petite anglaise

April 22, 2005


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:36 am

Would you think it terribly rude if I sent you here again today?

Feel free to post any comments here at the mother ship – they may subsequently find their way onto the expatica site.

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.

April 19, 2005


Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:14 pm

Prior to meeting Mr Frog, one other Frenchman stole petite anglaise’s heart, a long time ago. Well, it wasn’t exactly a Frenchman, more of a Frenchboy. Or a FrenchToyBoy, to be precise.

I was twenty-one, spending a year living in Rouen while working as an assistante d’Anglais in a Lycée in a nearby town. I should add that I already had a boyfriend of two years, from university, with whom I was thoroughly smitten. Or so I had thought.

Strolling around the pedestrian centre of Rouen with a couple of girlfriends, we had paused by the famous Gros-Horloge to buy crèpes from a street vendor when I laid eyes on him for the first time. My friend Claire gave me a nudge and pointed out a tall boy striding towards us with an Alsatian on a leash, flanked by a couple of shorter friends. “That’s Mr R’s son. You know, the English teacher who invited me over for dinner with his family last week. He’s not bad looking, is he?”

I looked up, made eye contact. Then recoiled, with a sharp intake of breath. I felt as if I’d been shot, saved only by a bulletproof vest. I knew in an instant, without the palest shadow of doubt, that if he would have me, the boyfriend and I were history.

I don’t know what it is that makes a person react so physically to a complete stranger, seen but not yet spoken to. I don’t possess much in the way of spiritual beliefs, but after that violent jolt, which defied any rational explanation, notions like meeting someone known in a previous life, or having a single pre-destined soul mate suddenly seemed less far-fetched, even to a sceptic like myself.

Weeks passed and my all-consuming obsession with the boy deepened, fuelled by a few excruciating evenings in each other’s company amongst mutual friends, during which I was incapable of forming a coherent sentence whenever he looked my way. We kissed, finally, in Paris, in the dark, laid out in sleeping bags on a friend’s floor. Surrounded by other slumbering bodies.

What followed was unquestionably the most intense relationship I have ever experienced. And by far the most unhealthy, the most turbulent. Raw, jagged emotion, fated to be as damaging as it was thrilling. The boy: brooding, moody, subject to bouts of depression. Me: insanely possessive, jealous and insecure. Uncharacteristically so, in fact. The product of a vulnerability that only he seemed to awaken in me.

I was terrified that The Boy would meet a French girl of ‘his own age’ at Rouen university. Eaten alive by a corrosive jealousy when he talked (far too often) about his ex-girlfriend, or left her letters lying around his bedroom (on purpose?). Knowing all the while that I would be returning to university, in England, in a few short months’ time, and aware, on some level, that this was not the sort of relationship which would survive in long-distance mode.

We met, many years later, in a bar in Paris, and raked over the embers together. He looked different: short haired, fuller faced. No longer any trace of the pronounced cheekbones and endearing moody smudges beneath his green eyes that had once held such a power over me. That old chemistry seemed perilously intact, however, and we resolved not to meet again.

It was safer that way.

April 18, 2005

half life

Filed under: mills & boon, navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:41 pm

So absorbed was I in the article I was reading – a clipping from Saga magazine courtesy of my mother, in which several elderly ladies recount their experiences of being reunited with the children they had put up for adoption in the sixties – that I almost missed my metro stop. This is not unusual, as I have the ability to almost entirely block out my surroundings when I read – I say almost, because this doesn’t work when there are buskers equipped with microphones and amplifiers. If I turn up to work a little late, my boss invariably asks me which book should be held responsible.

I leapt up, and lunged towards the doors, only to find my escape route barred by an attractive young couple. She was arty-looking, probably beaux-arts, with silky dark hair piled atop her head, faux carelessly, and secured with a pencil. A lot like my mental picture of how Vit Webb must have looked in her art college days. He was clad in jeans and a blazer, olive skin and Roman nose barely discernible behind a floppy fringe. He reminded me of my own university boyfriend. Positioned squarely in front of the doors, they were kissing passionately, eyes firmly closed, oblivious to the commuters around them. It was nowhere near as unattractive a spectacle as this couple described in a previous post. On the contrary, it was quite aesthetically pleasing, in a Hollywood kind of way. It did nonetheless pose something of a dilemma.

How was I to reach the handle to open the double doors, which they were virtually leaning on? Should I prise love’s young dream apart? Or slide an arm around their waists to spring the door open, which could potentially result in their toppling out onto the platform, lips still locked together?

I chose to clear my throat loudly instead, cheeks flaming with an unnecessary, “oh so British” embarrassment. Such is my genetic heritage.

Remarkably, the couple did not flinch, nor interrupt their passionate embrace for even a second; they simply took a couple of admirably synchronised steps to the left, leaving the door unobstructed. One of them even pulled the door lever, so that it sprang open just as the buzzer began to sound. I scampered off, gratefully.

This little episode has left me feeling strangely wistful. I realise it has been an eternity since I gave in to the urge to kiss passionately in public, or indeed felt such an overwhelming need in the first place. I don’t remember the last time I felt locked in a private little bubble with my partner, seeing only him, caring not a jot about what passers by might think. I feel achingly nostalgic for a younger, more carefree me, who felt everything so intensely. I don’t know if this person has gone for good, is temporarily in hiding, or whether it is age, comfortable familiarity or motherhood which has driven her underground.

I have no answers to these awkward questions. I only know that sometimes I can’t help but feel as though I am missing out on something. As if I were only half-alive.

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