My daughter received her GCSE results a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, there was no need to worry. That said, my biggest surprise came from the fact that she got A* both in English literature and English language. Why? Well, because, as you know, we happen to be French. The thing is, at around 95% in both subjects, she had better grades than her British classmates who want to study English at university. What happened? Why did none of her teachers tell us that she was bright in English? Believe me or not, I had always thought that it was her weak point. Now I wonder what I should believe. How could I get it so wrong? How could the school get it so wrong?
Every time I had to meet her English teachers I had a lecture on the fact that her punctuation was not up to standard. I have asked them to clarify, but never managed to understand what they meant exactly. To be fair, I always felt as if that they were trying to fob me off. I came to the conclusion that she needed to decorate her essays with more semi-colons, and add a few comas here and there. The fact that punctuation rules are slightly different in French obviously didn’t help her to comply with the strict English way, and probably prevented me from understanding what the problem was really about. Frankly, I wonder if there even was a problem in the first place. Well, clearly, I overanalysed the situation once again. I feel like I should have ignored the whole thing (but how can you when this is the feedback you get year after year?).
The ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
“He could achieve the American dream only by hard work”
I miss New York. I spent a few days over there, and loved it. Nobody commented on my French accent, and it felt, well, refreshing. Not to mention that I ran every day to train for the 100k in September (you can read all about it here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Muriel-Demarcus). I saw the city in a new light. I especially liked the Hudson river at 6 am. The light was amazing, right?
I felt right at home. The food was great. As usual, I was struggling with the size of the portions (they were huge!!!), and I have to be more mindful of what I am eating now, but hey, life is to be enjoyed, right?
Let’s face it: holidays with kids are not real holidays. What am I talking about? Well, I can’t completely relax when I have to take care of the children every day. And don’t get me started about having to pick them up late at night (or staying up late waiting for them to come back, just in case something happens). It’s simply nerve-racking. It feels like everybody else but me is on holidays, and I hate it, because I have no time for me. None whatsoever. I am dreaming of going to a desert island for at least six months. On. My. Own.
But I digress. When I was growing up, we were watching TV or wandering about with very little supervision. Come to think of it, my parents were incredibly lucky that we were not offered drugs, or anything more sinister than the odd cigarette (which I rejected. I was such a good girl, right?). My parents simply didn’t have a clue. It was a different time, I suppose. Maybe I am becoming overprotective, but I want to be more cautious with my children. Since I caught a classmate of my younger daughter watching some porn videos on her iPad while waiting for her parents, I realised that it was time to up my game. The fact that I didn’t grow up with tablets, iPhones and the likes wasn’t an excuse. But let’s admit it: it didn’t make my task any easier. That said, I felt that I had no choice because I almost passed out when the little girl proudly explained that she had seen two women having sex together (and she gave some graphic details that, if you ask me, were far too much for her age). Maybe, despite being French, I am a prude at heart. I had a quiet word with the parents who found the whole episode hilarious but hey, each to their own, I guess (for the record they were British. So much for all the cliches).
I have had a full-on year. Come to think of it, I have a full-on life. It just never stops. But right now I have taken the whole family to a hamlet in Provence. The Internet connection –when it works- is patchy, which means that I am enjoying a much-needed break.
I love it here. The light is nothing short of spectacular, the colours are perfect, and I am pleased to report that my daughters are finally starting to enjoy Provence. The problem is, well, me.
What am I talking about? Well, I am suffering from a bad case of reverse culture shock. Why? Well, where to start? The driving of my fellow Frenchmen is terrible (simply put, speed limits are never respected. I wonder if they are for the birds?). As for customer service, well, it seems that nobody knows what it is. I asked for a glass of water at a local coffee, and of course it never came. Not to mention that I got told off because the waitress had forgotten half of our order. “No, you didn’t tell me.”, she said. Of course it was my fault. Since when is it allowed to be aggressive towards customers?
Whatever your nationality, some things never change. What am I talking about? Well, my younger daughter is starting secondary school in September, and I feel like my baby isn’t a baby any more. And yes, it hurts. No more trips to the playground. No more dreams of becoming a princess. To make matters even worse, it looks like she wants to go to school by herself. In fact, it looks like she doesn’t need me any more. Or maybe she needs me in a different way. Let’s be honest here: it feels a bit like being made redundant as a mother.
Don’t get me wrong, I pride myself in trying to raise independent girls, and I am pleased with the way they have turned out. I am trying to convince myself that I did a good job here. That said, I sometimes wonder whether I have made the right choices. What if they disagree with the way we brought them up? For instance, they went to British schools, and hopefully they will end up in anglo-saxon universities. What if they would have preferred to settle in France? Being a parent is such a conundrum, right? You are bound do have done some things wrong. What if I was too strict? Did I give them some good boundaries? What sort of example did I set? I tried to give them the childhood I would have liked to have: carefree, full of love and travels. Did they enjoy it? Will they appreciate it, or will they resent it? I have no idea.
Where to start? I didn’t want to write such a post, but hey, here we go. To cut a long story short, I had a fantastic French-inspired dinner on the 13th of July, was about to write about it on Bastille Day but didn’t, and woke up on the 15th of July in a state of shock when I heard about the horrible attack in Nice. Words fail me. I could have been one of the victims: the only reason why I wasn’t in Nice was because my teenage daughter is doing some work experience in London, and we’ll all go to Nice when she is finished, in about ten days or so. In fact, anyone could have been a victim, because going out to see fireworks on display on Bastille Day is as normal as buying your daily bread in my home country. That said, this time, I am angry too: I have yet to understand how a 19-ton truck could end up on the Promenade des Anglais without being stopped. As usual, politicians and representatives are all blaming one another, and this lack of accountability, together with what seems to be gross incompetence on the part of whoever was in charge of security, are pissing me off in equal measure (excuse my French).
So where do we go from here? Well, as an ordinary citizen, I initially felt powerless. But then I realise that maybe, just maybe, it’s the small things that matter, because they give way to the bigger things. What am I talking about? Well, here it is: the things that matter stretch from the apparently anodyne, such as enjoying good food and wine, or feeling the sun on your body on the beach, to the much heavier weighted freedom of speech and democracy.
So yes, I will tell you about my lovely dinner in London, and I urge you to have a glass of Chablis to celebrate life in general and France in particular. Because that’s what life is about, and because that’s what our way of life is about. And yes, these things matter. Actually, maybe we have taken them for granted for far too long?
Well, if you have been living in London over the last week, you will know that things have been pretty rough. Everyday came with its own share of surprise resignations and bad news. But hey, stiff upper lip and all that. Not to mention that if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I removed the BBC news app on my iPhone. Simply put, I didn’t want to know what had gone tits up yet again (excuse my French).
Mind you, at a more personal level things have been quite hectic too. Yesterday evening I was driving back home, and happened to be on Shepherd’s Bush Green, right behind a white van. We were waiting at a red light. The driver suddenly lowered his side window, and threw up abundantly. I was stunned. As soon as the light turned green, he drove away, as if nothing had happened. Wow. I suddenly had a newfound confidence in this country’s resilience. Because it’s all about staying positive, right? I am a glass-half-full sort of person anyway. Come to think of it, that Green always had a weird vibe.
That’s it, we now have the results of the referendum, and as everybody knows the British people have chosen to leave the European Union. I must admit that the result came to a surprise to me. As I have made my opinion on the subject pretty clear (click here in case you have missed it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12173177/Im-French-but-Ive-lost-my-patience-with-the-EU.-Ill-be-voting-Leave.html), I have been at the receiving end of various not-so-nice comments (can you hear the British understatement here?), and I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for them. So let’s start by making something clear: I am not racist, I certainly don’t feel old (According to the media only old people have voted Leave) and I am well-educated (I have two master degrees, after all). So enough with all the condescending assumptions please.
I can’t help thinking that, had the Remain camp won, we would have been told to accept it and move on (which I would have done). That’s what democracy is about: people vote, and you respect their decision, even if you don’t like it. Because of the unexpected result, some Remainers have been behaving like toddlers who have just been refused a sweet. They are now threatening to throw up a tantrum. It’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, and behave in a more responsible way.
What particularly annoys me is when I hear European expats of all walks of life complaining about the referendum results. Some of them have been living here for decades, and I am struggling to understand why they didn’t become British after all this time. They could have had a saying in the matter, but somehow they chose not to. So why complain now? Maybe we’ve had it too good for too long, and we took things for granted. It seems to me that our society is suffering from a severe case of over-inflated sense of entitlement. After all, being able to live in a foreign country is a privilege, not a right.
With the referendum tomorrow, and in my case the article in the Daily Mail (see here in case you have missed it: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3649689/What-French-women-REALLY-think-us.html) emotions seem to be running at an all-time high.
What is going on? Where has the legendary ‘stiff upper lip’ gone? Why has everybody taken up such entrenched positions?
Whatever the result of the referendum, I will still bring my children to school on Friday. I will continue to do my grocery shopping, and to go to work. Life will go on, one way or the other. Am I also allowed to say that it’s OK (and actually quite healthy) to disagree? In short, I think that it is time to put things into perspective, try a little kindness, and move on…
It happened again the other day. What am I talking about? I had another formal dinner, and I wanted to look my best. Why do I still care? Well, I don’t know. It’s mainly for me, I suppose: despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I still like to look nice. Maybe it’s my French side? And it was also for my husband. I didn’t want people to think that I was letting myself go. I didn’t want to become yet another invisible middle-aged woman. There was only one thing for it: preparation. So I had everything covered. Of course I did.
When you work, have kids, older parents and PTA meetings, the logistics can be daunting. It’s all about planing in advance to make it look effortlessly. The outfit was chosen 10 days before the event. As you know, I don’t buy any more, I rent (https://rentez-vous.com). It’s cheaper, much more fun, and I can change more often, which means that I never have to wear the same dress twice. I borrowed the shoes from a friend (Which was a huge leap of faith because I don’t walk in high heels for more than five minutes). Then, I planned all the eyebrow shaping, waxing, etc…Finally I had to have my hair and make-up done a few hours before the event (because as I have a scientific background, doing my own hair and make up isn’t my strongest point -can you hear the British understatement here?). A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.
In short, I’d like to tell you that it was all easy, but the truth is that it was anything but, and I kept running around like a headless chicken the whole day. Not to mention that I had to go to a school meeting fully made up (but with casual clothes, as I put on the dress at the last minute), which raised a few eyebrows, but hey, I felt I had no choice because the meeting was right before the dinner. Anyway, we got there in the end, and I was extremely pleased with the result. What do you think?