Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Dreading the airport

Time to fly home

It's time for the kids to come home, after 2 eventful weeks spent with my parents. I'm flying out on Thursday afternoon and coming back on Monday. I'm pretty sure my mum can't wait to hand them back to me, especially after last week end. Not only Ethan slammed a door on Ciarán's fingers, they also had to go to the hospital because Ciaran stuck a Lego up his nose (I know you're laughing, and I was too when I heard the story. Does that make me a bad mother?!). Thankfully it was nothing serious. He sneezed three times and the little Lego piece came out. 

I'm happy to see them, but I'm dreading the journey back on my own with the two. Flying with 2 kids is a military operation. I'm used to it, so I already anticipated every step of the way. I will travel very light and I'll have the buggy so Ethan won't be able to escape. All the liquids will be in transparent bags, passports and boarding passes will be ready to be shown, and hopefully the customs officer won't decide to hand search my belongings (considering the state of my "Mary Poppins" handbag, I'd be mortified if that happened).

I'm basically ready for everything. Except incompetent and unhelpful airport personnel. And I already know I will face some of them, especially in Nantes, where I'm flying from. On one occasion, I was only travelling with Ciarán, and the Ryanair check-in staff was not very friendly:

"You can keep the buggy or check it in with your luggage"
"I'd rather keep it, it will be easier..."
"The departure gate is upstairs and there only are stairs to go down the runway"
"That's fine, I suppose there will somebody to help me out"
"No, we're not here for that"

That's exactly what happened. No airport staff would assist me. I had to ask a passenger to help with the buggy while I was carrying Ciarán and the bags downstairs...

On another occasion I was yelled at by a customs official because I wasn't going fast enough through security. In my defence, I was pregnant and Ciarán couldn't get through on his own without touching the security gate. Instead of getting a bit of assistance, all I received was:

"Will you hurry up, we're not gonna spend the whole day doing this"

Exactly what to say to a pregnant hormonal woman. Needless to say the whole thing opened the flood gate and I was crying all the way to the departures, where of course there was nobody again to help me with the buggy...

On the opposite, Dublin is the perfect airport. Staff is friendly and helpful, and there is always someone offering help when I'm struggling a bit with the kids. 

The icing on the cake? You are always greeted with a big smile at the passport control desk. Sometimes the officer even cracks a joke. And that's what makes all the difference after a tiring journey with two over-excited kids.

What about you? Do you have any horror stories about airports or is your experience mainly positive?

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Blog Awards Ireland...I've made the long list!

blog awards ireland

I'm delighted to have made the long list for the Blog Awards Ireland, in the "Personal Blog" category

I have to thank Aoife for nominating me, although I kind of pushed her to do it. I even threatened not to bring her any biscuits back from Brittany if she didn't!

The truth is, I was allowed to nominate myself, but I'm crap at self-promotion. I hate begging for likes, comments, votes and so on. In short, I don't want to bother people. If someone wants to read my blog, great. I'm always happy with new readers and feedback. If not, well, I won't take offence. Not everyone wants to read about the stories of a French mum living in Ireland. And I can understand that.

The good thing about the Awards is that the winners are not chosen by a public vote, but by judges. There will be no "Pleeeaaaase vote for me!" on Facebook. For the next few weeks I will only have to concentrate on my writing. And maybe make my blog look a bit better! 

Today, I spend most of my days reading all the other blogs in my category and made some amazing discoveries. I didn't suspect there were so many interesting Irish blogs!

Thanks to everybody who reads my blog  and good luck to all the nominees, roll on the next few weeks, I can't wait to see if I make the short list!

Friday, 25 July 2014

It's a mystery...

Ciarán  and Ethan
This is what happens when you leave 2 kids who speak a bit of French but a lot more English, to grand-parents who are in the complete opposite situation. And sometimes the "request" from the kids stays unexplainable, even for me...

Mum: "Hi, I'm calling because there's a mystery here at the moment (with an over dramatic voice), and maybe you can help"

Me: "OK, What's happening?"

Mum: "You speak English, so maybe you know what the boys mean when they say "Callus" (The spelling is of course completely imaginary, I don't know what it means and it's not even a word*, but I tried to write it phonetically).

Me: " Eerr, no... I don't know what "Callus" is. When did they ask for that?

Mum: "Well, we were in the car, coming back from the shop, and just before the roundabout, Ciarán said he wanted to go to "Callus". I thought he wanted to go to Calais!

Me: "Calais"? Seriously, mum? They don't even know where it is (It's a 7 hours drive...)

Mum: "He even told us the direction, so we turned around the roundabout twice, and went that way, but then he couldn't tell us where it was."

Me: "Right, so "Callus" is a place. I really don't know, we've never been that way with the kids. I know we have friends living in the area, but none of them are called "Callus" (or even close). I know they have a shed for the kids in the garden (French word for shed is "cabane" so it could have been that)...

Mum: No, Ciarán was pointing in a completely different direction. Then he started crying because we were not going to "Callus". Then, Ethan said he wanted to go to "Callus" too. And they started arguing at the back of the car:

Ciarán : "I want to go to "Callus""
Ethan: "No Ciarán, "Callus" is closed"
Ciarán: "Nooooo, "Callus" is open"

Me: "I'm lost. Put Ciarán on to me. Maybe he will tell..."

As it happened, Ciarán didn't want to talk to me. Nice. There was no way Ethan, 3 years old was going to solve the mystery.

Me: "Right, put me on to Ethan then"
Ethan: "Hiya Maman"
Me: "Hi baby, so, where did you want to go?"
Ethan: "I want to go to "Callus"
Me: "Right, and where is "Callus"?"
Ethan: *silence*
Me: " OK...And what do you do in "Callus"?
Ethan: "Yes.. "Callus"!

Mum: "So I guess you still don't know what they want"
 Me: " I'll ask Fabrice tomorrow, maybe he knows, but it's definitely a mystery"

I did ask Fabrice, he rang the kids and the only clue he got from Ciarán was that it's either near a petrol station, or it's a lighthouse...

I don't think we will ever know. Having bilingual kids is a challenge. I sometimes wonder if they speak English or French (or a language of their own). So I can't imagine how hard it is for my parents!

The good thing is, this immersion in the French language has really helped them, especially Ciarán who has spoken more French in the past 3 weeks than in 6 years. Trust me, when a child wants something and needs to be understood, he finds a way (well, except when it's related to "Callus"). But when he wants Ice cream, he definitely knows how to ask for it in French!

* I did look up that word on Google, it's gross. And it's definitely NOT what the kids were talking about!


Monday, 21 July 2014

The new neighbours from hell

After 2 weeks in France, it's back to normal. Sort of...

First, we left the kids behind...Yippee!!  My parents are minding them for another two weeks and I will pick them up at the beginning of August. It's like having a second holiday and we're really enjoying it. It was a bit strange at the beginning though, the apartment was so silent it was scary. No running around, no yelling, no fighting... Finally, there was peace in the house.

That was without counting  the new neighbours.

During the whole week-end, we could hear loud music but we couldn't really pinpoint where it was coming from. Fabrice thought it was the upstairs neighbour, but we know him, we never hear anything coming out of his house (except his daughter blasting an out of tune "Let it go" once).

The music went on and off for the whole week-end, and when it was on, it was loud. We could hear the beat like it was in our living-room. I went outside and saw a couple of kids playing on the balcony next door. They definitely didn't look like our neighbour's kids. Maybe they were just having visitors... who knows. Then I told Fabrice I thought the music was coming from that apartment. So he knocked at the door and got the confirmation. We have new neighbours.

Music doesn't bother me *that much*. No, it's the PREACHING I can't really handle.

I came back from work today and there was already some music. But then, I started to hear some shouting, punctuated by Amen, Amen, Amen. And it lasted for about an hour.
Let's get this straight. I have nothing against praying. My brother is a priest for God sake! But you can do it in silence, or in a church. 
I don't think anyone should be allowed to have a preaching session in their living room, while playing loud music, in an apartment block.  And of course the window was open, so all the neighbours could enjoy the free show.

I haven't decided what to do yet. I am terrible with confrontation and to be honest, a bit afraid of knocking at my neighbour's door.

I will probably get Fabrice to take care of it and hope for the best...

At this stage, I'm nearly missing my former "smoking like a chimney" neighbour. The smell was horrendous, but at least she was smoking in silence.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

My calves hurt but I'm happy

I forgot to talk about Bastille day... As a French it's kind of weird isn't it? Well, not for me. I nearly forgot it was the French national day on Monday as it's not really celebrated in my home town. 

The main reason is because it clashes with a big traditional music and dance festival and all over the week-end, I was in " Breizh" mode. 

On Sunday night, instead of having the traditional 14th of July ball, there was a fest-noz ("night fest" in Breton language). This would be the equivalent of an Irish ceili. The difference is, there was a live broadcast on the internet, so Breton people all over the world could watch it online. There were also duplexes with China and New-York. Yes, Breton people are everywhere...

Breton dance is very popular and fest-noz goers are of all ages, from kids to older people.
When I was a teenager I was going to those gatherings as much as I was going to night-clubs. 

There was a dilemma on Sunday though, because it was also the World Cup final, but organisers were smart and installed a big screen near the bar so people could have the best of both worlds.

I hadn't been to a fest-noz for at least 5 or 6 years, but trust me, dancing is like riding a bike, you never forget it. On the contrary, my body didn't handle the whole thing very well and for the past 4 days my calves are very tense and they hurt. But I don't care.

The atmosphere in the place was out of this world, people danced to the same music, hand in hand, feeling the same love for this ancestral tradition.

At one point, the band played one of their most famous piece and everybody was singing along. The whole dance lasted at least 10 minutes so you can imagine how tired people were. But it didn't matter. We couldn't feel our legs anymore but we were all smiling, singing, sweating, all together in some sort of musical trance, transported in different place, where only music mattered. 

Lots of people from all ages at the Fest-Noz

This was without a doubt one of the highlights of my holidays in Brittany. I think the reason for the success of the fest-noz (and the festival as a whole), is that Breton music and dance are not stuck in the past, they're being constantly reinvented, and keep evolving with new instruments and  fusion with other types of music. 

Sadly, it doesn't seem to be the same for Irish music, at least not in the Dublin area. Maybe I moved to the wrong part of the country...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

When are you coming back for good?

A beach near my hometown

I've heard that question so many times I don't count anymore. Still now, after 12 years, some people still ask the question.
It doesn't mean I haven't thought about it. Actually, I've had that idea a million times, but somehow, something always happened that made us stay in Ireland over the years.
And right now, a 35-years mortgage is probably the reason why we're stuck in the Emerald Isle.

When there's a will, there's a way, and maybe there is just not enough will to find a way to get rid of the apartment that doesn't worth anything since the 2008 property bubble. Maybe we just have to stay put for the moment and see what happens. Hopefully we'll be able to move soon enough .

Having said that, I'm not sure I actually want to go back to France, but at the same time, I don't see myself grow old in Ireland. My sister works in a retirement home, with patients who have Alzeihmer disease. One of the patient is a foreigner who lived in France all her adult life. Unfortunately, the condition made her forget most of the French she used to speak. So the last part of her life is being spent in a place where she doesn't understand everything people say to her. That's very scary. I know I'm not there yet, but I also know I don't want to end up like that.

I often asked myself: If I won the lotto and money wasn't an issue, where would I live? The answer is surprisingly Ireland.
I like the country, the people, the way of life, even if it's not perfect. I like the area I live in, the school, the fact that it's near the beach. People are also more relaxed than in France.
The best of both worlds would be to live in Ireland but be able to go to France every couple of months. Of course, squeezing a Mauritius trip in every year would just be the icing on the cake...

My friends know all that, I've been saying it for a few years already, but never acted on it.
Maybe I should stop dreaming and actually do something about it. Or else it will never happen.

I don't want to wake up tomorrow in an Irish retirement home unable to speak English, and having regrets about what might have been my life if I had done things differently...

Monday, 7 July 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was honoured to be invited by Muriel to participate in the #mywritingprocess blog tour. 
Muriel is a self proclaimed French Yummy mummy living in London. Please check her blog French Yummy Mummy.

As a participant, I have to answer the four following questions. I hope it will give you some insights about my writing journey:

1) What am I working on? 

I'm on a 2 weeks holiday from my unglamorous office job at the moment, so I have time to relax and concentrate a bit more on my blog. Being in France at the moment is definitely giving me a lot of ideas. I'm also in the process of writing a memoir documenting my experience as a French expat living in Ireland. I started a couple of years ago, but gave up as I was struggling a lot with the structure. I decided to start a blog to see if people would actually be interested in reading about my expat experience. Now I'm back on track and I hope to finish my book before the end of the year. What else am I working on? Eating, drinking (wine of course!), going to the beach and spending quality time with my family and friends.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

There are a lot of expat blogs on the internet. There are also a lot of Expat memoirs in bookshops. Most of the time, they are written by British, American or Irish living in France (or other parts of the world). Then you have the books and blogs (usually written in French) by French people living abroad. But I have yet to find another personal blog or a memoir written in English by a French person living in Ireland. So that's how my work differs from others. I write about cultural differences, parenting in a foreign country, bilingualism, and as an adopted Irish, you can be sure I'll talk about the weather.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Memoirs and autobiographies have always been my favourite type of books. I love reading about real people's lives, their personal journey, struggles, adventures and so on (does that make me some kind of stalker?!!). So naturally, that the genre I'm best at. 
I have two passions in life: acting and writing. I used to write a lot when I was younger, but then acting took over. I'm even part of a musical and drama society in Dublin. Unfortunately I had to put acting on the side for the past few years, especially since I had the kids. My husband also works at night, which means I have no free evenings for rehearsals during the week. All of this was a blessing in disguise though, as now I can spend more time concentrating on my writing.

 4) How does my writing process work?

I have a notepad in my bag and whenever an idea pops into my mind, I write it down. Ideas can come at any time of course, but I have to say, my job and my Irish colleagues are a big inspiration (sorry guys!). 
Once I have an idea for my blog, I usually "write" the post in my mind first. I need to be alone for that. So it usually happens in the car, on the way to work (or the way back). I know it's a good idea when the post nearly "writes itself". If I struggle and can't seem to find the words, then maybe it's not the right time to write about the  subject I was thinking about. I try not to stress myself too much (I do that enough at work) as I always have an idea in the end. If writing becomes a chore then it's not fun anymore...
In the evening, once the kids are in bed, I finally get to open the laptop and starts typing. Sometimes I finish a post in one go, but most of the time, I write one evening and edit the following one.
I keep reading my post over and over to make sure there are no spelling mistakes (my pet hate) or too many repetitions. 
I finally click on "publish", and the process starts over again! 

Continuing this blog tour during the week on the 14th of July, I am proud to introduce:

Cory is an American living in Dublin since last year. He shares his journey as an expat in the blog The narcissistic Expat Diaries. This guy knows Dublin better than me and his cultural experiences around Dublin never cease to amaze me.

Danica  is also American, but living in Holland for the past 12 years. She loves to talk and give her opinion, and her blog is the place to do just that. Check it out at Danica's thoughts

Saturday, 5 July 2014

My trip to the French supermarket

That's it, the holidays have started. After a 24 hours journey door-to-door (it takes less time to go to Mauritius!), we are finally at home, in Brittany.

Yesterday morning, I decided to go to the supermarket for a bit of shopping. I know that place, I've been there a million times before but yesterday felt a bit different.
First, I went to the bakery area, and I was like a child in a candy shop. There was so much choice I didn't even know what to buy. Should I buy croissants? pains au chocolat? almond croissants? almond pains au chocolat? Sweet bread? Brioche? ... Oh, my head was melting. I knew I also had to buy some bread. But which one? Will I get a plain baguette? a "Tradition"? a "Parisien" ? 

I started walking around the supermarket. It was definitely weird hearing people speak French. I even said "sorry" in English, to somebody I bumped into. On the subject of apologising, I found the shoppers quite rude to be honest. Or are the Irish over-apologetic? Everybody says sorry in Ireland, all the time, even if it's not their fault. And if you bump into someone, you can be sure the other party will reply by a "Not a bother" or "It's grand". This morning, a person I merely touched, but still apologised to (in French this time), just stared at me, said nothing and kept on going. 

Then, I tried to find some milk. In Ireland, everyone buy fresh milk (a reminiscence from the milkman I suppose) but not here. I was really confused at what kind of milk to buy, and again, there was too much choice.
The tea section was massive. The problem was I couldn't find "normal" tea. Lemon, forest fruits, berry, herbal tea you name it... but no black tea. I'm sure it's there but I was overwhelmed with so many different sorts I couldn't even find what I was looking for.
My smile came back in the alcohol aisle. I'm nearly Irish after all, and Breton people are also famous for their fondness for alcohol... Having said that, I'm not a big drinker, but I do enjoy a good "apero" (a few drinks before a meal). The selection of wine was amazing, and the prices, well, nothing compared to Ireland of course! 
I left the supermarket with almost everything I needed, and it was definitely cheaper than Ireland. 

This "experience" bears the question: Am I becoming a tourist in my own country? I usually don't feel that way at all, but that little trip to the supermarket was different. Hearing everybody speak French was strange (I was even thinking in English at some point). I was almost complaining I couldn't find what I usually buy in Tesco, when I should have just enjoyed all the variety of a typical French supermarket.

Maybe I just need a few days to adjust to all this Frenchness. After a few drinks and some cheese everything will be fine. Oh, and I'm drinking coffee again so I must be back on track already!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How I gave up coffee

It all started about three weeks ago when I caught the flu. I wasn't feeling well, had a pretty bad sore throat and a funny tummy.

I decided to drink some tea, as I thought coffee would be too hard on my already frail stomach. I added honey to help with the sore throat.

The thing is, I haven't drank coffee since and for some reason I can barely stand the smell of it.

Fabrice also gave up coffee a few months ago and with the amount of tea we drink now, we might have to start buying it in bulk!

There are lots of (friendly) fights amongst Irish people on the subject of the brand. On one side, the Barry's tea partisans. On the other side, the Lyons tea fans. Sorry guys, but for me, tea is tea, there's no difference. I bought a box of Lyons Gold Blend tea bags, purely because it was on special in the supermarket. And I like the taste of it.

There's just something I don't get. Why is there no little cord on the tea bag to squeeze out the excess water? And why do people leave their used tea bag in the sink (a few culprits in the company canteen here...) ?

Anyway, this is not like me to have an argument or even just an opinion about tea. So I'm afraid that's it: I've lost the last bit of Frenchness I had and the Irish inside me has taken over!
I'm being a bit dramatic here, but next thing you know I'll be giving up wine... Nah, that will NEVER happen!