petite anglaise

May 4, 2008

profile

Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaise @ 11:06 pm

Choosing ‘writer’ from the drop down list of professions when I came to fill in my online dating profile was a decision I would come to regret. It seemed to bring out the very worst in my suitors. A couple of hundred extremely verbose, overwritten emails later and it’s no wonder I found The Boy’s one-line dig about my taste in TV so refreshing.

That makes a change from ‘j’ai cru voir un ange passer en regardant ton profil’ I thought to myself, enjoying the sensation of not feeling like I was going to throw up into my mouth, for once. I clicked through to my provocateur’s profile and took a look. There was a single black and white photo: short hair, six o’clock shadow. Either squinting into the sunlight or frowning. Or both.

I found his profile blurb amusing. Using the simple ‘j’aime/j’aime pas‘ format was not wildly original, but the things he professed to like were random and thoughtful enough to pique my interest. Among them were: penguins and otters; bananas flambéed with rum; raw scallops; curling; bad jokes; magic; history books; Desproges (plus several other writers I’d never heard of); bad weather when I’m warm indoors; sleeping; my apartment; living in Belleville…

I replied to his email, defending my taste in TV and noting that we appeared to be neighbours and ought to maybe meet for an apéro Aux Folies sometime. I had this vague idea that it would be nice to make a friend in my neighbourhood. Nothing more than that, because my head was elsewhere. Over the past few weeks I’d made obsessing about a frustratingly elusive man I’d met on the same dating site almost a full-time occupation. Going out to meet him, refusing to read the billboard-sized signs that he just saw me as a friend/drinking buddy, making excuses for his rebuttals (‘he’s damaged, he has issues, I’ll overcome them…’) and generally breaking every single rule of ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’. (Another thing I can’t read without a little bit of bile creeping up my throat).

I finally set up a date with The Boy after a resounding rebuttal involving a fruitless sleepover. Time to diversify, I said to myself. And so I dug out The Boy’s MSN address and popped up on the screen of his work computer late one Wednesday afternoon.

Almost a year later, and a little over a month before we say ‘I do’ (or, to be more accurate, ‘oui‘) I’m struck by how true everything in his dating profile was. I’ve witnessed the bad jokes firsthand, adopted him an otter for Valentine’s day, inspected his bookshelves and marvelled at his ability to sleep through just about anything. It’s all true. Every last word.

So this week I shall be adding rum to the shopping list. It’s about time I tasted those bananas.

February 22, 2008

permission

Filed under: mills & boon, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 10:15 am

The Boy and Tadpole return from their pilgrimage to McDonalds. The Boy is looking disproportionately pleased with himself, far more so than the feat of having hunted and gathered a happy meal and a couple of burgers would usually warrant.

“What have you two been up to?” I ask, suspiciously, as I unpack Tadpole’s chicken nuggets and arrange them on a proper plate – which increases the nutritional value of the food tenfold, because it is no longer takeaway – and set the Asterix toy aside for later.

“We had a very important conversation, she and I, while we were queuing up to be served,” says The Boy, unwrapping his own dinner. “N’est-ce pas biquette?”

Tadpole nods, her mouth full of nugget. We’ve both grown used to being referred to as a “small female goat”, The Boy’s favoured term of endearment.

“Go on…” I say, wondering what on earth the terrible two have been plotting behind my back.

“Well,” says The Boy, pausing to bite, chew and swallow, enjoying keeping me on tenterhooks, “I asked your daughter if it was okay for me to marry you… It’s the done thing, you know, when someone already has children, to ask their permission.” I feel rather emotional all of a sudden, tears prickling the back of my eyes. What a lovely thing to do. Even if McDonalds wasn’t the venue I would have chosen for such a conversation.

“And what did she say?” I ask, wiping some ketchup from Tadpole’s chin with a serviette. I don’t think she has even heard our exchange. She’s selectively deaf at the best of times, but especially so when focused on food.

“She said that she thought it was a very good idea for us to marry ourselves,” the Boy replies. “And then we got talking about princess dresses and flowers, as you do… But when I said ‘you’re going to look just like a princess’, she said the loveliest thing…” He takes another bite, spinning out his story for as long as possible.

“I did say that it’s not me who will be the princess on that day,” pipes up Tadpole suddenly. Apparently she has been listening in, all along. “Because it’s mummy who will be the princess, not me. I’ll just be a little princess. Or a middle-sized. But you will be the real one, that day.”

I smile, under cover of my Royal Cheese, my eyes moist. “What a double act you are, you two,” I say, when I’ve recovered my composure. Then, turning to The Boy: “And what would you have done if she had said ‘no’?”

February 13, 2008

question

Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaise @ 5:09 pm

It is New Year’s Day morning.

After a damp squib of a New Year’s Eve involving a disappointing soirée under the Pont Alexandre III, a predictable lack of taxis in the vicinity of the Champs Elysées and rather more walking in the icy early hours wearing a gauzy dress and stockings than was advisable whilst heavy with cold, The Boy and I are dozing in bed.

To say The Boy is not a morning person would be something of an understatement. Upwards of four heavily sugared espressos and two cigarettes are required before he is able to manage anything approaching speech, and displays of affection the wrong side of midday are rare. I’ve learnt not to take this behaviour personally and, indeed, have grown rather fond of his habitual morning grimace: eyes scrunched tightly closed so as not to let in the merest chink of light, brow furrowed, lips pursed.

So when he wakes for a moment, rolls over and snuggles into my shoulder, his arm creeping around me, I am surprised and pleased and touched. And suddenly the question I’d been carrying around with me for three whole days in Amsterdam – never quite managing to find the right moment – wells up and, before I can stop myself, crosses my lips.

“I think I’d like to…” I say, shyly.

I regret the “I think” afterwards, because it doesn’t sound, well, sure enough. I also regret the fact that I addressed my question to somewhere slightly northwest of his collarbone instead of gazing deeply into his brown eyes.

“Um, can you ask me again later? When I’m awake?” replies the Boy, groggily.

“Yes. Of course,” I mumble.

I’m mortified. Groaning on the inside. But there is nothing I can do now except wait. And see whether he chooses to remember our exchange when he wakes up.

Several hours later, I open my eyes to a vision of The Boy – showered, dressed and perched on the edge of the bed – looking at me intently with an odd expression on his face. Somehow he manages to remind me of the dramatic chipmunk and a lovestruck puppy, simultaneously.

“That question you asked me earlier… Did you mean it?” he says slowly as I blink and rub the sleep from my eyes. “Because if you did… then the answer is YES.”

For a moment the only sound is my sharp intake of breath. Then I hug him tightly. I don’t think I’d ever got as far as imagining beyond actually popping the question, and I have no idea what to do, or say, next.

T’es pas dans la merde là!” says The Boy – who I realise will need a name change, now that he has been promoted to Husband-to-be – with a grin. That seals the deal: together, we have managed to make this a scene we will never be able to recount to our grandchildren.

Neither of us dares refer to the subject for the rest of the day. I think we are both in shock.

January 2, 2008

squawk

Filed under: mills & boon, on the road — petiteanglaise @ 2:35 pm

I spent most of my Christmas in the UK wishing I had it in me to behave in a more diva-ish fashion. Because if I’d stamped my foot and point blank refused to pose for photographs outdoors, minus my coat, in sub-zero temperatures the previous week, I wouldn’t have wound up in bed. Feverish. Aching. Counting the minutes until I could have my next fix of paracetamol.

As it was, Tadpole had to open the presents under grandma and grandad’s tree sans moi and I had to content myself with second hand accounts of how she stumbled blindly around the living room with an upturned Santa’s sack on her head. Let’s hope those pesky photos – due to run in forthcoming editions of Weekend Knack (Belgium – next week, I think) and Marie Claire UK (April issue) – were worth the pain. I doubt it somehow. Photogenic I am not.

It was something of a relief that I appeared to be on the road to recovery when I joined the Boy in Paris and we boarded a Thalys on Friday morning, bound for Amsterdam. Granted, I was still rather hoarse. When I attempted to speak, I sounded like a cross between a forty-a-day Gaulloise smoker and a teenage boy with a breaking voice. ‘C’est pas grave, ça me fera des vraies vacances‘ said The Boy with a teasing smile.

Suffice to say that my indignant reply lost much of its force when it came out as a strangled squawk.

There followed three days of strolling through parks and along canals hand in hand, pausing at regular intervals for a restorative hot chocolate with whipped cream, and using my convalescence as an excuse to retire early and rise late. (Do hotels make everyone feel, um, frisky, or is it just me?) The weather was perfect: mild temperatures, blue skies, low winter sun striking huge windows and bathing them in warm, golden light. We meandered in ever decreasing circles – no matter which direction we took, we seemed to end up at the same point (Hotel de l’Europe) time and time again – admiring the architecture and peering inside the houses (the Dutch don’t seem to favour net curtains). We wandered through the red light district – disappointing, I got far better underwear inspiration from watching Billie Piper play Belle de Jour – and stopped in coffee shops, bars and cafés to rest our feet.

And all the while I pondered when would be the right time to ask the Boy a question. Something that had been simmering at the back of my mind for a while. I almost blurted it out when we were sitting on a bench by a particularly picturesque stretch of canal. A little later, warm and fuzzy from a 9.5% proof Trappist beer, I had to rein myself in again. The timing never seemed quite right, and my voice simply couldn’t be trusted.

We boarded the Thalys on Sunday afternoon and as I settled into my seat and accepted my first cup of coffee from the trilingual waitress I couldn’t help feeling a pang of disappointment.

Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?‘ asked the Boy. I hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath. And decided to hold my peace a little longer.

October 22, 2007

neighbours

Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaise @ 7:30 pm

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t marvel at the fact that, even though the Boy lives in my street – our respective apartment blocks separated by four hundred metres, tops – our paths would most likely never have crossed if it wasn’t for an online dating site.

The chances of our striking up a conversation, even there – where a recherche rapide just yielded over a thousand members living in Paris and aged between 30 and 45 – were extremely slim. My search criteria, back in May, included that very age range. And the Boy, back in May, was 29. He’d only signed up for a month, and we made contact days before his subscription ended. It could all so easily never have come to pass.

Neither of us has any memory of who clicked on the other’s profile. Perhaps I was doing one of my targeted searches. Looking for people with cool jobs (I had a penchant for musicians, graphic designers and writers at the time) or scrolling through the pages of mugshots of men in my arrondissement, looking for interesting faces. In which case I may have sent him a “flash” – the dating site’s equivalent of a facebook “poke”.

What I do know – because I’ve kept it – is that the Boy sent me a curt email regarding my taste in TV series (how could I possibly think ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ was on a par with ‘House’?) and his rather provocative one-line missive stood out among hundreds of others I left unanswered, peppered with cringeworthy phrases (even for a hopeless romantic like myself) such as “j’ai cru voir un ange passer en regardant ton profil” or “il y a quelque chose dans ton regard qui m’interpelle…

We bounced a few short emails back and forth, still on the subject of TV, and I half-heartedly floated the idea of having a drink in our neighbourhood sometime, without any real conviction. Either he was playing it incredibly cool, I thought to myself, or he simply wasn’t all that keen. And as it was, at the time I was altogether too busy being infatuated with someone ridiculously unsuitable who was sending signals so mixed that deciphering them was a full-time occupation.

One fine day, after a resounding rebuttal, I went back online and set up two dates, one with a certain Fred, and one with the Boy, both of whom I had been mentally holding in reserve for a rainy day. We chatted on MSN for a few minutes, the Boy and I, and it was fun. The way the banter flowed, I was almost certain we’d get on in the flesh. It could be really cool to have a friend in the neighbourhood, I thought. I couldn’t imagine anything more than friendship: my head was still elsewhere… And frankly, the Boy was a little on the young side, at least on paper.

We met for an early evening drink Aux Folies, at the foot of the rue de Belleville, on a bank holiday Thursday. Fred (sweet guy, zero sparks) I met a few hours earlier in a pub in the Marais, after a pre-date(s) warm up lunch with a couple of good friends.

An apéro became a couple of drinks, then morphed into dinner in a nearby Thai restaurant. Dinner blurred into a couple more drinks and an invitation back to his apartment for a ‘nightcap’. It all seemed so natural, so easy – as opposed to the tortured and stressful evenings I’d been spending deluding myself about unsuitable, disinterested guy and his intentions – but there was a part of me, right up until the moment when we snuggled up on the sofa and he began to gently stroke my arm, that had decided he would make a fantastic friend, but nothing more. I was loath to jeopardize this budding friendship by having a one night stand. But when I said so, out loud, the Boy responded by planting a kiss on my lips.

Five months down the line, I still I marvel at how easy it would have been, as Tadpole would say, for us Ever Never to meet.

September 10, 2007

holiday

Filed under: mills & boon, on the road — petiteanglaise @ 4:28 pm

Of course, despite the inauspicious start to our holiday, I needn’t have worried.

We catch our flight with time to spare (Easyjet Paris/Athens), enjoy a leisurely lunch (and the first of many cafés frappés) while we wait for the catamaran I’d pre-booked (yes, there is a limit to just how much I’m willing to improvise) to take us from Piraeus to Santorini. The owner of the hotel where we are due to stay for the first three nights comes to fetch us from the port when we realise we’ve arrived in the middle of the annual firework display and taxis are somewhat few and far between.

Spiros (yes, really) shows us to our room – more of an apartment really, with a mezzanine level in the curve of its whitewashed roof – and my jaw drops as I step out onto the balcony with its panoramic view of the whole west coast of Santorini: the broken outline of the volcano’s crater visible across the water, the lights of what must be the towns of Thira and Oia perched atop the cliffs opposite.

“We’re on holiday,” I say gleefully, for the twentieth time that day, as I slip an arm around the Boy’s waist.

He gives me that look. The same look he reserves for particularly sinful looking cream cakes when we walk past pâtisseries back home in Paris.

The look that makes my spine tingle.

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