Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A product of your environment?

A couple of weeks ago, we started watching a program on BBC3 (from what I have read on other blogs, BBC3 and BBC4 audiences differ widely, please educate me as I haven't got a clue what the difference is between them) called 'Peckham Finishing School for girls'. I know it sounds like a trashy, reality TV kind of program. We started watching it because some of Mr Foodie's relatives live in London and he did find himself in Peckham. I, on the other hand, wouldn't be able to place Peckham on a map, and had never heard of it apart from Mr Foodie's stories. Also, since Glee finished, we need to fill the big void that have become our Wednesday evenings.

Basically, the program centers around 8 girls, 4 upper class, rich girls who have never wanted for anything, and 4 girls from Peckham which I now know is one of the roughest neighbourhoods in London. I believe the aim of the program is to educate one extreme of the society spectrum with the other. The 'golden girls' are portrayed as your stereotypical stuck up upper class person, all about shopping, partying, playing polo, proper etiquette and have never met (it seems) anybody outside of their high upper class social circle. The Peckham girls are portrayed as the opposite stereotype, the somewhat aggressive chavs living on benefits, in a derelict crime ridden estate.

It's full of the usual stereotypes which make me cringe and it feels that none of them really want to learn from each other's life and everything will go back to normal after the show. Some of these 'fish out of water' programs sometimes lead to changes in people but I really think this one is doomed. They won't keep in contact, there won't be any life changing act of kindness at the end of it. It won't make for memorable TV and certainly won't be TV anthology. But, as there has to be a but, it got me thinking (oops, watch that steam coming out of my ears!): Are we a product of our own environment?

Of course, you can't answer this question without generalizing. I don't have enough knowledge and experience of what it's like to grow up on a crime ridden estate, or on the other type of estate (the one with mansions and horses) to be able to answer without generalizing. But I think the program really shows that, to a point, you are. The girls' speech, accents, vocabulary, dress sense, attitudes all prove to be the result of how and where they grew up and what they had to deal with in their life. Now, I don't believe for a second that you can't break free from your environment and are doomed forever to live on an estate if that's where you grew up. But you will always carry with you something, whether it be skills or knowledge from that environment.

What I know for sure us that I, for one, am a product of my environment. I grew up in a middle class working family in the countryside. Although I knew that it happened, I never really encountered drugs or crime until I went to college. I am not street wise. I am somewhat naive when it comes to all this. Where I come from, we are all pretty polite to each other, I never witnessed fights, bar brawls, shouting in the street, public drunkenness etc until I was in my late teens. I am comfortable with my own company having grown up with no neighbours my age. I love food because my mum and dad were into food. I love reading because that's pretty much all there was to do where I lived. I have the same political opinions as my parents. I am not comfortable with aggressive behaviour and name calling because I never grew up with that kind of thing. I am not good at answering tit for tat when being verbally challenged because I never really had to. I was kind of sheltered from some of the hard realities of life. I am, to a point, the stereotypical country girl even though I have lived in an urban environment for more than 12 years now.

I can safely say that Mr Foodie is also a product of his environment. He grew up in a working class urban environment and is a lot wiser than I am. He has seen a lot more than I have. He knows how to react in some situations in which I would only panic and be completely out of my depth.

We were recently talking to someone we know, who happens to live in what would be considered an underprivileged area. And I was amazed (yet slightly uncomfortable) at how they were describing the everyday life there. Police raids taking place, drug dealing, stealing from shops, people in and out of jail, name calling from a young age etc. Yet, they were relating these events in the same way my grand father used to tell me about his vegetables growing in the garden. Things I would personnally be horrified to witness on a daily basis were just 'normal' for them. Not that they approved of them, far from it, but they had developed a 'That's life, it does happen' kind of attitude, some kind of shell that I don't think I could develop. Don't get me wrong, I know it happens, I have seen it happen but it doesn't make me anymore comfortable with it.

I have also seen how children adapt to the environment they are in. Marie has sometimes come back from Noodleland using words we don't use, speaking differently to the way we speak, or with knowledge on some things that we didn't give to her (like how to french kiss age 5, anybody?). Children, in some socio-economic conditions, have to grow up a lot faster than they should. And I don't think that's right.

Which is why I am glad we are moving to the countryside. Some people might say that I am trying to shield my children away from reality and I suppose I am. I am just trying to give my children the best conditions for them to grow in (without making them sound like some kind of fruit or vegetable), keeping their innocence a bit longer. They won't be living completely in a bubble, ignoring even the existence of things like these but they won't get to experience them first hand, day in, day out. They will gain from my and Mr Foodie's experience and hopefully will become a product of our own environment, a mix of streetwise country naivety, if that's ever possible. I certainly don't want them to be like either of the groups from that program, one completely clueless to life outside their golden cage, and the other that has seen too much in too little time.

So what do you think? Are you a product of your environment? Or do you think my theory is completely flawed? Let us know!

Monday, June 28, 2010

I need a holiday!

With the imminent move and everything else that has happened this month (the cat has deflated, by the way, all by itself!) I need a nice holiday. Heck! I need a nice long holiday, preferably in a nice luxury hotel.

A bedroom like that would suit me just fine!

So to my surprise, I have found a competition being held by Radisson Blu. It's called The Greatest Holiday in the world.

Radisson Blu are offering 365 hotel nights to spend in more than 200 Radisson Blu hotels across the world over a period of 5 years. 1 year of free hotel nights! I immediately imagined that the process to win such a luxury prize would be quite daunting, like writing a novel or something along those lines. But no, it is very simple. You need to visit their website, the greatest holiday in the world, and leave an entry describing why you deserve to win. You can also upload videos or pictures to make your point even further. I'm sure if these people witnessed a day in my life, they would award me the prize straight away! Visitors to the website vote for their favourite entry and whoever has the most votes by July 24th gets to win the prize. Easy!

Please note that this competition is only opened to EU citizens, or citizens from Norway, Liechstenstein, Iceland and Switzerland.

On top of this competition, they are also holding Creativity Awards. Every week, the people at Radisson Blu select 10 of the most creative, funny and original entries and award them with a special Creativity Badge (and a special Radisson Blu prize too). But winning a Creativity award will not only allow you to win that but it will also raise your profile and drive more traffic to your entry, hence the potential to earn more votes. Does that make sense? Are you still following me?

Now, it's time to put my thinking cap on and come up with the most witty, funny, original fantastical entry that will win the judges hearts.

Would you enter? Why would you say you deserve that fantastic prize? Leave us a little comment and let us know!
Sponsored Post

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Business and Pleasure.

People often say: ' You can't mix business and pleasure.' (Or variants thereof). My answer to them is: 'Why not?'

What if you discovered a way of doing so? What about mixing blogging (pleasure) and business (making a bit of money for it)? Well, I have just discovered a new platform that allows me to do both. It's called ebuzzing.

Ebuzzing is a platform that has been connecting bloggers and advertisers in France since 2007 and has now launched in the UK . By broadcasting campaign videos on your blog (with dedicated players or banners as pictured below), or simply writing an article on something you genuinely like, you could be earning a bit of money for yourself (I can see a new pair of shoes winking at me!).


All you need to do is register on Once you have registered, you will have access to many advertising campaigns by well known brands (Coca Cola, L'Oreal, Intel only to name a few). There is no pressure to write about something you don't want to write about, you chose the campaigns you want to talk about, you recommend only what you want to recommend. You apply for the campaign, write a post following the brief and submit it. Once your post is approved and up and running for a bit, ding dong, you get paid for it. It's as simple as that! I always thought that to incorporate monetisation into your blog was complicated, how wrong was I? It is so simple and easy with Ebuzzing!

Still not sure? Why don't you take a look at their blog post called 'Why you should join Ebuzzing' and have a peek at some previous campaigns?

They also run a referral program for bloggers in the UK (not sure about Ireland though), in which you can get a bonus if people sign up and write at least one article (details on their website)

Convinced yet?

Well, I was. Why don't you try it?

Sponsored Post

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Living in chaos.

We are living in complete chaos at the moment. I have started packing for our move (next week!!!) and honestly, it can't come fast enough now. I have come to dislike greatly that state of limbo we are living in. There are still quite a few days to go so there are a number of things that can't be packed just yet (why can't we just live of fresh air and naked for a week!). Whatever has been packed already has just left a sense of emptiness where it used to belong. Empty bookshelves are staring back at me. Wires that used to be hidden by boxes and other various storage units are now exposed, very much to Noelie's delight and curiosity. And still despite that feeling of emptiness, it also feels like chaos, everything else is out and scattered everywhere. Boxes and bags are piling up, cluttering every bit of the already small space we have. We are stumbling over boxes and bags in the hallway, in the bedrooms, in the kitchen. There are so many things that can't be packed still that it leaves me with a feeling of uselessness. I'm just staring at what's left and can't seem to realize how much I have done already. I'm getting overwhelmed by how much there is still to do. I try and take it a day at the time and pack a room at a time, but there is still so much that I have to live in situ because we still have a week to go. Maybe it's because we are already shifting some of our belongings to Mr Foodie's mum and dad's that I can't seem to realize that I did pack quite a lot already. It feels like I'm not packing enough and that we will never be ready and yet, in a quite ironic way, I can't get myself to take down all our ornaments and pictures hanging from the wall because I don't want to aggravate that feeling of limbo, strange, hey?

 Marie is very excited and is counting the days too. We registered her in her new school last week and she came with us and met the Principal. It is going to be quite a change for her. She is moving from a 300+ pupils school with class sizes between 28 and 30 to a 120 odd pupils one and a class of 19. From an education point of view, it is going to be much better, should she need extra help. The school is also being renovated and a whole new part of the school is due to open in September, with state of the art white boards, projectors, laptop and wireless mouse in every classroom. She is also delighted that she will be wearing a dress or skirt to school, a proper uniform rather than the not so nice blue tracksuit that she gets to wear everyday in her current school.
The next couple of weeks are going to be so so so busy. There are changes of address forms to fill in here and there, contracts to cancel and contracts to set up with such and such provider. Van rental to organize, Plans of actions to decide (Mr Foodie loves his POAs). Lists to make. More boxes and bags to pack. All that on top of normal 'duties' and appointments. And what am I doing? Well I'm sitting here blogging! Why, because it helps me put things in perspective. But somebody please come out of the screen and give me a good kick!

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's all going down the drain...

OK, just to set the scene. I grew up in a football (soccer if anybody reads from outside Europe, you never know!) family. Not just the 'watch it on TV' football family, the 'out there on the pitch' one. My dad used to play at a fairly honourable level when I was born and, by the age of 2 months, I was out by the side of the pitch every Sunday, whatever the weather.

He then set up a ladies team, which included my mum, and 4 of my 5 aunts at the time (and other girls too of course). He eventually ended up coaching the main men's team of our local club, then moved to another club and was in charge of the kids team my brother played in for a good 15 years. 5 out 6 of my uncles play(ed) football. My grand father was a referee, my grand mother was secretary of the football club. When he wasn't coaching or playing, there was always a game to watch on TV or a meeting to go to.

I grew up on the side of a football pitch, played football myself until I wasn't allowed to play with boys anymore. There also were the tournaments in the summer, which I used to love going to, as most of my friends were playing (I always got on better with guys than I did girls), not to mention other fit footballers from other towns and countries too. Later on, my friends and I used to help with the local tournament, serving at the drinks stand, decorating the hall etc. I used to be called upon to translate for the foreign teams, in broken English or Spanish. In France, a lot of girls started liking football after the 1998 World Cup, because we won it, because the players are nice to look at, because boys would pay more attention to you if you said that you liked football. I wasn't one of them, I was really interested in football, I could (and still can) explain the offside rule, I can tell if that was a yellow or a red, a corner or a goal kick.

I might not follow football as much as I used to but I still watch it sometimes, especially if France or Ireland are playing. Mr Foodie is more of a rugby person and I find myself starting to enjoy rugby a lot more too.

So, of course, the World Cup is on. I had decided not to post on it, because of the shameful way we got to qualify against Ireland. I still supported France of course and hoped that they would win. But something happened last week that made me change my mind. One of the players was sent home on Friday for insulting the manager at half time of the game against Mexico. He told him to 'F*** Off, you son of a b****'. And it made it onto the front page of the national sports newspaper. Not just the fact that he insulted him, the actual words (and not bleeped as I did here) were printed on the front page. And that's just wrong on so many levels.

First off, the newspaper should have had more sense than to print the actual words on the front page. They should have had more respect for their readers and their families. Young kids walking into the newsagents that day got to see those words in bold letters on the front page. I know that particular newspaper likes controversial headlines but this one is just plain disrespect for their readers.

Second of all, don't get me wrong, I know what happens in dressing rooms. From both sides. I know what it's like from the manager's side, I know what it's like from the player's side. I have seen and heard what has been said to my dad as a manager, and I have seen and heard my friends complaining and cursing at their manager even at the lowest of playing levels. So I have no illusions, I know it happens at all levels. What I can't accept is the lack of professionalism. These players are role models for young kids who look up to them, who dream of, maybe, one day, being like them. My dad and my brother, both, manage young players. They do their best to instill a love of the game, respect for all people involved, fair play and fairness. And I feel like all their hard work as educators has been completely and utterly obliterated by the fact that such a high profile player has now made it acceptable to talk to their manager that way. Especially, since he refuses to apologise.

Thirdly, the whole French team refused to train yesterday in support of him, in protest against the decision to send him home. A so called solidarity that they don't have and never had either on or off the pitch. There have been talks of players ostracizing other players because they don't have the same background, they're not 'ghetto' enough, they don't talk the same way, don't listen to the same music. A fist fight nearly broke out between a player and one of the technical managers, in front of cameras. They're looking for the 'mole' who leaked the story to the press. They're calling for that person to be sacked. What kind of message does that send to young players?

So, mes chers Bleus, I am just completely disgusted at all of you, players, technicians, managers and federation. I have a feeling that you do not want to be at the World Cup. Well, in that case, you should have let a team that really wanted to go be there instead of making it in such a controversial, un-fairplay, shameful manner. I'm sure Ireland would have enjoyed it a lot more than you and we did. And they would have made people here dream a lot more than you did (and god knows, we need to dream here in Ireland).

You are sending the completely wrong message to young kids. Your heart was never in that tournament. The size of your ridiculous wages can only be topped by the size of your equally ridiculous egos. You have slashed a lot of people's dreams and hopes and are laughing at everybody who might have been supporting you. You act like little scumbags (excuse my french but I am just so so so very annoyed). And you succeeded in achieving more damage to your sport than anybody else before, undermining a lot of the hard work done by honest, passionate educators who do so in their spare time and for no money whatsoever, just for their love of the game. The same people that helped you to get where you are now, who nurtured your talent and helped you to grow. And that, you see, mes chers Bleus, that's not Football.
So thank you for having achieved, with brio might I add, the opposite to what a national team should do. Thank you for having stained forever the national team. Les Bleus made us dream, they made us cry with joy, they united the nation back in 1998. You have just managed to ridicule that same nation all because of your attitude off the pitch. Thank you for having completely ignored the basic values of football, those of respect, equality, fairplay and fairness. The same values that educators, in all types of conditions and environments try and instill in young players.
You do not deserve to be called les Bleus.
Definitely not yours anymore,
Foodie Mummy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My first ever review: Bayard Press Children's magazines

Imagine my delight when I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago asking me if I would be interested in reviewing some children magazines from Bayard Press.

Having grown up in France, I am very familiar with Bayard Press publications. From the time I could read until I was 16, I had a subscription to some of their magazines. I remember my delight whenever it arrived. I would rip the plastic wrapper apart and get stuck in. The stories were always interesting, sometimes based on legends or historical events. Their other articles on nature, world events etc were always informative. So I jumped at the chance, hoping that their English publications would live up to what I remembered off the french ones.

When people think of children magazines, they think of cheap plastic toys that break within minutes of being opened and not very profound comics with well known characters. I have to admit I am not a big fan of them. I buy them because Marie loves to read and she will read anything that she can find. But I think that now, she has outgrown most of the magazines I can find. And I refuse to get her any of those tweenagers magazines that come with war paint make up or anything like that.

We received 3 magazines: Story box (aimed at 3 to 6 years old), Adventure Box (aimed at 6 to 9 years old) and Discovery Box (9 to 12 years old). Upon opening the envelope, I was delighted to see that the format had not changed much from what I remembered. I enlisted Marie's help to see what she thought of them.

We started off with Story Box. Although aimed at children slightly below Marie's age and reading level (although she is only 7, she is on the penultimate Harry Potter book and a real book worm), she really enjoyed it. It contains a book length, beautifully illustrated story called 'A Donkey for Two'. It is based on a common Arabic legend and it's moral pretty much reads that no matter what you do, people will always have an opinion and you shouldn't let it bother you. Marie particularly enjoyed learning about sloths in the Nature article, and 'What happens to the rubbish we throw out' especially since this year she has learned a lot about the environment in school. She also enjoyed the couple of pages of games. So, despite being for a younger audience, it gets a thumbs up from Marie. 

We then moved onto Adventure Box, which is aimed at children around Marie's age (6-9). It contained a 44 page chapter story, based on the Greek mythology legend of Atalanta. The story was well written and easy to understand. There also were a few footnotes explaining certain aspects of Ancient Greek life such as soothsayers (or oracles) and gyneaceums. She particularly enjoyed the feature on buttercups in which she learnt the proper names for the different parts of the flower and also that you should not put a buttercup in your mouth and why. She had a good laugh at the Tom and Lily comic. I was gladly surprised to see that this particular comic was still part of the magazine as I used to love it (you don't change a winning team!). We played the games together. She also enjoyed the last comic, Ariol.

The last magazine we received is called Discovery Box and is aimed at children from 9 to 12 years old. In this one, the focus shifts more onto science, nature and history rather than getting your children to enjoy reading. Marie read it and enjoyed it however, I believe, that she did not understand it all since it is for older kids. I read it too and found it very interesting. Once again, the format is the same from what I remember. I found it a great source of information and help for homework when I was in school especially when it came to projects. This magazine offers insight into the world of animals with beautiful pictures and great information. It tackles science in an exciting way and brings it to life with experiments. History features through a picture story followed by a few illustrated pages of information. It also offers easy recipes for children, insight into sport, and various other topics.

So I am really happy that the 3 magazines we received lived up to what I remembered of the French ones. Some people might say that I am trying to relive my childhood, but I am seriously considering subscribing to this one. For me, it ticks all the boxes when it comes to children's magazines. They all are entertaining, informative and educational.

To get an idea of what the magazines look like, or to subscribe, just visit the Bayard Press website. Subscriptions for a year (10 issues) cost £39 (UK only), or 65 euros for other European countries.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cybermummy ticket to win.

For those who don't know it yet: Where on earth have you been hiding? Cybermummy is a conference organised by 3 great mummy bloggers: Sian at MummyTips, Jennifer on AlphaMummy and Susanna at A Modern Mother on how to start your own blog, improve your blog, make it more visible etc. The day promises to be full of great tips and great bloggers to meet. Now, I won't be going (everybody goes Awwwww). I'll be moving that week end also the fact that it takes place in a different country doesn't help. I personally don't have a ticket to give away, but Arthritis Research UK do. All you need to do to be in with a chance to win is become a follower of ArthritisRUK on Twitter and retweet it. Easy as pie. They will randomly select a winner on Wednesday.

So, for any of you who would love to go but don't have a ticket yet, give it a try!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who wants to join my rollercoaster?

This past week has been just that: a roller coaster! Highs and lows, stomach churning moments, heart in your mouth moments, exhilaration.

It all started on Friday. Mr Foodie had been invited to a stag night in town. So it was a girl's night in for Marie, Noelie and myself. We had it all planned out. We were going to have a party. In our house, a party consists of snacks and a drink (Coke for Marie and a nice glass of wine for myself). While I was getting Noelie to bed, Marie carefully laid out the snacks on the table. We then proceeded to watch 3 episodes of Glee. I have to admit we are all Gleeks in this house. We usually watch the episode and record it before allowing Marie to watch it (just in case!). With the sun shining and busy weekends, she was 3 episodes behind. So we decided to catch up. We spent the evening singing, dancing, laughing and cuddling on the sofa. Then, we went to bed and watched the end of Night at the Museum, cuddled up in bed together. The perfect evening in with my girls (although Noelie was asleep!)

Saturday was another busy day, involving a trip to Ikea to check out some furniture for our new house (we're moving in on the 1st of July! Yeah!). I am extremely proud to say that I managed to go to Ikea and not buy anything at all. Nothing, Nada, Zilch, Rien. Not a thing. Not even a tiny little gadget for next to nothing. It took a superhuman effort on my part. I just figured that there is no point adding to the long list of things we need to move. I will take a trip down once we are settled. There are plenty of drawers and presses to fill in our new kitchen!

Sunday was decision time. Marie was going to her father's and he was to inform me of his decision on the new access proposal I had drawn up. He wasn't there when I dropped her off in the morning. So we had to wait until pick up time. The day was spent trying to figure out anything he could object to or request. And how far we would be prepared to go to see the proposal accepted. I was quite nervous. Although he could not do anything to prevent us from moving, he could potentially put a big spanner in the works by not agreeing. So what did he say, I hear you shout. Well he agreed to it! His only problem was with a small detail that we had anticipated and had figured out an alternative for. A wave of relief washed over me and Mr Foodie. Isn't it funny how people surprise you sometimes? We were expecting him and his family to be quite awkward, difficult to deal with and expected them to probably try and bargain more access than I offered. After months of animosity and 'fighting', it looks like things are starting to settle down and we might be able to communicate and agree on some things. We will never forget what they put us through, we will never be friends with them. But we can do amicable and reasonable.

It turns out the most difficult person to deal with, when it comes to the move, is somebody we thought was our friend which we made a point to go and visit over the week end too. The whole time of the visit was spent ignoring the elephant in the room. Nothing was said about the move but it was there, like a wedge. Maybe it's just me reading into something that's not there but Mr Foodie felt it too. The subject was just completely avoided. It was quite disappointing but, at the end of the day, like a lot of you kindly commented last week, it's her loss not ours.

Monday was to say the least unusual. We woke up early enough and let the cat out as we do every morning. She came back 5 minutes later, triple her size. We tried to find a vet but, being a bank holiday Monday, the only option was the Veterinary clinic on the other side of town. So off we went, kids and kittens in tow to the clinic. The vet had never seen anything like this before. It turns out that somehow, without any sign of trauma, air is getting under her skin. Trust us to find the only inflatable cat in town! She stayed in the clinic for the day and they managed to deflate her a bit (not a very clinical term and one that nobody seems to be able to say without holding their laugh). We picked her up and her kittens in the evening. And went home. At which point, Noelie started to develop a fever. We gave her Nurofen and she settled for the night. She woke up a few times during the night and got up on Tuesday morning with a fever again.

We had to take the cat to the vet again in the afternoon as she had re inflated. Noelie was getting increasingly difficult. She ate a lot less than usual, was irritable and her fever came back. So off we went to the hospital to get her checked out, thinking it might be another kidney infection. Thankfully, her sample came back clear and it seems to be only some kind of viral infection. Let's just say that we were all exhausted yesterday having come home at about 1am from the hospital. Noelie was not the best yesterday again. Her temperature was going up and down. She was not hungry, which is quite unusual for her since she would eat anything anytime of the day (a firm favourite seems to be the fallen Cheerios from under the table! What? Do you think I had the time or energy to hoover this week end?). And she managed to get sick in my top of all places. Not on herself, not on my top but down my top. Bras are great at catching sick falling down your top. Forget about crumbs, sick is the way to go. Mr Foodie, who was in another room at the time, did not understand why I was shouting that I needed a shower at 4pm!

After that, she settled and later on managed to eat some toast and drink her bottle and even go back to her usual self. She slept great and woke up with a very mild temperature this morning. She had breakfast and it stayed down, she went for a nice long nap and managed to eat some soup and another bit of toast and it's still there in her tummy. Her temperature hasn't returned. Hopefully, it will not come back. She is fast asleep as I type this but I have to wake her up to go and pick up her sister from school. And the cat is still inflated...

Such was the roller coaster of my life these past few days, anybody care to join me?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Friend or...?

We told our families we were thinking about moving a while back and they all supported us. Of course, there were a few questions asked. At first, it was the normal Where, When, Why. The when and why were easy enough to figure out. The where took a bit longer.

When: at the end of the school year. There was no point taking Marie out of her environment for only a few weeks. It made sense to wait until she was finished school. It would also put a lot more pressure on us to move in at the week end and try to squeeze the whole moving thing between other commitments. The summer seemed to be the perfect time.

Why: The idea first came to us as a very practical: 'How can we save money?'. The first 'no effort really necessary' cut was toll charges. Mr Foodie passes through a toll bridge everyday, twice a day. If I go and meet him, I too pass through it. At the week end, if we decide to give Mr Foodie's parents a visit, we pass through it. So really we use the toll, everyday of the week, twice a day. After looking at a few places, we realized we could save on the rent too. Add to that a better quality of life in the countryside, more space, a safer environment (well I think) for the girls. And that's the why.

Where: we recently discovered as I blogged about yesterday.

So now the questions are becoming a bit more practical such as how far is this and that, what is the school like, how will access work for Marie etc. Once again, everybody was really supportive, offering their help and cars for the move. One of them also told us that we would be mad to pass this opportunity. We know it will take a bit of adjusting, there will be no more take aways (emm let me think more money saving and a healthier lifestyle, not such a bad thing after all), no more popping to the shop for this or that (and coming back with an extra packet of biscuits, more money saved.), more planning when it comes to food shopping. But I'm a country girl, my parents live in the countryside and I'm used to that. That's the way I grew up! Mr Foodie, I'm sure, will get used to that despite having grown up in the city.

So why this post, you might ask. We all know you're moving and you are delighted and you found a great spot. Why this post, stop rubbing our noses in it? (I'm not really, am I?). Well because we were a bit taken aback by one of our friends reactions. On Tuesday, we called our landlord, who is also a family friend. It does make it a bit harder to announce that you are moving out than a total stranger. But I think he understood that it was strictly business and nothing personal. So after telling him, we decided to call another close friend to let her know. It so happens that she is related to our landlord. And we were a bit shocked at her reaction. The first thing she said is: 'Are you mad?'. She then proceeded to go through every negative she could think off, such as the proximity of the hospital should Noelie have to go back ('as it has happened in the past' she made a point to mention), who would mind Marie for us in that case? Or babysitting if we want to go out, who would do it? What about Marie, she will have no friends in school? etc... The conversation went on for a few minutes, we felt that her tone was bitter, her attitude negative, her questions patronizing. Like we hadn't thought it through, like it was a spur of the moment thing, like we hadn't considered any of those questions. Like a mother scorching a child (is that the right word?). She did mention that she was 'only saying that as a friend' but it didn't feel that way. For me, and although I don't have many, a friend is there to support you, help you make the right decision for you in a constructive way, and respect you and your decisions (as long as these are reasonable of course). They are not supposed to put a dampener on things (apart from completely unrealistic ones) and above all, fail to see what good it could do us and our family and be happy for us.

We tried to understand why she had reacted like that. We can only guess that she was seeing the situation from her point of view and her relatives point of view only. Maybe she is 'jealous' that we are able to make such a decision, make the change for a better life and she can't for different reasons. Being a city girl living the 'Sex and the City' lifestyle (she could really take on Carrie Bradshaw any day!), maybe she can't understand the appeal of the countryside. Whatever her reasons are, we won't hold it against her. Hopefully, she will see that we have thought it through and that we are taking the decision that we think is best for our girls and ourselves at this point in time and eventually be happy for us. And hopefully, she will remain a good friend and this decision and the added miles won't affect our relationship too much.

Have you ever had a friend like that? Somebody who failed to see the good side of a decision you made and failed to be happy for you? Has that friendship survived?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This is the one.

I have been trying to write a post since last Friday. I have typed it, erased, started over more times than I can count. I really wanted to talk about that particular subject but whenever I wrote down my thoughts, it was never the way I wanted it to be. I am particularly stubborn so I kept on trying everyday to write it. And now today, I'm giving up. I will write about it sometime, when the words come flowing more easily.

A while back I wrote about how we had decided to move at the end of the school year. And now the end of the school year is near. We spent a couple of months looking on the Internet for places that we liked and areas that we liked. We did our research on schools and travelling times etc. We have a fair idea of what we want. A bungalow, with no neighbours overlooking, a nice garden for the girls, within a reasonable distance of Mr Foodie's job, not too far from a primary school with available places (not that easy to come by, really!) and that would allow us to save a couple of hundred euros a month on rent. We don't want to live in an estate, we want to get out of the city. I know it sounds quite picky, let's just say we know what we want.

The week before last we went to visit a house. It was a bad case of 'don't judge a book by its cover' reversed. The few pictures on the website looked great. The exterior looked OK, the couple of pictures of the interior also. So we went on a Saturday to view the house. And it was not at all was we expected. The wallpaper was a faded pinkish colour, adorned with big pink flowers which very much intrigued Noelie as she kept pointing at them asking: 'Wassa?' (we aren't sure yet if she is asking 'what's that?' in English or it's equivalent in French 'C'est quoi ca?). The carpet was the typical dark green, also adorned with big pink flowers. The wooden window frames looked very much rotten. And it was overlooked by an entire estate of lovely new houses. Sure, it was just across the road from the local primary school and within our budget, and the garden was also very nice. I know you're supposed to look for the potential of the house but with renting, there is only so many alterations you are allowed to do. So it was a no go for us. I'm sure though that somebody will find it to their liking.

We called a couple of places too, one of which was a magnificent renovated cottage, with stone walls etc. But the landlady didn't want pets and giving away our cats is not really an option. We also found out that it was the servants quarters of a 'castle' in which the land lady lived. On Monday, we arranged to view another 3 houses in the countryside. The first one was a nice 5 bedroom cottage (although we don't need 5 bedrooms, it was still within our price range). It was nearly perfect if it wasn't for the busy main road and the number of trucks passing by. The second one was only a minute down the road. We waited there for the estate agent and as soon as we got out of the car, were hit by an awful smell of sewage. We nearly left before the estate agent arrived as we knew straight away that this wasn't really what we were looking for. We had also read that these particular houses although newly built had a few structural problems due to the poor quality of materials used during building. We mentioned it to the estate agent who apparently did not have a clue about it (or pretended not to). The interior was nice although quite dirty. Unfortunately, it was even closer to the busy main road than the previous one and the garden was also overlooked by an entire estate. So another no go for us.

The last viewing of the day was only a few miles down the road but unsure of the directions Mr Foodie called the landlord and he very kindly offered to come to where we were so that we would only have to follow him. We were waiting in the car park of the local pub/shop/church/graveyard and were jokingly discussing what type of car the landlord would be driving. Mr Foodie, again joking, said that he sounded like a farmer that probably drove a big jeep. And to our surprise, a big black jeep turned up, one of those designed so that you can carry livestock at the back. And it was the landlord. We followed him on the 'scenic route' (his words). He obviously knew the road as he was swerving left and right to avoid big pot holes. Our poor little Punto had trouble keeping up with him. We even thought we had lost him at some stage. We got to the house in one piece though and viewed it. It was a little bit more expensive than the other two. It was also about twice the size of the other two if not more. There are no neighbours overlooking the garden, unless you count cows as neighbours. And the primary school is just a minute down the road. So we have made up our minds and this is the one. It is only 25 minutes away from Mr Foodie's job, in a lovely area, private yet close to the the school. Just perfect.

We're going to meet the landlord again tomorrow and pay our deposit. We won't move until the end of this month / beginning of next one. But the landlord didn't have any problems with this. I'm off to meet the principal of the school sometime next week or the week after. The biggest thing will now be to tell Noodlehead that we are moving about an hour away and (hopefully) find an agreement for the access. I have already come up with a proposal that, although reducing the frequency of the visits to once every 2 weeks, actually increases the length of them and gives him an extra overnight. So fingers crossed, he will accept it and we will be able to avoid going back to court and we can all be civil about it.

Wish me luck !

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