petite anglaise

November 28, 2007

hump

Filed under: Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 12:03 pm

While Tadpole splashes merrily in the bath, her legs pressed together into her best impression of a mermaid’s tail, I decide to get changed. I take my MILF status very seriously, which means my cotton underwear must make way for something a little more transparent and titillating before the Boy returns home from work.

I remove my jeans and underwear, frowning at Tadpole, who appears to find my nudity a cause for hilarity.

“What on earth is so funny?” I ask, my cheeks reddening a little.

“I just laughing at your bottom,” Tadpole explains, between giggles. “It’s so big. And FAT. Like a whale.” Tadpole holds up a turquoise whale to illustrate her point – it’s one of the anti-slip shapes which adhere to the bottom of our bathtub – and traces the curve of its back with her index finger.

“A whale?” I splutter, both amused and horrified. “My bottom is like a whale?”

“Yes, like a whale,” Tadpole confirms. “Or a mountain.” She ponders for a moment, evidently searching for another simile. “Mummy…?”

“Mhm.”

“How do you say in English the bosse of a camel?”

November 23, 2007

working title

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaise @ 12:07 pm

In between having a final look at the revised proofs for “petite” and fielding emails about things related to the publication/publicity of the same in various territories I’m mostly playing around with lots of ideas related to book two at the moment.

The contracts I signed back in October last year referred to book two simply as “untitled work, 80-100,000 words, fiction or non fiction”. My agent had explained when we first met that it was common for publishers to sign a new writer up for two books, and that this would be a good option to take as long as I didn’t find the prospect too daunting. I did find it daunting, terribly so, but I was also very conscious that I wanted to be seen as more than just “petite anglaise”, so I bit the bullet. There followed many months where I did my very best to bury my head in the sand and put “untitled” out of my mind completely. The December 2008 deadline seemed an awfully long way away, and I had more pressing matters to attend to, such as writing book one.

Luckily the germ of an idea was born while I was working on my memoir, and began quietly taking shape in my mind while I was occupied doing other things. So when I sat down to start defining book two in September, I realised I was in possession of a fairly clear idea of the overarching story and that I had an awful lot I wanted to say. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt when I started noting down scores of possible scenes and wore my pencil down to a stub.

So, here I am, after several months of editing and proofing (and holidays), back in the writing saddle again. Back to counting words obsessively and calculating how much they represent as a fraction of the Whole Thing. Back to printing out the work so far so that I can see that the stack of papers is slowly growing thicker, and looking more manuscript-like. Back to scribbling fragments of sentences in my notebook and on post it notes when I think of something I desperately want to use somehow.

In some ways it’s easier because I’ve done it once before. I know what normal is, for me. I know that there will be days when I’ll spew out a thousand words, others where I’ll manage only half that amount, and others still where I’ll find myself obsessively re-writing a previous section, losing all track of time and agonising over a single sentence for half an hour or more. I know that there will be phrases that float to the front of my mind and make me laugh out loud with glee when I think of them, but that these may or may not seem good by the time I get to the final draft, and may not even make the final cut.

What I don’t have, as yet, is a title for book two, 80-100,000 words, fiction.

So in the interests of making the little yellow folder on my desktop seem a non-threatening place, I’ve given it the working title of “motherfucker”, or “MF”, for short. My sincere apologies if this language offends anyone, but personally, it brings a smile to my lips every time I see it. I should hasten to add that this title shouldn’t be taken as an indication that I intend to encroach on OneTrack territory. Not at all. I’m quite happy to leave the sex writing to the sexperts. The only clue to be gleaned from this title, if any, is that the protagonist may just be a mother.

This codename makes me smile because it calls to mind an exchange I had with The Boy a couple of weeks after we first met. We were talking about our respective families, and it transpired that his mother and I had several things in common. A shared Christian name. A shared profession. Single parenthood.

“Motherfucker,” I said with a snigger, without giving any explanation whatsoever.

The Boy frowned at first, unsure of just what he had done to deserve such an insult, but then in a blinding flash he suddenly grasped my meaning. Oddly, before I pointed it out to him, he hadn’t joined the dots himself; hadn’t realised that he appeared to have selected a mate who rather resembled his mother.

He retorted by calling me his MILF, a term which required a degree of explanation, given that I am something of a porn philistine.

November 15, 2007

amoureux

Filed under: misc, Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 1:45 pm

To say that Tadpole rarely shares insights about her secret life in the moyenne section of our local maternelle would be something of an understatement. Invariably, on the way home from school, we have a conversation which goes something like this.

Me: “So, what did you do today?”

Tadpole: “Just some things.”

Me: “What did you have for lunch?”

Tadpole: “I can’t remember. But you can look on the computer, mummy, can’t you…?”

Which is why I was rather taken by surprise when she randomly launched into a playground anecdote over dinner yesterday evening. An anecdote which concerned a boy who was in her class last year. I am still at a loss to understand what caused the memory to surface just then.

“Mummy?” says Tadpole between mouthfuls of canneloni (from which I have scraped all trace of bechamel sauce, at her behest). “When I was three years old and I was in the other class at school…” – she holds up three fingers in case I need help understanding the concept – “…one day I did go in the playground with Youssouf while the other children were doing music.”

“Mmhm?” I repy, stabbing several green beans onto her fork, because for some reason, even though Tadpole is perfectly capable of feeding herself, she generally loses the will to eat after approximately five mouthfuls in the evenings and I have to step unwillingly into the breach.

“And I did ask Youssouf ‘tu es mon amoureux?‘ and he said ‘oui‘ and we did hold hands for a little while,” Tadpole continues.

I like the word ‘amoureux‘. The Boy often uses it when introducing me to a friend of his for the first time. I like to think of it as a combination of ‘beloved’ and ‘lover’ – literally it means ‘the person I’m in love with’. It’s so much nicer than ‘ma copine‘ (too impersonal, it could designate any female friend) or ‘ma petite copine‘ (even if I am used to answering to the name ‘petite‘). What the term ‘amoureux‘ implies to a four-year-old though, I’m far from sure.

“Is Youssouf still your amoureux now?” I enquire, setting down the fork for a moment.

“No. He did have the nez coulé and it wasn’t very nice,” Tadpole explains with a grimace. I freeze. Just how close did my daughter get to that runny nose of his?

“And, um, do you have an amoureux now?”

“I play with Dinah now,” Tadpole replies. “And Youssouf, he plays with Hicham.” This, I surmise, could mean one of two things. That their short-lived relationship was so traumatic that it drove both of them into the arms of a same-sex partner, or that amoureux, to Tadpole, simply means ‘best friend’.

“So, who is mummy’s amoureux?” I ask, keen to test my theory immediately.

“You have two,” says Tadpole, with a triumphant smile that means she is convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt she knows the correct answer. “Daddy… And Meg.”

I heave a sigh of relief.

November 6, 2007

princess shoes

Filed under: on the road, Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 11:58 pm

It is a week in which I’ve already made two Paris-London-Paris trips on the Eurostar, complete with identical on-board meals of hachis parmentier and a very bland slice of bakewell tart on both Sunday and Wednesday evenings, and adjusted my watch five times (albeit a little slow on the uptake the day that daylight saving time was adopted, having completely forgotten).

On Thursday, Tadpole and I board a flight to Leeds. I pore over the in-flight magazine, wondering what my collection of loose change can buy us for lunch. I would appear to have exactly £7.70. Just enough to procure one “junior snack pack” and a still mineral water (for her) plus one packet of mini-cheddars and a coffee/kitkat combo (for me). Not the most nutritious meal, with not a hint of the requisite five servings of fruit or vegetables, but we’ve had worse. I wedge the magazine into the seat pocket in front of me and settle back in my seat, closing my eyes for a moment, waiting for the attendants to reach us.

Tadpole is studying the laminated safety card with fierce intent.

“Mummy?”

“Mhm?” I mumble, without opening my eyes.

“Why does a cross sometimes mean a kiss but sometimes it means ‘no, you CAN’T do THAT’? Those two things are not the same at ALL, are they?”

“I suppose you’re right,” I say, opening my eyes and leaning forwards to rummage in my handbag for moleskine and a pencil, nostils flaring. I smell a blog post in the making: Tadpole appears to be on fine form today. “So… what does it say that we’re not allowed to do, on the card?”

“It says no cigarette,” says Tadpole primly. “But that’s alright because me and you, we don’t fume any cigarette, do we?” I shake my head. “And it says no telephone…” she pauses and looks at me accusingly. “Why did you bring your telephone, mummy? It’s not allowed, it says it here!”

“Ah, I’m allowed to bring it, you see, but I am supposed to switch it off…” I fumble in my handbag once more and re-read my last message from the Boy, for the nth time, before complying.

“Why are those people going on a toboggan?” Tadpole wonders aloud, pointing at the picture of a landing at sea – I love the fact that there is a proper French word for this: “amerissage” which somehow makes it sound like something utterly banal and routine, and not at all like an exceptional emergency occurrence – in which several people are calmly gliding down an inflatable slide, minus their baggage and shoes. I decide not to evoke the possibility of planes falling unexpectedly out of the sky and mumble something implausible about people using slides when there aren’t any spare sets of stairs handy at the airport, instead. No sense in worrying her. Flying has hitherto been as natural to Tadpole as taking a taxi, and I wouldn’t want to change that. Pointing at the next picture, I lure her eyes away before she has time to register that the runway is blue and slightly squiggly.

“What do you think this one means?” I say, tapping my finger against a picture of an unfeasibly high stilletto shoe with a bold black cross through it.

“No princess shoes,” Tadpole replies with unshakable certainty.

Chortling, I reach for my pencil.

November 1, 2007

tea

Filed under: book stuff, on the road — petiteanglaise @ 1:16 pm

I’m not sure exactly what I expected when invited to take afternoon tea at The Wolseley with the non fiction “tzar” from a well known UK bookseller’s.

Clotted cream, scones and gleaming silverwear, certainly. Champagne was an unexpected, but not unwelcome surprise. Banter peppered with references to various celebutards and their ghostwritten “auto”biographies seemed par for the course.

This is delightful, I thought to myself, scanning the room with interest. You can’t take the Heat reader out of this girl, no matter how posh a frock she’s donned for the occasion.

But a lengthy discussion about why most women seem blissfully unaware of their correct cup size and persist in wearing ill-fitting bras for life? Whatever I did expect, it certainly wasn’t three women and one man putting their heads together to puzzle over why the soutien gorge (why gorge incidentally? French reader?) can be sized double D or double A, but you never clap eyes on a BB or a CC?

As I clattered down the steps into Green Park station to catch yet another Eurostar, clutching our leftover cakes in their immaculate cardboard box, I smiled to myself.

It just goes to show that one never can be fully prepared for meetings.

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