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Millbank Prison in the 1820s
This is a letter from my house…
Dear New Family,
I know that you are interested in me. I can feel it, and it is good to be desired again. I have been neglected for such a long time.
On the face of it, I am just another vertical slice of a Victorian terraced house. But come on, look closer. I was built in the late 1840s. I have seen it all. You know, the Millbank prison was just down the road. Every person sentenced to transportation was sent here first, and then to Australia. Several thousands of persons convicted of petty crimes, such as stealing an egg because they were hungry, walked here before leaving. You can still see the buttress on the embankment. I remember their fears and also their hopes of building a new life. Some were so young!
I am crumbling. The ceiling of the study is about to collapse, and the gutter on the roof is leaking. You see, they have never been changed, and are full of old memories of the sad faces leaving London.
I was rented by the room at the time. The turnover was high. Musicians, road sweepers, office workers, engineers and dress makers all lived here. Pimlico was becoming fashionable, and Millbank in those days was industrial with a Coconut Fibre factory, the Imperial Flour Mills and the Cement Works. I was stuck between the two, and loving the energy.
You know, I have seen lots of Chelsea men going to the house at the end of the street for some illicit entertainment. They looked happy and passably drunk.
The infamous prison eventually closed down in the 1890s and was replaced by the Tate Britain. You will love it. I can’t recommend highly enough the Turner collection. You could go there every week-end.
In 1928, all of Millbank and a good part of Pimlico were flooded. You had to be resilient to survive this. I was. All of Pimlico was. But you don’t need to worry. The Thames barriers will protect you now. You will be safe here.
I survived World War II. Some houses on this street were bombed. I wasn’t. Have a look at Atterbury Street, and you will see the scars on the walls. I was one of the lucky ones. I am a survivor.
I can see that you have two daughters. They are going to the same school than the family who moved in after the war. Both did very well and went to Oxbridge. What are you waiting for? I am exactly what you need. I am sure that their Dad will renovate me. He seems to like me too.
The last owner had two dogs and two cats. They were clearly passionate about their pets. As you have seen, I just have a small patio. I am still angry about having to accommodate so many animals, it is so unfair on them in central London. I think that you can smell it. Don’t worry, it will all go away. When one of the cats died, the owner stuffed it to keep the other cat company.
I know that, when you are talking about me, you are calling me the Stuffed Cat’s house. I don’t really mind. I am making my way into your heart and you know it.
What is the price of your own piece of London anyway? Welcome home!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a big storm while I am writing – This is one of my collages – It says “In London, it rains all the time but we are happy”.
I am getting older and none the wiser. And no, I am not moaning. I have some evidence to prove my point today. Here we go: I received a friend request, on Facebook, of one of my 11-year old daughter’s friend.
First of all, I didn’t know that children could have a Facebook account. According to Facebook’s rules you need to be 13 but it seems that every girl in primary school has one.  Maybe it is specific to London. How come no one had told me? My daughter doesn’t have one (yet), I don’t want her to (but she writes a very good blog. I am an unconventional mother, I know and it is hard work). Anyway, it took me a while and a cup of coffee to understand that the girl, let’s call her D, who wanted to be my FB friend was in fact the one I have known since she was 4.
I accepted D’s request. And then, I made a major mistake. I posted a message on her wall, asking her how she was, and explaining how weird it was that she was so grown-up now.
This is against the etiquette. You are supposed to accept your daughter’s friend request and never say anything. Not a single word. It is embarrassing for her, you see. So here we go, I am an embarrassing Mum. The message got back to me via my daughter. I have posted something on her friend’s wall. What a weirdo I am! Mums are not supposed to do that. I didn’t know. How hopeless is this?
Maybe she will de-friend me? Let’s wait and see.  Anyway, I can’t help thinking that things have really changed since I was 11 (can you believe that we didn’t know what FB was then?) and I am officially old and out of touch.

But the good news is that I received a very good response to my last post on this blog. Thanks for all comments. I will keep you posted. Suffice to say that it is not a question of if but rather a question of when. Watch this space!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Do you remember The Clash? They were great. I especially liked their hit song “should I stay or should I go?”. And guess what: I live close to 36 Causton street, in London, where The Clash have recorded their songs.
The Vanilla Studio doesn’t exist any more -it has been replaced by the diocese of London:


 However, every time I walk along Causton Street, I have this tune in my head: “should I stay or should I go?”.
Anyway, today, I have a very personal dilemma to share with you. I am thinking of quitting my day job. You see, I am too busy doing the school runs, taking care of the girls, working full-time and my husband travels very often -too often, in fact. And also, I am knackered all the time. Simply exhausted -in a way that I didn’t think existed-. I always have something to do or to attend (I am writing this while watching The Princess and the Frog).
But I have a secret card to play: 4 years ago, I started my very own business, on top of my day job. It is now tumbling along quite nicely and will require more time if I want to take it to the next stage. Don’t understand me the wrong way, it is not going to make me  become Bill Gates. Let’s just say that being my own boss feels nice, and I could have more time with my daughters and my family, and take it easier generally. Financially, I could always look for another job or work free lance in the future if things don’t work out as expected.
But I spent a long time studying Engineering and I pride myself in being an Engineer in a male-dominated environment. I am reluctant to give it all up, after so much effort. I am finding myself excuses to keep my day job: it represents security, I know the Industry, I am reasonably recognised- whatever it means-… And wouldn’t I miss the interaction with colleagues ? It is difficult to be on your own all the time.
In short, I don’t know what to do. That said, I know that I am very fortunate to have a choice when people around me are struggling to make ends meets.
It is a funny time in my life. My grandparents have now passed 90 and, let’s face it, might not be around for much longer. It feels right to have more time with them now, and it simply won’t happen if I keep my job.
So come on and let me know: should I stay or should I go?
I am hoping that I will not have to make the decision myself, that I will be able to take advantage of one of the many reorganisation plans that my company is going through. It would be so much easier…
Maybe I just need a break and everything will be fine. Again, I know I can’t complain: I am in good health, and don’t have any real problem.
But it is a big deal for me.
I will give myself more time to decide. A few months. End of the year, top…
So come on and let me know:

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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For the last few weeks, we have all been living with the Weinergate, DSK,  George Tron (a French minister who happens to be a foot fetishist-trust me, you don’t want to know more). I received a comment from Thom, a fellow blogger, who in essence asked: what about women? Are they as bad as men? Why don’t we hear more about them?

Well, I am sorry to break it out to you all, but I think that women can be as bad as men. They are just less likely to be in a position of power (just look at the statistics if you need to be convinced). That said, I tried to gather for you a few gems coming exclusively from sisters, in no particular order.
1.   –  Do you remember Edith Cresson? She was a French Prime Minister and eventually became a European Commissioner. Not only did she hire her dentist as an AIDS expert (see here) but she also famously said that “one in four British men [was] homosexual”.  Well, as a French woman living in London, I get a lot of unwanted attention. No later than this morning a (drunk – I hope) gentleman told me I was the most beautiful woman on earth. I was going to the dry cleaner (half asleep as it was early morning), I am dangerously nearing 40 and I have at least a stone to loose. I think that she misinterpreted the signs. British men were not interested in her, that’s all;

2.    –  While living with Jean-Paul Enthoven (a well-known French editor), Carla Bruni fell in love and had an affair with his son, Raphael Enthoven, who had the time was married with Justine Levy (a well-known novelist). –I hope you followed, I had to read it twice before getting it-. The affair and the end of the marriage inspired Justine Levy to write the very good novel “Rien de grave” (Nothing serious in French).  Carla Bruni denied having an affair with Raphael Enthoven  and went on to have a son with him. She is now the First Lady of France. Men love her as indeed she is very beautiful. As for me, well, suffice to say that I am getting my British passport as soon as I can. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in people’s right to a private life. But destroying other persons’ life, even if it wasn’t intentional –as I am sure was the case-, takes what she did to unbearable levels;

3.    – Gisele Bundchen said that there should be a “breastfeeding law” for the first six months of the baby. I was just trying to imagine what the breastfeeding police would look like. Would they knock at your door and try to extract some milk? Knock knock! Milk police here! We all say stupid things of course, but someone needs to explain to the gorgeous Gisele that, as moms, we are all doing what we can.
If you have heard about other gems please do let me know. My point was that no one is immune from saying or doing silly things. It has nothing to do with gender or nationalities. There is, however, one universal truth: sometimes –especially when you don’t know enough-, you might want not to say anything…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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This post was first published on Technorati


This is something close to my heart. I am convinced that there are different levels of communication, and some don’t require words (before we continue, I am not talking about hanky-panky here. Please be serious, dear reader!). For example, when I was pregnant, I was very frustrated because I couldn’t have a conversation with my baby. My husband felt the same way (and was actually putting on weight at the same pace than me to show his solidarity).
To give you another example: my grandmother suffers from Alzheimer and even if, technically, she can speak, most of the time what she says doesn’t mean anything. So, how do you communicate?
Well, you need to try something called “
haptonomy” (haptonomie in French). This is about touching someone (or, when you are pregnant, touching your tummy) and trying to convey what you want to say with your touch, and concentrating on how the other person is reacting. It is actually amazing: my daughter was feeling my husband’s hand and she was tucking herself in it. She was reacting differently depending in the way we “touched” her. We felt like we knew her before she was actually born.
I am not talking about gently patting someone, just touching to say you accept and you care, or whatever you want to say, in an accepting and non-judgemental way. Words can hurt. Words categorise people : an unborn baby, a 90-year old lady who is losing her mind, …but some things never change: we have a body and we can feel how the other person is reacting to our touch: a slight hesitation, a sadness or an eagerness to be touched.
Touching is an important part of our life. That doesn’t mean that we are doing haptonomy in our daily life. Haptonomy is to touching what poems are to literature. Do not be put off by the way it is described, it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Haptonomy doesn’t seem to exist in the UK. What a shame! In France, it can be used to prepare women for the birth of their baby. I am normally a very rational person, and some people actually found it incredibly funny that I could even mention it. Well, my response is: if it helps me, if it makes me more accepting, it can’t be that bad!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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My life is incredibly busy…and incredibly boring as well. Don’t get me wrong: boring is good. I suppose that, when I say “boring”, I mean conventional. Again, “conventional” works for me. There is, however, something that bugs me since the DSK affair (see here).
My question is: when did it become acceptable for powerful men to be stupid?
There are numerous examples: look at DSK, a known womaniser now accused of assault against a maid in Manhattan. Even his (gorgeous and intelligent) wife seems to excuse his numerous indiscretions, as apparently “it is important for politicians to be able to seduce”. Give me a break.
To make matters worse, another French politician, George Tron, had to resign for alleged assaults towards two members of his staff. It was well known, in informed circles, that he was a foot fetishist (I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Ignorance is bliss).
It has been said that all of this is because French women have put up with such behaviours for so long without saying anything, and I have read lots of negative comments about how French feminism is weak and has, in fact, let this happen. Come on, sisters, that’s too easy an explanation.
Let’s have a look elsewhere: we have Arnie and his love child ( with the housekeeper- can you imagine what his wife must be going through? No wonder she said “hasta la vista baby” and, in my view, he deserves to be taken to the cleaners ). Then, John Edwards fathered a child out of wedlock while his (brilliant and beautiful) wife was sick with cancer and denied everything for a couple of years. The list is endless…
In short, I don’t believe that such attitudes have anything to do with nationalities. I think it has to do with power and the implied assumption that powerful people can get away with anything, it is somehow excused because of what they “give” to society. I will go even further: in some circles, debauchery is seen as “cool”. Reading the “Sunday Times” this morning proved it to me again: the philosopher Freddie Ayer has lots of extra-marital affairs and her stepdaughter Gully Wells describes the very special parties that went on in her youth. Personally, I believe her. This self-proclaimed intelligentsia believes that what society expects from them is “bourgeois” and that rules are made to be broken. Or they are above the law because they are after a greater good…Acting like petulant teenagers somehow flatters their oversized ego and seems to be part of the package deal.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not a paragon of virtue, and I am all about supporting our hard-earned freedom. We all make mistakes, and I have yet to meet someone perfect. I just believe that life is too short to hurt people with such twisted attitudes. Because, inevitably, people get hurt. And if people are hurt, isn’t it better to be honest?…
So why do we sometimes overlook what powerful men do? They obviously have a right to a private life. But is it right to accept that great economists, promising politicians or philosophers behave in appalling ways? Where do we draw the line? Well, for starters: no-one is above the law. And what happened to leading by exemplarity?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It is amazing how doing nothing can become addictive. I have spent a couple of days near St Tropez and it has made me realise how hectic my life in London is. I find it really hard to go back to my old routine, which includes:


1.      Waking up far too early
2.      Preparing breakfast for the whole family
3.      Helping  the younger one getting dressed
4.      Preparing  myself (or rather, trying to)
5.      Doing the school run (two different schools because no sibling policy of course)
6.      Going to the office (3 hours after point 1, that’s how long the whole process takes)
7.      Once at work, listening to the generation Yers’ complains while they are eating their breakfast at their desk (for some reason, the office becomes a breakfast parlour in the morning). They are tired because, you see, they have just woken up and are coming back from a week-end in Amsterdam/Paris/Madrid/Rome/Wherever. Poor darlings. They keep yawning, which drives me mad because if they knew what being tired meant they wouldn’t dare to open their pretty young mouths.
I will spare you the rest, I am sure that you understand where I am coming from.  To make matters even worse, we had applied for some tickets for the Olympic Games in 2012. You see, I have never attended the Olympic Games and I was looking forward to it. In London. But tough luck, we have been cheesed off. Out of the 11 applications for 4 tickets each  (even fencing, which we like and can’t be THAT popular, can it?), we haven’t had one. Zero. Nada. Kossong. Apparently more than 250 000 persons are in the same boat and even the London mayor, Boris Johnson, didn’t get his tickets either. Not much consolation. For once it might help to be French as I might be able to buy some tickets from there…
I have tried to understand the rules of the lottery and have come to the conclusion that we didn’t get any tickets because we wanted the whole family to go. It would have been easier if we had asked a couple of tickets for each event. But what would be the point? We have so little time together…
Anyway, I will pull myself together and try to do the best I can. Keep calm and carry on…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a new fashion in London. I have never seen anything like it before, neither in Paris, nor in Singapore or New York. It downed on me yesterday, when I was taking the Tube to go to work. (Mind the gap, please, mind the gap!). 4 women, whose ages were ranging between 18 and 45 -I am not very good at assessing ages-, were sitting next to each other on the train and applying their make up in the most conscientious way. And they were not discreetly putting some lipstick on. No, not at all. Their toiletry bags were wide open, as if they were in their bathroom. They were at different stages of the process. They didn’t know each other. One was cleaning her face with a wipe, another was applying her foundation cream, the third one was putting some eyeliner on (which I found very brave given the fact that some trains can brake abruptly) and her mouth had the shape of an inverted V –women look very silly when they put their make-up on-. The last one was putting some powder on her face with a brush, and she was gently patting her face with her other hand while checking in her hand mirror, on her lap, that she looked good.

I felt very uncomfortable. The train was packed, and they were behaving as if they were in their bathroom- which is, I believe, only for your (very) close friends (I actually like to be alone in my bathroom). My fellow passengers and I were standing in front of them, and they were completely oblivious to the fact that we were present. I might be old fashioned, put putting your make-up on in public is a no-no. What’s next? Getting clothed on the train? Scratching this pimple on your nose? How about a little wax? Deo maybe? Come on ladies, let’s behave.
I caught myself wishing that the train would brake and it would ruin their effort, but it didn’t happen (I am mean). The whole point of being a woman is to show some class and keep some mystery (or at least part of the point. Obviously I try to show some class after my coffee rather than before, because I am too sleepy)! Nope.  No one seems to care here. So please, tell me, do you agree with me: no applying make-up on the train. Actually, no applying make-up in public.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Well, there are some good news: it looks like the 21st of May wasn’t the end of the world after all. That being said, I am not sure that we are in good shape. You see, I believe that we are becoming more and more judgemental.

We judge each other all the time. Maybe we can’t help it. Maybe it just reassures us.
Recently, it all started with the comments the French made on the American justice: a soap opera (Elisabeth Guigou, former justice minister), a justice of cow-boys and a media circus (Robert Badinter, former minister of justice)- see here.
The American response followed shortly, accusing the French to be obsessed by sex, a society where elitist machos who can do whatever they like, and finding some very creative nicknames for DSK.
It looks like the competition is set to continue. I am not sure that it will achieve anything in the end. What does the winner get? A medal to have won the war of words? It reminded me of some old newspapers that I found in my attic (see here and here). 150 years ago it was exactly the same: we couldn’t help judging each others. Well, it is simply amazing: nothing has changed. In more than 150 years we haven’t learned a thing apparently. Disappointing.
We can safely say that the situation will not improve any time soon. I strongly believe that being judgemental is killing us from the inside : we want to convince the world that there is only one way: ours. On top of this, I am not sure that it is making us any happier…
Before moving to London, I was quite judgemental and I had strong views about, for instance, the fact that women should not stop working when they become mums and that the only way to succeed in life was to have a Master degree -or two-, and a MBA if possible -at least-. Now that I moved country, am older (and, let’s face it, heavier -that’s what middle age and 2 pregnancies do for you ), I am not so sure. There are many ways to succeed and be happy. My way sort of works for me (except for the fact that I feel knackered all the time), but others seem to work just as well ( or sometimes -shock horror- even better!).
I am not saying that we should accept anything, but just be nicer to whoever is a bit different. And also, before criticising, it helps to try to understand, and to take it easy.
So please don’t judge me when I say this: tomorrow, I will send some blankets across the pond to Jenn and Angela (see Wrapped with Hope here) for the victims of the tornadoes in the US. I know it is a bit silly because  I am so far away, and it’s only a couple of blankets. But I think that it is a great idea and I like the symbol.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Breaking news: Joy has mentioned my blog and I just love what she said about me. Check it out at Catharsis.




Where has the week gone? It is a glorious day in London and I am knackered. I need a good holiday, but having a break is not on the agenda yet. That said, it was a good week…
Thanks to my 6-year old daughter, I went to the Royal College of Art this week. She has been selected amongst 7000 participants in an art competition organised by a charity, and her painting was displayed there.


I could hardly believe that she was selected. It is apparently an honour, and saying that I was surprised is a bit of an understatement here: let’s just say that we are not an artsy family. Far from it.


So, a bit stressed, I walked from Gloucester Road Tube Station to the Royal College of Art. I then had to pay £3 for the privilege of entering the exhibition, and was suddenly surrounded by 700 kids’ paintings. Very helpfully, my lovely daughter had explained to me: “Mum, you can’t miss it, there is a pineapple, a pear and a flower”. I expected a “nature morte” and surveyed all the walls, desperately looking for the pineapple. Surely I would recognise her style. But nope, I couldn’t find anything. I tried to understand how the paintings were organised ( by school? By age group?) but I couldn’t figure it out. In the end, I had to ask one of the lovely ladies at the entrance door to help me.


To be fair, it took her quite some time to find it but she managed. There it was, right in the middle of one of the walls. 




The yellow thing on the right is, I am told, the pineapple. No wonder I missed it. I was baffled. Very proud, of course, but a bit disappointed. To make matters even worse, I had to make a (generous) donation to be able to get the painting back and order some postcards (given the family history, it will probably be the only painting selected for an art competition in a long, long time so I felt compelled to do the right thing ). Then, the lovely ladies tried to convince me that putting it on a canvas would make a great present but I resisted the suggestion…


So here I am, home, with the painting, and I can’t help thinking about something that happened at the Tate Modern a few years ago: one of the cleaners thought that a paperboard sculpture was a pile of rubbish and threw it away. I sympathise with the cleaner and I think that I will never “get” art. Don’t get me wrong, the Tate Britain is like a second home to me. I love going there, and the permanent Turner exhibition is fantastic. But sometimes, I just don’t understand art.

This is a small pyramid with names of real and imaginary persons. I didn’t get it


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London