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Writing this post following the terrible events in Japan was difficult, but I sincerely hope that it will give you a brief moment of happiness!
The Brits have a lot of unusual ways to have fun. To my French eyes, some of them remain hard to comprehend. I actually have to admit that I don’t find them funny at all…
For instance, they love quizzes. Each pub has a quiz competition every week. You can even have quizzes on specific specialist themes, such as birdwatching, train-spotting or whatever…The few quizzes I had to attend were such a bore that I almost fell asleep. But my British friends really had good fun! They were laughing their heads off, cracking jokes I couldn’t understand, despite all the interpretation skills I have developed over the years. I have to admit that the questions were not really designed for foreigners. Maybe that’s the point. It gives them a sense of community -and excludes anyone who has not been born & bred here. Here are a couple of examples:
1.    Were are the Scottish crown jewels kept? Well the response is “in the castle of Edinburg”. Being French & hence Republican, I didn’t know and frankly I didn’t really care. But the whole debate, during the evening, was to know whether the jewels had be brought to London. And believe me, it was a passionate one…
2.    According to Beatrix Potter, what sort of animal was Mr Jeremy Fisher? The response is “a frog”. Apparently, this is hilarious as I was the only French in the audience. It took me a while to understand that one (Beatrix Potter writes for children and her world is one of speaking animals, and Frenchies are known as frogs) I am sure that no harm was meant, but I have to admit that my love of quizzes didn’t really grow that night.
Another odd thing is the Vicars & Tarts parties. Or any costumed party really. Honestly, why on earth would you want to look ridiculous and make an effort to do so! I am struggling with this love of costumed parties, but Brits absolutely love it. It is FUN, apparently. Maybe it is just an excuse to drink and act in a mad way. It is not unusual to see your (male) stern boss with a plastic pair of breasts and make-up. And he will probably be completely drunk. Whatever he does during the party, you must not mention anything the day after. It is not good behaviour. Even if he made a pass at the young trainee. Everybody must pretend that all is fine and nothing has happened.  Even if it is a big, fat lie…for some reason, it is all part of the game. Not to worry, tomorrow everything will be back to normal…Really.
And finally, we have dog races…very popular indeed. A classic. It is supposed to provide you with a safe platform for gambling. People who are usually shy and discreet start shouting and cheering like there is no tomorrow. Weird.
So why is having fun so different this side of the Channel? No idea really! Something to do with being so polite most of the time maybe.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Thank you Sam , for the Lovely Blog Award, 



and thank you Janine, for the versatile Blog Award.


This week is Award’s week for 40BlogSpot. I am new to blogging and was delighted to find so much support amongst fellow bloggers. Thanks again for all your encouragements and kind words of support.

I understand that I now need to pass on the Lovely Blog award. Here are the lucky winners:
1.     The Accidental Londoner: I can’t remember how I came across this blog, but I love it. Something to do with falling in love with London, I suppose
2.     Secondary Blog Adventures: this is my daughter’s blog. She writes beautifully and I am a bit jealous.
3.     Reflections from a Red Head: Janine’s honest account of her life and dreams.

Now each winner can pass it on to 3 other blogs…Enjoy!


And for the versatile blog award :
1.     Dathai C A Republican invited to The Wedding Of The Year. If this isn’t versatile, what is?
2.     http://www.smileforlondon.com/ : I love the videos. Just have a look and enjoy…
3.    What Not To Do In Love And Business : Sherrod’s beautiful site and stories
4.    As the Actress said to the Bishop: Isabelle’s funny posts
5.     While the Dervish Dances : Cathy’s magic moments of life
6.     A Cup Of Romance: Sandie’s uplifting romance stories
7.     Vinobaby’s Voice : a ray of sunshine from Florida!
 Now you guys need to pass the award to 7 other blogs and say 7 things about you that we don’t know about you yet!

Right. Now, I have to tell you seven things about me that you don’t already know:
1.     I find myself checking the news every 5 mins following the Japan earthquake and tsunami. I am horrified by what happened. I hope that everybody I know in the South Pacific is fine & safe. I am worried and feeling useless;
2.     Despite the name of this blog, I am NOT 40 yet (but not very far from it, which is why I am writing it while I still can). I thought that I should clear that one out right away;
3.     I hate judgemental people. I guess you could say that I am very judgemental about judgemental people (but that’s allowed);
4.     I don’t believe that you learn from your mistakes. I personally prefer to build on my strengths and try not to make the same mistakes twice;
5.     I had one too many glasses of champagne yesterday evening and am feeling a bit tired today. My head hurts. Thought you couldn’t get drunk on champagne but was clearly wrong;
6.     Today is a beautiful day and I have set myself a target to run 3 times this week;
7.     I am Sooo looking forward to the week-end!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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(Grimaud Castle, France, The sky is the limit)
For those of you who don’t know it (where have you guys been all this time?), last week was offers’ week for secondary schools (i.e. from 11 to 18 years old). In London, finding a secondary school is a very competitive process, and girls need to pass several exams and then interviews before they know where they can go in September. It is a stressful time for mothers & daughters (see my post on the prep here and my daughter’s version of the events here)
Back in October, I went to talk to my daughter’s teachers. I felt like I was back to school when a stern maths teacher with square spectacles made it very clear that my daughter was, as she put it, “borderline” for London’s top schools. She didn’t say “with hard work, she will get there”. No, she delivered the news that my bright, beautiful daughter would be better advised not to present the school she badly wants since she turned 5 – let’s call it Saint Peter in West London.
It is fair to say that I pushed her. Selection in the French system is ruthless, so I knew what to do and how to get ready. I took the bulldozer approach and I analysed all the past papers I could find. I identified all the different types of exercises and am now such an expert on all the 11+ tests that I am seriously considering starting a tutoring business!
I would like to think that I wasn’t as bad as other Mums as she could still go to her after-school clubs (ballet, swimming…) whereas most of her class mates stopped everything. I might be in denial here. To be fair, some of the girls had been tutored since the day they were born. I only gave her a push over the last three months. Again, I might be kidding myself.
We have just received the offers. She got a firm offer from ALL the schools she presented.  Each of them, including St Peter of course. But, best of all, her current school is now offering her an academic scholarship as apparently she did extremely well. How come that Borderline Girl has now become Bright Girl?
Oh, and we haven’t worked together since the exam. Instead of revising, we are now catching up with all the chick flicks we missed…I recommend “The Rebound”, it made me laugh. It is really good to get my life back.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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                                       (L’arbre des possibles, The tree of all possibilities – Muriel 2010)


Today is women’s day. However, we keep hearing, in Great Britain, that we women have never had it so good, that we have a choice (career or children) and that, in short, we shouldn’t complain. Best of all: studies made by women came to such a conclusion. Do we all live in the same planet? I sometimes wonder.
Of course, we have access to services and a quality of life that other sisters can not even dream of (tap water, health services, education…). But come on, we are far from being equal, aren’t we? Who are we kidding here? Did I dream the glass ceiling thing? Where are the girls in boardrooms? In Parliament ?  I believe that we will have achieved some equality when incompetent men and women will be treated the very same way. I once had a male boss who was corrupted. He was promoted (or, should I say, swiftly moved to another job). The female Human Resources director had been sacked just before, apparently because she was incompetent – the two events were not related-.
I will also believe in equality when my husband puts the dirty laundry in the basket, not on top of it.
I am an optimist and I am hopeful that, eventually, we will get there. In the meantime, I am exhausted every day and ranting on my blog is my therapy.


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!

A big thank you to Meg for organising this…Enjoy your visit!
I thought that I should take this opportunity to introduce myself a bit better. Here are some quick facts about me:
1. I speak 4 foreign languages, but all with a French accent (and believe me, you don’t want that);
2. I am a French Mum living in London;
3. I hate the way people (mostly men) look at me when I speak with a French accent;
4. A long time ago, I decided to be brutally honest with myself, even if it means facing some not-so-nice home truths sometimes;
5. Chocolate is my favorite thing;
6. I am passionate about Asia and would love to live there at some point;
7. My daughters are growing up beautifully and despite the fact that I feel 15 in my head I have to accept that I am middle aged now. Tough.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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In order to understand what life is about over here, I had to learn lots of new, sometimes useful words.
For instance, it took me some time to understand that you had freehold and also leasehold properties in this country. I thought at first: who would buy a property for a lease of 20 years -or sometimes even less? Once the lease expires, you are not sure to be able to renew it. Or it will cost you…But, once again, I was wrong: you need to be flexible here, and in any event you have no choice, most properties are leasehold anyway. Leasehold contracts come in all forms and shapes. Some are only for a year, others for 999 years. I am still struggling with what a peppercorn rent is. It has nothing to do with pepper and corn, I am sure of this.
Apparently, it is perfectly normal to buy a leasehold property in London, and to pay huge amounts of legal fees to get the share of freehold (i.e. all or part of the ground your property is built on) later, or to renew it at the end of the lease (which you are not sure to be able to do)… Weird…someone needs to finance the lawyers’ lifestyle-and the freeholder’s (who is usually part of the aristocracy), I suppose.

We live in Pimlico and are lucky enough to have bought a freehold property, which is a rare luxury in London. This is because, 150 years ago, Pimlico was were the honest businessmen from Chelsea were coming to drink a few pints and relax in company of women of little virtue.
The freeholder got slightly annoyed to have to sue various madams to get his rent and eventually sold the freehold of his properties, which can be considered to be a radical but effective way to solve the problem.
I like this history of Pimlico. The records of the Stuffed Cat’s house (http://mumugb.blogspot.com/2011/02/stuffed-cats-house.html#links)
do not appear to show any activity of this kind. That being said, they would not advertise it I suppose…Our house was initially rented by room, and former tenant shave included, apparently, a gifted musician, a dress maker, and various engineers.
For some unknown reason, Pimlico remains one of my favorite parts of London. Thanks, Sisters!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I have always liked London. I don’t really know why. Maybe it is because of the energy, the various parks and the narrow, cobbled streets. But I can’t help thinking that it is because London has all the ingredients of an organised chaos.
Take Paris for instance. Someone called Haussmann decided to renovate and reorganise Paris. Old individual houses were destroyed and the main streets were completely renovated, boasting tall, modern buildings and wide avenues.  It was all about order and ensuring consistency of style.
As a result, if you cannot afford to buy a “Hotel Particulier” (i.e. a big, posh house) in the XVIth district, it is virtually impossible to buy a house in Paris.
Things are different in London. Buying a house doesn’t come cheap, but remains possible. Lots of streets still have terraced houses, some Victorian, others Georgian. The capital is made of different layers and hasn’t had to sustain a heavy programme of renovation over the last 250 years. It shows. It makes it more human.
After a few years here, we wanted to put down roots and decided to try to buy our own place. It was quite a journey…Until one day, lured by another nice ad from an estate agency, I visited this home. An old couple had been living in it for a few decades and it was part of a house built in the 1840s. There was a cat on the cupboard, in the lounge. It looked asleep and was breathing. The agent explained to me that it was a stuffed cat that had been kept to keep the new cat company. And to trick the new cat, it was plugged and could breathe.
How weird. I thought that it must be a British thing again and kept my mouth shut. We made an offer. My highflying husband managed to convince the agent that the ad should be removed. It worked and the offer was accepted.
I have now been living in the Stuffed Cat’s house for 4 years. The former owners obviously took both cats (the living and the stuffed ones) with them. We found old newspapers from the 1850s in the attic. We now have our own piece of London.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It is half term for everybody but me. My daughters are on holidays and my husband wisely decided that he was needed in London for another important business meeting, which left me no choice but to take the week off and spend it with the girls. And I have come up with the brilliant idea to go and visit my family in the French Riviera. On my own of course.
This meant -shock horror-, that not only did I have to entertain the girls but I also had to catch up with my family. My 90-year old grandmother was poorly and is suffering from the onset of Alzheimer, and my grandfather is complaining all day long that growing old is difficult, and that it was not what he expected. I do sympathise, but I am not sure that complaining helps. That said, the guilt trip started and I was immediately wondering what more I could do. It must be part of the catching-up process. I was also overly optimistic when I thought I was done with nappies. I wasn’t.
The girls are fine and the younger one had to speak French, which did her some good. My older one has now started a blog (http://secondaryadventures.blogspot.com/)and it is so well-written that it is making me feel like a failure. I am wondering whether I belong to a sandwich generation, here to be squeezed between a busy hubby, bright demanding girls and an ageing family. Oh, and I almost forgot the full-time job.
When does is stop? When can I have a break? I am looking forward to going back to work on Monday. Sisters, any advice?
And despite the weather, I have to admit that I have never felt happier to be back home. In London.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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A friend of mine married a British man. I thought that they were happy until one day, after a couple of glasses of wine, she explained that she was struggling to understand what her husband thinks on a daily basis.
Apparently, after she had fallen from a horse and was injured, he told her:
-” Don’t be silly, you will survive. You are a tough bird”
Despite being a tough bird, she had to lay in bed for a month.
No other words of comfort were said. She was very upset. According to her, he genuinely cares about her, but in his own way. Needless to say, he never tells her that he loves her and, as she is French and still believes in romance, this is the source of great frustration.
How weird! On my way to visit her, I had the exact opposite experience. The British cab driver called me sweetie, honey and love in the space of a few minutes. In France, you have to be pretty close to someone to call her in such a way. Really close. I even began to panic and was of the verge of calling the police service.
Once arrived (sigh of relief), my friend’s husband explained to me that it was completely normal for a total stranger to call you Love, Darling or even pet names and that no harm was meant. Coming from the man who couldn’t hold my friend’s hand, I have to admit that I was surprised.
Is it all about pretending that you don’t care when you do and that you care when you don’t? How does it work exactly ? I haven’t figured it out yet.
I eventually got used to being called all sorts of names by persons I don’t know. I don’t like it but hey, what can you do?
A couple of months later, another cab driver asked me, when he dropped me at my hotel, whether I wanted him to keep me company. I thought that this was another British thing -some sort if hospitality rule, and replied a polite:
-“No thanks!”
I was told that this was not normal.
After all, anything is possible. 

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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You probably don’t know what they are. Well, simply put, they are part of your survival kit if you want to be taken seriously in this country.
It is all about appearing to be making sense when you are, in fact, talking non-sense. Don’t underestimate such a vital skill. Even Shakespeare used oxymorons.  If you want to go with the flow, you will have to learn.
When I moved to this country (Ah. Memories!), here is the sort of things that I would have said:
          Where are the children? It is very quiet in here;
          I don’t speak English very well;
          The proposal was rejected;
          She is divorced but doesn’t want anyone to know;
          I went to the concert on my own;
          I disagree;
          I don’t understand.
Fatal mistakes. Everybody was noticing that I hadn’t been brought up in Britain. Here is what I should have said:
          Where are the kids? What is this deafening silence?
          I am an advanced beginner in English;
          The proposal was rejected in its entirety but it proved to be a successful failure;
          Her divorce is an open secret;
          I was alone in the crowd at the concert;
          Let’s agree to disagree;
          It is as clear as mud.
As you may guess, it was, and still is, a steep learning curve. I am not sure that I will get there eventually. This is because my brain is wired in a different way. A long time ago, I decided to always be brutally honest with myself, even if it was tough and meant that I had to deal with some not-so-nice home truths.
I have to learn to think and speak in a different way. It is hard work. It is all about being positive and wanting to make an impression. But guess what: an unexpected side effect is that I am happier here. I have more fun.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London