petite anglaise

April 20, 2005

the snowman upstairs

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:30 pm

I bring Tadpole’s gourmet dinner – sweetcorn (canned), green beans (frozen), mini pasta shapes and a slice of cheese – through to the living room and set it down on her little table. Pulling out her chair, I swiftly flip over the flower seat cushion with its week old yoghurt stain. Ni vu, ni connu. Anything to reduce the lengthening list of Things Which Need Doing around the apartment. I am also pathetically grateful to whoever took it upon themselves to invent reversible clothing for small children.

Tadople is sitting on the sofa, her magic drawing pad laid across her knees. This toy is another life-saving invention, as a toddler left unchaperoned with coloured crayons can, and will, wreak untold havoc. And I fear our white walls might prove to be a very inviting canvas.

Magic pen poised in the air, Tadpole’s head is cocked to one side. She appears to be listening to something, fierce concentration etched into her wrinkled brow. I know that expression. It’s my thinking face. The one which Mr Frog always tries to smooth flat with his forefinger.

“What’s the matter, baby girl? What is it?” I enquire, noting that she is dribbling again. Which means she probably won’t eat her painstakingly prepared meal, because she never does when she’s teething. Only biscuits, fruit and chocolat will do.


I listen. I can hear traffic in the street, five stories below. The hum of the video recording Eastenders for later. A dog barking in the park, as its owner takes it for a bowel-relieving walk. Nothing else.

“What noises? Mummy can’t hear anything.”

“Noman, ” she says earnestly, turning towards me, motioning towards the ceiling with her free hand. “Up dere. Noman. Shoes on. Noisy!”

A noman, in Tadpolese, is what you and I would refer to as a snowman. Similarly a snake is a ‘nake, a snail is a ‘nail (or sometimes a ‘cargot tout chaud’). But quite what Tadpole thinks a snowman would be doing in a sixth floor apartment on a mild April day, I cannot imagine.

“There’s no snowman upstairs. What are you talking about, silly?” I venture cautiously, somewhat perplexed.

I recall my well-intentioned explanations of the sounds we hear every day from the surrounding apartments, which Tadpole has recently become ultra sensitive to, not to say a little afraid of. I did explain that a man lived upstairs (we even went upstairs and I showed her his front door to help get my point across), and I told Tadpole that when the man walked on his wooden floor with shoes on, it made a “TAP TAP TAP” noise. Just like her own shoes when she sprints giddy lengths of our corridor, or when she tries on mummy’s shoes and clatters periously across the parquet. (Sincerest apologies to our downstairs neighbour, whose patience must be wearing thin.)

The following day, she had talked about the noisy man. He wasn’t actually home at the time – he keeps very unsociable hours indeed, not heard for days, only to arrive with what sounds like an entire harem of stiletto clad females at 5am on a weekday. He even caused me to knock on our ceiling with a spare curtain rail (stashed under our bed), in the manner of a cantakerous old maid, on one occasion.

“There’s no man up there right now. I can’t hear anything.” I must have replied.

So despite my best intentions, Tadpole evidently now thinks the abominable snowman lives upstairs. And listens out for him, fearfully. So much for my powers of explanation.

“It’s not a snowman, sweetie, it’s just a man. A MAN. Like daddy.”

“NO! ‘NOMAN, ” Tadpole replies stubbornly.

I know better than to argue when my daughter adopts that tone. I pick up her magic pen and we draw a picture of a very friendly and approachable snowman. With big shoes on (artistic licence). Walking on a wooden floor.

Artist’s note: snail, butterfly and bumblebee added under duress. Parisian apartments do not, in my experience, harbour a variety of insects and molluscs.


  1. How wonderful to be a child… things are so cut and dried. Shame how we somehow lose that along the path to grown-up-ville.

    Comment by Lisa — April 21, 2005 @ 12:29 am

  2. Gorgeous! I wonder if I am the Snow Woman upstairs for our wee neighbours below…

    Hmmmm… Probably more like the ephelant. *grins*

    Comment by deeleea — April 21, 2005 @ 1:03 am

  3. I wonder if your downstairs neighbourg has any idea that he has a family of Batrachia living over his head?

    Comment by Mathieu — April 21, 2005 @ 1:46 am

  4. Reversible clothing for little kids – great idea – haven’t seen too much of it here in the US, except in extremely expensive stores that I can’t afford :-(

    They sell small magic drawing pads that are perfect for travelling by car or plane & keep the kids occupied for hours :-)

    Washable crayons – good. Washable markers – good. Drawer and cupboard locks to keep them out of reach except when you can supervise – excellent! DH accidentally bought non washable markers for Christmas and I had to make them disappear before we had to do any more redecorating – our little angel has written her name and her brother’s on the playroom floor and on the walls in her bedroom in ballpoint pen.

    Comment by Susan — April 21, 2005 @ 2:18 am

  5. Greetings from Canada! How sweet – and so familiar – my son has the same fears about “the neighbor” that everytime he hears the hall door slam – he runs to me “hold you, hold you!”. Sounds like he has the same eating habits as Tadpole’s too. Nice to read children are all the same around the world. Love your blog – you are a great writer – and I’m soooooo jealous of you living in the city of lights!

    Comment by jan — April 21, 2005 @ 2:43 am

  6. Oh, that we could all view the world like Tadpole. I love it!

    Comment by Sarah — April 21, 2005 @ 3:37 am

  7. Oh, what a lovely drawing! She must feel better about the neighbour, friendly as he looks.

    Comment by maria — April 21, 2005 @ 5:37 am

  8. Another proof that kids are just small adults with a brain. she’s smart.

    Comment by schuey — April 21, 2005 @ 7:17 am

  9. A ‘noman who works nights, judging by the moon, stars and wall clock! *Wonders vaguely what sort of night shift a Yeti might do*

    Comment by suziboo — April 21, 2005 @ 8:40 am

  10. Could she have been saying “no man”? I think if you had explained to her the day after you visited the door that he wasn’t there, she must associate the lack of steps with “no man” which is an AWESOME psycholinguistics step for a child, that theory of mind thing, where they know what should be there even when it isn’t. Very cool.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — April 21, 2005 @ 10:44 am

  11. What a lovely post. And, yes, as Shuey comments, what a lovely illustration of how little kids thought processes are not much different from those of adults – they just have a lot less experience to base their deductions on.

    Comment by Jean — April 21, 2005 @ 11:39 am

  12. Hmm…I hope your ‘upstairs noman’ doesn’t melt…

    Comment by sammy — April 21, 2005 @ 11:48 am

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    Comment by turboslut — April 21, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

  14. may I add you to my blogroll…?

    Comment by chaton — April 21, 2005 @ 12:10 pm

  15. My God Petite, you can draw as well as write! Is there no end to your talents?

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — April 21, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  16. Love the drawing! Could Tadpole bring herself to erase it?

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — April 21, 2005 @ 3:14 pm

  17. easy – oh god if you are right I have seriously confused the poor child now!

    chaton – you don’t have to ask, silly!

    bluegrass – she is ruthless. after forcing me to draw picture after picture, to order, she then suddenly decrees EFFACER and wipes it clean.

    Here are some of her own efforts

    Comment by petite — April 21, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

  18. Lovely sketch, Petite! :-) Really cute snowman.

    Comment by brad — April 21, 2005 @ 5:58 pm

  19. Wow! You can draw, too! You never cease to amaze me with your talents!

    Comment by Oz — April 21, 2005 @ 6:03 pm

  20. WOW, the Tadpole art is SO avant-garde!!

    Comment by sammy — April 21, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

  21. I find your blog so interesting. I am looking to visit Paris for a month (definitely NOT summer, I hear) and I am in the process of writing another novel based there. I will be back again and again to siphon tidbits!

    Comment by princessdominique — April 21, 2005 @ 6:45 pm

  22. We have “Bob Le Bricoleur” (Bob the Builder to those speaking English) and “La Sorcière” above us. Write threatening letters like I did and the noise stops — we’ve been “boom bang crash” free since December !!

    Comment by magillicuddy — April 22, 2005 @ 12:48 pm

  23. Rorschach-a-rama, that etche-a-squètche :)

    Comment by reachy — April 25, 2005 @ 11:59 am

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