petite anglaise

November 7, 2005


Filed under: missing blighty, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 1:54 pm

“We’re going to see lights flying in the sky. Very noisy lights, that go whizz! and weee! and BANG!

“BANG!” repeats Tadpole, waving her arms enthusiastically and managing to elbow me in the chin in the process.

I realise that it is not easy to describe fireworks to a two year old without performing a variety of sound effects, and regret the fact that I didn’t choose to do so in the privacy of my own home.

Painfully aware of the taxi driver eying me incredulously in the rear view mirror, I decide an explanation might be in order, for his benefit.

“Mummy calls the light fireworks, in English. And in French they are called feu d’artifice,” I say, in my best educator’s voice.

Feu n’artifice! Feu n’artifice!” shrieks the resident parrott.

I thank my lucky stars that this year Tadpole is too young for an explanation of why the effigy of a man called Mr Fawkes is being burned, somewhat barbarically, on a bonfire.

We alight at the British Embassy and make our way to the garden, where the fun and festivities are to take place; I put down my mulled wine and busy myself sending a text message to the very kind reader/embassy employee who invited Tadpole and I to the annual bonfire party, to announce our arrival.

Small children race across the lawn in the semi-darkness, squealing with excitement at being allowed to stay up after bedtime. Tadpole, almost invisible in her black coat, proves almost impossible to keep track of. My insistent pleas to “stay near mummy” fall on deaf ears, and every few minutes I am forced to interrupt my conversation and set off in search of my errant daughter. To think that I used to take for granted the fact that I could look someone in the eye while having a conversation and actually finish my sentences. Those days are, sadly, long gone.

Only bribery in the form of unhealthy foodstuffs provides Tadpole with an incentive to spend a little time with mummy, and I am pathetically grateful to the kind ladies on the barbecue stall for their array of toddler taming quavers, hot dogs and curly wurlies.

When the firework display begins, Tadpole darts over to the mesh fence which has been used to section off the onlookers from the bonfire, and throws her head back, roaring with delighted, slightly deranged sounding laughter. The child is most definitely not afraid. I drop to her level and we make the obligatory “ooh” and “aah” sounds in unison.

For the remainder of the weekend, whenever my daughter talks about the fireworks (approximately once every hour), there is a frightening glint in her eyes, which I have only seen once before (when my mother in law evoked her weekly trips to the town casino).

I try to convince myself that by attending the display, I have not unwittingly sown the seeds of pyromania.


  1. I cqnnot begin to explain how jealous I am that you got to eat hot dogs and see fireworks.
    I missed Bonfire night so much this year, I normally go to the York fireworks and this year they had special celebrations for the 600th year…..oh well :(

    Comment by Anne — November 7, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

  2. There was a firework party in Paris? Why wasn’t that advertised in Fusac? Is that every year? I would so have wanted to go and see that I MIIIISSSSSSS bonfire night soooo much.

    *stamps foot at anger at self for missing out on fireworks*

    I believe there were some good ones in Clichy though.

    Comment by cheria — November 7, 2005 @ 2:30 pm

  3. Cheria,
    I believe the British Embassy fireworks party is a private affair, upon invitation only. Not for the average plebby expat. Petite obviously has good contacts…
    Not that I’m jealous, of course.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — November 7, 2005 @ 3:26 pm

  4. he he well there have to be some perks to spending time and money on the blog…

    … next up – Disneyland Paris. Any kind readers who know where I can get cut price tickets so we can treat Jim’s kids?

    Comment by petite — November 7, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  5. I’ve just seen your updated photo on the About page!! I take it that these are the chic Gucci glasses you mentioned in a previous post?!

    Comment by Hazy — November 7, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  6. I have a very cheap plan for Disney, and will mail you about this …..

    Comment by P in France — November 7, 2005 @ 3:54 pm

  7. Whatever is the world coming to? The ghettoes are burning and the British Embassy serves hot dogs instead of parkin pigs.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 7, 2005 @ 3:56 pm

  8. Curly Wurlies!! :-)

    Comment by Iain — November 7, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  9. I’m so jealous! We didn’t have a big bonfire to light anyone on fire on! Since everything I’d heard about Bonfire Night was “…and then they light Guy Fawkes on fire. In effigy.” I was really looking forward to the roasting.

    Oh well. I hear they don’t do that in Scotland, just England. Will remember that for next time.

    Comment by Anna — November 7, 2005 @ 4:26 pm

  10. What are curly wurlies?! And where can I get some?!

    Comment by Heather — November 7, 2005 @ 4:32 pm

  11. Some people here put a long leash on the kids to hold on to them in a crowd. I thought them barbaric, until I found how fast kids can dissapear, now it seems like a great idea.

    Comment by joeinvegas — November 7, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

  12. Aaaah, the pleasure the little ones get from seeing something for the first time.

    I used to make my own fireworks, but nanny state does not approve of these activities in this day and age. C’est la vie.

    Comment by Keith — November 7, 2005 @ 5:35 pm

  13. Long time no comment, but I do have two childrens Eurodisney tickets you can have (already placed the two adult tickets that i bought – long story) I’ll need to check they are still valid. Will get back to you once i have checked this evening.

    Bye for now,


    Comment by Germain — November 7, 2005 @ 5:35 pm

  14. Heather: You don’t know what a Curly Wurly is ? Take
    a look at this

    Yum Yum !

    Comment by P in France — November 7, 2005 @ 7:33 pm

  15. children view everything with so much wonder – i sometimes wish the world wasn’t so jaded. seemed like you guys really enjoyed yourselves. :)

    Comment by ribbiticus — November 7, 2005 @ 7:53 pm

  16. I remember the sea of blank faces when I explained the tradition behind bonfire night to my class of French lycéens…

    Comment by anxious — November 7, 2005 @ 8:47 pm

  17. My friend asked us round because she was having fireworks in her garden. My son thought they were great my two year old hated them, in the end i sat on the ground with her between my legs she had the hood of her coat up and i was covering her ears and she fell asleep.Its good that Tadpole liked them because when my son was two he hated fireworks and we had to take him home because he was so upset.

    Comment by Growing Up — November 7, 2005 @ 9:50 pm

  18. I love your stories with Tadpole (so, essentially, every story). I’m so far from having children, but it’s just heartwarming – though somewhat frightening – to read your stories and ponder just what it will be like for me. That’s why I keep comin’ back. :)

    The bonfire sounded quite nice in the midst of the riots. That’s what American media will do for you. :)

    Comment by Fixed Up Girl — November 7, 2005 @ 11:11 pm

  19. I was a British Embassy employee for two years and we Never had a bonfire party!! Clearly I was in the wrong country…

    As for the pyromania, are you keeping a close eye on your Tadpole? I hear there’s lots of incidents in Paris these days.

    Comment by Alda — November 8, 2005 @ 12:55 am

  20. We have bonfire night in Scotland. And since my family lives in a fairly diverse area, we also have had many boiterous youths celebrating it, Eid and Diwali. They all scared the bejesus out of my dog.

    Incidentally, scotland is also home to the deep-fried curly wurly… And has the highest rate of heart disease in the world. Cardiologists hold all their conferences in Glasgow.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — November 8, 2005 @ 1:52 am

  21. I’m sure tadpole loved the fireworks, my daughter is absolutely transfixed as well, and so far hasn’t burned the house down..

    Comment by walter — November 8, 2005 @ 5:35 am

  22. mmm.. Curly Wurlys.. only second to my favourite the Crunchie, it’s amazing i have any teeth left. haha!
    the fireworks sound like such fun!

    sadly in America we only have fireworks for independence day, which really ought to be named patriot day.. as our independence from england seems a bit silly now that our countrues are so close. (i’m not unamerican by any means i just think a redirection of holiday name would suit us better)

    be safe with all that unrest and rioting going on, hopefully it isnt anywhere near you and the lovely Tadpole. :D

    Comment by Doll — November 8, 2005 @ 7:07 am

  23. If this bonfire was in the embassy grounds right next door to the presidential palace, old Chirac must have thought the fireraisers were coming for him at the Elysée and that’s why he put on his brown trousers and finally went on television to appeal for an end to the lawlessness!
    Explain that to your little apprentice hellraiser.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 8, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

  24. Suppose you know that Guido ‘Crazy Guy’ Fawkes was from York. He plotted to blow up a ruler who suppressed Catholic rights.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 8, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

  25. Of course. He went to my sisters’ school.

    Which makes for an even more interesting explanation along the lines of “there was this man, who went to your aunties’ school, who tried to blow up the houses of parliament. But didn’t succeed. And now we burn a scarecrow who looks like him on a bonfire….”

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2005 @ 5:18 pm

  26. I think most kids go through a phase of fascination with fire. My brother and I certainly did. We’d hoard matches and set fire to all sorts.

    Comment by stressqueen — November 9, 2005 @ 7:40 pm

  27. The Embassy Bonfire Night party is indeed by invitation only, but as practically everyone in my department here spends their tea breaks discussing Petite’s latest exploits, I felt we knew her well enough to invite her to join us for the festivities!

    Lovely to meet you both… :-)


    Comment by Lauren Harris — November 10, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

  28. Wow. Tadpole reminds me a lot of myself as a child (at least, as my parents tell it). Strong-willed, smart, and a budding pyro. All excellent traits, in my view…

    Comment by Karen — November 10, 2005 @ 9:28 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: