petite anglaise

November 1, 2013


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 12:00 am

My name is Catherine Sanderson. Petite Anglaise was my blogging pseudonym from 2004 until 2009. For the first two years, I blogged anonymously about my life in France, about parenting a bilingual child and, very occasionally, recounted something funny that had happened at my anonymous workplace. It was the latter that got me into hot water, costing me my job.

A French employment tribunal ruled that I had been unlawfully dismissed and awarded me a settlement, because when all was said and done, writing a post, say, about falling down the stairs in my unidentifiable office and snoring while I was out cold was embarrassing, in a Bridget Jones kind of way, but not in breach of any codes of confidentiality. Whatever the rights or wrongs, getting fired was a thoroughly unpleasant experience, and if I could turn back the clock, the “working girl” category of this blog probably wouldn’t exist.

A few journalists were to be found among my daily readers, and hence the story of my sacking found itself in newspapers and quickly spiralled out of control, resulting in the loss of my anonymity (which I regret) and a bidding war among several publishers (somewhat surreal, to say the least). I pocketed a tidy sum (which I couldn’t help feeling I didn’t really deserve) and took some time out from office life to give writing for a living my best shot.

“Petite anglaise”, a memoir based on the experience of writing this blog, was published in several languages and countries around the world in 2008. I still get a warm feeling every time an email lands in my inbox from a random stranger halfway around the world who enjoyed reading it. Sales were respectable enough for a first time author, hitherto unknown, but far beneath my publishers’ expectations. I also tried my hand at writing a novel, “French Kissing” (my title was actually “Rendez-vous”, the name of the fictional Meetic-like dating site at its core, but authors have less control than you’d imagine over ‘details’ like covers and titles) which, let’s be honest, still borrowed heavily from real events and was populated with characters based on people I knew.

But my inspiration had dried up, and I no longer felt comfortable writing about my own life or borrowing from those of my friends. The end of my writing experiment coincided with the birth of my second child, in 2009. I haven’t put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard?) since, and who knows if I ever will.

With hindsight, personal blogging lost much of its attraction for me when I could no longer hide behind a pseudonym and although after the ink was dry on the book deal, I felt obligated to continue updating my blog until the books had made it onto the supermarket shelves, my heart was no longer in it.

These days I have very little internet presence. As a mother of two with a full-time office job, I’m too busy to tweet and update facebook, and probably more paranoid than most parents about my childrens’ internet footprints, having experienced firsthand the pitfalls of oversharing.

But, having weighed up the pros and cons, I’ve decided to leave my blog online, intact, for posterity. Readers of my books rather like to be able to visit to sift through the original source material. And my daughter still gets a kick out of hearing the song she made up about splitting her lip just before her fourth birthday.

Above all, if the story of how an anonymous blog once cost me my job is to hang around in the internet ether to haunt me for many years to come, I feel I shouldn’t allow only second-hand accounts tell my story.


  1. Oh thats a shame you are no longer blogging, i have just read your book from the library and are now going to order one as i feel its something i will read over, dont give up writing you have a talent the book was wonderful, sad and funny and i loved it, hope your happyx

    Comment by Sally Harper — October 17, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

  2. hey petite i cant imagine that all that happened to u im still reading your book its awesome really and about your relationship to Mr. Frog ….I cant stop reading …im also a big fan of paris and sometimes i think you think the same like me couse there is also a man in my live ….he is french

    Comment by MaryMari — November 23, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  3. Don’t know why this turned up in my reader on a dark November evening in 2013. Just want to say thanks for what you shared, it added to my life. Good luck!

    Comment by Tim — November 26, 2013 @ 9:29 am

  4. Give it a few years. Your children are young and so are you. I think you will find you have another chapter…

    Comment by MarieLaura — May 29, 2014 @ 5:01 am

  5. I read your book years ago and while I really enjoyed it, I couldn’t fully appreciate it until a few years later when I too split from the father of my daughter when she was just a toddler. I thought of you often over that period, thankful I’d happened upon your book; empathy is a wonderful medicine. I happened to look up today and saw it on my bookshelf and wondered after you, and decided to pop in. I’m very glad you’ve decided to leave the blog up for posterity; absolutely wonderful decision. I haven’t read your second book but I plan to start hunting it down; I really appreciated the raw honesty in your first, and I like your style of writing.
    Hope you’re well. If you ever do get that itch – we’ll all still be here.

    Comment by Marisa — July 2, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

  6. Have loved keeping up-to-date with petite anglaise. Sorry you’re no longer blogging, but all good things must come to an end. time to get on, but many, many thanks for what you have shared. Regards, and all the best, Bob.

    Comment by RobertSwallow — August 23, 2014 @ 12:30 am

  7. Hello Catherine. Like you, I am enamoured with la belle France and have been exploring its waterways for the last 15 years on my Dutch cruiser. My ninety-nine year old mother had a stroke some months ago and after she had been staying with my sister I brought her back to her cottage in a retirement village in Margate – South Africa – to care for her before I return to France in June. Like you, I have had wonderfully rich experiences with the opposite sex, all of whom have been French. When I enter a bookshop or library the first thing I care to look for are books with France as a subject. The library here at the village is one of the best I have visited, those in the provinces of France included. By sheer fluke I picked up your Petite Anglaise and chose it mainly because it announced itself to be a work of non-fiction, which is the genre of choice for me. I have never read a blog in my life but having read your book I can understand why you had many thousands of followers. You are a natural to my mind and so many of the vignettes that you describe had resonance with my own interpersonal experiences. The challenges that you have faced and the manner in which you responded to them have given me a wonderful insight and have challenged me to reassess my own – those of the past and the one of the present. Thank you for helping me to open my eyes a little wider to do this.

    Comment by Terence — March 19, 2015 @ 10:41 pm

  8. i miss you, petite anglais. hope your life has turned out even better than you expected. bisous.

    Comment by harrysmom (@harrysmom1) — April 16, 2015 @ 6:10 pm

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