petite anglaise

April 15, 2007

lucky charm

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 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.


  1. Hi Petite,
    I have recently started reading your blog and am totally hooked. I lived in France for four years (1995-99), and your observations about France and the French are completely spot on! I’ve been reading through some of your archived posts and been laughing out loud at some, e.g. your description of trying to get a carte de séjour (been there, done that) and feeling really nostalgic over others, especially all those to do with speaking French (reminds me of all the expressions I’ve forgotten).
    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Sally — April 15, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  2. gotta love that elderly woman. have you seen that flick “under the tuscan sun?” with pigeon juice comes good days ahead ^_^.

    Comment by juliaipsa — April 15, 2007 @ 9:17 pm

  3. You know, I was just reflecting today, while walking down the streets of the 5th and through the Jardin de Luxembourg, that with the leaves out on the trees now it makes it that much harder to see (and thus avoid) the STUPID PIGEONS. And I was hoping I wouldn’t get pigeon-bombed, despite this French belief that it brings good luck (they’d have to prove it by me). Sorry to hear you weren’t so “lucky” as to avoid it this time. But at least you got your girl back… now SHE’S good luck!

    Comment by The Bold Soul — April 15, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  4. Once, while I was in midtown (Manhattan) walking with a colleague, a bird flew overhead and let out a bunch of bird gook that no one on this completely crowded street seemed to notice, but me (it was rushhour). I literally saw it fall as the bird flew overhead and it landed on the sidewalk with such a loud splat, that I screamed. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.

    Everyone was staring at me like I had done something wrong and no one else realized how close they’d come to getting splattered by this disgusting pigeon. It’s a miracle it just happened to miss everyone and landed on the sidewalk, only. I think our city is just so crowded with buildings that that stuff probably just lands on the roofs of buildings and doesn’t make it to the ground often.

    Anyway, this was a very sweet post Petite. I’m glad you’re back. :0)

    Comment by Mlle Smith — April 15, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  5. i’ve never understood that ‘brings good luck’ thing – except that, in karmic terms, you are so owed good luck after being crapped on – either literally or figuratively – that things can only get better. i’ve been thinking about your epic struggle with the proofs – i’ll email you with my thoughts. x

    Comment by rivergirlie — April 15, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

  6. We seem to have a woodpecker taking up residence in our back yard. Praise be for the joys of spring – and the need for our little people to remark upon such developments.

    Comment by Sue Millgate — April 15, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

  7. Bonjour Petite,
    Great post.
    It’s funny how kids can break your heart so easily. I always feel I have so much to do and get done, but without my son I seem to be lost. Amazing how they take over your life. Each day at work I can’t wait to get home and hug my little guy.
    Sorry about the bird.

    Comment by Mad William — April 15, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  8. loving so much can be kind of painful. I have had moments when I missed my children so much I woke up weeping. At least your child is there and you can be with her, doing the practical things that make your love real. Like protecting her from the pigeon.
    So, lucky you are – but I think you know that too.

    Comment by andrew — April 15, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  9. Petite – at least it was a pigeon and not a seagull – man, they have some juice!

    Comment by teeweewonders — April 16, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  10. I’ve been lurking for a long while but I had to respond to this!

    You and I need to get together. If there is a pigeon nearby, it’s my DH who gets the good luck. He’s a Brit too.

    I’m sorry for Tadpole’s rant, I know how it hurts. One of my kids opted to go live with his dad after we divorced. It damn near broke my heart, but he wanted to go, and I let him. The judge could tell I was lingering in her office after the appt, and said to me, don’t worry, they always come back. Some come back after one year, some take two years. My son took two, but he came back.

    I hope this gives you some heart, PA. There are ups and downs all the time, just different ups and different downs.

    Comment by spud — April 16, 2007 @ 1:01 am

  11. Welcome back Petite!

    I miss that caring time I had with my children. I miss the little rituals, the usefulness, the necessity. Sometimes my heart is so full of love that I cry.
    But children can be cruel. Sometimes, and especially when they are teenagers, they throw it all back at you, like a lobbing of pigeon poo.
    I take it on the chin,(or down the front of my dress like you.)
    Oh that well worn(splattered)symbol of good times ahead!
    I know you have many to look forward to xx

    Comment by the domestic minx — April 16, 2007 @ 1:05 am

  12. Bonjour Petite,

    5 days without a word ! You _are_ cruel to us readers :) Keep up the fight – 2007 can’t be worse than 2006 (unless the Seine floods !). I lived for about 4 years in all in Paris about 15 years ago, and still can’t stand the sight of “croissants” here in the US. They never taste “right” ! So I, for one, am insanely jealous of you for living where you do.


    Comment by Michael Irwin — April 16, 2007 @ 1:06 am

  13. In the States, we have hats that express you sentiments with a touch of humor. The hats have a greenish, transparent goop that seemingly slides down the brim. Under the goop, if bold letter, the hat states, “I hate seagulls.”

    Usually, these are staples in coastal, Carolina gift shops, if you decide to cross the pond. :)

    Comment by reavolution — April 16, 2007 @ 3:06 am

  14. I know it’s supposed to be good luck…but why oh why does it feel so bad! Glad the writer’s block has lifted! I’ve missed your posts. So far I have been lucky…no writer’s block for me yet, but I know the day’s coming!

    Comment by Marie — April 16, 2007 @ 6:59 am

  15. Hello There

    Glad you catch back Tadpole !

    My wife have learned not to be that exited when she grab back our lttle baby monster every afternoon at the little park with her nany… Almost 90% of the times she used to run as hell as soon as she sees her crying liek a fool “pas maman pas maman” ….
    Took me several weeks on every morning when i walks her to the nany to stop that crazyness : What do you do to mamy when she arives : “Un calin” and then “un Gros bisous”…
    She don’t know about that ,)

    Cheer up Petite and keep the good work on the manuscript !

    Comment by Thierry_J — April 16, 2007 @ 8:07 am

  16. coucou p’tite!

    Aah gone are the days where i used to sit in the living hall of the apartment with the *sometimes* unbearable Malaysian weather, re-typing every few hours or so.

    j’aimerais vous rencontrer un jour si j’vais en france . Little tadpole is just adorable. Please send her my ENORME bisous!

    Comment by Popo — April 16, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  17. Things that bring good luck in France:
    Getting juiced on by birds
    Rain on your wedding day
    Stepping in dog shit
    Friday 13th
    Being dumped on a Saturday night

    (OK, ok, I made the last one up, but I had to convince myself of that so many times in the past, you see…)

    Comment by frog with a blog — April 16, 2007 @ 9:33 am

  18. Very touching post. Of course, to Tadpole, what might seem cruel is the week away from her Mom. And the pressure to comply with this strange scripted ritual of awkward adults.

    Comment by Kai Carver — April 16, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  19. Pigeon Juice…This happens to me every so often, but always in the most public of places, and the fact that the french tell me it’s ‘lucky’…pffft what a load of bollocks! I say let’s get rid of pigeons. And their juice.

    Reminds me of the time the sickest, fattest pigeon in Britain dropped a load of greeny brown poo all down my head, my face and onto the baked potato I was eating.

    I sobbed all the way home.

    Comment by princesseecossaise — April 16, 2007 @ 11:33 am

  20. I was crapped upon by a pigeon once. It was just after I’d been told I failed my degree, and I was on my way to the uni to discuss my options. Once I’d gone back home, got changed and gone to the uni, my tutor, slightly embarrassed, informed me that there’d been a mistake – they’d miscounted my marks and I hadn’t failed after all!

    So there you go – probably would have happened anyway, pigeon or no pigeon, but I can’t help wondering…

    Comment by Danella — April 16, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  21. Life is back to normal then, with an extra helping of bird poo to help it along. The morale of the story is… always carry baby wipes!

    Comment by Ariel — April 16, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  22. Oh, what a tough moment, and yet it’s so poignant to see how beautifully you express this! Children and their swinging emotions — I think I can be like that myself sometimes, to be honest.

    Sorry about the pigeon, too; I’ve been there before, and after finally getting over the disgust, it’s so frustrating to have to find all the spots on your clothes to clean off. But I’m sure things only got better for the rest of the day!

    Comment by Alice — April 16, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  23. i love your blog. i’ve become a silent reader. but just thought i’d say. be greatfull it didn’t go in your hair! it smells horrible for days if it gets in your hair!

    xxxxxx rachel xxxxxx

    Comment by Rachel — April 16, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  24. Lovely to have you back – even if you are wearing dirty clothes.

    Personally, I’m glad you’ve had some time away from blogging, becuase I’ve been away myself, and haven’t time to catch-up on all my reading.

    Comment by Damian — April 16, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

  25. i’m SO glad that i’m not the only person this has happened to. i truly believe the old Gary Larson “Far Side” comic strip is true:

    Comment by franko — April 16, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

  26. Yes, children can be hurtful but you know she loves you.
    As for bird ‘juice’ I remember a friend of ours being splopped on is bald head one day when we were out as a foursome. It was a laugh but I don’t think he had any better luck than the rest of us.

    Comment by sablonneuse — April 16, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  27. One of my friends was telling me the other day that her little girl told her the other morning that she wanted daddy to get up with her, not mummy, and she didn’t like mummy. It nearly broke my own heart, and this is just a friend of mine.

    Glad you’re posting again :)

    Comment by Beth — April 16, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  28. Tadpole is as fickle as the weather of April, as befits a girl of her age.

    As to pigeon, I prefer mine in terrine.

    Comment by Lost in France — April 16, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

  29. Hi petite, I’ve been reading your blog silently for some time and just wanted to tell you I think it’s lovely. Good luck with the manuscript and glad to hear the writer’s block cleared.

    Comment by Angie — April 16, 2007 @ 6:24 pm

  30. Delighted to hear of your win over your ex employer – they really did bring the profession of accountancy into disrepute.

    Good luck to you.

    Christopher x

    Comment by christopher horne — April 16, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

  31. I can relate to this post, I’m home alone since yesterday evening after a lovely week’s holiday with my little one & it was hard for us to say goodbye when her papa came to fetch her. On the other hand it’s nice to have some breathing space. Not “intentionally cruel” of course, but children do know how to use their power, especially when they have 2 homes – “I want to go and live with Daddy” etc, I think she’s just testing you ! Good luck with the book (re earlier post) I’m sure it will all be worth it !!

    Comment by Kate — April 16, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  32. Poor little Tadpole. When she goes with Mr. Frog, she has to leave you behind and when she comes home to you, she has to leave Mr. Frog. No matter how delighted she is to see each of you again, she’s also sad because it means leaving someone she loves behind.

    You handled it just right, with a little time for her to adjust, a matter of fact attitude, and a cup of tea to distract you from the pricking tears.

    With a little luck (from the pigeon juice?) it will be easier next time!

    Comment by Peg — April 16, 2007 @ 7:36 pm

  33. Bonjour! Je suis de Montréal, je viens de découvrir votre blogue et il me plaît beaucoup! Votre écriture est fluide et évocatrice. Je reviendrai en lire plus, pour mieux comprendre votre histoire… Au plaisir!

    Comment by Linda — April 16, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  34. Petite, you have such detailed observations of Parisian life.

    Tadpole may occasionally like the company of Mr Frog, but it’s you she wants to be with.

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — April 16, 2007 @ 8:01 pm

  35. *This* is why they’ve asked you to write a book! Beautiful post about a simple afternoon.

    I thought immediately the same thing that juliaipsa did! The pigeon poop in “Under The Tuscan Sun” was a “signale de Deo” to the contessa that she should hand over her beloved villa to a strange American woman…so it MUST be a sign!

    Comment by Iona — April 16, 2007 @ 8:01 pm

  36. Pigeons! (Or, as we referred to them in NYC, “Rats with wings.”) Hmm…….I wonder if Paris has peregrine falcons there? It would help to keep the pigeon population under control……

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — April 16, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

  37. Avian flu, OMG!

    Get rid of that dress now!

    Comment by frog with a blog — April 16, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  38. Was undergoing serious Petite-withdrawal for a few days there…but recovering now, all seems right again with the world ;)
    p.s. sympathy for the pigeon poop, think Shaun Ryder had the right idea!

    Comment by le sagittaire — April 16, 2007 @ 11:36 pm

  39. Nearly 2 weeks since the last proper post, and this one turns out to be “a load of shit”!

    Comment by Hywel Mallett — April 16, 2007 @ 11:54 pm

  40. I’d be willing to bet good money that Tadpole wasnt in the hugging mood after that pigeon poo shower!

    Comment by Ceylon Sapphire — April 17, 2007 @ 2:18 am

  41. Your mother in law did her washing and ironing? Wowowee! Mine once came to stay in my house when I wasn;t here and went through my drawers and removed all my white knickers. I came home to find them in the kitchen, soaking in a bucket of Napisan!

    Comment by Welsh Cake — April 17, 2007 @ 8:11 am

  42. Lucky? No way — it’s devious.
    It’s precision bombing.
    Walking home with a friend one sunny day, I recklessly paused to fumble in my bag for my mobile when half a dozen of these filthy feathered vermin (maliciously perched in waiting, unbeknowns to me, on a ledge just above us) let loose in unison… all over both of us. It was absolutely spectacular — running down the back of my neck and even landing inside my handbag. We dashed screaming into the nearest pharmacy and, without even the courtesy of paying first, ransacked the shelf of disinfectant wipes and set to work… urrgh.
    Ah, but at least you have your wonderful Tadpole back in your life again. You must have missed her dreadfully. I just spent a week without mine and it threw my life into complete chaos…

    Comment by kitikat — April 17, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  43. Mr. Frog always comes over as such a nice person in your posts. How can you write about an ex and not be even a teeny bit bitchy or critical sometimes? I know I couldn’t. You must be a much nicer person than I am (or just a good life-editor…)

    PS Some bird crapped all over my clean washing this weekend. Once it was dry, of course.

    Comment by tonic — April 17, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  44. You’re right!! There is nothing better then picking up my LM from daycare/preschool on my weeks turn to have him. The weeks w/o him are ever so lonely. But nothing beats your child darting towards you in full force with a gleaming smile ready to knock you down at that moment to see YOU, yes YOU!! Ah, I love my Fridays…

    Comment by Darla — April 17, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  45. You’ll just have to accept the fact that sometimes you’re the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue.

    Comment by Johnny — April 17, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  46. You city dwellers have no idea what your talking about regarding shite hawks. I live in Cornwall where the bastards will swoop down and nick your fish and chips or pasties or indeed ice cream cones directly out of your grasp. When on hols this summer please don’t feed them. Last year when in St Ives I watched some hilday makers throwing chips at some seagulls. This huge one swooped down and on the way to steal their toddlers ice cream its beak tore the baby’s cheek literally in half.
    Puts being crapped on in perspective.

    Comment by Welsh Cake — April 17, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

  47. That should have read – holiday makers.

    Comment by Welsh Cake — April 17, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

  48. I supppose the Italians think like the French (or maybe it is that generation). My now somewhat elderly Italian mother always said the same thing. It tried to tell that to my daughter when she was 10 or 12 and had it in her hair, and she argued that it was most definitely not good luck, but rather the worst luck she had ever had!

    Comment by lisele — April 17, 2007 @ 4:40 pm

  49. Haha, brings back memories. Five minutes into a first date I was ‘juiced’ on the head only I didn’t realise what it was so I put my hand into the warm smelly goo, under the horrified gaze of the chap I was trying so hard to impress…I had spent forever doing my ‘brushing’ too! As for good luck, well, I married him… take that as you will!

    Comment by suziboo — April 18, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  50. Ouch, I can’t imagine how painful those words of Tadpole’s were. I know I’m dreading the day when I first hear “Daddy I hate you” from one of mine. I know it’ll happen, kids having such an aversion to even a mild telling-off, but I know I’m going to have to leave the room when does.

    @ Dave, yeah we called them that in London too.

    @ Popo, where in Malaysia are/were you? I’m in KL myself. My site has contact details if you’re still here (sorry, PA, for using your place for this)

    Comment by Outski — April 18, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  51. Welsh Cake: I’d keep a tighter hold on those pasties;it sounds like Cornwall is one wild town!

    As for your mother in law,I hope with all my shocked little heart that you returned the favor by “cleaning” her dentures (or some such item)in similar fashion ;)

    Johnny 45: That’s tellin’ ‘er!

    Comment by Belle — April 19, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

  52. His MUM washed them? Has he not figured out how to turn the machine on yet?!

    Comment by Beta Mum — April 20, 2007 @ 10:02 am

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