Usually, just because I am French, I am asked to choose the wines for outings, conferences and the likes. The thing is, I have no idea what to do, because I know next to zero about wine. But I can’t say so, because I am French and all French are supposed to be experts in such things, right? I had to learn a few tricks to be able to talk about wine. Why didn’t I just tell the truth? Well, because I would have had to write and print dozens of fliers and distribute them every day to acquaintances, friends and colleagues. That’s how bad it was. What to do? Once again, I learned to go with the flow…Here is how I did it:
In case you have missed it, you can read the last chapter here…
Back To London
Bank holidays and public holidays are not the same thing. Christmas Day, the 25th of December, is a public holiday because it is a religious festival. Nobody knows whether Boxing Day should be a public holiday or a bank holiday. Don’t count on the official books to enlighten you.
p93, Official study guide “ Boxing day on 26 December is a public holiday”
p179 Official Practice Questions and Answers “Boxing Day is the day after Christmas day and is a bank holiday”
Nobody really understands the difference between the two but the common consensus is that you don’t have to go to work on either a Bank holiday or a public holiday, which, after all, is what matters. That said, be careful not to get it wrong on the day of the test.
Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide
I wake up and start getting ready for another day of work. Steven half sits on the bed and mumbles, half-asleep:
“-What is going on?”
“-Well, it is Monday, I am going to work!”
“-Darling, you don’t need to, it is Boxing day!”
It is impossible to talk about the French without mentioning food. To cut a long story short, there are two things we French are supposed to be good at: sex and food. When I mention that I am French (which everybody knows by now anyway), we usually start talking about food. Why food first? Well, because the British don’t like talking about sex when sober. It usually comes after a few pints. But I digress. I could write the script of the conversation in advance: my interlocutors start mentioning the restaurants they have been to lately, and try to get my approval. They want me to admire their exquisite tastes. Alternatively, they list the bottles of wine they have recently bought at an auction, and want me to say that they managed to get a fantastic deal. Most of the time, I don’t know the restaurants they are talking about, and I would never buy super-expensive bottles of wine, because I simply don’t see the point. Most of my British friends have a wine cave in their house. To cut a long story short, we don’t. Nor to we have a sex dungeon, for the record.
Back by popular demand, here is the latest chapter of Carine & Archie’s story. You can read the last chapter here.
I need to prepare my citizenship test.
The UK did not join the European Economic Community (EEC) until 1973. Still today, it is a sore subject. You will not read anything else about the EEC in this guide. No questions on this subject will be asked during the Life in the United Kingdom Test anyway. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to revise this paragraph.
Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide
With a heavy heart I manage to get Alexandra and myself to France, in the small city where I come from near Nice. There is a direct British Airways flight, which helps. There is even a quirky Anglican church there, I don’t know why. My ankle feels a lot better. I think that I overreacted a bit. I must be tired. All I needed was a few good nights sleep.
Here I was, walking along the beach in Bali, looking at the huge kites in the sky when I started to notice that everyone around me was speaking French. Was I dreaming? I thought I had left it all. That’s when it dawned on me: I was walking in front of the Club Med resort in Bali. So much for thinking that old Europe was far, far away. Simply put, I was in my very own French bubble in the middle of Bali. It felt familiar, and odd at the same time.
I quickly noticed a pattern of behaviours that I knew all too well:
If you have enjoyed Carine and Archie’s story, here is the next chapter…You can read chapter 3 here.
Stiff Upper Lip – December 2011
Life with Archie back at home is easier than I thought. I still get the odd moment of panic: yesterday my closet padlock was open and I thought that I had locked it. I was suspicious all day. Has Archie found what the code was? Did I forget to lock it? Has Graeme broken into the house? I will probably never know. I need to chill out a bit.
I don’t know if it’s my French side, or if it’s just me. But this much I know: I can’t stop. I can’t stop learning, I can’t stop thinking, I can’t stop worrying, I can’t stop working, and I can’t stop having new ideas. Yes, I know: most of you will feel tired just reading this. Sorry.
The thing is, I am on holidays in Bali -of all places. But I still have to do a lot. I just have to. Despite the stunning sceneries, the rice paddies and the amazing art, there is always something to do. Always. Not to mention that as a mum, you are never off duty. Never. There is always a drama waiting to happen.
How do I switch off? Why can’t I switch off? I have no excuse whatsoever…
Never. It must be a French thing. I hadn’t realised that there was a bikini police, but apparently when a woman hits 35 or 40 she has to dress more conservatively. This means that we are not supposed to wear crop tops, mini skirts, or bikinis. I know that it may come to a shock to you but although I feel 25 in my head my official age says something slightly different. What can I say? Time flies. It’s part of the many unwritten rules more mature women have to follow: dress sensibly.
Seriously? Says who?
I will always remember my first day at work in London. At about 10 o’clock, I heard a bell. It took me a while to understand what was happening. A trolley was in the corridor. All my colleagues stood up and started queuing. The trolley man was in fact selling snacks like Mars bars, crisps and bacon sandwiches. Everybody had gone to buy something. I couldn’t move. This is because I wasn’t used to snacking between meals. I wasn’t hungry anyway. It must be a French thing, but we just don’t snack. In fact, come to think of it, snacking is looked down upon. Imagine my surprise when the very same trolley came again, fully re-filled, in the middle of the afternoon. To cut a long story short, on top of all their (already copious) meals, all my colleagues were having at least two snacks a day. No wonder most of them were overweight.
The weird thing was that some of my colleagues were also exercising during their lunch break or at the end of the day. But as soon as they had finished their workouts, they were having a couple of sandwiches and a chocolate bar. I started wondering what the whole point of exercising was. But they clearly didn’t see it the same way.
When something annoys me, I wait for a while to see if it still bugs me after some time. In this case, it did. What am I talking about? Celia Walden’s article on the seven lessons in the art of being a French woman (published on The Telegraph here). I didn’t understand what we French women had done to deserve this. Maybe it was as simple as having a strong French accent. Or being French-born. Seriously, what is it with this obsession with French women? It seems to me that such an obsession shows a close relationship with psychotic processes, and says more about perceived British shortcomings rather than how we French (if there is such a thing as ‘we French’) truly are. I have been told countless times that I shouldn’t complain because the myths on French women are considered to be positive, but try being taken seriously in a technical job when everybody else holds the belief that you are a glamorous creature who preys on unsuspecting British men at night. A myth, positive or not, remains a falsehood. And for the record, I am so tired at night that I tend to sleep, just like most mothers, come to think of it. Surprising, right? I know, I know.
I have tried countless times to correct false beliefs, but quickly realised that it didn’t work. In fact, things became even worse. I noticed that, when I was trying to give some fact-based evidence to my interlocutors that they were completely wrong about the French, it entrenched their pre-existing positions. Truth be told, it was backfiring on me in a massive way, and I was getting even more personal comments like ‘all French men have a mistress and your husband probably has one, whether you like it or not’ (don’t you love it when people know your life even better than you do?) or ‘French women are such sluts’ (Really? What did I do again?)