Monday, January 31, 2005


When you live in France as an English person you are automatically dropped into a bucket called "Anglosaxon". This means that as an English/American/Australian etc. you are pre-programmed to react in a certain manner to situations versus the "Franco" population.

Nobody likes to be stereotyped. Especially when I deem this to be a description of my more uptight, straightlaced tendencies.

So, hoorah for my mum's family research and a great-great grandfather's predilection for young girls:

I've just found my paternal grandmother's (your great grandmother's) baptism recorded on the internet - on a site which has army records for Malta - and her mother's wedding. It's recorded as a mixed marriage (which I think refers to a C of E/ Roman Catholic marriage, not English/Maltese, tho it was that as well) She (my great grandmother) was Lucardia Xerri aged 17 and he was Arthur Tyler aged 29 a gunner in the Royal Artillery. I did know the names before. I also know her father's name but can't track him down. He's not on the list of voters in Malta - he probably wasn't important enough.

Upon receipt of this information it was pointed out to me that I am therefore only 6.25 % Mediterranean blooded. However, the fact is that I am now more Latino than your average Champennois and the proof as to why I keep my tan longer than the paler faced Frenchman around here.

Friday, January 28, 2005

German style

Spent the last 36 hours travelling to and from Germany for meetings. The city was looking beautiful in the snow.

There are some perks to my job. Staying in this hotel last night was one of them and eating in this restaurant with a great group of colleagues.

Off to Reims this evening to spend the weekend frolicking in the snow...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


A helpful family member (okay, it was my aunt) very kindly visited my blog.

She sent me into a research flurry as she sent me an email that said:

Do you know that a female french bird is apparently a oiseuse?

She pointed out that she couldn't find it in her dictionary but had been told this by a friend in France. And her own dictionary says it is a contested word.

So, I asked the Frog (who I then had to tell I was writing a blog that included him... umm... still waiting for that reaction....).

Anyway - his official response to the female bird question:

There's no female pour oiseaux, 'oiseuse' means something useless, futile even lazy.
Did someone at work call you that today, dear?

This has opened a whole new can of worms.


We have a new toy. Having been humiliated this weekend by being beaten by my frog at scrabble we agreed to buy our own set and stage a rematch.

So I arrived home last night to find, pride of place in the centre of the dining table, a sparkling still wrapped Deluxe Scrabble set bought from WH Smith's on Rue Rivoli.

The evening was then devoted to a long game (and next time I'm putting time limits on the response time per word) where I was thrashed. Again.

So my question is this. How does a seemingly intelligent english woman get beaten by a frenchman? I graduated with a good literature and languages degree, read copious amounts, work in the marketing communications industry and consider myself to have a wide vocabulary. He on the other hand is an intelligent finance accounting type and fluent english speaker.

Obvious humiliation aside, does this mean winning scrabble through points accumulation is more about systems and logic? In which case I will never win.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Babies (or the lack of)

I spent the weekend with people who I barely knew. Friends and family of Frog. They all had a have a marvellous way of cornering me (alone or with Frog) to ask:

"so when are you getting married?"
"when are you having babies?"
"so next year it'll be monsieur & madame"
"you should really start on the babies as soon as possible"
"how old are you, 31? well you've left it very very late"

Would that happen in England? I don't think so. People think it but don't say it so much. Maybe if attending a wedding after a few drinks the questions start up but never so blatantly.

I got especially fed up with the woman at lunch who told me I'd left it too late to get started. I'd have been rude back but several factors stopped me:

1/ I would have had to be smartly rude in french which still isn't an option
2/ she was one of Frog family's best customers
3/ I was drunk

Mr Frog too was clearly starting to get pissed off with the nonstop assault. I mean, really give us a chance!

I know it's because they're interested. And I hope because they're happy and positive... And maybe I'll turn into that middle-aged harridan one day.

That's all. Rant over!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Saint Vincent (or getting very drunk part 3)

Mrs Frog had got caterers in to prepare a large meal for the 28 of us sat in the main house reception room. Actually, called the reception room but in fact a large part of the production buildings, housing 3 large tanks where the grape juice goes through its first fermentation period. (Giving it a permanent yeasty smell)

The caterers were in fact Mr Frog Sr's 2nd cousin and wife who joined us in a glass between courses, meaning this really was a family affair.

A huge 5 course meal followed. Champagne naturally flowed, along with various eau de vie, digestives and a special eau de vie which Mr Frog Sr makes as part of the end of the champagne process. As with many things from the afternoon I do not remember its name.

I do remember standing in the bathroom slumped against the wall trying to gather some quiet and energy to take back into the (by now very noisy) main room.

We finished eating by 7pm.

At which point the card games and more champagne came out. After the church this was my favourite part of the day. Everyone formed small groups and we had the chance to chat a bit more quietly.

(Not the fortune tellers nasty cards) A French card game with a special deck that becomes very obsessive. After spending Christmas endearing myself to Mr Frog Sr by learning this I passed my period of formation with flying colours by winning the end of a 3 hour tournament.

Le Bataille Corse
A one on one simple card game involving wits and luck. I had no wits. I must have used all my luck up in the Tarot tournament. I was drunk and tired. I lost to my Frog countless times. But I refused to give up until my Frog wouldn't play against me any longer. He is no fun.

We played this on Sunday. With a French set in English against my Frog. I lost. I am forever humiliated.

At 2am I crawled to bed and passed out.

Sunday. Ahhh the magic of champagne. A little tired. But no hangover! Thank you St Vincent!

Saint Vincent (or getting very drunk part 2)

The village hall was packed with people gathered around large trestle tables of champagne. So now began the discours from the local board of representatives. The preceeding year was described through highlight dates of success and latest political developments in the world of champagne. As you can imagine Champagne is highly regulated and a very political business. Whilst other wine producers in France are really toughing it out at the moment, the Champagne business is constantly growing with global demand outpacing the current maximum production quota. Approximately 300 million bottles were produced last year. But I digress, and this could be another post another time...

So, in the village hall, the champagne was à volonté and the children passed around brioche. Not really enough brioche to soak up the quantity of champagne that was being consumed. For me there were two outstanding features to the gathering. Firstly, in the last year I have never seen more than 2 or 3 people at any time in the village. Everyone keeps to themselves. Whilst they are not aggressively competitors they really mind their own business and the French habit of shutters on windows means the place always looks deserted. Even when everyone could be at home with the fires blazing all you see are closed up homes. Naturally, you see people out in their vineyards and at harvest the lanes are full of tractors and heavy equipment. However, this was the first time I had seen so many people. And they were out in force!

Secondly, everyone was really drinking hard. This is the one time I have seen even Mother Frog consume more than a couple of glasses. Although they are producers and champagne is usually at the table, the French generally don't drink in large quantities and as wine producers there is never really "downtime". It's the equivalent of a 365 days per year farm. The whole family was getting very merry!

I was introduced to many people (and felt extremely chuffed that I was described as 'English, but speaks very good French, so don't worry') who I will never recognise again!

By now we had gathered up friends, invited top customers and a couple of the guys from Dunkerque who have been travelling down to work the harvest period for the last 30 years. And we wobbled our way down the road back for food.

Saint Vincent (or getting very drunk part 1)

Saturday was the day of Saint Vincent. What is special about Saint Vincent is that he's the Patron Saint of wine. (The giveaway is in the Vin of Vincent).

Mr Frog's family are wine producers. More especially, champagne producers. As you can imagine this brings many benefits... and on Saint Vincent this means a lot of celebration.

The day began at 10h00 as we strolled in the bright, cold sunshine to the village church. The village has 400 inhabitants and they and the neighbouring villages were packed into the small church for the service. I don't know if it's my hormones at the moment (and I hadn't started on the champagne yet) but the service was extremely moving. The proceedings began with a procession led by two young children holding a pannier of brioche & champagne followed by the figure of Saint Vincent held high and a troupe of representative members from the different producing families in the parish. Each was dressed in a green cloak and black casquette for the men and beige chapeau with ribbons for the women carrying standards from the three producing domains in the parish.

Last year was a bumper harvest year (and I had made my small contribution cutting grapes last September). This was the largest volume harvested in most people's living memory and the quality of the grapes was remarkably high (quality is measured by high percentage of natural alcoholic value in the grape juice). So there was much to be thankful for at the service. Everyone in the church makes their living directly or indirectly by the results of the land. Sometimes you forget in the city how people's livelihood's are still determined by the such basic things as the weather.

The village priest was clearly an old hand at this service. I was impressed by how he very clearly asserted the need for everyone to remember that whilst theirs was much to rejoice, this should also be used to help others. There were specific remarks to farming communities in Africa who are suffering through famine, Aids & enduring great poverty.

Following hymns, (it's all very well having the words on the order of service but I never know the music, so I just try and catch on quick to the chorus!) mass and a final blessing the congregation spilled out into the winter sunshine and we all made our way to the village hall.

Friday, January 21, 2005


Had a really long day yesterday in Hamburg for meetings. I'm sure it's a nice city but I have always just travelled airport -- office -- airport which is draining.

Got back late to Paris after being up since 5am and was now thinking only of my duvet, a mug of tea and sleep. Except my phone beeped and Mr Frog was in central Paris waiting for me in a bar having planned dinner out. Duvet dreams went out the window and I spent the next hour in a cab trudging through traffic to get to Rue Montorgeuil. That'll teach me to use company expenses and not take the RER.

So, I plan on ending my week with a Yoga session at a great American woman's studio in the Marais. I am a terrible beginner and with the least zen approach to life you can imagine but she is very patient. Mr Frog says it is in his interest that I relax before the weekend. Plus from a mean, selfish and perhaps also proud point of view there is always an older woman there who is much worse than me. Since the class in English and French it is a nice mix of expat and locals in the class. And I now know how to say Flying Cobra in French. And you never know when that's going to come in useful.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Spent Wednesday night in London for meetings the next day. Staying with family made the trip a nice break, dinner, drinks & gossip.

After an evening of home food and relaxation I thought 'it wouldn't be so bad if we had to move back here'. Then I got on the Jubilee line at 8am and quickly felt my shoulders rise towards the level of my ears in stress. And this from someone who rides the RER C out to St Ouen everyday.
Saw this article in the Observer about the French expat community in London.

Mr Frog spent 6 years in London (before we met) and spent all his time avoiding the French ex-pats there. Hence his dodgy accent.


Despite the fact that my younger sister is now a sophisticated young lady in the publishing business, I still like to think of her as my 11 year old, dreamy, hamster obsessed, naive little sis who (in contrast to her bullying, dominating big sister) was incapable of organising her school bag and usually forgot her lunch/PE kit/brain.

However, she still brings me great joy by sporadically regressing back to her dappy days. Recently she was travelling back from Gatwick after a gruelling week in the Netherlands, negotiating with the hardest of Dutch businessmen. As she struggled with her bags to board the Gatwick Express that was about to leave, an unfriendly man behind her hassled her, "For goodness sake hurry up". Flustered, my sister lurched inside the train and in one smooth action lost one of her shoes between the gap and watched it fall onto the rails below the train.

Panicked, rather than get off the train to negotiate shoe removal with the nearest Railtrack employee, she sat in her seat with just the one remaining shoe as the train left the platform.

She then spent the rest of the journey wondering how she was going to get home to south London with one shoe. Pulling herself together (and, bless her, making a phonecall to mum to ask for some kind of help) she got off the train at Victoria and hopped to find a station manager who could help her. One call from the station manager and a return trip to Gatwick she was met again at the other end by a young uniformed man, smirking as he held her shoe in his hand. This would have been a more magical story if he had turned out to be her Prince Charming. Sadly not, but she did get the shoe back in one piece and made me laugh for days at the thought of her hopping across the station concourse.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Mr Frog

A few words on Mr Frog... although a frenchman through and through he lived in London longer than I have. (6 years vs my 4...). He seems to have spent his time in London hanging around with dodgy media boys. Hence his speech is cluttered with half-arsed cockney slang, essex witticisms and general charm.

When in France I swear I hear a dodgy London accent, although this illusion was (thankfully) shattered for me when I called him from a weekend in London. As I charged through Regent Street, on my mobile all I could hear was this charming frenchman on the other end of the phone in his best froggy tones. "Wow" I declared to my shopping buddy "I have a french boyfriend!!".

The irony of our situation is that I really want to stay in France. Love the culture, food, 35 hour working week, holidays and houses by the sea. He can't wait to move back to London and enjoy all things British. Since this is a contentious discussion we have agreed to put our "where do we live next" plans on hold until end of Jan...

Working Women

Received the latest issue of my friend Gaby's business venture "Rhine Magazine" - a magazine for expats in the areas of Bonn, Dusseldorf & Cologne.

Go to if you're interested in getting a subscription.

My article on travel to Prague was included. First published piece since student days as Editor of the Uni Student's Newspaper. I think my grammar got worse in the meantime.

Mr Frog's comment on my amazement that Super-Gab's managed to produce both a baby and a glossy, fantastic magazine at the same time "It's amazing what women can do with a little motivation".

Have confiscated the great chocolate & ginger german christmas treats from him that Gaby had sent us.

Trip to London tonight for a meeting tomorrow. Staying with ex-stepmother & half brother. Dinner to meet the ex-stepmum's new boyfriend. Should be interesting - when he first met my sister, she was introduced by my ex-step mother as " my ummmm.... err... friend". Probably simpler.

Immigrant Culture

Have I been away from the UK too long? Nearly four years now and I am clearly no longer au fait with cultural life. No matter how many times I pick up Heat magazine (for a crippling price at the Relay newsagents in Gare du Nord) in a bleak attempt to keep up with the UK celeb gossip & shennangians "I'm the only gay in the village" passes me by.

I refuse to get cable and BBC Choice so am stuck with the joys of French TV. Never in my life have I chosen to watch so little TV...

Went to see "La Chute"or "Der Untergang" or "The Downfall" on Saturday. The last days in Hitler's bunker. A grim film (although outstanding performances it has to be said) and 2 hours of reaaaallly concentrating on French subtitles with German dialogue soundtrack. Mr Frog has just started German language classes to boost his already more than average language skills. So this had been suggested by myself as a "supportive" girlfriend gesture.

Can I cope with him speaking yet another language? I in the meantime I continue to excel at Franglais..