petite anglaise

July 20, 2006


Filed under: working girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:26 pm

My phone rings: it is Old-School Boss. I am nervous, but no more than usual. His formal, headmasterly tone always manages to unnerve me, and when I replace the receiver after one of our exchanges I often feel I have slipped back into the skin of the painfully shy and inarticulate schoolgirl I thought I had left far behind.

“Can you come down to my office for five minutes please?”

Something in his voice, coupled with the way in which my boss averts his eyes when I mutter that I have been summoned, alerts me to the fact that something is very wrong.

Old School Boss motions for me to close the door behind me. He doesn’t wait until I am seated to deliver the first line of his speech.

“I’m afraid I have called you here to tell you that I am obliged to terminate your employment with the firm.”

I sit.

My mouth forms a perfect “O” of astonishment.

“This is because of your internet site.”

Somehow he manages to make “internet” sound like an unspeakably filthy word.

He doesn’t care to disclose how it is that the existence of petite anglaise has suddenly come to light, but I suspect the high number of page views I happened to notice last weekend by someone living in my boss’s town were not coincidental. The statistic had made me mildly nervous, but when nothing was said on Monday morning, I dismissed my fears as nothing more than a nasty bout of sitemeter-induced paranoia; an occupational hazard.

I am barely capable of forming sentences, so great is my shock, managing only to stammer: “bbut I hardly ever mentioned work…”

He begs to disagree. “You mentioned work rather a lot in my opinion, and in so doing, you have brought the firm into disrepute.”

With hindsight, I realise this would have been a good time to say “but how can the firm be identified?” However at that precise moment my synapses probably resemble a game of join the dots.

He adds, almost as an afterthought, that he also has reason to believe I had accessed my blog during working hours.

I am handed a letter to read and sign, which invites me to attend a dismissal interview the following week. There is a phrase I do not understand, “mise à pied conservatoire”, the horrible significance of which only becomes clear once I get hold of a dictionary, at home. I have been suspended without pay, pending my dismissal interview for gross misconduct*. The kind of grizzly fate usually reserved for people who endanger the lives of other employees, turn up to work under the influence or embezzle funds.

“I’m going to have to ask you to collect your belongings, and you will then leave immediately.”

I take a few moments to gather my wits. Cheeks flaming, I slowly make my way back upstairs.

Curiously, when I return to my desk to start gathering up my personal effects, my boss is nowhere to be seen.

*This was revised ten days later to “licenciement pour cause réelle et sérieuse – perte de confiance” – (dismissal for real and serious cause – breakdown of trust). Something of a relief as gross misconduct involves immediate dismissal, whereas “cause réelle” involved a paid notice period during which my presence in the office was not deemed necessary.

July 18, 2006

things fall apart

Filed under: Tadpole rearing, working girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:00 am

I have hinted, in recent weeks, at events which were unfolding in the background. Sinister events. Events I was not at liberty to discuss on my blog, just yet.

In the meantime I stuck to the safest anecdotes, seething with frustation at not being able to write about that One Single Horrible Thing which was preying on my mind, night and day, causing dramatic (and not entirely unwelcome) weight loss, panic attacks and sleepless nights, in the beginning.

The waiting is over, and I will begin by turning back the clock to my unexplained two week hiatus at the end of April this year. Starting with a post originally written on Wednesday 26 April 2006.

Here goes.

I step into the lift, inspecting my face in the mirror for tell-tale streaks. As I make my way across the park, I wonder whether the nanny will notice that I have arrived from the direction of home, wearing jeans.

I take a few deep breaths as I approach, hoping that my facial expression does not betray my inner turmoil. I very much want to hold things together, for Tadpole’s sake.

Tadpole greets me with indifference, which is not unusual. She is far more engrossed in trying to wrestle a very large Noddy doll off one of her playmates. Her own – a more pocket sized version – lies abandoned on the floor, a grass stain across his cheek.

It would appear to be high time for us to have a mother-daughter conversation about how size isn’t (always) everything.

“Come on sweetie,” I begin, brightly, “you can’t take the big Noddy. It’s not yours. Yours is much better, because he fits in your bag, and you can take him everywhere.”

“NOOOO! I want the big Noddy!” Tadpole rages, face set in a stubborn expression which reminds me, suddenly, of her father.

“Well, that’s a shame,” I continue, with a sudden flash of inspiration, “because it’s little Noddy’s birthday today, and he wanted to invite you to his birthday party… but if you don’t want to come…”

“Can we get a birthday cake?” Tadpole enquires, playing into my hands as I knew she would. “And some candles?”

On the way home we discuss how old Noddy is today (definitely 3) and what kind of cake he would prefer. I realise the boulangerie is closed, and we settle for a chocolate swiss roll from Franprix, the only thing which looks remotely festive.

Once the candles are lit, Tadpole looks at me, suddenly anxious. She points at Noddy’s embroidered smile.

“Noddy can’t blow the candles. Look, he hasn’t got any mouth, mummy,” she says, sounding genuinely sorry for her little doll.

“Well, maybe you can do it?” I venture, trying not to dwell on the parallels between Noddy’s mouth and my self-enforced silence in the days to come. Tadpole obliges, with great enthusiasm.

I look at my daughter, her beautiful chocolate-icing coated cheeks, and wonder how on earth I have managed to make such a mess of things. Here I am, holding a fantasy birthday party, while our whole world is literally crashing down around our ears.

I was “dooced” today.

Suspended without pay, pending a dismissal meeting in ten day’s time.

Asked to collect my belongings together and leave the building immediately.

The words “faute grave” were used. Translated into English: gross misconduct.

Petite Anglaise: the blog that got me fired. Call me naïve, but I really didn’t see that coming.

Please note that due to the rather unexpected levels of traffic (most doocelike) today my host has had to redirect the blog address, create static entry page and all sorts of other tomfoolery, so we don’t bring down the shared server and disrupt other people’s service. In the meantime you may not be able to leave a comment. Hopefully things will calm down shortly, and I will still be able to post in the meantime.

March 23, 2006


Filed under: working girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:22 pm

“Now, about Monday…” my boss continues.

I have no idea what is supposed to be happening on Monday. What haven’t I organised? Whose hotel haven’t I booked?

“Monday… Now, let me see…” I reply, in the calmest, most in control super secretary voice I can muster, while hastily opening his calendar in Outlook to see what I’ve missed.

The computer responds at a leisurely pace, mired in the middle of some pesky spysweeper scan.

“Oh, you’re breaking up, can you hear me? Hello? Hello?” I improvise, praying that he is not, in fact, calling from a landline.

And then the window pops up and I notice “[PETITE] OFF” on Monday 27 March 2006.

“Ooh! I’m on holiday! I’d forgotten! What a lovely surprise!” I cry, unable to curb my enthusiasm.

Miss Moneypenny would never have lost her composure like that. I have a lot to learn.

I can almost hear in my boss’s silence his chagrin at having reminded me of my forgotten holiday. There is a good chance that had he not, I would have appeared at 9.07 am sharp, none the wiser, and done a full day’s work.

So. My question is, what shall I do with this day of freedom, which has fallen unexpectedly out of the sky and into my lap?

Suggestions in my comments box please. Preferably inexpensive ones, as the end of the month is approaching.

December 22, 2005


Filed under: working girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 1:05 pm

As we left the office to take the métro to the Marais location of our annual office Christmas lunch, the bombshell was dropped that some, if not all, staff would be expected to return to the office afterwards. Yours truly numbered among the unfortunate few, as the boss had some work he needed to finish off and made it clear that my services would be required. Inwardly fuming, I resolved to ensure that sufficient alcohol was consumed to render my presence entirely futile. It being lunchtime, the quantities required need not be vast.

First up, a champagne apéro had been laid on, to encourage us to mingle with the guests from our London office. The serveur on duty filled our glasses and then busied himself cruising around the vaulted rooms of the wine cellar where the festivities were being held, bearing a tray of appetisers. My glass soon empty, I waited five minutes before discreetly catching his eye and enquiring whether the remaining bottles of champagne in the cooler were “for decorative purposes only”. My comment was greeted with a raised eyebrow, but did ultimately have the desired effect: corks were duly popped, and for the duration of the apéro I was gratified to see that my glass was filled twice as often as everyone else’s.

Swaying slightly, I was well on the way to achieving my goal, and we hadn’t yet moved to take our seats at the Christmas cracker strewn tables. In accordance with long standing company tradition, the senior partner’s wife provides luxury crackers each year for our Christmas “do”. This year’s vintage looked particularly elegant, tied with irridescent ribbons, and, upon closer inspection, with promisingly weighty contents.

Unfortunately, throughout our meal of cream of chestnut soup with a garnish of sot-l’y-laisse (which I’m reliably informed is the part of a chicken known as the “oyster”, the best bit, hence you would be a fool to leave it) and duck leg stuffed with cèpe mushrooms, the waiters served only one glass of wine with each course, taking the bottle away with them each time. After an auspicious start, I was now beginning to feel worryingly sober.

Suddenly there was a volley of popping noises from the neighbouring table, headed up by my boss, as crackers were pulled. A shocked silence instantly fell over the rest of the room, and I put my hand to my mouth in horror.

It is an unwritten rule in our office that crackers may not be pulled until the senior partner and his wife have given us all the cue, by pulling theirs. My boss, not a great fan of tradition, had just committed an unforgiveable faux pas, probably on purpose.

I swivelled around in my chair to monitor the reaction of the senior partner, whose face was, predictably, stormy. Not a word of rebuke was uttered, but the tension in the air was palpable.

In an attempt to diffuse the frosty atmosphere, our IT technician went to put on the party CD which he had created, made up of tracks requested by various members of staff. But even with Bruce Hornsby and the Range coming to our rescue, it was touch and go as to whether our good spirits could be restored.

And one had to wonder whether the French secretary who chose Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” was aware that the lyrics constitute a hymn to fellatio?

At 5pm, feeling replete, sleepy and just a little tipsy, I staggered back to the office, while my colleagues headed for a local bar.

Naturally, I was called upon to do no work whatsoever.

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