Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

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

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It has been a pretty full-on year. Come to think of it, it has been a pretty full-on decade. Of course on the paper I am British now, but every morning I flick through the French press. I am probably better informed than when I was living in Paris. You can take the girl out of France, but not France out of the girl, right? We settled down in London, bought a house, renovated it, had a baby, struggled with the British educative system, set up a business, and so on, and so forth. Oh, and as you may know I write a blog too…

Here, on holidays, in Dubai, the enormity of what I have achieved is finally hitting me. I have come a long way, in a completely unexpected direction, and to top it up my journey is far from over. The thing is, when you do nothing, reality hits you in the face. And that’s what is happening here. 
I am stunned -literally. So stunned I had to take a nap in the afternoon, which usually never happens.
Is it some sort of holiday blues? I don’t know. I can’t be the only one, right? What is going on?
Part of the problem is that I have to do something. Always. I don’t know how to do nothing. Not possible. Actions speak louder than words, as I always say. So tell me, what can I do now, apart from relaxing? How did I become such an action junkie?
I keep thinking of my business, my book, my writing.
I can’t let go. Damn it.
What should I do?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Trafalgar Square at 6.15am

In France, in Great Britain or anywhere else, there is nothing worse than a bad Monday morning. Mine was no exception.

It was all about work today -don’t ask…-. I had booked a car to pick me up from home, and drive me to the airport at 6am -which means that I had to get up at a ridiculously early time. Not nice. Not to mention that I am not a morning person…
It soon was 6am, but no car had arrived. I had to call the company to find out that the mini-cab had been delayed/canceled/whatever excuse they could make up to hide the fact that they too were probably having a tough Monday morning. Undeterred, I managed to hail a black cab on the street. I even made it on time to the airport. It was actually quite nice to see London waking up, even if I wasn’t completely awake…
Once security was cleared, I waited for my flight’s gate. All other flights already had a gate, but not mine. Sigh. Some things never change. 
Just be patient. These things happen.
Eventually and with a 30-minute delay, we were allowed to board. We had to walk on the tarmac to get to the plane. As soon as I stepped outside, it started to pour and I was soaking wet when I entered the plane. Great.
At least I made it, I thought to myself. Come on: it could have been worse: there is no mistral today…
I eventually sat down. The flight was full and the guy who was sitting next to me immediately fell sound asleep. Bless him.
The thing is, once we had taken off, he started snoring loudly, and everybody was looking at me as if I had anything to do with it. They all thought that he was my husband -he wasn’t of course-. They were expecting me to do something, but I simply couldn’t do anything.
I decided to try take a little nap, but my neighbour was making far too much noise. I had to endure the disapproving looks of fellow passengers for the best part of the flight (which lasted an hour or so).
We finally made it and I could start my business meeting. All went well. The week is in full swing now, but what a start! Seriously, how do you survive Monday mornings?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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What a week! It was hectic, and I barely had a minute to myself. Except today. It was nothing short of a miracle: I had the whole day without anything planned, which hadn’t happened for a very long time. Because usually, between work and family duties, I have to be on the ball. Always. It just never stops.

Unsure of what to do with such freedom, I went to a small local beach for a leisury swim. In pure British style, I ended up working on my tan afterwards.

As you can see (yep, these are my legs), there is still a lot of work to do. From the fellow swimmers’ glances, it was obvious that everybody noticed that I was:
1. On holidays;
2. In desperate need of some sun.
But the best part of the day is that I am catching up with a couple of childhood friends tonight. In a funny way, I think that I became a friendlier and more social person when I moved to London. This is because, there, I can’t rely on my family for anything. I had to create a network of support from scratch. I rely on my friends a lot, and of course I try to be there for them too. In short, believe it or not, I understood the importance of friends in London.
Because of this (late, I know) realisation, I love reconnecting with childhood friends. After all, there were there for me, and at the time I might have been too proud/stuck in my own way to even notice it. I was taking them for granted. Don’t judge me too harshly: French families (like mine) can be a tad overbearing and not very inclined to let children broaden their horizons. No external influence, it could be dangerous, right? Well, lesson learned, it’s time to change. Seeing old friends is bringing back many happy memories. I feel in touch with my younger self (does this even make sense?), and more at peace too.

On this note, I am late as usual and need to dash. But I will say cheers to friends, old, new, French, British…in whatever shape of form, really ! Cheers, and thank you.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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The day had started so well. I had reached City airport on time to catch my flight to Toulon. I had cleared security reasonably fast despite the fact that it was a busy day. The flight was full of pale English men and women in desperate need of some some sun. I was of course no exception: my own daughter called me Snow White the other day. So much for living in London.

Once onboard, the captain mentioned something about strong winds in the South of France. Ah, the good old mistral, the dry, northerly wind of my childhood…I remember smiling. Silly me.
The flight was fine. I started reading, and I barely noticed that a middle-aged couple was sitting next to me. Soon enough, I could see the Mediterranean through the window. We were told to prepare for landing.
And that’s when it all went wrong.The plane started its descent, but the mistral was so strong and the aircraft so light that, as we were about to land, the plane went back up again. The plane simply couldn’t go down. A second attempt gave the exact same result, and we eventually managed to land on the third try.
The thing is, I was so scared that I was shaking. It is not that I am afraid of flying -I am not a huge fan of it, but usually I am OK with it-, it is just that I don’t like it when it gets bumpy, especially in a smaller plane. And things were really bumpy.
Once we eventually landed, I realised that I had grabbed my neighbour’s arm and wouldn’t let go of it. To make matters even worse -shame oh shame-, just when I had understood what had happened, the wife of the guy sitting next to me said something like:
“Would you please let go of my husband ?”
I promise, hand on heart, that I had absolutely no intention to make a pass at the husband in question. No intention whatsoever. I can’t even remember what he looked like. I was just in desperate need for something to hold on to, that was all.
I said that I was sorry and just scared because of the turbulences, but she didn’t seem to buy it. She gave me a disapproving look. The guy, in the meantime, hadn’t said a word, and seemed to find the whole thing hilarious. When I finally got out of the plane -which I did as quickly as I could- she sighed loudly. I could hear.
“Ah, French women!” 

Great, now I feel like I have betrayed the sisterhood.
Next time I will consider taking the train. Seriously, what would you have done? Where did I go wrong again?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It is this time of the year. Some mums have it all planned out. Well, I haven’t. This means that I am running around like a headless chicken. As an example, my little one insisted on getting a bikini. What can I say? She must be British. When I was her age (she is 9), I was never, ever wearing the top half of a bikini. To be frank, on French beaches, nobody was wearing a bra. Not even adult women. But she absolutely wanted one. I am ashamed to say that I gave in. I feel slightly cheated because she has absolutely nothing to cover, but hey, I have to go with the flow.

And then, there is the bikini wax. Seriously, I don’t remember that it hurt so much when I was younger. Complete and utter nightmare. Am I the only one to be convinced that you have more hair when you grow older? And not necessarily in the right places. How unfair! To make matters even worse, as I am French, I must appear to be beautiful effortlessly. The pressure is on me. It just never stops. I wonder what would happen if I were to stop trying. No hair cuts, no waxes, nothing. Would looking like a gorilla really be a turn-off? Seriously, how bad can it be? Any advice?

My teenage daughter needs something new every other day. I have lost track of what she has already bought. I just know that it will probably cost me a fortune. But I am not complaining, she has good tastes and, occasionally, let’s just say that I subrepticely ‘borrow’ her stuff. There has got to be something in it for me, right? I keep telling her that she can wear my clothes too but she doesn’t seem that interested, I have to say. Such is life. 

Everybody is looking forward to the holidays except that it is down to me to organise everything. When do I completely relax? Never. I just have what I have carefully planned. Nothing more, nothing less. Some things never change.

But this year, all is not doom and gloom. For the first time in years (ahem, some might even call it a decade), I have my bikini body back. I am back to where I was before kids (with a bit more hair and some grays too, if you must know). It was all about cutting down sugar, and exercising instead of stuffing my face when I am stressed (and as a business owner I am always stressed!). I was convinced that it wasn’t possible to achieve it, but clearly I was wrong. It isn’t that I was huge before, but I am a lot fitter now. And it feels good. Really good.

As everybody knows that French woman don’t get fat, I will of course pretend that it was easy and clearly no big deal. But here is the truth: I can’t wait to flaunt my body on the beach. Watch this space.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Monet Montorgueil

Today is Bastille day, aka French National day. Obviously everybody has to work this side of the Channel, but that’s not the case in France. In my home country there was a huge military parade on the Champs Elysees, and everybody was watching it, just like any other 14th of July. If I were in France, I would probably be at the village ball by now, dancing the night away. I always thought that the 14th of July was the real start of the summer holidays. Ah, memories…

But no, instead, I spent the day working, like any other day. I couldn’t go out in the evening because I hadn’t booked a babysitter. Maybe I should have. Going out when you have kids is a bit like planning an expedition : you have to do it a lot in advance, and I couldn’t be bothered. In short, it was just a regular day. Nothing more, nothing less.

Does it mean that I have become British? Well, I wouldn’t be so sure. I am starting to miss the Mediterranean like mad. It’s something about the light and the cicadas, and I badly need it right now. And for some reason, I remain the French expert. I often get questions about ‘the French’ -if there is such a thing!-. A friend of mine called me today: she was all excited because after a few days her brand new French boyfriend had told her that he loved her. I had to explain that he doesn’t really mean it. He just means that he kind of likes her. I was as diplomatic as I could, but I think that she couldn’t help being a bit disappointed. She thought that he was going to ask her to marry him soon. Well, the average French guy probably says ‘Je t’aime’ more than the number of times he brushes his teeth -and French guys usually have good teeth. So much for cultural differences. Or maybe I have just become too cynical. That’s just me, I suppose. I hope I didn’t ruin her day. I might have, actually. I will never get it right. Sigh. So much for trying to help. 

On this note, I hope that you enjoyed Bastille day! And I will go to sleep listening for French music to put me in the right mood!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

Armenian Church In London

It is the small things that matter, right? Let me explain. When I take the Tube, I can walk to the station along the High Street, but I tend to find it a bit boring, and also noisy, if you must know. I prefer to take what I call the ‘quiet route’. I stroll along lovely Victorian houses and lush trees, then I take a left and admire one of the few Armenian churches in London. Of course, the quiet route is a bit longer, but it always makes me feel happier. Always.

It got me thinking: what would you do to make your life more beautiful? How far would you go? 
What would you give away? Obviously spending a few more minutes walking isn’t that big a deal. And if it makes me happier, well, it can’t be that bad. But what about other choices, as in the big choices you have to make to change your life for the better? 

I moved to London to keep the family together. It sounds like an easy move. But for me, it wasn’t, because I was born and bred in France. I just tried to enhance all our lives. Somehow I always try to make life that little bit better. For me of course, but also, I hope, for my friends and family. Right now there is a brownie baking in the oven and just the smell of it is making me incredibly happy. Maybe that’s how you recognise a woman: always trying to make things better. That’s probably when you stop being a girl and step into adulthood: you try to take ownership and improve things as best as you can. Just a thought.
My new dress…

I take pleasure in the small things, the ineffable moments when you just feel, you know, like yourself. That’s what beauty is about, right? Which is why I bought a lovely white dress on sale. A woman has got to do what a woman has got to do. What do you think? Well, I think that I will continue to indulge in beauty from time to time. Actually, I will do it as much as I can. What about you?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London