Stop the clocks and move aside: Nisha is in town. I wouldn’t know where to start If I were to properly introduce her. Nisha is a Bollywood celebrity, the inspiration behind the story ‘And Thereby Hangs A Tale (Caste Off)…’ by Jeffrey Archer, and so, so much more. She also happens to be a longtime friend of mine, and we spend yesterday together. As usual, I had a great time.
The thing is, I grew up surrounded by men. I studied science and was often the only girl of the classroom. I was in charge of delivering trains and upgrading signalling systems. As a result, I discovered female friendships later in life, and found out that they transcend nationalities, age and cultural backgrounds. As women, we often goes through the same phases of life, and are facing the same issues and judgements. As women, we usually understand each other better.
As some of you may know, I have recently been outed as the wife of an Executive of a global company. For the record, we have been living together for more than 21 years, we first met at uni, we used to travel together in cheap hotels around Bali, and we have two children together. I don’t understand why my marital status has all of a sudden become a matter of interest but hey, here we are. This makes me wonder: maybe it’s time for more general outspokenness on my side. After all, you might as well hear gossip from me rather than from the press. Straight from the horse’s mouth and all that…So here we are: I want to share with you the 33 things that I do even before the school run.
- 1. Phone call at around 3am. Really? Hubby is somewhere on the other side of the world and finally has a break during one of his many meetings. He’s calling me to catch up and discuss last night parents meeting. Can’t remember exactly what I tell him. Go back to sleep. Forget to tell him that the art teacher thinks I am a single mum. Need to keep my options open anyway.
- 2. Phone is vibrating again. Have received a flurry of emails regarding hubby’s next month travel arrangements. Put the phone on silent. Checked my Twitter, FB & blog just in case. All OK. Back to sleep.
- 3. Realise I have missed a WhatsApp message from elder daughter. Her friend has stayed over to work on geography project, too late to catch a bus back, etc. Mental note to self: prepare breakfast for one more teenager. As am awake I google hubby’s company name, his name and mine.
- 4. Annoyed to find out that I am called ‘gabby’ by a female journalist in national newspapers. Must come clean: have to look up what ‘gabby’ means. So much for the sisterhood and all that, right? Stalk the author of the piece on Twitter and magnify her picture. Nope, I don’t know her. Maybe she’s a bit bitter? Have got more followers than her on Twitter. Back to sleep.
- 5. Wake up. Am confused: was called ‘shy’ by an Australian gossip columnist just ten days ago. Me, shy? Really? Said journalist clearly can’t read women, especially French ones. Nagging question: what am I? Gabby or shy? Anyway, who cares? Must send a tweet to my followers to get their opinion.
- 6. Have a coffee. It’s 5am but am awake anyway. Might go for a run. Hubby usually runs at that time when he’s in London. Nah, it’s too dark. And cold. Empty the dishwasher. Set table. Put laundry in the machine. Whoever invented the colour catcher paper is genius.
- 7. Call from France. Mum has just read an article about hubby in the pile of newspapers she was going to throw away and wanted to let me know. Mum, it was more than two weeks ago. She said she hadn’t realised that his company was Brazilian. Because it’s a Brazilian name, right? She hangs up. Wait! What? Never mind.
- 8. Need coffee. Have coffee.
- 9. Get dressed. Usual yoga pants and T-shirt will do.
- 10. Check email. One of the tenants of my warehouses in France has run out of toilet paper. I immediately order a top up from Amazon. They might deliver it today. In bulk. Good. Crisis averted.
- 11. Check Twitter and press articles. There is a picture of me (where is it coming from?) and a comment: ‘Since when do resource industry executives have supermodel wives?’. That’s me! Chuffed to bits. Am ‘legendary’ ‘stylish’ and ‘glamorous’. Time to come clean: I am an Engineer. I used to be able to drive a train and project manage signalling systems. Might call model agency to offer my services. Might be the start of a new career.
- Continue Reading
There is something oddly reassuring about Sunday mornings in London. To cut a long story short, I should be able to sleep a bit longer on Sunday mornings. That said, I am so used to waking up at the crack of dawn that I usually don’t. Such is life I suppose. Mums will understand. It is as if I was programmed to prepare breakfast for the whole family. I can’t just press ‘delete’. It happens automatically. I usually count the number of pairs of shoes at the bottom of the stairs to assess how many friends my children have invited to stay over (Nowadays I feel a bit like a hotel manager). Sometimes I get it wrong, and suddenly the kitchen is full of grumpy teenagers who complain they have nothing to eat. ‘But Mum, I WhatsApped you 10 minutes ago to let you know X & Y had been staying over!’ But of course. What can I say? The service is very bad in this house. I might end up with a bad review on TripAdvisor but frankly, I don’t care.’Is there any more Orange juice?’ Well, not unless you’ve actually bought some, Darling.’
Sorry, but today I am going to rant a bit. After all, I am not French for nothing, right?
So here it is: I know I shouldn’t be scared, that life goes on, and so on, and so forth, but I can’t help it, I am scared. Worse: I feel like a sitting duck.
I walk or run all the time. I take the Tube, the bus and the train. My kids do too. I used to feel reasonably safe in London, but not any more. In fact, I feel like an easy target. I have read everywhere that terrorism remains a negligible risk, that I am more likely to be struck by lightning than to be the victim of a terrorist attack, and that we are probably just more aware of terrorism, which is why we feel the hurt and the pain more. But still, I am scared. Truth be told, the recent attacks in the UK and in France haven’t helped. As for what just happened in Las Vegas, I don’t think that I have fully processed it yet. It’s just too much.
Instead of explaining to me about probabilities and other rational arguments, hear this: on 7th of July 2005 I was on the tube. I was just coming back from maternity leave. I had to be evacuated. I was lucky: I wasn’t on the train that was bombed, but it was a close call. What do probabilities mean when you are in the middle of an attack? I’ll tell you at once: it means nothing. I just felt lucky to be alive and see my baby at the end of the day.
There is a darker side to London than meets the eye. What am I talking about? Well, here it is: the pattern of anti-female bias across my adoptive city is, in my view and despite many well-meaning speeches and initiatives, disturbingly insidious and still going strong.
Look: I’m baking! I am such a good girl, right?
Obviously, there is an unwritten rule forbidding any self-respecting female saying that we live in a sexist world because it makes you at best a difficult women, a feminist, or even worse, a feminazi. Enough is enough. The proportion of female senior executives remains ridiculously low, and the same can be said for management boards and for non-executives. As for excuses, well, I have heard them all before: ‘There is nothing stopping women from getting these jobs. Why do they complain all the time?’ Well, darling, first try juggling a household and childcare with a career involving responsibilities and long hours. Add into the equation, in my case, a husband who travels all the time. Maybe then you’ll understand what I am talking about. That said, you probably won’t, because apparently the right way to deal with these things is to brush them under the carpet. Dear oh dear, what are you on about? The wife/mother/girlfriend in the family is the glue that holds everything together, right? She is there to put up or shut up. Preferably shut up. Calm down, dear.
This expression, as I am sure you know, is borrowed from French. Literally, it means ‘Long live the difference!’. In truth, we French don’t use it that much (if at all). In fact, once again, I think of ‘Vive la difference’ as a British idiom, even if the words are French. What can I say? Life is incredibly complicated.
Let’s go back to the definition, shall we? ‘Vive la difference!’ is an expression of approval of difference, especially between the sexes. When I hear it reminds me to appreciate the uniqueness of everyone and everything. Of course variety is great!! Embrace it. Don’t be afraid of it.
Well, that’s the theory, right? The reality is, indeed, different (pun intended!). Why is is so hard to be different, even if it’s just a little bit? I really wonder. But let’s face it, it’s bloody hard.
For instance, what is it with this obsession with the French First lady, Brigitte Macron? I read yet another article on how her dress was matching her husband’s. Seriously? What can I say? Unlike in France, women in the UK seem to become invisible after a certain age. We French still value mature women, and have timeless icons such as Catherine Deneuve (73 years old), but the British have difficulties in accepting an older French lady. Maybe it is her sense of style? It is more likely her Frenchness, and, let’s face it, there isn’t much she can do about it. She is not going to apologise for who she is anyway. Can’t we just leave her alone?
I was going to tell you that it’s officially the end of the summer holidays in London, which means that I can finally catch-up with everything I left on hold before the holidays as the children are now back to school and starting a new academic year. But then I received the first project of the cover of my next book, Madame La Presidente, from the talented Vanessa Mendozzi (check out her site here: https://www.vanessamendozzidesign.com)
What can I say? I had to stop everything. I just love it!
What do you think? You can read the first chapter here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/madame-la-presidente/
Are you as excited as I am?
There is so much to do that I don’t know where to start, and receiving the cover hasn’t helped as I keep starring at it. I am mesmerised. Damn it!
I have been in Sydney for 10 days or so now and I have just realised that nobody has asked me the dreaded question:
‘Where are you from?’
Or, even worse, after they hear my strong French accent. ‘Are you from France?’
Do you know what? It’s refreshing. I am glad not to have to justify myself for once. In London, I am always ‘the French one’, and I keep being asked where I am from all the time. I am used to it by now. Sometimes I answer ‘Oh, I come from around the corner’, and then I get something like ‘No, no, where are you REALLY from?’. I promise, I am really from around the corner.
Seriously? Don’t you think it’s a tad offensive to ask someone where they are from?
Over here, in Sydney, nobody cares where I am from. It’s an accepted fact that the society is multi-cultural and yes, come to think of it I find Australians more welcoming.
Maybe one day I’ll be from Sydney
This post is written in collaboration with Qare, a video consultation website in London, and is the second post of a new series on the differences between the French healthcare and the NHS. You can read the first post here: http://frenchyummymummy.com/the-top-10-differences-between-the-nhs-and-the-french-system/
I will always remember the day an American friend of mine started talking about her physician’s bedside manners. To cut a long story short, I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I even thought that she was having an affair with her GP, which was a bit odd but hey, who was I to judge?
Turns out, she was having difficulties with her British doctor’s bedside manners. For those of you who, like me, might not know what bedside manners are, here is the definition:
“the way in which a doctor treats people who are ill, especially showing kind, friendly, and understanding behaviour.”
As for me, I feel like I need to come clean now: I thought that bedside manners were the way in which you behave after spending the night with someone. What can I say? I suppose that I remain very French.
More seriously, I think that the fact that so many of my French expat friends find it hard to adjust to a new system like the NHS comes down to bedside manners.
This post is written in collaboration with Qare, a French telemedicine service in London, and is the start of a new series on the differences between the French healthcare and the NHS.
If, like me, you’re used to the French health system, moving to London will be a steep learning curve. First of all, it can be hard to find a French-speaking doctor. This is where Qare also can help: they set up virtual consultations with doctors -in French, and can refer you to a French doctor in London if need be. I wish I had known about this service when we moved. When you are on your own with a sick kid, things can become very stressful and it’s easy to panic (been there, done it). In France, your physician always listens to you. You’re always given a prescription, a routine examination, and taken seriously. Your symptoms will never be minimised, and if your doctor has the slightest doubt, you’ll be referred for a scan, an X-ray or a blood test. Needless to say, things are slightly different this side of the Channel. The weird thing is that, come to think of it, the health budget is similar in France and in the UK (OK, a bit higher in France, but not massively higher), and life expectancy is, again, very close. So why does it feel so different? I have no idea. But this much I know: for me, it was a whole new experience. Here is why. Let me know if I missed anything. And if you are planning to move here, be prepared! Don’t tell me you have not been warned.
Telemedicine is on the rise and can be the response to French expats’ concern. Picture: consultation with Qare
Over here, the first hurdle, after being registered, is to successfully achieve an appointment. What looks easy in theory is a game of patience and resilience. The line is always busy, and the receptionist will do her utmost to encourage you not to get an appointment, because you’re not sick, are you? In France, I have always managed to get an appointment within 48 hours. After many times calling your practice on speed dial and being hung up on a few times, you might be given a slot, usually two or three days after you need it. Don’t believe it’s the last of the hurdles you’ll have to overcome. It’s just the start.