I was born in England and then moved to France when I was 7 and came back to England to go to University when I was 18 years old and have been in London ever since, that’s my life basically and that’s why I am bilingue.
My introduction to the French language was quite traumatic, I was put in a French school knowing only a few words, namely: “bonjour, merci, aurevoir, s’il vous plait and chausson aux pommes (I was addicted to them so quickly learnt how to ask for one in the boulangerie). It wasn’t easy but it was definitely an effective way of learning the language as a few tears, lifelong traumatic childhood moments (they are for another post, it involved learning poems by heart…) and 3 months later I could speak French as well as the other enfants. I was even top of the class after the second trimestre (to be fair I was put back a year to help with the language barrier, I then jumped “CE2” two years later so I was back in the right school year).
Hopefully A’s language development won’t be so traumatic! So far I have been speaking both languages to her and now realise this isn’t going to work. I find it weird speaking French to her when I’m around people who only speak English but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do and so from now on it’s français all the way. This should avoid confusion and hopefully she will end up bilingual, its not going to be easy as she lives in England, has an American dad (hence one day if we live in the US, I will become “mom”, I don’t really like that idea as I associate that word with ‘soccer mom” and I cannot be one of those ! Shoot me if I do become one) and I am basically the only regular exposure she has to French. When she is older she can watch French TV and I must start reading French books to her. I’m convinced one of her first words will be “bisou” because I give her like 100 of those a day (did I just write “like”? I’m already becoming a MOM!)
The advantages of being bilingual are obviously numerous; I got my first “proper” job thanks to my language skills and they really helped my career. Also once you know one language, it really is easier to learn others, indeed there was a time when I spoke German (I have to blog about living in Berlin one day).
I have to stop being lazy and not worry about others and really make an effort to speak French to her so then hopefully we will be able to talk behind papa’s back without him understanding a word 🙂
A few days ago, as I was walking down the street, a little girl wearing a red and white checked summer school uniform walked past holding her mum’s hand and I was taken back, far far back. Suddenly I was a little girl again at Southwell school on Portland in Dorset in the late 80s and I was wearing that uniform and having lunch outside on a sunny day. I could hear the seagulls, feel the fresh air, taste the sandwiches from my lunchbox and hear children playing all around me. It was so strange and quite intense, the memories just hit me. I actually stopped pushing the buggy for a few seconds as it was such a strong feeling. All the memories came flooding back: assembly at school, playing with Tim, Anna, Daniel and Heidi, living in Osborne Hall (it’s now quite a nice Air BnB: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/863848) where slow worms used to live in the back wall, my Grandparents’ beach hut, The Cove Pub, the sculpture park in the quarry, the Beach Road, being very mean to the girl up the road and pouring oil on her head (sorry!) – my childhood on Portland before I moved to France basically.
Nearly 30 years later I would move to Walthamstow (via quite a few other places) and meet H through NCT, she happens to be friends with a girl who was in my class at Southwell school on Portland, it really is a small world.
The only other time I can remember being thrown back in time was a few years ago when I stayed at someone’s house and had forgotten my toothpaste. The only toothpaste in the bathroom was children’s toothpaste, the second it hit my taste buds, that particular banana flavour took me back to the South of France and my first “colonies de vacances” when I was 9 or 10 years old. I can remember that holiday camp like it was yesterday: feeling different because I didn’t have a “carnet de sante” like all the other French children and because I had some Stefanel clothes my Granny had bought so I was seen as “posh”, wearing my pink jumper (I can’t remember the brand name but I loved that jumper) in the morning to breakfast, the only time it wasn’t hot; falling in love with “Sebastien” and asking my mum when we got back if we could move to Argenteuil so I could see him (if you know anything about France and “les banlieues”, you will understand why this was a very naïve request…); plucking up the courage to ask a girl if she wanted to be friends on the first day; listening to lots of Michael Jackson and I randomly remember a girl rubbing her soap against the shower wall to make it looked like it had been used a lot because she didn’t want her mum to know she didn’t wash much once she got back – how do I remember that ???!!! I can still see her banging that soap against the wall… It’s strange how tiny weird details stick in your memory. It’s also amazing how when you are a child you don’t understand social differences, I now know that “Sebastien” and his friends most likely didn’t pay for their time there and it was probably their only holiday.
What will A remember from her childhood, what will stick in her mind, which memories will last and which ones will fade…. I just hope she likes to wash with soap.
As next week is Mother’s Day in the UK and today is my mum’s birthday, I thought I would dedicate this post to ma maman with 20 pretty amazing facts about her.
1. She left home in her teens to go around the world on a boat and follow a much older man she was in love with
2. On said “years abroad”, she caught sharks and wore her bra top as a bikini ( the seventies were not the consumerism years we experience nowadays)
3. She has had 5 children and they all get on and they all love her very much
4. She used to pile us all into her Renaud 5, if the car would not start she had a chant that she would repeat, the car always started
5. She has a talent for drawing and painting
6. Talking of which the best present she ever gave me was a few years ago when she gave me a drawing she had made of me as a baby, even diamonds (and I love diamonds) don’t come close
7. I inherited the “worrying” genes from her but …
8. I also inherited the open minded genes from her
9. Without her help I would not have left France and gone to university, she helped with a complicated student loan situation
10. Before I left for university, she taught me to cook, now that I ( and my husband) am forever grateful for
11. If she was rich, she would have the most beautiful house and clothes
12. She always finds a way, she can make anything out of anything. She even changed a glass window pane once on her own
13. She is not a scared of anything
14. She will win tons of money betting on horses one day 🙂
15. She has at least one kir a night
16. She does not know who the Kardashians are
16. She has lived in the Seychelles and one day I will take her back
17. She has lived in France for over 20 years and still answers the phone with “hello”
18. When I was stuck in NYC during Sandy, she is the only person who wanted to be there with me “for the life experience because it was exciting”
19. She has a passion for horses and used to get up at the crack of dawn when she was young to go riding. One day I will buy her one.
20. She’s always there for all of us and we will always be there for her
The Eurostar really is the story of my life, England and France, France and England.
I remember the first time I took the eurostar with my sister, leaving my mum in France to go and visit our dad in England. we used to go to Heathrow wearing the UM bags around our necks, many a divorced multi national child with remember them
The worst trip ever was the one with me crying the whole way after breaking up with a guy I thought was the love of my life (very handsome, sexy, cool and charming French heart breaker)sat next to a 20 year old American, he didn’t even offer me a tissue. Nearly put me off Americans for life…A Frenchman broke my heart but a Frenchman would have consoled me. This was after one of the craziest few days of my life when I went to Biarritz with said French heartbreaker, definitely a blog post for another time.
Second worst trip, the time I got stuck on the train in the freezing cold for 9 hours with only water and some shortbread. The wait for a taxi is freezing gare du nord at 2 AM when we arrived was even worse. Finally got to my hotel at 4AM and couldn’t go to sleep as my feet was soooo cold.
The trip I took when I moved to London to go to university, it really was the beginning of the rest of my life with the biggest suitcase I could find. The Trip back from business meetings in Brussels when we got drunk on gin and tonic and were sat next to a dad and his 2 kids, it seemed the dad had clearly realised he didn’t like “mummies” at some point. The look on my colleague’s face when he spilt his drink on his trousers and started “helpfully” cleaning up, never seen anybody tell someone “don’t worry, REALLY don’t worry”
The Trip I took with my Granny when she asked for “a drink” at 9 AM and they would not give her anything stronger than orange juice.
The Eurostar is full of people off for romantic weekends, dirty weekends, groups of middle aged people who I am sure live in houses full of John Lewis furniture , the women wearing M&S clothes, the men dreading the whole thing (Paris equals shopping) and the fact you can’t get a good cup of tea or pint of bitter in Paris. They are always the ones having champagne in the morning.
The Japanaee tourists about to get severely disappointed when they get to Paris and realise everyone is rude and ripping them off.
My Favourite trip was when I was sat with an American family on their way to Paris. Their son ( he looked like the kid in Jerry McGuire) was asking them some questions about the train that they did not know the answer to. Back in the summer of 2002, I worked for Eurostar so I knew the answers to some of his questions and basically butted in to their conversation. The next 2 hours were some of the most entertaining and interesting hours of my life. I taught him some French words made his day as I was the first “adult” he had met who did not have a driving license (they were from Arizona), he really could not get his little genius of a head round that. I quickly realised this was not just any odd kid, a really genius. His mum ( well mom actually) told me I would make a great nanny and was grateful for the 2 hour break I had given her as apparently he asks questions all day every day). He even seemed to get what I was telling him about benchmark data as he wanted to know what the presentation I was working on was about. I wanted to be his friend forever, he was great. His mum wanted me to stay forever because I am great 🙂
I still think my best trip is yet to come , the one where I’m neither crying neither going to Paris for work.
In the meantime, here are some of my favourite Eurostar adverts
what a bad blogger I have been… My only excuse is four days in France at mum mum’s where the internet connection is slow and I tried to switch off. Not only did I switch off but realised a few things…
My mum lives in the middle of nowhere in France, literally you can’t even walk to a shop! I live I’m Islington, where there is a Tesco 30 secs away. There is a bar/restaurant about 10 mins walk from her house but if you want to go anywhere else, you need to drive, get on a bike or put on comfy shows for a long walk!
It was so nice to:
- Sleep in real darkness and silence (I slept 11 hours one night!)
- sit but the fire
- read my book
- be surrounded by nature
- see my “freres” that I rarely see
- go shopping in a supermarche (sorry can’t find the accent on the ipad) they have about a million different yogurts for example
- Eat a raclette
- chat with my mum in the kitchen
- watch French TV
- relax relax relax
and it made me realise what a crazed commercial expensive life one can lead in London, how nice it would be to be live nearer family and how noisy London is and how much stress that causes.
It was so relaxing, I came back fully refreshed and now want to buy a country house! I am not done with London but definitely getting tired with it, also a sign of getting older I think 🙂
Linking up to #allaboutyou allaboutyou
Sorry for not having blogged for a while, I went to France this weekend to see my mum and had a lovely relaxing time! I will be blogging all about it soon, in the meantime I’m trying not to break my resolutions and survive a manic time at work.
A bientot everyone!