petite anglaise

August 4, 2005


Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:36 pm

I take a seat in the métro, and adjust my ear buds. I rather like the journey to work in August. Most Parisians have sloped off to the beach for a few weeks, so the carriages are empty but for a handful of tourists. And I do enjoy tourist-watching. I wonder, idly, what it is about being on holiday that saps people of whatever dress-sense they may once have possessed.

I smooth down my gauzy skirt. I love the way it moves when I walk, but as it is so floaty as to be barely there, I can never quite shake off a feeling of paranoia when I wear it. If you are a girl (or a transvestite for that matter), you will be aware of the perils of the skirt/shoulder bag combination. A perfectly demure knee length skirt can and will end up skimming the top of your thighs on one side when you have walked not 200 metres, as a thoughtful passer by (female) pointed out to me the other day.

A doddery old man gets on at Gare de l’Est. He looks about eighty years old, has a small, wiry build and wears fairly non-descript clothing, except for a sleeveless beige jacket with lots of pockets, which I have decided to call a safari jacket, for the purposes of this post.

Ignoring the swathes of empty seats all around me, he sits down in the seat next to mine. Except he doesn’t. He sits down half on his seat, and half on mine. On my floaty skirt, with the whole of the left side of his body touching mine. I was already leaning against the window out of choice, but now I am pinned to the wall, whether I like it or not, unable to move.

I wonder what to do.

First, I cast about for a sympathetic person to roll my eyes at. The lady opposite avoids eye contact and pretends not to notice my predicament.

Maybe, I say to myself charitably, he just sat down clumsily, and this unnecessary proximity is purely accidental. Any minute now, the man will move further onto his own seat, muttering an embarrassed apology.

The metro pulls out of the station. The man doesn’t move. Instead, he appears to lean in closer.

Maybe, I say to myself with increasing desperation, he hasn’t noticed that he is sitting almost in my lap. After all, he is staring into space with a very vacant expression and could well be senile. In which case, this is all perfectly innocent, and nothing I say will make a blind bit of difference anyway.

The man buries his elbow further into my right hip.

Two more métro stops go by as I dither, rehearsing suitable lines in my head.

Sarcastically: “Would you like to sit in my lap?” (Too dangerous. He might well take me up on the offer.)
Politely: “Would you mind sitting on your own seat?”

I opt for a different approach, which involves standing up abruptly at the next stop, pulling my skirt from under his leg sharply, and shooting a disdainful glare over my shoulder as I flounce over to sit on a nearby strapontin.

I breathe a sigh of my relief, but am still not really 100% convinced that Mr Safari Jacket was intentionally doing anything lecherous. I may well have been overreacting.

When I arrive at my destination, I realise that Mr SJ has vanished.

Odd. I don’t remember seeing him get off.

As the metro pulls away, I spy a girl through the window. She is sitting at the far end of the carriage against the wall and is cringing away from a little old man wearing a beige safari jacket.

I feel vindicated, but also rather depressed at having my suspicions confirmed. Clearly it is a waste of time giving anyone the benefit of the doubt these days.

August 2, 2005


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:16 pm

There is a Tadpole shaped hole in my life at the moment.

She has now been staying with her French grandparents for ten whole days and I’m starting to ache a little. I miss waking her up in the morning, watching her stretch and pout and roll over to face the wall, murmuring, in protest, “[Tadpole] elle fait dodo!” I miss burying my face in her neck and inhaling her soft, warm scent. I miss brushing her tight, golden curls. I even miss holding her down with my knee as she squirms and objects to having her nappy changed.

Last week I had to bite the bullet and call the ex-in-laws, so that I could hear Tadpole’s voice for a few precious moments.

It was my first contact with belle mère since I took on my new role of homewrecker and adulteress, so I felt a little awkward and had to prepare myself psychologically for the ordeal by doing lots of pacing around the apartment prior to the appointed hour.

Tadpole answered the phone. Except she didn’t sound like Tadpole. She sounds like a little French stranger, somewhere far, far away.

“Allô! [Tadpole] elle a un bobo!” she announced proudly.

I wasn’t sure she even knew it was me she was talking to.

Mother-In-Law hastily grabbed the phone, anxious to explain that the bobo in question was just a minor scrape on her knee, and that I was not to be alarmed. As an afterthought, she said hello, and asked how I was.

“Very well thank you,” I replied, gaily, and then cursed myself for not dampening down the happiness in my voice. I have no idea if she knows about my Lover, or indeed that he is keeping me company in Paris while Tadpole is away, but it seemed indecent somehow to sound too happy, when her own son clearly isn’t right now. Which is, of course, my fault.

“Right. Well. I’ll put [Tadpole] back on…” she said, her voice taut with embarrassment. Or indignation. I couldn’t tell. Telephones are not good for conveying mood accurately, I find.

I resumed my conversation with Tadpole.

“So, what have you been doing darling?” I enquired.

The garbled reply included the word “piscine” so I presumed the paddling pool was involved. The only other words I could decipher were “les cloches”.

Tadpole has an inexplicable obsession with bells. Whenever we stay within earshot of a church and hear bells ringing, Tadpole invariably gets very excited and shouts: “T’entends les cloches? Ecoute! ” while running to the nearest window and attempting to see where the noise is actually coming from.

It’s endearing the first time you hear it. Less so when the bells in question chime four times every hour.

“Can you sing mummy a song?” I venture, desperate to hear more of her distant little French voice.

I am treated to a very accurate rendition of “une souris verte”, in which a green mouse, when caught by the tail and dipped in oil and water, miraculously turns into a hot snail.

Tadpole loses interest in the telephone after that and MIL and I say our rather tepid goodbyes.

I miss Tadpole even more after that.

August 1, 2005

podiatrically challenged

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:51 pm

I have been tagged with a shoe meme. Not only tagged, but challenged: “Petite, because she’ll never do it.”

Grrr. Of course this means I have to. But if it makes less than thrilling reading, it’s beyond my control.

Until about the age of sixteen, I loathed buying shoes. I liked having my feet measured at Clarks shoe shop, in the special machine with metal bars that gently closed around my feet, the vibrations of the machine tickling slightly, but I didn’t like the sensible shoes that we invariably left the shop with. Not only did the shoes have to comply with strict school uniform regulations, but they also had to have a low heel, because it had been decreed that I had weak ankles. Thus for many years my shoes were of the lace up, sturdy, characterless variety and the prospect of buying a new pair was not something I tended to get terribly excited about.

At sixth form college there was no uniform. Finally I was free to express my personality via my footwear. And what did I buy? Black slip-on plimsolls to start with, just like the regulation ones we used to wear in PE classes at school. I think I favoured these because they cost very little. Then, in keeping with my status as an NME and Melody Maker reader, I graduated to my very first pair of Doc Martens. These were worn with everything: the charity shop Laura Ashley pinafores which I favoured at the time, jeans, mini skirts and even ball gowns. At university, I graduated to a pair of bright blue Docs, and strung beads on the laces. I loved those boots, and wore them until the shiny leather cracked.

A couple of years later, I discovered electronic music and everything that entailed, which generated a need for footwear which would enable me to dance for twelve hours at a time. The Doc Martens were swiftly retired, to be replaced by suede trainers, worn with shimmering sequined mini-dresses. (I never could understand how clubbers managed to dance in strappy sandals.) These, when not adorning my feet, lived outside my window. For obvious reasons.

It was only when I began working in offices (circa 1998) and earning a wage, that I started to take any interest in shoes, owning multiple pairs, and investing in different styles of shoe to complement different outfits. Throwing caution to the wind, and blocking out my mother’s voice in my head, protesting in vain about my weak ankles, I bought shoes and boots with heels. A revelation! I discovered what most short people had probably known innately all along: they made me look taller, and made my calves look thinner. It was an epiphany, of sorts.

I still don’t think I own very many pairs of shoes by Nardac, schuey or Coquette‘s standards. And I’m sad to say that I am not au fait with much in the way of shoe terminology, so you won’t find me bandying about phrases like ‘Mary Janes’ with careless abandon.

My main gripe when buying footwear in France is that I can never find a pair of boots which I can actually zip up over my fair (but slightly sturdy) calves. I’ve learned my lesson: I source those in Blighty, to avoid embarassment.


Below is the shoe meme, in case this sort of thing really does fascinate you:

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

  • 1 pair of multicoloured suede pumps from fun&basics in Madrid
  • 1 pair of black kitten heel shoes for work, can’t remember where I bought them
  • 1 pair of patent leather high block heeled shoes from Nine West which caused me to fall down the stairs at work, with the sound of my mother’s voice saying “I told you so”, echoing in my ears…
  • 1 pair of black knee high boots (from England, for aforementioned reasons)
  • 1 pair of brown high heeled ankle-high boots
  • 1 pair of black medium heeled mid-calf high boots (from England)
  • 1 pair of brown tiger ‘Kill Bill’ trainers
  • 1 pair of black coq sportif trainers
  • 1 pair of brown flipflops
  • 1 pair of black and beige flat sandals from Office, UK**
  • 1 pair of black strappy sandals with kitten heels
  • 1 pair of gorgeous brown Louis Vuitton shoes from a private sale* (I photographed these, then deleted the picture by accident, sorry)
  • 1 pair of slightly less gorgeous Louis Vuitton shoes from same
  • 2 pairs of Barry Comfort slippers (free when Mr Frog did their advertising involving very sarcastic talking slippers)
  • 1 pair of complimentary slippers from a hotel in Geneva, 4 sizes too big, courtesy of Mr Frog

Total:16 (which probably doesn’t qualify me for “proper girl” status, and I’m really scraping the barrel by including my slippers)

Most expensive pair of shoes: *

Last shoe you bought:**

How many shoes under your work desk:

Er, I’m not sure I understand this one. That’ll be the suede pumps I’m currently wearing. I don’t make a habit of bringing extra pairs into the office. Should I?

I wouldn’t mind if my Lover’s shoes were also under the desk, provided they were attached to Lover. But that’s too rude a fantasy for my mum to read about.

At this juncture I think I am supposed to tag someone else with the shoe meme. But I think I’ll just look for volunteers instead. First five people who want to brag about their shoe collection, mention it in the comments box below and I’ll link to you here.

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