Posted by / Category London /

Yep, you read that right. It happened a few years ago and it is time for me to come clean about it. To cut a long story short, we had managed to get opera tickets to see the Bolshoi at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. I am ashamed to admit that it was my very first opera in a foreign language (we French tend to stick to what we know). In my defence, this is also because I grew up in a small village in Provence, and opera was the last thing on everybody’s mind. In fact, I had been lucky to see a couple of performances. That day, we were seeing Eugene Onegin. I didn’t know what to expect. I had read that the story had been written by Pushkin, and the music by Tchaikovsky. It was all I knew. 

We sat down. Attending a performance in such beautiful settings was already a rare treat. The music started, and we were introduced to the feisty Olga and her sister Tatyana. Because don’t get this opera wrong: it was not about the selfish and cynical Eugene Onegin. It was all about the lovely Tatyana, who had decided to pour her heart in a love letter to Eugene Onegin, only to be left crushed and rejected.
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Posted by / Category London /

Lovely Houses In London

In the UK, property porn is a national addiction. For the avoidance of doubt, I am talking about surfing estate agent’s websites, and quietly checking out the value of the house you are renting, or how much your acquaintance paid for their lovely flat (far more that you thought, usually). Can prices in London be really this high? Oh, and look again, they are still climbing! There is also something hugely satisfying in having a peep at other people’s houses. Is it neat and tidy? Is it minimalist? And how is the kitchen? Watch the lovely bar stools…

I am not really addicted to property porn. I just indulge in it once in a while. Say, once a month (OK, maybe twice?). Until yesterday, I thought that it was just a harmless bit of fun. So what happened? To cut a long story short, yesterday I had no electricity from 5pm to 10pm. Yep, a good old power cut. Not in my house only, three or four streets were affected in our area.

Here I was, in a lovely Victorian house in London, completely in the dark. To make matters even worse, the same thing  had happened a year and a half ago. The alarm kept beeping and displaying all sorts of scary messages about faults and intrusions. I was freaking out. Where had I put the candles again? Seriously, who cared about brand new kitchen appliances when you couldn’t find the bloody candles? Whatever the house was worth, at that moment I would have given anything to be in a warm  place with some light. Obviously, hubby was somewhere far on yet another business trip, saving the world from various evils but letting us fend for ourselves at home. Where were men when we needed them? He sent me a text saying that we should all go to a hotel tonight. Very helpful. I thanked him profusely (British understatement).

One of my children was supposed to have a French lesson at home. She kept texting me that there was no power, and that she was scared. There wasn’t much I could do. They had a candle-lit French lesson in the end. As for my other daughter, I had to pick her up from a netball match from school, and of course they were more than half an hour late. And it was cold. I told Boden mum that there was a power cut. She looked at me suspiciously.
“Seriously, in London? Are you sure it’s not your fuses?”
My fuses were perfectly fine, thank you very much. But I thought that her comment was going to make me blow a gasket.
” Well, the whole street is in the dark, Darling. I think that my fuses are OK. Apparently an underground cable was damaged during the construction of yet another basement.”
Boden mum nodded. 
” Building a basement is such a hassle, right?” She must have lost her mind in subterranean London.
It looked like she couldn’t care less about us having to spend the night without any power. I wouldn’t get any help there.

“Mum, why is our street so dark tonight?”
“It is a power cut, Darling”.
We will have some salad and sandwiches tonight, I think.
” But I don’t like salad!” 
Well, too bad.

I will not go on Zoopla ever again. Well, at least not for a few weeks. The alarm kept beeping all night long, and this morning all seems to have gone back to normal, except for the huge bags under my eyes. As for properties in London, such prices are more than ridiculous when I felt so vulnerable for a few hours. What is wrong with this world?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Guillaume Canet

What would we do without stereotypes? I sometimes wonder. Whenever I catch up with friends over a coffee, I often get comments about how disappointed they are with a French lover one of them has (or had, actually). This usually begs the following question:

What happened to the myth of the French lover?

They look at me intensely, hoping for some meaningful answers. I usually nod quietly. To be honest, there isn’t much I can say.  Because to me, it is a classic case of expectations that are too high.

Get real, girls. No man, French or not, is going to sweep you off your feet on a white steed. Just get your own life. But you know what, in the name of the sisterhood, I am going to try to debunk the myths for you today…Here we go:

Myth 1: He wasn’t such a great kisser/lover (you get the gist of it)
Right. Where do I start? I am fully aware that the French kiss is, well, French, and that we French are supposed to be experts in the love department. That said, the old romantic in me is still convinced that a kiss is not just about technique. As I know that some of you like numbers, let’s say, for the sake of argument that a kiss is 20% about technique, and the rest about, you know, feelings. In short, it is mainly about compatibility and butterflies in your tummy. It can’t be explained, it has to be experienced. And it has nothing to do with nationalities (this much I know).

Myth 2: French men all cheat on their partners
I have heard this one so many times that it feels like listening to a broken old record. Yes, I know that French politicians have a tendency to have mistresses and fool around, and the statistics apparently show that more than 55% of French men (I read it somewhere) have cheated on their partner. But I am of two minds about this. Because there is something I will never understand. Here it is: if more than half of French men cheat on their partner, surely it means that a sizeable proportion of the female population is cheating on their partner too? In short, it is a two-way street, right? It takes two to tango…So why do we keep blaming men in general and French men in particular? I don’t get it.

Myth 3: French men are effeminate
Well, some French men can be quite sophisticated, and more in tune with their feminine side. That said, I would argue that it is a Parisian thing rather than a French one. Some French men are indeed proud to be vocal about their love for art and are not afraid to wear pink shirts. And what’s wrong with this? Nothing, right? Well, apparently not. Maybe in some cultures showing your feminine side is seen as a weakness? I wonder.

Myth 4: He believes that he is irresistible
There is something about French men and confidence. Look at French actors like Vincent Lindon or Jean Reno. Let’s be honest here: they are less buff than George Clooney or Matt Damon. But still, they go out with the most beautiful women of this world. It is all about confidence. They ooze it. Well, if it works for them, then why not? I know, life is unfair.

Myth 5: He complains all the time when he gets sick
Well, it is not for nothing that a cold is also called man flu, right? I am not sure that it has got anything to do with being French. I often wonder how men would manage if they had to deliver babies. I will never know, and it’s probably better because it would be really ugly.

So much for the myth of the French lover…I sincerely hope that you are not too disappointed. On a lighter note, this morning my teenage daughter asked me what her husband’s nationality should be. Seriously, she added, what would be best for her? I almost choked on my croissant and answered that it didn’t matter, as long as she was happy.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

My Name is Muriel And I am not related to your great-grandmother
Picture by Alejandra Mioral, MUAH by Anastasia parquet

If one day you meet me in London, don’t be surprised if I say that my name is Julia. I really wished I had changed my name to Julia when we moved here. No, honestly. Because every time I say that my name is Muriel, here is the reaction I get:
” Oh really? My great-great-grandmother used to be a Muriel too. She had a sister called Mildred who remained a spinster all her life. They lived together after the death of my great-great-grandfather. They both died in 1925, a week apart. Can you believe it?”
Great. You have just made my day.
A former British colleague even took it one step further when, after a couple of pints, he told me that he couldn’t date a Muriel because it was the name of his gran. He couldn’t sleep with a woman who had the same name than his beloved gran, right?

Good thing I didn’t fancy him one bit. Seriously, how dare he?

His name was Alastair, which I must admit I found a bit snobby. Actually, initially I couldn’t get his name right, and thought he was the ‘Up-the-Stairs’ guy. I realised a bit later that he wasn’t the guy up the stairs, but that his first name was Alastair. Life is a big misunderstanding. At least I kept my mouth shut (until now, that is). Vengeance is a dish best served cold. Cheers to you, Alastair!

To top it up, I hate the way people call me MEOWrial over here. First of all, because it sounds a bit like a meowing cat, and also because in French you stress the second syllable, not the first one. It is muriEL, not MEOWrial. 
This means that, when I go to Starbucks or when I am asked for my name, I say Julia. Julia is so much easier, right? Well, so I thought. But this morning, when I said that my name was Julia, they wrote Jules.
I can’t win. 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

I had an unusual weekend. I managed to catch up with a French friend of mine. What should have been a happy reunion turned out to be something different, because she was going through a bad heartbreak (don’t get me wrong, there is no good heartbreak, but you get the gist of it). She needed a shoulder to cry on, and I think that she also needed some alone time. After all, that’s what friends are for. I cleared the day, and stocked up on essentials like:
– chocolate
– chocolate
– macaroons
– white wine (muscato is my personal favourite)
– tea (I am British after all)
– tissues (lots of them)
– pizzas
Right, it was now time for a customised musical prescription. Here is what I chose for her.

Phase 1: A time to cry
It is OK to be sad. It is OK to cry. We have all been there, right? And to capture what it feels like to be on your own again, well, nothing compares to Sinead…Because Nothing Compares To You…

After all, Grand Corps Malade sums it up perfectly well in his song ‘Les Voyages En Train’ (The train journeys). He compares loves stories with train rides: there is a start, and a terminus. Some get off at the next station, others stay until the end of the line. And he concludes that:
” For one thing is certain, there will always be a last stop,
   Now you’ve been warned, next time you’ll take the bus.”

Now prepare the tissues, it is time to get all the tears you have out your system. Listen to Jacques Brel, ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ (Don’t leave me). Because it doesn’t get any sadder than this:
“Let me become
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog”

Right, back to the world of the living. Because of course it feels like you are going to lose your mind. Except that you are not. I promise. Listen to The Wanted.

Phase 2: Celebrate what you are..

Obviously you have had some chocolate. Take some more. We know need to celebrate what you are. Because maybe you don’t see it, but you are fabulous. Of course you are.

And to do this, nobody captures better what it feels to be a woman than Michel Sardou. Here is the 2010 version of ‘Etre Une Femme’ (Being A Woman).

And we both know that being a woman is not always plain sailing…Hellen Reddy says it all. Because I am woman.

Now, time to lighten up a bit. Because after all, girls jus want to have fun…

We need a break now. Maybe a walk will do us some good.  

Phase 3: Time to fight back and move on…

Because yes of course, you might have to spend some time on your own. But maybe this is a golden opportunity to do what you have always wanted to do. As Garou says, maybe it is time to fulfill your dreams…(J’irai au bout de mes reves)

And of course you will survive. Don’t take my word for it…

Finally, there is nothing, in my view, that can’t be cured with a little bit of ACDC. Because It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock’N’Roll.

We finished the day with a couple of feel-good movies. We watched The Intouchables, and When Harry Met Sally. You seemed tired, but quieter. Keep me posted. I look forward to seeing you happy again. With or with our a partner. Next time, we will dance the night away with happy songs. Deal?

What about you, how do you cure a heartbreak?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

So far, my morning had been uneventful. Don’t get me, wrong, uneventful was good. I liked things to be simple.
I decided to fill some long overdue questionnaires that a company I had worked for had sent (I do the occasional freelance job for them. It pays the bills). I almost fell off my chair.
To cut a long story short, in the UK, your ethnicity or sexual orientation dont matter, except for statistical purposes. In France, such things are considered to be private. You NEVER EVER mention them, let alone  fill a questionnaire with your name on it for your company, for whatever purpose it might be. To make matters even worse, it was not the first time I had worked for this company. Hadn’t I already filled this? I couldn’t remember. Why do it another time? Maybe things had, well, moved on for me. You could never know.

Right, let’s start. I struggled with the questions on my ethnicity. I could choose White/Mixed/Asian/Black/Chinese or not stated/Please Specify. Right. What was I? I could say white, but I have some Arab blood. Does it make me mixed? I wonder. The options for mixed were White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White And Asian or Other/please state. I could say Other/White and Arab. I was not too sure about this. If I were to choose White, the options were White British, White Irish or Other/Please Specify. Should I say White British as I have a British passport? Or should I say Other/French? As my grandfather is Italian, should I say White/French/Italian. How about White/French/Italian/British with a bit of Arab background. Or maybe simply White/European. This is becoming too complicated. Let’s pass, I will decide later.
Onto the sexual orientation questionnaire. Seriously, this was getting from bad to worse. Why did they care?
Let’s look at the choices:
For our company statistics, please state whether your are:
1.     A heterosexual male
2.     A heterosexual female
3.     A homosexual male
4.     A homosexual female
5.     A bisexual male
6.     A bisexual female
7.     Male to female transgender
8.     Female to male transgender
9.     Other (please specify)
I started wondering was the last category was. This was all becoming too much for me, and I was still deep in thought when a friend of mine joined me for lunch. I decided to have a glass of wine with her (I don’t normally drink during the day but all these boxes I had to tick were freaking me out). I must admit that filling in the questionnaires with a couple of glasses of wine in my system was a lot easier. I couldn’t remember what I decided to put in the end, but soon enough I hit the ‘send’ button. I was pleased to be over and done with the whole thing.
But I had spoken too soon. Of course I had. An hour later, the HR assistant called me to let me know that I had forgotten the questionnaire about my religious background. No, really?
Seriously, when does it stop?
Then, she said that if I wanted to, she could use the form I had filled 5 years ago.
Of course, please do.
The thing is, she said, my responses were not the same in the ethnicity questionnaire. What should she do?
Damn it. it will never stop. I told her to choose the one she liked most.
What about you? Do you think it is normal to fill in such questionnaires? Have you ever had to do it?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

As a mother, life is never, ever dull. And when you are French in London, somehow you can double the fun. What can I say? Someone must have it in for me, it was the only possible explanation. Because so far, it had been a morning just like any other. We were a bit in advance, and were therefore waiting in the car for the school gates to open. My 7-year-old was revising her Spanish vocabulary, and I decided to check my emails. Fatal mistake. The school wanted me to fill yet another permission slip for an outing. Fine, I would have to deal with this later, because I had to put it in the calendar. There was an unusual message. A French company had emailed me (in English of course. Life is incredibly complicated). Basically, they wanted me to advertise their ‘kinky, funny and high-end products’ on this blog.

What ? What ? What?

‘Mum, I know my words now. Can I play Mr Crab on your phone?’

Me ‘Absolutely Not’
‘ But why?’
‘Mummy needs her phone right now’. 

The email promised to ‘put some ooh la la! in a couple’s life’ and went on to explain that they had created a new concept full of ‘French sophistication and kinkiness’. Blame the French for kinkiness. As usual.

OMG. I was stunned. In shock. What to do? My blog is family-friendly, and I would never, ever agree to advertising this. Let’s reply that I can’t/won’t/whatever/not in a million years. I don’t do kinky on the blog, and I might be French but I don’t do kinky during the school run. Anyway, my point is that my mind was very, very far from these things.

‘Mum, I need the phone!’ my daughter snatched it from my hands.
‘What were you doing mum?’ 

‘Give me the phone back! ‘ I started to panic.

She was going to see the message. No, no, no! She might even forward it to the school -I had saved the form for the outing as a draft. Long story short: I was in a deep, deep s*?!t. 

‘Did you delete Mr Crab?’
I managed to take the phone back.
‘It is rude to snatch mummy’s phone, Darling!’
I was going to have panic attack, the email had gone. It wasn’t on the screen any more. 

‘Mummy, what’s wrong?’
Right, first things first. Let’s take her to school. 

‘ Everything is fine, Darling’  Big fat lie.
‘ Now have a great day!’

‘ What’s kinky, mummy?’ damn it, she saw the email. 
‘Don’t speak too loud.’ On the bright side, her reading skills had really improved, right?
‘ I will explain tonight. Just don’t say it at school, it’s not appropriate, OK’
‘ OK, mummy’ 

Crisis averted.

Let’s check the phone now. The email seemed to have gone to the right recipient. Phew. Well, I hoped. Seriously, who sends kinky emails during the school run? So uncivilised. I thought that I had had enough emotions for at least a week. Now, I had to hope that the school wouldn’t call. So far, so good…Keep your fingers crossed for me…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

This is how I feel today

My French blood is boiling. My British side tells me to breathe and take a step back. What to do? Let me explain: recently, one of the clients of the company I work for has been a bit difficult (British understatement -I mean more than a bit): they were acknowledging receipt of my messages and emails when it suited them (like, when they needed something from us), and conveniently ignoring anything else (when they were asked to settle their bills, for instance). When confronted (a notice to pay was served today), they said ‘Oh, sorry, your emails went into our Spam inbox’.

Seriously, don’t you think that it is the lamest excuse ever? 

Because as far as I know that’s not how spam filters are working. Not to mention the various phone calls I made. Come to think of it, on top of the unusual spam filter settings -yeah right..-, it seems that they are suffering from a rare condition called selective hearing too. How weird…

We French can be quite direct. I almost picked my phone up to clear matters up and shout at them once and for all, but eventually decided against it. It is never good to reply when you are angry, right? I asked the legal team to serve a notice in the end (is it my British side? I wonder).

So here is my question today: 

what do you do when you are so clearly being taken for a ride?

My British side tells me not to take it personally. They just want to see how far they can go before getting a slap on the wrist. Well, they know now. But my French side tells me the opposite: it feels bloody personal. I have always tried to be fair with them and taken good care of them. Surely they should respect me for the work I did? I am of two minds. No, in fact, I am angry.

High ground, Muriel, high ground. Well, easier said than done.

After 10 years in London I thought that I would have a little bit of what they call ‘British phlegm’ over here. As it turns out, I remain very meridional. Some things never change.

What should I do? How do I calm down? How do you manage to stop things from feeling ‘personal’? Right now I am feeling very French.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Uncategorized /

Was I Really Stylish?

This morning, I woke up late, grabbed my torn jeans, a white T-shirt that was lying there (I am not sure that it was clean but hey, I was in a rush), and one of my husband’s shirts (don’t tell him please). I didn’t overthink it: I just took what was lying in front of me. I quickly put on my cowboy boots before driving my children to school. When we arrived at the school gates, I got off the car to help my little one, when another mum saw me and said:
‘You French women are always so stylish!’

I couldn’t believe it. Was she talking about me? Why was she saying this? I was far from being glamorous. No, really. What had I done to deserve such a comment? I didn’t know.
I came back still puzzled and thinking about the whole thing. Why did she think that I was stylish? The only explanation I could think of was that despite getting dressed in less than two minutes, I had taken things in my stride and made it look like I had carefully chosen my clothes.

In short, whatever you are wearing, wear it with pride. 

Because that’s how we French women are doing it. No need to give the price of your T-shirt or mention that it was a bargain on sale.

No, you need to make it look like it was all a conscious choice, and that it is the latest trend in Paris or wherever. Try it, and let me know how it went!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

It was cold and grey, and there wasn’t much to do. I therefore decided to unleash my inner artist and start a collage. Here is my latest creation:

I Love Love – J’aime l’amour

What do you think? It says ‘I love love’. But it sounds better in French, right? ‘J’aime l’amour’ is exactly right. I don’t know why, it just is. I also don’t know why I came across with such an idea. It’s probably just that we are talking a lot about attacks and terrorism, and I really needed to counterbalance the whole aggressive vibe.

That said, it must also be the London air. I can’t draw or paint for my life, but I indulge in collages from time to time. Here is an old one that became my motto:

Again, there is a creative side to London that I haven’t found anywhere else. Following my latest post on why I love London, I have had comments about the bad British weather. 

Here is my response, in French again: ‘A Londres il pleut mais on est heureux!’ (It rains in London but we are happy!). On this note, enjoy your weekend!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London