Sunday, 31 January 2016


 The problem is when you're trying to write and you get constantly interrupted!!

It's been 2 weeks since my last post and I can't believe how time flew. I had a few posts ideas but they involved a fair bit of research. The problem is the evenings in my house are not exactly the best place to get peace and quiet to do some serious work.

Once the kids were in bed I could have taken the time to put together a structured, well documented post about why French people love Ireland so much, or my rant against lunch boxes. Instead, I crashed onto the couch and watched TV series with my husband.

It's not all bad though. I have discovered great series like Mr Robot (who won a few Golden Globes), Humans, and I've started the X-Files reboot mini-series. So my evenings were all about sci-fi, conspiracies and alternate realities.

I know in a near very real future I will have part of the evenings back to myself as my husband starts a new shift. I feel bad being happy about that, but I know I need some peace and quiet  to be able to write.  I won't have to watch a movie just because I feel guilty about taking the laptop the night before and I will not hear the usual "what are you writing about?" anymore. And I won't be interrupted every time I'm trying to think about the best way of putting a sentence together. I am still trying to write at the week-end when the kids are awake (mainly because I can't write every night for the reasons I mentioned before), but kids interruptions are even worse than my husband's! I sound like a terrible wife and mother, don't I?

Writing is supposed to be my "me time", and I haven't got any for more than a year now, so I think I deserve to be a bit selfish for once ;-)

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Brooklyn: A tale of emigration

Last week I wrote about how expatriation was different 15 years ago. Now imagine what it was like 60 years ago. This is exactly what is portrayed in the oscar nominated movie "Brooklyn".

"Brooklyn" (based on a Colm Toibin novel) tells the story of Eilis, a young Irish girl who lives with her mother and sister in Enniscorthy. Although she enjoys her life, there are no jobs prospects and she is offered an opportunity to move to America. There, she will have a job, an accommodation in an "all-Irish" house, and a chance to study. All of that means leaving her widowed mother and sister behind, but if that's what it takes to make a better life for herself, then so be it.

Integration is difficult at the beginning, homesickness is unbearable. But she slowly gets used to the American way of life, and meets a handsome Italian boy at a dance. Just when she starts to adapt and really feel at ease in her new surroundings, an incident at home (I won't give everything away!) calls her back to her native land. She gets to see her friends, her family, she's even offered a job and of course, there's another man in the picture...

What will she choose? Her native land or her adoptive country?

I obviously won't spoil anything in case you haven't seen the movie, but all I say is that, even if it shows a side of emigration like it was in the 1950's, current emigrants/expats can relate. Nowadays we don't have to wait 2 weeks to receive a letter from home, but it doesn't mean we don't get homesick. A new country means having to adapt to a new culture, new habits, a new language sometimes. All of these struggles were true in the 1950's and still are today.

What struck me in the movie is how easy it was for Eilis to "forget" about Brooklyn when she was back home with her friends and family. But at the same time, she still felt like an outsider, not really American , but not entirely Irish anymore. A feeling I can totally relate to.

At the end of the day, it's all about choice. I don't think anyone is ever forced to emigrate. It's all about circumstances and doing what we feel is best for ourselves. And the end of the movie portrays perfectly the choice that we, emigrants, have had to make at some point in our life.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Living abroad now and 15 years ago: What's different?

Dublin in 2002 (bad quality, I didn't have a digital camera back then!!)

When I moved to Ireland in 2002 (I know it's not exactly 15 years ago, I just wanted to round it up), means of communication were quite different and it's actually crazy to see how much travel and expatriation have changed since the web 2.0 but also the democratization of air travel (Thank you Mr. O'Leary!).

So how is life abroad different now than it was "back in the day"?

Keeping in touch with family and friends

Imagine a world without Facebook, Skype or Whatsapp. Worse, a place without broadband or wi-fi! Laptops were a lot more expensive than now, so I regretfully left my massive desktop and arrived in Ireland completely disconnected. When I wanted to send an email, I had to go to an internet cafe. When I wanted to ring my sister, I had to use a public phone. Then I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend and discovered how expensive phone and Internet were (you were charged by the minute when being online).
With all that in mind, you can imagine how hard it was to keep in touch with family and friends. After crying when I saw my first phone bill, I discovered I could phone France for the price of a local call by using a special number and I was mostly communicating by e-mail with family and friends, but we wrote letters to each other at the beginning, something unthinkable today!
And when you see how easy it is to share a picture now, think about the time we had to get the film developed first, then scan the pictures (if you had a scanner) and send them by e-mail, or worse, post them. Sometimes you just waited to be back home for a holiday to show everyone what you had been up to.
When I think about it, it must have been a lot harder for people who emigrated thirty years ago.

Keeping up-to-date with what's going on in your home country

Everyday I go through the French news on Google. I scan through the headlines and select a few articles I want to read. I also take great pleasure in reading users comments and it gives me some indication of the general mood in France (even though I know it might not be an accurate perception of reality, it still gives an idea).
In 2002, when I was going to the internet cafe to send the weekly e-mail to my parents, I just looked at a few news websites (mostly my local newspaper to be honest). That was a much as it went. Big events were announced either by Irish TV  (a few days after) or my parents.
Now, you can follow any big event minute by minute, but I remember being in UK for a work experience in spring 2002, and I only learned about the results of the presidential elections the day after it happened. If it was now, I would be almost glued to the screen (or be streaming live) to see the result the second it's announced.


The first couple of years, going home took a lot of patience (thank God I didn't have kids). I had to take 2 flights and land a 5 hours drive from home. But it was already the "Ryanair" era and even though there were not many bases in France,  travel cost was next to none. I remember booking flights for 5 pounds, there was no luggage fee, no "priority" booking, no seat buying... And as long as you arrived early at the airport, the check-in staff wouldn't bother for an extra 4 kgs in your suitcase.
I am lucky in a way because Ireland and France are close, but it's a different story for my husband. He was already in Ireland for 3 years before he went home to Mauritius for the  first time. And as far as this tropical destination is concerned, prices haven't really gone down in the past 15 years.

Adapting to a new country

Going abroad and leaving your home country is a bit like breaking-up with your boyfriend/girlfriend. In my opinion, it's better to completely cut ties at least for a few months to avoid reminiscing. Embrace your new home and everything it has to offer in order to have a better and more authentic experience.
This was completely possible 15 years ago. With limited means of communication, it was a bit harder to reach home and you were less tempted to find out "what's going on back there". Without Facebook and the likes, you were more inclined to discover things by yourself rather than ask "where can I find a French speaking hairdresser" or "I just arrived, where is the closest supermarket"...
I'm not gonna lie, I almost cried with joy when I found a Camembert in an off-licence after 6 months in Ireland, but I never actively looked for French food either, so I think some people should stop asking where they can find French cheese, bread, wine and so on. Not forever, but if you can't live without products from your home country for a while (and let's be honest, only the minority will stay in Ireland for more than a year), then why did you go abroad in the first place?
We all get homesick at some stage, but it shouldn't start the minute you land on foreign soil. Go out, explore, get lost in the city... Your experience will be the most enjoyable and trust me, next time you go home, you'll find even more pleasure in eating a fresh baguette.

I think it's all about balance. The web is great to discover new places, share information, help each other and that way, the expatriation can seem less daunting than it would have been 15 years ago. On the other hand, it seems that some people make less efforts, don't take time to discover and the fact that staying in touch with "home" is so easy makes the transition even more difficult.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

It's the panto season!

One of the cast member of the musical society I used to be part of (technically I'm still part of it, I just haven't done a show in 6 years...) wrote that message on a handmade bookmark and gave it to me after our last representation of "Jack and the beanstalk". Believe me, I had no idea what I was letting myself into before I agreed to take part in a panto. I didn't even know what a panto was.

I used to do drama as a teenager and when I moved to Ireland, I naturally integrated a musical and drama society. It was a great way to meet Irish people and pursue my passion. The big difference with French drama groups is that the Irish are a bit obsessed with musical comedies... and I'm not a great singer or dancer. But I gave it a shot and even though I was always part of the chorus (no way I was going to sing or dance on my own) I had a great time being on stage. That "panto" thing was a whole different experience. Not a bad one, but certainly one I'll remember forever.

A pantomime is a type of musical comedy, loosely based on famous fairytales and designed for family entertainment. It's always performed around Christmas and New year, and includes famous songs (usually rearranged to suit the theme), dancing, cross-dressing characters, kids (lots of them!) and interaction with the audience is at the core of the performance. There is also a big comedy element with jokes relating to current affairs or double-meaning (you need something for the parents too!). Basically, as the Irish would say, it's great craic!

"Ding Dong the witch is dead, which old witch, the wicked witch!" and "Good morning, Good morning, we danced the whole night through, Good morning, Good morning to you!" regularly stick in my head for a while whenever I hear the word "panto". And the choreography? Thank God that part has been erased from my memory a long time ago. I only remember being so stressed about it that I used to rehearse in the break room at work (when I was alone of course).

It takes hard work to be funny. And rehearsals for pantos can get so serious you want to cry. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit, but seriously, all the fun you see on stage is prepared, rehearsed and choreographed with millimetre accuracy.

The run up to the show is hectic. You have little spare time for a couple of weeks before and literally no life the week of the show. And all of that happens during Christmas. At least you're keeping fit in between the wine, the turkey and the Quality street tins...

But you know what, hard work paid off and I  had a great time on stage on every representation: the adrenaline before the curtain opened, the rush throughout the whole performance and the feeling of satisfaction at the end.

So no, I was not put off panto for life. I just needed a few years to recover, and I might even take part in another one some day...

If you want to go to a panto, there is still time, you can check that listing to help you choose.

Enjoy the show!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Closing the door on 2015

2015 was a challenging year in every way and I am somehow glad it finally came to an end. I can safely say last year wasn't the most prolific one for my blog. My new job took centre stage and even though that's a good thing, my writing has definitely suffered as a result. There were many days without any motivation left at night to take up the laptop. There were also a lot of personal things on my mind that sucked any ounce of creativity I used to have. So my one and only resolution this year is to worry less and be more positive.

Here's a little round up of my blogging year...

My most read post

I can't believe it was the one about differences between French and Irish Christmas! It took me ages to write it and I wasn't even satisfied with the result. I almost didn't publish it, so there you go, sometimes you think something is not going to work and it happens to be your biggest success!

My least read post

We can't interest everybody all the time and not all subjects will appeal to readers. There are actually 3 posts with the same low numbers : My Irish favourites, How I got to see U2 in Croke Park twice, and my Memories of Bastille day.

The post I had the most fun writing

I might have been a bit sarcastic for that one, but I guess I was just so fed up with reading stupid questions French expats asked on Facebook that I had to vent.

The hardest post I wrote

This one was hard in the sense that it was very personal. I wrote about my son's autism diagnosis and the fact that he also has a chromosome imbalance. I'm glad I took everything off my chest and I was overwhelmed by the support and kindness I received after this post.

The most positive post

It has to be the one about life being peaceful in this country. We all have our daily issues but at the end of the day I still believe I have a very good quality of life here, and that's mainly due to Irish people themselves.

The "not so positive" posts

There are 2 in particular that are about the same theme: Saying goodbye, either temporarily or permanently. Writing them were definitely emotional, but helped me cope with the situations.

My biggest achievement

I participated in the "Write 31 days" challenge in October, and although it didn't attract many readers, I did it mainly to prove to myself I could write every day. It was tough but I'm not a quitter and I managed to complete the challenge.

My biggest disappointment

The Blog awards of course! OK, I managed to get on the shortlist, but after being in the final last year, I had better expectations. I think the categories were not really in my favour, but that's the way it works, you can't win all the time and I'll just have to try again next year

My plans for 2016

I am not making any plans, nor I have any goals for my blog this year, purely because I don't want to put pressure on myself. Last year, it didn't go the way I wanted, so I don't want to be disappointed again. It doesn't mean I care less, I love writing, and I will keep on doing it.

That's it folks, I wish you a happy new year, and in the words of Jacques Brel:

I wish you never ending dreams and the furious desire to make some of them come true
I wish you to love what must be loved and forget what must be forgotten