In case you have been hibernating, the best show in town isn’t Dallas or Dynasty, it’s Australian politics. An extramarital affair and its fallout have put the ruling Liberal-National coalition under massive pressure. The nation is completely hooked -I shamefully admit that I am too. Today there was no headlines about the whole saga, and I almost found it boring. The difference between American soap operas and the Australian government is that one features a scorned soon-to-be first wife, a pregnant younger lover and doubts over paternity, and the others are 1980s TV shows that I grew up watching. What can I say? Reality is sometimes even messier than fiction. And I, for one, can’t wait for the next episode (Reconciliation with wife? Twins? Another potential father? Who knows?). I am joking of course. Well, sort of.
It’s all over the press. In case you’ve missed it, here is a quick summary: the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has impregnated one of his staff, a much younger woman, while still officially married to his long-suffering wife (with whom he has four children). The affair was an open secret in the Canberra circles, but completely blew out of proportion over the last few days (I am not sure why. Politics, probably). There are now questions about the use of taxpayer money (you are not supposed to employ your partner. But was she his partner?), and also because he presented himself as a ‘family man’ (The irony!). Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing is a sorry mess and I am #teamfirstwife all the way, but, being French, I am struggling to understand the media frenzy. What I am trying to say is this: in France, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. It would be considered, well, a private affair. All French politicians find a way to employ their friends, mistress and family members. When they can’t, they ask a fellow MP to do it for them, and they return the favour. More often than not, knowing who has slept with whom is a guessing game in political social circles. But apparently, not in Australia. What am I talking about? Well, because of the ‘Barnababy’ scandal, Australia has banned sexual relations between government ministers and their staff. This is called the #bonkban, and has been trending on Twitter.
This much I know: such a sex ban couldn’t happen in my home country. People would laugh at it out loud. You have to understand that things haven’t changed in my home country. Sexual harassment is still rife in France, and more often than not it is considered acceptable. Recently, there has been a scandal about a senior minister having an affair with a young intern twenty years ago. She accused him of rape a bit more than ten years later, but the limitation period had expired. Somehow the story resurfaced recently. Nothing will happen to him, and there won’t be any #bonkban in France -nobody has even considered, let alone mention it. Let me make something clear: if the intern had been my daughter, I would be fuming. I would have considered beating the guy up (I am 25% Sardinian -don’t mess with me). Nobody has defended her, nobody has even mentioned that, when you go to work, you expect to be safe from your boss’ advances. At least, the Australians are doing something, and trying to address the problem. Obviously the ban will be difficult to enforce, and I am sure that there will be lots of difficulties, but hey, kudos to Australia. In the meantime, it looks like the elites in old Europe will never change. Why am I not surprised?
This country never ceases to amaze me. I was reading the newspapers, and found out that Michael Fallon had resigned as defence secretary. In his letter of resignation, he said:
‘ …I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we required of the Armed Forces…’
I am going to react the French way for once: WTF? Where do they find these people?
When you read this statement, it almost sounds innocuous, right? It is as if he had behaved pretty well, but still not well enough. Poor Darling. It’s almost as if he was the victim. Too much was expected from him. Dear oh dear. Well I, for one, will not shed any tears.
Let me rewind a little bit: do you remember the MP expense scandal? No? Well let me refresh your memory; according to The Daily Telegraph, Fallon claimed for mortgage repayments on his Westminster flat in their entirety. MPs were only allowed to claim for interest charges. Instead of profusely apologising (which was, in my view, the only decent thing to do), what did he do? Well, you couldn’t make it up: he said “Why has no one brought this to my attention before?”. Seriously? Did I miss something here? Don’t you see a pattern of arrogance ? Or is it just me?
So why did he resign? In pure British style, we will probably only ever know a small part of the facts. We are told that ‘Allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been swirling around Westminster since the Harvey Weinstein abuse scandal encouraged women to speak out about their experiences of sexual abuse or harassment.’, according to The Guardian.
I might be a French woman, but I hate being late. That said, I am the exception rather than the rule. In my home country, it is generally right to be around 15 minutes late. The reason is that we French people expect it and if you arrive on time then we will still be in the middle of preparing. That’s just the way we are.
But times are changing. I, for one, am pleased with the various hashtags #metoo and #balancetonporc -literally ‘expose your pig’, the French equivalent of #metoo. Frankly, I thought that it was long overdue. Truth be told, I had come to accept that some harassment/bullying was acceptable when you were a woman, or simply when you were perceived to be the weaker party. Just to be clear, I believe that abuse concerns anyone, men and women. It’s not a question of gender; it’s a question of power. What am I talking about exactly? Well, I have lost count of the number of times my choices were judged, my opinions disregarded, my salary lower than my male colleagues, my appearance commented upon, unwanted advice was given, my back/lower back was patted, and so on, and so forth. There were also some more serious things that I will not write about, because it’s my choice not to. When I dared mention something, I was made to feel like I was the one without any sense of humour/morality. After all, it wasn’t that bad, was it? And I was far from being perfect, right? Come on, boys will be boys… In short, once again, put up and shut up.
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.
It’s all over the French press, and to a lesser extent the anglo-saxon press. Our French President Emmanuel Macron wants French expats to come back to France. Yep, you read this right. Whether he actually means what he said remains to be seen.
He had already mentioned something similar back in February, so no surprise here. More recently, he made an appearance in front of hundreds of French citizens who have made a new home for themselves in the US, and proudly told them France was now the “land of conquest”. He wanted expats to go back to our home country to “innovate, seek, and teach”. Yeah right. Why am I not convinced?
I started to think long and hard about the opportunity to go back to France, and came to the conclusion that no, it’s not for me. First of all, to me Macron’s statement is simply an opportunistic move, capitalising on the Trump and Brexit effects, nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, his efforts to revamp France’s image are laudable, but I am afraid it’s far too late for me. Becoming an expat is a deeply personal choice, and I think that after four or five years you turn a corner. Coming back becomes more difficult, if not impossible, especially when you have kids. And it’s all nice and well to want expats to come back, but what’s in it for them? Unemployment and jealousy ? Thanks, but I’ll pass on this one. To cut a long story short, I would find it really challenging to come back. Here is why:
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!
Today I need your help on my latest project. Call me mad, call me stupid, but I am thinking of writing another book. It would be in English -of course-, and it would be a French political thriller (chick lit style). What do you think? Would you read a book like this?
So what would it be about? Well, to cut a long story short, if would be about what would have happened if a French female President had been elected. My character, Veronique Boyer, would be a sexy older lady (a cross between Christine Lagarde and Brigitte Macron). She would be an outstanding president, but her private life would go from bad to worse (as in from REALLY bad to EVEN worse).
I have decided to share with you, my readers, the Prologue and the first chapter. Any comment/suggestions helps…
Oh, and before I forgot: I haven’t edited it yet, so please excuse any typo/gallicism…
Arnaud Dubruis, the Darling of the French media, was quietly sitting amongst the 300 guests at the Elysee reception speech. For once he wasn’t covering the event. He wasn’t checking his microphone or discussing with the cameraman. No, this time, he was just waiting for the President to enter the paved square, and he didn’t have much else to do. He couldn’t help thinking that things would soon become a lot more complicated: the newly elected President happened to be his wife.
Come to think of it, love stories between journalists and politicians were quite common in Paris. More often than not, knowing who had slept with who was a guessing game in his social circle. However, such affairs usually involved a young sexy female journalist and a slightly older party leader. Sometimes, they even got married. That said, it usually ended in tears, as had happened between the former President and his journalist girlfriend, who took it very badly when her lover was caught having a 5 a 7 with a younger actress after a popular theater play. The title of one of the many articles was ‘Caught In the Act’. The regular girlfriend found it extremely humiliating. It must be said that, in due course, she took the whole sorry affair in her stride, and wrote another popular play about the whole experience. Never underestimate a scorned woman.
Enough is enough. In case you have been hibernating, not a day passes without a flurry of articles mentioning Emmanuel Macron’s unusual marriage with a woman more than 20 years his senior. Forget about unemployment, Brexit, Chechen homosexuals being tortured and killed. From now on, it’s all about Brigitte Trogneux’ style, diet, clothes and unusual family set-up (because in case you have missed it, her children are of a similar age than her husband). Seriously, what is happening to this world? Read here if you don’t believe me: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4483918/How-DOES-Macron-s-wife-defy-age.html
Please spare me the judgmental vibe, and let me speak my mind: who the hell cares? After all, it’s their business. Their private life is, well, private.
And why is it so shocking to see a man and an older woman? Nobody bats an eyelid when older men marry a much younger woman, so why the double standard? I am starting to become prouder of my home country: we French still value mature women, and we have timeless icons such as Catherine Deneuve (73 years old). Over here, in the UK, women seem to become invisible after a certain age.