petite anglaise

August 17, 2007


Filed under: on the road — petiteanglaise @ 5:40 pm

It almost seems cheeky writing a little “explanation for my forthcoming absence” post here, as I’ve not been very present for a good few weeks now, gallivanting around the UK – with and without Tadpole – to London, to Brighton Pride, and even to Uttoxeter (which I am still woefully incapable of locating on a map, despite having been there).

But book has gone to the copyeditor, Tadpole has gone with Mr Frog to spend some more quality time with her mamie and papy, and I am heading to the Cyclades with my boyfriend, for Two Whole Weeks, as of some ungodly hour tomorrow morning.

I’m excited, and a little nervous, frankly. I’ve never done the whole “go on holiday without actually booking accommodation (apart from the first 3 nights) thing”, and I’ve known the Boy for three months (exactly three months, as it happens, as we met on 17 May). It could all go every so slightly extremely right (as Tadpole/Lola would say) or horrifically pear-shaped. And it remains to be seen how I weather two weeks of cold turkey away from the internets, and how he weathers two weeks without Full Tilt Poker.

Only one way to find out…

August 15, 2007


Filed under: misc, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 12:43 pm

Tadpole scowls at me across the dinner table. She hasn’t touched her food, despite the fact that I let her choose the dinner menu. Instead she pushes it around her plate listlessly, scattering baby peas and grains of rice onto the tabletop. Every few seconds, it seems, I have to ask her to refrain from pushing with her legs against the wall (after an incident earlier in the day when she ended up on the floor, howling, with the chair on top of her).

My patience, if I could see it, would probably resemble the ketchup on the table in front of me. A few dregs remain, coating the sides of the squeezable plastic bottle, but they are congealed and almost impossible to reach.

I spent the best part of the afternoon standing on a stepladder and scraping paint off the bathroom ceiling with a kitchen spatula. Flakes of slightly soggy paint collected in my hair, fell down the front of my dress, and welded themself to my arms as I scraped. Occasionally, when I pierced a water bubble, a trickle of water ran along the spatula, down my arm, and into the crook of my armpit, making me shiver.

The upstairs neighbour didn’t even have the good grace to look sheepish, let alone apologise, when the plumber sent by the copropriété concluded that a leaking tap in his apartment was the cause, and not the communal downpipe which runs through our bathroom wall. It will probably be months before I manage to get the requisite quotes to fix the warped window and fill in the pitted ceiling and have them approved by his insurance company. The drip drip drip had gone uninterrupted for two whole weeks while Tadpole and I were away in Yorkshire. Perfect timing.

Now my head is throbbing, an insistent dull pulsing which echoes the drip drip drip in the bathroom as the last of the water works its way through the ceiling, and the glass of wine I poured myself a few minutes earlier does not appear to be helping.

I heave myself out of my chair and curl up in a ball on my bed. Tadpole appears by my side and puts her face close to mine. I open my mouth to ask her to sit back down again, then close it. She has begun stroking my forehead, ever so gently, and it is so soothing, I don’t want her to stop.

“What’s matter mummy?” she says softly. “Are you ever so slightly extremely tired?”

August 9, 2007


Filed under: working girl — petiteanglaise @ 7:23 pm

“Come on mum,” I say in a wheedling voice. “I’m going to have some cinnamon toast. Don’t you fancy a bite to eat? My treat…”

Mum frowns at the menu. “Well,” she says hesitantly. “A toasted scone might be nice. With some raspberry jam…”

When the uniformed waitress has scribbled down our order, my mother slips off to the ladies room and I rest my elbows on the cool pane of glass which protects the tablecloth from tea and coffee stains and stray dollops of whipped cream, and look around me. The flock wallpaper, which used to be a claret red, is now deep racing green. The carpet looks different too, although I can’t recall how it was before. If I crane my neck, I can see along a narrow corridor into the tiny kitchen, which appears to have had an extreme makeover in gleaming aluminium.

At the tender age of fifteen, I began working in a local newsagent’s to top up my pocket money. My memory of my first day in that job is crystal clear.

“20 Park Drive,” barked an elderly customer as he stepped up to the shop counter, under which the penny sweets were laid out in their cardboard boxes. I swallowed the white chocolate mouse I had just popped into my mouth and reached for the paper rounds ledger, scanning the pages for a mention of Park Drive, assuming the gentleman had come to settle his bill. “What on earth are you looking in there for, you daft cow,” the man said impatiently, “the fags are behind you…”

My face glowed an attractive shade of beetroot as I turned to face the wall of cigarettes behind me and scanned the unfamiliar packets. Legally, I wasn’t old enough to buy any myself, but within a few weekends I would know every price off by heart, and soon when particular customers shuffled through the door, I would reach instincively for their smokes of choice. In that neck of the woods back in 1987 by far the most popular brand were Lambert & Butler, which came in gold and silver coloured matt-finish packets not dissimilar from those they are sold in today.

My second weekend job, at the age of sixteen, was in a tearooms in York city centre. The main attraction of that job was the generous tips left by the well-to-do ladies who stopped by for breakfast, elevenses, lunch and afternoon tea. I scurried around, hot and flustered in the wool skirt and heavy blouse of that season’s uniform, and served cream teas and triangle sandwiches (“would you like the crusts on or off, madam?”) in this very room.

I do a swift calculation in my head, put a shocked hand to my mouth, then remove it so that I can repeat the sum on my fingers, twice, to make sure there can be no mistake.

I worked here NINETEEN years ago? Can that be possible? I mean, the waitress hastening towards our table with two large cups of coffee and a jug of single cream is probably not even nineteen years old. I worked here before she was even born?

I send an incredulous text message to my Boy to the effect that I am having an attack of age vertigo.

Tu m’excites plus qu’une fille de 20 ans,” he retorts immediately.

I set down my phone with a smile. This boy, I think to myself, is most definitely a keeper.

August 3, 2007


Filed under: misc, working girl — petiteanglaise @ 10:14 am

My lawyer confirmed to me yesterday that my ex-employer not only does not intend to appeal, but has already paid up.

What a relief to see good sense finally prevailing, albeit later, rather than sooner…

NB: Me Eolas has written about his interpretation of events here, with useful links back to his previous posts about the case, as an impartial legal expert.

August 1, 2007


Filed under: misc, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 2:08 pm

Tadpole and I are in a taxi, speeding along the A1 on the way to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. Tadpole is chattering away, nine to the dozen, and I am marvelling at the ease with which she has slipped back into English after a three week holiday spent entirely in French mode with mamie and papy.

“I’m so excited to go to see grandma and grandad,” she says, her eyes sparkling. “Grandad, he does always call me ‘long skinny banana legs’ and ‘curly top’, and he make me laugh…”

The previous day, when Mr Frog answered the door, I was overjoyed to be greeted by shrieks of “mummy, mummy, you’re here… I did miss you!” as a blurry, long-limbed figure with honey-coloured ringlets launched herself across the room and into my arms, nearly toppling me with the force of her hug. Usually it takes her a few hours to acclimatise herself after a prolonged absence, with me speaking English in the meantime, but Tadpole replying in French. Mr Frog, I noted, looked as surprised and pleased as I did to see her plunge into her mother tongue the very moment she clapped eyes on me.

“Mummy?” says Tadpole, putting a hand on my arm.


“When I’m thinking,” she says slowly, “on top of my head there are some clouds.” Her hands motion in the air above her curls. “A little cloud here, another little cloud on top, and then a big big cloud that touches the ceiling of the taxi car… Like in a bande dessiné. Can you see my clouds, mummy?”

I pretend to study the air above her head before I make my answer. “No,” I reply with a frown. “I think they must be invisible.”

“In the big cloud,” she says confidentially, “there is a picture of a teddy. Because I thinking that I would like to buy a new teddy.”

I grin, then lean across the leather seat of the taxi and cover her face with impulsive kisses.

That evening, chatting to my boy on MSN, I tell him about the thought bubbles, knowing that he will be suitably impressed, being a typical Frenchman with a sizeable collection of BD on his well-stocked, slightly intimidating bookshelves.

“If I had a bubble over my head right now,” I write, returning to the subject later, when our conversation has veered onto other, more adult, topics, “it would probably be prefaced with Viewer Discretion Advised!…” This elicits a virtual chuckle. My boy, who has been immobilised for a few days with a back pain of mysterious origin (for which I intend to take full credit in the absence of any compelling medical evidence to the contrary), pauses for a moment before replying.

J’aurais peur de lire ‘previously on the world poker tour’ au dessus de ma tête,” he confesses sheepishly.

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