Posted by / Category Politics /

It is all over the news and I must admit that I can’t help feeling a bit sad. Alstom, one of the biggest remaining industrial French companies, might be bought by General Electric. You could think that it is just another Corporate merger. Well, you would be wrong: we French believe that we are different, and as a result there is a last-minute twist in the plot: the French government isn’t pleased with the GE offer (I am unsure as to why, it all sounds like basic antiamericanism to me. Come on, let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?), and would like Siemens to make a counter offer, in order to create ‘a European champion’ -whatever this means-. They have even said that they would consider nationalising Alstom if need be. All of this might sound like it is happening very far from you, but, you see, as a young engineer, I used to work for Alstom. I was the project manager for the Rolling Stock of  the Line 14 in Paris (Ah, memories!). In French, I would say that I have a pinching feeling in my heart (‘un pincement au coeur’). It is the end of an era. Yes, I must admit that I still love Alstom. Alstom is a matter of national pride. That said, things got a bit rough recently. Alstom was bleeding cash. Simply put, Alstom hasn’t restructured its business as it should to stay competitive. Things  came to a head, and the only option was to find a buyer. And GE came.

I wouldn’t want to be a member of Alstom’s board right now. Basically, GE and Alstom have been talking for quite some time, and GE wants to buy the Power/Energy division of the French company. They have put a lot of cash on the table. To make matters even more complicated, one of Alstom’s main shareholders, Bouygues, badly needs to sell its participation to buy a telecommunication company. The French government disagrees with what it disingenuously calls ‘a shareholder’s approach’ -conveniently ignoring Alstom’s difficulties and massive overheads-. In theory, the government shouldn’t say anything, and shouldn’t interfere with private capital. In practice, our ministers are trying to revive a former offer from Siemens. 

The thing is, if Siemens and Alstom were to merge, in the longer run there will be massive redundancy plans because the overlaps between both companies are simply everywhere, from the operational divisions to the headquarters. Siemens is a direct competitor in most markets. To top everything up, Siemens isn’t in that great a shape either (Can two companies in a difficult position make a healthy company? I am not so sure). Oh, and I am also convinced that the European antitrust laws would never allow for this merger to happen. So why is this debate happening at all?

I am worried for Alstom’s future, and for my former colleagues. The French government might manage to stop GE from buying Alstom. But where would it leave my former employer? Would it really save it? Well, quite the opposite: nobody will want to invest in Alstom. Alstom will become moribund, and it would be another blow to the ailing French economy. Foreign investments in France will drop too. In short, even if I can only follow what is happening from London, I fear that Alstom might become the latest victim of a misjudged French interventionism. I really hope to be proven wrong…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

It is all over the press: there is a new binding agreement -some are even talking of a law, which is not the case just yet-, that says that managers of the technology and consultancy sector should switch off their professional mobile phones and not reply to professional emails after 6pm. As a result, the British press is having a field day with the ‘lazy French’, who apparently still indulge in lovely ‘5 to 7’ after work. In short, the good old cliches are back with a vengeance.

I personally believe that the situation is far more complicated that it seems. In fact, I am of two minds. The thing is, I never switch off. I am always thinking of my business. That’s just the way it is, and I don’t want anyone to boss me around about what I should and shouldn’t do, thank you very much. I can’t help thinking that it is ridiculous to have a ‘one size-fits-all’ rule like this. What if you work in a global business and have to call your New York office? It might have to happen after 6pm on a regular basis. Wouldn’t you answer an urgent call from work? Seriously? Well, nobody will want to invest in France if that’s the case, and things will continue to go from bad to worse.

Don’t get me wrong: we all need a break from work from time to time. I take one when I need one. But do we really need a binding agreement for this? I don’t think so, because each business is different. There are good times, and there are bad times. You need to be flexible during bad times. And you have global businesses. And so on, and so forth. It is a fine balance. Of course some bosses are demanding too much from their employees. But no such law can change this, right?

In short, I think that, once again, this binding agreement is clumsily drafted. I am convinced that it just intended to state the obvious: we all need a break.  I am also sure that the intentions of whoever drafted it are good. But it shows in an all-to-obvious way that France is not business-minded. It also shows that France can’t go beyond its narrow-minded parochialism. There is a world outside of France, and there is a need for flexibility within each business. Being pragmatic is simply not France’s forte, that’s pretty obvious.

The British way is very different, and, for me, it is a breath of fresh air. For instance, a year ago, things got to a head when my (then French) husband needed a second passport because his actual one was at the Chinese embassy to get a visa for a future business trip. In order to get another one, he had to go to the French consulate to explain why he needed a second passport. He managed to make an appointment, which was nothing short of a miracle, and went. There, he was given a lecture on the fact that his request needed to be adequately justified and that they needed, amongst other things, a letter of his employer detailing the reasons why he needed another passport (this had already been provided and they wanted more details!!!), and a copy of his local contract and payslips.

What? He couldn’t believe his ears. He went back to his office and called me. He said that he felt he was being watched over by the Stasi. He also added that he didn’t  want to give a copy of his contract to the French authorities. Why would he? He decided to become British shortly afterwards.

When, a year after, he was naturalised, nobody asked him any questions as to why he wanted a second British passport. He paid £25 and, the day after, a second British passport was delivered to our house. No question asked. No additional justification. You have got to love the Brits!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

A Country With So Much Going For It…

In France, what do you do when things get rough? Well, you just reshuffle them a bit. Look at what happened in January when Francois Hollande was caught cheating on his current girlfriend. Well, he reshuffled his love life. He kicked his official girlfriend out, and kept the unofficial one.

Right now, Francois Hollande is reshuffling his cabinet. He kicked his former Prime Minister out, and replaced it with the Interior minister. This is because his political party was inflicted a major blow yesterday, for the local elections (that’s when the mayors are elected).
So, what now? Well, I am starting to think that reshuffling is a new French specialty: cheat on your wife: reshuffle your love life! Get defeated in an election: don’t go, reshuffle your cabinet! Face some economic difficulties : how about a new organisation (i.e. reshuffle again)?  I can’t help thinking that reshuffling is to solving problems what twerking is to dancing: five minutes of fun -at best!-, but not much else. 

Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be great if, every time we had a problem, we could reshuffle? Your house is dirty: well, if you reshuffle the furniture a bit, you might forget about it, right? When did reshuffling replace resolving problems?
I am getting more and more concerned for France. I doubt very much that a reshuffle with solve the increasing unemployment and the rise of extremist views. I would love to be proven wrong. In the meantime, I am doing my tax return for my business, and I wish I could reshuffle the numbers to pay less. Well, it is not happening. Talk about double standard!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

It is this time of the year I suppose. Everywhere I go, there are people snogging on the street. It must be the ramp up to Valentine’s day. Or maybe they are trying to get warmer and cosier. It seems to be working. I don’t want to sound like an old bore, but it is really starting to annoy me. They simply kiss everywhere: in front of the park entrance, the coffee shop, the corner of the street. And, worst of all, they find it absolutely hilarious that people might want to walk on the pathway while they are kissing. Sigh.


When did Public Displays of Affection become so fashionable? What is happening to the legendary British manners? What did I miss? Mind you, there are new trends that I didn’t see coming over here, in London: the other day, the lady behind me was running her errands in her bathrobe. Yep, flip-flops and bathrobe, to be precise. The shop attendant didn’t bat an eyelid. Apparently, it is completely normal, nothing to worry about. I knew about going outside in your PJs, but I had never seen anyone in a bathrobe on the street before. I suppose that I still have a lot to learn. That said, I am still much too French to go out in my bathrobe. I just couldn’t open the front door. It must be something in my genes. Except maybe if the house was on fire, of course.

In short, I am completely out of touch, and feeling very old right now. All is not gloomy of course, and, following the article in the Times, I have received a couple of Valentine’s emails from seemingly besotted readers.  I suspect it might be a hoax but I am not 100% sure. I will never know. Anyway, I thought it was nice, but it is a case of ‘thanks, but no thanks’. I might be French, but I am still pretty conventional, you see.  

And talking about being conventional,  the French president has yet to announce who the First lady is. How will be Francois Hollande’s Valentine? The suspense is simply untenable.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to write on the ‘Hollande affair’ again, but something was still bugging me. Here it is: don’t you think that the way the actual President treats his partners is appalling? From where I am sitting, it looks like he considers his various girlfriends to be fungible commodities. To make matters even worse, Valerie Trierweiler, who was until recently acting as France’s first lady, has now been humiliated in a very public way. If this isn’t a repudiation, then I don’t know what is.

Am I the only one to think that Hollande’s behaviour shows a deeply machist mindset? Actually, it is not only machist, but also careless and cruel. If we leave aside any moral considerations for a minute, the age-old commandments of having an affair have been broken here:

1. Thou shalt remember that someone will get hurt;
2. Thou shalt be discreet;
3. Thou shalt remember the old adage ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it’;
4. Thou shalt not be cruel to your spouse/partner- after all, you are already cheating on him/her;
5. Thou shalt dress immaculately;
6. Thou shalt pay for your mistress’ accommodation;
7. Thou shalt own up to what you have done (especially if caught);
8. Thou shalt remember that you have put yourself in such a pickle in the first place;
9. Thou shalt consider yourself lucky to have such first-world problems;
10. Thou shalt try thinking with your head, for a change.

What happens now? Well, I don’t know, and I feel sorry for Valerie Trierweiler and her very public meltdown. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been one of her fans, but I wouldn’t wish what is happening to her to anyone. That said, I feel like Valerie could make the most of a really bad situation by pulling herself together (easier said than done, I know), looking fabulous (as she usually does, I must admit). She should then proceed to packing her suitcase, and come to London or New York. She could have a fresh start over here, and would probably become a star in a jiffy. She could publish books about the whole affair, have talk shows and live the high life.

And finally, I can’t help thinking that things would have been different with a female French president. A woman would have behaved in a more dignified and respectful way, I think. Please, let’s have more women in office!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

It is going from very bad to even worse. All the social media networks are rife with rumors of pregnancy of Julie Gayet, the mistress of the French president. Despite yesterday’s news conference, we still don’t know whether Valerie Trierweiler (the First lady/girlfriend) will go to the USA with Francois Hollande in February. She is still in hospital. Why did she checked herself in? What will she do when she gets out? Nobody knows. What a soap opera! 

Because of my article in The Times magazine, Sky News, ABC Australia and various other TV/radio have interviewed me. The publicity that I am receiving is possibly the only good thing to come out of ‘l’affaire Hollande’ and I am seriously wondering whether I should send him a Thank You card.

On a more serious note, this affair has highlighted the schism between my home country and the rest of the world. I was talking to my family over the weekend, and they didn’t understand why the foreign press was making such a big deal out of it. 
” Why is Francois Hollande on the front page? After all, it is his private life. Why do you Brits even care?”, said my Dad. And, pragmatic as always, he added “It looks like his prostate problems are over.” It does indeed.

Over here, nobody understands why the French press and the French opposition are so lenient with Francois Hollande. Yesterday’s news conference didn’t clarify much, if anything at all. Difficult questions were asked after a much too long preliminary speech (playing the clock, Mister president?), and in a very polite and circumvoluted way (such as: were there any security lapses?). Francois Hollande’s responses remained general and at times patronising, and I couldn’t help but compare Hollande’s vague responses with Sarkozy’s frankness when he admitted to being in a serious relationship with Carla Bruni. Whatever you and I think of president Sarkozy, he clearly owned up to what was going on.

So, why doesn’t anyone care in France? Apparently, the whole affair might even have marginally increased president Hollande’s approval ratings, because it has made him look more human. This is also because, as we French have no king any more, the President is, I believe, implicitly expected to behave like one, and part of the job was to be the Father of the nation, right? Well, he quite clearly took his role very literally indeed.

Two things are worrying me right now: as a French woman living in London, I can clearly see that the French president is a laughing stock everywhere in the world except in France. This is hard to deny, right? Just look at the press everywhere (Look here if you don’t believe me). This is clearly not going to help my home country in the long run, as it makes us look like clowns at best and amateurs at worst. More importantly, when will the real issues be dealt with? Can we please get back to work? PLEASE!!!

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /


First thing this morning, a couple of friends called me. They were all excited to tell me that the French president, Francois Hollande, is apparently having an affair with a French actress, Julie Gayet. It is all over the French press this morning. If you haven’t followed the whole saga, let me summarise (please concentrate, it is complicated): Francois Hollande has four children with Segolene Royal, but never married her. He might -or might not- have had an affair, and a child, with Anne Hidalgo, a fellow Socialist politician, while he was still with Royal. They (i.e. Royal & Hollande – Bear with me please) broke up in 2007 and the first lady/girlfriend/mistress (take your pick) is now supposed to be the journalist Valerie Trierweiler. Except that she seems to have been cuckolded. Did you follow? This whole story is not making my life any easier. “You see, said one of my friends, I always knew that French men were warm-blooded.” Damn it. Here we go again.

We started a heated debate on whether or not British politicians were as prone to affairs as their French counterparts. I personally believe that the British behave slightly better. My friends disagreed, and told me that the UK had had a fair share of recent sex scandals: look at David Blunkett’s affair with a married woman, Kimberly Fortier, Libdem politician Mark Oaten, and so on, and so forth. OK, point taken, power is an aphrodisiac. That said, most French politicians seem to rebound after a sex scandal. It even seems to enhance their CVs. That’s not really the case over here. Just saying.

Don’t get me wrong: what happens between consenting adults is none of my business (except if my husband was involved, to be perfectly honest). That said, I have to admit that I am intrigued: where do the politicians find the energy? How do they do it? Don’t they have 24 hours in a day, just like the rest of us? I am not the president of any country. I am just a blogger, a wife, and a mum. But believe me, my days are pretty full-on, and I never seem to be able to stop. I feel knackered most of the time, and right now I could kill for a lie-in (not of the naughty kind, to be precise). How do they do it? Don’t they have a job to do? Where did I go wrong? OK, I will admit it, I envy their energy (but not how they use it, just to be crystal clear).

The irony is that my home country is not going well at all: France is still lagging behind, hindered by lots of structural issues that are simply not being dealt with. This was reflected in Standard and Poor’s credit rating cuts at the start of November2013. Unemployment keeps rising (10.9% of the population according to the latest figures, an increase of 0.4% compared to last year), and the government’s only response seems to raise yet again already punitive taxes. In short, there is a lot to do, but right now the only indicator that seems to exceed expectations is the number of mistresses of the president.

So here is my suggestion to all French politicians: get your priorities right. Instead of screwing around, have your head screwed on and make the headlines for the right reasons. Tackle the recession and the growing number of unemployed. Please.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

An Intricate Network Of Lies…
I can’t believe that it is already 2014. I wish all my readers a great year, and I would like to thank you all for your continuous support. It means a lot to me, and thanks to you some great things are starting to happen to me. I haven’t made any new year’s resolutions…I am just too old for resolutions, and I never stick to them anyway. I just have a wish for 2014: I wish that we were all more honest, more direct, and less politically correct. Come on, wouldn’t it be great? 

Just imagine: my home country is in denial….Growth is starting to arrive in the UK, but France is still lagging behind, hindered by lots of structural issues that are simply not being dealt with. This was reflected in Standard and Poor’s credit rating cuts at the start of November. Unemployment keeps rising (10.5% of the population according to the latest figures, an increase of 0.6% compared to last year), and the government’s only response seems to raise yet again already punitive taxes. Despite an increased life expectancy, the French president cut retirement age last year. In the meantime, the state sector keeps growing, and much-needed reforms to make it more competitive have yet to be implemented. In short, billions are wasted every year, and nobody bats an eyelid. I would love someone to say: ‘hey guys, wake up and smell the coffee’. Nobody has done it just yet…

As for Great Britain, right now the newspapers are all about the so-called Romanian invasion, because some work restrictions have been lifted for a few Eastern European countries. Give me a break! On a similar note, I was walking close to the Lithuanian embassy, in Pimlico, the other day, with an American friend of mine. There was a long queue outside. Despite being an educated lady, she started a racist rant about the fact that ‘these people’ -i.e. the Eastern Europeans- had more rights than her in the European Union in general, and in the UK in particular. What a shame it was- she said. I couldn’t believe it. Isn’t America a land of immigrants? I didn’t say anything. Maybe I should have. After all, I am one of ‘these people’ -an immigrant- too. And it didn’t prevent me from becoming British eventually. I pay my taxes, I work, just like everybody else. Chances are, we all have at least one ancestor who was an immigrant. Nothing to be afraid of. We didn’t steal anything. We just came to make a living. And we are here legally. I wish I had said this to her. I didn’t.

That said, maybe all truths are not to be told. I wanted to say ‘I don’t want to see you any more because I think that you are a twat,’ ! But surely I can’t say this. So instead I made my goodbyes and left. It made me realise that the number of little white lies I have to say is simply huge. But how can I be more honest without being too hurtful? I really wonder.  I need to keep trying. How do you say such things?

I suppose that I will just have to keep trying, right? So, after all, here is my new year’s resolution: to say what I think a bit more, or a bit louder. To be more, well, French…How about you: what is your resolution? When was the last time you lied?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

It had all started so well. One of my old university mates is in town, and we have arranged to have a morning coffee together. Her hotel isn’t very far from my home. I am really pleased to see her after all these years.

She is late. Of course she is. Anyway, I am not in a rush, so I don’t really mind. There she is. I waive and smile. She looks a bit dishevelled. She is upset, I can tell.

“- What is going on?”

“- How do you find your way in London? All the streets have the same names, with different extensions: close, garden, villa, and so on, and so forth…”

“- Oh, I am sorry you got lost.”

I am not sorry at all. Come on, it is not that difficult, is it? Surely she can read a map? After all, she is an educated lady.

We order a cappuccino. This is my favourite coffee place in the area. It doesn’t belong to a chain and is run by a lovely couple.  I come here almost every morning.

When her cappuccino arrives, she is not happy. It is too milky, you see. I wish I could bury my head in the sand and escape somewhere really far.  She has it redone. What a bossyboots!

“- How can you survive here? When are you going back to France? You know, there is such a thing as economic patriotism. You have been trained in France, you need to come back!”

 I hadn’t realised that I was going to get a good old-fashioned lecture.

I try to change subject.

“- Well, we are all British now. How about you? How is C, (her boyfriend)?”

Wrong question. Silly me.

“- Oh, we broke up a few months ago.”

“- I am sorry to hear this.”

I am a bit sorry for her, but not that much. She is clearly a pain in the neck. We haven’t seen each other for the best part of a decade, and here she is, lecturing me. I totally understand the guy. And she hasn’t even asked how I am.

“- And I have had a few health issues.”

Here we go again. It is all about her.

You don’t want to know the details. Suffice to say, she gave them to me and it was a case of too much information.

Sadly, I slowly come to the conclusion that we don’t have much in common any more. I feel like she is in need of a good therapist, and I can’t really help. I have barely managed to say anything anyway. I just nod and smile, and eventually, I stand up.

“- Well, it was lovely to see you!”

I can’t believe I said this. That’s clearly a lie. I am becoming more British by the minute. I really belong here.

“- And you too…Please think of what I told you. You need to go back! Don’t waste your talents! ”

Chances are, I will not see her again within the next ten years. No need to say anything, right? I let it slide. I would like to snap back, but I don’t.

I walk on my own, glad to be rid of her. What a difference 10 years make! Have you had such experiences? Am I a bad person?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Politics /

I think that my home country is in denial. The French president told the nation yesterday that France is in recovery. France is in the midst of the deepest economical crisis but don’t worry, everything will be fine. The number of job seekers keeps increasing, but we are in recovery. Recovery, my foot.

This made me think. Maybe, after all, we need denial. We crave denial. Life would be so boring without denial. So, after all, denial might be a good thing, don’t you think?

Maybe, if we believe hard enough that we are in recovery, well, we will be in recovery eventually? If only it were as simple as this.

It made me think of an old flatmate at university. She was lovely, beautiful and intelligent. She was also dating a (French) guy who already had a girlfriend. She was in complete denial about the whole thing. It was love, you see. He was her soulmate. He was going to leave his girlfriend for her. He was the one, according to her.

Me being me, I told her to stay safe and use, well, rubber. She was shocked. How could I ? Silly old me. We drifted apart.

He did leave the girlfriend, but it took him a few years. Soulmate, my foot.

Fifteen years down the line, she is divorced with two young kids and he is married to a much younger woman expecting their second child.

Who am I to judge? She was happy with a lothario for a long time, after all. That said, I can’t help thinking that her denial didn’t help. Denial is not always helpful, after all.

So, are we all in denial? Wouldn’t it be better to face the music and implement some much-needed reforms before it is too late? The problem is that it takes a lot of courage to face the truth.

As for me, the result is the same. France and me are drifting apart.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London