change mindsets and stigmatise the criminals rather than the victims as still is the case. This is what ActionAid is doing with its ActionAid #SheCan campaign. Please check it out.

As for me, right now I am toying with the idea of meeting all these inspirational women in Africa to try to better understand what their life is about. I have got a severe case of itchy feet. And maybe, just maybe, as a woman and a blogger, I could help them have a stronger voice. When can I go?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Dear JMW,
I still remember the first time we met. It was at the Tate Britain. I used the Tate Britain as an escape from my daily routine. Museums are completely free in London, and spending five short minutes there somehow lifted my spirit. I saw your face, I saw your eyes, and I admired your paintings. They instantly made me feel in a vortex of emotions. It was as if we had already met. We simply were long-lost soul mates, and I instantly recognised you.
Turner, Self Portrait

I have never opened my heart like this, and I feel utterly ridiculous to do so. To make matters even worse, I was brought up worshipping the impressionists, but here it is:
I love you, and only you.

Nympheas, Claude Monet
The “Nympheas” can go back to where they came from.  I know that it may sound like a betrayal of my home country, but all is fair in love, right? Since I found you, everything else seems pale anyway. And thanks to you, the London sky looks brighter. When I was younger, I was convinced that clouds were something that you would look at when in love. You proved me right. Love and light play hide and seek in the clouds.

Wreckers Coast Of Northumberland, Turner

I know that it is an impossible love, because you died in 1851. I will never meet you. Come to think of it, it is really sad. That said, even if we had met, I don’t think that you would have warmed up to me, or to my French accent. All I could have hoped would have been to come second best, after your art. What can I say? We ‘met’ at the wrong time. And I don’t think that there was much space for love in your heart anyway, you were far too busy travelling and painting.
I started visiting your collection every day, after work. I was travelling with you in the British countryside, in Venice, and looking at your eyes. Ah, your deep, impenetrable eyes! Realising that I was falling for a dead British artist didn’t deter me from coming back. My days were always happier when I was supposed to meet you.  It was a date, and you had called me back.
Eventually it dawned on me that this love was a huge gift. Impossible love doesn’t have to be sad, right? Meeting you had simply changed my life for the better. Of course, I would have liked to have more, but, well, it was not possible. Such is life. We will never be together, but somehow you have made me feel more alive, and also calmer. I was so scared to be in a foreign country. I thought that I would never fit in. You helped me, you showed me where the beauty really lies. You proved me that a ray of light can change everything.

Shipping O The Maas, Aelbert Cuyp

I have moved on of course, because thanks to you I could finally appreciate a type of art that I didn’t know existed before. Today I even went to the Wallace Collection. Despite the fact that I have never been a huge fan of the Dutch school, thanks to you I could appreciate Aelbert Cuyp, because it reminded me of your technique.
Love never dies. Falling in love is always worth it, because it makes the heart feel lighter. Yes, I will always love you. And I will visit you again from time to time. It will be our little secret, and we will be together again. Nobody can prevent me from dreaming of  you and your immense talent.
Yours, always,

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

My Home-Painted Blue nails

There is something going on right under my nose. It is happening in London here and now. And I am not sure that I like it. Once again, I didn’t see it coming. I went to the bank this morning to meet my new account manager. I looked at his impeccable stripy suit. Very nice. And so British. Then, somehow, I started looking at his hands.

The guy had had his nails professionally manicured!

I couldn’t believe it: his nails were better looking than mine. They had a thin layer of clear nail polish. Seriously, when did men start getting professional manicures?  I barely have time to get one when I need to go out. Not to mention the fact that it never dries properly, because I simply don’t have the patience. I spent the whole appointment looking at his hands, completely mesmerised. I almost asked him where his nail salon was. And then it dawned on me: Great Britain is suffering from an inexorable rise of the metrosexual. They look perfect. Some even do have Botox to remove any unwanted wrinkles on their foreheads. They moisturise, they exercise, they are clean-shaven and smell nice. They are, well, high maintenance. Probably more high-maintenance than me. What is going on over here?

Don’t get me wrong, most French men are high maintenance too. I can’t have a shower in the morning because my husband is using the bathroom for the best part of an hour. I have to shower in the evening. Much easier. Married life is all about compromise, right? 

Stephane Chabal – That’s a real man!

That said, the French metrosexual is more about shabby chic look. The trend started a long time ago, probably before it became so big in London. The French metrosexual looks like he has just woken up when it takes him three hours every day to take care of himself. Come to think of it, I even had an ex who was so metrosexual that he was stealing my clay mask. But I digress, it was just to give an example. And he dumped me for some random blonde anyway. The metrosexual can be a player. Beware.

I came back from my appointment quite angry because, once again, I wasn’t given any clear responses. I will have to go back. I don’t know if this low-carb diet is playing up with my mood, but I started to wonder where the real men were hiding. Any clue?

Seriously, enough of the pretty boys! Give me a real guy or, even better, a sweaty rugbyman any time. I simply have had enough of the manicured men with faked smiles, whitened teeth and no spine. Just be straight with me (and the muddy short pants will be a bonus).

Where did all the testosterone go? Does the London air somehow dilute it? I sometimes really wonder. 

Maybe I am just a bit upset. Maybe I am more a Hugh Jackman than a Jude Law sort of girl and that’s just me. But here it is. Call me sexist if you want to: men need to be men.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It had all started so well. After a busy half-term, here I am, back to the old routine, and trying to progress my various projects as best as I can, in France and in London.
Yesterday, I received a marketing phone call, which, unfortunately, happens every so often. This time, it was in French, but I am sure that it could have happened in English too. The guy started talking:
‘-l’d like to talk to the person in charge of your company’
‘-Yes, that would be me.’
‘-Really? I meant, the decision-maker, the boss.’
‘-Yes, well, it would still be me’
‘-Really? No man in charge?’
I made my excuses, and quickly hung up. Maybe it was meant to be a light-hearted joke but my sense of humour wasn’t switched on. 
And then, it dawned on me: are we still there? In 2014?
Every so often, I have to deal with such comments. And right now, I have had enough. I simply don’t find it funny any more. I had to do something. There is only so much fighting that we can do, right? I needed a break.

I found the perfect antidote by pure luck: Scandinavian thrillers. I recently discovered  Arne Dahl and The Bridge. Suffice to say, I am completely hooked. Team leaders can be female and nobody bats an eyelid. I know that it is a fiction, but come on, how refreshing! Men share childcare duties, and are not afraid to say so. They turn up to work with puke on their shirts. Not a single sexist comment, and the women are as flawed as the men. Watching such series, where equality between men and women goes without saying, is simply a breath of fresh air. Maybe, after all, I need to move to Scandinavia to recharge my batteries?

In the real world, I have to say that, from now on, I will not correct anyone who thinks that I am the PA or the secretary. After all, if it is what they want to hear, then let’s give it to them. Frankly, I am done fighting. I will go with the flow and try take advantage of such prejudgement. Let’s see how it goes. 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London