petite anglaise

Fifty questions (from 2008)

1.  As someone who also lives outside the UK, I’m interested in knowing whether you see yourself ever moving back or do you think you’ll stay in France for good?

I’ll have been here thirteen years this October, and I don’t anticipate ever returning to the UK. I would never want Tadpole to live in a different country to her father. (Plus, I still love being here!)

2.  What did you want to ask the boy when you were on holidays?

I think this one deserves a blog post of its own, so you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer, I’m afraid, until I’m good and ready…

3.  Is tadpole’s dad aka Mr Frog an Italian born and raised in France who does not speak Italian which is why the wee one speaks only three languages (English, French and Mandarin)?

Only three languages? (And I don’t think I can claim that she speaks Mandarin, given that she can sing a few songs but is happily oblivious to their meaning). But yes, Mr Frog’s grandparents moved to France during or after WW2, his father, although born in Italy, was raised speaking only French. A pity, but French schoolteachers at the time discouraged Italian parents from using their mother tongue at home as it was “a bar to the successful integration of their children”.

4.  That snapshots thing you have on your site… is it a revenue source for you? Does it make a lot of money? It’s just that it’s a bit annoying to have that ugly window pop up all the time is all.

Absolutely not! The only source of blog revenue I have is Amazon associates accounts. Which don’t even begin to cover my VPS hosting costs. Is it annoying? I like using it to see the RSS feed info about what my commenters have been writing.

5.  In a nutshell, how did you learn French?

At school, then university, coupled with watching every French film and reading every French book I could lay my hands on. But I only became truly fluent when I moved over here and began dating French boys and working in French.

6.  What was the first purchase or big purchase with your book money?

The day the first advance payment hit my bank account I remember buying a new toilet brush and matching toothbrush cup at Monoprix, then laughing with a friend over coffee about how unglamorous that was. So I dashed home to order my black MacBook afterwards, to make up for it.

7.  What do you miss most about England?

Fish and chips.

8.  …And, following the MacBook, are you going to buy a bigger flat?

God, I hope so. This place isn’t big enough for the three of us… Hopefully I’ll start looking in a couple of months’ time.

9.  Are there things you wish you had never written about?

Hmmm. I don’t think so. Obviously I don’t regret my occasional references to work as getting fired turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I took a few posts down once my name was revealed – out of respect for the people mentioned. But no, I don’t regret my openness in the past, even if I’m less inclined to “tell all” these days.

10.  In your book are Tadpole and Mr Frog called Tadpole and Mr Frog or do you reveal names?

They remain Tadpole and Mr Frog in the book. Which was a headache, actually, as it means they could never be referred to by name in dialogue. But I preferred this approach to inventing fictional first names. And obviously I would like very much for both to remain anonymous.

11.  Do you regret getting involved with ‘Lover’?

I don’t believe in regretting choices you make in life. You can’t unmake them, so where’s it going to get you? But honestly, no, I don’t. At that point in my life I was ready to meet someone. It didn’t matter in the end that the someone I met didn’t turn out to be a long-term partner. The period of time I spent on my own after it ended was necessary too. And now that I’m happily shacked up with The Boy, I just think of the past as whatever needed to happen to get me where I am now.

12.  Does Mr Frog have a new significant other?

He doesn’t, as far as I’m aware. And Tadpole is absolutely no good at keeping secrets so I think I’d know if there was someone special, even if he didn’t tell me himself…

13.  So, despite the fact that you confirmed that you can’t imagine yourself returning to the UK in the future, and that you still love France – what things DON’T you like about France? (There must be some!)

Hmm. I hate going to the post office to queue for parcels when I was blatantly home at the alleged delivery time. I hate the people in my apartment building’s cavalier attitude to recycling – am always removing banana skins from the yellow bin, so the dustbin men don’t reject it. I hate the way Yorkshire tea tastes with Paris water. I hate the ten minute pick up/drop off window imposed by French schools. But these are pretty small things…

14  Do you ever get annoyed/upset when people make a comment on your blog about them not liking the subject or something like that?

I do, although I probably shouldn’t. My view is that if you are putting something out there free of charge and forcing no one to read it, people should click away rather than criticise my choice of subject matter. To the people who say “I liked it better in the old days when you wrote more about Paris…” I say I’m glad you did, but I don’t feel like writing that kind of thing right now, so I suggest you look in my sidebar for links to other bloggers who might be more up your street…

15.  Is being a woman in France different to being a woman in the UK (eg. in the way people treat you or the way they expect you to behave)?

I think this is impossible for me to answer. The last time I lived in the UK I was a student… What I like a lot here is that there is an expectation that a woman will continue to work once she has had a child, a state-subsidised system in place which allows women to do so, and French women beat themselves up a lot less about being working mums.

16.  What is your second book about?

A single mother in Paris. She’s not me, but she’s navigating the same murky waters I have, in terms of reconciling the two very different sides her life.

I won’t say more as it’s early days…

17.  If you could have only one wish in life, what would it be? (Oh, and I’ve got to ask this one, ‘moaner’ or ’screamer’?)

I’m having trouble with this one. Health and happiness, for me, and those I love. But that’s probably two. Gah. It’s too difficult. I feel like a Miss America candidate – like I should say “world peace”.

(Depends. Context is all.)

18.  May Mrs Albion and I come to your book launch.

Well, depends what you mean by a launch? I’m going to be inviting a few friends and bloggers for champagne to mark the release date, but that’s in France. There’s nothing official happening in London, as yet…

19.  Which blogs do you read regularly?

Very few, although I used to follow fifty or so… xkcd comic, go fug yourself and a handful of blogs written by friends. You’ll find the links at the bottom of my sidebar. I don’t know what happened, but one day I realised there were too many blogs, too little time, and I could buy back a lot of my free time by letting go…

20.  Do you see yourself having more children?

I’d like to. I hope my ovaries agree.

21.  Are you and the Boy talking matrimony? Does Mr Frog approve of the Boy? Do your parents? (Please pick any one question.)

Mr Frog and The Boy have met a few times now and seem to get on fine. They work in a similar field, which gives them some common ground. It’s always going to be slightly awkward, I suppose, but I think things are going as well as can be expected. (Phew.)

22.  How did you get your job with the English firm (the one that dooced you)? Were you recommended or did you reply to a job advert? And, was it a hard decision to have Tadpole, or did it just happen? (Not in a bad way, but as in, without causing too much angst)?

I got all my bilingual PA jobs through specialised agencies, including the last one.

Re: Tadpole. It was a considered decision. We’d decided we were both ready and on that occasion my ovaries obliged almost immediately.

23.  Does your biological family know about the book?

Absolutely. I told them about the blog when the story the newspapers. There’s no way I could have kept it from anyone! My adoption story is not ground I cover in the book though.

24.  How was your first love and how do you feel about him now ?

How, or Who? First serious relationship was at age seventeen and ended shortly before I left for university. Now: he’s a facebook friend and occasional commenter on this blog. I haven’t seen him in ages, but he’s a nice bloke.

25.  With your new foray into writing, did you ever dream of being an author while growing up?

I was a real bookworm, and I suppose I might have daydreamed about it as a teenager. But then France became my main focus and I didn’t think about writing – or do any writing – until I started this blog.

26.  What (apart from fish and chips) do you miss the most about living in England?

Not a lot. I miss people, but not places. I used to miss English TV, but the internet and torrenting changed all that…

27.  Whilst the end result of being ‘outed’ has obviously been pretty sweet, do you ever miss the anonymity that came with the early days of the blog?

To be honest, no longer being anonymous doesn’t change much for me. You know my name, but we are never likely to meet. If I’d been trying to get office jobs after the outing, that would probably have made life complicated, but as things stand now, it’s not much of a limiting factor. (And as far as self-censorship is concerned, the fact that my mum reads weighs on my decisions more than the fact that my name is known.)

28.  Do you see yourself writing fiction one day?

It’s what I’m doing now. Book two.

29.  Do you hope your book deal will turn into a movie deal? If so, who would you want to play YOU?

Ah, that old chestnut. It would be fun, I suppose. Although the story would be re-written by a scriptwriter and would cease to be my own. Kate Winslet. (She won me over on Extras.)

30.  Do you think there will be a book tour once PA is realeased?

There are no plans at the moment to tour. It’s not very common to do so in the UK, and for the moment, my US publisher wants to focus on having journalists interview me in situ, in Paris. We’ll see. It would have been fun, but also a childcare headache to embark on a US tour…

31.  After you have fully revelled in the fun (and hard work) of Book #1’s launch, and wrapped up the work on Book #2 — what are your plans next, as a writer? In other words, do you intend to keep on writing, or do you prefer to explore some new direction professionally?

Right now, I can’t see any further ahead than book two. Ask me again when it’s done?

32.  You became an icon in France about a year ago, when you made the headlines, eolas blog and the “20h”. What can you tell about the evolution of the number of french people connecting to your site? Have you been approached by any labour organization?

An icon? Moi? I had my fifteen minutes, I suppose. I don’t actually look at my stats, but I doubt the proportion of French visitors rose by much, given that I write in English. I’ve been contacted/interviewed by plenty of French students doing theses on blogging and the workplace, but not approached by any unions.

33.  What’s your favourite cheese?

Yay! An easy one! Ripe, runny St Marcelin.

34.  Despite reading your wonderful literature, we know surprisingly little about you as a character. How do you think your best friend would describe your personality?

Oooh. Demanding. Insecure. Potty-mouthed. Dunno. I will have to poll a few…

35.  Would you ever consider writing fiction or heading down that path? Do you plan or structure your posts?

See 28. I tend to let a subject/event mature for a few days, then write about it. And then write them in an hour tops, but re-reading and tweaking a few times before I press publish (including fiddling with structure and moving paras around). Depends a lot on the type of post though.

36.  Will you be doing a book signing/promotion in the U.S when it finally releases here?

see 30.

37.  What tips do you have for bringing someone up to be bicultural as well as bilingual?

I’m lucky in that I just have to take care of the English side of things. I leave the French stuff up to school/Mr Frog/his parents/The Boy. At home I have only English books/toys/DVD’s and make liberal use of cBeebies. And I make sure there are frequent trips to see family in England. I think, inevitably, Tadpole’s culture will be more French, which is fine…

38.  Can you tell us about your first sex experience ?

Er. I’d rather not. Suffice to say we were both virgins, and we got better at it over time.

39.  From some of the posts you receive do you sometimes feel that people are resentful of your ’sudden’ success as a writer? If so how do you feel about it?

I’d probably feel the same way if I were reading about me. It’s human nature. There are so many people out there who can write and deserve a break. And through a combination of fortuitous circumstances, luck and hopefully a small amount of talent, I ended up being offered an amazing opportunity. I saw a therapist for a while last year and one of the first things she identified was that I was having a hard time believing I deserved it…

40.  What is the current state of your relationship with your birth parents?

Good. I drop in for a visit every few months. I think I’ll always feel like I’m visiting an aunt and uncle, but that’s fine, and I don’t think they’d mind me saying that.

41. What was the first thing you remember writing for which you received praise?

Gosh, I have no idea. I was such a swot at school that I got praised for most things ;-). I remember doing a piece of creative writing for my GCSE English teacher, Mr Jones, about a nuclear war. And the comment he wrote on it was that he couldn’t have done better himself. I must have been chuffed about that as it has stayed with me for twenty years…

42.  What one thing did you write about in your blog that you wish in hindsight you’d omitted?

It would have been wiser to omit the fact that I’d missed work in order to meet for a tryst in a hotel. Or to refrain from naming one of my ex schools (which is how a newspaper found my name). Often the little details that I put in just for descriptive padding (namely sock suspenders) were the things that came back to bite in the rear me later on. But I don’t feel like I overstepped any boundaries as far as my personal life was concerned. (Ha, 2015 edit, now everyone is oversharing on social media and this question feels quite quaint…)

43. What does Tadpole think about your blog? Does she like seeing stories about herself there, or listening to herself sing?

I think she probably thinks that all mothers have internet sites (although I’m not sure how much she grasps of the internet, even if she is devilishly good at navigating around cBeebies). She does ask me to replay the songs quite often, and sings along, so I get them in stereo…

44.  How late did you got home after our blog meetup in april 2006?

Er, I can barely remember. Are you saying I was tipsy? He he. April is engraved in my mind for other, less pleasant reasons (namely the sacking)…

45.  I cannot find in your blog when you first received offers to do a book. Was it before you were dooced or did the media attention in July 2006 bring you to the attention of the publishing world? Secondly, what made you decide to not write about the firing in your blog for three months?

The offers came in as a result of the press attention, in July 2006. The deal was signed in September, after a month of furious proposal writing and then a very surreal auction. I held off writing about my sacking until my contract was officially ended – in July 2006 – as I was living on a shoestring and desperately needed that final paycheck. (I was paid for the two months notice period but not required to serve it). And as my dismissal letter had strongly worded warnings about legal action if I chose to write about work and did not remove all references already made to work, I also wanted to consult lawyers before taking any risks…

46.  Can you not tell us about your first sexual experience?

Gah. Much anticipation. Not a little disappointment seconds later. Do you really need a second by second account?

47.  Had you had any other writing published before you started your blog?


48.  What is your writing schedule like, if you have one at all?

Hmm. Well. Ideally I try to write for about three hours every weekday, in the first draft phase. It doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But I can’t concentrate for longer than that. And I need time in between sessions to mull over where I’m going next. During the editing phase I can put in much longer days, it’s a different type of work. But I’m also a bit of a procrastinator. And I’m finding it hard to dip into book 2, stop to do interviews for book one, or write an article for a magazine, then dip back into book 2 again… Other problem of late: Lego Star Wars.

49.  What do you like most about being in Paris from a child-rearing point-of-view? Schools, childcare, etc.?

State subsidised childcare is great – we were paying € 700 for a state registered childminder who worked 9 hour days, five days a week, and we got tax breaks on her salary and a small grant on top (and we were not a low income household). Then school starts at 3 years old. Tadpole spends 8.30 – 16.30 at school, and I pay about € 10 for her to do the same on Wednesdays when school is closed.

So from that point of view it’s great. However I didn’t enjoy Paris with a pushchair. I used to rage that even shops selling infant clothes were not equipped with lifts to get upstairs, and there are no métro stations where you won’t be faced with at least one flight of stairs.

50.  I know that Europeans have a lot more vacation (holiday) time then Americans. But, you have told us about so many trips, to see Mr. Frog’s family, trips with The Boy, trip to Morocco, hops accross the pond. Are all people in Europe able to travel so frequently, or did you just get a HUGE advance and Doocing settlement?

Well… When I had an office job I had 5 weeks paid holiday. The Boy gets all that plus 1 day a month extra as part of the 35 hour week. So yes, we do have more free time, and low cost flights make trips pretty affordable. These days I take some holiday whenever Tadpole is off school – often just to see my family in England – as I can’t work when she is with me. And that’s for approximately four months of the year. (OK, half of that time she is with Mr Frog, so I take maybe 2 months off).

And, ahem, my book deal was very nice, although I’ve set aside about 50% of it in the bank to pay my taxes and social security and I’ve not exactly been frivolous with it. But I can’t complain. And the tribunal awarded me a year’s salary as they found my employer had wrongfully dismissed me.

51.  Do you think you would ever stop blogging if writing became too time consuming / another reason?

The only reason I would stop would be that I no longer found it enjoyable. I’m blogging a bit less often (sorry!) but I still enjoy doing it.

52.  Can you let me/anybody to have a “search inside” of your book, or copy just a couple of pages to have something to get by till the book arrives?

The “search inside” function is something that the publisher has to agree to with Amazon, and Penguin don’t seem to… All I can say at this stage is that a couple of Sunday newspapers in the UK will be running serialisations of “petite” in the second half of February, and I will give you warning so that you can read the extracts (hopefully online if you are not in the UK) nearer the time.

53.  Have you got any pearls of wisdom to pass onto the lesser-known bloggers and as yet unpublished writers among us?

Er… me? The one who accidentally got published because she was fired? Pearls of wisdom? Hmm. Well. Write for your own pleasure, use your blog as a way of experimenting with writing regularly and finding your voice, and hopefully fate will do the rest…

54.  Umm, exactly what is the age difference between you and the Boy? Your choice of nomenclature is intriguing.

Five years. Which was more amusing when I was 35 and he was 29 and I could say he was “in his twenties”. It’s marginally less amusing now he’s turned 30. And considering I’ve managed to find a 30 year old with a mature head on his shoulders and a head of prematurely greying hair, honestly, I doubt anyone can even tell…

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