Petite anglaise.

Damn. I’m about 6 years too late.

I just discovered that there’s an English woman living in Paris who started a blog in 2004. She wrote about her life in Paris, her little girl, her job as a secretary, her love-affair, her split with her bloke, and general observations on life as a mummy and as a “petite anglaise” (generic name for any female English person, regardless of whether they’re 4 or 6 foot tall). When her boss discovered her blog he sacked her, she wrote about it, and this caused massive uproar which shot her to fame. She went on to sign a whop-off contract with Penguin books, published her memoirs, and has just had her first novel come out; “French Kissing”. I went on her blog hoping it would be a bit cheap and clichéd and badly written, only to find it’s very funny and written with fantastic flair (http://www.petiteanglaise.com/). Damn damn damn. So the “English-woman-living-in-France-with-a-Brit’s-perspective-on-the-Froggy-culture-and-a-mummy’s-perspective-on-living-with-a-toddler” slot has been filled. She’s even snapped up the “petite anglaise” title. But I’M la petite anglaise, at least in my circle of friends, how dare she! It’s MY blog that’s meant to lead to great things! Me ME ME! AAAARRRRRGGCH! IT’S NOT FAIR! (cut to the kitchen floor where I lie sobbing in a tragic heap, trying to ignore the dog hairs tickling my nostrils and the squidgy pesto stains, as that spoils the moment)

Ahem. It’s going to take a while to digest this news.

I’ve been reading more and more of Catherine Sanderson’s blog and it has slowly dawned on me that yet another advantage of living in Paris as opposed to tiny weeny Gras village, is that millions of people can relate directly to it. Most of the world knows about Paris, either directly or through some sort of media. People either love, hate or dream of Paris. They know the places, or at least they know of them, so an entry about Belleville or the rue de la Roquette or Charbon Café rings familiar bells and carries an elegant charm. No-one knows about Gras. And no-one cares.

Another thumbs up for blogging from a city : you do a thousand different things a day, you’re brushed up against hundreds of people and situations, life is varied and busy and furnishes dozens of incidents a day to write about. Living in a village means you get a vague sighting of, ooh, at least two people a day, generally the same two, and you might run into a small dog or at least have to side-step a small dog poo (well at least there’s one thing Gras and Paris have in common). I see more pigs than people (maximum eight), although their numbers are dropping as the number of sausages produced goes up.

La petite anglaise also dared to write about her love affair and her consequent break-up with her partner. There is no way in a zillion years I could write about love-affairs and what-not as I would lose my man in a matter of milliseconds (although the time it would take him to read my blog and translate the dodgy bits means I’d probably have a bit of leeway to get visas for Brazil and organise an escape route) and I don’t want that to happen, despite him never folding the laundry. Erm … I’m not saying that I have love-affairs. Have had … maybe. Might have … erm … look, that’s what comes of living in France okay? These things are taken far more lightly. No need to get your knickers in a twist about it. In fact, the French don’t get their knickers in a twist. When I once used that term, translated into French of course, I got some very funny looks. I was in the boulangérie at the time and the woman behind us (who, it seemed to me, had done her chignon a tad too tightly that morning, which might have been the explanation for her short temper and slanty eyes) didn’t like the fact that Tommy wanted to touch her shoe buckles. “Sale! SALE!” she spat at him (“sale” meaning “dirty” – not that her buckles were half-price) and I wasn’t sure if she was saying he shouldn’t touch her shoes because it’s dirty to touch shoes or whether she was implying my beautiful toddler was a filthy beast who might give her the Black Plague. So I told her not to get her knickers in a twist (“il ne faut pas enmeler votre petite culotte” – just in case you fancy trying that phrase out for yourself) and was met with a number of pouts and “ppppppbbbbbbb” strawberry noises (but without the tongue – the French do them just with their lips – it’s a useful technique to master when living over here) from all around. As I was saying, the French put their knickers on properly where love-affairs are concerned.

What else? Ah yes, Catherine Sanderson got sacked. She herself says it was the best thing that ever happened to her. It was a huge scandal and it attracted so much attention that she became famous overnight. Hmmm … so I’ve not only got to find a job but then get sacked from it. And in the world of theatre no-one could care less about an actress getting sacked. In terms of people reacting it’s about the equivalent of accidentally stepping on an ant.

All of a sudden I feel like I’m onto a non-starter. I may as well go to bed. Only fifty of you read my blog yesterday and it looks like even less today. And why should anyone read this? Down and Out in Gras? Doesn’t have the same ring to it as Paris or London. Nor does “le Rosbif*” which is all that’s left for me as an identity now the pretty “petite anglaise” has been well and truly and magnificently taken. And the woodburner’s  just gone out. The end is well and truly nigh.

And then the feisty side of me kicks back in again. Okay, so I don’t live in Paris, so I won’t write about my private life, so I don’t have some sort of scandalous event brewing … what I do have is the advantage of living a totally off-the-beaten-track lifestyle which must surely intrigue a ton of people pondering over the city-vs-countryside conundrum, and and of having a zillion mad stories to tell from touring with circus and theatre companies, performing at the Paris Odéon, being the unfunniest clown in the history of showbiz, falling off stage, leaking milk from my boobs onto my fellow actors when Tommy was 3 months old and starting to cry for me in the dressing room … and I’ll have more stories to tell soon, as projects start to pick up again. And then I had another thought …

… La Petite Anglaise – The Film. And guess who’d play la petite anglaise? … yup – little old yours truly. Perfect. I’m the same age as Catherine S, I’ve also got long blonde hair, she did dance classes at Leighton Buzzard whereas I went to school in Newport Pagnell, and as for the Northern accent she slips into for the scenes where she phones her mum, well I went to university in Sheffield so that’s sorted. We could even disguise Tommy as Tadpole – he likes wearing pink – and he’s got the same bilingual toddler speech idiosyncrasies. It had got me bubbling this afternoon; I had already started learning my lines and practising wearing glasses… and then reality sank in. There WILL be a film version of la petite anglaise, because it’s just too juicy an opportunity to miss, but it won’t be for a year or two and by then I won’t be quite young enough to play the role and/or I’ll be pregnant and heavily elephant-shaped and Reese Witherspoon will get the lead role instead (cut to shot of me smothering myself in anti-wrinkle cream whilst doing upper-arm exercises).

Right, that’s it. I’m throwing in the towel and the flannel with it.

But I’ll be back. This has got me going.

(*”Rosbif” is the other generic name for all Brits over here. If you haven’t worked it out, it’s actually Roast Beef but they pronounce it Roz Biff and thus write it the way they do. Bless.)

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5 thoughts on “Petite anglaise.

  1. Catherine QUI?????!!!!! I’ve never heard of her. And I also don’t want to read about Paris – it’s very last decade. Gras is definitely where it’s at (unless of course you have to live there…). Might there be a role in the film for her older, fatter and slightly knackered sister who is in dire need of a hair wash if only she could be bothered to stop reading Grazia and find a clean towel…?

  2. I like reading your blog precisely because you DON’T go on about the Charbon Cafe (NO idea…)& the rue de wotsit. You HAVE to live in a village where nothing happens, so that you write well – if you lived in Paris you’d be so busy (sipping coffee at the Charbon Cafe I guess) & so you wouldn’t be writing the blog…
    Also, did you know that Cartier’s new Collection is called “Les Must”?? I recon Mr.Cartier himself has been reading….
    Now COME ON, stiff upper lip and all that – just bloody well get on with it….

  3. Those last two comments are from my sisters. They are slightly biased and very protective, but if it weren’t for them I would probably be cleaning loos in Milton Keynes shopping centre. Not that there’s anything wrong with cleaning the loos in MK shopping centre.

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