There is a darker side to London than meets the eye. What am I talking about? Well, here it is: the pattern of anti-female bias across my adoptive city is, in my view and despite many well-meaning speeches and initiatives, disturbingly insidious and still going strong.
Look: I’m baking! I am such a good girl, right?
Obviously, there is an unwritten rule forbidding any self-respecting female saying that we live in a sexist world because it makes you at best a difficult women, a feminist, or even worse, a feminazi. Enough is enough. The proportion of female senior executives remains ridiculously low, and the same can be said for management boards and for non-executives. As for excuses, well, I have heard them all before: ‘There is nothing stopping women from getting these jobs. Why do they complain all the time?’ Well, darling, first try juggling a household and childcare with a career involving responsibilities and long hours. Add into the equation, in my case, a husband who travels all the time. Maybe then you’ll understand what I am talking about. That said, you probably won’t, because apparently the right way to deal with these things is to brush them under the carpet. Dear oh dear, what are you on about? The wife/mother/girlfriend in the family is the glue that holds everything together, right? She is there to put up or shut up. Preferably shut up. Calm down, dear.
As you may have noticed, I am a nomad at heart. This year, I am going to realise a long standing dream of mine: I am going to run in the Navajo Nation. It will be my very own Arizona dream come true. What can I say? I might be French, but I am also a citizen of the world!
When I was a child, I loved learning about Native Americans. For instance, we were taught about Geronimo, and I was imagining arid plains and wild horses. What would it be like to hunt buffalos and other animals? Every day, if I were living there, we would pick fruits and seeds. We would not be interested in settling down in a permanent community, we would just travel and enjoy life!
Now that I am going to experience it, it feels a bit like going back in time, and I can’t wait.
What will I do there? Well, I will run an ultra marathon of course. Which one? One of the most beautiful and exclusive ones: the Canyon de Chelley Ultra (http://www.canyondechellyultra.com). I am a bit worried, because we are going to start running in sand, cross streams, and then apparently there will be a ‘technical climb’ to go on top of the Canyon -and then we do it all over again on the way back. As I train in London, I think that I might find the conditions a bit challenging. Let’s just say that it’s going to be an interesting race (did you hear the British understatement ?).
This expression, as I am sure you know, is borrowed from French. Literally, it means ‘Long live the difference!’. In truth, we French don’t use it that much (if at all). In fact, once again, I think of ‘Vive la difference’ as a British idiom, even if the words are French. What can I say? Life is incredibly complicated.
Let’s go back to the definition, shall we? ‘Vive la difference!’ is an expression of approval of difference, especially between the sexes. When I hear it reminds me to appreciate the uniqueness of everyone and everything. Of course variety is great!! Embrace it. Don’t be afraid of it.
Well, that’s the theory, right? The reality is, indeed, different (pun intended!). Why is is so hard to be different, even if it’s just a little bit? I really wonder. But let’s face it, it’s bloody hard.
For instance, what is it with this obsession with the French First lady, Brigitte Macron? I read yet another article on how her dress was matching her husband’s. Seriously? What can I say? Unlike in France, women in the UK seem to become invisible after a certain age. We French still value mature women, and have timeless icons such as Catherine Deneuve (73 years old), but the British have difficulties in accepting an older French lady. Maybe it is her sense of style? It is more likely her Frenchness, and, let’s face it, there isn’t much she can do about it. She is not going to apologise for who she is anyway. Can’t we just leave her alone?
I was going to tell you that it’s officially the end of the summer holidays in London, which means that I can finally catch-up with everything I left on hold before the holidays as the children are now back to school and starting a new academic year. But then I received the first project of the cover of my next book, Madame La Presidente, from the talented Vanessa Mendozzi (check out her site here: https://www.vanessamendozzidesign.com)
What can I say? I had to stop everything. I just love it!
What do you think? You can read the first chapter here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/madame-la-presidente/
Are you as excited as I am?
There is so much to do that I don’t know where to start, and receiving the cover hasn’t helped as I keep starring at it. I am mesmerised. Damn it!
What can I say? Maybe French women really are different. I met my friend Alice among the other mums at the school gates. Alice stood out from everyone else because she smiled and understood my English despite my strong French accent. She was chatty. She had a self-effacing sense of humour. I really thought she and I were both the same under the skin, but that illusion was completely dashed when I suggested that she might like to come lingerie shopping with me. She hasn’t talked to me ever since. I think she believes I am some sort of pervert. Once again, I got it completely wrong. I used to go lingerie shopping all the time with my female friends in Paris, and we didn’t think much of it. In fact, it felt completely natural. But here, I quickly understood that you are supposed to hide while purchasing your granny pants (you can read more about M&S granny pants here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/sexy-not-slutty/). Lesson learned. I will buy my lingerie in France from now on. And I will try to hide my Frenchness even more. Maybe I should write a ‘I’m sorry’ card to Alice? What do you think?
Princess Tam Tam Lingerie. One of my favourites French brands.
But I digress. So what did I do again (apart from thinking I could buy some lingerie with a British female friend)? I am running a 50k marathon again on the 9th of September (The Thames Path Challenge). I wasn’t intending to fundraise because I have been working on other things recently, but with lots of friends living in Texas, and my Facebook and Twitter timelines full of distressing pictures, I have set up a page, with any donation going directly to the British Red Cross. You can see my page here: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/team/the-french-yummy-mummy-is-running-for-texas-will-you-help
I suppose it is this time of the year: I keep reading about how we French do everything better: French women are oh so chic, our food is oh so fresh and our parenting is, apparently, second to none.
Really? I must have missed something while I was on holidays. I see no other explanations.
So what makes us French women so chic? I have to break it to you, and you might not like it, but we French women are, well, just human beings, warts and all. For instance, we have digestive issues from time to time (just like everybody else). We are sometimes in a bad mood, or tired (or even both). And we sometimes get it wrong -as in, completely wrong. So what’s so special about us again? I really wonder.
Today I need your help on my latest project. Call me mad, call me stupid, but I am thinking of writing another book. It would be in English -of course-, and it would be a French political thriller (chick lit style). What do you think? Would you read a book like this?
So what would it be about? Well, to cut a long story short, if would be about what would have happened if a French female President had been elected. My character, Veronique Boyer, would be a sexy older lady (a cross between Christine Lagarde and Brigitte Macron). She would be an outstanding president, but her private life would go from bad to worse (as in from REALLY bad to EVEN worse).
I have decided to share with you, my readers, the Prologue and the first chapter. Any comment/suggestions helps…
Oh, and before I forgot: I haven’t edited it yet, so please excuse any typo/gallicism…
Arnaud Dubruis, the Darling of the French media, was quietly sitting amongst the 300 guests at the Elysee reception speech. For once he wasn’t covering the event. He wasn’t checking his microphone or discussing with the cameraman. No, this time, he was just waiting for the President to enter the paved square, and he didn’t have much else to do. He couldn’t help thinking that things would soon become a lot more complicated: the newly elected President happened to be his wife.
Come to think of it, love stories between journalists and politicians were quite common in Paris. More often than not, knowing who had slept with who was a guessing game in his social circle. However, such affairs usually involved a young sexy female journalist and a slightly older party leader. Sometimes, they even got married. That said, it usually ended in tears, as had happened between the former President and his journalist girlfriend, who took it very badly when her lover was caught having a 5 a 7 with a younger actress after a popular theater play. The title of one of the many articles was ‘Caught In the Act’. The regular girlfriend found it extremely humiliating. It must be said that, in due course, she took the whole sorry affair in her stride, and wrote another popular play about the whole experience. Never underestimate a scorned woman.
We French love our holidays. Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of holidays scattered throughout the year but July and especially August are the months of les grandes vacances, or literally the “grand vacations”. Most people take at least three weeks off in either July or August. What does it mean?
Well to cut a long story short, most emails I have sent for my French business have come back with an out-of-office reply. It sounds funny, but believe me, it can be very frustrating…
With everyone on holiday, business is almost non-existent in August (except for tourism, of course). So if you are in France and need to get some kind of administrative paperwork done during these months, don’t bother. Just try to relax and go to the beach just like everyone else. Nothing is going to get done until September anyway, you might as well make the most of your down time.
Even in Paris, a short walk around the capital will reveal that things just aren’t the same in August. Of course, lots of stores and restaurants remain open, but Paris looks and feels empty (except for the tourists spots, that is).
It’s going to be time to go back home soon, and I can’t help thinking of the little things in Australia that have made a huge difference during my stay. Because sometimes it’s the little things that matter right? Stuff you don’t expect and that takes you by complete surprise. It made me realise that I take some things for granted, or even normal, when they are anything but. What can I say? I still have a lot to learn! So what am I talking about? Well, here are a few exemples:
- People talk
I know. It’s amazing, right? In London (or in Paris), I have learned to keep myself to myself. Over here, in Sydney, people talk. They are trying to help, they explain things when you queue or when you are a bit lost. They are, well, more helpful. It’s a different pace, and people take more time to speak to each other. Over here, you great the bus driver. I had forgotten what it felt like to be more mindful of others, and it felt good.
2. Healthcare is great
Stuff happens when you travel with children, and unfortunately this year was no exception. My younger daughter became sick on a Sunday morning (of all days!), I was worried and had to get her to a doctor asap. There was an open medical center around the corner, and a GP saw us within 20 minutes. We found an open pharmacy down the road. All is well now. The cost was a fraction (probably a third of) of what I would have had to pay in London for a similar service. My other option, in London, would have been to spend the day at A&E or wait for hours to talk to somebody on NHS direct, and then try to get a prescription, etc. The cost will be reimbursed by our medical insurance. Frankly, the service was even better than France. What am I doing in London again?
3. There are beauty products I didn’t even know existed.
Did you know that bee venom is the latest craze over here? And apparently sheep placenta is full of nutrients and good to make wrinkles disappear. I certainly didn’t know. Goat milk makes your skin and hair smooth and soft, allegedly. Again, I shamefully admit that I had no idea. Where the hell have I been? I might be French, but come to think of it, I am incredibly low-maintenance. It might be time for me to up the ante a bit…But then again, I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ll stick to running and Nivea cream!
I have been in Sydney for 10 days or so now and I have just realised that nobody has asked me the dreaded question:
‘Where are you from?’
Or, even worse, after they hear my strong French accent. ‘Are you from France?’
Do you know what? It’s refreshing. I am glad not to have to justify myself for once. In London, I am always ‘the French one’, and I keep being asked where I am from all the time. I am used to it by now. Sometimes I answer ‘Oh, I come from around the corner’, and then I get something like ‘No, no, where are you REALLY from?’. I promise, I am really from around the corner.
Seriously? Don’t you think it’s a tad offensive to ask someone where they are from?
Over here, in Sydney, nobody cares where I am from. It’s an accepted fact that the society is multi-cultural and yes, come to think of it I find Australians more welcoming.
Maybe one day I’ll be from Sydney