petite anglaise

September 20, 2005

exit Mrs Frog

Filed under: missing blighty — bipolarinparis @ 12:32 pm

My life is no longer quite so French as it was.

Exit croissants, baguettes and warm goats cheese salads. These days I seem to be mostly eating granary toast with marmalade, bacon (admittedly the streaky, French version which is distressingly inferior) sandwiches with ketchup or HP sauce, or tucking into a nice piece of mature cheddar with some Branston pickle. On my last trip to Yorkshire, I returned with a suitcase bulging with the best that Tesco had to offer. Including 240 teabags.

Exit French cable TV, which for a princely sum currently offers only one decent programme in English per week (Desperate Housewives, at long last), and enter slightly illegal Sky TV at the weekends, so that I can indulge my fondness for BBC2 comedy or Channel 4 drama. And regale Tadpole with such delights as Bob the Builder in version originale. She now squawks “Can we fix eet?” every time she spies a digger.

It feels like by leaving Mr Frog for my English Lover, I have taken one more step away from my original aim: becoming “almost French”.

I wrote last year about how my initial enthusiasm for all things French, which had begun in my first French lesson at Mill Mount Grammar School for girls at the age of 11, and culminated in my moving to Paris in September 1995, had started to wane perceptibly. Where once I had watched indiscriminately whatever was broadcast on French terrestrial TV to “improve my French”, read only French novels and eaten only French food, as a matter of principle, I suddenly found myself yearning for English language and culture.

Clearly I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

It was time, I decided, to cut myself some slack. Living in France didn’t have to mean total assimilation, and indeed, if I didn’t watch out, my mother tongue would ultimately suffer. “Target language deprivation,” as a commenter helpfully pointed out, is a very real phenomenon, and can result in expats speaking a dreadful bastardised version of their mother tongue after a few years away from the mothership. To combat this, I signed up for cable TV and bought English books from W H Smiths. And binged on English culture. I even watched Eastenders religiously for a number of years, although, thankfully, I have now managed to kick that unfortunate habit.

The next step was changing my job, and I swapped a Franco-French office where I had never really felt anyone knew the “real me” for an English company where two thirds of the staff were British, and we all went for beers on Fridays.

Despite all this, at the end of the day, I still came home to a French partner, and socialised with his French friends.

Nowadays all that has changed, and I am faced with the delightful prospect of renovating a crumbling farmhouse, with a huge satellite dish perched atop the roof, greedily hoovering English television from the airwaves, in the British enclave that is Brittany. Eating English breakfasts with my English Lover, and washing it all down with cup upon cup of PG tips.

Somehow, if I ever do get my papers together and apply for French nationality, I rather think the fonctionnaires will laugh in my English face.

August 9, 2005

domestic goddess

Filed under: missing blighty, Tadpole rearing — bipolarinparis @ 8:48 pm

Odd things have been afoot in my kitchen.

Over the past two weeks, while my Lover was in town, I changed beyond all recognition. First, I started cooking proper meals (on the nights when Lover didn’t cook for me, I hasten to add, although I never managed to persuade him to cook only wearing an apron, despite much pleading), as opposed to scoffing Tadpole’s spurned fish fingers and sweetcorn, followed by a few crisps or other unhealthy snacks, and washed down with a glass of wine in front of the computer, which is what my diet habitually consists of.

Mr Frog and I didn’t tend to eat together, so I had abandoned my non-wifely kitchen duties long, long ago. Largely because I ate hours earlier, unable to stave off the hunger pangs until he arrived home from work around 10 pm.

But, not only did I cook proper dinners for the past fortnight, but I also found myself baking. Custart tart. Scones. A rather tasty quiche. Carrot cake with cream cheese topping. All very English. In keeping with the extraordinary volume of tea which I was drinking.

Now, I’ve always been a firm believer in the old adage that the surest route to a man’s heart is through his trousers, and emphatically not via his stomach, so I simply don’t know where all of this domestic goddesshood has welled up from.

The bakefest will have to cease, as my waistline is already suffering, but before I turn the page on this worrying episode, I just wanted to share the fruits of my labour with the internet.

I made shortbread biscuits, in honour of Tadpole’s return. We decorated them together.

Do be careful not to drool on your keyboards.

June 6, 2005

sex, drugs and toddler taming

Filed under: good time girl, missing blighty — bipolarinparis @ 4:28 pm

We sang carols outside a friend’s bedroom door, in the halls of residence, accompanied by an improvised shepherd, in the form of a vacuum cleaner wearing a makeshift head dress fashioned out of a tea towel and a roll of sticky tape.

We drank mushroom tea, and you saw furry spiders crawling all over my blue bedroom walls. Meanwhile I climbed into the linen cupboard and peeped suspiciously out through the slats in the wooden door.

You sent me weird, wonderful, nonsensical letters during vacations, and, when she overheard me telling you I loved you on the phone, my mum started to wonder if her daughter wasn’t, in fact, a lesbian.

We went on missions to Safeway, with your shopping trolley, John, and the badly drawn felt tipped pen drawings of Magic Roundabout characters on his belly.

We went to Glastonbury, and each year was slightly more surreal (and expensive) than the last. Although the lemon scented hand wipes in lieu of showers remained a charming constant.

I used to bury my head under my pillow when your boyfriend came round, wondering how it was that sex had to involve rattling every cupboard door and banging into every piece of furniture in your room.

We danced until dawn at Renaissance, convinced that we could see bursts of rainbow coloured sounds and catch them in our hands if we could only move fast enough.

* * * * * * *

This weekend, we sat in your conservatory, watching our little angels roaming around the garden and occasionally breaking up heated squabbles over favoured toys. We discussed toddler taming techniques and new beginnings over cups of PG Tips and the odd cheeky half of lager.

So much has changed since those university days – the best of my life so far – but you never do.

Thank you for being so unconditionally happy for me.

March 23, 2005

british pastimes

Filed under: missing blighty — bipolarinparis @ 12:48 pm

Good gracious, I hope the French don’t think we all do that.

Personally, I wouldn’t be seen dead in trainers and white socks.

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