Cutting through the Buttes Chaumont with the Tadpole – disguised as a leopard – I was surprised at how little reaction I got from passers by. You’d think that the sight of a toddler in full furry costume (you didn’t think I was in disguise, I hope?) complete with ears and tail would elicit some sort of positive response: a smile, a wave, a wink or a nod perhaps?
A couple of small children pointed. A gaggle of grumpy old folk did double takes, but without the merest glimmer of a smile. What a miserable lot. Instead of feeling rather proud of how cute my child looked and amused about the surreal quality of my walk home, I began to feel a little embarrassed that she had not been changed out of her costume.
“Vous avez l’heure s’il vous plaît?” called out a man loitering alongside the path, probably waiting for someone he was meant to meet.
“Oui, il est dix-huit heures moins cinq,” I replied politely after looking at my watch, which requires a manoeuvre of the wrist as it is kind of sideways on. Continental European that I am, naturally I use the 24 hour clock.
I realised that the man was also looking at my watch. In fact, all of a sudden he was uncomfortably close. And wearing a watch himself.
I’d fallen for the oldest opening chat-up line in the book. Now I’d have to tread the fine line between adopting a tone chilly enough to repel my suitor but not so rude as to rile a potentially barking mad and volatile stranger.
“C’est votre enfant?” he enquired, falling into step with the pushchair and I. I nodded, without making eye contact and accelerating my pace slightly, hoping that the fact of being a mother would prove to be enough of a deterrent.
“Vous habitez dans le coin?” he persisted, undeterred.
[Where on earth did he think this was leading? Do people ever actually say “yes, I do, why don’t you come back for coffee and some steamy extra-non-marital action while my daughter – disguised as a leopard – plays with her toys in the next room?]
“Ca ne vous regarde pas,” I replied firmly.
“Mais je ne vous dérange pas là ? Je veux juste discuter un peu,” he insisted. And there was me thinking I had made it perfectly clear that he was bothering me and I didn’t want to talk.
“Et moi, je veux rentrer chez moi, retrouver mon mari. Je ne veux discuter avec personne,” I lied through my teeth. About the husband bit anyway. Mr Frog is not my husband and wouldn’t be home for hours yet.
“Ah bon. Je vous laisse alors.”
Not. Before. Time.
I’m still amazed that he didn’t ask me why Tadpole was disguised as a leopard.