I love to get up on a Monday and get things done. You know, weekly
planning, organising and banking. It’s the fresh start to the week and I like to feel
accomplished. So, it’s frankly frustrating when I rock up to the bank raring to go
and the shutters are down. And it’s not frustrating because the bank takes the
whole of Monday off to make up for the 4 hours they work on Saturday. I mean, I’m
not totally heartless. No, I’m frustrated with myself. I’ve been living here in France
for a whole 6 years and I STILL can rock up to the bank on a Monday and I need the
closed shutters to remind me that many businesses close on a Monday. Or they
only open Monday afternoon. And you know what, you’re just gonna have to go and
see which one does what. C’est l'aventure! (And also, I need to up my organisation
game. Grave (Seriously)
I was somewhere the other day with someone - listen, my brain has gone to mulch
after learning French just before turning 40, a pregnancy and lockdown. It’s a
miracle I still remember my own name. Lucky for me it’s French. Ha!
Anybref, I was approaching my car and I went to open the door when the person I
was with whose-name-I-can’t-remember sarcastically commented that I wouldn’t
get very far from there. I had gone to the passenger side because my inner English
driver just felt at home on that side. I do this a lot...especially when I’m running late
so I’ll run to the passenger’s side, realise my mistake, swear whilst continuing my
run around the car to the driver’s side. I imagine my neighbours watching and
saying, ‘L’anglaise est completement folle!’
Do you remember that scene in Matrix Reloaded with Lambert Wilson who reels off
a string of French swear words? No? (Is it because The Matrix original was so
amazing and the following 2 were so disappointing? I know what you mean). Well
anyway, here’s what he said,
"Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta
You can go and google translate that. Actually, I just did and it doesn’t do it justice. (But you can enjoy it here).
But still, the point is that as good as this is nothing beats the work Fuck. It’s a verb,
a noun, an adjective and so much more. When my husband wants to take the piss
out of me he puts on his best John Cleese impression from Faulty Towers and roars
the phrase, ‘For fuck’s sake!’. I fall about laughing because he’s funny but also it’s
good impression….because it’s true. I say it often when I get frustrated, you know
when the bank is closed. It’s just so satisfying! Putain just doesn’t do it for me. Plus
English swear words go in every available place in a sentence. In French, they seem
to just get tacked on the end. Like an afterthought, putain. See? Nope.
Ok, so long story short I stopped drinking cow’s milk when I was 25. Blah Blah acne,
candida I’ll write about it another time. What that meant was that when I moved to
France - and when I say France I mean rural SW countryside middle-of-nowhere
France - cow’s milk is EVERYWHERE. (Btw apart from Starbucks I’d bet good money
that Paris is the same. #justsaying) Being in the countryside is half the problem
because the bigger cities have Starbucks and so soy, oat, almond options.
Quick story, I was in Switzerland on a yoga retreat and whilst getting coffee I asked
if they had any other milk option apart from dairy. My yoga teacher just looked at
me and said, ‘Did you notice all the cows, Karen?’ Yeah yeah, I know ALL the cows
and rural France is the same. This means I now make a wicked soy cappuccino at
home with froth and everything and it’s my little daily joy. Also, I save some euros -
that I can then take to the bank (but not on a Monday)
It was Adelle Davis who said, ‘Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and
dinner like a pauper’, and I remember that line whenever I decide to make myself
warm cinnamon flavoured porridge in the evening. It’s also a hangover from my
single days when I had just enough effort to make porridge of an evening and that
was it. Now, there are kids who need, you know, a balanced meal or else don’t want
porridge for dinner. Weirdos. But sometimes I may come in late and Mr French has
already seen to the obligatory healthy food offering and I can revel in the quick
porridge making and relish the comfort food that reminds me of being a kid. Yum!
(Also, I have gotten my youngest into porridge and he lapped it up as a baby. Even
more astonishing to me is my step-bonus-beautiful-beau son sometimes asks me to
make him porridge for his third meal of the evening when he’s going through a
growth spurt and has already chowed down bread and cheese and two desserts
after dinner and there’s no way in hell we’re making anything other than something
super simple. Voila! Porridge to the rescue. It’s the best.
In 2014, I packed up my life in London and moved to rural France, oh, and I didn’t speak French. Fun! I’d met my husband-to-be on Facebook (I know, crazy!) and since he had a young son he wasn’t going to up-sticks and come to the big smoke. So, I took the leap and found myself in the countryside. With the cows. Oh la vache!
I spent a good few years learning French like a toddler aka listening A LOT and trying to piece together the complicated minefield that is the French language. (Now I know why toddler’s sleep so much. Brain. Working. Non. Stop.) I get by ok now with the lingo but I still remember how my limited French made me feel disconnected, invisible and unable to share my humour and personality.
I have navigated pregnancy and the birth of my son here, being a step-mum, making friends and finding work. I’ve struggled with the enormous changes that came with moving here, enjoyed the more seasonal way of life, laughed a lot (my husband even made me laugh the day after my Dad died), cried with frustration at my inability to control my life and even understand how l'administration francaise works. I’ve made great friends but struggled to really feel a part of a community. I’ve been lonely, isolated and that wasn’t helped with bouts of mental health issues (post-partum anyone?).
I’m a yoga practising, marmite eating, Kale growing (Yes, Kale has a capital K because it is King), Erykah Badu loving Londoner who is an actress, deep tissue masseuse and healthy eating advocate after a chronic health issue in my early 20’s.
KarenFrenchinFrance is where I talk about all these things and more: my life in France, my discoveries about myself and the French and what it’s like living in France. I started the podcast I am French in 2020 to talk with other non-Frenchies about life in France. Check it out here!