petite anglaise

May 29, 2008

petite on tour

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:09 pm

It’s a long time since I’ve written a guest post. In fact, the last time I did, back in 2004, I ended up accidentally teleporting to Manchester wearing nothing but a pair of slippers and some very fetching underwear.

So it was not without a certain amount of trepidation that I agreed to embark on a tour of five Canadian blogs, to mark the impending release of the Canadian version of ‘petite’. (And I must admit, I never did get the bottom of the ‘do the Canadians get the British English text, or the American English translation?’ question.)

But, in the end, I had tremendous fun. I got to discover five sassy ladybloggers I would likely never have come across otherwise (I suffer from lazy blogroll syndrome, meaning that I read only a handful of blogs written by good friends, these days). I got to write about Vaseline, the day Tadpole found out how babies get out of the womb, to resuscitate my gym/wrist action story (my obsession with which, as I am currently spending two hours per weekday in the gym, has recently resurfaced), and, on a more serious note, to address the thorny question of telling other people’s stories on a personal blog. Coming tomorrow, I think, will be my final guest post about my fear of wearing stilettos on my wedding day and my amusement about being portrayed in my birthday suit (and stilettos) on the North American cover of “petite”.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Catherine Her Bad Mother (a challenger for my second-place google ranking for “bad mummy“, perhaps?), to Tanis Redneck Mommy, Katherine Mama Tulip, Ali Cheaper Than Therapy and Nadine Martinis for Milk for being such gracious hosts.

Thanks also to Jana Something blue, Julie Metro Mama and Karen Kids Are Alright for participating in the advance copy giveaway.

I’m looking forward to “meeting” a few of these folks by videoconference the day before my nuptials, no less. Which should take my mind off worrying about possible uses of Vaseline on my wedding night.

May 27, 2008

en français

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:14 pm

A French friend of mine once pointed out to me that translating my book into French would pose an interesting set of problems. ‘The problem with using Monsieur Grenouille,’ she said, ‘is that it would sound kind of odd, because the French word for Frog is a feminine noun.’ Likewise, the French translation of Tadpole is masculine: un têtard.

This reminded me of the day Tadpole picked up the UK version of ‘petite anglaise’ and, after pointing out that she’d ‘growded a lot bigger since then and didn’t ever never ride in a pushchair any more’, she began to leaf through the pages, looking for words she recognised. ‘Why doesn’t it say my name in here mummy?’ she said, a few minutes later, in a puzzled voice. ‘You did say that I was in this story…’

‘Ah, well,’ I said, wondering how on earth to explain without hurting her feelings. ‘You see, I didn’t want people to know your real name, so I called you Tadpole. It’s a nickname. You know, like when I call you sausage, or princess curly top…’

‘But why can’t people know my real name?’ Tadpole frowned. ‘My real name is very pretty. Much more prettier than Tadpole.’

I was loath to launch into a scaremongering story about needing to respect her father’s wishes and protect my daughter’s identity from nutjobs. What is more, I sensed we were about to sucked into a ‘why-vortex’, inside of which each answer I give begets another question beginning with the word ‘why’ and, ten questions in, I inevitably end up screaming ‘because I said so’, or ‘because it just is’, or ‘I don’t know’, or locking myself in the bathroom. (Unless The Boy is on hand, in which case I simply say “why don’t you ask Manuel?”)

Now that I’ve finally found a suitable French home for ‘Petite Anglaise’, it’s only a matter of time before these thorny translation questions are resolved.

It’s also only a matter of time (sometime in the course of 2009, to be more precise) before the ex-in-laws can finally get their hands on ‘petite’ in translation. So while I’m thrilled to be published in my home country – the land of the highbrow – I’m also a touch nervous. If it was too much for my grandma, and JonnyB claimed he had to close his eyes during the sex scenes, I’m not sure where that leaves the beaux parents.

May 22, 2008


Filed under: good time girl, knot tying — petiteanglaiseparis @ 1:13 pm

The non-hen night started off well enough.

I caught the Eurostar with my non-bridesmaid Meg. (Admittedly with only seconds to spare. If ever you make a date with Meg, it pays to factor in a degree of tardiness.) We sipped champagne and picked at our Eurostar lunch as we sped towards London under flinty skies. Every few minutes I put down my copy of Heat magazine, with a sigh, to field yet another text message from one of the attendees, wondering how on earth people ever made plans before the age of the mobile phone.

Our plan for the day included a lightning visit to TopShop, an afternoon rendez-vous at The Champion pub in Bayswater, a possible picnic in Kensington Gardens (which was looking increasingly unlikely as London approached and the clouds showed no sign of clearing) and, finally, an evening meet at The Walmer Castle, Notting Hill, for a Thai meal.

My friends had been warned that as this was a non-hen night, strippers, L-plates, chicken costumes, weird headgear, matching T-shirts or other horrorshow props were strictly prohibited. Several male friends had also been invited in an attempt to mitigate excesses of girliness. The only bacherlotte party tradition I did uphold was the Boy’s absence. He was safely on the other side of the English Channel, no doubt playing poker.

3pm saw me sitting on a balding Chaise Longue in The Champion, a pint of cider in my hand, surrounded by half a dozen of my closest friends. The picnic plan had been ditched, and we’d ordered a few snacks to mop up the alcohol instead. I was taking things slowly. All was well in my world.

Then my best friend from university, dismayed at the dismally slow progress I was making with my pint, returned from the bar to remedy the situation, carrying two shots (1 vodka, 1 Sambuca). At approximately the same time, Meg bought a bottle of wine for some random Dutch boys who had been quietly propping up the bar and asked them to do a little dance for me, in return. She then produced a handful of fluorescent mini feather boas, a hideous pink plastic necklace and a hair clip (with pink bow attached) and began to advance towards me.

I raised the first of the two shot glasses to my mouth. And the next five hours – from approximately 5pm until 10pm – are blank.

I’m told I ripped university friend’s top – and have seen photographic evidence to support this claim – but can summon up no memory of the occurrence whatsoever. I’m told I tipped over the back of the chaise longue, landing on the floor with my legs in the air. Again, this feels true, but I have only a vague recollection of the feeling of smooth, cold tiles against my back – there is no visual memory at all.

And yet the photographs and videos I’ve seen show me looking tipsy but functional: sitting, standing, walking, talking, laughing (and drinking). It’s as though the lights were on, but there was no one home. My body switched onto autopilot, ceased to record anything, and partied on without me.

I ‘came to’ in the Thai restaurant and the rest of the night, which ended around 3 am, I recollect with perfect clarity.

On the Eurostar home, Meg obligingly filled in my memory gaps, prompting several ‘Oh no, please say I didn’t’s and a multitude of groans. The only advantage of not remembering was that it was virtually impossible to feel ashamed of my behaviour. What happens in the black hole, stays in the black hole, and frankly it might as well all have happened to someone else.

‘Your mission at the wedding, should you choose to accept it,’ I said when she had finished, ‘is to ensure my glass is never filled.’

May 15, 2008


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:36 am

When I arrive at the Centre de Loisirs, cheeks flushed from another two-hour session at the gym (my anti-anxiety drug of choice), the children are outside in the cour de récréation.

It takes me a while to spot Tadpole. She’s not dangling upside down by her knees from the climbing ropes, a sight which set my heart fluttering last week. There is no sign of her queuing to go down the slide, either, and she doesn’t appear to be under the inverted V-shaped structure the kids all refer to as la cabane.

Then I spot her, sitting by the edge of the playground alone, back to the wall, hands cupping her chin. With her long, spindly arms and legs Tadpole is often mistaken for an older child. She’s inherited her father’s body shape, something I’m sure I’ll be intensely jealous of one day. At her age my knees were surrounded by little rolls of fat; the kindest adjective to describe my legs would likely have been ‘sturdy’.

As I stride towards her, I am waylaid by a black girl whose name escapes me, her hair separated into an elaborate patchwork of squares, each ending in a little knot, bound with a thin band of colour. ‘Elle a fait une bêtise,’ says the girl, gesturing towards my daughter. ‘Elle nous a montré ses fesses au milieu de la cour.’

Ah bon?’ I say, trying not to smirk as I imagine relaying this exchange to Mr Frog, later. I have no idea what could have possessed my daughter to lift her skirt, pull down her pants and moon in public, but the mental image it conjures is priceless.

‘Honey, why did you show your bottom to the other children?’ I say, in a neutral voice, dropping to my knees and ignoring the tale-teller, who stands to my left, her arms folded across her chest.

‘Because Edith did tell me to do it!’ says Tadpole, scowling. ‘And then I did get into trouble, and not her. It’s not fair.’

Tadpole stands her ground with me (and the other adults in her life) all the time, but I’ve noticed her behaviour in the presence of her peers is very different. She lives in a cruel world where a classmate may decide to be her best friend one day, her sworn enemy the next. ‘Dina didn’t want to sit with me today because I was wearing trousers and not a skirt,’ she once told me sadly on the way home from school. She refused to wear trousers after that. It went on for weeks. The shy, bespectacled four year old I once was can’t really blame Tadpole for seeking the approval of her peers. But she’s going to have to learn some boundaries. Because I’d rather not pick up the pieces when Edith dares her to jump off the top of the slide.

‘Well,’ I say, ‘maybe next time Edith or any of your other friends asks you to do something that you know is silly or naughty, you should think about saying no. There’s no friend worth getting yourself into trouble or hurting yourself for…’

‘I know that mummy,’ Tadpole says indignantly, pulling herself to her feet. ‘But I didn’t think showing my bottom was a bêtise. At home when I take my clothes off and wiggle my bare bottom you do always laugh.’

‘At home it’s different,’ I say firmly. ‘Outside there are different rules. It’s rude to show your bottom to a waiter in a restaurant, or to children in the playground. But I’m allowed to laugh when you show it to me, because I’m your mummy.’

Life lesson delivered, we head for home, where my rules are law.

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