petite anglaise

November 8, 2005

just call me rita

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:47 pm

If you had seen me last night at 10 pm, kneeling on the icy cold tomette tiles of my kitchen floor, head and torso wedged tightly into the cupboard under the sink, rear end protruding, you would have been forgiven for wondering what on earth I was doing.

It all started with the innocent looking cardboard notice which greeted me as opened the lift door yesterday evening, proclaiming that a quarterly reading of the water meter was required. I sighed, and cursed my landlord, and the inept bunch of renovators he seemingly employed to give our flat a superficial and ill-thought out makeover prior to our arrival in December 2002.

The “kitchen”, where the infamous water meter is located, is little more than a glorified corridor, as is often the case in circa 1900 apartment buildings, where the original, respectably sized kitchen was later carved up in order to create a bathroom alongside it. Prior to this, shared facilities would have been the norm.

When Mr Frog and I moved in, the only equipment in our “cuisine équipée” was a sink unit with gas hobs set into the work surface adjacent to the sink, (meaning, helpfully, no space for a draining board). Below the sink, the cupboard my bottom was protruding from. Below the gas hobs, an empty space and the wherewithall to plumb in a washing machine. With a little creative thinking and an ikea catalogue, I managed to create a compact and bijou kitchen out of this tiny space, which works well enough, so long as not more than one person wants to be in there at any given time.

That is, until a reading from the water meter is required.

In order to obtain said reading, one must first reach behind the cupboard under the sink and detach the washing machine hoses. As access is rather awkward, it is advisable to empty said cupboard of its contents. Then, once the water hoses have been disconnected, the washing machine may be eased gently from its housing. Unfortunately, the person who devised and fitted the kitchen unit decided to make it exactly as wide as a standard-sized washing machine, but not a centimetre wider. With the result that my faithful Zanussi “appliance of science” has to be be prised, wiggled and coaxed out of its space with a certain amount of difficulty. Every time the manoeuvre is repeated, the future of said kitchen unit looks ever more uncertain. Half way through said manoeuvre, it becomes apparent that the free standing work surface/cupboard located directly opposite the washing machine needs to be wheeled out of the way, into the hall, to enable the washing machine to be heaved into the space it occupied.

Finally, one must crawl on hands and knees into the space vacated by the washing machine, preferably armed with a cloth for mopping up the water which has undoubtedly escaped from the dangling water hoses, and also a torch, for the reading of the western world’s most inaccessible water meter, located on the back wall. After which the washing machine must be coaxed back into its sheath and re-connected to the water supply/drain.

An operation which takes, on average, twenty minutes, and which can be likened, in terms of the discomfort and physical contortion involved, to the act of kissing the blarney stone.

Imagine, if you will, the fun I had performing this task for the first time, when heavily pregnant with Tadpole. I sat down, panting, to fill in the card which the water company had left on my doormat. Only at this juncture did I notice that the number they were interested in was the one which appeared in the black area. Not the red one which I had just taken down.

Yesterday, however, I successfuly employed Mr Frog’s meter reading method (patent pending), marvelling at how effortlessly simple it was. After a mere five minutes spent with my torso wedged in the cupboard, arm outstretched into the void beyond (praying that it would not encounter any spiders, cockroaches or other vermin along the way) and a few “click click click click beep” noises, the reading was mine, all mine. Not a drop of water was shed; not a female tennis player style grunt of exertion was to be heard.

Pure, unadulterated genius.

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.


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:33 pm

Cars they may have been a-burning, and people they may have been a-rioting, but petite, oblivious to it all this weekend, swapped her keyboard for a paintbrush, set her ipod on its base, and, rather randomly, decided to play albums by bands beginning with the letter K while she worked.

And it was very relaxing indeed.

November 3, 2005


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:31 pm

At first, I agonised over how Tadpole would react to the fact that not only did daddy now live across the road, but that there was also a new man in my life.

I was adamant that he couldn’t come to stay in the flat I used to share with Mr Frog, sleep on what had, until recently, been his side of the the bed, on what my daughter still refers to as “daddy’s pillow”. (Although the pillows, mattress and all of the bedding is, in fact, symbolically new.) So, for the first few months we visited Rennes, Tadpole and I, and much as I wanted to, I didn’t invite Lover to visit me in Paris unless Tadpole was away.

I have a vivid memory of our first journey to Rennes together, Tadpole giggling at her reflection in my powder compact, while I hastily applied a little make up, anxious to look my best when we stepped off the train. My daughter, desperate to wear some lip gloss “just like mummy”, had to be fobbed off with lip salve, and was allowed to “help mummy” by dragging a brush, somewhat painfully, through my hair.

Later that weekend, glancing back at my daughter, who was walking hand in hand with one of Lover’s girls and chattering happily, I realised that although this new relationship might seem complicated on paper, it didn’t have to be in practice. And when Tadpole shrieked with delight, seated high above me on Lover’s broad shoulders, I knew that although he would never replace her daddy, she had found a new friend.

Yesterday I reflected on how much things have changed, since that weekend in June. Nowadays, Lover comes to stay in Paris for a week or two at a time, and is a semi-permanent fixture in the anglaise household. When we arrive home in the evenings, Tadpole knocks insistently on the front door, calling his name over and over, until he opens it just a chink, and peeps through the gap. Every day the same routine; every day the same delighted giggles from Tadpole. He is entitled to a kiss and a cuddle at bedtime once the stories have been read. Futile attempts have been made by Tadpole to enlist his support against me when my daughter and I are in conflict over a plate of untouched dinner. Luckily, he is wise enough to take a step back in situations like these, refusing to take sides or to allow the resident manipulator to get her own way by playing us off against each other.

Occasionally Tadpole shows her possessive streak and becomes annoyed at the fact that she is not receiving my undiluted attention every single second of the day. “That’s MY mummy!” she shouted petulantly, eyebrows furrowed, when she arrived home after a weekend with Mr Frog and the In Laws, indignant at being asked to share.

Tonight Tadpole and I will return to an empty flat, the lights out, the laptop conspicuously absent from my dining table. Tadpole will finally have me all to herself, and yet I know that the first thing she will say to me when I pick her up from the childminder’s will be:

“Go see Jim?”

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