Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wonderful News

Mummy & Daddy

Got some wonderful news today, my mum & dad have spontaneously booked some flights for a visit next week! I did however, make the big mistake of telling my three year old that nanny & grandad are coming, and having no concept of time at this age, she is now asking me every 5 minutes when are they getting here! It's going to be a long week! Ooh and my mum is bringing me a load of English books, it's the little things :)

Monday, 26 May 2014

Sad, Sad, Sad Day

Sad, Sad, Sad Day

I think this is such a sad thing, two of the most influential countries in Europe allowing the extreme ring wing facists into power.

Being in a mixed race couple and having a mixed race child makes this even harder for me to bear.

People died in the struggle to get the vote for everyone.

I'm ashamed of those who didn't vote. We've become complacent. People are more bothered about who wins Big Brother, than who will represent their nation in world politics.

May I remind you this is how Hitler came to power.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Fancy a Kebab Anyone?

Imagine even thinking of asking this question at any other time of the day in the UK than 3am when you're falling out of a nightclub and the taxi rank is huge? Well in France these babies are everywhere and people eat them sober and even for their lunch during work hours!

But don't worry they aren't the sloppy, don't even know what animal that came from donner kebabs of the boozing life of the British. In France they are very simple and delicious meat sandwiches. And cheap! 5€ fixed price all over for the huge sandwich, side of chips and a drink. And they actually look like they do in the picture!



They are more commonly called Grecs (meaning Greek, even though the majority of the restaurants are run by the Turkish, I suppose it's close enough!). They are the French's favourite takeaway, and if you go to a good one, they are nowhere near as greasy or fatty as a British Indian or Chinese takeaway.

I am a fan, Tiana loves them and Bad always orders two!

And watch this space Brits, a young entrepreneur has opened up a chain modeled on the McDonald concept called Nabab (love the name!)



They've even opened up their first drive-thru restaurant


I must add I'm not in any way an advocat for junk food, but once in a blue moon, treat yourself! However, I think I'll stick with my local Kebaby, he's a lovely bloke and he's not a faceless coporation.

Keeping my local shopkeeper's alive in the good French tradition but with a Greek sandwich!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Red Tape Hell

Red Tape Hell

I've been battling with the French administration system ever since I arrived in France. Their social care cannot be rivaled anywhere else in the world, but getting what you're owed or just simple tasks like asking for a form requires a second life where you have unlimited free time.

I'm currently in logger heads with the CAF (the family allowance service) and they are driving me insane. Hardly a day goes by that they don't ask me for this form or that photocopy, and I'm positive it's just to buy time instead of giving me what I'm owed. It's frustrating as hell itself! This excerpt from one of the Asterix's films sums it up perfectly. You don't need to understand French to understand the nonsense of it all, and although the video is 9 minutes long (an eternity in our high speed world) believe me that is roughly the amount of time you spend in front of the person at the reception desk before them deem to even acknowledge your presence!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Planning the Party of the Year

Planning the Party of the Year

A fellow expat who I met through a mutual friend and have kept in touch with over FB likes and comments, recently got in touch to ask me if I would like to help her plan a garden party. I love a plan so I jumped at it (and there's wine & food involved!) It's for her husband's 40th birthday and their 10th wedding anniversary.

We got to putting our heads together to come up with the menu, decorations, guest lists etc etc and then she asked me if I would like to be "chef in the home" for her friend's hen party. Again, I love a plan! So I'm currently in the throws of planning the two parties, and they are only a week apart; the hen party being this Saturday. I like a challenge! So I've put the finishing touches to the menu for Saturday's we've decided on tapas and I'm salvating over all the fabulous tapas dishes on the internet, if you could get fat by looking at photos of food I'd be the size of the Statue of Liberty by now, and a fat one at that!

Fat Statue of Liberty

Fingers crossed all goes well, I shall report back at the weeknd. Exciting times :)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Phone Home for Free

One of the things I found amazing when I got my first apartment in France was the phone companies free international calls included in every one of their offers. I was paying at the time 40€ a month for broadband, over 200 TV channels and free calls nationally and internationally. Bargain! The UK has caught on since and I know SKY and Virigin offer similiar deals. But when it comes to nattering for free or next to nothing the French are miles ahead.


The company ironically named Free, have been driving these prices down even further over the last few years. Offering completely unlimited calls to national landlines & mobiles AND international landlines included in their 25.99€ a month subscription. Then wowing the French population by bringing out the first mobile contract to offer exactly the same for only 19.99€ a month! I currently have a contract that gives me 2 hours calls and unlimited text messages for ... wait for it ....... 2€ a month!

I will always give credit where it's due. Well done Free!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

My parents gave me this book not long after I moved to France. I read part of it and put it away. Being only 18 and working in Disney I was living anything but typically French. Ten years on and completely immersed in French life I thought I'd give it another go. And let me say after just the 1st paragraph of the introduction I found myself nodding enthusiastically along with the authors. I am thoroughly immersed in this excellent book, although written before the financial crisis of 2008 it is still surprisingly relevant today.

Let me give you a taste ...

"Imagine a country where people work 35 hour weeks, take seven weeks of paid holidays per year, take an hour and a half for lunch, have the longest life expectancy in the world, and eat the richest food on the planet. A people who keep alive their local shopkeepers, who love nothing better than going to the public market on Saturdays, and who finance the best health care system in the world. A people whose companies are the least unionized and most productive among modern countries, and whose post-industrial consumer society ranks among the most prosperous in the world.
You are now in France.
Now imagine a country whose citisens have so little civic sense that it never crosses their minds to pick up after their dogs or give to charity. Where people expect the State to do everything because they pay so much in taxes. Where service is rude. Where the State is among the most centralised and pervasive in the world, and where the civil servant class amounts to no less than a quarter of the working population. Where citisens tolerate no form of iniative or self rule, where unions are so pervasive that they virtually dictate the course of government and even run French ministries.
You are still in France."

Pure excellence! I'm sure I'll be back musing over their findings over the course of my journey with Jean-Benoit and Julie.

I'm also loving that it has been translated into French and the title has been changed to translate to "Not so crazy the French"!

Pas si fou, ces français!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Dubbing Nightmare

The Dubbing Nightmare

After being forced to sit through The Wolf of Wall Street in French a few days ago I have to vent my spleen here!

All expats all over the world will know exactly what I'm talking about here! Dubbed films are, well, how do I put this ... excruciating! You can see what they're saying but you've got some stupid voice talking in a different language and half of the time not even saying the same thing! It's enough to make your brain explode!

Luckily a lot of the programmes and films on French freeview, you can switch to listen in VO (original version) and a wonderful piece of software is available called Expat Shield that you download and then can have access to iplayer etc. In our house Tiana and I watch everything in VO when possible, Badara watches the films upstairs in French and we only watch documentaries together!

If you're not an expat and want an idea of what I'm talking about, we all know and love Jack Nicholson's voice. It must be one of the most famous in the world. Have a listen to this ridiculous voice they've given him in French then you'll understand my pain!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Black and White Playtime

Black and White Playtime

I often spend whole afternoons in the local park with Tiana. The play area is fenced in and so far Tiana has yet to master how to open the gate! So I take a blanket, a good book and enough food and drink to last us all day and just relax while Tiana tires herself out.

But, I do like to people watch and I have observed a lot about the differences in parenting between the French and the Africans from this park.

Now, in France around 4 o'clock everyone has a snack called "le goûter" and is a sweet snack, cakes, crepes, pain au chocolats, milk or juice and is bascially to give everyone a sugar hit and tied you over til dinnertime which is around 8 o'clock (children eat at the same time as the parents in France). So in the park around this time all the parents will have bags of goodies and it's always wise to take extra as the children whether their yours or not swarm around you for the goodies, and you can't risk being labeled the one parent who doesn't bring enough food! 

However, here's where the differences start to become apparent. After the gouter the French kids will generally stay for another half an hour to an hour maximum. You'll hear dozens of mothers saying come on we have to go get the bread, you need a bath; dinner then bed, you've got school in the morning. All these children are always accompagnied by an adult. 

The African children on the other hand, don't leave until around half seven. Either when the mothers are finished chatting or when the mothers arrive from nowhere and say it's time to leave, because African children are generally looked after by their older siblings and cousins. It is perfectly normal for children as young as 10 or 11 to be out with the little kids without adult supervision, and believe it or not the little kids listen to the older ones. The respect your elders concept is still very much a part of African education. You have no business talking back to someone older than you, whether they are a year older or 20 years older. 

Africans don't have the same concept of time as Europeans. In fact, they don't seem to understand the concept of time keeping. Everything is done slowly and in the most chilled out way, that sometimes I fear my partner will fall asleep if he goes any slower! 

If the African mothers are present, they won't get involved in any of the kids' quarreling. They put up their hands and tell them to sort it out themselves. But they will shout at any kid, whether their own or not if they see them doing anything naughty. The French parents will intervene in their children's squabbles but won't dare say anything to anyone else's child, even if that child is the devil incarnate!

Now where do I stand? I seem to be more to the African side. I'll put other children in their place, but Tiana knows it's useless coming to me to whinge about the other kids. We stay til half seven or until Badara comes to meet us if he's been to see friends in the town and we meander home rather than rushing to get the day over and done with.

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Gold Cube

Kub Or

These little stock cubes, Kub Or (literally Gold Cube), have gradually worked their way into my monthly shopping list as a must. It is used in all African cooking and it seems to be vital to giving the dishes their "je ne sais quoi" taste. It's hard to describe it's flavour. My Mum likened it to a sort of curry flavour, but even that's not hitting the nail quite on the head.

It is even rumoured that the women in Cameroon put these little cubes up their derrières to give them fuller bottoms!

The dishes are then often served with a bottle of Maggi Sauce on the table that everyone seems to enjoy lashings of on top of the already delicious food.

Maggi Sauce

Now they've even brought out the Kub Or with Herbes de Provence to give them that little French twist!

Kub Or Herbes de Provence

A definate 5* recommendation to the adventurous palette.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Is she yours or did you buy her?

Is she yours or did you buy her?

Sitting in our local park the other day, lapping up the glorious sunshine, a little old lady came up to me and said "what a beautiful little girl, is she yours or did you buy her?" I just burst out laughing! I managed to recompose myself and confirm that yes she is mine and no I didn't buy her! The lady sat down and proceeded to tell me her life story which turned out was fascinating.

She is 92 and Polish and had fled to France during the second world war with her family. She has a daughter who lives in the South of France and a son who lives in Japan, that she's not happy about because of all the awful things they did in the war! She lives in the old people's home in the town centre but likes her independance. Completely fit as a lop for someone in their 90s and blunt as anything. Her reasoning was when you get to my age you'll understand you're on borrowed time.

She was a lovely woman and didn't smell of old people, yet I'm sure I detected a faint smell of whiskey! When I grow up I want to be like her. I hope I see her again.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

French Children Don't Throw Food

French Children Don't Throw Food

I read this amazing book by Pamela Druckerman last summer and it was definately one of those unputdownable books. An American woman married to an English man living in Paris and raising three children. She highlights the huge differences in anglophile and francophile parenting, asking questions such as "How come babies sleep through the night?" and "How can french mothers chat to their friends while their children play quietly?".

I could totally relate to nearly everything she said, yet not because I'm one of those mothers who frets that my child isn't in the best playgroup or the best preschool, but because I embraced the French style of parenting from the offset and mainly due to my partner, who is already a Dad and Tiana being my first child, I followed his lead. There's obviously a bit of African mixed in there too but on the whole, Tiana is raised in the French "let them live" mentality.

One of the things that does frustrate me in England is that we've become a nation of bringing up Les Enfants rois (child kings). In France, children have their place and adults have their place. Children are told by a simple "attend" if they interrupt an adult talking not "wait a second sweetheart mummy's talking". The French language does help, simple one word directives are very useful and I find that even though I speak mainly in English with Tiana, I mix these words in, such as "rammasse" for pick that up. They're quick to the point and easy to apply a don't give me any crap tone!

I highly recommend this book to mothers everywhere. Give yourselves a break and let the kids grow up without all the pressure and the Dr Spocks and Dr Never Had a Kid in His Life shoving nonsense down your throat!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

We're off to Timbuktu!

We've all heard the saying "to Timbuktu and back" but did you know the place actually exists? And it's in Mali! You learn something new everyday.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Where are all the swings?

Where are all the swings?

This has me baffled. None of the kids parks in France have swings. Apparently they were all taken down because people were hanging themselves on them! I find it hard to believe that there were so many suicides that they had to take them all down. Some people say it's because they're dangerous, but then the park next to me has a 12 foot fireman's pole that the kids literally have to jump to from the landing, surely that's a case for broken limbs!

In Britain you get normal swings. You get baby swings

Baby Swing

And these funky tyre swings that a few kids can get on at the same time

Tyre Swing

A park just isn't a park without a swing!

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Mind Boggles

The Mind Boggles

Every country has it's own expressions, and to the French we British are crazy! Here's a few examples of how different our minds work ...

English : Raining Cats & Dogs - French : Raining Ropes

English : As Easy as Falling off a Log - French : As Easy as Fingers in your Nose

English : Filthy as a Pig - French : Filthy as a Comb

English : Smoke like a Chimney -French : Smoke like a Fireman

English : Bull in a China Shop - French : Elephant in a China Shop

English : Subtle as a Sledgehammer - French : As Fine as Coarse Salt

What do you Speak at Home?

What do you Speak at Home?

I get asked this question a lot as soon as soon as anyone realises I'm English. My partner doesn't speak English, other than what he learned at school, so we speak French. I try my hardest to speak as much English as possible with my daughter. This is easier when there's just the two of us. I do pester Badara to speak to her more in Bombara (the native language of Mali). I think it's important that she knows it, I find it such a shame that 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants can't speak the languages of their origins.

The Baguette : A Love Hate Relationship


I love baguettes. Especially the ritual of going to the boulangerie and it being served still warm from the oven. I always buy at least two because I eat most of one on my way home! Baguettes are fantastic for mopping up sauces and making a simple cheese sandwich just that little bit more glamourous! 

But oh what a faff! You have to go to the boulangerie at least two times a day. The baguettes you bought in the morning are hard by the evening. When you go to the boulangerie you can't help but be tempted by the array of deliciousness before you, which is niether good for the waistline or the purse!

Boulangerie Patisserie

Sometimes I just despair for good British white sliced bread.

White Sliced Bread

It lasts for days, freezes beautifully and is perfect for spreading without flaking everywhere, not to mention toast! 

We don't say "the best thing since sliced bread" for nothing!

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread