Posts Tagged ‘London’
There seems to be a general consensus, in the UK at least, that people in London are cold and unfriendly and I was wondering what other people’s experiences are.
It has always been my dream to live in France, from a very young age I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else. When I lived in France I always said I would never move back to the UK, I couldn’t envisage myself living anywhere other than France. Yet I have been living in the UK for nearly 3 years now, and in London for over 2 and a half of those years.
When I was at school I had friends whose dream was to move to London. When I was at university, further friends aspired to living in the capital. London was never a dream of mine, I ended up here by accident I suppose, as Hubs really wanted to live here so I thought “let’s give it a shot”. I never in my craziest dreams would have imagined living in London, and raising my family here.
So let’s dispel some myths here. London is an amazing city. It’s a great place to raise kids and we have a far better quality of life as a family here than when we lived on the French Riviera.
I am constantly amazed by how friendly people are here, be it fellow parents at L’s school, neighbours, staff in our local shops, bars and restaurants, as well as those in central London, fellow commuters, whoever.
Today is a prime example. I had to take C into central London on my own today; when I got to our local tube station I had a set of stairs to navigate down with the pushchair, it was 9.15am so I was catching the tail-end of rush hour, I had barely started on the stairs when a woman rushed up to me, offering to help.
When I arrived at my destination station, a woman took ill in the lift, not really visibly, but she was wobbly, pale and not 100%. A stranger, standing next to her, noticed this and helped her out of the lift, grabbed a member of TfL staff as they came out of the lift and asked for a place for the ill woman to sit down. The member of staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful either.
All I could think while I witnessed this was “is this the cold, unfriendly place I hear so much about?”.
So, is it just me? Do I only see all the good acts and people or do you also come across friendly, helpful, nice people in London?
One thing I can say is despite wanting to live in France for most of my life, for now I’m more than happy with our life in London
There are no words to explain how amazing a sunny bank holiday weekend in the UK is, so I’m going to use pictures instead. Here’s our fab weekend en famille in the sun:
Saturday saw L and I heading to our local park for some long overdue one-on-one time. She hung upside down. I took photos. I don’t do swinging on climbing frames these days.
On Sunday Hubs, L, C and I were joined by Hubs’ twin brother and girlfriend for everyone’s first visit to Kew Gardens. They lived up to everyone’s expectations and we had a wonderful, if tiring, day out soaking up nature in the sun.
We even managed to get a rare shot of the Franglaise family, even if you can’t really see Baby C fast asleep in her carrier!
We ended our lovely long weekend with a family picnic on the Common at the end of our road (I LOVE the fact that London is littered with these amazing green spaces!). L was delighted to have all the time in the world to climb “her” tree, C drank it all in from the picnic blanket, Hubs and I chilled in the open air and even managed a bit of reading (a favourite pastime of ours).
All in all it was a simple, but perfect weekend. Amazing what a bit of sun can do.
I am linking up with the Sticky Fingers blog and The Gallery for today’s blog post, where the theme is The Weekend. If you want to see other posts about the weekend, hop on over.
This week a 5 year old girl was taken whilst playing outside her family home. As a mum to a 5 year old girl this hit home very hard, and I can’t stop thinking about what those poor parents are going through.
Most of my Twitter and Facebook timelines showed total support for the family. Then little by little comments would come out about why she was playing outside at 7pm aged 5. These comments just seemed to increase as the days go by which is what has prompted this blog post.
Are any of the people making these comments parents to a 5 year old girl in that village? Have any of them won any awards for their parenting skills? I follow a lot of parents on Twitter and I am friends with a lot of parents on Facebook and in real life, and I would say that for the most part we are just trying to do our best – as we see it – for our kids.
My daughter is 5 years old and she sometimes plays outside at 7pm (more in the summer when the days are longer, it has to be said) and we live in London, not a Welsh village. She does this because I feel this is better for her than being cooped up inside, watching TV or playing on a games console. But also because I feel this is perfectly safe in the area where we live. Of course I wouldn’t allow this if I thought this might be dangerous for her.
Where do we draw the line between cosseting our children and letting them learn to become independent?
My mum happened to be with me yesterday and we got to talking about this and talking about what it was like when I was a kid, when she was a kid and even when her mum was a kid. You know what? It was the same, there were the same risks, but we were less aware of it because we didn’t have the same kind of news coverage and mass social media coverage that we have today. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing as it can help find missing people sooner, but that we were just unaware of how much it went on.
As my mum told me yesterday, she was approached by strange men on a couple of occasions as a child, whilst walking home in the dark in the 1950s, and my grandma got flashed at when she was a girl in the 1920s. It has always happened, but it doesn’t happen that much and most of the time the child involved is unharmed. Does that mean we need to lock our children up until they reach 18?
Mum and I talked about how when we were kids (in a new town, in the southeast of England in the late 1970s/early 1980s) we would go to play at the local park without adults, Mum would send us to the shops with money where we would have to negotiate roads, we would start off playing in one place then move on to another without telling our parents as we were too caught up in having fun. All of that before the days of mobile phones so we were uncontactable. Fair enough I wasn’t 5 years old but I was still primary school age. I would be surprised if there are many parents that allow their kids to do that now, whilst that was the norm for all the kids nearby when we were growing up.
You may disagree with that way of parenting, but it has taught my brothers and sisters and me to be self-confident and independent. What happens if kids get wrapped up in cotton wool and only ever kept under the watchful eyes of their parents? At what stage do they learn to fly on their own?
I am sure that April Jones’s parents are torturing themselves with “what ifs” and going over what happened, not to mention thinking about what might have happened between Monday evening and now. They need our support not our judgement.
As for me, does this change the way I raise my 5 year old? No. I make sure she knows that there are baddies out there and that you can’t tell them apart from goodies. She is aware of an adult who is just being friendly and chatting and one who is doing something “not right”. I have to hope that she will use this judgement if she ever gets into that kind of an awful situation. But I refuse to molly-coddle her or clip her wings. So go ahead and judge me instead.
Let’s face it though, my parents weren’t running much risk letting me out on my own, between that hair and those teeth, they knew I was pretty safe!
I am now 32 weeks pregnant and it has been such an interesting journey, comparing my pregnancy in France to my pregnancy here in the UK, so I thought I would share my comparisons of the two pregnancies.
Pregnancy N°1: The French One
When: March – December 2006
Where: St Vallier de Thiey, a village on the French Riviera, inland above Grasse and Cannes
- Permanent nausea 24/7 for the first three months.
- Permanent exhaustion 24/7 for the first three months.
- No real cravings, except wanting red wine whenever I saw a glass.
- Very low blood pressure (signed off work for this twice, in the first and last trimester.)
- Anaemic for most of the pregnancy.
- Stressful pregnancy, counting down each day.
- Horrific cankles (what are cankles?) from about month 4 until the birth.
- Weight gain of 13Kg (about 29lb) from start to finish, and a teeny tiny bump (this is me at nearly 42 weeks – excuse the highly unattractive photo!):
- A baby that I thought moved quite a lot.
- 45 minute commute door to door: driving from our home in the hills above Grasse to the office in the coastal town of Antibes.
- No ante-natal visits with midwives, all done with my gynaecologist/obstetrician.
- Virtually no ante-natal preparation/classes etc.
- Monthly appointments with my gynaecologist/obstetrician, with full weigh-in, blood pressure check and examination “down below”.
- Monthly blood tests in a separate lab for toxoplasmosis (more information about toxoplasmosis).
- Test for diabetes despite not being at risk.
- Scans offered at every monthly check-up if I wanted them, with 3 obligatory ones.
- Strict instructions given from the gynaecologist/obstetrician on what to avoid eating and drinking: no alcohol, no smoking, no raw meats or fish, no cheese made from unpasteurised milk, no foie gras, no shellfish, all meat to be cooked all the way through, all fruit and veg to be washed thoroughly etc.
- No mention of breast-feeding at all.
- An induced and very quick labour with epidural (more about that here) with the end result being a healthy little girl:
Pregnancy N°2: The English One
When: February – November 2012
- Very little nausea, and what I had was very easy to control.
- More tired than usual, but again it was easy to control.
- No real cravings, except wanting to eat lots of fresh fruit and having more of a sweet tooth than usual.
- Normal blood pressure.
- No problem with anaemia.
- A mostly stress-free pregnancy (except for the usual stresses and strains of daily life), with no big rush to get through it. This one has certainly whizzed by a lot faster.
- Cankles only making occasional appearances, when the UK weather is hot and when we were on holiday in sunny climes
- Weight gain of 9kg (about 20lb) so far and a much bigger bump, here I am at just 30 weeks this time round:
- A baby that doesn’t stop dancing. Ever. This is one active baby! I thought that L was a mover and shaker but this one beats her hands down.
- 45 minute commute door to door: a 7 minute walk to the tube station, an 18 minute ride on the Northern Line where I usually get given a seat, then a 7 minute walk the other side.
- All ante-natal visits carried out by different midwives at the local hospital where I will have this baby.
- Refresher NCT classes start tomorrow and I’m also doing hypnobirthing this time round. I’ll have more to report on that later…
- Fewer appointments than with L, I have been weighed once at the very start, my blood pressure is checked each time and to my amazement no one has ever examined me “down below”! This is the biggest shocker after pregnancy in France!!
- No mention of toxoplasmosis at all, except when I asked about it I was told that if I didn’t work on a farm then I shouldn’t worry about it. They did however tell me to wear gloves for gardening and for cleaning cat litter and to wash all fruit and veg thoroughly.
- No mention of a diabetes test.
- 2 scans at 12 and 20 weeks, plus an additional scan planned for 36 weeks to check the size of the baby as L was so tiny.
- A vague mention made of what to eat/avoid eating etc. Although during the first midwife appointment we did discuss alcohol and smoking.
- Breast-feeding talked about and the advantages clearly explained during a recent midwife appointment, despite me stating that I’m a huge advocate and that I breastfed L for 1 year and exclusively for 6 months, and that I fully intended to do it again.
- Hopefully a natural birth this time in a midwife-led suite in the local hospital, which I promise to report back on.
It is hard to say how much of the differences are because it is a second pregnancy, so the medical staff and B and I are more relaxed about the whole thing. Also for my pregnancy with L I had previously had a miscarriage so I’m sure that added a lot of stress as I wondered about my ability to carry a baby to term.
The biggest shocks for me are the fact that no one mentions anything about toxoplasmosis here, which is HUGE in France, both at check-ups/blood tests and when talking to other mums (I was always getting asked, “Tu as eu la toxo?” whenever discussing pregnancy with other women). The other thing that still amazes me is that no one has ever asked to look between my legs! Now I’m not a huge fan of a stranger poking and prodding about down there, but after that being such a regular occurrence at every single check-up for 9 months it France, it still astounds me that not one single person has looked down there yet! According to my UK mum friends this is common and you’ll only get looked at “down there” if you are overdue and need a sweep.
Fortunately I realised fairly quickly that no one was interested in what was going on in my knickers after my first check-up so I’ve stopped getting naked now for my appointments!
How did your pregnancies compare? Was it a boy/girl thing? A country comparison? An age comparison? I’d love to hear if you had any surprises with later pregnancies.
When we first moved back to the UK from France we were staying with my parents who live quite close to Windsor, so I suggested to B that we take L to Legoland for the day. Fortunately we didn’t actually mention it to L because when I went online to look at prices I was shocked to see that it would cost us around £100 just to get in, we would then need to add travel costs, parking costs, lunch etc. We decided then and there that Legoland would just have to be a one-off very exceptional treat for a birthday in the future.
Shortly after, we moved to London, got jobs, got settled and started looking around for activities to do with L. I am delighted to say that in London you are so totally spoilt for choice when it comes to children’s activities, for all seasons and all budgets, but that will have to wait for another post another day. Because the one thing that I did discover through one of my local Twitter followers, and that has changed our family social life, is the Merlin Annual Pass.
Merlin Entertainment Group is the company behind many of the top attractions in London and the surrounding areas. What I found out is that if you go to one of these just for the day you can expect to pay around £100 (for our family of 3), however if you get the annual pass you can go an unlimited number of times* making it incredibly cost-effective.
So where can you visit with your pass?
Chessington World of Adventures, as we did yesterday to make the most of our lovely late summer’s day.
Legoland in Windsor.
Madame Tussaud’s in London.
The London Eye.
The Sea Life London Aquarium.
It also gets you in to the London Dungeon (which we did one weekend when we were child-free), Thorpe Park and for those wanting to go further afield there is also Alton Towers and more.
Like all these types of annual pass it is only economical if you are going to use it regularly, which we do. The current online price for a family of 3 is £315.90, however renewals are cheaper and we paid just £256 for the 3 of us for our second year. The added bonus for us is that Baby n°2 gets in free until he/she is 3 years old.
We used our pass 12 times in the first year, which worked out as £26 the day out. So far this second year we have used it once a month, and at the lower rate of £256 that means just £21 for a fab day out for the whole family. We tend to go to the same attractions as they are closest to us, but I find you can go time and again. For example I took L on the London Eye just the two of us one day when B was busy, then B and I went on it one evening after work at dusk before going out for dinner which was very romantic; we have been to Legoland 3 times now but still have at least a quarter of the park that we haven’t covered and we haven’t tried out Thorpe Park yet.
I don’t work for Merlin or have anything to do with them and they haven’t provided anything for me for free, but we use this so often and the whole family loves these days out that I just wanted to share. I’m so glad it was shared with me.
* There are some restrictions depending on what type of pass you go for. The above prices refer to the standard annual pass for a family of 3 which has some date limitations, for example it doesn’t work for a lot of attractions in August.
Today is B’s and my 9th wedding anniversary. On the 2nd August 2003 we said “I do” and “oui” in a civil ceremony at the “hôtel de ville” in Cagnes sur mer (near Nice) first of all, and then at an English church in Cannes, before heading inland to Vence to party under the stars until gone 4am. Here we are in our youthful glory:
It was the most amazing day of my life and I think I’m right in saying neither of us would change a thing about it, and every year we celebrate the fact that we’re still crazily in love with each other despite the for worses and thanks to the for betters.
Our first wedding anniversaries were modest affairs, what with it all being new to us and they were fairly shambolic, as it wasn’t clear who was supposed to be organising the celebration. Presents and cards were a bit hit and miss (the French don’t really do cards and it used to drive me loopy that B never got me a card….he’s since realised that a quick trip to a card shop is a relatively painless way to make me happy!)
After several years of up and down wedding anniversary celebrations we hit upon an idea that has worked for us ever since, and that numerous friends have copied too in order to have a successful wedding anniversary. It’s fairly simple, and some of you may already do this – we take it in turns to organise a surprise celebration. So every year you are either organising the surprise or being surprised, both of which are great fun.
We have been to see top London musicals, stayed at lovely hotels, supped at fab restaurants and just generally had some lovely one-on-one time together.
Our rules are simple (you might want to change these slightly depending on your situation):
- The celebration itself is paid for from our joint account and we tend to fix an approximate budget for this at the start of the year when we work out our finances for the year.
- We set a budget for presents (something usually quite modest – this year it was £40 each) and this comes from our personal bank accounts.
- We usually aim to do a daytime thing, an evening thing and stay away in a hotel overnight to avoid being faced with dealing with a child the next morning.
(We have to say a HUGE thanks to my parents who have dealt with L for us many a time on our anniversary weekend so we can make like newly-weds again!)
Here are some things we’ve done in the past to celebrate:
2012 – Organiser: B (last weekend)
Daytime: Camden Market for mooching around, lunch outside and a spot of shopping. (He had planned a trip down the river from central London to Greenwich until I pointed out that during the Olympics this was probably best avoided.)
Evening: A burlesque show called Wam Bam at the Café de Paris in the West End. I’m not sure that B realised exactly what was in store for us, but it was all good fun, although we did refrain from buying any nipple tassles.
Night: L was staying at my parents’ and for the first time in around 3 years we had the house to ourselves so decided to come home rather than go to a hotel.
2011 – Organiser: me
Daytime: The London Dungeons (in my defence I gave B a selection of places to choose from and this is what he went for!)
Evening: The final Harry Potter at the cinema in Leicester Square. Not quite a West End musical but we are both huge fans.
Night: A cheap deal on a hotel near Marble Arch.
Next day: As we were free the whole of the next day too and the weather was gorgeous we had a glorious picnic in Hyde Park, dozing, reading and chatting.
2010 – Organiser: B
Daytime: Strolling around Kensington Gardens.
Evening: Les Misérables in the West End.
Night: A lovely hotel overlooking Kensington Gardens.
We have been able to participate in such great anniversary weekends since we moved to the UK and got decent jobs with good salaries, however when we were living in France and running our own business it was a different story, so we had to make do with a more basic version. One year we really had no money to be able to celebrate at all, we only had the evening and we hadn’t been out for weeks, so we had a toned down celebration.
We bought some lovely food from the deli counter at Carrefour, a nice bottle of wine and we went and sat on the beach in Nice and had a romantic beach picnic. After which we went to the cinema to see….the latest Harry Potter – in English (this is a big deal when living in France and all films are subtitled!).
This cost us next to nothing and as we hadn’t had any social life it felt amazing.
When you are busy, tired and skint it’s easy to overlook your anniversary and not do much for it, but making the effort to be together as a couple and celebrate saying I do is well worth putting time and effort into. And I officially give you the right to use our little system. Happy wedding anniversary!
If my blog bio wasn’t enough for you, here is some more information about me….
Franglaise Mummy pretty much sums me up: I lived in the UK for the first 22 years of my life before heading to Nice, France after graduating. I had a 3 month return ticket and aimed to spend the summer working in a bar, going to the beach and partying. In less than a month I’d decided to stay on indefinitely….I finally moved back to the UK 12 years and 18 days after going out there as a very different person at 22.
After deciding to stay on in France I set about looking for a serious job and becoming more “French” and less of an expat. Here is a brief summary of my life on the French Riviera age 22 – 34:
I lived in 1 city, 2 towns and 1 village, from the beaches of Nice to the countryside of St Vallier de Thiey which is over 700 metres above sea level and where we had snow every year.
I worked as a barmaid, I cleaned yachts, I cleaned toilets, I worked as a secretary for a man who I later discovered was involved in the Russian mafia, and who I saw on the news in handcuffs one night (whilst I was working for him!), I taught English in businesses, I worked as a PA again and this time my boss was put on gardening leave while the company investigated him for fraud and for stealing company money, I worked in marketing and PR, I ran my own luxury travel agency with my husband which nearly brought an end to our union! My final job in France was running my own business working for a woman who declared herself to be a witch and to know how to cure cancer, and doing some final English teaching to babies and children. After this panoply of jobs I was quite glad to move back to the UK and get a “normal” job in a marketing agency in London.
I had a 3 year relationship with my first French boyfriend, resulting in a mortgage, 2 French cats, an adorable set of in-laws who I still class as my family today and a broken heart. Despite this I decided to stick around in France and I’m glad I did as I then met my husband on a drunken night in a bar in the old town of Nice in December 2001. What I have got out of this relationship is another mortgage, a French dog, 2 English cats, my soul mate and our incredible and fabulous half English, half French daughters.
To everyone’s shock and amazement, in June 2010, fed up with the lack of job opportunities and never-ending petty bureaucracy in France, hubs and I made the huge decision to move (back) to the UK. In the next month we sold nearly everything we had, handed in notices, packed up a tiny van of a few key belongings, booked a one-way flight, had a few drunken farewell parties and headed to my parents’ house with L and our hopes high. I never thought that at age 34 I’d be moving back into my childhood home along with my husband and 3 year old daughter but that’s what happened as we job-hunted and then house-hunted.
In the last 2 years or so we’ve settled into our UK way of life very well and it’s made me realise that whether we live in the UK or France or anywhere else I will now be leading my life the Franglaise way.
So where am I at now? Living with hubs, L (our 6 year old daughter), C (our baby daughter, born in London in November 2012), Courage (French dog pronounced Koo-rarj), Ruby (French cat), Gavin & Smithy (English cats) in southwest London. I usually work full-time while L goes to school but I’m currently on maternity leave, looking after L and C.
This blog is about my personal experiences of the differences in pregnancy, birth and raising babies and children the French and the English way. I am not condoning nor condemning either way, merely stating how it is/was for me, which doesn’t necessarily mean that is how it is for everyone in the UK or France.
With that disclaimer I’ll sign off and say thanks for reading!