petite anglaise

April 29, 2007

in bed with petite

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaise @ 8:37 pm

So, I made the 20H on TF1 today.

Tadpole cried all the way through it (because I dared to put my finger to my lips and say “shhh”) so I didn’t actually hear a great deal the first time around. I just moaned “oh god, why did I have to be having a bad skin day?” over and over again. And rocked back and forth in the foetal position on my (now very famous) scarlet bed.

I just can’t believe they cut the part where I was accosted by a harmonica playing madman in the bar, or the wonderful sequence in which I bought a nice, ripe melon from the fruit and veg store. Or the very staged scene where I pretended to tidy Tadpole’s bedroom. But all in all, not bad. And yes, my lovely editor is French too, even though she works for Penguin in England…

NB The cover image you can see at the end is the picture I used for the front page of my book proposal – it’s an illustration by the super talented Lucy Pepper.

Big thanks to my good friend Rhino75 who worked the YouTube magic in close collaboration with the one and only Miss Kitty.


Version française rapide pour les visiteurs français:

Au lit avec petite

Et oui, finalement j’ai passé au 20H de TF1 aujourd’hui.

Tadpole (ma fille) a pleuré pendant tout le long (parce que j’ai osé lui dire “chut!”, la main sur les lèvres) et donc je n’ai pas entendu grande chose au premier visionnage. Je me suis simplement contentée de répéter “mais pourquoi je devais avoir une si mauvaise peau ce jour-là?” plusieurs fois, avant de me mettre dans la position foetale sur mon lit écarlate désormais célèbre.

Je n’arrive pas à croire qu’ils ont coupé la séquence où j’ai été pris en ôtage par un fou jouant son harmonica dans le bar (il voulait vraiment me voler la vedette ce monsieur, il fallait le voir); ainsi que la scène où j’ai acheté un melon bien mûr au vendeur de fruits et légumes. Ou encore le passage (truqué) où j’ai rangé des jouets dans la chambre de ma fille. Mais en gros, pas si mal. Et oui, en effet, mon éditrice Katy est une française, travaillant pour Penguin à Londres…

NB L’image de la fin est la couverture de la proposition de livre que j’ai préparé l’été dernier, avec une image conçue par la très talentueuse Lucy Pepper.

April 27, 2007


Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaise @ 9:12 am

Would any of my kind readers be willing to record the Journal Télévisé de 20H on TF1 on Saturday and Sunday and let me have a copy? A film crew are on their way – how much shall we bet that I am asked to stand chatting in the kitchen while making a cup of tea? – and I will no doubt end up being one of those end fillers that provide light entertainment after all the serious presidential election talk. But I’m not 100% sure which day it will be broadcast.

Clearly if anyone is savvy enough to pop the segment on YouTube, that would be even better, so I can link to it here.

I’ll just go back to my quaking now. I hate cameras. I hate video cameras even more. And obviously it’s in French. Eeek.

April 25, 2007


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 11:42 am

“They used glue?” exclaims the doctor in horror. “That’s very unorthodox indeed.” I grimace, and wish I’d omitted to mention the part where Tadpole fell in England, struck her face on an English manhole cover (which apparently is what happened – my friend went back to the disaster scene), and got fixed up by an English nurse.

“Yes, they used glue,” I say, “and I’m just hoping the wound is tightly closed, but I can’t really tell, it kind of scabbed over in the night and the swelling seems worse.”

“Well, I don’t mind taking a look if you want to bring her in,” the doctor replies, “but you’d be better off going to casualty and asking a surgeon to inspect the wound. Mind you, they might turn you away, because it’s no longer fresh…”

I sigh. A potentially futile morning spent hanging around in casualty it is. I don’t really mind, it’s not like I can work while Tadpole is home from school, deadline or no deadline. When I call Mr Frog to ask him for Tadpole’s carte vitale, he offers to come along too and I am grateful. In stressful situations his quiet insistence tends to be more productive than my short temper.

The urgences pédiatriques at Robert Debré children’s hospital are en travaux. The waiting rooms are freshly painted in turquoise, orange and butter yellow, but there are no toys for children nor coffee machines for adults. Mr Frog sneaks off for a cigarette, and returns brandishing coffee. Tadpole is pretending to read her Disney Princess magazine, her brow furrowed in concentration. Apart from the fact that the right side of her lip is about three times its usual size and covered with dried glue and scabs in various autumnal shades, she’s as right as rain.

Vous m’entendez?” says a woman’s voice, loud and clear over the PA system. “It this thing working?”

“Indeed it is,” I reply, although we are in a separate waiting room, far from the main desk, and my feedback is not actually being sought.

Rentrez tous chez vous et arrêtez de nous embêter!” says another, lower voice. The assembled parents exchange amused glances and I accidentally snort some coffee down my nose. “What?” the second voice says frantically. “You mean it works even when the button isn’t pressed down?”

The doctor tuts as he examines Tadpole’s face. “We never use glue on lips in this hospital,” he says. “Stitches are better, because lips swell and the wound can weep.”

“Is there anything we can do to improve things now?” I ask cautiously, not really relishing the idea of slicing the wound back open and pinning Tadpole to a table, but terrified that she will be permanently disfigured.

“No, no, it’s more than six hours old, nothing I can do here… It might be fine, it looks clean and dry. We just would have done things differently, that’s all.”

He hands back Tadpole’s carnet de santé and returns to typing something at his keyboard as I lift my daughter down from the examining table, biting my own lip.

“Oh well, I suppose it was worth checking,” I say to Mr Frog as we gather up our bags and jackets and make for the door.

The doctor looks up from his screen. “Yes, he says, “but what a pity she didn’t fall over in France.”

April 23, 2007


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 1:48 pm

“Aw, look at the two of them holding hands,” my friend exclaims, as Tadpole and my friend’s younger daughter – both dressed in gauzy pink fairy costumes – walk ahead of us with her dog, their feet crunching on the gravel. Her elder daughter catches them up, and the three advance together as one, picking up speed. The sun is shining, although it has no real force yet. I feel more relaxed than I have in weeks.

“This weekend’s done me so much good.” I quicken my step as the girls round a bend in the track and move just out of our line of vision. “It’s so nice to get away, and lovely to be in the countryside…”

“Well you can come whene…”

She is cut off mid-sentence by a chorus of wails. We sprint forward, expecting to have to mediate for the twentieth time that day between three squabbling fairies, or, at worst, to tend to a grazed knee. But when I see Tadpole’s face, I am horrified.

The blood gushes. I don’t know, at first, where it is coming from. She has the mouth of a vampire in a gore movie. Blood pours down her chin, soaking her pink dress, turning it a vivid crimson red. The metallic taste makes her gag and spit. Blood drips onto the gravel, soaks into my t-shirt, and huge droplets spatter my jeans and trainers as I hoist Tadpole into my arms and stagger back to my friend’s house, mercifully close.

Parking Tadpole on the kitchen counter by the sink, I hold a cup to her lips and she rinses her mouth. Her teeth all appear to be intact, although there is a nasty cut inside her cheek. But the worst thing, the thing I can barely look at without gagging, is the split in her upper lip, on the right hand side. A deep slice exposing dark, purple flesh, like raw steak.

We arrive at the small injuries unit in a nearby town twenty minutes later and I lead Tadpole, still dressed in her blood-spattered fairy outfit, into the reception area. “The St Albans fairy chainsaw massacre,” says my friend wryly, leading her two little fairies inside. I manage a weak smile, but my hands are shaking and I feel nauseous and light-headed. While my friend does everything in her power to prevent Tadpole from catching sight of her face in the huge mirror next to the children’s toys, I speak to the lady at reception. It is all I can do to form a sentence, and I find myself unable to spell out my daughter’s name – my brain isn’t functioning well enough – so I scrawl it illegibly on a piece of paper. I explain we were supposed to be flying back to Paris in three hours time. That, plus the fact that Tadpole’s appearance is going to give everyone in the waiting area nightmares for weeks to come, bumps us straight to the top of the list.

“How did this happen to you?” says the nurse to Tadpole, shining a light in her eye. I’ve already given my explanation, and open my mouth to repeat my story before I realise with a sickening jolt that she is cross-examining my daughter on purpose, to eliminate the possibility that it was I who caused her injury.

We emerge, ten minutes later. Tadpole shows everyone the “I’ve been brave” sticker the nurse gave her, which she has slapped onto the front of her blood-spattered dress. Her lip wound has been gummed closed with surgical glue, and I pray it will hold. I glance at my watch: we have just enough time to nip back to my friend’s home, change out of our ruined clothes and grab our bags.

On the plane, Tadpole spies drops of blood on her shoe.

“I’m sorry mummy,” she says, stroking my forearm. “I did spit on our clothes and I did make a terrible mess. I didn’t mean to. It’s all my fault.”

“Oh gosh, it’s not your fault my love,” I say, mortified, “It was an accident. And I don’t care about any clothes! Mummy is only sad because you have a bobo she couldn’t fix. I try to keep you safe, and sometimes I don’t manage to. You were my brave little girl today…”

When the seatbelt signs go off, Tadpole raises the armrest and lets her head fall into my lap. A few minutes later she is asleep. I stroke her hair, my hands still shaking, and try not to worry about the fact that drowsiness is one of the concussion symptoms mentioned on the leaflet the nurse pressed into my hand as we left.

April 17, 2007


Filed under: good time girl — petiteanglaise @ 9:05 pm

Et si on se disait 20h00, au Bar Hemingway du Ritz” suggests my blind date.

I google the Hemingway Bar, note in passing that cocktails cost a cool twenty three euros, and read about “The Orchid Ploy”.

Sitting at a table in the Ritz Bar one day with his friend Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald spotted a ravishing young woman, unfortunately (in his view) not alone. He had a bouquet of orchids sent to her table, but she sent it straight back.

Before her stunned gaze, Scott Fitzgerald promptly began devouring the blooms, one by one… until she gave in and agreed to meet him.

And there was me thinking that being wooed online by a person who claimed to have fallen in love with petite anglaise before he met me was impossibly romantic. In future I shan’t take a suitor seriously unless he can polish off an entire floral arrangement in one sitting: petals, leaves, stems, cellophane and all.

An invitation to the Ritz represents something of a departure from the norm, and is not a little intimidating. Working from home means that I rarely leave my beloved Belleville. I roam the streets in my bobo uniform of ripped jeans, layered t-shirts and trainers, and on a good day I may drag a brush through the knots in my hair. My social skills have atrophied, the smart clothes section of my wardrobe is poised to make someone at the Red Cross very happy, and I’m unused to paying more than three euros for a Chinese beer.

I arrive, wearing a simple jersey dress and flat shoes, and ask a liveried doorman for directions. The Hemingway bar, it transpires, is at the far side of the hotel from the entrance. I follow the gilded signs, traipsing along (what feels like several kilometres of) carpeted corridors lined with display cases. Inside, gaudy Hermès scarves nestle alongside quilted leather handbags with gold chain handles. I stride on, feeling smug about my choice of sensible footwear.

The bar is tiny, wood panelled, and frankly not as lavish as I’d hoped. I spy no lone men – although at one table there is an unattended coat and motorcycle helmet – so I take a seat at a table alone, and pick up the menu, which is styled to look like a newspaper. A few seconds later, a uniformed barmaid brings me two tiny bowls of apéritif snacks and a glass of something transparent in which pieces of cucumber bob among the ice cubes. “I haven’t actually ordered yet,” I point out, thinking there must be some mistake.

“This is just the complimentary water, Madam,” she replies, pursing her lips at my lack of worldliness. I feel like Vivian Ward crossed with Eliza Doolittle.

I take a sip of my complimentary water, and begin to hanker after a cold, uncomplicated, two euro beer Aux Folies.

April 15, 2007

lucky charm

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 8:08 pm

I glance at my watch. 5.30pm. Time to leave the “office” and take myself off to Mr Frog’s house. Tadpole has returned, finally, and it’s time to down tools, scoop up my girl and take her home.

It’s been a tough week. The weather has been unseasonably warm for April but I’ve mostly been indoors, working long days on the manuscript. I was feeling a low, unsure of myself, and it took me a while to realise that the real reason for my despondency was that I missed Tadpole and all the little routines centred around her which give essential structure and purpose to my days. Mornings are no fun when I can’t slip into bed beside her and scratch her back (“not like that, mummy! With les ongles“) or battle over which clothes she should wear (“not a pantalon! Hanna says she is only my friend if I do wear a jupe!”) Without bathtime, bedtime and stories the evenings are formless and dull. I flounder. I skip meals, forget to brush my hair for days on end. Without a little person to care for, I stop caring altogether, least of all for myself.

The cafés on rue de Belleville are overflowing onto the pavements. Girls in spaghetti strap tops, wearing sunglasses, with their shoulders sunburnt. I blink stupidly in the sun. My office looks across a shady courtyard filled with blossoming trees. I am unprepared for the heat, overdressed, I’ve left my sunglasses at home.

“It’s me!” I say brightly into the intercom, my heart doing somersaults in my chest. Mr Frog buzzes me inside, and I race along the corridor to the lift. There is giggling behind the door – Tadpole is no doubt peering at me through the spyhole, in Mr Frog’s arms – then the handle turns, and the door swings open.

At the sight of me, Tadpole’s face falls. “Je veux rester ici” she cries, darting across the room and diving under daddy’s desk, her face flushed and contorted with anger. “I don’t want to go with mummy! I want to stay here, with daddy!

Her frosty welcome has knocked the stuffing out of me, and tears prick my lowered eyelids, but I sit down quietly on the sofa and accept Mr Frog’s offer of tea. There is a part of me that is so hungry for affection that I want to pick her up and hug her senseless, against her will. But there is nothing for it but to wait until she comes around. She’s had a poor night’s sleep, Mr Frog explains, and a tiring train journey. She’s not being intentionally cruel. However much it can seem that way.

Twenty minutes later, I set down my empty tea cup and gather up her clothes. “They’re all clean,” says Mr Frog. “My mum washed them, to save you the trouble.” I transfer the neatly folded pile from his holdall into a plastic bag, and stoop to fasten the buckles on Tadpole’s shoes. Her tantrum now forgotten, Tadpole is suddenly eager to hit the road.

“Come on mummy,” she says, tugging at my t-shirt. “It’s time to go!”

Outside Mr Frog’s building I pause to assemble the buggy. Tadpole isn’t far off her fourth birthday, and I stopped using it months ago, but Mr Frog insisted on taking it on his trip so since I have it, I figure I might as well stow the bags inside and push them home. Tadpole sits patiently on doorstep, watching me as I flip down the catch with my toe.

I hear a flapping of wings high in the trees above and a viscous green liquid rains down, splattering the front of my dress, the pushchair and both the inside and the outside of the plastic bag containing Tadpole’s (no longer clean) clothes.

I freeze, my expression hovering somewhere between disgust and disbelief. Tadpole claps her hands to her mouth, her eyes wide.

Ca porte bonheur, il paraît, says an elderly woman as she limps past, leaning heavily on her husband’s arm.

“Easy for you to say,” I mutter darkly, fumbling in my bag for tissues. “You’re not the one covered in pigeon juice.”

I sit down on the step by Tadpole’s side, dabbing gingerly at my dress.

I suppose I should look on the bright side. My daughter is back, and my bloggers block has finally lifted.

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