petite anglaise

April 17, 2007


Filed under: good time girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 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 — 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.

April 10, 2007


Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:59 am

Sometimes, on the nights when Mr Frog would come home late from work, I would pounce, ravenous for conversation after several hours of pacing the apartment alone like a caged animal while baby Tadpole slept. I would talk and talk and talk until he protested, hands on ears, saying “my head is fool”.

(He meant full. Distinguishing between certain English vowels can be very tough for a French person).

Right now my head is so full with book that I’m having a tough time freeing it up to blog. I’m working on draft two, and there are days when I’m intimidated by how much more there is write/tweak/fiddle with before July. I’ve imposed an early May deadline on myself for delivery of the next draft, but have had a steady stream of lovely visitors lately, with more to come. The good news about the tribunal also brought lots of French journalists out of the woodwork, another distraction which I need to ruthlessly nip in the bud if I’m to concentrate on what is most important to me.

So this week I intend to keep my head down and stay very, very focused. I hope you will excuse me if that means things are a little quiet around here.

April 5, 2007


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:22 am

I do like the title chosen for my one off column at the New Statesman.


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