petite anglaise

February 18, 2005

upgrading hiccups

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 9:41 pm

If you have eagle eyes you will note that this site has travelled back in time to approximately 1am Friday 17 February. This was due to a little glitch in my upgrade to the newest version of wordpress (which I didn’t need to have, but it has so many new features how could I not?) A tiny little problem that with my heavy handedness I managed to turn into a major fiasco, deleting my blogger posts from July to September in the process.

The good news is that it has been rescued and my old posts are back where they belong.

The bad news is that I need to fiddle a bit to make it look right, and I lost all your comments from today on the last 3 posts. Sorry about that. I might paste some of them back in again later, I saved them in a cunning word document and I especially liked the anonymous declaration from a ‘mystery admirer’. (I have your IP address anonymous, and I’ll track you down eventually!)

I will be tweaking a bit this weekend. I’ll try not to break anything this time, promise.

And thank you podz. I don’t know if you go around rescuing damsels in distress like this all the time, but in any case, this one is truly grateful!

As the main problem I was trying to solve involved comments, I’d be grateful if when you stop by this weekend you could drop me a line to show that you can! I can’t test this function myself, because as site admin I am treated differently to you mere mortals…!

February 17, 2005

driving a hard bargain

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 3:07 pm

The main reason for my erratic posting this week is that I have been busy ‘negotiating’ with the childminder. A fraught process which has left me a couple of kilos lighter (a not unwelcome but sadly temporary state of affairs) and cheated me of many hours of beauty sleep.

It all began when we learned that a new Convention Collective (collective bargaining agreement?) covering Assistantes Maternelles had been brought into force on 1st January 2005: a booklet outlining the childminder’s rights, our rights, what should be in our contract and on her payslips. It was supposed to simplify our relationship and bring employment law for childminders into line with the rest of the French workforce.

This was not intended to change how much we actually pay her for her services, as she earns far in excess of the minimum wage as it is, but it does alter, on paper, the calculations used to reach this amount. She is now to be paid over twelve equal months, for example, whereas before she got a bit extra every month and was not paid during her holidays. We also have to come up with an hourly rate for a nine hour day, as opposed to paying her a daily flat rate under the previous system. On paper this all looked fine.

Of course two people can read the same document in many different ways, and human nature being what it is, the childminder sought to inflate her salary as much as possible by interpreting the document in bizarre and illogical ways. Tata (short for tante or auntie, which is what most children call their childminder) demonstrated once again that she can be a formidably tough negotiator. Her tactics are very simple: talk at the same time as your opponent until they get flustered and lose their thread, pretend not to understand any reasoned argument, and use a smattering of meaningless phrases like “but everyone else does that” and “at the meeting last Friday they definitely said that was right”. She also brandished various bits of paper (of obscure origin) at me showing ever increasing “recommended hourly rates”, when ultimately the rate was supposed to be something we agreed upon, based on what we paid her under her old contract.

On Monday she presented me with an amended version of our contract, which she had drafted, using the highest rate I’d seen to date. I went home and did the maths. And realised that she had managed to find an hourly rate which gave her exactly the same monthly salary as before, but paid over twelve months. A whopping € 700 per annum rise, equivalent to a month’s salary.

The panic attacks started again (and I’d only just thrown off the computer-related ones). You see, it’s a very delicate situation when you have to negotiate with the person who looks after the apple of your eye, in a city where demand for childminders far outweighs supply. On the one hand, she loves Tadpole and has been looking after her for almost a year and a half. Of the childminders we interviewed she was the only one we warmed to, the only one who seemed to genuinely love the children she helping to bring up. So we can’t afford to lose her. But, if we refuse to pay what she demands, there are ten children queuing up to fill Tadpole’s shoes. On the other hand, I do not want to be held hostage by this woman, who is seriously pushing her luck and, deep down, knows it. There are times when you have to stand firm, stay calm, and try to beat her at her own game.

On Tuesday I spent hours crafting the mother of all spreadsheets to demonstrate in the simplest possible terms (because she plays dumb, even if she isn’t) that what I was proposing to pay her was fair, that she wasn’t going to lose anything, but she wouldn’t be getting a huge pay rise out of us either. I also cast some doubt on her odd interpretation of the clause stating that her daily allowance (for food and equipment) was payable for each day the child was present. She had decided that this was payable for each day the child should theoretically be present. I had to spend a great deal of time hanging out on French nanny internet forums asking questions and sifting through reponses littered with an indecent number of smilies (there should be a legal limit in my opinion) and signed with hideous animated signature gifs to do battle with her assertion that “in the meeting that was what they told us to do”. A painful process, but one which eventually bore fruit as a member of the nannies’ union replied that what we were being asked to do was both wrong and illegal. I printed it out.

I took my sheaf of papers, asked her to look over my sums and played the role of ‘concerned mummy who is worried about putting something illegal in the contract’ . She promised to call her local representative to clarify a few points.

The next morning she backed down.

I still can’t believe I’ve managed to out-barter a North African nanny. But I’m left wondering what is the point of the unions thrashing out a collective bargaining agreement if the result is that we then have to go through a new round of bargaining of our own?

February 16, 2005

building blocks

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaise @ 5:06 pm

“Labouche”, says Tadpole, pointing at her mouth.

“Yes sweetie, it’s your mouth”, I say, in my best educational voice, showing that she is correct but that mummy has a different word for this.

“Mouth”, she repeats.

“Well done darling!” I say, thinking how similar child-rearing techniques are to those used by Barbara Woodhouse on dogs. All that is missing is a little dog treat to hand out as a reward when I say “well done!”, and possibly a firm, congratulatory pat to her rump.

It occurs to me that if I were able to train Tadpole to obey dog-training commands like “sit” and “stay” then I might be able to prolong my life expectancy by several years. At the moment, I get to see her life flash before my eyes several times a day. Every time she manages to work loose her hand and dart towards a car/bicycle/the gap between the metro and the platform my heart does a little somersault. Which can’t be healthy.

I don’t discourage her from bringing me my slippers when I get home either.

Dog tangent aside, what I have noticed about the way Tadpole acquires French language is that for her “labouche” is one entity. As are “lesoreilles” and “lenez” or “lafourchette”. Aha! So that’s how French people instinctively know what gender something is. They learn the gender and the noun as one indivisible unit of language from the beginning. And separate it all out later on. None of that puzzling over whether a table leg ought to be feminine or masculine, or trying to get their head around the illogical concept of a breast being masculine (le sein). I imagine it won’t be long before Tadpole starts correcting my gender bending tendencies. In fact, soon I will have my very own walking, talking dictionary.

Similarly, in English at the moment there are a few words that she never uses in isolation. “Hat” is either part of the phrase “haton” or “hatoff”. “Light” is “lighton”. Her lasting fascination for lights is actually getting quite tedious: almost every single shop in France has a neon sign outside the front of it, and Tadpole feels the need to point at each and every one of them to show me that the light is indeed on.

It occurs to me that I should probably curb my language a little going forward to ensure that she doesn’t pick up any of the following phrases and decide that they are indivisible language blocks:


February 14, 2005

first kiss

Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaise @ 3:38 pm

I also hate VD.

One girl at my school, Z, received four or five anonymous cards, year in and year out. Along with several red roses and boxes of chocolates. She somehow managed to meet and go out with mysterious older men, in addition to holding most of the boys in our school year enthralled. I was sweet sixteen and still waiting for that elusive first kiss, which wasn’t forthcoming until I was almost seventeen. How insanely jealous I was of Z at the time: what was it that she had that I didn’t? How unreasonable of her to monopolise the attentions of at least five boys at once!

All I had come to expect from Valentine’s day was a Thorntons’ chocolate heart-shaped lollypop (anonymously posted with a Dundee postmark, where, by a stroke of coincidence, my father had been working the previous week.) And a feeling of bitter disappointment that there was no hopelessly romantic (New Order fan) and potential soulmate harbouring a secret crush on me.

Going through some odds and ends that I left at my parents’ house (safe from my own tendency to ruthlessly throw things away only to regret my haste once the dustbin men have been and gone), I happened upon three diaries written by a teenage petite. I re-read a few sample entries, cringing at the melodramatic tone, but strangely nostalgic for the intensity of adolescent emotions. I was also flabbergasted at how much I had since forgotten, given how earth-shatteringly important the events seemed to me at the time.

I re-discovered, for example, that when my first ‘proper’ boyfriend asked me out, he did so on the last day of comprehensive school before we left for Sixth Form College. The end of an era. Everyone was autographing one another’s school uniform shirts with felt-tipped pens and the large-nosed, undeserving object of my unrequited affections for the entire school year signed my white shirt, adding ‘will you go out with me?’ I let him sweat a bit, before adding ‘yes!’ in the space below. He walked me home after school that day. But I was too shy to let him kiss me straight away: embarrassed and worried that I’d be no good at it.

I turned my bedroom upside down after reading that entry, eventually to emerge triumphantly brandishing the shirt. There it was, written orange on white for the whole world to see. I’m amazed that I could possibly have consigned a landmark memory like that to my personal recycle bin.

I read on and learned that my first ‘proper’ kiss ever occurred in a graveyard, at night. I do have a vague recollection of a clumsy clash of teeth, tongues and noses, and that this occurred outdoors, but I had no memory whatsoever of that graveyard.

Which is why I’m consigning it to the interwebnet today, lest I ever re-forget.

As for Valentine’s day 2005, suffice to say that I received my Thornton’s chocolate heart (York postmark). And Tadpole even got one too.

I sent one of these. Can you guess which one?

February 13, 2005

drama queen

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 10:41 pm

A text message arrives from the babysitter in response to my grovelling apology for not having been in touch since December 2004. It is written in barely comprehensible teenage misspellt abbreviated stroppy French texto language. And all in shouty caps.


High maintenance doesn’t even begin to cover it. I think I’d rather stay in than nurse her wounded little ego back to health via a series of 10 word text messages.

And all because the lady probably has her sights set on a new handbag and we haven’t been providing her with the means to purchase it…

February 11, 2005

holy grail

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 3:37 pm

I think it’s time for a change of subject as my google contextual ads seem to have become fixated on dating websites:, (which I hope ‘comes’ from the Latin for ‘with’ and does not have any other implications) and even an ad for a site I didn’t click on which seemed to be offering to import Russian sirens. I derive no income from these ads whatsoever (27k page views with 8 clickthroughs = an astounding $ 1.85), but I do find the topic-matching mildly amusing.

Yesterday lunchtime I went to pay my respects to Mary Magdalene (aka The Holy Grail) in the underground Carroussel du Louvre shopping centre, as told in the gospel according to Dan Brown. I found it disconcerting, to say the least, that Jesus Christ’s spouse’s final resting place is located not 50 metres from Virgin records (which, incidentally, was my real destination, as I’m desperatedly seeking a protective sheath for my ipod).

The French Ministry of Culture – only to happy to cash in on the success of the bestseller – have agreed to authorise location filming in the Grande Galérie of the Louvre for the screen adaptation of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ to star Tom (last time I thought he was good, he was in ‘Splash’ and I was too young to know any better) Hanks as Harvard “symbologist” Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou (Amélie Poulain) as Sophie Neveu and Jean Reno (Léon) as policeman Bezu Fache. I only hope Tautou is being paid an indecent amount of money if the script decrees that she must tongue Tom. The Catholic church, understandably less keen on Mr Brown’s work, have not given their permission for the Sainte Sulpice church to be used in filming.

“Da Vinci Code”, as it is called in French, (why not ‘Le Code Da Vinci’? Wake up immortels!) sold over 800,000 copies in France last year. The most pleasing description I came across of the book in a French magazine was: “Le Club des Cinq en Terre Sainte.”

Paris tour guides have found The Da Vinci Code a lucrative proposition: fans of the book seem to have an insatiable need to link the fiction to reality by making pilgrimages to the historic sites mentioned in the book. Da Vinci Code tourism is now big business in the City of Lights and is likely to go from strength to strength when the film version is released.

Paris Muse‘s ‘Cracking the Code’ , for example, is basically a tour of the Louvre retracing Langdon’s footsteps in the company of “your own personal symbologist”, taking in the works of Da Vinci, paintings featuring Magdalene and goddess imagery in general. This “half day hunt for the truth” will set you back a mere € 110.

I think I’ll stick to the Famous Five. Anyone know where Kirrin Island is?

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