petite anglaise

November 27, 2006

uptown girl

Filed under: good time girl — petiteanglaise @ 11:53 pm

We alight from the taxi on avenue Matignon, our destination a trendy fusion restaurant called Market. It’s not somewhere it would ever have occurred to me to go, being more of an East end, quartiers populaires kind of girl, but I’ve been invited to join a group of people, two of whom are former colleagues of mine, and I’m tagging along purely for the pleasure of their company tonight.

The girls wear gauzy dresses and high heels, the men wear designer jeans and expensive-looking shirts. I have thrown on my patterned wrap dress (TopShop) and favourite brown boots and pray I don’t look too out of place.

I had been scheming to use this outing as an excuse to buy something new, with a half-formed plan to venture over to the Comptoir des Cotonniers, but in the end I spent the day with Tadpole, and it didn’t seem fair to drag her out foraging for clothes. I’m sure the day will come when shopping will be her favourite pastime, but right now she would rather we played with her new dominos and ate chicken fried rice in our regular haunt where the waiting staff don’t seem to mind if she draws on the paper tablecloths with felt tipped pens.

Market is beautiful: the lighting is soft and flattering, the table booked for our party of eight is set in a discreet oval alcove overlooking a courtyard. It manages to feel private and intimate, yet achieves this without cutting us off from our fellow diners. In the impeccable toilets, individual cloth serviettes are piled up in neat towers by the sink. I study a menu nervously, forcing myself not to look too closely at the prices, telling myself through gritted teeth that this is a treat; I deserve it. But solvent or insolvent, there is a part of me that will always shy away from spending € 120 on a single meal. It’s the way I’m wired, and I’m far from sure that it’s something I want to change.

I sip a kumquat mojito, then sample warm foie gras and wild mushrooms, velvety soft deer with quince purée and some sort of vegetable and cheese “emulsion”. I have no idea what the wine is that I am drinking, chosen by a connoisseur at the other end of the table, but it is heavenly. I finish with a fig tart served with peanut ice cream (although I confess I wish I’d plumped for the chestnut soufflé with caramel ice cream instead, a masterpiece).

We stagger out of the restaurant at around 1am, fed, watered and tipsy and begin to cast around for a reasonable bar in which to have a final drink, or two, before we go home. But this part of town is a wasteland of wide sterile avenues and closed luxury goods emporiums. The only watering holes whose names I recognise are the sort of places with door policies, merchant bankers and queues. They are places one goes to be seen. Nothing could be further from my definition of a fun place to kick back and have a drink.

After a spot of futile wandering and a watery, overpriced cocktail in a bar tragically mis-named “Success”, I wend my way home in a taxi, dropping a fellow diner off at the Ile St Louis on the way. I can’t help feeling that I have spent an evening on a different planet, instead of a mere fifteen minute taxi ride from chez moi. Dogged by a gnawing feeling of disquiet, unsettled somehow. I don’t belong: not in that place, not in that arrondissement.

At the familiar sight of Bastille, my body starts to relax. The taxi speeds along the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, above the concealed Canal St Martin, and my lips begin to curve upwards in a smile. Weaving through narrow, dimly lit backstreets we emerge onto the boulevard de la Villette and I feel gnarly knots of tension unravelling in my shoulders.

Belleville: shabby, dirty, teeming with life, ablaze with garish neon signs. As the taxi labours up the hill I make a silent vow. No more trying to be someone I’m not, no more frequenting exquisite, over-priced places that make me feel like I don’t and never will fit in. This is my neighbourhood, my world. As I hand the fare to the driver, the smell of my local kebab shop teases my nostrils and I breathe deeply.

I’m home.

116 Comments

  1. Amazing Blog. Such a change from those stuffy English male ones!

    Comment by Jeremycj — November 28, 2006 @ 12:15 am

  2. And this little piggy went to market… I get the identical sensation when I return from abroad and get to Porte de Gomorrah, Paris 18, accompanied by soothing voices on RTL or some awful ditty beamed out via Europe2 ensconced within the smooth comfort of a pine scented Taxi Parisien.

    Comment by Fibsor — November 28, 2006 @ 12:16 am

  3. I feel like that when I venture further a field from home and its vicinity…can’t wait to get home again safe and sound…

    Comment by aminah — November 28, 2006 @ 12:26 am

  4. Sacré voisine. J’échangerais bien Belleville contre l’avenue Montaigne quand même parfois…

    Comment by wiLLoØ — November 28, 2006 @ 12:34 am

  5. Isn’t it odd how a few small changes to your surroundings can make you feel a million miles from home? For me, I’m much more affected by the little changes in my environment than the big ones. Even today, I still feel more out of place driving through the midlands than I did driving through the near shanty towns of Eastern Kenya, although I admit this has got a little easier since Morrisons moved south and I’ve had a chance to get used to their weird ways.

    For me, I feel more at home in the Uptown World than the Downtown one. A blessing when trying to fit in at parties but a curse for anyone on the budget of a normal human being. I guess the moral of the story is to remember not to sacrifice too much of oneself when trying to fit in.

    Comment by Ignorminious — November 28, 2006 @ 12:40 am

  6. Sounds like you had buyer’s remorse, but everyone deserves a treat and a look at how the other half live. Can you give us some tips on what fashionable French women are wearing these days?

    IPS

    Comment by suzette — November 28, 2006 @ 12:53 am

  7. I know exactly what you mean. In LA I lived on the east side in Thai Town/Little Armenia. Once I house sat for someone in Santa Monica for a few weeks. . . Pretty, clean, quiet Santa Monica. The only black people were the nannies. I was absolutely terrified. . .

    Comment by Nicole — November 28, 2006 @ 1:15 am

  8. Yaxlich understands how petite feels. He doesn’t like to spend more than €1.20 on a meal either.

    Comment by Yaxlich — November 28, 2006 @ 1:33 am

  9. My fun places include warm old country pubs with low ceilings, wooden beams, open fires and local cider that could probably be used to fuel tractors available from a slightly mad looking cellar man behind the bar.

    Not that I will admit to frequenting such places of course.

    Comment by Jonathan — November 28, 2006 @ 1:51 am

  10. Sounds like an amazing meal, but know what you mean about the place where you feel comfortable being the best. But definitely worth doing it sometimes if only for your first reason – the company, not the poncy restaurant.

    Comment by The B — November 28, 2006 @ 2:27 am

  11. another stunner of an entry, petite. thank you for making me feel like i live in paris.

    on a completely different note, wired magazine is taking submissions for the “sexiest geeks of 2006” — and someone was quick to mention you:

    http://blog.wired.com/biotech/2006/11/2006_sexiest_ge.html

    it wasn’t me, i swear, but it’s not because i don’t feel you deserve it. i’m just more attracted to your male friends than you. : )

    Comment by franko — November 28, 2006 @ 3:31 am

  12. Hi there, petite. I’ve been reading your blog for a good year or so now: emphasis on the good – Montreal is a wonderful city, and I’d been thinking it was about time a left a comment to express my appreciation for a thoroughly enjoyable blog. I’d always assumed it was a relatively empty gesture, a bit of a formality, until a week or so ago a random person said hi on my blog and it felt lovely, quite frankly. Anyway, so I thought this was an excellent post; moreover, one that I could strongly identify with as an Englishman in an occasionally far too hip for its own good Montreal. Keep up the good work. Merci bien with sugar on top.

    Comment by James — November 28, 2006 @ 4:29 am

  13. You definitely have the culinary palette to feel quite comfortable there Petite, the way you recall each plate and the harmony of the flavors proves that. I suspect it’s just feeling self conscious about what you’re wearing and maybe feeling your A-type personal pressure to be charming and witty more than anything. You are experiencing what many mothers with small children go through, working in or out of the home. Revel in just being a normal person Petite and continue to enjoy the occasional (adults only dinner at a nice restaurant) treat…you deserve it. Just drink the wine before looking at the bill :)

    Comment by California Reader — November 28, 2006 @ 5:02 am

  14. Way to go! I know what that feeling is like! In the end the only person to be is yourself.

    Comment by Julie — November 28, 2006 @ 5:26 am

  15. I think this is one of the few times where English lower class transference raises it’s head. There are some parts of central Paris that no one calls home. They’re just parts where people live, often second homes, as odd as that might sound. You go around Paris as though it were an English class system. It isn’t – it has it’s own, and you don’t seem to have have fathomed it yet.

    Comment by Dr S — November 28, 2006 @ 5:34 am

  16. Is it a surprise that ‘wired differently’=weird ?, in certain situations for most people ? Just occured to me. Thought I’d share. MM.

    Comment by AA — November 28, 2006 @ 6:14 am

  17. You have been a stranger in a strange land………

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 28, 2006 @ 6:41 am

  18. and i thought my $38 thanksgiving all-you-can-eat buffet dinner in las vegas was a bit steep! sigh…i’m just jealous because i’m sure your foie gras was better than my “foie gras.”

    Comment by Lisa — November 28, 2006 @ 8:08 am

  19. My goodness, 2000 visitors from Wired today for the sexiest geeks nomination. Bizarre. Sorry to disappoint folks, no titillating photos here!

    Comment by petite — November 28, 2006 @ 9:20 am

  20. At last count there were three votes for Péah in the ‘sexiest geek’ nominations mentioned above. I admit, one of them was mine.

    In my Paris years I used to feel dépayisement whenever I crossed to the Right Bank. Now, resident in Abu Dhabi, that buzz of alienation results whenever I have to go up the highway to Dubai. In contrast to brash and gaudy chaos which is Dubai, Abu Dhabi always struck me as pleasantly provincial.

    Until yesterday. When I discovered what is going up on the building site next to my flat… (revealed on http://sandlander.blogspot.com). AT least that’s a curse which will probably not befall Belleville.

    Comment by Malcolm Thomson — November 28, 2006 @ 9:30 am

  21. I’ve never really understood the phrase “don’t try to be someone that you’re not”…whatever you choose to do is all part of being the person that you are, surely.

    Comment by Susannah — November 28, 2006 @ 9:42 am

  22. foie gras sounds lovely – but price tag makes me wince too.

    Do think we get to treat ourselves sometimes though, and if we don’t see how the other half lives from time to time, we don’t get to compare and contrast – and realise how good we really have it.

    Get the same happy glow when I hit République and all MY mobile phone shops after working down in the 6th – nearly home!!

    Comment by sas — November 28, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  23. The 8eme is a different Paris. It is true that lots of people keep second homes there. The posh restos, fashion houses and touristy Champs makes the 8eme a strange place for Parisians. I worked there but wouldn’t like to live there…

    Comment by May — November 28, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  24. petite, i’m being constantly arm-twisted and prodded by the other commentators on you blogsite to enquire after your current sex life. If you could just give us a few innocuous and titilating details they should be more than happy.
    Personally, of course, I couldn’t be arsed either way, as you know only too well I consider such pursuits and interests beneath me.

    Comment by Trevor — November 28, 2006 @ 10:42 am

  25. As a mother of 5 children, Yaxlich’s price sounds about right to me. £1.20 X 7 x 3 meals a day = £176.40 a week. That’s definitely about the limit!!

    Nice blog though. Felt as if I was visitng the restaurant.

    Sally

    Comment by Sally Lomax — November 28, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  26. Very confused about this ‘Wired’ thing. I keep checking my own stats and there is no traffic coming through. Are their links working?

    Comment by JonnyB — November 28, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  27. great minds think alike petite – i read both the books you are reading last week. hated girl with a one track mind though – much prefer her blog.

    Comment by cheria — November 28, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  28. What does ‘way to go’ mean, if anything?

    Comment by parkin pig — November 28, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

  29. Petite, you make me so nostalgic of Canal St-Martin, which was my home for 5 years. Not far from Belleville, my enchanted garden…
    Mais le monde est trop grand et la vie trop courte pour rester toujours au même endroit.
    Heureusement qu’il y a des blogs comme le tien!

    Comment by arevik — November 28, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

  30. What you ate, dear, was not deer but venison.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 28, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

  31. Oh, I prefer to think of it as bambi.

    Comment by petite — November 28, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  32. Parkin Pig

    Are you deliberately obtuse or is this a sort of game to get more people commenting? I think it must be the latter. Nobody is that rude really to people they haven’t met! Have you heard of good karma?

    Sally

    Comment by Sally Lomax — November 28, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

  33. Don’t worry Sally, PP has been alternately lavishing me with praise and criticising me for over a year now. We haven’t met, but I never take his digs too seriously…

    Comment by petite — November 28, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

  34. Oh, quick step back to green and yellow post! Happy St Catherine day, Bellevilloise !

    Comment by Mardo — November 28, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

  35. Exactly

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 28, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

  36. People grow and evolve (or at least they should :-).
    I wonder what kind of neighborhood you will call home in 10 years or so…

    Comment by Isabella — November 28, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  37. I put Jeremy Clarkson down as the World’s Geekiest Sexist.

    Comment by Murphy — November 28, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  38. Home is where the heart is.

    Comment by Billyboy — November 28, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

  39. Paris is a shit hole!! Love your blog though.

    XXX Patrick

    Comment by Patrick — November 28, 2006 @ 5:43 pm

  40. Ha! You can imagine it on an English pub menu: “Tenderloin of fawn”!

    Comment by Jim — November 28, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

  41. The trick with “home” is in knowing it. You seem to be doing just fine with that. Nice post.

    Comment by Sophmom — November 28, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

  42. Hi from the petiteanglaise of Toulouse! I read your blog everyday and it’s like reading my own diary sometimes. Except there are no posh areas in Toulouse, so I do not share today’s experience. Paris seems like another planet to me; Toulouse is great; you’ll have to visit someday..

    Comment by Anglaise in Toulouse — November 28, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

  43. Greetings from Cambridge.
    I’ve been following your blog since your expose in the press but this was your finest item yet. All my best wishes for your writing career.

    Comment by Stute — November 28, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  44. Petite: You and I could be friends ;) My favorite places to go are gritty pubs plastered with posters of various football (gridiron and ‘soccer’) teams. The grittier the better in my opinion. Cheers to you!

    Comment by Kat — November 28, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  45. So true. Amazing how much more like myself I felt after moving from the 6th to the 10th just north of Republique.

    Comment by Kerry — November 28, 2006 @ 10:30 pm

  46. The visceral response to what is familiar, to what is home, to what is not other..so well put..

    Comment by ParisBreakfasts — November 28, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  47. I feel the same coming back from the West End.

    Comment by clarissa — November 28, 2006 @ 11:48 pm

  48. «Beautiful», vraiment? À en juger d’après la photo, je lui trouve l’air sinistre, à ce restaurant… C’est certainement plus sympathique et meilleur, au fond, dans ton quartier.

    Comment by Choubine — November 29, 2006 @ 12:18 am

  49. Wow…PA, I know exactly what you mean, living here in NYC. When I’m in Tribeca, or the stuffiness of Park Avenue where I used to live…I feel so out of place. It’s just not me.

    I head uptown and instantly I feel more at ease. Not completely, having moved back to the US from Germany…but at least MORE at ease than I do on Park or in Tribeca. I’m an earthy girl. :)

    Comment by Mlle Smith — November 29, 2006 @ 1:41 am

  50. Everyone needs a treat now and then. Come to DC on your book tour and we’ll treat you here.

    Comment by Alice — November 29, 2006 @ 2:06 am

  51. A nice slice of life. Everything has a time and place.
    – a delish dîner among friends financed by guilt-free mad money reserved for such occasions and quite beneficial to mental health
    – a casual combo of food & fun with a special little person
    – a retreat to well known, well worn, welcome comforts of home territory
    Your words give a spark to the everyday events of life. Encore!

    Comment by sauterelle — November 29, 2006 @ 2:31 am

  52. Used to frequent such places but now totally turned off by them. Won’t pay above €40 for dinner and sod the à la carte menu. But I’ve found some wonderful places as a result. le Bisbe in Céret last week, for a start. It has everything, completely without pretension. Who cares about the rich, fashionable and successful set, not even they do – least of all!

    One of the things I love most about London life is the taxi ride home to Battersea after an evening in the West End. And not just me. Our French guests love it too. London life beats with a very strong pulse. It is a connected city.

    Comment by andrew — November 29, 2006 @ 3:08 am

  53. I always feel out of place too at places where they dress up. Even if I (try) to dress up I still think I look like a complete fool (and that I don’t belong there). Maybe it’s also because of the attitude the waiters sometimes give in certain restaurants. But anyway, I think you have written beautifully what a lot of people sometimes experience when dining out. What is your favorite place to dine in Paris?

    Comment by Veerle — November 29, 2006 @ 5:17 am

  54. This isn’t a criticism, but an observation. Did you realise that your blog is really slow loading sometimes while it is waiting for s13.sitemeter.com (and sometimes other statmeter sites) to load?

    Comment by Mr Pedantic — November 29, 2006 @ 10:41 am

  55. I love Market- I think if you were going to venture across the Great Divide, you did manage to choose the best destination. Very much agree that finding a nice place next to the Champs for a quiet drink and a chat is not so easy. But then, the best thing about going out in that neighborhood is the ride home along the quais, with everything lit up and still. Thats when Paris really turns on the charm, and no matter how irritated you might have been by the pretentious bar, overpriced drinks, etc, you tell yourself that you could never leave.

    Comment by Nicole — November 29, 2006 @ 10:57 am

  56. If the sitemeter script is sometimes slow loading on your machine, my apologies, but I have no control over this. (I have now removed the other, superfluous stat script).

    In my browser, the page comes up first even though certain scripts take a while longer to load and carry on working in the background. I’m not sure why this isn’t the case for you.

    Comment by petite — November 29, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  57. the nice thing with market is the christies crowd. chic and with a certain “je ne sais quoi”.

    Comment by schuey — November 29, 2006 @ 11:19 am

  58. The thing you didn’t mention – and perhaps you couldn’t talk about it on the night either – is whether you gleaned any information about the reactions of your former boss. Or am I wrong in thinking the two ‘former colleagues’ were from your last job?

    Comment by Sablonneuse — November 29, 2006 @ 11:27 am

  59. I understand how you feel about the meal and the “douloureuse” that you received after it. The last time I paid as much for a dinner was in Manhattan, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was having fun and that it was worth it….

    Comment by Lost in France — November 29, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  60. For loading speed vs stats, try to put the “leave this for stats” stuff at the bottom of your page, it should help…
    Current post made me listen again FFF live “Barbès”!

    Comment by Mardo — November 29, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

  61. € 120?? Yikes. This university girl grits her teeth at any meal more than $10… Unfortunately, in Copenhagen, pretty much all of them are. As a result, I usually just eat pasta at home… :/

    I wonder if I will ever be able to stop being a cheapskate student at heart, even when I have money (knock on wood).

    Comment by Karen — November 29, 2006 @ 2:10 pm

  62. I would have thought that a girl like you, armed with Debrett’s Etiquette for Girls, would feel comfortable anywhere.

    Comment by Damian — November 29, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  63. Hello,
    Peut-être devriez vous revoir la liste de vos amis et fréquentations. Pour avoir passé 5 ans à Paris, j’ai vite appris a faire le tri et à éliminer toutes les personnes qui pensent qu’aller dans des endroits branchés et hors de prix était indispensable. La vie à Paris est déjà bien assez chère et chiante sans avoir en plus à se taper ce genre de soirée sans intéret….sorry i wrote in French because my english is really too bad…
    Have a nice day

    V. (from Lyon now)

    Comment by V. — November 29, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

  64. Love it. In the last two days I’ve been told what to/not to write on my blog, or allow others to write, and now I’m being told to ditch my friends… Anything else?

    Comment by petite — November 29, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

  65. It’s just that everyone visits your site, and as such it has become a general place to air views. It’s a sort of compliment really, because if they didn’t all like you, they wouldn’t all visit! Oh, and don’t ditch anybody. V. ‘s advice is a little draconian I think (unless I misunderstood the French). You can be friends with everybody, and just because you don’t always want to be where they are doesn’t make the friendship less valid. I think that you need a treat every so often so as to appreciate real life. And I believe that reading between the lines, that is what you were saying? Life is too short never to have fun, even if it is sometimes a bit more expensive than you would like. So do what you like. Write what you like, and be be who you are. And we’ll all read all about it anyway!

    Sally

    Comment by Sally Lomax — November 29, 2006 @ 6:47 pm

  66. You sound like you’re putting yourself down, and despite your very optimistic looking future from a socio economic perspective, you’d never rise to the occasion? The empress can change her clothes! The dinner sounds cheap compared to Yachts de Paris! Sadly, Paris oozes with 3 Mich. star type restaurants yet lacks the common sense to disallow smoking. Here’s to 2007 / 2008!
    Ooops, … Petite … do YOU smoke?

    Comment by ScoobyDew — November 29, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

  67. Whenever I am in a posh arrondisement such as those by the Arch de Triumph, I wonder where they shop. Where are the little grocery stores, the local bistros? I return to the 12th and find it comfortable and, in a word my husband uses, lively. There is life there, shopping eating. I understand exactly what you are saying.

    Comment by Linda — November 29, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

  68. Did you wave to Jules and Henriette as you were going up the Boul Richard-Lenoir?

    Comment by udge — November 29, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  69. I’m quite certain Petite can handle any crowd uptown or down with grace or at least a sense of humor. Going outside a comfort zone is never easy, but as someone who sticks painfully to her own neighborhood and routine, I could use Petite’s example and try something new.

    Comment by Sam — November 29, 2006 @ 10:33 pm

  70. I believe that moments of reckless extravagance are essential in order to make the daily grind of making ends meet a little more palatable – y’know, balancing the karma and all that jazz.

    Personally, I’d choose a shiny new gadget or a weekend away over a few plates of grossly overpriced tucker any day of the week; I tend to find the ambiance of ‘exclusive’ eating establishments to be somewhat synthetic and totally void of character. But, that’s just me and my funny ways.

    As for foie gras – are you mad, woman? The idea of eating diseased offal certainly doesn’t float my boat. Furthermore, if you’re not familiar with the farming practices associated with foie gras, and if you’ve ever enjoyed feeding the ducks and geese with Tadpole, I urge you to watch the video at: http://www.goveg.com/feat/foie/. It’s a real eye opener that paints the product’s ‘delicacy’ status in a very different light.

    I haven’t commented a lot here in the past, so I’ll take the opportunity to congratulate you on your blog. I find it refreshing, entertaining and totally compelling. Thank you for sharing your world.

    Comment by Martin — November 30, 2006 @ 2:43 am

  71. “Love it. In the last two days I’ve been told what to/not to write on my blog, or allow others to write, and now I’m being told to ditch my friends… Anything else?”

    You see, you’ve been going about this blogging thing all wrong…….you need a ghostwriter to handle it…;-)

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 30, 2006 @ 2:44 am

  72. God you write well!!
    Kisses from Barcelone!

    Comment by olga — November 30, 2006 @ 11:07 am

  73. “No more trying to be someone I’m not…”
    Get thee to a therapist and turn this drivel faucet off! Oh, wait, this is therapy for you…

    Comment by jill — November 30, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

  74. bonjour, Petite! What a nice entry!
    My husband and I just returned home from our Thanksgiving trip to Paris. It was our first time there, so we did all the “touristy” things. We had a great time! I just started to write my anecdote series on my blog; stop by if you’re interested (I’d be honored). French children busting into my hotel room while I’m bathing, travelling with a compulsive lie-telling brother-in-law, and more…

    I can see why you’ve chosen to live there for 11 years. Lovely city.

    ~Nicole
    an American living in Germany

    Comment by Nicole — November 30, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

  75. But Petite, don’t you want you and Tadpole to have a nice, comfortable life? I mean, living in a microscopic flat in Belleville is all right for students and people just starting out in life, but it’s an awfully dirty and depressing place, and aesthetically incredibly dull (at best) – no beautiful architecture or lovely landscapes.

    Comment by Anna — November 30, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

  76. I disagree! Métro Belleville itself is colourful, I agree, but that’s not where I’m based. I love the cobbled lanes with villas, the village atmosphere at Jourdain, the Parc de Belleville, the Buttes Chaumont.. And I’m really happy to be in my own place, however small. It was a big deal for me buying it on my own. If one day I can upgrade to something bigger, I will, although I’d need a lot of cash as I doubt a writer can get a mortgage very easily.

    But I doubt I’d want to live in the Western arrondissements even then… It’s all about a state of mind.

    Comment by petite — November 30, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  77. The Western arrondissements aren’t the only alternative! I quite agree with you about Market on Avenue Matignon, and I loathe and abhor the 16th and 8th arrondissements but there are absolutely loads of wonderful, beautiful places to live in and around Paris (and in the world) and I really don’t think Belleville is one of them. I lived for ages in the 11th and I saw families stay there as their children grew up and others move away, including members of my own close family. The schools were just so awful, full of children with no ambition because they had never seen or felt all the wonderful things the world has to offer. The children who moved away and saw better things have grown into young adults now and none of them has any regrets, only pity for the children whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t offer them brighter horizons.

    Comment by Anna — November 30, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

  78. Well write hard and earn millions! And maybe then you’ll feel you and Tadpole deserve to live in a lovely place! I have the feeling that you don’t let yourself feel worthy of a lovely, comfortable life surrounded by beautiful things…

    Comment by Anna — November 30, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

  79. You imply that I am compromising my daughter’s wellbeing by choosing to live in a working class, multi-ethnic district? That you pity her because I refuse to offer her brighter horizons?

    I don’t think where you grow up makes you the person you are, I think it’s how you are brought up.

    I left the 11th for the 19th precisely because with all the parks, I thought it was an ideal place to bring up a child for as long as the city would be my home (and who knows what the future will bring).

    I may choose to move in order to send her to a bilingual school one day, but I will be sorry to leave this neck of the woods if I do.

    I’m sorry, but I find your comment snobby and offensive.

    Comment by petite — November 30, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

  80. Where you are brought up is an integral part of how you are brought up though it is, of course, far from being all of how you are brought up. Immediate environment gives us all a huge proportion of our life experiences. You are being over-sensitive – I quite understand that you don’t much have choice right now about where you live, the point I was making earlier was that the 19th isn’t really very desirable and I gave some of the reasons for that. And to defend the desirability of the 19th arrondissement as a place to bring up children when you yourself are a British modern languages university graduate is just plain silly, unless you truly believe that your daughter doesn’t deserve to have the same educational opportunities you have had! Lots of people who read your blog, including me, hope that your life will get better and that your book deal will bring you fame and fortune and the opportunity to better your life and that of your daughter, and you get lots of encouragement to do so. It’s not pity or snobbism on my part to wish you a better life and to try to encourage you in your endeavours. You shouldn’t be so rude to your readers if you want us to buy your book one day…

    Comment by Anna — November 30, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  81. France, even in Paris, can be a very monocultural place and I think growing up in a multicultural neighbourhood is a great thing for a child. And while belleville might be a working class area it is hardly “the hood”.

    There are just as many narrow minded people growing up in the “nicer” areas of Paris who have never seen anything the world has to offer except for maybe a few holidays to the beach in Spain. I agree completely with Petite, it is all about how you raise your child.

    I am sure tadpole will grow up to be ambitious and interested in everything the world has to offer and hopefully also to be less racist and more open to other cultures than the average Parisienne.

    Comment by bec — November 30, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

  82. I have spent the last several days reading your blog, thoroughly enjoying it, I might add. Although in the process I might have neglected some wifely/mother duties. Your voice is honest and refreshing. Thank you for sharing a slice of your life.

    Comment by theblondebomber — November 30, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

  83. Anna – your comment makes you sound so dull, so cossetted, so narrow minded, so judgmental, so naive, so superficial …I could go on. You sound like the one who should be pitied, not the children you refer to. Open your eyes!

    Comment by nikki — November 30, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

  84. I agree with you Petite.

    It’s the people in a child’s life that matter. Tadpole has a mother who will tell her stories and develop her imagination. She has the advantage of a bilingual lifestyle, and the advantage of living in one country with Grandparents in another. That is a very rich life for a little girl. She has already had more opportunities than many will have in a lifetime.

    Because we have five children, there have been times when they have not had things (material things)that their friends have had. My daughters don’t seem to have as many clothes as many of their friends, and the pocket money that we give them is sometimes laughable. But despite my grumbles about the older ons teenagerishness on my blog sometimes, I would like to think that they are all growing up to be imaginative, kind, thoughtful, enquiring and hard working, and willing to make the best of everything. It’s the broader horizons that matter.
    Sally

    Comment by Sally Lomax — November 30, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

  85. I’m all behind Anna on this one.
    Personally I wouldn’t go for a shite down in Belleville.

    Comment by Carruthers — November 30, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

  86. How does Belleville compare to Aubervilliers?

    Comment by Jeremycj — November 30, 2006 @ 4:22 pm

  87. Nikki (but I’m absolutely sure that you’re Petite being cowardly and hiding behind a pseudonym so that you can be rude to me) – there’s no moral superiority in living in a slum! And even less on bringing up your daughter in one when you have a perfectly good education when you do have a moral obligation to use to earn a decent living to bring her up with.

    Petite’s just lazing around, blogging a romanticised version of her pauper’s existence. Get down to some hard work!

    And don’t tell me about myself: unlike you, I haven’t been flaunting my life on the internet for everyone to read about so you know nothing about who I am or what I have done in my life (but a hell of a lot more than you, I can assure you).

    Comment by Anna — November 30, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

  88. Not sure if Anna is French or not, it doesn’t matter. I think this is one of the main differences between the English and the French.

    The French love to surround themselves with beauty ie food, fashion, architecture etc, and why not?

    But Brits, sort of like things a bit more “gritty” sometimes, perhaps more like real life and are more willing to put up with life’s imperfections.

    Neither is wrong, just different.

    Petite, I think you’re very brave openly writing about your daughter. I’m not sure I would be able to bite my toungue about comments from strangers on the internet, in the way I choose to bring up my children.

    Comment by heather — November 30, 2006 @ 6:19 pm

  89. Anna

    At the risk of offending Petite, I am amazed at Petite’s response to you too. Am I all behind you.

    Woooow.

    Are we seeing a while new side to her?
    The blog could sadly get ugly.

    Scooby

    Comment by ScoobyDew — November 30, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

  90. I had a humble start to life, worked hard made my millions and live pretty much as I had before just a little better. I can buy myself pretty much whatever I want, but find peace of mind the best value. Be true to yourself, getting ripped off is getting ripped off no matter how good a resturant seems to be. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin, money doesn’t buy happiness only the impression that if I was like them I would be happy. Doesn’t work that way, never has, never will.

    Comment by Sidney Flarp — November 30, 2006 @ 7:15 pm

  91. Anna, Nikki is a real person, I’d be happy to send you her email address if you both wish to continue this conversation in private. (I can see all addresses, the readers cannot). I do not hide behind pseudonyms on my own blog, what a ridiculous thing to say.

    Each to their own. I am happy here, you clearly wouldn’t be. It’s a difference of opinion, that’s all. I did resent being told that (you believe) my daughter will suffer as a result of my decision to live in a neighbourhood I love, a stone’s throw from where her father lives, but I reserve the right to disagree with that opinion too.

    And as for lazing around and blogging a romanticised version of ….. I have a book deal. A nice deal which should give me security for some years to come and which leaves me far better off than I was in the job I was fired from. I don’t consider any of the jobs I have done to be a waste of my degree/skills and I don’t know where you get the idea from that I am lazing around.

    From a small dig at my choice of neighbourhood, this has escalated into a wholesale criticism of my life choices. I’m just left wondering what you feel gives you the right?

    Comment by petite — November 30, 2006 @ 7:37 pm

  92. Any idiot can see from the syntax and construction that Nikki is not Petite.

    Comment by Jim — November 30, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

  93. There are those who could afford to live elsewhere but have chosen to live in Bellville for the very same reasons that PA says she lives there, myself included, and Edith Piaff in her time and umpteen more. Bars and restaurants galore, Jews, Arabs and Darkies, always a corner shop open, never a dull moment. Not a place for you Anna, but it certainly suits some. As for children, the 20th has got the highest birth rate in Paris, so there’s no shortage of company for them.

    Comment by Trevor — November 30, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

  94. Petite – you were the one who started calling names!

    And I stand by everything I say about your neighbourhood not being the greatest start in life for a child – all I wanted to do was offer you words of encouragement in your endeavours to get yourself and Tadpole a better life. But you strangely don’t seem to want one.

    Sally – do you know Paris at all? Belleville is the Tower Hamlets of Paris.

    Heather – I’m English. I like a comfortable life in a pleasant environment with lots of opportunities for travel, education and developing all of our talents and my partner and I work damn hard to ensure we and our children have one.

    Comment by Anna — November 30, 2006 @ 8:17 pm

  95. Tower Hamlets!!!! Now I’m just finding this funny.

    Comment by petite — November 30, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

  96. I have to agree with petite – Anna, you sound incredibly snobbish to me as well. I grew up in rural Canada on a small farm without the opportunity to see very much of the world or have very many experiences at all. Schools there didn’t inspire us with too many overly-ambitious dreams, either. I ended up studying English literature at a very small liberal arts university in the southern United States (due to receiving a scholarship). But despite this I work in some of the largest cities in the world as a consultant for huge investment banks, and feel myself a world citizen with rather liberal views. I don’t feel my rather sheltered and parochial childhood has doomed me. My parents raised us to read and think for ourselves. I hope that if you have any children of your own that you raise them to realize that what they are comes from the strength of their character, and not because they were born into priviledge that most of the rest of humanity can only dream about…

    Comment by Andrea — November 30, 2006 @ 8:48 pm

  97. Wow this is hilarious.

    Anna – absolutely, I enjoy all that too. But each to their own, if you object so strongly why are you reading Petite’s blog? It’s all relative anyway, one persons Chelsea another persons Hoxton, whatever, who cares.

    Actually you sound like you have a bit of a French Fry on your shoulder.

    ..I think everyone should go out for a nice glass of champagne and calm down.

    Comment by heather — November 30, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  98. It’s a pity this Anna/Petite skirmish is taking place. Both have a point. In the 80’s I lived on and off in Paris; in the 7th, 8th and 16th and loved it. My then lover lived around Bastille and decided that my upmarket lifestyle was an impossible hurdle to overcome in our relationship. Now I lead a comfortable and reclusive life between the continent and the English countryside, and my ex lover is enjoying the luxury of a magnificent 5 pièces overlooking the Seine. Voilà! Our priorities just evolve over time.

    Comment by Blue — November 30, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

  99. I think that I would be very proud of myself if I had a book deal, a gorgeous child and owned an apartment in a lively and ethnic area of Paris (I’m not a big fan of the bourgeois areas either!) Love the blog and wish I could find another that is as addictive! PS. I think you’re very honest allowing critical comments on your site, if I had a blog I’d probably block them!

    T

    Comment by Tara — November 30, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

  100. Exactly, if someone offended me from their high horse by throwing cliches at me (You don’t work enough! You don’t want to live among your equals so that you can feel proud of your lifestyle) even though I had offered a thorough explanation of my present state, my plans for the future and some sensible views about it all, I’d have given them a piece of my (alas, working-class-and-bleak-sorroundings-contamined, but refined later by studying) mind…

    Comment by alcessa — November 30, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

  101. Ah! Belleville…, c’est le quartier coloré qui a inspiré plusieurs romans de Daniel Pennac. De toute évidence, Petite, vous y avez trouvé un milieu attachant et stimulant, vous y êtes heureuse; je ne vois pas pourquoi votre enfant ne s’y épanouirait pas elle aussi.

    Comment by Choubine — November 30, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

  102. Isn’t there a way where by we COULD leave each other screened private email, Petite, without your needing to do anything?
    If not how DO we arrange email swaps.

    Scooby (still amazed)

    Comment by ScoobyDew — December 1, 2006 @ 12:07 am

  103. That would have to be through me, I’m afraid. If you want to be put in touch with someone, I’d be happy to forward them your email, and they can decide if they want to reply.

    Comment by petite — December 1, 2006 @ 12:22 am

  104. Oh dear. Sorry for triggering further unwarranted attacks on you Petite.

    I’m afraid Anna brought out my inner bitch, as I can’t stand people who are judgmental of other people’s choices and found it hilarious that someone could be so naive as to assume that merely bringing up a child in a well-to-do neighbourhood is the surest way to a successful and happy life, or conversely that children brought up in more working class environments have no chance of making something of themselves. Of course I realise that the odds are stacked against kids from some socio-economic backgrounds, but I also know quite a few privileged ones who have pissed their lives away, or who despite all their material advantages did not have a happy home life for various reasons.

    In any case, it seems ridiculous to suggest (at least going from what we know from this blog)that Tadpole is not getting a good start in life, given that she has two parents and a family network who seem to adore her, and lives with a mother who has got a rather lucrative source of income by most people’s standards.

    Perhaps I could have phrased my comment more diplomatically though. So apologies for offence caused.

    Anyway – I’m sure Petite and everyone else is bored of this now, so I shall sign off.

    Nikki (my real name) – working class background but well educated, well travelled, well paid and open to all the experiences that life has to offer.

    PS: What a treat to have a photo of the delectable Vincent Cassell on the sidebar. At least he’s with you on your choice of neighbourhood.

    Comment by nikki — December 1, 2006 @ 12:40 am

  105. I think it rather splendid to see the fur fly. Well done Petite, love to see you angry, Grrrr! Hurrah for Anna, you came back like a good’un. Good for you Nikki, fanning the flames (or was it the flying fur?).

    Having grown up in a rather naice and frightfully sort of home counties town, I absolutely got off on London as a place where everything and anything could happen, and often did. A city thrives on its contrasts. It was the tensions between the gritty environment of South London and their lifestyle and interests that gave my kids the cultural richness my own upbringing lacked. Schools – we always found good ones.

    If I could give the French educated classes a gift it would be to release them from their petite-bourgeoise attitudes; and to the English I would gift the joie de vivre I’ve found amongst those French people it has been my privilege to know.

    Comment by andrew — December 1, 2006 @ 3:09 am

  106. For some odd reason this resonates with me. I find it reminiscent of De Gaulle when he returned to Paris at the end of WWII. He throws his heart into a speech about Paris and….Oh all right. I enjoyed it.

    Comment by meredic — December 1, 2006 @ 10:33 am

  107. I am a neighbour of Petite’s, the father of a young child, and to be frank the place where I’m bringing up my daughter is a world away from the council estate I grew up on in Scotland.

    I’ve been living in this area for more than four years now, and so far I haven’t had anyone come up to me and try to sell me drugs on the street, for instance, as first happened to me on our estate when I was all of ten years old (and more than once after that). Nor have I seen any signs of the violence that was always hanging in the air whenever I ventured outside our house – not even during last year’s Paris riots.

    The flat we live in is bigger than the flat my parents had when we were young, our neighbours are much friendlier (and don’t pee – or worse – on the stairs), we have a nice garden in our building, and if it’s such a terrible place to live, why is it that the cost of buying a decent-sized flat round here is beyond our budget when both my partner and I are reasonably well-off professionals? Could it be that where we live, rather than being the Parisian Tower Hamlets, is actually more of a “boboland“, as the second commenter suggests on this forum?

    Anyway, I’m not sure when Anna was last in Belleville, or if she realises that “Belleville” extends a little further than the area around the metro station of the same name. But in any case, I don’t intend to move any time soon.

    Comment by Stuart Mudie — December 1, 2006 @ 10:33 am

  108. Stuart – I’m there once a week. And I hate what I have seen happen as they grow up to the once-adorable children (with loving parents) I knew 15 years ago in and around that area – 11th, 19th, 20th. Their lives have become a tragedy of lost opportunity.

    Comment by Anna — December 1, 2006 @ 12:32 pm

  109. Anna – you have made your point and I think you should leave this alone now.

    I for one am sick of hearing how you think my daughter’s life will be a tragedy of lost opportunity. She’s bilingual, she travels regularly, she attends lots of extra-curricular stuff and I’m saving so that she can attend good schools and go to the university (possibly in England) of her choice. In your eyes, this counts for nothing just because we live on the cusp of the 19th/20th. I wonder where you live and in what way it is so superior?

    I’m surprised that as a parents yourself (I see from previous, very nice comments you left), you don’t understand how sensitive an issue it is to criticise the way someone else chooses to bring up theirs and why I felt my hackles rise when you did.

    And what a sweeping statement. Every child who grows up in the Eastern arrondissements is doomed?!? I think not!

    Comment by petite — December 1, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

  110. I read this blog most days, have done for a long while, but only comment rarely. Often I find the comments rather sychophantic, but that’s ok; it is a great blog.
    What I cannot get over is the arrogance, condescension and sheer rudeness of people who think they can make personal criticisms of petite, on her own blog, not only on her writing, but on her life choices – from where she chooses to live to whether or not she should wear glasses.
    Petite is sharing “slices of her life”. She is not putting herself up as a target or inviting whatever flak some people seem to want to unload.
    The problem with email, and writing on the internet, is that because it is so fast, and yet personal, people write and send without really thinking about it. They write what they would not dare to say to someone’s face.
    A blog is like someone’s personal space. If we’re a guest in someone’s home would we tell them, uninvited, what a dump it is? Would we make personal comments uninvited?
    As another poster said, no one has a gun held to their head to read this blog, so if you don’t like it, move on. And don’t leave an ungracious comment on the way out.

    Comment by Jude — December 1, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

  111. I bring up three children – two stepchildren of 11 and 9 and one of my own, of 2 who is bi-lingual, bi-ethnic, travels regularly. So I do have quite a bit of experience of how children’s lives are shaped and I am very concerned for, and involved in, the well-being of all my children.

    I didn’t make that sweeping statement – you did!

    Comment by Anna — December 1, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  112. Just as a brief aside, I personally am stunned by this person’s quickness to judge someone else’s life simply from what she reads here — we all know that these are, as another reader has said and as Petite has herself stated, just “slices of her life.” I personally consider it a mantra to never judge others unless I have walked in their shoes… We all make choices, decisions, sometimes tough ones — life is fraught with so many challenges, on a personal or professional level; why must we get caught up in judging others in such a harsh way? And conveying such a sense of entitlement? Why can’t we respect each other’s differences and interests? I truly believe that attitudes like these lead to deeper-ingrained stereotypes, stereotypes that entrench our world in disaccord and intolerance.

    Why can’t we agree to disagree? It is all so subjective when it comes down to it, choices of lifestyle, how to raise children, etc. I too believe that children can grow up very well-adjusted and well-educated in many different kinds of environments; I mean, it happens all around the world every day! Some of us have a good education and then continue to struggle to define ourselves and don’t decide to settle for one particular job just because it pays well, but also because we’re still trying to find our place in this world. Does that make us terrible, or lesser people? This is such a broad, philosophical question really… Obviously having children is a choice and a sacrifice, and you have to think about how you’re going to raise them, but I too agree that how they are raised has a greater influence on them than where. Some of our most gifted and most influential world figures may have come from lowly backgrounds and have gone on to do great things.

    I don’t know, this kind of judgment about someone just makes me sad. And again, I’m sorry to stir up the pot, but I just wanted to share my two cents.

    Comment by Alice — December 1, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  113. Huzzas for Petite!
    I first read about this blog, some months ago, from Maître Eolas’s webpage… and I have to confess that when I read Petite’s first posts about “l’affaire Petite Anglaise”, I refrained myself from commenting, feeling it hard to find anything to say that could make sense: Corporate Business Land being such a foreign country to me!

    So I went here, curious about a Cause Célèbre…. and felt in the habit of coming back, mainly for Tadpole stories, yet as well for all these little sketches of Comédie Humaine Petite uses to delight her readers with.

    Sometimes the human comedy bits shift from the blog to the comments. I must say I watched with great wonder Petite answering patiently and kindly to some poster’s in equal parts tactless, tasteless and pointless comment; receiving back, instead of apologies, even more offensive and misguided comments, and, not losing her temper, continuing answering courteously to this motley bunch of visitors her blog happens to attract… as the perfect maîtresse de maison it’s obvious she is!
    Thanks, Petite, for the blogging manners lesson!

    Comment by Géronimo — December 1, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

  114. And what’s wrong with Tower Hamlets, anyway? I live in Hackney, which is apparently even worse, and in a part of it, Dalston, which is probably viewed as being one of the worst bits of Hackney, and it’s fabulous. What you’re doing when you dismiss an area is judging not the place but the people in it – and why should they be condemned? Let’s all mix it up a bit, and live in unexpected places.

    Comment by The B — December 1, 2006 @ 7:37 pm

  115. Anna, are you going to take up petite’s challenge and tell her where you live and why it is so superior?
    Go on, you know you want to!
    ;)

    Comment by andrew — December 1, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

  116. Thank you Geronimo, I am not enjoying the job much today.

    I love my life right now. I love my neighbourhood, my lovingly painted flat, my writing studio, my friends, and I wouldn’t swap any of it for all the money in the world and an hôtel particulier in the marais.

    So, I’ll take my life, Anna can keep hers, we can agree to differ on what factors shape children the most.

    And of course you can all watch this space to see whether Tadpole’s life really does become a “tragedy of lost opportunity”.

    Comment by petite — December 1, 2006 @ 8:35 pm


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