Cursing, French-style

>> Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Yesterday I found out what it might be like to be a social pariah.

Boy #1 finishes nursery at 2.15pm. This is not at all convenient when you factor in naps for Boy #2, lunchtime, generally getting things done and - one misty day in the future - lunch dates, but that's how it is. Anyway, at around 2.05 pm the yard in front of the nursery building starts to fill up with parents and carers, either picking up from the morning, or dropping off for the afternoon session.

The parents are almost always mums, with the occasional domesticated father on his push-bike for variety. (He is invariably looking around for approbation on how emancipated he is to be picking up his child.) The carers consist of nannies and the odd grandparent. It's a pretty good cross section of the Chelsea population and usually, with the exception of the nannies, I am the token English person there.

Sometimes I drive (eco-crime, I know, but have you tried coaxing a tired 4 year old home in the rain on a 25 minute walk?), but just as often I load Boy #2 into his pantechnicon buggy ('let's go off road in Kensington and Chelsea!'), and walk, taking a foldable scooter along for Boy #1 to coast home on. Apart from the obvious advantage of factoring a 50 minute walk into my daily routine (namely, I can discount the Starbucks I buy on the way back as negated by the exercise), it also means I don't have to fight for a parking space. There are around 8 - for normal sized cars. And approximately 40 kids to be picked up - usually in mafia-black 4x4's of one variety or another. You do the math... It's a jungle.

Once we get there, I normally take Boy #2 into the nursery with me so he can get excited about this whole school thing. He was due to start there 3 mornings a week last Thursday, but obviously chicken-pox put paid to that until he is no longer contagious. This should be any day now, but is not yet the case. Inconveniently, the pox has also put paid to my routine of taking him into the classroom to fetch his brother, so for the last couple of days he has had to stay strapped into his buggy in the yard out front whilst I run in and out at top-speed to minimise both his frustration at being left trussed up, and the possibility he might - Houdini-like - finally work his way out of the straps.

So, yesterday, that is what I did. But - horror - when I came out with Boy #1 (as usual, he was moaning and complaining about having to scoot home rather than travel in the questionable comfort of the potty-mobile), in amongst the melee, a little girl was playing with Boy #2. She was waiting to go in for the afternoon session, and was NOT keeping her distance. Her mother - French and tres chic - was standing by her side, looking proudly on and ignoring the crop of spots on my son's gorgeous face.

"He's got chicken pox, I'm afraid" I announced as I cantered down the nursery steps and removed Boy #2 from her child's reach. "That's why he's still strapped into his buggy, and not inside with me."

The yard fell silent. I swear I heard a bell toll, and in my peripheral vision, saw tumbleweed blow by. The massed ranks of Euro-parents waiting to take their children in for the afternoon session glared. (The nannies were unperturbed - chicken pox, so what?)

And Chic French Maman said, as she gathered her child in her arms and looked at me like I was a mass-murderer, "Oh la la!"

In 7 years of living in this area and being surrounded by French people, I have never actually heard that before. I thought it was just a charicature. I thought nobody really said it. But there it was.

I am now waiting for an opportunity to use it myself. Any suggestions?


Nunhead Mum of One 8 January 2008 at 14:11  

My friend says that to her baby daughter every day but without the accent and with blatant disregard for its Frenchness. Her daughter is called Laura but her elder son can't say that so calls her Lala. The whole family has taken to calling the poor baby Lala now and every time I see her I feel like asking how Tinky Winky, Dipsy and Po are.

Iota 8 January 2008 at 14:27  

You could have replied "You mean you didn't see the spots? Oh la la, you'd better get yourself to the optician toot sweet."

I had a similar moment in Scotland when someone said to me "och aye the noo" (I swear), and here, when the lady in the post office exclaimed "well, I'll be darned" (was spoken at half speed and sounded like drrrned).

aims 8 January 2008 at 15:07  

Oh la la - you crack me up!

I actually snorted out loud reading this one.

Really honey, can I come live with you? Your life sounds like so much fun.!

ped crossing 8 January 2008 at 16:20  

You'll have to let us know how the next pick up goes. I thought you were going to say that he had finally cracked the lock and gotten free.

And I thought big, ugly, black 4x4 was an American thing.

Potty Mummy 8 January 2008 at 17:04  

N-H Mum; poor, poor child. Am assuming LaLa is not the one with the hat or the handbag, so she doesn't even get the cool accessories...

Iota; what does 'och aye the noo' actually mean? I always wondered...

Aims; thanks, but I said it before - I'm leaving out the tedious boredom in between the mildly interesting bits, (and spicing those up to make them mildly interesting in the first place).

Ped - it's just a matter of time. I expect to see him with a pair of bolt cutters stuffed into his pocket any day now... And sadly, 4x4's are all over London like a rash. We have not escaped the madness...

Mya 8 January 2008 at 20:10  

Ooh la la is alive and kicking around these parts. Quite raucous though...not at all chic. More like Ooh ler ler ler ler ler ler (sort of growled).

They call it la varicelle here - sounds nicer than chickenpox don't you think?

Mya x

Potty Mummy 8 January 2008 at 22:19  

Mya, agreed; practically everything sounds better in French... And in what circumstances is Ooh ler ler used? Or shouldn't I ask?

Jonny's Mommy 9 January 2008 at 15:43  

Say..."ooh-la-la you people are stuck up." or "ooh-la-la, if your nose wasn't so high in the air you might have seen that my child is covered in spots and now yours will be too."

Potty Mummy 9 January 2008 at 16:49  

JM, if I didn't have to see these people every day... but I am SO tempted.

The Rotten Correspondent 10 January 2008 at 02:45  

This is what I love the most about blogging. Different schools, different situations, different continents and yet life with kids is so much the same.

I don't know about you, but that makes me feel so much less alone.

Potty Mummy 10 January 2008 at 10:25  

RC, that is so true that your comment just made me tear up. In a good way, of course!

Pig in the Kitchen 10 January 2008 at 17:25  

'Oh you are so French and anal, there's a whole sea of viruses out there, how will you cope? oh la la'

'You may be cute and chic but you clearly need glasses, oh la la'

'Why do you think he's still in the pram? Unlike the French we normally allow our children freedom and space to roam, we ENJOY our chilren. Oh la la'

Frog in the Field 10 January 2008 at 18:27  

Bugger, I missed this one!
This is bloody brilliant! Ooh La La, you just couldn't make it up could you?

Potty Mummy 10 January 2008 at 20:33  

Pig - I should just have e-mailed you in the first place, clearly. (And do I detect a hint - just a hint - of grievance coming out in those comments?)

Frog, Oh la la, no you bloody couldn't. Can you believe she blanked me this afternoon? Possibly because she realised her daughter was going IN to the classroom my spotty (but no longer contagious officer, promise!) boy had just left. Oh la la!

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