petite anglaise

February 28, 2005

power, corruption and lies

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 1:28 pm

Try as I might, I can’t even picture what an 600 m2 apartment would look like. It would be a whopping ten times bigger than the compact and bijou little flat our household currently rents. Of couse Mr Frog and I do not have eight tadpoles (for which my hips are pathetically grateful), let alone a maître d’hôtel, two maids, a chef and a nanny to accommodate.

The now ex-Ministre de l’Economie, Hervé Gaymard, considered housing his extended family in two 300 m2 apartments on the avenue Montaigne (home to the most exclusive fashion boutiques and the Plaza Athenée Hotel – you know, the one where SJP stayed in the final episodes of SATC) and adding a lift and stairs to connect the two floors for a further € 150,000, was eminently reasonable. At a monthly cost to the taxpayer of a mere € 14,000 (£ 9 000), the apartment in the exclusive Triangle d’Or district costed a little over twelve times our annual rent, and the equivalent of Monsieur Gaymard’s monthly paycheck. Oddly, Monsieur le Ministre did not feel this to be in any way inconsistent with his stated policy goal of introducing spending cuts in the French public sector.

Soon after the satirical weekly the Canard Enchaîné broke their story about Mr Gaymard’s rather extravagent lifestyle, revelations which were compounded by Gaymard’s string of gaffes and indeed shameless lying about the extent of his personal fortune to the press, Monsieur Economy Drive was forced to tender his resignation after fleecing serving his country for only three months.

Now the infamous flat is up for grabs. And this, my dear readers, is where you come in.

Click on the handy button above to make your donation to the petite’s posh new pad fund.

Because I’m worth it.

February 25, 2005

clippings

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 12:31 pm

I reach into my bag and give my Ipod a little stroke to turn up the volume a notch.

I’m still not completely over my paranoia about taking a gadget which is worth as much as my PC on the metro with me every day. Even if I didn’t actually pay for it. I should probably purchase some different coloured headphones, for my own piece of mind. Right now the only people I trust are fellow Ipod wearers. They get a covert nod; it’s like VW Beetle owners honking their horns at their peers.

“Your favorite innocence,
Your favorite prize,”

CLIP!

“Your favorite smile,
Your favorite slave.”

CLIP!

“I’m hanging on your words,
Living on your breath,”

CLIP! CLIP!
Did something small just fly past, missing the end of my nose by mere milimetres?

“Feeling with your skin.
Will I always be here?”

CLIP!!

I ease the volume down and take a look around.

There is a man, approximately my age, attractive in a scruffy, academic sort of way (brown corduroy jacket, one of those narrow, stripey, many-coloured scarves that men are wearing this season coiled around his neck, tufty brown hair), sitting across the aisle to my right on a strapontin. In fact, on closer inspection I decide that this person makes the grade and shall be added to the “Top Ten Foxes I Have Spied In The Metro” list. An honour which he remains blissfully unaware of, as he seems to be inspecting his hands. He has rather nice hands, I note.

The unkind neon lighting, which gives all metro travellers a sickbed complexion, regardless of whether they are wearing expensive MAC foundation or not, glints off something metallic in his right hand which I can’t quite identify without craning my neck a little…

CLIP!!!

Nail clippers.

That man is clipping his fingernails on the metro! Tiny, jagged pieces of him are flying in all directions! I suppose I should be thankful that he doesn’t remove his shoes and socks and start on his toenails. I wonder whether this is the sort of thing which you are allowed to sound the emergency alarm for, but dismiss the idea, as there is a fine for misuse.

Mr Métro Manicure is ejected unceremoniously from the list he never knew he was on as I caress the volume up again and close my eyes.

As a precaution however, I keep my mouth tightly shut.

February 24, 2005

intempéries

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 9:20 am

view from balcony Les Buttes Chaumont

The snow creaked pleasingly underfoot. For once I was glad of the pushchair, because it’s actually rather difficult to fall flat on your face when you have a four wheel drive Italian stallion Peg Perego buggy to steady yourself with. The waterproof poncho, source of much Christmas woe, got its first outing today and I silently thanked the EVILs for their foresight. Quite the chic Parisienne was I this morning sporting my sensible flat shoes, poncho drawstrings tied tightly under my chin.

Tadpole finally got to see some live snow, something that until now she had only seen in the illustrations from ‘Maisy’s Christmas Eve‘. A muffled chanting “no-ing! no-ing! no-ing!” could be heard from under the buggy’s misted up plastic raincover. What I wouldn’t give on days like today for a bit of role reversal. Oh to be pushed to work in an upholstered cocoon.

Ideally, we would have taken a detour through the Buttes Chaumont on the way to the childminder’s house and built a little “no-man”… However this was not to be. Parisian parks close their gates at the first hint of unclement weather (intempéries). Especially the Buttes Chaumont, as it is on a very steep hill, and therefore highly perilous when slippy. Presumably the powers that be at the town hall are paranoid about their liability should a jogger or dog walker accidentally break their neck. It’s a crying shame though, as those slopes were made for sledging.

Whenever it snows in Paris, vivid memories surface of the strikes of December 1995, and my spell as an English teacher at the Sorbonne Nouvelle (poor relation to the photogenic sister faculty of the Sorbonne, housed in a 70’s monstrosity, its ugliness matched only by the faculty website.)

That winter, two million French public sector workers elected to go on strike for the best part of a month. If I wanted to go anywhere at all during this turbulent time, it had to be accessible on foot, and using a route which avoided the pancarte-brandishing manifestants. There are few things more tedious than having to wait half an hour to cross a road as the demonstrators trundle past, from the enthusiastic ones at the front who wave their banners energetically and have mastered the day’s special chants, to the very last stragglers bringing up the rear.

At Paris III, the majority of the teachers, students and admin staff downed their pens for the duration. However lectrices like myself were not permitted to take industrial action. So for several weeks I was supposed to turn up to classes – a good forty minute trudge from my little bachelorette pad on the rue de la Roquette – never knowing whether the building would even be open when I arrived. There might be a single student, or five, or more likely none at all, awaiting my ‘expert tuition’. And I remember snow. Copious amounts of it.

My deux-pièces had a tiled floor, big, draughty windows and miniscule electric heaters were positioned under the windows. One day I awoke to the sight of ice on the inside of my bedroom window. When I had no classes at all, I took to hanging out in cafés and cinemas to keep warm. I was pathetically thankful for the fact that if you buy one coffee in a French bar you can sit there for as long as you please.

After three weeks of teeth-chattering, isolated boredom, I packed my bags and went back home early for Christmas.

The very next day, naturally, the strikes were called off.

February 23, 2005

in the flesh

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 11:45 am

I’ve got butterflies in my tummy.

This is because I’m going to meet a fellow blogger for lunch today. For some reason I’m as nervous as a fifteen year old getting ready to go on her first date. I think we both are. She summed it up really well, saying she is nervous of falling victim to the ‘I preferred the book to the movie’ syndrome. I’m worried about not living up to whatever expectations she might have, based on my blog. And I suspect that in her presence I’m going to feel rather old. Nerve racking stuff.

But I also feel that we expat bloggers have a lot in common. A love of writing, a love of France, shared frustrations, similar experiences of trying to find our niche in this city, of coping with living in a foreign language. It seems a shame not to get together and see if some of the virtual friends we have made on the interwebnet don’t have the potential to become ‘real’, three-dimensional friends.

It would also be an excuse for a bit of proper anglo-saxon style drinking.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a suggestion.

A get together. In Paris. For expat bloggers (and anyone they want to bring for moral support). If you like this idea and my proposed date works for you, please comment or drop me a line on petite.anglaise at gmail.com. The date is just a handy Friday I have when Mr Frog and Tadpole will be at the EVIL’s and I won’t need a babysitter. It can be changed if necessary. Offers of accommodation for any of our non-Parisian expats who can make it will also be gratefully accepted. And suggestions for a venue (I think this will depend on the number of people planning to come along).

There should be ground rules of course. No writing about each other afterwards. Or at least, no specifics which would compromise anyone’s anonymity. And definitely nothing like this: “I know petite said that her bottom was of J-Lo esque proportions but I wasn’t expecting…”

What do you think?

Update: are there any male expat bloggers in Paris I should know about? Apart from Jason? I don’t mind this being a (sh)event, but I never realised before how overwhelmingly we outnumber the blogging males… Iain – be worried.

February 22, 2005

breaking point

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 1:07 pm

I woke up this morning at 6.30 am to the sound of Fun Radio. Tadpole had evidently been re-tuning the radio again. I don’t know which is worse, shouty disc jockeys playing French RnB (pale and rather dodgy imitation of American RnB) or Mr Frog’s preferred news channel. Someone should conduct a scientific study into the long-term effects of waking up to the word “war” or “corruption” every morning.

I realised that Mr Frog was now beside me, although he hadn’t been when I fell asleep shortly after midnight.

“T’es rentré à quelle heure, finalement?” I mumble.

“Vers deux heures trente” he replies, sheepishly.

I open my eyes. He looks terrible: pale and drawn and ten years older.

I choke back tears of pure rage and bury my head in the pillow. I realise this reaction is not going to make the poor guy feel any better, but I can’t help myself.

I have never been introduced to any of Mr Frog’s bosses at the Agency, even if they are English speakers and we could well have a lot in common. This is, I suspect, because Mr Frog is worried I might bare my teeth and growl at somebody. Or launch myself at them, fists flying (ineffectually).

I simply cannot stand to watch the client walk all over their team, making demands which become ever more unreasonable, basically amounting to “can you just bend over a bit more – yes, that’s right, the angle’s just perfect – so I can shaft you more thoroughly”. (Pardon my French, but I did warn you I was angry.) No-one dares to stand up to the client, to defend their right to a life outside work, to say, “no, what you are asking is just plain impossible, and we cannot do a U-Turn this late in the day.” But no, instead they just line up and drop their trousers.

For the last two weekends Mr Frog has worked. Both in the office, and using a borrowed laptop at home. Almost every morning he has been long gone before Tadpole and I awoke, returning hours after Tadpole’s bedtime. The way things are going this week, he won’t see her until Friday morning. Five days later.

It tears holes in my heart when I wake Tadpole in the morning and one of the first things she says is “Va voir daddy?” in a hopeful little voice. I explain, sighing, that daddy had to leave early today. She nods, but toddles off in her pyjamas to check the bathroom and the bedroom anyway. Once she’s sure I am telling the truth, she says flatly “Daddy gone. Office.”

Yesterday she blew some kisses at the front door. For daddy. Wherever he might be.

This morning was the last straw. Mr Frog had worked from 8.00 am until 2.30am. He was taking the 07.55 Thalys to Brussels, to give a powerpoint presentation about strategy to the client. On four hours sleep, after working 16 consecutive days. I heard him coughing this morning in the bathroom in a telltale way . Nerves.

I have to get him out of there, whatever it takes. Forget buying a flat, forget financial security.

Otherwise they will chew him up and spit him out and I’ll be left picking up the pieces of my broken frog off the floor.

February 21, 2005

who's your daddy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaise @ 9:30 am

Tadpole suddenly started speaking in phrases this week. French ones mind, which are not nearly half as gratifying to me as English ones. I am not yet ready to admit even to myself that French will be her dominant language, while my mother tongue is likely to be relegated to second language status.

Overnight, everything she pointed at was suddenly accompanied by a “c’est … ça.”

“C’est mummy ça”, “C’est daddy ça”, “C’est teddy ça”, “C’est quoi ça?”.

Or with a triumphant “there it is”: “Il est daddy” “Elle est mummy.”

Accompanied without exception by exaggerated finger-pointing and arm-waving. As far as gesticulation levels go, Tadpole most definitely qualifies as a French person.

Pushing Tadpole plus wobbly trolley around the supermarket (no security harness, this is France) on Saturday evening, stocking up on edible provisions for the week, (which now include various additive-laden but child-friendly snacks that I hitherto swore I would never feed my child, including fish fingers, which I am currently rediscovering), Tadpole gets it into her pretty little head that a complete stranger, who looks absolutely nothing like her father, and is at least a decade older than he is, is her daddy. The only plausible explanation I can find for this is that she was confusing the word “daddy” with the word “man”.

“C’est daddy ça!”, shouts Tadpole, loudly, with extended arm and pointy index finger.

“Er… no sweetie, that’s not your daddy. It might be someone else’s daddy though.”

We turn into the next aisle, and I begin my search for a breakfast cereal not containing ten times the recommended daily intake of sugar. A toss up between porridge oats and cornflakes, again: Rice Krispies are like gold dust in this city.

“C’est daddy ça” cries Tadpole earnestly, volume turned up a little higher. I start and look up hopefully from the packet of ‘Honey Smacks’ I am examining, wondering if daddy has actually deserted his powerpoint presentation and elected to join us in the supermarket. No such luck. Just the same man, who is not, never was, and never will be Tadpole’s father.

“Don’t be silly, it’s not your daddy,” I repeat firmly, wishing that it was, because I’m unsure how I am going to get both shopping and Tadpole home on my own, even if it is only 200m from the local Franprix to our own door.

I swing a hasty left, and pounce upon a packet of Jacobs crackers. Not because I actually like them, you understand, but because they are a brand from home, and Franprix don’t usually stock them, so I feel I have to seize the opportunity. I have an unopened bottle of HP sauce in my cupboard, also purchased at Franprix. They can keep each other company.

We take up our position in the queue.

“C’est DADDY ça, il est LÀ daddy.”

I lose my patience.

“Good grief [Tadpole], give me credit for some taste! That man is not your father!” I snap.

Tadpole is stunned into silence by my tone.

And I spend five minutes in the queue praying that the man in question isn’t an English teacher by profession.

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