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There is no WiFi here, except for one of the corners of the hotel’s swimming pool. If I stand close enough to the street, I can connect onto the neighbour’s network and catch up on my emails. I try to do it once a day, and initially I was freaking out, because in London I am always online. What is going to happen without Internet? Well, it has been a few days, and now I kind of like my digital detox. I actually have to talk to my daughters, and they have to talk to me, which feels nice- and a bit unusual, I have to admit. We saw some friends and family, and had some good old-fashioned catch-ups. We swam, we hiked, we laughed. I was shaken by the intensity of the blue of the Mediterranean. I took it for granted for so long! The small village we are staying in is indeed very close to my idea of heaven: picturesque, next to the beach, close to a little-known harbour. There are a few restaurants to choose from, and the pace is very relaxing. 

That said, my home country has changed so much. I watch adverts on telly, and I don’t understand them any more. There was a lot of drama about a change of government this week , and I had never heard of some of the new ministers.  The music over here is also different: some songs that were popular in London a few months ago are in fashion here. Funny. Some French songs and artists are completely new to me, and I fell in love with the lyrics of Calogero. Here is what I kept listening to. It is called ‘ I am writing to you from here -c’est d’ici que je vous ecris-. I believe that it strikes just the right note. I love it. Just listen to it.

Une tasse de thé / A cup of tea
La chaise est un peu bancale / An uneven chair
Ce n’est pas bien rangé / It is untidy
Je sais / I know

Rien de bien original / Nothing too fancy
Le piano est accordé / The piano is tuned
Aux fenêtres un ciel, des étoiles / At the windows, the sky and the stars

Je m’évade / I am escaping

On the other hand, some things don’t change. For instance, I am insanely happy to be here. I love the light, the smell, the pine trees and the Mediterranean. It certainly looks like I have become a glass half full sort of person. It must be a side-effect of moving to London. But most of my fellow French citizen complain: it is too sunny, too cold, too warm, too windy, too empty or sometimes too busy. In short, there is always something wrong. Even in paradise. I don’t understand why. It must be the French way of life. 

As for me, me head is once again full of dreams and projects. It was a good break. 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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When things start to get at you, it is time to take action. So I took action. Of course I did. Here it is: I got tired of being asked whether I was French. Because, apparently, I look French. I have never really understood what it means, despite seeking clarification several times. But this much I know: having a British passport doesn’t change a thing. I still look French. I have therefore decided to make it easier for everybody: I designed an orange T-shirt that says ‘French Babe’. In fact, when I say orange, I mean bright orange. Here it is. How do you like it?

What I wanted was for the T-shirt to shout out that I was French. No need to ask any questions. It had to be out there. So I went out with my newly designed T-shirt. I wanted to see how people would react to it. Well, for starters, lots of guys were talking to me on the street. Yep, you read that right: even the British ones. Of all ages and backgrounds, really: from the coffee guy to the banker in the City. Who would have thought? Some were telling me that it was a nice T-shirt. All were smiling, and a few even started some small talk. The thing is, I love to make people smile. Somehow, my T-shirt was funny. Maybe being French in London is funny. I wonder. I am afraid I still don’t get it.
I must admit that I was getting a lot of attention. On the Tube, a couple was snogging. The guy stopped and looked at me, from top to bottom. He was checking me out. The same happened at my local pizzeria, when I went to pick up my take-away pizzas. This ginger guy was on a dinner date with his girlfriend. When I entered the restaurant, he stopped talking to her and looked at me. I swear, his mouth was half opened. I would have dumped him on the spot if I were his date.
‘ Darling, I could be your mother’ , I thought.
What was going on? The good old cliches are true:  put a French woman in a London street and for some reason she will draw all the attention like some sort of magnet. The thing is, I feel pretty ordinary in France. It is all a matter of perception, right? 
But the worst was yet to come. I was wearing the T-shirt and having my morning coffee the other day, when a guy sat opposite me.
He asked, in fluent French:
” Tu es Francaise?” (Are you French?)
‘Serious, this has to be the worst chat-up line ever…’, I thought.
I smiled and answered.
‘Yes, how did you guess?’ 
‘Can I offer you another coffee?’
You know what: I think that I am starting to warm up to British guys. They are, well, subtler. 
I stood up and left as fast as I could. I was confused. I have always felt invisible in France and here was this French guy, hitting on me like mad.
Is it the T-shit? Is it London? I simply have no clue.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Is She Sucking Her Tummy In?

It is all over the news: the French President, Francois Hollande, was photographed during his holidays (you can see him here, and there is an even worse photo here). Let’s just say that the pictures are not very flattering, and that the whole thing created a huge controversy in my home country. Lots of fellow French citizen said that such photos were downright disrespectful, and that journalists shouldn’t indulge in such silly practices. They added that no other French president had been treated this badly before.

I beg to disagree. I don’t think it is the journalists’ fault. They simply took photos from the street! Come on, it is far too easy to blame them, and surely a little bit of common sense would have prevented such photos from existing at all. And if they think that the French President was badly treated because of such pictures, they should have a look at what is happening (gasp!) outside of France (yes, there is a world out there!). If you don’t believe me, have a look here, and ignore the first picture (It’s Francois Hollande again. I know. No comments).

Let’s take a step back: if Francois Hollande didn’t want to face ridicule over the pool photos, there were lots of options:
1. Lose some weight and try to look, well, a bit fitter. All it takes is a jog every day, and he was a lot better-looking when he was elected, I must say. This means that he can do it. But once he had had what he wanted (i.e. when he got elected), he clearly has let himself go. Always the same story: guy gets what he wants, guy stops trying. Sigh. Some things never change;
2. Alternatively, just sucking his tummy in would have helped. We French women have done it for centuries, and, well, it seems to have earned us quite a reputation of seductresses. No, it isn’t nice. But it works;
3. Choose a more discreet spot to relax after a dip (surely he has some media advisors who can tell him these things, right?). I can’t believe that, as a French taxpayer, nobody batted an eyelid when he said that he was going to spend some time in such an exposed place;
4. Sit next to a bigger person. Or hide behind a bodyguard. Or a wall. Or anything, really. In short, try to draw people’s attention elsewhere. Come on, it isn’t rocket science, right?

Tummy Sucked In! Much Better, Right?

In short, I am far from being an expert, and I could come up with quick solutions here. This probably means that something deeper might be going on. Maybe, just maybe, we French have a tendency to always blame others. At about the same time, the same Francois Hollande tried to blame Germany for the budget deficit. Apparently, Germany needed to invest more. How about we French try to reduce public expenses? Come on, Darling, once again, it is time to get rid of the fat!

NB: Once again, huge thanks to all my readers: I have won the Silver Award of the Oscars of the online expat world. I am chuffed to bits (and speechless for once…). Check it out here.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Do I Look OK?

Maybe I haven’t changed, even after all these years. What am I talking about? Let’s come clean here: I still care about the way I look. Today is no exception: I have a formal dinner tonight, and I have prepared everything with military precision. Because I want to make a good impression. Because somehow I feel that not trying my best would be letting people down. Because that’s what I do. Because that’s what all women do, right? So here is the check list of the day:

Manicure: check (thanks to my lovely daughter- try putting nail polish on your right hand by yourself if you are right-handed)
Clutch bag: check
Shoes: check (boy do they look good!)
Blow-dry: check (homemade I am afraid)
Make-up: check (still homemade)
Dress: check (From Bali. An oldie but goodie. I just love it. It was love at first sight, I assure you).

The whole event required days of preparation (waxing anyone?), because just having 5 minutes to myself must be planned like, a week in advance, and I must admit that, yes, I am stressed. Even after all this time. I don’t understand why. I thought that I would care less with age, but actually the opposite is happening: every detail counts now. And, once again, the pressure to look good is on me. Why do I feel this way? Why do most women feel this way? Or maybe it is a French thing? Men are so fortunate: they can show up in a suit and a tie and that’s it, job done. Women are the unsung heroes of formal dinners: we have to, well, think of everything. We have to pretend it was all nice and easy, and took only a couple of minutes. As if it did. Does anyone really believe it? I suddenly feel tired. And of course, we have to smile. Of course we do. Do you know what? I wish I were a guy sometimes. There it is. 

So why do I still care? What ‘s wrong with me? I wonder. After all, I am who I am and I am never happier than in my old jeans and without any make-up on. But I am running 
late. I can hear my husband asking me why I am late..again. What can I say? It just takes longer for us. That’s the way it is. And thats the way it always will be!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Article Publié Dans l’édition de Juillet d’Ici-Londres

Afin de savoir ce que les Anglais pensent vraiment, je dispose d’une arme secrète: ma fille de 12 ans. Elle est scolarisée dans une école anglaise, et on apprend aux enfants à s’exprimer d’une certaine façon des le plus jeune âge. Si vous n’avez pas été éduqué ici, vous n’avez aucune chance. Ce n’est pas une question de vocabulaire; l’art et la manière de dire les choses sont aussi importantes que ce que vous voulez dire.

Quand ma fille avait 7 ans, elle a rencontré dans la rue une fille un peu plus âgée qu’elle qui allait à la même école. Elle portait une mini-jupe (très mini, la jupe), avec une ceinture rouge assez large et un rouge à lèvres pas vraiment discret. L’ensemble n’était pas du meilleur gout et je n’aurais pas laissé sortir ma propre fille dans un tel attirail, ne fut-ce que parce qu’elle aurait pris froid! Mais ma fille, magnanime, lui fit un grand sourire et lui décocha” “Bonjour, comment vas-tu? Ta ceinture est vraiment très originale!” La copine de ma fille était ravie du compliment. Quant à moi, j’étais tellement surprise que je suis restée bouche-bée. Quelques minutes plus tard, ma fille me disait que, franchement, sa tenue était horrible.
A partir de ce moment-là, je me suis mise à douter de tout. Comment prendre au premier degré ce qu’on me disait? Quand je demandais à mes amis si telle école avait une bonne réputation on me répondait “Oh oui, ils font beaucoup de sport!”. En fait, ils voulaient dire qu’à part le sport ils ne faisaient pas grand-chose. Comment aurais-je pu le deviner?
En bref, j’apprends tous les jours, mais j’ai encore pas mal de chemin à faire. Souvent, j’obtiens des réponses que je ne comprends pas. Alors, j’ai appris qu’a Londres, il faut poser les memes questions sans relache. Again and again.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

As some of you might know, I am not a morning person at all and, should you make a joke before my morning coffee, you are doing so at your own risk. Beware. Today was no exception, and I was slightly grumpy because there was nothing left to eat in the house. I therefore urgently needed to go out to buy some food. Reluctantly, I went outside and walked towards the supermarket. In London, I have seen it all: men shopping in their PJs, women buying some eggs in their bathrobes. That said, what I saw this morning was so unbelievable that I am still in shock: this girl was probably in her twenties, with brown, shoulder-length curly hair and a lovely face. She was carrying a book, and the title of the book was, like, in my face. It read “Make Every Man Want You”
Make every man want you? 

I couldn’t believe it. If I ever was to read such a book, I would never admit to it. Not even on my deathbed. Torture me all you want, I won’t give in. But there she was, in full view of the whole street, with such a book stuck to her chest. To me, it felt worse than going out stark naked. It was as if she was not scared of showing her own insecurities to the whole world. And she felt completely OK with it. I almost thought I was dreaming, and to make sure I wasn’t, I kept looking at her until she eventually disappeared in the Tube station.
Walking back home with my plastic bags, I spotted an older lady outside of Starbucks. She was also reading a book, and I noticed that she seemed almost proud to flash its cover. To my surprise, it was ’50 shades of Grey’. Someone has it in for me this morning, I caught myself thinking. Why would you boast about reading 50 Shades? A friend of mine insisted that I should read it but I have to admit that I got bored after a few pages and gave up. Mummy porn is not my thing. And I would not advertise the fact that I am reading it. Maybe I have become an old fart, after all.
Caffeine was starting to kick in when I came back home, and suddenly I saw things in a different light. Maybe that’s what I love about London: no need to hide. You can go out half naked or wrapped in your own insecurities, nobody will bat an eyelid, you won’t feel judged. This is something that I can’t do in France: I would be told to cover up, or not to read such books. I always felt this pressure to be perfect on my shoulders. Well, not here. And it is liberating.
Obviously, as I am still very French and hence judgemental (less than before, but still a bit), I couldn’t help thinking that the lovely girl didn’t need such a book, and that the older lady should live in the real world.
As for me, I simply don’t want to make every man want me. Keeping one happy is enough, and I have given up trying trying to please everybody anyway. Oh, and as much as I like reading, I enjoy living in the present a lot more. What about you?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Me, Happy Me

I am often asked why I don’t want to come back to live in France. Seriously, what is wrong with me? My roots are there, I should come back. Well, I can confirm that I am not coming back. Because over here, in London, I feel like a Goddess. And, best of all, I did nothing for this. Absolutely nothing. But somehow, just by crossing the Channel, I became a vamp. Let me take an example: in France when I wear my torn jeans, I look scruffy. Over here, I am stylish. Effortlessly sexy, even. How did this happen? I have absolutely no clue. But it sure did.

I love it here. I receive, once or twice a month, flattering emails and also tweets mentioning how good I look. This simply never happened in France. Ever. When I was sixteen, one of my best friends managed to have three boyfriends in a year. I didn’t manage to get a single one. I remember thinking that I would live like a nun for the rest of my life. Thankfully, I didn’t. I ended up having a British husband (Cheers to happy-endings!). My then-friend stayed in France where despite being skinny she feels fat and diets all the time. She eats nothing, and her face is full of worry-wrinkles. The fact that she smokes didn’t help, I think. Apologies for being so mean: I used to like one of the guys she went out with. It looks like I haven’t forgotten. I am still meridional after all these years, after all. Anyway, in London, I stuff my face with full-fries and red velvet cakes at every possible opportunity, and I feel great, because I can go for a run in the park to eliminate afterwards. And all this good food is making me look plump -no wrinkles just yet. YAY! I am convinced that if it makes me happy, it can’t be that bad, right? Maybe I learned to live guilt-free over here. And it must show. Just a thought.
To top everything up, every time I say something even remotely interesting about food or wine, people listen to me and coo. Apparently, I am soooo knowledgeable (Ahem…I am not). To top it up, somehow I always feel thinner than the other women at dinner parties. There is a conspiration against women in the UK: once you have kids, you are led to believe that it’s ok to put on weight. You will be told that this is how women are supposed to look, and if you remain normal-looking you will implicitly be judged, because surely it means that you don’t put your children first. 

Well, as I am French, I didn’t listen to this rubbish. We French women have been taught never to let ourselves go (too much). So I didn’t. And as a result I have it all in London. Friends find me vibrant and beautiful. In France, I just feel normal. Don’t get me wrong, normal is good. But I have to admit that I am getting used to the extra attention. Come on, nobody ever confused me with Juliette Binoche in my home country.
What can I say? I feel special here -and in a good way. No need for expensive clothing or fancy manicures. Just being me is enough. What’s not to like?
In short, I found my inner Goddess this side of the Channel. What about you ? How did you find your inner Goddess?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a French song I grew up listening to: it is called ‘Epaule Tatoo’ ( which means shoulder tattoo) and basically, it is about how a guy is mesmerised, in a club, by a woman with a blue tat on her shoulder. You can listen to it here:

I don’t know whether I am going into a full-swing midlife crisis or something but I badly want a tattoo on my shoulder too. Always have. Because of the song of course, but also because I have always dreamed of having one. It has to do with all my travels, and who I am. It is hard to explain.
But you see, where I come from, tattoos are looked down upon. Small French villages in Provence don’t do tattoos (even small ones, I must say). Not that I care that much about what people may think -well, actually I care a little bit. And I am concerned not to like a design after a few years. In short, I want one, but I am not quite ready yet.
That said, I am still in Dubai for a few hours, and I can do henna tattoos over here. So I took advantage of it… And here is the result:
What do you think? I hadn’t thought it through and had to walk in the resort with an unbuttoned shirt to let it dry which was, well, interesting. But hey, no pain, no gain as they say.
For some reason, this henna tattoo is making me incredibly happy. It is a reminder that I had a great time here, in Dubai. It is also a small thing that I have always wanted to do. And that’s what life is about, right? So what would you do? Would you get a permanent one?
On this note, next time I will write from London with some great news -watch this space…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

In my resort and more generally in Dubai, there is a specific etiquette, and I am slowly getting to grips with it. I still have so much to learn…but here is what I found out so far. Feel free to add to the list:

1. Little girls (age 2 to 10) must wear both parts of their bikini or even a one-piece swimsuit. Even if there is absolutely nothing to hide, all little girls -except maybe a Russian one I saw this morning-, wear both parts. Obviously, unlike the France of my childhood, nobody is tanning topless. The #FreeTheNipple campaign hasn’t reached Dubai just yet, and probably never will. No such rule applies to men. Some things never change.
2. There is an important British community over here. That said, believe it or not, they are not into beer. Or not as much as in London. And they have a well-mastered ritual at the resort: everyday at about 6pm, the Brits gather for the happy hours of the downstairs bar and start drinking for the next couple of hours. And they are into whiskey, I can tell from the smell of strong booze that’s coming from the bar. They have clearly upped their game.

3. If you are a woman, you can cut the queue. Yep, you read that well. In the Dubai mall yesterday, I was queuing with my daughters for a taxi to go back to the hotel. The security guy saw us and made us jump the queue. I didn’t understand why and felt like a fraud. Then, I was explained that women take priority in lots of places, including clinics. And do you know what? You might call me old-fashioned, but I find it very nice. Especially with all the shopping bags we had.
4. Although in the resort you can pretty much wear whatever you like and behave the way you want, in the city there are a few rules to follow. I am especially pleased with the no-Public-Displays-Of-Affection rule. Because in London, things were getting a bit out of control, and I got tired of seeing people eagerly kissing on the street and in coffee shops.
5. French tourists have a specific way to recognise themselves: they shout at each other when visiting the souk. This allows fellow French tourists to join the conversation and make like-minded friends. I pretend that I don’t understand.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London