She caught me off guard. I vaguely knew her, and we ended up having a quick coffee together after the school run. I thought it was a nice thing to do, because we kept bumping into each other at the school gate. That’s when she told me:
” I pride myself on never having used a babysitter or a cleaner. Ever. And I have three kids”
Wow. Did I sense a judgy vibe here? Yes, probably. Hmmm…
I couldn’t believe it. You see, some things never change: whatever nationality you are, you will always be judged as a mother. It just never stops. And, frankly, it sucks.
I didn’t know what to answer. I ended up cutting the conversation short, and leaving shortly afterwards. You see, I have no time for such arguments. The thing is, I am probably one of the worst housekeepers you have ever met, and without the help of various babysitters and cleaners I would have died of exhaustion by now. Not to mention that someone has yet to explain to me how to be in two different places at the same time. Simply put, I wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t had help, and I never get enough of it.
It is all over the press and is coming from the celebrated actress Kristin Scott Thomas: apparently we French women, unlike our British counterparts, can be attractive without abusing our sexy side. You can read the article here : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3461270/SEBASTIAN-SHAKESPEARE-Fake-tan-short-skirts-Actress-Kristin-Scott-Thomas-blasts-UK-women.html
Is there some truth in such sweeping statements? Obviously the article is written in a slightly provocative way (after all, it was published on the Daily Mail), but I do think that, in my home country, there is a stronger pressure on us women to look good in all circumstances. This is one of the reasons why I find living in London liberating. I will always remember the day when I so one of my neighbours buying her Sunday newspapers at the newsagent around the corner wearing her bathrobe and flip-flops. Shocking. This simply couldn’t have happened in France.
Picture this: I was at the dentist for a routine appointment, and needed an X-Ray. The dentist asked me:
” Are you pregnant?”
I answered back immediately. I literally blurted out the words, without even thinking about what I was saying:
“Are you kidding me? NEVER AGAIN.”
Cost of a Child by the team at LV=
The dentist nodded, and said that he understood. It was far too expensive to raise a child in London. He does have a point. Actually, he has more than a point: at £231,843 on average in the UK, bringing up a child doesn’t come cheap (see the infographic). It’s actually slightly cheaper in France. But little did he know that I wasn’t talking about the financial cost of having a child. I was talking about the emotional cost. Simply put, I can’t go through yet another emotional roller coaster. I am not sure I have the energy. What am I talking about? Well, to cut a long story short, it feels like I have been exhausted for more than a decade. Not to mention that I have just been through the 11+ process for the second time. What can I say? I am simply shattered.
It had to happen, right? I suppose it is a compulsory step when you are a female blogger. What am I talking about? Well, to cut a long story short, I was asked a couple of months ago to be part of an advertising campaign…for an underwear company. This means that they wanted me to pose, well, in my undies. Yep, you read that right.
Obviously, I was flattered to be considered, especially at my ripe age. But I turned it down. All my male friends told me that I should have accepted, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I would have looked great, and so on, and so forth. Suffice to say, they didn’t make me change my mind. I am a bit stubborn like that. And I can’t help thinking that they would have enjoyed the whole process a lot more than me.
Let me be clear here: I am not a prude. It’s just that I don’t want to be ‘the woman who posed in her underwear’. Because once you have got this label, it is a hard one to get rid of. Whatever you achieve in life, you will always be the woman who was photographed almost naked on a billboard. You can speak four languages fluently, have a business and two master degrees, but that’s it, you are the woman who posed in her undies. And don’t get me started about what my children’s school mates and my husband’s colleagues would say.
This year, for some reason, I can’t get into the mood for Valentine’s day. I have had enough of pink hearts, romantic gestures, and sweet love declarations. Can we move on please? Come to think of it, it’s all so incredibly boring once you stop being a teenager. I might be French, but maybe I have finally turned into a responsible adult after all. Miracles do happen.
Why am I becoming so cynical? Well, you can buy one red rose (just one), at my local supermarket, for £5. You can also buy lovely chocolates for a tenner. They come all wrapped up in red, which apparently double the price. In short, you can be romantic, but it will cost you. It feels a bit like a charade. Because you can’t buy love, right? So why would you? I don’t get it.
A sweet Valentine’s day doesn’t mean a lasting love story. Right now, lots of friends are divorcing, despite some of them being used to flying off first-class to Thailand just for a romantic weekend. This year, some of them are spending the day on their own, wondering how their are going to make ends meet, while their divorce lawyers are working on their financial settlement -or what will remain of it after the legal fees. And what about the single ones? The elderly? The sick ones? The depressed ones? Who will bring love to them?
It just happened. I don’t know where it came from, or why it happened now, but here it is: I am homesick. What am I talking about? I miss my home country. It’s the food, you see. It’s the taste of the calissons d’Aix. It’s the tarte tropezienne. It is the local olive oil, the one that was coming straight from our garden, and that we used for the bougnette (the local equivalent of the garlic bread).
It’s also the freshness of the air, the mistral and the crisp light. Why did I leave again? Well, life happened, I suppose. And my daughters are more British than French anyway. Where does it leave me? Well, I am not sure.
Do you remember when we had the luxury of seeing the world in black and white? We were young and idealistic, and we thought that the only way was our way. Well, I am generalising of course. But I was like that, and I hope that I am not the only one who’s changed. Please reassure me. What am I talking about? Well, nowadays, I am hedging my bets all the time. It’s a second nature.
What’s happened to me? Well, life, I suppose. Take my daughter’s exams, for instance. She is now having lots of interviews for secondary schools. One of the questions she keeps getting is “Which school do you prefer?” I must admit that I told her to lie. Not as bluntly as this, of course. I packaged it. I said, for instance, that she shouldn’t hurt the feelings of the person who’s interviewing her, that she mustn’t say anything negative about the school, and should stress the positives of each school, and so on, and so forth….Again, we are hedging our bets. So much for telling my kids not to lie.
It must have something to do with age. I am becoming cynical. What can I say? I don’t put all my eggs into one basket. The other day, a friend of mine told me that I should buy a ticket for the lottery jackpot. I did, and hedged my bets with sites like this one. I was dreaming of far-away destinations and beaches. It couldn’t hurt, right? Well, it didn’t happen anyway. I didn’t win. But at least I tried. I clearly need to work on my hedging strategy. Must try harder.
Life is full of challenges, right? I thought as much. Right now, I find it hard to run in the cold. You see, I don’t do cold. Maybe I am not as British as I thought.
So what is cold for me? Well, anything below 10 degrees Celsius (that’s 50 Fahrenheit, if you must now) is cold for me. What can I say? Growing up in Provence must have left some marks.
The things is, I have some pretty important races lined up, and I totally need to train. If I could, I would move somewhere warm in a jiffy. Because right now, in London, it is really cold -as in, between 0 and 5 Celsius (and for the record that’s less than 41F). In short, it is freezing, and I can’t stand it.
I don’t think I am a wimp. Well, at least I hope I am not. But hear me out: when I go outside for a run, I literally feel my muscles tightening. Everything becomes hard, and I can’t move my legs. Warming-up takes at least 40 minutes in the bloody cold, by which time I usually give up and have a lovely cappuccino somewhere. After all, life is to be enjoyed.
So what to do?
Some call it ‘Galette des Rois’, others ‘Epiphany cake’. It remains one of the small things I miss from France. And to make matters even worse, I have always had a sweet tooth. I probably always will. It’s so difficult to change at my (ripe) age…That’s my excuse anyway.
The thing is, people keep tweaking the recipe of the King Cake. You can find some with raspberries, chocolate or even apples. No, no and no. I want the galette des rois of my childhood, not new trendy recipes. Let’s just stick to basics, shall we? I am sure they are all delicious, but why would I want to try out new fancy cakes when all I want is the original cake? I am risk-adverse, you see.
That’s is, I sound like like my late grandmother.
So what am I talking about? Well, a King Cake is a type of cake associated with the festival of Epiphany. The cake often has a small plastic or porcelain inside, and also a bean. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket or the bean has various privileges and obligations (including wearing a crown). For health and safety reasons, the trinket and the bean are now often given separately.
I grew up knowing of two types of ‘galettes des rois’. One was a brioche and you could only find it in Provence. I have never seen one in a bakery in London, so I ended up baking my own version of it. I love making it, and eating it. If you ask me, there is something therapeutic in kneading flour to make brioche.
I think that 2016 will be the year of the comebacks. Why? Well, for starters I was pleased to read that the classic shirt is coming back with a vengeance. See here if you don’t believe me:
You see, I love shirts. Especially white ones, come to think of it. Always have. Always will. A white shirt is simply a must-have in any women’s wardrobe, isn’t it? A white shirt makes you look -and feel- cIean and crisp.
As you know, I am always being asked for some tricks to look and feel more French. I am afraid that this year is no exception. I was asked how to look more French no later than yesterday after my run (all sweaty and stuff. Can you believe it?). I will never understand such an obsession for anything French but hey, as I am polite, I am always happy to oblige. It must be my British side taking over…What can I say? More than a decade in London was bound to leave a mark.
Come to think of it, nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for such an obsession for ‘the French’. I suppose that you have to live outside of France to start grasping its full extent. My French friends and family don’t believe it when I try to explain to them the reputation we have. They think that I am kidding. If only!