petite anglaise

July 11, 2006

empty spaces

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 2:08 pm

I drop to the floor wearily, mopping my brow with my t-shirt then adjusting my glasses, which are gradually sliding south, towards the tip of my nose. I have just finished taking apart a sofa-bed, and am feeling suitably smug that I had kept both the assembly instructions and the little metal keys which Ikea so thoughtfully provide.

The apartment Tadpole and I are leaving is starting to look rather forlorn. There are yellowed patches on the paintwork, the ghosts of pictures which once hung on these walls. The surface is pitted with screw holes I have filled, a little clumsily, many with rawl plugs still inside. Most glaringly obvious though are the gaps where pieces of furniture once stood. Downsizing has meant bidding a fond farewell to many of the purchases Mr Frog and I made together eight years ago.

My secret weapon is a yahoo group called Freecycle. No sooner have I compiled an email saying “DONNE: meubles ikea, à emporter avant le 29 juillet”, pressed “send” and repaired to the kitchen to fetch a cold drink, without fail, upon my return, my inbox is groaning under the weight of a multitude of clamouring messages. The principle is simple: don’t throw anything away which may be of use to someone else. The real advantage being that the recipient has to take the items off your hands, which means huffing and puffing down five flights of stairs before they have even left the building. Rather them than me.

Tadpole has been watching recent developments with some concern. If another piece of furniture has disappeared while she slept, she bombards me with questions the following morning.

“Mummy, why is the television on that table?”

“Because the other table, where the television was before, has gone now. Mummy didn’t need it any more…”

Tadpole frowns, trying to picture what the old table looked like. Apparently failing.

She takes herself off to the bedroom and I hear the ominous sound of rummaging in her toybox. She returns brandishing a plastic harmonica in one hand, a stethoscope in the other.

“Mummy. I need to take these with me to the new house,” she says, firmly.

“Darling,” I say in my most reassuring tone,”we are going to take all your toys to the new house. Everything. And your clothes, your bed, your furniture…”

I wonder if the poor child imagined she would wake up one morning to find I had given all her toys away?

Tadpole nods, and I feel confident that she has understood.

Five minutes later, she returns, this time clutching Noddy’s red and yellow car.

“Can I take this as well?”


  1. Yep, I have moved twice in the last year and my kids had the same concerns. My son would not sleep the night before the move because he was afraid he would sleep through the move and we would forget him. Neither move was more than a mile but it was such a change for them. Even still they long to be on the old dirty house on the busy road because that was what they first knew as home.

    Comment by Ben — July 11, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  2. Hi petite. I’m moving on the 29th – from the UK to southern France with two children and two cats. I discovered freecycle last week and it works a treat. But I am now agonising over whether I can ethically freecycle the kids’ forgotten goldfish that only I remember to feed!

    Comment by Ros — July 11, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

  3. The only good part of moving is being able to purge your belongings every few years. If you never move, you become like those old people with 50 years’ worth of newspapers in your attic that your absent prodigal children have to wade through when you’re dead. That’s why I make sure to move once in a while. No clutter here, no sirree. I don’t want my death to inconvenience my future ungratefull heirs.

    Comment by homeimprovementninja — July 11, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  4. i remember moving as a kid, which we seemed to do a lot, because of my parents ever-so-delightful marriage, and i recall feeling as if after each one there would be little bits of myself left at the old place.

    tadpole will make it through though… good luck with everything petite!

    Comment by misshoax — July 11, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

  5. Poor little tadpole in the near term. But a learning experience for the long term. Hope it’s not bumming you out too much, Petite. Moving always makes me sad / nostalgic.

    xx, ellie

    Comment by ellie — July 11, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

  6. Do not underestimate the power of separation anxiety!

    Comment by Forest Green — July 11, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  7. How poignant! When I was a child we changed addresses eleven times in ten years. Needlesstosay, a recurring nightmare was that I would come home from school only to find that my parents had moved…. Perhaps there is something there about my being an expatriate….

    Comment by Lost in France — July 11, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

  8. Ah bless her – it’s such an upheaval for a child..and for you..good luck with the move..and in this heat!

    Comment by Wendy — July 11, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  9. It is hot. Clammy. Yuck.

    Luckily we are only moving about 300m. So although the apartment will be different, the neighbourhood will not. And I amgoing to buy Tadpole lots of new stuff for her bedroom, as there will be more space in hers (though not in mine!) than in her current room. So hopefully there is an upside for her…

    If you see a hot and bothered GIRL wheeling suitcases full of books along the avenue Simon Bolivar, or a pushchair piled high with bags, do say hello. I’m doing lots of démenagement sauvage trips so that on the big day we can just concentrate on furniture.

    Comment by petite — July 11, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  10. Not unusual for a small child to have difficulty grasping the finer points of moving — and to take it personally. Children are ego-centric by design and they only see things in terms of how it will affect THEM. So don’t be surprised when she continues to ask you if she can take her pillow and her blanket and her book and that other book and that doll over there and her socks and…

    Comment by The Bold Soul — July 11, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

  11. So this freecycle thing… Its just that when I moved to North Wales I brought everything I needed on the back of a motorbike. In 25 years I have accumulated enough crap to fill two barns. My mountain retreat is looking cluttered. And there are those in Paris who will clamour for it you say. ROLL UP ROLL UP! You lucky people…….

    Comment by meredic — July 11, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

  12. There will be a local one, you turnip!

    Comment by petite — July 11, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  13. Turnip eh? I’m not to posh to read other people you know! *sniff*

    Comment by meredic — July 11, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

  14. Freecycle is news to me, but I’ll keep the tip for when we need it.

    If you have things to sell, or things that aren’t chosen from freecycle, Craig’s List is a great resource as well. It’s at, and there is a France/Paris link.

    We found a 3 bedroom house with all hardwood floors to rent, for our imminent return to the US, and it’s a gem. Ahhh… a whole house to spread out in…

    Comment by Ronica — July 11, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

  15. Moving is in the air…I’m planning to move back to the UK, anywhere in the UK, with the three sproglings just as soon as I can find a job…anyone know of something for a 29-year-old Oxford English graduate/translator/EFL teacher?

    Meantime, best of luck Petite! I moved a lot as well as a kid, and I think it really helps to learn how not to be materialistic and more of a ‘world citizen’ – home is where you put your toybox, after all. :-)

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — July 11, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

  16. Where in the UK are you planning on going Lucy-Jane? I can heartily recommend the north-west – although none too sure about the job opportunities! Can’t believe you’d give up France for dreary ole England though!

    Comment by Mungo — July 11, 2006 @ 9:20 pm

  17. this is slightly off the topic (involves moving) but it is major news in blogland today, so have you seen/heard of this guy :
    I bet he’ll need to go to Ikea soon… what a great idea.

    Comment by magillicuddy — July 11, 2006 @ 10:09 pm

  18. God bless IKEA…good luck.

    Comment by Wendy — July 11, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

  19. What’s happened to Trevor??

    Comment by David In London — July 11, 2006 @ 11:54 pm

  20. Does Tadpole really speak that way?….”Can I take this as well?”

    If so, she’s got incredible grammar/speech for her age!

    And is it possible for a child to be that adorable? Geesh, she’s going to give me a cavity with all of that sweetness!!! :0)

    Comment by Noire Dire — July 12, 2006 @ 12:19 am

  21. I never knew about freecycle and there’s one in my city. I’m joining up. Better than putting out hard rubbish.

    Comment by jen — July 12, 2006 @ 1:28 am

  22. My niece: Mummy can I take my lego to the new house?

    My sister: Yes, darling, we’re taking everything!

    My niece: Are we taking the garden?

    My sister:

    Comment by the_editter — July 12, 2006 @ 1:30 am

  23. Not living at the top of several flights of stairs, I’d never thought about that particular advantage of freecycle, but it makes it even more worthwhile getting rid of stuff that way! I do like not having to just throw things away. Our local dump only lets you drop things off that fit in a rubbish bag so it gets a bit difficult to throw away things like a BBQ grill!

    My little ones complained for months after our move that they wanted to go back to the old house. Didn’t help that we drive past it every day! They adjusted eventually, tho my daughter still says she’s planning on buying it when she grows up.

    Comment by Susan — July 12, 2006 @ 4:54 am

  24. Chere Petite Anglaise,

    Thank you for sharing … I understand. For you and Tadpole this is a significant change. And, I’ve found that life is a journey comprised of small trips & major leaps … but the vast amount of time we spend is in the preparation of those passages.

    My darling daughter and I made a transition, similar to yours, not so long ago. We are progressing smoothly.

    Bonne chance, petite anglaise.


    Comment by Deborah — July 12, 2006 @ 9:48 am

  25. I know exactly what you mean. We betray them in these blunders without realising it, and we forget how much they treasure our world, and that it’s what we always wanted. Then they stand holding a noddy car, looking at us in the face, or packing it efficiently in a bag. And I used to feel so Guilty and Foolish.

    …isn’t your e-mail box groaning with mails anyway..?!!

    Comment by fjl — July 12, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

  26. This is totally off the subject but can some body please tell me what the anagram of “real e fun” is? (its one of petites favourite blogs)

    Comment by Kirsty — July 12, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  27. Thanks for the Freecycle link. I have one in my area. It will come in use I am sure.
    You write beautifully.

    Comment by shashi — July 12, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  28. Out of the mouth of babes… We recently we’re doing a house clear out, and I quite vocally got the three kids to help get rid of the “old stuff”. Our youngest came up (a girl, tadpoles age), came up with a very concerned look on her face, “Daddy, you’re not going to get rid of of P (her older brother) are you? He’s old now…” P’s birthday had just passed.

    Comment by TheBoy — July 12, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  29. You know of course that those unique little alan keys Ikea give you are created that way on purpose?

    It would never do that we could buy their OK looking and inconveniently temporary furniture with a view to throwing it out, or being able to dispatch it with a screwdriver.

    It has to be their special tool. So that all those years later when we do decide to fiddle with it, we remmeber that it was IKEA who had made out sleeping, eating, whatever so possible for all these years.

    Hmmm… maybe I have issues with Ikea…

    Comment by NWsixer — July 12, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

  30. You may be hot and bothered, Petite, but I’d say you’re a girl, not a lady. Lady sounds old.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — July 12, 2006 @ 7:10 pm

  31. Noted.

    Comment by petite — July 12, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

  32. What you need Petite is something hard and firm.

    Comment by Trevor — July 12, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

  33. Mungo – would love the North West – I grew up in Blackpool! ‘Tis the job that will decide, however…
    As for giving up France for dreary old England…many elements of present blog are reason enough! Thing is, cos I’ve been here for 8 years, brought the kids up here etc. etc., I don’t feel as if I’ve ever been ‘grown up’ in the UK, and it’s something I really need to do for myself, send the kids to school in uniform, Nativity plays, Sports day,etc. Even things like, um…buying fish – I can do it here in French, but I’ve never done it in England, or paying bills, everyday grown-up stuff! Ever felt like that Petite? Ever long to cry with pride at Tadpole being an angel/narrator/Mary/shepherd, and laugh affectionately with all the other mums at the little boy who widdles on stage? Anyone? Or is this (yet) another sign that I am completely weird?
    Funny thing is, even though I need to go back to UK, I much prefer living in France…
    Goodness, huge post, will stop rambling!

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — July 12, 2006 @ 9:55 pm

  34. Kirsty – Real E Fun stands for Funereal as far as I am aware… Though someone please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!

    Comment by Lizzy — July 13, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  35. I think we all miss England (well those if us who ggrew up there do) I don’t have kids but it is really difficult to imagine them growing up here.. I regularly have the urge to go and live near my home town (Lancaster) but then I think, what about Paris? Can’t live with it, can’t live without it….

    Comment by Cheria — July 13, 2006 @ 1:54 pm

  36. THnx Petite for giving me a wonderful link that is really helpful to me. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Matt Dave — July 13, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  37. There he is. And what a naughty comment!!


    Comment by David In London — July 13, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

  38. I always feel like a “better” person when I downsize my junk. I am habitually collecting stuff, so each time that I make the effort to get rid of the things that I don’t NEED, I feel better about my place in this world of material goods.

    Comment by delaïdo — July 13, 2006 @ 7:02 pm

  39. I feel the same way as Lucy-Jane; i’ve finally grown up in France.

    England represents(ed) going to work, earning dosh, spending said dosh on holidays and clubbing .. and errrrm … that’s about it.

    I’ve learnt a lot here. I feel very at home here. I’ve probably never felt more happier.

    Epanoui, as they say.

    People ask me how often i go back ‘home’.

    I always say never.

    It’s a lie.

    I’ve been back once in twelve years, for a long weekend.

    When i came back i just felt a surge of relief to be back, to be away from it all whatever ‘it’ is).

    Whilst there are things ‘typically english’ that i do (according to my colleagues), i just really don’t miss being in England.

    If i’d been brave enough, i’d’ve made the move earlier – sometimes i wish i had.

    Comment by Damiel — July 14, 2006 @ 12:23 am

  40. There is freedom in being an expatriate — even if we sometimes miss things, or more importantly, people, from home.

    By the way, happy Bastille Day, petite!

    Comment by Lost in France — July 14, 2006 @ 11:56 am

  41. This thing about ‘girl’ or ‘lady’: true, ‘lady with suitcases’ sounds old and homeless; on the other hand, a ‘girl’ can’t be a mum, surely? Why not ‘woman’? I hate it when people refer to me as a ‘girl’ or ‘une fille’because for me it’s a word that doesn’t respect all the life experience I have…
    Just a thought!

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — July 14, 2006 @ 11:58 am

  42. Damiel,

    This is interesting because I left France for England 7 years ago and never looked back. I love the way you Brits live and enjoy life. I love London for its vibrant atmosphere and its people but I also enjoy the English country side and its beautiful landscapes and stables, its tea shops and friendly people (‘Darling Buds’ type). Sunday roasts and cream tea are also among my favourites – not good for the waistline though.

    Having said that, I always buy my French baguette at Paul after work. They sell really good stuff, just like in France.

    Bises from sunny England.

    Comment by Stephanie — July 14, 2006 @ 12:05 pm

  43. i can say after moving many many times across the world and ending up down under in oz its funny how the little insignificant things are the things you come to remember and love about the place you call “home” good ol’ blighty LOL
    Moving is like a visit to the dentist !! anxious anticipation of pain and discomfort followed by some pain and inconvenience but that when looked back on the memory never seems to be as scary as one first imagined it would be.

    Comment by stuart — July 19, 2006 @ 5:34 am

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