petite anglaise

April 4, 2005

happy when it rains

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:00 pm

I detest it when the weather decides to be so glorious that I am obliged to venture out, regardless of whether I actually want to.

Saturday. A day of wholesome family activites. Bébé nageurs at 9 am (because, as you may recall, I queued for half a day to get a coveted place in the Saturday session) – during which Tadpole, tightly wedged in a polystyrene ring, executed giddy circles around me until I grew dizzy and developed lockjaw from continuous reciprocal grinning. A spot of windowbox gardening on the balcony – where I inadvertently showered several passers by with potting compost, only realising I had done so when a chorus of indignant “Ca va pas là haut?”‘s assailed me from five stories below. The tricycle quest – an adventure requiring me to cross the sweaty threshold of GoSport, an act against all my principles, as I heartily detest every conceivable form of sport, with the exception of snorkeling. The indignity of always being picked last for team sports at school has left scars all over my self-esteem which may never heal.

Sunday, I awoke feeling sluggish and slothful, craving a day filled with nothing but cocooning, as the French are fond of calling it. I longed to curl up like a cat in front of the window and snooze in a patch of sunlight, or to steal some precious me-time to read more of my book. Of course none of those things are actually possible when you have a toddler bouncing on your midriff and entreating you to ‘faire le cheval?’

As the afternoon drew to a close, Mr Frog became insistent that we had to go to the park and ‘make the most’ of the lovely weather. I looked up at him, dejectedly, from my den under the dining room table, where Tadpole and I had created a makeshift wendy house and were entertaining several teddies with (virtual) afternoon tea and biscuits.

My suggestion that he might enjoy spending some quality time outdoors with his daughter sans moi was met with dismay. He claims that when chaperoning Tadpole alone, he cannot endure the pitying, oh-look-a-poor-single-parent glances. Bribery, in the form of offering to do his share of the housework while they were out, was unsuccessful. Mr Frog can be very stubborn when he puts his mind to it. I reluctantly got dressed, packed bubble mix, sippy cup, nappy and wipes into my bag and we headed for the Buttes Chaumont en famille.

Mr Frog and I habitually rave about how wonderful it is to live a stone’s throw from the largest park in Paris, and it’s true that I do love my idyllic walk to the childminder’s in the mornings, when I have the place pretty much to myself, give or take a few joggers and dog walkers. Tadpole and I mimic the birdsong, and I pick blossom from the trees for her to study, which invariably makes her sneeze.

On this unseasonably warm April Sunday however, the park ressembled a teeming Côte d’Azur beach in high season. Bodies lolled everywhere. Old folk lined the benches, families and clutches of young people were sprawled over every available patch of grass. On the main thoroughfares it was mayhem: tricycles plowed into pushchairs, tired children screeched as their parents attempted to drag them away from the adventure playground and home for tea. The so-called relaxing stroll was turning into a stressful nightmare. My patience faltered and then flatlined. I was irritable with Tadpole, who had decided she wanted to balance on the kerb but absolutely not hold my steadying hand. I had visions of milk teeth embedded in the pavement. When Mr Frog lit up a cigarette, I launched into a tirade about how I didn’t want to nurse him for years when he finally succumbed to a well-deserved lung cancer. I hated myself for being so needlessly unpleasant, sincerely regretting leaving behind the haven of tranquility of our apartment.

As we approached the man-made lake (a rather unappealing shade of khaki, undoubtedly in need of a thorough clean), the obstacle course began. There are all manner of paying activities for little people in the Buttes, designed to ambush desperate parents, who will, when at breaking point, gladly pay through the nose for a few minutes of peace and quiet: pony rides, a horse-drawn carriage, a Guignol (French version of Punch and Judy) puppet show, swings, a duck fishing fairground-type game and a merry-go-round. Should one manage to escape all of these unscathed, the final hurdle is the kiosk selling candyfloss and garish helium balloons. A stroll through the Buttes with a tantrum-prone young child could easily cost upward of 20 euros.

For this reason I invariably leave my wallet at home on such occasions. A decision I came to regret as I stood downwind of the stand selling crèpes and Belgian gaufres.

Something in me snapped. I hated the park, despised the mocking sunlight and craved my duvet. I left a bemused Mr Frog and Tadpole gaping at me open-mouthed and stormed off home.

I wonder whether it is possible to suffer from reverse SAD?


  1. If I said ‘PMT’, would I need to dive for cover? (In which case… actually I think I’ll duck anyway, to be on the safe side) *ducks*

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — April 4, 2005 @ 12:09 pm

  2. Thanks, Petite – Another uncanny representation of how it really is! The Thabor Park in Rennes is a microscopically small recreation of your park in Paris, and is similarly mobbed at the first hint of any sunshine. Here in Brittany we have to make our own entertainment (apart from the small, but very popular collection of slides, see-saw and those perplexing animals-on-springs). Sadly nobody has explained this to the Parkies. I could (and may well) start a blog dedicated entirely to their Python-esque fun-thwarting. And speaking as a Sunday Dad of some experience, those aren’t always looks of PITY Mr F. is getting…

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — April 4, 2005 @ 12:17 pm

  3. Jim, are you suggesting they might be coveting his bottom?

    Zinnia – I can’t pull that excuse two weekends running, sadly.

    Comment by petite — April 4, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  4. It’s not you! that’s exactly how I feel on a sunny Sunday in the park near my house, which I revel in when I have it more nearly to myself.

    Comment by Jean — April 4, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

  5. You can get depressed after your period as well as before. So I think you’re allowed that excuse.

    Comment by Be Happy — April 4, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

  6. “É! Ô!”

    Examples of some of the oft-used French phrases they *don’t* teach you at school!

    and “oh-look-a-poor-single-parent-who-gets-to-see-his-daughter-once-a-week” – apart from the “single” bit, isn’t there a grain of truth in this?

    Comment by witho — April 4, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

  7. I know the feeling, you want to go to the park for some peace and quiet, only to find the ppace full of noisy people… I went to Kew gardens in London, a bit late in the day only to find I was late for high tea!

    Comment by Andy — April 4, 2005 @ 1:59 pm

  8. Bottom coveting. It happens. Though only be alarmed if Mr.F has a penchant for the more matronly of the laydeez. But some of the looks you get are dis-GUSTING. The memories make me blush! Seem to have died off now that offspring are old enough to pose a threat to world peace…

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — April 4, 2005 @ 2:22 pm

  9. The Thabor park in Rennes (hello Jim!) would be a lot more enticing if one was allowed to loll on the grass. Nor would it seem so full, because as it is, zillions of impeccably-dressed (if you like peter pan collars and twinsets) BCBG strollers and their entire extended families must edge past each other on the gravel paths for fear of being manhandled out out of the gates by the aforementioned party-pooping parkies if they so much as brush a blade of the manicured lawns with the tip of their pointy escarpins. To be avoided like the plague, especially on sunny, PMT-infused Sundays.

    Comment by l'autre — April 4, 2005 @ 4:07 pm

  10. I have recently had two awful park experiences that have led me to believe a spot of astroturf spread beneath my window is pretty much as close to heaven as I’ll get.
    First, an American friend studying in London came to visit in January, and, despite the fact that I had bronchitis, insisted we visit the Bois de Boulogne in sub-zero temperatures. Two hours of I hobbled around that bloody deathtrap. Until I collapsed hacking and Jim timorously asked “oh, are you really that sick?”
    Then, I felt that midafternoon on a the first warm thursday of the year would be a nice time to hang out in Parc Monceau, but it appears the entire population of the local ecole maternelle felt the same way.
    No disrespect to Tadpole, since we’ve never met, but little people scare the crap out of me. Big crowds of little people gives me an overwhelming urge to have my tubes tied.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — April 4, 2005 @ 4:18 pm

  11. Reverse SAD actually is possible. Dark sunglasses are a recommended way to deal with it (indoors, outdoors, who cares?)

    Hope you’re feeling better today.

    Comment by Audrey — April 4, 2005 @ 8:46 pm

  12. Nobody needs an excuse to feel grumpy, even on a sunday day. roll with it, and don’t feel guilty.

    If it makes you feel any worse, I’m one of the lollers on the topside knoll, drinking my beer and frowning at all the baby-carriers. Courage, and if I had seen you, I would have thrown you a gaufre!!

    Comment by nardac — April 4, 2005 @ 9:46 pm

  13. Oh, I’m relieved it’s not PMT because, well, because I think reverse SAD is entirely possible. What’s more, it can be doubly infuriating when you get SAD during the darker months, and then as spring arrives you get reverse SAD. That makes, er, all year SAD. Or something. All I know is that, despite not seeing anyone else over the last weekend, I felt ‘forced’ to go out and ‘enjoy’ the weather because it was ‘lovely’. I think I’ve got that British disease whereby, if you look out the window and it’s sunny, you suddenly hear a voice inside you shouting, “LOOK! SUN! IT’S SUNNY! MUST GET RIDICULOUS SHORTS OUT OF WARDROBE AND GO AND DO NOTHING BUT WATCH PEOPLE IN THE PARK!!! AIEEE! AIEEE! AIEEE! THE MAN FROM DEL MONTE, HE SAY ‘YES’!” Or, er, something.

    I was relieved when I got home again to the seclusion of my little flat, though.

    Comment by Vaughan — April 5, 2005 @ 12:59 am

  14. Thank you Vaughn – just picturing those shorts made me feel a lot better.

    And it’s a lovely grey day outside, which helps.

    Comment by petite — April 5, 2005 @ 9:21 am

  15. The desire to stay with the Jennifer Donnelly explains everything – it’s a lovely book xx

    Comment by grannyp — April 5, 2005 @ 11:22 am

  16. We had the same experience two weekends ago at Villa Borghese here in Rome. It was just SEETHING with people. It all seems so over-organized, like fun has become something you have to go out for and pay for. You should have stayed under the table with Tadpole.

    Also, as I’ve got older I’ve become slightly agoraphobic and get nervous in huge masses of people. Bad news with the 2,000,000 extra visitors expected in town this Friday.

    Comment by Ria — April 5, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

  17. Nothing is worse than a park in Paris when it is sunny. Children everywhere, screaming, jumping, and kicking. No seriously, do not go to a park in Paris unless it is rainy.

    Comment by marius — April 9, 2005 @ 1:27 am

  18. […] 7:39 PM From Petite Anglaise: Diary of an English Thirtysomething in Paris:I detest it when the weather decides to be so glorious that I am obliged to venture out, regardless of whether I actually want to. […]

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