Right. It all happened the other morning, when I was starting the school run. As you may know, in England there are roundabouts everywhere. They swear by roundabouts over here. Roundabouts are apparently the solution to all traffic problems, without any exception. Small junction? No problem, let’s put a small roundabout. Big junction? Let’s put a huge one, or even a double or a triple one. There is even a ‘magic roundabout’ in Swindon; it consists of five mini-roundabouts arranged around a sixth central. I kid you not. They are thinking of listing it, I am told. Something to do with epitomising British values such as spontaneous cooperation. I am joking of course (I told you, even we French sometimes do sarcasm).
But I digress. When I arrived at the small roundabout down the road, I made sure I was driving slowly, controlling the speed of my Chelsea tractor, when a black cab arrived full speed ahead, ignoring that I was actually already on the thing, turning right. He honked furiously, at 7am, and I felt that I had no choice but to stop and let him pass while he was calling me all sorts of names.
What is going on? A few new readers have subscribed to this blog, and they don’t understand what it is all about. They started complaining (of course they did). What am I talking about? Well, here are some of the best comments I received over the last two weeks:
“As you are French, I thought that you were writing about food. I am very surprised that you don’t.” (That’s actually a summary, the actual message would have taken a whole post)
“I read your blog but as you don’t talk about sex I still can’t make out the real cause. After all, you are French! I’m sorry if this hurts!”
“You look like an angel.”
“You are a very sexy lady.”
“Would you please send me dirty messages?” (No I won’t)
“Could you post a recipe of the Kouign-amann?” (Sacrilege! I am not from Brittany!)
In short, you should get the gist of it by now. As a French woman, and just because you happen to be French, you have to be:
- A sex Goddess
- A foodie
After the Two-Oceans marathon I needed a new challenge. That’s just me, I suppose. You see, I don’t fit into any particular category. For instance, I am French, but also British. I am a runner, but I don’t really like the usual 5k or 10k races. So what to do? Well, I have set my my views on a 100k race: the Thames Path Challenge on the 10th of September, from Putney Bridge to Henley.
What can I say? I love long distances. As in, really long distances. This time, I will be running for a charity I have been supporting for years, ActionAid, Please wish me luck. I am not sure what I got myself into. You can click on my fundraising page here: https://www.justgiving.com/Muriel-Demarcus. Of course I would be delighted if you could sponsor me, but I would also really appreciate you to send me some encouragements as I am not sure what I got myself into. I take some comfort in the fact that, when I run for a long time, there comes a point when I feel really bad (this is actually a British understatement), but it doesn’t get any worse (am I making sense? I hope so).
And frankly, nothing can describe the feeling of having completed a long race. I just love it.
I am back home. Or am I really? Where is home anyway? I don’t know. But this much I know: things seem to happen at a different pace over here, in Provence. I am trying hard to make my children love this place. After all, it is where I grew up.
It’s harder than I thought. My younger one wants to speak English. Why wouldn’t she? But when she does, everybody is looking at her as if she were a freak. No, she’s only British! We are not in the touristic part of Provence. We have to conform. She has to speak French. I am glad she is trying. We’ll get there. Eventually.
The views of the Mediterranean sea are breathtaking, and there is magic in the light over here. I wish I could train for my races here: there are hills, traffic-free roads along the beach and fantastic trails. What am I doing in London again? Why did I leave?
There is always a small chapel to reach at the top of a hill (Notre Dame De Miremer in this instance), and I feel like I am travelling back in time, sharing with my daughters what I used to do every weekend. Ah, memories!
I am miffed. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I am always ‘the French one’. My friends and colleagues still consider me to be French. Why? Why such a double standard? I have colleagues who, just like me, are naturalised citizen. They are considered to be British. Sometimes, someone says that they are ‘Indian-born’ or ‘from the continent’, but that’s as far as it goes.
As for me, despite my British passport and the fact that I have been living in London for the best part of 14 years, I am always considered to be French. ‘Ask Muriel’, someone says. ‘Who is she?’ ‘The French one’. But of course. What did I do to deserve to be stigmatised like this?
Nota: I don’t have the official pics and will post them in a separate article, but I thought I should tell you a bit more about what happened this weekend…
It was pitch dark when I woke up…
What went into me? It may be a late midlife crisis, but I think that it is deeper than this. I used to think that there was time to realise my dreams, but now that I am in my mid-forties I need to act on them. This is why I started running again about a year ago, after a twenty-five years hiatus. I have always liked long-distance running. It was time to finally make it happen. I started training, right from the start. Obviously I was a bit slower, but the pleasure had remained the same.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that I will never be a champion. For me, it’s not about going fast. It’s about the experience. I want to run in the most beautiful places of the world. Obviously running the Two Oceans marathon was a no-brainer, and I signed in as soon as entries were open, back in February. The marathon is in Cape Town, and takes you from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. What’s not to like?
I feel old and none the wiser. I caught up with some younger friends a couple of days go and, in case you didn’t know it, there was a problem with the dating app Tinder last week. Some of them lost all their matches. Apparently it’s a big deal.
Seriously? Is this how you meet people today? You swipe right or left and, eventually, you will manage to get a booty call. Or even a real relationship. It has already happened, I am told.
A colleague of mine (of a similar age than me. OK, maybe a bit younger) explained to the group that he had met his now-wife in his local pub.
“Down the pub?”
My younger colleagues sounded amazed. Who knew that you could still meet people IRL (In Real Life!)? Not them, apparently. The whole concept seemed completely alien to them. It made them laugh. Down the pub? No way!
I felt like I was coming straight from prehistoric times. When did we become so afraid to, well, meet up? Have we become scared of being disappointed? Are we too shy? What is going on?
The thing is, the longer you stay in a a virtual relationship, the more you’ll build castles in Spain. Seriously, at some point you have to face the music and actually MEET UP, warts and all, right? And in my view, the sooner is probably the better.
I am coming back from a few days in France and must admit that I was surprised to see that most people there looked grumpy, despite the fantastic weather and the dirt-cheap croissants (90 cents if you must know. It’s about £1.65 in the independent coffee shop around the corner of my house in London). What about the legendary ‘joie de vivre’? Where did it go?
I have no idea. During a business meeting, I made a cardinal mistake: I smiled at a client. For the record, it was a polite smile, nothing too fancy or informal, I promised. The guy didn’t seem impressed at all:
” Why are you smiling? Did I say something funny?” he asked
” No, not at all.” I tried hard to sound stern. I am not sure I sounded very convincing but I tried, I promise.
I kid you not, I almost had to apologise for smiling. I had to put on a grumpy look, which I thought was incredibly funny, except that I couldn’t show it. What a conundrum!
Being a mum is such a minefield, right? First of all, let me tell you something: we don’t celebrate mums the same day in France and in the UK. In my home country, it is on the 29th of May in 2016. In the UK, it’s today. What can I say? Life is complicated.
Then there is all this confusion about Mothering Sunday and Mother’s day. Well, to cut a long story short, Mothering Sunday is celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Christians in some parts of Europe. It falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent. That said, Mothering Sunday is increasingly called Mother’s Day, although Mother’s day has always been a secular event. This means that. strictly speaking, the UK celebrates Mothering Sunday, whereas France, for instance, celebrates Mother’s day. Did you follow?
Then, there is how to celebrate the day. In the UK, you need to send a card to your mum, and you give her flowers or treat her to a nice lunch. Usually, the Dad has to step in.
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.