petite anglaise

September 20, 2006


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:42 pm

Yesterday I was mostly being held hostage by Miguel, Fatima and their impressive array of power tools. After a somewhat unusual Monday in London, which will forever be imprinted on my memory as the day I ate fish and chips for elevensies, lunch in Hospital, was served delicate amuse-bouche French pastries an hour later, and a full afternoon tea at four, being subjected to several hours of ear-splitting drilling and jigsawing was something of a brutal jolt back to reality.

“VROOOOOAAAAAHHH” growled the drill, as I tried (but failed) to read in the next room. An image formed in my head of a bullet hole in a shop window, a web of cracks fanning out from the entry point in all directions. Superhuman strength of will was required to remain where I was and refrain from inspecting the floor to ceiling kitchen tiles for damage.

Miguel called to Fatima (expertly assembling furniture in the next room with her electric screwdriver and clearly the brains of the operation) and a sliver of fear slid down my spine. The urgency in his voice was carefully dosed so that his partner would down tools immediately and rush to his aid, but the customer would not rush in or grab the phone and start dialing the pompiers. Something had clearly been botched, but I gritted my teeth and opted for the “ignorance is bliss” approach.

“We’ll be back soon, and finished by four,” were the words Miguel tossed cheerfully over his shoulder as they headed out for lunch, at 11.30am. As I had entrusted Mr Frog with one set of keys for emergencies, another to a friend who is in town, I realised that effectively I was now a prisoner in my own apartment. There was no means of preparing any lunch for myself in this war zone, so I dashed out to fetch junk food. There is a reason why people generally eat kebabs a) after midnight and b) after four pints of lager and I will bear this in mind if I am tempted to repeat this sorry experience in the future.

Of course I needn’t have hurried. The power tools remained downed until a little before 2pm, when the terrible two returned, slightly sheepish, and resumed work. At 3.30pm Miguel was called away to another chantier for “a couple of hours”, leaving Fatima to soldier on in his absence. I collected Tadpole from school, took a detour around the park; anything to keep her away from the saw blades and splinters which littered her bedroom floor. The doorbell finally rang at 6.30pm and I began to harbour some hope that it would all be over before Tadpole’s bedtime.

A glance inside the kitchen an hour later revealed Miguel and Fatima spooning in a most unorthodox position whilst he demonstrated how to plumb in the sink. At 8pm I wrote a fat cheque and heaved a sigh of relief.

“Mr Builder and Little Miss Builder are gone now?” enquired Tadpole, momentarily pulling her eyes away from the television screen at the sound of the front door slamming shut.

“Yes, it’s all done. We’ve got a lovely new kitchen, look!”

Tadpole padded into the kitchen, disappeared, then returned, carrying a pot of magnetic letters.

“Come on mummy, we have to put these back first, on the frigo, and then it will finished,” she explained.

I arranged the lower case multi-coloured letters into a series of comical expletives and started to feel much better.


  1. I agree with Tadpole that the kitchen is not complete without the magnetic letters. It doesn’t feel like home to me without my magnetic poetry words spelling out all sorts of dirty sentences and silly messages on my refrigerator. I love how she called them Mr. Builder and Little Miss Builder. Did she say it in French or English?

    Comment by Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds — September 20, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

  2. Well, I think I know who you had lunch with. Did you like the Pink Flamingos on the wallpaper, or were you sitting outside? I’ll be there tonight to listen to my friend Chandra, the Shamen, give a talk about how to make your home more harmonious. I suppose removing the screaming power tools is step one.

    Where did you get the pastries? I hope you didn’t come all the way over here just to eat pastries from Paul – good though they are.

    Comment by Damian — September 20, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

  3. What a great idea: Get someone else to do it! I have a recently purchased wardrobe from Ikea that, combined with some mediocre construction skills, has mastered the ability to lean in every possible direction at once. Sound impossible? It isn’t.

    Comment by BlondebutBright — September 20, 2006 @ 5:24 pm

  4. Props to you for resisting the urge to DIY. :D

    Did you ever find out what’d been botched?

    Comment by Sharon — September 20, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

  5. j’ai vu le reportage concernant ton licenciment je crois que c’est pas facil d’ouvrire un site et de lire des propos sur ça personne bon je pense que personne ne peut l’accepter mais quand meme c’était une atteinte à ton droit d’expression et de critique vis à vis de ton environement aussi, je ne suis ni pour ni contre mais je veux simplement te souhaiter bonne chance

    Comment by anom — September 20, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

  6. Yaxlich is pleased to hear that you have a functioning kitchen again although he is concerned about your well being having eaten a kebab. He hopes that Tadpole was not knocked out by petite’s ‘Bab Breath when she was collected from school.

    Comment by Yaxlich — September 20, 2006 @ 5:34 pm

  7. Wow, in my building I’d be receiving official nastygrams with warnings of dire consequences if noisy work went on after 5 PM!

    Comment by Passante — September 20, 2006 @ 5:44 pm

  8. yay for new kitchens!

    Comment by barbie2be — September 20, 2006 @ 6:08 pm

  9. If that’s your new kitchen in the photo, it looks lovely! It may be small but you still have more counter space than me!

    Comment by Vivi — September 20, 2006 @ 6:15 pm

  10. I’m thinking that the urgent message to Fatima had less to do with a botched job, and more to do with Miguel, after drilling and jigsawing his way though old cabinets, came across a mysterious object. Calling Fatima to help identify the object, the two had to leave the flat for a couple of hours to gather their wits….for they had found Petit’s lost toy.

    Comment by Adam — September 20, 2006 @ 6:41 pm

  11. I love your blog. Your posts are always so well constructed. Do keep mentioning the odd place & street name for your map-reading friends, and for those of us who nurture unfulfilled dreams of living in Paris. (Am I the only one who reads Simenon’s Maigret books with a map of Paris by my side?)

    anno domini

    Comment by anno domini — September 20, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

  12. What took you on this intriguing-sounding trip to London?

    Comment by old school friend — September 20, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

  13. haha adam, that would be great. petite, isn’t it great to at least be able to still spell out the expletives. i know now that my son, who’s 4, corrects me all the time when i curse in front of him, but i take solice in the fact that i can right out the words on his little erasing tablet and for all he knows it says “daddy is the best”

    Comment by Hammers — September 20, 2006 @ 8:16 pm

  14. Sweet! It looks splendid. Stay safe and put the drills on the top shelf x

    Comment by fjl — September 20, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

  15. A friend of mine used to buy the kebab after the pub but before the club, to be sure of getting it later. In the interim it was stashed in a large plant pot just outside Aberystwyth pier. She reckoned they tasted better a few hours later and cold….

    Comment by meredic — September 20, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

  16. Re comment 13, The very thought of a kebab turns my stomach, let alone a cold one, jeez…..

    Comment by suze — September 20, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

  17. Tadpole is so right! A kitchen is not quite a kitchen if the magnetic letters or not stuck on the fridge. A friend gave me the “Shakespeare’s poetry” magnets once. It’s a good way to tell if your friends are nerds… if they are, they’re gonna be stuck to the fridge all night trying to make verses. Basically, I only use half of them, and have no clue what the remaining words mean. After a few apéritifs though, it’s getting really funny!

    Comment by pardonmyfrench — September 20, 2006 @ 11:03 pm

  18. How is it that the French call their fridges ‘frigo’ too??? That’s the Italian word, shortened from ‘frigorifero’. Hmmm. Or is that just another adorable tadpole word? ;-)

    Comment by Anton — September 21, 2006 @ 1:51 am

  19. I admire your strength of will…

    Comment by Choubine — September 21, 2006 @ 2:50 am

  20. Nice to hear that it’s all done. Hope that your happy with the end result.

    Comment by Diane — September 21, 2006 @ 3:38 am

  21. I do not have a love affair of power tools at all.

    I built a chicken coop once. Took me weeks. Then finally I hung the door only to find I had built the whole damn thing around my wheel barrow which could not be removed without demolishing a wall.

    Much to the howls of delight from my neighbours…(bastards)

    Comment by simon — September 21, 2006 @ 4:59 am

  22. Ah, we have expletives on our frigde too. And believe it or not, lots of nonesense. Like “goats on a boat” (I believe an alleged sequel to “snakes on a plane” God forbid) and “I am a bouncy globule.”

    Ah, student life.


    Comment by Billygean — September 21, 2006 @ 9:03 am

  23. To Hammers
    Watch out, they learn to read sooner than you think, plus it’s a touch embarrassing at maternelle when ‘a’ is for ‘cul’, ‘b’ is for ‘chienne’, ‘c’ is for ‘zizette’ etc.

    Comment by j — September 21, 2006 @ 9:24 am

  24. We get some pretty excellent kebabs around my workplace in the 10th, I guess the quality of the local take-away depends on which immigrant population happen to be near to :)

    Comment by Alistair — September 21, 2006 @ 9:39 am

  25. Nice kitchen, I’m having mine done soon, white units, black top. I will prepare myself for all the noise. Tacky fridge magnets also look good…

    Comment by heather — September 21, 2006 @ 10:20 am

  26. This reminds me that one of the urgent jobs that I’ll have to do is trying to fit a new (second hand) electric cooker into our kitchen. Presently we have a fitted oven – where only the grill works. Then next to it (unfortunately not above it) fixed onto the surface of the unit is a halogen hob. The last couple of years only 2 of the 4 hobs ever worked and a couple of months ago these died finally.
    So you can imagine that it’s been la galère cooking things.

    So, luckily, my girlfriends boss was selling rather a posh expensive 2 year old cooker for a very reasonable amount – she snapped his hand off. It seems that it’s the wrong size for the kitchen of his new house, so he has to get rid of it.

    The next stage will be getting out the power tools (of which I have very few) to carrément get rid of a section of unit where the hob is. Take out the fitted oven and see if the drawer for the saucepans, currenty under the hob will fit into the hole left by the oven – I aint looking forward to it…

    BTW – talking of kebabs. I can recommend a really good take-away that opened a few months ago in Ballancourt-sur-Essonne. A meal there costs about 6 Euros. Their chips are brilliant too. Chips, salad, wheat and lots of tender kebab meat.

    Comment by Braunstonian — September 21, 2006 @ 11:05 am

  27. Anton (16) : Frigo stands for “Frigidaire” which was one of the very first brands to make refrigirators in France. It is now part of the everyday language. Ask any 3-year old what a frigo is, they’ll know for sure, whereas I’m not sure they’d know what “réfrigérateur” means!

    Comment by pardonmyfrench — September 21, 2006 @ 3:22 pm

  28. Tadpole is so right — refrigerator magnets are the key. A frigo is naked without them so I bring them back from my travels. (Not wanted the fridge to be naked, after all it is cold inside.)

    Comment by Lost in France — September 21, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

  29. Not wanting ;-) oh this post function is just too quick for me to correct typos after submitting a comment …

    Comment by Lost in France — September 21, 2006 @ 6:05 pm

  30. Hey, Im getting “a lovely new kitchen” now as well, but the workmen have been here for three DAYS (will be back next week, too) and it still looks exactly like it did when they first started. And at the end of every day there is a pile of workman-sized rubbish left from their lunch. And on tuesday i came home to find BLOOD on my bath. (they are also replacing bath toilet and sink). Oh the joys of scotland…

    Comment by Whisper — September 21, 2006 @ 8:01 pm

  31. Another shining example of how perfect and new everything feels after you’ve made it through another mess.

    Comment by Sam — September 21, 2006 @ 10:49 pm

  32. Fridge magnets… I agree… I mean how else can we attatch Post Cards from friends and family on holiday or drawings from the kids of our friends onto the fridge door? ;)

    Comment by Braunstonian — September 22, 2006 @ 12:16 am

  33. Aaaaargghhhh… I so feel with you. I have a severe allergy to workmen in my house. The result is always nice though – and that seems to be the case for you too. (“,)

    Comment by teeweewonders — September 22, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  34. In Spain we also say “frigo”, probably for the same reason as is said in France and Italy. The use of magnets is also common. Globalization reaches us in more ways than we think.

    Comment by Maya — September 22, 2006 @ 11:51 am

  35. a kitchen isnt complete without a small person to mess it up…

    Comment by piu piu — September 22, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

  36. Please tell me where you find decent Fish & Chips in London, I’d love to know.

    The BEST place to eat them is sat on a bench on Scarborough seafront.

    Comment by Craig — September 22, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  37. Yaxlich would like to suggest to Craig a restaurant called Toff’s in Muswell Hill which has won awards for it’s fish and chips. He will say, however, that they are likely to be cold by the time you get them back to Scarborough.

    Comment by Yaxlich — September 22, 2006 @ 3:41 pm

  38. We used to get Fish and Chips on Onchan head (Isle of Man), with the aim of eating them on some similar bench to those in Scarborough – to then end up eating them in the car because it was too cold (or we just had the wrong clobber). In Germany the vague belief is that you don’t get ANYTHING to eat in the UK other than fish and chips. With all the turks here, there are kebabs of varying qualities on every street corner (spelt “kebaps” here – no idea why.)
    Nice kitchen – enjoy it.

    Comment by LaiLou — September 22, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

  39. Chippies- I’ve got a couple of recommendations based on good places I’ve been:

    Rock & Sole Plaice, 47 Endell St, WC2H 9AJ (quite trendy, quite pricy)

    Fryers’ Delight, 19 Theobald’s Rd, WC1X 8SL (this place is really really good)

    Brady’s, 513 Old York Rd, SW18 1TF (near my flat, always good)

    Comment by David In London — September 22, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

  40. Why is it that Simon is allowed to use bad language and that whenever I do I’m censored?

    Comment by Trevor — September 22, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  41. nothing beats blue and pink magnetic curse words.

    Comment by Lux Lisbon — September 22, 2006 @ 11:01 pm

  42. Very nice blog. Congratulations!

    Comment by José — September 22, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  43. Tadpole is so right, a fridge must have magnets. When my son left home to go to university he sent me one in the post which said… “Mothers hold their childrens hands for a while and their hearts forever.” I found it so touching and it still has pride of place on my fridge.

    Comment by Susannah — September 23, 2006 @ 12:19 am

  44. comment 68 Trevor.

    Its because I am Australian and therefore it’s a cultural thing… ;O).
    So perhaps Petite forgives my “french”.
    (I wanted to add that i am really good with cars and mechanical things..just not wood and power tools)

    Have a great day/night all!

    Comment by simon — September 23, 2006 @ 9:32 am

  45. @LaiLou (36)
    You are right, here in Germany (Frankfurt), we have a lot of Turkish Diners. The Turks themselves spell the thing either ‘Kebab’ or ‘Kebap’ – but actually this not important, because in Germany we call the food ‘Döner’ – the full name being ‘Döner Kebab/p’ and also the Turkish food stalls are called ‘Döner’.


    Comment by Frank — September 23, 2006 @ 10:59 am

  46. Oooh kebabs – best kebabs ever are from the Oxford ‘bab van on Broad Street at 2 am…meat is deliciously unidentifiable and the chips with cheese are just divine…yum yummmmmemories!

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — September 23, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

  47. You’re in the Daily Telegraph again. Looks like good news. Hoorah!!!

    Comment by Mike Da Hat — September 23, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

  48. Share the good news! I am so happy for good news for you, petite. (I couldn’t find anything in the Daily Telegraph today.)

    Comment by Elle — September 23, 2006 @ 7:06 pm

  49. Back on the fish and chip shop theme….I had a Saturday job in a chip shop in Bolton when I was still at school and this horrible little tyke that was in the same class as me kept coming in and saying ” I’ll have a whale and a ton of chips, please.” They kept telling him to clear off but he took no notice until one day the owner said to him “Do you want mushy peas with that.” You should have seen his face, it was a picture. He never did come back.

    Comment by Jane — September 23, 2006 @ 7:13 pm

  50. Oh, just this. The figures are incorrect, I hasten to add, but no doubt the French tax man will be rubbing his hands together gleefully.

    On the blog front it will be business as usual.

    Comment by petite — September 23, 2006 @ 7:58 pm

  51. The piece in the Daily Telegraph is on page 18 of the main section, and talks about a two book deal.
    Well done Petite, and looking forward to reading the first book.
    Pierre in Berkshire, UK

    Comment by Pierre L — September 23, 2006 @ 8:33 pm

  52. Petite,

    Congrats on the two book deal. That’s great news.

    Comment by Diane — September 23, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

  53. With this publishing deal, your former boss can now be sure he sacked the best secretary he could ever find in the business, if “secretary” still means write and keep secrets. Your story is a very good one to be told.
    How many pages at the moment?

    Comment by 4 roses — September 23, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  54. I wonder if the new secretary has started to run a blog!

    Comment by 4 roses — September 23, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

  55. Congratulations indeed Petite, Bravo! I wonder what Mr. Frog thinks of your “dropping a log” now? ;)

    The new kitchen looks wonderful and efficient, I’m so glad Tadpole was there as well to orchestrate the letter magnet Christening of the frigo.

    Comment by California Reader — September 23, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  56. That’s wonderful news, Petite, I’m so pleased for you. Glad to hear The blog will carry on as usual too, it’s like a ray of sunshine.

    Comment by Susannah — September 23, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

  57. Congratulations Petite,

    Thats fantastic news, well done. No wonder you’ve got no regrets! You’re providing a perfect example of how life should be played.

    Comment by Green — September 24, 2006 @ 12:48 am

  58. It’s good to know that writing expletives on the fridge is an international hobby, just showing that we really are one world.

    Comment by Neil — September 24, 2006 @ 2:22 am

  59. “a kitchen isnt complete without a small person to mess it up…”

    >piu piu | 12:42 pm

    that’s the cutest thing i’ve heard all week.

    Comment by eric — September 24, 2006 @ 6:31 am

  60. That’s fantastic news, Petite! Open up the bubbly!

    Comment by Lost in France — September 24, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

  61. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You totally deserve it! Film interest, huh? So there could be a “Petite Anglaise: The Movie”? What would you think of part of your life being on the big screen?

    Comment by Whisper — September 24, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

  62. I try not to think about things like that. I just keep repeating “the world has gone mad” to myself. But mad in a nice way, obviously.

    Comment by petite — September 24, 2006 @ 7:17 pm

  63. It’s so good to hear of magically amazing fairytale-like stuff going on…bit like walking down the road to Boot’s and someone stopping you and asking you to be a world-famous top model…

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — September 24, 2006 @ 10:53 pm


    Comment by Lucy-Jane — September 24, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

  65. Just a quick by the way – this was predicted with amazing clairvoyance by oodles of readers Ages Ago and through the ages…n’est ce pas? So pleased that we were all right! :-)

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — September 24, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

  66. Bravo! Bravo! You deserve it all!


    Comment by Elle — September 27, 2006 @ 1:51 am

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