My life is no longer quite so French as it was.
Exit croissants, baguettes and warm goats cheese salads. These days I seem to be mostly eating granary toast with marmalade, bacon (admittedly the streaky, French version which is distressingly inferior) sandwiches with ketchup or HP sauce, or tucking into a nice piece of mature cheddar with some Branston pickle. On my last trip to Yorkshire, I returned with a suitcase bulging with the best that Tesco had to offer. Including 240 teabags.
Exit French cable TV, which for a princely sum currently offers only one decent programme in English per week (Desperate Housewives, at long last), and enter slightly illegal Sky TV at the weekends, so that I can indulge my fondness for BBC2 comedy or Channel 4 drama. And regale Tadpole with such delights as Bob the Builder in version originale. She now squawks “Can we fix eet?” every time she spies a digger.
It feels like by leaving Mr Frog for my English Lover, I have taken one more step away from my original aim: becoming “almost French”.
I wrote last year about how my initial enthusiasm for all things French, which had begun in my first French lesson at Mill Mount Grammar School for girls at the age of 11, and culminated in my moving to Paris in September 1995, had started to wane perceptibly. Where once I had watched indiscriminately whatever was broadcast on French terrestrial TV to “improve my French”, read only French novels and eaten only French food, as a matter of principle, I suddenly found myself yearning for English language and culture.
Clearly I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
It was time, I decided, to cut myself some slack. Living in France didn’t have to mean total assimilation, and indeed, if I didn’t watch out, my mother tongue would ultimately suffer. “Target language deprivation,” as a commenter helpfully pointed out, is a very real phenomenon, and can result in expats speaking a dreadful bastardised version of their mother tongue after a few years away from the mothership. To combat this, I signed up for cable TV and bought English books from W H Smiths. And binged on English culture. I even watched Eastenders religiously for a number of years, although, thankfully, I have now managed to kick that unfortunate habit.
The next step was changing my job, and I swapped a Franco-French office where I had never really felt anyone knew the “real me” for an English company where two thirds of the staff were British, and we all went for beers on Fridays.
Despite all this, at the end of the day, I still came home to a French partner, and socialised with his French friends.
Nowadays all that has changed, and I am faced with the delightful prospect of renovating a crumbling farmhouse, with a huge satellite dish perched atop the roof, greedily hoovering English television from the airwaves, in the British enclave that is Brittany. Eating English breakfasts with my English Lover, and washing it all down with cup upon cup of PG tips.
Somehow, if I ever do get my papers together and apply for French nationality, I rather think the fonctionnaires will laugh in my English face.