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
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?
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.
It is all over the press and is coming from the celebrated actress Kristin Scott Thomas: apparently we French women, unlike our British counterparts, can be attractive without abusing our sexy side. You can read the article here : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3461270/SEBASTIAN-SHAKESPEARE-Fake-tan-short-skirts-Actress-Kristin-Scott-Thomas-blasts-UK-women.html
Is there some truth in such sweeping statements? Obviously the article is written in a slightly provocative way (after all, it was published on the Daily Mail), but I do think that, in my home country, there is a stronger pressure on us women to look good in all circumstances. This is one of the reasons why I find living in London liberating. I will always remember the day when I so one of my neighbours buying her Sunday newspapers at the newsagent around the corner wearing her bathrobe and flip-flops. Shocking. This simply couldn’t have happened in France.
It had to happen, right? I suppose it is a compulsory step when you are a female blogger. What am I talking about? Well, to cut a long story short, I was asked a couple of months ago to be part of an advertising campaign…for an underwear company. This means that they wanted me to pose, well, in my undies. Yep, you read that right.
Obviously, I was flattered to be considered, especially at my ripe age. But I turned it down. All my male friends told me that I should have accepted, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I would have looked great, and so on, and so forth. Suffice to say, they didn’t make me change my mind. I am a bit stubborn like that. And I can’t help thinking that they would have enjoyed the whole process a lot more than me.
Let me be clear here: I am not a prude. It’s just that I don’t want to be ‘the woman who posed in her underwear’. Because once you have got this label, it is a hard one to get rid of. Whatever you achieve in life, you will always be the woman who was photographed almost naked on a billboard. You can speak four languages fluently, have a business and two master degrees, but that’s it, you are the woman who posed in her undies. And don’t get me started about what my children’s school mates and my husband’s colleagues would say.
This year, for some reason, I can’t get into the mood for Valentine’s day. I have had enough of pink hearts, romantic gestures, and sweet love declarations. Can we move on please? Come to think of it, it’s all so incredibly boring once you stop being a teenager. I might be French, but maybe I have finally turned into a responsible adult after all. Miracles do happen.
Why am I becoming so cynical? Well, you can buy one red rose (just one), at my local supermarket, for £5. You can also buy lovely chocolates for a tenner. They come all wrapped up in red, which apparently double the price. In short, you can be romantic, but it will cost you. It feels a bit like a charade. Because you can’t buy love, right? So why would you? I don’t get it.
A sweet Valentine’s day doesn’t mean a lasting love story. Right now, lots of friends are divorcing, despite some of them being used to flying off first-class to Thailand just for a romantic weekend. This year, some of them are spending the day on their own, wondering how their are going to make ends meet, while their divorce lawyers are working on their financial settlement -or what will remain of it after the legal fees. And what about the single ones? The elderly? The sick ones? The depressed ones? Who will bring love to them?
Do you remember when we had the luxury of seeing the world in black and white? We were young and idealistic, and we thought that the only way was our way. Well, I am generalising of course. But I was like that, and I hope that I am not the only one who’s changed. Please reassure me. What am I talking about? Well, nowadays, I am hedging my bets all the time. It’s a second nature.
What’s happened to me? Well, life, I suppose. Take my daughter’s exams, for instance. She is now having lots of interviews for secondary schools. One of the questions she keeps getting is “Which school do you prefer?” I must admit that I told her to lie. Not as bluntly as this, of course. I packaged it. I said, for instance, that she shouldn’t hurt the feelings of the person who’s interviewing her, that she mustn’t say anything negative about the school, and should stress the positives of each school, and so on, and so forth….Again, we are hedging our bets. So much for telling my kids not to lie.
It must have something to do with age. I am becoming cynical. What can I say? I don’t put all my eggs into one basket. The other day, a friend of mine told me that I should buy a ticket for the lottery jackpot. I did, and hedged my bets with sites like this one. I was dreaming of far-away destinations and beaches. It couldn’t hurt, right? Well, it didn’t happen anyway. I didn’t win. But at least I tried. I clearly need to work on my hedging strategy. Must try harder.