Monday, 4 May 2015

Why African Babies Don't Cry

Well, I've hit the 7 month mark and it's starting to dawn on me that I have to go through child birth again! You'd think I'd have realised this before now! It's going to hurt, but I'm going to have the wonder drugs again and it will all be over within a day, is the mantra going on in my head at the moment. Strangely though, I'm not worried about sleepless nights and endless crying, basically because I didn't go through that with my daughter. No she wasn't an angel child, a one off perfect baby, what made all the difference was I listened to my partner.

Angel Baby

Africans look after newborns in an entirely different way to us Europeans. They cosleep, they breast feed and wear their babies constantly on their backs, when they're not attached to the boob, as the norm. The mother is 100% available for the baby and bugger everything else. My partner took a complete backseat when our daughter was born, but not in a bad way. He carefully stayed close enough to us to keep an eye out and offer advice and support that I was doing the right thing, but he slept in a different bed, there was no pressure for us to resume our sex life. In his mind, and education, baby came first and I as the mother should be there for her 24/7. If she started to cry, he would simply say put her on the breast. My inital reaction was, but she's already been fed she can't still be hungry! But he was right, she just wanted to be on the breast, it was her comfort. We coslept, I can't recall ever having a sleepless night with her when she was a newborn. She would wake up, sniff out the boob, feed and fall back to sleep, 9 times out of 10 I would bearly stir, just long enough to make sure she wouldn't choke!

African Baby and Mother

I couldn't carry her on my back because I have back problems and she was a chunky baby, but the constant closeness to me meant she didn't suffer from collic. A few times we went through the 7pm screaming, but overall I would just stop whatever I was doing and sit down and put her on the breast. Within minutes she'd nod off.

Sounds like I was a prisoner to my baby! But quite the opposite, I was more able to put her down and do things than I could see my friends were able to with their newborns. I would surround her with big cushions and make a sort of cushion fort around her to make her feel safe, and I was free to breathe. I went back to work when she was 2 and a half months, French maternity leave being the shortest in the world! But it wasn't a problem. My little girl felt safe and loved. She never questioned that I wouldn't be there for her, so she would gurgle away happily in her carry cot, safe in the knowledge that when hunger struck or the world suddenly became overwhelming, Mummy would be there.

Cushion Fort Baby

So as much as I'm not looking forward to the pain and the pushing, I'm comforted my the memories of my daughter as a newborn and safe in the knowledge that my partner has got my back.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Well I Never Knew That!

It's a cold and wet day so have been keeping myself occupied with my best friend Google.

The French are an odd lot and these mad facts about France only helps confirm their quirkiness in my book.

Potatoes were illegal in France from 1748 and 1772

Banned Potatoes

The French government gives medals to citizens who have successfully raised several children with dignity

Medailles de La Famille Francaise

During WWII, when Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that Hitler would have to climb all the steps if he wanted to reach the top.

Hitler Eiffel Tower

There's a coffee shop in France, where not saying "Hello" or "Please" makes your coffee more expensive.

Expensive Coffee

For 214 years, until 2012, it was illegal for women to wear trousers in Paris.

Illegal Trousers Paris

Beauty pageants for children are banned. They are punishable with up to 2 years in prison and €30,000 fine.

Banned Beauty Pageants

There are more people speaking French in Africa than in France.

French Africa

96% of French High Schools have condom machines.

Condom Machine French Schools

Crayola is a French word that means "oily chalk".


The croissant was actually invented in Austria.


If you cross your drink with someone when toasting, it will bring you 7 years of bad sex.


Monday, 26 January 2015

Why am I a Contented Person?

Mind Over Matter

Growing up my parents gave me two important life lessons "mind over matter" and "just do it".

Let me elaborate, I have a big assignment due in on Wedsnesday but why aren't I stressed?

My Dad was forever saying it's mind over matter, he didn't necessarily always practise what he was preaching but it certainly left a mark on me. It's all in my head. If I convince myself I'm stresed then I will be, so obviously it works the other way round. My Mum is a great believer in just doing things. You waste more time and energy obsessing over the never ending to do list than if you just get off your arse and do it!

This mornng I dropped Tiana off at school and came home determined to finish my assignment. But my brain had other plans. In the back of my mind I couldn't switch off the washing up that needed doing and the floors needed sweeping and the million other niggling little things that need doing.

So instead of pushing on half concentrating I got up and did all the little things. I put a load of washing on, did the washing up, swept the floors, got some bits out of the freezer and googled a recipe find for tonight's tea, I dealt with the mail (there's always paperwork to do in France!), had some boiled eggs and soldiers, had a cup of tea and watched an episode of My Family on BBC (after ten years I finally have English telly!), then thought about writing this blog post, so I wrote it.

I'm now going to have a shower and do my hair, make up and nails. Then make myself some lunch, put the washing in the dryer. By this afternoon all my niggly things will be done and I will be able to get into the zone of writing my assignment.

I put my mind over matter and just did it.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

La Cantine Gourmet School Dinners

La Cantine Gourmet School Dinners

So Little T started staying at school for her lunch from last week. Second pregnancy and a law degree and twoing and froing from school 4 times a day was just getting ridiculous. So off I went to buy her meal tickets and voila my days are freed up to study or have a few cat naps.

If I was in the UK I would be very wary of the chicken nuggets and chips and most probably opt for the lunchbox option to stop her from being pumped with all the dreaded E numbers. But in France lunchboxes are not allowed. And why the hell would you bother when the menu is that of a michelin star restaurant!

When I first came to France, we would go to the canteen at work and us Brits would grab a can of coke and pizza and chips, but every single French person without fail would pick a starter salad, their main course of fish/meat and veg, a yoghurt, small bread roll, a portion of cheese and a bottle of water. This wasn't just craming in the calories to get you through an 8 hour grueling waitressing shift, this was dinner time!

This is just perfectly natural for French people because they are taught it at school. Every lunchtime the kids are given every single one of the food groups and water, no pop or juice.

This is Tiana's lunch menu for next week ...

Monday - Bean Salad, Chicken in Paprika & Parsley Sauce with Garden Peas, Fromage Blanc, Choice of Exotic Fruits
Tuesday  - Tomato Soup, Simmered Pork with Pearl Onions & Cauliflower & Potato Bake, Fruit Yoghurt, Fruit Plate
Thursday- Grated Beetroot, Almond & Chicory Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette, Chicken & Spicy Sausage Couscous with Mixed Roasted Vegetables, Camembert Chesse, Apple, Pear & Abricot Purée
Friday - Duck Pâté, Filet of Hake in a Lemon Sauce with Roast Carrots, Edam & Gouda Cheese, Coconut Milk Dessert

Most of it is organic and they get all their produce from local farms.

I bet you're thinking that must cost a fortune, sorry to render you sick with jealousy but for this gourmet array I pay ... 280 a day (£2.14)

Eating properly is not a privelege in France, it is considered every citizen's right so school dinners are mainly paid for by the government and parents pay this little extra to make sure it's all of the best quality.

Tiana's reply when I asked her how was it on her first day "too delicious Mum!". What did her teacher say "she had seconds of everything!"

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

My Children My Responsability

Nelson Mandela Education

I am who I am today because of my education. I went to a Catholic school but my family was in no way religious. I was taught to pray and believe in a higher power yet at home my parents told me otherwise. I grew up living both sides. As I got older I began to see more clearly the dangers of religion my dad had been warning me about. Religion is run by men, if there is a God his message has been interpreted and dishorted by men. He was very clear in making me aware of how doctrine had always been anti female. He told me there was nothing wrong with faith, and it is to be respected but be aware of the power hungry man.

I am grateful for his honesty. I grew up grounded and capable of respectful debate. Now my children are to grow up in a home with an athiest mother and a muslim father. I will teach my children the exact same message. Respect other people's choices but know when to act when their choices prevent you from making yours.

My daughter will grow up to know her worth and to refuse anyone or anything that considers her inferieur. She will learn the customs and traditions of her father's beliefs but she will be free to make her own choice, without worrying about disappointing either of us.

When I first met my partner he was a very different person. He was never a radical muslim but he did have some strong beliefs about a woman's place being at home with the children and the man bringing home the chicken (can't really say bacon in his case can I?!). But he met his match with me! I have a brain and a mouth and I used both of them. Over the years our debates became less heated and I came to see the goodside of his traditions and he began to see that a strong minded woman is nothing to be afraid of, quite the opposite.

Since our daughter was born his views have changed again. He wants her to be independant. To never need a man (apart from him of course!). He knows that if he walked out today I would be more than capable to stand on my own two feet, and he sees the merit in my education.

We have a second child on the way, and although not yet confirmed, we both have a strong feeling it's a boy. This is where it's going to get interesting! I certainly won't be bringing him up to think he's the most special boy in the world. I have all too often been around parents who have sons & daughters and seen the daughters expected to do chores and the sons not to. Believe me that won't be happening here! As Tiana wil learn basic plumbing & DIY, my son will learn the difference between a washing machine and a tumble dryer (I'm speaking from experience here, I've lost count of the amount of times my partner has put the washing in the tumble dryer first!).

Educating my children is a job I have no right to fail at. I will not rely on school or friends to teach my children. I will bring them up to question everything, nothing is black & white. If Tiana was a bit older I would have explained truthfully what happened here in France this week. There is a fine line between preserving childhood innocence and throwing ignorant 18 year olds out into a very imperfect world.

They will grow up in a multicultural home where tolerance and freedom of speech & choice is the backbone of our happy family life. They wil grow up with both parents enjoying fulfilling careers and a balanced private life. They will grow up seeing their father hoover and cook and their mother checking the oil in the car and unblocking drains!

They will grow up with freedom but knowing mutual trust is key. We will travel, experience other cultures. They will spend time with their African family and their English family. They will grow up being proud of their diversity.

They will know the history of black oppression by the white man, and see first hand how times have changed, how from generation to generation we can create a fairer place. They will know the fight of women and their responsability in this world to keep up the fight so everybody is equal. They will know we live in a dangerous world but not to be afraid to live. They will be free to have their own opinions but learn to express them respectfully and after much self evaluation.

They will know their time here is limited but their footprints will last an eternity. I will teach them their actions have direct consequences, being an ostrich in this world makes you part of the problem.

Education starts at home. We choose to bring these little creatures into this world, it is our responsibilty as parents to mould them into good people.

Parenting is more then "brush your teeth" "say please and thank you". What your child grows up hearing and seeing will be the foundations for the person they become.

Shower them with hugs and kisses but shower them equally with knowledge and sense of responsibility for all humanity and maybe we will be one step closer to an united world.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Yet another sad day ...

Yesterday was not the first terrorist attack in France and I'm sorry to say it won't be the last. My heart goes out to the families of the victimes and I hope everyone will respect their privacy in their time of grief.

As a partner of a muslim I suppose this affects my life a little bit more than others. Will their be reprisals? Will muslim hatred be fueled as it was in the UK in 2005? I hope I can safely say that I don't think that will happen in France. The French muslim community have spoken against the Islamic State from the beginning, stating loud and clear these people are not muslims and do not stand for Islam. There is nothing worse than tarring everyone with the same brush.

not in my name
Islam is not terrorism. Islam is love and respect.
The saddest thing about the situation in the world today is that it is the West's fault. Our policticians have been greedy, have sold arms in the millions to these people, have sat back and let the Middle East be repressed only to intervene when their interests were compromised. We have been no better, we voted them in, we let them do it.

There are over 1200 young French muslims currently fighting in Syria because they are a lost generation. Teenagers in the midst of their angst being picked up by brain washers and simply evil people. Governments reactions have been to refuse their return, leaving them once against abandonned. Why aren't we fighting to bring these children home?

Children fighting in Syria

We all have a responsibility to help end this. France took a stand last night as 35 000 people descended on the Place de la Republique in Paris. Every creed, every religion stood together against the barbaric regime.

Place de la Republique

Social media filled with Je Suis Charlie profile pictures to show their support in fighting for free speech.

Je suis charlie

Support from around the world flooded Facebook and Twitter

Today we are all French

I can only hope in a world where everything moves too fast, that this time we won't forget in the blink of an eye. That this is the wake up call we need to stand together, right the wrongs of the past ... saying I'm sorry can go a long way ... and create a safer united world.

I will leave you with this thought ... I can't see any differences ... can you?

Indian Family of Four

White Family of Four

Black Family of Four

Chinese Family of Four

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

You've got to admit, they're ballsy

This year is the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 and so the TV here has been inundated with documentaries about the period. And I found out an amazing fact that just made me laugh out loud, it sums the French up perfectly. The French army uniform in WW1 was still the bright red and blue of the Napoleon army. We are so used to seeing black and white images that this little fact has been lost through history, until recently when new technology has been able to bring colour back to those black and white images.

French Uniforms WW1

The brown drab ones are the English! But just look at those jolly colours and how they must have stuck out like sore thumbs in the trenches. When the French saw, or rather didn't see, the Germans in their green camoflage they were appalled at the sneakiness and believed the Germans to be completely undignified and cowardly in this new war etiquette. They stood up proudly in their flashy uniforms and showed they were French and f**k everyone else. Millions of them were killed because they stood out too much and by WW2 they'd learnt their lesson and were in the green camoflage like everybody else. But still, you've got to admire their audacity!