Posted by / Category London /

There is something deliciously old-fashioned about travelling on a train. I just love it. Today, I am writing you from the Eurostar. I am going to Paris on my own for a few hours of freedom (and shopping fix, but don’t tell me husband, he doesn’t know). No kids, no friend, no husband, just me and my iPad.
There is also something cutting-edge about travelling under the Channel, the sacrosanct boundary between France and England. That’s what the Eurostar is about: good, old-fashioned service and cutting-edge technology (that fails when it’s snowing, I have had to cancel my trips to France two Christmases in a row because of a silly technical glitch on the trains).
Anyway, today, nothing is going to deter my good mood. I love train stations and their huge structures. No fancy decorations there, just metal and bricks. A cathedral dedicated to the departure and arrival of trains.
It is early morning and I am slowly waking up, helped by loads of coffee. Life was good until I had to go to the toilets (all this coffee, you see). In order to lock the loo’s door you need to press a button (with a key on it, if you must know) on the Eurostar. There are no old metallic locks any more on this train. Times have changed.
Well, suffice to say that the gentleman in the toilet didn’t push the “lock” button and I opened the toilet door to see him standing, holding his, well, thing in both hands, and, to cut a long story short, in the middle of his wee.
How embarrassing. But I am proud to say that I acted completely normal, stayed perfectly composed and just said “hello!”. I politely closed the door and went to the loo in the next vehicle, as if nothing had happened. I can’t help thinking that before moving to London I wouldn’t have reacted in such a calm manner- I would have vented my surprise.
I think that this unexpected display of what I can only describe as British phlegm proves that I am ready to get a British passport. I even pretended that I didn’t know the guy when I came back to my seat.
Apart from this incident all went really well. Paris, here I come!
Nb: if you take the Eurostar, don’t forget to press the “lock” button. Do it for me.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I am a city girl. This means that I don’t really like driving –I usually take the Tube. However, due to the location of secondary schools in London, I now have to drive twice a day all the way to Hammersmith. I hope that it will get better as I am getting to know other Mums and we will share the school run, but it will take time. This means that I am spending at least two hours a day in my car. Not nice.

Anyone who has ever lived in London will understand why I don’t want my 11-year-old daughter to take the District Line on her own. For starters, as soon as it starts raining it is suspended. We might consider the Piccadilly line in a few months –much more reliable- but we are not there yet.
To make matters even worse, we have changed car –something to do with hubby changing job. So, before you judge me to harshly, let me recap the facts:
       I am used to driving small cars, manual gearboxes, on the right (i.e. the French way);
       The car I used to drive in London was automatic;
       Now I have to drive a HUGE Chelsea tractor, manual gearbox  (but I need to change the gears with my left hand), on the left.
No wonder I am confused. I could probably start an international driving school just based on my experiences over the last years (well, we would of course skip the parking bit –I can’t park unless the street is empty).
Apart from the fact that I feel like I have been promoted to being a tank driver, I am struggling to understand why the street are so narrow in London and the cars so wide.
So, in short, if you see a slow car followed by a line of vehicles, it is probably me. You see, you are never too careful. I am monitoring the school run by the number of honking drivers I get. Only 3 yesterday, I am getting better. I am amazed by the number of accidents the drivers have to prevent from happening in London, on a daily basis. Cyclists are ignoring red lights over here. They overtake you on all sides, even on the left when you have clearly indicated that you actually were turning left. And the white van with a copy of the Sun behind the windscreen…Well, be careful: they can do a U-turn without any warning and they don’t hear anything because they have their iPod on.
I thought I was not confident enough behind the wheel, but after what happened yesterday I think I am fine. Let me explain: a lorry driver started honking because he had seen some leg and apparently he was finding it hilarious (maybe he doesn’t get it at home?). I went ballistic and put the car in front of him, started driving really slowly to annoy him, and at a green light I prevented him from moving ahead, and left in time for the light to turn red and stop him a bit longer.
I know it is bad but it felt good.
Beware, all of you: DO NOT MESS WITH A YUMMY MUMMY.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

There is a ritual I wouldn’t miss for the whole world: my morning’s coffee, in the coffee shop next door. I love the culture of coffee in London: you have big brands or independent coffee shops every 50 yards. I also love coffee and couldn’t survive without it. Some say it is a drug. It may well be but I don’t care: I have reached this stage in my life where I have accepted me the way I am, wobbly bits and nasty habits included.

I like going out for my morning coffee. It is my small luxury.
Ok, let me rephrase this: I like watching the other people in the coffee shop. It is an amazing picture of the London society. This morning, a group of consultants were having their skinny lattes while discussing business. Something to do with a communication plan. Boring as hell. The younger ones were sucking up to the-cool-manager-who-bought-coffee-for-everyone. Pathetic. So glad I left the corporate world…
Then, we had two 50-something year old lovers. Who said life was boring after a certain age? They were cuddling and holding hands. And wholeheartedly kissing. It seemed to me a bit Over The Top for a regular, married couple. I would say lovers. The real question is: legit or not? Tough one. Need more time to find out. I would say not legit. Or a very new story. Something didn’t feel quite right.
An uninvited guest entered the coffee shop. A poor pigeon. It thought it could escape through the big window glasses. It was wrong. It almost knocked itself out with a loud bang. The manager  eventually caught it in a red apron and let it out. The chase lasted a couple of minutes, and the media consultants were letting out little shouts of girls who believe fish fingers grow in the freezer. The little shouts seemed to amuse the city boy on his own at the corner table (who was wearing the mandatory power stripes). Men and their hormones. Why do most men fall for silly strident little shouts? Grow up, city boy, grow up…
After my caffeine fix, I stood up and decided to go home and start working. What a fantastic start or the day!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

After the best part of eight years in London, I pride myself in the fact that I have some British friends. Don’t smile, it is not that easy, it took me a long time, and I just have a few!
London is an international city with plenty of different nationalities and initially my friends were everything but British. I don’t really know why. The only reason that I can think of is that, as we have no family here, we tend to befriend people in the same situation.
Anyway, along the road I managed to gain a few British friends. The funny thing is that I found them a bit distant initially. Every time I was trying to get to know them better it felt as if they were shutting down. Not nice.
I remember asking a good friend of mine whether she has found a new boyfriend only to be told quite coldly that she wasn’t discussing these things. I was slightly taken aback and later found out that she was going out with a work colleague. We eventually discussed the relationship, some 5 years after its start (it became difficult to hide when they had a baby together).
But who said that the Brits never open up? You never know when, you never know why, but, from time to time, they tell you slightly more than you expect. It happened with a friend of mine, who, after a glass of wine, explained to me that she had bought new undies -bright red ones- and that “it might finally spice up her nights with her husband, as they haven’t done anything for 2 weeks”. Right. A bit too much, even according to French standards.
The Brits also have a convoluted way to talk about what matters to them. I remember a work colleague who had just had a baby. He told me once that he and his wife had not had any time at night to read a book…”let alone do anything else”.
That’s it, I thought, I am now an agony aunt ( Please leave your issues in the comments and I will answer…just kidding). I just muttered  “give it some time” and hoped that the matter would be closed. It was. Phew!
Is it because I am French? Is it because they finally trust me? I will never know. As a result, I can’t completely chill out with my British friends because I never know what is “too much” for them and they don’t seem to assess what is “too much” for me. Any advice for me?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

In my seven years in London, I think that I have been lectured like never before. I have had my fair share of condescending comments and guess what: I can’t take it anymore.  From now on, I will fight, with humoristic weapons, all condescending comments. Simply put: enough is enough! On top of this, I hate to be patronised.

In this country you see, condescending comments are made in a very subtle way, which means that the answer must be adapted. Here are a few examples and some suggested responses –feel free to add more in the comment section, we need to devise a strategy for each type of comment and fight consistently:
1.       “We need to tread more carefully with you women every month.”I confronted the author of this comment and told him that it was plain sexist. He maintained that no, it was the opposite:  he understands women and knows that they are more difficult to handle at this time of the month. I was fuming. The next time he was a bit nervous, I asked him whether he had PMT. It did the trick. He hasn’t mentioned it ever since.
2.       “He is very bright: he had a first at Oxford”. This basically implies that you are plain stupid (the Brits find it hard to believe that they are other universities than theirs in the whole world – Something to do with living in an island perhaps). You should point out that he is nearing 50, and things change in 30 years, you know. Not to mention that he hits on his 4-year old PA (what an old pig!).
3.       “I am sure that knowing X, Y or Z helped you get the job”. That one is a classic. There is no point in denying it, it would make your case even worse (“she is trying to justify herself”). The best defence, in this case, is to attack. Your various lines of attack range from “yes, we made out on the sofa last week. It was intense. You should try it, it is obviously the sort of things you have never experienced.” to “yes, and I even got my friend the Prime Minister involved. He is the Godfather of my son, you know”.
4.       “Why didn’t you tell me that we had a meeting today?” Well, if you had opened your inbox surely you would have seen it. The fact that you “worked from home” last Friday didn’t help. (“working from home”, in my company, usually means that you are in reality taking some undeclared leave. I am one of the unhappy few who is not “working from home” on Fridays. Go figure).
5.       “You can work late because you have a nanny”. Well, I actually pay for it, you disorganised moron!
The list doesn’t stop here.  There is always the old trick of saying “that’s a very condescending comment, isn’t it?”, but all it will achieve is a long-winded justification that no, it is not a condescending comment. Or it wasn’t meant to be.
I sometimes ignore such comments, just to give me a break. Is it worth educating the guy/woman who has made the comment? I wonder.
Please let me know how you fight condescending comments. We simply need to eradicate them -and frankly, I think that I have had all I can take!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /



Do you remember The Clash? They were great. I especially liked their hit song “should I stay or should I go?”. And guess what: I live close to 36 Causton street, in London, where The Clash have recorded their songs.
The Vanilla Studio doesn’t exist any more -it has been replaced by the diocese of London:


 However, every time I walk along Causton Street, I have this tune in my head: “should I stay or should I go?”.
Anyway, today, I have a very personal dilemma to share with you. I am thinking of quitting my day job. You see, I am too busy doing the school runs, taking care of the girls, working full-time and my husband travels very often -too often, in fact. And also, I am knackered all the time. Simply exhausted -in a way that I didn’t think existed-. I always have something to do or to attend (I am writing this while watching The Princess and the Frog).
But I have a secret card to play: 4 years ago, I started my very own business, on top of my day job. It is now tumbling along quite nicely and will require more time if I want to take it to the next stage. Don’t understand me the wrong way, it is not going to make me  become Bill Gates. Let’s just say that being my own boss feels nice, and I could have more time with my daughters and my family, and take it easier generally. Financially, I could always look for another job or work free lance in the future if things don’t work out as expected.
But I spent a long time studying Engineering and I pride myself in being an Engineer in a male-dominated environment. I am reluctant to give it all up, after so much effort. I am finding myself excuses to keep my day job: it represents security, I know the Industry, I am reasonably recognised- whatever it means-… And wouldn’t I miss the interaction with colleagues ? It is difficult to be on your own all the time.
In short, I don’t know what to do. That said, I know that I am very fortunate to have a choice when people around me are struggling to make ends meets.
It is a funny time in my life. My grandparents have now passed 90 and, let’s face it, might not be around for much longer. It feels right to have more time with them now, and it simply won’t happen if I keep my job.
So come on and let me know: should I stay or should I go?
I am hoping that I will not have to make the decision myself, that I will be able to take advantage of one of the many reorganisation plans that my company is going through. It would be so much easier…
Maybe I just need a break and everything will be fine. Again, I know I can’t complain: I am in good health, and don’t have any real problem.
But it is a big deal for me.
I will give myself more time to decide. A few months. End of the year, top…
So come on and let me know:

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I will soon be back in town, and life in the French Riviera is becoming a tad boring. On top of this, my Mum’s house is a complete mess and I can’t say or do anything about it because she would be upset. Anyway, all is not bleak : my husband has managed to find some time in his busy schedule and is spending the Easter week-end with us. Actually, he is catching up with sleep as I write. But let’s not complain: he didn’t forget to bring with him a copy of “The Illustrated London News” , which is good. For those of you who don’t know, I found some old newspapers in my attic, when we were renovating our house in London, and I am trying to read them in the hope that it will help me to understand the British…
Today, we are Saturday, March the 19th, 1898. On the front page, there is a huge illustration of the Queen’s visit to the Riviera ” Her Majesty’s departure from Nice railway station for Cimiez”. Well, it looks like I am in the right place. Lucky me.
But my joy is short-lived. The newspapers is full of good, old fashioned generalisations and judgemental comments.
1.    Against the French
“Why are Frenchmen so unwilling to quit their native country and spread themselves as pioneers over unoccupied parts of the earth, like the English? A French writer ( no name is given of course) mournfully confesses that it is the fault of French mothers. They are adorable women; they inspire the life-long attachment of their children….English prejudice is fond of attributing to the French a lack of moral fibre; but it is the very ardour of the domestic virtues which disqualifies most Frenchmen for the labours of colonisation.”
2. Against the Germans
“Mr. Forbes-Robertson, who is playing Hamlet in Germany, has discovered that Shakspere (that’s how it is written)is a German author. The critics have judged his performance not only from the standpoint of German dramatic art, but also through the refined and lucid medium of the German language. Shakspere in English is unsatisfactory to German ears accustomed to his wood-notes wild in their native Teutonic. It is, perhaps, the most singular delusion of English egotism to suppose that Shakspere was an Englishmen, whereas it is well known to all educated Germans that he was born at Postdam, and that his dramas, which are occasionally seen on the London stage, are played in a corrupt English translation.”
3. Against female nurses
“The hospital nurse is more intent upon flirtation than upon healing.”
4. Against Korea, “that singular and sequestered country”
5. Against people in general
“Great number of people travel by the Underground. It makes you wonder where in the world they all come from.”
It made me wonder something else: why do people in general and British in particular have this need to prove that they are and know better? It is not new: it was already the case more than 110 years ago apparently. Why do we have this need to comment and judge? Is it because it makes us feel better? Probably. The sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people is powerful. It is as if we belong to some sort of elite. It is also because the group may have followed the same education, the same initiation rites. There is a long section, in today’s newspapers, about “whipping boys”. The section starts as follows:
 “When Dr. Markham asked George III how he wished his son educated, “like the sons of any private English gentleman ,” his Majesty replied. “if they deserve it, let them be flogged; do as you used to do at Westminster .”
Maybe, when you are a private English gentleman, this sense of belonging to the same group is extremely strong ( courtesy of extensive flogging during childhood) and somehow gives you the right to believe that you are superior to the whole world. Maybe. Well, I believe that it is high time to be more open minded!
And finally, a couple of nice ads:
-” harlene”, the great hair producer and restorer. The finest dressing. Specially prepared and perfumed. Fragrant & Refreshing. Is a luxury and a necessity to every modern toilet.”
-“asthma cure” Grimault’s Indian cigarettes. Difficulty in expectoration, asthma, nervous cough, catarrh, sleeplessness and oppression immediately relieved by these cigarettes”
See you next week!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

I recently attended a debate with work colleagues. It was about whether HS2 (i.e. the new high speed train between London and Birmingham) was a good thing. It was the first time I attended a debate and I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I couldn’t recognise my work colleagues. They had prepared arguments, were playing roles, and were passionate about debating.  What surprised me the most is that the topic of the debate didn’t really matter, they just loved debating. You could see it on their face. They were actually having fun.  There was a bell and it rang  when one of the speakers was taking too long. Furthermore, one of our Directors was playing the role of David Dimbleby, who is a famous BBC political journalist.

I started to wonder where this love of debates was coming from. Well, believe it or not, it starts at primary school. My daughter explained to me that, from time to time, since she was seven, (yes, seven!) they had been having so-called “hot balloon” debates. Basically, they pretend that they are in a hot balloon but a couple of persons need to jump out of the balloon in order for the others to survive. You need to make your case and then you have to vote to decide who goes. Honestly, what sort of game is this? To make matters even worse, apparently it is good fun! This is probably because she never was “thrown out” of the balloon as she is very popular. According to my daughter, it is so perfectly normal and acceptable that she didn’t even think that it was necessary to mention it to me. To be fair, they also debate current affairs, which I knew about.

This is not where it stops. There are debating clubs and even competitions in every secondary school. Furthermore, Oxford and Cambridge have debating societies. You know that you are set for life once you are one of their members. Apparently, it also increases your chance to become a Prime Minister.

What I don’t understand is: why is it a good thing to debate for the sake of debating? Why is being a good debater so well recognised? Shouldn’t we value substance over style? You have to understand that the emphasis, in my (very French) education, was to come to the “right” solution (or “as right as possible given the circumstances”), and make a good decision. To a large extent, it is disrespectful in France to discuss a decision that has already been made. You just have to make the most of it. Well, not here, where every piece of decision is dissected bit by bit until you don’t understand the point of the initial decision any longer.

The name that sprang to my mind was “Sophists”. In Athens, they were teaching their skills for a price, because they spoke very well. They use rhetorical techniques to make their point, and it was working very well. It has certainly helped democracy, but as a sophist could successfully argue opposite opinions I doubt it made the decision-making process any easier. So, don’t you think than Great Britain is a Sophist Country?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

In my quest to understand the British, I have some unexpected help: my two daughters are becoming more British by the day and are giving me a useful insight into the British mind, and I also found five old newspapers in my attic. I have already described the first two, and wanted to write about the third today.

But I attended my body combat session, and I am feeling in a feisty mood. I didn’t like something I read in “the illustrated London News”, dated Saturday, October 24, 1874. So I am going to talk about it first, and then, after my rant, I will talk about the paper. Maybe.
Ok, here we go. A big banquet has taken place at the castle of Rambouillet,  in France. “This was the dinner given at the Chateau (castle in French) of Rambouillet by a French Duke to the Prince of Wales…It comprised a crayfish soup, some tartlets a la Talleyrand ; roast beef and potatoes a la Dauphine, lobster salad, ramequins au fromage and glaces a l’Orleans. I mean to write a book some day on the vocabulary of the kitchen, which, albeit its syntax is eccentric, is not half so idiotic as some people imagine. Take the tartlets a la Talleyrand, for example. Well ; did not the Queen of Hearts -that is to say, France- make some tarts ? ( yes, I copied it word for word). The crafty Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord was the Knave (it must mean knight?) of Hearts who betrayed Napoleon I. and handed France over to the Bourbons. So his tartlets ever since 1815 have been popular at the Legitimist Chateau of Rambouillet.”
It then continues on and on but I will spare you the rest. You get the gist of it. On the face of it, there is nothing new. The Brits have always made fun of the French and vice versa ( have a read at what a former French Prime Minister, Edith Cresson, said about the Brits. Not nice. Can’t write it here) But it made me realise that it started long before my time, and hasn’t stopped ever since. Why is this? Why do we always badmouth our neighbours? Why do we have this urge to explain that, deep down, we are better? Sometimes I am feeling very pessimistic about the future of the human condition. Or maybe the so-called journalist had just been dumped by his French girlfriend and I am over-interpreting. In any event, I needed to get it off my chest.
The funny thing is that the rest of the newspaper is pretty balanced, and even start with a very good explanation of why there is a need for a “municipal government of London”. Here it is : “Its inhabitants are at present in the hands of a great many petty officials, who act in their name, and in some way or other by their authority, but do not really at all represent their wishes”. Very nicely put.
Other interesting news include the fact that, in Guatemala “The late Governor of San Jose, being a drunk madman, some months ago took it into his head to flog the British consul.” “For this outrage the Republic had to pay a large sum of money and to make a formal apology.” There is nothing like an insult to the authorities to wake up your inner patriot.
The other funny thing is how things can change fast. Napoleon, in France, has been thrown out. You may remember him, he had been praised for his attitude  on my last post (see here). Well, he isn’t even mentioned now. Nope, not even half a line. It looks like France has always been a Republic…
Let’s finish with of couple of ads:
“Hobson’s patent lock-Rib umbrella: the smallest, when folded, of any umbrella in the world; also their new scent bottle umbrella for ladies. No148, regent street” well, in London, I am sure that they made a fortune!!!
“pale and golden hair-sol aurin produces that tint so much admired in classic age and now so much desired. Sent for 72 stamps. 248, high holborn, London”

Some things like rain and old hair, never change. Well, that’s reassuring

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category London /

                                        Spring in London – Just today…

After a long wait, sleepless nights because of the size of the mortgage and various delays in the building works, we finally moved to the Stuffed Cat’s house. It was a dream come true. I was home. Finally.
We found a dollhouse in the attic, as well as copies of old newspapers called “The Illustrated London News” and “The Graphic”.  Eight newspapers in total. The oldest one was dated Saturday, August the 28th, 1869 and the most recent one had been issued on Saturday, May the 4th, 1869.
History is a funny thing. We remember the main events of a life or a country’s history, or a period of time. But being face to face with the detailed reality of a week in 1869 is a completely different matter. It is difficult to reconcile it with the main headlines that we know about. It is a different perspective. Shall we have a closer look?
I am taking you to London, in August 1869. You have just given me five pence and are opening your weekend newspaper. The first sentence you read is “It is  a great convenience to newspapers that our men of science hold their annual festival in this, the dullest month of the year…”. Interesting. Who  knew? Now let’s move to the “Foreign and Colonial News”. You will be pleased to know that in France “The Emperor (Napoleon!) was sufficiently well to preside at the Council of Ministers yesterday.” In Turkey, “it seems that the preparations which are being  made in the capital for the reception of the Empress Eugenie are on a very imposing scale. Roads are being formed and districts improved entirely for the convenience of her Majesty.” At the same time, “In America, President Grant is visiting New Hampshire.”
The tone is a tiny bit patronising. The topic of the moment is the Spanish Revolution. A year ago, “the Spaniards had resolved on throwing off the yoke of a Sovereign whose personal good qualities had certainly not manifested themselves prior to the revolt”. “Spain is still in transition state”.” The Cortes (i.e., Spanish Parliament) was elected without any disturbance”, and “there were no margins to be left for wild patriots, eccentricities, or sham Brutuses of the French revolutionary type”. Ouch. That hurt.  So much for the Entente Cordiale.
But don’t forget the Special Grand Fireworks Next Monday, at Crystal Palace.
Let’s finish with the ads
“Bread-and-Milk Flour (for BABIES) is also excellent for Invalids and Ladies in Confinement (what is that?). To be had of Chemist and Grocer’s.”
“Those ladies who have not yet tried the GLENFIELD starch (The starch is a powder or spray used before ironing to stiffen fabric or clothing) are respectfully solicited to give it a trial, and carefully follow out the directions printed on every package. It is rather more difficult to make than other Starches; but, when this is overcome, they will say, like the Queen’s Laundress, that is the finest Starch they ever used.”
Have a nice week. I will see you on the 9th of October 1869.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London