It has just happened again. I didn’t get a position I had applied for. I am feeling, once again, like a complete failure. That said, I must admit that Brits are very polite. At all times and in all circumstances. They will always try to make it easier for you by sugarcoating their responses instead of simply saying ‘No’ or ‘you are not in’. I thought that I should copy you the email I got to prove my point. Here we go:
Sometimes you have to take a stand. What do I mean? Well, you know, you have to make a decision. Let’s be honest here: I hate it. I love to procrastinate. Come to think of it, it must be my British side. Because let’s face it: there is a growing epidemic in Britain: indecision.
Nobody knows what to do anymore, there is simply too much choice. For instance: do we leave Europe or do we stay in? Do we take the bus or the Tube? Do we make the first move if we like a guy/a girl? And what’s for dinner anyway?
But I digress. I finally received the drafts of the book cover designed by the lovely Vanessa Mendozzi and absolutely loved them. It was amazing to see that she understood what I meant and, frankly, it was love at first sight with the covers. I can’t describe how good it feels to see that your dream is finally taking shape. It’s a bit surreal.
So here are the choices:
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.
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 feel old and none the wiser. I caught up with some younger friends a couple of days go and, in case you didn’t know it, there was a problem with the dating app Tinder last week. Some of them lost all their matches. Apparently it’s a big deal.
Seriously? Is this how you meet people today? You swipe right or left and, eventually, you will manage to get a booty call. Or even a real relationship. It has already happened, I am told.
A colleague of mine (of a similar age than me. OK, maybe a bit younger) explained to the group that he had met his now-wife in his local pub.
“Down the pub?”
My younger colleagues sounded amazed. Who knew that you could still meet people IRL (In Real Life!)? Not them, apparently. The whole concept seemed completely alien to them. It made them laugh. Down the pub? No way!
I felt like I was coming straight from prehistoric times. When did we become so afraid to, well, meet up? Have we become scared of being disappointed? Are we too shy? What is going on?
The thing is, the longer you stay in a a virtual relationship, the more you’ll build castles in Spain. Seriously, at some point you have to face the music and actually MEET UP, warts and all, right? And in my view, the sooner is probably the better.
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!
She caught me off guard. I vaguely knew her, and we ended up having a quick coffee together after the school run. I thought it was a nice thing to do, because we kept bumping into each other at the school gate. That’s when she told me:
” I pride myself on never having used a babysitter or a cleaner. Ever. And I have three kids”
Wow. Did I sense a judgy vibe here? Yes, probably. Hmmm…
I couldn’t believe it. You see, some things never change: whatever nationality you are, you will always be judged as a mother. It just never stops. And, frankly, it sucks.
I didn’t know what to answer. I ended up cutting the conversation short, and leaving shortly afterwards. You see, I have no time for such arguments. The thing is, I am probably one of the worst housekeepers you have ever met, and without the help of various babysitters and cleaners I would have died of exhaustion by now. Not to mention that someone has yet to explain to me how to be in two different places at the same time. Simply put, I wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t had help, and I never get enough of it.
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?
Life is full of challenges, right? I thought as much. Right now, I find it hard to run in the cold. You see, I don’t do cold. Maybe I am not as British as I thought.
So what is cold for me? Well, anything below 10 degrees Celsius (that’s 50 Fahrenheit, if you must now) is cold for me. What can I say? Growing up in Provence must have left some marks.
The things is, I have some pretty important races lined up, and I totally need to train. If I could, I would move somewhere warm in a jiffy. Because right now, in London, it is really cold -as in, between 0 and 5 Celsius (and for the record that’s less than 41F). In short, it is freezing, and I can’t stand it.
I don’t think I am a wimp. Well, at least I hope I am not. But hear me out: when I go outside for a run, I literally feel my muscles tightening. Everything becomes hard, and I can’t move my legs. Warming-up takes at least 40 minutes in the bloody cold, by which time I usually give up and have a lovely cappuccino somewhere. After all, life is to be enjoyed.
So what to do?
I can’t take it anymore. Christmas is everywhere, and for some reason, the spirit of Christmas should miraculously make everybody happy. Well, here is a newsflash for you: I have it up to here with Christmas. No spirit of Christmas for me. Why?
Well, in no particular order, I had to give countless donations (for presents, for all the fairs, for charities), endure the rehearsals of the concerts, prepare some stalls, bake some cakes, and so on, and so forth. I must admit that filling jam jars with stationery or sweets isn’t my cup of tea. That’s it: I am done. I am going on strike. I am escaping and taking the first flight I can for a much-needed business trip. Yes, now. Some of us have to work, you see. I have a life outside of the Christmas preparations. Am I allowed to say that I miss France? In my home country, schools might have a Christmas tree at this time of the year but that’s as far as it goes. Parents don’t have to do much, if anything at all.
Christmas lights at Heathrow T5