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
Hello from Sydney! It might be winter over here, but there is a bright sunshine and I have put some sun cream on. Winter? What winter? Give me a winter like this any time! Seriously, I am not sure I can take another grey British winter.
Let’s face it: things are a bit bleak in London. I thought that political changes would bring a newfound enthusiasm in my adoptive country, but the exact opposite seems to be happening. People keep complaining, and there is a lot of scaremongering. Turning over a new leaf isn’t as easy as it seems, I suppose. It certainly hasn’t brought up the best in British citizen recently.
Things are, well, different over here, in Sydney. It’s the space, you see. I think that the flat I have rented is twice as big as my London home, for a fraction of the price. Even the commute, on the ferry, seems so much nicer.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, Anglo Norman (old French) became the language of the elite in the UK. I’d like to think that this is the reason why, when I moved to London, I was hearing so many French expressions. Mind you, some words were supposed to be French, but I had never used them. Sacrebleu, for instance is a stereotypical and very old fashioned French curse, which is rarely used by we French these days. In fact, I didn’t understand why my British colleagues were saying it all the time. Maybe they were trying to impress me. I will never know. But I digress. There is a French expression that I love, it is having a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’. According to the dictionary, ‘having a certain je ne sais quoi’ means ‘having a pleasing quality that cannot be exactly named or described. What’s not to like? Now we are talking, right…
A certain Je Ne Sais Quoi
Let’s say, for instance, ‘although she’s not conventionally attractive, she has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes her popular with the boys’. Now, can you hear the sexual innuendo here? I certainly can.
Let’s face it, whenever French words are used this side of the Channel, there is a sexual innuendo. As some of you like numbers, I will take the plunge and make an assessment: when a French word (or a French expression) is used, in 80% of the cases there is a sexual connotation. Shame nobody had told me before, it would have saved me some embarrassing quid pro quo.
I bumped into a friend of mine today, and she asked me whether I was still running. Of course I was, I answered. She said that as I hadn’t talked about it for quite some time, she had assumed that I had stopped. She then started explaining to me what her training plan for her next race was, what her PBs were, and how she was intending to improve her times.
That was when it dawned on me: I was an average runner. I didn’t really care about PBs, and I just wanted to run in the most beautiful places on earth, but running fast (or even simply faster) wasn’t my main priority. My last marathon was in Vancouver, and I had a great time because I ran along the Pacific ocean. After running the two-oceans marathon in Capetown in 2016, I felt privileged to run in Vancouver, along another ocean. It was my ‘third ocean race’ and I was living the dream! She asked me what my time had been. I couldn’t remember it exactly, and gave a ballpark figure. She was surprised. She remembered all her times. I didn’t. I remembered the runners next to me, how I felt after two hours and the strength of the wind, but not my exact time. ‘Why don’t you check on the website?’, she asked. It hadn’t crossed my mind. I didn’t need my exact time to know that I had enjoyed the marathon.
Let’s face it, the last few weeks have been tough. Instead of boring you guys with my well-informed inside views of what is going on in my home country and over here, I thought I should write something a bit more light-hearted today, and tell you how to love like a French woman. Yep, you read that right, the cat is out of the bag, you’ve got no excuses now. So, here we go…
It’s not over until it’s over
French women can love and be in love at any age. We never stop being and feeling loveable. Let me explain: over here, in London, it sometimes feel like women shut it down the second they become moms. There is a strong pressure, after becoming a mother, to become an all-sacrificing maternal figure. And if you don’t, shame on you, because you will be considered a narcissistic MILF. We French women don’t fall in such stereotypes. We don’t make our children the center of our universe. Truth be told, we get a lot of help from the state: childcare is virtually free (or very cheap) and we even get offered perineal reeducation sessions. In short, we have no excuse but to get our pre-baby mojo as fast as possible, so we do.