petite anglaise

December 28, 2006

bandage

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 10:47 pm

I am sitting in bed, watching episodes of Desperate Housewives back to back and feeling sorry for myself. Despite the Christmas tree sparkling winsomely in the corner of the room, I have never felt less festive, or more hungover. That’s what happens when you go to a party for grown up singles on Christmas day, instead of more traditional activities such as watching the Top of the Pops Christmas special in the front room of your parents house, or sulking when your mother refuses to put any alcohol in her Christmas pudding. Grown up + singles = unfeasible amounts of drink. My liver is determined to find me a boyfriend. It’s an act of self-preservation.

The phone vibrates on the bedside table, almost making me jump out of my skin.

“Hi there,” I say to Mr Frog. “I was just thinking about phoning you. I need to think about plane tickets for the February holidays…”

“Already?” he replies. He never did understand my impulse to organise things in advance. “Well, er, that’s not why I’m phoning. My Doctor friend just stopped by to see Tadpole and I have some news.”

“About that little scab on her head?” I ask, puzzled at his rather ominous tone of voice. There has been a crusty patch above Tadpole’s right ear since she caught chickenpox back in November. It was taking a while to clear up, so I’d suggested to Mr Frog that he might want to show it to his friend if he stopped by. “Right, well, what did he say?”

“Well… it wasn’t healing right, and he actually cut off the hair around it and opened up the wound. So now she’ll need to wear a compress and a bandage around her head for two weeks…”

“A bandage? For two weeks? For a scab the size of a one euro coin? Why on earth? Was it infected or something?”

“Well, I don’t think so, but he did prescribe a week of antibiotics. And a special gel…

“Jesus,” I say, choosing my words with festive care. “Why didn’t I take her to the doctor’s earlier? I feel awful now. But it looked dry and fine and I was just expecting it to fall off any day now…”

“Hey, it’s not your fault…”

I replace the receiver.

So, the pictures of Tadpole’s Christmas this year will feature her head mummified in bandages, perhaps with a tiara perched on top to cheer her up.

And the in-laws have just spent the holiday with the gauzy white evidence of my neglect staring them squarely in the face.

Roll on 2007, things can only get better.

December 24, 2006

greeting

Filed under: Tadpole sings — petiteanglaise @ 12:58 pm

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas. Strangely, I’m not sure that Tadpole didn’t sing this one better last year.

Watch this space for news of Tadpole’s record deal.

December 20, 2006

papa noël

Filed under: Tadpole sings — petiteanglaise @ 11:51 am

I didn’t think to send a letter to Father Chrismas this year with Tadpole’s requests, largely because the only desire she has expressed is for a château fort avec des chevaliers, something which she saw in a window display at Galeries Lafayette after her gifts had already been purchased. Hopefully a turquoise velvet medieval style Princess dress will satisfy her instead.

At school, however, I discovered that a copy of the class photo has been stuck on the wall outside Tadpole’s classroom with an arrow pointing to each child and a little bubble saying what they would like from Père Noël.

Zino would like a bicycle.
Clara is hankering after a Barbie doll.
Natalie is dreaming of a Dora the explorer backpack.

I locate my daughter, grinning cheesily on the back row of the photo next to Jules, and follow the arrow to the corresponding bubble. I stifle a giggle. Tadpole’s dearest wish is apparently to receive un éléphant.

“Sweetie,” I say (but not in an AbFab kind of way, you understand), “I don’t think papa noël will be able to fit an elephant in his sleigh. There wouldn’t be enough room for all the other children’s presents…”

“But mummy,” replies Tadpole, “of course he can. It’s a MAGIC sleigh!”

Oh well. I tried. I should probably be grateful that it will be Mr Frog and his parents who will have to explain to her on Christmas morning (or more likely the evening of the 24th if they do it the French way) that elephants were out of stock this year.

December 18, 2006

playground love

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 9:21 am

We arrive at school, breathless as usual. French maternelles have a ten minute drop-off window in the mornings, ours being between 8.20 and 8.30. Latecomers must brave the Paddington stare of the stern looking directrice and the tut-tutting of her faithful assistant, so I do everything in my power not to incur their wrath. Not always easy when your toddler is capable of ripping off her own clothes at 8.15 if she suddenly decides that they are neither pink nor flowery enough.

We hang Tadpole’s coat on the hook bearing her picture (it trails on the floor, surely she isn’t that tall?) and I glance at the noticeboard. My turn to take in yoghurts for the morning snack tomorrow. And in January, there is a class trip to the cinema for which parent volunteers are required. Mr Frog mentioned at the weekend the possibility of participating. I smile to myself. Clearly he didn’t notice that the trip is scheduled from 8.30 to 12.30. Suffice to say he is not exactly a morning person.

I weigh up the pros and cons of helping out myself. Obviously I choose my own working hours, so that isn’t a problem. And it would be nice to have an opportunity to cosy up to the teachers a little and show willing. On the minus side, I can think of little more nerve-wracking than accompanying 25 under 4′s on the métro. I take the felt tip pen which is stuck to the wall with a ball of blu-tack (a misnomer, French blu-tack is yellow) and add my name to the list. I stop short of adding Mr Frog’s, but I won’t say I didn’t consider it.

As we enter the classroom, I see one of the parents handing the teacher an envelope. I freeze. Suddenly the whole thorny subject of étrennes – which I had thought would be less complicated this year as I no longer employ a childminder – rears its ugly head. Am I supposed to give the teacher a card? A present, even? I have no idea if special treatment is frowned upon in the egalitarian paradise of French state schools, or whether, like in other spheres of the French civil service, bribery and corruption are the done thing. I have four days to find out. Advice welcome.

Tadpole takes her name card from the door and places it on the board between those of her two current best friends, Hannah and Luce to signal that she is present. Her friendships change every single day. The laws of the playground apparently change little, regardless of the passage of time or the country you live in.

Mélusine, elle m’a dit qu’elle n’est plus ma copine!” she told me as we left school on Friday afternoon. She didn’t sound particularly traumatised by the fact, I have to say.

“She’s not your friend any more? Why?”

“Because Luce is my friend now.”

You can’t beat three year old logic.

“And what about boys? Do you have any friends who are boys,” I enquired mischievously. It hasn’t escaped my attention that a very attractive young blond boy with a twinkle in his eye always prances up to Tadpole when we arrive in the morning and takes her by the hand to the reading corner. His name is Jules. It is one of the names I had picked out for Tadpole, had she been a boy.

“No, I don’t like boys,” said Tadpole emphatically.

This morning, as usual, Jules approaches with a smile. Once Tadpole has given me my quota of four kisses and two cuddles I turn to the teacher for a quick chat.

When I turn to wave goodbye, I see two blond heads bent over a book.

December 13, 2006

lacune

Filed under: single life, Tadpole sings — petiteanglaise @ 8:53 pm

For Tadpole’s sake, I am valiantly struggling to make Christmas feel special.

As with all treats, like a trip to see grandma and grandad, or mamie et papy, or even just the prospect of a weekend with daddy, I enjoy whetting her appetite, watching her excitement build every time I mention it, until, finally, she reaches fever pitch. Because my own childhood memories suggest that it’s the anticipation of the event which is often the best part.

So, on Sunday, despite a mild hangover, I braved the department stores of the Boulevard Haussmann so that Tadpole could marvel at the Christmas windows. Her little ooh’s and aah’s of delight were almost worth the stranger danger terror each time I lost her pigtails from sight for a few heart-stalling seconds. The windows at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps have cunning little boardwalks erected in front of them, you see, and you are expected to dispatch your little darling onto the steps at one end, then wade through the sea of frazzled parents, stacked approximately ten deep from windows to edge of pavement, and intercept your child at the other end. There are some activities which are much more difficult as a single parent, and this most definitely qualifies.

On Monday I heaved a rather soggy Christmas tree home, a fine mist of drizzle making it difficult to see much through my glasses, and causing me to bump into several fellow pedestrians. After some head scratching, I finally remembered that my Christmas decorations had been safely stowed in Mr Frog’s cellar when I moved apartments. Once these had been duly recovered, Tadpole helped me to hang the stars and tinsel – breaking only two paper-thin baubles – and her gasp when I switched on the lights gave me all the validation I needed for spending € 25 at the florist’s for a tree which doesn’t even come up to Tadpole’s forehead.

The presents I cunningly ordered two or three weeks ago arrived from Eveil et Jeux by post yesterday. Or rather, I collected them from the local post office, where unbeknown to me they had been sitting for the past week. I dashed home to wrap them immediately, so that if they were accidentally found, the surprises would remain intact. There are only so many hiding places a 33m2 apartment can afford, and a single game of hide and seek could all too easily throw the whole enterprise into jeopardy.

Our Christmas cards – featuring a festive Tadpole wearing antlers as per usual – were written, signed (both by me and by Tadpole) and posted two days ago. Hopefully the old antlers have a few years mileage in them yet, before Tadpole reaches for a telephone to call the French equivalent of Childline.

It would appear, on the surface, that everything is in place.

And yet, somehow, my heart just isn’t in the whole thing. Whatever we do, it feels as though something, or someone is missing. An extra pair of eyes at the grands magasins, an extra pair of hands helping me to drag the tree home from the florists and hang the decorations, another person to help me choose and wrap the gifts.

There is a Mr Frog shaped hole in our Christmas preparations.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want to rekindle the flame with Mr Frog. It’s just that there’s something about Christmas which makes me yearn for his presence alongside us. Watching Tadpole’s delight alone is only half as exciting as watching it with him. Instead of catching his eye and exchanging gleeful smiles, I must content myself with sending pictures and short “guess what she’s done now!” texts to his mobile. It’s not the same.

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that there are some parental pleasures which need to be shared in order to be fully appreciated.

December 12, 2006

cough

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 1:22 am

I’ve been rather quiet of late, I realise, and this has much to do with the fact that I have to pause to cough approximately every thirty seconds and that makes most endeavours Extremely Tiresome Indeed. The worst things, I find, are cleaning my teeth and reading bedtime stories. I’m guaranteed to go into a paroxysm of noisy, eye watering coughing within seconds of inserting a toothbrush or attempting the opening sentence of “Mog’s Christmas”.

And while my French is pretty convincing these days in most situations not involving the word “frog”, I do find it tends to let me down when talking about prescription drugs and ailments. Some progress has undoubtedly been made since that fateful day a decade ago when I had an entire chemist’s shop in fits of laughter after earnestly explaining that I was suffering from a small British songbird. But there are gaping holes in my pharmaceutical vocabulary, all the same.

On Saturday, having finished swigging my Tesco chesty cough syrup from the bottle, I decided to brave one of the six pharmacies within a 100 metre radius of my apartment. Naturally I chose the one with the most attractive male assistant.

Bonjour,” I said with a smile. “J’aimerais un sirop contre la toux.” I delved into my mind for the French for a chesty cough, but drew a blank. A dry cough is most definitely a “toux sèche”, but is a chesty cough a “toux grasse”? The phrase conjured up a rather unattractive, greasy mental image so I decided against it.

C’est quel type de toux?” enquired the attractive young gentleman, as I knew he would. The simplest course of action would probably have been to give a short, spontaneous demonstration at this juncture, but for the first time that day I found myself unable to perform.

Euh. Ce n’est pas une toux sèche. Ca vient vraiment des poumons…” I replied, paraphrasing hopefully, although I’m guessing that few types of cough don’t involve lungs.

Les bronches, vous voulez dire?” Ah, pardon me, not my lungs, my bronchial tubes. Where ailments are concerned in French, the more technical the term, the better. This is after all the country where a common cold is referred to as a rhinopharyngite.

“Oui. Je vais voir un médecin si ça persiste… c’est un peu dégueulasse.” Oh, how I wished I could have taken that last comment back, on the grounds that it constituted too much information. But no, it was too late, he was now going to pursue another line of questioning and seek to ascertain the precise colour of my phlegm.

Ah, c’est coloré?

Oui, effectivement,” I stuttered, mortified. I should have stuck with “toux grasse”. Why in god’s name didn’t I trust my instincts and go with “toux grasse”?

I took the bottle and inspected it. No codeine, more’s the pity.

Je peux vous proposer autre chose aussi,” added the attractive pharmacist. I eyed him suspiciously. An expectorant suppository perhaps? Some sea water to squirt up my nose?

A few minutes later, my wallet considerably lighter, I stepped back out into the drizzle and inspected my purchase dejectedly. Nose drops. Water, bicarbonate of soda and some parabens for good measure. A carcinogenic cocktail to “pulverise” my nostrils with, four times a day.

If the attractive pharmacist hadn’t scrawled his phone number on the back of the receipt, I think I would have wept.

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