petite anglaise

July 14, 2006


Filed under: navel gazing, single life — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:49 pm

I find myself strangely unperturbed that there are no men to speak of in my life at the moment.

A few month’s back, among the flurry of well-meaning comments and emails, a few people trotted out that old chestnut about how some me-time would do me good. That alone doesn’t necessarily mean feeling lonely; it can be a very positive, healthy state of affairs. I knew that there was some truth in these words, but at the time I was still feeling brittle, wobbly, and just a little bit lost at sea. Feeling good about being alone seemed remote and unattainable, and I wasn’t even sure it was what I wanted to aspire to.

After all, I’d been “with someone” for the best part of the last decade, and was terrified I could only function as half of a couple. And what was more, single motherhood was a concept I found terrifying, riddled, as it can be, with negative connotations.

But somehow, over the past few months, so gradually that I barely noticed, a subtle change wrought itself. And one day I realised I had finally arrived in that place people had spoken of. I have found a level of self-sufficiency I never would have thought possible. The ability to revel in my new-found freedom.

I feel whole. More complete than I did when I was living en couple.

The new apartment symbolises this new phase in my life. I chose it, alone. Pored over the paint colour charts, alone. Sanded the walls and painted them, alone. Decided on a kitchen plan, bought some new furniture. There will be no-one’s imprint but my own (and Tadpole’s, although if I’d gone with her paint colours, I do not think the outcome would have been a happy one).

On my Tadpole free nights, I seek out the company of friends. After dabbling a little with internet dating, I decided not only that I couldn’t be bothered to invest enough time or energy in it – whether it be to find a mate, or just to satisfy more pressing needs in the short term – but also that there simply isn’t enough of me to go round. And what time I have, I prefer to spend with friends, old and new, rather than stumbling tongue-tied through an interminable dinner with a stranger, secretly wishing we had arranged to meet for just a coffee instead.

So let the men cross my path, or not. I’m not actively looking any more.

In London recently, I marvelled at how my two good friends from university, who had been confirmed bachelors for many years, were now attached, whilst I was not. A surreal reversal of what had long been the status quo. And yet it soon became clear that in some ways they envied me.

One of them noted that because of Tadpole’s existence, I am doubly free. In his opinion, the fact that I’ve already had a child means my body clock has stopped its ominous ticking, and I am free to go forward, unhindered by those considerations. Choose a companion who doesn’t want children of his own without it being a problem, if I want to.

It was an interesting point, I thought, and not one I expected to hear. (Whether I agree, is another thing entirely, I’m not sure I do.) I always imagined single motherhood would be perceived by others as a life filled with constraints. A negative state of affairs. I have certainly been experiencing it as a positive phase of my life, but I didn’t think other people would fully understand.

Sometimes it makes me very happy to be proved wrong.

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?”

July 7, 2006

deux ans

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 6:02 pm

Gracious, I almost forgot.

Once upon a time, I wrote a whimsical post about calpol and menthol eucalyptus suppositories on a freshly created blogspot blog. I still get clickthroughs today from people who have searched for the latter and ended up here, a little disoriented and unsure as to how they washed up on these shores.

Two years have flashed by. There have been highs and lows (and I haven’t even begun to tell you about the lows, so do bear with me and I will enlighten you very soon) but on the whole I have no regrets. I have been prone to worry, on occasion, that this blog lives my life for me. But only sometimes. Mostly I’m just grateful for the number of firm friends I have made through petite anglaise, the way writing has helped me to find a little clarity when my head is a fuzzy mass of tangled thoughts, and above all for the way in which through this blog I re-discovered my long forgotten love of writing, many years after my creative writing efforts in GCSE English with Mr Jones.

In honour of my blogbirthday, I reserve the right to have a drink or two, to celebrate, so I may not be around to moderate comments this evening.

I wonder if it wouldn’t be fitting to light a couple of menthol eucalyptus suppositories?

July 6, 2006


Filed under: navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 2:05 pm

The hour is a little after midnight. I am fiddling around on my computer, trying to fill in a hellishly complicated ASSEDIC form for my nanny, whose contract is almost finished. I am loath to turn in, even though I am exhausted from a lengthy trip to Ikea, because I doubt I will be able to sleep, thanks to the jovial racket emanating from my neighbourhood’s football fans.

The conundrum is this: open the window and hear whooping, car horns a-beeping and, more worryingly, people singing along to something cheesy which I suspect may be Claude François, or slowly broil to death in my apartment.

I can’t escape the feeling I am being held hostage.

* * * * * * *

The year is 1998. Mr Frog and I are moving into our first shared apartment, on rue Richard Lenoir, a stone’s throw from Père Lachaise. The day has been uncommonly stressful, despite the fact that Mr Frog didn’t actually possess much in the way of furniture to begin with.

After delivering his belongings to the new flat, we made the mistake of heading off in the rented van to Ikea that very same day. Predictably, we buy half the shop, including elephant ice cube trays and a Klippan sofa. Arriving home, we realise that said sofa will not budge beyond the narrow hallway of our building, and certainly cannot be manoeuvred into the courtyard from which our apartment is entered. As it is a bank holiday weekend, a monte-charge cannot be procured for several days, and when it can, hiring it will likely cost as much as the sofa itself.

We also realise that we have missed the deadline for returning the van, and will have to pay for an extra day’s rental.

Hardly an auspicious start to our life together.

Once the tears have dried, I graciously allow Mr Frog to go out with some friends to watch the final, leaving me to unpack our belongings and assemble the remaining furniture. In peace.

Except of course for the small fact that France are playing in the final, and the streets are alive with the sound of men watching sport, loudly. I haven’t yet plugged in the television, but there is little point. There is no mistaking that sound people make when a goal is scored. No room for ambiguity whatsoever.

I know the score.

* * * * * * *

Eight years have passed, almost to the day, and I can’t help marvelling at the symmetry of it all. My imminent move, today’s trip to Ikea (and I don’t know what they put in those meatballs, but I believe they are evil, and am holding them responsible for all my retail bulemia), new beginnings…

As for the football, I resolve to wash and dry Tadpole’s Italia t-shirt dress, which is currently liberally smeared with ice cream fingermarks, in time for the final.

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