petite anglaise

May 4, 2008


Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:06 pm

Choosing ‘writer’ from the drop down list of professions when I came to fill in my online dating profile was a decision I would come to regret. It seemed to bring out the very worst in my suitors. A couple of hundred extremely verbose, overwritten emails later and it’s no wonder I found The Boy’s one-line dig about my taste in TV so refreshing.

That makes a change from ‘j’ai cru voir un ange passer en regardant ton profil’ I thought to myself, enjoying the sensation of not feeling like I was going to throw up into my mouth, for once. I clicked through to my provocateur’s profile and took a look. There was a single black and white photo: short hair, six o’clock shadow. Either squinting into the sunlight or frowning. Or both.

I found his profile blurb amusing. Using the simple ‘j’aime/j’aime pas‘ format was not wildly original, but the things he professed to like were random and thoughtful enough to pique my interest. Among them were: penguins and otters; bananas flambéed with rum; raw scallops; curling; bad jokes; magic; history books; Desproges (plus several other writers I’d never heard of); bad weather when I’m warm indoors; sleeping; my apartment; living in Belleville…

I replied to his email, defending my taste in TV and noting that we appeared to be neighbours and ought to maybe meet for an apéro Aux Folies sometime. I had this vague idea that it would be nice to make a friend in my neighbourhood. Nothing more than that, because my head was elsewhere. Over the past few weeks I’d made obsessing about a frustratingly elusive man I’d met on the same dating site almost a full-time occupation. Going out to meet him, refusing to read the billboard-sized signs that he just saw me as a friend/drinking buddy, making excuses for his rebuttals (‘he’s damaged, he has issues, I’ll overcome them…’) and generally breaking every single rule of ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’. (Another thing I can’t read without a little bit of bile creeping up my throat).

I finally set up a date with The Boy after a resounding rebuttal involving a fruitless sleepover. Time to diversify, I said to myself. And so I dug out The Boy’s MSN address and popped up on the screen of his work computer late one Wednesday afternoon.

Almost a year later, and a little over a month before we say ‘I do’ (or, to be more accurate, ‘oui‘) I’m struck by how true everything in his dating profile was. I’ve witnessed the bad jokes firsthand, adopted him an otter for Valentine’s day, inspected his bookshelves and marvelled at his ability to sleep through just about anything. It’s all true. Every last word.

So this week I shall be adding rum to the shopping list. It’s about time I tasted those bananas.

February 22, 2008


Filed under: mills & boon, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:15 am

The Boy and Tadpole return from their pilgrimage to McDonalds. The Boy is looking disproportionately pleased with himself, far more so than the feat of having hunted and gathered a happy meal and a couple of burgers would usually warrant.

“What have you two been up to?” I ask, suspiciously, as I unpack Tadpole’s chicken nuggets and arrange them on a proper plate – which increases the nutritional value of the food tenfold, because it is no longer takeaway – and set the Asterix toy aside for later.

“We had a very important conversation, she and I, while we were queuing up to be served,” says The Boy, unwrapping his own dinner. “N’est-ce pas biquette?”

Tadpole nods, her mouth full of nugget. We’ve both grown used to being referred to as a “small female goat”, The Boy’s favoured term of endearment.

“Go on…” I say, wondering what on earth the terrible two have been plotting behind my back.

“Well,” says The Boy, pausing to bite, chew and swallow, enjoying keeping me on tenterhooks, “I asked your daughter if it was okay for me to marry you… It’s the done thing, you know, when someone already has children, to ask their permission.” I feel rather emotional all of a sudden, tears prickling the back of my eyes. What a lovely thing to do. Even if McDonalds wasn’t the venue I would have chosen for such a conversation.

“And what did she say?” I ask, wiping some ketchup from Tadpole’s chin with a serviette. I don’t think she has even heard our exchange. She’s selectively deaf at the best of times, but especially so when focused on food.

“She said that she thought it was a very good idea for us to marry ourselves,” the Boy replies. “And then we got talking about princess dresses and flowers, as you do… But when I said ‘you’re going to look just like a princess’, she said the loveliest thing…” He takes another bite, spinning out his story for as long as possible.

“I did say that it’s not me who will be the princess on that day,” pipes up Tadpole suddenly. Apparently she has been listening in, all along. “Because it’s mummy who will be the princess, not me. I’ll just be a little princess. Or a middle-sized. But you will be the real one, that day.”

I smile, under cover of my Royal Cheese, my eyes moist. “What a double act you are, you two,” I say, when I’ve recovered my composure. Then, turning to The Boy: “And what would you have done if she had said ‘no’?”

February 13, 2008


Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaiseparis @ 5:09 pm

It is New Year’s Day morning.

After a damp squib of a New Year’s Eve involving a disappointing soirée under the Pont Alexandre III, a predictable lack of taxis in the vicinity of the Champs Elysées and rather more walking in the icy early hours wearing a gauzy dress and stockings than was advisable whilst heavy with cold, The Boy and I are dozing in bed.

To say The Boy is not a morning person would be something of an understatement. Upwards of four heavily sugared espressos and two cigarettes are required before he is able to manage anything approaching speech, and displays of affection the wrong side of midday are rare. I’ve learnt not to take this behaviour personally and, indeed, have grown rather fond of his habitual morning grimace: eyes scrunched tightly closed so as not to let in the merest chink of light, brow furrowed, lips pursed.

So when he wakes for a moment, rolls over and snuggles into my shoulder, his arm creeping around me, I am surprised and pleased and touched. And suddenly the question I’d been carrying around with me for three whole days in Amsterdam – never quite managing to find the right moment – wells up and, before I can stop myself, crosses my lips.

“I think I’d like to…” I say, shyly.

I regret the “I think” afterwards, because it doesn’t sound, well, sure enough. I also regret the fact that I addressed my question to somewhere slightly northwest of his collarbone instead of gazing deeply into his brown eyes.

“Um, can you ask me again later? When I’m awake?” replies the Boy, groggily.

“Yes. Of course,” I mumble.

I’m mortified. Groaning on the inside. But there is nothing I can do now except wait. And see whether he chooses to remember our exchange when he wakes up.

Several hours later, I open my eyes to a vision of The Boy – showered, dressed and perched on the edge of the bed – looking at me intently with an odd expression on his face. Somehow he manages to remind me of the dramatic chipmunk and a lovestruck puppy, simultaneously.

“That question you asked me earlier… Did you mean it?” he says slowly as I blink and rub the sleep from my eyes. “Because if you did… then the answer is YES.”

For a moment the only sound is my sharp intake of breath. Then I hug him tightly. I don’t think I’d ever got as far as imagining beyond actually popping the question, and I have no idea what to do, or say, next.

T’es pas dans la merde là!” says The Boy – who I realise will need a name change, now that he has been promoted to Husband-to-be – with a grin. That seals the deal: together, we have managed to make this a scene we will never be able to recount to our grandchildren.

Neither of us dares refer to the subject for the rest of the day. I think we are both in shock.

January 2, 2008


Filed under: mills & boon, on the road — petiteanglaiseparis @ 2:35 pm

I spent most of my Christmas in the UK wishing I had it in me to behave in a more diva-ish fashion. Because if I’d stamped my foot and point blank refused to pose for photographs outdoors, minus my coat, in sub-zero temperatures the previous week, I wouldn’t have wound up in bed. Feverish. Aching. Counting the minutes until I could have my next fix of paracetamol.

As it was, Tadpole had to open the presents under grandma and grandad’s tree sans moi and I had to content myself with second hand accounts of how she stumbled blindly around the living room with an upturned Santa’s sack on her head. Let’s hope those pesky photos – due to run in forthcoming editions of Weekend Knack (Belgium – next week, I think) and Marie Claire UK (April issue) – were worth the pain. I doubt it somehow. Photogenic I am not.

It was something of a relief that I appeared to be on the road to recovery when I joined the Boy in Paris and we boarded a Thalys on Friday morning, bound for Amsterdam. Granted, I was still rather hoarse. When I attempted to speak, I sounded like a cross between a forty-a-day Gaulloise smoker and a teenage boy with a breaking voice. ‘C’est pas grave, ça me fera des vraies vacances‘ said The Boy with a teasing smile.

Suffice to say that my indignant reply lost much of its force when it came out as a strangled squawk.

There followed three days of strolling through parks and along canals hand in hand, pausing at regular intervals for a restorative hot chocolate with whipped cream, and using my convalescence as an excuse to retire early and rise late. (Do hotels make everyone feel, um, frisky, or is it just me?) The weather was perfect: mild temperatures, blue skies, low winter sun striking huge windows and bathing them in warm, golden light. We meandered in ever decreasing circles – no matter which direction we took, we seemed to end up at the same point (Hotel de l’Europe) time and time again – admiring the architecture and peering inside the houses (the Dutch don’t seem to favour net curtains). We wandered through the red light district – disappointing, I got far better underwear inspiration from watching Billie Piper play Belle de Jour – and stopped in coffee shops, bars and cafés to rest our feet.

And all the while I pondered when would be the right time to ask the Boy a question. Something that had been simmering at the back of my mind for a while. I almost blurted it out when we were sitting on a bench by a particularly picturesque stretch of canal. A little later, warm and fuzzy from a 9.5% proof Trappist beer, I had to rein myself in again. The timing never seemed quite right, and my voice simply couldn’t be trusted.

We boarded the Thalys on Sunday afternoon and as I settled into my seat and accepted my first cup of coffee from the trilingual waitress I couldn’t help feeling a pang of disappointment.

Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?‘ asked the Boy. I hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath. And decided to hold my peace a little longer.

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