I must admit something: I had completely overlooked a key player in my household: my boiler. Guilty as charged.
Let me explain: London is quite cold right now (did you hear the British understatement here?). In fact, I am freezing (that’s more like it). It’s this time of the year, I suppose. And it’s dark after 4pm. But I digress. This Saturday, I ran another Parkrun in West London. When I came back home, I quickly realised that we didn’t have any hot water. Zilch. Nada. To make matters even worse, the heating was, at best, patchy.
I tried to call my husband and then my father but couldn’t reach them: one was still sleeping somewhere on the other side of the world, while the other was repairing a fence in a remote part of his farm. Where are men when you need them? After some frantic googling about ‘what to do if boiler breaks down’, I ended up turning the boiler off and on again. Quite a few times. It didn’t help. So much for technical progress and all that. What to do? I booked an appointment with British Gas, but the earliest slot they had was four days later. Four days? How were we going to survive four days in arctic temperatures? The thing was, when they said that they would come within 48 hours, it didn’t include weekends obviously. Whatever happens, don’t you dare having a problem during the weekend in London. Lesson learned. Maybe that’s why they all have country houses over here? I wonder.
‘Mum, there is no hot water.’
‘I know, I know. What do you want me to do?’, I thought. I wished I had a magic wand to sort everything out but I didn’t.
‘Mum, I am cold’
‘ Don’t worry Darling, we still have Internet’, I replied. Not that it is of much use against the cold, but you know, I wanted to point out one of the positives of the situation. See, it could be worse and all that. Come to think of it, we also had electricity, food, and water. That’s just me: I am a glass half-full sort of person. Or maybe I have just become British. But it was still cold.
The other day I drafted a proposal for a potential client, and was worried not to hear anything for a while. When I rang them, I heard the dreaded words:
‘ I did read your proposal but….’
I knew what was to come. Been there done it, etc…I just knew that it meant something like ‘I didn’t read your proposal because I am not really interested in what you have to offer’. You see, in my quest to understand the British, I have learned something the hard way:
Everything before ‘BUT’ is BS. I apologise profusely to those of you with a sensitive nature for my crudeness, but hey, I am French and we French like to say it as it is.
Once you consciously acknowledge that I am right, it can help you do at least two very important things:
1. You will see through the excuses that others give you;
2. You won’t fall into the trap yourself in your communications with others.
Let me take a few examples. Have you ever heard:
– I would love to hire your company but…..
– I was planning to do that this morning but….
– I would like to meet up for a coffee this week but…
– You are absolutely right of course, but…
Stop the clocks and move aside: Nisha is in town. I wouldn’t know where to start If I were to properly introduce her. Nisha is a Bollywood celebrity, the inspiration behind the story ‘And Thereby Hangs A Tale (Caste Off)…’ by Jeffrey Archer, and so, so much more. She also happens to be a longtime friend of mine, and we spend yesterday together. As usual, I had a great time.
The thing is, I grew up surrounded by men. I studied science and was often the only girl of the classroom. I was in charge of delivering trains and upgrading signalling systems. As a result, I discovered female friendships later in life, and found out that they transcend nationalities, age and cultural backgrounds. As women, we often goes through the same phases of life, and are facing the same issues and judgements. As women, we usually understand each other better.
As some of you may know, I have recently been outed as the wife of an Executive of a global company. For the record, we have been living together for more than 21 years, we first met at uni, we used to travel together in cheap hotels around Bali, and we have two children together. I don’t understand why my marital status has all of a sudden become a matter of interest but hey, here we are. This makes me wonder: maybe it’s time for more general outspokenness on my side. After all, you might as well hear gossip from me rather than from the press. Straight from the horse’s mouth and all that…So here we are: I want to share with you the 33 things that I do even before the school run.
- 1. Phone call at around 3am. Really? Hubby is somewhere on the other side of the world and finally has a break during one of his many meetings. He’s calling me to catch up and discuss last night parents meeting. Can’t remember exactly what I tell him. Go back to sleep. Forget to tell him that the art teacher thinks I am a single mum. Need to keep my options open anyway.
- 2. Phone is vibrating again. Have received a flurry of emails regarding hubby’s next month travel arrangements. Put the phone on silent. Checked my Twitter, FB & blog just in case. All OK. Back to sleep.
- 3. Realise I have missed a WhatsApp message from elder daughter. Her friend has stayed over to work on geography project, too late to catch a bus back, etc. Mental note to self: prepare breakfast for one more teenager. As am awake I google hubby’s company name, his name and mine.
- 4. Annoyed to find out that I am called ‘gabby’ by a female journalist in national newspapers. Must come clean: have to look up what ‘gabby’ means. So much for the sisterhood and all that, right? Stalk the author of the piece on Twitter and magnify her picture. Nope, I don’t know her. Maybe she’s a bit bitter? Have got more followers than her on Twitter. Back to sleep.
- 5. Wake up. Am confused: was called ‘shy’ by an Australian gossip columnist just ten days ago. Me, shy? Really? Said journalist clearly can’t read women, especially French ones. Nagging question: what am I? Gabby or shy? Anyway, who cares? Must send a tweet to my followers to get their opinion.
- 6. Have a coffee. It’s 5am but am awake anyway. Might go for a run. Hubby usually runs at that time when he’s in London. Nah, it’s too dark. And cold. Empty the dishwasher. Set table. Put laundry in the machine. Whoever invented the colour catcher paper is genius.
- 7. Call from France. Mum has just read an article about hubby in the pile of newspapers she was going to throw away and wanted to let me know. Mum, it was more than two weeks ago. She said she hadn’t realised that his company was Brazilian. Because it’s a Brazilian name, right? She hangs up. Wait! What? Never mind.
- 8. Need coffee. Have coffee.
- 9. Get dressed. Usual yoga pants and T-shirt will do.
- 10. Check email. One of the tenants of my warehouses in France has run out of toilet paper. I immediately order a top up from Amazon. They might deliver it today. In bulk. Good. Crisis averted.
- 11. Check Twitter and press articles. There is a picture of me (where is it coming from?) and a comment: ‘Since when do resource industry executives have supermodel wives?’. That’s me! Chuffed to bits. Am ‘legendary’ ‘stylish’ and ‘glamorous’. Time to come clean: I am an Engineer. I used to be able to drive a train and project manage signalling systems. Might call model agency to offer my services. Might be the start of a new career.
- Continue Reading
Have you heard of Paris Syndrome? Let me explain: it’s a surprising phenomenon whereby Chinese or Japanese tourists arrive in Paris and seem to undergo some sort of mental breakdown. I was told that they experience raised anxiety levels, delusions, irrational feelings of persecution and hostility, hallucinations, or even collapsing. Some tourists had to be sent back to their home country in a medicalised plane. I kid you not. So what went wrong ? Well, the main theory as to what’s happening here is that they have an incredibly romanticised belief in what Paris is like thanks to countless media and film portrayals. Paris is the city of love, everything is beautiful there. All women are polite and look like they come straight from a French New Wave film. I hate to break it to you, but the reality is quite different. To cut a long story short, Paris is mostly a normal city, coupled with some tangible differences in behaviour and manners between Asiatic and Parisian culture. So for instance, our waiters are not always nice. Our drivers might accelerate when you want to cross the street, and don’t expect apologies when you are shoved on the street. This can induce an intense and debilitating form of culture shock. Dear oh dear. It’s hard to see the reality without any filter sometimes. But maybe, just maybe, it is a necessary part of growing up? Just a thought.
There is something oddly reassuring about Sunday mornings in London. To cut a long story short, I should be able to sleep a bit longer on Sunday mornings. That said, I am so used to waking up at the crack of dawn that I usually don’t. Such is life I suppose. Mums will understand. It is as if I was programmed to prepare breakfast for the whole family. I can’t just press ‘delete’. It happens automatically. I usually count the number of pairs of shoes at the bottom of the stairs to assess how many friends my children have invited to stay over (Nowadays I feel a bit like a hotel manager). Sometimes I get it wrong, and suddenly the kitchen is full of grumpy teenagers who complain they have nothing to eat. ‘But Mum, I WhatsApped you 10 minutes ago to let you know X & Y had been staying over!’ But of course. What can I say? The service is very bad in this house. I might end up with a bad review on TripAdvisor but frankly, I don’t care.’Is there any more Orange juice?’ Well, not unless you’ve actually bought some, Darling.’
This country never ceases to amaze me. I was reading the newspapers, and found out that Michael Fallon had resigned as defence secretary. In his letter of resignation, he said:
‘ …I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we required of the Armed Forces…’
I am going to react the French way for once: WTF? Where do they find these people?
When you read this statement, it almost sounds innocuous, right? It is as if he had behaved pretty well, but still not well enough. Poor Darling. It’s almost as if he was the victim. Too much was expected from him. Dear oh dear. Well I, for one, will not shed any tears.
Let me rewind a little bit: do you remember the MP expense scandal? No? Well let me refresh your memory; according to The Daily Telegraph, Fallon claimed for mortgage repayments on his Westminster flat in their entirety. MPs were only allowed to claim for interest charges. Instead of profusely apologising (which was, in my view, the only decent thing to do), what did he do? Well, you couldn’t make it up: he said “Why has no one brought this to my attention before?”. Seriously? Did I miss something here? Don’t you see a pattern of arrogance ? Or is it just me?
So why did he resign? In pure British style, we will probably only ever know a small part of the facts. We are told that ‘Allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been swirling around Westminster since the Harvey Weinstein abuse scandal encouraged women to speak out about their experiences of sexual abuse or harassment.’, according to The Guardian.