Sunday, 28 June 2015

AMT: Snails, Pounds and News Addictions

And now, for my favourite link-up, it's Sunday Answer Me This- Time!

1. How long have you lived in your current home?

Just over a year.

For the first four years of my living in England, I moved every year. It was horrible. I had to leave stuff in storage at friends' flats, and give books to charities and other horrors. Then we moved into The Big Flat (we called it "Appartementinettinella") and stayed there just under three years. Then we moved into our current house before Patapon was born.

Putting down roots is not quite straightforward, even now, because we'll have to move wherever Simon needs to go once he is a junior doctor (764 days to go), and that may be far away. Although I'm pretty sure my southerner husband is reconciled with the North now.

2. How do you find out about news and current events?

I have a very dramatic alert on my phone for BBC News, I also follow the headlines of Catholic happenstance with Catholic World News by e-mail and Aleteia by Feedly, and for the rest, Courier international (it's a brilliant concept, but it's in French, sorry).

Looking at the list, I'm starting to wonder if I am not a bit of a headline junkie.

3. Would you be able to make change for a twenty right now? For a dollar?

Nope. I only have one dollar I saved from our family trip to America. You can have that if you really need it.

If we're counting in pound sterling (which I don't advise anyone to do) I could easily give you change for a tenner anytime, all in little 1,2 and 5p coins. I have a piggy-bank full of them upstairs.

Otherwise, I have enough for a bus fare in my purse most of the time. (Aaaah, not driving, the fun!)

4. What's the craziest food you've ever eaten?

Well I'm French, so that's basically a cheat question.


I've had snails a good few times (it's really the sauce which is nice), and raw steak (we call it "tartare" and it's awesome). Never had frogs legs though, it's more of a regional dish. 

Via. Man, do I want a steak tartare now...

5. Which of the commonly removed parts have you had removed?

None. I still have all my teeth, my tonsils and my appendix. I am quite whole.

6. What's you're favourite sport to watch on TV?

Cricket! Of course. As Simon says, it's one of those sports you can have in the background whilst chatting and doing other things, because the pace is so leisurely.

The excited crowds of football (soccer, if you must) just make me uncomfortable. Although I quite like watching rugby sometimes, despite the fast pace. Then recover with a bit of snooker.

I think I am turning more British than the Queen.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

You Have "Marriage", We 'll Have "Matrimonium"

How many times? I.Am.Not.An.Artisan. Darn it!

So, words change meaning all the time, right? Calling an artist an artisan would have been fine in the Middle Ages, but they would have been a bit grumpy in the nineteenth century, right?

Apparently, "marriage" has come to mean the public recognition of the love between two people.


That's not what Catholic Marriage is.

Catholic Marriage comes with much more, it's a sacrament, it is life-giving, permanent and unitive. As such, it has to be between a man and a woman, it has to be a choice, it has to be life-long, and the spouses have to refrain from separating sex and the creation of new life through the use of artificial birth control.

Marriage has stopped to mean this about a century ago.

We didn't insist on calling Beethoven an artisan, despite the fact that etymology was on our side, so let's have a new word for Catholic Marriage.

We like latin, why not "Matrimonium"?

Maybe that will simplify the discussion with bigot-naming militants?

Actually, "matrimonium" is probably a bad idea, as it was extremely easy to divorce in Roman times.


Friday, 26 June 2015

A Little History of Breastfeeding

*** A previous, unfinished, version of this post may have accidentally appeared in your readers a few days back, I apologise, I fail at technology. ***

So, breastfeeding. 


I come from a culture where breastfeeding is neither taboo nor a miracle panacea. France is not doing well at all, in terms of how many mothers breastfeed and for how long, but, on the upside, no-one cares if you breastfeed in public. And no-one cares if you bottle-feed either.

If the French were asked their opinion on the issue, I'm pretty sure the answer would be one of our legendary shrugs.

But since moving to England, I've discovered it can be a highly sensitive topic, with some women being shamed whilst doing it, and others being made to feel worthless for not doing it.

So, to offer my insights on the issue (because the world needs all my insights), I've decided to do what I always do: I've looked at the history of it.

Here is what I found history tells us about breastfeeding.

1. It is hard. Very hard.

Do you know what all the studies I read about a great variety of cultures and times have in common?

Wet nursing.

See? Everybody did it.

For centuries, across cultures, as soon as a woman could afford it, she would pay someone to do it for her. And if you think about it, you'll realise you already knew it. Think of Shakespeare's Juliet and her nurse. Why do you think she is called her "nurse"? Think of fairy tales. Think of Roman myths (Galatea springs to mind).

And it wasn't a fad.

It lasted into the twentieth century.

Thomas Phaire has a lot to say about how to pick your wet-nurse in his Boke of Chyldren (1545) - basically, she needs to have recently given birth, to be sober and her milk not to taste salty. 

All is explained about Edward VII. It was the nurse's fault.

You find the same advice in William Cadogan two centuries later (except now she also needs to be clean and healthy, Phaire didn't care about that).

In France, when the Rousseau-worshiping revolutionaries took power, they tried very hard to make breastfeeding appealing to more women than just the poor (they had festivals of public breastfeeding and awards for good feeder-mothers, it's all quite amusing), because breastfeeding was so widely considered a chore to avoid if at all possible.

Ta-da-da, I am a Rousseausit mother, living in bliss and harmony and I dress my child in restraining togas.

Of course I am not saying wet-nursing is a great plan for our lives. There really is such a thing as mother-infant bonding. And of course, (you all know this) HIS mother's milk is the best for a child, not just any random human mother.
The moral implications of the practice were also pretty dreadful. Unless the nurse was allowed to keep her infant with her - which stopped being the norm around the eighteenth century -, that poor baby was abandoned to a baby-farm. Which was every bit as horrible as it sounds (mostly, they would "dry-nurse" the babies, because too many babies, not enough milk, so they would just gradually starve them to death according to the pecking order).

All the fun.

In fact wet-nursing mostly disappeared because women were no longer made that desperate in vast numbers.

All I am saying is that, had you been born a couple of centuries ago, no-one would have tried to sell you breastfeeding as this amazing experience of bonding and butterflies, and anybody falling short of this would not have been branded a failed mother and woman.

It is hard. For many different reasons. They may be cultural; they may biological; they may be economical. It is hard at the beginning, it can be hard throughout for some women (and not because of selfishness), and it is incredibly hard to do it at work.

For example, in the school I work at, every door opens with the same key. So you can keep students out whilst you express, but not other teachers. I wasn't too keen on putting a giant "Expressing in progress - keep out!" sign on the door, so I lost many hours, in the toilet, pumping. I managed to keep it up until Jude was nearly 10 months, because I only worked half days, but even then, I gradually reduced his feeds and just gave in after a while.

Because my sanity is important too.

It was quite the done thing to ship the baby away with his nurse as well. Countryside air, so much better.

Has breastfeeding lots of advantages? Absolutely! Is it the best nutrition for your child? Absolutely! Is it a walk in the park because instinct and whatever magic kicks in? Nope.

Like all truly good things, it has a bit (or a lot, if you're unlucky) of hardship built into it.

I think that if we were a bit clearer about the fact that breastfeeding IS hard, especially in the workplace, more mothers would be ready for this fact, and maybe, just maybe, not give up as quickly. I may be wrong, but that is what I think.

2. Infant formula was actually good news

I think another myth about breastfeeding in the olden days is that everybody did it, and for as long as possible. They knew breast was best, and Big Pharma wasn't sneakily trying to buy their souls with formula.

Of course there is an element of truth in that, if you were a poor woman, you would indeed WANT to breastfeed for as long as you could. And formula companies are pretty horrible these days. But even then, some women just couldn't do it. Even then, supply wasn't always perfect. Even then, sometimes, women had to find other solutions. Because we are not created equal.

I think this is a judging look because the other one is smoking. Definitely.

In fact, it was even more common then than now, because many poor women would be chronically malnourished It sort of came with the territory. And poor diets meant poor supplies, and early weaning (I found a fascinating study on what archaeology can reveal through the observation of teeth in skeletons, for the geeks among you).

So, what were your options if you could not feed your child? 

If you were lucky, you had a sister, relative or friend who could help (historians call it "cross-nursing"). If not, your options were pretty poor. You could introduce solids and hope for the best. Try cow's milk and hope for the best. Abandon your child to an institution who could afford a wet nurse, and hope for the best.

In the nineteenth century, working mothers in factory towns also struggled with finding ways to keep their babies with them so they could breastfeed (they found solutions more often than not, despite what Victorian cant liked to think). 
There were "infant formulae" back then, but they were often indifferently advertised for "infants, invalids or the elderly" and were absolutely terrible.

So, when reliable infant formula was created, it was actually great news for all these women who before that had had to accept a huge amount of chance in the feeding of their babies, because biology or the economic forces were against them.

The same applies to the now-much-maligned (although I am quite a fan) "medicalisation" of childbirth. It saved many lives.

Of course, then the success of these solutions became a fashion, scientists just decided they knew better, and it went all the way to advocating formula over breast milk (although rarely explicitly) and horrible hospital stays our grandmothers can tell us all about, with rigid schedules to follow and tiny infants taken from their mothers for hours on end.

"I love being weighed before and after each feed, it's so much fun!"

The fifties showed the limits of the scientific approach.

Note the bunny rabbit for obligatory whimsy.

But the scientific approach had previously done a lot of good. That's why mothers listened. People of the past weren't stupid.

Yes, even Liz Taylor wasn't stupid.

So, if you find yourself having to use formula despite your best efforts, you have my permission to feel good, because many women have faced the same situation for centuries before you, and at least you won't risk poisoning your child. You will actually be providing your child with much better chances of survival than a few decades ago. Or even than in the wonderland of our imagination, where all women breastfed to the applause of approving "Societies", "back in the days".

3. Breast milk IS better for your child

Wet-nursing tells us something more than just how hard breastfeeding can be. It also reminds us that the best thing for human babies, is human milk. Although, really, it's better from their mothers.

I don't think this is breaking news to anyone.

The archaeological study of skeletons I mentioned before shows very convincingly that when women could breastfeed for a long time, babies were healthier (and taller, interestingly). In times where the paucity of resources affected the milk-supply of mothers, infants did worse.

And it is also a scientific fact that breast milk is the best milk.


Any other claim you should take with a pinch of salt.

I don't have much patience with all the studies about the benefits of breastfeeding on subsequent risk of childhood obesity, IQ points and academic success, they cannot prove their claims. All they can say is that breast milk MAY be beneficial, along with plenty of other factors, such as socio-economic status and education level of the parents (And I don't think anyone is under any illusion that this is transmitted through milk. It's not the nineteenth century anymore.)

It's a bit like trying to get more students to study music because it will help with their maths skills. Yes, perhaps (pinch of salt), but that is not the POINT of music.

The point of breastfeeding is to feed your baby, and it's excellent at THAT.

Even the most strident advocate of breastfeeding doesn't think that by having done that, she set up her child for life. No-one thinks "breast milk did the trick, job done".

So, if you can breastfeed your baby, s/he will be healthier, stronger (and possible taller ;-) ) than if you don't. Your baby will have the best food possible as an infant if you breastfeed. But everything else will still be up in the air, and will depend on the little person his/herself for the most part.

Here you go.

That's what history tells us.

And also that babies can be quite resilient. Poor lambs.


If you are in a geeky or suspicious frame of mind, here are the articles I used to prepare this post:

Ethics and Ideology in Breastfeeding Advocacy CampaignsRebecca Kukla, Hypatia, Vol. 21, No. 1, Maternal Bodies (Winter, 2006), pp. 157-180), Accessed: 18-06-2015 16:34 UTC

Population Dynamics in Italy in the Middle Ages: New Insights from Archaeological FindingsIrene Barbiera and Gianpiero Dalla-ZuannaPopulation and Development Review, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Jun., 2009), pp. 367-389,,Accessed: 18-06-2015 16:44 UTC

Fertility in France and New France: The Distinguishing Characteristics of Canadian Behavior in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth CenturiesYves LandrySocial Science History, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Winter, 1993), pp. 577-592,, Accessed: 18-06-2015 16:45 UTC

Breasts for Hire and Shared Breastfeeding: Wet Nursing and Cross Feeding in Australia, 1900-2000, Virginia ThorleyHealth and History, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2008), pp. 88-109,,Accessed: 18-06-2015 20:35 UTC

Working-Class Mothers and Infant Mortality in England, 1895-1914Carol DyhouseJournal of Social History, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Winter, 1978), pp. 248-267,, Accessed: 18-06-2015 20:36 UTC

Reconstructing Motherhood: The La Leche League in Postwar AmericaLynn Y. WeinerThe Journal of American History, Vol. 80, No. 4 (Mar., 1994), pp. 1357-1381,, Accessed: 18-06-2015 20:40 UTC

Thursday, 25 June 2015

I Just Read a Fantastic Book!

I've mentioned before that I am a big crime fiction fan.
Well, the latest I read didn't disappoint. And yet, although it does include many murders, and a character assassination, it is otherwise quite unlike most crime fiction.

The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey has her detective study Richard III (the book was published in the early 1950s) and determine whether he is likely to have been such a villain.

The book is not very amiable with historians (which is a good thing) but I think the best thing about it is that it starts from the outlandish premise that people of the past were not two-dimensional caricatures, but people. With understandable or guess-able motives. Crazy.

Which is something I may have mentioned once. Or twice. Or maybe every time I get the chance.

I also like her attitude to physiognomy. Mid-way through the book, as her case was getting more and more compelling (the story is also gripping, worry not), I had to check what acknowledged historians have to say about her theses. And they mostly dismissed it on the ground that she has her detective study Richard III's face and make guesses accordingly (and also that the rumors were more widespread than she says). 

Except no conclusion is ever drawn from physiognomy; other than the original bewilderment, the detective simply does what anybody does: get impressions from a face, and then see if facts match impressions. 

I find this attitude quite refreshing, because I think it is much more useful to demonstrate a healthy use of physiognomy than to disavow altogether something we all do automatically, and condemn it wholesale because, prejudices.

Anyway, this is a point of detail.

Go forth and read the book.

Three warnings though: 

1. Tey's mistrust of popular narratives of history should be checked with a healthy dose of Chesterton (like all things in life). Chesterton used to say that legends, oral traditions and myths are often a "democratic history" which can inform us much (although not necessarily about precise dates and actors), and so not to be discounted and I agree with him. Which does not mean we should take them at face value. Or that history from school-books is the same thing.

Believe me, I have studied enough of them, history school-books are about the political ideas accepted at the time they are written, and that's about it.

Ok, there are a few exceptions. (Remind me to do a review of Gombrich. I'll try not to make it "I love Gombrich" written 300 times).

But not many!

2. I loved this book, but I am yet to find a single "debunking" book I did not want to murder (book-murder is totally a thing, it's in Jonathan Strange). 
You know the ones I mean: "10 Truths About History You Would Never Have Guessed" or "What They Didn't Tell You In History Lessons". Invariably, they re-hash things which are quite common knowledge if you dig even a teensy bit, or things that have no foundation in fact whatever. 

3. I "read" it via audiobook. The narrator was Derek Jacobi, and he was mostly great, but his pretend American accent (for the American researcher) was unbearable - to me, who has no ear for accents - (and his Gloucestershire accent was pretty dreadful too). So maybe avoid that if you're American.

But do read it!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

I Need Your Help

*** If you're a man, or not yet a mum, you probably don't want to read this post, so you have my permission to skip it and go think about birds and butterflies. ***

*** If you're a pregnant lady and don't want to read horror stories (don't blame you) scroll to the bottom to see how I need your help.***

Funny story time: when I was pregnant with Patapon, my birth plan was 10 words long: "I want an epidural and my husband to be there." For most of my labour, I got neither.

All the laughs!

I know some lucky ladies have great stories of labouring naturally listening to the birds singing in harmony whilst feeling the empowerment wash over them as they spiritually joined with all their sister forbears. Great for you!

Patapon had stopped moving so I was induced, which means I was left in an induction suite with no visitors allowed. I also experienced the barrel of laughs which is a hypertonic uterus. You don't know what it is? Lucky you.

I hope it remains so.

So here I was, completely alone in a mostly empty hospital, trying to not scream too much so as to not terrify the other ladies on the ward, not allowed any other painkillers than paracetamol, because, get this, I wasn't in the labour suite!!!

So my punishment for not having any visitors was not having any painkillers.

When I was finally wheeled into a labour suite and allowed my husband back, I was already more than 6cm (it was a student midwife, she wasn't sure). By that stage, I had been in labour for over 12 hours with a hypertonic uterus (don't look it up if you're pregnant), I was exhausted, angry and desperate for some relief.

But first, we had to go through the protocol, so I was given aroma therapy (which is why the smell of lavender essential oil now makes me want to lash out at people) then gas and air (which I couldn't take, because I'm claustrophobic and was way past reasoning myself). I had to plead for two hours, screaming in agony every two minutes, (whilst they said helpful things such as "are you sure?", "but you've done so much already with nothing!", "oh, don't scream, it'll only exhaust you more!", "do you know the side effects of an epidural?") before they agreed to give me the drug.

Why the NHS thinks bullying pregnant ladies in agony is the right way to save money has not yet been explained to me.

I've got a friend in France who told me the worst pain she ever felt in her life was when they put the needle into her spine for the epidural.

Well, I didn't feel it. It didn't even register. They had to actually tell me it was done, and I was allowed to move again. (The end of the story contains more laughs, including a back-to-back baby with his hand on his head, but it is slightly irrelevant here, apart from the fact that, had I not pushed for an epidural, I may well have had to have a C-section.)

Good job he was worth it.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Why are you telling us all this Isabelle? NOT. A. GOOD. BIRTH. STORY. Little lady!

Well, as it turns out, what I experienced was actually them giving in easily. The NHS strongly discourages giving epidurals after the first baby. So in all probability, I am going to have to do without one for the next baby.

I am terrified. 

And I need your help. Can you give me all the positive thoughts you can find about natural labour? How do you do it? Can you try and convince me I am not going to die in the attempt?

Could you be my BFF+E and reveal that actually, they are totally going to give me my epidural, worry not?

(Oh, and I know all the horror stories about epidurals, my dad's an anaesthetist, it didn't put me off the first time, not going to do it now.)

All sarcasm apart, I really need help. Because I am seriously considering moving in with my parents, in the land where epidurals lead happy profitable lives (that's France), for a month around the time the baby is due. And that won't do any good to anyone.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Answer Me This: The Father's Day Edition

1. What's the best thing about your Dad?

Many things. Of course. 

Dancing with 4-year old me.
The fact that he started the whole "I need two pieces [of chewing gum or candy], because one would be all lonely in my mouth" is pretty great (and useful, people put you down as "disarmingly charming" instead of "shamelessly greedy").

But I suppose the best thing about him is how incredibly principled he is and remains, despite all the difficulties he encountered, especially in his professional life. The way he is still fighting for the Public Hospital in France, giving up his time, sanity and rest for it is quite remarkable. He is a good man. In the best sense of the term.

See?! Doing everybody else's job! (he's an anaesthetist, not a surgeon)

Also, he loves toddlers. Genuinely. Loves them. Has lots of time for them.

Best Grandad (Papounet) ever.

2. What's the best thing about your kids' Dad?

He is the most attentive Dad I know. 

My favourite thing in the whole universe is when we hear the key turn in the lock, and I say: "Jude! Look! Who is it?" And Patapon just lights up, squeals and wiggles until his Daddy takes him and throws him about (at which point I have to close my eyes). It's the sweetest thing.

3. What's the best advice your Dad ever gave you?

I struggled with bullying when I was little, and I remember a letter my Dad sent me when I was at Scouts Camp (I was 11 at the time). I still have his letter, so I am just going to translate the bit I mean (and try not to cry too much, blasted pregnancy hormones!)

" I hope you are not withdrawing into your books too much and do participate in the life of your patrol. (...) Don't hesitate to try and perform as many acts of service as you can, and help others; good deeds are always what makes us happiest. Know that if someone is making you suffer, it's always because they are even unhappier than you. If you can understand this, you will see that things are a lot simpler than they seem. (...)

Your Papa who loves you."

4. What's something you have in common with your Dad?

Without hesitation: history! I got the bug from him. He had all the great encyclopedias, all the great biographies, and all the beautiful books (he is a bibliophile, they are BEAUTIFUL books). 
He started me with good historical fiction he loved as a kid, and then we would talk about the time period, and then I would read up about it all.

We still lose everybody at dinner-time in the summer, debating the morals of Talleyrand, the francophobia of Bismark or the relevance of Gambetta. 

He was the saddest when I said I was stopping my PhD (sorry Papa!).

5. What's the manliest thing you can do?

I had to ask Simon. And he reminded me that I love putting furniture together. I do. Especially Ikea Billys I can use for yet more books. I can build you one in record time these days.

6. Who is your favourite fictional Dad?

Dr Gibson in Wives and Daughters is pretty great, attentive and loving. The BBC adaptation shows it really well, too. Also Arthur Weasley. Obviously.

It's really hard though! So much of literature seem to require a terrible-dad plot device! (looking at you Jane Austen.)

See Kendra for more AMT fun.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Jude Promoted! / Jude Promu!

In view of his stellar performance as first child (and despite his hatred HATRED of having his nose wiped), Jude has been put forward for a promotion, and he will be appointed Big Brother come January 2016 (or earlier, not my call).

Au vu de son exceptionnelle performance en tant que premier-né (et malgré sa haine HAINE du mouchoir), Jude sera promu au rôle de Grand Frère en Janvier 2016 (ou plus tôt, c'est pas moi qui décide).

Thursday, 18 June 2015

A Little Ingratitude

I am very lucky in most respects. I have a house, food, shelter, support, a lovely baby and a lovely husband. So really, I should be spending my days in thanksgiving. 

And yet...

I can't help but picture the things I could have when Simon is done studying (instead of focusing on the fact that he gets to be home early most days, can help with everything and absolutely loves studying - I am working on it). 

Always wanting more.

If only I could have this.

Tumble dryers are so dreamy.

Instead of having to do this (which only works when the English weather listens to me, which it does at best very occasionally).

Seeing this from my windows.


Or really, anything further than 10 meters would be grand (aaah, terraced houses! So quaint! So no-view-of-anything).


So I make plans, pinterest boards, wishing these days over, Patapon older, the house bigger, so we can do all the things! 

Too much ingratitude.

I wish I could enjoy the minute garden like Patapon does.

There is a French film I love, called Uranus, in which one of the characters says "If a man had come to Earth only to see, once, one daisy, he wouldn't have wasted his time."

Or this (it was basically the best day of his life at that point, whilst we were wishing for a working shredder).

So, today, I'm having a do-over. I'm grateful for the sunshine (finally! - oops, sorry. That sort of slipped in. Right, trying again), for Simon being home all afternoon, for Jude simple love of all his books, for his glee when he sees us after his nap, for enough money in the bank to get some nice groceries in later, for having finished SOME projects:

Bring it on, Father's day, I'm actually ready for once!

Gratitude. Working on it. Failing. Working some more on it. 

Eventually some of it is bound to stick!


*** Update : the Simon Police did not like my creation of new words around "gratefulness", so I've turned to more orthodox vocabulary ***

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

&%#%*@ English Weather

Dear English Weather,

Since there appears to have been a certain amount of miscommunication between us, I am going to explain to you what we need VERY SLOWLY, so you understand.

This is the current month we are in:

Not this:

And I am not interested in the amount of alcohol you have ingested in order to be this confused. Listening to your excuses would only be encouraging you.

Now, SUMMER, is like this:


Not this:


Temperatures should be like this:


Not this:


Again, I DO NOT care that summer officially starts in 5 days. The very LEAST you could do, English weather, is make it feel almost summery, when it is almost summer.

I want to wear this:

NOT this:

My coat is in the loft, WHERE IT BELONGS! Because it's JUNE.
I have a lot of extremely cute short dungarees Jude needs to wear. You are wasting everybody's time and money, Weather.

And none of that: "Look it's sunny! Go outside! Wear all the summer stuff! @#%& it's windy and freezing..." routine. That's just cruel and unnecessary. 


I'll be watching you.

NB: So far, you seem to have been listening to me today, Weather. I'm STILL watching you.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Answer Me This: 14.06.2015

One of the things I most wanted to be able to do, back when I didn't have a blog, was to somehow be able to join the fun link-ups.

Lo and behold, I have a blog!

So, without further ado: 

Answering [Kendra] This

1: Any big plans this summer?

Why, I am glad you asked, yes I do! Obviously some travelling to France will happen, or Patapon's French family will probably come over and kidnap him anyway, but the BIG one, is that I am going to try to get my driving licence (gasp, shock, fear, no, no, no, I don't want to).

Now, I suppose that for Americans, I am basically admitting to not knowing how to read or something equally basic, but, you know, Europe is quite small and condensed, and I have lived in cities most of my adult life, where it makes more sense to avoid the nightmare of parking and just ride the bus (or métro, you choose your poison).

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, we can't actually afford a car at the mo, but we probably will be able to when Simon finishes studying (counting down the years... ok, months... ok, I'm actually counting down the days - all 779 of them) and I will probably (maybe?) be glad to drive then. 

And because of other things, now is an ok-ish time to do it.

So, yeah, if you live in Britain, stay off the roads come August.

2: What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

Hmmm, let me see... Not Father Christmas, didn't have time, my big brother told me straight away. 
I was convinced the lady who lived next-door to our school was a witch (so did most of the school), and that there was a secret castle hidden behind the big wall opposite the entrance of the school.

3: What is your favourite amusement park ride?

Well, I am not very well-versed in amusement parks, but, around Paris, much as we love Disney...

And we do love Disney...

... I'm afraid the better rides are here. Which is sad, because it closes in the winter (booh!).

4: What's on your summer reading list?

Apart from this you mean?

Boo-oo, I just want to cry
Probably lots of re-reads, Narnia, Harry Potter, Jane Austen and Middlemarch are on a yearly rotation. And lots of crime fiction. This series is great so far.

I'm also currently finishing Paradise Lost (love it, who'da thunk it?), next I'm reading The Divine Comedy, it's happening. Pinky swear. 

Also, why is this man not writing more Thursday Next novels? I'm having withdrawal symptoms. (If you haven't read any of his novels, do. And how I envy you! I have none left to read.)

5: Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Yup. All the time. Buses, trains, boats. But I suspect this question is mostly about pictures, right?

6: What is your favourite smell?

Not lavender essential oil (more on that next week). Otherwise, probably frangipane (a key ingredient of the Galette des Rois of awesomeness). My sister found me a shower gel that smells of it (my sister is awesome), but it ran out. My sister needs to get on this. 

Galette des Rois

Banane?! (That's not her real name, she's called Sophie, like a normal non-fruit person).