petite anglaise

November 22, 2005


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:59 pm

When my Lover is not with me, I sleep fitfully, work worries flitting around my head, like moths around a lightbulb. When I do manage to sleep, I migrate onto his pillows, which are impregnated with the scent of his skin, unconsciously seeking the comfort of a warm shoulder.

I wake and the winter moonlight gives no clue as to the hour. It could be hours or minutes before the alarm sounds. Reluctant to rouse myself further to squint at my watch, I lie wide awake nevertheless, mildly paranoid, as always, that I’m going to be late, that the alarm will not work at all.

Familiar knots tighten in my stomach as my mind predictably turns to the office. Will it be a neutral day, or a stormy one? Weather map symbols swim before my eyes. Where once every day was dry with light cloud and sunny intervals, nowadays there are, at best, ominous grey clouds gathering; at worst, a violent storm.

After what seems like an eternity, electronic beeps signal 6.45 am. I switch on the bedside light, ease my glasses onto my nose, and try to will my body out from under the heavy, duck down duvet. Five minutes pass, then ten. Why, oh why does a bed always feel at least ten times more comfortable when it is time to leave it?

If I strain my ears, I can hear a gentle, regular snoring coming from Tadpole’s room along the hallway. She’s as reluctant as I to wake in the winter, and invariably turns to face the wall, her sleepy, plaintive voice protesting “No mummy! I can’t get up. I’m tired!”

Today is no different. Softly I repeat her name until she stirs; the pattern of her breathing subtly changes. Curling into a foetal ball, she emits a little moan. I begin to pull on my work clothes, knowing that she will come around, in time.

Sure enough, when my head emerges from a polo neck jumper, I see sparkling blue eyes looking at me mischievously over the top of a teddy bear.

“I peeping mummy!” she giggles, as she raises herself up on one elbow.

I smile, feeling one of the knots loosening, unravelling, in my stomach.

Gathering the sleeping bag sheathed Tadpole into my arms, I sink into the nearby sofa, my face buried in her neck. Small, soothing fingers caress my neck and run themselves through my dishevelled hair. She pulls herself upright, eyes close to mine, the tips of our noses touching. Suddenly animated, she exclaims:

“Go outside and make some clouds?”

I see us in my mind’s eye, yesterday morning, walking alongside the park, our warm breath visible in the frosty air. Tadpole’s eyes were wide with wonder, and she beseeched me “souffle mummy, souffle!” over and over again. Simple things which I take for granted take on new meaning when I can show them to Tadpole for the very first time.

Slowly, in the presence of my daughter, office stress recedes into insignificance. From our exchanges I draw the strength to face my day.

November 17, 2005


Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:12 pm

I can hear the gynecologist talking on the phone in the next room. A personal call, judging by her cooing tones. Despite the fact that she is ten minutes late, that I am the only person in the tiny waiting room, sitting awkwardly on the overstuffed leather sofa, glancing at my watch periodically to see just how late back to work I am going to be, she is clearly not it any hurry to call me in. Classical music plays on invisible speakers, but does not have the desired soothing effect.

Finally, five minutes later, I am summoned in. I shake her hand, trying not to think about where it spends much of its time, and take a seat, opposite her desk.

“Now, remind me of your name,” she says, looking not nearly as bashful as she should, under the circumstances.

I comply, puzzled as to why she doesn’t have my notes in front of her. What does her secretary do all day? Blog?

“I seem to have misplaced your notes,” she continues, rising to paw through her filing cabinet half-heartedly, but apparently still drawing a blank.

I sigh, and refresh her memory as to the subject of our previous appointment, less than a month ago. Explanations out of the way, I am invited to strip naked (bottom half only) and take up the habitual position on my back, feet in stirrups.

My mother always told me that once you’ve had a baby, any inhibitions you used to have will disappear. I found this to be true during my pregnancy, largely because due to my burgeoning belly, I couldn’t actually get a clear view of what was going on down there anyway, but shortly afterwards, my inhibitions returned to haunt me with a vengeance.

Suffice to say that the snap of latex gloves being pulled on is not a sound I look forward to. Nor is the fact that French gynéco’s all seem to be rather fond of checking for breast lumps with their bare, cold hands, which is not dissimilar to being groped by a particularly inept sixteen year old boy.

Thirty seconds later it is all over, and when I return to my seat, a prescription awaits me. I pull out my cheque book and pen.

“Sixty five euros?” I ask, wondering if my memory can be serving me correctly.

“Oui, Madame, c’est exact,” comes the reply. Her nose is already in the next person’s file, signalling that I have been dismissed.

Inwardly fuming, I write my cheque. Sixty five euros for five minutes of her precious time. Sixty five euros to see a doctor who has misplaced my records, has no idea of my history, and yet feels qualified to make a snappy, thirty second diagnosis. Sixty five euros, all because she has a double-barrelled name and a tiny cabinet from whose windows you can almost, but not quite, make out the Louvre.

I mumble the usual niceties and take my leave, vowing never to cross her threshold again, even if she is within spitting distance of my office.

November 10, 2005

wrinkling my nose in distaste

Filed under: french touch, misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:44 pm

Three things offended my delicate sensibilities today. In the following order:

First, the grafitti in the lift which takes me into the bowels of the earth to catch my morning métro:

“Pas heureux chez nous? Allez donc crever de faim chez vous!”

Glad to see the spirit of fraternité is alive and kicking in the twenty first century.

Second, old greasy bum is back on a billboard near you (shameless recycling on the part of the Galéries Lafayette) and almost succeeded in putting me off my brioche.

Third, work. I don’t talk about work. It’s my new rule. But if I say I decided it might be prudent to revamp the CV today, that’s not really talking about work, is it?

November 9, 2005


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:40 pm

I had been dreading Tadpole’s appointment with the optician ever since the day I scheduled it, back in September.

Psychologically scarred by our previous visit, during which I suggested to the optician that perhaps a kiddy straitjacket might be a worthwhile investment, I couldn’t help fearing the worst.

Has anyone out there ever tried administering eye drops to an energetic twelve month old? It wasn’t the first set of drops which posed a problem, although they did provoke an ear splitting squeal which was probably heard by every resident of the 20th arrondissement.

But the fun really started when I went back for a second attempt. And a third. And fourth. At the merest glimpse of the eyedropper, Tadpole screamed and clamped her eyes tightly shut. With one hand holding the pipette, the other attempting to pin her wildly gesticulating arms to her chest, a third hand was required to perform the prising open of Tadpole’s eyelids. But, being anatomically quite unadventurous, I sadly do not possess a third hand. In despearation, I called for backup, and left a frantic, expletive-riddled message on Mr Frog’s mobile phone messagerie. To no avail. Reinforcements were not forthcoming.

Forty minutes of toddler-wrestling later, one of Tadpole’s pupils was greatly enlarged (her eye not dissimilar to my own in a favourite photo entitled “petite outside the dance tent, Glastonbury Festival, 1995” in which my irises do not appear to exist), whilst the other remained a stubborn little dot. Eyedrops, mingled with tears, ran into Tadpole’s ears and hair, and dribbled down her clothes. Her protesting face was the colour of a beetroot. At my wits’ end, I vowed never again to brave the optician’s alone.

Which brings us to Saturday morning, 8.50am. Petite and Tadpole alight from a number 26 bus at the junction of rue des Pyrénées and rue de Bagnolet, armed with an impressive artillery of bribes (madeleines with chocolate chips, colouring book and felt tip pens, favourite dolly). We scurry past the Flèche d’Or, which I glance at wistfully (petite’s social life – R.I.P.), and arrive at the cobbled rue St Blaise, home of the children’s ophtalmologue.

Tadpole fiddles dubiously with the various grubby looking, paleolithic toys which populate the waiting area; I wrestle with my own sense of foreboding. A door opens, and the ophtalmo appears.

“Tadpole Anglaise?”

“Oui, c’est ma fille.”

“Et quel âge a-t-elle?”

I hastily count on my fingers. “Er, … 29 months.”

“Right, come on in!”

My jaw drops. “We don’t have to do the eye drops first?”

“No, she’s old enough to do an eye test this time…”

Brimming over with gratitude, I resist an overwhelming urge to throw my arms around the optician lady.

Ten minutes later, we are free to go, as Tadpole has successfully “read” the test chart on the wall, with only two minor hesitations, and one rather perplexing moment where the optician points at a picture of a flower, and Tadpole cries:


In the bus on the way home, I discreetly finger the untouched chocolate chip madeleines in my bag, with a smile of anticipation.

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