Category Archives: Culture


I use this word a lot.  Especially with my kids. It is Irish slang for idiot, but is meant in an affectionate way.  People tend to call you an eejit and cuff you over the ear.

Most people I know are eejits in one way or another; we ALL have our own particular eejitin’ ways.  Once must embrace that part of one’s soul otherwise one becomes uptight and obnoxious.

My kids who are half Irish/French have learnt the following exchange by heart:

Me:    Where’s your togs?  (togs = swimsuit, might be another Irish word, tbc)

Child:  I dunno

Me:    Did you look for them?

Child: Like – everywhere

Me:     Really?  Absolutely everywhere?

Child:  Gallic shrug, makes huge innocent eyes that somehow seem to rotate around the side of their head

(We both toddle off to their bedroom)

(Togs on floor beside bed / in their place in the wardrobe)

Me:      Seriously? They’re right there.  You didn’t look at all.  This happens every time!  What are ya?

Child  (and everybody else in the family): I’m an EEJIT!!

(cue much giggling and me giving child in question a number of light cuffs over the head, togs sail about the place as we do our best to lose them again)

Eating like a Frenchie

Himself brought home figs from the market yesterday and declared “they’re bloody in season so I says bloody heck I’m gonna buy some”.

The French have this thing they call “manger de saison“.  It means only eating fruit and veg that is in season.  It’s not very revolutionary and up until globalisation everybody had to do it.  But what is interesting is that the French, stubborn and headstrong as they are the wee devils, insist on continuing the tradition.  And it’s not even a hipster thing.

So why the culinary grit?  Apart from their adorable stubborn streak they reckon it tastes better, is more aligned with your nutritional needs, is less processed, costs less, has less carbon footprint and so on.  And after much navel gazing and not much scientific proof I reckon they’re right.

Having said that I can’t keep track of it because there are so many fruit and vegetables and I am admittedly a bit monomaniac when it comes to spuds.  But French kids learn it as they grow up and it becomes a part of their DNA.  Pardon the pun.

As an Irish girlie growing up in the eighties my main memory of figs growing up were fig rolls.  I used to love discovering them in my lunchbox at school.  Imagine my surprise when I saw what a real fig looks like.  Sorry Mum maybe you gave me real figs and I don’t remember.  Although I suspect you don’t give a fig.  Giggle.


So here’s the deal if you want to eat fruit like a Frenchie!

I think I am going to print this in an effort to learn it




Little Lady and the Rude Dude

We live in an old glove factory below la Bastille in Grenoble.  It is as nice as it sounds and I thank my lucky stars every day that we ended up here.  Our landlord owns the building and is the descendant of the guy who invented the iron hand, Xavier Jouvin.  I am not sure how many greats there are before the grandson.

The building has an eclectic bunch of people living and working in it.  There are lots of offices full of architects, museum management, and a couple of young companies and associations.  Also a really lovely couple who I go all wibbly over every time i meet because they are so cool.

Anyhoozle the other evening we went to a little get together organised in the garden of the building.  It is organized once a year and last year we missed it.  We like our neighbours and our landlord and we thought that sharing a few beers and wine together in the balmy September sun would be spiffing.  Also, every morning we cross paths with the people who have offices here so we thought it would be nice to meet them properly.

Last but not least we had the kids and we knew they would love going down to the garden and drinking sirop until their eyes popped out of their heads.

So on Tuesday evening after a long day’s work I went and did the 14 km round trip on my magic bike to collect my son from school, then we both went into town and picked up the necessary to do some baked goodies.  Himself was off duty on Tuesday night as per usual so me and the three kiddie winkles set to filling the kitchen with baking smells and we had great crack inventing goodies to bring to the party.

Kids love that crack and they anticipate everybody enjoying their baked wares as much as any self respecting housewife or husband.  Speaking of which…

The next evening we dusted ourselves off at the appointed hour and headed down to the garden.   It is a walled affair and the words “the secret garden” pop into my head every time I look down at it.  A little piece of heaven in the centre of town.


As with most soirees, it was a wee bit awkward at the beginning because we had to introduce ourselves and, well, talk to people.  But we sucked it up and did quite well all things considered.

We met loads of lovely people.  And I mean lovely.  Good crack they were and brought good food they did.  Also they were swilling away nervously just as much as we were.

However, at one point a tall older gentleman bore down upon us and introduced himself to Vincent and asked him loads of questions about where he worked and what did he do.  Then he proceeded to tell Vincent all about what he did, i.e. director of this museum and that one and very important with his puffing cheeks and belly he was.

I was standing between them and as they are both tall individuals their words literally sailed over my head.  As the minutes passed Vincent grinned at me a few times awkwardly as he knows what I am like, that is to say the devil incarnate when it comes to equality.  Puff daddy on the other hand blissfully ignored me completely, not even any eye contact.  I thought perhaps he would get around to addressing a few polite phrases at me at the end of his conversation with Vincent.  I was ready for it, and I was even prepping myself to answer politely and not rock the boat with our new friends.  Tolerance and all that.

Turns out he wasn’t having any truck with that.  So at the end of their little manno a manno and during the post dialogue lull where everyone is very happy with themselves but nobody knows what to say next I said, yes, well I work at the same place as Vincent.  And yon buffoon actually blustered backed at me “Oh, you mean, you aren’t at home with the children?”.

His reasoning was that we hadn’t crossed paths every morning or something equally vague.  So I informed him politely that we crossed paths very regularly in fact. I also felt like covering my daughter’s ears over just in case he uttered any other inane phrases.

But okay I guess he is more interested in handsome men or whatever. I can’t blame him, Vincent is gorgeous in my opinion.  Probably also in the opinion of the young lady who sidled over to introduce herself to him (and only him) with a winning smile.  At one point, I kid you not,  we were caught in the middle of the pair of them both making eyes at Vincent.  I was the invisible woman.  And I was wearing this dress…


It didn’t matter to me whether he thought I was working at home or not. It was the fact that somehow that gave him the right to talk over my head and ignore me that really pissed me off.

Then, the fact that he made wild assumptions about me was just another step in the wrong direction.  Also he seemed mildly surprised that I even piped up.  He did that roll-back-on-your-heels-puff-your-big-belly-out-raise-your-puffy-grey-eyebrows-up thing that only certain bigger bellied older men can pull off.

Luckily I have never ever been treated like that in work.  Fifteen years working with roughly ninety percent male engineering community and never so much as a tweet.  My colleagues would never be so rude.  Ironic that a dude who is supposed to be teaching the community about history and general culture should be so narrow-minded.

Conclusion?  Puff Daddy shall hereby be referred to as such. And respect to the geeks!!





Why are French women so slim?

I keep getting Vogue articles on my Facebook feed with this title and it is doing my head in.   I don’t think that we should be fed this kind of blether by our anti-social media.  Anyhow, in this article I would like to reveal a few rules that they live by which seem to give them a very positive attitude to food.

And a positive attitude to food helps towards having a positive attitude to life n’est ce pas?

First of all, French women are not all so slim.  Any French woman will arch her beautiful eyebrows and tell you that.

I do sometimes have this conversation with my friends.  As normal lady people they are generally mystified by this particular stereotype.

So first things first:  French women are lovely and they do come in all shapes and sizes like in every other country in the world.  There might be statistically more slim people in France than elsewhere but lets say that having lived here for the past fifteen years I think it is a stereotype – a bit like all Irish people are leprechauns.

Although it is true that we all believe in fairies.  Or at least I do.  Moving on.

However I think that generally speaking the French only half realise it but they have lots of rules.  And as long as they stick to those rules they generally don’t worry too much.  The rules are as wide as your average French boulevard and allow lots of fun and everybody sticks to them, so they seem to work.

Eight key ones just in case you are curious. Continue reading Why are French women so slim?

Syd and Larry

The story of Syd the snake and Larry the lion.

I can’t help imagining this type of conversation everytime I walk past these guys – see below for the real history bit.

Larry:   I swear to god Syd, I told you the last time that the next time you eat one of my organic pizzas from the fridge which are CLEARLY labeled “for Larry the Lion”, I was gonna get serious on your ass

Syd:   man, sorry Larry dude, but I was so hungry and I forgot to go to the shop yesterday.  please don’t eat me Larry.

Larry:   Syd, I am tempted to eat you right here right now


Syd:   Larry, what can i do to make it up to you?  you and me are like bffs dude, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.

Larry:   Syd, seriously I have had enough, we’re stuck together like this and you can’t even respect a few rules.  you even stole my special-for-blonds shampoo last week, and you don’t even have any hair man!

Syd:   Larry, goddamit you know I’m sensitive about my hair man.

Larry:   jesus sorry Syd I shouldn’t have brought that up

Syd:    just eat me Larry, life’s not worth living anyway

Larry:   aw, Syd don’t get all passive agressive on me, take it like a man.  or a snake. or whatever.

the history bit

There are 150 floods recorded as having happened to the town of Grenoble, 80 of which happened between the years of 1600 and 1860.   Having two rivers (Drac and Isere) joining in the town, the town fell victim frequently to the ravages of flooding.

The people of Grenoble (Grenoblois) had to rebuild their bridges many times.  Victor Sappey created this fountain in 1843 to celebrate the fact that they created dams (digues) to protect the town and finally beaten the serpent/dragon.

According to wikipedia, previously the rivers were called the snake and the dragon.  The Isere was the snake, as it’s meanders look like a snake.  The Drac was a dragon, due to it’s savage force.

In this fountain, the lion represents the town and the snake represents the naughty river(s).

Floods remain one of the main natural risks to Grenoble to this day.

some links with more detail: all in french!

La Brocante

One of the great traditions and more wonderful things about life in france is “la brocante”.

La brocante is defined as flea market, bric-a-brac, garage sale or a market for antiques.

DSC02364I have always have liked the idea of la brocante and bartering over old French furniture  with a wiley frenchie wearing a beret on a beautiful French pavement in the sunshine.

Chick Lit, moi?
This image is probably due to the reading of many different chick lit. books. Frequently involving young energetic ladies moving to france and renovating their old romantic French farmhouse and falling in love with the local rustic type.

Or alternatively slightly older dynamic ladies who have successful businesses based in London which specialize in finding old French furniture and whose husband runs away with the diabolical au pair but for whom there remains hope thanks to the handsome guy who owns the flower shop next door.

The possibilities are quite frankly endless where french men, french furniture and  french farmhouses/anything are concerned.


Anyway himself loves brocantes.   He is like a child in a toyshop.

french brocanteWe have a lots of old typewriters and gramophones and things like this at the house.

Anybody know what this is?


Fun for all the family

The kiddies love it too.  There are always a few stands with boxes of toys so they are always able to find some precious treasure. In general it leads to heartfelt disucssions about whether one should pick 3 wee cars at 50 cts each or two books at 1 euro each. They love it and seem to get more out of the experience than buying new toys. Most of the time the people managing the stands are pets and throw in a wee dinosaur for free.

Cherie, what on earth is that?

Plus, there is frequently lots of really weird stuff that people seem to think other people want to buy…in one visit to our local brocante I came across the following:

brocante stuffed snake

stuffed snake

(actually there were two)

french brocante



bare naked ladies (again we have two)

french brocante

 old skis!  perfect for your rustic French cafe/restaurant/whatever

stuffed animal

holy god, another scary scary stuffed (what is it?)

hound from hell I’ll warrant?

french brocante


2nd hand shot bottles.

where did they come from? what will they be used for?

a mystery…

murano glass

100 year old murano glass beads (for interior decoration & women’s jewellery)


and last not but least, my personal favourite:

grumpy woman statue

(she looks like she is thinking “who did I wrong in a previous life to end up here?)

J’adore la brocante!!!!!

‘Making strange’ in Ireland

Sentence first

Claire Keegan’s superb novella Foster, expanded from a short story published in the New Yorker in 2010, has an idiom I remember hearing in childhood and only seldom since. The book’s narrator is a young girl in an unfamiliar place, accompanied here by a woman, Mrs Kinsella, with whom she is staying temporarily:

Out in the street, the sun feels strong again, blinding. Some part of me wishes it would go away, that it would cloud over so I could see properly. We meet people the woman knows. Some of these people stare at me and ask who I am. One of them has a new baby in a pushchair. Mrs Kinsella bends down and coos and he slobbers a little and starts to cry.

‘He’s making strange,’ the mother says. ‘Pay no heed.’

The verb phrase make strange means to act up or be nervous or shy, etc…

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