I didn’t sleep well. What can I say? I am stressed. Why? Because today my younger daughter had her first pre-assessment for secondary schools.
She will have to endure 4 or 5 sets of exams over the next two months, with two or three papers each time. Then, there will be the interviews. She is ten years old and a big baby, if you ask me. But that’s the way it is. We have to go with the flow. I am starting to question my choice to stay in the British system. Gone are the days when you just went to your local school, as I did in France.
I am freaking out. What if she doesn’t get into the school she wants? What if we end up with a school that is on the other side of London? And what is it with this testing frenzy?
Life is full of challenges. Today was no exception. Let me explain. I was contacted by Tesco to participate to #FestiveFoodSwap, and I said yes. What is it about? This Christmas, one of Tesco’s helpful little initiatives is to inspire people to experience new flavours, with a range of products from across the world available in store. I had to give them a festive recipe from France that another blogger will make, and they said they would send me a festive recipe from someone that I would have to make.
The packet arrived yesterday. I hadn’t realised that it included a superb hamper with everything to feed an army until Christmas. Oh, and I had forgotten how good lebkuchen tasted…Yummy!
My daughter found that there was a gingerbread house, and was jumping with joy. I felt guilty about the fact that I had never, ever, given her the opportunity to make a gingerbread house before, and it was clearly something she wanted to do. Well, she did it there and then, and the result was amazing!
I discovered this side of the Channel that we French were supposed to be (in no particular order) romantic, sexy, cute, stylish, and so on, and so forth… Don’t you find it amazing what people assume about us? The reality may be quite different. Here is a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about us. So much preconceived ideas, right? Read on…
Obviously as you know I am a glass-half-full sort of person. I keep complaining about all the cliches about French women, but I thought that I should let you know what the main advantages of being a French woman abroad are. Because after all, it’s all about being balanced, and all isn’t doom and gloom. Quite the opposite in fact. So here we go:
I keep being asked whether the stories that I write are autobiographical. Well, there is no easy answer. Obviously what I write is loosely based on my own experiences, but have things happened exactly the way I have written them? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes no. To make matters even worse, some of it might be –gasp- parody.
Because believe it or not, we French have a sense of humour. Well, sometimes at least. So yes, what I write needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
As some of you are obsessed with number, here is my scientific assessment of the situation: I would say that 50% of what I have written in my manuscript has actually happened to me, one way or another. 30% is slightly exagerated. The rest might be invented. But here is the twist: I will not tell you which is which. Because it would be far too easy, wouldn’t it?
As for Carine and Archie, I thought that the love story between a French woman and her British boyfriend would be the perfect platform to explore the cultural differences between the French and the British, because, just like in a couple, we love each other, but we sometimes don’t understand each other.
As a treat for today, I would like to share with you a chapter that actually has happened to me in real life. I didn’t know it when we moved to London, but the Brits are obsessed with the Napoleonic wars. The thing is, I belong to a generation of French student that never, ever was taught anything about Napoleon. We just skipped it. This much is true…Now read on:
What is it with the Brits and pub quizzes? Why do they love it so much? I have been dragged to a few of them and I must say that well, it looks like fun.
Except that I don’t really get the fun. Maybe I have become an old bore.
For starters, I don’t know the responses to all the historical questions. And to the other ones, if I am completely honest.
Which Hollywood sex symbol has the middle name Tiffany?
You have kept asking me what is going to happen to the romance of the summer, Carine & Archie (see the first chapters here, here and here).
Well, to cut a long story short, I have decided to publish their story around spring time and, in the meantime, I will let you know more about them. I will probably go down the self-publishing route as publishing companies keep asking me to ‘tone it down’ -whatever this means-. I was also told that Carine wasn’t really nice, which came to a surprise to the publisher.
Well no, she is not. She happens to be French. And I hate to break it to you, but nobody is perfect, and we French women are no exception. Sorry, I had to tell you. Are you still listening?
While we are at it, I think that it is time for you to know that French women do get fat. Our children are not that well behaved and no, we don’t smoke to cut our appetite. We are just –gasp- normal. Shocking, right?
I am not saying that there are no cultural differences, but they are tenuous. Even subtle sometimes. And not necessarily what you would expect them to be.
And I keep being asked whether I am Carine. More about this some other time!
I will always remember the day my husband came back home saying that he had had a nice job offer in London. I was faced with a difficult choice: I could follow him and change job, or change husband. I know that it sounds like an easy choice, but, in fact, it wasn’t. My job in Paris was an important part of my identity: I had spent long years studying in very selective universities (‘grandes ecoles’) to get it. To make matters even worse, I had studied German and not English, as a foreign language. It is a French thing: German is supposed to get you into better classes. What I am trying to say is that I could barely ask for directions in English. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I ended up following my husband, and we all moved to London.
Well, what can I say? Today, I am embracing my British side. And I must admit that it feels good. In fact, I find it liberating. What happened? Well, I think that I am suffering from some sort of post-marathon blues. That’s my excuse anyway, and I am sticking to it. To make matters even worse, I am having a bad hair day. And in France I would have thrown a hissy fit just because of this. But over here, I must admit that I don’t care. My British side tells me that I can’t be perfect all the time. So here it is: I am having a bad hair day and it’s alright. Shit happens.
I keep receiving the same messages from family and friends, and would like to clarify a few things. You know, just to clear the air. Right, where do I start? First of all, we have water and electricity in London. Amazing, right? I know that we don’t have external shutters but I can assure that blinds work just as well.
Now, I know that it will be hard to swallow but the same goes with food. Yes, we have everything we need in London. Yes, there is food, and actually we eat quite well, save for the occasional sandwich of course. And if you are not convinced, just visit the Brixton market. It is a feast for the eyes…and the tastebuds!