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!
Today, I wanted to share something I wrote a few months ago. Initially it was meant for one of my Match column (you can read what was published eventually here: Why You Should date Outside Of Your Comfort Zone).
Suffice to say, it didn’t make the cut. Today, I give you the uncensored version. What do you think? It is (loosely) based on my own experiences (What isn’t anyway?). Let me know if you like it…
That’s me. So naive I used to believe in fairytales…
Once upon a time there, in a land not too far away, was a woman who thought that her country was the centre of the universe. Her parents had brought her up that way, and she didn’t question them. Of course her country was the best one to live in. Her sunny region was paradise on earth, and her hometown had seen many celebrities settle in. Simply put, it was the best place on earth.
She was bright and went to university in the capital city, where she met other students. She started dating, and eventually found her white knight in shining amour. He swept her off her feet. It was such a romantic story: he was from the very same city, but she had met him in the capital. Everything was simply perfect. She was convinced that it was destiny. She introduced him to her parents, and went to visit his family. Life seemed simple and easy. She was so in love that she didn’t see his true colours, despite a couple of warnings from close friends that she ignored.
It had to happen, right? Spending twelve years in London was bound to leave some marks.
Today, I was near my home town, in Toulon, speaking at a conference (see the details here: paperdotcon). It was good to be back. You see, I love everything about Provence: the light, my childhood friends, the food, and the Mediterranean of course. But today, I was told (half jokingly, but still) that I had a British accent.
Me, a British accent?
Here is the latest instalment…I am still talking about schools (I am still traumatised…). Let me know what you think!
Schools often like parents to help by listening to children reading or supporting other activities. Getting involved in your children’s schools can be a full-time job (unpaid, of course): most schools have a parent-teacher association (PTA). You will be asked to help for fund-raising events such as bake sales and fairs. If you manage to get your child into the school, that is.
Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide
March 2012 – She’s got a place!
Work is as busy as ever and I still need to find a good school for Alexandra. It just never stops. As I don’t want my toddler to miss out on a good school I have talked to friends and colleagues about the situation. They all tell me that I am far too naïve and that children need to be prepared for such assessments. How the hell was I supposed to know? Apparently, everybody does it but nobody talks about it.
A friend sent me straight to an acquaintance of hers, who, for a mere £300, prepares Alexandra for the assessment and the interview. She has been coming twice a week for the last three weeks. I am not supposed to tell anyone about this, it is all very hush-hush. The tutor, apparently, did me a favour. She said that she has a long waiting list. This is a business opportunity I need to look into, when I have some time. When you tutor a child, you get paid but the family can’t complain. In fact, the family can’t say anything.
It happened over the weekend. I was reading various newspapers when I stumbled upon yet another article on French women: this one explained that we French women are ditching tampons in favour of -wait for it- ‘instinctive bleeding’. You can read it here: http://metro.co.uk/2015/09/04/french-women-are-ditching-tampons-in-favour-of-instinctive-bleeding-using-pelvic-floor-muscles-5375971/
Seriously? Does anyone believe this? Call me wonder-woman please. I am totally in control of my bleeding and can hold it in. It is one of the many, many superpowers we French women enjoy. Don’t try to argue, it’s in our genes. You will never get it.
Seriously, this article is so wrong that I actually find it hilarious. Thanks for the laugh, guys. Right. Where to start? First, let me make a few things clear: