petite anglaise

December 27, 2004

death by stapler

Filed under: french touch, missing blighty — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:42 pm

Christmas hasn’t happened for me yet.

It matters not how expensive the foie gras, nor how crisp and chilled the champagne. These things do not Christmas make. I am painfully aware of this fact after spending a profoundly unfestive weekend at the In Laws’ place.

The Frog is an only child, and this means that around the dinner table on Christmas Eve(ning), when Christmas dinner traditionally takes place in France, were Mr Frog, his parents and I. Tadpole was sleeping. No festive decorations adorned the table, and dinner was, quite frankly, nothing special. Either MIL is losing her touch, or I am not quite so easily impressed as in days gone by when Mr Frog and I first met. The foie gras lacked gros sel to sprinkle on top, the salmon looked rather forlorn without a marinade, or at the very least a wedge of lemon. Main course was a minuscule caille (guineau fowl) and there were no vegetables, only salad. I don’t think the EVILs are fond of the traditional French yule log dessert, bûche, so there was a rather bland ice cream version.

The FIL proudly uncorked his bottle of Pauillac Grand Cru Classé and proceeded to steer the conversation on a familiar tour of all the usual subjects: why Mr Frog and I need to find time to do some sport, why we need to buy a flat immediately, why we shouldn’t go on a wintersun holiday because skiing holidays are healthier, repeat to fade… Any controversial statement was backed up with ‘I saw it on the telly the other day’. Mention of television made me think wistfully of Eastenders’ double bills and other UK delights I would be missing.

Mr Frog manages to remain unruffled as his father tells us to how to live every aspect of our lives. I on the other hand, emboldened by a few glasses of claret, tend to get quite defensive and irritated. Pray tell how Mr Frog is supposed to find time to go a gym when he works 14 hour days and rarely sees Tadpole and I as it is? How can an armchair traveler who has never taken a plane and rarely left France tell me what to do with my precious holiday time? On the subject of buying an apartment, I do agree with him on the necessity to buy sometime soon, except I’d like an attractive flat in an old building, similar to the one we currently rent, and FIL would like to see us in a functional, characterless 70’s block of flats.

The meal was rounded off nicely with the exchanging of gifts. Mr Frog had virtually nothing to unwrap, as he had not yet made up his mind exactly which bag he wanted me to buy for him (a posh rucksack, not a French manbag, I hasten to add), nor which ski gloves he wanted his mum to buy (to keep his hands warm when traveling to work on his Vespa).

I, on the other hand, was spoiled rotten. I am now the proud owner of a waterproof poncho and an electric stapler.


Okay. I’ll admit that I have been saying to Mr Frog for quite some time that it is impossible to steer a pushchair and hold an umbrella at the same time, meaning that ferrying Tadpole to and from the childminder’s place in inclement weather can be rather a moistening experience. But there are some things which are just too practical and boring to be given as Christmas gifts. Surely? As for the electric stapler (pink, batteries not included), well, words fail me. The last thing I need on my desk at work is something to remind me that MIL is going a bit loopy as retirement beckons. Mr Frog has one too (blue) and is as perplexed about this choice of gift as I.

Perhaps it can be used as a weapon?

Dear Mum,

I may have criticised your Christmas dinners on occasion (I am referring specifically to my comment that it was ‘a glorified Sunday lunch’, whereas French Christmas dinner was more elegant and refined) but I now take it all back. I’d prefer your overcooked meat, roast potatoes and lashings of veggies any day. No matter how much bickering there might be between my sisters and I, no matter how tipsy dad will get, this weekend has brought home to me forcefully that you lot are what Christmas is all about for me.

Can’t wait to see you all tomorrow!



  1. Oh dear, I understand the frustration bubbling away beneath the complaint about the “gifts” – feelings to which you are completely entitled in the face of such pedestrian, unimaginative presents. My son recently expressed his disapproval of a Xmas offering my brother purchased for his girlfriend (they have been living together for eight years now) – his token of undying love and affection was an iron. Can you imagine the disappointment of unwrapping such a practical instrument of female subordination, although I suspect his intentions were to sweeten the domestic drudgery…my son was appalled, which afforded me the opportunity of reiterating my advice to him that no woman wants a gift like that at Xmas. He nodded in agreement. I was lucky enough to be given exactly what I wanted. The Hungarian drove to the garden centre and lugged the 40 kilo sculpture of a phoenix for me to place under the buddleia. My Father always splashed out on jewellery he could barely afford every Xmas and had to take a lot of stick for buying identical eternity rings two years running. My Mother quipped that she would never be able to get away from him! So shame on the Frog and the EVILs. When you head to the UK pamper yourself with a DVD or some other such frippery – after all, you are an independent earner, entitled to dispose of your income as you see fit! :)

    Comment by Chameleon — December 27, 2004 @ 2:55 pm

  2. Oh dear, I have unintentionally portrayed Mr Frog in a worse light than I intended. He gave the poncho idea to my In Laws. But he got me some sexy undies and the Lord of the Rings 3 DVD set. The only issue I have with the above is that he claims to have checked my sizes first by rummaging through my underwear drawer, but he bought unfeasibly large pants.

    I’m left wondering if I failed to clear out one pair of maternity knickers from my drawer and he stumbled on them by mistake.

    Comment by petite — December 27, 2004 @ 3:05 pm

  3. Hello, Petite Anglaise,

    Having lived in Paris for about 10 years (20 years ago) I enjoy reading your blog immensely and always look forward to new posts.

    I realize just how frustrating French EVILs can be and I sympathize deeply. My Parisian concubin had two other brothers, and his mother hated ALL the girlfriends and spouses, especially foreigners or – Heaven forbid! – Germans. We could do nothing right – ever. After a while, I developped hay fever when I had to go and dine with them, from sheer suppressed frustration and anger, and then it was “Ah, Ange… is not a healthy girl, not good …” I stopped going. Be grateful that they live far away, I say, and just forget them when you don’t have to see them. Happy New Year to you!

    Comment by Marquise des Anges — December 27, 2004 @ 3:07 pm

  4. I don’t think I can beat the poncho, alas. Although my mom got close 4 years ago when she offered me a huge pair of granny underwear covered with huge smiley faces (although in her defense, she did offer other things which cancelled out the horrific panties).

    My in-laws (which really, is all my MIL, because FIL is obnoxious and certainly couldn’t care less) tend to offer me a quite nice, frenchy gift every year… a raclette/pierrade, a crepe party appliance, and this year, a fondue set.

    Granted, I do wonder what will happen next year, since we seem to have used up all the food festive appliances now…

    Comment by kim — December 27, 2004 @ 5:43 pm

  5. Probably a cocotte minute if you don’t possess one already. My MIL cooks EVERYTHING in hers. And thinks my microwave is pure evil.

    Comment by petite — December 27, 2004 @ 10:18 pm

  6. I probably sound like a total dork, but we asked for and got a vacuum cleaner and “a big pot” which ended up being a pressure cooker. Hey, we’re newlyweds and poor, what can I tell ya? :wink:

    Comment by ViVi — December 28, 2004 @ 12:42 am

  7. Jeepers! They do sound EViL. And what a BAD MENU!!!
    …My man has one of those wretched man-bags too, except he bought his from a sale, in a woman’s shop. In my own way, I really love his daft style, and I couldn’t bear to tear apart his sartorial idiocies. But a man bag IS a MAN BAG!
    t film.

    As for my presents, I am now the proud owner of a thermometer, shampoo and coloured crayons??!! All the same, my evils are a funny raucous bunch, and that makes up for it all.

    Have fun at your mummy’s!

    Comment by nardac — December 28, 2004 @ 3:49 am

  8. I love your description of your Xmas dinner, the food and your inlaws’ conversation. So such caricatures do exist ? not only in films and novels ? And the electric stapler is “la cerise sur le gâteau”!

    Comment by Silence — December 28, 2004 @ 11:37 am

  9. Love my In-Laws, but feel sorry for my husband who is stuck with my highly dysfunctiuonal craziness for family.
    Four years ago they, and they being My Mother, My Stepdad and my three teen-aged siblings all got together and got him a soap dish. That’s right. A soap dish.

    Comment by Elin — December 30, 2004 @ 2:49 am

  10. I’m guessing a ‘cocotte minute’ is a kind of pressure cooker? Always trying to increase my (French) word power, as the Reader’s Digest used to have it. Thanks for your hilarious recent posts…

    Comment by Ruth — December 30, 2004 @ 6:06 pm

  11. Yes, yes, but what chateaux and vintage was the Paullac?

    Comment by David K — December 30, 2004 @ 8:03 pm

  12. It all sounds hideous. Trust England made up for it. Spent Christmas in England this year and so am now on a desperate countdown to next Christmas when in theory I should spend it in France. However I did say recently to my Frog that he needn’t think it will be 1 BritXmas for 1 French one. The ratio will be at least 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1. I was (half) joking but I might try to subtly wear him down through the year…

    My dad was/is a terrible gift giver to my mum. When I was too young to realise and re-direct him, he got her kitchen scales. A few years later when I was old enough to know better (and should have boycotted it) he got her one of those electric blankets where each person can control their side. She, in her pre-menopause days liked it good and hot – he didn’t. That way they could both be happy. Except my mum wasn’t – she was devastated.

    Comment by kjr — January 2, 2005 @ 11:03 pm

  13. :grin:The worst prezzie I got from my MIL was for my birthday which happened to fall during my first pregnancy. I should explain at this point that my MIL is as skinny a French female as you’re ever likely to come across, as she puts it, as soon as she puts on a kilo or two extra, she is “incapable de manger-c’est physiologique”. Hmm.
    So I clearly don’t have the same reaction and being 4 months pregnant doesn’t help any, so MIL got me a lovely set of bathroom scales (might I add that up to that day I had never owned scales, having other things to do with my time) which she said would help me to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.:wink:

    Comment by suziboo — January 3, 2005 @ 2:13 pm

  14. suziboo – marvellous. it brings back fond memories of being referred by the maternity hospital to a dietician. I changed hospitals. And managed to put on 20kg. And lose them again. So there.

    Comment by petite — January 3, 2005 @ 2:26 pm

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