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Eugene Delacroix, La liberte guidant le peuple

From the Sunday newspapers, it certainly looks like the French don’t do romance any more. They have replaced it by vaudeville. When did it all happen? How come I didn’t see it coming? I don’t know. Seriously, why do French politicians put their love life on display like it is some sort of show? In case you started hibernating a few of months before winter is actually supposed to start, here is a recap of last week’s French affairs. Bear with me, it is quite complicated:

    Valerie Trierweiler, President Hollande’s jilted lover, has written a revenge book on their tempestuous relationship. She mentioned that her ex-partner used to mock the poor despite being a socialist, and even called them ‘toothless’. Despite Francois Hollande’s denial, she says that she has evidence of this. It looks like we will know everything, eventually. I wonder what’s next. Come on, Valerie, just publish the text messages and let’s get it over with!

    Julie Gayet, who used to be the President’s mistress when he was with Valerie Trierweiler (did you follow?), has a bodyguard now. This is highly unusual. Is she the official girlfriend now? If so, why did she go on holidays with somebody else? Go figure. I wonder if the bodyguard brings the croissants too.

    Arnaud Montebourg, who was sacked from the French government a few weeks ago for criticising it a tad too openly, has been caught in California frolicking with another ex-minister, Aurelie Filipetti. Maybe they started comforting each other after he got the sack -I am speculating here, obviously. Montebourg’s known lovers over the past two years or so have included one journalist, Audrey Pulvar, one actress, Elsa Zylberstein, and now the ex-culture minister, Aurelie Filipetti. As much as I agree with the right to a private life, this is becoming a bit too much. Can’t French politicians have a love life without the whole world knowing about it? Here is a thought: maybe we French should be allowed to bet on the life expectancy of Arnaud Montebourg’s relationships. Or how about trying to predict who is with who? That surely would be a way to reduce the French deficit.
In short, France is, once again, making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I can’t help thinking that Anglo-Saxon politicians are a bit better. My dentist, whom I shared this opinion with, and whom I saw a lot recently (don’t ask), wanted to know why. I blurted out ‘they have less mistresses’. There it is. Or at least, less publicly.

Suffice to say, I am gutted, and I can’t stand this charade any more. I am not proud to be French right now. That said, on a different front, there are some good news. An old friend of mine (by old, I mean that we have known each other for, like, 25 years) got engaged over the weekend. Her new boyfriend is so besotted that he popped the question at the very start of the relationship, only after a few weeks. She said yes, they are insanely happy, and I can’t wait for the wedding reception. And, if your must know, he is German. I am really starting to believe that romance is wasted on the French.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

It wasn’t all for me, I promise…

I am shattered. If it was down to me, I would go straight back on holidays right now. Today, for instance, my daughter was finishing school at 2.30 pm. How am I supposed to get anything done? I couldn’t help thinking that if you arrive late for school, you might bump into those who leave early. How do women work in this country? But miracles do happen: yesterday, I was invited by the lovely Charlotte of @LDNWalks for a secret pub tour. This was exactly what I needed: I met fellow bloggers, including my old friend Flora @AccidentalLDNr (old because we have known each other for more than two years, which is a long time in the blogging world. She is obviously very young and also very bright). I met other talented bloggers (and they were so young. Sigh), namely: @SquibbVicious @MissKatyEnglish  @whoismilly  and found an unexpected ally in gin. Who would have thought? After all, it is only berries, right? And as I am not a huge fan of beer, the girls made me discover gin. What a fantastic medicine ! And boy I loved it so much that I couldn’t be stopped…My head hurts today. 

I was a bit worried that we were going to walk a lot. There was no need to. We ended up drinking a lot, and frankly the walk was the least of my worries! We started the tour in Blackfriars, and Charlotte was waiting for us with pink balloons (I promise) at the station. She took us to five different pubs around the city, and I am ashamed to admit that I knew none of them. It looks like I have been far too reasonable. I don’t want to spoil the surprise if you take the tour, and I will only say that we went to an Art Deco one, a haunted one, the oldest in London, one that specialise in gin -of course-, and also a literary one. Each pub was a gem for different reasons. I think that I will return to each of them to spend a relaxed evening and grab a proper bite. Charlotte was very knowledgeable and explained lots of historical facts such as the origins of some street names and the colourful life of Henry the VIIIth. She even said that champagne was invented by an English scientist before the French claim they did, and although I was initially offended, after a couple of gin & tonic, who the hell cares? Champagne will always be champagne, but last night was a gin sort of night.

St Bride’s church: wedding bells anyone?

However, the real encounter of the evening was the one with London. I thought I knew it all. Well, I clearly didn’t. If you look closely enough, London is full if hidden treasures: old prisons in the basement of fancy pubs, churches with funny names (St Andrew by the wardrobe, anyone?), old buildings that look like they will crumble any minute next to brand new ones looking like swords, viaducts without rivers, old palaces where history was made. The list is endless. And I fell in love all over again with London. And with gin. 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I used to love quid pro quos. When reading a Moliere’s comedy, I always found quid pro quos hilarious. That said, are quid pro quos that funny when they happen to you? Well, I am not so sure.  Let me explain: a few days ago, I went to this party to catch up with friends and ex-colleagues. I went on my own because my husband was travelling for his job, and I suspect that some of my acquaintances believe that he is a product of my imagination. To be fair, my shyness probably compounds this perception: believe it or not, I happen to be quite reserved. Anyway, here I was, trying as best as I could to mingle, and also trying to get to know some new faces.
I ended up next to this guy, who was quite tall, with pale skin and freckles. In short, as much as I dislike cliches, I have to say that he looked very British. I introduced myself “Hi, I’m Muriel.” , and initiated some small talks about the usual topics: the weather, the end of the summer hols…
After a couple of minutes I must admit that I was expecting him to answer back with more that one word and maybe, just maybe, find some other topics of conversations. Well, he did, but, it wasn’t what I expected at all.
“You know,” he said, looking dead serious “I am married”

I couldn’t believe it: why would he say that? Then it dawned on me: the guy thought that I was hitting on him. Except that I wasn’t. I promise.
I wondered what had prompted such a reaction. Had I said something inappropriate ? Was I standing too close to him? Was it my dress (knee-length, covering shoulders & base of neck)? The answer to all questions was no. Absolutely not. The only reason he thought I was making a pass at him was my French accent, I realised. I honestly couldn’t think of anything else. To be fair to him, all British newspapers are full of stories of the French vaudeville involving the French president and his ex-girlfriend (no less that three full pages in the Sunday Times yesterday. I counted).
I was about to tell him that he should relax a bit, and that I wasn’t going to rape him there and then. I am married too, actually. But I decided against it. Why would I dignify his arrogant comment with an answer that would set the record straight? No, instead, I thought that it was time to have a little bit of fun. I decided that I was going to tell him what he so obviously wanted to hear. Come on, his attitude was out of whack. I had to take a stand. 
“Really,”I said “Good for you. She must be a very happy lady” and I smiled mischievously, as if his revelation wasn’t going to deter me from trying to seduce him. After all, I wasn’t French for nothing, right? 
I promise, I saw a red wave starting down his cheeks and quickly moving towards his eyes. I had made him blush. How funny!
I am starting to like this, I thought.
I gave him a short break and started talking about a couple of innocuous subjects such as parks in London and Oyster cards.
Then I attacked again.
“So how do you find married life?  How is it going with your wife?”
The red wave returned. Actually, this time it wasn’t red. It was crimson. 
I could make him blush on demand! I thought. That was clearly a new skill to add onto my CV: able to make a British guy blush in a matter of minutes. Wow!
It was time to finish him. I went for the kill.
” You know, I said, I might be French but I am quite conservative : I have been living with the same man for more than 18 years. It is hard to explain why things are going well between us. It is something that you have to live, right?”
Then, I made my excuses and left. I had had enough for one evening.
So, where did this come from? Why did he say something like this? I really wonder.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Francois Hollande, French president

This book written by Valerie Trierweiler about her 18-month affair with French president Hollande isn’t making my life any easier. No later than this afternoon, another mum asked me at the school gate why French men were such players. A heated conversation with fellow mums quickly ensued, and everybody agreed that he had treated his then-girlfriend in an appalling manner. I had to take a stand, and fast. Come on, all French men are not like president Hollande, it is only a stereotype. I  explained that I had been living with the same French man for more than 18 years.
‘See, I said, there are decent French men.’

I was saved by the bell, and quickly realised that I had just lied. My husband was French when we moved to London more than ten years ago but he has a British passport by now. This means that, technically, I have a a British husband. In short, I am not sure that I can use him as an example of a decent French man.
Damn it. But I promise that there are decent French men. No, seriously.

That said, let’s face it: outside of France, everybody believes that we French have invented extra-marital affairs, that we are convinced that having as many affairs as possible is a sign of good health, and that we French women have learned to live with it. What a load of codswallop ! 

To be fair, some mums were quick to point out that ‘what goes around comes around’ and that Hollande had cheated on the mother of his four children, Segolene Royal, with Trierweiler. But two wrongs don’t make a right, I think.

The book is said to be a huge embarrassment to the already unpopular French president. Not to mention that apparently despite claiming to be a Socialist he doesn’t like poor people and call them ‘sans-dents’ (without teeth). That said, let’s not forget that being embarrassed is nothing compared to the very public humiliation Valerie Trierweiler was subject to. After all, the book is only the literary equivalent of a kiss and tell. He broke her: she clearly wanted to die when she found out about the extent of his betrayal. In my view, the book also gives a rare insight into the mind of a pathological liar. When asked whether he had an affair with the actress Julie Gayet, he first denied it. And when he had no choice, he tried to shorten the duration of his indiscretion. He was always charming, and even tried to invite her for dinner and ‘win her over again’ after all she had been through. And he clearly ignored a cardinal rule that all men would be well-advised to keep in mind: never underestimate a hurt woman.

Players can be of any nationality, and wherever you are, there are only two ways of dealing with them: crush them, or get crushed. She almost got crushed and is setting the record straight. Good for her. 

NB: today you can read another post that I wrote here…Enjoy! 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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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

Posted by / Category London /

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